It was a beautiful if somewhat chilly day (but not unseasonably chilly) and I wanted to get outdoors for at least a little while. I went for a drive, first stopping to take some pictures in the neighborhood of trees still holding onto their leaves. Oaks are like that. Then I drove up Georgia Avenue through Olney and Brookeville and turned left onto Brookeville Road. I stopped to take a few pictures of the Oakley Cabin. This cabin is one of three that once stood here in what “was once the center of an African American roadside community from emancipation into the early 20th century. The dwelling, inhabited until 1976, is now operated as a living history museum by M-NCPPC, Department of Parks, Montgomery County.”
I made a round trip to Boston today, taking Dorothy to school. She’s keeping the car with her but understandably didn’t want to do that long drive by herself. So I went with her and then flew home late in the evening. The drive itself was relatively uneventful. We were on the road by 6:30 and crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge before 8:30. Traffic was slow getting onto the George Washington Bridge as I suspect it is except for in the middle of the night (and possibly even then). Traffic remained heavy across the upper part of Manhattan Island and then off and on through the Bronx and most of the way across southern Connecticut, especially around New Haven and New London. We stopped for a long lunch in Mystic, just before getting to Rhode Island. Arriving in Boston after 4:00 PM on Friday, it was no surprise that we got into very slow traffic in the parking lots that pass for tunnels but we needed to get to Logan Airport and there are only so many ways to get there. My flight wasn’t until just before 9:00 PM, so we were not really in any rush.
Dorothy continued on to school from there and I got home without incident. That is, unless you count the mouse that was running around the departure lounge. I didn’t know about it until a lady screamed and jumped up onto the chairs.
The beach was mostly empty this morning. This picture was taken at about 9:00 AM when the beach is usually beginning to get fairly crowded but the drizzle this morning kept most people indoors. It cleared up quite a bit later on and more people were out but nothing like the last few days. It was also much more humid than its been, although it was still quite cool. It was our last full day at the beach and it was fairly restful without not a lot happening. We did manage to finish a pretty tricky puzzle before the end of the day and we were all pretty pleased with that. Three puzzles over the course of six days, one of which was finished in a single day. The house we were in didn’t really have a good table for puzzles other than the dining table, which was somewhat inconvenient. But we managed.
Just an average day at the beach. As I mentioned in a previous post, the weather this week was quite mild. Yesterday it was actually cool enough that you wanted to stay mostly underwater when you were out. I like to float on my back when the water is calm, as it was all week, but when I did my toes got cold. Today was a bit warmer but still not hot. Today also brought a few larger swells in addition to the small waves that broke too far in for us to ride. So, today was the best wave-riding day of the week. This picture was taken just before 1:00 PM and it shows the beach at about its most crowded (well, at high tide it was more crowded because everyone had to move up, but about the same number of people). This picture was taken from about the same place as the sunrise picture from yesterday and looking in roughly the same direction.
A bunch of us went to Brookgreen Gardens today. Seth, Iris, and Tsai-Hong stayed until about 1:00 before moving on to the lowcountry zoon and then headed back to the beach. Cathy, Dorothy, Jonathan, Dot, and I had lunch and then did a bit more walking in the gardens before hitting the zoo. I took a lot of pictures of sculpture and a few of dragonflies and grasshoppers (the huge eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera). I really enjoy both the sculpture and the setting. It was hot today but not really hot by South Carolina in August standards. In the shade it was actually pretty pleasant. This first picture is of my favorite tree at Brookgreen gardens. It is in the corner of the Palmetto Garden and really is part of the Live Oak Allée that’s just across the wall. I think it’s magnificent.
Of course we also went to the lowcountry zoo where we saw black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) as well as a few egrets and an ibis. The otters were very active and we enjoyed watching them swim around for a while. It was actually feeding time at the alligator pond but the alligator we saw must be well fed because he was pretty blasé about the whole thing.
After leaving Brookgreen, we drove to Murrill’s Inlet for an early dinner at Nance’s. Dorothy, Jonathan, and I shared a half bushel of steamed oysters while mom had soft-shell crab and Cathy had a crab cake.
Most kids love the beach. Of course, kids under a certain age are generally not really up on the joys of playing in the surf or digging in the sand. Kai is only seven months old and he isn’t really well versed in the joys of childhood yet. Or, perhaps I should say the joys of his childhood are, at this point, fairly simple. He went out onto the beach (okay, he was taken out onto the beach) this afternoon and was dressed for the sun. The goggles were a bit much and they came off fairly quickly but I think they suit him. He sat on the sand with his feet in a hole with a little water in it and wasn’t entirely displeased. He didn’t particularly like being splashed, although there was no real danger of him getting into any trouble. It won’t be long until he’s mobile and then the fun begins for his parents. “Wait, he was here a second ago, where did he go?”
Cathy, Dorothy, Jonathan, and I drove to the east end of the island today, stopping first at Ferry Landing Park on the north (inland) side of the island. This is the site of the original ferry crossing to Ocean Isle Beach which operated from 1950 until 1959 when a swing bridge was built. At the park there is a small pier where a few people were fishing and some girls were setting up lines to do some crabbing. We went from there to the spit at the far east end of the island to Shallotte Inlet. It was quite warm and I’m afraid I got a little sunburn on my face and the back of my neck. This is looking north from the beach onto the island with a Carolina blue sky and scattered clouds.
I covered a few miles today but ended up where I started. Cathy and I left the house at about 5:30 and drove to the airport. From there I flew to Boston, where I was picked up by Dorothy. Then we drove home. It’s about 460 miles by the route we took and the round-trip took me 12.5 hours including two hours waiting for my 56 minute (and $40!) flight. We crossed a couple large bridges, the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan to New Jersey and then the Delaware Memorial from New Jersey into Delaware. Dorothy was driving for most of the New Jersey portion of the trip and I was able to take a few pictures of the Delaware Memorial Bridge as we crossed it.
We went to a presentation by a woman named Ariane from an organization that does work with some of the very poorest people in two areas in Afghanistan. Their work includes education, recreation, providing meals, and vocational training including such skills as sewing and baking. They are teaching sign language to deaf children, as well as ordinary school subjects. Cathy’s mom organized the event and had a combination of Afghan and French themed refreshments at the back of the room. She also brought in a few of her Afghan dolls and had them on display. On the tag attached to this one it says,
This is the national dress of the women of Afghanistan. The bodice is embroidered in many colors and sometimes includes colored stones, bangles, or small mirrors, depending on the area from which it comes. This costume has never been covered by the chadri.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we drove to West Virginia and spent the night at the PSC Field House in the North Form Mountain area. We got a reasonable night’s sleep and after a hearty breakfast, six of us headed off the Hamilton Cave. Ralph and Stephen are both experienced cavers but the rest of us were beginners. We’ve all been in the big, commercial caverns like Luray or Carlsbad (although I’d really like to see Carl’s Good cavern!). I’ve been in a reasonable number of caves in the USA, France, England, Greece, and Slovakia (although it was Czechoslovakia at the time). But this was the first time in a cave such as this. Hamilton cave has a pretty good maze of passages and I’m certainly glad we had two people who knew their way around.
After checking in at The Register, we made our way to our first goal, the Slab Room. This is named for the large slab of rock that fell in the distant past (well, probably recent in geologic terms, but it was more than a few years ago). Getting here involved passages where we had to crawl on all fours and a couple stretches where I had to take off my small day pack and push it in front of me while I slithered along on my front in what I know as an army crawl. You know the one, where you are lying prone and you pull yourself along with your elbow and push with your knees. It can be fairly tiring, especially for someone carrying extra weight and with not-terribly-strong arms. But we all made it through. There were other places where we could walk upright and they were very welcome, I can tell you.
There was an even tighter spot than those the required an army crawl. There is one place where the passage gets fairly narrow between two smooth, nearly vertical rocks. They are closest together at just the wrong height from the ground for someone about my height and with a larger than necessary midsection. If you know what i mean.
It was not quite Winnie-the-Pooh in Rabbit’s Hole but it was tight. Fortunately they didn’t hang dish towels on my legs. Getting through that required getting up on my toes so my largest part was a little higher than the tightest part, and then getting a bit of a push from Stephen. The second picture here is further into the cave than that tightish bit. It shows Seth sitting in a fairly large room as the others made their way up behind him. The last picture was actually taken between the other two. I don’t often take selfies but I thought in this case I would. So, that’s me in my caving gear. Looks as though I’ve been crawling in the dirt, doesn’t it?
As you can probably guess by the fact that I’m posting this, I made it out. We all had a good time and were certainly glad we went. I will confess to being glad to see the sunlight again and to be able to stand up without worrying about hitting my head on a rock.
Today was day one of our two-day, family caving expedition. The eight of us met up at Ralph’s and drove to south of Petersburg, West Virginia. We arrived before sunset at the PSC field house and got settled in. It’s not exactly four star luxury but then, we were not expecting it to be (it’s actually pretty nice, really). This is the view back down the road we came up. It’s certainly a good idea to have four wheel drive and reasonable clearance on that, especially the place where it crosses the creek. After a horrendously rainy morning, the drive was quite nice and we arrived to a beautiful, cool, breezy evening.
After our morning outing to Essex, we returned to Gordon and picked up Dorothy after her last class. It had been wet all morning but not it was raining lightly and the fog was a bit more dense (or the clouds were closer to the ground, which I guess comes to the same thing). From the school we went to Singing Beach. If you think a beach is only beautiful on a sunny day, then either you’ve never been there on a day like this or we’ll have to agree to disagree. I had to keep my camera in the lee of my body to keep it reasonably dry but I took quite a few pictures, including this one of Cathy and Dorothy walking away into the mist.
From Singing Beach we went to Lobster Cove, a quiet little place with no provision for parking but again, beautiful in the mist. This panorama was made from six shots taken with my 100mm lens, vertically oriented. Lobster Cove is a quiet little place and there are houses on both sides but especially on a day like this, it’s a peaceful retreat from the world. Every now and then larger waves would hit the opening at just the right angle to roll in to the beach and there were sea birds about but otherwise, it was just the noise of the wind and the distant sound of waves on rocks further out.
Dorothy was in class again today so Cathy and I were on our own. We had breakfast in a little place in Manchester by the Sea and then drove up towards Essex. We wanted to be outdoors and I thought some of the tidal marshes in the area would be pretty. As it turns out, we got there at just about high tide for one of the highest tides of the year. Also, it was overcast and a bit foggy, which gave the whole scene an eerie, surreal quality. We had a lovely chat with a local homeowner who was out with her dog and then enjoyed the view.
Dorothy had classes most of today so Cathy and I drove down to Providence in the afternoon to visit Abba. We went to Conimicut Point Park on the Providence River and then parked above Prospect Terrace on College Hill. This panorama was taken from there. I was preoccupied with finding my way, which included a number of false starts because a couple roads were closed for utility work. The west side of College Hill is quite steep and getting to the top of a hill like that only to find you can’t get through is a little disconcerting. I’m going to use that as an excuse for locking my keys in the car. We didn’t realize I had done that until after dinner when we returned to the car, only to find that I didn’t have my keys. Normally, Cathy would have had one but this is the car that Dorothy has at school so she had the other key. Thank goodness for AAA. It was a nice visit and a good day, otherwise.
