The Great Welding And Gases Road Trip

Fun, interesting and close to home

Now that it’s officially summer, it’s a perfect time for a gases and welding road trip. It seems you can’t go anywhere without coming across the marvels of the industry, but there are some places that truly showcase the wonders of gases and welding.

MAKING TRACKS

The GrandLuxe Express in the American Southwest.

We’ve all seen trains, but how often do you think about the tracks they’re riding on? Trains can’t go anywhere without those steel rails, and they have everything to do with welding. Railroads buy rails in short segments that crews or special machines flash butt weld or thermite weld into lengths of up to a mile. No surprise, it’s called welded rail, and it provides the durability and longevity that railroads need, while allowing trains to travel faster, more safely and more smoothly.

The GrandLuxe Express offers luxury rail trips across the country, including “rail cruises” through national parks, the Rockies and the Deep South. One train even goes to Mexico. Passengers ride in vintage cars that have been fully restored, and enjoy private cabins, unspoiled scenery, meals served by uniformed waiters and drinks in the lounge car during the 4- to 10-day trips. Learn more at the company’s Web site. www.grandluxerail.com/

OXYGEN BARS

Bar-goers pay, usually around $1 a minute, to breathe high-potency, scented oxygen through nasal cannulas (plastic tubes that fit into the nostrils). The idea is to achieve relaxation and better health, and oxygen bars have boomed in popularity, especially in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Gas distributors will recognize this, though: The FDA regulates oxygen as a medical gas.

THE GATEWAY ARCH

At 630 feet, the tallest landmark in the country cost $13 million (plus $3.5 million for the elevator system) to build between February 1963 and October 1965. The legs of the arch were assembled by welding together triangular blocks that ranged from 8 to 12 feet in height.

SEATTLE’S SPACE NEEDLE

Completed in 1961 for the World’s Fair, at a cost of $4.5 million, the Space Needle is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States. Check out the spindly, concave legs that hold up the 605-foot tower: Crews built them from three-sided tubes that they welded flange to flange.

BRIDGES

Walk, bike or drive across these spans and look over the metal work that holds them together.

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest bridge in the world when it opened in 1937. Today, eight bridges around the world are longer, including the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City. Some 120,000 vehicles a day cross the 1.7-mile-long bridge, which cost more than $30 million and remains one of the country’s top tourist destinations.

THE SUNSHINE SKYWAY

Florida’s first suspension bridge stretches 4.1 miles across Tampa Bay, whose waters lap 183 feet below. Located south of St. Petersburg, the Sunshine Skyway was modeled after the Brotonne Bridge over the Seine River in France. Built to a cable-stayed design, the bridge cost $245 million and opened in April 1987.

MACKINAC BRIDGE

This five-mile-long bridge connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, which are separated by the Straits of Mackinac. The Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957 at a cost of roughly $100 million, and continues to host nearly 12,000 cars a day. The suspension bridge’s two main cables contain more than 42,000 miles of wire.

PAINTBALL

Anyone for a game? You’d better move fast: Paintball guns powered by compressed CO2 shoot 0.68 caliber, marble-size “bullets” made of gelatin filled with polyethylene glycol “paint.” The game dates to the early 1980s, and by some estimates more than 5 million people play it in the U.S. each year.

ALBUQUERQUE INTERNATIONAL BALLOON FIESTA

The largest event of its kind in the world, the Fiesta hosts some 700 balloons lifting off from its 78-acre launch field. Hot air balloons rely on propane-heated air to get off the ground. They typically carry 20 to 45 gallons of propane, supplied by Airgas Southwest, in aluminum or stainless steel tanks. Gas balloons are filled with lighter-than-air gases, such as helium or hydrogen, which Matheson Tri-Gas supplies to the Fiesta.

SCULPTURE

Sculptors who work in metal often weld component pieces together. Think of it as welding’s softer, more creative side. Major art museums across the country, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, have welded sculptures on display.

BASEBALL

The 30 major league ballparks across the country serve up more than 4 million gallons of soda each year—and that’s a conservative estimate. Stadiums need a lot of CO2 to make that soda fizz, and their demand will only grow as facilities get larger and teams try to attract fans to stay for longer periods of time.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association