Primary Fun with Highways: New York

It seems that all the interest in the primary season has faded, with the outcome all be inevitable. And perhaps our primary highways series could fade as well. But I would be remiss if I did not at least cover New York. It is a different experience to try and observe one’s home state and try and condense that experience into a short road-centric article; and experience familiar places and note those that are left out, as many others have for their own states over the course of this series.

My experience of New York has revolved around New York City, “The City” which still sets my personal standard for what a city is.

Here we see one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, the Empire State Building, from the vantage point of one of the newest landmarks, the High Line. The High Line is a public park built on an abandoned elevated rail line in the formerly industrial west side of Manhattan. It is now an integral part of the Chelsea neighborhood and the area still known as the “Meatpacking District”. I spend quite a bit of time here during my NYC trips to walk the High Line and visit the many art galleries.

And in terms of landmarks there is the Brooklyn Bridge:

In this photo, taken from the very trendy Brooklyn waterfront, we see not only the venerable bridge, but many newer buildings of lower Manhattan. The tall twisty building in the center is a new Gehry-designed residential tower. In the back we see the incomplete but already quite tall One World Trade Center, the main building in the new complex.

It is interesting to see how much the city changes every time I return, especially in comparison to what things were like in the 1980s and early 1990s. The neighborhoods that we are looking at these photos, Chelsea, Lower East Side, DUMBO in Manhattan, were nothing like what they are now. There is a bit of nostalgic charm looking at the old run-down scenes that I remember, but I know this is probably for the best.

Another thing that makes talking about New York different from talking about other cities in this series is that there aren’t many highways to talk about, especially in Manhattan. New Yorkers take the subway. But there are still highways even in some of the denser areas of the city. The FDR Drive along the eastern edge of Manhattan is narrow and winding but offers good views of the East River and the changing skyline of the city as it passes underneath the bridges.

[By Bob Jagendorf from Manalapan, NJ, USA (Downtown) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

On the Brooklyn and Queens side, there is the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, (I-278, the BQE). It zig-zags through some of the densest areas of Brooklyn on a narrow double-decker path among tall buildings. With the contemporary focus on Brooklyn, the highway has also taken on a significant identity for those who live and work there. There are even multiple art and music pieces dedicated to it, such as this piece from Performa 2009.

It is impossible to in an article like this to even scratch the surface of the city’s cultural offerings, both large institutions like the Museum of Modern Art as well as the numerous galleries and small performance spaces. So with limited space, I share with you one of my own performances in New York, at Theater Lab near Union Square in late 2011.

I could not discuss New York City without giving a shout-out to The Bronx, the borough to which I have the most family connection. Though once the “new” section of the city with fancy apartments lining the Grand Concourse, the Bronx fell into deep decline in the 1960s through the 1980s, with scenes of derelict and burnt-out buildings particular in the South Bronx commonplace. Charlotte Street perhaps was the most infamous of all such scenes.

[By User Incantation on en.wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Having only seen the Bronx since the 1970s and 1980s, this is what parts of it looked like. It was just part of the landscape. And I wonder if it influenced my deep interest in the aesthetics of urban decay. But these images never told the whole story of the borough, either at its nadir or during its current rebound. The Bronx has long been home to respected institutions like the Bronx Zoo and Wave Hill, and newer cultural gems like the Bronx Museum. The museum is part of the revitalization of the corridor along the Grand Concourse in the central and south Bronx.

[Wave Hill]

[The Bronx Museum of the Arts.]

The Bronx is bisected by Interstate 87, the Major Deegan Expressway, which travels with length of the borough south to north, passing by Yankee Stadium. As it crosses the city boundary into Westchester County, I-87 becomes the New York State Thruway. The Thruway cuts through the southern part of the county before meeting I-287 and crossing the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee Bridge.

[By Sev! on Flickr [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

This is the Hudson River Valley, known for its scenery and for inspiring the “Hudson River School”. The paintings may look rather trite and dated now, but the scenery that inspired them is still quite spectacular. One of the more dramatic points along the river is the Bear Mountain Bridge, which carries US 6 and US 202 from Westchester on the east side to Orange County and Bear Mountain State Park on the west side, spanning large hills on either side.  It also connects up NY 9D on the east and US 9W and the Palisades Interstate Parkway on the west.

