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Renting out eight rooms…

September 30, 2017, 12:29 AM

So apparently, I spoke too soon when it came to the closure of The Inn at Afton.  You may recall that last month, I announced the closure of The Inn at Afton, based on a sign that said that the lobby and hotel were closed.  Elyse and I went down that way again on Wednesday, and one of our stops was to see how The Inn at Afton looked in the daylight after finally going out of business for good.  Much to our surprise, we found that the place was open again.  We stopped into room 211, which was being used as the lobby, and had a chat with the lady working inside.  As it turns out, the hotel is barely operational, with only eight rooms, all on the parking lot side, in service.  None of the rooms on the other side, which has a tremendous view of the piedmont, are in service.  I’m told that the remaining rooms have been stripped, and a walk past some of the first-floor rooms that are not in service seems to confirm this.  That means that out of 118 total rooms, 110 of them are out of service, presumably for being uninhabitable.  That’s an availability of 6.7%.  For that few rooms, it hardly seems worthwhile to remain open, but apparently, they do, likely out of habit.

Meanwhile, the room being used as the lobby smelled strongly of mold, and had visible mold and water damage.  Definitely an unhealthy environment.  We might have stuck around for longer and chatted with the very nice lady working there, but the mold smell was too much.  I imagine that the rooms that are still in service are just as bad, if they are willing to let the room that they’re using as a lobby become so bad.  Thank heavens for Orbit “Bubblemint” gum.  It got the mold taste out of my mouth.

So apparently, and much to my surprise, just when we thought that the book had closed on the operational history of the vintage businesses on Afton Mountain, there’s more to the Afton story to be told.

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Returning to Scott’s house…

December 30, 2016, 11:29 PM

You know how it goes when you have like-minded friends.  On December 28, Elyse and I got together with mutual friend Aaron Stone, and we took a field trip to the Baltimore area, revisiting various places of interest in order to show Aaron, including the Ames at Diamond Point Plaza and Scott’s house.  The way that we planned the trip, since our main objectives were mostly dependent on having daylight, the plan was to spend a little time at Diamond Point, a little bit of time at H&H Outdoors (a military surplus store in Baltimore), and then have a large block of time at the Bauers’.

The Ames at Diamond Point was, for the most part, unchanged from our previous visit.  We spotted a set of movable stairs near the front of the store that wasn’t there in our previous visits, but otherwise, it was the same:

Ames in Diamond Point Plaza

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A shopping center full of what once was…

October 21, 2015, 8:40 PM

On Thursday, October 15, my friend Elyse and I went to check out a rare thing in the area of retail: an abandoned Ames store, with the signage mostly intact, just outside Baltimore.  For those of you not familiar, Ames was a chain of discount department stores, operating, for the most part, in the northeastern United States.  Through the course of its history, Ames acquired and absorbed two other retail chains, purchasing Zayre in 1988, and Hills in 1998, converting stores from their original names to the Ames brand.  And each of these acquisitions was a contributing factor to bankruptcies.  The Zayre acquisition led to a bankruptcy that lasted from 1990 to 1992, after which the company emerged and returned to profitability.  The Hills acquisition led to a bankruptcy in 2001, which led to the chain’s demise in 2002.

The last we heard of Ames was this final voicemail:

Um, just a couple reminders.  Payroll needs to be called in by 10 AM on Monday.  Um, you can call it in at any point.  Leave a message on your payroll representative’s, uh, voice mailbox, um, either with the hours worked, or for salaried associates, number of days worked.  Um, you can call that in at any time between Saturday night and Monday morning by 10 AM.  Please make sure that the mail, um, post office, has been notified of the forwarding address to the Ames home office, 2418 Main Street, Rocky Hill, Connecticut, 06067.  Once again, uh, when leaving the building, um, set the perimeter alarms, bypass the motion.  This will, uh, help reduce the number of false alarms after we vacate.  Interior lights should be shut off by the breaker, leaving only a few night lights on, scattered around on the salesfloor.  The vacate checklist, notate anything that is left, um, from the fixture liquidator, such as any telephone equipment or ticketing equipment.  If they haven’t sold it, it will be left where it is.  The main thing with all of the fixtures and anything that has not sold is that it be left in the building neatly.  Once again, the final vacate checklist.  The photos, stamps, should be forwarded to my attention, and mailed by Tuesday, November 12.  Once again, I’d like to thank everybody for all their help and cooperation over the past few months, and I wish everybody the very best of luck in the future.

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“Not fooling anybody” in DC…

October 31, 2014, 11:50 AM

This past Saturday, I did some photography in Washington DC, but not the usual sort of photography that I do when I head into DC.  This time, I photographed repurposed commercial buildings, i.e. buildings constructed with the standard architecture for a specific chain, and now operated by a business other than the one that the architecture would suggest.  “Not Fooling Anybody” on Reddit, where people share photos of such conversions, describes it as “former chain businesses that have been converted to other uses, yet still strongly resemble their former use.”  Some people might call these bad conversions, but I prefer to call them “obvious conversions”.  After all, some conversions can look quite elegant, such as Italiano’s in Baltimore, which is a former KFC, but nonetheless still resemble the former tenant’s distinctive style.

