Choose an unaged aquavit like Aalborg.
- 1 750-ml bottle Pimm’s No. 1
- 2 cups curaçao, preferably Pierre Ferrand dry
- 1 750-ml bottle dry sparkling white wine
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced, studded with cloves
Dissolve honey in 1/3 cup hot water. Chill syrup until cold.
Combine Pimm’s, gin, curaçao, lemon juice, aquavit, and honey syrup in a punch bowl and chill 2–6 hours.
Thirty minutes before serving, add wine, lemon slices, and ice cubes.
Not Dark Yet
I saw Steve Young in concert a few years ago at the Moonlight Music Cafe (which is now Moonlight on the Mountain). It was just Steve and his six-string acoustic guitar, and did he ever get some amazing sound from that guitar! One of the songs he sang was 'Seven Bridges Road' which he wrote and which was made popular by The Eagles. Steve told a story about one night when he was living in Montgomery, Alabama. He and some friends decided one night that they would make a pilgrimage to Hank Williams' grave, which is at Oakwood Cemetery there in Montgomery. Steve also talked about the actual road that was called Seven Bridges Road by the locals. It led out of town to an old dirt road where folks used to go to hang out. Apparently, it was the mystique of Hank Williams' resting place combined with the old Southern charm of country roads with oak trees and Spanish moss that inspired him to write the song.
Here is The Eagles version:
Day 1 Las Vegas
As untraditional as it sounds, Las Vegas might an ideal place to start your Utah National Parks road trip, especially if you are flying in. With a large number of flights from across the world, paired with a dizzying number of hotel rooms along with dining and entertainment galore, start in Las Vegas.
After arriving and getting into your rental car, gather supplies for your road trip. Since the shopping across southern Utah, plan on buying all road trip snacks along with basic picnic supplies.
Depending on interest, arrange for a show and sample a new restaurant in Las Vegas. Definitely walk down a portion of the famed Strip.
Photo Credit: Catherine Parker
Day 2 Zion National Park
After grabbing a cup of coffee, head out early on Interstate 15 North. Zion National Park is just 160 miles away from Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Navajo Sandstone dominates Zion National Park with its bold rock formations craved by a mostly tame Virgin River. It’s a part of the Grand Staircase, a geologic survey or 500 million years of history can be studied in the rock layers. Zion is sandwiched in the middle. Grand Canyon represents the bottom layer and Bryce Canyon National Park represents the most recent layer.
What began as a windswept desert 180-million-years ago, time slowly compressed the sand into the Navajo Sandstone that rises up 2000 feet today. With reoccurring floods, water sculpted the canyon with the eye of an artist.
What to do in Zion National Park
The Lower Emerald Pool Trail offers 1.2-mile paved round-trip hike to a 100-foot water fall, right across from the Zion Lodge. Or try the Riverside Walk at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. I found a wheel-chair accessible 2.2-mile roundtrip trail from the Virgin River to the Narrows.
Zion National Park offers guided one-hour and three-hour horseback rides. Or take a guided scenic tour aboard a bus to see all the photo-worthy sights.
Where to Stay in Zion National Park
Inside of the park, Zion Lodge offers a main building that sits on the spot of the original lodge that burned in the 1960s. Modern hotel rooms and historic western cabins from the 1930s flank the lodge building that houses a restaurant, a café, a coffee bar, a gift shop and an outdoor patio.
Getting to Zion National Park
Take Utah’s Route 9, Zion National Park Scenic Byway, to Zion National Park. Then exit the park along Zion-Mount Carmel Highway for another scenic drive.
Zion National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. A seven-day pass for Zion National Park is $35.
Zion National Park shuttles to get around the park. Find two different routes, the Zion Canyon Shuttle and the Springdale Shuttle, from the nearby town of Springdale. Parking is limited in the park especially during the summer and popular weekends.
Hike or take a horseback ride through the pink spires of Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker
Day 3 Bryce Canyon National Park
See the pink spires of Bryce Canyon National Park from the canyon rim. Or take a hike down to walk among them. And the stars above never seemed so bright as in Utah.
What to do in Bryce Canyon National Park
Hike from the Sunrise Point to Sunset Point, an easy 1.0-mile hike, along the edge of Bryce Canyon. The Navajo Trail offers an up-close look at Bryce’s rock formations as the trail takes hikers down into the Bryce Amphitheater slot canyon, a 1.3-mile moderate trail.
Explore Bryce Canyon on horseback with a one-and-half hour guided tour that takes small groups to Fairy Castle and back. A three-hour tour explores the Peek-a-Boo Loop by horseback.
Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon Lodge is a 1925 historic lodge listed on the Register of Historic Places. Find a restaurant, a pizzeria along with lodge rooms and a few suites. Western cabins offer rustic elegance, located steps from the canyon edge and the lodge.
Getting to Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is located 85 miles from Zion National Park along U.S. Route 89, as known as the National Park Highway.
Bryce Canyon National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. A seven-day pass for Bryce Canyon National Park is $35.
Bryce Canyon National Park offers a free seasonal shuttle bus that departs from the visitor center every 15 minutes and stops at the lodge, the campgrounds and Sunset, Bryce, Inspiration and Sunset Points.
Day 4 Capitol Reef National Park
Located between Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands national parks, find the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline at Capital Reef National Park. It’s a wrinkle in the earth’s surface. In the 1800s, Mormon pioneers came and planted over 2,700 fruit trees.
What to do in Capitol Reef National Park
Take the Scenic Drive, a 7.9-mile one-way drive to the Fruita Historic Area. Explore the original orchards where you can pick seasonal fruit.
Find the blacksmith shop. And check out the Fruita Schoolhouse. The Gifford House Store and Museum sells freshly baked pies, bread, and cinnamon rolls.
Hike the Sunset Point Trail, a .4-mile easy trail. Find it off Utah Route 24.
Where to stay near Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park doesn’t offer lodging inside of the park. Find a 3-star lodging in the nearby town of Grover.
Getting to Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is located about 120 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park. Take Utah Route 12, a Utah Scenic Byway.
Capitol Reef National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. A seven-day Bryce Canyon National Park is $20.
Find three bridge at the Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. Photo Credit: NPS | Jacob W. Frank
Day 5 Natural Bridges National Monument
See three natural bridges in Utah’s first national monument. With a nine-mile scenic loop drive, see Sipapu Bridge, Kachina Bridge, and Owachomo Bridge.
Where’s Natural Bridges National Monument
Natural Bridges National Monument is located in-between Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park, about 35 west of Blanding, Utah. It’s about 130 miles from Capitol Reef National Park along Utah Route 95.
