Weekend Cat Blogging with Luna: Fun with Highway Signs

My eccentric long-standing fascination with numbered highways has long been reflected on this site. Here we see Luna contemplating a couple of our most recent sign acquisitions.

20140412-IMG_0611

So what exactly do we do with these? Well, besides just the human tendency to collect things of interest, I have used signs in artwork, photography, video and I am now expanding into more modes of live performance. Mostly, dealers advertise these as “perfect for your man cave”, something which does not interest us at CatSynth in any way. For Luna, they are just more strange objects that pass through her territory. And great neck scratchers.

20140316-IMG_0310

Fun with Highways: California Highway 41

A few years ago, I acquired several highway shields to use in photography, including one for California Highway 41. It was particularly good for photos like that one shown above. But I only knew small bits of the road itself. So when a certain birthday came to pass recently, I decided it was time to travel Highway 41 in its entirety.

Highway 41 begins in Morro Bay at an interchange with Highway 1. Morro Bay is a cute seaside town, and is distinctive for its large volcanic rock along the ocean.

20140316-IMG_0027

20140316-IMG_0310

The highway heads northeast through a relatively gentle section of the coast range and crosses US 101 in the town of Atascadero. It then climbs into the hills as a narrow two lane highway. Along the way it passes the many bucolic scenes of farms and ranches. As it climbs the hills, the trees disappear but the landscape remains quite green.

20140316-IMG_0314

A little further north, Highway 41 joins Highway 46, a major east-west connector, and runs concurrently for a while. The change in traffic and speed was unmistakable.

20140316-IMG_0317

As one heads east, the land becomes a drier and more sparse. 41 splits from 46 and heads north on its own. After coming over a ridge, the highway descends into a rather arid valley, quite different from the coast and the verdant hills further south.

20140316-IMG_0322

We cross Highway 33 at a rather unassuming junction. There was an interesting looking roadhouse there, and I wish I had the courage to stop and try it. But I did press on across another, even more arid ridge to a junction with I-5 near Kettleman City. Kettleman City, which is not really a city or even an incorporated town, is probably the single sketchiest location along the entire route. I had been here before and taken a few photos. One of my favorite sites is still “alive and well.”

20140316-IMG_0336

Continuing north, we move to the interior of the Central Valley at the edge of the former Lake Tulare, once the second largest freshwater lake entirely within the United States. It has since completely dried up, leaving a very flat landscape of farms. Many fields appeared to be fallow, perhaps due to the drought. It is a beautifully bleak landscape.

20140316-IMG_0346

Just west of the town of Hanford, Highway 41 crosses CA 198, another major east-west highway. 198 is a freeway here, something I was not aware of. 41 itself becomes a four-lane expressway north of the interchange, and increasingly busy as we head north towards Fresno. As we pass the city boundary, it becomes a full freeway. It traverses the area south of downtown as an elevated viaduct, where it crosses Highway 99 and provides access to both downtown and nearby industrial neighborhoods.

20140316-IMG_0353

I stopped here to do some photographs, one of which already appeared in an earlier Wordless Wednesday. Here are some more.

20140316-IMG_0355

20140316-IMG_0040

 

Heading north out of Fresno, 41 becomes the Yosemite Freeway, as it heads north towards the park.

20140316-IMG_0363

The freeway narrows and then becomes a surface road as it approaches the foothills of the Sierra. The road climbs steeply into the hills and then descends equally steeply into the town of Oakhurst. The road narrows and climbs again into more mountainous wooded terrain.

20140316-IMG_0366

We find the signed END of Highway 41 as we approach the southern border of Yosemite National Park.

20140316-IMG_0368

But this is not the end the real end. The legal definition of Highway 41 continues into the park, although it is not signed as such. It goes through a tunnel the exit of which provides spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley.

20140317-IMG_0072

Ultimately Highway 41 ends at a junction with (also unsigned) Highway 140 as it enters the valley.

