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Going back for the first time in 17 years…

June 26, 2014, 10:21 PM

This coming weekend is going to be so much fun.  I’m getting together with my friend Pete, and we’re heading down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, specifically Buxton, for a weekend trip.  For me, this will also be a bit of a throwback to the nineties, as the last time I was down this way was in 1997.  My family went to the Outer Banks five times in the nineties, for a week each time, from 1993-1997.  Back then, we rented Park Place, a house in the Askins Creek neighborhood in Avon.  This time, since this will just be a weekend trip, Pete and I are staying in a hotel for two nights, though I’m going to see about getting a few photos of Park Place on the way down (Avon is the town right before Buxton going south).  I do want to stay in Park Place again one day, though, but that’s not going to happen on this trip.

When we used to go down that way as a family, it worked out to where Dad would generally just sun himself on the beach, and Mom, Sis, and I would find ways to entertain ourselves.  The first year, in 1993, all the whole family did was get up, eat, and go down and sit on the beach all day.  That got old quickly by the third day, and Mom realized it.  So on subsequent vacations, while Dad was perfectly content to lay on the beach every day for a week, the rest of us found entertainment elsewhere on the island, as well as spent a couple of days on the beach.  On these outings, we went up the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse a few times, we rode the ferry across Hatteras Inlet, and we did a few other things while Dad chilled out on the beach.

The last time my family went, in 1997, I was a freshly licensed driver, and did the driving that year myself, taking the Previa down to the Outer Banks with my mother and sister.  My father, due to a work schedule conflict that year, had to travel down separately.  That was fun, as it was my first time driving through a tunnel (the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel), among other things.  Still being a relatively inexperienced driver, I remember my being a little nervous while doing the drive down, but I managed.

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Categories: Family, Vacations

Chicago 2013…

August 9, 2013, 8:10 PM

At the end of July, Mom and I took a trip to Chicago.  We took the Capitol Limited, like we usually do, leaving DC on July 25 and returning July 30.  Not a bad trip, but I believe that there was something pivotal about this particular trip: Chicago was becoming a regular thing.  This isn’t a bad thing by any means.  It doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the trip any less, though, it’s just that it’s become something that we do every year, and that’s fine.  With the trip’s becoming something of a regular thing, this is the only thing you’re goign to get that’s specifically about the trip.  There’s not going to be a Journal entry for each day like I did in 2011.  No special photo set about the trip like I did in 2010 and 2012.  And that’s fine.  That’s not to say that there’s not going to be a photo set from the trip, though.  But it’s going to be a regular photo set, in Photography, about the Chicago Botanic Garden.  That photo set’s going to be what I describe as “flower porn”.  Seriously, I got very close to a lot of flowering plants, and got detailed photos of them.  When I used the term “flower porn”, Sis commented that it was also accurate, as I was photographing the reproductive parts of flowers.  So there you go.

On the outbound trip, Mom and I were in a roomette.  Second car back, room 14.  That’s a lower level roomette.  Mom and I were surprised to find that we felt like we didn’t have quite enough space on this trip.  That came about mostly in regards to legroom, as neither one of us really could extend our legs very far without getting in the other person’s way, and sitting diagonally was a little uncomfortable for both of us.  Having only one electrical outlet was also a problem, as we had several devices that we needed to charge: my laptop, my phone (which we were also tethering for Internet access when we had service), Mom’s phone, and Mom’s iPod Touch.  And one electrical outlet.  It was a shame that, when the Superliner I roomette panels were updated around 2011 or so, they didn’t add at least one additional power outlet.  What we ended up doing was plugging in the laptop and charging everything off of that.  It didn’t work as well in this capacity as I would have liked, however, we were asking the computer to do something that it probably was not designed to do, i.e. be a mobile charging station for three devices (vs. just one).

