A while back I went to Grand Junction, Colorado to do some training. It’s a long drive from the Denver area, about 5 hours, but it has to be one of my favorite drives. The scenery the entire way is just breath taking and you get to see some pretty cool things, especially in Glenwood Canyon. For those of you that are regular readers of my blog, this one will be a little different (hey, it’s my blog). It doesn’t have anything to do with Civil 3D directly but, it does have some pretty cool civil engineering designs in it. If you are a civil engineer, read on, you’ll like it.

I’ve traveled this road many times before and each time I do, I’m just amazed as I drive through Glenwood Canyon. US Interstate 70 (I-70) runs through the canyon alongside the Colorado River. This is some pristine wilderness area and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has done an amazing job in preserving the natural beauty of the canyon while building a four lane interstate. On my way back from Grand Junction this time, I decided to stop as often as I can along the canyon and take pictures. Now, as a disclaimer, I do not claim to be a photographer. In fact, I took all these pictures with my phone (Motorola Droid).

Heading East on I-70, you run into the Town of Glenwood Springs. This town marks the West entrance to the canyon.

Glenwood Springs

The town is known for a Hot Springs. I’ve never been there but growing up, we always heard they had a “clothing optional” area. This is also the gateway to several mountain towns and the Aspen Ski Resort.

Once in the canyon, you’ll be driving along the Colorado River as well as a set of train tracks. The tracks were part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad but are currently operated by Union Pacific. Shortly after entering the canyon, the tracks go through a tunnel.

Entering The Canyon

In the picture above, you can see the railroad tracks on the opposite side of the river as it enters into a tunnel. Shortly after the railroad tunnel, the highway goes through a set of tunnels. These first tunnels are fairly short.

First Highway Tunnels

In this picture, you can see a bridge passing over the highway. This is a pedestrian and bike trail that continues the entire 12 miles of the canyon. After the tunnel you travel a while through some amazing scenery.

Canyon Scenery

After a bit, you come to the first place that you can pull off the highway. This is the No Name rest area, named because of the No Name Creek that discharges into the Colorado River here.

No Name Rest Area

If you enjoy hiking, you can hike up along the No Name Creek. At the end of the trail, you’ll come to a water diversion structure. This diverts some of the water from No Name Creek for the Town of Glenwood Springs. You can even see some of the old wood stave pipe. I didn’t hike the trail this trip but I have in the past. It’s a pretty easy hike until you get to the end of the trail. If you wish to keep hiking, you’ll have to go cross country and that’s when it gets pretty tough.

No Name Canyon

The above image is taken above the interstate looking north to the No Name Canyon.

At the No Name rest area, get out and stretch a bit and look at some of the educational material they have. You can read up a bit about the construction of the highway, the wildlife of the canyon, as well as some of it’s history. You also get a great view of the approach the designers of the highway took to minimize the impacts the highway would have on the canyon. Instead of separating the highway horizontally, they decided to terrace the highway in places, allowing them to minimize the disturbance of the natural area.

Terraced Highway

After moving on from the rest area (don’t rush, enjoy your time there) you’ll get a chance to see the terraced highway up close and personal as you drive along the highway.

Close Up of the Terraced Highway

Once again, as you travel down the highway, you get to see some of the most amazing scenery in the world!

Amazing Scenery

Travel a bit more and you’ll come to the Grizzly Creek rest area. This is quite the amazing rest area. It feels like a lot of the rest area is under the highway (some of it is but most of it is adjacent to the highway). Being able to put a rest area at this location was an amazing design accomplishment. In the narrow canyon, there is a four lane highway, a river, a stream, a railroad, and a complete rest area! I wasn’t able to get an overall picture of the rest area, you’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Grizzly Creek runs right through the middle of the rest area (hence its name). If you are looking to do some Rocky Mountain fly fishing, this is a great stream to do it.