[By Ahodges7; cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 19:13, 27 June 2010 (UTC) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

On the west side of the Hudson, one can continue north on the Thruway to Albany, the state capital. However, on the east side, one could take the scenic Taconic Parkway. It begins in suburban Westchester County just north of the city and not far from where I grew up, and then continues north through picturesque rural landscape for the remainder of its route. It is in fact the second-longest continuous road listed in the National Register of Historic Places after Virginia’s Skyline drive.

[By Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand. Cropped and color-corrected by Daniel Case 2009-12-31 prior to upload (Taconic Parkway, New York, 7 Nov. 2009) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

In Albany, we turn onto I-787, which parallels the river through the downtown. This circle-stack interchange connects to US 20 and to the Empire State Plaza.

[By Foofy at en.wikipedia ([1]) [CC-BY-SA-1.0], from Wikimedia Commons]

The Empire State Plaza, conceived and built by then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, is a huge government-building complex built and arranged in the futuristic international style of the 1960s, a bit like Brasilia. As a result, I am quite fond of it. Nearby along US 20 is the State Capitol building, which is quite different from most others. It is not the Classical style with columns and a large dome or rotunda, but instead looks more like a rich family mansion that one might find in New York in the 19th century. It is a mixture of Roman, Renaissance and Victorian styles all put together.

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

From Albany, one can continue on I-87 north towards the Canadian border. Along the way, the highway passes through the Adirondack Mountains. In the northern part of the Adirondacks, one can leave the interstate for smaller roads like Highway 86 through the mountains to Lake Placid of Winter-Olympics fame, and nearby Whiteface Mountain.

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

Meanwhile, the Thruway continues west from Albany with I-90, through many of the other cities that dot western New York, such as Syracuse and Rochester, passing north of the Finger Lakes. The longest is Cayuga Lake. On the south end is the town of Ithaca, home of Cornell University whose campus is on a hillside overlooking the lake, and whose official school song references the lake. Near the northern end of the lake is Seneca Falls, a famous location in the history of women’s rights in the United States. From Seneca Falls, we can also follow the Erie Canal westward. The canal, which was an important transportation route in the nineteenth century, runs largely parallel to the present-day Thruway. It is known for its complex series of locks, such as these at the appropriately named town of Lockport.

[By Leonard G. at en.wikipedia [see page for license], from Wikimedia Commons]

The Erie Canal and the Thruway continue westward to the city of Buffalo. We leave the main Thruway and continue on I-190 towards the downtown on the shore of Lake Erie. It is the second largest city in New York State, but I have yet to visit it. It’s location on the edge of the Great Lakes and its industrial past make it seem much closer to the cities of the midwest, such as Cleveland and Detroit, than to the rest of New York. Indeed, one of the city’s landmarks, Buffalo Central Terminal reminds me a bit of Michigan Central Station in Detroit: a once grand art-deco station that has been abandoned and fallen into disrepair.

And yes, Buffalo wings do come from here.

We can head north from Buffalo on I-190 to Niagara Falls.

[By Victor Ip (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

This image contains the smaller American falls, with the larger Horseshoe falls off frame. Next to the falls is the Rainbow Bridge, which connects to Canada, and concludes our trip to New York. Even as I finish writing this, I think of all the comments I could write about what was missed in this brief trip. But I know I will be writing about New York again in the future.

Fun with Highways: Wisconsin

Our “Primary Highways” series continues apace with the state of Wisconsin. We begin with the state capital, Madison, which I wrote about during last year’s protests. We begin with a image of those protests. It looks very cold there, but also quite exciting. Some of us watched these protests in the hope that it would be the start of a resurgent progressive movement.

[Photos by Lost Albatross (Emily Mills) on flickr. Shared under Creative Commons license.]

In the eastern section of the capital, we encounter aptly named “Badger Interchange”, in which no fewer than three major interstates converge, I-90, I-94 and I-39. The interchange also includes state highway 30, a short freeway that connects to downtown Madison.

Highway 30 ends at US 151, which traverses the isthmus that holds downtown Madison and separates lakes Mendota and Monona. I don’t know of too many other cities concentrated on an isthmus like that. Certainly, the location between the two lakes makes for interesting views and architectural opportunities. Consider this view from Lake Monona featuring the State Capitol building book-ended symmetrically by large buildings and standing behind Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace.

