The Sands SkyPark
Learning about new structural masterpieces never cease to amaze and intrigue me. I’ve written about the Burj Dubai, the Grand Canyon Skywalk and the Swiss AlspiX – I really enjoy writing about these ‘wonders’ because a) it forces me to learn more about them by exploring the facts, and b) it’s not likely I’ll ever get to visit them in person. I find it ironic that all these places have one thing in common – extreme height. With heights being my main hang-up, it’s probably fair to say it’s the biggest source of my intrigue.
The top SkyPark of Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore made it’s official debut on June 24, 2010. The cantilever is positioned atop three 57-story sloping towers which are connected at level 23, and stretches longer lengthwise than the Eiffel Tower is tall. This structure houses a hotel, casino, restaurants, stores, art gallery, pool, ice skating rink, gardens, and much more all rolled up into one tropical oasis. The top SkyPark can accommodate roughly 3,900 people, and is one of the largest art commissions ever completed as part of an integrated architectural process.
Ah, the marvels of engineering. I’ll let the pictures, courtesy Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore, have the final word.
The Town of Blowing Rock
It’s one of my favorite places. Basically, I love everything associated with the majestic Blue Ridge mountains – the Parkway, the scenic overlooks, the endless trails to choose from, the attractions like Linville Falls and Taverns, Chimney and Blowing Rocks. And I adore all the little towns in between.
They apparently received some more of the white stuff up there on Saturday. We saw a few small piles of snow scattered on the sides of the road as well as leftover brime. It was a perfectly weathered day to walk the town of Blowing Rock, with the afternoon high reaching about 65º. We hit all our favorite shops like Poppy’s and The Last Straw, and even bought a couple of things. Keith bought a couple of the led wax candles, that actually have timers on them! I thought it was so neat that we’ll never have to touch them except to replace the batteries. I bought something I’ve had my eye on now for over a year… those little battery illuminated willow branches that compliment a large vase arrangement.
It’s nice to walk up and down the streets of a quaint little town while holding hands, never being in a hurry. I always find myself wishing we could stay longer. Of course, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to Kilwin’s for some homemade fudge. Like I really needed another couple pounds! Oh well, maybe I can spread it out a little so that it doesn’t accumulate all at once…
Oh how I’ve missed my little blog. Seems like there’s not been enough time lately to do anything. I’ve got some catching up to do on my reading as well! Today makes it official – the month is now half spent. In lieu of content, thought I’d bore you with some pictures today…
The sunrise this morning was beautiful – it cast a pinkish-purple hue on the buildings around me.
This past weekend was perfect weather. We took full advantage of it Sunday by gathering our daughters together and climbing a mountain. Okay, it’s not the biggest mountain around, but a mountain nonetheless. It was a great time to be had – we took on the climb, had a beautiful scenic view for a prize, and partook in a nice picnic lunch afterwards that sweetened the deal.
Last night my sweet man brought me roses for Valentines day, both stem as well as a plant for the yard. ♥ We went to dinner at our favorite Japanese steakhouse, Sasaki. My gosh how I love that place! It’s so nice to walk in there and be greeted by our first names – and we always seem to find another friendly neighboring couple to chat with.
I’ve been going into bloggie DT’s. True I’m sitting underneath a Carolina blue sky on a beautiful day, but the yearn to post something these past few days has more than gotten to me. For some reason on Sundays I always get either really nostalgic or fall into a semi state of depression. It is, after all, the day the weekend ends and I have to go back home to my worklife daily ritual. I’m very thankful for my ritual, my job and the whole nine yards, don’t get me wrong. It just pains me to see Friday into Saturday into Sunday, end.