I went to BWI airport this afternoon to pick up Maggie, who was coming for a short visit during her spring break. As usual when I go to BWI, I bring my camera. It isn’t the most photogenic airport you’ll come across but it has some interesting spots. Of course most of the time I spend there is waiting around the baggage carousels, which is about the least interesting part of the whole place. Coming across the westernmost sky bridge from the top of the parking garage, which is the end of the terminal that Southwest uses, there is a large, stained glass, Atlantic blue crab sculpture in a case. It’s a bit tricky to get a picture of something like this and having it in a glass case certainly doesn’t help. It is what it is.
Other than that, my visit was fairly uneventful. Maggie arrive, we got her bag, and we left. We did go to G&M to buy crab cakes for those of us who eat such things. I fixed surf and turf for dinner, with two crab cakes and two large, very thick t-bone steaks. I’d say it was a success, at least in part thanks to the Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.
I’ve already posted two pictures from our brief trip to Pennsylvania today, although both of them were taken in Maryland on the way home. I showed this picture to Dorothy and she agreed that it was worth posting, so here’s the third picture from today. This one was taken before the two church pictures so I’m posting them in the wrong order, but that’s life (“that’s what all the people say”).
We cut our Christmas trees at a place called Shower’s Tree Farm (http://www.showerstreefarm.com/). In addition to a fairly large field of Christmas trees, they have apples, which isn’t surprising in this part of the state (the home of Musselman’s (now part of Knouse Foods) and the National Apple Museum. The trees were all bare but some of them had quite a few apples on the ground around them and that, obviously, is what this picture features.
As mentioned in the previous post, we went to Pennsylvania to cut Christmas trees today. After a brief (but less brief and more eventful than expected) visit to the farm, we went to a local tree farm to cut a few trees. For quite a few years we’ve gone to a farm in Cashtown, west of Gettysburg. It’s nice to go to the same place year after year but we received word from them that they were not going to be open this season. We don’t know if that’s a permanent closing or if it’s for this year only. In any case, they recommended another farm that’s actually closer, so we went there.
We had lunch at the Ott House in Emmitsburg, as we’ve done for about four years (prior to that we’d go somewhere different every year). Mom had seen a piece in the newspaper about a church that was in bad enough shape that it couldn’t really be repaired but that is old and historic enough that it shouldn’t be torn down. Of course, if it isn’t repaired, it will come down eventually under its own weight. Anyway, we decided to try to find it and (as you’ve probably guessed by now) we did. The sun was behind the church, which made lighting difficult, and again, there were power lines to contend with, but I’m pretty happy with this shot.
We drove up to Pennsylvania today with some other family members to get Christmas trees. For a while dad was planting trees at the farm every few years and we’d often cut trees from among those but new trees haven’t been planted for at least ten and probably closer to 20 years so all of those are much too big to be of any use. Still, we go there as a sort of tradition, knowing we’ll only stay a short while. Some years we have had snow and a few years there was enough that we had to part at the entrance and then walk in. The last few years have been clear and mild. Today it was cold but there was no snow. There was a thin layer of ice on the pond and it was making the most amazing pinging noise as the sun heated it slightly. At first we were sure it was a bird making that noise but it was the ice.
We cut our trees at a local tree farm and then drove down to Emmitsburg for lunch. I took a little time to take some pictures of Elias Evangelical Lutheran Church on North Avenue, a block from Main Street, where we parked. The trick here was to get a picture without telephone and power lines crossing in front of the church.
When we drive to or from the Boston area we often stop at the Rockland Bakery in Nanuet, New York for a bit of bread. Because we’re driving most of the day and it’s not a good idea to take pictures while driving, this is one of my few opportunities to take pictures on those days (I guess I could take pictures at a service area, but somehow…). In the past I’ve tried to come up with bread-themed jokes to go along with my picture (e.g., Home For The Challahdays). Today I’ll just feature a picture of some huge loaves of bread. I have to assume these are a special order item, being too long even for the shelf trolley they’re on. We settled for soft pretzels (which were just coming out of the oven) and a couple rolls. It’s a fascinating place and worth a visit, even if you don’t buy bread (but we always do, of course).
Cathy, mom, and I went to Brookgreen Gardens today, driving the 75 minutes from Ocean Isle Beach and getting there at about 10:00. I’ve got three past posts with pictures from Brookgreen on the blog, two in 2013 and one in 2012 (Brookgreen Gardens, Thursday, August 02, 2012, Brookgreen Gardens, Thursday, August 01, 2013, and Brookgreen Critters, Thursday, August 01, 2013). Between the gardens, a lunch in the restaurant, and a visit to the small zoo, we spent about five hours there. Not long enough to see everything but it was a great visit. It was hot and very humid but not as swelteringly hot as it’s been some years. I took nearly 400 photographs today and I’ve got three to show you. This year I decided not to include any of the wonderful art work, there are simply too many nice sculptures from which to choose.
The first picture is of the Live Oak Allee, which forms the center of the garden leading up to the former location of the house. These trees are said to be over 300 years old and I have no reason to doubt that, as they are quite large. The branches are covered with resurrection ferns and there is the ubiquitous Spanish moss all over. Under them are beds filled with Caladiums. This image is an HDR image made from three different exposures and I liked the muted colors in this nearly monochrome image. I have mixed feelings about HDR images but I have to admit, they produce some extraordinary results. My camera has an autobracketing feature that lets me take three images in quick succession with three different exposures (and I can control the amount of difference between them). Sometimes I would prefer five images, but maybe that wouldn’t really help much. I usually take them without the benefit of a tripod and I’m sure they would turn out better if I didn’t have to hand hold them.
The second image is a Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) posing on bright red Coleus leaves. I found the contrast between the green of the lizard and the red of the leaves to be wonderful. We saw quite a few of these little lizards as well as huge eastern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera). In the zoo we saw black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax, including one which caught an anole), white ibis (Eudocimus albus), American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and in both areas, lots of dragonflies. That brings us to the final picture, a dragonfly with water droplets on its wings. I think the tiny droplets have a jewel-like quality, although this isn’t one of the jewelwings (genus Calopteryx).
It’s our fourth morning at the beach and we had our first sunrise worth my walking down to the beach to get pictures. I was afraid my lens would fog up when I went outside but it was actually cool out, about 68°F, so I had no problems. I took a bunch of pictures looking to the east and the rising sun. Then I turned around to find two ends of a rainbow, one over the ocean to the south and the other over the land. I got pictures of those, as well. What a beautiful morning.
This is sort of a running gag with us. Every year we see these signs and chuckle. The title is from a class of Far Side comics by Gary Larson. He would put two things side by side that will inevitably lead to some sort of conflict and then caption it “Trouble Brewing.” For example, “Crutchfield’s Crocodile Farm” and “Anderson’s Sky Diving School” or “Falconers Club Meet Here and “12th Annual Tea Cup Poodle Fancier’s Picnic.” To us, these two signs are similar. Of course, there is a reasonable explanation. The road where this is found is a divided highway and the One-Way sign only applies to the southbound lanes while the Hurricane Evacuation Route sign applies more generally. Still, having them right next to each other pointing in opposite directions is classic.
We arrived at Ocean Isle Beach at about 11:15 last night. We stopped for our family reunion and were there for a much-too-short three and a half hours. After that we had an uneventful drive the rest of the way down. We unpacked, made a quick trip to the supermarket for some groceries, and then went to bed, tired but happy to be here. This is what greeted us when we woke up this morning. Sea oats (Uniola paniculata) growing on the dunes with the waves crashing beyond. Naturally there were more people on the beach a little later in the day, but each morning I enjoy looking out at the mostly deserted beach with waves coming in, never stopping, as they have done for centuries.
Because our church meets at 4:00 p.m. we don’t have anything planned in the morning. This morning we went to church at Grace Meridian Hill at the corner of Monroe and 13th Streets N.W. in the District. On the way home we stopped at Battleground National Cemetery on Georgia Avenue (which is also US 29) between Van Buren Street and Whittier Place. It was established shortly after the Battle of Fort Stevens, in the summer of 1864 and is one of the United State’s smallest national cemeteries with the graves of 41 Union soldiers who died in the the Battle of Fort Stevens (there were a total of over 900 killed or wounded in the battle from both sides).
We spent today in Scranton, seeing the house where Cathy’s great, great, uncle lived and the church where his family were members. We also found family graves in two cemeteries. The highlight for Cathy, I think, was finding the death certificate (on microfilm) of her great, great grandmother in the Albright Memorial Library, which is a pretty amazing building.
After that we went to the Steamtown National Historic Site, where we enjoyed looking at old locomotives and other train cars. This is the Union Pacific’s locomotive #4012, a 4-8-8-4 Big Boy, among the largest and most powerful steam locomotives in the world. It is 132 feet, 10 inches long and with a loaded tender weights 1,189,500 pounds, yet it was capable of reaching speeds of over eighty miles per hour.
If you or your kids like trains, you could do worse than spending a half day at this place. Lots of nice equipment in the remaining portions of an old roundhouse. Recommended.
I’ve already posted a picture from today (two, actually) but I thought I’d post one more. We had a fairly long day of sitting in offices and then driving around, we saw some interesting things, and while at the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm we got a call from Dorothy saying she was fine, in spite of what was going on in the city where she is living. We sent text messages back and forth until fairly late (which for her became fairly early the next morning). With all the running around, we never managed to stop for lunch.
So, in the evening, after the Historical Farm and a short stop back at our hotel, we went to the Trackside Station Grill & Bar in East Stroudsburg for dinner. I was pretty hungry and decided to go all out. I ordered the Eastburger, which is described on their menu as “Two 8oz Black Angus burgers, grilled cheese sandwich center, layers of lettuce, tomato, & beer battered onion rings, on a pretzel bun, served with house made honey mustard.” You had me at a pound of ground beef with a grilled cheese sandwich center.
To answer the obvious question, yes, I cleaned my plate.
As I mentioned in my last post, we went on what we decided to call (half jokingly) a ‘Family History Safari’ in northeastern Pennsylvania. Yesterday we drove up to Stroudsburg and visited the Delaware Water Gap. We enjoyed a quiet drive up the Old Mine Road through Worthington State Forest, on the New Jersey side of the river. Anyone who tells you New Jersey doesn’t have anything worth visiting has never been here. It was lovely, quiet, and peaceful. This morning we started with a visit to the courthouse to see if we could find any records about Cathy’s ancestors. We were sent to the archives but the archivist was out. After waiting a little while, we went to the local Historical Society office in the Stroud Mansion. Guess where the archivist happened to be? Yes, that’s right.
Cathy spent a while looking through old newspapers and I found some information on Pennsylvania’s 67th Regiment, in which her great, great, grandfather served. From there we drove to the little village of Gilbert, which you can literally miss by blinking (we did!). There we walked around the local cemetery and saw the church in which her great grandfather was baptized. We drove north from there to the old Merwinsburgh Hotel, where her great, great, uncle lived and worked for a time. Nothing earth shattering in terms of discoveries but a nice day.
We finished the day by spending about an hour and a half at the Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, which was nice. While we were there I got a phone call from Dorothy saying she was fine. She wanted to let us know, so that when we saw the news we wouldn’t worry so much. We hadn’t been listening to the news so we didn’t know what was up, but shortly after that we started getting messages from friends asking if she was alright. She was.