Natural Bridges National Monument is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. A seven-day Natural Bridges National Monument is $15.
Canyonlands National Park
See the buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. It’s divided into four distinct districts. And the Island in the Sky district is the most accessible for first-time visitors.
What to do in Canyonlands National Park
The Island in the Sky offers a visitor center and easy to explore in a few hours. See the Utah landscape unfold from top of the 100-foot sandstone cliffs. Take the 34-mile round trip scenic drive to the viewpoints. Hike to the Mesa Arch, an easy .5-mile hike for a popular photo opportunity.
Getting to Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is located about 115 miles from Natural Bridges National Monument. Take Utah Route 95 and U.S. Highway 191, part of the Trail of the Ancient National Scenic Byway. The Islands in the Sky entrance is 10 miles north of Moab.
Canyonlands National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. A seven-day pass for Canyonlands National Park is $30.
Day 6 Arches National Park
With over 2,000 natural stone arches that time has carved in Utah’s red rocks, Arches National Park is routinely considered one of the top national parks in the U.S. Though the arches are center stage, see pinnacles, fins, and balances rocks as well.
What to do in Arches National Park
To see the best of Arches National Park, use a combination of driving and hiking, according to your ability.
- Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers Area—Features high rock walls and pinnacles with an accessible viewpoint.
- Balanced Rock—At 128 feet tall, it glows in the afternoon sun. Find an accessible viewpoint at this popular spot.
- The Windows Section—See North Window, Turret Arch and the Double Arch and it’s the best area to see if limited on time.
- Delicate Arch—The most famous arch in Arches and offers an accessible viewpoint. The hike to Delicate Arch is a difficult 3-mile trail.
- Devils Garden—Find Landscape Arch in this area. It’s a 1.6-mile easy hike.
Getting to Arches National Park
Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are located close together. It’s five miles north of Moab. Arches National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. A seven-day pass for Arches National Park is $30.
To avoid traffic and lack of parking, enter Arches National Park before 8 a.m. or in the afternoon. With limited services, carry enough water and food for the day.
Where to Stay near Canyonlands and Arches national parks
Since the national park sites in eastern Utah don’t offer lodging, head to the tourist town of Moab. Find a full range of lodging, along with restaurants and outdoor outfitters and tours.
Kids in National Parks
Earn a free souvenir at each of Utah’s national park sites with the Junior Ranger Program. Grab a booklet at the visitor center and explore the park.
After completing the required activities, turn the Junior Ranger booklet into a park ranger. After a short review of what’s important in the park, kids raise their hands and recite the Junior Ranger Oath.
National Park Road Trip Tips
- Arrive early for parking at Utah’s Mighty 5.
- Purchases an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) is visiting more than two national park sites during your trip. It’s available for all visitor and covers everyone in the vehicle. supplies for your Utah National Park Road trip.
- Carry water and water containers. Find water fountains at the visitor center and restrooms throughout the national parks.
- Carry a paper map, data service is spotty in the park and mountainous areas.
- Give wild animals at least 25 yards of space and don’t feed them.
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The Comeback Momma
Hi, I’m Jenn, a Boston area mom of two teens and one rescue dog, and married to my best friend.
I created Comeback Momma to help inspire my readers to live happier and healthier lives.
Remembering Helen Milliken and Her Dedication to Women’s Rights and the Enviroment
Former Michigan First Lady Helen Milliken, who passed away last week at her Traverse City home, was an ardent supporter of women’s rights and the environment. If there was a worthy cause in Northern Michigan, you could almost bet that Helen Milliken had lent time and/or inspiration to it. This 1997 Traverse Magazine article about the preservation of the Seven Bridges natural area near Kalkaska is an example of one of the many wonderful projects she helped to set in motion.
It was a beautiful day for a picnic.
Three old friends were on their way toward Rapid City and a web of creeks called Seven Bridges. “You’re not going to believe this place,” Lou Ann Taylor told Helen Milliken and Virginia Sorenson. They were destined for a place that Taylor had visited for the first time a few weeks earlier.
As the women chatted, Taylor turned the car onto Valley Road and, after a few miles, pulled off on the shoulder. “Well,” she said, gathering the picnic basket and a blanket, “here it is.”
Just a few steps from the car awaited one of the most stunning areas the women had ever seen. Under a canopy of tangled cedars, four channels of the Rapid River—a blue-ribbon trout stream—unite in a watery braid. The soothing sound of rushing water fills the air streams curve and double back, tumble into one another and plunge over an old, broken dam. Crude wooden bridges cross the streams in several places one leads off to a meadow and, beyond, a five-mile two track through wildflower-filled woodland. “I had not seen anything like that in all the streams my husband and I had fished in Colorado and the U.P.,” says Sorenson, who had long owned a cottage on the Manistee River a few miles away.
Taylor explained that the 291-acre Seven Bridges area had been privately owned and maintained by the Peschke family since the mid-1800s, but had always been open to the public. Weddings had been performed on the bridges Gordon Peschke built, and it was a popular spot for picnics and graduation pictures.
The three spread their things out, then took a walk. “It was a revelation to find this kind of pristine wilderness,” says Milliken. “It was extraordinary that it had survived all the development that has exploded everywhere else. I had never heard of it and had lived here 50 years.” They hiked under deep blue skies over the bridges and through woods full of nesting birds and wildflowers, exiting out onto Valley Road. On their way back to the bridges, they spotted the little pink flags and stakes of surveyors. Within moments, the significance of the markings registered: The land was being platted for development.
“It was very disturbing to all of us,” says Sorenson, who was then chairwoman of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. Taylor was a trustee and Milliken, wife of former Gov. Bill Milliken, had long been involved in environmental causes. As the women ate their lunch, they talked of what could be done. That picnic spawned an effort to save Seven Bridges that illustrates what can be accomplished when the state, business leaders and scores of individuals who love a place work together and never give up. This month, if all goes according to plan, the state will close a deal on all 291 acres and its mile of Rapid River frontage, buying it from developers who had intended to slice it into 29 home sites. A determined group led by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy has—despite one obstacle after another—ensured that Seven Bridges will be open to the public forever. The conservancy might never have triumphed, however, had one family not been so generous with its land for decades.