This was an interesting road to complete beyond its numerical value in that it crossed through so many terrains and parts of the state. And a worthwhile and unique trip.

20140316-IMG_0320

sipes11

Fun with Highways: Spaghetti Bowl (Las Vegas)

We’ve had the Mixing Bowl (DC), the Orange Crush, the Can of Worms, so why not the Spaghetti Bowl?

sipes11

US_95I-515_(NV)The interchange connects I-15, one the major north-south highways in the western U.S., with US 93US 95 and I-515, which head eastward into downtown Las Vegas.  It was reconstructed in the late 1990s into the version we see in the above photo.

I have actually not spent much time in Las Vegas, and none of that time was on a highway in in a car.  Indeed, I had a miserable experience about 12 years along the strip (South Las Vegas Boulevard).  While I won’t get into the details of that trip, it did prevent me from exploring more of the actual city and what it has to offer.  I would be willing to give it another chance, especially if I could also explore out into the desert.

Fun with Highways: Southern Bronx River Parkway

There is a mixture of stress, melancholy and chill in the air. So it seems like a good time for another fun with highways. Today we look at the southern extension of the Bronx River Parkway. It veers away from the verdant parkland along the river that contains the Bronx Zoo into a dense section of the central and south Bronx, crossing both the Cross Bronx (I-95) and Bruckner (I-278) Expressways before ending at an odd ramp onto Story Avenue in the Soundview neighborhood.

bronx-river-parkway-south-extension

It was built in 1950s, long after the northern more park-like sections of the parkway were built. It does have a small strip of parkland to either side for most of the length, but with the surrounding neighborhood quite visible, include the commercial strip along Westchester Avenue and the elevated tracks for the 6 subway line. Indeed, the parkway is visible from the platform at the Morrison-Soundview station over Westchester Avenue.

Morrison–Sound_View_Avenues_(IRT_Pelham_Line)_by_David_Shankbone
[By David Shankbone (attribution required) (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The southern terminus is a bit unusual, with ramps south of Bruckner Expressway to Story Avenue through bare parkland. It looks as if something more ambitious was planned here.

bronx-river-parkway-terminus

The Soundview neighborhood has a lot of the large brick apartment buildings found in other parts of the Bronx. These ones look to date back to the 1940s, though I can’t say for certain.

Soundviewbxrow
[Photo by Wikiki718 on Wikimedia Commons.]

The deep sunset light off the buildings is something sees quite often in the city in the late autumn and winter and the days shrink. I find the image fits my mood at this moment.

20130809-IMG_8534

Fun with Highways: Northern California along I-5

As summer winds down, we start to look back the many little road adventures that dotted the season. The largest and last of these trips, of course, was to Portland, which included a large stretch of northern California.

We begin on I-505, which heads north from I-80, bypassing Sacramento.

20130809-IMG_8527

I-505 is a completely straight, flat, stretch of highway. This is pretty much true of the surrounding landscape as well, but the texture and details against this blank canvas can make for some interesting photos.

20130809-IMG_8528

I-505 merges into I-5, which continues northward through more of the relatively flat landscape, repeatedly crossing the Sacramento River in the process. Eventually we come to the city of Redding at the northern end of the Sacramento Valley. On my return trip from Portland, I finally had a chance to stop in Redding and visit the Sundial Bridge. This modernist architectural gem spans a wooded section of the Sacramento River completely, a world apart from the town of Redding itself or the strip malls and shopping centers that line the highways. Here, clean modern lines contrast with the natural forms of trees and running water.

20130812-_MG_9848

20130812-IMG_8686

The Sundial Bridge turned out to be a great subject for abstract photography (you can see another shot in an earlier Wordless Wednesday). It was also quite crowded with families and groups, something to keep in mind should I ever want to use it as a setting for a more formal photo shoot.