Meanwhile, the ride out was at times like visiting familiar places.  This was not just because this was our fifth round trip on the Capitol Limited.  Realize that as of this trip, I had visited all of the towns where we made a station stop between DC and Cumberland.  DC, Rockville, Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg, and Cumberland.  Now mind you, it’s been eight years since I last visited Martinsburg, and even longer since I was in the part of Martinsburg where the train goes, but it still counts.  Then I added Harpers Ferry earlier in the same month, and Cumberland in April.

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Categories: Amtrak, Chicago, Vacations

And then there was Baltimore…

April 20, 2013, 12:54 AM

The day after my trip out to Annapolis, I was back in the car again and headed out to Baltimore.  It’s kind of funny how things work out.  This vacation kind of reminded me of spring break in 2002 and 2003 back when I was in college.  I planned out the vacation week with five or so different destinations in the eight days that I had available.  In 2002, my destinations were (in this order) DC, Richmond, Norfolk, Charlottesville, and Roanoke, with a day in between all but Richmond and Norfolk (which involved a hotel stay).  Then in 2003, I did (in this order) DC, Richmond, Norfolk, Covington/Clifton Forge/Lake Moomaw (one outing, all three destinations), Roanoke, and Charlottesville/Blue Ridge Parkway.  I only took two “off” days in 2003, between DC and Richmond, and Norfolk and Covington.  Now, ten years later, I had the luxury of spreading it out over two weeks, and did Stuarts Draft (intended to do Roanoke, but it got snowed out), DC, Richmond, Cumberland, Annapolis, and Baltimore.  I also scouted out Glen Echo Park as a potential photography destination (spoiler: not high up on my list).  And with two weeks and a few destinations planned, I kept a close watch on the weather, and that affected my plans.  Richmond was moved up a day to take advantage of sunnier weather.  Cumberland was similarly scheduled to take advantage of optimal weather (that’s how Glen Echo Park got included – to fill a gap in the schedule from Cumberland’s placement).  And then Annapolis fit the schedule, though weather was less important there, since it was mostly to get a feel for the area and determine further location work (probably).

And then there was Baltimore.  I was out exploring Fells Point on this particular day.  I chose Fells Point based on an episode of Bar RescueOne episode featured J.A. Murphy’s, which was located in Fells Point.  That bar, renamed “Murphy’s Law” during the show’s makeover, had closed, but I knew that going in.  No worries, though.  I wanted to explore.  I parked on the street (in front of Dogwatch Tavern, also featured on the episode), and went to work.  In getting the lay of the land of this area, I ended up dividing it into three sections.  First area was south of Thames Street.  This was the harbor area.  Then the next area was Broadway from Thames Street to Broadway Market.  The street around Broadway Market was a bit of a choke point due to construction on either side of the building that took away the sidewalks.  Then the third area was the block of Broadway between Fleet Street and Eastern Avenue.  I could have gone further north, I suppose, but owing to time considerations, I cut it off there.

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I went out in search of places with harbors…

April 13, 2013, 5:54 PM

And this is the rest of the photo stuff that I did while I was on my vacation a little more than a week ago.  I wanted to do something related to water on my vacation, as I had already done snow and Stuarts Draft, suburban places, urban places, and mountainous areas.  The early plans for this involved a trip up to New Jersey to do this, but I determined that New Jersey was more than I wanted to pull off, owing to the other trips.  One day, perhaps, I’ll do the Jersey shore.  Stepping down from New Jersey, I thought about day tripping it out to Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach, but realized that if I was going to go all that way, I might as well just go to New Jersey.  That brought me to looking at Maryland locations that didn’t involve going over the Bay Bridge.  I narrowed it down to Baltimore and Annapolis, and then decided that with two days available, why not do both?  So I did.  I went to Annapolis on Thursday, April 4, and Baltimore on Friday, April 5.  Not bad.

In going to Annapolis, I was kind of surprised at what I encountered.  I knew that Annapolis was a smaller town as state capitals went, but exactly how small it was surprised me.  Realize that every state capital that I had been in or through (Little Rock, Richmond, Boston, Providence) has been its own metropolitan area.  Annapolis reminded me of Staunton, Virginia with a harbor on it.  It was a cute town, for sure.

