Thursday, December 28, 2017

A "New Year" Wish for you:

With the New Year just around the corner, let this beautiful sunrise (showcasing Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, NY) signify a brighter and better year ahead, for each of my readers and commenters!

 Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

To all my readers and commenters:

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, whatever applies in your particular situation, and I hope Santa is very good to everyone!


Friday, December 22, 2017

My new coat...and the minister at the nursing home.

My new coat finally arrived, and at last I was able to get a picture...coincidentally just before the day when I got to take a picture of the outfit I wore to answer the door (see earlier post.)   So why not take pictures of them both?  After all, girls wear coats over their dresses!

So, above is the result: a coat which fully passes muster with my wife, and fits properly, over a dress which I regularly wear around the house.  Absolutely a win-win situation!

When I went to visit Mother last Sunday, I found that the staff had wheeled her to the on-site holiday church service.   She was asleep in her wheelchair when I arrived, and much to the amusement of some of the ladies there, did not wake up when I sat down next to her.  After a few minutes I gently shook her arm, and she woke up.  The ladies loved the astonished look on her face when she saw me.

After the service was over, I wheeled her back to her room, and a short visit later, it was time to leave.  We said our farewells, and I headed down the hall.  I sensed a man walking behind me but catching up, and I heard "Oh Ma'am?"  and again, "Ma'am, were you sitting with your mother?"  OMG - it was the minister, talking to me!

Of course I responded that I was, and he told me how nice she is... I agreed, and then he said she has been at a number of his services.   I told him that it's likely he will see her again!  As we parted, he said "Merry Christmas, Ma'am."  "Merry Christmas to you and yours as well, Reverend."  And I walked on, smiling, loving that my presentation (stirrup pants, tights, a turtleneck and clogs, with purse) was actually sufficient to be accepted as a woman by the minister.

But my day wasn't done yet.  Next stop was the pharmacy, to pick up some things.  The clerk didn't know me, but chose to leave off any gender-specific forms of address.  That's fine with me.  And at the grocery store, I was "Ma'am" to two young  (20-something) female clerks.  Then at the hardware store, my cover was blown...the clerks know I'm not what I seem to be.  :-(    But at the post office, a gentleman held the door for me greeted me with "Merry Christmas, Ma'am."

You win some, you lose some!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"Wonder if they're still standing?", and "Answering the door..."

When I made my California sojourn in April of 2017, I came across many areas with pretty and green foothills, such as shown below.    While I can't say precisely where along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) these pictures were taken, I can say that I wondered if the plentiful growth in the area might have a downside at some point.   And the fire events in CA over the last few weeks/months have proved to be that downside, providing plenty of dried out vegetation as fuel for the conflagration.

Do these beautiful homes still exist?  Since I can't say precisely where these are (other than along the PCH, south of Point Mugu),  I don't know.  But what I do know is that my thoughts and prayers go out to the many CA folks who have been affected in the California fires.   It is a very sobering situation...and may those affected receive all the help they need.

On a more pleasant note:   While my wife was chatting with her sister on the phone just before dinnertime the other afternoon, our doorbell rang.   She wasn't going to be able to get it.  So she motioned to me to answer...we've been getting packages delivered, and for some reason, the delivery drivers do not knock or ring the doorbell.   With all the talk about porch seems to me that if the delivery companies can't take the few seconds to knock or ring the doorbell, they should have to pay for any stolen packages.  But that will likely never happen.

Before you ask:  Here is the outfit I was wearing at the time - not at all masculine.  Quite feminine, in fact. But I was wearing no jewelry or makeup.

I opened the door, fully expecting to find a delivery driver.

Was I ever surprised (actually, shocked) to find our next-door-neighbor's wife.   I invited her in where it's warm, and she entered.  I told her that my wife was on the phone with her sister (and she could see that was true, from the foyer.)  We had been watching their house while they were gone, but they got home a day early cause her hubby had gotten sick (whatever it is, it's still going around.)   I gave her their packages, and she headed home.  But it was an amazing outing - without even trying.  And I didn't notice any strange looks or double-takes.  YAY!

This is the same neighbors who said hi to me (as Mandy) in a restaurant on the other side of the bay a couple years ago.  So, now it's even more certain to them that I wear dresses...for whatever that's worth!  And my wife didn't seem concerned about it....I'll take that as a good sign.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Thanks to my Readers! And "Another railroad landmark gone."

I just noticed that my blog has recently reached a new milestone.   Now there are more than 100,000 visits/comments...which is a figure I never dreamed would be reached.  Thanks to each and every visitor/commenter, for helping me reach this level.  I intend to continue this blog, though life unfortunately gets in the way of making entries on a daily basis...

While recently showing my mother some old pictures of Pittsburgh, PA from years gone by, I came across the following, which are pictures taken among a group of fancy privately-owned rail passenger cars.  They were gathered at the B&O's Grant Street Station, a stub-end facility intended for local passenger train use.  I was fortunate to be able to access the station and see the equipment gathered there.

A few words about the Station: 

It was built in 1957,  for the then-still-operating Baltimore and Ohio-operated commuter trains from downtown to some of the Monongahela Valley suburbs, such as McKeesport.  And reportedly it was the last privately-owned station built in the State of PA.

