Posts Tagged ‘bridge’

San Fran

12th March 2011 by Helen
Alcatraz

Alcatraz

After a bit of a lie in to recover from our day at Cole European yesterday, we spent a little time exploring San Francisco today.

We decided we didn’t really need to visit Alcatraz, although we leant on the railings and peered across the water at the ‘rock’.  The most surprising thing was that it seemed so close to the mainland.  I imagine it must have been really frustrating for those imprisoned on the island.

2011 03 12 (45) - Pier 39 - San Fran - carousel - rotated

riding the carousel at Pier 39 San Francisco

We also took a walk around Pier 39, what I think is the main tourist pier.  It struck us both as being just like Blackpool back home.  Lots of souvenir shops selling T-shirts and such like.  Didn’t see any Kiss Me Quick hats, guess that can’t be very American.  The usual street entertainers, many of which are pretty second rate.  A juggler who had a pretty dismal sound system and no personality to his patter.  One guy trying to do one of those ‘freeze’ mimes – where they stand so still you think they are statues until they scare some poor passer-by – except he hardly stood still – the ones you get in Covent Garden in London were much better.  We stopped a while to listen to blues singer Dave Earl.  He was definitely the best, but then as I love the Blues I might have been a bit biased too!!

this little lad was dancing for all he was worth to Dave Earl's Blues

this little lad was dancing for all he was worth to Dave Earl's Blues

smelling the flowers in San Fancisco

smelling the flowers in San Fancisco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

streets of San Francisco

streets of San Francisco

Landy takes a view on Golden Gate Bridge

Landy takes a view on Golden Gate Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we started our journey south again.  The weather’s warm, the spring flowers are blooming, the rain’s falling.  But it’s been another quite long day and we are tired, so on spotting a ‘campsite’ sign just short of Santa Cruz we make that our stop for the night.  Apart from the usual drone of traffic in the background, in what is proudly declared the most populated State in the US, there is an amazing racket being kept up by the local frog population.

Campsite – KOA at Costanoa (just north of Santa Cruz)

Arctic Circle celebration

7th November 2010 by Helen

6 months to the day!!

After a warm and toasty night in our new sleeping bags we woke to a cold and chilly morning in the snow.  It’s still running around minus 10 degrees centigrade here.  However we headed on north past Fairbanks towards Fox on the Steese Highway and then on the Elliott Highway towards Livengood (pronounced as is “alive ‘n good”).  Five miles on we stopped at the Hilltop Truckers stop and filled our coffee meters and fuel tank as far as they would go. 

Here we discovered a quirk of the environment we had somehow forgotten to take into account.  Coming out of the cafe the key would not turn in the frozen lock.  No problem, good opportunity to buy some lock de-icer before we go any further.  Except my description of putting a key into a lock in order to turn it in order to open a car door met with open-mouthed confusion.  No-one does that anymore.  Locks open by remote control.  No-one needs lock de-icer and they don’t sell any here!!  They gave us a mug of hot water instead.  Must remember not to lock the car doors in below freezing temperatures in future.

On our way again we turned off the Elliott Highway at Livengood (pronounced as in alive ‘n good) and on to the Dalton Highway.  The Dalton Highway is one of those classic road trips that some people like to drive just because it’s there.  It leads, in most people’s opinion, nowhere.  It’s known as a Haul Road.  Lorries haul up and down here to keep the oil refinery at Prudhoe Bay working.  It’s a truckers’ road although a few cars use the road too.

Because the Dalton Highway is classified as ‘unpaved’ we stopped at Livengood to assess both the road conditions and fuel levels.  Based on our fuel consumption so far we figured we were fine at least until the Yukon River bridge crossing (the only bridge on the Yukon).  The road was pretty smooth, better than the Elliott Highway had been, so we carried on.

The mighty Yukon river - view from the only bridge across the Yukon as the ice floes form

The mighty Yukon river - view from the only bridge across the Yukon as the ice floes form

From here on the scenery became more wild, with fewer post boxes by the side of the road, until there were none.  The trees were even more heavily laden with snow in some places, so heavy we thought they shouldn’t be able to stand, and then surprisingly bare in other places.  The whole scene appeared just black and white.  Occasionally the sky would appear blue and the Alaskan oil pipeline, bringing the oil down from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, cuts through in an artificial shade of grey, visible most of the way from the road.  

