I is for Ingenuity – #atozchallenge

I am always intrigued about the ingenuity of humans. Their ability to build and create things that solves problems for them.

There are many examples of ingenuity to can be seen on the back roads of America. Whether it be bridges or towers or buildings. There is always something unique and interesting to see.

Tuckhannock Viaduct – Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson’s welcome sign features the Viaduct

One of my brightest memories of fascination comes from a town in eastern Pennsylvania called Nicholson. In this town, the train company needed a solution to get the train up high to pass by as the town was down in the valley. So, a giant viaduct was built. Called the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, this giant structure. towered over the town and allowed the trains to pass by way up on top of the town nestled below in the valley. To realize that this was built in 1915 is amazing to me. It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!! The bridge was built as

The viaduct is dizzying when looking up from below

part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.

Tuckhannock Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA
Cleveland’s tallest buildings

One needs only go to some of the older big cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Cincinnati, to see the tall buildings that were built in the 1930s and 40s. Naturally, these were to accommodate offices are in a crowded area. The building designs were amazing and are still beautiful to look at.

I really love the older buildings as they were obviously much more difficult to build and their architecture is so reminiscent of the times. I guess I grew up watching the old Superman movies and saw the old buildings used in these.

New York City 1959 (from an old family picture – I was actually there when this was taken.  Only 3 years old)
New York City, 2013 – taken from Hoboken, NJ
Cincinnati Skyline with its old buildings and numerous bridges
The Ascent at Roebling’s in Covington, KY across the river from Cincinnati

But not all of the buildings are old. There is a unique condominium structure that was built in Covington, which is a suburb of Cincinnati across the Ohio River into Kentucky. The structure is unique in its architecture.  And the amazing PPG Building in Pittsburgh really blows my mind…a true glass castle!

 

A view from below One PPG Place
Bridge over Mississippi River at Cairo, IL

I have also grown a fascination with bridges. These are massive structures that cross rivers great and small. In Cairo, Illinois there are two massive and Long Bridges. Cairo is where the confluence of the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is at its deepest and widest point here and when going south through this area one must cross a bridge over the Ohio and then over the Mississippi. These bridges are amazing and it stuns me that the traffic and the years have not worn these bridges away.

The New River Bridge in West Virginia is THREE Statues of Liberty high above the river.  An amazing feat of engineering.

River Crossing near Cairo, IL
A view of the Detroit-Superior Bridge in Cleveland
High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta was built in 1909. It is 5327 feet long and the largest of its type in the world
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900 in Cut Bank, Montana
Sunset over Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington
Bridges of Pittsburgh
Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia in August 1995
Green Bridge near Redcliff, Colorado

I once crossed over a bridge in a valley in the mountains of Colorado (see above). This bridge to was stunning to me is you come down off of the hill and see the bridge down below. I wondered out loud at the time how engineers could fulfill this feat.

Golden Gate Bridge in 2016

Another of the great and fascinating Bridges is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Not only is it massive like the bridges in the east, it is also crossing over a giant bay and must also be earthquake proof.

Delaware Seashore Bridge
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH

 

Some of the newer bridges are more unique and have their own kind of personality. The bridge crosses the bay in Delaware was stunning to me. I was fortunate enough to be at this bridge during sunset and cut the lovely photo of it above.

Many of the newer bridges have dozens of cables attached to large pillars.  They look futuristic and are cool to drive over.  I have seen quite of a few of these in recent years.

 

William H. Harsha Bridge from Maysville, KY into Ohio.
Rexburg, Idaho LDS Temple

Ingenuity is this not stop just at skyscrapers and bridges. There are many religious structures that can be seen across the country that are also amazing feats of engineering. Take for instance today LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The stones gathered to build that building came from the canyons and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagons.

Many of the other LDS temples are also spectacular.  But they are not the only religious buildings.

Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson

The old church in Tucson, Arizona called San Xavier del Bac, was built in the 1700s and one can only wonder how the Spaniards built this beautiful and unique structure in the middle of the desert.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
St. Mary’s Basilica, Marietta, OH
Central Presbyterian in Cambridge, ON
Hoover Dam and Bridge (photo credit hdrinc.com)

I have crossed over the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona numerous times. These are some of the largest dams in the United States and when you stand on the edge and look down it is dizzying. And to think that these damn’s were built in the 1940s and 1950s is amazing. The ingenuity of the engineers that designed and manage the construction of these is beyond words to me.

On the top of the world on Beartooth Highway that borders Wyoming and Montana south of Red Lodge, MT
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982. You can see hairpin turns at right

And finally, some of the highways themselves are stunning pizza engineering. Have I overused those words already? The Beartooth Highway in northern Wyoming and the highways that go across the Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple prime examples of this. Even the winding hairpin turns of Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona are quite amazing.

