A little backlogged

So I’m a little back logged with the posting of some adventures this past year. I have two more to finish writing up, and had hoped to post them before the end of the year, but alas I have been sidetracked once again. Recently, I went to watch my brother race his car (1968 Chevelle) at the Irwindale Dragstrip.img_20191222_153911797 and decided that rather than write about it, I would video it, mainly because I am trying out a video editor app for my phone, (PowerDirector, by Cyberlink, for Android), and am considering interspersing our blog with a Vlog or two when we set out on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in April of 2020.

Shooting the video clips was fun, but the production end of it was a whole other learning curve that sucked me down rabbit hole of perfection. So far, the sweat equity is a little excessive, in that we thought it might be “easier” than thumb pecking at the end of each days hiking, or adventure. Thus far, I have found that uploading to YouTube from my phone takes a bit longer with our crappy WiFi, so here’s that also. But it’s worth a try, and it’s about time that I apply the degree that I earned in college. Luckily, we (meaning mostly me) have some time to practice before we commit to straight Vlogging or more likely a combination of VLog and Blog, or continue just blogging. In any event, we’ll be posting a video (training) or two as we go.

So without further rambling, here’s the video I made of my brother’s recent race day. Let me know what you think. (I didn’t mean to post the video with this thmbnail look by my brother, but then this pays him back for when we were kids and he emptied my piggy bank…AND raided my coin collection… to buy a hamster!)

…Paul is researching drones now. Argh!

Posted in 1968 Chevelle, Continental Divide Trail, Drag racing, Irwindale Dragstrip, Road Trips, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The History of the United States Capitol

In keeping with our DC Tourist adventures, I found this video of the United States Capitol (of which recent restoration has been completed) to be interesting and informative.

 

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DC Tourist – Day 7 (final day)

(October 8, 2019)

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It being our last DC Tourist day, it was only fitting that we finish the “mystery” of the Capitol Stones.  Our day three DC excursion included hiking to the plain sight “storage” of the U.S. Capitol building’s original stones at Rock Creek National Park.  When we wandered over and through the discarded (I mean stored) 200 year old sandstone blocks (that were removed in 1958), the columns of the original East Façade of the Capitol building were demonstratively missing.  Never fear.  We found them, but it required a visit to the National Arboretum, dedicated in 1927 and maintained by the US Department of Agriculture’s,  Agricultural Research Service.  The National Arboretum is a 446 acre spread, with 9.5 miles of winding roadway, in the middle of what is now an industrial area. It is replete with a unique assortment of “green growey stuff”.  Here you will find a 30 acre Grove of State Trees, from each of the 50 states (a “treasure hunt” for another day), just about every conifer tree on the planet, the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum (with over 300 specimens, one of which from 1625), the largest herb garden in the United States, perennial gardens, and of course the National Capitol Columns.  The Arboretum is an oasis of greenery in a sea of small weathered homes, cement, iron and brick. In fact, an abandoned brick factory, The United Brick Corporation, flanks the Arboretum grounds, and also bears a visit for another time.  img_20191008_095930181As we were visiting in October, I imagine the spring time would be spectacular, and during the winter, with a bit of snow, one could enjoy an afternoon of snow shoeing or cross country skiing. Luckily, under grey skies, we were here to see the Capitol Columns.  After checking into the visitor center for a map, we were on our way.

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We found the original sandstone columns set in 1828 at the East Portico of the Capitol Building, standing in all their splendor on a knoll in the 20 acre Ellipse Meadow.  We parked just off the road near a slowly eroding capital (the “crown” of the columns) on display.

The intricacies of the sandstone carver’s ornamental decoration of the capital is remarkable, and it creation obviously time consuming, as it took 6 months to complete each capital (there were at least 24).

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A slow and deliberate walk through the meadow leads you to the remaining 22 of 24 columns, whose originally situated place at the Capitol building provided the backdrop for the Presidential inaugurations from 1829 through 1957.

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Set on a small hill, with a small reflecting pool below, these massive Corinthian columns rest on a foundation of steps from the same East Portico from whence came the columns.

img_20191008_101529890Imagine the history that passed through these columns, and tread upon these steps.  It is fitting that these columns found such a stately setting to “grow old”, and were rescued in 1990 from languishing in a government yard of obscurity.  We wandered through the columns, taking time to examine each one and the stone steps upon which they rest. It was peaceful and awe inspiring.  We had the place to ourselves!