Grizzly Creek

In the picture above, you can see two bridges crossing over the creek, the upper bridge is the highway itself and the lower bridge is the one for the roads within the rest area. This really is a great stream for fishing. I’ve stopped a couple times in the past and fished it. And, yes, I have fished it in weather very similar to what is pictured here and I was wading while wearing shorts (my wife thinks I’m crazy). Here you can see the confluence of Grizzly Creek and the Colorado River.

Grizzly Creek and the Colorado River

Because of the very steep canyon walls on the south side of the rest area, this part of the canyon does not get much sunlight so if you visit in the winter time, make sure you put your jacket on when you get out to walk around. Another thing, if you plan on stopping at the Shoshone Power Plant or Hanging Lake exits, don’t worry about stopping here first because, You’ll Be Back!

Moving on from Grizzly Creek, once again you travel through some of the most amazing scenery on your way up to the Shoshone Power Plant.

Heading to the Power Plant

This is another excellent example of the terracing of the highway through the canyon.

The next exit is the Shoshone Power Plant. This power plant, established in 1909, is virtually under the highway. In fact, the restrooms here are literally under the highway.

Rest Area Under the Interstate

The pedestrian/bicycle path will allow you to get a really good view of the power plant and it’s penstocks.

Shoshone Power Plant Entrance

Shoshone Power Plant Penstocks

As you walk around the power plant, there is another pipe type of structure that almost looks like a penstock but is definitely different from the other two.

Discharge Pipe of Some Sort

As you can see from the image, the pipe is open at the bottom and it discharges directly into the river.


I wasn’t able to find any information on what this is but it appears to be some sort of emergency spillway. If anyone knows for sure what this is, please leave a comment letting me know. I wonder if they ever give tours of the facility?

If you walk up along the river, you can see the discharge location below the turbines.

Discharge Point

I don’t know what the working capacity of the plant but, it does take up a considerable amount of the water from the river this time of year. If you look upstream of the discharge, you can see the river is barely flowing and downstream of the discharge, it’s the Mighty C0lorado once more.

Plant Discharge meets the Colorado

When leaving the power plant, there is no way to get directly back on East Bound I-70. I had to go back west and turn around in the Grizzly Creek Rest Area. This is why, if you plan on stopping at all the available points to stop, don’t stop at the Grizzly Creek Rest Area when you first get to it.

Heading back East from the power plant takes you to the next area (once again, after passing amazing scenery). The next place you can get off the highway is at the Hanging Lake Rest Area. This is one of the most scenic parts of the canyon. In fact, in order to preserve the beauty of this area, the highway goes through a tunnel to avoid disturbing this part of the canyon.

Hanging Lake Exit

This rest area is also the trail head for the Hanging Lake Trail, a very popular trail in the canyon. I haven’t had a chance to hike it myself but one day I do intend on stopping and hiking it. The rest area is great because right after the exit, the highway enters into the tunnels that bypass this area. This is also the location of the diversion structure for the Shoshone Power Plant. In addition to these two very cool things, the railroad tracks pass right under the highway, in a tunnel, as the highway itself goes into a tunnel right next to the diversion structure for the Shoshone Power Plant and, just my luck, a train passed by while I was there. Talk about being in a Civil Engineering Geek Nirvana!

Train, 2 Tunnels, Diversion Structure, Heaven

If you stop at this rest area, make sure you walk along the pedestrian path a bit. On the opposite side of the river (that would be to the south), up in the hills a way you can spy a structure. This is a part of the tunnel infrastructure. I’m not exactly sure what it’s role is but I know it has something to do with the tunnel.

Tunnel Facility

(The picture didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, poor lighting and I was using the zoom feature on my camera which is a digital zoom).

As I said before, this is one of the more scenic areas of the canyon. Get out, look around, take some pictures, and just enjoy the wonderful outdoors!

Hanging Lake Scenery

Hanging Lake Scenery

As mentioned before, at this rest area is the diversion structure for the Shoshone Power Plant downstream. There are six or seven gates (didn’t get a picture of them all and I can’t recall the exact number) that allow the Colorado to bypass the diversion during higher flows. This time of year, the river is flowing very slowly so I suppose it’s a good time to do construction as well.