Landy Bear poses on the bridge - just above the railings that protect the Alaskan oil pipeline that saved his life when a raven flew in to attack him

Landy Bear poses on the bridge - just above the railings that protect the Alaskan oil pipeline that saved his life when a raven flew in to attack him

Finally, we reached the Yukon and stopped by the bridge.  We stood on the bridge and stared down at the ice floes thickening the river, their movement already barely perceptible.  Suddenly a huge black raven flew down and landed on the road just in front of us before hopping on to the bonnet of the car.  Snapping close up photos we never for one minute realised the raven’s interest was in Landy Bear, who we’d left sitting on the bridge rail looking over the river.  All of a sudden the raven flew off and swooped down on Landy Bear … thinking he was a tasty snack, maybe even a muffin (more of that later).  Our hearts were in our mouths as we saw Landy Bear disappear and we rushed to the side where we had last seen him.  He wasn’t in the raven’s claws and so instead we looked down – the Yukon some 200 feet below our feet.  Then Paul spied him, resting on the grating protecting the pipeline, just within arms reach.  We breathed a huge sigh of relief.  How could we face the children following Landy’s Adventures that Landy Bear had either been eaten by a huge wild raven or gone on a death trip down the Yukon.  He was quickly and safely stowed back in the car until his heart could stop racing.

Raven going in for the kill - on the bridge over the River Yukon on the Dalton Highway

Raven going in for the kill - on the bridge over the River Yukon on the Dalton Highway

Getting our breath back we paused again, checked our fuel consumption and distances and figured we had enough to head on up to the invisible line of the Arctic Circle.  The road continued to be pretty smooth driving.  There are however more hills and curves in the road and we were driving cautiously.

Landy Bear made it to the Arctic Circle

Landy Bear made it to the Arctic Circle

Then we were there – the big sign in the road tells us to turn off right and we pull up in front of another sign saying we have arrived at the Arctic Circle.  We can’t believe it.  There’s another car here – four American off duty special services soldiers have taken a day trip up here too, arriving just a few minutes before us.  We stop and chat and found out they’d filled up at Hilltop the same as us and then been feeding the complimentary muffins left over from their hotel breakfast, to the raven at the bridge just before we passed through.  No wonder the raven thought Landy Bear looked tasty.  We all took photos and headed off back to the Hilltop Truckstop.

There really are trees underneath all that snow - Dalton Highway

There really are trees underneath all that snow - Dalton Highway

The journey back down the Highway was interesting.  The Dalton Highway has many hills and corners, mostly in combinations, and, at this time of year, a road surface of compacted snow.  Sounds dicey?  Add into this the feature of an automatic transmission car that means it accelerates when going downhill unless you apply the brakes.  So, on twists and turns, applying the brakes was essential and unavoidable while going downhill.  On compacted snow this caused loss of traction.  Combining loss of traction with going round corners allowed us the joy of experiencing graceful controlled slides with stomach clenching peering at the deep white valleys on the outside curves.

At various times we saw the army guys’ vehicle ahead of us as we both travelled the route at the same time, until we reached Hilltop Truckers’ stop, again a few minutes behind them.  We were all breathing huge sighs of relief at reaching this point.  For both of us the journey from Hilltop to the Arctic Circle and back had taken just a couple of pints short of a full tank of fuel.

And so, after a coffee in the cafe, locking ourselves out of the car and and having to defrost the locks again, it was time for some sleep …..

A day out in Vlad

21st October 2010 by Helen

We’ve been up to our ears in bureacracy (well, Paul has more than me, but it has a knock on effect and I’ve tried to be kind to his stress hormones and feed him well) sorting out Landy’s shipping and our flights.  After the banking fiasco blog it all plummeted downhill.  However I shall desist from boring you with the technicalities.  Paul is going to be able to write an entire thesis on US vehicle import systems by the end of this, while I have further evidence on the unbending, intractability, incompetent, user unfriendly, inhuman, dogmatic, idiotic, intransigent, uncompromising, banking system, that exists purely for it’s own pleasure and purpose and has no capacity or capability or consideration of the needs of its hapless, so called, customers.