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When we were done, we drove through the rest of the Arboretum and explored on foot a bit.  As it was a bit chilly, and having an evening engagement, we had one more stop to round out our DC Tourist week.

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One can’t visit a historic city without hitting its oldest cemetery, and some iconic art within.  Off we headed to the Glenwood Cemetery, where it is rummored that one of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators (George Atzerodt) is said to lie…in an unmarked grave. As of 2017, the cemetery became listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  An intersesting side note is that the ownership of this cemetery was contested during a bitter divorce dispute which actually went as far as the Supreme Court [Close v. Glenwood Cemetery 107 US.466 (1883)].  In short, the wife lost. We, however, were here to see four unique chainsaw sculptures made from 200 year old toppled oak trees, by chainsaw artist Dayton Scoggins.

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The three of the four chainsaw sculptures Scoggins “carved” reside amoung Victorian and Art Nouveau style mausoleums, marble sculptures and stone obelisks, all placed in memory and in honor of loved ones passed.

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img_20191008_112436358-1 As we examined the detiorating sculptures, one of which (the sabertooth tiger) had toppled and been removed, we for some reason felt compelled to wander the cemetery grounds and examine the crypts and gravestones.

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Some were marvelously extravagent, while others were simple, yet profound.  We noticed a trend in the ages and time periods of death.  img_20191008_114515998_hdrWe found a significant number of gravestones with similar ranges in years (1881-96) marking ones death, and significant number of children dying 1894-95. A bit of research revealed a number of pandemics that reached all socio-economic classes of the day.  The speed in which the U.S. population was growing resulted in increasing concentrations of people in its already overcrowded cities.  Close quarters (as we now know) are petri dishes and breading grounds for any number of communicable diseases. From 1881-1896, the U.S. lost over 50,000 people to the “5th cholera pandemic”.  Malaria became an issue for DC in 1895, and the disease of Consumption (Tuberculosis, or TB) that was originally thought to be transmitted hereditarily, mainly through the poor until the rich got sick as well, resulted in changes to society and daily health habits that we now take for granted. The ravages of TB (that we now have vaccinations and antibiotics for), created laws that prohibited spitting in public, in invention of reclining chairs, the habit of hand washing and brushing of ones teeth, open spaces, city parks, and the value of fresh air outdoor recreation.  Who’d a thunk it, that with this visit to an iconic cemetery to view some unique art, we learn a bit more about our history and its application to our current lives?

Our week spent in DC, exploring with family was time well spent, and only served to further wet our appetite for knowledge and adventure.  As such, there is no question that another visit (to DC) is required to further explore and delve into the more obscure aspects of our history.

With that, however, it is now time to head for home and prepartion for an annual outdoor adventure, to fill our freezer with venison.

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DC Tourist – Day 6 (part two)

(October 7, 2019)

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So, after the National Law Enforcement Museum and Memorial, we headed further downtown, and happened upon Ford’s Theatre (a former First Baptist Church), where President Abraham Lincoln (our 16th president) was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, on April 14, 1865, of which date also happened, in a twist of irony, to be Good Friday. Lincoln’s assassination was precipitated not only by the surrender of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his army to General Ulysses Grant on April 9, at Appomattox (essentially marking the end of the Civil War) six days prior, but also a speech Lincoln made two days after the surrender (April 11, 1865) of which Booth was present, wherein Lincoln promoted voting rights for blacks. This tipped the scale for Booth, from intent to kidnap Lincoln, to murder.

We arrived at an opportune time, in that there was no line to get in, as “normal” for this Historic Site.  Normally one has to have reserved tickets on-line ($3/person, for a specific time slot), or wait in line, to get even get into Ford’s Theatre, as they closely monitor the number of people allowed entrance into the theatre portion each half-hour.  Even so, we almost passed this opportunity by.

img_20191007_161428182_hdrBut, seeing as it was free, with no wait, and none of the rest of our family group had been to Ford’s Theatre, we ducked in.  I had been here years ago while “chaperoning” my daughter’s 8th grade DC trip, and was curious what improvements/updates, if any, had occured.  Since my last visit, tremendous renovations and improvements certainly had been made.  There are four distinct components to this Historical Site:

The Museum (all things having to do with Lincoln, his life, presidency and assassination); 

Being able to examine artifacts like the pistol (.44 cal Derringer), and a replica of the round that killed Pres. Lincoln, as well as clothing and personal belongings of Lincoln and those involved in the assassination was fascinating.

