Posts Tagged ‘primary highways 2012’

Fun with Highways: North Carolina

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Today our “primary highways” series brings us to the state of North Carolina.

Crossing from Virginia into North Carolina on I-95 (which I most recently did in 2009 under cover of darkness), one gets the sense that “now we are really in the South.” It’s perhaps a combination of the vegetation, terrain, but especially the name “Carolina”.

 

That particular trip involved traveling southward along I-95, and then later returning to the state near the coast on US 17. The contrast between the different corridors was quite apparent. The US 17 corridor, when when it was not exactly on the coast, was surrounded by shorter vegetation in a lighter shade of green. As we got closer to Wilmington and I-140, it was hard to tell whether we were in a quiet coastal region or in an outer suburb with lots of highways but relatively little visible development. From 17/I-140, we turned onto I-40 and headed north. But if I the time for a proper visit, I would have continued up US 17 back towards the Outer Banks.

One can talk a particularly scenic trip through the Outer Banks on North Carolina Highway 12, which stitches together many of the barrier islands via bridges, causeways and ferries with fantastic views. The road goes through the Hatteras National Seashore. It also goes through Kitty Hawk, often credit as the location of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, though it was actually in nearby Kill Devil Hills. One of the most prominent landmarks, in addition to the continuous stretches of beach, is the Hatteras Lighthouse.

The Outer Banks are part of a beautiful and quite fragile environment, and one that is quite prone to being hit by hurricanes and subject to storm surges and flooding. Consider this breach of the islands and the highway that occurred in 2011.


[Photo from NCDOT on flickr.]

If we leave the Outer Banks and head northward and eastward on I-40, we eventually come to the Raleigh, the state capital and one of the main cities of the Research Triangle together with Durham and Chapel Hill. The Research Triangle is home many technology companies (both in the Research Triangle Park and beyond), and is anchored by Duke University, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University. These schools are also known for their basketball teams. Raleigh is a much larger city and the center of state government, and sports both an inner and outer beltway, I-440 and I-540 respectively, though the latter is only partially built. Durham, to the north and west, looks from images as a grittier city that might attract my interest, especially with the old tobacco-factory buildings that have been converted to mixed use.


[GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

It is also home to a large and vibrant African American community with a long history of successful businesses and a neighborhood once dubbed “The Black Wall Street.” It was also a center for early Civil Rights activity including some of the earliest “sit-ins.” Already in decline by the late 1960s, the neighborhood appears to have been torn apart by the construction of the Durham Freeway (NC 147) through the center of the city. It is a familiar sounding story (like the Cross Bronx Expressway in New York).

From Durham, I-85 and I-40 run concurrently to the city of Greensboro. Greensboro includes one stretch of I-40 which is signed with no fewer than six different highway numbers.

From Greensboro, we take I-85 south and west towards Charlotte, the state’s largest city. Charlotte has become a major banking center, most notably it is home to “way too big to fail” Bank of America. It has prospered and underwent a major construction boom with a large jumble of post-modern skyscrapers.


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

The Bank of America headquarters in Charlotte is the “tallest building between Philadelphia and Atlanta.” It is the one with the green lights on top in the photograph above. This sculpture, Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Il Grande Disco sits on Bank of America Plaza. It is known locally as “The Disco Wheel.”


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

Bank of America is having its shareholder’s meeting this week, and a large protest is expected tomorrow to coincide with the meeting, presumably converging at this very plaza.

We return to Greensboro and head west on I-40. The development becomes sparser and the landscape more hilly and scenic as we approach the Blue Ridge Mountains. And more treacherous as well. We turn onto I-240 to the town of Asheville.

While I have not yet been to Asheville myself, it sounds a little bit like the resort towns here in northern California, with music, arts, and old-style downtown turned upscale, and new-age types. But for me it is most notable as the home of the late Bob Moog, the great synthesizer pioneer and of our heroes at CatSynth. Asheville continues to be the home of Moog Music, Inc, which makes both hardware synthesizers and one of my favorite musical iPad apps, Animoog. The independent but related Bob Moog Foundation is building a museum and cultural space in Asheville, and they are involved in education outreach and teaching students the science and art of electronic music with programs, with specific efforts in western North Carolina.

We conclude by turning north onto I-26, a relatively new and quite spectacular highway through the mountainous border region between North Carolina and Tennessee. The highway, which opened in its current Interstate form in 2003, winds it’s way through mountain passes, alongside cliffs, and even through a tunnel. This video gives a sense of what it is like, even though it is traveling in the opposite direction, from Tennessee back to North Carolina.

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Fun with Highways: Wisconsin

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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:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/]

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.

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