Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Sixth Street Bridge Adventure

Slow down, you move too fast.
   You got to make the morning last.
   Just kicking down the cobble stones.
   Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

If your favorite radio station announced a call-in contest that awarded some lucky caller with a great prize for knowing the title of that song, and you called in and got through, would you win the prize?

Most people would give the title as Feelin' Groovy. And they'd be, well, half right. The actual title is The 59th Street Bridge Song, but oftentimes that title is followed by (Feelin' Groovy), parentheses included. Why did Simon and Garfunkel name that song as such? Learn about that here. I'm too lazy to type it out.

If you'd like to see all of the lyrics, click here. If you want to listen to the song, turn on your speakers and click here. I'm not going to sing. Trust me, you'll thank me for that.

What in the world does all of this fluff have to do with today's visit to Eric's Planet? A little, actually. My post is about a bridge, just not the same one in the song.

The bridge here in L.A., known officially as the Sixth Street Viaduct, is not only 53 streets away from 59th Street, it's on the opposite coast as well. However, you can cross either one of them...for now. Regarding our beloved Sixth Street Viaduct, according to the Wikipedia article linked earlier in this paragraph, "...the quality of the concrete turned out to have a high alkali content and lead (sic) to an alkali-silica reaction which creates cracks in the concrete and saps the strength of the structure." Being in an area prone to earthquakes greatly increases the chances of this bridge collapsing when a major quake strikes.

That could be tomorrow.

Strangely, despite the fact that I've lived in Southern California since my conception, I had yet to cross that bridge. Since it crosses over U.S. 101 just east of downtown L.A., I'd driven under it many times on my way to points south. I spent so much time during my growing up years exploring the city's bus and rail system, walking around downtown checking out historic buildings, but never made it over to the bridge. I should be ashamed—especially given what I'm about to admit. Hope you're sitting down.

Most people know that I'm a big fan of public transit, amusement parks and roller coasters, have a twisted sense of humor, picky eating habits, and am fairly intelligent. What most people don't know is that I'm a closet bridge fan. No, I'm not talking about the card game (I don't even know to play it). I'm talking about the structures that carry people and vehicles over wide open spaces that they'd otherwise fall into. For me, a visit to San Francisco isn't complete without a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge or the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. On some visits, I've crossed both. I recall a drive that I took on the old Nimitz Freeway in Oakland about 1978. Despite it being only 20 years old at the time, there was something rather unsettling about that double-decked structure, and I remember thinking that it was going to fall down sometime, most likely on its own. In 1989, that's exactly what it did, though it had some help from the Loma Prieta quake.

I have memories of several close-to-home freeway bridges during their construction more than fifty years ago. With a little math, you can figure that I was under the age of five at the time. One dream I had was about a very strange bridge over the Hollywood Freeway somewhere in the Cahuenga Pass. For many years, whenever I went that way, I looked for that bridge. Of course it wasn't there—nor would it be—but I always looked for it anyway. Even now I think of it on occasion as I pass through there.

When our family took long trips on the freeway, everyone else in the car fell asleep—except my dad, of course, who was driving. But one little guy stayed wide awake so he wouldn't miss seeing all of the freeway signs, bridges, interchanges, or anything of the sort. Wanna guess who that was?

Because of the aforementioned problems with the Sixth Street Viaduct, it is scheduled to be torn down at some point in the near future and replaced with a modern, seismically sound structure. If I was ever to cross this bridge before it met the wrecking ball, then I needed to get there and do so ASAP. And, thus, an adventure was born.

As it turns out, MTA's Rapid Line 720 crosses that bridge on its way to and from East Los Angeles. Line 720 runs along Wilshire Blvd., and buses can be caught near the entrance to the Metro Red Line subway at the Wilshire/Vermont station.

So let's get to it if you're still awake. I got a late start due to helping the Mrs. get her car in for service and picking up a rental car to drive on her trip up north. Then I got going and drove to the North Hollywood Metro Red Line station. Since it was Saturday, there was plenty of parking available. I got my day pass for $7—up $2 effective two months ago—and rode to the Wilshire/Vermont station. Across the street, I boarded Metro Rapid Line 720 for the trip east.

Bus 9576 pulled up and I got on. For whatever reason, this bus was only going as far as downtown and wouldn't be crossing the bridge. I had to get off and wait for another Line 720 bus. This one was kind enough to not only pick me up, but take me across the bridge into Boyle Heights. It looked just like 9576 except for the number.

When we reached the intersection of Whittier Blvd. and Soto St., I saw something that I hadn't seen in years: a Pioneer Chicken Restaurant! I thought they'd all closed, but apparently not!

The thing is, I was never really a fan of Pioneer Chicken. Even though it was lunchtime, I decided against eating there. If you miss Pioneer Chicken and you're ever in Boyle Heights at the intersection of Whittier Blvd. and Soto St., feel free to stop in. And that guy really needs to get the wheels aligned on his wagon.

