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A weekend trip to Richmond…

May 4, 2022, 8:30 PM

From April 14-16, Elyse and I did a weekend trip to the Richmond area.  This was a case where one adventure begets another, as Richmond really got the short end of the stick on our October trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  We had plans for the Richmond area on the outbound trip as well as the return trio, but they ended up being greatly abbreviated in the interest of keeping it moving.  Richmond is in that little spot where it’s close enough that we can go any time that we want, but difficult enough to get to so that we typically don’t.  Our last day trip to Richmond was about five years ago, and more recent visits to Richmond have occurred while we were passing through on our way to other places.  I think that the biggest impediment to our visiting Richmond more often is I-95, as it’s fairly unreliable, being subject to backups on a very regular basis, making it difficult to predict when we will arrive in the Richmond area.  In any event, inspired by our earlier trip, we had gathered up enough stuff that we had wanted to see to make a weekend trip to Richmond worthwhile.  So we picked a month and did a weekender.

On this particular occasion, we left the house and got going, taking I-270 to the Beltway to the I-95 express lanes, which were pointed southbound at the time.  We soon learned that there was a very long backup on I-95 southbound.  So we bailed, taking an express lane exit to US 1 near Lorton.  A major backup on I-95 had the potential to derail our entire day, so Route 1, while slower, was still a better bet than taking 95.  This routing took us past a number of places, and and we made some planned stops and unplanned stops.  The first stop was unplanned, at the Harley-Davidson place in the Quantico area.

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Categories: Richmond, Vacations

Twenty-two years on the ground and counting…

February 24, 2022, 4:21 PM

Recently, I was thinking about things, and I realized exactly how much time has passed since the last time I went flying: 22 years and eight months.  The last time I was in the air was on August 10, 1999, coming home from my 1999 trip to Toronto.  Photos of this final flight exist:

Flying from Philadelphia to Charlottesville  Landing in Charlottesville

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Categories: Airplanes, Myself, Vacations

A weekend trip to Atlantic City…

January 21, 2022, 5:27 PM

From January 13-15, Elyse and I took a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey.  We had been to Atlantic City twice before, both times for a single day each about a year ago.  Our first visit was part of a larger weekend trip where we did a little arc across the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas, and Atlantic City was what we did on the last day.  The most memorable thing about that trip was watching my drone sail away on South Missouri Avenue, go out of contact, and then locating it about four blocks away, on the roof of Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern.  The second trip was a day trip that occurred two weeks later, where we made a day out of the need to retrieve the drone after the folks at Angelo’s had kindly retrieved it off of their roof for us.

This time, we were actually staying in Atlantic City.  We stayed at Caesars by Elyse’s request, as she wanted to film the elevators there, which are keycarded (i.e. we stayed there as guests in order to get the access that we needed).  I didn’t mind the price at Caesars, nor was it a bad place to stay, so that worked out pretty well.  This trip was mostly dedicated to photography, just like the previous adventures in Atlantic City, but with more time to play around.  I’m not too much into gambling, but we did make some time for that.  We also made plans to get together with family while we were up there, which was the driver for our plans.  Therefore, on Thursday, we drove up and more or less made a beeline for Atlantic City.  Then on Friday, we had our adventure day.  Then on Saturday, we traveled back west to fly the drone, do a few other things, and visit family.

However, on Thursday, Elyse wanted to stop in at Deptford Mall in order to get a screen protector for a new phone that she was getting, as well as film an elevator.  I am not unfamiliar with this mall, as I went to this place with my parents back in the early 1980s, and have been a number of times within the past ten years.  The mall bears very little resemblance to what it did when I was a child (though there is a Bamberger’s labelscar on the first floor), but it’s still a good, solid mall.

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Categories: Family, New Jersey, Vacations

Clearly, I know how to break a drone…

November 24, 2021, 2:54 PM

I haven’t mentioned it on here yet because it’s discussed in an upcoming photo set, but I got a new drone last month while I was on my trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  My DJI Mavic Mini threw a propeller blade and crashed nearly 400 feet up in the air while I was photographing a shopping mall in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  I was positioning the drone for my first shots of the mall, and then I noticed a “motor error” message and saw some uncommanded rotation.  Then I saw the view start to tumble, and the connection with the remote dropped.  I was soon able to reestablish contact, and found the drone on the ground, laying on its back in the grass about 500 feet away.  Here’s what it looked like when I picked it up:

