Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pedi quickie

You may recall that the cracked part of my left big toe nail I've been dealing with for some time "finally separated from the rest of the nail."  And though I badly needed a pedicure when it happened, I waited a while, to get my next pedicure.

Until now.

I dropped in at the nail salon, and the techs were glad to see me.  I showed them the problem and asked if they could "work around it."  The most experienced tech said "I can take care of it for you, Ma'am" and seated me in the pedi chair.   I asked for her help to match the remains of the color I was wearing, and she brought two bottles of polish to the chair.   Now, I didn't watch what they did...I figured it would be better to see the finished product.  And anyway, it was more fun watching a female customer at the nail station half way across the room, who was watching me.  You know the drill - hide and seek with the eyes.   I'm getting used to it.

The tech finished my pedicure, and painted my nails on that foot a deep red.   They were beautiful, and the repair on the big toe was excellent.  She said "red really disguises it well and is a great color on you, sweetie."  I loved my red toenails, but told her "I think I need to go with the tan."  "Let me paint the other foot, and see how you like it.  Then, if you still want tan, I'll change them for you."

So she did, and had the other nail techs give their opinion...  The lady who had been watching me also came over.   They all voted for red...unanimous.  The lady watching me thought they should also do my fingernails in matching red.  She said to me "Be bold, Miss.  Red is definitely your color.  Wear it proudly."  I guess I must have "passed!"

I knew red wouldn't work right now.   So with much sadness, the tech repainted them with tan. But with a promise of one day, doing some sort of color.

Now to figure out "when?"


Monday, September 12, 2016

A reflection of reality...

I  didn’t hear my alarm that fifth morning, so I must have been tired.  But after a quick shower, I shaved and got dressed, did my makeup and put on the purple paisley skirt (again) with the bright blue ¾ sleeve top, full makeup, jewelry, and bra with light padding.  

Another quick run to Mickey D's (cheap and close) got me another McMuffin and another cheery "Thank you, Sir" from the female clerk.  Oh, well - there's two rotten apples in "that there barrel."   I know I didn't look THAT bad...   She ought to take the time to get to know some of us...we're decent people, just trying to live our own lives.   And what we do with ours, doesn't affect hers at all.

Having a couple of hours to spare before leaving town, I checked out of the motel (no issue about my outfit from the clerk) and headed for Saranac Lake.  That was the destination town for the rail excursion the day before.  I had walked around a small part of town, and wanted to find the rest of it, plus the lake.

On the way in, I passed the lake, and stopped for some morning pictures.   This one is interesting...check out the cloud reflections in the water by the dock...sort of reminds you of characters in a foreign language.
A young couple brought their dogs in by was a Shepherd and I think the other was a Rottweiler.  They started acting up as the boat neared the dock, and they pulled the woman holding their leashes out of the boat quite violently just as it touched the dock.  I was getting a bit worried, as I could see that the animals were not under control.  Fighting off two biting dogs would not have been easy,  even if the ensuing massive lawsuits ended up providing me with "Christmas In July".   However, as it turned out, my worry was unfounded.  They both simply had to pee!  From then on, they were very well-behaved...

It was early, but the women (tourists and residents) I passed all cheerily said good morning, as did some of the older men.    But generally, this girl in a skirt attracted no attention, other than that of being a visitor (walking around with camera in hand and taking pictures is a fairly good clue!)  

It's an old and very well-kept business district, seemingly somewhat smaller than Lake Placid, and a bit less commercial.  Not too many vacant store fronts.  It would be fun to come back here one day, particularly after the renovations to the old hotel are finished.  In fairness, when the hotel was built back in the Roaring 20's, folks used to come in from the big cities by train - the hotel's only a few blocks from the station.  But now the only train is the one from Lake Placid and the State is trying to end that service, to rip up the tracks and open a hiking and snow mobile trail.   That should be decided by the end of the year.   I hope it doesn't happen...the train ride is very nice.

I finished walking around in Saranac Lake, and it was time to head home.   But I couldn't resist taking one more picture in town.   It represents a reflection of a wonderful little town, and Mandy's really nice trip...exemplified in the window of the Saranac Hotel, under renovation.