It was designed as stub-end: the end of the line.  All trains departed in the opposite direction from whence they entered.  There were no through tracks.  Though there was a freight station, I understood that freight business was not particularly plentiful, as there were no through trains, and no big freight yard, mainly a few open tracks and some passenger platforms with shelters.  

All of B&O's intercity trains used the existing Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad station, which could be seen across the river.  (Which eventually became part of Station Square, now a major convention and tourist attraction in the city.) 

When the B&O finally discontinued its commuter trains, Pittsburgh's Port Authority Transit agency took over some of the runs (locals may recognize the PaTrain name), thus keeping the station in business.  But as the B&O had previously found, passenger traffic continued to dwindle due to the death of the steel industry, making the trains hugely unprofitable and a burden to the local budget.

The only exception to that was a spike in patronage during road construction on the interstate leading into town, when special trains were operated to alleviate highway congestion.  But when the construction ended, that patronage disappeared.

These pictures were taken at the station in the mid-1980's, during its declining years, when a bevy of privately-owned rail cars gathered for an event.   Note:  in the pictures you can see a number of yard tracks and adjacent buildings.  More about this later.

Very fancy cars.  All privately owned.

Elegance abounding...

A very interesting day, savoring the ambiance of times gone by...

By May of 1989 the PaTrains were gone, and the station lay dormant.    Here is what it looked like from the outside...very "mid-century modern" in style:

I had been aware that the station was disused, but recently heard that in 1998 Urban Renewal finally caught up with it.   Both the passenger and freight stations, and all the yard and tracks visible in the pictures above, fell prey to the wrecker's crane.   By going on Google Earth, I see that there is now some high rise establishment (titled "PNC First Side") located on the site.   As far as I can tell, there is nothing visible that even hints of the fact trains used to run there.

How the once-mighty have fallen!

But the bright side is that most, if not all, of the rail cars in attendance are still alive and well...unlike the station and yard areas.

"Happy Rails to You!"


Friday, December 15, 2017

Which will it be?

Pat, one of my long-time, faithful readers, commented in a recent post that in my next planned solo excursion, regarding my plan to take only one skirt:  "...there is always room for one more thing."  And, so yesterday, I tried on my red skirt.

Luckily, it fits fairly well.  Thus, I plan to wear this outfit at least once, somewhere during my excursion trip (as shown, or perhaps with a black turtleneck top):

It's also likely that I will be wearing black tights instead of pantyhose, particularly if the weather is cold.  You might also find me wearing a pair of clogs instead of flats or Mary Janes.   My clogs are comfortable enough for all-day wear.

Also, I tried on my black skirt, which hasn't seen the light of day in a long time.  While it will be worn with a gray or black turtleneck blouse instead of the short sleeve one pictured, and black tights instead of pantyhose if it's cold, the outfit is businesslike, and appropriate for travel.  I hope I can find someplace to wear it...

Incidentally, I measured both skirts, and they're precisely the same length!  (Both were hemmed by my favorite seamstress...)  And the two skirts (put together) are lighter and thinner than either one of the denim skirts I was considering.  So, I'll take both along.  Nothing like having greater flexibility, is there?  Thanks for the idea, Pat!

For anyone wondering about the how my new jacket worked out:  It's arrived, and is an absolute home run!  My wife is fine with it...and I love it.  This was a fabulous compromise between my heavy (in both weight and warmth) men's winter coat, which we bought well before I retired and have only worn a few times (typically it doesn't get that cold here on the Delmarva), and my light-weight jackets, which are only good down to about 25-30 windless degrees.   And we saved many dollars in the process.

The jacket has undeniable hints of its intended "gender."  There are snaps which "close" over the front zipper, which open on the "women's side." There is a huge collar, with "women's style" fur around the face.   And it has a bottom drawstring.  But it's much warmer than any jacket I already own, and is loose enough that I can wear a sweater underneath when the weather gets really cold.

I'll post a picture for you at some point...stand by!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Another visit to paradise...

The morning after our recent snowfall of a couple inches, I detoured to my little piece of paradise - carefully, in case the road was still snow covered and impassable (there's a hill leading down to the water.)  Fortunately, it was clear, so I could drive down without concern.

In  the following picture, there is some snow, and yes, the water is high...because it's high tide:

Here's a view across the inlet:

When I first drove in, lo and behold, there was already a car parked there!  (That was a first!)  An elderly gentleman was sitting in the driver's seat, enjoying his morning coffee alone in the car, and he greeted me "good morning, Ma'am."  I responded in kind, and went on about my business taking pictures.  No issues, no problems.  (However I did sense that he looked me over fairly thoroughly...)

It's nice to know that someone else has good taste in serene locations!