It’s also worth noting that these sorts of buildings have no historical value of any kind, so they’re worth photographing while they’re still there, because they will be demolished when someone comes up with a more lucrative use for the land.

For this trip, I did my research.  I had assembled a list of some places that I had spotted over the course of going wherever over the years, and then augmented that with some others that the folks on the DC subreddit brought to my attention, particularly on some corridors that I had never had any reason to travel under normal circumstances, such as Bladensburg Road and Benning Road.  I then used Google Street View to visually verify all of the suggestions so that I knew what to look for in the field, plus I also did a virtual drive down a few roads using Street View to see if there were any others, as some corridors tend to be just teeming with them.

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I completely nerded out on Sunday, and it was awesome…

June 24, 2014, 10:21 PM

I went out on a miniature road trip on Sunday, and I had a blast, taking photos of anything that vaguely interested me.  It was more or less spur of the moment, when you consider that for what ended up being a photography trip, I only had my cell phone, and then, I didn’t bring my spare battery along.  Thus it was a bit of a continual battle to keep a sufficient charge on the phone with only the car charger, but somehow, I managed, and the results came out pretty well despite my leaving my real camera at home.  The way this trip came about is that I wanted to go up to and explore Westminster, Maryland.  I’ve been wanting to explore Westminster for a while, ever since my father took an overnight business trip to Westminster a few years ago and I didn’t find out about it until it was too late in the day to go up and visit, because Dad didn’t realize that Westminster was as close to me as it was.  That sucked, because I would have totally gone up if I had known.  I’ll gladly travel an hour or so on relatively short notice to hang out with family.

So early Sunday morning, I just decided to go up and see what there was.  I like doing these sorts of trips, because it’s basically a scouting trip, seeing if there’s anything that I want to explore and photograph in more detail in the future.  Getting to Westminster is pretty easy: turn onto Georgia Avenue (MD 97) and take it all the way to Westminster.  Seriously, it’s that easy.  I got to Westminster just as the sun was coming up.  After a quick drive through the main commercial area along Route 140, I located the downtown area.

The downtown area in Westminster has what I consider an unusual feature: a single-track rail line for the Maryland Midland Railway running diagonally through the main intersection in downtown.  Main Street goes one way, and Liberty Street and Railroad Avenue (both MD 27) go the other way, and the rail line runs diagonally across the intersection.  I would have loved to have seen a train come through here while I was in the area, but unfortunately, I did not get to see that this time.

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Irresponsible beyond belief…

November 8, 2013, 6:16 PM

So this past Monday, I took a day trip down to Augusta County with my friend Pete.  All in all, we had a fun time.  We had lunch at Barracks Road in Charlottesville, I showed Pete the cluster of abandoned buildings on Afton Mountain owned by local businessman Phil Dulaney, we hiked up to Humpback Rock, and we stopped by my parents’ house before heading north again via I-81.

When we visited the abandoned buildings on Afton Mountain, I pointed out the building that had the tree growing through it, we quickly looked at the Howard Johnson’s, but our visit focused mainly on this building:

Former Skyline Parkway Motor Court guest building, now covered in graffiti

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And this is what Shenandoah Acres looks like now…

September 21, 2012, 9:01 PM

So while I was out and about today, I got new photos of Shenandoah Acres as a follow-up to my previous Journal entry on Shenandoah Acres.  And if you ask me, it was kind of depressing.  Take a look:

One of two platforms in the lake, and the 1997 beach house.  To give you an idea of the normal lake level, the platform was less than a foot above the water level, and the platform was completely surrounded by water.
One of two platforms in the lake, and the 1997 beach house.  To give you an idea of the normal lake level, the platform was less than a foot above the water level, and the platform was completely surrounded by water.

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What to do with Shenandoah Acres?

September 2, 2012, 8:39 PM

For the last few years, I have been involved in a Facebook group called “Remembering Shenandoah Acres“.  This group is built around discussing memories of times spent at the Shenandoah Acres resort in Stuarts Draft that closed after the 2004 season, but most discussions anymore center around complaining about the state that the property is now in.

For those not familiar, Shenandoah Acres was a facility that billed itself as “America’s Finest Inland Beach”, owned and operated by the Blacka family for many years.  It had a campground, there were cabins, and a motel building on the property.  The facility also had tennis courts, trail rides on horseback, and miniature golf.  However, the centerpiece of the facility was a manmade lake with a beach around it, playground equipment in the water (including one slide about two or three stories high), and a large tower in the center that offered a zip line ride.  The facility was a popular tourist attraction, and the lake was also very popular with locals during the summer season.

In the years that I’ve been familiar with the facility, one of the merry go rounds in the water was replaced in 1995 by “Clyde the Slyde”, which was a small slide built inside a dinosaur sculpture, and the zip lines were dismantled in the late 1990s or early 2000s and replaced with the “Pink Zipper” water slide.  Additionally, the roof of the original beach house collapsed due to excessive snowfall in 1997, and was replaced with a new structure slightly to the northeast of the original.  The facility closed after the 2004 season because, according to the owner at the time, whom my family went to church with, the cost of insurance finally became too much to bear.  My family went to Shenandoah Acres from 1993 until about 1996.