As I’ll illustrate tomorrow and the next day, Cathy and I went on a little ‘family history safari’ (Cathy’s words). She has ancestors and various relations who lived in the Stroudsburg and Scranton areas of northeastern Pennsylvania. She had some places she wanted to visit, including a few cemeteries, and so we took a couple days off work and this morning we headed up to Stroudsburg. We decided to do a little sightseeing, as well, so today we drove to the Delaware Water Gap, just a few minutes outside Stroudsburg. This is where the Delaware River cuts through the Appalachian Mountains and it’s a pretty spot on the river, if you ignore the roar of traffic from Interstate 80, that also takes this path (and I can’t say that I blame the highway folks from doing that, it makes a lot of sense). This picture was taken from the New Jersey side of the river, looking downstream with Pennsylvania on the far bank.
With David, Maggie, and Laura in town for a few days, we had one day to do a significant outing and because Laura was only going to be here through this afternoon, that meant it would be today. We started off at the National Arboretum, where we enjoyed the capital columns, the bonsai and Penjing collection, the herb garden, and the Morrison shade garden.
From there, we drove downtown to the United States Botanic Garden, located at the east end of Maryland Avenue just below the US Capitol building. This is easily one of my favorite places in Washington. The Institute’s garden was established by Congress in 1820 and it moved to its present location in 1933. The Garden includes the conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. This is a view of the capital building from the garden in front of the conservatory.
We don’t have any particularly big or exciting travel plans for the summer but we do have a few things going on. The first of them is a visit from Cathy’s brother and two of her nieces (her sister’s daughters). David and Maggie left yesterday and are driving here, arriving late this evening. Laura was flying and was coming into Reagan National Airport (DCA) at about ten minutes till eleven. Cathy and I drove to National to pick her up.
When traffic is bad (which is not all that uncommon) then National is a real pain to get into. When traffic is normal or light (which, truth be told, is most of the time) it’s actually quite a nice airport to deal with. While Terminal A, which is the original terminal, is somewhat small and cramped, Terminals B and C are quite large and airy. This is the central terminal of this refurbished airport, and has a high, vaulted ceiling, shown here behind a large American flag, from the far south end of the terminal, where we met Laura. We’ve been looking forward to this visit and it’s finally here.
Once again I’m late posting this (posting on Saturday, June 11) but the photo was taken on Monday, June 6. Cathy and I took the day off work today and the day was basically dedicated to getting Dorothy to the airport and on her way. We left home at about 11:30 and had no trouble getting to the airport. The airport in general was not crowded and the line at the Aeroflot counter in particular was not long so we didn’t have to wait more than about 15 minutes to check her one bag. We had plenty of time before her flight and as usual, I looked around for interesting views of Dulles.
The signs for the security entrance to the gates said there was only a ten minute wait so we sat and chatted a little while before Dorothy headed off for the first leg of her four leg journey to Turkey. Her first flight was by far the longest, going over the north Atlantic (and directly over Iceland) to Moscow. That’s a new country for Dorothy and she was happy to be able to add it to her list. After sitting with her a little while, we saw her off to the secured area of the airport and were home for a while before she boarded an Airbus 330-300 and her adventure began.
Oh, and FYI, I only took two-thirds of the second of these pictures. Cathy took the picture of me that has been edited into the one I took of Cathy and Dorothy.
As mentioned yesterday, we drove up to get Dorothy from school. Today we brought here home. Actually, for the first 225 miles, she brought us home (i.e., she was driving). That freed me up to take a few pictures. We like the Merritt Parkway pretty well although there usually seems to be at least one stretch each way where traffic slows for repairs or an accident. The 69 original bridges on the 37 mile parkway (42 bridges cross over and the parkway crosses on another 39) were designed by George L. Dunkelberger and built between 1934 and 1940. Each bridge is different. Currently many of them are in serious need of repair and a few are encased in wood to protect motorists from falling debris.
The bridge pictured here is one of my two favorites and carries Madison Avenue in Trumbull, Connecticut. It is located between exits 47 and 48 near milepost 30, at 41° 13′ 54.5″ N, 73° 13′ 55.4″ W.
I’ve posted a similar picture before but this is all I really have for today.
Cathy and Dorothy spent much of the day in the country while I was at work. Then in the evening we drove to Reagan National Airport (DCA) to see her off. She’s returning to school after a four-day weekend for Easter. In a little over six weeks her first year in college will be over and we’ll have her home again for a few weeks before she’s off again for the summer. It was really nice having her here these last few days, even if they were too short.
As to the airport itself, we are blessed by having three very nice airports in our area (BWI, IAD, and DCA), all about the same distance from home. It means we’re much more likely to be able to find a direct flight to wherever we’re going. They all have their pluses and minuses but I’d say BWI is probably my favorite. Still, National and Dulles are pretty nice, too, and this spacious terminal is much better than the National Airport as it was when I was growing up.
On our Annual Museum Outing (Tuesday, December 29, 2015), Dorothy, Karlee, and I visited the newly reopened Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and I posted quite a few pictures from that outing. Cathy was quite busy at work, as she usually is before and for a while after year-end. Because of that she was not able to join us for that trip. Today Cathy and I braved the cold February weather and along with my mom (Dot) we went to the Renwick. I’ve picked some pictures that I hope are enough different to those I posted last time. But of course they will be similar.
It the first picture, Cathy and Dot are posing in Shindig by Patrick Dougherty, who weaves “enormous pods that offer discovery and sanctuary to visitors“ with “willow osiers and saplings.”
Our favorite room is the second one, which features an installation called Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe. It is made from hundreds of thin, colored threads stretched between hooks on the floor and on the ceiling. In addition to the beautifly rainbow colors, we found the interference patterns of the threads quite lovely. here the red threads in the foreground come together and let the yellow and green show through more clearly in a narrow band that moves up and down as you move along. For anyone interested, from each hook, there appear to be 24 threads running up to the ceiling (or 12 loops over the hook). This took a little time and probably a serious amount of patience.
My second favorite room, although not to everyone’s liking, is In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus. Otherwise known as “the bug room.” My photo last time was a detail of a skull, made up predominately of electric blue beetles from New Guneau (from the genus Eupholus for which you should do a Google image search, seriously). This time, I’m giving you a more overall view of the room, so you can see all the patterns the artist, who is a textile artist (along with being into bugs).
We saw all the exhibits, of course, and I took over 200 pictures, so this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. From the Renwick we went to the National Gallery of Art because we wanted to see an exhibit called “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World.” If you have the slightest interest in Greek history, in sculpture, or art in general, I highly recommend this exhibit, which will be at the National Gallery through March 20 (so go soon).
I think my favorites in the collection are a Medallion with Athena and Medusa, 200 – 150 BC, from the Archaeological Museum, in Thessaloniki; a Portrait of a Man, c. 100 BC from the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens; and the Portrait of a Poet (“Arundel Head”), c. 200 – 1 BC; from the British Museum, London. Don’t be tempted to look for pictures and leave it at that. They are much more beautiful in person.
As is usual for these special exhibits, photography is not allowed, so I don’t have a picture to show you. Instead you will have to settle for another picture of the gallery’s rotunda.
Dorothy and Karlee met in fourth grade and had only that one year together at the same school. Half way through that year, though, I took the two girls downtown and we went ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Ice Rink and then went to the gallery itself. I took the picture to the right, which is Four Dancers, by Edgar Degas, and modified it a little, replacing two of Degas’ dancers with two of my favorites. That was December 27, 2005. It seems like yesterday.
The girls have grown up in the ten years since then and despite being at different schools starting the next year and being in different states a few years later, we have managed to keep in touch and (I’m happy to say) Dorothy and Karlee remain very good friends. This is in part through two annual trips that have become quite a tradition. Starting that next summer, Karlee came with us to the beach. She’s been with us at the beach every year we’ve gone (we didn’t go in 2007 or 2009) until this year, when she couldn’t make it. Dorothy didn’t come this year, either, so it might have been a bit awkward. We were only there two nights, in any case, coming home early.
The other trip was our annual trip downtown. We didn’t make it every year and Karlee wasn’t with us every year we did go (and once we went to Baltimore, instead of D.C.). Actually, after that first trip in 2005, Karlee didn’t go downtown with us again until 2012. However, she has gone with us every year since then and I was so happy when we asked her if she was up for it this year and she seemed excited to go. In general we drive down and park in what seems an outrageously expensive parking garage. Then we walk. Sometimes we walk a lot.
In 2012 we went to the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, and finally Union Station. You can see some pictures from that in the post titled Union Station, Friday, December 28, 2012.
In 2013 we walked to the Freer Gallery and were particularly impressed with the Peacock Room. Also, they had the Washington Gospels on exhibit. Also known as Codex Washingtonianus, it is the third-oldest Greek parchment manuscript of the Gospels in the world (late 4th–early 5th century). From there we went to the Pension Building (a.k.a. the National Building Museum) and the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery (which share a building just south of the Verizon Center). There are two picture from that trip in the post titled Freer Gallery and Pension Building, Monday, December 30, 2013.
Finally, last year, we went to the National Archives and saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, as well as a 1297 copy of Magna Carta, which was about to begin celebrating its 800th anniversary. We also went to the National Gallery of Art and then walked around the U.S. Capitol building to the Library of Congress where, in addition to the magnificent Main Reading Room, we saw another copy of Magna Carta, this time one of the four originals from 1215. Two pictures from that trip are in two separate posts, titled Dorothy and Karlee At The Capitol, Wednesday, December 31, 2014 and Main Reading Room, Library of Congress, Wednesday, December 31, 2014.
This year, we went downtown without any real plan as to what we would see. As I took a wrong turn and went under the mall, ending up near the Maine Street Fish Market, we toyed with the idea of driving to Richmond instead, but we were already in D.C. so we stayed. We parked in a garage in the Evening Sun building ($21) and walked to the White House, where the first of this year’s pictures was taken. Actually, we started on the south front and then walked around the Pennsylvania Avenue, where this pictures was taken.
We backtracked a little on Pennsylvania Avenue to the Renwick Gallery (at 17th and Pennsylvania) where we saw a number of interesting exhibits, some of which are shown in my pictures here. First was Shindig by Patrick Dougherty, who weaves “enormous pods that offer discovery and sanctuary to visitors“ with “willow osiers and saplings.” It was a difficult exhibit to photograph for a number of reasons, including the low light levels, the crowds of people, and of course the shear size of the exhibit. The two pictures here give you some idea. In the second one, you can see that I had to time my photograph between people walking past (and almost made it!).
Following that, in the next room, was a piece called Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe. It was a rainbow of color made with thread and light and was quite beautiful. Perhaps not as stunning as a real rainbow but less fleeting and still quite lovely.
After that there was an exhibit made of index cards stacked into giant pillars like the rock formations found in Bryce National Park (only without the color). I didn’t include a photo of that, but I found it quite compelling (if a little odd). I particularly liked the monochrome aspect of it combined with splashes of color from the people walking in an around the piers. After that we went upstairs to a large room housing 1.8 by Janet Echelman. It was a large net suspended from the ceiling and colored by lights that cycled slowly through a variety of colors. I particularly enjoyed watching people watching the colors change, especially those lying on the floor with their camera phones aimed up at the netting.
From there was Middle Fork (Cascades) by John Grade, a large “tree” lying on its side and suspended from the ceiling by wires. It was hollow and interesting and kind of odd but I liked it well enough. Getting into that room took a little bit of waiting but it was worth it for the room that came after. Well, there was a map of the eastern seaboard with the water represented by pale blue-green marbles, fastened to the floor and walls. That was alright, I guess, but it didn’t really excite me.
