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Meet Woomy…

September 8, 2019, 10:09 AM

In going through what I’ve posted, I’ve realized that I’ve mentioned some things but never fully explained them.  I typically realize this when these things are slated to appear again or are otherwise planned to be referenced, but discover that there has not been a proper introduction.

In this case, meet Woomy, one of Elyse’s “critters”:

Woomy, on our trip to Scranton in October 2018

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Philadelphia? How about New York?

August 18, 2019, 12:55 AM

August 13 was a day of unexpected twists and turns, for sure.  What was supposed to be a trip to Philadelphia with friends ended up turning into a trip to New York City for Elyse and me.  As originally planned, we were going to meet up with Brian, Trent, and a few other folks from the DC area who were traveling up separately at 30th Street Station, and the bunch of them plus Elyse were going to go fan transit for a while, while I did my own thing, mostly photographing in and around Center City.  That didn’t happen.

What caused our plans to change was twofold.  First, the weather forecast called for storms all up and down the east coast.  So I would have to figure out something else to do, as I would be rained out.  Secondly, we were running a tad late due to traffic around Baltimore that led us to take a more southerly route before resuming our planned route.  Once we got up there, the plan was to park in New Jersey and then ride PATCO into the city.  What happened, though, was that the other group didn’t want to wait for us at 30th Street Station, and so they went and continued with their plan without Elyse, and took SEPTA Regional Rail out to Norristown, with the idea that we would catch up with them later.  We learned this while we were on PATCO riding into the city.  So essentially, they ditched us.  We did not take too kindly to this, and so rather than chase them in an effort to catch up with them, when it was pretty clear that we were not a priority (otherwise, they would have waited for us), we did our own thing instead.

We ended up getting off of PATCO at City Hall station in Camden.  There, we walked over to the Walter Rand Transportation Center station for the River Line.  Neither of us had ever ridden the River Line, so this would be a new experience.  We were surprised that there was very little transit-oriented development around the River Line stations.  Much of what was right around the stations that we could see was older construction that predated the service.

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Adventures up north…

November 21, 2018, 1:48 PM

Back in the middle of October, as part of a weeklong vacation from work, Elyse and I took a trip to upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania.  The first day took us up to Cortland, New York.  The second day, we explored Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The third day, we briefly explored Wilkes-Barre, and then went down to Centralia before heading home.

Our route on the first day took us from home up I-270 to Frederick, and then US 15 to Harrisburg.  We had planned a stop around Harrisburg in order to photograph Three Mile Island from across the river, but scrapped it due to bad weather (clouds).  We can day-trip it to Harrisburg any time, and traveling to the spot for Three Mile Island would have been a significant detour.  We both agreed that we weren’t going to make a long detour for bad photos.  Once we got to Harrisburg, we joined Interstate 81 for our travels north.

I definitely got to know I-81 a whole lot better than I did before taking this trip.  Previously, I had traveled on I-81 from its southern terminus near Knoxville as far as exit 116 in Pennsylvania, from my Centralia trip in May (prior to that, I had only traveled as far as the I-78 split).  Now, I’ve traveled the entire length of I-81 in Pennsylvania, and also 52 miles in upstate New York.  If there’s one thing to be said about I-81 north of Harrisburg, it’s that the views are outstanding.  I-81 runs through the mountains, and it’s quite a sight.  And just like it does in Virginia, it skirts around every single city, which doesn’t make for the most interesting trip.  I prefer when freeways go through the cities like I-95 tends to do, because it gives me something to look forward to, and also keeps me more engaged.

But thankfully, we had this license plate game that Elyse found in a thrift store, so as we spotted different states’ license plates, she turned that state over on the board.  The most unusual license plate that we saw was for St. Maarten, at a Sheetz in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.  Why a vehicle from St. Maarten was in central Pennsylvania, I don’t know.

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A walk down an abandoned road…

May 24, 2018, 5:40 AM

On May 17, 2018, I took a solo trip up to Centralia, Pennsylvania.  For those not familiar, Centralia is something of a modern ghost town, having gradually been abandoned due to a coal mine fire that’s been burning uncontrolled beneath the town since 1962, likely caused by deliberate burning of trash in the town’s landfill, which was on top of a former strip mine.  As of 2013, the town had only seven residents remaining, and when those remaining residents pass on or otherwise leave the town, their properties will be seized via eminent domain.