Shoshone Diversion

Construction at the Diversion

In the last picture, you can also see where the highway tunnels begin.

Leaving the Hanging Lake rest area, just like the Shoshone Power Plant exit, there is no way to get directly back onto Eastbound I-70. You have to go west, back to the Grizzly Creek Rest Area (that’s the third time this trip) and turn around.

Going back East again, after passing the exit for Hanging Lake, you enter into the twin bore tunnel.

Approaching the Tunnels

The tunnels are just under 4,000′  long and bypass the Hanging Lake area. In comparison, the Eisenhower and Johnson Tunnels, the longest and highest tunnels in the US highway system (also on I-70), are over twice as long.

After traveling through the tunnels, the highway once again separates itself vertically but this time, instead of a terraced approach, the designers went with a viaduct for the Westbound traffic.


As you can see from the picture, the Westbound lanes are elevated above the ground the entire length of the highway that is visible in this picture. Around the corner a little ways, the Westbound lanes travel through a tunnel and the Eastbound lanes do not. This is known as the Reverse Curve Tunnel, presumably because there is a reverse curve either in the tunnel or near it. I wasn’t able to get a good picture of the tunnel as I didn’t travel through it this trip and there was no place to pull over for pictures but you can see it a little in the following picture:

Reverse Curve Tunnel

There are several miles of scenic driving alongside the Eastbound Viaduct that is just absolutely breathtaking! It amazes me to see how many people drive through this canyon as fast as they can without slowing down to marvel in it’s beauty.

More Amazing Scenery

The last place you can stop within the canyon is the Blair Ranch Rest Area. This is a wider portion of the canyon and isn’t quite as dramatic so if you are looking to skip a stop, I would say this would be the one to skip but, it is worth stopping at if you have the time. There are some fantastic views along the Colorado River.

Peaceful Colorado River

And if you get lucky, you just might get to see some wildlife. While walking around the rest area, I spotted what I thought was a bunch of geese, but they just didn’t seem quite right. I walked up a bit closer and it was a rafter of wild turkeys! (Yes, rafter is what you call a group of wild turkeys. I had to look it up myself). I wasn’t able to get close enough to get a real good picture but, here you go.

Rafter of Wild Turkeys

After the Blair Ranch is a couple more miles of scenic driving, nothing quite as spectacular as the rest of the canyon but beautiful in it’s own way and then, you leave the canyon.

No More Canyon

If you would like to take a virtual scenic trip of your own through Glenwood Canyon, just open up Google Earth and get driving directions from Glenwood Springs, CO to Dotsero, CO and play them. The following image will walk you through how I set up Google Earth to view it. Please click on the image so you can see the different steps.

Click Image for Full Instructions


This is the e-mail I sent out to those that I thought would be interested and are local here. If you are interested in joining me, leave a comment and I’ll give you the location details.

Hello everyone. I hope the New Year is treating you well so far. I’ve decided to start up the Civil 3D Users Group again but this time we are going to do things a bit different. Last time we did this, I think we tried to get too formal. We tried to get people to sign up to discuss topics, have sponsors, find locations for the meetings, etc. I’m going to make this really simple, come to my house Thursday, February 17th if you want to geek out about Civil 3D.

This is intended for people that use Civil 3D and want to take it to the next level. This is not a class. We will not be teaching Civil 3D so if you don’t know Civil 3D, this is not a place to learn the basics of it. You are more than welcome to come, just don’t expect us to discuss beginner topics.

There will be no agenda. If you want to talk about something, and the rest of the group agrees, we’ll talk about it. If nobody wants to talk about anything, then it will be a really short meeting. Don’t worry; if both Bryan Thomasy and I are there, I’m sure something will come up for discussion.


