Saturday, August 29, 2009

An Evening Walk on the Arthur Ravenel

In 2005, the 13,200 ft long, 575 ft high cable-stayed Arthur Ravenel suspension bridge was opened to great fanfare* in Charleston. The bridge replaced two rusting cantilever bridges, the first of which was erected in 1929 (above pic). By the 1990s the old cantilever bridges were dangerously outdated and too small to support the traffic demands of the bustling cities and major thoroughfares they linked. After many years of inter-state arguments, financial wrangling and much compromise, the construction of the Arthur Ravenel bridge began. Charleston said goodbye to the Silas Pearman and Grace Memorial bridges, thereby ushering in the Arthur Ravenel era.

Aside from the fact that the new Arthur Ravenel bridge was keenly constructed to withstand the many natural disasters that have befallen Charleston throughout her long history (think hurricanes, earthquakes and ship collisions), that the new bridge ends up on episodes of Extreme Engineering, rather than DOT Most Dangerous lists (as did its predecessors), is the greatest comfort to those of us who remember daily commutes over the rattling roller coasters that once spanned the Cooper River. For posterity, lots of people recorded one last drive over the Grace bridge (the family in this driving video is especially delightful). Yet, there was hardly any sadness when the trusses of the old bridges were blown apart and hauled off shore to become artificial reef material.
History and nostalgia aside, there are dozens of reasons to appreciate the new Arthur Ravenel bridge. But, one of the very best things about it is the 12 foot biking and walking platform extending off the Charleston Harbor side of the bridge. The addition makes the bridge a destination in and of itself, and taking the time to walk it can be a pleasurable and unique experience. In fact, short of strapping a set of home-constructed wings to your back and leaping off the barn roof, taking in the sites and sounds at the high point of the bridge is as close as a human can come to being at one with their inner bird. It is quite difficult to put into words the exact sensation when standing approximately 190 feet over the river with nothing between you and the black waters below but 128 cables and two free-standing diamond shaped superstructure supports.

Looking up-river, views extend beyond the I-526 cooridor located in North Charleston. The Ravenel bridge's walking lane is open 24/7, so if you go around dusk, or at night, you may find cooler breezes while bedazzled by the twinkling lights of North Charleston and West Ashley, spanning out as far as the eye can see.

Facing the Atlantic Ocean, the peninsula of Charleston juts out into the harbor, and from this vantage point, looks like a Google Map satellite live view. The spectacular city is bordered by the Cooper River (foreground of below picture), and the Ashley River off to the west, which separates the city proper from James Island (seen below in the far background - if you can make it out).


A few things to know before you go:

~There are no toilets up there, so handle your business ahead of time.
~4% Incline with a running/walking lane and a biking lane.
~It is a suspension bridge - movement and shakiness are natural, esp. when large trucks cross and during high winds.
~Platform is nearly 200 feet high (if you have a fear of heights, you may want to take this into consideration).
~Access from Patriots Point, New Mt. Pleasant Waterfront Park or Downtown Charleston.
~No pets. Sorry to say, Rover can't walk the bridge with you.
~You can park cars on either side of the bridge in designated areas.
*Brian Zimmerman out in google video land caught this EXCELLENT ten minute long video of the fireworks display that opened the Arthur Ravenel in July of 2005. This was one of the best videos we could find; however, the creator probably doesn't have rights to the music and I can't find the code to disable it. Warning: We're not advocating hijacking tunes. Just sayin'. Thanks.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Rubber Tree Stripped

In yet another example of some strange artistic urban movement, this telephone pole at East Bay Street and Market wears the gnawed deposits of thousands of passers-by. To combat the problem, the city has been hiring The Charleston Gum Guy to strip the pole of its rubber layers as needed. He has visited again, because the pole has recently been cleaned, but this is what it looked like in late June, right before the Gum Guy's last visit. Considering the number of people participating in the apparent joyous activity of gum sticking, we are certain it won't take long to accumulate again.