A Travellerspoint blog

National Cryptologic Museum Fort Meade Maryland

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Seeing as the 18th is my daughters birthday, we talked about whether we should go to the zoo or do something else. We settled on going to The National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade.

#1 National Cryptologic Museum

#1 National Cryptologic Museum

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The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a miniature city with buttons you could push to light up specific houses or areas. It showed Hobo Codes that let hobos passing through know where to stop or where to avoid. This was a fun display.

The museum has an interesting collection dating very far back. I believe the earliest items they had were from the 1300's. They have things from the Civil War era, and both world wars. It was interesting to see how coded messages were sent and broken. I was also interested to see and learn the part women had played in code breaking in WWII as well as to see the display on the Indian Code Talkers. large__5_Nationa.._Museum.jpg

We took a guided tour of the museum and it was interesting, but I wish we had arrived earlier as I didn't get to read as much about some of the displays as I would have liked. They are open during the week, but only the first and third Saturday of each month, and even then, they close at 2pm. But it's free and I imagine the people manning the museum are volunteers for the most part.

Here is a display of Enigma machines

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I had never heard of this machine, but it was interesting, especially when they were talking about how they were upgraded. Kind of sounded like they were talking about present day computers! It's really something when you think about how different decoding/coding machines helped shorten wars.

Here is part of Colossus, which was a large code breaking computer used during WWII. large__6_Nationa.._Museum.jpg

All in all, this was an interesting museum. If you go, get there early, because if you don't, you might find you run out of time like we did!

Posted by NancyA 13:35 Archived in USA Tagged fort museum maryland code cryptologic spies meade Comments (0)

Unusual Buildings of Baltimore and things I like

sunny 90 °F

.Baltimore is an interesting town. Lots of vibrant neighborhoods, lots of history, friendly people, although their crime rate doesn't exactly jibe with that and interesting architecture, both old and new. I was lucky to be staying at The Marriott Waterfront while I was there. It is an easy walk to lots of things in the Inner Harbor, shops, restaurants, attractions and some of the neighborhoods, such as Little Italy or Fells Point. This area was pretty seedy until fairly recently when the city and developers decided to take advantage of all that space on the water. Here are a several views from my hotel room on the eighth floor. The views are a bit on the foggy side, but normally it was really clear. The higher floors had an even better view.

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There is an interesting fountain inside the roundabout at Presidents St. and Aliceanna St. It is a memorial to those who died in the Katyn Massacre which to be honest, I don't think I ever heard of until I walked over one day to check out the fountain and see what it was about. An estimated 22.000 Polish soldiers died at the hands of the Soviets during WWII due to this massacre, which actually took place not only in the Katyn forest, but in several other locations in Belarus and the Ukraine as well. Stalin tried (and failed) to eliminate soldiers and officers, many with great influence, who were opposed to communist rule in Poland. Here is a some more information if you are interested. It is certainly a beautiful fountain memoralizing those people who died as well as mentioning other soldiers from centuries past who fought in service to Poland.

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On a lighter note, there are sea serpents in the vicinity too, so be careful!

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If you're a fan of the Food Networks Ace of Cakes, you know that Charm City Cakes is located in Baltimore. I drove by just for the heck of it, even though I knew it was not possible to go in. It's not a bakery with a counter selling goodies. Cakes only here, and very expensive cakes at that!

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While I was working in the Federal Hill area, I had some time to kill and needed a few things from the store, so I went to the nearest WalMart and when I was heading back out, I saw this really great sail boat. I think it has the best paint job of any I have ever seen. I figured I would put the pictures here because it falls under the 'things I like' umbrella!

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Cool. eh?

Here is an older building, a pumping station that still appears to be in use. It sure is more attractive than most city government buildings that they build these days.

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There is one building that looks pretty much like a very tall lone turret. It is however something called a Shot Tower

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This tower was used to make shot for guns. They would drop molten lead through sieves from the top into water at the bottom and that is how the shot was made. Never heard of such a thing? Neither had I! It was the tallest building in the country until after the Civil War. There are other Shot Towers in other parts of the world as well.

I had hoped to get a better shot of the Bromo Seltzer Tower, but never got around to it. You can see it off in the distance in three of the photos at the beginning of this entry as well, the ones taken from my hotel room.

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This is a pretty blurry photo, but it is what I have, so I have to make do. It was built in 1911 and says Bromo Seltzer around the edge of the clock. It now has space available for artists to rent for gallery and/or workspace.

I had picked up the Moon Handbooks Baltimore guide and read about the Pagoda in Patterson Park. I've been using Moon Handbooks since 1983 when I bought the Indonesia Handbook shortly before moving to West Java, the book was banned in Indonesia due to it's honesty about some political situations. Moon Handbooks are, in my opinion, the very best guidebooks out there. OK, I'm off my soapbox now, back to Patterson Park.

