81 on 81

On October 12, 2014 · 7 Comments

I’m planning a quick trip down to southwestern Virginia and neighboring West Virginia, intending to count some new counties along the way although primarily for other purposes. I wish I could say it was entirely about the counties and I could finally finish Virginia. That will have to wait for another day.

Being true to my nature, I’ll completely over-prepare with multiple maps, both electronic and paper, even though I’ve driven the vast preponderance of the route multiple times and understand it intuitively. I’ll have lat/long coordinates prerecorded in my GPS, turn-by-turn directions printed from my preferred map website, and a battered dogeared Triple-A road atlas as a backup should a solar flare destroy every navigational satellite and should an asteroid bust the car window and suck the printouts from the dashboard. Nobody will be getting lost. No way, no how. Logic has no bearing here. Preparations will be ridiculous.

Patterns often appear on 12MC and another one emerged as I plotted waypoints. Most of the path involved Interstate 81, the primary route along the western diagonal of Virginia (map). Many of those waypoints fell awfully close to longitude 81 West. This type of reasoning often leads me to trouble. Was there a place, I wondered, where 81 West crossed Interstate 81? It seemed like it would offer a nice bit of numerical symmetry.

In fact a golden spot existed at 36.938110°,-81.000000°, just a stone’s throw from the Wilco Hess Truck Stop – Wytheville. Or the Flying J. Or Galewinds Go Carts & Mini Golf although apparently it’s closed now so scratch that suggestion.

Were there other Primary (e.g., one or two-digit) Interstate Highways equally blessed with similar golden spots? Why yes there were. Longtime readers already knew that I’d have to map them.



View Interstate-Coordinate Confluences in a larger map

I noticed that spots concentrated in the eastern half of the nation, many in the Upper Midwest. I think I found all of the possibilities although there might be others lurking out there. Let me know if you find any that I overlooked and I’ll add them to the map.


Interstate Longitude Confluences


Chicago Skyline During Sunrise from Lombard, Illinois
Chicago Skyline During Sunrise from Lombard, Illinois by Corey Seeman, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Longitude possibilities were limited to feasible values between 67 (easternmost whole number longitude) and 99 (highest possible 2-digit Interstate Highway). I found a total of seven places where a longitude crossed an Interstate highway with the same number, including the original example I discovered on I-81.

Some of those spots saw more traffic than others although I’d be surprised if even a single person recognized the significance. Why would they? Only a geo-oddity aficionado would find the topic even mildly interesting. One such location fell in Lombard, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I was surprised to find a photo of the Chicago skyline captured from an upper floor of a hotel less than a mile away from I-88/88°. That amused me for some weird reason.


Interstate Latitude Confluences



Lincoln Village, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin

There were fewer latitude opportunities, limited to values between 25 (southernmost whole number latitude in the Lower 48 states) and 49 (northernmost). I found only two occurrences.

Once again I was lucky to find something to illustrate a nearby area, the Lincoln Village neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I-43 formed its eastern boundary including the segment with I-43/43°.

The overall champion had to be Interstate 94. It shared a confluence with longitude 94° West. It was also concurrently signed with a stretch of I-43/43° North and I-90/90° West.


Confluences Outside of the United States


Penllergaer
Penllergaer by stu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Similar confluences existed outside of the United States. I found a couple of occurrences between motorways and longitudes in the United Kingdom. One fell near a lovely waterfall at Penllergaer Valley Wood (M4/4° West).

I even discovered one in Ireland, M8 and 8° West: 52.356181°,-8.000000°.

Then I grew tired of the exercise.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t

On October 5, 2014 · 3 Comments

I thought about rivers, specifically those with legs that disappeared for awhile. It wasn’t about completely subterranean rivers, although those were certainly fascinating in their own right, it was about surface rivers with underground components. I knew they existed because I had a hazy recollection about reading something once. How rare were they, I wondered, and where did the occur?

