Saturday, April 22, 2017

On the Road Again - Days 1, 2 and 3

On the road again….time for a little excursion.

With the possibility already mentioned that the new administration in DC may try to eliminate funding for Amtrak’s intercity trains, I decided to get out there and ride the rails, before it’s no longer possible.  

I charted out a “dream vacation” covering many of the western routes, planned some interesting layovers. And made my reservations…solo.  (My wife was invited, and she likes trains, but not this much.  So she opted out.)   Before you ask - yes, retirement makes things like this achievable.

As I get summaries of each segment written, I’ll publish them…let's start with this one!

Departure day finally arrived.  I headed for the train station at the airport in Baltimore, to catch a commuter train to Union Station in DC.  

For this part of the trip, I had to travel in "less feminine mode"…as the trains would be ones my wife uses to get to her sister’s place for their annual visit.   My attire was stirrup pants, pantyhose, flats, turtleneck tunic top, necklace, and purse.   And my nails were freshly done (in a light pink color).

On the commuter train, nobody - from the ticket office to the train - used any gender-specific forms of address for me.  In Union Station however,  I was universally addressed as female,  at least until I got on the Amtrak train…when as if by magic, the greetings reverted to “male.”   Both the train crew and sleeper/diner attendants.  I didn’t recognize the folks, but apparently they knew my real gender.   C’est la vie.

By the way:  in case nobody has seen them, at Union Station a shopkeeper is apparently making some money from selling “Hillary Clinton bobbleheads.”  I didn’t buy one (though probably it would be a decent investment as a collectible), but almost went in to ask why they weren’t selling “Donald Trump bobbleheads” too.  Maybe they were Hillary supporters...   There were a lot of customers in the store, and time didn’t permit waiting…

My  train departed on time for Chicago.  But after the last regular stop in Western Maryland, delays began.  Five minutes here, five minutes there, waiting for trains going in the other direction.  After “dinner in the diner,” the car attendant turned down my bed, and I hit the sack.   Though with all the stops, I didn’t sleep much.  In the railroad industry, and old adage says “late trains get later. “  And it sure did.   As far as I was concerned – the delay was no matter.  All it would do for me is shorten an uncomfortably long layover. 

Remember, I was dressed as I was yesterday, since I was still on "my wife's" train.  Once off the inbound train in Chicago,  folks I ran into at a restaurant and again at the lounge at Chicago Union Station, all interpreted me as female, despite my not wearing a skirt.  In fact, few women were wearing skirts. which surprised me.   With the temperature at 75 degrees at 11 AM, I thought skirts would be popular.  My mistake!

But I put the time in the Windy City (yes - it lived up to its name) to good use…by doing some interesting sightseeing right after arrival, and getting a few pictures.

Remember Kolchak - the Night Stalker - from an ancient horror series about paranormal activity on the Telly back in the 70's?   (Be careful...if you do, you're dating yourself!)  In the above picture, I finally got a good look at what I seem to recall was Darren McGaven's office!  (The one at track level on the Elevated - pictured above.  He could see into the trains and riders could see into his office.)

Above is on the south side of East Jackson, down by the intersection with South Michigan Ave.  It marks the end of Eastbound Route 66. 

The above sign on the South side of Adams Street beckons the way West on Route 66!   Note the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) peeking up over the top of the sign!

Once back in the station, waiting in the lounge for departure to New Orleans,  I found out that there had been some demonstrations near the Trump Tower that day- those supporting Trump clashing with those who don't support him.   That's all I would have needed - to accidentally step into the middle of something like that.  Fortunately I don't know where it is, nor do I care...but I certainly will be careful in the future!

At train time, I used the services of a redcap again, which saved walking out to the train.  Both my bags and I got a lift, along with several other passengers and their belongings.  I guess I'm not the only one who doesn't travel light.  And I was correctly addressed by the folks present.

My train left the station, and then stopped dead in its tracks.  A lift bridge in front of it was stuck, and they couldn't get a good estimate of how long it might be until it would be fixed.   So they disconnected the diesel engines, drove them around the train and put them on the other end, and devised an alternate route to get us out of the station and headed south.  (By the time we arrived in New Orleans, we were almost 2 hours late. ) 

On this train, the young car attendant initially interpreted me as a guy, using the dreaded "S" word.   But as several passengers addressed me as a lady, his tune changed.  And after returning from the diner (where the staff addressed me as a guy), he had started to address me more appropriately.   Not sure what made him decide to do that, but whatever the motivation, he did the right thing.  Even though I wasn't in a skirt.   And it remained that way for the rest of the trip.   (Which - along with getting me off the train first) ultimately earned him a tip...