Here is one of the many entrances into the park, (this one is very near the Pagoda) as well as an informational sign about the park itself.

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The park itself is quite large, and has been used by the citizens of Baltimore for many years. There is a pond, trails and in the winter, an ice rink. It has also been used militarily. During the War of 1812, 100 cannons and 20,000 troops were there, and when the British saw them on the Hampstead Hill, they turned and left the Port of Baltimore. It was also the site of an encampment as well as a hospital during the Civil War.

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I really wanted to go see the Pagoda, because it sounded really cool and I like Asian art and architecture, although this Pagoda isn't Asian, it is actually Victorian. I happened to be working in a neighborhood nearby, Butchers Hill which is at the edge of the park and made a couple of quick trips to see the pagoda when I had a little bit of time to kill. The Pagoda is manned by park volunteers on Sundays from noon to six from April through October. There is no charge to go in, but they do have a small donation box.

Here are some of the pictures I took on my visits to the Pagoda.

Outside:

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In and from:

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I was working in another part of town, which is pretty pretty poor and run down and was surprised to come upon a beautiful old building in the middle of it. I could not read all that was over the door, only the part that read Orphan Asylum. It may be the oldest orphanage in the US, and was almost demolished. It had also served as a Lutheran Hospital after it was no longer an orphanage. Apparently, the roof is gone, and you can see it needs a ton of work, but it seems like it could give this blighted neighborhood a boost if it was turned into something useful. Senior housing, a community center, something. Once when I was working the next street over, there was a large group of people in front of the building and it looked like something was going on, so I stopped a man walking away from the area and asked him what was happening. He didn't know, but agreed that it would be nice if the building was restored. I never did find out what the people were there about.

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Another building that I loved the look of was the Pabst building on S. Charles St. (Federal Hill) There isn't much info online about this building, but it is cool anyway. If you scroll down to the bottom here, there are more pictures than the one I am about to post.

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There is a prominent sign to be seen from many places around Baltimore's Harbor, that sign is the Domino Sugar sign!

The first was taken on the Key Highway, I'm not sure if that particular stretch of road is considered Federal Hill or Locust Point.

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this picture taken along the water by the Marriott at night:

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and this one, which is not easy to see was taken during the day along the water by the Marriott

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Last but not least, my favorite road sign. I just had to stop and try to get a picture!

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It is hard to make out, but it does read Yellow Brick Rd.!

I barely touched on all the things to see in Baltimore and wish I would have made it to more neighborhoods and historic sites. I can honestly say, that Baltimore is one of the most interesting cities I have ever visited. I hope to make it back again some day to hit all the spots I missed.

Posted by NancyA 20:02 Archived in USA Tagged pagoda baltimore federal_hill shot_tower pabst hebrew_orphanage patterson_park brom_seltzer domino_sugar charm_city_cakes ace_of_cakes inner_harbor Comments (0)

Maryland's Eastern Shore

sunny 85 °F

.Labor Day seemed like a perfect excuse to head over to Maryland's Eastern Shore. It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for a leisurely drive. I took the Bay Bridge over which is a pretty cool bridge with some beautiful views, but it doesn't seem like there is anyplace to stop and take any pictures.

On the way to St. Michaels. I stopped at a farm stand and bought some really nice tomatoes that had been picked that morning, or so the man running the stand said. I drove through without stopping in St. Michaels, because I wanted to go a bit further than that to Tighlman Island which is surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay. There was very little traffic, which made it really pleasant. To get to the island, you have to cross the Knapps Narrows Bridge which is a drawbridge and unlike some, there is no charge to cross.

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Tighlman Island is a very quiet, non-commercial area, certainly not touristy by any standards. The pace of life certainly looked slower there.

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The house in the center doesn't really show much. I just thought it was a cool and unusual looking house! I just drove along some quiet country roads there until I could not go any farther, then I turned around drove around a few more and took the bridge back.

St. Michaels is a cute little town, with plenty of shops for tourists, but the downtown area was not strictly for the tourists, which I really like. I don't like seeing a downtown that has nothing to draw the locals. I did check out some of the shops, and drove around some of the streets near the water and it's a very pretty town. I didn't do a whole lot of exploring there because I didn't want to run out of time. I would not mind spending more time there if the opportunity presented itself. The area around it was one of many places I have been where I thought, 'I could happily live here'.

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I decided to take the car ferry which goes between Bellevue and Oxford. This is said to be the oldest privately run ferry in the country. It started to run in the 1680's.