By the time I did Annapolis, I had done a lot of photography.  By my accounting, by the time I set foot in Annapolis, I had taken 1,971 photos.  So I had pressed the shutter button quite a bit.  I wasn’t that interested in doing a cohesive photo set, though if I ended up getting a cohesive photo set out of it, that would be a plus.  Honestly, I was just looking to see what caught my interest and looked interesting to photograph.  What I ended up doing was wandering through the downtown area a bit, wandering around the harbor, and then going around the Maryland State House.  I had a good time, photographing signs, architectural details, birds, some boats, and (of course) fire alarms.  I feel as though I probably took more fire alarm photos in Annapolis than I did anywhere else on my two week vacation.  The reason was that in Annapolis, unlike in other cities that I photographed, a lot of buildings had fire alarm notification appliances on their exteriors.  Most were just bells, but I did spot one horn/strobe on the exterior of a jewelry store.

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Categories: Annapolis, Baltimore, Vacations

Seeing Cumberland from the ground…

April 7, 2013, 12:28 AM

You may be familiar with Cumberland, Maryland.  Whenever Mom and I go to Chicago, we take the Capitol Limited, and that train travels a route that goes through Martinsburg, Cumberland, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and South Bend, among other locations.  When I take train trips, I like to look at the scenery.  Some of it intrigues me, and it leads me do more research on it later.  Take the Koppers facility in Green Spring, West Virginia.  I always found it interesting to see these piles of neatly stacked lumber along the tracks.  I researched it, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about what I had seen from the train.  Towns are a similar idea.  These little towns that the trains either pass through or stop in make me want to do more research.  Unfortunately, many of these little towns are beyond my reach without incurring a lot of travel expenses, but for the places that I can reach, if they interest me enough, I’ll pay them a visit.

Cumberland was one of those places.  The Capitol Limited spends a lot of time in Cumberland.  Going west, the first thing that they do is a crew change, where they exchange engineers.  Then they continue a little further west and do the passenger stop.  That stop takes about ten minutes, and is also a “smoke stop”, where passengers who smoke are permitted to get off of the train and have a cigarette.  While on the train waiting through the crew change and the longer passenger stop, I got to take an extended look at Cumberland.  And I liked what I saw.  I saw a town with some character to it, and I saw a few places that I would love to explore more deeply.  I saw houses, I saw churches, and I saw the WTBO sign on Wills Mountain.  And I was sure that there was much more that was interesting beyond what I could see from the train.

So this past Tuesday, I did exactly that.  I grabbed the camera bag, got in the car, and headed off to Cumberland.  This, by the way, is not exactly a short trip.  Amtrak gives three hours and nine minutes to take the train from Union Station in DC to Cumberland.  Google Maps gives two hours and 123 miles driving from my house in Aspen Hill to Cumberland Amtrak station by car.  That’s going via the Intercounty Connector and I-370 to Gaithersburg, I-270 to Frederick, I-70 to Hancock, and then I-68 to Cumberland.  I’ve done the drive on I-270 to Frederick a number of times in the past, and so I knew what to expect there.  Interstate 70 through to Hagerstown took me over a number of hills and past the Appalachian Trail.  I had taken I-70 west the rest of the way through Maryland when I went to Breezewood in 2006.  Then I-68 was really awesome.  The first thing you do is go through a highway cut through Sideling Hill, and then you go over a number of mountains before you arrive in Cumberland – directly in the middle of downtown.

