From Nature Made to Man Made

Going to jump tracks a bit from yesterday’s purple mountains majesty to marvels of human engineering.

A couple days after my return from New Mexico, I had to drive up to Sacramento for work stuff.

On the journey over highway 80, there are two major bridges to cross, the Bay Bridge, and the Carquinez Bridge.

Both are, in my mind, very Jekyll and Hyde. Both beautiful and ugly at the same time.

When riding over these bridges, I always have to wonder what the bridge builders around here have got against the east side of a perfectly nice bridge?

Here, let me show you.

This is the eastbound section of the Carquinez, headed toward Sacramento:

It’s got sort of an Erector Set toy feel about it, no? (assuming you are old enough to remember Erector Sets)

It’s very utilitarian and functional and not very aesthetically pleasing.

And then, for comparison, here’s the westbound section of the same bridge (headed toward San Francisco).

Lovely! Clean lines and very modern and stylish.

You can even see the less attractive side of the bridge off to the left.

I’d like to think that this two opposite halves approach is an anomaly to only the Carquinez, but no.

Let’s talk the Bay Bridge. It’s split into two sections, the eastern span (east of Treasure Island) and the Western Span (west of Treasure Island).

These photos are from the top deck, headed west, but look at the vast difference in the two halves of the bridge.

Eastern span:

Again with the construction by Erector Set! So not pretty. Utilitarian.

And then the elegant, iconic western span:

Rumor has it that they are doing new construction on the eastern span and when complete, it will be a much more attractive suspension bridge like the western span.

But given the pace of the Department of Transportation and CalTrans, I wonder if I’ll see it in my lifetime.

All photographs taken with an iPhone4 by Karen Fayeth and subject to the creative commons license as seen in the far right column of this page.

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  • Ken

    Karen, it would appear you were photographing and driving. It’s hard to be certain, but it does seem the photos were taken from the perspective of the driver (left side of the lane).

    We’d miss you if you drove of the bridge.

  • Ken

    Come to think of it, aren’t the “pretty” sides also the free sides on both of those bridges?

  • Karen Fayeth

    Ken – I’m not going to lie to you, I was photographing and driving…but it’s not as bad as it seems.

    I use this fabulous App from the App store called Camera+ and it’s replaced the camera app that comes loaded on the iPhone.

    It has a burst setting, so I’d set the phone up before I started driving. I held my arm out the window and let it fire off shots while I kept ‘er between the white lines.

    I took A LOT of photos, most included the left front fender of my car, but there were a few good photos, included here. You’ll also notice all the photos are not very straight. Oh well.

    And actually, the pretty sides are the for pay sides. West bound gets a toll, $5 for the Carquinez and $6 for the Bay Bridge (tolls were a dollar when I moved here!).

  • Ephraim F. Moya

    I must have a MUCH different sense of beauty than you. I think the photo on the top of your post is the best photo because it’s of a VERY well designed bridge.

    ISTM that the only reason to replace that bridge would be because it has outlived it’s forecast lifetime or because it’s too small. Not because it’s ugly.


  • Karen Fayeth

    Ephraim – I think over the years of our association, I’ve learned you and I have a rather different aesthetic on many of the visual arts, and I cherish our differences.

    By the by, the eastern span of the Bay Bridge is being rebuilt because the current iteration doesn’t meet codes for earthquake resilience.

  • Natalie

    I remember crossing that bridge when I was a little kid. It always seemed magical because of the C&H sugar plant… I always envisioned lots and lots and lots of crystally, sparkly sugar! We lived in Vallejo and that’s how we got to the city, most of the time, and the bridge seemed sooooooo long.
    I can’t really remember where it was but, there was this area where, if you looked out into the bay, you’d see stick figures and signs and stuff sticking out of the water when the tide was in. Otherwise, they seemed stuck in the mud and, as a kid, I always wondered how they got there. I remember there was a stick figure indian and other fascinating stuff. Do you know what I’m talking about?

  • Karen Fayeth

    Natalie – I had to defer to the good man on your question since he lived here as a kid too. He remembers what you are talking about, the figures in the mud flats. He says he’s pretty sure that was near Emeryville.

    I did a Google search and found this article with photos.

    Very cool!

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