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...