[By Emery (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]

The city is also hope to the University of Wisconsin, and an arts and music scene. It might be a good place to play as part of that mythical “upper Midwest tour” that I keep saying that I want to do.

It of course did not take long for us to encounter a building by Frank Lloyd Wright, a native of Wisconsin. His summer home and studio, Taliesin, is in Spring Green, west of Madison. We take US 14 west from the capital through a green hilly landscape – it’s not hard to see why this might been inspiring for Wright’s prairie style architecture, with its use of horizontal lines and low angles that reflect the expanse of the landscape. Taliesin Preservation, Inc. now occupies the estate and is dedicated to the architect’s legacy.

[By Marykeiran at en.wikipedia [GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons]

If we head north from Madison along I-39 to its end near the city of Wausau, we can see several examples of Prairie School architecture, including additional Wright houses. This one has a more distinctly modern feel than Taliesin, with more emphasis on straight lines.

[By Originally uploaded by Americasroof (Transferred by Arch2all) (Originally uploaded on en.wikipedia) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]

We return to Madison again, and this time stay with I-90/I-94 westward after they split from I-39. The highway goes by Wisconsin Dells, which looks like a major tourist trap. But the name actually comes from the interesting sandstone rock formations along the Wisconsin River. Skip the amusement parks and head to the river.

[Dells of the Wisconsin River taken in May of 2002 by Amadeust]

These formations which are vaguely reminiscent of the higher-elevation features in the southwest, were supposedly cut during catastrophic flooding as an ancient lake drained. The wide river and lush green vegetation, however, make it quite a different environment.

It was along I-90/I-94 that I also had a chance to sample Wisconsin’s famous dairy products in its basic form: milk out of a carton at a truck stop. I was skeptical that it would really be that much different, but I have to admit that the chocolate milk was better than anything I had in college (or public school before that). My time on that trip was limited, so I didn’t have a chance to explore the real product I was interested in: cheese. Of course, one can get Wisconsin cheese here in California, and I can live vicariously through blogs like Cheese Underground until I get a chance to go back.

Next, we head east from Madison on I-94 towards the state’s largest city, Milwaukee. As we approach the city, we pass through the Zoo Interchange, one of the states oldest and busiest. It currently serves as the junction of I-94 with I-894, the “Zoo Freeway” and US 45. I like the name “Zoo Freeway”. Of course, the name of both the freeway and interchange derives from proximity to the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens.

I-94 continues towards downtown, passing through another large interchange, the Marquette Interchange with I-794, I-43, and US 41. It does look like a complicated tangle.

Heading north on I-43 from the interchange, we exit at WI 145 to see the former Pabst Brewery Complex, a shrine to contemporary hipsterdom.

[Taken by Jeramey Jannene, on September 8th, 2005 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (CC BY 2.5)]

The complex closed in 1997. I have to admit, the derelict buildings of the brewery appeal to me at least as much the beer would have. Another great place to photograph, and this one is the National Register of Historic Places so it can’t be torn down (at least, I don’t think it can). Sections have in fact been reopened recently as a “Best Place” and there is a major redevelopment project planned for the entire complex. It is certainly possible to have modern, functioning business inside of a post-industrial shell, so I hope this place does not lose its charm in the development process. I would love to hear from people in Milwaukee about what is happening here.

Just to the east, we approach the downtown area and the Milwaukee River. The urban riverfront has pedestrian access via the Riverwalk.

[Image from Wikipedia. Licence:]

This looks like a great way to see the city and its connection to the river, with buildings coming right up to its edge. The walk continues is segments north and south, including into the historic Third Ward with its older buildings, wedged between the river and I-794 (the Lake Freeway). We can travel along the lake on I-794, and then continue north on city streets back into the downtown. Here we can see the spectacular modernist wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum (designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava) jutting out onto Lake Michigan.

[By en:User:Cburnett (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Milwaukee’s traditional architecture is more of the decorative style we see from American cities that grew in the early 20th Century, but also reflects the city’s German heritage (along with the beer).

[By Illwauk at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-2.0], from Wikimedia Commons]

From Milwaukee, we head north back into the state on US 41 towards Lake Winnebago, the state’s largest inland lake and the only lake in the U.S. named after a recreational vehicle. Along the lake, we pass the well-known towns of Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. This sunset view is looking from the east side of the lake towards Oshkosh, which is hidden below the setting sun.