One of my readers observed in a recent comment that, in winter, cis-women (other than those in NYC) tend to dress in pants or leggings and tops (or a dress serving as a top.)   Following is a picture of one of my everyday outfits.  This is what I typically wear - various turtleneck tunics, stirrup leggings (in warmer weather, capris) and pantyhose or tights, with flats.  Absolutely nothing from the men's department.  And if my January trip actually comes to pass, it will be made wearing everyday outfits just like this:

However, I still plan to take one (1) skirt - just in case the opportunity to fully-dress arrives.  Unfortunately, space in my suitcase dictates ONLY ONE.    :-(     Initially, I thought I might take my mid-calf denim skirt (with flats instead of Mary Janes - which unfortunately don't fit well enough to wear all day while traveling):

But now, I'm "waffling" on that it may be this knee-length denim skirt - which you've seen in posts several times previously:

Or this red one - again, with flats for traveling:

IMHO, the front runner right now is my knee-length denim skirt.  A close second in line is the above red one.  Anyone care to offer suggestions or thoughts about my selections, or share any other thoughts on "What should I wear?"

Your ideas are welcomed...and I could be convinced to change my mind!  (Before you ask, yes, I still have that jumper dress I wore on an excursion a couple of months ago!)


Sunday, December 10, 2017


During our last excursion, I needed a bit heavier jacket than I was planning to wear.  (My men's winter coat was far too heavy and warm.)  Alas, I didn't own one.   So I made do with what I have, and fortunately it was warm enough that there was no issue.

However there is the outside possibility of a solo winter convention trip down south. (See below.)  If it happens, my men's (heavy and warm) winter coat will again be much too heavy.  And my lightweight jackets will be much too cold.   Worse yet, I won't have enough suitcase room to take the winter coat plus 3 lighter-weight layering jackets.

I asked my wife if she had an old puffer parka which I could borrow for the trip, to work with a sweater.  The one she has is the one she wears, so no luck there.  I went on line to check some of the men's shops and found nice jackets that might work (of course I'm dubious of men's sizing, having not worn men's clothes for many years), for $150 to $250.   In the women's plus-size websites, I found several that should work fine, on sale for $75 - $100.   The price difference caught my wife's immediate attention, and once I found an on-line coupon for 50% off the sale price, I got the all-clear to buy and wear a women's coat!

It's been ordered...I'll let you know if it passes muster once it arrives.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we both have been under the weather for over two weeks now, and we're just beginning to feel somewhat better.   I'm "sort of" hoping to attend a convention in mid-America in January, using my usual modes of transportation - train and rental car.  I'm not getting myself overly excited about this - as awful as the cold (or whatever it is) has been for me, and the fact that I was on antibiotics for quite a while, I'm concerned about a relapse.   That has happened before.

And even without considering that issue, the fact that Mandy will have to stay in the suitcase for most of the trip is quite depressing.  Current plan is to take only one mid-calf, winter weight denim skirt along...everything else I wear will be my usual stirrup pants and a pair of capris, with lots of turtlenecks.

More on this as (or if, or when) it develops...


Sunday, December 3, 2017

It's been a very strange week...

Now it's both my wife and I who have been under the weather for essentially the past week, with some variation of a cold - and with me to a doctor twice.   We were fortunately well enough to keep our dentist appointments near Baltimore yesterday.  Those appointments caused us to get home late in the afternoon, and after dinner we retired early, once again in separate rooms due to our colds.  No point in infecting/re-infecting each other since we both had different sets of symptoms.

And that's when the adventures began.

I got up in the middle of the night, to hit the kitchen and graze for a midnite snack.  Once there, I heard my wife's plaintive voice calling to me from the other room.  Turns out she was experiencing a nosebleed, and had been for a couple of hours.   Needless to say, this called for a trip to the ER.   So after getting dressed and piling her into the car, we pulled up in front of the entrance to the ER at about 3AM. (Fortunately, there was no traffic on the road, nor any that hour.)

To make a long story short, her cold (and frequently nose-blowing) had ruptured some small blood vessels on the septum, which wouldn't stop bleeding.  A bit of cauterizing and she was good as new...with the caution to not blow her nose for a while.   But our early morning 90 minute stint in the ER left both of us in a zombie state, and we both fell asleep as soon as we got home...

Then there was the matter of picking up the old car at the garage Saturday.   And my visit to Mom at the nursing home, who was having a bad day seems someone took her usual seat at the table.  (Note...the seats aren't assigned - anyone can sit anywhere.)  She wasn't happy about the whole thing and was making herself miserable while trying to make everyone have a bad day.  (Note: she actually was the only one having a bad day.  Everyone else was fine.)   Yes, stress.   And more stress, piled on top of the stress.

Last, but not least, was my long-anticipated afternoon appointment to get my nails done - fills on both my fingers and toes.  I've really been looking forward to that, and to the relaxation I find while I'm being a girl.  It's incredible...

The fill on my fingers went just fine, and looked pretty.   Well, there WAS this matter of a couple of phone calls from an old work buddy (whom I hadn't talked with in several months.)  I tried to ignore them, but he kept dialing me, so once I was seated in the pedi chair I finally took a chance and picked up his call.  That's right...from my nail salon!  A first!!!

Now bear in mind, that the salon treats me as Miss Mandy.  I was wearing capri pants, a turtleneck and flats.  No pantyhose.  And by that point my voice was fairly well trashed (very husky) because of my cold.  (That's probably fortunate, given the circumstance - it further muddied my actual gender.)

