Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ever been to the top of an extinct cinder cone?

Over the years, this girl's travels have been quite diverse...some well photographed, some not so much...

From Wikipedia, the official name of this monument is Capulin Volcano National Monument, in the northeastern part of New Mexico.   In 1971, at the time I took these pictures, the official name was Capulin Mountain National Monument, one of the lesser-known natural treasures in the US.

Capulin Volcano is a well-preserved, relatively young (58,000 to 62,000 years old), symmetrical cinder cone. It rises steeply from the surrounding grassland plains to an elevation of 8,182 feet above sea level. The irregular rim of the crater is about a mile in circumference and the crater about 400 feet deep. 

This is one of the outstanding landmarks located in the northeast corner of New Mexico, where the rolling grasslands meet the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.   Capulin Volcano's highest point provides unobstructed, panoramic views of the volcanic field, distant snow-capped mountains, and portions of four states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado).

Look closely at the almost-empty parking lot on the other side (WAY over there), and you'll see my blue car.

Telephoto view of parking lot...

A perfectly-shaped symmetrical cinder cone at dawn!  The diagonal line on the side of the cone is the road to the top.  Fabulous sightseeing!

And it was very clear the day of my visit...                                                                                          

This week there was a big meeting of several vendors for a universally-used "utility," held in the office of our development, and attended by about half the residents. While we knew some of the folks there, most were ones we hadn't met.  It was nice to meet the other neighbors.   I was wearing one of my summer outfits due to mid-seventies temperatures:  untucked polo tunic, Capri pants, pantyhose, flats and small over-the-shoulder purse, with no makeup or jewelry.  Some residents avoided gender-specific greetings for me.  Others used the dreaded "S" word, because they knew me.  But the vendors generally used feminine forms for me...and it was good to hear!  Fortunately my wife missed most of them...she would not have been happy.

We'll see where the "miss-identifications" lead...



Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Spring has finally sprung", and more...

I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some things.  It must have been Trainee Day.  There were very few familiar faces, and every time a new customer walked in, the male cashier sang out the "company line" which ended with a gender-specific greeting.   On the way in,  two customers right in front of me (it was busy that morning) were women, and they were addressed as "young lady." I wasn't sure what I'd hear... 

Turned out that was a topic I needn't have concerned myself with...he apparently saw me as a "young lady" as well.  (For the record, I'm not young.  But he was very nice to say it!)    When I checked out, he sang out "Thank you, young lady!"  My reply was "You're welcome, sir, and have a nice day."  "Thank you, Ma'am - you too."   All within earshot of the trainer, whom I had noticed was lurking nearby!

Next, I stopped in at my favorite auto parts store to pick up some oil for my car in preparation for  the upcoming antique car outing.  They are always nice there.  Turns out they had new people on staff, and a lot more customers than usual were out and about doing car things.  Not only was it horrendously busy, but the customers were all male (or so they thought), and they were addressing everyone as "Sir."  Regardless of a purse, long nails, long hair, arched eyebrows, feminine outfits and other female cues...  Maybe it was training day there, too?  If so, they didn't get high marks...

Fortunately, this picture says it all...Spring has finally arrived!

Trees are blooming as the antique car is all cleaned up and ready to go!

Enjoy your spring, ladies!

More time permits.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

House call by "the train guy" & "Long Sleeves"

Since my last update on the model railroad situation in January - "A Watched Pot Never Boils" - my model trains haven't turned a wheel.  I picked up replacement items recommended by the tech, and he agreed to come by the house to install them.  But due to weather in February and his own car problems (and our travel) in March, it never happened.

Until this week.  He came by, and this time there was no "gender confusion" with my appearance (despite my feminine outfit.)  He did a professional job of installing everything - all the parts I bought were necessary to make things work again.  But given the fact that neither train had been run in over 9 months, the tracks have become dirty from household dust and possible oxidation.  That's causing signal and power fluctuations to the trains, with some arcing from the power contact wheels.  So, I'll need to clean the tracks.  He gave me instructions of what to get, so I'll receive the performance the trains are capable of providing.   My plan is to pick up the supplies "on the other side" as we head south for the wedding...but running trains a lot will help, even before I clean the tracks by hand.

It was great to be able to "Highball" some trains again, after such a long are a couple of pictures of my newly-reopened railroad:

 The first "meet" in a long time...