#9 Eastern Shore

#9 Eastern Shore

I started in Bellevue and got off in Oxford, which is a sleepy little town, with a decent ice cream place where the owners make the ice cream in small batches. They are also generous with the whipped cream! :-)

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All in all, it was just what I needed, a pleasant, relaxing day with great views.

Posted by NancyA 23:09 Archived in USA Tagged maryland st_michaels eastern_shore tighlman_island knapps_ferry_bridge oxford_bellevue_ferry Comments (0)

Fort McHenry and the American Visionary Art Museum

sunny 85 °F

Well, we finally made it to Fort McHenry (also known as the 'Star Fort') and also to The American Visionary Art Museum .

It was a beautiful day weather wise, and I can see why so many people who live nearby use the forts grounds for walking and running. It has beautiful views and there was a really nice breeze, which may have a lot to do with where it is situated.

If you don't already know, Fort McHenry is the fort that The Star Spangled Banner flew over during the War of 1812. The lyrics to our national anthem comes from a poem written by Francis Scott Key, who witnessed the battle. He and another man John Stuart Skinner happened to be dining on board a British ship in the hopes of getting several American prisoners released. They were not allowed off the ship because they knew too much about the planned attack on Baltimore. So, they saw the battle from the enemies position, when the smoke had cleared, Key saw the flag was still waving, which inspired him to write the words we Americans learn as schoolchildren.

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The fort was smaller than I expected, but obviously, it was big enough to do what was needed!

While we were there, there was a Navy ship coming into the harbor and all of the sailors were standing on deck in formation, which was pretty cool. In the first picture, the ship is probably pretty close to where at least some of the British ships were during the battle in 1814,

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The following picture is a replica of a silver punch bowl the citizens of Baltimore presented to Lt. Col. George Armistead, who was the commander of Fort McHenry in 1816. It is in the form of a British mortar bomb. There are by the way a couple of places in the fort where you can see where the British hit their mark.

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They are in the process of building a new visitors center for the park, which is sorely needed. The one they have is pretty bad. To get to the fort, take Light Street into Federal Hill, and when you reach E. Fort Ave. make a left. Keep going, and you will run into the entrance to the fort. If you are hungry on your way there or back, I can recommend the following places to eat, Hilltop Carry-Out which has really good gyros, Himalayan House which has Nepali, Indian and Tibetan food, or Harborque which has excellent pit beef and ribs. There are plenty of other places though in the Federal Hill neighborhood .

As I said earlier, we also went to the American Visionary Art Museum. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed. We actually liked what was outside the main buildings (there are three more than we liked what was inside. Most of what was in the main building was pretty darned ugly. It is one of those museums where people go and in many (if not most) cases pretend they like what they see because it makes them feel smarter and superior, because they 'get' it. I don't know about you, but I can do without most of those people. :-)

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I would have more pictures, but the third building, which had some interesting mechanical sculptures as well as an exhibit about the art of screen painting, which is apparently in danger of becoming a lost art in Baltimore. Anyway, we were not allowed to take pictures in the third building, which I was bummed about, but photos would not do justice to the sculptures anyway as they are at their best when in motion.

Honestly, I would not pay more than maybe five bucks a person to go to this museum, it is way over-priced in my opinion. If you want to go though, it's also in the Federal Hill/Locust Point area, on Key Highway, which you reach by turning left off of Light Street.

Posted by NancyA 23:40 Archived in USA Tagged art fort museum star american baltimore banner mchenry visionary spangled Comments (0)

Annapolis

sunny 90 °F

I decided to set my Garmin to avoid highways, after all, one looks pretty much like another, eh? On the way to Annapolis, I stopped at a WWII memorial with a beautiful setting overlooking Annapolis in the distance.

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I walked around a bit when I arrived in town, parking wasn't too bad, I parked in a car park around the corner from the visitors center, which is supposedly the best price wise. At the visitors center I found out there was a bus tour of the town that was going to be leaving in a bit, so I walked around some, and then headed back for the bus. It was an interesting tour, driving through the older neighborhoods as well as past the Naval Academy. Many of the homes have plaques on them which tell you when they were built. The color of the plaque is dependent on the era, although some have two colors, the second color meaning that the home was altered or added to at a later date. I did manage to take a picture of a giant goose, although it is not the shot I would have liked. Taking pictures from a moving bus isn't ideal for someone like me.

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The city is beautiful, and easy to walk around. Here are some shots of the downtown area, including the Maryland State House.
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After the tour, I walked around the downtown area some more as well as down to the water, where there are several statues showing Alex Haley reading his best seller, Roots, to a group of children. Annapolis was the location of the slave market where Kunta Kinte was sold into slavery upon his arrival in America.

