National Road and US 40 bridges at Blaine, OH

Two bridges at Blaine
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

One bridge was built in 1826, the other in 1932. One guess which is which!

Both bridges carry the National Road/US 40 over Wheeling Creek near Blaine in Belmont County, Ohio. It’s just five miles from the Ohio River, the border with West Virginia.

The lower bridge came first. It’s the oldest standing bridge in Ohio, and is the longest of the few remaining S bridges in the state. Notice its “S” curvature? This was done in the name of economy: it’s less expensive to build and maintain a bridge that’s perpendicular to the creek it crosses. They merely curved the approaches to meet the road.

This was just fine in the days of horses and buggies with their slow speeds. As automobiles took over, it became a hazard. Drivers had to slow way down to negotiate the S. Some didn’t slow down in time.

Moreover, west of this bridge lay a very steep hill. It was challenging for cars of the day to climb. I’m sure pedestrians and horses didn’t much enjoy the climb either!

The upper bridge made travel easier on three counts: it eliminated the S, it offered a wider deck (38.1 feet vs. 26.9 feet), and it created a gentler rise to the top of the hill.

I know of four other S bridges on the National Road: one in Pennsylvania (here) and three in Ohio (two here, the third here). That last one was still open to traffic when I visited it in 2011, and I drove over it. By 2013 it, too, was closed (here).

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Two bridges at Blaine

Two bridges on the National Road/US 40 in Blaine, Ohio.

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Photography

Sustaining Flickr

It’s remarkable that Flickr survived Yahoo! and Verizon. Some news reports suggest that Verizon thought it would be too much cost and trouble to find a buyer for Flickr. Had SmugMug not made an unsolicited offer, Verizon would likely have shuttered Flickr.

That would have devastated this blog. The vast majority of the photographs you see here are hosted there. It would have been a staggering job to fix the blog, a job I don’t have time for. Down the Road would have met its end.

You may have read SmugMug CEO Don McAskill’s alarming plea for help on Flickr’s blog last month. He asked for more people to become Flickr Pros, as this is how Flickr makes money. More Pros means a longer life for Flickr as it is.

Ferdy Christant is a wildlife photographer and software developer who built a photo-sharing site for wildlife photography. He wrote a compelling, although rambling, defense of SmugMug recently; read it here. He makes a strong case that SmugMug bought Flickr to return it to profitability and operate it for the long haul.

Christant paints SmugMug as a longtime business run by competent leaders who took a big risk on money-losing Flickr. He believes that SmugMug’s focus on building a sustainable business through the photography community, rather than on being a high-flying, billion-dollar tech unicorn, offers real hope.

I’m going to step out on faith and believe Christant. But a good reason bolsters my faith: SmugMug moved the entire Flickr service to Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS is Amazon’s cloud computing service. You rent servers from them, and run your software product and store its data there. It is risky, time-consuming, and expensive to move a big software product and all of its data to a new host. I work in the tech industry and have been a part of such projects — I know what I’m talking about. And AWS itself is expensive. I’ve seen the hair-raising monthly bills at some companies I’ve worked for who used a fraction of Flickr’s capacity. You don’t move to AWS casually. You don’t do it at all when you plan to wind down your service.

The free Internet is a myth. Running a software product and storing its data costs real money. The more popular the service, the bigger the money. My little blog costs me about $500 a year in costs related to running it and storing its data. Flickr probably spends that much every fifteen seconds.

Many sites have been free to use since the dawn of the Web. At first, many big, valuable sites hid their very real costs from you by burning investment capital. After the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, new Internet companies focused hard on how to monetize their sites. Most of them chose an advertising model. Some of them went with a membership model. The software product I help build today had a membership model until just a couple years ago. We got by. We changed over to a targeted advertising model and the money started gushing in. I’m sure you’ve noticed that the advertising model has won on the Internet.

Flickr seems determined to keep a membership model (though they do show some ads to non-members). To use a broadcast TV metaphor, that makes them much more like PBS than NBC. PBS relies on people like you giving them money to keep going. So does Flickr. But really, what you’re doing is paying for the value you get.

If you use and like Flickr, I echo Don McAskill: become a Pro. It costs $60 a year. Click here to upgrade. If $60 is big money to you, I understand. I’ve been there. But if you can readily afford $60, do it. You’ll unlock unlimited photo storage and a bunch of other goodies. And you’ll help keep Flickr’s lights on.

Flickr’s not perfect. Its community is a shadow of what it once was. Its past owners have made some baffling and sometimes stupid decisions. Some of SmugMug’s decisions about Flickr have proved controversial. But set it all aside. Flickr remains valuable and, in some ways, a gem. It’s a place to explore photographs, a place to share your photography, a place to host your photography for use all over the Internet. It deserves to continue.