There was also a sort of maze-like thing made from black leather strips. Eh.
But I really enjoyed In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus. It was a room with bright pink walls covered with designs made from a wide variety of insects. I really liked that room. The color, the patterns on the wall, the fact that they were bugs and sometime huge bugs, was really nice. Worth the price of admission by itself (of course the exhibit was free!).
From the Renwick we walked to the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery and then to the National Gallery of Art. The final picture for today was taken in the Portrait Gallery and is of a very stern Alexander Graham Bell with Dorothy and Karlee trying to imitate his “dad face.”
All in all, we had a great time. We were tired but satisfied with our outing and look forward to doing it again next year (God willing).
It’s been really nice to have Dorothy home, even if only for a few days. It wasn’t a particularly promising day, weather-wise, today, but Cathy, Dorothy, and I took a chance and went to Great Falls late this morning. We were not alone and it was fairly crowded, at least for late November. Still, we had a great time, walking out to the overlook on Falls Island and then climbing up and over the rocks on Rocky Islands, below the falls. This is from a place we call Sandy Beach, looking towards the north end of Rocky Islands.
It was a rainy morning and early afternoon today. I had planned to have a photo shoot with Iris and Seth but because of the weather we postponed that until tomorrow. I had also arranged to visit our friend, Julia later in the afternoon. Since that wasn’t necessarily an outdoor activity, we met and planned to have a late lunch. We took a wrong turn, however, and ended up taking a walk along Grist Mill Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park (and having an early dinner, instead). The fall color isn’t completely gone but it is certainly past peak.
We’ve made the trip to north of Boston twice now. That means four chances to stop at Rockland Bakery in Nanuet, New York. We have taken advantage of that opportunity all four times. It is becoming ‘a thing.’ I posted a picture from our second visit, on the way home from our first time up to school (Sunday, August 23, 2015). If you happen to be heading to or from New England and crossing the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge, the bakery isn’t going to be very far out of your way. It’s worth it for the smell, alone. They, if you buy nothing else, pick up a hot bagel off the conveyor and buy some cream cheese butter to go with it. You won’t regret it, I promise (unless you have celiac disease, I suppose, in which case, maybe not).
Earlier in the week, the forecast had been for Hurricane Joaquin to have made landfall and be dumping huge amounts of rain all up the eastern seaboard. As it turned out, the European Center for Medium range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) forecast model had the best track and the storm moved north well out to sea. We had a beautiful, if somewhat breeze and mostly cloudy day. We drove up to Portland, Maine with Dorothy and two of her friends. After wandering around in downtown Portland and stopping for donuts (at The Holy Donut) and lunch (Andy’s Old Port Pub), we went to Fort Williams Park and Portland Head Light.
Dorothy only has one class on Thursdays and it isn’t until the middle of the afternoon. So, we had an outing together this morning. We picked her up from school and drove up to Wingaersheek Beach on the west side of the Annisquam River inlet. It was very windy today, more so even than yesterday, and cool, probably somewhere in the mid 50s. But beautiful for all of that.
We walked out on the sand and around the rocks on the north end of the beach. The tide was pretty far out but had turned and was coming in. From there we drove to Essex and had lunch at Woodman’s, a “quintessential New England clam shack is where, in 1916, ‘Chubby’ Woodman invented the fried clam.”
Dorothy had classes today until after 3:00 p.m. so we were on our own most of the day. We drove south through Salem to Fort Sewall on Marblehead peninsula. It was sprinkling a little when we got there but it stopped and the sky had blue patches and it was quite lovely most of the time. The wind was up and it was great to hear the waves crashing on the rocks below. We also drove around to Chandler Hovey Park and Lighthouse Point on the other side of the harbor and were there when the rain really came in strongly and we had to rush back to our car.
Today was our first full day in Massachusetts. We drove up yesterday, arriving in the early afternoon, and spent the rest of the afternoon getting settled. In the evening we went to the Catacombs service that Dorothy participates in and enjoyed it very much. Because it is a week day, Dorothy had classes today. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are her busy days with three classes ending at about 3:00 p.m. Cathy and I drove to Gloucester this morning and wandered around the downtown area. We might have visited the Cape Ann Museum but it’s closed on Mondays.
We went south west of town to Stage Fort Park. The park is the historic site of Gloucester’s first settlers in 1623. We we climbed onto the huge rock that is the most obvious feature of the park, after reading the plaque embedded in it’s front. The first picture posted here is from the top of that, looking down over Half Moon Beach and the old fortifications.
We picked up Dorothy after her afternoon class and then drove back out through Gloucester to Rockport, northeast of Gloucester. We first went to the harbor and took in ‘Motif No. 1’ on Bradley Wharf. It is a “replica of a former fishing shack well known to students of art and art history as ‘the most often-painted building in America.’” I guess I see why it’s so often painted, but these things tend not to live up to their names. It was first called Motif No. 1 by the American painter Lester Hornby (1882–1956).
From the harbor we drove to the old burying ground on Beach Street. According to the nearby historical marker, the plot was given by the first settler, Richard Tarr, who was buried here in 1732. Cathy is a big fan of old cemeteries. We also walked out onto Front Beach. As the tide was out, we could walk a good way out, looking for shells and things among the rocks on the west end of the beach. Dorothy found this hermit crab, which I was able to photograph on a seaweed covered rock.
Dorothy flew home this evening for the service tomorrow and we picked her up at Reagan National Airport. It’s been redone since the old days when it was a dark and cramped space. Terminal B is large, airy, and quite pretty. During the day, it’s quite bright, but of course, less so at night. Dorothy’s flight was delayed so we had a bit of time to kill I took some pictures showing the high, vaulted ceiling and the tall, glass wall facing the runway.
We drove home from Gordon College today, a drive of about 465 miles. Just under half way (in terms of miles, if not hours) is Nanuet, New York, home of Rockland Bakery. It’s just west of the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River. We figured fresh bagels and cream cheese would make a nice lunch and it’s hard to get them much fresher than when they are coming out of the oven onto a conveyor belt as you watch. In this picture are large rolls, also still hot from the oven, with a crunchy crust and soft crumb. It was mesmerizing to watch (and I took a short video, as well!). Behind me as I took this photo was rack upon rack of breads, muffins, and pastries of every description. If you happen to be in the area, you could make worse decisions than stopping here for a bag of bread. (http://www.RocklandBakery.com/)
Today was officially move-in day for incoming freshmen at Gordon College but because she returned from La Vida (the school sponsored camping trip) last night, she was able to move in then. That gave us some free time while the other freshmen were moving in. We went to Manchester-by-the-Sea and had a late breakfast at the Beach Street Cafe. Then we drove out to Gloucester and saw the Fisherman’s Memorial. It started to rain while we were there. We drove around a little more but mostly stayed in the car.
After that, we met some friends for lunch. We spent a little time in Dorothy’s dorm room while she unpacked and got settled in a little bit. In the evening, there were orientation events, some for Dorothy, some for us, and some together.
Let me start by apologizing for this blatant advertisement of a fast food chain. Those of you who enjoy fine dining may be aghast that we would even be close enough to a Bojangles to get a picture like this. We left the beach this morning in something of a hurry and it wasn’t a very good day for photography. By 3:00 p.m., near Petersburg, Virginia, we were a bit peckish. The truth is, we like biscuits. I’m not sure I would trust anyone who did not like biscuits. They are not particularly good for you, especially if you need to lose weight (or if you don’t want to gain weight). But there is no denying that they taste good. Especially with country ham or sausage and egg. So we stopped.
We’ve had some pretty spectacular sunrises at Ocean Isle Beach in past years. For instance, on July 31 of last year. The sunrises this year didn’t really rank up there but we only had two of them. Perhaps later in the week they were better. Nevertheless, I was up before sunrise (which was at 6:21 this morning) so I figured I should go out and take some pictures. This one turned out reasonably well. The clouds off to the right were pretty dramatic, at least.
It was ten days ago as I’m writing this, but we spent a fairly short week at Ocean Isle Beach starting today. The drive down was about as bad as it has ever been, with horrible traffic past Fredericksburg and then again approaching the Richmond bypass. Just before the bridge over the James on the bypass, the Virginia Department of Transportation had decided to close all but one lane. They were not actually doing anything, but they made a significant impact on traffic. There was another backup south of Wilmington, but we went around that.
Anyway, we made it to the beach and things are a bit more relaxed already. Cathy and I took a walk toward the pier early this evening and I took this picture, among others. I love watching the waves wash up onto the sand and then disappear again, leaving colors behind them, which then fade as the sand absorbs the last of the water.
It was our last day in Albuquerque and we were sad to be leaving. I took a few pictures of Bert and Jane’s front yard while the others visited. Robert has done a nice job of xeriscaping the front yard and has three things that I photographed and identified. First, there are small, yellow chocolate flowers (Berlandiera lyrata), a member of the Compositae (or Asteraceae) family. There is also a red yucca, or more properly redflower false yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora, which is quite nice and actually seems to be quite hardy and might be worth finding for our yard, possibly in a container. Finally, there is the plant pictured here, the yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii), which is a legume (family Fabaceae), not anything like the regular bird of paradise, which are in teh genus Strelitzia. It’s quite pretty, anyway.
David was going to pick up his and Cathy’s mom later this morning so Cathy and I had a little free time. We drove to the botanic garden, which is part, along with the zoo, aquarium, and Tingley Beach, of the Albuquerque Biopark. It is a relatively green and lush oasis in the high New Mexico desert, close to the Rio Grande and near the heart of the city. We enjoyed pretty much each of the various gardens and the two conservatories. One of the two conservatories is dedicated to Mediterranean plants and is very lush and wet. One thing they have a lot of there are sedums, of which Cathy is very fond. I particularly like them in bloom and this first photo is of a couple sedum flowers.
Cathy posed next to a large container of sedum and fern (the sedum is the brownish colored plant). We enjoyed the well established portion of the rose garden. There is a new section that looks like it was only completed this spring and the plants are still quite small but should be very nice in a year or two. The Japanese garden is lovely, although the local, southwest plants predominated, the feel was still appropriate for the name. Wood ducks and a black-crowned night heron were a nice addition.
We walked out to the farthest garden area of the park, past Heritage Farm to the Cottonwood Gallery. This is a more natural setting with all native and naturalized plants, predominated by the local cottonwood tree. They were shedding their seeds, which are attached to cottony hairs, giving the trees their common name, and covering the ground with a cottony fur. We saw a cottontail rabbit, as well, and lots of dragon- and damselflies, including this blue damselfly.
Pretty much everywhere has sunsets. Same sun, even. Some places the atmospheric conditions are generally more conducive to pretty sunsets than others, but they can be fine wherever you are, if you are fortunate. We had a lovely sunset after dinner this evening after a rainbow before dinner. This is looking southeast, actually, which generally isn’t the direction for the best sunset pictures, but when you are in a town or city, sometimes you don’t have an uninterrupted view to the west and you have to make do. This will do, I think.
Cathy and I had some free time this afternoon, along with a rental car. It was quite warm in downtown Albuquerque so I thought a quick drive up to Sandia Peak would be nice. It was considerably cooler at 10,678 ft (3,255 m) but we sure felt the altitude. It was quite hazy, particularly to the west, looking out over the city, but to the south a little less so and I got this photograph, which I think is pretty nice. You can just see the edge of Albuquerque to the right of center. We also enjoyed the wildflowers on the mountain: Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatum), Star Solomon Seal (Maianthemum stellatum), Scarlet Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), Rocky Mountain iris (Iris missouriensis), and more. There was even a wild (or feral, perhaps) clematis.
