Words to Travel By:

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” – Kurt Vonnegut

"We can't be lost.  We're making such good time." – a friend

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do."  – Georgia O'Keeffe [Because bridges are my kryptonite.]

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain

Sunday
Sep082013

Bottle of Z

This bottle sat in the corner of an empty engine shop, in a shadow cast by what little remained of the roof. The label on the back containing "Directions for Use" was otherwise unreadable. I don't know what this was, but I know that it wasn't for human consumption.

Sunday
Sep082013

Miners Lamp

Before headlamps could be powered by batteries, miners burned calcium carbide as lamp fuel. The powder was sold in steel barrels like this one. Decades of exposure to temperature and humidity fluxuations took their toll on this one: the carbide expanded, popping the top off the barrel and splitting it down the side.

Sunday
Sep082013

Le bon Dieu est dans le detail

The 1908 Gamble House, the Arts & Crafts masterpiece by architects Greene & Greene in Pasadena, California, is presently undergoing some restoration. I suspect this is the motivation for offering special tours in the private areas of the house normally off-limits to the public. In August, I took advantage of this a rare opportunity to see the way the Gamble family and staff lived and worked. Unfortunately, on this tour I was unable to see the magnificent interior woodwork for which the house is famed.

Photography is only allowed of the exterior and grounds, but beauty abounds there. This flame red dragonfly patiently obliged photography in the small koi pond on the terrace at the rear of the house. The terrace and water garden are surrounded with a Green and Green trademark: a klinker brick retaining wall. The slender bricks used as pavers are intricately cut to fit to fan slightly. Even in the bright sunlight, the windows seem to glow. The Greens' master work demonstrates the principle expressed by Gustave Flaubert, "God is in the details."

http://www.gamblehouse.org/




Saturday
Sep072013

Chain of Rocks Bridge

Stretching across the Mississippi between St. Louis, MO and Madison, IL is the unique Chain of Rocks Bridge. Once it carried vehicle traffic over the massive river as part of Route 66. After being marked for demolition and then rescued from the ranks of the to-be-destroyed (reportedly because there was no market for the scrap metal), it was preserved as part of a hiking and biking trail.

Despite the fact that the bridge and the trail have been the site of crime - crime that apparently is to blame for the fact that it is no longer possible to park on the St. Louis side of the bridge -- Chain of Rocks remains popular with walkers. It was worth the drive to Madison/Granite City on I-270 to see the steel truss structure for myself, despite being a bit skittish on bridges.

The Chain of Rocks bridge is a steel (Warren) truss through deck design two lanes wide measuring 5,348 feet in length with its longest continuous span at 700 feet. It stands 93 feet above an unnavigable section of the Mississippi River. (This section is bypassed by the Chain of Rocks canal, the construction of which was not related to the bridge.) The bridge's distinctive feature is a 24-degree turn midway across, approximately at the state line markers. The turn was necessitated by the fact that the land purchased on the Illinois side of the bridge was not immediately accross the river from the land purchased for the bridge on the Missouri side. Plans to build the bridge on an angle were nixed by the Army Corps of Engineers so designers compensated by adding the turn. Chain of Rocks Bridge opened to traffic in July, 1929 and was permanently closed in 1970.

Two intake houses (built in 1894 and 1911) dot the river near the bridge. These provided municipal water for the city of St. Louis.

Saturday
Sep072013

Aldrige Sawmill

 

A three-mile hike into the Angelina Forest near Jasper, Texas reveals the remains of the Aldridge Sawmill. Abandoned since the 1920s, the mill was once a thriving enterprise served by the Burrs Ferry, Browndell and Chester Railroad (BFB&C) and the adjacent company town was home to 1,000 - 1,500 workers. The property is overseen by the USDA Forest Service and is part of the Angelina National Forest, accessible via a hiking trail built on the earth berms constructed for tram access.

The History Center in Diboll, Texas has a wonderful collection of resources available regarding the area's rich history including this piece by Jonathon Gerland, A Sense of Place in the Angelina Forest: Aldridge, Blue Hole, Bouton Lake, Boykin Springs, and Turpentine.