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There is a lot of history in Annapolis , but even if history is not your thing, there are plenty of nice shops and restaurants to visit.

Posted by NancyA 14:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The National Aquarium - Baltimores Inner Harbor

A wet attraction for a rainy day!

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I have been lucky that my daughter happens to be in Baltimore at the same time I am. We had planned to use the water taxi and go to Fort McHenry and then to The National Aquarium There was a light rain however, so we decided to go to the aquarium first in the hopes that the rain would stop and then we could visit the fort. Sadly, it was still raining when we left the aquarium, so we just took the water taxi back to my hotel.

We bought tickets for the dolphin show, and that was one of the first things we viewed.

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To be honest, I am glad this show was cheap, I think it was $3.00 extra, that is pretty much what it was worth and I would not have been happy if it had added ten bucks or so onto the price of the the ticket.

Here are some other things we saw there.

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All in all, I have to say, I was not particularly impressed by this aquarium. The Newport Aquarium in Covington KY (Across the river from Cincinnati) is much better in my opinion. I was especially disappointed with the jellyfish collection. It just wasn't as impressive as I had hoped. We both felt like we were being herded through, the flow of people was just not good, many of the corridors were narrow and we often felt like we had to keep moving even when we would have liked to spend more time in one area or another.

Posted by NancyA 21:49 Archived in USA Tagged aquarium baltimore Comments (0)

Wrapping Up New Jersey

sunny 85 °F

While out driving around looking for a pizza place (which I never found, btw!) one evening, I saw a couple of signs for Mt. Tabor and wondered what it was. I looked it up when I got home for the evening. Mt. Tabor began in the 1860's as the site of a Methodist camp. They had camp meetings there and originally, people had spots to put up tents to live in while they were there. The lots for the houses that were eventually built there are small because they were meant for tents. Musta been big tents, but for houses, things are very tight! It is very scenic though and I really enjoyed driving through the area. One thing that interested me was that these homes can be occupied year round. That is not the case at The Bay View Association in my home state of Michigan. Those homes can only be occupied six months a year.

I really liked the look of the place, it seemed very peaceful to me, but you would have to really like people considering how you are pretty much living on top of your neighbors here! Here are some photos I took while driving through Mt Tabor.

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If you are interested, here is some additional information about Mount Tabor

I like bakeries and for my birthday, I decided to stop at one that was highly rated and pick up a small cake for myself. That bakery is Natale's and I tell ya, this place is bakery heaven, this is the bakery of every child's dreams. It was really crowded, and I understand why. The variety and the quality was amazing. I didn't get a picture of my little cake, but I did get pictures of what they call a flying saucer, but that I have always known as an elephant ear, or a cinnamon crisp. It was probably the best that I have ever had., I also got something that I think is called a lobster tail in some bakeries, but when I asked what it was, I was told an Italian name which I forgot immediately!

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I had a couple of days off between assignments, so I decided to go down the coast. I knew I wanted to check out Cape May, but someone also suggested Wildwood. Wildwood was awful! I would recommend it to you only if you like a lot of cement with your sand. It was chock a block ugly motels and more cement than should be allowed in a beach town. Ugh!

My computer had crashed on me and I didn't have time to do enough research to find a motel in Cape May, so although I drove through it, I didn't stop or stay. It is much more quaint and beachy than Wildwood thank heavens. I wouldn't mind going back once I have time to find out what I should see and do.

I took the Cape May -Lewes Car Ferry over to Lewes, which I have written about before on this blog. I stayed at a motel in Rehobeth Beach and just did some mindless driving around, which I enjoyed a lot and took a short trolley tour of Lewes. I have never been one for group tours, but I have found that this type of tour gives you a good quick over-view of an area so you can decide what you want to explore further once you are done.

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Posted by NancyA 22:01 Archived in USA Tagged lewes methodist mt_tabor new_jersey camp_meeting car_ferry nathale's_bakery Comments (0)

Texas Visit

Random stuff

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One thing that I dislike about flying, actually it's probably the main thing I hate, is not knowing where I am when I look out the window.

Yeah, I know, I'm in a plane........... What bothers me though is looking out the window, seeing something really beautiful or interesting, and not having a clue what I'm flying over, city, state, whatever. I wish there was a way to know other than bothering the pilot continually. <<sigh>>

My daughter Keely was in SC most of the time I was visiting the family. She's been finishing up a course that is a requirement for her new job, so she was only there for a few days over the fourth of July.

