Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sightseeing...this time with visitors.

Recently we had an amazing visit with daughter-in-law and our granddaughter.  They came to our place for a visit, while our son ended up on an extended out-of-town assignment for work.   And since we had lots of time together, we did some basic sightseeing here on the Delmarva.

Cambridge is a picturesque town on the Choptank River, with lots of old houses and churches, a replica of the Choptank River Lighthouse near Sailwinds Park, close to the dock where Liberty Ship John W. Brown (one of two operable Liberty Ships from World War 2) was temporarily berthed for a local event.

We arrived in Cambridge at lunchtime, and everyone was hungry.  So we visited one of the local “non-chain” eateries, for some local fare.  (I was dressed in women’s shorts and a women’s polo, with purse, bare legs,  patent flats, and my usual long hair and nails.  No jewelry.)   Accordingly, we were all addressed as ladies at the eatery.   And no comment about that from wifey or D-I-L

Anyone familiar with Liberty Ships would be proud that a dedicated group of volunteers can keep this relic in good repair, and seaworthy.  It’s beautiful and extremely interesting to visit.  The 3 of us went on board for a while, to see as much as one can see in a short time, with the almost-3-year-old little girl (who by then was definitely needing her nap) in tow…making the total "3-1/2."

I’ve been on board the Brown several times previously, including while it was under steam, but took the opportunity to visit the engine room - alone.  Since my last visit, it hasn’t changed, but this time I was treated to a full description of the workings of the triple expansion steam engine by a friendly elderly male volunteer, who addressed me as “Ma’am” a number of times, as did the other on-board docents I had reason to converse with.    It’s probably a good thing that the rest of the time, my 3 companions mostly walked in front of me “taking in all the sights,” not particularly paying attention to what greetings docents had for me.

BTW, both wifey and D-I-L were wearing skorts, a good thing given the number of ship’s steps they had to climb.  I’m liking skorts more and more as time goes on…

Following that, we drove a short distance to Long Wharf in Cambridge, where a faithful replica of the Choptank River Lighthouse is located.   Built in the "screwpile" style of many Chesapeake Bay lighthouses (pilings have a spiral apparatus on the end and are "screwed" into the river bed), it’s a copy of the earlier beacon which guided sailing vessels on the river.   A very interesting structure, even though it’s not the refurbished original.

A marina along US-50 on the northern shore of the Choptank river was formerly home to the old carferry Hampton Roads, my visit to which which was covered here: 

From my archives, here is a picture of the remaining decks of the carferry, and yours truly, which appeared in that 2017 post:

And a picture of what was left of the interior  (not previously posted):

Note that autos drove into the covered area (eventually driving out the other end), and passengers went up the steps to decks above which were removed years ago.

I pointed out its former location to D-I-L as we passed by on our trip, but that portion of the marina was now empty.  Little did I realize in March of 2017 that only 3 months later, in June of 2017, the decrepit hulk would meet its Waterloo.   It was “scrapped in place” that month.  (I looked on-line when I got back to the house.)   My 2017 visit apparently came “just in the nick of time” to archive pictures of a piece of history.

So sad…

While our guests were here, I had an occasion to visit the doctor’s office - wearing womens’ shorts, a womens’ tank top, bare legs, and patent flats, with my purse, hair and nails.  When I arrived, a man was in line in front of me, waiting to sign in.  And shortly after I arrived, another woman came in and joined the line.  We waited a few minutes for the clerk to put out unused sign-in sheets, then he motioned to let us ladies go ahead, saying “Ladies First!”  

Not wanting to embarrass the man, the lady, or myself, I simply said “Thank you, Sir” in my best femme voice and went ahead, as did the other lady.  Once we all were seated, he was called in first, so there was no chance of him hearing any exclamation of “Mr. _________.”  A new aide eventually called me in, and I requested that in the future he call me by my given name, since “my dad,  Mr. ______ “ passed away years ago.” 

We’ll see if he remembers…

Till next time…


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Time to head home again…

There was nobody outside when I loaded the car to depart the motel the next morning, thus Mandy was able to climb back out of the suitcase for a while.  Wearing the same outfit as on Friday, I set out cross-country (avoiding freeways) to get to the Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Society yard in the woods, way south of Harrisburg, PA.  Unlike last time, when I arrived there was nobody around…so I didn’t stay long.   Nothing new was going on there.  

At that point I headed south and east to cross the Susquehanna River on US-1 (advantage - no toll).    From there I was going to head for the Eastern Shore via the north end, without crossing the Bay Bridge (which by that time the radio said had a 4-mile-plus backup of folks at the toll booth, all going to the beach.)

A short run south along the Susquehanna River brought me to a picturesque town I’d not visited previously, but had heard the name many times (Port Deposit.)  For railroaders, you will recall the “Port Road” branch northwest out of Perryville, MD – that formerly-electrified line runs right through Port Deposit, but there was no rail activity while I was there.