As mentioned yesterday, we took an unplanned trip to Albuquerque. We were picked up by Cathy’s brother this morning and on the way back to where he lives, we stopped to see his most recent installation. The building is the Harwood Art Center, an outreach program of Escuela del Sol Montessori. The installation is made from old fences. You cannot quite see it in this picture but just out of the frame on the left, the fence comes up out of the ground and grows to a full size fence before reaching the gate and then the building, where it sort of takes off and explodes. Artists: David Cudney, Lance McGoldrick, Christopher Blaz, and Joel Davis.
We took a fairly sudden trip to Albuquerque today, having bought the tickets yesterday. Travel days are often difficult in terms of getting photographs, because so much of the time is spent either driving or tucked away in a metal can hurtling through the air. I did manage to get a few pictures in the airport, including this one of some planes at BWI airport. As I write this, we are home again, but the next few photographs in my daily blog will be from New Mexico. By the way, in case anyone cares, I think US Airways / American Airlines is pretty pathetic in terms of customer service. If you can fly with anyone else, I recommend it. The individuals are nice. It’s not that. It’s the policies that they have to follow. Stupid.
Cathy and I went down to Richmond for Dorothy’s graduation from her intern program today. In the evening, after a brief encounter with the historic Ebenezer (inside joke), we went to Brown’s Island and enjoyed the view of the James River. We saw egrets, herons, and quite a few ospreys, both flying and sitting on nests.
After that we had a pretty good dinner of barbecue at Alamo BBQ. As we finished eating the sun was sinking in the west and the sky was lighting up. We walked up into Jefferson Park where we had a pretty good view of the sunset over Richmond.
The wedding we were here for wasn’t until 4:00 p.m. so we had the morning and early afternoon to wander a bit more. We started off with bagels at a little place on Elizabeth Street and then walked over to Broadway and down a ways on that before heading back into Chinatown, where we bought a late morning snack of dumplings and pancake at Prosperity Dumpling. It’s hard to beat four pork dumplings for a dollar.
We walked out onto the Manhattan Bridge and I took this picture of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan from there. It was a beautiful day, clear and pleasant, probably in the upper 70s (although I didn’t check).
I’ve already posted the second of these pictures on Facebook but wanted to get them here on the blog as well, and send them to Instagram. We drove up to Manhattan Friday morning for a wedding tomorrow (stay tuned for a picture of the bride and groom for tomorrow’s picture). We got here at about 1:30 and after getting settled into our hotel room we walked around a bit. Then, after another break, we headed out to find a place for dinner. We decided on Italian and since we were on the edge of Little Italy, we thought that would be a good choice. As it happens, a bunch of the streets in Little Italy are closed to all but pedestrian traffic on weekends throughout the summer, starting today. This is the view north on Mulberry Street with the Empire State Building in the distance. As you can see, the place was hopping. We got a table at the early end of dinner time, which was nice because we hadn’t had lunch. Not the cheapest place in the world but pretty good food.
After dinner we walked north a little bit and then east, heading out onto the Williamsburg Bridge. Traffic into town was pretty backed up but of course we were on foot, so that didn’t make any difference. There was a fair amount of bicycle traffic heading towards Brooklyn. The sun was setting in the west and it’s a bit tricky to get a picture of the bridge because of the fence and girders to keep people from climbing up onto the bridge. Past the bridge tower I was able to look up and see the tower.
This picture turned out quite well, I think. Both pictures for this post were actually three exposures taken in rapid succession and three different shutter speeds (one under exposed, one as metered, and the last over exposed). Then, I have software that combines the three into a single image, allowing a much greater amount of dynamic range, which is why the process is called High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.
To get really good pictures of a place you normally need to be there for an extended period, but I think I managed to get two pretty reasonable pictures today, which makes me pretty happy.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I went camping with some of the guys from church. When Ben (our pastor) suggested a camping trip, I mentioned that our family owns some property in Pennsylvania and it might be a good place to go. While talking about the place, I mentioned something about my niece planning to have her wedding there next year and that there was some work that needed to be done. He thought it would be great to have the guys do a bit of bush whacking. We cleared the brush growing on the inside slope of the dam around the pond as far as the overflow pipe (about half way around).
I didn’t work as hard as some of the younger guys (or as hard as the one guy there who is older than me, for that matter). Mostly I dragged the cut brush down the dam and into the woods. I also took a few breaks to take pictures, both of the guys working and of the flowers growing on the dam. While I was photographing the bluets in the first picture here, a small insect came to visit them. At first I thought it was something related to the sphinx moths but after doing a little searching I believe instead that it is a bee fly (Family Bombyliidae). Anyway, pretty neat.
After the work on the dam, cutting brush including trees with trunks up to about three inches in diameter, we did a bit of shooting. We had in our number a former county police officer as well as a few gun enthusiasts. We had a gun safety talk and then we shot the heck out of a few targets. I’m happy to say that no one was hurt, although the ground behind the targets was a bit torn up. The photo I have posted here of yours truly was taken by Joel, one of my fellow campers (thanks, Joel!). Yes, that’s one of the hated (and also much loved) AR-15s you hear so much about. I found it to be quite easily handled, much lighter and less kick than my .35 Remington, which has a significantly larger cartridge. In addition to the rifle, I also fired three handguns, a Glock .40 caliber a Glock 9mm and a Ruger .22 long. I quite enjoyed myself. Our neighbors (about a half mile away) came to see what the fuss was all about, but once they saw it was nothing untoward and it was me, not some local kids, they left us in peace (or whatever, but this clearly isn’t Maryland).
While the shooting was going on, there was some serious meat being cooked over the fire. David had brought two boneless rib roasts, which he put on a spit and wrapped with bacon. They cooked for about two hours and where between medium rare and medium when they were taken off. I have to say that while there are not many pieces of meat that I don’t enjoy, a good piece of rib cooked over an open fire is about as good as it gets. This meat was about as close to perfection as you are likely to find.
When the shooting, with its significant noise, was finished and our delicious lunch was consumed, some folks packed up for the day and headed home. It was early enough, though, and Andy and his son wanted to do a little more fishing. So, those who were still there spent a much quieter hour or so pulling bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) out of the pond. I think their chances of catching bass would have been increased with spinners rather than worms but I don’t think it made much difference to Ethan. What he caught was much less important than that he caught something. We weren’t catching breakfast, so the fact that everything was too small to eat didn’t matter. Also, the guns and their noise had made him a little nervous but the time we spent fishing in the quiet, afternoon sun was just the thing to help him relax again. I have to admit that even though I enjoyed the shooting and would do it again, I’m more likely to head out with a rod and reel for some solitude.
All in all, it was a great time. I haven’t known any of these guys for more than about five months and this weekend helped me to get to know them and them me. We need to do this again.
Some of the men from Cross Community Church went camping, up at my family’s place in Pennsylvania. We had a nice time around the fire on Friday night after a great dinner of burgers and hot dogs. Of the ten people there that evening, there were four Bens (although one of them goes by Will). Two of them are in this picture, Ben and Ben on the left, with Marc on the right. We stayed up talking until about midnight. What a way to spend a cool, spring Friday evening. It doesn’t get much better.
We happened to be up in Baltimore today. Thankfully we were there either before the riots started or were in a different part of the city. We had been downtown before 9:00 a.m. and then headed over to Federal Hill. We walked around a bit and enjoyed the art around the American Visionary Art Museum. This is a portion of the glass mosaic on the south side of the building.
From there we went out to Fort McHenry. It was a little cool and windy today but nice and we enjoyed being outdoors. From Fort McHenry we went to Elkridge and had tacos from the R&R Taqueria—a little place in a gas station that makes righteous tacos. Certainly a better day that if we had been caught up in the mayhem that went down in the city.
A third photo from today and I’ll call it quits. After wandering around Carytown for a while, we returned to Gallery Edit and the Hillside offices. James was there sitting in the front of the gallery playing the guitar. Dorothy, Kendra, and Michaela joined him there and I took some pictures. I really liked the quality of the light from the afternoon sun pouring into the big window. I also took a few more pictures of Dorothy’s art work, which should be up through the end of the month or so. If you happen to be in Richmond, give her a call and stop in to see it.
We had an early lunch this morning (or was it a very late breakfast?). We had planned to go to The Roosevelt on Church Hill. We met our friends, Rob and Susie there but it isn’t open Saturday morning. So, we found another place, called the Sub Rosa Bakery, which is just across the street. It’s a fairly small place but they were very accommodating of our large group. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend Sub Rosa. Here we have four of our group of nine. Margaret, Dorothy, Kendra, and Michaela.
When we took Dorothy back to Richmond on January 4 I paid $1.979 per gallon for gas in Fredericksburg. But that’s Virginia. Perhaps it’s at least partly a case of supply and demand but it seems that here in Maryland everything possible is done to keep prices of everything as high as possible. If I were more cynical I might suspect that Maryland (and Montgomery County) governments are trying to keep out the hoi polloi (a.k.a. riffraff). If so, they are certainly going about it the right way. I don’t really think it’s a conscious effort but so many decisions have that effect that it’s hard not to think it’s at least a little bit planned. At the very least it’s clear they simply don’t care.
Anyway, today I paid $1.959 for regular in Maryland. I don’t know that I ever expected the price to be that low here again. I’ll be driving to Richmond again before too long and I look forward to how low it might be there, but I could get used to this. Gasoline prices like this are like a tax rebate and the certainly benefit the lower end of the income scale more than the upper.
I went on a little road trip this afternoon with Sokho. After church we drove up to Flintstone and from there just across the state line into Pennsylvania. The purpose was for Sokho to see the place we went last year on our youth retreat and where we are scheduled to go again this year. There was a bit of snow on the ground but we didn’t have any trouble getting up the hill. This photo was taken from the meeting room, looking southeast towards Flintstone.
Here’s a second photo from the day Dorothy, Karlee, and I spent in D.C. After the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art we walked around the south end of the U.S. Capitol building to the Library of Congress. So many of the governmental buildings in Washington are built in earlier neoclassical style, the Library of Congress stands out as something a bit different. The main (Thomas Jefferson) building was constructed in the Beaux Arts style, a later form of neoclassicism, from July 8, 1888, to May 15, 1894.
The Library of Congress was another place Dorothy had never been and I think she was glad we went today. The main reading room is under the dome at the center of the building and it is quite impressive. Access to the interior of the room is restricted to those doing research, with the exception of a viewing area up a flight of steps on the west side of the room. That is where this photograph was taken and it does a pretty good job of showing you the extent of the room. Somewhat surprisingly, after seeing a copy of Magna Carta from 1297 in the National Archives, we saw a second, one of the four originals from 1215, in the Library of Congress. It is here in celebration of its 800th anniversary in 2015.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Karlee came over and today I took Dorothy and her downtown for our annual museum trip. We parked near the National Archives and because neither of them had been there before, we went in (after a brief stop for coffee). In addition to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, we saw a copy of Magna Carta from 1297.
From the Archives we went to the National Gallery of Art, one of my favorite places in Washington. We enjoyed sculpture and paintings from various periods and of various styles, stopping for a while in the rotunda, which Dorothy describes as her favorite room in the United States. It somehow manages to be grand and at the same time human-sized.