The night I arrived, my son-in-law, Ken and I loaded up the two little boys and drove through downtown San Angelo trying to decide where to eat dinner. I had done a little bit of checking online, but we found Urban Spoon http://www.urbanspoon.com to be really helpful and Ken was able to look up ratings on his phone. We ended up at Armenta's Cafe, which was really good and a great value. I had the Chalupas Compuestas, Ken had a combo plate that included steak, I think it was Steak Tampiquena, Clint had chicken fingers, which he loves, and Trevor, who just turned one, ate off his dad and grandma's plates! http://www.armentascafe.com/

While out driving around that evening, we saw a sign that cracked us up and when we went by it again, we stopped the car so I could take a picture.

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Donuts and burritos are evidently a big thing here. Seems like an odd combination to me, but OK.

Another night, we went to one of the Hildagos (a small local chain) and the food was really good and the prices were low, but I think I would try a different store next time as the place wasn't as clean as I thought a restaurant ought to be. Hidalgo's

I took a couple days and just drove around. Nothing major. My sil had mentioned that Brady looked like a nice town, so I drove through. Didn't see much, it has one of those downtowns that exist around a courthouse, no grass, no park around it really, just the courthouse. But it is a working downtown, not dead like some others, certainly not turned into the type of downtown that has nothing but cute gift type shops. At any rate, the only thing I took a picture of was this:

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It took me a minute or two to realize that it was a wind turbine blade. Is that thing huge or what?!

Another day I headed south, thinking about going to Fredricksburg, but never made it there. I wanted to check out El Dorado and there wasn't much worth seeing, or if there was, I didn't see it. Then I continued on to Sonora which seemed like a pleasant enough town right off I-10. Here is the downtown.

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In front of their courthouse they had a line of plaques honoring early settlers, which I thought was a really nice tribute. The courthouse is straight ahead in the photo above although you can't really see it.

Then it was on to Ozona. In the early 90's, we had stopped by on a family trip and I remember thinking that it was sort of like walking onto the set of Andy of Mayberry. It wasn't as Mayberryish as I remembered, but still an interesting place which is now pretty worn around the edges. The area is one of the nations leading producers of mohair and wool and you can see from one neighborhood I drove through that there was (maybe still is) a lot of money in the area. I found a house that struck me as a my idea of a west Texas home:

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I stopped at the square and took a picture of a statue honoring early pioneers as well as Davy Crockett who the county is named after.

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Then there is the county courthouse and the abandoned Ozona Hotel.

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On Independence Day, we celebrated Trevor's birthday as his mom had been out of town for the actual day. He turned one, so he didn't know any difference. He loved his cupcake, and was much more careful with it than his big brother had been when he turned one. We set up lawn chairs on the driveway in the evening, since the local fireworks display was being set off from a lake very close to where they live. It took forever for them to finally start. It must have been near eleven. There were some minor fireworks going on before and we thought they might be it. Thank heavens they weren't. The real deal was much better and went on for longer than I expected.
They were pretty good.

The night before I left, Clint didn't want to go to bed. Actually, he rarely wants to go to bed. I think he is sure that interesting and fun things happen after he is asleep and he doesn't want to miss a bit of it! This is how I found him when I walked down the hall, thinking he was asleep in his room.

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Posted by NancyA 18:00 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Abilene Zoo and BBQ!

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My son-in-law and I made the drive from San Angelo to Abilene with the two grandkids to check out the zoo. First though, we stopped at Harold's BBQ which had the highest ratings of any BBQ joint in Abilene on several sites.

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The rub was a little too spicy for my taste and I have to admit I didn't care much for the beans, but the meat was super tender and my sil liked what he ordered a lot. My oldest grandson only ate corn bread and I think a couple of french fries. He's turned into a bit of a picky eater. He used to eat pretty much anything.

Harold's does a great business with what appeared to be a very loyal clientele. The staff was very friendly and accommodating, but I wished I could have heard Harold sing, which he apparently does sometimes.

Then it was on to the zoo! Abilene_Zoo_074.jpg

It was a really hot day, which was not surprising of course considering where we were. I'm a little limited here as my daughter and her husband prefer not to have pictures of their kids put online, although there are exceptions to that, such as when a picture doesn't show their faces.

But anyway, we saw a lot of snakes, which my oldest grandson loves. More snakes than I needed to see, but they also had some cool frogs and lizards. They even had a Tokay, which we used to have living in our house in West Java Indonesia. I told my grandson that, but he didn't get the whole Grandma is ok to have a lizard live in her house thing

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Outside the reptile house there were some flamingos, pretty cool I think!

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We had bought some hard crackers to feed the animals when we bought our tickets, note to self, next time, stop at the store and buy your own hard crackers! They had a little platform over a lake there, and we fed the fish soon after we arrived and then shortly before we left. This is the fish frenzy that ensued when I crumbled up a cracker in my hands and sprinkled a whole handful where the fish were waiting. They were jumping on top of each other to get some and their big mouths were wide open like they were begging!