   PRR's  Port Road
After parking the car and starting the walk downtown, I noticed one of my earrings was missing, I retraced my steps and fortunately found it on the sidewalk not far from the car, right outside someone's front door and best of all, undamaged.  At that point, I removed the other earring as well as my finger ring, for safekeeping.  And while I was retracing my steps to find that earring, I found I was wobbling on the rather uneven block sidewalk.  So I switched to my patent flats before heading back toward town.  Nothing is worth ending up with a turned ankle.

I had to pass thru a rather lively Dock Bar to get to the river walk, with 30-plus bikers and their babes around, as well as lots of other visitors sitting (or standing) with drinks in their hands.  Fortunately I didn’t attract the wrong kind of attention.  Many women seemed to have a friendly smile for me as well as a cheery “hi.”   Definitely affirming.

 The Dock Bar entrance

The River Walk

My cell phone had been giving me problems the whole trip, and as I drove east after leaving Port Deposit to get to the Delmarva, I spotted a phone store.  Mandy (still wearing skirt, patent flats and light makeup, but no earrings or finger ring) headed for the front door.  One of the younger male clerks rushed to hold that door open for me.   And I was treated as female by all the male clerks, as they resolved the issue.  Gotta admit: an elderly male customer sitting at the counter checked me out.  Not sure if he clocked me, or he liked what he saw, but it doesn’t matter - he was no threat.

From there, I headed home, stopping at Mt. Harmon Plantation on the Delmarva.  A beautiful house and estate.  It’s someplace to take my wife on a day with nothing better to do.  And it doesn’t require dealing with the bay bridge…   

Once you turn off paved road, it's a two mile drive on a one lane dirt driveway with very few passing places.  (I only had to back up once!   But for someone without the ability to back up in a straight line for as much as a thousand feet, it would be a major problem.)

 Mt. Harmon Plantation

Then it was home again, back to a good home-cooked meal.   This really was a fun weekend…and I look forward to the next one!


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Planes, Trains & Automobiles - oops, no planes.

Next day, I elected to drive north for some more exploring around the defunct East Broad Top Railroad.  Knowing in advance that this is a regular haunt of some folks I know from back in the DC area…I chose to dress somewhat androgynously.   Translation:  ankle boots for tromping around in ballast, capri jeans with pantyhose, very old rail-motif polo shirt, but “no skirt.”   Mandy stayed in the suitcase. 

There were some interesting spots near the old right-of-way.  One was this picturesque auto bridge over Aughwick Creek,.  The water was still running high and fast after days of rain in the area.  You could see by the matted grass how high the water had been…

On the way into town, I passed a used car dealer, with a drop-dead gorgeous 1961 Chevy Impala Super Sport with rare 409 cubic inch engine, 4 on the floor, and 41,000 miles (allegedly original) on the odometer.  Needless to say, the proprietor came out to say hi.  We talked cars for a while, and this one had just been sold. For an astonishingly high figure, like “5 figures to the left of the decimal point.”  Wow!

Then a friend of his in a hot Mustang drove by and stopped.  The 3 of us talked cars for a while, which took some more time….      Note to self:  If I ever try to sell my antique, I need to set my price sights a bit higher than what I originally thought…LOL!

Next, I decided to go into town and see the train station…I was able to walk around it, and also the railroad grounds.  It’s too bad trains don’t run any more.  Such a complete railroad, shuttered.  So sad…

Then I set my GPS for Robertsdale, where there is a fascinating museum (it was closed the last time I was in town.)   It’s the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum.  What a place! The basement, main floor and upper floor of an old church, full of information and exhibits about the area, its residents, and its former big industries:  coal mining and railroads.   (Note the wicker chair in the center foreground...a relic from the nearby Huntington & Broad Top Railroad's parlor car.)  n

If I had taken the time to read everything of interest, they’d have had to kick me out when the place closed.  (As it was, I left only an hour before the closing bell.) If you ever get a chance to visit, it’s definitely worth the effort.

On the way back, clouds gathered, so I stopped at a grocery store and picked up dinner to take back to the motel.  Staff at the store did not use any gender-related terms for me.  And not long after getting back, it started to rain.  Hard.  I laid down on the bed, and next thing I knew, it was morning!

As an aside, I’ve become somewhat envious of women wearing skorts (skirts with shorts attached underneath).   Skorts certainly offer the best of both worlds: the feminine  appearance of wearing a cute skirt, but with modesty, offered by attached shorts underneath.   A perfect combination. 

So, in preparation for Mandy’s next trip, whenever that may be, I already mentioned that I bought a gray skort for myself “on line.”   (I already have a denim one.)  

Finally, here’s a pic…

Once it arrived, there was only time to do that quick check to see about fit…and it should be fine.  (But when wearing heels, it will look better with pantyhose, rather than just bare legs.)

More later.


Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Conococheague Uprising? Never heard of it...

Recently, I took a brief sightseeing trip, back up into western Maryland and central PA.  (Yes, even in spite of the forecast of rain.) 

