Monday, May 31, 2010

Asheville Wayfinding Signs

Usually wayfinding signs for towns and cities have a little bit of flare to them - something that is unique to or is specific to the city.  The City of Asheville takes a different approach to theirs.

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This sign is rather bland.  Black with white lettering - yes a nice ornamental top, but other than that nothing much to it.  However...

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...the back of the wayfinding signs is where the real design is showcased.  To the right of the pole, a stained glass window like design with numerous colors.  To the left, a quote from various notables like Carl Sandburg, Thomas Wolfe, or John Muir, just to name a few.  This certainly adds a lot more interest to the sign than directing you to various landmarks.

Asheville also has smaller more pedestrian friendly wayfinding signs - similar to those old crossroad signs with arrows pointing in all directions - at numerous street corners throughout downtown.  Like this one in Pack Place:

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Asheville certainly found a way to put their own unique personality in their wayfinding signs.

Western NC Vacation - Day 2 - Biltmore Estate

The second day of Maggie's and I trip to Asheville was a day at the historic Biltmore Estate.  It was my first time to the famous Vanderbilt home, and had been on my 'to do' list for sometime.

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My photoset from the Biltmore is on flickr.

Maggie has her own blog entry from our trip and it's here.

We arrived soon after the estate opened and headed to the home for the main tour.  For the main tour, you have the option of taking an audio tour or walk through at your leisure.  The audio tour costs $10 for a set of programmable earphones that accompanies the guide book.  We both paid for the audio tour and it is worth it if you are a first time visitor.  The tour can take anywhere from 2-3 hours to walk through the home.  You go through three floors of the house and photography is not allowed inside the building.

If you want to see the Biltmore home more in detail, there are a number of additional tours you can take on.  One of the more popular tours is the Rooftop Tour. The tour lasts about an hour, costs $17, and along with visiting the observatory, the tour takes you to three different rooftop views.

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The first stop is the view of the front lawn (above) from the Observatory.  Guests are able to walk the narrow balcony and really get a close-up view of the various gargoyles and other pieces of the roof architecture.

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The second stop is another fourth floor Observatory accessible view - this time with a little more room.  From here, you can get a close and detailed view of the detailed work of the copper flashing.

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The last stop of the rooftop tour is easily the most impressive.  From a westwards facing second floor balcony, an expansive view of the mountains of North Carolina awaits.

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After the rooftop tour, Maggie and I headed to the stable area for lunch.  We ate at the Stable Cafe - which is obviously a restaurant located within the former stables of the Biltmore.  The meal was tatsy and its rather interesting to eat in a former horse stall within the stable.

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After lunch, we took a stroll through the gardens and down to the Bass Pond.  It's amazing that this view is only the side profile of the house!

Side profile of the Biltmore Estate

The gardens and conservatory is home to an endless variety of flowers from roses and lillies to tropical varieties the color and beauty is simply amazing.

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After a relaxing stroll around the Bass Pond, we headed to the newly opened Antler Hill Village.  Antler Hill Village is now the gateway to the estate's numerous recreational activities from biking, to guided hikes, fly-fishing, horseback riding tours, among many others.

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Antler Hill Village is also the site of the Biltmore Winery.  Be sure to take the tour and the wine tasting!  It's worth it!  The village is also home to additional restaurants, gift shops, and a public square complete with live music and entertainment.

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To really experience the Biltmore, it is definitely a two day visit!  There's just not enough time to experience all that there is to offer!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Introducing PA 760! (and other PA End photos sent in)

With Interstate 376 replacing PA 60 from US 22/30 outside of Pittsburgh to Interstate 80 in Sharon, there was some concern on what a short five and a half  mile section of former PA 60 from I-80 to Business US 62 would be.  A detached PA 60? No. A Business Spur I-80 or 376? Not that either.  Instead the state came up with a never before used route designation, PA 760

Highway 760 has recently been signed and Joe Gerard was kind enough to send along some photos to myself and Jeff Kitsko.

Prior to the designation change, PA 60 ended at Business US 62 in downtown Sharon.  Here is how it looked around 2001 in a photo from John and Barb Bee.