The drone after falling from the sky

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The master at work…

November 14, 2021, 8:52 PM

Most of the time, when I’m doing photography, I only get to see the end result, which typically ends up on my Flickr page, along with other places.  It’s far less common for me to see candid shots of myself, just because I’m usually the one doing all of the photographing.  But when you go on a trip that is explicitly photography-oriented, and when everyone is shooting, I end up seeing some candid shots of myself.  Recently, from October 15-21, Elyse and I went on a trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads, where we photographed a lot of stuff, some familiar, and some less familiar.  The parts of North Carolina that we visited were almost entirely new territory for both of us, while Hampton Roads was a more familiar setting.  In North Carolina, we got together with my friend Patrick, whom I’ve known for a very long time, and had a quick meetup with another friend who formerly lived in the DC area.  Then in Hampton Roads, we spent time with Aaron and Evan Stone.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the trip itself right now, because I’m working on a much larger photo set about the adventure for the Life and Times section, so for all of the details, stay tuned, but it will be a while before it releases, because it’s going to be a big one.  In any case, some of these shots are posed, but a lot of them are candid.  If it tells you anything, when Elyse and I were reviewing them on the big screen in the living room, we put on “Yakety Sax” and laughed a lot.

In any case, here they are.  These shots were all taken by Elyse, unless otherwise noted.

Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there's Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.
Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there’s Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.

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A trip out to Hampton Roads…

April 19, 2020, 10:15 AM

From April 3-6, Elyse and I made a trip to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to visit friends and do some photography.  The way I figured, the trip was already paid for, and so as long as we took adequate precautions, I saw no harm in running it as planned.  After all, I go out every day to go to work transporting the public, so it’s not like we were “breaking quarantine” or anything, since I’m out in the environment on a regular basis throughout all of this.  All that said, if you don’t like that we took this trip, keep it to yourself, because I don’t want to hear about it.  On our trip, we stayed in Williamsburg, and had a fun time, mostly photographing architecture and infrastructure with friends Aaron and Evan Stone.

Meanwhile, leaving the house, I had the worst shotgun passenger ever:

"I don't like that!"

I mean, despite his sour disposition, you really didn’t think that we’d take a trip without bringing Woomy along, did you?  Elyse quickly threw him out of the front seat so that she could ride, and so Woomy rode in the cup holder.

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Fun in Pennsylvania…

March 7, 2020, 10:00 AM

I guess that you could say that my March came in like a lion.  On March 1 and 2, Elyse and I did an overnight trip to south-central Pennsylvania, a 350-mile journey that took us to an abandoned motel, to Breezewood, through three of the four mainline tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, to Harrisburg, and then back home.  All in all, we had a fun time.

Our first stop was the aforementioned abandoned motel.  This was a former Days Inn near Breezewood, and from what we could tell, it had been abandoned since 2013, and, from the looks of things, it will never be occupied again.  Just about every piece of glass in the place had been shattered, the ceiling in the hallways had either fallen down or been pulled down, and there was mold everywhere.  Lovely place.

Welcome to Days Inn!
Welcome to Days Inn!

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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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Toronto in a nutshell…

April 24, 2019, 9:30 PM

I mentioned about a month or so ago that Elyse and I were going to Toronto in mid-April.  That trip is now in the history books, and much fun was had.  I’m going to do a more detailed photo set in Life and Times later, but I want to present a high-level view of what we did on our trip now.  Much of the focus of the trip was to visit various locations where Today’s Special was filmed.  We visited the store, as well as other places where various characters visited over the course of seven seasons.  We also rode a lot of the TTC, visited friends, had dessert at a poop-themed restaurant, and rode some vintage elevators.

So here we go…

Main Place Mall, a mostly dead mall in Buffalo, New York, where we met up with a friend.
Main Place Mall, a mostly dead mall in Buffalo, New York, where we met up with a friend.

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Returning to Toronto…

March 10, 2019, 12:17 PM

In about a month, I’m going traveling.  Elyse and I are going to Toronto for about a week, and we’re going to see as much as we can in the five days that we will have on site.  My goal is to see as many Today’s Special filming locations as possible.  I’ve done a lot of research on these for the new version of the Today’s Special site that I’m still working on, and have written about these filming locations in the past.  I plan not only to visit the store again, but also a whole lot of others.  Meanwhile, Elyse has given me a list of stuff that she wants to see – a lot of it elevators – and we’re going to work as many of those in as we can as well.

It’s funny about what I’m doing similarly to my original trip to Toronto back in 1999, and what I’m doing differently.  We’re staying the Chelsea Hotel at Gerrard and Yonge, just like I did last time.  I booked a deluxe room, just like I did in the nineties, which should place us on a relatively high floor.  Mom and I had room 1667 back in 1999, and then I suppose that we’ll see what they give us this time around.  I would laugh if we got room 2137, which is also the number of Elyse’s favorite Metrobus.  We’ll see, I suppose.  From the photos that I saw, though, the Chelsea has been renovated since we were there before, so the Chelsea will be a very different experience than before, as I imagine that everything will look quite different.  The rooftop bar is now a fitness center, for one.  And speaking of the rooftop, unlike last time, when I was just under the age requirement to go on the roof deck (you had to be 19, and I was 18), and Mom brought me in anyway, I now am well above the age requirement to go in there.