We left the art museum and headed around the U.S. Capitol building, stopping for this picture of Dorothy and Karlee in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool and the Capitol Building, the dome of which is being renovated through the end of 2015 (and into the next on the interior).
I drove to Virginia to pick up Dorothy for Thanksgiving this afternoon. I left a bit early because I knew that traffic was going to be a problem. I also knew that she would not be ready to leave until about 5:30, so I was going to have to find something to occupy my time until she was ready. I decided to stop by the Virginia Aviation Museum at the Richmond International Airport.
My post for Sunday, February 16, 2014 was of an SR-71 Blackbird, on loan to the museum from the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. I thought it might be nice to see what else they have and it’s a nice little collection. This plane, a 1936 Vultee V-1AD Special, was custom-built in 1936 for William Randolph Hearst, Sr. and is the only known surviving V-1AD in the world.
For lunch on Sunday we went to a little place called Perly’s, on Grace Street. It’s a restaurant and deli that’s been a Richmond landmark for more than 50 years. In September, 2013 it closed, but then reopened September 2, 2014, the same day that we took Dorothy down to Richmond for her internship year. The new owners reworked the menu, but it’s still a comfort food type place. We had a table in the back, which was fine with us, and both the service and the food were terrific. This is Dorothy, Katy, and Cathy waiting for our table (which took less than 5 minutes).
Big day today. We drove Dorothy to her new home for the next nine months or so, dropping her off in Richmond. All went well and we had no trouble with traffic except the last few miles, because it was morning rush hour by the time we arrived. Dorothy got settled into her new room, we met a few of her apartment mates, and we ran a few errands. Many of the old brick buildings have ghosts of painted signs on them but I noticed this one that’s not quite dead yet.
I have a largish collection of pictures to post for today but I’m putting them in a single post, because they were all taken at the same place. When we were at the beach few years ago we went to the Green Swamp, north of Supply, North Carolina, because of an article I happened to see in Smithsonian magazine. The article was about Venus flytraps and this is one of the places to which they are native. We had a mostly good experience on that first visit, although we learned a few important lessons, not the least of which is that there are significant biting insects there. Hey, it’s a swamp, it’s going to have bugs.
Mostly we go for the plant life. The main attraction is the collection of carnivorous plants, including but no limited to the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). My first picture above is a meadow beauty (Rhexia virginica) and they are scattered around the swamp, particularly the first areas you walk through when leaving the small parking area on NC 211. After walking on a boardwalk through the first pocosin, a heavily wooded wetland area, into the next area of (higher and dryer) long-leaf pine savanna, there are Venus flytraps. The are a little hard to find until you’re found a couple and really know what to look for. Then you start to see them everywhere.
Back to the biting insects a bit. Many of the pitcher plants have a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) living on or around them. Because the plants attract insects, it’s a particularly good place for a spider to live, especially one that doesn’t spin a web and hunts for insects “the old fashioned way.” This is the top of a pitcher plant, there is a piece of leaf called an operculum which acts as a hood to the pitcher. Apparently there isn’t a lynx spider on this one, or this mosquito would probably not have lasted so long. Usually I don’t let mosquitoes hang around without being swatted but this one posed for me very nicely. As long as it didn’t land on me, I decided I would let it live. (UPDATE—2014/08/14: This has been identified as a male Ochlerotatus atlanticus. I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath to learn that.)
I did see lynx spiders, though. Both on pitcher plants and on this thistle bud. I like this picture for it’s color and simplicity. These spiders are quite ferocious looking up close, with spines all over their legs and their bright green color, which makes them a bit difficult to see sometimes, as they blend in with their leafy surroundings.
When I got my camera set up, this one moved around to the far side of the thistle bud. I few gentle movements with my finger convinced her to move around to the camera side, however. I did take a few closer pictures that show more detail of the spider but I thought I’d go with this longer view, showing the whole flower. We also saw them on pitcher plants and I took some pictures of that, as well, but they didn’t turn out as nicely as this one, I think.
Here’s a wide angle view of the long-leaf pine savanna we were walking through. In this area are the eponymous long-leaf pines, of course. The most common plant is grass and since we came early this year, it was still quite wet with dew. Our pant legs were soaked long before we got this far into the swamp. You cannot really see them well in this picture but the yellow pitcher plants are scattered through the grass, reaching up through it. The smaller purple pitcher plants are harder to find, because they only grow about six inches tall, at most. Their flower stalk is usually the first thing you see, being much taller than the pitchers.
On the way out of the swamp we stopped by the pond near the parking area to take pictures of pitcher plants. They grow in the very wet area right on the edge of the pond. They may grow in other areas of the swamp but this is the only place we’ve seen them. They are quite small and it really helps to know what you’re looking for. The leaves of this spoonleaf sundew (Drosera intermedia) are only about 5mm across and the whole plant not much more than 4cm. They have very small, white flower, as well, but I didn’t get any pictures of them this year.
While I was taking pictures of the sundew, the others were enjoying a blue dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) who kept landing on the same twig, making it fairly easy to get close enough for a good picture. After they all had their pictures, they let me have a turn and I got this one, which I like pretty well.
So, another trip to the Green Swamp of North Carolina. If you go, try to pick a cool day and go early, before the sun gets too hot (we were done by 9:30 and it was starting to heat up by then). Put on a lot of deet-based bug repellent and be ready to swat those that ignore it. I prefer long trousers and sleeves, even though it’s hot, because of the bug protection. But be sure to bring a camera, because there’s lots to see.
We had a longish day today, enjoying ourselves with the kids at camp this morning and then working for a few hours at a thrift store warehouse. In the evening we went to the Logan Square area. Do you know Logan Square? It’s the circle about half way between the Museum of Art and City Hall. Or it looks like a circle, but it’s a circle in a square. Anyway, that’s not really important now.
We had made some extra bagged meals and we were there to share them with people. There was a Shakespeare production of some sort being performed behind the Shakespeare Memorial (which seems like a good place for it). Across the street, around the fountain and in the park between the fountain and the Franklin Institute there were various people on benches. We divided up into groups. Katie, Shelly, and I chatted a while with one woman who had just gotten a phone call from her son saying he was on his way home from Afghanistan. She was pretty happy about that.
We also talked with a man named John. He was just a little younger than myself but was much more fit. He had been doing handsprings earlier, just to keep limber. We talked about the struggles of being homeless, not knowing if it was going to rain, and about young people who wouldn’t just let him be. We shared some food with him and a few others before the evening got too far along. I did pause early on for a few pictures of the fountain, which I think turned out pretty well, considering I didn’t have a tripod.
I alluded to this in yesterday’s post, with the pictures of cookies that Cathy made. Today, I drove a van to Philadelphia. Along with another adult leader (Hannah), I had eight members of our high school youth team from church (Anna, Barry, Dorothy, Nate, Sara, Shelly, and Suzy). We were there for a week, working with an organization called Center for Student Missions. On the first night, after dinner at an Indian restaurant, we toured the city, not so much looking at the historic landmarks, but focusing on the needs of Philadelphia. We ended on a hill overlooking the city and I took this picture (handheld ISO 6400, 1/50 sec. f/3.5).
I thought I’d post a second set of picture for today in addition to those I posted from downtown Richmond. After we walked around a little downtown, we drove out to Maymont. From Wikipedia:
Maymont is a 100 acre Victorian estate and public park in Richmond, Virginia. It contains Maymont Mansion, now a historic house museum, an arboretum, formal gardens, a carriage collection, native wildlife exhibits, a nature center, and Children’s Farm.
In 1893, Major James H. Dooley, a wealthy Richmond lawyer and philanthropist, and his wife, Sallie, completed their elaborate Gilded Age estate on a site high above the James River. According to their wishes, after their deaths Maymont was left to the people of Richmond. Over the next 75 years, additional attractions were added.
The first picture here is the mansion, up on the bluff overlooking the James River (as mentioned in Wikipedia). It really is beautifully situated and it’s a remarkably nice park. Many of the attractions are closed on Mondays, so we were not able to go into the mansion, for instance, but the grounds are open daily and that was enough for us.
We started by walking down past most of the animal exhibits to the Japanese garden. While this can’t be the best time of year to see the garden, we really enjoyed it and would recommend it highly. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you visit in the summer, when it is quite hot, getting from the Japanese garden back to the parking area is going to be a lot more tiring. There is a tram that runs, which would take care of that, but again, not on Mondays.
The other three pictures are of birds (obviously). The first two are in aviaries, the third was a wild mallard on one of the ponds in the Japanese garden. I also enjoyed the collection of trees on the property, including quite a few very large Lebanon cedars (Cedrus libani) and some pretty impressive bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). My favorite two tress, however, were a golden Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Tetragona Aurea’) and a very large incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens). I have three of the later planted along the fence in my back yard and it was nice to see such a big version of what they can become.
We spent a little while this morning in downtown Richmond. Yesterday, as we were driving through town on the way to the James River, Cathy noticed a building down a side street that looked like it had a milk bottle on the corner. Not an actual glass bottle, of course, but the building was built to look like there was a giant milk bottle at each corner. Last night I did a little searching on Google maps and found it, so I’d know where to go today. This morning we went back and found it.
It turns out to have been the Richmond Dairy Company at one time and there are milk bottles on all four corners. This bottle, on the south corner, is the only one that it labeled and it’s the largest of the three (I’m not sure if there ever was one on the fourth corner, but I assume so). The building has been converted to apartments and added on to, which explains the missing fourth bottle. I’m glad they had the sense to keep the other three milk bottles, though.
We walked around a few blocks and I took a few more pictures. On the left is Gallery 5, formerly Steamer Co. No. 5. On the right is a ghost sign for the Jefferson Saloon, purveyors of whiskey, wine, liquor, and cigars.
Cathy and I took a little outing today, driving across the bay bridge and onto the eastern shore. Just east of Kent Narrows and south of US 50 is the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC). It’s a small, private, wildlife preserve and education organization. Back in 2004 I went there with Brady and Albert for a day-long course on raptors. Two hawk and one owl picture from that day are among my favorites at HartleyPhoto. The CBEC owns approximately 510 acres of land and it’s a good place to see bay wildlife. Of course, the middle of January isn’t necessarily the best time of year for that but it was quiet and pretty and we only saw a few other people. Of course, it was about 26°F (-3°C) and the wind was 15 to 20 mph, so it was a bit chilly. For those of you thinking the question, the answer is yes, I did wear a jacket. On the Marshy Creek Trail as we neared the lake, there were some wet areas that provided great reflections and that’s what I posted for today’s picture. After that, and a brief stop on Kent Island, we went into Annapolis for a hot meal at Chick and Ruth’s Delly.
Dorothy left for Boston this evening. Well, technically she left for Wenham, northeast of Boston, but her flight was to Boston’s Logan Airport. She has an interview at Gordon College scheduled for tomorrow, as well as plans to sit in on one or two classes. Of course, I’m posting this on Sunday and she left on Thursday, so tomorrow was the day before yesterday, as I write this. The interview went well and she enjoyed the classes. We don’t know if this is where she’ll end up, but she could do worse. Here’s a picture of Dorothy at BWI before her first airline flight with no one else that she knows. She’s flown without us a few times and once with her friend’s brother on the same plane, but this time, she’s really solo. All went well, I’m happy to report.
