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7.29.2007 - 40 comments 

Before making the trip down the California coast to Southern California, I wanted to talk about one more famous landmark of the Bay area, that being the Bay Bridge. As you can tell from the shot I have shown here, I was actually on this bridge taking the shot, but the good and bad news (according to Mrs. LZ) was that I was actually driving the car while taking the shot. Even if, perhaps not a brilliant idea, I hope that it does give you the perspective of actually being on the bridge.

At its groundbreaking, President Herbert Hoover called it "the greatest bridge ever erected by the human race." When it opened in 1936, it was the largest and most expensive bridge in the world. Its length was 4.5 miles, not counting approaches. Its cost was $77 million Depression-era dollars.

It was built at the same time that another great crossing, the Golden Gate Bridge, (of my post a couple back) was rising in the west, a period that one architectural critic proclaimed was "the heroic age of American bridge-building." It boasted the biggest single-bore tunnel on the planet and a center anchorage bigger than any building in San Francisco at the time.

In 1956, it was named one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.

And believe it or not, but in the summer of this year, it was scheduled to be demolished. On September 30, 2004, the office of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that without sufficient funds authorized by the legislature that the bid for a replacement bridge must be allowed to expire.

It was at the time unclear if this would require a redesign to obtain a less expensive span. It might have been possible to quickly redesign the span using a more conventional cable stayed design, for which the construction methods and costs are well understood but the cost of the resultant delay was likely to far exceed any potential savings.

On December 10, 2004, the Governor's office announced that the signature span concept had been scrapped, with the completion of the bridge to be by the construction of the simple viaduct originally proposed. The design, having gone full
circle, remained expensive due to the continued high cost of materials.

Many of you may remember that earlier this year it was damaged when a tanker truck carrier fuel smashed into one of the abutments to the bridge was destroyed by the fire. That has already been repaired. In fact we couldn't even tell where the work had been done.

But in spite of this, it looks as though the end is coming for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which for more than 65 years has borne more traffic and superlatives than most bridges on Earth. The double-deck structure - a hybrid of two
suspension spans, a cantilever section and a truss bridge - remains the busiest bridge in the nation, carrying more than 270,000 vehicles a day.

The old workhorse span also carries a rich history. The story of its construction is a triumphant tale of the dreams, genius and skill of the men who envisioned and built the bridge in the face of daunting challenges. It is a story of American ingenuity at its best, of can-do perseverance and, almost inevitably, of tragedy. During construction two dozen bridge-men lost their lives.

"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend." ~ Albert Camus


7.22.2007 - 41 comments 

I am sure that many of you (like me) have heard and may be even seen Coit Tower on the also famous Telegraph hill in San Francisco. It has provided many visitors to San Francisco (and even the locals), with impressive views of The City since its completion in 1933.

In fact, I could actually see it from the top of the hill on our trip down Lombard Street from two posts back on my blog. But it was this visit that I was told, "Well you know why it looks like a fire hose don't you?" And the truth was, I didn't know. So I decided to find out a little about it, for just that reason. In fact in the many times I had seen the fact that it looks like a nozzle to a fire hose had NEVER entered my mind. But now when I look at it… that is ALL I can see!

One of the most unusual personalities ever connected with the San Francisco Fire Department was a woman who’s name was Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who was destined not only to become a legend but to attain that eminence long before her life ended.

She came to San Francisco in 1851 from West Point, where her father had been an army doctor. Seven years later, when only 15 years old, she began her famous career with Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 5.

As the story goes, one afternoon that pioneer fire company had a short staff on the ropes as it raced to a fire on Telegraph Hill. Because of the shortage of man power, the engine was falling behind. Oh, humiliating and better was the repartee passed by Manhattan No. 2 and Howard No. 3 as the total eclipse seemed to be but a matter of seconds. Then, suddenly there came a diversion. It was the story of Jeanne d’Arc at Orleans, The Maid of Sargossa and Molly Pitcher of Revolutionary fame all over again.

Pretty and impulsive Lillie Hitchcock, on her way home from school, saw the plight of the Knickerbocker and tossing her books to the ground, ran to a vacant place on the rope. There she exerted her feeble strength and began to pull, at the same time turning her flushed face to the bystanders and crying: “Come on, you men! Everybody pull and we’ll beat ‘em!”

From her earliest infancy she was curiously fascinated by the red shirt and war-like helmet of the firemen and she gloried in the excitement of a big blaze. Almost invariably, with the energy and speed that the most agile fireman might envy, she hastened to the scene of action. Lillie often said she loved courage in a uniform.

San Francisco society of the day was exclusive and right. As the Hitchcocks were valued members, society frequently agonized over the vagaries of its Lillie. But she seems always to have done exactly as she pleased without giving real offense.

On October 3, 1863, she was elected an honorary member of the Knickerbocker company, and always regarded that honor as the proudest of her life. She wore the numeral as an ornament with all her costumes, along with the gold badge presented at the same time.

Lillie Hitchcock Coit, later in life as philanthropist and admirer of the fire fighters at the 1906 earthquake fire, left funds to The City for beautification of San Francisco. Those funds were used for the construction of the 210-foot tall art deco Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill. The tower’s design is reminiscent of a fire hose nozzle and was quite controversial. The Golden Gate Bridge is another San Francisco landmark with an art deco design.