Nearly a decade later, it looks like the US 62 shield is the same, but the PA 60 sign has been replaced with its new designation, PA 760.


End and Begin for PA 760 and Interstate 376 are now found at the interchange with I-80.


So it looks like I need to get to work on updating this page, pronto.  I haven't touched it since 2002!

I've always said that things come in bunches, and the day before Denny Pine sent me a few end signs of his own.

First, here's a shot of the new eastern end of US 224 in New Castle.

In March of 2008, US 224 was extended two miles east to end at PA 18 in downtown New Castle.

Also in New Castle, PA 65 saw a terminus change in 2007.  The terminus was moved from US 422 Business to PA 108 and 168 at Croton Avenue.  Here's Denny's photo of the new end.

Here's a photo of PA 65's former northern terminus from Barb and John Bee.  Also taken around 2002.


Finally, Denny heads all the way to the West Virginia border and to Point Marion where a new 'End' sign for PA 88 has been placed as a result of the construction of a modern bridge over the Monongohela River.


This gives me reason to work on a PA Ends update, especially since I haven't since 2007.  So stay tuned!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Western NC Vacation - Day 1 - Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock

Maggie and I traveled to Asheville for our one year anniversary.  The trip on I-40 was uneventful except for the rain that followed us from Mocksville to Black Mountain.  We stopped at Shell's BBQ in Hickory for lunch.  it's about a five minute drive north of I-40 Exit 126, but it's worth the detour. (Directions head north from I-40 about 3 miles to Springs Rd NE, turn right, Shell's is about 1/4 mile on the left.)  You have to have the Cherry Vanilla Lemon (Sun Drop) Float; it's amazingly good.  And the prices are very reasonable.

Sadly, the rain was too hard to get any photos of the old diner and some of the old Pepsi-Cola signs around the restaurant.  From Shell's, we got back on I-40 and headed to our hotel in Asheville.

After checking in and relaxing from the drive, we headed out to Pisgah National Forest.  We were going to take the Blue Ridge Parkway to US 276 but concerns of possible slides had the parkway closed from NC 191 to US 276.  So we took NC 191, NC 280 to US 276 near Brevard.

Our first stop was Looking Glass Falls.  This was really the first time I focused on long-exposure shots with my tripod.

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Looking Glass is one of the more popular waterfalls in Western North Carolina, and this rainy Friday afternoon was no exception.  A feature of Looking Glass Falls is the ease of access to the falls.  The falls can easily be viewed from US 276 as there is a parking area on the northbound side of the road.  From there, it's a very short walk to the main viewing platform.  If you want a closer look, all you need to do is head down the staircase.

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Just up the road is Sliding Rock.  Sliding Rock may be more popular than Looking Glass Falls.  Sliding Rock is a 60 foot natural waterslide; and during the summer months, an extremely popular spot to cool off.  During the summer season (Memorial Day through Labor Day), Sliding Rock is manned by National Forest Service staff (including lifeguards) and there is a minimal $1 per person entry fee.

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As tempting as it was to slide down the rock into the 7' pool at the bottom, the cold water and rainy conditions wasn't worth the risk.  Oh well, there's always another trip during the summer!

For the whole photo set from both Looking Glass and Sliding Rock head here.  Day 2 was a visit to the famous Biltmore Estate, and I can't wait to share that!

