Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Bridges of Portsmouth, NH

General Sullivan Bridge
I moved to New Hampshire's seacoast area when I started at the University of New Hampshire, and left five years later when I moved to California to start my career of always being at the hot technology companies just after they were no longer hot. These were the first five years of my adult life; I went to school, I fell in love, I got married, worked at a radio station and three startup tech companies (EZ Data, Enterprise Systems, and a third, the owner of which would prefer I don't talk about my time there on the Internet, as I found out the last time I did so).

Anyway, EZ Data was based out of Newington, and A... the unnamed company was based out of Portsmouth, and we lived in Dover, so every single day we would cross this beautiful old bridge, the Sullivan Bridge, our first bridge of the three in this post. Below the bridge was Hilton Park, where we could bring our lunches and watch the boats sailing on Little Bay.

After we left for California, they closed the bridge, which was used for southbound traffic when we lived there, and it is now used only for pedestrian traffic. The state is now deciding whether to renovate it for traffic, just tear it down, or replace all the bridges with a super-wide bridge. These bridges are the bottleneck for traffic from the Portsmouth area to the 'burbs to the north.

I'm hoping for restoration for traffic, of course. Though it would be hideously expensive, it is the second most historic bridge in the area.

Well, that was before Portsmouth decommissioned the first most historic bridge, the Memorial Bridge.

Sarah Mildred Long Bridge
The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is more commonly known as "the middle bridge". It connects the city of Portsmouth with Kittery, Maine, home of a naval base and the Kittery Trading Post. It is one of two drawbridges across the Piscataqua River, and with the decommissioning of the Memorial Bridge, the only one that remains.

The bascule (the moving bit) lifts every fifteen minutes during the day to allow traffic through, but this bridge has a secret. Automobile and truck traffic runs along the top, but there is a train track that runs along the bottom. If a boat comes by that could get by if the train track section just weren't there, the bridge master can slide the bottom part to the side.

The Memorial Bridge looks similar to the Long Bridge, but with curvier trusses on either side of the bascule. I'd have pictures of it, but A) they re-arranged the Portsmouth traffic so much that I couldn't find it, and B) I thought this WAS the Memorial Bridge. Which shows how memory fades after a quarter century away. Anyway, C) they decommissioned it.

I'll get it next time, what's left of it.

Piscataqua River Bridge
The Piscataqua River Bridge rises dramatically high above the Portsmouth skyline. Like the Memorial Bridge and the Long Bridge, the Piscataqua River Bridge crosses the (wait for it) Piscataqua River and connects the city with Kittery, Maine, bringing a northern cap to New Hampshire's colorful and historic eleven miles of coast.

Out of all the cities I have lived or worked in, Portsmouth was the most beautiful. Watching a live performance of "Grease" on the lawn on Strawberry Bank, staggering drunkenly through snow shrouded city streets singing sea shanties after a memorable meal at The Library, geeking out with plastic baggy video games at the Atari Computer Club, lining up outside the Jerry Lewis Cinema to see The Empire Strikes Back... it's a painfully breathtaking example of a New England seacoast town.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pelham Bay/Shore Road Bridge, Bronx, NY

Pelham Bay Bridge
It's still catch-up week here at Life, On a Bridged. This weekend is going to be a post about three beautiful bridges in the Portsmouth, NH area, and next week is going to be Covered Bridge Week. (Preview: we cover the most haunted bridge in the Berkshires!)

But for now, we're in the Bronx, at the Pelham Bay/Shore Road Bridge.

Usually when I visit the Bronx, I go by train. It's convenient, comfortable and even fun. Once in the city, the subway and buses bring me anywhere I need to go. This is how things were for years, until I got a car. While following the Merritt Parkway into New York, I came for the first time to NYC in a car. And that made all the difference. Unlike traveling in a train, in a car I could get lost. And while lost, I could find things.

I'd hoped to get a NYC bridge while I was in the area before heading back home to Connecticut (and I did, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge). On the way to that bridge, I passed over this bridge. I immediately turned around, parked at the Bronx Equestrian Center, and looked for someplace with a good view of the bridge.