[By Royalbroil at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.5], from Wikimedia Commons]

US 41 passes the town crossing over Lake Butte des Morts (named for a nearby Native American burial ground) and the Fox River, continuing around Lake Winnebago and heading northward towards Green Bay.

There is one primary reason most of us are familiar with Green Bay: it is home of the successful NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, and the only major team is non-profit and community owned. And quite successful, too. Their fans wear cheese-shaped hats. You can see the approach into downtown Green Bay on US 41 via this video:

We turn south onto I-43 (which ends in Green Bay) over the mouth of the Fox River and come to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, a large urban nature preserve. It is an opportunity for people in the city and beyond to see wildlife up close, in addition to being a center for the rehabilitation of local wildlife. Of course, we must feature one of the wild cats.

[Photo by tyle r on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

US 41 continues north along the western side of the Bay of Green Bay (as distinguished from the city of Green Bay), passing by more natural landscape before entering into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Wisconsin does not have much shoreline on Lake Superior compared to its neighbors – in particular, Michigan extends quite a bit westward along the south shore of the lake, but it does have the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. We can get there from Michigan on US 2, passing along the edge of Chequamegon Bay before turning north onto WI 13 along the waters edge to the Apostle Islands. In addition to wildlife and great views of Lake Superior, the islands have unusual “sea caves”, such as these at the edge of Sand Island.

[By Jordan Green JWGreen (en:Image:Apostles sandisland.jpg) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

In some ways they resemble the Dells that we saw much earlier in this article. We conclude with this lighthouse on the same island, one of several here that guide ships along this edge of the Lake Superior.

Fun with Highways: Illinois

Our primary highways series continues today with a visit to the state of Illinois.

Throughout this series, I have been drawn to many of the large cities of the Midwest and Great Lakes. And none of these looms larger than Chicago. And none is taller. Chicago is home to the tallest building in the United States, the Sears Tower (officially, it is now called the Willis Tower but I doubt too many people call it that).

Downtown Chicago is a true vertical city, with not just a few tall buildings, but the densely packed skyscrapers that form deep canyons, much like Manhattan. But the presence of the Chicago River cutting a channel through the middle of downtown is quite unique. The buildings seem to come up to the water’s edge.

[Photo by mdesisto on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

The Chicago River connects to Lake Michigan, but thanks to the miracles of human engineering, it actually flows in the other direction away from the lake (UPDATE: thanks to an astute reader on DailyKos for the correction!). US 41, Lake Shore Drive crosses at the mouth of the river in this unusual double-decker drawbridge. (The Aon Center is the tall building in the background. It reminds me a bit of something else.)

US 41 / Lake Shore Drive continues north and south of bridge as a scenic expressway with city buildings to one side and beaches along the lake to the other. The south end of the expressway is in the Hyde Park neighborhood, home of a certain Barack Obama.

Back in downtown, we find the complicated Circle Interchange, where I-90 and I-94 intersect with I-290 and the Congress Parkway. This interchange, which is often considered one of the worst bottlenecks in the country, connects the downtown to the lakefront and to the suburbs south and west of the city.

[By Stratosphere (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

If we take I-290 west from this geometric oddity of an interchange, we come to the suburb of Oak Park. It was here that Frank Lloyd Wright began his storied architectural career. His home and studio in the town is a landmark, and there are numerous early examples of his prairie-style houses. Looking at his home and studio, one can see the elements that would be later refined in prairie style.

There is so much in Chicago I could go on about with regards to art, architecture, music and culture, but space is limited. I do have to give a shout-out to the Art Institute of Chicago, however. It’s collection is large and encyclopedic, but they do have sections that focus on both American and contemporary art. I would particularly like to see the new modern wing, both the building and the art contained within. For music, I invite readers to share the ideas and suggestions of what to explore in the city.

Back at the Circle Interchange, we head south on I-90/I-94, the Dan Ryan Expressway., one of the widest and busiest highways in the country. It has wide sections for both local and express lines, and a line of Chicago’s “L” runs down the center. I-90 veers off onto the Chicago Skyway, but I-94 continues south (though designated as “east”) on the Dan Ryan Expressway until the junction with I-57.