Monday, May 17, 2010

May Tri-Ex Roadtrip

Adam Prince, Brian Leblanc, Chris Allen, and I set off Sunday afternoon to see what progress had been made in building the Triangle Expressway (TriEx) since our last official progress tour in April. We were all pleasantly surprised by the progress that had been made. You can follow along using this handy map:
A. Triangle Parkway (NC 147 Extension, Interchanges 1-3, 5)
The tour started at the I-40 interchange with NC 147, the beginning of the parkway. Construction had really started in earnest on rebuilding the interchange ramps between I-40 East and NC 147. The photo below suggest some of the reasons the exits have to be rebuilt:
Though the interchange goes from freeway to freeway, the ramps are designed to be low speed. As you can see on the extreme right there's a stop sign at the end of the I-40 East ramp because there is no merge lane. The ramp is being rebuilt as seen below:
The new ramp will be south of the current one and include a new lane for merging. The one problem with building the new lane is the current NC 54 bridge just to the south of I-40. The contractors have decided they don't need to move the bridge to a new location, but only shift it south about 10 feet. This is what the bridge looks like with the project half completed:
The current north side of the bridge has been cut back and new supports to hold the bridge extension to the south are being constructed. Meanwhile they're also working on a new I-40 on ramp, which will be further east than the current one:
Being on the NC 54 bridge also gives you a good look at the progress in connecting current NC 147 to the Parkway. There doesn't seem to be much progress since last month. Most likely due to this being the last part to be completed, since that will sever the Durham Freeway connection with Alexander Drive and it's connection to NC 54.
Here is the view at road level to the connection taken from NC 147 North:
Our second stop was at Number 2 on your map, the future Hopson Road bridge and interchange. The view looking north had not changed much since April:
Work was proceeding on grading and adding drainage pipes and culverts, the biggest change was looking south. This is what it looked like last month:
Causing us to think the Parkway opening could be delayed. Well, this is what it looked like a month later:
All the trees had been cut, some of the electric towers had been removed, and grading in places had been started. You can now see down to Davis Drive and further toward NC 540 (over the hill in the distance). The wide expanse of the ROW as shown in the photo below, further down toward Davis Drive, is due to the 2 interchanges (2 and 3 on the map) going in here:
There will be only one off-ramp from the Parkway, vehicles wishing to get to the exit beyond (say from 2 to 3) will use C/D ramps along the sides of the Parkway which will include traffic lights at Hopson and Davis Drive. The photo also shows the progress being made in grading the Parkway as it curves to the right after Davis Drive.

The next stop was at the end of the Triangle Parkway at the current Davis Drive interchange. This interchange will be closed to NC 540 traffic June 1 to allow for further construction. Here's a view from the temporary on ramp:
While here's the view from the off ramp from East NC 540:

The Western Wake Freeway.
Our first stop on this section of the TriEx was at the current end of NC 540 West. As you see there has been progress made on the bridge being put in just to the west toward the McCrimmon Parkway:
The steel bridge supports have been placed and work has started on landscaping to control water runoff. The ramps to NC 55 (Exit 6 on the map) have been graded and appear ready to accept an asphalt covering. A view of the large cleared area:
Shows the amount of room needed for constructing the Freeway, and the on and off ramps for NC 55. The area toward the front will be built up to match the elevation of the current NC 540.

The next stop south was at the now closed McCrimmon Parkway, if you remember from last month, the road was to due to be closed in a few days--
That was because, inside a month, the view from the other side of the hill would not show the parkway but rather look like this:
The concrete mid-bridge support posts are in, work is proceeding on the support structures on either side. The view toward Carpenter Fire Station Road, implies the Freeway will go under that roadway as well:
Our next stop was the USA Baseball complex where last month we discovered we could get good views of the Freeway by walking through a bordering stand of trees. Well, guess what disappeared in the meanwhile, to help answer look at what has collected on the now treeless ground:
The material in the foreground is wood chips, not sand. The view is north up to Green Level School Road and what is assumed another bridge for the freeway to go under. Looking south:
One can see that they have now cleared the freeway ROW up to Green Level Church Road and beyond, which will be the location of the next interchange, appropriately called Green Level, and No. 7 on your map. There is evidence of much progress here, including landscaping already in place and culverts having been delivered to help with highway drainage:
In fact clearing has started beyound the Green Level interchange all the way south to interchange 8, US 64. Here's a view going eastbound on 64 and the clear area to the left:
Another view from the westbound turn onto Kelly Road (where a free interchange will be combined with the US 64 exit):
As you can see looking at the map, nearly 2/3 of the Western Wake ROW has now at least been cleared. Clearing the remaining third has been complicated by some land takings still needing to be negotiated, but work could start shortly. As of now, there's no plan to open the NC 540 freeway until the whole route has been completed. This plan could possibly change if work on the southern end is further delayed. The next trip to check on progress is scheduled for mid-June.