Shiny rails again, at last!

It looks like I'll be following Marian's and Pat's suggestions about the shirt sleeve length for my new suit.

No stores that I visited today on "this" side of the bridge, sell short sleeve dress shirts.   Six different venues.   We don't have a big and tall place here, but I've found out from trying on shirts, that even if we did, sizing isn't at all consistent.  Unfortunately, 1+1 is not necessarily 2, and trying on is a requirement..

Before leaving this morning, I measured my neck size as 17".  So, I went into a Joseph A Bank store, and they had me try on a 17-1/2 neck shirt, knowingly with sleeves too long and body too big.  The neck fit me just fine. But the $70 shirt didn't. The clerk said they can provide one with the proper sleeve length, and for a small charge ($15) can take in the oversize body. But they can't take in the "balloony-ness" of the sleeves (to coin a term) without an even larger alteration charge - if the tailor would even be willing to attempt it.  So, I could easily become the proud (?) owner of one shirt, for which I paid well over 2/3 the cost of the $150 suit!  That's just not economical - or practical.  So, we left.

We stopped into 5 other stores, of varying size and name.  The results:  inconclusive.  A 17-1/2" neck was 3/4" small in some shirts, or 1" small in others. We thought maybe I could try 18" or 18"1/2" necks, but then the body would be too big (again.)  I found ONE particular shirt with a 17-1/2" neck that may work - if my wife moves the neck button about a half inch looser. The sleeves are 35" but she thinks she can put an overlap in them to shorten them.

My only problem with that approach: the overlap will be visible if I take my jacket off.  So I'll be stuck in the jacket, even if it's 90 degrees out.  Thus, changing clothes will be required as soon as the ceremony and pics are over.   I'll see if she can put the overlap where I can at least take off the coat and roll up the sleeves to disguise case for some reason I can't change for a while.

What a surprise...we're having an alterations place hem the pants...they'll be done next Friday!

And the beat goes on....


Thursday, April 9, 2015

It seems there's a new adventure almost every day...

Now that we're home... it became time to go shopping for my new suit for the wedding next month.

So, across the bridge we went, shopping - with me wearing a women's polo, women's polyester dress slacks (no stirrup pants or leggings today), black tights, flats, and carrying my purse.  No makeup, no lipstick, no jewelry. It's about as masculine as I can be...

First stop over on "the other side" was a branch of a major men's clothing chain.  It was the place I'd seen ads for suits costing $149.  We walked in and were greeted as "ladies."  I inquired (in my male voice) about men's suits.  "We can help you, Ma'am."  (I glanced over at my wife, but she had turned to look at the suits on the nearby rack...intentionally, I suspect.)  I said, "Let's start with the ones advertised for $149. "  "Oh, sorry, Ma'am.  That sale has ended, and we have nothing in the store for $149.  Our suits now start at $200 and go up from there.  The $300 ones are very nice for that price."  I said "We're not looking to spend that much, sorry."  And we left the store.

We had another stop to make (for wedding stuff) in that shopping center.  I went in with her, and while I was not "miss-identified," there were no strange looks from any of the women (or young girls) there.  When we finished, it was off to another shopping center, this one enclosed, where there was a Macy's.

Enroute down the shopping center's main aisle, vendors were pouncing on us two "ladies," to try to con us into buying things.  We both repeatedly said "no thanks" and kept walking, in a couple cases leaving them babbling their spiel to our backs. 

Before we knew it, we had reached Macy's.  Since I bought a wonderful heavy winter coat there a few years ago, at a fabulous price, we stopped in, hoping to find similar sales on winter suits.  There were sales, all right, but sale prices were even higher than those of the first store.  (Like upwards of $400, all designer brands.  Who needs a (insert designer name here) suit for $400-$500?  Not lil' ol' me!)  So we started back into the mall.  Walking through the makeup section got us a lot of greetings and "miss-identifications" by the sales ladies...from behind their customer-free counters.

Across the mall we trudged, to a major chain retailer (the one in the news for the past couple years for price shenanigans.)  There was one clerk in the men's suit area.  After waiting for him to check out some other customers' small purchases, he finally greeted us as "Hi Ladies."    I asked about suits in my male voice, which changed his form of address for me to "sir."  Which was OK, since I wasn't trying to femulate.  Good news is:  He measured me and we determined my current men's size.  Bad news is, he wandered off in the middle of helping me, "to check out a customer."