First stop was Hagerstown, MD…named for Jonathan Hager, a German immigrant who purchased 200 acres in 1739 and initially named it Hager’s Fancy.   It was a big railroad town back in the day (Western Maryland Railway), and now (under CSX Transportation) it remains as such, at least to some extent.  There is a big edifice along Burhans Blvd, which currently serves as Hagerstown’s  headquarters for the police department.  Trains still pass the building:

…which used to be Hagerstown’s Western Maryland Railway depot.   Fortunately, city fathers saw fit to re-purpose the building instead of demolishing it…and the restaurant across the street seemed to be getting a fair amount of walk-up business from staff at lunchtime!

Then it was off to the land of the Conococheague Uprising.   What's that you say?  You hadn’t heard of the Conococheague Uprising of 1765?  Don’t feel bad…I hadn’t, either.   (FYI the word itself is of Delaware Indian origin.) 

Here is a summary from Wikipedia:

The Black Boys, also known as the Brave Fellows and the Loyal Volunteers, were members of a white settler movement in the Conococheague Valley of colonial Pennsylvania sometimes known as the Black Boys Rebellion. The Black Boys (Important...not a reference to actual race of the members – M.),  so-called because they sometimes blackened their faces during their actions, were upset with British policy regarding American Indians following Pontiac’s War. When that war came to an end in 1765, the Pennsylvania government began to reopen trade with the Native Americans who had taken part in the uprising. Many settlers of the Conococheague Valley were outraged, having suffered greatly from Indian raids during the war. The 1764 Enoch Brown School Massacre, in which ten school children had been killed and scalped, was the most notorious example of these raids.

Led by James “Black Boy Jimmy” Smith, the Black Boys—faces blackened and dressed as Indians—confiscated and destroyed a number of supply wagons that were headed to Fort Pitt on March 6, 1765. Some of the items in the supply wagons were official diplomatic presents, necessary for making peace with Native Americans at Fort Pitt. Other items, however, were trade goods sent by Indian trader George Croghan who was seeking to recoup his losses from the French and Indian War.  Croghan had secretly (and illegally) included rum and gunpowder in the shipments in order to make a profit once trade with the Indians was legally resumed.

Despite the fact that the shipment contained illegal trade goods, British army officers at nearby Fort Loudoun sided with Croghan and the traders. Using American Indian raiding tactics, the Black Boys continued to prevent shipments from moving through the valley, and Fort Loudoun was surrounded and fired upon on several occasions.

Tensions dissipated after formal peace in Pontiac's War had been established, but in 1769, when another war with Native Americans seemed imminent, Black Boys again stopped another wagon train. After British troops arrested several of the Black Boys and imprisoned them in Fort Bedford. James Smith and the Black Boys surprised and captured the fort on September 12, 1769. No one was harmed, and the prisoners were set free. (This capture of Fort Bedford is documented only in Smith's autobiography, so it may be a tall tale, although historian Gregory Evans Dowd notes that there is some corroborating evidence, and some other historians believe the tale to be true.) Troops were sent to arrest Smith, and in a struggle a friend of Smith was shot and killed. Smith was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but was acquitted, as there were doubts that it was his weapon that had killed the man.

The above really is stuff you never heard about in school, wouldn’t care about if they told you, and promptly forgot about, after exams were over!  It's part of our history, so I wanted to cover some of the countryside affected by it, as well as see a few landmarks still standing.

First stop was the former Maxwell property in Mercersburg, PA.  This limestone two-story house was part of the 2,000 acre estate of Justice William Maxwell, who died in 1777.  It is now privately owned, and the picture was taken from a public road. 

On to Fort Loudon, near its namesake town in Pennsylvania.    It’s a little-known state monument from the era of Pontiac’s war, and the state must be having its perennial funding issues.  A large and well-kept sign on the main road advertises its existence, but when you drive to the fort (on its tar-and-chip country lane with pretty split-rail fencing on both sides), it’s closed.  

There are signs posted near the locked gate, advising trespassers that there is “Danger - walls are unstable.”  That may be an understatement.  From a distance, it appears that in places, some of the walls may be ready to fall down.   But the fort wasn’t the only sight to see in that location.  There is what appears to be a country farmhouse with log cabin style extension in the back.  No signage tells about its history, but it, too, was closed.

Then it was “Westward Ho”, over Tuscarora Mountain Summit on US Route 30, elevation 2123’, with its Mountain House restaurant at the peak, providing a fabulous view on a clear day. 

I was enroute to the little burg named after Daniel McConnell, who laid out the “borough” (a form of municipal government in Pennsylvania) of McConnellsburg on April 20, 1786.    There, the former McConnell’s Tavern still stands downtown, on Lincoln Way West. now serving as someone’s private residence.   It was a resting place for travelers prior to the March 1768 ambush at Sideling Hill.  I hope the owners appreciate the importance of their home to the area’s history…   And that town was my last stop before “heading for the barn” for the day.