The Ranger Talk in the theatre;

I found the Ranger “talk” or rather splendid oratory and tidbital (a word have since made up) information as to the theatre’s and Booth’s history, and the events leading up to Lincoln’s assassination captivating.

The Aftermath Exhibits (the hunt for Booth and subsequent events and artifacts); and The Petersen House (across the street where Lincoln died) where even with a ticket there always seems to be a significant wait;  

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Petersen House

Things I learned from this visit, included:

  • The theatre was originally the First Baptist Church, but shortly after John T. Ford  bought the building and turned it into a “dance hall”, it burned down (December 1862), and was later rebuilt.
  • Following the assassination of Lincoln, the theatre was closed, as attempts to reopen the theatre were met with threats to “burn it down”.  As a result, the War Department leased the building from Ford (who interestingly enough, at the time of Lincoln’s assassination, was a good friend of John Wilkes Booth) . In 1866, the Federal government bought the building and turned it into offices.
  • Death revisited the “theatre” (now owned by the government) once more when three interior floors collapsed, killing 22 clerks.  Even before this happened, rumors had circulated that the building was “cursed”.
  •  In 1932 a museum to Lincoln was opened in “Ford’s Theatre”, and the year following, the museum and building became a unit of the National Parks.
  •  The evening of Lincoln’s assassination, Lincoln bid his driver “good bye” as opposed to his usual “good night”, which struck him as odd.  It was if Lincoln knew he was going to his death.
  • Live theatre has been reintroduced to Ford’s Theatre, by the Ford’s Theatre Society, as a tribute to Lincoln’s love of the theatre.
  • This National Historic Site is open everyday 9am-5pm, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas day.

Following this visit, we couldn’t help but muse as to what our country would be like today, had Lincoln NOT been assassinated.

Posted in Civil War, DC Adventures, Exploring Washington DC, National Parks, National Register of Historic Places, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

DC Tourist – Day 6 (part One)

National Law Enforcement Museum and Memorial:

(October 7, 2019)

This day was spent in downtown DC. Our first stop was the National Law Enforcement Museum on 444 E Street NW, directly across from the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial (dedicated October 15, 1991).  This 55,000 sq/ft museum, which is 60ft below ground, is chock full of interactive exhibits and some amazing historical and contemporary law enforcement artifacts.  In this museum, you can try your hand at forensics, undercover operations, or even test your “judgement” in the Decision Making Training Simulator that includes “shoot-don’t-shoot” scenarios in a virtual reality setting. I considered “dusting” off my skill set and trying out the simulator, but then thought better of it, as there is no use in “awakening” what I would call “safely stored” memories, as PTSD is a royal bitch.  In this museum, they have the ACTUAL U.S. National Park Police helicopter (and media footage of the rescue) used to rescue survivors from the 1982 Air Florida flight 90 plane crash into the Potomac River.  In additon to that display, there are plenty of immersive, experiential and interactive, as well as visual, audio and tactile exhibits to puruse and immerse yourself in the “day in the life” of a law enforcement officer.

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As the “day-in-the-life” of a law enforcement officer is not without peril, or ultimate sacrifice, you will find the sobering Hall of Rememberance, wherein officer’s portraits arranged by state, with their name/agency and their End of Watch date are displayed, that  were recently added in the spring of that year to the walls of the memorial, across the street.  Sadly, NYPD, as of late, has the most officers added annually as a result of illness(es) sustained during 9/11. Artifacts and personal mementos left at the National Memorial can also be found on display, that will make your heart ache and your eyes tear.