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Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge on Route 66 in Kansas
Canon PowerShot S95
2013

Route 66 passes through exactly one county of Kansas on its way from Missouri to Oklahoma. Kansas makes the most out of its 13 miles of this famed road. I’d tell you more, but I’d rather you go see for yourself!

I will show you one thing: this 1923 March Rainbow Arch bridge, designed by James Marsh. Marsh held the patent on this design. Hundreds of Marsh Arch bridges were built from the 1910s through the 1930s primarily in Iowa and Kansas, but also in a few nearby states. 17 are known to still stand. All of them are in Kansas and only one is not still open to traffic.

This one is still open to traffic, although one way westbound. A new bridge was completed 50 feet away in 1992 to handle modern traffic volumes.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: The Rainbow Bridge on Route 66 in Kansas

A Marsh Rainbow Arch bridge on Route 66 in Kansas.

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Pony trusses

Pony trusses on the Dixie Highway
Canon PowerShot S95
2012

This bridge is a sad case. Due to deterioration, it closed to all traffic in 2015.

This road was part of the 1914 Dixie Highway and, later, State Road 37, southeast of Martinsville, Indiana. This bridge came along in 1925. In the 1970s, SR 37 was upgraded to a four-lane expressway between Indianapolis and Bloomington, leaving lots of curvy old alignments behind. The new SR 37 is only about 500 feet northwest of this spot. I explored them all in a 2007 road trip; read all about it here.

This bridge is on a short old alignment that provided access to some county roads on the north edge of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. While it was still open it got only about 500 vehicles a day. So it’s not surprising that Morgan County went lax on this bridge’s maintenance.

And now it’s closed to traffic. It’s all overgrown now; it looks like it’s been abandoned for decades. See it here.

It’s not clear what will happen to this bridge. SR 37 is in the process of being improved to become Interstate 69. Many of the nearby old alignments were or will be used as frontage roads, and have received improvements to support that. But project maps show frontage-road construction ending at the southern end of this old alignment. Will this bridge be left in place? Will it be removed?

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: Endangered pony-truss bridge on the Dixie Highway

Pony-truss bridge on old SR 37 south of Martinsville.

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Canadian River Bridge

38 spans on Route 66
Canon PowerShot S95
2013

This wonderful bridge is on old Route 66 in Canadian County, Oklahoma. At 3,944.3 feet, its 38 Camelback Pratt pony trusses undulate mesermisingly as you drive through.

This bridge’s future is uncertain. As I wrote here, this 1933 bridge didn’t fare well at its last inspection and officials recommend it be replaced. This isn’t like many other old Route 66 bridges, on some long ago alignment carrying only local traffic. This bridge is still part of the US highway system, carrying US 281 over the South Canadian River. While I stood here to make this photo, many semis whizzed by me.

Options on the table include building a new bridge nearby to carry US 281 and leaving this one in place for Route 66 drivers to continue to enjoy. I hope that option wins.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: 38 spans on Route 66

This famous Route 66 bridge is endangered.

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Photography

Interesting light, captured on iPhone

I’m still using the iPhone 6S I bought in 2016. That’s ancient mobile-phone history, but it’s been a good phone and I don’t see any reason to upgrade. Its battery is starting to wear out, but the Apple Store will install a new one for $49. That’s a fraction of a new iPhone’s cost.

The new iPhone 11’s camera is supposed to be startlingly good thanks to big advances in computational photography. I’m sure I’ll find out all about it someday, but not as long as my 6S continues to perform well.

The 6S’s camera is pretty good, anyway. Here are some photos I’ve made with it lately that I think turned out all right. What they all have in common is that I found the light to be interesting, and the iPhone was the only camera I had on me.

I made this photo through the windshield of my car as I drove out of my subdivision after a snowy night.

Snowy road

I made this through my car’s windshield too. I’d just left work and was stopped at a light on Washington Street (the Michigan and National Roads) at Meridian Street.

Westbound on Washington

We got some delicious late-afternoon light one weekday afternoon so I went to the nearest window and made this photo of the neighboring City-County Building.

The City-County Building

I was reading one evening as the sun set. I looked over and noticed these wonderful colors through the back door window. I wasn’t motivated enough to get up and add a photo to my Sunset Over the Toyota Dealer series so I zoomed in a little with my iPhone and made this.

Kitchen sunset

I made this at Crown Hill Cemetery on the day I shot a roll of Fujifilm Velvia there.

Crown Hill path

Margaret and I met her son Zach in the hip Fountain Square neighborhood for a night out. We stopped by Hotel Tango, which distills their own spirits. I stood in line waiting to order us a round of Old Fashioneds.

Order Here

Finally, where I work everyone who completes five years of service gets a rubber chicken. This service award is far less puzzling than the one given for ten years: a tin can with a plastic spoon sticking out of it. I’m sure that when my time comes for one of these awards, someone will explain them to me.

Rubber chickens

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