[By Zol87 from Chicago, Illinois, USA ( [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Continuing south on I-57, we pass by our friend I-80 in the southern suburbs of Chicago and eventually come to Champaign and Urbana after crossing I-74 – it does seem that Illinois has a lot of interstate highways. This cities are home to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, the flagship campus of the University of Illinois. It hosts the NCSA (The National Center for Supercomputing Applications) that created the first graphical web browser Mosaic.

[By Ragib Hasan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s hard to imagine life without this technology now, it is ubiquitous and integrated into so much of information, communication and entertainment. Of course, without it you would not reading this article, and I would probably not be writing it. Earlier in its history, the University was home to ILLIAC. At the time it was activated in 1952, it was the largest computer built and owned by an American university. This huge vacuum-tube based machine had 5 kilobytes of main memory and 64k of drum memory. For perspective, consider how much more memory and computation is in an iPhone now.

Before we overdose on computer history, we exit Champaign-Urbana on I-72 heading westward. (Did we mention that Illinois has a lot of interstate highways?). This view along the highway suggests just how flat the landscape is in this region, with the road completely straight.

[By Dual Freq (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]

Continuing on I-72, we come to Springfield, the state capital.

[Éovart Caçeir at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons]

Springfield is steeped in the history and mythology of Lincoln, probably more than any other city in the state. He lived there for 24 years and launched his political career there. And his final resting place, Lincoln’s Tomb is in Springfield.

[Lincoln’s Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois, 2006. Robert Lawton (self), via Wikimedia Commons.]

We also find another well-known Frank Lloyd Wright home in Springfield, the Dana-Thomas House. It has rather large and often considered a “prairie mansion”. It does contain the horizontal forms and low angular ceilings characteristic of prairie style, but the most notable features that distinguish are the windows.

We head south from Springfield on I-55, on another incredibly straight stretch of highway through very flat landscape. For those who have lived among hills our entire lives, these flat plains are a novel experience. It’s not only the land, but also the sky.

[Photo by tlindenbaum on flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)]

There is a significant break in the flat landscape of western Illinois along the Illinois River. Illinois Route 100 runs along the the west bank of the river amidst trees and bluffs. It then crosses a bridge and continues along the east side until the Illinois River meets the Mississippi River.

[Photo by kittell on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

IL-100 continues along the Mississippi as part of the the Great River Road. As one can see, the landscape here is no longer flat.

[By Kbh3rd (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The Great River Road continues past the end of IL-100 and into the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. As the landscape along the river becomes more suburban and then urban in St. Clair county, the road bounces around many other designations, including I-70 in East St. Louis. From here we can continue across the Mississippi to St. Louis itself, or continue southward on the Great River Road as IL-3.

We opt for the latter, passing through towns with Egyptian sounding names until we come to Cairo, at the southern tip of the state, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet. We meet I-57 again and then continue into the town itself on US 51. Cairo (pronounced KAY-RO) was once a significant center of trade along the rivers. But it has been in a long decline, and now has a population of about 2,800. Indeed, some views of the town make it look nearly abandoned.

[Photo by gobucks2 on flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

The photo almost looks like something from Doug Rickard’s series. It’s sad, but also quite interesting in a way. It’s a long way between Chicago and Cairo, but it would be great to see and photograph both of them in one big trip across the state.

Fun with Highways: Super Tuesday, Part 2 – Ohio

Today we devote the second of our “Super Tuesday” Fun with Highways articles to the state of Ohio. Although the state is often known for its agricultural and industrial heritage, we choose to focus on its major urban centers here. Although not originally intended as such, it could be called “fun with bridges.”

We begin near Cleveland, the state’s largest metropolitan area. I-90 comes in from the east along the shore of Lake Erie. At “Dead Man’s Curve”, the highway makes an abrupt and rather angular turn to the south to become the Innerbelt Freeway along the edge of downtown.

[Burtcbl at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons]

The above view shows old and new aspects of the city’s skyline. The Terminal Tower is the classic deco skyscraper from the early 20th century is visible in the distance. The highly geometric and sleek Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a contrast along the waterfront. In between, the Key Tower, the tallest in Ohio, combines elements of both.

I-90 intersects with the northern terminus of I-77 at a rather complicated interchange before continuing across the Cuyahoga River on the “Innerbelt Bridge.”