North of Redding, I-5 climbs into the southern Cascades towards Mount Shasta. The highway here is quite scenic, but also narrow, winding, and treacherous. Eventually it opens up as one passes Mount Shasta and approaches Black Butte.

20130809-IMG_8534

Black Butte is a satellite cone of Mount Shasta. It has a distinctive pointy shape and largely barren rocky texture, both of which make it quite prominent in the landscape. The highway curves around its edge, providing a close-up view.

Historic_US_99CA_265US_97_CAAfter passing Mount Shasta and Black Butte, I-5 descends into a wide valley, passing by the town of Weed, whose welcome sign is a popular backdrop for photographs. This is the start of US 97, which heads northeast towards Klamath Falls and central Oregon as I-5 continues due north through the Cascades towards Portland. The main street in Weed is also Historic US 99. The part of the historic route which returns to I-5 is now California Highway 265, one of the shortest in the system.

20130809-IMG_8535

20130809-IMG_8536

From here, the valley descends and opens further, and the landscape becomes surprisingly desert-like. We pass the town of Yreka, where I did not get a chance to stop, but might on a future trip because of some idiosyncratic road-geek things. Finally, the highway climbs upwards again towards Siskiyou Summit, just north of the Oregon-California border and the highest point on all of I-5 at 4,310 feet (1,310 meters).

Fun with Highways: Portland

My trip to Portland for BPOW included becoming acquainted with its streets and highways (and mostly not getting lost). The city is largely defined by the Willamette River, which bisects the city in eastern and western halves, and a series of bridges over the river connecting the two sides:

20130811-IMG_9812

OR_99EI-84The above photo is looking north at the Burnside Bridge, which carries one of the city’s main thoroughfares. The vantage point is from the center of the Morrison Bridge, which combines traffic entering and exiting I-5 with city streets, walkways and bike paths. It seems to part of the theme in Portland that all these different modes come together and coexist along single routes. Looking towards the east side, the bridge connects to I-5 and I-84, as well as state highway 99E (Martin Luther King Avenue) and Water Avenue.

20130811-IMG_9813

I-5 runs along the east bank of the river. But it also runs with bike and walking paths and a greenway. The highway, park, water and industrial zone behind them all co-exist.

20130811-IMG_9815

I like the way Portland has chosen to co-exist with its older industrial infrastructure and highways as it plans green spaces and alternative transportation options. It is in sharp contrast to San Francisco, which can’t seem to tear down its highways and raze its gritty industrial areas fast enough. There is a beauty and attraction in preserving them while making the city for livable and environmentally friendly. The area around Water Avenue in the “Industrial Southeast” section of the city particularly retains this character. I had briefly seen it during my 2007 trip with the band that would later become Reconnaissance Fly, and for the BPOW trip I made sure to set aside time to explore. Much of the neighborhood is below the bridges and viaducts, but in between it opens up into spaces with larger warehouses.

20130811-IMG_8640

20130811-IMG_8637

It can be quite colorful if you know where to look.

20130811-IMG_8641

Heading north at ground level, we follow the viaduct until we get to a rather nasty looking interchange. This is the northern terminus of I-405, which loops around downtown on the west side.

20130811-IMG_8613

20130811-_MG_9794

There are also several city streets and rail involved here in ways I can’t quite figure out. It also oddly frames the rose skyscraper that dominates downtown.

20130811-_MG_9787

From here, we head north on 99E to the northeast section of the city. The industrial character gives way to a neighborhood of mixed residential houses and small stores. It here that BPOW took place at Cymaspace. You can read the first part of my report covering the workshops here. The second half, which will cover the evening concerts, will be published soon. In the meantime, we at CatSynth recommend enjoying a beer, of which there was no shortage in any neighborhood of the city.

20130811-IMG_8588

Western_terminus_I-587

Fun with Highways: I-587 in Kingston, New York (and Deep Listening)

Today we look at the city of Kingston, New York. Kingston is about 90 miles north of New York City on the west bank of the Hudson River. It was the first state capital of New York in 1777. For those of us in the world of electronic and experimental music, the city is the current home of renowned composer and musical innovator Pauline Oliveros as well as the Deep Listening Institute which she founded.