Sleeping was tough that night, due to the rough ride.  Tracks belong to the freight railroad (in this case Canadian National), and though repairs have been forthcoming, it's a lot of track to fix.  It appears they've done quite a bit, but there's more to be done, that's for sure.

I've never been to Jackson in Mississippi before, and probably won't be again.  But my new friend the car attendant got a pic of me on the platform there.   It felt as though it was well over 80 degrees, and upon returning to my room,  I shed the long pants for shorts, and the turtleneck for a tunic blouse.   

By the time the train arrived in New Orleans, it was still warm, but had clouded over, and tropical late afternoon storms moved through.  It was still raining as we skirted Lake Pontchartrain, and it had been a long night and day.  The cabbie, who identified me as "sir" got me right to the hotel, where the  desk clerk promptly used appropriate female greetings.  As did the bellman.

Once in my room,  the skirts came out and would be my attire until Chicago on the trip home.  For the present, shorts/pants were relegated to my suitcase.   A fabulous beginning to a wonderful trip.   

And now the fun begins...stay tuned.



Monday, April 3, 2017

Stuck in a rut...

Things have been unbelievably quiet on the gender front.  A fully-dressed Mandy hasn't been out of the suitcase at all recently (well, other than a 15 minute try-on session) to sort out a few things for a possible upcoming solo trip.   If it happens, hopefully Mandy will get some girl time.   There will be more about that later...

The realization hit last week, that the antique car will be turning 50 this June.   With  only about 135,000 miles on it, for a car that old, it's almost "low mileage."   And we may have a little birthday party...I may take a cupcake out to Mom at the nursing home, and give her a short ride.   It's been a long time since she's been out in it.

I found out about a few more little things which need done before our long trip in the car in a couple months, since I can't remember having them done recently.  And I wanted the mechanic to take a close look at a couple new issues.  So, I scheduled another trip to the shop.   And it's a good thing I did...while searching for one of the issues, my mechanic found an unknown problem, rather serious, but inexpensive to fix, which he corrected.   Those guys are good!   (If you can't do the work yourself, a good mechanic is essential.)

The solo extravaganza I mentioned above remains "in the wind" as of the date of this post.   It should provide plenty of things to talk about.  But for now, I leave you with this picture from the archives...

This is a winter sunset picture from January 2008, of the picturesque double lift bridge in Duluth, MN, with a lake freighter exiting the harbor under the bridge's raised twin spans.  The outside air temperature was at minus 17 degrees Fahrenheit, and the wind chill was at minus 34 degrees.  Brisk, to say the least!

Till next time,


Monday, March 20, 2017

The Hampton Roads Part 2 - History

As I mentioned in my earlier post about the "Hampton Roads", it was built at the Pusey and Jones shipyard in Wilmington, DE and delivered to the Chesapeake Ferry Company in July of 1925.

From Wikipedia:  "Pusey and Jones Corporation was a major shipbuilder and industrial-equipment manufacturer from 1848 to 1959.   Shipbuilding was the primary focus from 1853 until the end of World War II, when the company converted the shipyard to production of machinery for paper manufacturing. The yard built more than 500 ships, from large cargo vessels to small warships and yachts, including "Volunteer" - the winner of the 1887 America's Cup race."

Wikipedia also adds that on Liberty Fleet Day — September 27, 1941 — the yard launched one of the first US Liberty Ships, SS Adabelle Lykes.   After World War II, Pusey and Jones converted the shipyard's facilities to manufacture papermaking machinery.  The company closed in 1959.

Back in 2007 (April 22 to be exact) the Baltimore Sun ran an article by Chris Guy about the Hampton Roads.  It reads (in part):  "For nearly 40 years, beach-bound Marylanders have sped past the old ferry that sits, squat and square, ever-changing yet seemingly indestructible, at the western end of the Choptank River bridge.

The Hampton Roads' nine-lives kind of history has been limited only by the whimsy, vision and money of a procession of entrepreneurs. Among its incarnations: an upscale restaurant with white tablecloths, some lesser eateries, two or three different bars. There were a couple of antiques businesses -- including one set off by a red-white-and-blue paint job to mark the 1976 Bicentennial -- and an indoor flea market.

Throughout the changes, the ferry remained a part of U.S. 50 lore, a fixture in stark contrast to flat farm fields, a halfway-to-the-beach milestone more distinctive than anything between the Bay Bridge and the Ocean City skyline. It even achieved a bit of pop culture status in 2002, when the Maryland Transportation Authority made it Site No. 7 in the Bay Game, the coloring books that bridge toll collectors hand out to keep kids occupied on the way to the beach."

It's an excellent article, by the way.  Look it up in your browser if you're into things nautical...

There were many fabulous watercraft at the marina, from big to small.  But the name of one caught my eye on the way out:

In case the print is too small and you can't read the boat's name on your screen, I'll pass it along.   "It's Only Money."  How appropriate!

Till next time...


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Hampton Roads

In the afternoon of my annual spring shakedown drive in the antique, I visited the marina where I'd previously spotted what appeared to be an old and dilapidated vessel in a riverside marina.

Being ever so curious as to antiquities, I dropped in to the office and spoke with the clerk there.  It was indeed the former car ferry "Hampton Roads" which ran out of Norfolk and Hampton Roads, VA.  I asked if I might get some pictures, and the response was "Yes ma'am, I don't see any reason why you can't.  Just walk to it, don't drive or take your car up on it."  Darn, that would been an interesting picture...

Upon getting close, I could see that it was backed into its slip, and permanently beached with rocks and rubble dumped against the hull.   The old girl isn't going anywhere, except perhaps someday to the scrapyard (in pieces, via truck.) 

The first view, from the side.

From the rear (presumably) apron,  a look up into the former car storage area, now being used as winter shelter for equipment.  I've seen some pictures of the Hampton Roads as delivered, and the steps you see appear to be original, well, except for the canopy.   The steps on the right side of the deck were gone.  (More about the history of the HR later.)  And yes, it was tempting to drive up on this deck...but I resisted.   Didn't want to end up like the ice fishermen who lost their trucks in the lake due to thin ice...

Drive on, then drive off the other end...

Below is a picture inside the car storage area...

Inside the main deck...

The above looks fairly the mighty have fallen.  Notice the glass doors on the other end of the open car bay...a reminder of its days as a restaurant  Below is a picture of the steps, which appear to be originals, but the canopy supports are clearly not.   The bridge on each end, smokestack, and enclosed top deck (where back-in-the-day ferry passengers could sit, and eat breakfast enroute) have all been removed due to deterioration and unsightliness, not to mention rot...thus the stairs are chained off to discourage access. 

A close-up of the steps...

There was an opening in the hull (not sure if it was original or a recent addition), exposing the deck just below the main one...probably where the 1400 HP reciprocating steam engine is - or was.  I had intended to go back to the office and inquire about a behind-the-scenes tour of any other accessible decks, but seeing the amount of water in the hull eliminated that option.  Yuck.

No, it's not's beached.

Mandy had a wonderful time out and about...hopefully it's a sign of good things to come this summer!

Mandy standing by the bow of the car ferry Hampton Roads

By the way, if you're interested in seeing pictures of the Hampton Roads from back when she was launched -  they exist on-line.  (Doesn't everything?)   Go to the Hagley Archives website:   There you will look for the Pusey and Jones Corporation (Wiilmington, DE) builder's photos, for hull #393 on page 7.  They have many pictures from its construction, launch and final delivery to the Chesapeake Ferry Company on July 25, 1927.  Including a pic of the reciprocating steam engine used to power it.

This ship has changed a lot over the years....too bad those changes have not been for the better.  This once-mighty and useful vessel has fallen on hard times. There's a mixture of emotions, I guess - melancholy and happy.  The way I prefer to look at it is "happiness that it even still exists" about 90 years after its birth.

The Hampton Roads could have already become razor blades and automobiles - but she escaped that fate thus far.  For how much longer?  Nobody knows.

That's all for now...


Friday, March 10, 2017

A fun day in the sun....

I finally took the antique car out for its 2017 shakedown run, after its recent visit to the shop - which turned out to be over 200 miles and 6-1/2 hours plus.  The weather was beautiful (sunny, low 60's), and perfect for traveling.  Plus, Mandy was able to get out and about for a while, in her newest skirt...

First stop was the former PRR station in Laurel, DE - on the ex-PRR line to Cape Charles.  It's a beautiful little station, and the Laurel Heritage Museum is located inside.   Unfortunately, it wasn't open...but that was a plus, which gave me some extra time to spend at the last stop...more on that later.

Laurel Heritage Museum

Has anyone heard of the Transpeninsular Line (a cousin of the Mason-Dixon Line)?  It's a surveyed line (at approximately 38 degrees 27 minutes north) across the entire Delmarva peninsula, dating back to the mid 1700's as a result of a land dispute between the Penns (of DE) and the Calverts (of MD.).

The eastern half of this line forms the north-south border between Delaware and Maryland.  That border turns roughly north from the mid-point of the line, following the official southern extension of the Mason-Dixon line , north toward the Twelve-Mile-Circle, both of which together form much of the remainder of Delaware's perimeter.  That intersection is marked by several stones (inside the iron cage to protect from vandalism) and it also serves as the southern end of the Mason-Dixon Line.  You can see the cage beyond the car's hood and over my shoulder.   I knew the Transpeninsular Line existed, but not the "mid point" intersection.  Interesting!

Time to move on...   Enroute to my next stop, I passed through the town of Delmar, which is right on the border between Maryland and Delaware.  Literally.  The border (Transpeninsular line) is basically Route 54 (State St.) - right down the middle of town.  If you're on the Maryland side of the street, it's only a short trip across the street, to get to Delaware (where there is no sales tax.)  But it's a small town, with not too many stores to choose from.

Sorry about the moving shadow on the subject in the following was windy, and I only had the self timer to "take the picture."   Once you push the button, there's no way to know where the shadows will be when the shutter clicks.

At the mid point of the Transpeninsular Line.

From there it was a wonderful drive on varying types of country roads, out toward Ragged Point.  The scenery there was gorgeous, as were some of the mansions.  In places, the road was hugging the shoreline, and marshy shoreline scenery such as this appeared in other places:

Marsh scenery...

The end of the road was blocked by a gate, but even so, the scenery in the area was outstanding and well worth the drive.  The picture below was taken at a nearby public marina, where I ate a quick lunch from my cooler...

A picture after lunch...

Now it was time to return to "androgynous mode" - via another cornfield change, not at the marina - for the drive to my next stop on this journey.  That stop will be the subject of my next post.

More later...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Quickie...

Initially I wasn't sure about the topic of my next post, but when the opportunity came to try on a couple of my older blouses with capris and a skirt, I gave it a whirl.  Thus, it became my next post!  Here are the results...

In both cases, the blouses are shorter,  and allow more of my skirt to show.  Plus, they are more feminine in appearance than the turtlenecks.   From that standpoint, it's all good.   And these should work OK for a casual day shopping, or a run to the store. (And yes, I'm checking the thrift shops for black skirts...a better color combination.

For my trial run in the old car, I'm likely to opt for a long skirt and a top commensurate with the weather.  If it's cool, which is likely, a turtleneck.  For warmer weather, a blouse...most likely the blue floral one - if I can hide it under a turtleneck for leaving the house! Or a blue tee-type blouse that is part of my daily wardrobe.

In reality, it's too soon to tell!  But who knows what the weather next weekend will bring?

Be safe...


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Classic cars get attention...

I recently stopped at the car parts store where there on occasion has been a male clerk wearing skirts and women's flats. I wanted to buy some things for the antique, since I was bringing it back home from a quick run to the shop for some adjustments.  And in the parking lot, three guys were working on their cars, with two female clerks from the store taking a smoke break.

My attire was the usual androgynous fare...with pantyhose!  But the car attracted all the attention, without any issues regarding me.  There were questions, and I had the answers.  I was simply "the lady with the antique car."  Even the girls liked it.  Nice...   Unfortunately, the clerk in a skirt wasn't there...on a Thursday.  Darn...I was hoping to have him help me!

My wife and I stopped for lunch one day, at a restaurant along US-50 just east of the Bay Bridge.  From the beginning to the end, we were addressed as "ladies."  By the hostess, our server, the busboys, and the hostess again on the way out.  No issue, no questions. "Ladies" the entire time...  Server (female) asked if we wanted separate checks...we didn't...and she put the check between us, just like every other time we're addressed as ladies.   Both on the way in, and out, men held the door for us...again. Very affirming...

At a church book sale in one of the small shore towns, an elderly man held the door for my wife and I - "go ahead, ladies", then continued to hold it for his wife.   We both said "Thank you, Sir."  And both got the same response...."You're welcome, ladies."  As she checked out the treasures we found, the  elderly female clerk said "Did you ladies find everything you need?"  My response for both of us:  "Sure did, Ma'am - thanks."   I wonder what would happen if I showed up for one of their church services dressed like this??  Actually, based on the way the other older women were dressed there, I'd probably need to wear a skirt...and 2" heels...LOL!

But I really wish I were able to fully dress during this dry spell and let Mandy be herself.   So I hope to have a trip ready to take, one of these days soon!