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Here is a picture of a prairie dog that was just chilling out. It just amused me. I thought it might be fun to photo shop it and put a sombrero on it's head, but as you can see, I didn't do that. Mostly because I don't know how and don't feel like taking the time to learn right now.

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My favorite part of the zoo was the giraffe bridge, which is unlike anything I have ever seen. A bridge goes over the giraffe enclosure and from it, you can feed them. Boy, do they have long tongues. Both kids enjoyed seeing them up close and personal. The older of the two, who is almost four thought it was cool to feed one of them crackers, although he was obviously a little worried about it too. The youngest who just turned one, was enthralled.

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This is a nice sized zoo, especially for small children. I think summertime may be the worst time to visit however, since so many animals were hiding away from the heat. Spring and Fall are probably ideal.

Posted by NancyA 23:15 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Adventure Day - Clint and Grandma Style

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I told my three year old grandson that he and I were going to spend a day together just the two of us having an adventure. Now remember, he is as I said three, so we weren't doing any wild and crazy adventurous things. Heck, knowing Clint, he probably would have been up for some bungee jumping or something like that, but this Grandma has her boundaries.

First stop was the International Water Lily Collection right in San Angelo. OK, he is three and this was more for me than for him, but I figured he would like it for a short period of time, and thankfully, he did.

They have quite a few raised ponds and you can easily walk around them as well as view them from above.

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Clint like most kids loves to run and there was a small arched bridge there that he had fun with.

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There were some stairs leading up in one direction that I wanted him to go up, but there were a bunch of cactus along one side that he was afraid of. It took me a bit to convince him that if he walked on the other side of the stairs, he would be fine. He seemed suspicious, but in the end went up and was quite proud of himself.

After the water lilies, we went to Mr T's Deli for lunch. It had good reviews, but I wasn't too impressed.

http://www.mrtsdeli.com/

From there, it was on to the Nature Center along the shore of Lake Nasworthy, really close to where the kids are living right now. This was the highlight of the day.

http://www.sanangelotexas.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={00031FE3-CDFA-4F45-A7FE-06E279DEB6DA}

This turned out to be much better than I had expected actually. There was a small fee to get in, and I knew that they charged for kids age four and up. Clint doesn't turn four until late August, but when I asked him how old he was, he insisted that he was four. This made sense to him because his friends at preschool are four. I imagined the people at the nature center asking him how old he was and having him say four and me saying, he is really three and then of course the people would think I lied to save two bucks. I ended up telling him that was great, if he was four, we didn't need to buy him birthday presents. He quickly back pedaled and decided that he was three.

The nature center didn't ask.

There is a neat little room where you can watch bees making honey up close with no worries about getting stung. There are mammals, such as a ferret, ground squirrels and a coatimundi. An alligator, many, many turtles, including one that has a shell about a foot long that roams the fenced back yard. That alone was worth the price of admission. My grandson thought the turtles were really cool. He was a little too enthralled with the snakes for my taste, but oh well! He got to touch a hissing cockroach, ICK!!! He thought that was pretty cool. One of the rattlers started rattling each time he approached it's tank, and he loved that.

The center isn't just for preschoolers, there were plenty of older kids there and apparently they do a summer camp and even host birthday parties.

All in all, this was a lot of fun for very little money. I can't post most of the pictures from the center because you can see Clint's face, but I think I am safe with this one.

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From the nature center we went to The Marble Slab for ice cream. I personally like Marble Slab better than Coldstone, but that may be because I went to one in the mid '80's way before I ever went to Coldstone.
http://www.marbleslab.com/ Clint Got mango ice cream with gummy bears as a mix in. I don't remember what I got.

Then we went to the River Walk.

http://www.sanangelo.org/goodtimes/attractions.php

This is right by the San Angelo Art Museum, which we didn't stop at. The design is supposed to remind you of a saddle if you didn't already figure that one out. :-)

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We didn't spend much time there. We basically walked over the bridge, Clint jumping in the squares of a hop scotch game built into it, checked out a small water feature on the other side, walked back over, and asked someone how to get to a good playground.

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The playground was large and crowded. Not a great place to take an active toddler when you are the only one watching him. There is so much to this particular playground that it wasn't easy to keep track of him. But he had fun and wasn't happy when it was time to leave.

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He zonked out on the way home.

Posted by NancyA 23:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Yippee Kai Yay!

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As of around 5 pm today, I'm officially on vacation! I'm flying to TX to see my daughters family and will be back in NJ July 7.

I'm looking forward to the visit as it's been a long time since I have seen my grandkids. The oldest, Clint, will turn 4 in August and the youngest, Trevor, turned one yesterday. It will also be my first visit to San Angelo, where they recently moved.