Ingenuity from the 1880s — Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON opened in 1881

Though I am more drawn to the unique and quirky things to see around the country and perhaps closer to the nature of birds and animals and trees and clouds, I am nevertheless grateful and overwhelmed by the ingenuity of humans in the spirit of design and innovation. What needs only open their eyes on the highway and think about some of the things that have been built whether they are bridges, buildings or even monuments to fallen heroes. There is always inspiration to be seen and felt from the ingenuity of the human spirit.

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A to Z Challenge: The W Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

WThe W Towns

Wharton, Texas

Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Future of Wharton, TX Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Buildings in downtown Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX
Black History Mural by Dayton Wordrich
Black History Mural by Dayton Wodrich

Lots of fun things to see in the little town of Wharton.  My main reason for visiting Wharton was to visit the Tee Pee Motel, a retro throwback to the 50s and 60s. According to their website, “The Teepee Motel was originally built in 1942 by George and Toppie Belcher to serve travelers heading across Texas on State Highway 60. The Teepee operated for 40 years, until the Interstate Highway system and a new era of travel routed customers away from the motel in the early 1980’s. The motel eventually closed and would remain so for over 15 years.  Another notable set of items are a number of murals painted by Independence, Texas mural artist Dayton Wodrich.  He has done at least five murals in Wharton (though I only saw four when I drove around town).  You can see my full post about this trip HERE.

Welland, Ontario

Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
Welland, Ontario with large Canal Lift Bridge towering over the town
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled "History of the Niagara Peninsula" by Heinz Gaugel
A portion of a massive mural on the side of a shopping mall. Entitled “History of the Niagara Peninsula” by Heinz Gaugel
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
Mural of Grandfather telling stories about Welland to Grandson
 "Working Women" by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
“Working Women” by Ted Ziegler shows the contribution of women to the industrial work force in the factories of Welland
"Wagons" by Andrew Miles
“Wagons” by Andrew Miles
"Main Street" by Mike Svob
“Main Street” by Mike Svob
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario
Welland Canal Lift Bridge #13, Welland, Ontario

When visiting Ontario, Canada, one of the main attractions is Niagara Falls.  But not too far west of there  is the town of Welland. The
town of about 50,000 people was long associated with an inland canal from Lake Erie, but more recently is known for its large “outdoor
art gallery” of more than 25 murals, some of which are 3 stories high.
I have been to many towns with murals and am finding that this is a great new tradition by cities and towns. My first mural sighting in Welland was a huge painting on the side of Sears at the Seaway Mall. This mural depicted the entire history of the area and was so big
I had to take a number of photos to get it. You can see a portion of it above.  The other thing of interest is the HUGE Welland Canal Lift Bridge, which towers over the town.   Read more and see quite a few other mural shots in my July 2008 post HERE.

Winterset, Iowa

Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Welcome to Winterset, Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Roseman Covered Bridge in Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
Cedar Covered Bridge, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
John Wayne Drive, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Birthplace of John Wayne, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa
Madison County Courthouse, Winterset, Iowa

I have always wanted to go to Winterset, Iowa, famed for the “Covered Bridges of Madison County” (See a map here).  Robert James Waller made these famous with his book called The Bridges of Madison County. The county originally had 19 covered bridges, but now only six remain.  There are actually a couple of other places with quite a few covered bridges including the bridges in Greene County, Ohio (see map) near Xenia, Ohio which I will feature in my X Towns post later this week,  (see my write up of my visit to many of these), the 18 bridges in Fairfield County, Ohio (also see map) and the 17 bridges in Ashtabula County, Ohio (also see map here), including the newest and longest, which is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge at 613 feet long (see my photo of this bridge).  Kentucky and Michigan both still have quite a few as well. There are just over 125 covered bridges still in the United States and I have been fortunate to have visited many of them.  Therefore this was an exciting visit for me.  But Winterset is also famous as the birthplace of John Wayne.  You can see my complete and detailed post about Winterset HERE.

Wapiti, Wyoming

Smith Mansion - Wapiti, WY
Smith Mansion – Wapiti, WY
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
Unique Formations west of Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
View towards mountains in Wapiti
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Cliffs near Wapiti, WY as seen from US 14/16/20
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti
Sandstone Cliffs and Mountains west of Wapiti

There are many roads into Yellowstone National Park and I have taken most of them.  One of the most scenic is the drive west out of Cody, Wyoming on US Highway 14/16/20.  This takes you into Yellowstone through the small and very scenic community of Wapiti.  It is home to the famously unique Smith Mansion high up on a hill overlooking the valley. This 40 year old structure was the brainchild of Wyoming artist Lee Smith. Smith spent his life, and eventually tragically ended it building this unique house for his family.  He fell to his death at the age of 48 in 1992.  The home is 5 stories tall, has numerous staircases and rooms and hidden entrances.  Check out the complete post from my 2013 drive from Gillette, WY through Cody and Wapiti into Yellowstone HERE.