If only they did these guide books in large print .....

If only they did these guide books in large print .....

So, it was with some pleasure we took a day off from all this today (Thursday 21st) and took a walk into the city centre, round the city centre, up the hill, and back to the hostel again.  Seven stops on the bus takes an hour to walk we learned.  And the further away you walk after that the longer it takes to get back!!

Starting from where we should have got off the bus if we had caught it, we passed the famous railway station with its historic train and 9,288 km marker at the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway.  It seems strange to find both a ferry terminal and railway station next door to each other. 

Staning outside the house where Yul Brynner was born in 1920

Standing outside the house where Yul Brynner was born in 1920

From there our first find was Yul Brynner’s House.  Childhood memories of what was probably his most famous film, The King & I, made this a must visit spot.  Rather boringly there is nothing more to see than a plaque on the wall of a newly painted yellow building now turned into an office.  But it was the thought that counted.

I bought some vegetables in the street market because I wanted to.  Not an overly wise thing to do as I then had to carry them for several hours!!  Good practice maybe for when we are backpacking next week?  No, just daft really.

Like most if not all Russian cities and towns, there are plenty of monuments celebrating the victories of history.  Here Lenin’s statue is opposite the railway station.  But further on towards the port the men carved in stone are the commanders of the Russian fleets and are especially important here in this historic Naval port.  Even now the monuments are cared for and, it seems, new ones being added.   This is not a country that is willing to forget its history, glories and achievements.  It’s strength lies in its pride, and in a pride that is genuine.

Children young and old are lured into demonstrating the weapon loading technique

Children young and old are lured into demonstrating the weapon loading technique

We walked (and crawled) through the submarine which has been preserved as a museum.  I recalled those old films with commanders urgently shouting “Dive, Dive, Dive” as they snapped shut the periscope.  It looked just the same inside, with wheels, dials, and measuring instruments af all kinds, but seemed smaller than the film sets they used.  I paused and peered  through the periscope at the port scene outside.  Moving through to the dormitory section I tried laying on one of the bunk beds only to find it swung alarmingly on the chains from which they hang.  They are short and I had to tuck my knees up a little to keep my feet on the bed.  Not a comfortable place to sleep I would think, and not conducive to tossing and turning with all that swinging round on those chains.  The mess room was the most spacious, with room to walk between the benches along each side and a small table to sit at for those who perhaps wanted to read or write or maybe play a game of cards.  Then finally, at the very front we reached the weapons section.  Warheads were poised ready to be pushed and locked into the firing chambers.  Children, young and old, posed behind them pretending to be submariners at the very forefront of the war.  And then back out into the wan sunshine, past the souvenir seller pressing us to buy old Russian coins or imitation military hats. 

A little further up the street we paid a quick visit to the Vladivostok GUM store, Russia’s largest department store.  They sell shoes, clothes, jewellry, ornaments, souvenirs, household goods, electrical items, DVD’s and CD’s, pretty much like any department store and much as I’d expected!!  I saw a pottery cat ornament I liked.  Paul gallantly offered to carry it all the way to Seattle so I could have a real souvenir of Russia but his pack is already too heavy and I would rather use the memory of the cat to inspire me to take up pottery instead.

New bridge supports with cranes in background - central Vladivostok

New bridge supports with cranes in background - central Vladivostok

A little further on Paul stopped to take loads of photos of some really tall cranes.  Something to do with feats of engineering.  Apparently they should be about 1200 feet tall if his calculations are correct.  They are just one part of some massive construction projects going on in and around Vladivostok and there right in the centre they are constructing a new suspension bridge.  Then there were some more photos of the new bridge supports too.  Whatever else he has done or does, he is still an engineer at heart and any engineer reading this will no doubt understand the compulsion to take photos of engineering feats.