Kingston is also the location of one of the most obscure and oddest Interstate highways, I-587.

I-587-in-Kingston

NY-28I-587I-587, known as Colonel Chandler Drive, is co-signed with NY 28. It is a full freeway from it’s start at a traffic circle near the New York State Thruway (I-87) to its eastern terminus at an intersection with NY 32 (Albany Avenue) in downtown Kingston. Other than its termini, it has no exits. It also never meets its parent route, I-87, though the traffic circle at the western end does connect to Exit 19 of the Thruway.

Western_terminus_I-587
[By Mitchazenia (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0;], via Wikimedia Commons]

I-587 is signed along its route and at either end, but there is no mention of it on signs for Exit 19 on the Thruway. Thus, travelers on I-87 would never even know its there unless they took the exit and encountered the signs at the traffic circle.

By coincidence, I will participating in a performance of Pauline Oliveros’ The Heart Chant with the Cardow Choir at this year’s Garden of Memory event in Oakland. You can read past reviews of this unique yearly event and here. As for The Heart Chant itself:

This participatory Deep Listening meditation is a gesture of sonic healing for all beings and circumstances that need healing. It was created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. “Ah” is a vocal sound associated with the heart shakra.

Anyone at the Chapel of the Chimes tonight is welcome to participate in singing this piece. There will also be numerous other performances by noted Bay Area musicians, and I hope to see as many of them as I can. You can follow along with me on Twitter @catsynth with hashtag #gardenofmemory.

Fun with Highways: Tulsa

Today we have fun with the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Downtown Tulsa is about one mile square, bordered by two highways, I-244 to the west and north, and I-444 to the south and east, together known as the Inner Dispersal Loop.

TulsaInnerDispersalLoop

Oklahoma_State_Highway_51US_64US_75I-444Despite being one of the coolest extant Interstate numbers, I-444 is unsigned. Instead, it carries US 75 designation for its entire length, as well as US 64 and OK 51 for part of its length. It’s curious that they chose not to sign it. According to kurumi.com, “a mapping supervisor from Oklahoma DOT spoke to the Division Engineer in Tulsa to get a more official answer. To avoid confusing motorists by adding a 444 number to an area with I-44 and I-244, the DOT decided to use the existing US 75 designation.” Honestly, that seems like a weak reason. We have I-80 plus seven different x80 interstates here in the Bay Area and manage not to get too confused by it.

So why Tulsa today? The city was awarded the Parking Madness “Golden Crater” by Streetsblog. Much of the south side of the downtown is covered by parking lots.”

TulsaParkingLots

Not pretty, and not a particularly good use of valuable downtown space in the 21st century. And certainly the comments in the article open the city and its residence to a bit of ridicule. Apparently Tulsans are aware of this and the city council placed a moratorium on new parking lot construction. Moreover, Streetsblog describes a proposal by urban-planning major and native Tulsan to revitalize the downtown for walkability and pedestrian-friendly retail.

I did notice that outside of the downtown and Inner Dispersal Loop is the Philbrook Museum. The museum is on a 1920s estate designed in the style of an Italian Renaissance villa.

512px-Philbrook
[By Taken by Kralizec!, cropped by CPacker (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons]

While much of the collection is traditional art, they do have a growing modern and contemporary collection. This piece by Josiah McElheny, for example, makes an interesting contrast to the architecture of the estate. Would definitely be worth a visit.

Fun with Highways: The Seaford–Oyster Bay Expressway

Today for no particular reason we visit NY 135, the Seaford–Oyster Bay Expressway. It runs north-south through suburban Nassau County on Long Island. What makes it interesting is that it seems rather incomplete. NY 135 was intended to continue south to Jones Beach, but this part of the project was never completed. One can see the right of way extending south from Merrick Road (once the main east-west thoroughfare on the south side of Long Island) to the Wantaugh Parkway.

