Tuesday, January 31, 2017

It was time to head for Tennessee...

Sorry about the delay in posting...we've both been affected by the season's "flu du jour" or whatever it is that's going around.   It's been a long battle...

When we left French Lick, I stopped at the entry arches for the West Baden Springs for a photo op... showing the way I dressed for the entire excursion.    When I was done there, we headed to a jewelry store in a nearby town to get a watch battery replaced, and headed south for our son's place.

At the West Baden Springs entry arches...

Enroute, we stopped at a small town called Tell City, IN.  

I had visited there previously,  back in the mid '90's,  on business.  Yes folks, the name is unusual...but not as unusual as its name before it was changed - a long time ago.   That name was Helvetia (pronounced Hel-vay-sha.)  You can do a lot to botch that name up...imagine being told to "go to Hel-vetia."  Cursing, but with a civil tongue.  It was hard to pronounce, and there was a large German/Swiss population.   Thus the name was changed, to honor the Swiss marksman and liberator named "William Tell."  I noted a news article which states that the high school football team is named the "Marksmen."

Notice the artist's rendition of William Tell?

Yet another...

Love the artistic license of Tell's blousy tunic...and black tights!   (Perhaps reminiscent of the movie "Robin Hood - men in tights"?)

This name furor somewhat reminds me of the tempest in a teapot over the former name of the Ravens stadium in Baltimore.  A company named "Psi-net" (pronunciation:  "Sigh-net") bought the initial naming rights back in about 1999, and for a while it was called "Psi-net Stadium."   But you can imagine how quickly that deteriorated.   

Probably half (if not more) references to it were "PissyNet Stadium.   Sometimes they even got away with it "on the air."  And people started joking about it.  Each time, it snowballed, and brought even more jokes.  The company allegedly "corrected" the media regarding proper pronunciation of its name. so that part of the problem eventually disappeared.   

However, the issue developed a life of its own, for a while.  

Psi-net went bankrupt, and gave up its naming rights in 2002.  Needless to say, Psi-net's name is no longer on the stadium - I don't know (and don't really care) if they even survived the bankruptcy.  And "Pissy-net Stadium" is fortunately now called something else, much more benign and much less controversial.

I couldn't resist taking a pic of the following artwork found enroute, which brings back pleasant memories...of me as a kid, traveling by train with my mother, who was always wearing skirts, hose and heels.  Nowadays, being in a wheelchair, she always wears pants, and at times I''m the one in skirts (though not often at the nursing home.)   Definitely a role reversal....and I'd say, a change for the better on my part.

Shortly thereafter, we exited the State of Indiana...thanks, folks, for being so receptive!   I wouldn't have believed it possible.

After my practical experience as an androgynous person out and about "in one of the states of maximum confusion about us" I can say there were no overt issues or comments regarding my presentation. Nor stares or double takes.  For me, this toleration is what allows Mandy to be "out and about" without wearing dresses or skirts.  The few folks who knew me and my true gender had no issues with me, or with the fact that in the French Lick Springs Resort I used the family restroom - which they now provide.  (Though for our day in the West Baden Springs Resort, I used the men's room sparingly (like once),  didn't run into any guys crass enough to make an issue out of my presence,  and had no problems.)  Generally, those who didn't know the back story, seemed to pretty much accept me as a female.

It was also amazing that even when the hotel desk and Casino checked my ID, they universally treated me as a woman and frequently used female forms of address (well, except on the phone the couple of times I had to call the desk...that's undoubtedly the weak spot in my presentation.  And one that right now, I can't do anything to cure.)   After all the bad press on "us - as in LGTBQ and Trans" lately, in no way did I expect to be treated that well.  Especially while visiting the state which initiated the "anti" movement.    Was it their company diversity training ruling the employees, or were they still being politically correct?   Will that continue now that we have our new President?  Only time will tell.

So, I admit, I expected the worst, and it didn't happen.   I was not traveling alone, which is/was a big help.  Nor was I frequenting dives deep in the city, during late evening hours.  (French Lick is in halfway between nowhere and nowhere else.)  Obviously in your travels, YMMV.   And please don't assume that I am implying "androgynous presentation" is appropriate, or will even work, for anyone but me.  That's a personal decision we all must make, individually.

However, I certainly hope this is a positive sign for us as part of the larger group, despite those periodic awful rumbling noises emanating from deep within the bowels of Washington DC and various state capitals. 