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…and later, Chuck E. Cheese!

May 11, 2012, 10:37 PM

After spending a few hours at Montgomery Mall where we got Adelle’s bear, among other things, Mom and I headed home, and then later, for dinner, headed over to the Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant in Laurel, Maryland.

Now you’re probably thinking: aren’t you a little old for Chuck E. Cheese’s? Answer is, yes, probably so. But we had a good time. It had been just over 20 years since the last time that any of us went to one of these sorts of places, and so this was the time to revisit some fun childhood memories. In fact, the Laurel location was specifically chosen because it was a former Showbiz Pizza location, and had the three-stage setup just like at the Showbiz Pizza in Fayetteville, Arkansas that we used to go to when Sis and I were growing up. Recall for a moment, from 1987 in Fayetteville, on the occasion of the party for my sixth birthday:

Billy Bob's stage, with the "Smitty's Super Service Station" background.
Billy Bob’s stage, with the “Smitty’s Super Service Station” background.

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And the photos are in…

May 21, 2011, 9:26 PM

I certainly had fun on my vacation week! I went swimming on Monday, sat around like a bum on Tuesday, headed to Stuarts Draft on Wednesday, photographed on Afton Mountain on Thursday, and then went to Kings Dominion and Potomac Mills on Friday. Plus I finished the Plungefest 2011 photo set in Photography across a few days’ time.

When I went down to Stuarts Draft, I headed down via US 29 through Charlottesville. Technically speaking, on my route, you just nick the top of the city itself, but spend a lot of time in the Charlottesville metropolitan area. I think the total time spent within the city limits is about two minutes, depending on whether or not the traffic lights like you. Arriving in Stuarts Draft, I first stopped at Stuarts Draft Middle School, where I attended middle school and where Mom now teaches eighth grade. Checking in at the office, I noticed that they had the cover off the master clock, due to the need to manually sound the tones because of SOL testing. So I got a photo:

The master clock at Stuarts Draft Middle School, a Lathem LTR4-128.

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What a fun weekend!

November 25, 2007, 8:38 AM

All in all, I had a fun Thanksgiving weekend in Stuarts Draft, but I’m still very glad to be home again.

Thanksgiving itself involved the usual – turkey, and all the various fixings to go with it, and then falling asleep afterwards.

Then I spent Friday with Katie. We had a blast, as we did anything but shop. We went on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while, then rode back around to Charlottesville, where we went to the Mellow Mushroom, where we had a vegetarian pizza with a pesto base. Twas awesome.

However, before Katie and I started out, we got a movie of Katie’s cat Peabo chasing a laser pointer around…

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So I guess you could say I had a good time in Stuarts Draft over the weekend…

September 11, 2007, 10:48 PM

All in all, I did have a good time. Spent time with the parents on Saturday, and with Katie on Sunday. We had a blast, too.

First of all, on the way in, as I mentioned, I photographed the Starbucks in Waynesboro at the request of a coworker, and here it is:

Starbucks in Waynesboro

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The Skyline Parkway Motel has finally been demolished.

April 25, 2007, 5:04 PM

Afton Mountain now presents a slightly more picturesque view to those who visit it, as the Skyline Parkway Motel was demolished in the last week or so. In doing so, they not only removed the main building, which had been the target of an arson attack in 2004, but they also removed the row of cabins next to the main building. The cabins had never been torched, but had been abandoned for some time, and were in hideous shape.

And of course, here are photos:

Straight-on view of the former motel.
Straight-on view of the former motel.

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A few quick things…

April 24, 2007, 1:02 AM

First of all, the photos of the now-demolished Skyline Parkway Motel are officially in the can, and I will be posting those on Wednesday, after I get back from apartment hunting in DC on Tuesday.

Secondly, does anyone have a good recipe for green slime? I want to do a homage to You Can’t Do That On Television for the splash page, and so I need to make some slime. In making the slime, the finished product can’t be clear. It needs to be opaque and somewhat thick, and it also can’t be completely smooth. I want something authentic poured on my head when I say “I don’t know.” And of course, to get clean again after getting slimed, you just have to mention “water”.

Meanwhile, to be truly authentic, I’d need to find an old-style metal jungle gym to do the shoot at.

An Outlet Village update for you all…

November 20, 2006, 9:45 PM

It’s been about three months since the last time I gave you an update on the Outlet Village, presented in my Building 7 Burns photo set. Since then, the fire training exercises have ended, with Building 1 also being torched for training purposes. Now, work is underway to prepare the site for the new shopping center that will be going up in its place, which will house a Target and a Kohl’s, among other things.

I took all these photos from the car with my cell phone while I was out running an errand on my lunch hour. So here are the photos:

The remains of the Waynesboro Outlet Village, November 20, 2006

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Categories: Outlet Village