Wall, South Dakota

Wall Drug 714 Miles
Wall Drug 718 Miles – Austin, Minnesota
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Driving into Wall, SD you can see the 80 foot tall Dino from the Interstate
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall Drug Store, Wall, SD
Wall's Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
Wall’s Mt. Rushmore with son Seth
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug - these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
A typical Roadsign advertising Wall Drug – these can be seen all over the country if you watch carefully
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Another Wall Drug roadsign
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino
Giant 80 foot tall Wall Drug Dino

There are many roadside attractions in the United States that are advertised by billboards for miles and miles before the attraction.  However, in my recollection, none of them have the far reach of Wall Drug in South Dakota.  I can remember as a teeneager seeing signs that said “Where the Hell is Wall Drug?” and “Wall Drug 1200 miles,” etc. Even on a 2005 visit to Black Earth, Minnesota, there was a Wall Drug sign on a boot shop noting that it was 718 miles away. Our visit in 2005 was fun and there really is a lot to do there for a place in the middle of nowhere.  Check out more about it in my 2005 post HERE.

Walla Walla, Washington (Honorable Mention)

Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Close up of spider on Art Car at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Flute Player made from mufflers at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington
Scrap Metal Pink Flamingo at Melody Muffler in Walla Walla, Washington

As I have noted in other posts, in 2007 I took a trip to Washington with my son Solomon to work with Antsy McClain on some shows he had out there.  On one of the days off we took a side trip to Walla Walla, Washington, specifically to go see the Melody Muffler shop and all of the great pieces of art made from mufflers and car parts.  A few examples are shown above.  You can see more and the whole story HERE.

Walcott, Iowa (Honorable Mention)

Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Sumoflam at I-80 Truckstop in Walcott, IA
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
Iowa 80 Truckstop is so big it has its own water tower
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
The place is so big they even have a semi INSIDE
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Castle Hall in Walcott, IA
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background
Walcott Corn Fields with water tower in the background

Somewhere on Interstate 80 there is a truck stop…a HUGE one…the largest one in the world.  It sits in the small town of Walcott a few miles west of Davenport. I have visited there three times since it is a convenient stop along the Interstate.  Not only does it have the Truck Stop, but in town there is an old castle, a few interesting scrap metal sculptures and a neon sign or two.  I have even spent the night in this town. You can read more about my trips HERE and HERE.

Waldo, Arkansas (Honorable Mention)

Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo, Arkansas
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Water Tower
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR
Waldo Post Office, Waldo, AR

In the 1990s “Where’s Waldo” became a fad.  Well, I found one of the Waldos in Arkansas on a trip in 2010.  A few shots are above, but the bigger story of that trip is HERE.

Worland, Wyoming (Honorable Mention)

Highway into Worland, WY
Highway into Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY
Mammoth Bronze Statue by Chris Navarro in Worland, WY

I visited Worland, Wyoming on the same trip as Wapiti above.  The real drawing card to this town is the big Mammoth Statue they have there.  There is also a museum.  Definitely worth a visit if you are going to be anywhere near.

West Montrose, Ontario (Honorable Mention)

Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge
Another view of West Montrose Covered Bridge

I mentioned the covered bridges of Madison County above in the Winterset section.  And in my X Town post I’ll be reviewing more covered bridges in the Xenia, Ohio area.  But, my interest was piqued in 2008 when I visited the one shown above.  This bridge, the West Montrose Covered Bridge, is the longest in tact covered bridge in Canada.  You can read more about this bridge and many more of my visits to places around Ontario in 2008 in my 2009 Retrospective post HERE.

Winner, South Dakota (Honorable Mention)

Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner Winner..no chicken dinner, just the name of a town in SD
Winner, South Dakota
Winner, South Dakota

Winner Food Center

Welcome to Winner - Home of Frank Leahy
Welcome to Winner – Home of Frank Leahy
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Statue, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD
Pheasant Bar, Winner, SD

I am always the sucker for visiting towns with fun names.  I couldn’t resist visiting Winner, SD on the Oyate Trail in 2013.  I definitely wanted a photo with the sign.  What I later found out is that there was a major multi-million dollar Powerball winner that lives in Winner and had bought his winning ticket in Winner.  So, Talent, Oregon may have had a finalist on America’s Got Talent, but Winner, SD has a Powerball Winner. Winner also claims to be the Pheasant Capital of the World, but Gregory, down the highway from Winner also lays claim to the same.  You can see the entire story and more photos HERE.

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