On to The Volunteer State...you football fans know I mean Tennessee!

And due to the weather (continued cloudy, rain, yuck) and colds/illness on just about everyone's part, it was a shorter-than-usual stay, focused on remaining indoors and out of the weather.   Both of us came down with whatever was going around...the kids already had it.

But we enjoyed our time there as much as we could...one 16-month-old little girl made that possible.  She's beginning the process of talking...she always knows what she's saying...but we can't always decipher it.   However, she's at the stage where she copies what she hears.  A wee little parrot, as it were.  We were watching TV one evening, and a character on the show shouted " Oh, God!"   A few seconds later, we all heard a very clear and strong "Oh, God!" from our little princess.

Don't even think about uttering any swear words...the kids told us that "you'll hear them back a few seconds later..."

Despite our various maladies, we had a good time, and hated to leave.  But it was time to get home.   So we bade farewell and set off into cloudy skies.  On the trip home, we saw more sun the next two days than we saw the entire trip to that point - about 4 hours.

And now that we're back, the rain has ceased on the Delmarva and things are looking a bit better...as are our maladies.   Another successful trip...

More later...


Sunday, January 22, 2017

French Lick Springs Resort - a grand hotel.

The saga continues!

Our third and fourth nights were spent at the French Lick Springs Resort, a massive "grand porch hotel" in the traditional fashion.  Restored to its ornate original interior appearance, this place is magnificent in its own right...and now featuring a casino for your entertainment.   While at the hotel, I went into the casino, and signed up to use the promotional cash the hotel gives guests upon check-in.  

The clerk needed my driver's license (you know - that ID many of us still have, with the big "M" on it!)  But that "M" didn't seem to matter to her - she treated me as she would any other woman.  (Perhaps because my hands - with manicured nails - were visible on the counter the whole time???)  And when I asked for some guidance on using the slots, she called for one of the floor men.  Both of them addressed me as female...   I could really get used to this!   (Before you ask, I only "lost" $10 of my own money - I know my limits.)

While on this vacation, I managed to obtain a train ride.  This shows Mandy having some fun riding on a private car.  A fun time, of course, with part of it spent on the open rear platform, my favorite place to ride...besides the open vestibule!

We knew some of the folks there.  To them, I was "sir."  Oh, well - that's OK.   They seem to overlook the obvious (attire) and just go with the familiar...

Mandy on the observation platform of a private railcar..

Since it was cloudy and rainy during our visit, I resurrected a picture from a previous visit, to show the place in sunlight.   (Too bad there wasn't any sun this trip.)  Notice its huge porch...lined with chairs, full of people in 3 seasons, empty when we were there this time.   Too cold and rainy.  :-(

French Lick Springs hotel...

Lobby of French Lick Springs Resort.

Our last evening meal in the casual fare pub at the Resort was extra special...   The waitress welcomed us as "girls" and asked "Can I start you girls off with something to drink?"  We were "girls" all through the meal.  We've frequently been addressed as "ladies."  And individually as "Ma'am" or "Miss."  But memory fails to recall any instances where we've been "girls" for an evening.  And I'll never complain! 

This was an exceptionally successful visit for Mandy, and fortunately my wife has become accustomed to us being addressed as "ladies."   That's a good thing.    After these four days of fun, it was off to Tennessee to visit our son, D-I-L and granddaughter.

In a nearby town on our way out, we came across the following road closure.   The work crew supervisor told me that the driver of a heavy truck had tried (quite unsuccessfully) to cross this very old, weight-restricted bridge.  The predictable result looked like this:

 Oops...that  truck driver had a very bad hair day.

Note the broken support beam on the right side...indicative of severe overload.  It didn't just bend a little, it snapped.

Definitely an old bridge!

The town will likely be getting this old bridge upgraded significantly (or perhaps replaced completely), courtesy of the trucking company's insurance, the trucking company may be getting a new truck, and it's quite probable that the driver is now searching for a new way to "earn his daily bread..."

Speaking of motor vehicles, recently an interesting article in a railroad publication indicated that railroads may ultimately be affected by the same autonomous (driverless) craze that seems to be building for the auto industry.   The day of the driverless truck may soon be at hand, since autonomous cars are being tested now, and labor (truck driver) costs are so high.  This may seriously affect railroads, which to this point, can't by law use autonomous (crewless) over-the-road trains.

