Fun with Highways: Wisconsin

Our “Primary Highways” series continues apace with the state of Wisconsin. We begin with the state capital, Madison, which I wrote about during last year’s protests. We begin with a image of those protests. It looks very cold there, but also quite exciting. Some of us watched these protests in the hope that it would be the start of a resurgent progressive movement.

[Photos by Lost Albatross (Emily Mills) on flickr. Shared under Creative Commons license.]

In the eastern section of the capital, we encounter aptly named “Badger Interchange”, in which no fewer than three major interstates converge, I-90, I-94 and I-39. The interchange also includes state highway 30, a short freeway that connects to downtown Madison.

Highway 30 ends at US 151, which traverses the isthmus that holds downtown Madison and separates lakes Mendota and Monona. I don’t know of too many other cities concentrated on an isthmus like that. Certainly, the location between the two lakes makes for interesting views and architectural opportunities. Consider this view from Lake Monona featuring the State Capitol building book-ended symmetrically by large buildings and standing behind Frank Lloyd Wright’s Monona Terrace.

[By Emery (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]

The city is also hope to the University of Wisconsin, and an arts and music scene. It might be a good place to play as part of that mythical “upper Midwest tour” that I keep saying that I want to do.

It of course did not take long for us to encounter a building by Frank Lloyd Wright, a native of Wisconsin. His summer home and studio, Taliesin, is in Spring Green, west of Madison. We take US 14 west from the capital through a green hilly landscape – it’s not hard to see why this might been inspiring for Wright’s prairie style architecture, with its use of horizontal lines and low angles that reflect the expanse of the landscape. Taliesin Preservation, Inc. now occupies the estate and is dedicated to the architect’s legacy.

[By Marykeiran at en.wikipedia [GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons]

If we head north from Madison along I-39 to its end near the city of Wausau, we can see several examples of Prairie School architecture, including additional Wright houses. This one has a more distinctly modern feel than Taliesin, with more emphasis on straight lines.

[By Originally uploaded by Americasroof (Transferred by Arch2all) (Originally uploaded on en.wikipedia) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]

We return to Madison again, and this time stay with I-90/I-94 westward after they split from I-39. The highway goes by Wisconsin Dells, which looks like a major tourist trap. But the name actually comes from the interesting sandstone rock formations along the Wisconsin River. Skip the amusement parks and head to the river.

[Dells of the Wisconsin River taken in May of 2002 by Amadeust]

These formations which are vaguely reminiscent of the higher-elevation features in the southwest, were supposedly cut during catastrophic flooding as an ancient lake drained. The wide river and lush green vegetation, however, make it quite a different environment.

It was along I-90/I-94 that I also had a chance to sample Wisconsin’s famous dairy products in its basic form: milk out of a carton at a truck stop. I was skeptical that it would really be that much different, but I have to admit that the chocolate milk was better than anything I had in college (or public school before that). My time on that trip was limited, so I didn’t have a chance to explore the real product I was interested in: cheese. Of course, one can get Wisconsin cheese here in California, and I can live vicariously through blogs like Cheese Underground until I get a chance to go back.

Next, we head east from Madison on I-94 towards the state’s largest city, Milwaukee. As we approach the city, we pass through the Zoo Interchange, one of the states oldest and busiest. It currently serves as the junction of I-94 with I-894, the “Zoo Freeway” and US 45. I like the name “Zoo Freeway”. Of course, the name of both the freeway and interchange derives from proximity to the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens.

I-94 continues towards downtown, passing through another large interchange, the Marquette Interchange with I-794, I-43, and US 41. It does look like a complicated tangle.

Heading north on I-43 from the interchange, we exit at WI 145 to see the former Pabst Brewery Complex, a shrine to contemporary hipsterdom.

[Taken by Jeramey Jannene, on September 8th, 2005 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (CC BY 2.5)]

The complex closed in 1997. I have to admit, the derelict buildings of the brewery appeal to me at least as much the beer would have. Another great place to photograph, and this one is the National Register of Historic Places so it can’t be torn down (at least, I don’t think it can). Sections have in fact been reopened recently as a “Best Place” and there is a major redevelopment project planned for the entire complex. It is certainly possible to have modern, functioning business inside of a post-industrial shell, so I hope this place does not lose its charm in the development process. I would love to hear from people in Milwaukee about what is happening here.