You might be wondering: what did I wear for this excursion?  Neither the new gray skort I just received, nor my denim one.  Didn’t even take them along.  I needed to be able to do quick "cornfield changes" without fully disrobing.    Thus I wore shorts, and when the time was finally right, I pulled my red paisley skirt on over them, removing the shorts carefully and discreetly from underneath.   It worked like a charm!   I didn’t concern myself with wearing the same outfit all the time on the traveling portion of my journey, as it was unlikely I’d see the same folks twice.   

While walking around town, an opportunity presented itself to get a pic of my outfit.  By the way, I love my new heels…they’re perfect, and they are stretching a bit.  Heels nonetheless, but comfortable enough that I should be able to wear them all day long.   (As long as the pavement is decently smooth.)  It’s much easier to sprain an ankle in any height of heel than in flats, particularly till the wearer gets used to them!

Before arriving at the motel, there was another cornfield change and I put Mandy back in the suitcase.  I’ve stayed at the motel before and am sort-of-known by the proprietor.  However, at dinnertime in a restaurant in a nearby town, I was addressed as “Ma’am” even in my shorts and top.   Eventually, though, they dropped the “Ma’am” and went to “no gender specific form of address.”   Not sure why…maybe back-room discussion about me?  Didn’t matter – either was fine.

More later!


Friday, August 3, 2018

An unbelievable visit to the auto parts store...

This is a rather surprising segue from the events of my recent journey…

Yesterday it was no sooner than I had I left the driveway on my way to visit Mom, that I heard the taillight-trouble warning tone.  Darn.  Poorly-timed indeed. So I called my mechanic to see if he could do a quick fix for me if I brought him the parts.  “Yes, but don’t forget the fuse” was his answer.   And that’s where this story begins…

My choice of parts store was in a nearby town.  It wasn’t the one where I found the male clerk wearing a skirt a while back.  (She hasn’t been there in my last 3 visits.So I tried a different store.  When I walked in, there was a 20something male clerk and a very friendly androgynous female assistant (though initially I wasn’t sure of her gender) puttering around the showroom.

Bear in mind: I was wearing tan shorts with a rather short – for a guy – inseam, women’s black polo, bare legs and white Keds, with my long hair, long shiny pink nails, and purse.  No makeup, no jewelry.  Though I had shaved my face only a couple hours before which minimized the beard shadow, and also had epilated my arms and legs the night before.   And the store was not well-lit…enhancing the effect of the above accoutrements.

That same store used to have a friendly elderly male clerk, who never used gender-specific terms for me.   He’s gone.

Instead, the new male clerk quickly addressed me as “Sir.”  I didn't notice that he looked up, but he could have seen me while I was coming in the door.     And I’m still not sure whether he clocked me, or was just being contrary.  I looked over at the assistant and rolled my eyes, then looked back toward the clerk and asked him for the parts I needed.  After he did some keyboard-punching, he went in the back to find the parts.  By this point, after hearing her voice when she was speaking to the clerk, I was fairly certain she was female, despite her short, masculine hair style, a bustline very similar to mine (yes, some girls ARE built this way), and jeans with tee shirt.

She took the initiative and spoke first:  “Don’t worry, Ma’am…that same thing happens to me all the time.  You’re not alone.  Nobody ever believes I’m really a girl.  Here or anywhere else.  I’ve just gotten used to it.  The problems are that we don’t get many women in here, and also men’s attitudes toward us.  Why can’t - why shouldn't - women work on their cars?  What some guys don’t recognize is that we girls rule!  Hang in there, honey!!”

I replied (quickly as the male clerk was returning) “Thanks, Ma’am, you’re so kind and understanding. You go, girl!  I hope we’re eventually able to enlighten folks like him about what makes us girls tick.”

Conversation was over, because just then, the clerk walked in with my parts.   I heard the S-word again…so I hope the girl talked to him and maybe was able to teach him a thing or two.  If they happened to look at my name on the credit card receipt after I left, it put the issue to rest…my given name is now a girls' name.  

But I’m sure glad I don’t work there.   I suspect this guy won’t last very long…

The interesting part was “passing” well enough that the woman fully accepted me as female, while the guy "assumed" (or something) that I was male.   Fascinating.


Now, back to writing about my excursion...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Veeeerrrryyyy Interesting...

...and I couldn't believe what happened.

During one of the recent 5-day periods of generally lousy weather in the east, one morning I was doing my housework - specifically, vacuuming the rugs throughout the house.  My outfit du jour was an ankle-length bright red short-sleeve rib knit house dress, and I was barefoot, as is typical for me around the house.   Then my wife decided to go out for a walk.   Fine with me...there's nobody to trip over the cord for the vacuum.

Her timing was impeccable - immediately after she left, the doorbell rang.  So, I had no choice but to answer the door, in my house dress.   It was the letter carrier delivering a package.  My attire was no problem, and the letter carrier (a temp, didn't know me) omitted any gender-specific forms of address.  

