Tag Archives: museum

City Trek 04/14/2013

Now that we’re back home in Baltimore, we’re finding that some things don’t change. Like the fact that we only go downtown with out-of-town people.

Time was, Baltimore downtown was like a fascinating, shiny magnet drawing me southward to experience the sometimes elegant (Belvedere Hotel Owl Bar), sometimes quirky (The Horse You Came In On in Fell’s Point) nightlife. But, nightlife now consists of early evening dinners or movies with friends and relatives. All with the convenience of needing to drive no further than some suburban restaurant or theater. That way, everyone’s home by 10:00. Which used to be the hour when I was just finishing the final prep for an evening out. Bars and clubs I frequented didn’t really get hopping until midnight. (Did I really just date myself by saying “get hopping”?)

But now that I’m older, and supposedly wiser, daytime fun trumps nighttime fun. And by early evening, I’m pooped. Skiing, working, bicycling, working, hiking, cleaning, gym-going, working, gardening. All these things now use up my more limited energy.

I digress. I didn’t start this post intending to go on about my defunct nightlife.

So, lets get back to the main topic, which actually is – visiting one’s own hometown. The Maine-ahs had traveled south to check out Towson University and absorb some southern Spring weather! Snow was still on the ground up North.

We took the Light Rail to the Inner Harbor.

On the platform with Amanda and Jake in the foreground, Nancy and Brenda in the background.

On the platform with Amanda and Jake in the foreground, Nancy and Brenda in the background.

Home of the World Champion Ravens and near-World Champion Orioles, Baltimore has a beautiful waterfront.


Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Harborplace, the frigate Constellation, and our own Trade Center tower.

We did a little shopping and a little strolling, thoroughly enjoying the gorgeous day.

No agenda, just hanging out. We took a harbor boat tour.

Domino Sugar, complete with D'Amico tanker loading up.

Domino Sugar, complete with D’Amico tanker unloading the sweet stuff from the tropics.

The Domino Sugar sign is a harbor landmark. We buy Domino brand sugar just to keep the lovely neon shining over the water at night (not pictured because I was at home in my PJs by the time it was dark).

Fells Point as seen from the docks.

Fells Point as seen from the docks.

National Aquarium in Baltimore

National Aquarium in Baltimore

Baltimore Public Works Museum.

Baltimore Public Works Museum.

The Public Works museum, above, was built in 1912 as the water pumping station for Baltimore. When I was young person flouncing around the city, legend had it that this building was the City Morgue, complete with a chimney for the cremations! Reality is not nearly as dramatic as imagination sometimes.


We were very lucky to see the Pride of Baltimore II, in her home harbor between worldwide voyages. It’s a beautiful reproduction of an 1812 privateer with an education mission as well as serving as Baltimore’s ambassador to foreign ports.


The Pride of Baltimore II

Amanda outside the Under Armour store in Harboreast.

Amanda outside the Under Armour store in Harboreast.


After the harbor cruise, we came back ashore to visit the Under Armour store in Harboreast – one of the highlights for our Maine relatives who are also big Ravens fans.


Before heading home on the train, we met these happy folks, reveling in the fun side of Baltimore and gettin’ crabby.

My home town made me proud!

– Jane

Civil War History at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

A close family member is a Civil War buff. Not a reenactor, just an interested American. We visited Harpers Ferry, WV on a gorgeous, early Spring day. At 60+ degrees, we enjoyed the sunshine and warmth.


Here’s our group with David at the left and me at the right.

The East has such beautiful, old towns. Harpers Ferry is carefully preserved for all to see.




So much history! Harpers Ferry saw the skirmish with abolitionist John Brown that is said to have sparked the onset of the Civil War.


The Federal Armory firehouse where John Brown held forth. Attacked by the U.S. Marines, Brown was captured and hanged.

Inside the firehouse. It appeared so small, considering it's importance in our history.

Inside the firehouse. It appeared so small, considering it’s importance in our history.

The town, at a strategic meeting of two rivers and the railroad, was important to the war effort of both sides.

At the confluence of the Potomac (left) and Shenandoah Rivers. The railroad and two canals (the C&O and the Shenandoah) also served Harper's Ferry and connected East and West, North and South.