I had done some research about the site, but was a bit iffy on whether it was going to be good or not.  I was concerned about its being a bust, but it was still intriguing enough to make the trip.  And as it turned out, it was pretty cool.  The biggest “attraction” at Centralia is an abandoned section of road known as the “Graffiti Highway”.  That road came about when Pennsylvania Route 61 began having subsidence and visibility issues due to the coal mine fire.  The state built a new alignment for the route on more stable ground in 1993, and the old alignment was abandoned.  Since then, many people have come by and left graffiti tags on the road, which gave the road its nickname.  Besides the road, there are also several cemeteries in Centralia, as well as one remaining active church, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

When I went up, I wasn’t quite sure how it would work out.  Based on my research, as well as a little Google sightseeing, there were the roads of the former town surrounded by empty land and a few houses, and the possibility of seeing steam from the mine fire rising from the ground.  The Graffiti Highway was most intriguing.  I’d heard mixed reports about how accessible the Graffiti Highway was, though.  When it was still under state ownership, my understanding was that police tended to chase people away on a routine basis.  I didn’t want to travel that far just to get chased out.  But last fall, the state vacated their easement, i.e. they gave up the right of way, determining that it will never again be used for a road, and ownership of the land reverted back to adjacent property owners.  So I believe that the old road is now on privately owned land, and as such, the heavy enforcement went away now that the state no longer owns the land.  In any case, no one bothered me on my visit.

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A “lost” photo set of sorts…

November 6, 2016, 10:10 AM

In doing the writing for an upcoming photo set for Life and Times about a trip that Elyse and I recently made to Pittsburgh [update: photo set published in January 2017], I quickly realized that much of the discussion about the trip up builds on a photo set that I shot in May 2006 with the intention of publishing in Photography, but that I ultimately never completed.

In this case, the subject of the “lost” photo set was Breezewood, Pennsylvania.  For those not familiar, when one travels to Pittsburgh from the DC area, one of the places that you go through is Breezewood, a settlement best known for a quarter-mile stretch of US 30 that carries Interstate 70 traffic to the Pennsylvania Turnpike – a stretch of road that is loaded with gas stations and motels and restaurants.  I first traveled through Breezewood in 2003 during the LPCM trip to Pittsburgh, and it piqued my interest – even more so when I later learned that there was an abandoned stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike nearby, including two tunnels.  I discussed a potential trip to Breezewood for a photo shoot in 2005, and then made a trip from Stuarts Draft to Breezewood – a three-hour drive each way – on May 2, 2006.  About the only bit of evidence of the trip on here was five photo features showing Breezewood, a short Journal entry with no photos, plus a few things here and there on Wikipedia and Panoramio, as was my practice at the time.  The intended Photography set, with the working title “Town of Motels”, was never made.  Kind of a shame that, for a trip that was that far away and entirely dedicated to photography, so little was actually published from it.

I’m pretty sure that I never published the set because I didn’t feel like the photos were up to par, even for the (lower) standards that I operated under at the time, and thus couldn’t find the inspiration to complete it.  Most of the photos had a yellow cast over them, and I clearly didn’t take enough time in composing my shots.  In hindsight, while I had fun doing the shoot, the idea was something of a loser.  After all, it was, for the most part, just a clustering of chain businesses along a unique stretch of highway.  The road configuration, created due to regulations in place at the time that precluded the use of federal funds to build direct connections to toll facilities, was what was unique, but that wasn’t the focus of my photography.  I focused mostly on the chain businesses themselves, which weren’t particularly unique.  The chain businesses looked a lot like “Anytown USA”, i.e. they were much the same as you would find anywhere.

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Horns with bugles attached…

October 27, 2016, 8:24 PM

As I mentioned earlier, the trip to Philadelphia that Elyse and I made on October 3 was primarily about fire alarms.  In short, I now am the proud owner of 16 Federal Signal Model 53 fire alarm notification appliances, and 12 Couch coded fire alarm pull stations.  This was the total haul:

12 pull stations and 16 horns

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The evolution of a cloud…

October 5, 2016, 10:24 AM

Sometimes, you don’t notice the way things change right in front of your eyes until you analyze them a bit more.  I was recently in the Philadelphia/King of Prussia area with Elyse on what was primarily a fire alarm-related mission (more on that later), and was photographing the Manayunk Bridge.  First of all, for those not familiar, the Manayunk Bridge is a former rail bridge that was closed to rail traffic in 1986, and which reopened last year to pedestrian and bike traffic as a rail trail.  I had previously known it as the big arched bridge that the Schuylkill Expressway goes under, i.e. this, as seen in November 2001:

The Manayunk Bridge, photographed November 22, 2001 from the Schuylkill Expressway

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Categories: Nature, Philadelphia

I have been to Pennsylvania a lot lately…

August 27, 2016, 6:27 AM

In the span of two weeks, Elyse and I went to Pennsylvania three different times.  We went to Hanover on the 8th, Harrisburg on the 11th, and then Harrisburg again on the 18th.  Two of the trips were to scout out some potential sites for photography, as well as get something out of our system from the earlier bus trip, and then one was to bring the bus back for my friend.