Some quick research uncovered several and there were likely many more. I concluded that they might be unusual enough to raise an eyebrow although not something of exceeding scarcity either. They also seemed to share a common attribute, of being found in geographic areas associated with karst topography. Let’s turn it over to the International Association of Hydrogeologists for a simple explanation:

Karst is a type of landscape, and also an aquifer type. Karst areas consist of solid but chemically soluble rock such as limestone (most important) and dolomite, but also gypsum, anhydrite and several other soluble rocks… Karst landscapes show characteristic landforms caused by chemical dissolution, such as karren (crevices and channels, tens of cm wide), dolines and sinkholes (closed depressions, tens of m in diameter) and poljes (large depressions with flat floor, several km 2 or more). Streams and rivers sinking underground via swallow holes are also frequent. Karst aquifers are characterised by a network of conduits and caves formed by chemical dissolution, allowing for rapid and often turbulent water flow.


Postojna Cave Park
Postojna Cave Park by Michael R Perry, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Karst was a German word originally, and referred to the Karst Plateau along the border of modern Italy and Slovenia. This limestone-rich area was known for its caves. That continued to the present, for example at Postojnska Jama (Postojna Cave) in Slovenia that became a major tourist attraction based on its favorable geological placement (map) within the plateau.

Obviously an area rich with caves, a typical feature of karst topography, offered numerous opportunities for water to disappear from the surface and reappear elsewhere at a lower elevation. Karst areas were widespread and so were the prospects for partially subterranean rivers. I found a few illustrative examples in the United States.


Santa Fe River, Florida


O'Leno State Park: Sante Fe River Sink
O'Leno State Park: Sante Fe River Sink by Phil's 1stPix, on Flickr
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Florida’s Santa Fe River wasn’t huge, stretching only about 75 miles (121 kilometres), however what it lacked in length it made up for in wonder at what happened at O’Leno State Park:

Located along the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River, the park features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps, and sandhills. As the river courses through the park, it disappears underground and reemerges over three miles away in the River Rise State Preserve.

I thought it was great that the reemergence had such a completely descriptive name, "River Rise." There, the Santa Fe River reappeared "as a circular pool before resuming its journey to the Suwannee River." The gap was also clearly visible on Google Map’s Satellite View (map).


Lost River, Indiana


Water Dripping
Water Dripping by Cindy Cornett Seigle, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Indiana’s Lost River was another short river, flowing about 87 miles (140 km), while disappearing for as much as 25 miles (40 km) of that distance. The hydrology was different than the Santa Fe River, though. There wasn’t a single sinkhole or rise. Rather, the Lost River began normally enough until flowing onto a karst plateau where it disappeared into numerous distinct sinkholes and circulated through untold individual and interlocking channels before reemerging in at least a couple of different places. Furthermore, the sinkholes couldn’t drain the entire flow during wetter times of the year and the river would return to the surface in places. It followed a Swiss Cheese drainage pattern. This feature of the Hoosier National Forest was rather unusual,

The system can be thought of as a three-dimensional river delta. Depending upon how much water is moving through the system, you could have water in all of the levels. There is no other site in Indiana that matches the Lost River system in terms of the dynamic subterranean hydrology (water movement)… The Lost River is one of the largest sinking streams in the country. The watershed is over 200 square miles.

The Lost River reemerged permanently and primarily at a place known as the True Rise. Previously it was thought to be the Rise at Orangeville (map), pictured above, which was also supposed to be more picturesque. Orangeville was "the clearest illustration of subterranean stream resurgence in the famed Lost River karst area."

I also discovered additional occurrences such as the Mojave River in California and the Little Ocqueoc River in Michigan.