My buddy and I started chatting....with me apologizing to my buddy about my voice -  yes, he only knows me as a guy.  (Note: the voice apologies were mostly "window-dressing" for the benefit of the girls at the salon.)   And it was obvious that I was talking to a guy.    I think they wondered why a girl would have kept in touch with a guy....but that's a topic to analyze another day.

I projected myself into my buddy's shoes for a second. (Retired military, still wears a crew cut, walks like a police officer, etc.  He's definitely the image of a man.)  When we worked together, I had long hair and wore flats, etc.  My sartorial style didn't set off any alarm bells for him.  But I doubt he would ever be able to deal with his friend as a girl - particularly thinking of the image of a girl sitting in a pedi chair, contemplating her pretty pink finger nails and watching a nail tech paint her toe nails with pink gel...then putting them under the blue light.

No, that probably wouldn't go over well...   So it was a blessing that the techs didn't talk in foreign tongues while he was on the phone.  And it also was a blessing that neither of us is technically oriented, using Skype or whatever it's girly appearance and feminine activities would have been really hard to explain!   LOL...

I'll leave you with a picture...from the Strasburg RR last summer....

And in case you wondered, the girl in the foreground is NOT me.  (Though with her long hair, it could have been.)  Instead, I was taking this picture with a real camera, not from a phone.

Till next time...


Friday, December 1, 2017

Old cars are so exciting... Plus a note about pantyhose.

Having been very much "under the weather" the past week or so (requiring a doctor visit and lots of pills), I haven't been able to get the old car ready for its trip to the shop to have the heater core repaired.   And that is where the title of this post originates.

On both of this past summer's trips, the car ran perfectly (well, except for the leaky heater core issue, which was temporarily solved by bypassing it.)   Not bad for a 50 year old vehicle with 140K miles on the clock. After arriving home in September, I parked the car and it hasn't turned a wheel since.  In fact, I never even washed the dead bugs off the windows!

The day before taking it to the shop, I decided to start it up and make sure it was ready for the run... since the shop is in another town.   No problem with starting it up, that worked as per normal.  But as I backed down the driveway for a test drive (and toward the neighbor's truck parked on the street behind it), the brake pedal went all the way to the floorboard.  A bit un-nerving  - good for a couple of skipped heartbeats!

Fortunately the front  brakes grabbed just as I fully applied the parking brake - and together that stopped all movement.    I drove it back up into the garage, which is level, and tried pumping the brake pedal to see if things would get back to normal.  No such luck.  So I checked the brake fluid level in the master cylinder..   One of the two halves was full (i.e. the front) and the rear half was very low.  Hence no back brakes, and not safe to drive.

I topped up the brake fluid, pumped the pedal again...and it soon returned to normal.  So after letting things sit a few minutes, I checked again and found the brakes were still normal.  I backed out of the garage and took a short test drive, which was completely uneventful.  When I got back to the house, there were no puddles anywhere under the car, in the driveway, or streaks of leaking fluid on the road.  Very curious.

I'm confused as to why the brakes worked perfectly fine in September, but now in November the fluid is very low, with no tell-tale puddles under the car, and no driving.   The fluid could not have leaked elsewhere, but it was low.  I hope the mechanic has an idea or two... 

Who needs excitement like that????

An interesting "happening" during our recent trip out of town for a family wedding:  my wife commented that we needed to find a store so she could buy a pair of pantyhose - all she had in her suitcase was a pair of black tights.  The day before the wedding, when the weather was dry, we didn't go shopping at all.

Now, before lunch on the day of the wedding, it was raining...and I didn't care for the idea of going out.  Neither did she.  I pointed out the fact that we're about the same size, and offered to lend her a pair of my pantyhose.   Most surprisingly, she accepted.  I was shocked...though it may have had something to do with the fact neither of us really wanted to go out.  But the bottom line is...she wore them and they worked fine.

Let me leave you with a picture or two of the wild blue yonder...

Nice.  A beautiful contrail...with no wind to break it up.

 Wonder what the airplane was, and where it was going?  We'll never know...but it sure made a beautiful sight!


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Too Much of Nothin' and Happy Thanksgiving

With apologies to Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary for use of their music's title, lately Mandy has seen "too much of nothin" regarding being out and about.

Granddaughter and D-I-L visited us at our place for several days before we all drove to Pittsburgh for a family wedding...that was fun.  The baby is adorable. And a regular chatterbox.   She's learning to talk, and certainly doing better at it than last time we saw her.  We can understand her most of the time nowadays - often without a "translator."

Yes, the wedding was beautiful, and the pretty bride (guess what her first name was - yep - Amanda) wore a pretty dress (guess who was jealous?)  Granddaughter was cute as a button,  and did ok, but was a bit antsy that afternoon, and her mom had to take her out of the sanctuary for the last recessional.  But all in all, we had a great time.

One thing the baby said that we didn't understand (not my wife and I and certainly not the baby's mom) is: what she was asking for that sounded like "I want a beer."   We all did a double-and-triple-take with that...since they don't drink beer, don't have it around the house, and don't drink either beer or hard liquor when out with her.  We don''t have any idea what she wanted or where the phrase came from - unless it was on a TV show!

That may become one of the embarrassing baby stories to tell her when she gets older...