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Richmond was fun…

April 1, 2013, 11:05 PM

So on Saturday, I headed down to Richmond to visit an area that I had not visited in about ten years: the Canal Walk.  You may recall that I first featured the Canal Walk in 2002 in a three-part set in Photography.  Then I visited the area again in 2003 for the Richmond portion of An Urban Comparison.  I photographed the Canal area again with Big Mavica since I was already in the area, but I never really did much with the photos.  There were three Photo Features from that day: one of the Reynolds Tobacco building, one of the skyline, and one of Riverfront Plaza.  Now, ten years later, it was time to get new photos.  I didn’t expect that the Canal area would change much, but I had changed quite a bit.  My Canon Powershot SX10 IS is a far superior camera to Big Mavica, and my technique has also improved.  I also have a polarizing filter that I got in January, and I wanted to give that another spin.  The Sandy Point photos that I took in February (photo set from this on its way before too long) came out wonderfully using it, and so I wanted to give it a spin again in a city environment.

I did the same thing that I did ten years ago, parking at the east end of the Canal and walking to the other end.  Like in 2003, I walked down the Canal and then headed over to the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge.  I also explored Belle Isle just a little, which I had never done before, as I had previously just gone to the end of the bridge and then turned around.

The biggest take from this trip was that the Canal area had grown up in ten years.  There were some new buildings, and there were new businesses in some of the older buildings.  The area had flooded in 2004 due to the effects of Hurricane Gaston.  I also noticed a lot more character in the area.  One semi-enclosed section of the Canal Walk now had all sorts of murals painted on it.  There was also a lot more life along the Canal itself, with recently constructed housing nearby, and shops and restaurants fronting the Canal.  Previously, the Canal was somewhat disconnected from the surrounding neighborhood, with not much to do on the Canal Walk except to walk.  Not anymore.

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One more day until vacation…

May 12, 2011, 7:36 PM

Yes, one more day to go. I am one “It’s Friday, ya bastards!” away from a week’s vacation. I am looking forward to it. This is going to be something of a hybrid, too. Last time I took a vacation was when I went to Chicago. Thus almost the entire time was spent out of town. Then two vacations ago was two weeks just hanging out at home and around town. This one will be about half just chilling out at home and thereabouts, and half out of town.

So you may ask, where am I going? A day and a half in Stuarts Draft and thereabouts, and then off to Kings Dominion with Mom and the eighth graders for “Math and Science Day”. It’s kind of funny, too, that I’m finally going to Kings Dominion. See, I’ve lived about two hours’ driving time from Kings Dominion for almost 19 years (believe it or not, my parents’ house and my house are about the same distance from Kings Dominion), and I’ve never been. We’ll see if it was worth the wait. The waterpark won’t be open (still too early in the season), but the rest of it will be. So we’ll see how it goes, I suppose. Otherwise while I’m in Virginia, I’m hoping to swing by SDMS again and visit Mom at school and such, do some photography in Staunton or Waynesboro or so, and then hopefully see Katie if all goes well, since it’s been far too long since last I’ve seen her.

Then in the first half of the week, I’m going to give lap swimming a try again. There’s a county-operated indoor pool in Olney, and considering how close it is to my house (only four miles), I should visit, and give it a spin. I’m thinking I’ll do it on Monday when all the children are at school. They have designated lap lanes, and so we’ll see how it goes.

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Bye bye, beard…

October 18, 2009, 3:14 PM

And hello, soul patch! Take a look:

No beard!

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Categories: Myself, Vacations

If I go the IKEA route, this will be rather complicated…

October 6, 2009, 11:15 PM

You know, IKEA does some things very well, and some things seem just needlessly complicated. The comforter situation fits the latter quite well. I went over to IKEA this evening to get some ideas for a new comforter for my bed. I got my current one from Target in July 2007, and it’s not looking too good, mainly because it’s faded quite a bit. So I’m looking to replace it. The way IKEA sells comforters is more complicated than I think I like. The comforter itself is white – they only come in white. Then you buy a duvet cover that goes over the comforter that provides the pattern and what have you. While it certainly provides the most options for color vs. warmth and such, it’s WAY beyond what I’m going for. I can really see myself having a rough time getting that comforter into the duvet cover and then snapping it in all nice-like. Something tells me I’m going to go a different route than this. It seems more complicated than I want. Sometimes the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle is a good thing. IKEA’s bedspreads, which, while nice and simple, also failed to impress me. However, I’m probably not going to go to Target for another comforter, either. I think I’m probably going to hit Bed Bath & Beyond or something like that for the new comforter or bedspread.