Then a little while later, it became quite dark and threatening outside.  Shortly thereafter, the phone rang, with a call from my wife that it was thundering, and I needed to rescue her (a few blocks away.)  The thunderstorm was very fast-moving and caught up to us quickly.   I told her I'd leave immediately, "as I am." She said "I don't care if you're in a dress and barefoot, or an evening gown and heels...just come get me quick."

So I did.   Good thing she had her phone with her that day.  And good thing I was taking a break from my vacuuming when she called. I'd never have heard the phone over its noise.  But the best part was:  it was the first time I've driven in a dress and barefoot, and another even bigger first: the first time having my wife as a passenger in the car while I was thusly attired.

Needless to say, it was an amazing morning.

But wait, there's more...

The morning's storms were followed up by another round of thunderstorms in the afternoon, which caused my wife to decide against driving herself to the store, and possibly getting soaked walking in from the parking lot.  Since I was not out and about, she drafted me to drive her, and pick her up when done.  (She was silent about my attire.)   When she said "let's go," I grabbed my purse and keys (while still wearing my house dress and in bare feet), and we headed into the garage to hop in the car.

Though rain had stopped, it was still cloudy.  I drove the car home while she did our shopping. No doubt she'd have objected if I tried to go into the store with her - anyway, I couldn't even if she wanted me to, because of my bare feet - "no shirt, no shoes, no service."  There isn't even an "emergency pair" in the car.   And in reality, I'm not ready to take quite that big a step in our home town (maybe across the bridge and 50 miles away...just not here.)   But together, these were a huge "double push of the envelope," rather successful ones at that.

She called me a few minutes before she was finished, to give me drive time.  It didn't take long to get there, and nobody seemed to notice me as I sat waiting,  even with the windows open.   Anyone who might have noticed me would have seen only the top 30 inches, which (at a glance through an open car window) would appear to be a woman.  That could be easily "confirmed" by the presence of the dress covering my lap, if they cared to check.  Nobody did.

After our preparation for what could have been a massive rainstorm, this one simply blew on by...not even a sprinkle!   But the way things worked out, that was perfectly fine with me...

The next afternoon, my wife tried another walk...but put me on standby to rescue her again if storms brewed.  Once again, I was puttering around barefooted, in my red house dress, so I said (somewhat tongue-in-cheek): "Let me change into my black dress now, so if you need picked up and we run across anyone today, they won't see me in yesterday's outfit."   I expected some sort of comment, but it was not to be.  Either she didn't hear me, or she just ignored it.  However, for some reason, she waited till I finished changing my dress, and then left without comment.

No, I didn't have to rescue her.  :-(

No, I don't interpret this seeming change in attitude as approval.  :-(   More like toleration, for her convenience.  :-)  But it may bode well for the future...

Monday, July 23, 2018

Some fun around town...

More local fun...

I was leaving the nursing home where Mom stays, and a car pulled up on the driveway next to me.  I didn't pay any attention to it, but as I continued to walk toward my car, I heard "Ma'am?  Excuse me, Ma'am?"  So I looked around and the elderly male driver had lowered his passenger window to talk to me.  (Good thing I answer to male OR female forms of address.)   He had several questions about where he should park, since he had handicap plates and there are two entry doors.  I helped orient him, and he ended with "Thank you Ma'am."

Those occurrences are always so pleasant!

My next stop was at a liquor store, where I was in search of a particular adult beverage to give as a wedding anniversary gift.  To the male clerks, I was female, the entire visit.  Unfortunately, they weren't able to help.  Guess I'll have to stop at a bigger store across the bay bridge...

Since the weather was spectacular, and I was in the mood for a picture while wearing my new heels, on the way home I made a detour and visited the re-purposed former PRR train depot in Easton.  I walked on the rail trail for a bit, then got out the camera. 

My new shoes are a bit snug, but I think they'll loosen up over they're a keeper.  And not hard to walk in with the low heel.  Because the heel is not pointy (stilletto), they're very stable.  Less chance of tripping or twisting an ankle. That's a big plus!  They didn't cost a fortune, but I hope they work over the long run.  There's nothing I'd like better than to be able to wear heels while dressed, no matter what the outfit!


Monday, July 16, 2018

No-Pic Quickie about a fun morning...

I walked in for a visit with Mom the other day, and found that she was in the nursing home's activity room, just sitting there like a bump on a log while most of the 10 residents present were participating in periodic exercise activities (suitable for elderly folks in wheelchairs who have mobility issues.)  After making my presence known to Mom and sitting down between her and a lady friend of hers, I joined right in with the exercises.   After a period of lethargy, Mom finally started to take part (gingerly at best, but at least making an effort.)  Much to the staff's surprise, of course.  And mine as well!  That's a bit of an encouraging sign...

When exercises were over, coffee was handed out.   And while she was enjoying that, a lady who formerly had a relative there came back to visit her old friends.  She even brought her granddaughter along - two years old, pushing a small baby carriage, with her baby doll (which was as big as she was) in the seat.  An adorable little girl...and everyone was talking to her.  She was the hit of the day!