In the channel between the second and third bridge, a fallen cedar stretches across the stream. When the stresses of raising four children or the August heat overcame her, Norma Thornburg, who lived just up the road from Seven Bridges, walked out onto the log to sit and dip her feet into the frigid, spring-fed waters of the Rapid River. Thornburg calls it “the most beautiful place on earth.” She is just one of many Kalkaska-area residents who have frequented Seven Bridges over the years. Every Saturday, a fishing pole on his handlebars, Ty Ratliff would ride his bike to Seven Bridges from his aunt’s house near Rapid City. For hours, he and his friends sailed homemade boats, cast for trout and “island hopped.” Tennis shoes slung over their shoulders, the boys leaped from bog to bog or waded the shallow waters. Sometimes they hung from cedar branches in the swifter parts to feel the current’s pull. The water was always icy, even on the hottest days. Says Ratliff, now 26, “You couldn’t stay in long or you would go numb.”
There was rarely a day he came home dry. Later, when he was old enough to drive, Ratliff taught his three little brothers to fish there. Now a land specialist with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, he says, “This area means more to me than you can imagine.” On those idyllic days splashing around the Rapid River, Ratliff often ran into Gordon Peschke, the man whose altruism made it possible for Ratliff—and so many others—to enjoy the area. Gordon and his sons built and maintained the bridges, dug silt from the streams so they would run free and planted thousands of blue spruce trees on the once-logged land. A deeply religious man, Gordon viewed Seven Bridges as one of God’s masterworks. He saw his role as steward of the land, and his mission was to share his Creator’s beauty with others. He made his living as a tool-shop supervisor near Detroit, but he visited every summer during his two-week vacation and on scattered weekends throughout the year with his wife, Cece, and his five children.
With his white beard, porkpie hat and generous girth, he reminded people of Burl Ives. “He was a really quiet, smiley guy who never announced he owned the property,” says Ratliff. When he ran into Gordon, Peschke always asked the boy what he was up to. Then he would remind him to pick up any litter he saw. “He always asked, ‘Are you having fun?’ Of course I would tell him I was,” says Ratliff. “ ‘Good,’ he would say. Then he would leave.”
At the first bridge off Valley Road, the Peschkes posted a sign welcoming visitors, asking them not to litter, pick wildflowers or build fires. Near the sign, the Peschkes kept a guest book. Cece has filled several scrapbooks with the sheets from it. Many visitors have written her to say that they had come to Seven Bridges as children and were now bringing their grandchildren to visit. All 50 states were represented as well as several foreign countries. During the late ’80s, Gordon considered closing the property because of liability concerns. Somehow he just couldn’t.
Across the road from Seven Bridges, on a gentle knoll, sits a small white cottage. Paint curls off the clapboard siding, and the windows are boarded. The house has been abandoned since 1989, when Gordon, under pressure from his siblings who owned the land with him, had to sell the property.
Out back is an outhouse, a water pump and a clearing where Gordon once nurtured tree seedlings he ordered from catalogs. After the seedlings had grown two or three feet, Gordon transplanted them. “He’d fill a wheelbarrow full,” says Gordon’s widow, Cece. “Then he’d go through the property, and when he saw a wide-open space, he’d start planting. It was his life.” Under a grove of trees near the house are the remains of a wooden bench Gordon built. Here, he listened to the birds and looked out over Seven Bridges, watching for visitors. Just under the cottage eves, a Pennsylvania Dutch emblem has not lost its colorful design. Appropriately enough, it says “Wilkommen.”
The house was built by Gordon’s four great-uncles, eccentric bachelors who lived together all their lives. Years earlier, the uncles’ parents had homesteaded there in a log cabin. Cece still has the deed signed by Ulysses S. Grant. The uncles, known as the Ricker brothers, were loggers. In 1882 they built a sawmill and dammed the river at Seven Bridges, creating a holding pond for logs floated down the Rapid River. Their prosperous mill produced 10,000 board feet a day, which they shipped via railroad that stopped at the mill. As a child, Gordon and his father and brother made annual pilgrimages to Rapid City to look in on the old uncles. His childhood memories of these men have become local lore.
Gordon, it is said, loved heading north to wander the Rapid River and visit his uncles. Cece says Gordon talked often of falling asleep on the living room floor and awakening in the night to the sound of his uncles’ thoughtful conversations as they stoked the fire. “He found them to be very deep thinkers and believed that the twins particularly were philosophers,” says Cece. After the last uncle died, the property passed on to Gordon’s father, then ultimately on to him and his three siblings. For the next 40 years, Gordon, Cece, their children and later, grandchildren, treasured the place locals had named Seven Bridges. Although Gordon’s siblings enjoyed the property, none was as attached as he. As the years passed, there was talk of selling. By the time the siblings reached their 70s, one had moved to Chicago, another was physically unable to visit the property, and the taxes were a burden. The pressure on Gordon to find a buyer was mounting. “We knew if one of the four died, the heirs would be that person’s children,” Cece says. “Then we would have 16 owners instead of four. You can’t get that many people to agree on anything.”
Gordon searched for ways to keep the property open and still get his siblings their inheritances. Though he wished he could buy them out, he lacked the resources. In 1981, he wrote to the DNR, hoping the agency would buy the land. His efforts were in vain. A few years later, he met Dave Mahan, a Ph.D. stream ecologist with the Au Sable Institute in Grayling who was enthralled with Seven Bridges and its teaching possibilities. “Most of the river is private and there is little public access,” he says. The two worked on a plan for the institute to buy the land. Gordon thought he had solved his dilemma.
But the deal fell through when the institute could raise only $90,000 for land valued at $150,000. Gordon begged his family to accept the offer. “When you love a piece of property as he did, the dollars don’t mean as much,” says Mahan. “But it wouldn’t work for his siblings. You can understand that. His sister said to me at one point, ‘This is our inheritance. We just can’t give it away.’” In a final effort, Gordon tried dividing the property equally to save the bridge area. But the precious braid of waters was too valuable for the deal work without it. In 1989, a Realtor named Bernard Schueren offered the Peschkes $180,000, intending to develop the land into home sites. Gordon’s siblings jumped at the offer. To keep peace in the family, he went along with it.
But the deal, Cece says, broke his heart. “At that point he couldn’t do anything about it. He wouldn’t talk about it anymore,” she says. “We still came up every summer to see friends and we would drive by. But I couldn’t get him to get out of the car. He’d just look straight ahead with a big lump in his throat.” Cece pauses and her voice breaks. “I’d tell him, ‘Look, honey, your work is here, you’re leaving a good thing behind you. You’ll go on living here forever in the 3,000 trees that have sprung from your hands.’” But her reassuring words were in vain. Once the property was sold, Gordon never walked the bridges again. Even after Schueren bought the property, people continued to visit. Few were aware that it had even changed hands, until Sorenson, Taylor and Milliken came upon Rapid River Estate’s pink flags that day of the picnic.Schueren planned to build a retirement home along the Rapid River one day. With three sons in the building business, he thought the property a great investment. To raise the $180,000 to buy Seven Bridges, he mortgaged his house in St. Clair Shores. He also took on a partner, Ronald Reblin of Rapid City, and named the venture Rapid River Estates.