However, they did have lots of nice things there, and I came to the realization recently that my apartment is really kind of blah as far as decor goes. The carpet is tan, and the color scheme pretty much follows that, as everything is different shades of beige. Schumin Web is all flashy with the rainbow-colored logo and the squares-in-squares background, but my house is less so. I need color and flair. I have a striped fitted sheet that I use for guests, and once, after Mom stayed over, I left the fitted sheet on the couch for a week after I put the futon frame back in the upright position. I loved it. So as things wear out, I need to start thinking about bright, vibrant colors. Plus I need to hang up those bloody picture frames, already…

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And we’re back!

August 29, 2008, 10:00 PM

And we’re back in Silver Spring once again, after a fun vacation. Now we’re refreshed and ready to take on the real world once again.

It’s interesting, though – the way my travels usually go, usually one leg of the trip goes flawlessly, and one has issues. The outbound leg went flawlessly. Perfect driving conditions, and traffic was fairly light. The return trip, however, was not so flawless. Traffic was heavy the entire way, and I had to detour around a bit within Hampton Roads.

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Hampton Roads area, let me explain for a moment. Hampton Roads is encircled by the Hampton Road Beltway, which is formed from the final 36 miles of I-64, and roughly 20 additional miles of I-664. Inside that, going roughly east-west through the middle, is I-264, which runs from I-64’s terminus to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Then there’s also I-464, which runs from the Downtown Tunnel in Norfolk (part of I-264) to State Route 168 on a roughly north-south track, intersecting I-64 along the way. Confused yet?

My detour started because I saw a sign on one of those highway message signs: “HRBT 4.5 MILE BACKUP, MMMBT CLEAR”. This told me that the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) had a massive backup nearly five miles long on westbound, while the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) was going smoothly. My understanding is that these HRBT backups are common, and that they’re looking into a permanent solution to the problem.

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Categories: Driving, Vacations

Thursday was fun…

August 29, 2008, 9:11 AM

Thursday was fun. I spent much of it wandering along the strip, checking out the various stores and such. However, I only spent money at Flipper McCoy’s, which, unlike the visit on Tuesday night, was pretty quiet this time around. I had so much fun. I took both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man for a number of spins, I played skee-ball, I played Spin-to-Win, and I got to see someone win 1500 tickets on the Deal Or No Deal machine.

Perhaps the most interesting was skee-ball. They have two different versions. One named along the lines of your typical skee-ball game and styled as such, and then the other was called “Ice Ball”. The gameplay between regular skee ball and Ice Ball was exactly the same, but the Ice Ball balls were white, and they felt ever so slightly heavier, which I preferred. In play, I somehow managed to hit every spot, including the 10,000 spot, except for 5,000. Why not 5,000? Dunno. Got 1K, 2K, 3K, and 4K no problem. Go figure. I also found that I scored better by changing my angle. I was initially playing like it was bowling. Underhanded roll, hitting the rolling surface fairly close to the edge. When I changed to a different style throw, aiming for it to start rolling along the track towards the back, I did a lot better. Go fig.

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And while I’m on vacation, the Democrats put an end to the nomination fight once and for all…

August 28, 2008, 1:43 AM

Let me say that the fourth day in Virginia Beach was a lot of fun. It started with a walk down the beach. Recall that on Monday, I took Duckie into the water for a swim, and got those amazing wave photos. Today, I again took Duckie to the water, though this time I was mainly out to cover the beach. I got people making sandcastles, as well as completed sandcastles. Some people made forts for themselves, while one person dug a small tunnel system in the sand. Metro for the sand crabs, maybe? Looked as though he had just completed his system’s equivalent of Metro Center when I passed by. And most people, by and large, were very friendly, even offering to pose with their creations as they were building them. However, considering the style of photos I normally like to take, the phrase “act natural” became a fairly common phrase for me.