With the simple act of turning the ignition key, my long ride home began.   For some odd reason, the trip south was shorter than the trip north.  (It always works that way!)    When I got to the hotel that night,  I was about halfway home,  and close to the next day's tourist destination:  Centralia, PA.  But that's for the final chapter of this travelogue.

Mandy was addressed as, and treated as, female by the staff.  It was very affirming, and everyone was very friendly.  (Even the female server in the restaurant, who omitted all gender-specific references.) In addition, the female desk clerk promptly gave me a better rate than on my reservation…it was a girl thing, she said (I noticed by listening, that the previous customer - also a female, got a reduced rate.   Nice!) 

A toast to another fabulous girl-day!!!!

More later...


Down the Home Stretch...

Once again, I got up early and put on my purple paisley long skirt outfit over my bra and inserts (it's definitely become my go-to, because it's comfortable, easy to care for and because of its small pockets…perfect for a room or car key.)  But being the end of the trip, I wanted an easy change when I got home, so I wore my shorts underneath.  With a good shave, my makeup, earrings, bracelets went on.  I even heard “Ma’am” once at the breakfast room (this hotel graciously provided breakfast.)

Destination while enroute home: Centralia, PA.  It’s a long-abandoned town in in the anthracite coal mining region of eastern PA, where a coal seam caught fire back in the early 1960's and lead to an underground mine fire, which still burns today and reportedly still has enough fuel for the next 250+ years.

There are various theories as to how it happened. But the end results were:  combustion gases seeping into homes (think dead canaries in the coal mine), gas in the local station's tank reaching 180 degrees, and sinkholes developing, one of which swallowed a small boy in his own yard (fortunately his cousin was there and saved him from certain death by fire).  Together, the issues caused the State to buy out the whole town of about 1,600 people.  As people left, vacant houses and buildings were demolished.  Under a dozen holdouts have stayed in their homes, and allegedly in 2013 an agreement was reached to let them remain for their natural lives, at the end of which the houses will be taken and demolished.

Centralia's post office is gone, and the zip code has been revoked.  What's left?   Not much.   The municipal building, containing an ambulance to service a nearby town which remains, streets, sidewalks, a couple of churches and cemeteries, several still-occupied homes, and a lot of vacant land, which nature is slowly reclaiming.  Below are the front steps to a long-gone home or business, which will never again feel the joy of relatives coming home at the holidays, or the happy chatter of shoppers with their treasures...

Following is a picture of the main intersection in town.   This was the hub of the town's activity.  Old pictures on line show buildings on both sides of the street, up and down the hills.  Now, just silence. The sound of the wind through the trees and wires, and a few occasional ATV's or cars, are all you hear. There's not much going on in these parts...

Below is the most visible remaining piece of Centralia...former PA Route 61.   This nice, wide road was totally destroyed at the far end, with huge displacements, many wide, deep cracks, and with heat from the fire venting up through it.  They say that in the wintertime, snow does not stick to the ground in the area of the underground fire - the surface is just too warm.  Though I didn't see it, they say at times you can see steam and fumes coming up through cracks in the nearby earth and the road, as well as from vent pipes put in to ventilate the fire.  This is allegedly most pronounced in the winter...

The State closed this section of road and re-routed it on to a permanent shoo-fly, to get traffic around the fire.  Seems that the taggers subsequently adopted it as their white board!

I got out of the car, climbed two dirt barriers (a long skirt was helpful to protect my modesty) and walked a short distance on the road.  But not having unlimited time, I opted to bypass walking to the destroyed portion.   That was probably a good I got back into my car and slammed the door,  4 scruffy, burly guys got out of a car that had just pulled in behind mine.   They didn't appear to be at all inquisitive or aggressive, but I felt better being inside the car, with doors locked, rather than outside.

As soon as the guys disappeared over the barriers, off came my earrings (yes, I noted some swelling from so much wear, and redness - where a scab would ultimately form on each ear.  Long hair works well to hide them.)  This trip I was able to enjoy them for much longer than last time - many days instead of just a few hours for a couple of days, so this is major progress.  Perhaps next time, they won't bother me as much.  I know Mom used to wear them all day, every day, without issues.  The rest of the jewelry soon came off, as did the paisley skirt (my top was one I wear regularly.)  I was now back in androgynous (shorts and a top) mode for the rest of my ride home.

