Constructive Creativity

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Down By The River

Well folks, I was finally able to resolve my picture posting difficulties. :) I downloaded Mozilla Firefox, which works quite well with Blogger. Now I can just hit the Add Image button in the Edit Post screen and wallah, picture posted!

Ok, now to reduce my backlog of pictures, I present for your viewing interest some pics of downtown Indianapolis. I took these pictures about four months ago. I had driven downtown to visit the zoo, but by the time I got there, late in the afternoon, they were already closed. The zoo has shorter hours in the non-summer months. Anyway, as there was still plenty of daylight, I decided to walk about for a while. There are sidewalks all around just outside of the zoo, so I put my feet to the concrete, and one foot in front of the other. After walking for about half a mile, I decided to stop, take in the view, and snap a few pics. In most of these pictures, I am looking across the White River at downtown Indianapolis.

First, let me give you a quick geography lesson. The White River flows through Indianapolis more or less from the north-east to the south-west. It is the city's most important geographic feature. It divides the city roughly in half and there are many bridges crossing it. In the early history of the U.S., rivers were very important in the establishment of small towns that eventually grew into today's cities. The White River was an important trade route in the years before major roads were built. It runs south-west to the Wabash River, which separates southern Indiana from Illinois (I trust you can find your own map of the U.S. if you would like to visualize what I am talking about). The Wabash then connects with the Ohio River, which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. So, Indianapolis is connected by water all the way to the Gulf of Mexico! Low lying parts of the city are regularly inundated with floodwaters from the river. You would think that people would get the message and move, but some people are just stubborn and insist on cleaning the mud from their houses, staying right where they are, waiting for the fun to repeat itself. ;)

In this first picture, the zoo is behind me and I am looking to my left at an old concrete arch bridge (its about 100 years old) that crosses the White River.

Next, I have zoomed in a bit from the previous view. The red brick building in the center, with the high arched windows, is part of the national headquarters of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). All major universities in America participate in the NCAA, which makes the rules for sports like football, basketball, baseball, etc., at the college level. I understand they have a very nice museum inside dedicated to great college athletes of past years. I have not been to the museum. I thought about going in the day I took these pics, but there really wasn't time. I'll get back down there again sometime and check it out.

In the next five shots, I am progressively panning my view to the right. This picture shows the tallest buildings in Indianapolis (if you click on the picture, you will see a lot more details in the enlarged image). Just to the right of the center of the picture, you can see a green dome right below the red "Hilton" of the Hilton Hotel. This is the dome of the historic State Capital Building. As far as I know, the Governor of Indiana still keeps an office there, however, most of the State administrative functions take place in the newer and much larger complex in the foreground, just in front of the Capital Building.

Here is a picture of the RCA Dome, which is the current home of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts football team. This is a rather interesting structure, in my opinion. The white dome is not solid, rather it is inflated, much like a balloon, and held up by higher air pressure inside the building. The doors into the dome act like air locks to hold the higher air pressure inside, thus keeping the dome properly inflated. I wonder what the heating and air conditioning costs for that dome are? They must be huge! In the foreground, you can see the words "Victory Field" right below the words "RCA Dome". Victory Field is a small baseball stadium where the Indianapolis Indians play. The Indians are a minor league team. They are professional players, but they compete with other minor league teams, which is completely separate from major league play. Minor league baseball teams are often the training grounds for future major league ball players. Indianapolis does not have a major league baseball team.

Now, lets zoom out a little and take in a bigger view. Just to the right of the RCA Dome, there is a building with three tall smoke stacks. If I am correctly informed (which is occasionally not the case!), this is a facility that converts coal into natural gas, which is then pumped all over the city. A by-product of this conversion process is coke (baked coal), which was once an important fuel used by the steel making industry. Coke burns much hotter than coal. Today, as far as I know, most steel in the U.S. is produced using an electric arc process to melt the iron and scrap metal raw materials. So, I don't know if there is a big market for coke these days.

Just to the right of the coal/gas plant is the city's biggest current construction project. Can you guess what it could be? Well, as is the case in many big American cities, the resident professional football team has lobbied the politicians to create new and bigger venues so they can increase their ticket sales and line their pockets with more of their fans hard earned loot. So, behold the future home of the Indianapolis Colts, just down the road a few blocks from their current home. The RCA Dome is scheduled for demolition to make way for a much bigger Indianapolis Convention Center. This new football stadium will not be a dome. In fact, the structure will be much more complex. It will be completely roofed, however, the roof will be designed so that huge panels can be retracted to open the stadium to the sky in good weather. No doubt the natural grass playing field will enjoy the sun and rain in the warmer months, while the fans can work on their tans. ;) The main structural feature in this picture is the first of a pair of gigantic trusses that will support the roof. I don't have the exact dimensions, but I think they will each span more than 500 feet from one end of the stadium to the other!

Backing the view out a bit more, includes two more parallel bridges that cross the White River.

For this next picture, I have walked left from my starting point over to the bridge that I showed in the first picture. This is a sculpture of a buffalo made entirely of densely packed wires.

Buffalo were once one of the most important species in the ecosystem of the western U.S. grasslands known as The Great Plains. This huge area of prairie once spanned like an ocean of grass east to west between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, and north to south from Canada to Texas. The buffalo were a very important source of food, clothing, and shelter for many tribes of Plains Indians.
They wore buffalo robes, slept on buffalo rugs, carried water in buffalo bladders, and made tepees from buffalo skins, for example. You may be acquainted with some of these Native Americans from the many western movies that featured cowboys, soldiers, and Indians. As you might imagine, those simple stories barely scratch the surface of the real history of "The Old West". Before white settlers came to The Great Plains, buffalo roamed the prairie in gigantic herds, some of which contained tens of millions of animals! Sadly, most of the buffalo were killed for their hides and also to starve the Plains Indians into submission. Indeed, the buffalo nearly went extinct. From hundreds of millions, their numbers dropped to less than 1000 animals about 100 years ago. I am pleased to report that the buffalo are making a nice come back. Today, there are tens of thousands of buffalo, many of which have been raised on western Indian Reservations. To Native Americans whose ancestors lived on The Great Plains, the buffalo is a sacred animal, so helping to save them is a religious duty. I was surprised to learn, a few years ago, that there were once quite a few buffalo that lived in States east of the Mississippi River, including Indiana. Not surprisingly, they were all killed and eaten by hungry white settlers.

Here, I have turned to my right away from the buffalo sculpture to look down the length of the old bridge. This bridge was closed to vehicle traffic back in the 1970's and has been a pedestrian walkway and park since then.

This final picture was taken about a month ago while I was stuck in a traffic jamb after visiting the zoo. As you can see, the construction of the new football stadium has proceeded, and much of the roof has been erected. There is still a lot of work to be done, so I don't think the stadium will be ready for any of the 2007 football season.

I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of downtown Indianapolis. I have more pictures on various themes which I will share with you soon.