I didn't have to go far; there is a trail off of City Island Road (which has some pretty cool bike paths) which goes right up to the mouth of the Hutchinson River, over which the bridge runs.

The bridge is one of the busiest drawbridges in the city, second only to the Hamilton Avenue Bridge in Brooklyn. (Reading that report, btw, I bet I could spend a year, easy, just photographing New York City's historic bridges). It was completed in 1909, replacing a wooden bridge that crossed the river nearby, and celebrated its centennial a couple years back.

It's not a long bridge, but you can walk over it and enjoy both halves of the Pelham Bay Park (and landfill!). Say what you like about NYC, they have amazing parks. This trip I visited the Pelham Bay Park and the Ferry Point Park and was impressed by them both.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Bridge, Stratford-Milford, CT

Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Bridge
I thought I'd be running out of bridge pictures too fast, so I slowed to posting just once a week. That's kinda backfired, and now I have many bridges on the pile to discuss. Part of my reluctance with some of them is that they are... just bridges. You have the exciting ones, and then you have the more or less standard ones, like this one, the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Bridge, which takes the Wilbur Cross Parkway over the Housatonic River between Stratford and Milford.

Route 15 here continues west toward New York and becomes the famous Merritt Parkway, of which I've written. On the Stratford side of the bridge is the Sikorsky Aircraft Company. They make helicopters.

You may have heard of them. The helicopter they have mounted in front of the factory is the first thing I noticed about the place :)

The bridge itself is a standard beam bridge. There is a nice pedestrian/bicycle walkway on the north side of the bridge leading up from a loop park which also extends beneath the bridge. It's a very pleasant stroll, and even though it was pretty chilly the day I went, there were a lot of people enjoying it.

You can tell from the barrenness that this was taken a couple months ago. They call this field an estuary, but it looks mowed, which kinda doesn't have the same connotations of unspoiled wetlands that the word conjures up for me. Elkhorn Slough back in Moss Landing -- now there was an estuary.

If anyone asks, I would totally move back to the Monterey area if I could swing it. And I'd take my daughter and her family back with me, cuz I'm totally selfish like that.

Anyway, the Sikorsky Bridge is one of the last bridges on the Housatonic I had yet to photograph. There's the possibility that I will do another state-spanning photography day with the Housatonic, because I'm pretty sure all the bridges along it are easily accessible. Unlike the Connecticut River as it flows through Massachusetts; that river twists and turns and little thought is given to tourists. I tried to get the French King Bridge on my way up to Cow Hampshire last weekend, and had to give up. The only way I could see to get a picture without trespassing in someone's yard on a hill a half mile away (and I was tempted) was to get on a boat.

Anyway I'll probably write that bridge up just to get it off my camera.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sawyer Bridge AKA "Bridge to Nowhere", Hillsborough, NH

Sawyer Bridge
The stone arch bridge in Hillsborough, NH was the subject of a blistering stump speech by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who asked how $180,000 of stimulus money was spent on a bridge that connects to no road and carries no traffic.

Bridge, in the news, in driving range -- I headed right up to get a look for myself at this "bridge to nowhere".

It's a nice enough bridge. Recently maintained, with a railing around it so you can walk around on top of it without falling into the Contoocook River, which it crosses. The Hillsborough folks say they were thinking of building a park around it, but it's certainly not in the center of anywhere.

Signs on either side of it tell the history of the bridge:

Stone Arch Bridges

Beginning in the 1830s, a few arched granite
highway bridges were built in southern New
Hampshire under the supervision of engineers
from major manufacturing centers. By the 1850s,
rural stonemasons had mastered the art of
building such bridges without mortar. Hiram
Monroe (1799-1871), active in town affairs,
persuaded Hillsborough to build a dozen. Five
survive, and a sixth is covered by Franklin
Pierce Lake. Among the local builders were
Reuben E. Loveren (1817-1883), and brothers
Calvin A. Gould (1826-1877) and James H. Gould
(1828-1890). All three worked on this, the
double-arched Sawyer Bridge, in 1866.

I'm wondering where the other four surviving stone bridges are...  It's interesting that the sign mentions that stonemasons had mastered the art of building stone bridges without mortar, while the Sawyer Bridge clearly uses a ton of mortar. Perhaps that was put in during the renovation.