The interesting part was that she responded quite well to me...I was surprised.   Nothing was said, (and the staff mostly knows my gender despite my appearance) but did the little girl think I was a girl too?  Perhaps because of my shorts, pantyhose, tee blouse, white sneakers, my nails, long hair, bracelet and necklace?  We carried on a nice conversation in 2-year-old-speak.  Might have something to do with the practice I've had conversing with my 2-1/2 year old granddaughter...LOL!  But all too soon, it was time for her to go...and I started to miss my own little granddaughter.

Fortunately, D-I-L called that evening to see if my wife and I could skype, because granddaughter wanted to talk to us.  Great timing!  And a pleasant way to end a fun day.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A few observations...

We had a wonderful time on our recent adventure.  That goes without saying.  But I noticed three issues, which stand out.

One, there were a number of occasions where I heard the dreaded S-word.  That was expected, of course.   There was very little femininity in my appearance, due to the circumstance of this trip.  You can see that in the picture below.   No makeup, no jewelry - just purse, long hair, acrylic nails, women's tunics or polo tops, women's shorts and sunglasses.   Given the conservative nature of the state, that may have been a good thing.  (However, we all know from Kim's blog that she has no problems with traveling "pretty" from a nearby town.) 

Two, the issue of the previously-mentioned panhandler(s).  What made me stand out against a backdrop of genetic women?  Doubtful I look as feminine as they do, since quite a few were in skirts.  So why did the panhandler use feminine forms of address for me, while "ignoring" my wife?  (Not that she wanted their attention, but...)

Very curious...

And lastly, I've noted a significant shift in my wife's summer attire since the weather began to warm up: from shorts to skorts.  She looked (looks) very doubt about that.  It's just the current fashion, right?  Or is it?  Hmmm.

I have a couple of solo trips on the drawing board.  One short, and not so feminine.  One long, and fully femme.   Hopefully they will come together, and I'll have more interesting things to write about!   Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading...


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Interesting quickie...

Since returning home from our trip, I've been in androgynous mode.   But there are always some interesting occurrences at times like that.

For instance, on the first relatively cool day after the heat wave broke (temporarily), I put my daily walking into high gear, to try to keep from gaining any weight.  I stopped at a city park in a nearby town as I was passing through, to do a quick mile-and-a-half of walking on their gravel "oval walking track." 

I was wearing tan shorts and a red tunic, my black clogs with bare legs, and carried only my phone and car key.  No makeup, no earrings, just my necklace and bracelet.  I was not the only walker.  There were a couple of other women out walking, too.  In the infield, a couple of local soccer teams (all boys) were apparently playing a game, but their game was close to one side of the track.

As I walked by on the "close" side, I peered to one side through my Foster Grants, to see if I was attracting any attention.  None noted.  Except when the ball came my way and the boys zipped past to retrieve it.  "Sorry, Ma'am" was the only comment...I responded with "No problem.  Have fun, boys."  No fuss, no muss, no bother.  That's the way it should be.

And then at the tire store, where I am known as a guy, the S-word came into play.  I guess I can't have it all...especially since I haven't transitioned, and at this point, don't have any plan to do so.


Friday, July 6, 2018

OTRA Part 7 - Home again....

Time was growing short for sightseeing, so we returned to our hotel.   Yes, once again the balcony was wonderful for relaxing…

At dinner time, it was back to the riverwalk to find our meal, and on the way, we noticed a statue of San Antonio’s namesake:  San Antonio.  Interesting.  Didn’t ever think about the origin of its name.

Meet San Antonio:

All too soon it was time for this excursion to end.   Our departure was from the same station at which we arrived – the old Sunset Station.  It consists of several buildings and is an event center as well as train station, thus the gates to the event center part of the station were locked.   

Unfortunately it was well before dawn, thus this is the best picture I could get:

On the way through Dallas, we passed by Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy was assassinated back in 1963.  And I took a quick picture of the building from which those fatal shots were fired:

Trains all ran late enough that by the time we got to Washington DC, we had missed our connection for Baltimore.  But Amtrak put us on another train, departing only a half hour after the one we missed.  Even though we were inconvenienced, that was quick service!

It was a wonderful trip, and we both enjoyed our visit to Texas.  Will another excursion like this be in the cards any time soon?  We don’t know.  But I do know that I will once again be out on the rails - hopefully sooner rather than later.   

And I’ll be writing more entries for this blog when I do.

Thanks for reading…


Monday, July 2, 2018

OTRA Part 6 - The Fat A** Ranch & Winery? Really?

Anyone remember Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the USA?   I can remember him from when he was inaugurated after the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.  The announcement of Kennedy’s death came over the PA system at the school I was attending near Pittsburgh, PA.   But you may ask: “Exactly how and why does this topic apply in this blog?”   

Well, proximity of LBJ’s “Western White House” to San Antonio, where we were visiting, is the reason.  As we had access to a rental car, and as we both were interested in visiting the ranch (which is now the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park), off we went!