And with all museums, there is a gift shop wherein you can purchase Memorial Fund gifts and/or additional souviners.  I picked up a memorial coin that I now use for coin tosses, in water polo games I officiate. (one side = heads, the other = tails, or visa versa)

The National Law Enforcement Museum is open daily (except on Tuesdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 10 am to 6 pm.  Children under 12 are free, however there is an entrance fee anywhere from $17 – $22 depending  on your  age and whether you are active duty (LE) or military.  If you purchase tickets online, you can save $2/ticket.  The fee is worth the price of admittance and helps to maintain and create new exhibits. While this October day saw  pretty sparse visitation to this relatively new museum (opened October 13, 2018), every May, in the week that contains May 15th this place (according to the retired LE docent) and more specifically, the National Law Enforement Officer Memorial, across the street from the museum, is crawling with law enforcement officers and “Survivor” families from across the country.

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While most everyone is aware of and/or familar with Memorial Day for our military, most people have no clue that May 15th marks National Police Officer Memorial Day, and has since 1962.  Following a joint resolution from the 87th Congress, President John F. Kennedy signed into law (October 1, 1962) the designation of May 15th as National Police Officer Memorial Day, and the week that contains the 15th, designated as, National Police Week. Every year in May, families of the past year(s) fallen peace officers, and tens of thousands of uniformed active duty and retired peace officers from around the country make a pilgrimage of sorts to DC, to honor those who’s lives were cut short in the service of their community, and frankly our nation.  While I have been to more than my fair share of Law Enforcement Officer funerals and memorials, I have not been to DC during Police Week. Frankly, it is on my “bucket list”, if only to pay homage and honor those officers (and their families) who were not as lucky as Paul and I, and make it to retirement, alive and fairly healthy.

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We did however look up names (and their location of the walls) of officers who we knew that have their names permanently engraved into one of the two 304 foot long, curving blue-gray marble walls that bracket the “Pathways of Rememberance”.

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To date, there are 21,910 Federal, State and Local Law Enforement Officer names etched in stone, and at the close of 2019 over 22,000 officers dating as far back as 1786, will have given the ultimate sacrifice and died in the Line of Duty.

“You see the good don’t die young, but instead they live on,
              In memories, and many a heart.
             The good that you do does not die when you do.
             For the good, death’s not an end, but a start.”

– Lt. Dan Marcou

*(Last stanza of a 7 part poem – “Messages from a Fallen Officer”)

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DC Tourist – Day 5 (part Two)

(October 6, 2019)

After a rousing game of golf (mini that is) we headed over to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located next door to The Catholic University of America. It is the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America, and one of the 10 largest churches in the world. To get a sense of its size, it is over 1-1/2 football fields in length and nearly a football field wide.

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It’s “blend” of Romanesque and Byzantine style architecture, and contempary collection of Byzantine mosaics and marble ecclesiastical art contained within two floors, seven domes and over 80 chapels and oratories is breathtaking. The fact that there are NO structural beams, columns or framework that hold this massive structure up (and together), is a marvel of engineering and craftsmanship.  img_20191006_142237220_hdr-1

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The limestone and granite used in its construction all hale from the good old U.S. of A.  The Basilica’s Bell Tower (or Knights Tower), makes the Basilica the 2nd tallest building in DC, after the U.S. Monument (555 Ft.),  standing at 529 ft above sea level (the tower is 329′, but the “hill” upon which the Basilica is built is at 200′ above sea level).

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In 1847, in answer to the 1846 petition from the American (Catholic) Bishops at the Sixth Council of Baltimore, Pope Pius IX officially named the Blessed Virgin Mary (also referred to as the Immaculate Conception) the offical Patroness of the United States.

The designation would lay a foundation for the building of a great shrine that includes many a Marian Chapel from all ethnicities and cultures that make up the United States, to honor Mary.  In 1910, the rector of The Catholic Univestity of America, Monsignor Thomas J Shahan (later made Bishop, and the only priest laid to rest in the Cathedral) requested of Pope Pius X, permission to build a great cathedral (this Cathedral), to honor Mary, the United State’s Patroness.