For this little excursion, I wore my sport coat (the one left over from my working days), with a pair of women's slacks, black trouser socks, and flats, with my purse.  On wedding day, I pulled my hair in a pony tail (a gesture for my wife.)  Unlike the last wedding, this time nobody (including the servers) interpreted me as female.   Even though our son (with his long hair) couldn't be there (a work thing interfered), there were other men with long hair, including the bride's stepfather.  So there were no issues...

The rest of the trip, I wore dark stirrup pants with black trouser socks and a turtleneck, with my hair loose.  That's one of my typical winter androgynous outfits.   And the only time anyone  "miss-interpreted" me was on the way home, at the garage where we picked up my car from being serviced.  A new greeter (who didn't know me) assumed I was female.  And was more than happy to answer any questions I might have....yeah right!

Now, back to "too much of nothin'" for a while...


PS:  To all of my readers - best wishes for a Happy Turkey Day....don't eat too much!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My fave secluded spot Part 2:

Fall colors typically arrive late here on the Delmarva...but the leaves are usually all down by Thanksgiving day.   This year is no exception - except that the colors are more muted than normal.   Browns seem to predominate, and the reds and golds are not as brilliant. 

The above and the following pic are among the best colors I've seen on the Delmarva this fall.

Be glad you're not the fish this apparently-hungry (and very majestic) blue heron is eyeing.  He flew from the other side of the inlet as I watched, and "set up shop" on this old, dead tree.  (You can see the tree in my previous picture.)  Unfortunately, I didn't have time to wait around and see if he captured his prey...but he looks quite determined.

This is possibly one of the last clear fall days when colors will be visible.   As I mentioned above, typically it's all over by Thanksgiving.   We've had some sunshine since the day I took this picture, but nothing like the clear blue shown here.

Wonder when we'll see the first snow?


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Not such a great antique show this year... least as far as Mandy is concerned.  There weren't the same opportunities as at some of the previous events.   I guess that's to be expected - especially for something I've been doing for so many years.  

Following is the outfit I wore to dinner on the second night of my trip...

Bear in mind that when I checked into the hotel, wearing the same top, shoes and jewelry but with stirrup pants instead of the capris, I was addressed as "Sir" by the two 20something female desk clerks.  When I entered the hotel restaurant that second night, dressed as above, I may have confused the staff.  A rather generic "You may sit wherever you wish" was my first instruction.  And the server was similarly neutral.  It be took a while for her to figure things out, but by then she apparently went off duty and I didn't see her again for the rest of my meal - at my, or at any - table.

A different server (40something male) took over the table and addressed me properly - as female.   The meal portion was large enough that I couldn't eat it all, so I got a box from the kitchen and took it back to the room - which had a refrigerator and microwave.  (And I brought utensils with me...just in case I might need them.)

For my third day, when I again dressed in stirrup pants, with nylons and a turtleneck, flats and the silver necklace and bracelet shown above, the wife of one of the vendors sought me out to tell me that she owns a couple of pairs of shoes just like mine.  Then she asked how I like them, and initiated a brief but girly discussion, including how comfortable they are (very),  who made them (Clarks), where we both got ours (on line), and so on.  Maybe two minutes of chatter.  The vendor knows my birth gender, and now he's probably been made aware that I wear women's clothes.    But the outfit I had on is the same as I wear everyday, so it really doesn't matter.

And I was addressed as Ma'am a number of times by female attendees who don't  know me...

On that third evening, once again I was not wearing a skirt.  I just wasn't feeling up to par, and with the rain and heavy city traffic, it made no sense to fight the elements.   So, I just stayed in my room.  (And ate the leftovers from the night before.  Yummy!)

In short, I can look forward to next year....when presumably things will be better.

But once back home, the above didn't dim my a store and dressed as above, I used my wife's discount card.  And once again, was addressed by her name.  Happens a lot.  Nice!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

My favorite secluded spot...and my new skirt

There are a ton of places like this on the Delmarva...secluded, without much human activity, and very picturesque.   I found this inlet a couple miles off Rt 50 in Maryland.  There are no occupied houses nearby, and the only sign of human activity is a seldom-used dock with boat launch ramp.  During my visits,  there was never anybody around.  The sounds of tiny waves lapping the shore, wind, birds singing and fish jumping are the only things you hear!  Can't even hear the trucks out on US-50.

A great little place for a few minutes of relaxation...pity I can't get here more than a few times a year!

The water doesn't look to be very deep, which may be the reason I never see any boating activity here (despite the dock.)   But this bird (a crane?) went fishing after the shutter clicked, so there must be plenty for birds to eat in those waters....
Picked my skirt up for a song ($9)  at one of the p[us-size shops on line.  It seems to fit well, and as far as I can tell, it's in line with the current style. 

I can't wait for a chance to wear it out and about...and I was hoping to wear it on my normal annual antique show and sale trip.   But due to circumstances beyond my control, it simply didn't happen the first night...I only had time for these pictures.   And things don't look so good for the other nights...oh, well.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trip Miscellany and a quick stop at Ft. McHenry

During my recent excursion, I visited the town of Saltillo, PA, a town with 343 residents as of
the 2000 census, and former important stop on the now-abandoned East Broad Top Railroad.