The plan was to divide the 291 acres into 10-acre lots, each with frontage on the river. It took time to develop the plans and survey the land. Schueren, meanwhile, had suffered a host of health problems, including kidney and heart disease. He left much of the property management to Reblin, who he says has invested only about $7,000 in the project. Rapid River Estates was prepared to put the lots on the market when Virginia Sorenson and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy Director Glen Chown walked into Reblin’s office. The conservancy wanted the state to buy the property, but the conservancy first needed to know if the developers would sell. After consulting with Schueren, Reblin named a price of $450,000 (the property later appraised at $465,000).
Chown and Sorenson thought the land was a natural for state acquisition. But before submitting a proposal to the Natural Resources Trust Fund Board, the group that allocates oil and gas revenues for land buys, the conservancy had work to do. It would need to fund-raise to cover up-front expenses and to confirm local support. “We knew [people] would be for it, but we wanted to do it officially,” says Sorenson. “We talked to Rotary, to Kiwanis—any group that would let us in,” says Sorenson. Most knew of Seven Bridges. Those who didn’t were urged to visit it.
The Kalkaska County Commission and Clearwater Township quickly gave their support. “I never talked to one person who was negative about buying it,” Sorenson adds. “That says a lot about Kalkaska County.” By December 1994, the conservancy paid Rapid River Estates $9,000 for a 10-month, non-refundable option to keep the land undeveloped and off the market while the state pondered the purchase. It was risky business. The conservancy could lose the $9,000, plus an additional $4,000 spent on surveys and appraisals. Chown says he knew the property would stack up well against the Trust Fund Board’s criteria, which assign points for high water quality, the presence of endangered species and natural beauty. But there was one caveat: The state prefers to buy lands that abut or are already inside designated state forest boundaries. Seven Bridges met neither requirement but was close to state lands. Still, Chown says he was optimistic.
The following fall (1995), Seven Bridges made the cut and was put on the legislative docket for approval the following June. Chown and his Seven Bridges Committee were ecstatic. The conservancy wrote another check for $10,000 to extend its option through October 1996. But just two months after the DNR approved the purchase, the agency reneged. The reason: Seven Bridges was outside of existing state lands. Chown’s worst fears were realized. He phoned Sorenson, and within days, the two gathered a committee to speak at the Natural Resources Trust Fund Board’s final meeting of the year. If the committee didn’t secure approval in Lansing, then the purchase would have to wait another year for the board to reconsider it.
December 13 dawned with the beginnings of a blizzard. Chown had already gone to Lansing the night before to prepare for the meeting. As luck would have it, Sorenson had just bought a four-wheel-drive Jeep. She drove with Ty Ratliff and Rick Waterman, a postman and chairman of the Clearwater Township Zoning Board who had lived along the Rapid River all his life. Kalkaska County Chamber of Commerce Director Terri Crandall made it a foursome.
In Lansing, each spoke passionately about the need to save Seven Bridges. Crandall impressed the board with statistics showing how vital recreational areas like Seven Bridges are to the local economy. Waterman, who was nervous and unaccustomed to speaking before such a large group, had board members leaning forward in their chairs to hear him speak of Seven Bridges and Kalkaska’s heritage. Sorenson showed pictures and gave the history of the project. Finally, Ratliff talked of his childhood on the river and how he had taught his three younger brothers to fish there. “Last night,” he told the board, “my little brother asked why I had to go to Lansing. I said I was going to try to save Seven Bridges. If I didn’t, we might not be able to fish there anymore. ‘Then where will we fish?’ he asked. I said I didn’t know.”
“We were all captivated,” says then-board member Wendy Potts. “I had just finished reading The Bridges of Madison County and was really taken with the photographs of how beautiful this place was.” She made the motion, and the board voted unanimously to grant the funds. The following summer, Gordon Peschke died. “He went with the knowledge that Seven Bridges would be preserved,” says Cece. “He was so pleased because his greatest desire was that it should be open to the public, treasured and appreciated for what it was. The thing he most worried about was that they would subdivide it and make some kind of commercial mess out of it.”
Bureaucratic red tape and haggling between the estranged developers would hold up the closing for almost two more years. As of this writing, the conservancy is hoping for a July closing as lawyers work to settle disputes between Schueren and Reblin. The issue is money. Schueren claims he is entitled to most of the sale proceeds ($450,000) because he invested the $180,000 to buy the property. He says interest payments and surveying costs will eat up most of the profits. Also to be deducted from the proceeds is $25,000 the partnership owes the conservancy for 600 trees that were logged on the property last July—a violation of the conservancy’s option agreement. Schueren claims Reblin ordered the logging, then pocketed $10,000 in cash from the sale. A tape of a conservation between Reblin and the logger, Dave McKernan, substantiates Schueren’s claims. Reblin, who would not return our calls, has since filed personal bankruptcy. Profiting off Seven Bridges—to whatever degree—is something that did not sit well with Gordon Peschke. His spirit will no doubt hover over those who, by summer’s end, will begin to carry out his life’s work. For starters, the conservancy, with help from the Kalkaska Rotary, will rebuild the bridges and lay paths to make the area accessible to people with disabilities.
In May, Gordon’s son Art came to Seven Bridges to dig up a tree to plant at his family’s church in his father’s honor. As he passed over the third bridge, he remembered a rustic sign his father had built that had stood there for years. On it was this psalm: “Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills ring out for joy before the Lord.” Thanks to Gordon Peschke and the group led by the Conservancy, the celebrating will continue.
Carolyn Faught was managing editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, when she wrote this story in 1997.
California’s highest-in-the-nation gas taxes are rising. But promised repairs are lagging
Four years after the Legislature boosted the gas tax in order to fix California’s crumbling roads and bridges, the state has spent billions and made some progress in repairs, but officials now say the funding is sufficient only to complete less than half of the work needed.
The gas tax has been a political hot potato since it was passed in 2017, resulting in the recall of a Democratic state senator who voted for the legislation and an unsuccessful attempt by Republicans in 2018 to ask voters to repeal the higher charges.
Now, with the gas tax set to increase again July 1, the campaign to fix roads and bridges is again stirring contention, drawing criticism from some lawmakers who say repairs have been too slow and the effort has lagged behind other states in maintaining and improving transportation systems.
The program to fix roads has been hampered by California’s high cost of repairs compared with other states and by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in less driving and therefore hundreds of millions fewer gas-tax dollars than expected. In addition, with people driving more electric and fuel- efficient cars, state officials are studying ways to make up for the loss of gas tax revenue, possibly with fees tied to miles driven.