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A peak into the Upper Chapel that holds 6,000 people

Shahan envisioned the Cathedral to be on par with the great cathedrals of Europe.  He was granted permission in 1913 to build such a Cathedral.  And thus began the nationwide fundraising for its construction. Seven years later, on May 16, 1920 the land upon which this amazing Cathedral is built, was blessed, and September 23, the cornerstone laid.  It was to have two levels. First to be built was the Crypt level (lower level). At the Crypt level is: the Crypt Church (that seats 4,000); the Hall of American Saints; a Papal exhibit; Memorial Hall (here the names of donors, are etched into 14,400 marble and granite tablets);

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One of the more “famous” benefactors

33 Chapels (Interesting note is that within the Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel is a replica of the grotto of Lourdes, (where Mary appeared to Bernadette Subirous, a peasant girl, in 1858) a stone, from the prison that held Joan of Arc, was used to build this chapel; 7 oratories.  The first public Mass was held on Easter Sunday April 20, 1924 in the Crypt Chapel (of which I have no pictures as daily Mass was in progress).  By 1931, the Crypt level was completed, but it wasn’t till November 20, 1959 with the second level having been built, that it was dedicated as a National Shrine.  Interuptions due to the Great Depression and WWII were significant factors in its lengthy build progress.  Interestingly enough, the entirety of project would still not be fully complete until Nov 20, 2017, whereupon the largest of the Basilica’s five domes, the Great Dome, or rather, the magnificant Trinity Dome mosaic was finished.

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Trinity Dome

24 tons of Venitian glass brilliantly conveys the great Mystery of the Catholic faith, with the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, angels and mainly U.S. saints, (or saints significantly associated with the National Shrine…ie Mother Teresa, as an example) are encircled by the text of the Nicene Creed in an 89 ft diameter 159 ft tall dome.  The largest mosaic of its kind, in the world.  It was everything I could do to not lay upon the marble floor and marvel at its enormity, craftsmanship, pure beauty and bask in its resounding message.  The Upper Level, along with the Church (that seats 6,000) are 30 additonal chapels.

Fun Fact: Within this Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe not only will you find a stunning mosaic, but also the Basilica’s first altar that was used during the first Mass conducted in the Crypt Church on April 20, 1924.

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The Byzantine style art, intricate mosaics and stained-glass windows, polished stone carvings, and marble veining throughout its interior that form symetrical patterns is truly captivating.

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Having been to Lourdes (France), Portugal (Our Lady of Fatima), and having walked the entire Camino de Santiago (Frances route), Bishop Shahan’s dream, as he stated in his fundraising newsletters, the Shrine would be a

 “monument of love and gratitude, a great hymn in stone as perfect as the art of man can make it and as holy as the intentions of its builders could wish it to be.”

has been fullfilled, as this Cathedral truly is magnificent and certainly ranks with the great cathedrals of europe.

*As side note, there was so much to take in, we found that a one hour tour is not merely enough (whether you are Catholic or not).  Having gone back for a second “quick” tour, we found that each docent has different knowledge, or particular interests with regard to the history, significance and reason (and story behind) the art and chapels that grace this Cathedral. Still, two tours (hours) was NOT enough…for us (even Paul wanted to stay longer to take it all in). I think ideally, if one made a 1/2 day of it, you would also be able to tour the exterior as well, to include the garden. And besides, you never know, you just might get a photo op with the Pope.

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Posted in Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, DC Adventures, Exploring Washington DC, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

DC Tourist – Day Five (part One)

(October 6, 2019)

What says more about DC and politics, than golf. Often deals and meetings are conducted on the gold course away from the confines of starched shirts and indoor lighting. This day’s morning outing would include heading out to the East Potomac golf course, and playing one of this country’s oldest and longest running mini-golf courses. Yes. Miniuarature golf. Under overcast skies, we would play a rousing and often frustrating “Happy Gilmore” game of fast putt, many obstacled, minuature golf. This day of working on our “short game”, was historic. Not that we played the games of our lives…well maybe, but historic in the sense that the course we played upon is the OLDEST continuously operated minuature golf course in the country.

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It opened in 1931, and one can only imagine the multitudes of people that have “puttered” around this course. At $6/child and $7/adult it was a “steal”.

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As it was “off-season”, the caddy shack (pictured above) was closed so we had to go into pro shop to pay our “greens” fee and pick up one of many multi-colored ball options. Once that was done, we picked out our putters from a barrel outside the caddy shack, and it was game-on!

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While its current state is a bit “tired”, it was nun the less, both fun and challenging, and was not without many a belly laugh.

If one is looking for something historic, unique and off the beaten path to do while in DC, this is worth the outing.  April – October you will find it open daily 10am till dark (whatever “dark” means).  November – March, however, it is only open Saturday/Sunday, 10am – dark…weather dependent of course.

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