The first trip was to Hanover.  This was one of those “seeing America” kind of trips, about catching a shot of whatever we found interesting, as well as scouting locations for further attention with our SLR cameras when the weather was more accommodating (it was hot and humid out – yuck).  Elyse met me at my house, and then we left for Hanover via Westminster.  On the way up to Westminster, we both knew about a certain street off of Georgia Avenue in Carroll County near Eldersburg and Sykesville (yes, I refer to Route 97 as “Georgia Avenue” all the way up to Gettysburg), and had to get a photo of it with Elyse.  Check it out:

Elyse Court

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Nobody can rope a wheel like I can…

July 30, 2016, 10:52 AM

This past Thursday, Elyse and I went up to Harrisburg with another friend to help test drive a bus.  My friend had been searching for a bus to convert into an RV, and located a school bus as a potential candidate.  I was there because I had a CDL, and therefore could legally drive the bus, and knew what I was talking about when it came to looking the bus over and getting a feel for how it drove.  Considering that my work as of late has had me around rail vehicles rather than buses, I was excited, because I hadn’t driven a bus since April.

The bus was a 2007 Thomas Built HDX.  For those not familiar, that is a transit-style school bus, i.e. the kind with a flat front.  I definitely knew how to drive those, because transit buses have flat fronts, plus I first learned how to drive a bus on a Thomas Built MVP, which is an older version of this bus.  Only thing I did have to get used to with this bus was that the turn signal control was on the steering column, whereas on a transit bus, the turn signals are on the floor.  School buses should have them on the floor as well, for the same reason that they’re on the floor for transit: it allows you to keep both hands on the wheel at all times.  Clearly, whoever placed the stalk for the turn signals had never operated a bus before, because it did feel like something of an awkward reach to operate the turn signal.

I was worried that I might have lost some of my bus-handling skill in the three months that had passed since the last time I had operated a bus, but once I got a feel for the bus, no problem.  As I discovered after being out for six weeks for that broken foot, it’s just like riding a bike.  However, I did have to get used to the pedals on this bus.  Unlike every other bus that I had driven, where the accelerator and the brake pedals are attached to the floor, these were hung from above, like a car.  Go figure.  But once I got over that, no problem.

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Had never traveled a business Interstate before…

July 24, 2016, 8:55 PM

…and now I have.  Elyse and I made an impromptu road trip to York, Pennsylvania on Thursday, July 14.  We got together in Ellicott City, but didn’t know quite what we wanted to do, and so we ended up doing that.

However, our first stop was a completely unplanned one, in Catonsville.  There, the McDonald’s in 40 West Plaza recently closed, and was in the process of being vacated.  At the time that we came by, they had started roofing over the McDonald’s-style mansard, and removed the signage, and were packing stuff up inside.

Exterior, with new roof going on, covering the double mansard that the facility had when it was still in operation. Also note the McDonald's labelscar on the side of the building. Guessing that they paint the exterior in order to hide these labelscar markings.

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Good to see our old house looking better than it has in quite some time…

June 30, 2016, 6:15 PM

Back on June 9, Elyse and I took a one-day road trip to Philadelphia.  From the outset, this was to be something of a transit adventure, with a visit to the SEPTA gift shop as one of the main priorities.  On the way up, Elyse even got annoyed with me for a few restroom stops (hey, when nature calls…) because she didn’t want to miss the SEPTA store.  But then as we were heading up I-295 towards Lindenwold station to get PATCO, I commented as we were approaching the exit for US 322 that this was the exit that you would take to go see my old house in Glassboro.  Her response was an enthusiastic “Let’s go!”  Looks like someone just gave up their right to complain about the time.