[Photo by GandZ on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

The bridge crossings over the Cuyahoga in Cleveland are numerous, and perhaps define the city as much as the skyline, if not more. Even the image above showing the Innerbelt Bridge carrying I-90, we see several others. There is a low-lying rail bridge crossing underneath at an angle. It is one of many low bridges that can be raised for water traffic on the river. I believe this one is no longer in use and is permanently in the raised position.

The most iconic of the many crossings is the Detroit-Superior Bridge carrying US 6 and US 20 across the river into downtown. The name seems a little odd, as we’re not in Detroit and Cleveland is on Lake Erie rather than Lake Superior. But it connects Detroit Avenue with West Superior Avenue and thus the name is quite appropriate. It rises high above the river and is quite picturesque against the downtown skyline.

[Burtcbl at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons]

Looking towards the lake from this bridge, one sees how closely packed the crossings are, and the diversity of shape, height, function, and level of disuse. In the picture below, we see the blue bridge carrying a major freeway, State Highway 2, beyond that a rail bridge, and in the front the ruins of the older Detroit Avenue viaduct.

[By Craig Hatfield [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The viaduct, like the unused rail bridge shown above, are quite interesting as artistic subjects, and even qualify as “hyperart” as described in conceptual artist Akasegawa Genpei in his book Hyperart: Thomasson (you can find out more about it here). Thus, it should not be surprising that I would very much like to visit this part of the city for artistic inspiration, to explore the bridges both in use and abandoned, as well as other places along in this industrial riverfront section of the city known as the Flats.

[Photo by Chris Hamby on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

Cleveland has actually long served as a magnet for artists interested in urban and industrial landscape, so this is nothing new. Indeed, the city has seen the same cycle of others where rundown or neglected neighborhoods attract artists in search of low rent and inspiration, and then the costs of living rise. But it still seems to have much to offer and I hope to get the chance to visit soon.

We depart Cleveland continuing on I-90, and then switch onto I-71 to journey diagonally across the length and breadth of the state. It winds through the suburbs, crossing many other highways before intersecting our friend I-80, which runs across the state as the Ohio Turnpike. The Ohio Turnpike is familiar from numerous cross-country trips, with the rolling hills and suburbs giving way to a much straighter road over flat terrain and farmland as one heads west. But in this instance, we continue south on I-71 towards Columbus, the state’s capital and largest city.

[Click image to enlarge.]

Columbus is in the middle of the state, and without much to get in the way it has developed the “standard” set of ring roads we see in many cities around the world: an outer beltway (in this case, I-270) and an inner belt around the downtown (a combination of I-70, I-71, I-670 and State Highway 315).

[Photo created by Alexander Smith on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

Looking at the Ohio State House, it initially looks like something is missing: the dome that is ubiquitous on so many seats of government. It appears as if it has been shaved off. In actuality, this is part of the design, an older Greek Revival design that predates the current Capitol dome in Washington, DC, that was then used subsequently in most states.

Columbus does have its bridges as well, including the Lane Avenue Bridge which includes some classical elements in its otherwise modern design.

And of course I would be remiss if I did not mention Ohio State, as I have several friends who are devoted lifelong fans due to their connections to either the university of the community.

Leaving Columbus, we continue southwest on I-71 to Cincinnati.

[Photo by Rdikeman]

One stop we must make while in the city is to the Contemporary Arts Center. The CAC is perhaps most famous for its exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe in 1990 that still resonates in discussions of “controversial art” (though honestly Mapplethorpe’s photographs themselves don’t seem that controversial anymore, I have seen on multiple occasions in recent years). But the museum is more recently known for its building with fragmented geometric sections designed by architect Zaha Hadid; and for programs that feature architecture and design.

The city is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum. It is a relatively conventional art museum with a wide-ranging collection, but it does include yet another piece by Mark di Suvero for us to encounter is this series. Atman is another large red metal outdoor sculpture, but without the typical rounded element.

[Photo by Adam Norwood on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

Cincinnati lies along the state’s namesake river, which forms the border with Kentucky to the south. As such the city has its own set of bridges, though nothing to approach the density of Cleveland. The most interesting perhaps is the John A Roebling Bridge. One can see many of the elements that Roebling would ultimately use in New York for the Brooklyn Bridge.

