Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Martians, and Lookout Mountain

We certainly were blessed with fine weather for most of our visit...

With my love of "things on rails" it was impossible to pass up a chance to ride the incline in Chattanooga.  This little railroad operates from the foot to the top of Lookout Mountain, sight of a major battle between the Union and Confederate soldiers in America's Civil War, known to all as "The Battle Above The Clouds."

There are only two cars, one going up and the other down.  They're connected by a long cable and counterbalance each other, with the cable going over a large drum at the powerhouse.  Except at the mid-slope passing area and the two termini, the un-powered, steeply sloping cars operate using an outer rail and a common inner rail, at standard gauge (4'-8-1/2").  The route is about one mile long, and though the grade varies, at its steepest it is 72.7 percent, being billed as the steepest incline in the world.

Approaching the upper terminus.

Overhead view.  Notice the common center rail.

My wife bought our tickets while I was off taking pictures.  However, when boarding and de-boarding the incline car, the male attendant omitted any gender-related greeting.  I'd guess he simply wasn't sure, and took the safe course.

While in downtown Chattanooga picking up some party favors for the upcoming wedding, we stopped by the Moon Pie store (they're made by the Chattanooga Bakery, in town.)  They're delicious pastries - two (or three) cookies, with marshmallow icing between them, individually wrapped.  This place was a real "blast from the past."  In addition to Moon Pies and RC Cola (a local favorite) they featured candies and confections which I hadn't seen in many, many years... like Bonomo Turkish Taffy (smack it and crack it).  Read about the convoluted history of this delicious, but not at all common, candy at http://www.bonomoturkishtaffy.com/MuseumHistory_ep_40.html.

Any of you remember the little wax bottles containing small amounts of flavored liquid, which you bit (or broke) the top off, to be able to drink the sweet juice?  If you're not in my age group, probably not...   Last time I thought about NikLNips,  I was in 4th grade, and bought them in a nearby neighborhood general store:

What a find...including store clerks who addressed us as "ladies."

While enjoying the scenery on the hills around Chattanooga, my wife and I noticed a flash of light and a lot of smoke to our left...then this spaceship landed in a small clearing.  Needless to say, I got in some quick pictures, before the steps descended from this orb, and a group of Martians emerged.  They walked right up to our daily driver - and said "Take me to your Buick."  Needless to say, I floored the gas pedal and we fled the area quickly.  We guessed that Martians preferred Buicks, and didn't want to take any chance of ending up on Mars...thus missing the antique car tours scheduled this year.  Had we been driving the antique Buick, it's so big the spaceship might not have had room for it...

Before you ask:  no, this "flight of fancy" didn't really occur.  But the spaceship house (built in 1972, 3 bedrooms and two baths, seen below) is completely real!  You can drive by and see for yourself...look on the internet for Spaceship House, Palisades Road, Chattanooga.  If you're so inclined, you can even rent it by the month for a vacation.  Sounds like a place to have a lot of fun!

When you ride the incline to the top of Lookout Mountain, you can walk a couple of blocks to Point Park.  High atop Lookout Mountain, Point Park was built in 1905, to commemorate the US Civil War's "Battle Above The Clouds."  Carter Stevenson, commander of the three Confederate brigades that defended the area had positioned cannon atop Lookout Mountain to aid in it's defense. November 24, 1863, Stevenson was encamped in the area of the park surrounded on three sides by a force ten times the size of his. A fierce battle ensued, much of which took place on the sides of the mountain,  above the low clouds that day (hence the name.) Once the cannon became ineffective, the troops were withdrawn. Upon orders from General Braxton Bragg, Commander, Confederate Army of Tennessee, Stevenson withdrew his men southwest to Chickamauga Creek and Missionary Ridge, ending the siege of Chattanooga.

Yours truly at Point Park

The woman at the visitor center addressed us both as "ladies" - and me specifically as "Ma'am" the entire time we were there. Very accommodating.