Thus concluded my wonderful weekend.

And even before I got back on the Interstate, I was missing my girl time already - a whole lot.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Some old ferroequinology memories...all good!

In a prior post, one of my readers mentioned the Finger Lakes of New York.  Having lived in the Finger Lakes region "back in the day," I can confirm that the area is visually spectacular, with its hills and lakes.   But one of those lakes has something special in its memories...

Keuka Lake (the one shaped like a "Y," pronounced "Key-you-ca" and translated, means "Canoe Landing" in the Iroquois Language or "lake with an elbow" in Seneca) had a little railroad which ran from Bath to Hammondsport (right on the lake.)  This railroad served the wine industry, and appropriately connected with the DL&W/Erie at Bath.  The wineries/warehouses were just outside of Hammondsport, and there was a small station there, named Rheims (as in the French town and cathedral). 

Over the years its fortunes waxed and waned, and it took over operations of the old DL&W line which used to run to Buffalo (but was cut off at a town called Wayland.)   Reportedly in the mid-'60's it was taken over and operated by none other than an investor group and headed by Tony Hannold, operator of many Alco-only railroads.

Along came a Hanmondsport entrepreneur (Stan Clark) who in '93 was involved with the local Industrial Development folks in buying and keeping the railroad running.  In addition, he added an excursion train over not only the original 9 miles from Bath to Hammondsport, but also the extension from Bath to Cohocton.

Below is a picture of the Alco engine (reportedly ex-NYC 852) which was operating cab forward heading west in the mid 90's, shown pulling freight at Avoca NY in about 1993.

Stan Clark obtained a number of used passenger cars, and did a quick repaint/rehab of them on railroad property near Hammondsport.   Then in about 1995, he put them in tourist service on a train called the "Champagne Trail Excursion" which ran from Bath to Hammondsport, and from Bath to Cohocton, the terminus of the active railroad even though tracks remained in place to Wayland.  Below are the cars, as they were being worked on.  When I took this picture, I did not have permission to go in, thus stayed on public property and used a telephoto lens.

On two separate occasions, I rode the trains as a paying passenger.  Once from Bath to Hammondsport with a tour of the winery at the layover, and once from Bath to Cohocton and back.  The station in Cohocton was very nice.

The inside of the "coach converted to a diner."

Memory fails me on whether my wife and I rode the "dinner train" part of it.  I suspect we did, but can't find any pictures.  These trains were slow and fun (in a few places you could keep up with it by walking fast for a short distance) but unfortunately they didn't last long.  By the spring of 1996 Mr. Clark had passed, the passenger trains quit running and the line from Bath to Hammondsport was quiet again. 

I'm sure glad I took those pictures.

Segue to the present: the Livonia Avon and Lakeville has taken over operation of the Bath & Hammondsport, and part of the line to Hammondsport has been revived, at least as far as the business park.  The line to Wayland/Cohocton is active and hauls a lot of farm products, plus I believe some sand for the oil industry.

Following is the old station at Rheims - on the property of Taylor Winery, in 2013.   Taken with permission, though I was not allowed inside.  Tracks were behind the station, still in place, though unused.  And when I rode the excursion "back in the day", we deboarded from the train on the spur leading to the warehouse behind me.

Following is the trackless downtown Hammondsport train station, now a part of Depot Park.  A beautiful setting.  I was inside "back in the day,"  I spoke at some length with the manager, in his office on the second floor.  These days, it's a police station.  How the mighty have fallen...

And lastly, the old, disused engine house.  Though still behind a locked fence, it appeared to be in pretty good shape.  All equipment maintenance is done in Cohocton now.  Not sure if it is trackless, or if there is an engine marooned inside, but the tracks did remain mostly "in place" through town as of 2013 (though grade crossings were paved over.)  They are gone between the engine house and the old depot, shown above.

Needless to say, I've been a railfan since way back...



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Up, up and away...without the balloon.

This was going to be a long day.  I knew that in advance.  The weather was decent, and there were a lot of stops to make.