Turned out that 4 more customers got in line behind the original one.  So, after about 10 minutes of waiting, and three more customers getting in his line, I took off the coat he had me try on.  I couldn't find pants to go with it anyway - nowadays they sell suits as separates, so they can milk people for more in total - and we left.  They're seriously understaffed...not sure why the chain is in financial trouble, with all the money they save by not having enough employees.  Could it have something to do with customers not getting service, and just leaving for other stores?  In my own case, they lost a nearly $200 sale.

Next we went to the other end of the mall, for a visit to another big chain...also with a staffing problem.  There were no clerks at all in the men's department - it was completely "self-service."  But thanks to the guy who lost the sale at the other store, I already knew my size, found the appropriate coat, and a pair of pants that fit - except for "needing hemmed." I tried both on to be sure, picked out a belt and tie, and took everything to the centralized check-out clerk.  Total with tax came to about $180.  Not much more than renting a Tux...or considerably less, if I'd have had to purchase new tux-quality dress shoes.  (Incidentally, my wife is OK with my wearing a pair of my flats, as long as I wear a pair of dark trouser socks.)  And I get to keep the outfit if I ever need to wear a suit again.  Yes, I realize that it's not the finest quality clothing  (Macy's had lots of that -  at massively-high prices).  But for one wedding and as a "closet stuffer," it'll do.

On the way home (no traffic at the bridge at 2 PM) my wife mentioned:  "I hope you see why I insist that your hair be pinned into a ponytail for the wedding."  "Go on..."  "Because wedding pictures will last forever.  When the kids write our names on the back, or label the ones on the computer, yours is a girl's name now.  I don't want people to always wonder 'who's that big woman standing there with (our son's) mother?'"

To keep the peace, I'm not going to quibble with my wife's logic...particularly since presenting as unambiguously male is a tad difficult.  At least she tolerates my long hair and feminine attire the rest of the time...for that I'm eternally grateful.

During our shopping spree, we couldn't find a short sleeve shirt to wear with the suit.  The wedding is outside, it's going to be May in the south (probably hot), and I refuse to wear a long sleeve shirt under a dark suit outside, even if short sleeve shirts "aren't proper with suits."  Once I find a new short sleeve men's white shirt, I'll try everything on and see how I look with long hair...masculine or feminine.   And maybe even, with the ponytail.

But for now, the die is cast, so, "it will be what it will be..."

Till next time...


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The distillery and "Home Again."

When we finally arrived at the distillery, the gate was open.  So, we drove in to the gift shop/visitor center parking lot.  The door was locked, however.  As we got out and started taking pictures of the displays, another car with 2 ladies in it parked next to ours.  When I mentioned that the door was locked, they thanked me, and also got out and started taking pictures.   With 4 of us wandering around, cameras clicking, a female guard roared up to the gate in her 4wd, and started yelling that the place was closed and she was going to lock the gate.  "So, you ladies need to leave now."

Both groups of us got into our cars and drove out, passing the guard, who apologized and said that the gate sometimes opens by itself, which it apparently did while she was on her rounds.  (Like our son's Telly that sometimes turns itself on, when the cat steps on the on-button of the remote?)  She was apparently concerned about getting fired if someone got hurt on the property "on her watch."  And she invited us to return tomorrow.

Don't know what the other ladies told her, but we said we were only here "today," so a return visit was unlikely.  And with that said, we the gate closed behind us.  Sounds like a security issue there - and they need to find someone to fix their gate - pronto!  (Or else add a full-time guard out front to stop it when it opens.)

The small distillery:                               

George Dickel distillery, Normandy TN

Some take-aways from our long visit:

I was able to avoid most restroom issues by drinking less during the day, but it wasn't easy or comfortable.  In the presence of my wife, using the women's room wasn't an option.  Though my androgynous appearance did invoke a friendly reminder from the clerk (at the museum in Monterey, TN) that it was OK for me (presumably a woman) to use the available men's room.  Particularly. since the one-holer ladies' room was already occupied. 

The fact that folks are generally conservative in Tennessee, so far has not been a major issue.