This is not sponsored by CAD-1. I work for CAD-1 but this is me putting this together, not CAD-1. Other resellers are invited to join but I do ask that they come as a user of the software, not as a representative of their company. If you are impressed with what they have to say and you want to talk to them (or me), so be it. One of the things I hope this becomes is a great networking resource, not a chance for people to sell their wares to you.

I’ll have my laptop and a projector with me so if you want to show off some design that you have done, this is a great place to do it. If you want advice on better ways to accomplish something you’re working on, again, a great place to do it.

When will the next meeting be? Who knows? I’ll look at my calendar and check with my wife to see when will be a good time to meet again and then I’ll send out another e-mail. If someone wants to host a meeting, that’s great.

I do live in Northern Colorado (Johnstown to be specific) so those of you that are on the southern side of Denver, it might be a bit tough making it up here. But hey, I’m planning it, I get to choose where we meet! If you want to meet someplace else, you are more than welcome to plan the next one.

Feel free to pass this along to others you think might be interested in joining us. One thing I will require is that anyone coming must RSVP. If you show up at my house without RSVPing, you won’t be welcome. (Ok, I’ll probably still let you in; I’ll just give you a hard time about it and do my best to embarrass you in front of everyone.) Since we are doing this in my house, I need to know how many people are coming. If a lot of people are interested, we’ll have to find a new venue.

Sometimes I love tech support. This came into our office today. Want a quick response to a technical support issue? Ask it like this! A tip for you non-Revit folks, a family in Revit is similar to a block in AutoCAD.

Oh, great master of all things Revit…

I hath attempted to sway the favor of thine Revit Gods, only to find myself cast into the valley of consternation.  Oh, great master, I beseech thee to gaze upon the sordid details of mine dysfunctional family…

Mine family hath made offerings to false idols who demand satisfaction.  Yet, mine family of Fire Extinguisher Cabinets hath not made themselves as flexible and useful as both thine Revit Gods and the false idols demand…

The false idol, Fire Marshal, demands that mine family bear witness to maximum travel distance by radius, for all who shalt make a spectacle of the Code Plan.  Yet, the false idol, Project Manager demands that mine family disguise such radius, and shalt not bear witness to those who make a spectacle of the Overall Floor Plan and the Enlarged Floor Plans.

I hath made offerings of Instance visibility to thine Revit Gods, yet they demand I shalt display mine radius in all views or none.

Oh, great master, I beg thee, guide mine family to the light, so that they shalt appease thine Revit Gods and all false idols, in turn.

Oh, great master, I make offering of mine family thine grace, so that thou shalt enlighten mine family in the ways of thine Revit Gods.

I pray thou shalt find favor upon me and mine family in this time of darkness.

Your most humble servant,

And certified lunatic,


edit – the response of our Revit guru (the other Brian, not me) and then John’s final response

Oh thy humble servant,

Why do you exhaust time pondering the solution of thoughts already known?  This light hath been observed in the past by oneself many times.  Thy answer is simple, “Subcategory”.  Thy radius can be delegated to a code subcategory (matching the steps created in the footprint family done in the past) so that thy subcategory can be turned off in the false god views thus pleasing all involved.

Your Great Master


Oh, great master of all things Revit,

Thine humble servant is most grateful for thine tidings of benevolent enlightenment.

As thou hast exercised mine memory of thine previous enlightenment, thine humble servant shalt now return to mine task master, and shalt submit mine self for a most thorough flogging.  I am most grieved for the imposition upon thine grace for such a trivial matter.  I most fervently beg your mercy and shalt most hastily retreat from your presence.

I make offerings of gratitude, many thousands of times over, and pray most solemnly for the blessings of thine Revit Gods upon you.

Your most humble servant.

(many genuflections)

That’s right, come work in the office right next to me! CAD-1 in Denver is looking to hire someone to help out the technical department with tech support. You would be helping our customers achieve success with their software over the phone and through e-mail. You have to have a strong background with Autodesk software in the AEC realm such as AutoCAD, Civil 3D, ACAD/Revit Architecture, ACAD/Revit MEP, Map, as well as others. Obviously, you aren’t expected to know each and everyone of these but you will be helping out with them all (I mean an install question for one of them is pretty much an install question for them all). You also must have EXTREMELY good oral and written communication skills as you’ll be talking and writing to people all day long. A passion for the software and the patience of a saint will also be required.