I'm also looking forward to trying some Texas BBQ!

Posted by NancyA 00:01 Archived in USA Comments (1)

The Museum of Early Trades and Crafts Madison NJ

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I like to drive. I especially love aimless drives with no specific destination. Sometimes I find or see something interesting and sometimes I don't. I recently drove through Madison NJ and saw the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in what appeared to be an old church. I didn't stop in then, but I knew I would be checking it out and that was my destination today.

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Originally the towns library, a wealthy summer resident D. Willis James had it built using all the best materials and it shows. It is a beautiful building. It opened in 1900 and until a replacement was built, which I think they said was in the 1960's. I was told that the building was left unlocked 24 hours a day so that people who worked odd hours and were unable to come in during the day, could come in anytime and read the newspapers, etc. I was also told that the childrens library was across the street in this building

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Being old enough to use the big library was evidently a big deal. There is a bookstore now where the childrens library once was, on the bottom right of the photo.

There was a really interesting exhibit about the indians who had originally inhabited the area, the Lenape, also known as the Delaware. Here is a picture of the headman of the tribe, pretty much the equivalent of a king, there is also a war mallet. Imagine the damage that thing could do. It's very solid looking.

Mallet_and_King.jpg

There were many interesting exhibits about early trades, such as blacksmiths, cabinet makers, shoe makers, farmers and apprentices. They also spoke about what both men and women did and at what ages. It looks like they do quite a few childrens programs as well.

The building is incredibly beautiful. Here are a couple of the windows

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Here are a couple interior pictures

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The second floor is actually thick glass which allows extra light through to the first floor. You can see the wrought iron railing up there, which is also beautiful. There is little in this building which is not. I spent a couple of hours here, browsing the exhibits and talking to the director. I was the only paying visitor while I was there, although I bet the place is much busier on weekends. I'm glad I checked it out.

http://metc.org/james.htm

I stopped in a toy store downtown on Main St. Downtown_Madison_NJ.jpg and picked up a couple of fun things for my grandsons and got a couple of cupcakes to go from Hey Cupcake! I ate one for dessert tonight and it was excellent! http://madison.injersey.com/2010/06/17/eating-out-in-madison-hey-cupcake/

When I went back to my car (free parking, no meters, yay!) and saw this little trap door open in front of a restaurant. I saw a man going in and out of it, and it just amused me. You just don't see this sort of thing in Michigan where I was raised!

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Madison is a pleasant town. I'm glad I had a chance to check out some of what it has to offer.

Posted by NancyA 23:43 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Wildlife and Satay

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I have to say, I am surprised at how much wildlife I have seen here in New Jersey. I mean, I have seen the occasional news story about a bear showing up in a neighborhood here, but that's about the extent of my knowledge on NJ animals.

Driving on a side road heading back to the hotel tonight, a fox crossed the road. He or she was obviously used to cars as it was taking it's time crossing the road, not appearing to be frightened at all by the approaching vehicles. Thankfully it is not a main road! The head honcho at the local office said he actually saw a deer look both ways before crossing the road. He swears this is true! I guess they have very savvy deer here!

The other day, I was in a subdivision, sitting at the curb in my car doing some paperwork, and saw an animal out of the corner of my eye. I looked up expecting to see a cat, but it was a raccoon, running along. It tried to enter a hole in the bottom of a tree in front of a house, but it was too fat to get in and just kept going. It was pretty funny.

Then, Sunday, I was in the same subdivision, again parked at a curb talking on the phone to my daughter and I saw some animal dart across the lawn to the edge of the curb right by my car, but I couldn't see what it was. It finally moved and it looked like a lot like a beaver except for the tail. I'm wondering if it was a muskrat or a mink. There is a large park behind this development, so I'm guessing the animals might be coming from there.

I was out driving around on my day off last week and was just driving around doing a quick look-see and in a strip mall I saw a TJ Maxx, so I had to stop. It's my favorite store actually. Anyway, when I was leaving, I noticed a Malaysian restaurant in the same area and stopped in as I knew I could get satay. It was listed as an appetizer and I wondered if I would like the peanut sauce as I wasn't sure if it would taste more like Indonesian or Thai peanut sauce. I don't care much for the Thai peanut sauce. Our family lived in West Java for two years in the mid-80's and the sate stand on the corner loved to see me coming as I would often get 40 sticks for our family of five along with an order of sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf. Everyone in the family loved it. Anyway..... I got one order of the appetizer to go and wished I had gotten more. It was really good. I might see if I can get anyone from work to go for dinner one of these nights.

Posted by NancyA 21:33 Archived in USA Comments (4)

Punxsutawney, the Weather Capital of the World?