A few of the duck-dynasty-type males (and there are PLENTY of those) gave me some really long looks (not sure if that's a good - or bad - thing.)  A couple times, I was tempted to plagiarize a comment I've seen in one of the other blogs and say: "OK, just pick one."  But I haven't.

Southern women still smile and say hi, just as they do in my home state.  Even if they do clock me.   "Southern hospitality????"

Young kids stare occasionally, more so than up north.  Particularly the ill-mannered ones, whom I feel I'm helping to educate.  Not sure if it's the nails, long hair, outfit...or, like Meg noted recently, the fact that I carry a purse.  (Oh, to be that butterfly on their screen when they get home...)

But one thing is for sure:  many don't know how to drive.  "No turn signals" were common.  Going 45 in a 70 zone,  roaring past in the fast lane at 85, then braking hard while cutting across two or three lanes of interstate traffic (right in front of you) to try to get to the exit they just missed, backing up on the shoulder to get to the exit they just missed, and backing up the shoulder of the on-ramp because they really didn't want to be on the freeway, were a few of the examples I saw.   (Guess some of them have been driving farm vehicles for too long.) 

So, in concluding this story, I'll share a pretty sunset, taken out our son's front door.  Enjoy!  And thanks for following my travelogue.



Friday, April 3, 2015

Bell Buckle, Wartrace & Normandy

We don't sit around during dull times, even when visiting.  Wanderlust sets in, even with only a few spare hours - and the car beckons us to go.   On another quiet day, we went for a ride on I-24 S, and came across the sign for the towns Bell Buckle and Wartrace.  Curiosity set in, and we exited on to some two lane roads.

Our first stop was Bell Buckle, population about 500, an artsy and antiquey little place by active railroad tracks.  (And it IS Bell Buckle...not Belt Buckle!)  It also is home to the Webb School, a rather expensive boarding high school for those privileged few with sufficient means to pay over $40K per year to board and privately-educate each of their offspring (it's reportedly co-ed.)  Per the internet, their average class size is 10 and student/teacher ratio is 6 to 1, so it BETTER be a REALLY GOOD education...if not, it's just an expensive baby-sitter!

Nice mural...notice the Moon Pie and RC Cola emblems painted prominently on the wall!

The little shops were mostly closed when we were there (early), but the cafe was highly recommended by the one open shop.  (Which had some cute - but pricey - stuffed animals.)   However, I heard a train whistle, and had to trot over to the tracks to grab some pix....

This one was certainly moving along, at an estimated 60 mph!  Made quite a breeze as it roared by.

After we finished looking around in Bell Buckle, we followed country roads to Wartrace, population about 600.  We were surprised to find very few artsy/antique shops.  The biggest occupied storefronts were the local lawyer's office, a hobby shop (closed that day) and The Tennessee Walking Horse Museum (closed, but with no signs showing when it is actually open.)  That would be an interesting one for a future visit!  The biggest activity was a local farmer selling his wares in the parking lot.

Unfortunately, we didn't need what the vendor  was selliing...

A spectacular old house in Wartrace

Our ultimate destination was the George Dickel distillery, out in the country, near  Normandy.  But on the way, we were distracted by the chance to get "up close and personal" with the TVA reservoir and flood control dam just outside of town.  Not often does one have a chance to get this close to the downstream side of a big dam.

Now, with the time creeping past 1:30, we came through downtown, and found the only restaurant open (more appropriately, the only restaurant in town!)  Being hungry, we parked and went in.  The hostess seated us two "ladies" by the lighted gas fireplace, a nice gesture that we both enjoyed (while sunny, it was a bit chilly.)  Food was fabulous - a delightful country buffet. I didn't notice any undue attention from other customers, in this politically conservative area.  The all-female waitstaff continued to address us as "ladies" through the meal, and asked if we wanted two checks or one, placing the bill between us.  Before we left, we both used the restroom, which was unisex. It's all good.

However, apparently the elderly male clerk at the cash register saw right through my androgynous outfit and feminine cues.  As I checked out,  I heard the dreaded "S" word.   Several times.  Aw shucks - this "stuff still happens!"  There's a killjoy hiding behind every bush, shrub and counter.  But this time, it really didn't matter, since I was just being "my androgynous self" - not Mandy - that day.

Great little restaurant in Normandy...

Last section later....