So, if you’re interested in working for the best company I’ve ever worked for (and I’m not just saying that because my boss might read this), send me your resume – c3dplus at gmail dot com and I’ll make sure it gets to the right people.

So, you’ve got Civil 3D 2011 and a screaming 64-bit system. How much RAM can you throw at that thing? Well, it depends on a couple things, first of all, what operating system are you running? If you’re running a 32-bit OS, then 4 gigs is your limit. There are numerous posts and discussions on the subject, just do a Google search and you’ll see.

Now, if you have a 64-bit operating system, that’s a completely different story. As I was doing a bit of research for this, I learned quite a few new things. The reason a 32-bit operating system is limited to 4 gigs of ram, is due to it’s architecture. A 32-bit system can only process 2^32 bytes of information, hence the 4-gig limit. Now, a 64-bit system can process 2^64 bytes of information. How much is that, well it’s 16 to 18 Exabytes (depending on your definition of an Exabyte). Great, but what is an Exabyte? Well, one Exabyte is a thousand petabytes, one million terabytes, or one billion gigabytes. Can you imagine having a computer with 16,000,000,000 gigabytes of RAM? We as humans really can’t comprehend large numbers (if they are over 1,000 they tend to get fuzzy for me). To put this in perspective, I read an estimate that if  all the telecommunication data in the United States was stored digitally for one year, it would take about 9.25 Exabytes of data.1

Anyways, now that I’m done geeking out, let’s get back to the situation at hand. Since this theoretically limit will never be achieved (at least by anyone that is reading this blog for practical purposes), what is the limiting factor? Well, your Operating System can be the limit. In this modern day and age, if you are running Civil 3D and aren’t running Windows 7, you should be shot. I can already hear you, “But IT won’t support Windows 7!” Well, THEY should be shot then. So, what version of Windows 7 are you running? THIS web page lists the different versions of Windows and the different amounts of RAM they will support. It’s put together nicely and is easy to follow. The Home versions of Windows 7 64-bit are limited to 2, 8, or 16 gigs of RAM whereas the professional and greater versions allow 192 gigs.

Now, don’t go out and buy 100 gigs of RAM just yet as there are other limits to the amount of RAM you can use. Currently (if you aren’t using a Home version), what limits your RAM is your hardware, aka motherboard. Most modern motherboards can’t handle that much RAM. I did a quick search of TigerDirect and NewEgg and found that most of the high end motherboards will support up to 24 gigs of RAM.

I’m sure there will come a day and age when we look back and think to ourselves, “Remember when we use to buy RAM in Gigabytes?” and then chuckle a little bit. Ah, can’t wait to not be in the good old days anymore!


Well, by now you should know that Civil 3D 2011 is due to be released in the next few weeks. This can be a trying time for some people. Some folks embrace change, some fight it. I just recently read an article on dealing with change in your work environment. It deals more about those BIG changes like relocating, getting passed up on a promotion, restructuring of your organization but, I think what the author says can also pertain to those smaller changes like getting a new version of software installed on your system.

If you are interested, you can read the article HERE. It’s not very long. It took me longer to write this post then it did to read it but there is some great info there.

One of my favorite drives in Colorado has always been through Glenwood Canyon down Interstate 70.  Not only is the scenery absolutely stunning, the Colorado River magnificent, but as an engineer, the design of the 12.5 miles of highway made up of bridges, viaducts, and tunnels truly is a modern marvel.  Earlier this week (Monday, March 8th 2010) a rock slide closed the highway.  This rock slide not only put debris on the roadway, it also punched holes through the bridge decking.  The Denver Post has some magnificent pictures of the damage and the cleanup work.  Check them out HERE.

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