Ringing in the changes

Ringing in the changes

That’s all very well, but the new bridge supports now block what we think was a narrow passage leading to where we wanted to go next – the Funicular railway.  Long gone is the childhood excitement of travelling on this strange mini bit of transport, that takes a whole minute to travel from start to finish.  Rather, it was a much easier way of climbing the massive hill it serves to make easier.  And at just 6 Roubles each (13p), it had to be worth the ride.  But first we had to find it.  We noticed people walking up some steps.  We followed them round a yellow and gold bell tower and a yellow and gold chapel, over some rough ground and past a formerly very grand but now rather derelict looking property that in the UK would be some kind of historic town council offices.  The ground underneath our feet was trodden down mud embedded with rocks and stones and I wondered briefly how passable it will be after the rains.  Then, climbing some concrete steps with their angle iron handrail and two lines of concrete reinforcing rods protecting the gap between the steps and the handrail, I was struck by observing the five steps, which, for some reason were a foot wider than the rest and sticking out into thin air.  Even now the utilitarian nature of Soviet influence has not quite been shaken off.  We continued over a wooden platform that had a creaky dip in the middle, and on to the path on the road running parallel to where we had come from. 

view of Funicular Railway

view of Funicular Railway

After a little further walking back and forth we traversed to another parallel street, took photos of the 150 year old Chinese lion statues, as well as photos of the strange Pushkin statue after whom the street is named, and finally found the entrance to the Funicular Railway.  After handing over our 12 Roubles to one of the most sour faced ‘railway guards’ we have ever encountered we were whisked to the top of the hill.   Excitedly we exited at the top, Paul in particular hoping for some nice greenery, only to find ourselves on the edge of a large roundabout and more building projects.  Finding the subway under the road we also found the park, right down in the centre of the roundabout.  It looked as though they had run out of turfs just before they had finished laying the central grassed area, and haven’t yet got around to putting in any seats or planting any flowers – or maybe that’s the plan.  The stairs here are also still waiting for the banisters to be attached to the studs sticking out of the wall.  It’s such a shame as it manages to perpetuate the impression that in Russia they have perfected the art of making something look both half built and derelict at the same time.  Sadly here also was the worst evidence of litter and grafiti we have seen in this country.  In the town centre there is an army of men and women sweeping up litter and keeping the streets clean, and grafiti appears to be only a minor problem.

City view from Eagle Hill

City view from Eagle Hill

Exiting the subway, onwards and yet further upwards, nipping across another flow of traffic, we made it to the bottom of the steps that would take us up Eagle Hill, the highest point in the city, the key vantage point from which to look out over the city and a popular postcard scene.  From there we looked down on the assorted road works, building constructions, port, railway lines and rooftops, shrouded as they were in a thin layer of smog.

We muse over the he architecture of Russia which is a study in contrasts.  The Soviet heritage of everything being designed in concrete, functional, hard and angular, is ofset by the beauty of the churches with their swirling golden roofs and windows.  There are grand old buildings, pre-dating the Soviet erea, many of which appear to be badly decaying yet still in use; small traditional wooden houses with pretty windows, many of which appear to be in a state of disrepair; modern concrete constructions, that have the capacity to look both under construction and semi-derelict at the same time; crumbling tower blocks still occupied; and glossy modern buildings, pristine and full of light. Three eras of history, all jostling side by side.  All interspersed with streets that are sometimes paved, sometimes concrete, sometimes rocky mud.  Steps and stairs might be made of wood, or concrete, occasionally tiles or bricks, decaying or new.  They might have handrails made of old angle iron and concrete reinforcing rods, or wood, or none at all.

Cyril & Methodius atop Eagle Hill in Vladivostok

Cyril & Methodius atop Eagle Hill in Vladivostok

Just a few steps higher and we were able to stand and admire the statue of Cyril and Methodius, along with the strange rather abstract looking monument in their honour that stands immediately behind them.  This was not a desitination Paul had been too keen on, seeing as they are credited with the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, the curse of any non-Cyrillic reading tourist trying to find their way around town.  Ask Paul and he will tell you it is like trying to piece together the results of a Scrabble board that has been kicked over.

From here it was all downhill, falling in the Royal Burger store on the way for something that looked and tasted just like a McDonalds, before heading off for our now two hour trek back to the hostel.

We are not yet the intrepid backpackers but we have had a day out in town and done 99% of it on foot!

Vladivostok is not unlike any other city in the world, it is just stamped with the unmistakeable identity of its Russian homeland,  a country that is made by it’s people -resilient and welcoming.