Zubiri

the journey from Roncesvalles to Zubiri was our first lesson in the short-comings of our guide book. while it recommends continuing on to Larrasoaña — a further 5 or so km — with the afterthought addendum “if you’re feeling muy fuerte” we were more than ready to stop in Zubiri for the night. it was the first of many experiences in one of the numerous small villages that make up the majority of the stops along the Camino, as well as another albergue experience that quickly amounted to a strong preference for private rooms with fewer snorers and private showers wherever they might be found.


Zubiri is named for the bridge that connects the Camino to the town, crossing over the rio Arga. the name comes from Basque and roughly translates to “town of the bridge.” originally constructed in 1097, the current bridge dates from the 14th century. it’s known as the Puente de la Rabia because of a tradition (or legend) that held that walking around the central pillar three times would cure a domesticated animal (e.g. sheep, horses, cows) of rabies. until the 20th century farmers would bring their animals to receive help from the 5th century virgin-martyr Saint Quiteria, whose remains might have been found or ended up here.


the second day was challenging in a whole new set of ways. it still hadn’t really set in that we were in this for the long haul, though I worked assiduously on not thinking about how many days of walking we had left. even though on some level I knew we couldn’t possibly be facing 33 more days as arduous as the ascent over the mountains into Roncesvalles, I didn’t have any evidence yet to prove otherwise. swollen feet were my worst enemy the duration of the Camino and they showed up with a vengeance on this day; my body wasn’t prepared for the reality of walking for hours every day, for days on end.


physical pain aside, the countryside had a lot to offer, all of which differed from what we saw the on the preceding day. apart from a few days in the middle as we crossed the plains of Castilla y Leon, the terrain differed every day — offered new and incredible vistas and presented unique challenges. on this day, for example, we saw our first group of domesticated animals moving as a herd. after a brief rest and not-yet-underwhelming bocadillo in Espinal, the main road through town was briefly swarmed by sheep moving out to pasture. the shepherd and his dogs kept everyone in line, plodding along determinedly, the old sheep straggling along at the rear with periodic canine astonishment to stay with the group.


in all honesty, I am surprised we didn’t see more herds of farm animals moving through towns. we saw plenty of animals out in fields, sure, but only two or three in being shepherded to a new destination. suppose the farmers were up before even the peregrinos seeing to their animals and getting them out for a nice long, sunny meal in the pasture.

the other Mighty Miss

I might preface this post  by letting you know that Dave told us we could see the Black Hills from this  I-90 rest stop overlooking the Missouri River and Chamberlain. but don’t hold that against me.

on the drive from Sioux Falls to the Black Hills, we stopped at a rest area that overlooks Chamberlain and the Missouri River and boasts a decent interpretive exhibit on the Lewis & Clark expeditions. growing up with more intimate knowledge of both the Wisconsin & Mississippi Rivers (not to mention many, many smaller rivers throughout Wisconsin), I didn’t know much about the Missouri before Dave enlightened us. the other Mighty Miss officially flows some 2,341 miles and, by virtue of being mapped second, is a “tributary” to the Great Muddy. it’s the longest in North America, but only the 13th by discharge and spans 10 states and 2 Canadian provinces. according to Dave, however, the volume of water flowing from the Missouri into the Mississippi lends credence to the argument that the latter is actually a tributary of the former, rather than how matters currently stand. some of the natural length of the Missouri has been cut as meanders were circumvented to make the river more navigable. at Chamberlain, where we saw it, the river was dammed but doesn’t bulk up the river much in terms of width.

while the Lewis & Clark exhibit was informative, it wasn’t anything that tripped my fancy. mostly I remember the keel of a replica boat sticking half-way out the second floor of the rest area, providing a view of the River and a sense of how small the boat was for 20 or 30 men traveling together during this stretch of river.

Albert Memorial Bridge

the Albert Memorial Bridge connects Battersea and Chelsea over the Thames and is pretty spectacular by night. it was designed and built in 1873, but the principals used in constructing the bridge proved it structurally unsound and, beginning in 1884, modifications were made over the course of three years to stabilise it. further reinforcements were introduced in 1973 (after a proposal to turn the entire bridge into a landscaped park with pedestrian access over the river failed), which makes the existing bridge a hybrid of three architectural styles.