View from the top.  You can see why this position was so desirable, both offensively and defensively!

How would you like that view out your back window?

More later...


Monday, March 30, 2015

Another sightseeing day...

Part of our visit was some sightseeing, because our son and his fiance were both working.  No point in sitting around the house. One day we elected to make our first stop the current venue of the Grand Ole Opry.  A tour was starting soon and had room for us, so we bought our tickets.

It was wonderful to walk through the studio where "Hee Haw" was filmed for about 13 years, and to walk on the stage where performers have trod since 1974 when the venue opened.  Prior to being held here, the Opry performed in downtown Nashville, at the Ryman Auditorium, a fascinating place in it's own right, but with only half the seating capacity.  We were there in the 1990's, but now that we have a connection to the Music City area, I suspect we'll be visiting again.

In the above picture you can see the circle of light wood inserted into the stage at the new venue.  This is where the performers stand.  It was cut from the floor at the Ryman, and moved here to let "the circle remain unbroken."  And we were able to stand there - it really did send chills down my spine!  (Now, if I could only sing...)    Did you know that the performing members of the Opry have mailboxes there, where fan mail can be sent?   Some of the dressing rooms are fabulous...but another lesser-known fact:  only 2 have restrooms!

A photographer was set up at the circle, and she took our picture, addressing us as "ladies."  While my wife went to the gift shop, I dealt with the decision to buy (or not) the picture.  It actually was decent, so I opted to buy.  Despite my less-than-totally-feminine outfit (jean leggings, clogs and a women's polo shirt) and having to present my driver's license to authenticate my credit card, I was addressed as Ma'am.  A very pleasant surprise!

From the Opry, we walked across the IMMENSE parking lot, to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Conference Center.  (They have a parking lot close to the hotel, but who wants to pay $21 to park close?)  Here is a picture from the Cascades lobby.

We visited this venue's "younger sibling" near Washington DC a couple of holiday seasons ago, and while very nice, it doesn't really measure up to this place.  This is a HUGE domed complex, visible from a couple of miles away, with a tropical rain forest and small village with lots of shops in the center of the dome.  We ate lunch at an interior sports bar with $16 hamburgers...and here, the male server identified me as a guy.  Oh, well...it happens!

There is even a boat ride available under the dome (at extra cost, of course.)  We were able to catch a glimpse of it from the elevated walkway.

On the way back to our son's place, we drove past what looked from the highway like a foot bridge over the Cumberland River a couple road miles from the Opryland complex..  So, we navigated our way in, and soon wore ourselves out walking on the Greenway.  Very nice trail...unfortunately it was about 79 degrees, and the bugs had finally realized spring is here...while we had no insect repellent.  Ugh...

And following is a long telephoto view of the Opryland complex from the footbridge.  It really is huge!

More later...when I have time to write...


Friday, March 27, 2015

Mandy's new car...

Well, not really.  One antique car in my garage is more than enough...

However, in Nashville there is a place called Cooter's Garage.  It's named after a character from the old TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard."  They have "imposter" vehicles representing Bo and Luke Duke's General Lee, Cooter's tow truck, Sheriff Rosco's cruiser, and of course, Daisy Duke's Jeep.  This is in addition to the biggest collection of period Dukes toys I've ever seen.

Being a loyal fan of the series, I couldn't resist having a picture taken at the wheel of the General Lee.  (It doesn't move, so I guess it must have finally have run out of gas...something I never saw happen "back in the day.")

Needless to say, it was simple to tell the car was an imposter - I didn't have to climb in and out by way of the window!

More later...as I write it!


PS:  I would have enjoyed having my pic taken in Daisy's Jeep, particularly if I were barefoot and wearing her trademark "short shorts..."   But I wasn't...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Miss-identified again...