But despite the challenges, Democratic leaders who supported increasing the gas tax say it has been worthwhile and progress is being made.
“The reality is that infrastructure repair was underfunded for decades and that neglect had no instant solution,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), a leading supporter of the tax increase. “If we agree that we want improvements for our transportation system, we have to pay for them, and the gas tax made the most sense as the way to do that.”
The state has allocated about $16 billion in gas taxes and vehicle fees generated by Senate Bill 1, legislation signed into law in April 2017 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown with the promise of improving the state’s transportation systems after years of neglect.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently touted the money made available from the gas tax as a significant boost to efforts to repair and maintain the state’s roads and bridges.
“We are in a position that we haven’t been in many, many years with sustainable funding,” Newsom said last month in Big Sur, where he presided over the reopening of a stretch of Highway 1 that had been washed out by a mudslide in January.
Under SB 1, the gas tax increased 12 cents per gallon on Nov. 1, 2017, jumped an additional 5.6 cents a gallon on July 1, 2019, and 3.2 cents last July 1 — bringing the total state levy to 50.5 cents per gallon. California’s total state taxes and other charges on gasoline are the highest in the country, according to the Tax Foundation, based in Washington.
The California excise tax on gas will automatically rise again to 51.1 cents per gallon on July 1 to account for inflation.
SB 1 also increased the excise and sales taxes on diesel fuel and created an annual vehicle fee ranging up to $175 for cars worth $60,000 or more.
The state expects SB 1 to generate more than $5 billion annually during the first decade of implementation, but the various taxes and fees have been phasing in over the first few years.
However, state officials say that much more money is needed to address shortcomings in the transportation system. Caltrans estimates it will need $122.9 billion over 10 years “to maintain the existing assets” due in part to increasing costs and the age of the infrastructure.
“Considering these expanding needs, the available funding will address about 45% of the total identified needs,” Caltrans said in a report sent to the California Transportation Commission.
The new calculation includes factors that were not included when SB 1 was approved, including higher than anticipated costs and the impact of climate change on problems including sea level rise. Even in 2017, Caltrans officials thought SB 1 would not fully meet transportation needs, but the shortfall has grown significantly.
The new report has drawn criticism from some lawmakers, including state Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), vice chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
“It’s an insult to California’s drivers to force them to pay the nation’s highest gas taxes and then say it’s not enough, especially at a time when Sacramento is supposedly enjoying a budget surplus,” Bates said.
Caltrans representative Matt Rocco said the State Highway System Management Plan provides an estimate of transportation needs regardless of available funding. He said it takes into consideration new factors including efforts to address climate change and sea-level rise.
Rocco said that the “department is making steady progress on the goals established by the legislation four years ago and remains on track to meet statutory benchmarks with the current level of SB 1 funding.”
Newsom has proposed adding $2 billion for road and bridge projects statewide during the next seven years, with some additional funds for transportation projects needed for Los Angeles to host the 2028 Olympics. But even with the new money, state coffers will still have less than half the funds needed to address all of the transportation needs.
Caltrans is responsible for maintaining more than 50,000 lane miles of pavement along more than 255 state and interstate highways. Money from the gas tax hike has allowed the state agency to improve the condition of 6,400 lane miles of pavement over the last three years, with the annual repairs representing a 40% increase over pre-SB 1 numbers.
“SB 1 has made a significant difference in our roadway conditions in recent years — prior to it passing, our state highways and local roads faced a huge backlog of deferred maintenance,” said Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).
Before the gas tax was raised, less than half of the state highway system’s payment was rated in “good” condition. In its latest report, Caltrans said in February that 57% of the pavement is now in “good” condition.
But some transportation experts say California’s roads are in greater disrepair than the state claims, particularly when compared with other states.
A report by Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank the Reason Foundation in November estimated that 28.5% of California’s urban arterial pavement was in poor condition as of the start of last year, which placed California 48th in the country, where the national average is 12.06%. The report, based on road condition data in 2018 reported by states to the Federal Highway Administration, ranks only Rhode Island and Wyoming lower than California.
“I would have expected to see a little bit more improvement in the pavement quality, and we just have not seen that,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation.
Feigenbaum said one reason California is doing so poorly is that higher costs and more generous labor laws mean it spends more on repairs than many states.
“It takes a lot of money to maintain a roadway in California, more than it should,” he said.
The Reason Foundation report said the average per-mile disbursement for maintenance nationally was $15,952 in 2018, about half what it was in California.
But Caltrans says its spending is lower than the national average when vehicle miles traveled are factored in, noting that California’s roads are busier than those of most states.
Improvement has also been slow in fixing the state’s bridges.
Data from the Federal Highway Administration national bridge inventory say 5.9% of California’s 25,763 bridges — some 1,536 structures — were classified as structurally deficient last year.
That number is up from 1,204 bridges, or 4.7% of all bridges, classified as structurally deficient in 2016 before the gas tax increase, according to an analysis released last month by the American Road and Transportation Builders Assn.
The number of California bridges in “good” condition declined from 16,788 in the year before the gas tax legislation to 12,898 last year.
The Reason Foundation found California ranked behind 18 other states in 2019 on the percentage of structurally deficient bridges.
Caltrans notes the federal numbers include thousands of bridges maintained by local governments.
When SB 1 was approved, state officials said they had been fixing an average of 114 bridges in the state’s jurisdiction per year and hoped to add 500 bridges to that tally over 10 years, or 50 per year.
The agency says it has repaired 635 bridges in the last three years, with an average of 211 bridges annually, well above the initial goal.
Still, Republican lawmakers who opposed the tax increase said the state has fallen short of delivering what Californians expected.
“Taxpayers have done their part, but Sacramento is not upholding their end of the deal and not getting the job done,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield), vice chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee.
“California’s onerous and costly regulations make it impossible to build or fix things quickly and cost- effectively, which means taxpayers are paying more and getting less and less in return.”
Funding for road and bridge repairs has been affected since March 2020 by the pandemic, which forced many people to work from home. The governor’s new budget notes that the fuel excise tax revenues used to fund transportation projects are expected to be lower than pre-pandemic forecasts by a total of $1.5 billion through the next four years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic reductions in travel across the country and the state,” the budget states.
But some help is coming: California is expected to get $900 million from the recently approved federal COVID-19 relief bill, and could see much more from a $2-trillion infrastructure plan proposed by President Biden.