Can you imagine a little mistake by the electrons in charge of a truck (or train), the end result of which finds a load of hazmat-tanker/dangerous cargo dumped on the ground?   In one of our cities or towns, no less?  (Perhaps by trying to cross a weight-restricted bridge, with no human able to intervene?)  This proves the driverless truck (in fact, any vehicle) might be an actual safety issue to contend with.

Stay tuned as this situation develops...it's bound to get interesting.

More later!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Friendsville, Big Chimney and West Baden Springs Resort

We're back on the road again...

On our way to attend a convention near Indianapolis, and visit the kids in TN, we stopped at a place called French Lick Resort. Years ago, we had visited with the antique car, as part of a car event, but ever since, have wanted to come back again.

The drive west from the Delmarva was a bit checkered...snow in the mountains of western Maryland had turned to rain by the time we neared the first overnight stop just north of  Charleston, but it slowed our progress a bit on the first day.   Of course that didn't stop at least a minor amount of "unusual town name hunting."   First stop on that hit parade was Friendsville, MD.

Founded in 1765  and named after its founder John Friend, it used to be a center for the lumber (and nearby, coal) industry.   Now, it just appears as a "friendly" rural town.

On the second day, we passed into warmer air (though still cloudy, something which remained for the entire trip), and temperatures climbed into the range of 60 degrees - even though it rained hard off-and-on.  I noticed signs for a town named Big Chimney near our hotel, and wanted to check it out.  Yes, there actually is a small town, with no evidence of the two railroad lines which used to serve it...the PRR and the B&O!   Rights of way are well disguised, since tracks were torn up fifty years ago, and there is no evidence of any remaining  industry in town...

Turns out there used to be two "industries" - some oil drilling in the area, and a salt works.  As part of its process, the salt works erected a - drum-roll please - "big chimney" about 60 feet tall.   The plant went out of business about 80 years ago, and with no maintenance, the chimney succumbed to the ravages of nature.   Depending on the theory to which you adhere, it either collapsed in a tornado, or was pulled down as a dangerous, brick-shedding hazard, about 70 years ago.

 After grabbing a couple of pictures, it was "on the road again."

As usual, on this type of road trip, dresses and skirts weren't part of my wardrobe.  But in stirrup pants with flats, tights, a turtleneck tunic with necklace, my purse, long hair and nails, folks there treated her as a lady.  That first night at a chain hotel north of Charleston,  Mandy was back, even without dresses.   My wife and I were addressed as "ladies" when we were together, and I was addressed as "Ma''am" by the staff when alone.

On to our second night's stop at the West Baden Springs Resort in French Lick, IN - with the "pump already primed" from our first night's stop.   From check-in at the West Baden Springs, to walking around sightseeing at this immense and impeccably restored monument to a better day, visiting some of the shops, we were generally addressed as "ladies."  (Or in a few instances, with no gender reference to either of us.   But that's OK...)

Our room on the top floor, overlooking the atrium.

The atrium
The atrium dome....at night.

This was a fabulous hotel, built in the early 1900's with a free-standing dome (no mid-dome supports, designed by a bridge-building company) that, for a time, was the largest dome in the world.  Imagine a world-renowned domed hotel "out in the middle of nowhere."  And with a lovely porch for sitting and enjoying the local gardens, mineral water, and scenery (preferably in better weather, however.)  And even more amazing is the fact that it still exists today, after serving as a Jesuit monastery and a college campus, followed by years of neglect, abandonment, and partial outer wall collapse.

When we checked out of this hotel, we drove about a mile down the road to the French Lick Springs Resort and Casino...

Stay tuned for more about that....


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Out and about again...

I recently had occasion to visit the phone store, regarding some issues with my cell phone.   Both the man and woman on duty addressed me (in my typical androgynous stirrup pants/tunic outfit) as Ma'am.   I was Ma'am for the whole time...

And at the post office, none of the customers seemed to indicate that they saw me as anything but what I appeared to be...a somewhat outdated-looking older woman taking care of her business.   That's the way it should be...

Next day, I stopped at the grocery store, and passed a number of folks (both genders) who didn't so much as glance at me.  Capris and flats did help, but still, there was no sign of any double-takes or second guesses.   At check out, the clerk had no hesitation...I was a female.  And the person in line behind me had no issue with that.