Per Wikipedia, the town got its name from the Mexican War Battle of Saltillo on October 23,
1840.  It was a major tanning center during the late 18th and early 19th century, with
two tanneries in town.  The railroad arrived in 1874.  In addition, there were two short-lived
industries in town:  an iron mine and a limestone quarry, both on the SE side.  In the
early 20th century a large ganister (fine-grained stone used in manufacturing firebrick)
quarry was established on Jacks Mountain above Saltillo, to supply a plant in Mt. Union at the
other end of the railroad.  The EBT had a 3 track yard, water tank and wye in Saltillo, and in
1942 a spur was built to serve the ganister quarry.  It remained in service until the railroad died
in 1956.   The quarry then closed, in 1970.

EBT tracks remain in place, but the water tank burned in the 1980's and the station deteriorated
over the years.  It was reportedly demolished in the mid-2000's due to its decrepit condition.

Below is a picture of the (former?) hotel in town, which is located just across the street from the
site of the train station.  (It looked more like a home, or apartments, to me.)  The narrow gauge
tracks can still be seen peeking out of the grass on the right-of-way and the asphalt on the road
just out of the picture to the right.

Below is the site of the former train depot.   Tracks are just beyond the walkway to the rear.

When I arrived in Robertsdale, I was interested in locating the other town relic - the
Reality Theatre.  As I mentioned in a prior post, it was supposed to contain a museum
about coal mining.   Here is a picture of it...nicely maintained, for a small town of 759
as of the 2000  census.   Though it is now a church...   (If you didn't read the account of
my interaction with the two men inside, check my post of 10/18, part 2 of the saga.)

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the church where the coal mining museum is now
located...     :-(     

At the campground and store by the grist mill, I noticed a rather unusual speed limit sign.
It definitely catches your attention...though I don't think a ticket for going 4-6/10 mph
would stand up in court...LOL!

While I was off chasing "ghost trains," my wife was on an extended visit with her sister in
Chicago, thus when she arrived back in town, I needed to pick her up.  I went into Baltimore a
bit early, planning to visit a few charity shops to look for some things.  But the weather turned
out to be so spectacular that I postponed shopping for another day, and took some time to visit
Fort McHenry, which is important in USA history for many reasons, one of which is that it
was the site where our National Anthem was written.

Trust me, that weather was spectacular!

Needless to say, I was dressed in my normal androgynous manner on my run to Baltimore.
And it worked the way it normally does...I was addressed as a woman while I was visiting
at the Fort, the only place where I interacted with the public.

An interesting sidelight:  I was wearing dangly silver earrings and silver necklace, with
a black stone bracelet of my mother's on my left arm.  (Most of my jewelry comes from her
jewelry box.)  My earrings came off before I picked up my wife, and she's used to my
wearing the necklace.  But I forgot to remove the bracelet.

And nothing was said about it....go figure!  (But I'll be more careful in the future.)

Bye for now...


Sunday, October 22, 2017

On the road (yet again): final.

On my 4th and final day, I took a slight detour to see another piece of history, in a town
with an unusual name: Burnt Cabins, PA.  A grist mill exists there, which was built in
1840 and continues to churn out old-fashioned flour in the same manner as it did back

The town's unusual name came about from the cabins of early settlers in the area being
torched by provincial forces in about 1750, to satisfy Indian protests against white
trespassers on their lands.  So, the name is a reminder of troubled days on the
Pennsylvania frontier.

From Wikipedia, a more detailed summary:  "As a measure of good faith with Native 
American nation and no small degree of "realpolitik" with their French rivals in the area 
comprising what is now western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Country,  British colonies made 
pacts agreeing to keep their settlers east of the Appalachian Mountains.  Despite the official
government position on the matter,  settlers from the east in PA and from the south in MD
and VA began to trickle into the area that is now Fulton County and other regions.  By
mid-1749, the various groups of the Iroquois Confederation felt threatened, thus
they made official protests to the Provincial government in Philadelphia."

In response to the complaint of July 18, 1749 the Lt. Governor of the province...issued an
edict to all British remove themselves, their families and effects, off of those
lands.  Along with this was a promise that they would take more direct action in 1750.
Thus, in May of 1750 the provincial government sent agents to remove the white squatters
from their cabins and settlements.  These agents were accompanied by delegates from the
Iroquois nation to show them the King's orders were being fulfilled.  

About 60 squatters were found on Tuscarora Mountain.  Original plans were to arrest,
convict, fine and imprison them, but 2 of the first 5 arrested fled, telling officials "you may
take our Land and Houses and do what you please with them....but we will not be carried to
jail."  And a third squatter met the officials with a loaded gun.  (Nothing was said regarding
his longevity...)

As a gesture to the Indians, provincial officials decided to burn the cabins of the town (then
named Sidneyville).  In reality, they only burned 3.  But that brought a period of temporary
peace to the area.

It was not destined to be permanent.   By 1755 settlers had returned en masse.   Shawnee
and Delaware Indians took matters into their own hands, attacking in great force, in what
became known as the Great Cove Massacre.    

Subsequently, Sidneyville was reborn, but with a new name:  You guessed it...Burnt Cabins.


