Monthly Archives: August 2010

Hot and blurry

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Summer has just been a hot blur of one thing after another, and not enough of most of them. No camping, very little swimming, not enough paddling or cycling, but too much air conditioning. Probably more potato salad and cole slaw than was strictly necessary, precisely the right amount of homemade mint iced tea and lemonade, and a belated batch of gazpacho that bears repeating. A decent amount of outdoor music (all classical this summer) and dance, a musical thrown in there, a couple of rounds of fireworks. Not enough time gazing contentedly at the stars, but generally less late-night rowdiness from the neighbors. No trips to the drive-in theater, but several to Jumpin’ Jack’s drive-in restaurant. Mix in with it the usual summer run of birthdays, work, doctor’s appointments, dance camps, etc., and it becomes hard to believe all that happened in the last eight weeks, when it felt like we were just inside the house hiding from the sun. Now, it’s nearly over. Elder daughter has already started class, and regular high school starts for both of them next week. Overnight, I’ll switch from having to avoid the noon sun for my rides to having to seek it out; already the evening light is too long and shadowy to be safe riding back home into the setting sun. Soon, my fiftieth summer will be over. It was pretty good.

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Caskets and couches

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Undertaker and Furniture.png

Things that you don’t see anymore: a combined undertaker and furniture dealer. Well, of course, making cabinets and making caskets are pretty much the same thing, and it wasn’t uncommon for craftsmen in the 19th century to expand their markets in this way. Still, I’ve seen plenty of furniture makers who also dealt in caskets, but I haven’t before seen one who advertised himself as a full-service undertaker.  This is from the 1859 Wallace’s directory of Albany.

If the numbering is the same, 274 South Pearl Street is now the home of the Giffen Memorial School.

I do recall a store in downtown Schenectady that used to sell pianos and waterbeds. In the ’70s, that seemed to make sense.

Getting to the Collar City

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Circumstances — a combination of wife’s employment and elder daughter’s education — are leading us to spend a significant amount of time running north to Troy. Surprisingly, this is just not practical by bus. Even though we live 15 minutes south of the Collar City, all buses require us to cross the river to Albany, change buses at least once, and then travel up and across the river again, a trip that cannot take less than an hour by bus and sometimes takes longer. Our other options? Cross the river (twice), using I-787, or go the slow way up Route 4 on our side of the river. It’s only about a 25-minute bike ride, by the way, but not really safe or practical for a teenager; too many high-speed interactions and then the maze of city streets in South Troy.

In 1850, the bicycle, bus and automobile hadn’t been invented, yet there were still three options for getting from Albany to Troy:  stage, steamboat, and railroad. (Not to mention getting on your own horse). Hell yes, I’d pay 12-1/2 cents for a steamboat ride up the Hudson.

Travel between Albany and Troy, 1850 (Munsell).png

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Demolition of the original Dunn Memorial Bridge

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A friend asked me if I could figure out exactly when the original Dunn Memorial Bridge (dedicated August 19, 1933, replacing the old Greenbush Bridge) was demolished. Once its replacement, the current bridge connected to I-787 and the vestiges of the South Mall Expressway, was in place, the process of demolishing the “old” lift bridge began. (I put old in quotes because, 37 years old at its replacement, it was newer than the current Dunn, which is now 41 years old.)

Dunn Bridge demo Sarasota Herald-Tribune May 12 1971.png

Turned out to be harder to track down than I had hoped. Google’s news
archives do have a substantial collection of the Schenectady Gazette,
but the Albany Times-Union and the Troy Record and all the defunct
evening papers are not available. However, there must have been a slow
news day in Sarasota, Florida on May 12, 1971, or maybe the editor just
liked pictures of bridges being blown up, because the front page of the
Sarasota Herald-Tribune featured these AP news photos of the demolition
of the Dunn.

The approaches had been demolished in February 1971. The remaining towers were demolished in June, not without incident – two men planting demolition charges on the towers fell 50 feet into the Hudson but survived.

The new bridge was not fully connected until 1974, when the ramp from the Empire State Plaza to the Dunn and I-787 was opened.

Is there a site specializing in Capital District highways and bridges? Of course there is.

Have I previously written about the Dunn’s namesake, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Parker F. Dunn? Of course I have.

(Thanks to Gary for the inspiration.)

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Cycling ups and downs

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The weather has been unrelentingly excellent this summer – admittedly too hot a lot of the time, but without the daily threat of downpours, lightning and hail that usually characterize a summer afternoon. Mostly sunny, mostly dry, and therefore perfect for biking. And yet I’m just not getting the miles in. In part, it’s the uncertain nature of my work – where missing a phone call could mean missing a job, and none of the people I deal with seem to be on a predictable schedule. Some days I’ll go for hours without talking to anyone, some days I’ll spend the whole day on the phone. Makes it hard to plan for a ride.

The second complication has been an unprecedented number of mechanicals, leaving me dead on the road and desperately trying to communicate my whereabouts to my extremely patient wife. The first spoke of the season had the courtesy to break in my garage, before I had even set out; the second and third left me out on back roads that she’d never be able to find without Google maps. The sidewall blowout wasn’t too far away but in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood, a long walk back to the truck in cycling shoes. And there was the time when the mechanical problem was me, and it was just too hot to face another 20 minutes of climbing to get home after a long, insanely hot ride. All of these have cut into my miles and left me scrambling to replace parts, swap wheels around, etc. in order to get back on.

The biggest enemy of time on my bike is simply that I like to go long, and I’m not getting to do that this summer. I think a 50k ride (which takes 2 hours) should be the minimum, and when I can’t squeeze that in, I’m unlikely to settle for half that or less – which means that I’m not getting miles into my legs that I could. I’ve struggled with this issue for years. In other years I’ve considered 70 or 80k to be the ideal, but that’s barely happened this summer.

So we come into the late part of the season, when motivation is usually flagging anyway, without enough kilometers to make me satisfied. On the upside, I’ve explored new roads, found new ways to get to old places, discovered fresh pavement here and there, and have still not had a bad ride. Healthy, strong and able to blow the doors off most other rides I encounter. Can’t complain about that.

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Stupidly busy. Not enough biking, but three days of paddling in a row (probably the first time since parenthood that that has happened). Work. But the one thing running through my mind through these hot summer days? This very funny little song: