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!



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Day in Delaware...

As previously stated, February, March and April can be quite sparse as far as Mandy's opportunities to be out and about.  The best I can usually do is to explore things in my everyday androgynous attire.

I've been contemplating a solo shakedown run of the antique car,  during which I'd be able to pull on something more feminine than my normal everyday stuff.   As luck would have it,  the destinations I chose attracted my wife's attention and she wanted to go with me.  Especially since the weather has been so nice...    Unfortunately, the 67 hasn't been put into service for the summer yet.  It's still winter. So we decided to get out of town for a day and make the run in our daily driver, to take advantage of the good weather -  i.e. temperatures in the 70's.   (I have some destinations in mind which will be less attractive for my wife, and more conducive - i.e. less traffic - to the antique.)

Off we went.   You can see my outfit in one of the following pictures  (light colored capris, long dark turtleneck blouse, purse, sweater tied around my waist, and flats.)  Our first stop was to be the Dupont Nature Center, at the mouth of the Mispillion River (in Delaware.)

When we arrived, the nature center was closed.  There used to be a lighthouse at the same general spot, due to its location at the mouth of a river.  We also knew the "lighthouse" in the traditional sense was gone, from the internet.  But there had been a steel tower with a light on it...and it, too, was now gone.  All that remained at the spot was a small pile of twisted metal....   Oops.

Like they say in the movies: "Nothing to see here, folks...time to move on."   And we did.

Next stop was to a place called Ship Carpenter Square, in Lewes.  Lewes is the location of the Cape May (NJ) to Lewes (DE) ferry.

The original Mispillion lighthouse had burned, because of a lightning strike.  When the carcass came up on a government property disposal list, it was purchased by a family in Lewes, dismantled, and made into a part of their residence.  We located the home, and though we couldn't get inside as it was a private residence in Ship Carpenter Square, at least I got a picture of "where the lighthouse remains live now."  It's wonderful that they've been preserved, and turned into something useful.

There's a story about the development itself - it was started around 1980 and is comprised of old (1800's) historic homes from the area, which were moved in and updated to be contemporary, while retaining as much historic charm as possible.

We'd say they did a great job!!  It's a lovely neighborhood of beautifully restored homes.  For what it's worth, a house a couple doors down the street is on the market now for $899,000.  Needless to say, we won't be relocating...LOL!

After finishing up in Lewes, we headed for Cape Henlopen State Park, a short drive away.   The park was actually getting crowded, so parking became an instant issue.   We got lucky, and found a place.  Not close to anything, mind you, meaning we were on foot for our sightseeing.   (Up to this point, my wife and I hadn't spent any time out of the car, so my attire was immaterial.  But no more.)

First stop was Fort Miles, an old WW2 fort which was built with watchtowers, searchlights, and huge guns to protect Delaware Bay against German attacks.  (Those guns were never fired in anger...)   The guns at the fort now are not the originals...but are indeed US military armament.  One of them (the one in the pic below) is reportedly a spare from the battleship USS Missouri, which could lob a shell for about 27 miles.   

We strolled around the fort, enjoying the warm weather.  Clouds were expected to clear out, and they did...along with that came a 7 or 8 degree increase in temperature, up to about 73 degrees (it hit 76 later in the afternoon.  Everyone was peeling off layers of clothing.  My wife and I both ended up with our sweaters tied around our waists.   I noticed (and my wife said nothing about it) that the women were friendly, most smiling and some even saying hi to us. Both of us said "Hi" back (yes, I softened my voice a bit.)  Men were using "ladies" to refer to both of us.  "Excuse me, ladies." Fabulous!  I didn't hear any "dreaded S words."

Eventually we came to a trail that was supposed to take us to the beach.  It was a long walk - over 1/2 mile, but paved, and we persevered.  And it did indeed lead to the beach.   We found a sandy trail (off the paved beaten path and away from the direction others were going.)  So, my flats came off and I enjoyed walking barefoot in the sand, particularly notable because it was the middle of February and about 73 degrees.  (No, I didn't wear pantyhose that day...I figured I might end up on the beach, and having spent time with sand in my pantyhose before - it's not fun.)    The folks you see in the distance had come in by car, found a parking place, and used a different entrance to the beach.   We had "where we were" to ourselves.  Nice...

Eventually, after the above photo op, we hiked back to the car.  For some reason, the hike "from" a destination always seems to go quicker than the hike "to".  Even without walking faster.  And my wife was done with hiking.  She chose to stay in the car, while I hiked to the watch tower near our car...fortunately the one which was open.

The following picture was taken from the top of it..looking over at another "not open" tower.   On the way both up and down (both using the same set of narrow steps) netted me a lot of "excuse me, Ma'am," and smiles/small talk about the sights, from folks young and old alike...including kids, which was surprising.

After I reached the car, we set off for downtown Rehoboth Beach (and the boardwalk), as neither of us had been there previously.  That excursion turned into a failure, due to very heavy inbound traffic.  Everyone was headed for the beach on such a beautiful day!  And I have a very low tolerance for waiting through three stoplight cycles to get through every intersection,  There's almost nothing I want to see badly enough to deal with that.  So we turned around, and stopped at the outlet mall for my wife (it was just as crowded), but I found a parking place near the shop my wife desired.  This time, I waited in the car.  She wasn't gone long, as the item she wanted was not on sale.

So, we headed for home, and plan to return when we can stay overnight at one of the hotels on the  boardwalk, so we can enjoy the beachy evening and morning sights...and leave before the outbound traffic gets crazy bad.  

Till next time,


Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Quiet Period...

With another "quiet period" upon me, it's really tough to find ways to get out as Mandy...

I dress androgynously full time, so even when not presenting fully femme, I'm frequently addressed as female.   That happened again yesterday at Mom's nursing home.  As I was leaving, I held the door open for an old woman....who may only have been 55 but looked more like 75.  And she said "thank you, Ma'am."  I responded "you're welcome, Ma'am."  No strange looks or double takes.  The way it should be!   (And is, unless someone has issues with transgenders...)  There are a few of those...and that's when I hear "Sir".

I'm thinking about planning a solo shakedown day trip in my old car - this month or next, weather permitting.  And that brings to mind "wardrobe."  I need something unmistakeably feminine, but which can be put on/taken off easily without a dressing room. 

What I'm contemplating right now is a pair of black "pedal pusher" capris and a turtleneck (gray, brown or black), with pantyhose and flats. That's my everyday attire, and with some light makeup, I can wear it directly from home.  I have a lightweight blue knee-length skirt, which I could take along, and slip into it "over the capris" in a cornfield after leaving home.  Leaving the capris on underneath, of course - that helps the outfit look like a fancy skirted capri.  Women wear skirted leggings all the time (and I love the look!).

I've seen ads for skirted capris (look them up on the internet!  Many sites have them - following is one of the many:  The outfit would look better with a black skirt, but the one I have really doesn't fit that well.  I'm watching the thrift shop for a new black skirt which fits better.

What do you think?  Will this look OK, with the turtleneck or as the weather warms, a women's short sleecve tunic-top?   Or I could wear one of the long skirts I have, over a pair of capris or shorts,  as I've done before. You've seen me wearing those in some of my other blog posts - picture below.

For the ferroequinologists out there, I've pulled a picture from my archives which may be of interest.  A date is not specified, but memory says this was one of the first Spanish Talgo (tilting) trainsets to be imported for service in this country, circa 1994.

 Taken at the BWI Airport Rail Station on the Northeast Corridor

To the best of my knowledge, the last of the EMD/ASEA AEM-7 locomotives (1978-2016) on the Amtrak roster (#914 is shown above) have now been retired from daily service, and one has reportedly been donated to a railroad museum in PA for preservation.   So the picture is notable for both reasons.

I'll leave you with a beautiful scene, taken from the shore of Lake McDonald, reportedly the largest lake in Glacier National Park.  It's more than a mile wide and ten miles long, and is a giant bowl surrounded by thickly forested, towering mountains.  It was formed by glaciers during the last ice age, ten thousand years ago.

The picture, while pretty, doesn't do it justice.  The entire area was absolutely breathtaking.  If the opportunity to visit Glacier ever comes your way...just do it!  (Before all the ice melts...)

Till nest time,


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On our way home....

Once again, sorry for the delay in posting.  It's taken a visit to the doctor for me, and three for my wife, to get to feeling better from whatever it was that we caught on this trip.   I guess it's fortunate that we got home without major issue...things could have been much more complicated!

We noted some unusual billboards along the freeway...on I-40 eastbound, after Nashville and before Knoxville, if I remember correctly.   Unfortunately there are no pictures...there was way too much traffic and too windy (in both instances) to pull over and walk back a quarter mile to get them.

First billboard was a picture of an automatic pistol (big enough to be plainly recognized as such), with the words "Man Toys" in huge letters.    Down the road a few miles, there was another billboard, in bright pink, with a target showing numerous bullet holes close to the bulls-eye, and slogan "Shoot like a girl."  Neither of us noticed if they were ads for the same gun supplier...

Sexist?  My take on them both is: probably.  YMMV.   But at least they covered each traditional gender equally.  I wouldn't expect them to tackle the rhetorical question:  "What about us?"

We also made one last sightseeing stop at a roadside oddity, to see one huge pencil which adorns an office supply store in Wytheville, VA (alongside I-81.)   One could fix a lot of mistakes with it, given the size of that eraser...

We were both glad to get home after this trip...

Till next time,


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It was time to head for Tennessee...

Sorry about the delay in posting...we've both been affected by the season's "flu du jour" or whatever it is that's going around.   It's been a long battle...

When we left French Lick, I stopped at the entry arches for the West Baden Springs for a photo op... showing the way I dressed for the entire excursion.    When I was done there, we headed to a jewelry store in a nearby town to get a watch battery replaced, and headed south for our son's place.

At the West Baden Springs entry arches...

Enroute, we stopped at a small town called Tell City, IN.  

I had visited there previously,  back in the mid '90's,  on business.  Yes folks, the name is unusual...but not as unusual as its name before it was changed - a long time ago.   That name was Helvetia (pronounced Hel-vay-sha.)  You can do a lot to botch that name up...imagine being told to "go to Hel-vetia."  Cursing, but with a civil tongue.  It was hard to pronounce, and there was a large German/Swiss population.   Thus the name was changed, to honor the Swiss marksman and liberator named "William Tell."  I noted a news article which states that the high school football team is named the "Marksmen."

Notice the artist's rendition of William Tell?

Yet another...

Love the artistic license of Tell's blousy tunic...and black tights!   (Perhaps reminiscent of the movie "Robin Hood - men in tights"?)

This name furor somewhat reminds me of the tempest in a teapot over the former name of the Ravens stadium in Baltimore.  A company named "Psi-net" (pronunciation:  "Sigh-net") bought the initial naming rights back in about 1999, and for a while it was called "Psi-net Stadium."   But you can imagine how quickly that deteriorated.   

Probably half (if not more) references to it were "PissyNet Stadium.   Sometimes they even got away with it "on the air."  And people started joking about it.  Each time, it snowballed, and brought even more jokes.  The company allegedly "corrected" the media regarding proper pronunciation of its name. so that part of the problem eventually disappeared.   

However, the issue developed a life of its own, for a while.  

Psi-net went bankrupt, and gave up its naming rights in 2002.  Needless to say, Psi-net's name is no longer on the stadium - I don't know (and don't really care) if they even survived the bankruptcy.  And "Pissy-net Stadium" is fortunately now called something else, much more benign and much less controversial.

I couldn't resist taking a pic of the following artwork found enroute, which brings back pleasant memories...of me as a kid, traveling by train with my mother, who was always wearing skirts, hose and heels.  Nowadays, being in a wheelchair, she always wears pants, and at times I''m the one in skirts (though not often at the nursing home.)   Definitely a role reversal....and I'd say, a change for the better on my part.

Shortly thereafter, we exited the State of Indiana...thanks, folks, for being so receptive!   I wouldn't have believed it possible.

After my practical experience as an androgynous person out and about "in one of the states of maximum confusion about us" I can say there were no overt issues or comments regarding my presentation. Nor stares or double takes.  For me, this toleration is what allows Mandy to be "out and about" without wearing dresses or skirts.  The few folks who knew me and my true gender had no issues with me, or with the fact that in the French Lick Springs Resort I used the family restroom - which they now provide.  (Though for our day in the West Baden Springs Resort, I used the men's room sparingly (like once),  didn't run into any guys crass enough to make an issue out of my presence,  and had no problems.)  Generally, those who didn't know the back story, seemed to pretty much accept me as a female.

It was also amazing that even when the hotel desk and Casino checked my ID, they universally treated me as a woman and frequently used female forms of address (well, except on the phone the couple of times I had to call the desk...that's undoubtedly the weak spot in my presentation.  And one that right now, I can't do anything to cure.)   After all the bad press on "us - as in LGTBQ and Trans" lately, in no way did I expect to be treated that well.  Especially while visiting the state which initiated the "anti" movement.    Was it their company diversity training ruling the employees, or were they still being politically correct?   Will that continue now that we have our new President?  Only time will tell.

So, I admit, I expected the worst, and it didn't happen.   I was not traveling alone, which is/was a big help.  Nor was I frequenting dives deep in the city, during late evening hours.  (French Lick is in halfway between nowhere and nowhere else.)  Obviously in your travels, YMMV.   And please don't assume that I am implying "androgynous presentation" is appropriate, or will even work, for anyone but me.  That's a personal decision we all must make, individually.

However, I certainly hope this is a positive sign for us as part of the larger group, despite those periodic awful rumbling noises emanating from deep within the bowels of Washington DC and various state capitals. 

On to The Volunteer football fans know I mean Tennessee!

And due to the weather (continued cloudy, rain, yuck) and colds/illness on just about everyone's part, it was a shorter-than-usual stay, focused on remaining indoors and out of the weather.   Both of us came down with whatever was going around...the kids already had it.

But we enjoyed our time there as much as we 16-month-old little girl made that possible.  She's beginning the process of talking...she always knows what she's saying...but we can't always decipher it.   However, she's at the stage where she copies what she hears.  A wee little parrot, as it were.  We were watching TV one evening, and a character on the show shouted " Oh, God!"   A few seconds later, we all heard a very clear and strong "Oh, God!" from our little princess.

Don't even think about uttering any swear words...the kids told us that "you'll hear them back a few seconds later..."

Despite our various maladies, we had a good time, and hated to leave.  But it was time to get home.   So we bade farewell and set off into cloudy skies.  On the trip home, we saw more sun the next two days than we saw the entire trip to that point - about 4 hours.

And now that we're back, the rain has ceased on the Delmarva and things are looking a bit are our maladies.   Another successful trip...

More later...


Sunday, January 22, 2017

French Lick Springs Resort - a grand hotel.

The saga continues!

Our third and fourth nights were spent at the French Lick Springs Resort, a massive "grand porch hotel" in the traditional fashion.  Restored to its ornate original interior appearance, this place is magnificent in its own right...and now featuring a casino for your entertainment.   While at the hotel, I went into the casino, and signed up to use the promotional cash the hotel gives guests upon check-in.  

The clerk needed my driver's license (you know - that ID many of us still have, with the big "M" on it!)  But that "M" didn't seem to matter to her - she treated me as she would any other woman.  (Perhaps because my hands - with manicured nails - were visible on the counter the whole time???)  And when I asked for some guidance on using the slots, she called for one of the floor men.  Both of them addressed me as female...   I could really get used to this!   (Before you ask, I only "lost" $10 of my own money - I know my limits.)

While on this vacation, I managed to obtain a train ride.  This shows Mandy having some fun riding on a private car.  A fun time, of course, with part of it spent on the open rear platform, my favorite place to ride...besides the open vestibule!

We knew some of the folks there.  To them, I was "sir."  Oh, well - that's OK.   They seem to overlook the obvious (attire) and just go with the familiar...

Mandy on the observation platform of a private railcar..

Since it was cloudy and rainy during our visit, I resurrected a picture from a previous visit, to show the place in sunlight.   (Too bad there wasn't any sun this trip.)  Notice its huge porch...lined with chairs, full of people in 3 seasons, empty when we were there this time.   Too cold and rainy.  :-(

French Lick Springs hotel...

Lobby of French Lick Springs Resort.

Our last evening meal in the casual fare pub at the Resort was extra special...   The waitress welcomed us as "girls" and asked "Can I start you girls off with something to drink?"  We were "girls" all through the meal.  We've frequently been addressed as "ladies."  And individually as "Ma'am" or "Miss."  But memory fails to recall any instances where we've been "girls" for an evening.  And I'll never complain! 

This was an exceptionally successful visit for Mandy, and fortunately my wife has become accustomed to us being addressed as "ladies."   That's a good thing.    After these four days of fun, it was off to Tennessee to visit our son, D-I-L and granddaughter.

In a nearby town on our way out, we came across the following road closure.   The work crew supervisor told me that the driver of a heavy truck had tried (quite unsuccessfully) to cross this very old, weight-restricted bridge.  The predictable result looked like this:

 Oops...that  truck driver had a very bad hair day.

Note the broken support beam on the right side...indicative of severe overload.  It didn't just bend a little, it snapped.

Definitely an old bridge!

The town will likely be getting this old bridge upgraded significantly (or perhaps replaced completely), courtesy of the trucking company's insurance, the trucking company may be getting a new truck, and it's quite probable that the driver is now searching for a new way to "earn his daily bread..."

Speaking of motor vehicles, recently an interesting article in a railroad publication indicated that railroads may ultimately be affected by the same autonomous (driverless) craze that seems to be building for the auto industry.   The day of the driverless truck may soon be at hand, since autonomous cars are being tested now, and labor (truck driver) costs are so high.  This may seriously affect railroads, which to this point, can't by law use autonomous (crewless) over-the-road trains.

Can you imagine a little mistake by the electrons in charge of a truck (or train), the end result of which finds a load of hazmat-tanker/dangerous cargo dumped on the ground?   In one of our cities or towns, no less?  (Perhaps by trying to cross a weight-restricted bridge, with no human able to intervene?)  This proves the driverless truck (in fact, any vehicle) might be an actual safety issue to contend with.

Stay tuned as this situation's bound to get interesting.

More later!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Friendsville, Big Chimney and West Baden Springs Resort

We're back on the road again...

On our way to attend a convention near Indianapolis, and visit the kids in TN, we stopped at a place called French Lick Resort. Years ago, we had visited with the antique car, as part of a car event, but ever since, have wanted to come back again.

The drive west from the Delmarva was a bit checkered...snow in the mountains of western Maryland had turned to rain by the time we neared the first overnight stop just north of  Charleston, but it slowed our progress a bit on the first day.   Of course that didn't stop at least a minor amount of "unusual town name hunting."   First stop on that hit parade was Friendsville, MD.

Founded in 1765  and named after its founder John Friend, it used to be a center for the lumber (and nearby, coal) industry.   Now, it just appears as a "friendly" rural town.

On the second day, we passed into warmer air (though still cloudy, something which remained for the entire trip), and temperatures climbed into the range of 60 degrees - even though it rained hard off-and-on.  I noticed signs for a town named Big Chimney near our hotel, and wanted to check it out.  Yes, there actually is a small town, with no evidence of the two railroad lines which used to serve it...the PRR and the B&O!   Rights of way are well disguised, since tracks were torn up fifty years ago, and there is no evidence of any remaining  industry in town...

Turns out there used to be two "industries" - some oil drilling in the area, and a salt works.  As part of its process, the salt works erected a - drum-roll please - "big chimney" about 60 feet tall.   The plant went out of business about 80 years ago, and with no maintenance, the chimney succumbed to the ravages of nature.   Depending on the theory to which you adhere, it either collapsed in a tornado, or was pulled down as a dangerous, brick-shedding hazard, about 70 years ago.

 After grabbing a couple of pictures, it was "on the road again."

As usual, on this type of road trip, dresses and skirts weren't part of my wardrobe.  But in stirrup pants with flats, tights, a turtleneck tunic with necklace, my purse, long hair and nails, folks there treated her as a lady.  That first night at a chain hotel north of Charleston,  Mandy was back, even without dresses.   My wife and I were addressed as "ladies" when we were together, and I was addressed as "Ma''am" by the staff when alone.

On to our second night's stop at the West Baden Springs Resort in French Lick, IN - with the "pump already primed" from our first night's stop.   From check-in at the West Baden Springs, to walking around sightseeing at this immense and impeccably restored monument to a better day, visiting some of the shops, we were generally addressed as "ladies."  (Or in a few instances, with no gender reference to either of us.   But that's OK...)

Our room on the top floor, overlooking the atrium.

The atrium
The atrium night.

This was a fabulous hotel, built in the early 1900's with a free-standing dome (no mid-dome supports, designed by a bridge-building company) that, for a time, was the largest dome in the world.  Imagine a world-renowned domed hotel "out in the middle of nowhere."  And with a lovely porch for sitting and enjoying the local gardens, mineral water, and scenery (preferably in better weather, however.)  And even more amazing is the fact that it still exists today, after serving as a Jesuit monastery and a college campus, followed by years of neglect, abandonment, and partial outer wall collapse.

When we checked out of this hotel, we drove about a mile down the road to the French Lick Springs Resort and Casino...

Stay tuned for more about that....


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Out and about again...

I recently had occasion to visit the phone store, regarding some issues with my cell phone.   Both the man and woman on duty addressed me (in my typical androgynous stirrup pants/tunic outfit) as Ma'am.   I was Ma'am for the whole time...

And at the post office, none of the customers seemed to indicate that they saw me as anything but what I appeared to be...a somewhat outdated-looking older woman taking care of her business.   That's the way it should be...

Next day, I stopped at the grocery store, and passed a number of folks (both genders) who didn't so much as glance at me.  Capris and flats did help, but still, there was no sign of any double-takes or second guesses.   At check out, the clerk had no hesitation...I was a female.  And the person in line behind me had no issue with that.

While in the vicinity of the local mall, I decided to visit Claire's (for those not familiar with them, a cheap earring and other accoutrements shop).  I don't visit often, but in a stirrup-pants-turtleneck tunic-and-flats outfit, I got the urge to drop in.  Once again, they had a small clip-on earring display.  I looked it over, and found an interesting dangly pair...which called my name...and said "buy me!"  That's a call I find hard to resist.  So I took out my wallet and sprung for them.

Now, I had one follow-up stop to make - the phone store again.  I wasn't wearing makeup or lipstick, just a girl on a casual day out. So I left my new earrings on, and went in.  The same staff was there as during my previous visit, they remembered me by my "now female" given name, and addressed me as "Ma'am" the entire time.  A wonderful visit.

The feeling of long, dangly earrings moving around as I go about my business is intoxicating.  Now I can't wait to find a time to go somewhere in a skirt, wearing these new accoutrements!  But that will have to wait for later in the new above.

So, how would they look with this outfit?  It's an old dress, and very comfortable.  I've been wearing the outfit around the house.  Is this something I might want to try on my next train trip?  The dress is long enough to be modest, but super easy to wear...and if it's during warm weather, a short sleeve blouse would work well.

And then yesterday, with me in androgynous mode at the nursing home as usual, one of the staff members (whom I thought knew I was a guy) carried on a conversation with me, using female forms of address.   Needless to say, I didn't object...nor did I correct her.   When we parted, she said "Have a good day, Ma'am."

She knew how to "make my day...and week!"

More later...


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Quiet season...and autonomous vehicles.

Not much happening here...Mandy's into her annual quiet season.   With the holidays, the end of December traditionally was very quiet.  Likewise the month of January and February will be.   There may not be a lot of posting activity -  wife and I may be doing some traveling together.  So any posting will unfortunately be mostly more local androgynous stuff.

I hope my followers (and readers who don't necessarily follow me yet) will bear with me.   Hopefully once the worst of winter is past us, things will make their usual seasonal improvement and Mandy will be able to get "back in the saddle again."   And hopefully you - and we - have a Happy New Year in the process....

One thing caught my eye on the internet recently, and it has nothing to do with gender or presentation.  Maryland's Republican administration recently announced that Interstate 95 and other major arteries around the Baltimore region could become a testing ground for driverless cars starting in 2018, under a proposal announced in the last couple of weeks.

"The state has applied for a U.S. Department of Transportation program that aims to work out the kinks in autonomous vehicle technology, speed its arrival on roadways across the country and help grow companies that are developing it."   Nice idea, folks.  I'm just not sure the area is ready for it...    If it were April 1,  I'd be very suspicious of an April Fool's joke.  But April 1 is still almost 3 months away, so it apparently isn't a joke.

Unfortunately, IMHO the idea is "kink-infested" from the get-go.   Can you imagine the difficulty of citing such a car for causing an accident?  How do you sue a driverless car?  Do they haul the car into the courtroom, and if so, how does it take the oath and testify?  If found guilty, how can the car be punished?  Disconnect its battery or drain its gas tank?  Put a "boot" on its front tire?  It's not punishments like that won't do any good.  Maybe reformat its computer or install an upgrade?

More hypothetical questions:  how will the autonomous vehicle respond to an officer controlling traffic at an accident scene or intersection with malfunctioning lights, or deal with a police vehicle trying to pull it over for a violation?   (These and  numerous other scenarios require instant judgment calls - and are not well-suited to AI - Artificial Intelligence.)

To inject a bit of humor into a serious topic, are the makers of those driverless vehicles planning to install a "prosthetic arm with it's hand's middle finger extended" in each dashboard and rear package shelf?  The purpose of this would be to automatically "pop up" in the appropriate window, each time the autonomous car cuts someone off, or a conventional vehicle's driver honks his horn.  Big city driving would not be complete without that feature...   And conventional drivers wouldn't know how to react if they didn't have something "flip them the bird" as they use the horn to warn the autonomous car about running the red light, blowing through the stop sign or making an improper lane change or turn. 

Sorry for the rant.  But perhaps this whole "autonomous" thing is best relegated to the scrap heap,  before it starts to kill or maim people.  (Hopefully they won't spend much time over here on the Delmarva...quite yet.)

I'll leave you with a picture of this holiday decoration, seen while driving through a small town on the Delmarva.  And I gotta admit, this is a first for this type of decoration:

Cute, isn't it?

Happy New Year...