Short of driving up to the mountains this weekend (we knew better, it’s prime weekend for the season so we’ll just exercise crowd-control) we’re planning to ride 5 minutes past K’s house to a local mountain, not near as high as it’s lofty counterparts but shall satisfy the ole’ mountain yearn nonetheless. It’s a state park called Crowder’s Mountain, and the mountain is only accessible through hiking. The last time I was up there, I was 6 months pregnant. It was me, my husband and another couple, the other lady was almost 9 months pregnant. It doesn’t take a glance backward to see how very stupid we were for attempting to climb a mountain that far into a pregnancy, but we all made it to the very top and came out okay. Twenty-three years later, I shall attempt it again – just not in tiptop shape this time so say a prayer for me. 🙂
We covered up K’s pool yesterday, another thing needing done but I think both of us dreaded. He just smiles and says awww every time I look our beyond the patio window and say how sad it is. Soon the trees will be barren, and everything will appear dead for several months. A Spring/Summer person I am. As hot of a Summer as we’ve had… I do try and soak up every little minute we have of the warm feel and look of those seasons.
Everyone probably knows by now about my acrophobia (fear of heights) as well as my contradictory fascination with extreme-height architectural feats. I’ve written of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the Alpspix and the Burj Dubai. I’ve heard of viaducts in my life, but I wasn’t aware that’s what the one along the Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain was called. Appropriately named, I think. So what’s a viaduct? Here’s the official info from the visitor’s center:
“A viaduct is a long bridge with a series of spans supported on piers. The Linn Cove Viaduct is 1243 feet long and 35 feet wide. The “S” curve roadbed rests upon seven vertical piers that are spaced about 180 feet apart. The roadbed is made up of 153 precast concrete sections held in place with wire cables and epoxy glue. No two sections are exactly the same and only one section (#93) is straight and square. Each section weighs nearly 100,000 pounds. Linn Cove Viaduct is the first in this country to incorporate progressive placement of sections. What this means is that the bridge is built upon itself. Workmen, materials and machines move back and forth on the completed bridge to place each successive section. Little or no damage is caused to the landscape over which the viaduct is being constructed.”
Ground was broken on the Blue Ridge Parkway on September 11, 1935, and all but 7.5 miles of it’s 469 were constructed by 1967. The parkway was completed in September of 1987. This final section below, around a rugged and rocky perimeter side of Grandfather Mountain, accounted for the twenty-year gap.
There was much controversy and debate over this ‘missing link’ as state and private officials argued over the environmental impact. How would they build a road at an elevation of 4,100 feet without damaging one of the world’s oldest mountains? Finally, NPS landscape architects and FHA engineers agreed the road should be elevated and/or bridged to eliminate the need for massive excavation. The result? The most complicated concrete bridge ever built – the Linn Cove Viaduct. The only trees that were even cut for the construction of this section were those directly beneath the roadway.
The Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Centre is located at Milepost 304.4, right after you cross the viaduct itself. You really have to look for it because it’s not clearly marked.The area has restrooms and a trail to Linn Cove Viaduct, of which we partook. The trail is less than a mile round trip and is moderate, starting out as an accessible paved trail at the visitor center and leading to a beautiful view of the viaduct from underneath – then finally giving hikers access to the Tanawha Trail. You can continue up the remaining dirt trail and climb by huge boulders for another 1/3 mile to get some views of the surrounding areas – but this personally scares the heck out of me and you won’t catch me doing it. As I watched Keith climb onto a huge boulder, I admit I had to turn my head and got more than a bit upset. The dropoffs are straight down and at that height, well – I shudder to think of the accidents that may have occurred there by persons striving to get a ‘better view’.
I have to say though, the views from this viaduct are the best I’ve ever seen from any of the North Carolina mountains.
I spy… an AlpspiX
Here I go with my dreams again. I had a dream last night about extreme heights. I was ‘dangling’ from some place high above I-don’t-know-where, and alongside me was my (don’t laugh) cat… (I heard that snicker). For some reason I was more concerned with Camille’s well-being than my own, as she was more terrified than I. I’m thinking the whole thing was a direct result from that muscle-relaxer I took last night before bed.