the first bridge on the sight dates from 1771, when a wooden bridge connected industrial Chelsea with the rich farming village of Battersea. despite campaigns to demolish the bridge, even after the Victoria (now Chelsea) Bridge was completed downriver, the wooden bridge remained well into the 19th century, growing increasingly unstable, unpopular, and unsafe, while (not surprisingly) the Victoria Bridge became more congested. to rectify the congestion, Prince Albert recommended the construction of a toll bridge between the two existing bridges; predictably, the operators of the decrepit Battersea Bridge opposed the new bridge as it might diminish their custom (one wonders whether they recognized the connection between the derelict quality of their bridge and a decline in customers …), but a compromise (whereby the owners of the new Albert Bridge would purchase the Battersea Bridge upon completion of the former) authorization to begin construction on the new structure came in 1864. the man selected to design it, Rowland Mason Ordish, also designed the Royal Albert Hall, St. Pancras railway station, the Crystal Palace, and Holborn Viaduct. delays in completing the Chelsea Embankment blocked the project, however; in the intervening six years, Ordish designed the Franz Josef Bridge in Prague (said to be a model for the Albert Memorial), and the bridge owners were required to obtain another Act of Parliament before finally beginning construction in 1870. predicted to last about a year and come in under 70,000 GBP, naturally the project ran three times longer than expected and nearly three times more expensive.

in part because of the original agreement with the owners of the Battersea Bridge, the new Albert Bridge opened already deep in the hole and, consequently, never proved financially successful. the expense of paying off the rickety wooden bridge owners drained many of the resources intended for improving the traffic approach on either side of the new Albert Bridge, making it more difficult to access even as it struggled to compete with the Victoria Bridge, which remained more popular as it allowed for closer access to the center of London. after operating as a toll bridge for 7 years, the Metropolis Toll Bridges Act allowed the City to purchase both the Albert and Battersea Bridges for a paltry sum and remove the tolls. the tollbooths remain at either end of the bridge, however, and are the only ones remaining on bridges in London.

as with the Millennium Bridge (and probably any other pedestrian-use-heavy bridge) the Albert Bridge also has trouble with vibrations when large numbers of people cross at one time. these concerns prompted the placement of signs at the entrance warning troops from the Chelasea Barracks (actually closer to the Victoria/Chelsea Bridge, and which were vacated in 2006) to break step when crossing.

though it was painted uniform colors for the first century of use, in the late 20th century, a new pink, blue, and green color scheme was selected in an effort to make it more visible in foggy weather. additionally, some 4,000 lights were added to illuminate the structure, effectively turning it into a recognizable landmark of west London. along with the Tower Bridge, the Albert Bridge is the only Thames London bridge never to be replaced, and in 1975 was given protection as a “listed structure” (which prevents modification without “consultation). however, because of changing use patterns, increased weight of vehicles, and the fact that it wasn’t designed to carry automobiles in the volume it now sees, the bridge continues to deteriorate. in order to refurbish and strengthen the structure, the Bridge was closed in February of this year.

a decent entry on Wikipedia


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Millennium Bridge

oh, Millennium Bridge, you landmark that left a little blemish of embarrassment on London’s face (but not as big as the Millennium Dome, which might redeem itself with the Olympics …) when you had to be closed promptly after opening because of your swaying when people walked across you in unison.

the bridge opened on an “exceptionally fine day” in 2000, but was only open for two days before the wobble closed it for fully two years while modifications were made to correct the unsettling effect.

the “wobble” was caused by a “positive feedback” phenomenon, wherein the the natural sway of humans walking resulted in small oscillations in the bridge, then causing the people on the bridge to sway with the motion of the bridge, amplifying the effect. on the day the bridge opened, it was crossed by some 90,000 people (due in some part to the fact that it was included in the route for a Save the Children charity walk), with up to 2,000 walking across at a time. attempts were made to limit the number of people on the bridge at any one time, which resulted in long queues — one wonders if the architects would have suffered greater criticism if they’d left it open and maintained the limited access.

as with the Bean in Chicago, the design of the Millennium Bridge was selected through a design contest that was organized in 1996. concern for maintaining a clear view of the London skyline resulted in the bridge’s low profile. while the Tate Modern certainly isn’t anything dazzling to view from the north bank of the Thames, the way that St. Paul’s is framed from the south bank is quite spectacular. shame I didn’t get that shot. if I recall correctly, Becca and I were on our way to see “Romeo & Juliet” at the New Globe, which is also near the south foot of the bridge.