So, now that you know all of that story, doesn't it make it look more like a fire hose nozzle to you? I thought so!

“The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes.” ~ Henri Frederic Amiel


7.14.2007 - 44 comments 

This shot was taken right outside the city limits of the City of Napa, California. And as you may already know... this is wine country. As you can see from this picture, they grow a lot of grapes in this part of California.

In fact the area is not only called Wine Country, but the Wine Spectator Magazine's office is right here in Napa too. They often say, "Napa~Sanoma~Medicino" as if it was one place, and I guess for all practicality that's not a bad thing. Those three cities seem to make up what is called the Napa Valley (and for that matter) what they call "WINE Counrty". There can't be too many places (outside of France) that have this many and kinds of wine making and grape vineyards anywhere else in the world. Actually I guess we should add St. Helena, Calistoga, Oakville and Rutherford to the mix as well.

Napa (the city) is the county seat of Napa County, California. It is the principal city of the Napa county Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses Napa county. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 72,585. The area was settled in the 1830s. It was incorporated as a city in 1872. Just as recent as December 31, 2005, the Napa River overflowed and flooded the entire downtown area and thousands of acres all over Napa County. But we really didn't see much sign of the damage anywhere we looked.

For our treat instead of doing the wine tasting in all the vineyards there, we decided to have lunch in a little place that was right downtown on 1st. Street. It looked like it could have been a bar (or even more properly) a saloon and hotel during the Gold Rush days of the 1850's. But, I really didn't see anything in the place that would have given me any historical timing to base that assumption, it was just the way the place looked. The restaurant was called Caffee Cicero and because of the cool look of the building I almost made the photo of the Cafe the picture for my post, but then thought, "NO" this should be about the GRAPES!

It was actually the gold rush of the late 1850s that really built Napa City. After the first severe winter in the gold fields, miners sought refuge in the young city from snow, cold, floods and disease. A tent city was erected along Main Street.

There was plenty of work in the valley for disillusioned miners. Many cattle ranches were maintained, and the lumber industry had mushroomed. Sawmills in the valley were in operation cutting up timber that was hauled by team to Napa City, then shipped out on the river to Benicia and San Francisco.

In 1858 the great silver rush began in Napa Valley, and miners eagerly flocked to the eastern hills. In the 1860s, mining carried on, in a large scale, with quicksilver mines operating in many areas of Napa County. The most noted mine was the Silverado Mine, near the summit of Mt. St. Helena. The mine was immortalized by Robert Louis Stevenson in his classic The Silverado Squatters.

It was a very peaceful little town and we really enjoyed our visit there. And... if we're there again (and I'm NOT driving) maybe we'll even visit some of the many little wineries there. There were many including; Elkhorn Peak Cellars, Bourassa Vineyards, Destino Wines, Folio Winemakers Studio, Downing Family Vineyards, Farella-Park Vineyards, Gregory Graham Wines, Gustavo Thrace Winery and many many more.

Many of the really "Upscale" wineries seemed to be in St. Helena, like the ones that I am familiar with; CK Mondavi Vineyards, Beringer Vineyards, Sutter Home and Dave Arthur. But, we never made it up there to see those. Maybe NEXT time!

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~ Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss)


7.08.2007 - 32 comments 

Even though it if often billed as the "crookedest street," San Francisco's Lombard Street is, in fact, neither the crookedest nor the steepest street in the city, let alone the world. Oddly, that fact doesn't deter the hordes of tourists who come every year to see this famous street, built with eight switchbacks on a 40-degree slope.

The main attraction of Lombard Street is watching people drive down the crooked, one-block section, or driving down it yourself. On a busy day, a seemingly-endless stream of automobiles and scooters buzz down, their passengers squealing in mock fear at every turn. That was certainly the case when we were there. If you're on foot, you can walk down (or up) the sidewalks and watch the show.

The best place to photograph Lombard Street is from the bottom, looking up. Just as I did in this shot here. I also have one almost the same as this one, only with Mrs. LZ standing about where I took this picture from. (Before you ask) why I didn't post it instead of this one... there is a simple answer... I had to promise her not to post it on my blog (which she doesn't read and never even looks at).

Most of Lomdard street in San Francisco is straight but the "crooked" section of Lombard is between Hyde and Leavenworth, just a few blocks above Ghirardelli Square.

The Powell-Hyde cable car stops at the top of Lombard Street. You can also get there by walking up Hyde (very steep) from Ghirardelli Square, up Leavenworth (one block east, less steep) or by walking west from North Beach on Lombard Street, but the best way to get here depends on where you're coming from.

We actually came from the top (ha! ha!) But really, the crooked part actually starts at the top of that particular hill. You can also get a nice view of the city from many streets in that particular area. But frankly, driving up and even down those hills was a little difficult not only on me as the driver, but also on a couple of my passengers who were perhaps even more acrophobic that I was. It is very close to where those scenes from the movie "Bullit" were shot (for those of you who remember that old Steve McQueen movie).

The flowers and shrubs all along this section of Lombard Street (as you can see by my picture) were just beautiful. I thought how neat it was that all of these folks such nice care of their yards. At almost the same time I was thinking that thought... I was also wondered how it must be to try to get to your house if you did actually live there.

"I think that wherever your journey takes you, there are new gods waiting there, with divine patience -- and laughter." - Susan M. Watkins