Just to the east, we approach the downtown area and the Milwaukee River. The urban riverfront has pedestrian access via the Riverwalk.

[Image from Wikipedia. Licence:]

This looks like a great way to see the city and its connection to the river, with buildings coming right up to its edge. The walk continues is segments north and south, including into the historic Third Ward with its older buildings, wedged between the river and I-794 (the Lake Freeway). We can travel along the lake on I-794, and then continue north on city streets back into the downtown. Here we can see the spectacular modernist wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum (designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava) jutting out onto Lake Michigan.

[By en:User:Cburnett (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Milwaukee’s traditional architecture is more of the decorative style we see from American cities that grew in the early 20th Century, but also reflects the city’s German heritage (along with the beer).

[By Illwauk at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-2.0], from Wikimedia Commons]

From Milwaukee, we head north back into the state on US 41 towards Lake Winnebago, the state’s largest inland lake and the only lake in the U.S. named after a recreational vehicle. Along the lake, we pass the well-known towns of Fond du Lac and Oshkosh. This sunset view is looking from the east side of the lake towards Oshkosh, which is hidden below the setting sun.

[By Royalbroil at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.5], from Wikimedia Commons]

US 41 passes the town crossing over Lake Butte des Morts (named for a nearby Native American burial ground) and the Fox River, continuing around Lake Winnebago and heading northward towards Green Bay.

There is one primary reason most of us are familiar with Green Bay: it is home of the successful NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, and the only major team is non-profit and community owned. And quite successful, too. Their fans wear cheese-shaped hats. You can see the approach into downtown Green Bay on US 41 via this video:

We turn south onto I-43 (which ends in Green Bay) over the mouth of the Fox River and come to the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, a large urban nature preserve. It is an opportunity for people in the city and beyond to see wildlife up close, in addition to being a center for the rehabilitation of local wildlife. Of course, we must feature one of the wild cats.

[Photo by tyle r on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

US 41 continues north along the western side of the Bay of Green Bay (as distinguished from the city of Green Bay), passing by more natural landscape before entering into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Wisconsin does not have much shoreline on Lake Superior compared to its neighbors – in particular, Michigan extends quite a bit westward along the south shore of the lake, but it does have the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. We can get there from Michigan on US 2, passing along the edge of Chequamegon Bay before turning north onto WI 13 along the waters edge to the Apostle Islands. In addition to wildlife and great views of Lake Superior, the islands have unusual “sea caves”, such as these at the edge of Sand Island.

[By Jordan Green JWGreen (en:Image:Apostles sandisland.jpg) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

In some ways they resemble the Dells that we saw much earlier in this article. We conclude with this lighthouse on the same island, one of several here that guide ships along this edge of the Lake Superior.

Fun with Highways: New Hampshire

We continue our series this season with a visit to the Granite State. New Hampshire typifies what we think of as “northern New England.”, with a mixture of old factory towns and mills, forested mountainous wilderness and rocky coastline.

[Photo from dougtone on flickr.]

We begin on this rather oddly named bit of highway south of Nashua called the “Circumferential Highway.” It’s not really circumferential of anything, except maybe an argument. But it does connect us to a major highway, the Everett Turnpike, as we head north through the state. I actually have visited Nashua. It was (gasp!) 20 years ago when a college friend invited me to tag along with him to go up to New Hampshire and volunteer for a presidential candidate I had barely heard of named Bill Clinton. The main thing I remember about walking around the town was that it was very cold. And it also looked a bit more gritty and rundown than the some of the more recent images I have seen.

Traveling north on the Everett Turnpike we come to the state’s largest city, Manchester. The turnpike merges with I-293 and heads north along the river, passing by downtown and the old mill buildings of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. This was a huge enterprise in its day, and apparently had the largest cotton textile plant in the world in the late 19th century. The company went under in the 1930s, but the buildings remain. You can see the rather narrow I-293/Everett Turnpike along the river just in front of the red brick mill buildings. Many have found new uses for contemporary industries as well as residential and commercial development.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons.]