The day for the first of two bridal showers arrived...and I was in one of my usual androgynous outfits (stirrup pants over tights, A-line turtleneck and comfortable flats, with my purse...my hair was down and loose.)  Our son and I took my wife to the future in-laws so she could attend.   Our future D-I-L was already there, having arrived the evening before to visit with a cousin who arrived early for the shower.  There were some tasty snacks set out when we arrived, and we were invited to enjoy them, with the girls.

Everyone seemed very friendly, even given my mildly-feminine appearance.  We were introduced to several of the women by D-I-L, but she missed a few.  After we first went in, one of the older ladies introduced herself and her early-teen grand daughter, and asked "...and you're (our son's) mother?"  Since I would surely meet her again, I had no choice but to correct her with "father."  She apologized, then we chatted a minute before we moved on to greet others.  During this chat, I noticed that her granddaughter kept staring at me.  I may have been the first feminine male she's seen...and I'm glad to have visibly enlightened her.  (Would love to have been that "butterfly on their screen" to hear her comments on the way home!)  Shortly I was introduced to some more of the attendees.   None too soon, our son grabbed me, and we headed for the door.  He, his future F-I-L and I took off in the car for a quick inspection trip to the wedding venue, leaving the women (of various ages up to the sixties) to their hen party.

The lady's inquiry about "my being our son's mother" WAS overheard by my wife, and she briefly mentioned the following day in a private discussion (not overheard by anyone) about my hair.  Namely that it's so full and thick, everyone thinks I'm a woman.  I pointed out that it's obviously not everyone, since others knew I was the father, and another lady I didn't know "clearly identified me as a man."  I reminded her that with my pronounced 5-o'clock shadow plainly visible at the time, anyone making such a "miss-identfication" is likely to be in need of some serious vision care...and the subject was dropped.

When we boys returned from our "boys afternoon out", the party was winding down.  We (and the dogs - which were finally released from their kennels) all did our part to "take care" of the remaining snacks - not much was left to waste! One of the female guests remaining (who knew my identity) took a minute to compliment my long hair.  I said that on wedding day it'll likely be in a ponytail, because my wife insists.  She said "that's a shame - it looks so nice and full...."  We talked a bit about how long I've worn my hair this way, plus the fact that twice in years past,  I've donated to "Locks of Love."  At least till I started with breakage as I've aged.  And she had some suggestions for that...it was fun partaking of a women's discussion about a women's topic!

Sunday, an exciting event happened in downtown Chattanooga, which our future D-I-L attended in our absence.  The Mississippi steamboat Delta Queen (which I blogged about  in July of 2014 ("A fabulous vacation, plus a twist")  had been recently sold, and was towed out of town, headed for rehabilitation in New Orleans.  We had to make sure our son got to the airport in Nashville for an out-of-town work trip, thus we couldn't attend.  So she was able to send us some pictures...of which the following is a good one!

Plus, even though the gate was closed and locked, we were able to get a distant picture of the Nashville Super Speedway as we were enroute to Chattanooga.  The speedway is a concrete oval track 1 1/3 miles (2.145 km) long.  It is owned by NeXovation, having been sold by Dover Motorsports, which owns Dover International Speedway.  Nashville Superspeedway was the longest concrete oval in NASCAR during the time it was on the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series circuits, though it is currently no longer a NASCAR venue, and is closed to competitive activities.

More later...


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Off to the kids' house...

Off we went, heading south...

It was an uneventful journey, with fine weather the first day - and lots of traffic.  We drove about half way, stopping in the mountains of southern Virginia the first night.  I was wearing a black stirrup pants outfit including black tights and a turtleneck with my flats.  The male desk clerk at the hotel offered no gender-related form of address.  And we went to dinner at the local Shoney's, where the female server used no gender references, but put the check between us...as servers so often do for two women dining together.