According to Gilman Shattuck, historic bridges like the Sawyer Bridge are important reminders of our past.

Mr. Shattuck, a former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and a Democrat, also happened to be a contributor to a book of historical images of city. He wrote the chapter on bridges. Sites like the Sawyer Bridge, he said, are important history landmarks that help out with the New Hampshire tourism industry.
“We’re talking sofa money, sofa change money,” Mr. Shattuck said of the stimulus dollars funneled to the bridge. According to the Associated Press, the total amount of stimulus funding used to repair the bridge was $150,000.

Parking is pretty much anywhere. There are parking lots surrounding it. Not sure it's worth a special trip; I fit in five covered bridges and a trip to the New Hampshire seacoast along the way and that made it worthwhile to me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

All the Crossings of the Connecticut River in Connecticut

Last weekend I photographed the Putnam Bridge in Wethersfield. I looked at my map and saw I only had one more bridge to photograph, and I'd have photographed every crossing of the Connecticut River in the state of Connecticut. That last one would be the Baldwin Bridge in Old Saybrook.

But then I hatched an evil plot. I would go back and photograph every one of those bridges in one day. And once I got to Hartford, I'd do the rest on my bicycle. Because I am stupid and also, I love pain.

I left the house at 8:30AM and returned home at 6PM. Exhausted. But with the mission complete. I crossed every bridge, but one -- the Arrigoni in Middletown. I photographed every bridge, but one -- the Putnam. I was looking for a different place from which to take a picture, but when I crossed it, there was nothing but wilderness on the other side. So this post features last week's photograph, which I hadn't used in a blog yet, anyway, so it's technically new. Except the sky last weekend was cloudier.

Since the Connecticut River Ferry in Glastonbury was closed (I don't know why), that's not in this set. And since the Windor Locks Canal Trail is closed until July, there's a railroad bridge I'm missing.

Let's get started with the southernmost bridge and work our way north to the Massachusetts border.

Railroad Bridge, Old Saybrook
Nothing between this bridge and Long Island Sound. While I was packing my gear away, this bridge closed to let a train over.

Baldwin Bridge, Old Saybrook
Not shown, all the marinas around here... and all the fishermen. The river from here to Enfield was full of guys and kids fishing. Even sometimes I'd get lost on a trail, come across a clearing on the river and there would be more guys fishing.

Chester-Hadlyme Ferry
Even though I know Hadlyme is pronounced "Had-lime", some part of me wants it to be pronounced "Had-lee-me".

The governor wanted to close both this ferry and the Connecticut River Ferry in Glastonbury, and apparently got his wish with the latter. It's easy to see why; there are lots of bridges across the Connecticut in the Wethersfield/Hartford area (and we'll see them soon), but the next nearest bridge is the East Haddam Bridge, a bit to the north. This ferry will get a lot busier once Gillette Castle opens; I took this picture from the castle grounds with my 500mm lens.

East Haddam Bridge, East Haddam
I took this picture because that was the mission, but I spent most of this part of the trip taking pictures of the sailboats on the river. And of the powered sailplanes taking off from the Goodspeed Airport. There was a lot going on. There was even a wedding party having their pictures taken with the bridge as a background.

Sailboats on the river
I don't know why there were so many sailboats. Probably a club meeting or something. They didn't seem to go anywhere, but maybe they did after I left. They took good pictures, though -- the 500mm lens has such amazing depth of field. Tough to manually focus a really huge lens on moving things with a really shallow depth of field while also trying to frame stuff and trigger the shutter. Pro photographers probably earn their paychecks.

Providence/Worcester Railroad Bridge, Middletown
This bridge is often ignored in favor of the much more impressive Arrigoni Bridge right behind it. Its center section rotates to let the train through, but it is nearly always in the open position, as it is here. There were some crew races going on; the 500mm lens once again got the shot.