Ironically enough, I just heard about the new AlpspiX in Germany. It’s almost finished and set to open on 4 July. Suspended a whopping 1,000 meters (3300 feet) in the air high over the German Alps, the AlpspiX is a viewing platform consisting of two 24-meter long arms that cross each other to form the letter X. The ‘arms’ protrude more than 13 meters (43 feet) over an abyss at the base of the Alpspitze mountain. Each arm of the X is just 3 meters wide and formed of a grid, which will allow snow to pass through it during winter. For your enhanced viewing pleasure, each of these arms will end in a glass wall for an unobscured view. The structure was designed so that one platform slants toward ‘heaven’ while the other element descends toward the valley of ‘hell’, the Höllental.
Don’t forget to pack your nerves.
Freak of nature
Some things in life run unbelievably short of what my mind is able to comprehend. Things. Like Tidal Waves. Mega-scrapers. Terrorism. Sharks. Adultery. A faulty sort of bend in reality is how I feel about these things. Even though life is continually reminding us of their true existence, the full perception of them never seems to develop within my brain. I think that’s why I like to write about these things, bring them to the surface. My fears.
Yeah. All of them seem to fall into that same category. My fears.
I wrote about the Burj Dubai when it opened. It’s another massive architectural feat that I can’t read or see enough of. I’ve wanted to write something on the Skywalk since I started blogging – but I think it must blow my mind so much more so than the average person, that I’ve just never been able to convey my thoughts into words. I’ll give it a grave attempt now.
How about this one:
If you were presented with the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon and walk out on the glass skywalk, would you? Or should I ask, could you? Keep in mind, this ain’t no stroll across the mile-high swinging bridge, my friends.
If asked the question above I would respond quickly with a firm no. I personally would be unable to walk even one small step onto the platform. No way, no how. If I were forced, my heart would most certainly fail me then and there. This would be the ultimate test of my own fear of heights, resulting in Epic Fail.
Then again, my fear of heights surpasses that of most others. I abhor the word fear – always have. Rather, I like to think that I’m altitude-challenged. 😀
Situated on the Hualapai Indian Reservation (pronounced wä’lə-pī’), this remarkable achievement in engineering was constructed with more than a million pounds of steel beams including dampeners that minimize the structure’s vibration. It was designed to hold 72 million pounds, withstand an 8.0 magnitude earthquake 50 miles away, and endure winds in excess of 100 mph. The horseshoe-shaped walkway juts out about 70 feet into the canyon.
It has been estimated the walkway could carry 822 people that weigh 200 pounds each without overstress, but maximum occupancy at one time is limited to 120 people. (The question has been asked, just how comfortable would you be walking alongside 119 other people on this thing? Again, just a personal observation…)
The Skywalk is commissioned and owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe. According to Hualapai officials, the cost of the Skywalk was $31 million. Future plans for the Grand Canyon Skywalk complex include a museum, movie theater, VIP lounge, gift shop, and several restaurants including a high-end restaurant called The Skywalk Café where visitors will be able to dine outdoors at the canyon’s rim. The Skywalk is only the cornerstone of a much larger plan by the Hualapai tribe, which it hopes will be the incentive for a 9,000-acre expansion to be called Grand Canyon West. This development would precipitate the growth of a 100-mile stretch along the canyon’s South Rim. The vast addition would include hotels, restaurants, a golf course, as well as a cable car to ferry visitors from the canyon rim to the Colorado River – an area which has been previously inaccessible. All this blows my mind… I especially cannot fathom which piece of land they might choose for a golf course.
A short doable 2 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas, this magnificent framework promises a sure thrill for the not-so-faint-at-heart persons unlike myself. A flat rate adult admission of around $30 allows access to the Skywalk, where you may ‘hang out’ as long as you like up until closing. You know – hang around, have some casual conversation, file your nails, do a little barfing. That type of thing.
Click for a short video that showcases the sheer height of the Grand Canyon Skywalk
Total elevation: 4825 ft. / 1471 m (estimated)
Sources: Wikipedia and Official Grand Canyon Skywalk website