At the confluence of the Potomac (left) and Shenandoah Rivers. The railroad and two canals (the C&O and the Shenandoah) also served Harpers Ferry and connected East and West, North and South.

We walked the railroad bridge across the Potomac for a hike in the woods.

We walked the railroad bridge across the Potomac for a hike in the woods.

Harpers Ferry changed hands, from Union to Confederate and back again, 8 times during the War.

The town on the hill.

Harpers Ferry, WV


Lots of interesting history was revealed in the beautiful Information Center.

Some in our crew had been to Harpers Ferry before and some were seeing it for the first time. The beauty of the day belied the tragic nature of the bloody war that nearly tore our country apart. Such was the effort required to end slavery and unite the States again.

– Jane

East Does Not Meet West!

You know the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”? In other words, we believe we might like something we don’t have better than the thing we do have. Well, that old saying does not always apply to cross country travel. Why? Because, compared to the American West, the American East is definitively greener. But, no one from the West wants to go there!

We have found, on our travels throughout the country, that this is true.

People who live on the East Coast almost universally, except for those who don’t travel at all, wish to go and see the marvels of the West. The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Grand Teton, Arches, the Redwoods. The list goes on and on.

The West contains landscapes of a staggering nature. Sheer beauty so different from what Easterners are used to seeing, it’s a shock to the system. A wonderful shock, to be sure, but of high, amazing drama. And, to know that all these natural wonders belong to every American and that we hold them in trust for all to see, well, you just have to go!


And go we do! Easterners flock to the West. But, Westerners do not flock to the East. Why, I’m not totally sure. I think they’re not saying, because “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.

We frequently asked folks we met out West if they’d ever been East. “Well, no.” was the number one answer. Most folks didn’t say anything more. Except maybe: “There’s so many trees! You can’t see but a few yards away, maybe a quarter mile at the most. I feel all closed in, in the East.” or, “It’s too crowded there. Too many cars. I can’t drive in that”.

So, the only conclusion we come to is this: Westerners don’t believe there’s anything good on the East Coast. We sometimes would tell them that we “followed Fall down the East Coast”. “Oh, yes. The leaves. It must be beautiful. I might go see that someday.”. But, they haven’t yet and didn’t make any plans to do so.


But, consider these facts, my Western friends:

1. Our country began in the East. John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. All were born here and created the foundations of America here, in the East. There are buildings – whole towns – that are hundreds of years older than things out West. (That white guys built, anyway. Those Ancestral Puebloans built things long before white guys landed in the Caribbean.)


2. The American Civil War and the Revolutionary War took place on Eastern soil. There are hundreds of battlefield sites and there are structures still standing that saw the agonies of those wars. Come and learn something!


3. Our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C., sits regally on the shores of the Potomac River, waiting for all Americans to come see how our government works. There are many thrilling museums and monuments to behold and be proud of.


4. New York City. The Big Apple, huge and exciting, glitters on the Hudson.


5. Come see something moist, for heaven’s sake. The rivers, creeks, stream beds and reservoirs are full! Of water! Hard to believe, but true. The East is waterland! Down South is steamy, with hanging moss and palm trees. And very friendly people with a great cuisine. And they’ll show you how people used to live, before we found all that space, out West. Up North, you’ll find a different culture. And those famous leaves.


So, here’s an open invitation to our new, Western friends. Travel East. Stay with us and we’ll show you around the Mid-Atlantic. Just bring along some Valium – it might be too exciting!

– Jane

DAY 163 2/20/2013 A Navajo Welcome

Marfa the 4Runner had seemed to recover without event from the Transmission “Overheat” in Red Pass, Colorado.  We skied and travelled another hundred miles with no sign of that pesky red light.  Then, on a 45 degree day crossing level  desert West of 4 Corners, CO, without any big hills; there goes that light again!  Dang!  If its going “ON” now, we’ll never be able to travel in a “hot climate”.   Stop again.  Check fluid level again.  Bend the front license plate up to allow more air.  Let it cool and drive some more.


Automatic transmissions are NOT my favorite.  In fact, all of our family vehicles are “standard” 5 speeds.  One reason is that an automatic provides a black box of invisible problems that often can only be mysteriously and expensively solved.  As teens, my friends derisively called automatics, “slush boxes or washing machines”.  It is just this trait that causes problems.  By nature, there is slippage.  Slippage generates heat.  Clutches are a direct hookup.  Poor Marfa, she came off the assembly line with a 4 speed automatic and often can’t decide which gear to be in.