It’s out in Texas Hill Country, and currently covers about 1600 acres, of which about 700 are officially part of the park.   On the bank of the Pedernales River, it's is a lovely setting.

 The ranch, from the entrance drive.

The Western White House

There is an airfield on the property, and on display is “Air Force One-Half,” the jet used to transport LBJ to and from the Western White House.   The 707 in use as Air Force One back then couldn’t land on the ranch’s short runway.  We parked our rental car on the “taxi-way” marked by yellow lights with blue lenses.  

From the American-Statesman comes the following info:

The National Park Service rescued the 50-year-old JetStar from the Pentagon's "bone yard," an open-air retirement home for more than 4,400 old planes in the dry, desert air of Tucson, Ariz. The government paid $261,000 to bring the plane to Texas, to provide shelter and to restore the exterior of the VC-140 Lockheed aircraft with a sparkling new paint job that replicates the outside of Air Force One.

LBJ traveled on a Boeing 707 for most trips when he was president, but he also had a fleet of smaller planes available to him, including several JetStars. The larger plane could not land at the ranch because the 6,300-foot asphalt airstrip was not long enough. However, a JetStar could land and taxi to within 200 yards of LBJ's so-called Western White House along the Pedernales River.

"They could conduct the business of the country right here," said Russ Whitlock, superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park near Stonewall. "But without aircraft like the JetStar, it wouldn't have been possible."

This JetStar, tail number 612490, made numerous trips for the Johnson White House, including taking staffers and aides on flights to Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic during the Johnson White House years. It also flew to Puerto Rico.

The plane was a flying ambulance at times. It was dispatched by LBJ at least twice in the middle of the night for emergency medical missions. Johnson sent his doctors in the JetStar to assist former President Dwight Eisenhower, who had suffered heart pains in Georgia in November 1965. Cardiologists also scrambled to board the plane in August 1966 to treat the gravely ill president of Nicaragua, René Schick. The Central American leader died while the JetStar was still in the air.

Air Force One-Half

Remember the Amphicar?  That amphibious car from the era 1961 to 1968 (about 3800 built) which could function as a boat?  There was a 1962 model at the LBJ Ranch.  Still is there!!


After we finished up at the LBJ ranch, we headed to a couple more sights – one was the Fat Ass Ranch and Winery…yep, that’s its real name.   Couldn’t miss that photo op, which on my list of strange names ranks right up there with Toad Suck, Arkansas (discovered in my trip last January.)

We didn't have time to go in and sample the libations (happy hour is 5PM), but some folks were there enjoying the atmosphere at about 1) - and our share of the booze!   (Apparently they figure it's Happy Hour "somewhere.")

Remember Waylon Jennings singing “Back to the Basics of Love,” which was released in April 1977?    I really like that song, even though I didn’t listen to it much back then.  The lyrics say “Lets go to Luckenbach, Texas…”     It was only a couple miles off our route, so we did.   

Unfortunately, due to an event going on at the town dance hall (possibly a reason for the town's continued existence), we couldn’t drive down its main street.  But on Google Maps it appears to be a rickety, very old western town (allegedly now a population of 3), on a short loop road, and from the perimeter parking lot, we couldn’t see anything to alter that impression.   The only good pic I could get was of the sign…and a "bucket of bolts" pickup sunk in the mud out front.

Waylon Jennings had a fabulous voice.    

I say “had” because he reportedly passed on from this world in 2002, at about 65 years of age, due to diabetes-related complications.  Maybe I’ll try listening to some of his other music.  Like a replay of the theme from the Dukes of Hazzard!  Some of us in the right age category remember that show...if not by name, then by the Dukes' famous General Lee  (a copy of which I visited in Nashville in 2015).

It certainly was a copy-car...the driver's door opened.  I didn't have to climb through the window!

More later…


Sunday, July 1, 2018

OTRA Part 5 - The panhandlers

One day while we were walking around and exploring San Antonio, we came to the San Fernando Cathedral.   The original church was built in the mid-1700’s, and it was enlarged to its present size in 1868, making it one of the oldest cathedrals still serving in the USA.  It played a part in the war with Mexico, and today has a casket with the alleged remains of Col. Travis, James Bowie and Davy Crockett, all of whom perished in the Alamo siege.

The Cathedral

The remains...

Once we had our rental car, it was off to visit the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, just south of San Antonio.  Our rental car shortened the time frame for our visit to the group of missions,  but without it, we could have walked the several miles from town on a branch of the riverwalk.   

That first one (Mission San Jose) was in the best condition, with a gorgeous chapel and beautiful mission grounds.

Mission San Jose

The others we visited (San Juan and Espada) were well kept, but some of the buildings were stone foundations and/or walls, not structures.   At least the sites are stabilized for future viewing.  Well worth the visit!

Mission San Juan

 Mission Espada

And on our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the irrigation aqueduct and dam, built to bring water to the crops at Mission Espada.  And with some repairs in 1895 and the mid 1900's they still remain watertight today!  Quite an engineering feat for something designed and built between 1740 and 1745.