This, by the way, is the pièce de résistance when it comes to Virginia Beach sandcastles today:

Sandcastle

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Late start, but not bad.

August 27, 2008, 11:28 AM

I got a late start on Tuesday, owing to a sore foot. But the day definitely made up for the late start. I kind of explored around the city a bit by car, and it was certainly worth the time, as I got to see what kind of city Virginia Beach was in the “local” department, vs. the resort area. Not bad. I don’t think I’d want to ever live here, if nothing else but for the constant sound of jet noise due to the presence of the Oceana Naval Air Station in the town. You can hear those jets even when you’re driving in your car. Very disconcerting, because I’m thinking it’s something wrong with the car or something, and it’s the military flying jets overhead. And then a jet flew directly overhead – that’s ear-splittingly loud. Give me a Wheelock 7002T to the face any day, thank you.

Due to a strong wind blowing over the area, the ocean was a bit rougher than usual. The strong waves actually reshaped the beach somewhat – it was a smooth slope down to the ocean from the main beach on Monday, but today, there was a noticeable step down to the water, as the waves carved it out as they took sand out to sea. I went down to the water in the early evening, and got in this rough surf, and the waves were noticeably more forceful than the day before. And I got sand up my suit. No fun. But it was a good experience out there.

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Categories: Vacations, Virginia Beach

Cold water is COLD!

August 25, 2008, 10:24 PM

It’s Day 2 of vacation! And let me just say that the cold water in the ocean is as cold as longcat is long. I went swimming in the ocean today. And it was interesting how the temperatures turned out. I believe the majority of the water around here was quite cold. But as the waves crashed, the heat off of the beach would warm the water up, and then it would roll back in, it made a warm layer in the water. It was quite a weird feeling. But on a warm day, the cold water in the ocean was quite refreshing.

I also took Duckie out in the ocean today, and I had a great time. Duckie is a great in-the-water camera, and I had fun taking up-close photos of the waves. Check it out…

Big Mavica would certainly never have gotten this close to the ocean!
Big Mavica would certainly never have gotten this close to the ocean!

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Categories: Vacations, Virginia Beach

Watch as the highway narrows…

August 24, 2008, 10:39 PM

So I made the trip to the beach today, and I am now writing from the Travelodge Suites on the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

And the best way to describe the trip down is watching the highway as it gets narrower and narrow. I started in Silver Spring, where I caught the beltway – each side four lanes wide. Then after I cleared the DC area, I-95 dropped a lane and was down to three lanes. This was the configuration all the way to Richmond and onto I-64. Then once I cleared Richmond, I-64 dropped down to two lanes, and stayed this way into Newport News, when it fluctuated between two and three lanes as we went through Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk, and finally three lanes to the oceanfront.

On the way in, I swung by the site of the former Coliseum Mall in Hampton, which I visited back in 2005. Recall that they had Edwards horn/strobes, and that I visited in 2005 to positively identify the mystery mall that I had briefly visited back in 2003. Now, though, Coliseum Mall is very different. The mall was demolished in early 2007, and construction of a new open-air “town center” style shopping center called Peninsula Town Center is well underway. Currently, the only stores open are JCPenney in a new building, and Macy’s in its original building. I never thought I’d see an anchor store with one of those “STILL OPEN” signs on the side in person like I’ve seen in various retail blogs, but there it was. These signs are generally used to indicate that the anchor store is still open despite that the rest of the mall is being torn down. In this case, the regular Macy’s logo is on the side, and a sign saying “IS OPEN” was right beneath it. This was the case on all of the Macy’s building’s logos. The new town center is certainly cute-looking, but the 1970s-era Macy’s building will look really strange next to the rest of the buildings. Of course, they may renovate the exterior of Macy’s and make it match, but we’ll see.

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