We drove about 30 careful miles to Kayenta, a small dot on the Arizona map deep within the huge Navajo Reservation.  She didn’t trip the light, but we just can’t be crossing hundreds of empty desert miles with our fingers crossed.  Again we saw signs for “just what we needed as we slowed into town”.  NAPA auto parts, gas stations and hotels greeted our tense bodies.

Jane and I have affinities toward the Native American cultures as well as deep concerns for their present state.  (I detest the word Reservation, and wonder what their overall feel for that is sometimes…) We posed with heads hung low for a picture back at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina.  (link) We beamed when we saw the message in that town: UNITY!  Yet with mild trepidation we parked and opened the darkly tinted and steel barred doors at the dusty NAPA in Kayenta.  A big friendly cat sat calmly on the counter.  Surely a good sign.

Another safe haven

Another safe haven

Sam, the manager and I discussed the possibility that the transmission filter may be clogged and leading to poor flow.  Marfa’s fluid has been changed twice.  Once at home and the other time errantly blasting everywhere in Alabama (link).  Then too we had car parts stores and safe level ground available for repairs; “where is my super-suit”?  By phone later, Lynn too, concurred that the filter needed to be checked and changed.

Agreeing that the simplest, cheapest solutions are worth a trial, I ordered a filter and pan gasket.  Unfortunately, it would be THURSDAY before they arrived.  As is often our path, Jane and I simultaneously came to the same decision and looked to getting a hotel for the night.  OUR FIRST NIGHT IN A HOTEL IN 162 days!

"I'll wait right here; and won't eat much"

“I’ll wait right here; and won’t eat much”

The Wetherill Inn had a very nice stray, greeter dog wandering its lot. Also a good sign for us.  He seemed to enjoy our carefully measured treats as we moved a few belongings in for a good night sleep in a King Sized bed.  Funny, who needs all that space?

I also decided that paying a shop to do the drain and change was better than spilling red transmission fluid anywhere out here.  Sam suggested seeing Edward up at the crossroads where we came in.  The shop is part of an Alon gas station and showed years of red-brown dirt from completed jobs all over the floor and shelves.  It may not seem culturally sensitive to mention that everyone we’ve been meeting has beautiful shiny black hair and the proud features of the Navajo.  They have also been universally friendly.

After making an service appointment we walked over to the Blue Coffee Pot.  Jane and I always look for small, local businesses so the “Cash Only” sign didn’t bother us a bit.  We sat, self-consciously at a table in the sun.  Smiles beget smiles.  We looked around, not wanting to betray our slight discomfort nor the love for the people around us.  A family waited patiently for their food beside us and gently asked if we were traveling and where to.  Husband, wife and son all asked about pieces of our trip.  Laughing about relatives who’ve travelled to some of our destinations.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADonald senior gave us his phone number and asked that we call if we needed ANYTHING.  “Its really rugged out here.”  As we explained our path, Donnie the son, smiled warmly saying “We all have to work together”.  (UNITY again…)

Note the preponderance of pickup trucks with feed

Note the preponderance of pickup trucks with feed

Later we went to Navajo National Monument, parked in a delightful free campground and hiked to view Betatakin, yet another Ancestral Puebloan ruin.  A great sunset accompanied our cold little cookout while we grilled elk burgers bought way back in Salida.  Another calm and cozy Tramper night while musing how great the privilege to sleep within the Navajo Reservation.   The Navajo rugs and silver in the gift shop beguiled us more.  We had NO Hesitation leaving the Tramper alone in the campground while we took Marfa to town for service.

That arch is 452 ft tall and deep within lies Betatakin Pueblo, residence of about 100-120 people

That arch is 452 ft tall and deep within lies Betatakin Pueblo, residence of about 100-120 people

As seen from above, across the canyon.  In Summer, you can tour with guides

As seen from above, across the canyon. In Summer, you can tour with guides

Again we feasted on delicious Navajo breads and tortillas for a lunch at the Blue Coffeepot.  Today’s social bridge was a 4 year-old angel named Summer.  She was pulling the hood from her “Peace sign print” winter coat playfully over her face.  Her grandparents too, couldn’t have been nicer or more full of smiling warmth.  Delores and John insisted we take their phone number in case we needed it.  Delores came over to the table and spelled the name of her town: Chilchinbito, about 30 miles away.  Suggesting we stop in if we need them for anything graced us once again.