The Aqueduct

On the last day of our San Antonio visit,  I wore one of my few men’s generic polo shirts (buttons on the "men's side" and a railroad logo on the chest) with my women's white shorts and Keds women's sneakers.  Again, no jewelry at all.  No makeup.  Just long hair, purse and nails.  IMHO, not blatantly feminine.    

Panhandlers were out and about en masse.  My wife tended to "not" be hit on by these panhandlers.  But I was - several times - “Ma’am can you spare a dollar?”  While she was with me.  I thought to myself: "that's not very tactful, guys...cut it out!"  And I certainly didn't donate.

My wife picked up on this issue, but said nothing until I mentioned that I had noticed being “hit on” fairly often.    She commented that she doesn’t like that, or my being seen as a woman when we’re out together, but that it happens a lot, and she tolerates it.    And with that said, she promptly changed the subject. 

Being away from home, I didn’t pursue further conversation about that topic.  With only “what everyone seems to consider feminine” outfits in my suitcase, and away on a trip, spousal issues could be more than awkward.   But I think I understand how my getting attention as a woman, when she is “ignored,” could be somewhat frustrating.   We’ll have to see where this goes, over time…but I won't push my luck with full dressing in the near future.

As for the panhandlers themselves: What ever happened to “Can you spare a dime, Ma'am”Guess either inflation has set in… or else oil bucks from high oil prices are rolling free on the streets in San Antonio!   

More later...


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

OTRA Part 4 - It's just "ducky."

As you can imagine, writing this during the trip has been a challenge.  Bits and pieces at a time.  I will continue working on it after we return home...   

We haven’t seen the desk clerk who checked us in for a couple days.  Guess he is part time and off duty.  The other clerks have addressed us as “folks” which is fine.  But one day, our clerk magically appeared.   He obviously remembered us, and now it became quite clear that he thought we were indeed two women.  I was “Ma’am” a number of times…and we were both “ladies.”   Hmmm.  Maybe the shorts, polo and sneakers aren’t an issue, after all?  Or were they all just being politically correct?  We'll never know...and it doesn't matter.

Anyone familiar with American history may remember the politician named Teddy Roosevelt, and his “Rough Riders.”   The Menger Hotel became a part of that history.

Back in 1898, before becoming President of the US, Mr. Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  He resigned to organize the Rough Riders, the first voluntary cavalry in the Spanish American War.  Roosevelt recruited a diverse group of cowboys, miners, law enforcement officials and native Americans to join the Rough Riders.   This group participated in the capture of Kettle Hill, then charged across a valley to assist with the seizure of San Juan Ridge.    

The Menger Hotel bar is allegedly the location where some of this recruitment took place!

In today’s world of electronic gidgy-gadgets, it’s rare to find a real, operating "conventional" phone booth.  There are 4 of them at the Menger, lined up like ducks in a row.   I wonder if enough people use them to cover the cost?  (Don’t know about you, but I can’t even remember the last time I put a quarter in a pay phone.)  Yes, I sure can remember the old days, when the cost of that call was a dime!  Oh, the uproar that change caused in yesterday’s society!

The San Antonio River snakes through San Antonio, but instead of being a nasty, swampy mess, with periodic flooding and weeds littering the banks, city fathers took a lemon and made lemonade.  With substantial investment and expansion, sidewalks on both banks, and more than a bit of landscaping and commercialization, it resulted in a perfectly lovely place to stroll with your wife, hubby, significant other, or even (gasp) by yourself.   

While in town for less than a week, my wife and I walked over 20 miles (with an electronic gidgy-gadget measuring the distance) exploring the area, and over half of that was on the memorable river walk.  If you ever get a chance to visit Texas, be sure to stop in San Antonio.

We (and a whole lot of others) enjoyed a couple of delicious meals under the colorful umbrellas at one restaurant along the riverwalk.  It’s a historic place, having been established in 1946.  At times, there is quite a wait for a table.  Our challenge was to get there when the wait was short.   We succeeded!  The food was good, but oh, my – the atmosphere was superb!

With small battery-powered barges full of people paying princely sums for barge tours of the riverwalk area constantly passing by, we had fun watching the tourists watching us, and watching the ducks scurry around, cleaning up on any crumbs accidentally dropped under the tables. 

It’s hard to resist the hungry eyes of this feathery little buddy:

This location provided a first for me:  

Someone was tugging on the untucked hem of my polo top.  Not sure who was trying to look up my top, I quickly glanced around and down…at an apparently-hungry, and very tame, generic brown duck (like the above) with its beak clamped on my shirt, tugging at it in an attempt to get my attention and beg for food.  When I reached around to grab my camera, the duck promptly let go of my shirt (no harm done) and skedaddled off to greener pastures!   

I wonder if anyone fed him afterward?

Following is a sample of some of the fabulous scenery, with more waiting around every curve!!

More to follow!