[Photo by Rick Dikeman on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

Another Cincinnati Bridge that has been in the news is the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries I-71 together with I-75 south into Kentucky. The bridge is featured prominently in the city skyline image above. It also one of the 15 bridges labeled by the Federal government as “structurally unsafe”, which sounds quite bad (indeed, President Obama used it as a backdrop for a speech about rebuilding our infrastructure). The bridge itself made the case in 2011 when chunks of concrete fell from the upper deck to the lower deck. Proposals are currently being considered for a replacement.

Fun with Highways: Livingston (?)

Every so often we like to have fun with the cities and towns that appear in our Facebook Insights and Google Analytics. One town that has been appearing prominently in our Facebook page stats recently is Livingston. However, we have no idea which place called “Livingston” this actually is, so we will explore a few possibilities.

Based on the demographics of our readers and Facebook fans, it’s probably in the U.S., and it is most likely Livingston, NJ, a town east of Newark along I-280, not far from New York City.

Livingston is a medium-sized suburban town. Though its history dates back a long time (about 300 years), it was relatively sparse until automobiles and highways arrived in the 1920s. Notably, it is named for William Livingston, the first Governor of New Jersey. It is also near the Riker Hill fossil site, also known as Walter Kidde Dinosaur Park, a major paleontological site – I remember hearing about the “major dinosaur fossil site in New Jersey” a few times while growing up across the river in New York.

It could be Livingston, California, a town along the Highway 99 corridor in the Central Valley, between Modesto and Merced.

Like much of this part of the Central Valley, it is primarily an agricultural town.

It could also be Livingston, Montana, a picturesque town along I-90 and US 191 north of Yellowstone National Park.

[Image by Jonathan Haeber ( via Wikimedia CommonsClick image to enlarge.]

It has that classic “old US downtown” look with mountain ranges in the background. It also seems like a relatively prosperous town (much of its economy is related to tourism). As of this writing, however, it sounds like they are at the edge of this year’s intense flooding along rivers in the U.S. and the Yellowstone River is again above flood stage as of the writing of this article. We hope they stay safe and dry! In late May, flooding on the Yellowstone River closed parts of I-90 near Livingston.

Livingston, NY is in the Hudson Valley and quite a ways north of New York City. It is considerably smaller than its counterparts in New Jersey, California and Montana.

In the strange way that I remember such things, I am pretty sure I have been through the junction of US 9, NY 9H and NY 82 (and NY 23).

Smaller yet is Livingston, Louisiana.

It is along I-12 east of Baton Rouge. I mention it because it has a gravitational wave observatory. That is cool. Gravitational waves are theoretical ripples in the curvature of spacetime that propagate as a wave – a phenomenon predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity but never directly detected.

Fun with Highways: Seattle

After New York and San Francisco, Seattle has recently been among the top cities for this site and our Facebook page. So today we are paying tribute with a visit of some of the city’s highways.

Two of the major highways in the U.S., I-5 and I-90 meet in downtown Seattle at this massive interchange:

I did actually travel to Seattle through this interchange a few years ago, while on tour with the band that would later become Reconnaissance Fly. I-5 may look wide here as it passes under I-90, but further north it felt narrow and windy, more like the highways inside New York City, with buildings on either side of us.  We took the exit for Madison Street and headed up the hill to our gig, not far from some cool-looking transmission towers (Is it weird that I actually remember these particular details?).  It was a bit of a nostalgic trip to go back and read the gig report, and see how far we’ve all come musically since then.

To the west of I-5 is State Highway 99, the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This is a double-decked elevated highway along the industrial waterfront, and actually seems quite interesting, both looking at it from the bay and for the spectacular view of the city and bay that one would see while riding it.

In some ways, it seems like the former Embarcadero Freeway in here San Francisco, including the fact that it is scheduled to also be “former” soon. Plans are to demolish the elevated highway and replace it with a tunnel, and surface boulevard that connects the downtown to the waterfront. The replacement plans seem to be as controversial as the highway itself. Both fall along predictable lines, the typical reaction of many who see a highway like this as an “eyesore”, and those who are worried about the costs of replacing it. The bored tunnel seems quite impressive, and more walkable space seems like a good concept. The replacement of the Embarcadero Freeway here with an open and walkable waterfront space seems quite successful (it was all done before my time), but I still felt a little sad seeing those last vestigial bits of the old infrastructure get demolished last year. I thought they were architecturally interesting (and photogenic). These views (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) show the underside and details of the Alaska Way Viaduct.