Jane and I quietly glanced at each other, lumps in throats, squelching our tears of joy, knowing grace and thanks.  Seeing no evidence of malice in races that have known the history of the Trail of Tears and the worst of settlers and pioneer  treatment is the fulfillment of that Cherokee sentiment.  UNITY.  We could all learn from that one.  Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Cherokee, and Navajo, all peaceful responses.  Love!


DAY 106 – 12/29/2012 Carlsbad Caverns, Oh My! ?

I have no particular interest in caverns.  Went spelunking once in the 80’s with a machinist co-worker.  We entered a little slit of a grassy hole in West Virginia, slithered between a few cracks I wouldn’t be comfortable with now, descended about 80 or 100 feet into the ground to a rocky platform, where ropes would be needed to go any further.  Each of us wore a carbide lamp, so we turned them out.  DARK.  Cave-dark.  Darker than anything I’d ever seen or since.  Never had the need to do that sport again though!

Jane too wanted nothing to do with caves, holes, caverns or closed spaces of any kind.  Jean-Philippe (our trusted advisor again), assured us that it would be more like a cathedral or auditorium.  Well lit and not constricted at all.  I worried that it would be a light-show or organ music background.  I don’t usually like a natural wonder that gets over humanized or commercialized.

But here we were, driving North on the only road that made sense for where we were headed in Colorado.  Even that roadrunner and coyote gave us chuckle as if to say, “we were on the right road at the right time”.  And smack along the way were two more National Park sites where we could use our Parks Pass.  Quadalupe Peak looked beautiful and is the highest point in Texas.  We had arrived too late in the day to hike the whole round trip to the summit.  We don’t feel the draw to become “peak-baggers”, just love those tough hikes when the time is right.  So as we left, both of us looked likely to mosey on into the cavern at Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Access is from a mountain ridge with a big parking lot.  A big, full parking lot.  We sort of forget that this is a holiday week.  Lines snaking along ropes led to a smiling ranger who graciously gave us our tickets “free” after checking my I.D.and National Parks Annual Pass.  While waiting we read about several options including 4-6 hour King’s Tours with a ranger, but also some shorter options.  A glaring flat screen message blinked through some sales options and also a Big Red Warning to expect LONG WAITS at the elevator to come back up!

We saw another option even though we had only arrived just after 2:00 in the afternoon.  Hiking in or out through the natural entrance was allowed.  The overall distance covered would be about 1 ½ miles each way and descend over 750′ into the cavern.  Cool! It was going to be like hiking an upside-down mountain!  We’d much rather hike than ride an elevator anyway.


The entrance has been kept nearly the same as when it was “found” by white explorers.  There IS evidence of Native American use, but not very deep and not very conclusive as to who, when and how much.  Shards from pottery from varied sources have been inconclusive.  were they “real finds” or discoverers looking for attention?


The only way to descend any great amount in a short distance is with looping switchbacks.  And those switchbacks did LOOP!  The surface was asphalt, dry and very grippy.  The trail about 40″ wide and lined with a nice steel rail everywhere it counted.  True to word, the place is “cavernous”.  BIG, HIGH, WIDE in places.  Mostly dry and a general constant temperature, but a welcome 90% humidity, particularly after weeks of desert dryness at less than 30%.

Describing the formations is about as silly as the process of naming some of them.  Kinda like cloud-watching metaphors.  I’ll let the pictures do their magic, leave out my 1000 words.  Suffice to say, we went all the way down into and around the big room and enjoyed that hike back out!  Jane continues to impress me with her growth as a hiker.  She really rebuilt her heart after that darned chemo (It had snuffed her cardiac Ejection fraction from a baseline of 72% down to below 50%, and a healthy normal average is about 65%).   We were passed by only one guy, a runner, all sweaty and breathing hard. Jane paused only about twice on 2 of the many, many stone benches on the way back to our world.

– David