“It gives you an indication that we are uniquely positioned to get matching dollars and to get federal appropriations the likes of which arguably we haven’t seen in our lifetimes,” Newsom said at the Big Sur news conference.
Based on California’s historical share of federal transportation funds, the state is likely to get just enough to cover about 17% of the more than $61-billion shortfall in funds identified by the new Caltrans report.
The long-term outlook for revenue from the gas tax is made even more uncertain as more people shift to electric cars, hybrids and other vehicles that get better gas mileage.
Caltrans is studying alternatives to the gas tax to fund transportation infrastructure, including the possibility of charging motorists per-mileage fees so that drivers contribute based on how much they use the road, officials said.
In January, Caltrans launched a test program to study the potential of using various technologies for road charge collection, and in March the Federal Highway Administration awarded Caltrans a grant to test the ability of GPS systems to differentiate between public and private roads.
“As the state looks toward a zero-emission future, California needs to study alternatives to the gas tax to fund our transportation infrastructure,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin.
This month, the state Senate Transportation Committee approved legislation by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) that would allow the state to expand its study by collecting a road user charge based on vehicle miles traveled from volunteers participating in the research.
“Our roads, highways and transit systems need a long-term, stable source of funding,” Wiener said.
“We must eventually phase out gas cars entirely to combat climate change, so we need to prepare now for an alternative source of funding for our critical infrastructure.”
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Patrick McGreevy is a reporter covering California state government and politics in the Sacramento Bureau. He previously worked in the Los Angeles City Hall Bureau for The Times. He is a native of San Diego and a graduate of San Jose State University.
The 7 Best Indiana Road Trips
Indiana road trips are a fun way to explore the state, with some spectacular scenery along the way. Indiana is one of the states that make up the Great Lakes Region and is mainly flat with rolling hills, making it ideal for leisurely drives.
These road trip routes are perfect to plan a vacation around, with some great stop-offs along the way to break up the drive. From waterfalls and ghost towns to fall foliage and National Parks, there really is something for everybody on this list.
Grab your friends or family and load up the car. It’s time to go and explore all the natural beauty that Indiana has to offer.
The Best Indiana Road Trips
1. Indiana to French Lick West Baden
Take a fun day trip to the true resort community of French Lick West Baden. Make a splash at an indoor water park, go boating on Patoka Lake, take a train through the Hoosier National Forest, climb in the saddle for a horseback ride or put on your best walking shoes to explore one of the many scenic trails.
Route highlights: French Lick Springs Hoosier National Park.
When to do it: Spring-Summer
2. Ohio River Scenic Byway
Make this road trip route a relaxing historic tour, an exhilarating adventure or something in between. Three charming historic towns along the Scenic Byway are Vevay, Madison and Newburgh. Each offers antiques, artisans, relaxing B&Bs, quaint restaurants and beautiful views of the river.
Route highlights: Dearborn County Convention, Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site, The Overlook Restaurant, Lincoln Pioneer Village
When to do it: Spring and Summer
3. Fall Foliage Road Trip
The beautiful leaves can be seen all around, but great views can be found on a drive through the Brown County State Park. The vistas provide an elevated view that lets you see the wide array of trees and colours.
Distance: 20 miles (roughly)
Route highlights: Brown County State Park
4. Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway
Crossing through a number of scenic and historic southeastern Indiana countries, the Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway bridges the distance between the Ohio River and the historic National Road. Close out your journey in Richmond’s Historic Depot District, home to art, shopping and delicious dining!
Route highlights: Little Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Duck Creek Aqueduct, Whitewater Memorial State Park, Historic Elmhurst House, The Canal House, Historic Richmond Depot District
When to do it: Summer
5. The Indiana Lincoln Highway Byway
Beginning at the Ohio state line and ending at the Illinois border, it follows the original routes that made up the Lincoln Highway in its various iterations over the past century. In Indiana, the highway travels through more than 40 towns, with plenty of charming places to stop along the way.
Route highlights: Porter, Starke, Marshall, Kosciusko, Whitley
When to do it: Year-round
6. Indiana Haunted Road Trip
This trip isn’t for the faint hearted! Visit supposedly haunted places like Randolph County Infirmary – many of the residents of this historical building have never left and continue to make their presence known both day and night, and Avon Haunted bridge, a fascinating landmark in Hendricks County
Route highlights: Barbee Hotel, Randolph County Infirmary, Crown Hill Cemetery, Haunted Bridge and The Story Inn
When to do it: Year-round
7. Heritage Trail in Elkhart County
Explore country lanes dotted with Amish-owned shops showcasing handcrafted and homemade. This scenic winding loop takes you through the vibrant towns of Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol, Wakarusa, and Shipshewana. You can see the full route here.
10 of the World's Most Breathtaking Road Trips
Sometimes, the journey can be just as much fun as the destination.
Iceland’s Ring Road
During warmer months, the entirety of Iceland can be circled on the Ring Road, an 828-mile route that hugs the coast of this island nation. Along the way, road trippers will pass all manner of natural splendor: soaring waterfalls, otherworldly glacial lagoons and rolling open fields dotted with sheep. Proceed at your own peril in the winter, when portions of the road are frozen over.
Perth to Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Western Australia&rsquos remote coast is truly for the wild at heart. On the nearly 12-hour journey from Perth, one of the most isolated major cities on the globe, to the sea life-rich corals of Ningaloo Reef some 700 miles north, you won&rsquot see many people or cars. There are, however, plenty of natural wonders. Wander amongst the weird rock formations at Pinnacles National Park, the eroded leftovers of an extinct volcano jump off a cliff (safely clipped into a harness, of course) in Kalbarri National Park and frolic with resident kangaroos at eco-resort Sal Salis before retiring to luxe glamping tents.
There are few roads that resonate more deeply in the American psyche as Route 66, one of the oldest highways to criss-cross the nation. Built in 1926, it originally ran from Chicago to Santa Monica. Although Route 66 was removed from the U.S. highway system in 1985, it remains a popular tourist route. The National Park Service maintains a site detailing all the must-see sights along the way.
Vancouver to Tofino, British Columbia
Not all great road trips involve a ferry, but this one does. Cars drive aboard in Vancouver and cross the Strait of Georgia, passing lush scenes of forest, mountain and sea before reaching Vancouver Island. From there, the route snakes through temperature rainforest until reaching Tofino on the island&rsquos west coast. On the way, stop at Klitsa Mountain &mdash criss-crossed with hiking trails, it affords breathtaking views of Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley below.
Taiwan’s Suhua Highway
Driving along this stretch of road isn&rsquot for the faint of heart. This 73-mile section on Provincial Highway No. 9, which hugs Taiwan&rsquos east coast, is famous for its sharp, heart attack-inducing curves, falling rocks and landslides. Those brave enough to risk the drive are rewarded with breath-taking views of the Pacific from the highway&rsquos steep cliffs.