Hopefully the project works out well for Seattle. Demolition began earlier this year.

Fun with Highways: Madison, Wisconsin

Between Facebook stats and popular uprisings, there is a lot of “fun with highways” to be had. And who knew that the next Middle Eastern country to face large-scale protests would be Wisconsin?

We begin in the eastern section of the capital, Madison, where no fewer than three major interstate highways converge, I-90, I-94 and I-39. Appropriately, the interchange is called the “Badger Interchange”. It also includes state highway 30, a short freeway that connects into downtown Madison.

Highway 30 ends at US 151, which traverses the isthmus that holds downtown Madison and separates lakes Mendota and Monona. I don’t know of too many other cities concentrated on an isthmus like that. Certainly, the location between the two lakes makes for interesting views and architectural opportunities. Consider this view from Lake Monona featuring the State Capitol building book-ended symmetrically by large buildings and standing behind Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace.

[Photo by Emery on Wikimedia Commons.]

The area is anchored by the State Capitol complex and the University of Wisconsin. The area between the two along State Street seems a bit like familiar streets in Berkeley or sections of northern Oakland – or maybe more like Austin, TX. In addition to numerous restaurants, bars, cafes, galleries and places to hear live music, it too has a reputation as a liberal/progressive center. It also might be a place to play if and when I ever do an upper-midwest tour.

Of course, it is currently also the sight of large-scale protests against the current governor’s plan to strip most collective bargaining rights from state workers. Thousands of protesters have been camping out in the state capitol building and out filling the streets. Here are some images:

[Photos by Lost Albatross (Emily Mills) on flickr.  Shared under Creative Commons license.]

One thing to remember about Wisconsin in February is that it is cold. Even colder than the really irritating freezing cold rain we have been having in San Francisco over the past few days. It makes the protests all the more impressive (and in fairness, the counter-protesters in support of governor also have to brave the cold weather).

Primary Highways: Montana and South Dakota

Well, this long process is nearly at it’s end. And this time, we really mean it, there are only two states left, Montana and South Dakota. I had an opportunity to visit both as a kid in 1988. It was only as I prepared to write this article that I realized this was twenty years ago!

We came into Montana at night on I-94, which we previously mentioned in this series when we visited Indiana and Detroit. The night sky in Montana is an amazing experience, as is the complete darkness if one stops the car and turns out the lights. A little eerie, actually. I grew up the suburbs north of New York City, so such clear and dark nights were a new experience.

I-94 ends quietly at junction with I-90 near Billings, the largest city in Montana. I don’t remember much about it.

We did visit Yellowstone National park, which is mostly in Wyoming. But the northern entrance, featuring the Roosevelt Arch, is in Montana:

We discussed Yellowstone in more detail when we wrote about Wyoming. But I didn’t mention the fact that I was there during the massive fires of 1988, that burned about one third of the park. The smoke and the various closures certainly colored my visit. I do need to go back again and experience Yellowstone as an adult and without the fires.

From Yellowstone, we traveled north and east, stopping in the town of Butte. Though quite small, I recall it looking rather large as one approached from the east at night on I-90. We at CatSynth would not deign to make jokes about the town’s name.

Ultimately, we headed north on US 93 to reach Glacier National Park. This was an altogether different experience from Yellowstone. Not only were the skies clear, but landscape was more the standard forests and lakes and mountains one associates with Rockies:

Among the striking features of Glacier Park are its lakes, such as St. Mary Lake (pictured here) and Lake McDonald. Lake McDonald in particular is quite deep, as it is formed from a valley between mountains, though not as deep as Crater Lake in Oregon. The park does of course have Glaciers, but they have been retreating quite dramatically, victims of climate change.

Our trip back from Montana took us through South Dakota on I-90. The main feature of I-90 in South Dakota were the frequent billboards advertising Wall Drug, which we of course did have to stop at, after having fun with the concept for the preceding hours. We did of course visit the more monumental attractions, including the dueling carved mountains of Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore.

We ultimately continued east on I-90 to Chicago, the hometown of the likely winner at the end of this long contest.