My outfit was capris and a red tee-top, flats, but with no jewelry except my necklace, and no makeup or bra/padding - due to the microscopic possibility of meeting someone I know at a railroad excursion.  However, that didn’t happen.  I could have worn a dress.  Everyone was friendly.  Train staff (male and female) took my hand to help me on and off the train.  (As a guy, typically a hand is offered, but staff does not pursue it if I just step up or down),   I suspect they thought I was female, though I did not hear "Ma’am."   

 Other passengers were friendly, but not overly talkative.  That’s fine with me – and I didn’t hear “Sir”. 

After the excursion, I got in the car and drove to the Olympic Bobsled track, as I wanted to take the guided tour.  (No, I wasn't spending their outrageous price to ride the wheeled bobsled down the short track.)  After our guide finished the tour at the top of the hill he gave everybody a chance to walk back down the mile from the top to the bottom.   Like this:

The picture sure gives you an idea of the relative size of the track...

I was the only non-walker out of about 20 – and many of them were young kids or girls up to thirty-something, with only one guy. (Not me, obviously)  I commented to the driver that I'll probably be at the ski jumps before they reach the bottom.  His response, “Yes, Ma’am, you probably will.”

From there, I drove out to the ski jumps from the 1980 Olympics, and Oh My Gosh are they tall!   Unfortunately, the elevator to the top of the 120 meter jump was broken, so the top was off-limits today.  :-(  But the chair lift (which I had had to ride either way) was still operating - it was the only way to get to the base of the towers.  And being the daring one, I took a chance.  Why not?  I really wanted to see them, up close and personal.

Also, it was my first time ever to ride a chair lift.  So the twentysomething girl attendant took it upon herself to help me get on the seat, which never stops moving...    Must be policy that the guy helps the guys and the girl helps the girls.  Nothing was said to indicate that they recognized me as anything other than female.  

The bonus was: another item off that bucket list (since I don't ski, I certainly won’t be riding a chair lift any time soon!)

Other than to take the above picture, I didn't look down very often.  But then, there were so many things to see off to the sides!  My head was swiveling like a "sideways bobblehead", so I didn't have time to take a lot of pictures!

If you watched the 2014 Winter Olympics ski contests, you might have wondered how steep the ski jumps really are.  Take my word for it - they're steep!  The above pic sort of reinforces that thought.   I'm not a professional engineer, but the slope on that jump appears to be about 40 degrees or more.  Wow!

After completing that adventure, it was getting to be time to pack and prepare to head south the next morning.   Needless to say, I never know when to call it a day on these excursions.  I couldn't resist stopping at a clear mountain stream near the road - one with a little waterfall and some wildlife enjoying the rushing water.   Notice the beaver working on some greenery, with the ducks swimming calmly past...

Meanwhile, "back at the ranch" was time to pack for tomorrow's departure.

But first, I went across the street to none other than Mickey D’s…same one as last night.  (Too convenient - and cheap - to pass up.)  This time,  the male clerk (a different one) saw me as a bloke.  And proudly announced to the world, a cheery "Thank you Sir."  

I certainly wasn't as happy as he was.  Good thing tipping isn't required at Mickey D's.   'Cause he might just have been the first server ever to receive a "tip" from me to "be more sensitive to trans people"...instead of cash.   But not being in a mood to stir up a battle, I let it pass.

More about my adventure soon...


Sunday, September 4, 2016

To My USA friends and readers:

Have a very safe and happy Labor Day Holiday!

Everyone else, as always, be safe!


Over the mountains....

The next day's excursion was to visit Lake Placid, NY – site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.  My outfit was a white skort, black top,  makeup, necklace, 2 silver bracelets, pearl earrings, bra and silicone inserts, as you can see below.  

It was a 4+ hour drive from the previous stop, and I made a pit stop at the High Peaks North rest stop on I-87, which was close to the turnoff for Lake Placid, and about 35 miles south of the Canadian border.  Way upstate!  What a surprise…not only did they have the usual men’s and women’s rooms, but also a very nice single restroom marked “Unisex.”  Which I used. 