As vacations always do, our time in England had drawn to an end. I think we were all ready to be home again but had enjoyed ourselves immensely. For all but Cathy and me, this was everyone’s first trip to England, so everything was new. Cathy and I got to see a lot of things we hadn’t seen before and were happy to revisit those few places we had been. The weather was wonderful and even our rainy day in the Lake District was fun, ranking pretty high in everyone’s reckoning, I think.
On Monday, August 19 we checked out of the hotel and made our way to Terminal 3 at London’s Heathrow Airport. We got checked in, made our way through the frontal assault of the duty free zone (although free samples of whisky was something I don’t see very often), and got to our gate. The flight home was less uncomfortable than on the way, mostly because I was on an aisle this time. Because it was a daytime flight none of us really bothered to try to sleep. It’s a little weird being on a plane for over 8 hours but you arrive only three and a half hours after you left.
Since there were no real sights to be seen today, I leave you with two pictures of the seven people who spent these last two weeks with me. Thanks for your patience when I made a wrong turn or got us turned around. I’d travel with you all again any time (especially Cathy and Dorothy, of course).
I labeled this post Cambridge but really it was a driving day rather than a sightseeing day. We stopped for lunch with friends on the way down the A1, which was a great treat. I should mention that today was our 29th anniversary and we considered that visit with friends and a nice meal a good way to celebrate. Thanks, Teresa and David, and God bless you.
Then we stopped briefly in Cambridge so Dorothy could see the house I lived in during our year there, during the school year of 1971-72. The house has changed a bit. The portion with the eaves part way up is a new addition and the first window to the right of that is where the door used to be. Otherwise, the street looks very much as it did. The butcher shop is still there and they seem to have added fruit and vegetables to their wares.
We tried to drive through Cambridge but if you’ve done that recently, you know it’s not a winning proposition. You really need to park and walk but we didn’t have the time for that. The four of us in our car got a glimpse of King’s College Chapel but only because we know were and when to look. We headed back onto the highway and down to London, checking into the hotel at the airport and returning our cars.
Each day of our trip to England had a character all its own and today was no exception. Mostly the character was determined by what we saw and that was true on day 12 but the weather played a bigger part today than it had on any other. It had rained a few times but it never really affected our plans, until today. It was raining when we got up and it continued to rain throughout the day.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, some days you see things that you want to see and other days you see things someone else wants to see. Today, our first stop was totally for me and I’m grateful that the others were willing to see it with me. My great, great, great grandfather, William Hartley, (born 1778) lived in the little town of Torpenhow for at least part of his life. We visited the church of Torpenhow, called St. Michael and All Angels. It’s a pretty little church with portions (notably the semi-circular arch on the right in this picture) dating to the early 12th century.
Our original plan had been to go for a bit of a tramp in the Lake District. The rain continued to come down, however, and that wasn’t going to happen. From Torpenhow we drove to Buttermere, a pretty, little lake in a pretty, little valley. We made our way to the car park where we would have started our hike, stopping a couple times to enjoy the view. We could barely see across the lake and couldn’t see the top of the hill we had talked about climbing. We turned back and headed through Newlands Hause, north of the town of Buttermere stopping briefly at the pass. Only the nutty Hartleys got out to get “a better view.” You can just make out the waves of rain, lashing from right to left across this photo of Moss Force.
We went to Keswick, which was a bit crowded with people who, like us, were brought in out of the rain. Still, we found parking spaces and took this opportunity to enjoy a proper afternoon tea. It’s something you want to do when you visit England but the timing hadn’t worked out up until now. It was also a nice thing to do on a rainy, windy day. Bryson’s Tea Room turned out to be the ideal place, as well. We ordered “tea for two” times four (since there were eight of us) and were happy to have warm tea, savory sandwiches, rich, creamy sweets, and (as much as anything) a comfortable place out of the rain.
After our yummy meal, we wandered around the shops in Keswick for a while. It was still raining but we decided to visit one more Lake District beauty spot before heading back to our hotel. We drove up the narrow road on the east side of Derwent Water to the hidden vale of Watendlath, with its beautiful little tarn and rushing beck (which was seriously rushing today) passing under a stone packhorse bridge. It was still coming down pretty steadily but I think everyone was happy to have visited and seen what view could be seen, which made up for in beauty what was lost in distance.
All in all, it was very little like what had been planned but everyone agreed that it had been a good day.
This post is titled “England: Day 11, Edinburgh” but we were actually in Scotland. We drove from our hotel in Gretna down to Carlisle, where we caught the train to Edinburgh for the day. Opinions of the day were mixed. Personally, besides the necessary driving days, this was my least favorite day of the entire trip. From my perspective, going to Edinburgh during the festival is a good idea only if you aren’t interested in seeing Edinburgh. First, the streets, the castle, and the entire place is jammed with people. I’m talking “make London seem quite” full of people. Second, you cannot see the castle from the Royal Mile and you cannot see the Royal Mile from the castle. They put up a temporary (but still very substantial) stadium around the esplanade below the castle and that’s all you really see. There are good people watching opportunities, evidenced by this photograph of your typical Scottish accordionist (playing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, by the Beatles), but you don’t need to go all the way to Scotland to see interesting people. So, this is one day I would have rather been doing something else. Still, when you travel with others, you see a mix of things. One day you see something you want to see, other days you see something someone else wants to see. And I wouldn’t have been with a different group of people anywhere else for anything.
I’ve tried to confine myself to one picture per day or at most, one picture per major sight. Not only have I already posted a photo from the morning of day 10 (Caerlaverock Castle), I’m posting three from this location (Hadrian’s Wall). I cannot speak for anyone by myself but this was one of the high points of our trip, as far as I’m concerned. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, windy and cool. The greens were greener than they had been and we were away from the sounds of the city or even town life that had pretty much dominated our trip to this point.
Hadrian’s Wall, as you may know, was built starting in AD 122, during the rule of the Roman emperor Hadrian. It is 73 miles in length, running across northern England as a defense against the northern tribes (the Gaels and Picts).
It many places there isn’t much to see along the wall. I selected this section because I thought it would be pretty even if there had been no wall there to follow. I think that turned out to be true, although the wall did add to the ambiance. The first picture shown here is the scarp on which the wall runs. It runs from the Steel Rigg car park to Crag Lough, visible on the left. The wall runs just above the cliff and most not have needed to be very high for most of this stretch. If I were planning an attack, I think I’d have come at it somewhere else.
The second picture is of the wall as it descends from the heights to the ruins of Milecastle 39 in a gap in the scarp. The wall has forts spaced roughly a mile apart. The Roman mile (mille passuum, “a thousand paces”) is estimated to be 4,851 feet, about 0.91 statute miles.
The next gap along the way is called Sycamore Gap because of the lone Sycamore Maple tree (Acer pseudoplatanus) growing there. It’s a pretty spot and the sound of the wind blowing through the tree was a bit magical.
The changing light as the clouds raced across the sky, the dramatic cliffs to our north, the sheep peacefully grazing on the rich, green grass, all contributed to a wonderful afternoon.
Our walk took longer than expected (actually, pretty much everything we did the entire two weeks took longer than expected). That meant we missed having an afternoon tea where we had hoped to have it. We did have a nice lunch earlier at the Milecastle Inn, though. Between the castle in the morning and Hadrian’s Wall and a country hike in the afternoon, this was my favorite day of the trip.
As boys living in England, we loved castles. We loved exploring them and would pretend we were living in the middle ages. We designed castles of our own, as well. This is one of the castles we visited so many years ago. It’s actually changed a little, with some repairs having been made allowing access to more of the living area of the castle. It’s hard to tell from this photograph but the castle is triangular in shape.
Our first morning in Scotland started out raining. We decided we should go to the castle anyway, since we only have three days in the north. As it turned out, the rain stopped while we were on the way to the castle and it cleared up quite a bit later in the day. The rain contributed to the castle not having many visitors in the morning, which was an added bonus.
We walked around the Tower of London and we’ll see another castle tomorrow but this was our only “proper” ruined castle for the trip and I think everyone was glad we paid it a visit. I’ll put up another post with our other sightseeing visit for the day.
Day nine of our England vacation was a travel day and in consequence we didn’t really see much worth photographing. Although 300 miles (or a little less) isn’t a terribly long day of driving, we had pretty heavy traffic about three quarters of the way. We made pretty good time, stopping only once.
After five nights in our hotel in South Marston, we spent the next four in a Days Inn at a service area on the highway. Again, it isn’t a destination so much as a base from which we’ll take day trips.
We had dinner at The Gretna Inn, a relatively new building made to look old. Usually you can tell by the hight and regularity of the ceilings, which are much lower and never very level in the older buildings. The doors are smaller, as well.
Today we only had one destination but like Blenheim, there was a lot to see there. We took the train from Swindon to Bath since parking was going to be an issue. When we arrived we decided to take the bus tour which is actually two separate but related bus tours. There is one that goes through town and another that goes out of town. Both were useful in terms of giving us some of the history of the city but neither were particularly good in terms of actually seeing things. I think I’d give them a miss if I came again. If the bus that goes out of town stopped in a few places with good views of the city, then I’d recommend it but you only get a few momentary glimpses, which don’t really justify the time it takes.
There are three main sights we wanted to see in Bath and we started with the oldest — the Roman baths. The water isn’t particularly warm, as hot springs go, I guess that if it’s the only hot spring in England, you have to make do with what you have. If you visit, be prepared to spend a good while there, especially if you listen to the audio guides included in the price of admission (which most of our group did).
After our visit to the baths we figured we should get something to eat. We decided that since there wasn’t a long wait, we’d give the Sally Lunn Bun a try in what is claimed to be the oldest house in Bath, Sally Lunn’s House, c. 1482. The food was quite good, although I cannot say I’ve never had better. Topped with butter, cinnamon and clotted cream, it wasn’t the bun that made the difference, in any case. I think it would have tasted good on a hard crust. Still,
The picture shown here includes the baths as well as our second destination, Bath Abbey. It isn’t the biggest church but it felt more like a church than the others we’ve visited. It was, unfortunately, too late for us to climb the tower, which would have been great, so another reason to return.
Our final, dual destination was the Circus and the Royal Crescent, Georgian town houses on a circle and an arc, respectively. They are somewhat hard to photograph, but I did my best. When we had seen those, we walked back to the train station and caught the train back to Swindon. Actually, our train was canceled and they sent us to Bristol, in the opposite direction, where we caught what turned out to be the next train through Bath, so if we had stayed there, we would have been fine, but this gave us something to do.
After visiting only one place yesterday, we had a somewhat busier day today. We had four sites to visit today, somewhat spread around the countryside over a round-trip course of a little over a hundred miles.
It was a absolutely lovely day, cool and bright. We started by taking a short drive of about 10 miles to the Uffington White Horse. It is a prehistoric, highly stylized figure of a horse, formed from trenches filled with crushed white chalk. The problem is that as you get closer to it, you don’t see it from the proper angle and it looks less and less like a horse. This is the best picture I could get and you can just make out the horse. I think it needs to be seen from the air to really see it properly. It’s possible that it can be seen well from Dragon Hill, a natural chalk hill with an artificial flat top set below the horse. The hind legs are to the left, forelegs to the right, and the head is not quite visible above them on the far right. There are pictures of it from the air on Wikimedia Commons.
From there we drove south to Salisbury, about 45 miles. We found parking and walked to the cathedral, which is quite lovely (and pretty big). There is a wonderful painting of the cathedral by John Constable from about 1825 and I would have liked to have walked in the Bishop’s Grounds to the south of the cathedral, which is where he painted it from, but we had more to see today and you cannot do everything. The light was a bit tricky today, as it’s been most days, with very bright skies and sometimes shady subjects because of the clouds. This photo is what is known as an high dynamic range (HDR) photograph, made by combining three different exposures of the same image.