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I didn't want to get to my next assignment in NJ too late, so I decided to leave on Sunday and spend the night somewhere about halfway. I checked out the route and saw that Punxsutawney PA was not much of a detour. So hey, I went to visit the groundhog!

I spent the night in Du Bois, which was a gritty town, but looked like it might have been interesting had I had more time to explore it. I was really in the mood for Italian, so I called a place that had good reviews on YahooLocal to place a take out order. Wouldn't you know it, they were closed that night to put down new carpet.

Chicken fried rice was a poor substitute. :-(

The next morning, I drove to Punxsutawney. I tooled around the downtown area, which wasn't as touristy as I thought it might be. On a side street I stopped to take a picture of what looks like it ought to be a haunted house in a movie or something. What do you think?

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Punxsutawney bills itself as the weather capital of the world, seems like a huge stretch to me, but hey, it makes them happy! They have a place there called the Weather Discovery Center http://www.weatherdiscovery.org/ and I figured I may as well check it out. I was there during the posted open hours, but there was a sign saying 'be back at 1:30' and I didn't want to wait around that long. You gotta love small towns! :-)

You know how you will drive through a town and see animal statues painted by area artists or businesses? I've seen pigs, horses and other animals I can't remember. In Punxsutawney of course, they have groundhog statues.

Here is one in front of the closed Weather Discovery Center called Weather Wizard

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Then there was this one near the entrance of the town square. Town squares are another thing I love. This one is called Freedom Phil

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I liked this one in front of the post office, I guess you could call it Postal Phil

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This one was in front of a hardware store

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There were others, but I didn't take pictures of all of them. I noticed a Fireman Phil when I was on my way out of town, but I didn't go back to take a picture. I kinda wish I had.

I asked where I could see Phil and was told there were two or three Phil's and I could see them at the library right on the square. I went and found two that I could see in what they call the Groundhog Zoo. There is a window on the outside of the building as well as one inside in the children's section. There is also another one of the groundhog statues out front. Here is the Groundhog Zoo and the statue

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Here is one of the Phils

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Also on the square, in front of the bandstand is a nice carved groundhog

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I asked about Gobblers Knob and was told there really wasn't anything worth seeing there, but I kind of wish I had gone. I mean, it was only about a mile out of town. http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/17332

Posted by NancyA 22:20 Archived in USA Comments (4)

Destination, The Irish Hills and then some

After leaving Traverse City, I headed south to Farmington Hills to spend a couple of days with my parents and also had a chance to see my brother and sister-in-law. I hadn't seen my parents since Thanksgiving, so it was good to see them.

Even when I was a teenager, I still went on occasion with my parents on their Sunday drives. To this day I love taking a drive with no particular destination. We were going to go to Belle Isle, but there was some event going on there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_Isle_Park we decided to go to the Irish Hills instead. If you take US 12 from Detroit you will end up in the Irish Hills! http://www.irishhillsrecreation.com/ It's a beautiful area south of Ann Arbor with a lot of pleasant small towns along the way. We drove through Saline, Chelsea, and Brooklyn. We also drove through A2 and Ypsilanti on the way back home. In Ypsi, we drove down Summit street, down a block or so from the water tower past my Aunt and Uncles old home. I used to think that the whole area had become the student ghetto for Eastern Michigan University, but it appears to still have a fair number of single family homes. We spent a lot of family holidays in that house, so I was happy to see that it is being well cared for.

One thing that was new since the last time I had been was an Irish Famine Memorial. The lintel on the monument is an actual step from Penrose Quay in Cork Harbor. Other stones at the base are from Donegal. There is a stone for each county in Ireland with the name written in both English and Irish Gaelic on the stone. The bowl below the lintel symbolizes hunger if I remember right.

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM6MDH_An_Gorta_Mor_Memorial_Brooklyn_MI

I realized too far into the trip that I had forgotten my camera.

My dad mentioned that he wouldn't mind driving by a home that had once belonged to relatives on Michigan Ave. We drove by and looked at it from a side road. The family reunions were often held there and the relative had orchards as well as vegetable gardens and had a roadside stand. There had also been cabins which are long gone. I saw a couple of people on the back porch and we drove over to speak to them. The couple now living there have been working on restoring the home for the two years they have owned it, doing a little at a time. It sounded like a big job, but I know my dad was happy to know that the current owners love the place and are trying to make it look good again. The woman had done some research about the house and said there wasn't a single fruit tree left on the property, but that she and her husband had planted a pear tree as a nod to the trees that had once been on the property. She seemed pleased to speak to someone who had fond memories of the house and it's former inhabitants.

It was a good day.

Posted by NancyA 12:56 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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