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bicycle touring Photography Uncategorized

SLOSS FURNACES Redux

I decided to go back and take advantage of a few new photoshop tools and re-edit a bunch of pictures from a few years ago. These are all from the Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most amazing places that we visited while on our bicycle tour in 2008/2009. If you like you can go back and read about the site HERE, along with a decidedly less, perhaps, over-processed set of photos. The main reason I’m posting them is that I am thinking about having a few ‘Archival Prints’ done of some of these (which is kinda expensive) and I just want to have them in an easily accessible place so that I can continue to hem and haw about the prospect of doing so without having to open them all individually. In any case, if you are ever anywhere near this place you should make it your mission to visit. I wish that I could go again tomorrow!



















































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bicycle touring Uncategorized

Two Rooms: Part I

On our last day in Birmingham, AL, Gabrielle and I stayed at the Sloss Furnaces too long, and ended up having to find a place for the night. We stopped and had an early dinner at The Bottle Tree, a cool place on the east side of town that has a decent menu and books some pretty good bands [full disclosure: we stole one of their Los Campesinos! posters from the ladies room–sorry guys! but we really loved it.] So anyway, we were hanging out for a while and drinking a few beers, and before we realized it, it was dark outside. We had to find a room for the night, and a close one. We did a little online research and found the closest motel was a mere .4 miles away: The Star Motel. So we rolled down there, and paid a visit to the office. Many of the low budget motels in the US are run by Indian family’s, and so was this one. We did did business through the money slot, bending down to talk so our voices would carry through the tiny opening, the rich pungent smell of curry punching us in the face. The women said: You pay rent first, 42 dollars, an expression which perplexed Brie to no end. We paid and were passed the room key and remote.

Opening the door to the room was akin to being slapped in the face with a giant pack of Double Mint Chewing Gum. As we ventured in, and our eyes adjusted, it was confirmed that we had indeed booked our night of rest in a flophouse, but it started to pour outside, and we generally sleep in a stank-ass tent, so whatever. As I do every time we get a room, I immediately turned on the television (a bad habit), and there before my weary eyes: The Playboy Channel!



Dildo TV



Brie thought it was hilarious that I was initially reluctant to change the channel for fear we may lose it, but in the end SHE was the one who kept turning back to it. Pornography’ll take a hold of you! So we watched that and the Weather Channel, while we waited for a pizza that never showed up. Later, after we had gone to sleep, a couple came in the room next door, and either the walls were paper-thin, or they were loud, or both, and she was excited to watch TV Land, but I think he was more interested in the PBC, because something prompted him to declare that he would “kick yer head in like a soccer ball if you keep messing with my station!”

Categories
abandoned bicycle touring

The Sloss Furnaces

justsloss

We couldn’t leave Birmingham, AL without visiting one of the main reasons for its growth and early years of prosperity: Sloss Furnaces. Located on the east side of the city, after producing much of the country’s steel for nearly 90 years, this monument to industrialism was nearly lost in 1971, when it was argued that maintaining the facility would not be feasable, and therefore it was recommended the furnaces be dismantled. Luckily, a dedicated group of citizens known as the Sloss Furnace Association fought for its preservation with the help of a number of other organizations, and 12 years later, on Labor day in 1983 the site was dedicated as a National Historic Landmark.



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Making iron requires three components that are found in abundance in the Birmingham area: iron ore, limestone, and coke, a derivative of coal. The process of making iron goes something like this: the aforementioned raw materials are brought to the furnace by rail car, where they are unloaded into a stock bin located close to the blast furnace (the structure in the first photo that looks like it has a platform on top). Next a skip car, attached to a conveyor hoist, is loaded from the stock bins and and the raw materials are transported up and into the mouth of the furnace. Upon entering the furnace, the raw materials are blasted with extremely hot air that is blasted from the bottom of the furnace. The hot air blasts burns the coke which produces a chemical reaction with the iron ore, and the limestone acts as a cleansing agent which removes impurities from the ore. This reaction creates molten iron which would collect at the bottom of the furnace, along with the impurities, a stony waste matter known as slag. The slag was lighter than the iron, and would sit on top of it in molten form, where it would then be drawn off the top at the bottom of the furnace through a higher notch, while the iron would be drawn out through a lower one.



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The remainder of the facility was dedicated to producing the hot air, which needed to reach 1400ºF in order to be effective. Among the essential components of this network is the Boilers, the Blower Building, and the Hot Blast Stoves. Water was boiled in the Boilers, which run alongside the Blower House, in order to create steam which was probably the most important element in the running of the furnaces. Steam produced the power to run the skip car hoist, the generator producing electricity for the furnace, and the steam engines/turboblowers which produced the air that ran to the Hot Blast Stoves. The Blower Building housed the enormous engines that produce the air. Eight engines standing at more than thirty feet each turned flywheels (giant cogs) at speeds of 70MPH. One of the more gruesome sounding deaths at Sloss (of which there were 20) was of a man that was eating lunch in the Blower House with a co-worker. He was leaning close to one of the flywheels, and the story goes his co-worker looked at him, looked away for a second, and looked back and he was gone, sucked into the flywheel. By the time they could stopped the engine, nothing remained of him. It’s stories like this that lead many to believe that Sloss is haunted.



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Pictured above is a couple of the Hot Blast Stoves which were responsible for heating the air before it was sent into the furnace. Constructed of steel shells, lined with a layer of heat-resistant bricks, and a lattice of bricks called checkers. The waste gases from the furnace were burned in order to heat the checkers, which in turn heated the air before it was carried to the furnace through a series of large pipes.



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One of the coolest things that I learned about Sloss Furnaces is that they turn it into a Haunted House for Halloween. This place is perfect for it. While the self-guided tour is a lot of fun, be sure and try to make time for the guided tour, which is led by a Sloss historian who clearly loves the place, and has many interesting stories to relate. I encourage everyone to visit if they ever happen to be in Alabama, especially around October 31st!



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Uncategorized

On the Road Again

newhome

Welp, once again Brie and I have decided to forego the comfort of a warm bed, and other modern technologies, like the “shower”, for the inviting tenderness of a cold slab of cement beneath a pavilion in places like Rockmart, Georgia. Having completely let ourselves go physically during our hiatus in dadgum Gainesville, GA, neither of us was at all ready to start riding again, but, we had set a date for January 3rd, and we stuck with it, despite the threat of heavy rain, dense fog, and no concrete lodging plans. That’s right, we bad! Our plan was to ride out via the Silver Comet Trail, that runs from Smyrna, just outside of Atlanta, all the way to the Alabama state line, about 60 miles, where it meets up with the Chief Ladiga Trail, which runs for an additional 33. Both trails were absolutely beautiful, and our first day riding through the fog really enhanced the scenery. The fog in northern Georgia is one thing I’ll definitely miss.
cometunel

Naturally, riding and sleeping in the rain had to make one of us sick, and it happened to be me. So, on our third day, we find ourselves spending the night at the University Inn in Jacksonville, AL. Meanwhile, it’s pouring outside, and we don’t feel too bad about breaking down and getting a room. After a day spent in bed sweating out a fever, and watching shitty t.v. (with the exception of the 2 hour Cosby marathon) I, for one, am already restless to go, and Brie has fallen into an A&E Intervention K-hole. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for more thunderstorms, but it’s going to be real warm, so we’re going to make a break for Birmingham.
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