California’s Highway 1
The longest state route in California, this 655.8-mile highway cuts through gorgeous scenery in the Big Sur region, where it hugs the cliffside and passes several coastal park areas and a redwood forest. Farther north, it takes drivers over San Francisco&rsquos famous Golden Gate Bridge.
Germany’s Romantic Road
Dreamed up by travel agents in the 1950s, Germany&rsquos "Romantic Road" nonetheless delivers the goods: The 220-mile route hopscotches between picturesque towns and castles in southern Germany. Highlights include Wertheim Castle, a ruined stone castle dating to the 12th century Hohes Schloss, a late-gothic fortified castle that for centuries served as the summer residence for the Prince Bishops of Augsburg and the Minster of St. George, a stately late-gothic hall church with a Romanesque tower gate.
Switzerland’s Furka Pass
This high mountain pass in the Swiss Alps might look familiar it was used as a location in the James Bond film Goldfinger. At an elevation of nearly 8,000 feet, the pass is steep, winding and located in one of the snowiest regions in the country, making it potentially a treacherous road trip. But those who take the risk are repaid with fantastic alpine panoramas, lush rolling hills and primo yodeling opportunities.
Norway’s Atlantic Road
Opened in 1989, the Atlantic Road connects the Nordic island of Averoy with the mainland via eight bridges that span a series of small islands and islets. In clear weather, the drive is easy and tranquil in storms, spraying ocean water can completely envelop the road. Either way, you're in for a treat.
The Florida Keys’ Seven Mile Bridge
Seven Mile Bridge is, well, a seven-mile bridge connecting Knight&rsquos Key in Marathon, Florida, to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Driving on it is a surreal pleasure, with clear blue water stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see. At times, the bridge looks like it stretches to infinity.
The 7 Most Spectacular Bridges in the World
Bridges can just seem like a means to an end—something you’ve got to schlep over to get to your destination. And sure, some are engineered with nothing but utility in mind, providing safe passage for pedestrians and drivers over a long period of time. But some deserve the attention and respect as architectural marvels, demonstrating a flair for the dramatic.
Whether soaring a thousand feet above a river, curving around waterfalls, or comprising a base made of literal hundred-year-old tree roots, we’ve scoured the planet for some of the most eclectic bridges.
For these, aesthetics are just as important as safety and longevity.
The 14,500-Mile Road Trip Through Every National Park
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Seven Bridges Road - Recipes
The Illinois Department of Transportation has multiple improvement projects in the Will County area scheduled to get underway. The seven projects represent a total investment of more than $ 140 million for the region, with $75 million coming from Gov. JB Pritzker's bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program.
"With the Rebuild Illinois capital plan, we are restoring and transforming Illinois's aging infrastructure," said Gov. Pritzker. "Rebuild Illinois is not only about investing in infrastructure but about investing in people and communities as well. In the coming months, IDOT will undertake projects that will ultimately create safer roads and bridges and provide jobs in the Will County area and across the entire state."
• 1-55 from Interstate 80 to U.S. 52 (Jefferson Street)
The project will convert the existing interchange into a diverging diamond interchange and add auxiliary lanes along both sides of 1-55. Three lanes of 1-55 in both directions will be maintained throughout construction, with one lane in each direct on local routes. The project is scheduled to begin in fall 2021 and completed fall 2023.
A new bridge will be constructed as part of advance work for a new diverging diamond interchange. Three lanes of 1-55 in both directions will be maintained throughout construction. Work is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and completed fall 2021.
• 1-55 from north of River Road to north of the I&M Canal
Resurfacing project, with rumble strips installed on shoulders. Overnight lane closures will be required, with multiple weekend lane closures anticipated. The project is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and completed fall 2021.
• Rehabilitation of three bridges that carry 1-55 over U.S. 30, Canadian National Railroad and Mink Creek. Two lanes of 1-55 will be maintained between the bridges throughout construction. Overnight lane closures are anticipated. The project is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and completed fall 2021.
• 1-55 at Illinois 53 and 1-55 at Joliet Road
Both structures will be re-decked and widened. Three lanes of 1-55 in both directions will be maintained throughout construction and overnight lane closures are anticipated. The project is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and completed fall 2021.
• 1-80 from Gardner Street to Rowell Avenue (eastbound) and Richard Street (westbound)
Pavement reconstruction, widening, replacing or rehabilitating the eastbound 1-80 bridges over Hickory Creek, Richards Street and Canadian National Railroad/Rowell Avenue and westbound Richards Street. Two lanes of 1-80 in both directions will be maintained through construction. The eastbound 1-80 ramp to Richard Street will close during the second stage of construction. The overall project is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and completed fall 2022.
Resurfacing project, with new ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps and culvert replacement between Elmscourt Street and New Monee Road. Daily lane closures will be necessary to complete the project, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2021 and completed fall 2021.
These projects are in addition to ongoing interchange reconstructions and capacity improvements at U.S. 30 and 1-80 and Webber Road and 1-55.
"These projects represent a significant investment in the Will County area and are a big step forward in our work to improve safety, mobility and create economic opportunity for years to come," said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. "We're asking drivers to be patient, slow down and pay extra attention driving in and around any work zone."
In addition to improving roads and bridges, Rebuild Illinois identifies in the Chicago area $400 million for the CREATE program, $500 million to establish passenger rail to the Quad Cities and Rockford, and $4 billion for the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace.
Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois is investing $33.2 billion into the state's aging transportation system, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history but also the first one that touches all modes of Illinois transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.
Snow-removal costs can represent a significant portion of the road-maintenance budget for cities and states.
Liquid brine solution is spray-applied in advance of a snow weather event.
In addition, deicing chemicals increase chloride levels in shallow groundwater and surface water, which can lead to significant and expensive water-quality issues. Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Cities and states can reduce their winter-maintenance costs and be stewards of the environment while ensuring public safety by optimizing deicing chemical usage and snowplow routing. This article highlights how the city of Lincoln, Neb., has dramatically decreased deicing chemical use while maintaining safe roadways in the city.
A brine specimen made during the crystallization study. Sixty different brine recipes across a range of temperatures were made.
Bulk calcium chloride prills are converted into a brine with a precise specific gravity.