The second day dawned rainy.  We partook of the hotel's alleged "continental breakfast" - stale muffins, with few alternative choices except (presumably) stale bread and (presumably) stale biscuits (with greasy-looking gravy - SOS for you ex-military ladies) and oatmeal made with lukewarm water but no brown sugar or raisins.  I would have tried the hot, cook-it-yourself breakfast waffle, except there was no butter or syrup.  Or I could have "enjoyed" one of the green bananas...which we mused might have seen better use as St. Patrick's day decorations earlier in the week.  On the road again (in snow/sleet/rain), we noted that traffic was much lighter than the day before, and made fairly good time...good enough to allow a couple of sightseeing stops..

For you NASCAR fans: if you haven't been to the Bristol track, you should...particularly if you've been to any of the other tracks.  While they didn't run tours in the rain, and there certainly were no races either, gift shop personnel pointed out the way for us to at least get a look at the track.  We took them up on it.  This track is one of the shortest around, perhaps a half mile.  And with such amazingly short straightaways, it really lives up the the stereotype of "all they have to do is floor it and turn left." 

As have many other tracks, they have developed additional sources of revenue.  You can see from the artwork on the side of the trailer, the infield has the capability of being temporarily converted to a football field for a big college game.  If you plan on watching the game between VA Tech and Tennessee in September of 2016, you'll find it being played on Bristol's infield.

While still in sightseeing mode, my wife and I detoured to a railroad museum in Monterey, TN.  Lots of old town history there, and interesting info about the railroad.  Before we left,  I had need of the restroom.  As I opened the door to the men's room, the very nice female clerk reminded me that the ladies' room was down the hall.  I thanked her but assured her it was the right room, and it was an emergency.  Her reply: "I guess it'll be OK for you to use the men's room - there's another lady already in the women's room..."   So I did...but she firmly believed I was a woman.   Some folks see me as female, others aren't quite so sure.  It all depends on the day, and the eye of the beholder!   (Fortunately, my wife was checking out the exhibits, and missed the whole thing...)

Nice depot, built to replace the old one...

More later...


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Minor details & ghost of the Texas Chief

Several days after trying on my remaining suits (to determine whether I might actually be wearing my women's pants suit to the wedding), and picking which pair of flats will look best, my wife told me that I'll be wearing my hair in a ponytail that day.   I showed her broken short ends of the hair around my face and on top of my head, which "care when blow drying" and "less use of a brush when wet" have been slowly helping to re-grow (but not yet back to ponytail length).  I also pointed out that it wouldn't look good with all those shorter strands flopping around on my face in the breeze.  She said she'll 'bobby pin" them, so they won't be an issue.   I agreed that she could do it for the wedding, and at that point let the subject drop.

However, later that day, we found that she'd be attending two bridal showers during our visit, and I'd probably have to drive her to D-I-L's parents' place each time, and hang around with our son, her dad and brother while the girls have their fun.  So, she got "that look" in her eye again about my hair, which having just been washed, and with noplace to go requiring it to be combed out or given any "greasy kid stuff," it was still in a bit of disarray.

I "headed the problem off at the pass" and cut right to the chase...with my own plagiarized version of "stink eye."   I said that if she's contemplating my hair being pinned up for more than his wedding day, "forget it."  I'll concede the issue on the day of the wedding, since there will be 250 attending (mostly her family), but that's the only time.  I want it loose the rest of the time.  It's how I look every day.   And though most of the family is from the very red state of Tennessee, I'm not.  So, they'll have to get used to dealing with that long-haired "hippie" from liberal ol' Maryland...and at least I'm the right age for the "hippie" part, having attended college in the SF Bay area in the mid-sixties!

She said my hairdresser could whack it back to a men's generic short style - then I wouldn't need a ponytail at all.  My response was to offer her "a deal" - if she finds a full cap wig (men's OR women's) that fits me, in a bob, generic pixie or other shorter style, I'd consider trying that, to give her something she can live with for special occasions like this.   Well,  as you might imagine, if looks could kill!   You probably don't have to guess -  the wig idea's DOA.  And the reason she's pursuing this is - you guessed it - "with your hair loose, you look like a woman."   First time I've heard that statement in a long while...and I'll take it as a compliment, though it certainly wasn't meant that way.

