1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge

1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

You don’t expect to come upon a suspension bridge over a river in middle America. But nevertheless, here this one is.

It’s in Carlyle, Illinois, about 50 miles east of St. Louis. It’s a block north of US 50 on Carlyle’s east side. It carried vehicular traffic through sometime during the 1930s. I wouldn’t be surprised if this bridge was on US 50’s original alignment here.

Today, it’s a pedestrian bridge.

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Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: 1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge

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Abandoned, never used US 50 bridge

Abandoned, never used bridge
Kodak Z730 Zoom
2009

Here’s my friend Michael standing on the railing of a bridge built to carry US 50 that was never used.

Three such bridges were built, actually. A new section of US 50 was built from Carlyle, Illinois, west for about 22 miles. It was intended to carry four lanes of traffic, divided, but only two lanes were built along most of this span. However, twin bridges were built everywhere US 50 crossed a stream. In each case, only the northern bridge of each pair has ever carried traffic. The southern bridge was simply left to molder.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Abandoned, never used bridge

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Where US 50 begins

3,073 miles. That’s how long US 50 is. And it begins — or is it ends? — right here, in Ocean City, Maryland.

Its other end is in West Sacramento, California, not in Sacramento as the sign promises. A sign in West Sacramento tells drivers that Ocean City is 3,073 miles away. It’s a famous sign pairing among us roadgeeks. It was even more famous during a time when the West Sacramento sign erroneously read 3,037 miles.

US 50 is one of the original US highways, designated in 1926. But where it has ended has changed several times. Originally, it stretched from Sacramento to Annapolis, MD. Its west end was moved to Hayward, CA, in 1932, and to San Francisco in 1935. Its east end moved to this location in Ocean City in 1948. Finally, in 1972 its west end moved to its present location in West Sacramento.

The route in between has changed many times over the years thanks to various upgrades and bypasses. The changes keep coming, such as one being built now around North Vernon, Indiana. It will add two miles to the route. It makes me wonder how these 3,073 miles are counted. When the new North Vernon alignment opens, will the signs be amended to 3,075 miles?

I’ve driven US 50, including its old alignments, across Indiana and most of Illinois; see everything I’ve written about this road here. I’d like to drive the rest of it someday, on one giant road trip.

If I set my trip odometer at one end and check mileage at the other, do you think the Departments of Transportation in California and Maryland will be interested to know?

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Road Trips

Where US 50 begins (or ends, depending on your perspective)

I wax a little too philosophical about US 50 and its ends. I got to see one of them: the eastern end, in Ocean City, MD.

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I am astonished that at my age I’ve remarried and am about to leave my longtime home to share a life with family I never knew I would have.

When I was younger, even through my late 30s, those who had lived a half century seemed so settled to me. Their lives, I was sure, had fallen into predictable grooves. I like predictability, and those I knew who had it wore it well. I looked forward to it in my own life.

On this day half my life ago

But who knew all of the adventures of the half-century mark? Of helping children step into their adult futures. Of having fully adult relationships with our parents. Of hitting our stride in our careers. And, given that so many divorce now, remarriage and new family.

Except that these things feel like adventures only when they’re going well. Some children stumble and fall, or even fail to launch. Our parents are aging — when is it time to stop driving? To find a retirement home? And on the job sometimes you watch someone younger than some of your children, with all the life experience that implies, move up fast and pass you by, and make mistakes you learned long ago not to make.

This stuff is incredibly hard! The blessing of this age is the resilience to handle these difficulties. If I had encountered them at half this age I would have needed a rubber room.

I turn 50 today. Joys and disappointments abound. Honestly, this year there have been more disappointments than joys. My wife and I have experienced some real difficulty with children, parents, and jobs. Point is, this age teaches that this is what life is. That youthful dreams of winning at life, of being a Master of the Universe, were never within reach. That all there is every day is enjoying the good while working through the bad. That God put people into our lives to love, and our best satisfaction in life comes from loving them with all our might.

I’m gathering my whole family at my home this afternoon. We’ll grill various bits of animal flesh, nosh on fresh veggies and sweets, drink gin and tonic, and just enjoy each other. My goodness, but do we like each other. I predict I’ll reach the end of this day satisfied.

I made this photograph when I was 42, and thought even as I made it that I ought to use it on this blog when I turned 50! It seemed so far off in the future that I wondered if I’d still be blogging then. Answer to my then-self: lol yup.

Life

Half century

Who knew life at 50 could have so much going on? And some of it isn’t exactly pleasant. But one advantage of this age is the resilience to handle it.

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Old US 50 in Illinois

Abandoned US 50 in Illinois
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2009

A long section of US 50 stands abandoned to the current US 50 alignment in central Illinois. The state planned at one time to build a four-lane US 50 here, but the plans were scuttled after the new lanes were built. So they just routed the whole road along the new lanes and left the old ones behind.

Photography, Road Trips

Photo: Abandoned US 50 in Illinois

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History, Road Trips

Goodbye wooden bridge

This bridge no longer exists.

Wooden bridge

Longtime readers might remember that I explored all of the old alignments of US 50 across Indiana in 2010. This wooden bridge, built in about 1920, was on an original alignment of that highway in Jennings County, just west of North Vernon, until it was demolished this month. These photos are from my 2010 trip; read about my encounter with this bridge here.

Wooden bridge

This bridge carried what is now Base Road over CSX railroad tracks. I gather that the old bridge was actually owned by the railroad, and when it needed repairs CSX was slow to get to them, leaving it closed for long periods and making nearby residents go far out of their way to reach their homes. Commissioners in Jennings County weren’t sad to see it go. A new concrete bridge was built about a quarter mile to the east.

This demolition is part of a larger project to build a US 50 bypass around North Vernon. This bridge was near the bypass’s western end.

This bridge was a good example of the kinds of bridges railroad companies built at that time – and one of just a handful left in Indiana.

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See photos of North Vernon, including
a now-endangered US 50 shield, here.

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