driving down the 163

 the drive down the 163, through Balboa Park, always made the trip from home (in Clairemont Mesa) to the airport pleasant. it’s entirely unlike any other drive you’ll take in such an urban setting.
the El Prado bridge connects the Hillcrest side of Balboa Park with the side of museums and the Zoo. (since this is a bridge theme, I will save any ode to Balboa Park and environs for another day.) (some people refer to it as the Laurel Street Bridge, but that street actually ends at Sixth Avenue.) it was built for the Panama-California Exhibition of 1915 to allow pedestrian and car access across the Cabrillo Canyon (which hosted grazing cattle until the late 19th century). the bridge was dedicated in 1914 by Franklin Roosevelt (then Assistant Secretary of the Navy), prior to the opening of the 1915 Exposition. Roosevelt returned as President in 1935 for Park’s second Exposition. due to the height of the bridge — flush with the rim of the canyon on both sides — traffic on the bridge is not visible from 163.

though initially designed to get people across the canyon to the museums of the Exhibition, the bridge has been used for many other purposes. not surprisingly, the height of the bridge proved attractive for despondent visitors and residents, including sailors. in it’s first 16 years, some seventeen people took advantage of the bridge for suicide, prompting the mayor and city officials to campaign to add some sort of preventative barrier. nothing came of it until 1950, when city workers installed wrought iron fencing on the parapets on both sides of the bridge. that didn’t stop people entirely from using it for suicidal purposes, though the completion of the Coronado Bay Bridge in 1970 provided a more effective means to that end. additionally, in 2008, a group of transients managed to penetrate an opening in the base of the bridge (for rainwater) on the north-facing side of the western edge of the bridge and constructed elaborate, multi-level housing structure inside the bridge. (very much like that episode of  This American Life, “The Bridge“.) they’ve closed up the holes now. don’t want to freak out drivers on the 163 or pedestrians on the bridge, I suppose — people use cars to avoid the problem of homelessness in San Diego, right?

the only time I ever walked over the bridge was when I went to visit last May and went on a rather sweeping walk from near the hospital in Hillcrest, through the park, past the zoo, and back over the Robinson Avenue Bridge. I made an effort to explore all kinds of “touristy” things while I was living in San Diego, but this walk was the kind of thing that you can only really appreciate once you’ve known a place and come back. (why would you take such along wander around Hillcrest on foot while you live there and could just as easily take your car?!) it was a lovely walk, as one would expect of San Diego in early May.

(got some of this info from Wikipedia, but a 2004 Union-Tribune article was much more useful)

more than getting from point A to point B

this past weekend I headed up to Minneapolis to visit and see some friends, one of whom has lived there since moving up to attend the University of Minnesota, two of whom drove in from Sioux Falls to see Iron Man 2 on an IMAX screen. excellent excuses to get out of town all around.
the unparalleled bonus of visiting friends who reside in new places is that (particularly the longer they’ve lived there) they’ve done much of the legwork in finding off-the-beaten path places to visit or things to do. my lovely Leah has gotten to know a lot of Minneapolis in the last *haruph* years and introduced me to one of her favorite places: the Stone Arch Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River at the Saint Anthony Falls, heading into downtown. the bridge, built in 1883, originally carried two sets of railroad tracks for the Great Northern Railway; it carried trains, including the Empire Builder passenger train, over the river until 1978. it’s been repaired and refurbished over the years (obviously); when the Saint Anthony Falls lock and dam was built, two of the original stone spans were replaced by a steel one, which would allow larger ships to maneuver under the bridge. repairs were again necessary in 1965, when  floodwaters undermined three of the piers holding the 21 stone arches up and the bridge began to sag. restoration and re-purpose of the bridge to its current purpose began in the 1990s, and now the 28 foot wide, 2,176 foot long bridge serves as a pedestrian and bike connection between downtown and the eastern bank of the River. it also offers great views of the Saint Anthony Falls and Nicolet & Hennepin Island, as well downtown and old mills along both banks (the Mill City Museum, in the Washburn A Mill on the west, the abandoned Pillsbury A Mill on the east).
after walking out along the bridge, past a guy who was playing his guitar for change (but, it seemed, mostly for the joy of playing), Leah and I headed back to the east bank to enjoy a beer, the view, and the springtime weather. though I had to be attentive that puffy, wind-blown seeds didn’t end up in my beer, we couldn’t have asked for nicer weather. the three couples we saw getting engagement photos couldn’t complain, either. one set spent about twenty minutes in the same place, with the falls and 3rd Avenue bridge in the background. with another, you could tell that the woman was in charge of the shoot — her heels put her at just the right height to be nicely matched with him, and her fiance was decked out in loafers, khaki pants, a white dress shirt and a white suit coat. we didn’t wait around to see if they made any effort to forcibly eject the falls-bridge-background couple from the ideal photo location.