Arrigoni Bridge, Middletown
The camel humps of the Arrigoni Bridge are Middletown's signature landmark, appearing in nearly every photograph of the city on its website. This bridge, seen from the portal, is the background of this blog. It's a beautiful and impressive bridge. This particular shot isn't that great; I should have gone with my first instinct and taken a picture of it from very close, looking up. Also, inevitably, this shot has a more detailed picture of the railroad bridge.

Putnam Bridge, Wethersfield
This is the cheat, the only picture not taken yesterday. Forgive? The Putnam Bridge is so high as there's still boats coming up the river from the Sound. That will end pretty soon. The Connecticut River Ferry would be a little south of here, were it running.

Charter Oak Bridge, Hartford
This is where the bike pictures start. I parked in Great River Park in East Hartford, and then criss-crossed Hartford several times getting pictures. The bad part is all these shots are hand-held. The good part is, I got to go to places cars cannot. Although most southern of the Hartford bridges, this is the last one I shot. I biked from G.R.P. up to Founders, then to the public boat house north of Hartford, over the train bridge and then off road through mud, some trails, and some car tracks which ended in a field which I pedaled through back to Connecticut Ave in East Hartford, then over the Bulkeley to Hartford and then south through the Charter Oak neighborhood to this bridge, then back up the bike path on the East Hartford side to the parking lot.

I have pictures of this bridge from the side, but they were boring. They also weren't overexposed, as this one is, but that's what you get with no tripod and hence no HDR.

Founders Bridge, Hartford
This bridge brings Route 2 right into the heart of Hartford. The wide walkway on the top is filled with sculpture and flags. On the Hartford side, it feeds into the science center, the convention center, the Old State House Square and many, many other cool places. Bulkeley Bridge peeks through the supports.

Bulkeley Bridge, Hartford
The Bulkeley Bridge is one of the longest stone arch bridges in the world. Might even be the longest. It was built to be an enduring landmark for the ages at a time when the world was moving toward reinforced concrete and steel bridges. This photo, taken from the train bridge to the north, shown a rare angle of the Hartford skyline. Because most people don't want to go on the train bridge, I guess.

Those people are smart.

Train bridge, Hartford
Unfortunately, I am not so smart. I only intended to take a picture of this bridge from the banks on the hiking/mountain bike trails that fill the north end of Hartford's Riverside Park. And I did do that. The paths continued under the bridge. As I crossed beneath, I looked up and noticed that there was a plank walkway alongside the tracks. This bridge could be crossed without having to risk twisting an ankle walking on the ties. Thinking back to my crisis of nerves on the Westfield railroad bridge a few months ago, I felt I really had to do this one.

This bridge, it turns out, is Hartford's secret playground. You can kinda see a women midway along the bridge; she's a model having her picture taken with the bridge and the city as background. The photographer is crouched in a cubby on the other side of the tracks. At the far end, a couple of kids were playing. Below the bridge, people were fishing. A group of guys was walking up to cross the bridge into Hartford. It was a busy place.

Some of those planks were pretty creaky. I walked my bike over the bridge.

Bissell Bridge, Windsor
Stopped here on the way up to Windsor Locks. I could have biked here from Hartford, it's only three or four miles, but then I'd have to bike back to get the car, and that would mean going twice through the "stabby" part of Hartford -- Uptown.

Sometimes I'd bike to work through South Windsor, over the Bissell to Windsor, then down through north Hartford to work. I thought nothing of it, though traffic on Windsor Street can be a little chancy, there's always construction and cars going in and out.

Then I read about "The Second District", a reality-based crime drama set in north Hartford about police and gang violence. A switched flipped in my brain and I started feeling nervous whenever I'd go through the neighborhood -- with no reason -- and now for me it's just the "stabby" part of Hartford and I don't bike through it much anymore.

Dexter Coffin Bridge, Windsor Locks
I don't know what happened to the bicycle between the time I put it in the car in East Hartford and the time I took it back out at the Amtrack park-and-ride in Windsor Locks, but the front brake pads had started rubbing and no jiggling of the wheel would fix it. After about half an hour of futilely trying to fix it without having to break out the allen wrenches and potentially make it worse, I just decided to soldier on. Five miles up to Enfield and five miles back, and most of that on the flat and peaceful Windsor Locks Canal Trail. Easy peasy.