A Most Unexpected Example


Donauversickerung
Donauversickerung by Reisen aus Leidenschaft, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Remarkably, I discovered that the mighty Danube River, the second longest in Europe flowing 1,785 miles (2,872 km) included an underground segment, albeit early in its watercourse while still rather diminutive. The Danube Sinkhole, or Donauversickerung, once again on a karst plateau allowed the Danube to disappear for several miles within Germany before resurfacing at the Aachtopf Spring (map). It was intermittent phenomenon. Much of the time the Danube had sufficient volume to overcome the drainage and continued flowing across the surface in a defined channel as well.

Woonerf

On October 1, 2014 · 0 Comments

In some places they’re called complete streets, home zones or shared spaces, however I preferred the original Dutch term "woonerf" (pronounced VONE-erf). It described a concept as old as urban civilization itself although applied within a new context, the very simple idea of streets shared by everyone. That notion had taken a beating for most of the 20th Century after the rise and supremacy of motorized vehicles. A few cities attempted to ratchet-back some of that automobile favoritism in recent years through creative street designs.


Residential, woonerf
Residential, woonerf by La Citta Vita, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This image of a woonerf located somewhere in Sweden demonstrated several typical design characteristics. Nothing designated distinct walkways, roadways or cycle tracks. Every traveler regardless of method received the same consideration. In theory this forced everyone to pay closer attention to everything happening around them, especially those driving automobiles who would also have to slow to walking speed to avoid pedestrians, bicyclists, children at play, babies in carriages, dogs on leashes, parked cars, landscaping and myriad other obstacles. It seemed to work in the Netherlands and spread to other areas of Europe, then to select urban locations in Japan, Israel and increasingly to North America.

Niek de Boer, a professor of urban planning, coined the wonderful phrase, woonerf. It translated in this context to something akin to "living yard" according to several sources. The Oxford Dictionary provided an etymology, "from wonen ‘reside’ + erf ‘premises, ground’." It sprang from a philosophy that all land between two row of shops or homes should be everyone’s yard, a single public space.

Dutch Wikipedia placed the first modern woonerf in the Emmerhout neighborhood of Emmen (map). An article in the Journal of the American Planning Association "Changing the Residential Street Scene" (1995) traced the initial implementation to Delft. I think there might be confusion because Niek de Boer was a professor in both cities, or perhaps because I don’t read Dutch and translation software wasn’t all that great. Either way, woonerfs began somewhere in the Netherlands circa 1969.

The concept began to creep into North America only recently. I found a few examples.


Chicago, Illinois, USA


Chicago's only woonerf
Chicago's only woonerf by Steven Vance, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

While the photo caption proclaimed "Chicago’s Only Woonerf" for a two-block segment of Sunnyside Avenue (map), that won’t be the case for long. Others were already in the works. A much more ambitious effort, the Argyle Streetscape Project (map) was slated for construction in the Spring of 2015, for example. Another instance was completed recently in the suburb of Batavia. It was so new that a Google Street View photo from 2012 showed it still under construction (image).


Montréal, Québec, Canada



Woonerf Saint-Pierre became Montréal first woonerf in September 2013: "Today, the woonerf Saint-Pierre is 7000 square meters of greenery, a hundred trees, shrubs and 1,800 square meters of stabilized stone dust!"

Prior to that it was mostly an eyesore.

The alleyway in Saint-Henri between Saint-Ambroise and Sainte-Marie streets, and between Côte Saint-Paul and de Courcelle, is somwhat of an anomaly: nearly 4-lanes wide, it is one of the only clues that the Saint-Pierre river once wound it’s way through south-west Montreal… this alley has become an informal parking lot for local residents and businesses.

Street View also showed this woonerf still under construction (image) although the silomontreal.com had several photos of the completed project.


Seattle, Washington, USA


Bell Street Woonerf
Bell Street Woonerf by Oran Viriyincy, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Seattle had several woonerfs and more on the way. Some even described the famous Pike Place Market as a woonerf albeit a holdover from an earlier era. An instance of the modern incarnation could be found on Bell Street in the Belltown neighborhood (map) where several blocks were converted.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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