I also wonder if the fire alarm will go off this time, like it did back in 1999.  I remember being a little uptight about that whole situation before.  After all, all of my experience prior to this was that if the fire alarm sounds, you leave the building.  They only evacuated three floors: the fire floor, and the floor immediately above and below.  I found out later that it was a relatively minor electrical fire on the 20th floor that was the source of all of the commotion.  Nowadays, I know a lot more about how high-rise fire alarm systems work, and might be a bit more sedate should something like that happen again.  I wonder if it still has those Pyrotronics pull stations.  Funny, though – I still remember what their alarm sounded like almost twenty years later.  That was the first time that I had ever heard a voice evacuation system, or a two-stage system.  It was memorable, but also a bit unnerving, since this was well outside of my experience, plus it was getting close to the time that we needed to leave to head home.

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Categories: Vacations

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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I finally found it after twenty years…

August 14, 2018, 1:38 PM

When my family went to England back in 1998, we mainly watched Sky One, which ran American television shows, when we were at the hotel.  I suppose that we watched mostly American TV because it was familiar.  The commercials, however, were very British.  Three commercials stuck out in my mind while we were there.  One was for Ribena, which featured a pregnant woman explaining how beneficial it was during pregnancy.  One was for some mac and cheese product where two boys were playing a game, and the younger boy’s job was to stand there and hold the antenna, complaining, “My arm hurts!” at the end of the spot.  And then the third was for Lucozade, a sports drink.

That third one, for Lucozade, was by far the most memorable of the three, primarily because of some rather racy content.  It featured several men wearing nothing but mountie hats putting on a show, while a bunch of cartoon women watched.  At one point, they explain that because this variety of Lucozade is low in calories, it helps them “stay firm”, as the camera pans from the face down their body, stopping at their stomach, where the man says, “Where it counts!” as he pats his stomach.  Very memorable, and very British.  You would certainly never see a spot like that in the United States.

Back in the nineties, it was never a thought that we would be able to find this commercial.  Of course not.  The technology and the will wasn’t there.  Now, though, with sites like YouTube and the like, a lot of older advertisements have seen new life for nostalgic purposes, which is a welcome addition.  After all, full television programs tend to have good repeat value, but commercials, due to their more timely nature, rarely get airtime again after their planned run is completed.  There are exceptions, like that Arby’s “five roast beef sandwiches” spot and the Fruity Pebbles spot with Santa, which ran for quite a few years, but for the most part, they’re one-and-done.

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Categories: Advertising, Vacations

It has been twenty years since my trip to England…

June 19, 2018, 12:50 PM

This week marks twenty years since my family went to England.  That trip, from June 14-21, 1998, was our last real family vacation, where we spent about a week doing all of the various touristy things, mostly in the greater London area.

Interestingly, this was a trip that I had been dreading for quite some time.  TWA Flight 800, which went down a few years prior due to what was determined to be a malfunction, was still fresh in my mind, and I was convinced that I was going to die on this flight.  Thus I didn’t want to go.  But they made me.  And as things turned out, I got there and back in one piece, but nonetheless, I still am not a fan of flying.  Every little bump, I’m wondering what’s going on.  I guess that I’m a bit of a white-knuckle flyer, though I wasn’t as a child.  In hindsight, I consider my concern to be rational enough, but I was forgetting that for every incident that makes the news, there are thousands of flights that take off and land uneventfully every day.  It also didn’t help that my last flight prior to that, from Dallas-Fort Worth to Fayetteville on American Eagle in 1992, was one where they had aborted the takeoff due to a mechanical issue.  After aborting the takeoff, they parked the plane somewhere to run a test to determine what was wrong.  The test involved the entire plane’s shaking violently on the tarmac.  After the shaking stopped, they announced that the problem “had corrected itself”.  That was not exactly reassuring.  I would have preferred that they had swapped the plane after that for one where they hadn’t told us of any issues.  I wanted off of that plane, but there was nothing that I could do about it.  Every single bump in that flight, I thought, we’re going to crash.  Not a good feeling.  I was so glad when we finally were on the ground again at the end of that flight.

In any case, we flew from Charlottesville to Philadelphia aboard US Airways Express, and then flew US Airways flight 98 from Philadelphia to London Gatwick.  The Tube was on strike the week that we were visiting, so we did much of our travel via London black cab.

The first day was basically a rest day.  We were jetlagged and knew it, and so we did a lot of sleeping that day, ate dinner at our hotel the Novotel Waterloo), and then took a walk around the area.

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Categories: Family, Vacations

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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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