I was getting pretty tired, though. I could see the Coffin Bridge from the Amtrack parking lot so I just took the shot. Yeah, it sucks.

I was rapidly losing enthusiasm to complete the adventure.

Bridge Street Bridge, East Windsor
This was the last bridge shot. I got up to Bridge Street and was devastated to see that the Windsor Locks Canal Trail was closed until July. They had a fence across the trail and across part of the canal, to show they were serious. Some joggers came up, obviously crestfallen about the closure (it had been open when I last came by in December), and wondered if there was some way around the fence. Not unless you feel like swimming.

I got on the bike and started scritch scrape scritching my way to the other end of the trail in Suffield. It was by this time I was regretting not eating breakfast in my excitement to get going. My body was out of gas. I stopped by a convenience store along the way and got some candy and some G2 (2 for $3!), but my body wanted carbs and it wanted them six hours ago. So anyway that was when I remembered I pedaled right past the next bridge on the list, and I got it on the way back. After which I collapsed on the lawn of some industrial place and drank more G2.

Franklin Street Bridge, Suffield-Enfield
Now, the other end of the trail, when I eventually got there on my constantly braking bicycle. was hopping with people. Fishing, walking along the trail (which continues into both Suffield and over the bridge to Enfield), the parking lot was full and there were lots of people fishing both in the canal and the river.

I got this picture and wondered if there were an easier way back. My first thought was to head down the Windsor Locks Canal Trail and see if hit the railroad bridge before it got closed up. A sign at the closed trail head said that the last two miles of the trail were open, but the bridge is only a mile north of trail head. The trail itself is just a bit over four miles long, so 4-2=2, and the trail would probably be closed. I was interested in anything that would have me pedaling less at that point.

I headed over the Franklin Street Bridge, hoping to find a nice, river-hugging road on the Enfield side to head back to Windsor Locks on, then cross the Bridge Street Bridge back to Windsor Locks, then south to the car.

I didn't find one. Having to retrace my path for a mile, and with my phone back in the car (smart!) I couldn't navigate a better route, so I just went back the way I came, took the Bridge Street Bridge photo, returned to my car, drove home and collapsed.

But happy! I'd done it -- every Connecticut River bridge in the state of Connecticut.

I'm thinking about doing the same for the Housatonic -- I'm only missing one bridge there, the I-84 bridge in Newtown, and its two covered bridges definitely need a revisit -- but I think I'll wait awhile. And I'll be sure and eat breakfast first.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Q" Bridge, New Haven, CT

Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge AKA "Q" Bridge
About the picture: There are three bridges in that picture. The one in the background is the Tomlinson Lift Bridge. The one in the foreground is the OLD Quinnipiac Bridge (AKA Q Bridge). The one in the middle -- the one with all the cables -- is the NEW Q Bridge.

I hadn't photographed the new construction since last December, when it was just the concrete posts and some highway stretching away from it in both directions, with only some of the cables attached, and no clear idea how the bridge would shape up.

Construction ca Christmas, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, I read an article in the Courant about the plans for the Q Bridge, along with a rendering of how it would look when completed (read that article here). And then I overheard some people talking about the bridge construction at work!

I really had no choice; I had to return to New Haven and check it out for myself.

The section of I-95 that passes over the Quinnipiac River is one of the most congested sections of road in the state. Everyone traveling from northern or eastern New England to New York City goes through this bottleneck. Traffic is sometimes stalled for miles. The new Q bridge will greatly expand the road's capacity in both directions, as well as using an innovative bridge design not before seen in the US, the "extra-dosed" cable design.

These seagulls were hanging around on Long Wharf, so I took their pictures. It's not ALWAYS about the bridges!

Closer look at the cable supports
Parking is easy, just follow the signs for Long Wharf and park in any of the small parking lots. If you go up Chapel Street, there's some parking at a sports field just north of the bridge. If the traffic is bad that day, you can park on I-95 itself in a traffic jam for an up-close look at the new construction.

Wind Turbine
If you choose to park at the sports field, you get this awesome wind turbine for free.

Here it is again!
That turbine looks even more awesome from the OTHER side, looming behind the bridges...