This is much better wording than at some of the other rest stops I visited in NY, which had their  single restrooms specifically marked for use by "families with children."    I have no problem with the unisex label, but I'm not particularly fond of the term “families with children.”   That could lead to confrontations with those who hate us…and could also be problems for a couple without kids, one of whom needs assistance from the spouse.   Can't you just imagine someone shouting as they go in  - "Hey you dumb s**ts, can't you read?  Or maybe you're blind...  That's reserved for families with kids." 

But I’m not the one in charge…

At High Peaks, I also noticed what I believe to be a bear-proof garbage container…humans had to work to get it open, with a hidden latch.  No way a bear would get in...without smashing it to smithereens.

After the rest stop, I drove on to Lake Placid and filled the gas tank.  When I paid for the gas, I heard “Ma’am.” I was wearing a skort, and the clerk made the judgement call as “female.”  I told him that I needed to change into something more useful, and he showed me to the women’s room,   There I  changed into shorts – the motel I was using was “mom & pop” and I didn’t want to “stampede the horses.”  As it turned out, what I wore wouldn't have mattered.  My makeup and jewelry were visible, the desk clerk was a guy, and after checking me in (addressing me as Ms.,) he enthusiastically carried my suitcases up to the room on the second floor.

Then, since it was clear outside, and I had lots of time, I changed back into my skort and drove toward Whiteface Mountain - a misnomer in the summertime, as it was very green.  On the way, I passed through North Pole, NY.  As a sidelight, I can remember sending letters to "Santa Claus" there, when I was young...   

I passed by "Santa's Workshop" - and promptly left that for the kiddies!   Onward I drove, up to the top of Whiteface, elev. 4,700 ft  - more or less.  Wonderful views, and hairpin turns...    A couple hundred folks of all ages were up there with me on the mountaintop, including in the gift shop, with no issues.   And the view was spectacular, with visibility of 40-50 miles.   Following is a view of Lake Placid from "the top."  It's just one of many spectacular views...

All was fine and dandy, until in the parking lot on my way back to the car, when a little girl in a departing vehicle, which had slowed to pass me and about 15 other slow-moving pedestrians, looked out the window, presumably at me, and asked, in a loud voice:  “Mommy, is that a man?”   I wasn’t facing her way at that moment, so she got a "side or back" view.  No, I can’t prove she was referring to me…nor could I hear the mother’s response.   Did anyone within earshot care about it?  Not that I could discern.   (The little girl COULD have meant someone else, but I didn’t notice any other trans folks in my group of pedestrians.)   Let's hope the parents had a little "discussion" with their daughter about manners.  Yeah, right - hope springs eternal.

During my visit to Whiteface, I finally managed to find a place to use the self-timer to snap this one picture - on the side of the building away from the lion's share of wind.  Even so, I'm lucky the little remaining wind didn't tip the camera over.  Rocks and cameras don't mix.

In Lake Placid itself, a bit later that day, a teen girl gave me a close examination as we passed on the street.  From the look of disbelief on her face, obviously my presentation failed in her eyes.  (Sunglasses work wonders.)  Oh, well…her problem to deal with, not mine.  There were no other obvious issues. 

At the wonderful (do you sense a hint of sarcasm there?) Mickey D’s dinner (I rebelled at coughing  up "$30+" for a steak dinner - not counting beverage), I heard neither Sir nor Ma’am.  Guess at that point, they didn’t care which gender I was – I was spending money at their place, instead of at the Burger King just down the street.
All in all, a very enjoyable day!

More later,


Friday, September 2, 2016

Day 2 - even better than the first...

The second day day dawned cloudy and warm.  Perfect for wearing a denim skirt!  I added my blue top, and jewelry/makeup.   Once again, I wore my bra, and filled it with the thin silicone inserts, not real breast forms.  

The hotel didn’t provide breakfast, so it was off to Mickey D’s by car (a half mile down the road) for a McMuffin.  When I went downstairs to the car (using the back door to the parking lot), a housekeeper (conveniently the one assigned to my room) was standing outside, near the door, smoking a cigarette.  She struck up a conversation with me, on various topics, and we chatted for ten minutes or so, like we were girlfriends from away back, though she never needed to use any gendered pronouns.   And I made her aware of the issues with my reservation (confusion about me being a stay-over.)  So I had an ally in the deal…and everything worked out fine.

At Mickey D’s,  the staff did not use any gender-related greetings…and I got my sandwich without fanfare.