Manchester is also home to the Currier Museum of Art. It’s plaza includes the sculpture Origins by Mark di Suvero.

[Photo by madame urushiol on flickr.]

It seems like variations on his “weird red thing” (aka Joie de Vivre) from Zuccotti Park are everywhere. After our Iowa article last week, a reader on DailyKos recommended a sculpture garden in Des Moines that also contains a di Suvero piece. I wonder how many more we might encounter as this series continues. The Currier also manages the Zimmerman House, a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece in the northern part of the city.

[Photo by mmwm on flickr.]

New England was apparently quite a hotbed of modern architecture in the middle of the 20th century, and many of the designs make Frank Lloyd Wright’s look conservative by comparison.

An avid highway enthusiast who goes by the name “FreewayJim” on YouTube has a fun time-lapsed and annotated view of the drive north on the Everett Turnpike and I-293 through Manchester as I-293 merges back into I-93 towards Concord. It turns out this is his hometown, so he brings a bit of knowledge about what has changed, and especially what has not changed on these roads.

I-93 continues north from Concord and winds its way gracefully into the White Mountains region. Here we see the rugged northern New England wilderness, another defining feature of the state. Cosigned with US 3, I-93 continues north into Franconia Notch State Park, where it narrows to just one lane in each direction, a rarity for an interstate highway.

The park includes among other things the former site of the Old Man in the Mountain. This natural feature on Cannon Mountain symbolized the state. It is part of the state highway shields. It is on the state’s commemorative quarter. It is on the state’s license plates. And it came crashing down off the cliffs one night in 2003. It sounds like there was a great sense of loss for the state when this happened. A memorial is currently being built at the base of the mountain, which will feature large granite elements representing both the formation itself and the state’s identity.

One can leave I-93 here and head eastwards on NH 112, the Kancamagus Highway through the White Mountains. In addition to having a great name, the roadway provides scenic vistas of the mountains and forests (especially dramatic in the autumn) as well as rocky rivers and covered bridges.

[Click images to enlarge.]

It seems like New Hampshire has quite a few covered bridges. I was actually in this area once as a kid (even more than 20 years ago). It was quite beautiful, but even in summer the water in the river was cold.

Highway 112 ends at the town of Conway, which I knew sounded familiar for some reason. It is in fact because of the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire’s shelter in the town. I think I crossed paths with them once via Weekend Cat Blogging. In any case, they have some nice cats available for adoption if you are in northern New England.

UPDATE: Speaking of cats, we would be remiss if we did not head north from Conway on Highway 16 to Mount Washington. This summit has famously high winds and all around terrible weather, but it is quite an experience to visit (on that same childhood trip I was picked up off the ground by a gust of wind). Plus, they have an official observatory cat, Marty. He is one in a long line of Mount Washington cats, about whom you read more here. Marty’s predecessor, Nin, was there for quite a while and posted this article in 2007 when Nin retired.

Returning to Manchester, one can head westward or eastward on NH 101. To the west, the highway is a local road that winds its way to the town of Keene. I only learned about Keene through these great photo an abandoned factory. It seems to not fared as well as its larger counterparts in Manchester and Nashua, but the ruins are quite beautiful as a photographic subject, especially with the snow.

[Photo by Lorianne DiSabato on flickr.]

East of Manchester, 101 is a large highway heading towards the coast. It passes by Exeter, a town with a prep school that many of my college acquaintances attended. But more interestingly, the academy includes this modernist library designed by Louis I. Kahn:

[Photo by Pablo Sanchez via Wikimedia Commons. (Click to enlarge.)]

101 eventually hits the coast at highway 1A, just north of Seabrook. Although the beaches along this shore are quite scenic, I know them mostly from the history surrounding the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station. In 1977, the Clamshell Alliance staged what we would now refer to as an “occupy protest” on the construction site of the plant. Nonetheless, at least one reactor of the plant was built. If I didn’t know what it was or the dangers surrounding nuclear energy, I would actually think of it visually as a positive contribution to the landscape, contrasting with the low horizon, dunes, wetlands and ocean, as in this photo from along 1A:

And I think this sunset is a perfect way to conclude this short trip to New Hampshire.