There's a campground as well, with a decently stocked store (below), which provided
provisions as there weren't any stores in the area for grub...   As for meals - only found
one, a bar, and Mandy didn't feel comfortable walking into a bar alone.  Sitting in the
car, I shivered to myself, just at the thought of  6 or 7 carloads of male eyes staring
at me.  UGH!  (From someone who can get meals and basic supplies within a 5 minute
drive from home, living out here in the hinterlands wouldn't appeal in the slightest.) 

I made a quick stop at the Lower Tonoloway section of the C&O Canal in Hancock, MD.
About a half mile of the canal has been restored and turned into a local historic site.   As
info, the canal operated from 1831 until 1924, along the Potomac River between Washington
DC & Cumberland.   It required 74 canal locks, 11 aqueducts to cross major streams, more
than 240 culverts to cross minor streams, and the 3,118 ft  Paw Paw tunnel in West Virginia.
(I visited Paw Paw Tunnel as described in the following post:  "More touring, and Abraham 
Lincoln", published 9/1/15.)

There are two paths one can choose to walk…the paved old Western Maryland Railroad line on
the city side of the canal (the RR was abandoned in the early ‘80’s as duplicate trackage - parent
company (CSX) has rails on the other side of the Potomac) and the unpaved canal towpath on
the river side.   Right alongside the Potomac River, it’s a beautiful place to relax and/or launch
your small boat, or rent a bike ($7/hour, or $35 a day.  Sounds lucrative, doesn't it?    I'd
happily rent out my own bike for $35 a day!)

And my final selfie:   At the canal park, in view of the Potomac.  At the bike rental place I
was addressed as a woman, and the ladies I passed all smiled, some with relevant chit-chat
about the weather.

Very validating...  How do you spell "7th heaven?"

You're not seeing things...the trees are growing at an angle, and I'm standing up straight.
Wonderful effect, and it's not an optical illusion!

Then, after a quick visit to the potty - a porta pot, for those who wondered - it was off for home.  As
usual, the traffic on I-70 was not good...but at least there were no backups at or on the Bay Bridge.)

My major observation for the entire trip was that I did NOT hear the dreaded “S” word at all.  YAY!!!!   (Even in this politically-conservative geographic area...which still sports many exquisitely-preserved "left-over" Republican campaign posters from the 2016 election season.)   

Yes, I was referred to as female by servers and individuals part of the time, but more often it
was simply in non-gender-specific terms.  (Which is the safest course for the “I’m just not
sure” crowd - or for those who disapprove of TG's, but don’t want to openly stir the pot.)   

Either way was/is fine with me.

And being out and about amongst the public is a wonderful experience...

Now, I await my next excursion...



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On the road (yet again) Part 2

Second day was all business…thus little can be said about it, other than “nearly everyone
knew me.”

There was no confusion as to my presentation, even by those who didn’t.  My wife wasn’t 
there to make me do it, but I pulled my hair back into a ponytail…ugh.  This time, it really
seemed to make a difference…women’s jeans, top, pink nails and booties did nothing to
change the “Sir” rut I was in.  Yes, it appears the ponytail thing (even tied higher-than-
normal-for-guys) tips my presentation into “male” mode.   Well, most of the time.  At a
wedding we attended a few weeks ago,even the ponytail with a men's sportcoat didn’t stop servers
from addressing me as a female.

On the third day…I was at last back in girl mode.  This was to be an exciting day…    

Checking out of the motel as a girl elicited no gender specific forms of address.   But the
same female clerk (who didn’t see me disguised as a boy the day before) seemed much more   
friendly and talkative.

Time for some more sightseeing before heading east:  On the map, I noticed that in the
nearby town of Duncansville,  there was a park named Chimney Rock Park.   The rain was
gone and it was just cloudy, so I decided to explore a bit…   Found it, and the rock formations
didn’t look like chimneys to me, but very pretty nonetheless.  What made it special was the
view.  You drive up a hill to get there, and a short trail takes you to an overlook above the town. 
Very pretty.  And in this case, it was good that there were clouds…the sun might have been
an issue as far as pictures go.

Then it was off to the town of Mt. Union, PA – northern terminus of the narrow gauge
East Broad Top Railroad, coal hauler from the Broad Top coal fields.  The railroad died
in the mid 50’s, and got stuck in a time warp – it still looks just the same as it did when the
workers went home that fateful night the railroad died (April 14, 1956) – and never came
back.   Instead of scrapping it lock, stock and barrel, the new owner allowed it to sit in

The EBT was reincarnated in the 1961 season, as a tourist hauler by its new owner, using
a 5 mile section of the railroad.  But once again the EBT breathed its last - at the end of
the 2011 season.  And now, the railroad sits once again, rusting in the rain, still stuck in
its time warp.

Will there be a "third time's the charm?"  Or will it be scrapped?  Only time will tell.

In Mt. Union, much of the track was dual gauge – for regular and narrow gauge equipment.  
Hence the following picture of tracks still embedded in US Route 522: I understand that
there is still a string of EBT hoppers hiding in the woods (a skirt and nylons weren't quite
the appropriate attire for tromping around n the brush and trees), but at least some of the
dual gauge track is currently being used for standard gauge freight car storage.