As it stands now, the expressway ends at a stub just after crossing Merrick Road.


[By DanTD (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0; or GFDL;], via Wikimedia Commons]

It is literally a dead end.


[By DanTD (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0;], via Wikimedia Commons]

You can see some more photos at this site. It seems like this would be an interesting spot for an art photography project. More of a concept piece with portraits.

NY 135 also ends at stub on its north end, just after crossing NY 25 in Syosset.

Indeed, the expressway never makes it all the way north to Oyster Bay, as implied by the name. But it was once proposed to extend even beyond that, crossing the Long Island Sound on a six mile bridge to Rye and connecting to I-287, the Cross Westchester Expressway (not far from where I grew up). This was one of Robert Moses’ more ambitious ideas and came far after his original projects that transformed many parts of New York including Long Island. I am currently reading The Power Broker: Robert Moses and Fall of New York, and in the middle of the chapters discussing the building of the parks and parkways on Long Island, including Jones Beach and the Wantaugh Parkway. One of the revelations was what a remote place Long Island was at the beginning of the 20th century despite being next to New York City. But in some ways it still seems rather remote.

I-710 and the Los Angeles River

After the intensity and non-stop stimulus of NAMM, I try to reserve the final Sunday for solitude and exploration of the greater Los Angeles Area. My most recent post-NAMM exploration included a trip north on I-710.

Officially the “Long Beach Freeway”, the highway runs alongside the Los Angeles River for much of its length. The Los Angeles River is a naturally flowing river, but it has been encased in a concrete channel. It’s a rather dystopian vision, but very much characteristic of 20th century LA. It has served as a setting for numerous movies – think the scene in Terminator 2 where the cars crash in a giant concrete ditch and the shapeshifting guy walks away. Of course, I had to photograph this monument myself as well. I joined I-710 at its interchange with Highway 91. The river immediately comes into view to the right, concrete channel and all. However, along this section there has been a lot of work to provide green space on the banks, with bike and walking paths connecting a series of parks. I left the freeway at the Imperial Highway exit for a closer look.


[The mighty Los Angeles River.]

This location is actually the confluence of two rivers. The San Gabriel River, also enclosed in a concrete channel for much of its length, flows into the larger Los Angeles River – the merging of the two concrete channels is unique.


[The San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers.]

I suppose I choose to see the beauty in scenes like these where others refuse to or can’t. But on another level, it is not entirely a choice. I am inexorably drawn to such things. Even as are attitudes towards development change from 20th century models, I’d like to see artifacts like this concrete river preserved.

North of the Imperial Highway, I-710 crosses the Los Angeles River to the east bank.


[I-710 crossing the Los Angeles River.]

The freeway begins to diverge from the river, heading due north towards Pasadena and controversial “dead end”. You can read more about the efforts to complete (or not complete) the highway at the California Highways website. However, I chose to leave the highway and follow the river instead.

A stretch of Bandini Boulevard grazes the river, affording views of a section that is unequivocally industrial. No parks or bike paths here. But even here I can find visual beauty in the bleakness of the scene.

The river is of course in no way devoid of life. Tenacious vegetation can be found along the channel, and there are plenty of birds who take advantage of the shallow water.

I continued north near to the river into the city of Los Angeles. The industrial character remained for a while, and reminded me a bit of the southeastern section of San Francisco that I often frequent, but on a grander scale. I didn’t stop here, but perhaps I should have. Towards downtown, the river becomes incorporated into the greater city, with classic art-deco bridges spanning the channel. I crossed it one last time on the First Street Bridge:


[By Downtowngal (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

It was early enough to still visit a couple of L.A.’s art museums, but I am glad I was able to spend time first with this piece of the city’s history, and a work of art in its own right.