I'm not at all sure how this "hair thing" will work out.  I plan to resist further ponytail wearing - at least until the broken hairs have grown out enough to "stay in the elastic band without lots of help from bobby pins and hair spray."  But realistically, I recognize that such a relatively minor issue as a ponytail and some bobby pins is not worthy of a major "scene" (particularly in plain sight of the kids, or worse yet, others who don't know us)  at such a festive event.  Guess it's like the national "project" of trying to get the debt limit increased prior to the deadline for shutting down the government again.  The question is: who will blink first?

Like everything else, we'll see...

Recently, we had errands to run on the other side of the Bay, and she noticed a couple of men's stores advertising suit sales. (Something we never had reason to check before.)  One was marked for a sale - $149 suits.  She commented that we should stop there in the next few weeks. Apparently the allure of a cheap "men's" suit may be too much to resist.  So as the famous statement goes, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings..." (Gosh,  since I won't be wearing a dress, I hope nobody wants ME to sing...LOL!  Folks would be trampling each other as they scramble for the exits...)

At my most recent appointment with the stylist, I asked if next time I come in, she could pin everything up for me, so my wife could see a professional view of how my hair should look, without damaging it.   She said she could do that, and confirmed that two days in a ponytail (that day and the wedding day), "glued together" with bobby pins and hair spray, shouldn't cause any permanent damage.   I hope she's right.

From the archives - a couple pictures taken in Dallas, TX back in 2009.  First is a city scene on a clear night, as seen from atop the Adams Mark hotel.  Not a hill in sight...   The flat horizon gives it away as being from "out on the plains."  

Next is a ghost of the old Santa Fe "Texas Chief" - courtesy of a 2009 night photo session at the Age of Steam Railroad Museum in Dallas   This was a real adventure!  Equipment was operable, and looking at the pictures today still makes chills run up my back...it was wonderful!

You can tell the engine isn't in current revenue service because it isn't equipped with the two Federally-mandated ditch lights, one down low on each front side, to form a lighted triangle as the train is operating down the track.  And the light behind the number board is too dim.  Nonetheless, it sure is a pretty sight!   And it's such a traditional livery - everyone recognizes it!



Saturday, March 7, 2015

It's a quiet period...

Life has been busy during this particularly nasty winter, but there has been next to no opportunity to dress.  Accordingly, my posts are rather sparse.  And though hopefully the weather will be better this spring...dressing may be similarly sparse. 

We're planning two driving trips to see our son in Tennessee, one of which is for his wedding.   My forecast is for less-than normal femininity on those trips.  I've already been told that my nails are too long for the trips, so I will have the tech shorten them a bit.  And my forecast is that my long hair will be some sort of issue.  Time will tell.

A couple things relating to my wedding attire have been determined...so far, it appears that a tux won't be necessary.  And, after trying on the one men's suit I still own - last worn over 5 years ago - my wife decided that it's too tight.  So I tried on the only other suit I own... she's surprised it has an elastic waist and doesn't have pockets, but apparently doesn't challenge it as women's - or perhaps doesn't care?  (Again, time will tell.)  Her opinion was that the coat fit much better over my breasts and tummy than the other one.  And its pants are just the right length to work well with my dressy ballet flats, which I'll have to wear as they're the least feminine of all my shoes.  The only thing we need to work on is buying a contemporary top - the blouse that came with it has a narrow, blunt collar and it probably wouldn't work with a bridal-color-coordinated tie, which I'll have to wear.

We'll see how this develops...

A couple of pictures from the recent rounds of bad weather:

That's a lotta ice...

 The icicles are all natural, not cheap plastic decorations!

A little warm weather will perk up this poor, snowbound shrub...

Happy Spring (it IS coming!)