Before leaving Salisbury we had a nice lunch in a place called The Boston Tea Party. It is housed in the Old George Inn which apparently dates back to 1314 and in the courtyard of which William Shakespeare is said to have performed one of his plays. In England’s version of “George Washington Slept Here,” Oliver Cromwell slept here on his way to join the army, Samuel Pepys wrote about the Inn in his diary after a stay and both H. G. Wells and Charles Dickens made mentioned of it in their writings.
We drove north to Stonehenge. It hasn’t changed much in the 42 years since I was here last, although the arrangement for seeing it are a bit different. There is a small car park but that is totally inadequate for the number of visitors and a large section of the neighboring field has been turned into an extended parking area. You are not permitted to walk amid the monument itself but are restricted to a circular walk around it. In fact, you get reasonably close on one side and if it were not for the restrictions there is no way you could possibly take a picture like this, with no people showing. This was nine photographs, stitched together to make a single image. They were timed so that I had no people in the background (with a couple exceptions, which were edited out). I think it’s turned out rather well.
Our final historical stop of the day was Avebury Stone Circle, in the small village of Avebury. It was evening by the time we got there and we were not able to spend as much time as I would have liked but I enjoyed it quite a bit. The evening light was lovely. The stones in this photograph are not the largest but they form part of the northwest quadrant of a large circle of stones. We walked around this quadrant and into the northeast. It covers quite a bit more ground than Stonehenge and you can walk right up to the stones.
Rather than eat in the pub at Avebury, which had the wrong vibe for us, we headed towards “home” and stopped at The Barbury Inn in a town called Broad Hinton. We had a very friendly reception there and the food was as good as we had anywhere in the two weeks we were here.
After our country jaunt yesterday, we decided we were up for crowds again. We spent the entire day at Blenheim Palace. This largish house, built between 1705 and 1722 as the home of the Dukes of Marlborough, is the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. I don’t really see how you could call it anything else.
If you’ve seen Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 production of Hamlet (and if you haven’t, you should), then you may recognize it as Hamlet’s castle. I won’t go on about all we did today because we basically saw the house and the gardens. It’s a big place with a park landscaped by “Capability” Brown starting in 1764. The lake was created by damming the River Glyme and certainly looks natural, although it is not.
We had spent three nights in London and then moved to our second hotel. The hotel was very nice and it turned out to be ideal for the day trips we would take from it, but whenever we mentioned where we were staying, the person we were talking to would apologize for the town. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with Swindon but it I get that it isn’t exactly a prime tourist destination. Still, it’s conveniently located.
Our first day trip from there started with a visit to the ruins of Tintern Abbey, just across the Wye River into Wales. The abbey was founded in 1131. Most of the existing structure was built in the late 13th century and the abbey was abandoned in 1536 upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the orders of King Henry VIII (not our favorite Henry). It’s in a lovely site and well worth the visit, especially if you’ve been in cities for four days beforehand. It was a wonderfully beautiful, cool, English day with bright sunshine competing with cloudy shade off and on. The color of the light in the ruins was ever-changing and lovely.
From Tintern we drove north through the Forest of Dean, over to Gloucester, down to Cirencester, and then east to the little village of Bibury, in the Cotswold hills. The Cotswolds are known for the honey-coloured stone buildings and Bibury is a particularly popular example of a Cotswold village. I was a bit worried about finding parking spaces for our two cars but we were blessed to find two, next to each other, right in the center of town.
We enjoyed walking in the late afternoon along Arlington Row and up Awkward Hill (I’d really love to live somewhere named Awkward Hill). We walked a short way on a public footpath to the edge of town and then back by a different route. We all enjoyed being outdoors and in the country instead of in London or even Oxford. We all agreed that we’d go back and spend more time in the Cotswolds, if we had the chance.
After our third night in London we picked up two rental cars and headed out of town. If you’ve never driven in England, it’s a bit hair raising at first (and possibly at second, as well). First and most obvious is that they drive on the left. Second, shifting with your left hand takes some getting used to. Third, many roads are quite narrow. That’s true both in London, where the narrowness is often because of parked cars, and in the countryside, where the roads are between two banks or walls. Anyway, it takes some getting used to. Fortunately, we found English drivers to be much more courteous than American drivers, at least American drivers where we live.
We headed out of London toward Oxford, parked in a Park and Ride lot and took the bus into town. Parking in Oxford might have been possible but this removed the hassle. By the time we got there (including a bit more walking that we expected, because I had us get off the bus too soon) it was time for lunch. The Turf Tavern had been recommended to us and we found it to be a very friendly and comfortable place. We enjoyed a quiet meal out on the terrace. The burgers were cooked “well done” but were otherwise good.
We walked around town, stopping at a largish bookstore, going into the courtyard of the Bodleian Library, etc. We walked north to St. John’s College, where my great Uncle Ralph earned a B.A. degree in 1912 and a B.Sc. degree in 1913. My grandfather (Uncle Ralph’s older brother) was there from 1907 until 1910 and I had assumed he went to the same school but it turns out he went to Exeter. Since I didn’t find that out until we were home, we didn’t make a special visit, but I did get a picture of the Exeter Chapel from the tower of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin.
Some of our group went to visit New College, while the rest of us went up the church tower. It gave a good view and was well worth the small fee and tight stairs. Dorothy was a bit put out by the close quarters both getting up and at the top but she was glad she went up.
We took the bus back to where we had parked our cars and then drove the 30 miles or so to our hotel. The hotel was quite nice but I would recommend eating elsewhere if you have the chance.
On our third and final day in London we got out a bit earlier. We had breakfast at a bakery around the corner from our hotel and then caught a bus to near Harrods department store. We spent about an hour wandering around the store.
From there we took a bus to Victoria Station and then walked past Westminster Cathedral to Westminster Abbey. The line to get in the Abbey was fairly long (did I mention that August isn’t the best time to visit London?) but there was nothing for it but to join the queue and wait.
It was pretty crowded inside, as well. No photography is allowed in the abbey, which is probably just as well, when you consider how slowly people were moving without taking pictures. Most of our group listened to the audio guides but Dorothy and I satisfied ourselves with reading the monuments themselves. While I’m certainly glad we went, I’m not as thrilled with Westminster Abbey as I am with some other churches I’ve visited. It’s more a shrine to fallen men than a place to worship the God whom they ostensibly served.
After lunch in the new Cellarium cafe, which opened last year, we walked across Westminster Bridge and caught a bus to near Tower Bridge. We enjoyed the view of the bridge and the Tower of London across the river from Potter’s Fields Park. We walked across the bridge and then around the Tower, which was closed by this time.
We took a bus back to the west, passing St. Paul’s Cathedral, which we didn’t have time to see on this trip. I’ve been in but I’d love to go there again. I’m a fan of big domes. We had dinner near Covent Garden and the returned to our hotel, again via Trafalgar Square. Buying Oyster cards before leaving home turned out to be a good idea. We certainly got our money’s worth out of them.
We got off to a late start this morning because everyone was so tired. We left the hotel at about 11:30, had breakfast and then caught a bus to near the British Museum. That was high on everyone’s “I really want to go there” list. It was absolutely jammed with people and it would be nice to visit again sometime other than August, but we were all still glad we went. We were there for about four hours (except I left to have a cup of coffee with a friend who was nice enough to meet me for an hour or so).
From the British Museum we took the bus to Westminster. We decided we were hungry enough that we’d like to have dinner. We ate at The Red Lion, opposite Downing Street and enjoyed a relatively quiet meal away from the crowds (somewhat surprisingly, but I guess it was a bit early for dinner for most people). After dinner we walked to Westminster Abbey but by this point is was closed. Considering how long it takes to go through, it was just as well. We had tickets for the London Eye so we walked across Westminster Bridge and got on without spending more than 15 minutes in line. It’s a nice ride providing a great view of the city and I highly recommend it.
We crossed the river again on the Hungerford Bridge, which is actually a pair of walking bridges on either side of the rail bridge that leads into Charing Cross Rail Station. We made our way to Trafalgar Square and took the requisite pictures of the girls climbing on the lions around Nelson’s Column. We took the bus back to our hotel but went to Gelato Mio a few blocks away for a nice dessert before heading to bed.
I took about 4,400 photos during our two weeks in England* and there is no way I’m going to give you a full accounting of them here. I’m too far behind as it is, for one thing. So, I’m going to post one or possibly two photos from each day and tell you a little of what else we saw that day. If you know me on Facebook, then you’ll have already seen more than enough but you might learn a thing or two about our trip here in any case. If we are not connected on Facebook drop me a line and I’ll give you a link to my best-of gallery on my private site.
Our first day in England was not a full day because it’s the day we arrived. Once we were finished at the airport we took the tube to Paddington Railway Station and checked our luggage there. We walked from there south to Hyde Park. We made our way south south east towards Buckingham Palace and as we got to Wellington Arch, just outside Hyde Park, a detachment of riders from the Blues and Royals rode through the arch, right next to us.
We continued towards the Palace and I noticed that there were a lot of people that way. We had specifically planned not to try to see the changing of the guards. It’s fun to see but it’s a lot of work and a lot of standing about in dense crowds to see it, so we figured we’d give it a miss this time. As it turns out, we got there just as it was finishing up. My internal clock said it was much later than that, but it was just before noon.
From Buck House we walked up St. James Park, taking a break to sit in the shade and rest a bit. Everyone was pretty sleepy and worn out, since at this point we’d been about 27 hours without sleep. We made our way to Trafalgar Square and then on to St. Martin-in-the-Fields, where we had lunch in the cafe in the crypt. The food isn’t very fancy but at that point, filling was more what we were looking for. We also had pretty much unlimited access to water and toilets, two essentials when traveling.
After our lunch, we caught a bus back to Paddington Station, got our bags, and took another bus to our hotel, which was near Notting Hill Gate, just to the northwest of Kensington Gardens. We took naps before going out later for dinner and then came back and called it a day.
* Actually, there were only eleven days when we were seeing sights and on which I took most of my 4,422 photographs. Day 9 we drove from the southwest to the north, day 13 we drove back to London, and day 14 we left. I took 19, 49, and 31 images on those days, respectively and averaged 393 per day on the other eleven days.
As many of you know, we went to England for two weeks this summer. Since I’m posting these after we got back, I can say with some confidence that we had a wonderful time, saw some amazing sights, and are very glad we went. We traveled with another family, Stuart and Donna and their three beautiful daughters, Hannah, Ellen, and Katie.
If it had been possible to go any time other than the month of August that would have been nice but it simply wasn’t going to happen any other time. Still, we had fabulous weather for most of the trip (and the rainy day was pretty awesome, as well). Many places we went were crowded but we managed to squeeze a wide variety of things into a relatively short time and had a good time doing it.
This trip was a long time coming. The idea for it actually came up more than a year ago and we even talked about going last summer but with the Olympics, that didn’t seem like a good idea. Last fall, though, we started talking in earnest and early this year we began making firm plans, buying tickets, booking rooms in hotels, and renting two cars for most of the time (but not London).
The date of departure finally arrived. This is one of only a few pictures I took as we left on Miss Sunshine, a Virgin Atlantic Airbus. Don’t worry, I took a few more pictures once we got there.