Before & after
Before 2014 the city of Lincoln only applied anti-icing brine solution to bridge decks and major intersections before winter weather events were forecasted. Much of the brine used was a proprietary MgCl2-based solution purchased from a supplier. In 2014, the city implemented a plan to transition its primary snow- and ice-melting method from spreadable granular material to sprayable liquid brine. Using brine would allow the city to optimize brine blends for each winter event, maximizing the melting capability while minimizing cost and chloride loadings. Salt dissolved in water to make sprayable brine allows the city to be more precise during the application process, using less salt to treat 1,200 lane-miles of emergency snow, school and commuter bus routes and highways. The brine is applied before an anticipated snow fall event as an anti-icing agent. During and after the weather event, brine is used to pre-wet granular rock salt (NaCl) when conducting spreading operations to help prevent the salt from bouncing off to the road surface and scattering, leading to ineffective use. In the future, Lincoln will use the brine alone as a deicing agent as well. Using less salt can translate into savings while minimizing corrosive effects and environmental impact.
The city equipped 10 tanker trucks to carry and apply the brine using pumps and spray nozzles. In addition, trucks that spread granular material were equipped with saddle tanks to spray the granular material as it was being spread. A mixing and storage facility was constructed to prepare and store the brine solution, allowing salts used to make the brine to be purchased and stored in bulk granular form. The brine solution was composed of water, NaCl and CaCl2 depending on the expected conditions during the winter-weather event. Additional food processing byproducts such as cheese, pickle, potato or beet juice were often incorporated into mixtures depending on the region. Lincoln used beet juice in the deicing solution to increase the viscosity and help reduce the bounce and scatter of material during the application process and improve the residual effects of deicers, allowing fewer reapplications.
The learning curve
The change from purchasing brine to making brine in-house did not come without a learning curve. The first few batches of brine that were mixed consisted of concentrated NaCl made at room temperature. When the tanker trucks were loaded, the temperature of the brine dropped significantly due to the winter weather and some of the NaCl crystallized, coming out of solution. The brine containing the dissolved salt had become a slurry with solid salt crystals suspended in the brine. These solid salt crystals clogged spray nozzles in the tanker trucks. Since the brine was initially made indoors, it was relatively easy to dissolve the NaCl to make a high weight-percent solution. But as temperatures decreased, the solubility decreased and the salt could no longer stay in solution, causing crystallization. This problem was quickly remedied by mixing a lower weight-percent NaCl solution that would not crystallize at lower temperatures. The city prepared the brine to be at a certain specific gravity, ensuring the solution contained the desired weight percent of NaCl.
Brines containing only NaCl are effective down to certain temperatures. For example, when the temperature dips below 14°F, the rate at which ice melts declines, and the NaCl-based brine becomes ineffective at melting ice altogether at temperatures below -6°F. To melt ice at lower temperatures and at greater rates, MgCl2 and CaCl2 can be added to the brine but not without consequence. MgCl2 and CaCl2 are significantly more expensive than NaCl, contain higher weight-percent chloride content, and have a higher impact on the durability of concrete. In an effort to make brine that would be effective at lower temperatures, additional stock solutions of MgCl2 and CaCl2 were evaluated. Although the individual stock solutions of NaCl, MgCl2, and CaCl2 would not crystallize at lower temperatures by themselves, mixing a portion of the NaCl brine with MgCl2 brine or CaCl2 brine resulted in crystallization. At this point, a decision was made to investigate deicing brines with the goal to reduce deicing material use and improve efficiency. The city made an arrangement with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to access equipment in order to test various brine mixtures for crystallization and for melting effectiveness at various temperatures ranging from -15°F to 32°F.
The goal of the study was to produce eight different brine blends that could be used depending on the forecasted temperature during the winter-weather event. The first blend would contain only NaCl and be effective at temperatures above 14°F. Each of the remaining seven blends would contain CaCl2 at increasing concentrations as expected temperatures dropped. A freezer system with an adjustable temperature set-point in the William A. Scheller Chemical Engineering Biochemical Research Laboratory was used to cool brine samples. Each sample contained 10% beet juice, 0-60% stock CaCl2 brine, and the balance of NaCl brine on a volume basis. The specific gravity of the NaCl brine for each blend was lowered until salt crystallization was no longer observed at the target temperature range. Once a formulation was created to avoid salt crystallization, the effectiveness of the brine at melting ice was tested. Ice cubes were submerged in the brine for a set amount of time and then weighed to determine the rate at which the ice melted.
Figure 1. Deicer performance vs. temperature for the eight different brine blends tested.
The results of the laboratory studies are shown in Figure 1. The y-axis represents deicer performance or the rate at which the brine melts ice. The x-axis shows the effects of decreasing temperature. The gray region represents a brine blend made only of NaCl solution mixed with beet juice (Blend 1). The figure indicates that NaCl melts ice very rapidly at temperatures near the freezing point of water. As temperature declines, the rate at which the brine melts ice slows in a nearly linear manner. The blue-shaded regions represent brine solutions which contain CaCl2 as the blend number increases, the quantity of CaCl2 in the brine increases. As temperatures drop, increasing quantities of CaCl2 are added to the brine in order to maintain the desired rate of ice melting. Eight different brine blends were engineered as intended for various temperature ranges. The blends were designed to melt ice at a rate needed to maintain public safety for the temperature range of interest while minimizing cost and chloride application levels.
What was learned
Although deicing material use can be significantly reduced by employing brines, further reductions in materials and cost can be realized by customizing the brine blend to the forecasted weather conditions. The incremental addition of brine CaCl2 greatly reduces the cost and minimizes wasteful use during warmer temperatures when large quantities are unneeded.
Brines can be engineered specifically for pre-wetting granular NaCl, effectively increasing the melting rate at low temperatures. Pre-wetting can be a favorable cost-reducing alternative to purchasing pre-mixed or coated granular material. Pre-wetting ensures the ratio of NaCl to CaCl2 or MgCl2 is uniform, which is not guaranteed when granular materials are mixed using in-house methods. In addition, pre-wetting prevents bounce, scatter and blowing of the granular material during the application process.
The results of the effort to reduce deicing chemical use have been successful and are anticipated to continue improving in the 2015-2016 winter season. Trucks that spread granular material were recalibrated to apply a maximum of 300 lb per lane-mile of NaCl pre-wetted with brine at a rate of 20 gal per ton compared to the previous application rates of up to 1,000 lb per lane-mile. This measure greatly reduced chloride loadings and the impact of deicing chemicals on the environment. The city’s future goal is to further reduce the application rate of granular material and increase the quantity of brine used for pre-wetting. Lincoln’s average in-house production costs for brine using CaCl2 and NaCl are 66% cheaper than purchasing the same amount of proprietary MgCl2 brine. This savings represents a significant potential cost-reduction in anti-icing and deicing chemicals. WM