While in the vicinity of the local mall, I decided to visit Claire's (for those not familiar with them, a cheap earring and other accoutrements shop).  I don't visit often, but in a stirrup-pants-turtleneck tunic-and-flats outfit, I got the urge to drop in.  Once again, they had a small clip-on earring display.  I looked it over, and found an interesting dangly pair...which called my name...and said "buy me!"  That's a call I find hard to resist.  So I took out my wallet and sprung for them.

Now, I had one follow-up stop to make - the phone store again.  I wasn't wearing makeup or lipstick, just a girl on a casual day out. So I left my new earrings on, and went in.  The same staff was there as during my previous visit, they remembered me by my "now female" given name, and addressed me as "Ma'am" the entire time.  A wonderful visit.

The feeling of long, dangly earrings moving around as I go about my business is intoxicating.  Now I can't wait to find a time to go somewhere in a skirt, wearing these new accoutrements!  But that will have to wait for later in the new year...photo above.

So, how would they look with this outfit?  It's an old dress, and very comfortable.  I've been wearing the outfit around the house.  Is this something I might want to try on my next train trip?  The dress is long enough to be modest, but super easy to wear...and if it's during warm weather, a short sleeve blouse would work well.

And then yesterday, with me in androgynous mode at the nursing home as usual, one of the staff members (whom I thought knew I was a guy) carried on a conversation with me, using female forms of address.   Needless to say, I didn't object...nor did I correct her.   When we parted, she said "Have a good day, Ma'am."

She knew how to "make my day...and week!"

More later...


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Quiet season...and autonomous vehicles.

Not much happening here...Mandy's into her annual quiet season.   With the holidays, the end of December traditionally was very quiet.  Likewise the month of January and February will be.   There may not be a lot of posting activity -  wife and I may be doing some traveling together.  So any posting will unfortunately be mostly more local androgynous stuff.

I hope my followers (and readers who don't necessarily follow me yet) will bear with me.   Hopefully once the worst of winter is past us, things will make their usual seasonal improvement and Mandy will be able to get "back in the saddle again."   And hopefully you - and we - have a Happy New Year in the process....

One thing caught my eye on the internet recently, and it has nothing to do with gender or presentation.  Maryland's Republican administration recently announced that Interstate 95 and other major arteries around the Baltimore region could become a testing ground for driverless cars starting in 2018, under a proposal announced in the last couple of weeks.

"The state has applied for a U.S. Department of Transportation program that aims to work out the kinks in autonomous vehicle technology, speed its arrival on roadways across the country and help grow companies that are developing it."   Nice idea, folks.  I'm just not sure the area is ready for it...    If it were April 1,  I'd be very suspicious of an April Fool's joke.  But April 1 is still almost 3 months away, so it apparently isn't a joke.

Unfortunately, IMHO the idea is "kink-infested" from the get-go.   Can you imagine the difficulty of citing such a car for causing an accident?  How do you sue a driverless car?  Do they haul the car into the courtroom, and if so, how does it take the oath and testify?  If found guilty, how can the car be punished?  Disconnect its battery or drain its gas tank?  Put a "boot" on its front tire?  It's not alive...so punishments like that won't do any good.  Maybe reformat its computer or install an upgrade?

More hypothetical questions:  how will the autonomous vehicle respond to an officer controlling traffic at an accident scene or intersection with malfunctioning lights, or deal with a police vehicle trying to pull it over for a violation?   (These and  numerous other scenarios require instant judgment calls - and are not well-suited to AI - Artificial Intelligence.)

To inject a bit of humor into a serious topic, are the makers of those driverless vehicles planning to install a "prosthetic arm with it's hand's middle finger extended" in each dashboard and rear package shelf?  The purpose of this would be to automatically "pop up" in the appropriate window, each time the autonomous car cuts someone off, or a conventional vehicle's driver honks his horn.  Big city driving would not be complete without that feature...   And conventional drivers wouldn't know how to react if they didn't have something "flip them the bird" as they use the horn to warn the autonomous car about running the red light, blowing through the stop sign or making an improper lane change or turn. 

Sorry for the rant.  But perhaps this whole "autonomous" thing is best relegated to the scrap heap,  before it starts to kill or maim people.  (Hopefully they won't spend much time over here on the Delmarva...quite yet.)

I'll leave you with a picture of this holiday decoration, seen while driving through a small town on the Delmarva.  And I gotta admit, this is a first for this type of decoration:

Cute, isn't it?

Happy New Year...