That said, we went over to Glassboro, and over to 304 Cornell Road.  I was surprised to see how nice the place looked:

304 Cornell Road, Glassboro, New Jersey

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I feel like I was shooting the photos for those motivational posters…

October 25, 2015, 11:12 PM

This past Thursday, I went up to High Rock, which is a rock outcropping on South Mountain in Pen Mar, Maryland, in Washington County near the Pennsylvania border.  It reminds me a little bit of both Humpback Rock in Virginia, and the Aqueduct Bridge stub in DC.  Like Humpback Rock, it’s high on a mountaintop, however, unlike Humpback Rock, you can drive up to it and park right next to it, rather than parking down below and then hiking a mile straight uphill.  Like the Aqueduct Bridge, it’s covered in graffiti and a popular overlook point, but unlike the Aqueduct Bridge, it’s a natural feature rather than manmade.  I went up there with the intent of scouting out the location for a potential future set for the Photography section on Schumin Web.  I knew it had a view, but I wasn’t so sure about it.  I arrived just before 5:00 PM, and stayed for about an hour and a half.  While there, I let my curiosity lead the way, as I checked things out at the site and just kind of followed what I found interesting.  I don’t know which intrigued me more: the formation itself, the view, or the graffiti.

So here’s what some of the take from this outing looked like:

View from High Rock facing approximately north, towards Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. The bit of stone in the foreground is actually manmade. As much as I can tell, this is some of what remains of an observatory that once stood at this site.
View from High Rock facing approximately north, towards Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  The bit of stone in the foreground is actually manmade.  As much as I can tell, this is some of what remains of an observatory that once stood at this site.

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Fun in Philadelphia…

April 28, 2015, 11:29 PM

Back at the end of March, I went up to Philadelphia with my friends Melissa and Elyse.  We had a list of things that we wanted to do, and we did as many of them as we could.  We had a blast, plus we got to meet up with my cousins Mike and Tara for dinner.  This trip was also a proof of concept for how my various little outings might go now that I routinely work late nights, since my typical workday runs from approximately 4:00 PM until just before 2:00 AM.

Logistically, it worked out this way: Melissa met me at Glenmont station around 11:00, and then we traveled up to Howard County to get Elyse.  Then from there, up to Philadelphia via I-95.  Then in Philadelphia, everything that we were planning was transit-accessible, save for one thing, but we worked it all out pretty well.

Our first point of interest was the non-transit-accessible one: the SS United States.  This would be a quick look-see for some photos, and then move along to other targets.  We parked at the IKEA store across the street, and then Elyse and I walked over for a look (Melissa stayed in the car).  Here are pix:

The SS United States in Philadelphia

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So I made a little side trip into New Jersey on the way home…

September 27, 2009, 6:42 PM

My travel day on Friday went fairly well, and I am so glad to be home again. As much as I learned on this trip about Mac servers, and as much fun as I had, it’s still great to be back in Silver Spring.

That said, my travel day worked out pretty well for the most part, but I don’t think I’d actually want to live in South Jersey again. Many members of my family have found it wonderful, but I don’t think it’s for me.

After checking out of the hotel, I went down to Chinatown in Philadelphia. I hadn’t been there in ages, and so it was worth a visit. Turns out that Ho Sai Gai, a restaurant that my parents used to go to in the 1970s, has reopened its location at the corner of 10th and Race. We went to Ho Sai Gai at its new location up the street from the old one just about annually from 1996 to 2001, and during that time, the corner location had always been abandoned, with a few improvements here and there. Now it’s once again open for business:

Ho Sai Gai

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Categories: Family, Glassboro, Philadelphia

What is wrong with the drivers up here?

September 21, 2009, 11:21 PM

It makes one wonder – what the crap is wrong with the drivers up here? This is like the outer reaches of the Philadelphia region, and these people drive like maniacs. These drivers make Fairfax County drivers look calm. What really got me is when I got passed illegally on the right on a two lane road because the guy behind me thought I was going too slowly. That just blew my mind. Otherwise, these people won’t let you in, and show no mercy.

And what makes this even more frustrating is that it’s not like these people are doing this on a six-lane road like Georgia Avenue or Rockville Pike. This area looks like a cross between Staunton and Stuarts Draft. The roads are narrow, mostly two lanes. And the lines at the lights are long, and the area doesn’t even look like it would be jammed with commuters, but it is. One thing, though – Philadelphia drivers don’t honk like we do in DC. DC-area drivers are quick to lean on the horn, and I’ll admit having driven with my hand close to or on the horn more than once. In the DC area, we don’t give people the finger so much. We just blow our horns.

Otherwise, though, the drive up here was uneventful. I-95 is kind of old and needs upgrading in places, but those drivers were fairly courteous. It’s these commuters that are ruthless.

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Categories: Philadelphia