During my perusal of Google Maps, I had discovered a small fast food restaurant with some good ratings. Since it was a little detour down Soto St., I caught Bus 8545, a Line 251 bus that took me right to its front door—well, across the street from it, anyway.

Mike's Sandwich Shop, home of the Famous Hockey Burger Since 1963. What is a Hockey Burger and why do they say it's famous when I've never even heard of it?

This place looks like a total dive, but it was actually pretty good and well deserving of the good reviews it got on Yelp. And, yes, once I found out what the Hockey Burger was, it sounded good and I decided to try it. Here's a shot of lunch:

Those of you with keen eyesight just might see what looks like hot dogs on that burger. That's because...there are! The Hockey Burger comes with a beef pattie, cheese, sliced hot dogs, and whatever else you like on it. I like my cheeseburgers pretty basic, so all I got was the meat and cheese, and I added a little ketchup to it—and that's all! Before I catch all kinds of flak, my blood sugar was on the low side, so I could afford to eat something like this. And I don't do this every day.

Now that my belly was filled, I had to head back to the bridge before my light started running out. (Remember that I was a couple of hours behind.) I caught Bus 8539, a Line 251 bus to get back to Whittier Blvd. so I could go back across the bridge.

For whatever reason, I missed that stop and ended up going another mile to Cesar Chavez Blvd. I realized my mistake and headed across the street to catch the 251 to return to Whittier Blvd. While waiting the light to change, I watched an Infiniti make a left turn and try to cut off a PT Cruiser. Not a surprise, they collided. Nothing serious and no injuries, but I'm going to guess that the first guy learned that he drove an Infiniti to beyond...

A few minutes later, a Line 251 bus (whose fleet number has slipped my mind and I didn't get a photo of it, either) safely returned me to Whittier Blvd. where I awaited a Line 18 bus to take to the other side of the bridge. Bus 5490 operating on Line 18 was kind enough to do the job.

When I got off at the west end of the bridge, I got set to begin my just over one-mile historical round trip. Daylight was beginning to wane, so I decided that I'd better hop to it.

Looking east on the Sixth Street Bridge.

It's a gradual incline going up this side, so if nothing else, I'd get a decent workout and see some things that I hadn't seen before. And that I did. First, here's an old light standard with a new LED light mounted on the top:

As I wrote earlier, this bridge has begun to more or less deteriorate. What's shown in the next couple of shots is not vandalism. It's the bridge crumbling.

There are many more spots along the bridge that are similar to this, but I didn't photograph every little crack or hole. I think these two shots make my point.

At the midpoint of the span, Sixth Street makes a slight bend and heads toward the eastern end of it. The road passes under two huge truss structures.

As I walked over the eastern side of the bridge, I took a few shots looking toward the north.

Looking north over the Los Angles River.

Looking northwest toward downtown L.A.

I knew that the Sixth Street Bridge passed over a couple of local freeways. This is southbound U.S. 101 heading toward its meetup with Interstate 5 and Interstate 10 somewhere in that deadly coil of roadways known as the East L.A. Interchange.

And just a few hundred feet to the east is I-5, also headed to the East L.A. Interchange. Here's a shot of southbound I-5. The bridge crossing the photo is the on-ramp to I-5.

Just on the other side of this overcrossing is Boyle Ave. I crossed there to the south side of Sixth Street so I could walk back over the bridge. Here's proof that I was in Boyle Heights:

Good thing it wasn't a hot day. Then I'd have to say that I was in "Boil Heights." [rim shot]

At the east side of the bridge is a rather majestic entrance to the bridge:

Walking back to the west side of the bridge, I had a slightly different perspective on the freeways. Looking south, dead ahead, here is a glimpse of the dreaded East L.A. Interchange, where I-5, I-10, U.S. 101, and SR 60 collide:

Just in case it starts rocking and rolling:

Here's the Los Angeles River again, this time looking south. This stretch of the river was used in a climactic scene in the 1978 movie, Grease. Remember the car race "for pinks" near the end?

There's even a sign to indicate just when drivers pass over the river:

Want to take a train somewhere? Then use these tracks. Just make sure someone else is driving...

The two tracks on the right? Those are Metro Red Line tracks. Use those if you want to go to the end of the line. The very end...

Daylight was close to gone when I returned to the west end of the bridge. Luckily a Line 18 bus came along about a minute after I got to the stop and took me to within a block of the Vermont/Wilshire Red Line station. At this station, you'll find two of the tallest escalators west of the Mississippi, with a vertical rise of about 120 feet from the subway platform. Think of riding a single escalator from the ground to the top of a twelve-story building. Engineering at its finest.

The Red Line train got me back to my starting point of North Hollywood, where I got into my car and headed for home.

We'll call this another adventure in the bag. Till next time...