I waited for - and boarded - the tourist train, with no gendered forms of address being used.     My presence was simply that of “another female passenger.”  I talked with people, and there were no issues – at least to my face.    I casually used the women's room on board, with no repercussions.  (And yes, I sat…)   The following pic happened on board the train...under difficult circumstances at best, given the fact that there was nobody to take it. and the train was moving, keeping the camera in more-or-less constant motion on a nearby bench.   But it was the only way to get a pic.

Next stop for the train was Cooperstown Dreams Park.  This is a "training camp for little league" and home of the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame.  About four little league baseball teams boarded train, many young boys and their supporting families (including sisters of various ages.)  No issues, no stares - I stood next to some of them and didn't get so much as a glance, even from young girls.   I think they might have been more concerned with checking out her veritable smorgasbord of young boys, than whether the old woman in a blue skirt really is a woman.  

While on the train, I spoke at some length with the people selling food.  One male, one female server.  Both carried on a regular conversation with me, and there was no sign of any issue, whether they clocked me or not.   The female complimented my pearl earrings, and we discussed pierced ears (I mentioned the fact that mine aren't) for a bit...she highly recommended it.  And I agree with her, though most likely I won't be able to proceed in that direction.

Speaking of clip-on earrings: this was my first day of wearing them for 12 hours.  After about 8 hours I was ready to take them off.   But I didn't.   I just put up with the ache...what girls do to look nice!

Part of my afternoon's sightseeing resulted in driving through this, the name itself is not "unusual" - but  naming a town after a different state isn't exactly common, either...

I've driven through two other towns with the name of a state...both in Pennsylvania (Indiana and California, both with state universities and restored railroad stations.)    And we all know the Big Apple - New York, NY.   There probably are more (but I'm discounting towns named Washington, as most probably were named for George, not the state.)   Now I'll have to add those to the unusual types of names I'm on the lookout for...

And finally, I headed for dinner at the local barbecue restaurant, where gendered greetings were in short supply and the food smelled heavenly.  After I finished, I even brought home a bottle of their BBQ sauce for my wife to sample.

Yes, it was another wonderful day...

More later!


Thursday, September 1, 2016

On the road again...

This was the first day of an all-too-rare solo excursion.  In 2016, due to life events, these have been particularly scarce.    There haven't even been any antique auto shows... 

My blue shorts, a purple sleeveless top, and flats, with necklace and bracelet, and  casual makeup comprised my outfit.  I was traveling in androgynous mode today… as I was making relatively few stops.   One of these was a men’s room break at a roadside rest area, in which there were a few “looks” but no issues.  (And no unisex restroom.) 

When I reached the first night’s motel in upstate New York, a desk clerk apparently paid attention to my bonus points account, and addressed me as “Sir” - despite my makeup, tank top, necklace and bracelet…   No doubt I was clocked...of course that might have also been due to the minor issue with my reservation, which required the assistance of the manager, and adherence to company rules about properly addressing the customer.  No matter...the problems all worked out fine, and I got my room for the price I expected.  Plus, I answer to Ma’am – or Sir - in androgynous mode.

When I had settled into the room, Mandy appeared, as I changed into my purple and blue paisley skirt with black top, bra and silicone enhancers (not full forms) and my Mary Jane heels, as well as additional jewelry, then went sightseeing locally.  One of my objectives was to find the destination for the next day’s tourist railroad ride.  I was successful…and a picture follows.  It was nice to be able to get pictures with nobody else around!   (And as it turned out, the next day was cloudy, thus the picture wouldn't have been as colorful.)

On my way back to my hotel, I passed a small lake with a dam, and what appeared to be hydroelectric capability.   A sign by the road indicated that Colliers Dam was initially built in 1907 to supply electricity for the local trolleys and for several small villages nearby.   Info I found on line shows that it continued to supply power until 1969, when the New York State Electric and Gas Company, who had taken it over, finally turned out the lights and locked the doors.   In 1974 they unsuccessfully attempted to sell the dam.   And there it sits.

Too bad the small renewable energy operations like this tend to fail.  

Then it was back to the motel.  With a long day behind me, I was more than ready to hit the sack…

More to come...stay tuned.