And then I drove on to Orbisonia, the home base for the little railroad, taking pictures of 
remaining track and bridges, as a record of how they look today.   Some infrastructure looked
better than I thought it would, others much, much worse.   Time has not been kind to the

The Rockhill Trolley Museum (across the parking lot) was having its annual pumpkin patch
specials.  Thus the EBT parking lots were full.  Many attendees were doing just as I was:
walking around the EBT property to check it out.   And it was legal to do, as EBT owners 
had people on the scene, to be sure everyone was "just looking or taking pictures."  

In the above picture, I’m standing in front of the Orbisonia roundhouse and turntable. 
Inside are several narrow gauge steam engines, which are no longer in operation.   None
of the buildings were open for inspection, but the weeds were cut, thus making it easy to
walk around the facility to take pictures.   One of the people in charge (sixtysomething male)
told me what the buildings were.    

And the man who offered to help by taking the above picture was very helpful.

Subsequently I walked across the parking lot to the Trolley Museum.  My ticket was good for
all day (which didn’t matter, as my time there was limited).  But I was supposed to be able to
get a tour of the two carbarns.   I inquired about such a tour to the group of conductors sitting
there, and they said they could do that…but since the day was kid-oriented it was only on
an as-needed basis.  

One of the conductors commented that women alone don’t often ask to take the tour.  "You 
must be a trolley fan."  "My mother and I used to ride the PCC cars on the 42/38 line in 
Pittsburgh."  So, the fiftysomething conductor said:  “Come this way,  Ma’am.”   When
we reached the rope across the garage doorway, he said:  “Here, I’ll hold the rope down to
make it easier for you to step across.”   And as I did, he took my left hand -  “Let me
steady you, Ma’am.”  Nice!

Once over the rope barricade,  my personalized tour continued.  As I climbed into a couple of
trolleys without step boxes, he took my hand again both times to steady me as I stepped on
and off thecar.  (Men sure can be handy to have around!)   And as for today, with all due
respect to Shania Twain,  “Man,  I feel like a woman!”   I commented that if I'd realized I’d
be climbing on rail equipment today, I wouldn’t have worn a skirt.  We both got a chuckle
out of that...he reassured me that “You aren’t the first woman to do this in a skirt, and you
won’t be the last one, dear.”

Then when we finished, he offered to take my picture next to one of the trolleys…above.

I got in line with the group getting on the next trolley ride.  It was fun, and most of the ladies 
exchanged smiles with me.   We all commented about the fiddler playing at the trolley stop to 
entertain the kids, and they way the kids received it.  Once on board, a young mom’s 2 month
old baby was very animated, and was smiling and cooing at both grandparents and me.  I
guess the practice with my granddaughter has paid off…

This trolley had the wicker upholstery that, back in the day, was the scourge of nylons-wearing 
women.  You can see in the picture below how close the wicker was to my knees (and no
room to cross my legs, but fortunately my skirt protected the back of my legs.    Years ago,
many girls had their stockings ruined by snagging on the wicker.   I was very lucky – mine
survived intact!  (But I sure was careful to not move around in my seat!)

Don't snag those pantyhose!

Next stop was to photograph more relics of the EBT’s past.    Including site of the station and
town hotel in Saltillo, the freight house on Railroad Street in Three Springs (below)...

and Mandy in front of the former EBT station in Robertsdale:

As an added bonus, by walking through some uncut grass, I located an unconventional
configuration for the wye (which crosses a stream) behind the Post Office in Robertsdale:

There was reportedly a coal mining museum in Robertsdale’s old theatre building, which was 
supposed to be open.  I drove by the theatre, and two heavyset fortysomething men were out
front, probably enjoying a cigarette.  They watched me as I inched slowly by in the car (perhaps
their day's entertainment?), then they went inside.  I parked and hesitatingly approached the
front door.  Finding no mention of a museum on the fliers on the doors, and with the door
unlocked,  I decided to go on in…not knowing quite what to expect.

Both men were in the main part of the theatre, past the second set of doors.  They stared at me
as I came through the doors.  So I smiled, said hi, and inquired about the museum.  Turns out
the museum had moved, and the old-time theatre is now a church.   OooooKay....  The silent
one appeared to be eyeing me, from my feet to my hair, and back down.   The one who was
talking, couldn’t keep his eyes off my legs.  (I’ll take that as the supreme compliment -
thanks to him!)  

Through the ages, guys always have checked out gals, but this little lesson emphatically taught
me precisely how uncomfortable it can make some girls feel.   The bright side is - the pair were
basically decent men.  I could have encountered serious issues that day.  I won't kid you...
I really was happy to say "so long", and make my exit.   

However, as info - it's not the first time that I've "barged into" an old theatre - the notable
difference is that I was presenting as androgynous that day - and more importantly, my wife 
was with me.  And yes, before you ask, the guy who came to "greet" us in the inside hallway
identified us two women.  (Most importantly, we got a tour of the theatre.)  But there was 
safety in numbers.   (Moral of story for theatre owners - keep those doors locked if you don't 
want sightseers!)

Finally, I headed for the barn… it had been one long, interesting, rewarding - and fun - day.

When I checked into the motel, their thirtysomething male clerk addressed me as female.  A 
perfect way to end a wonderful day!

More later...