Category Archives: Travelogue

Happy Belated Birthday to the GPS

Artist rendering of a GPS satellite above the Earth. Image: U.S. Air Force

Artist rendering of a GPS satellite above the Earth. Image: U.S. Air Force

You might have missed it, but the GPS turned 25 last month (2/14/14).

My first n exposure to the GPS was in the early 1990’s, courtesy of a friend who found my condo using GPS.  I suspect her Mercedes was one of the first, if not the first, models to come equipped with onboard GPS at that time.

I’ve used GPS on my phone since 2008, and love it.  I always say that f or the long-distance trips, a map always has been the best tool.  When you get to your destination, the turn-by-turn instructions that GPS provides are a life-saver.  Hyperbole maybe, but when you find yourself lost at night, GPS can be a friend indeed.

Some say GPS makes us dumb; some say we no longer can read a road map and have lost our navigational skills.  I beg to differ.

I love to read maps, and am the designated “navigator” on road trips my husband and I take. Armed with my AAA maps and guide books, I can get us from point A to Point B, using the guide book to highlight attractions along the way.  But as we near our destination, I’ll fire up the GPS to guide us to the hotel or attraction we seek.

Getting back to maps:  My personal favorites for road trips are the AAA maps.  I know their map legends like the backs of my hands.  State-produced maps and other so-called tourist maps are lacking in one or more areas: mileage markers, rest stop indicators, etc.

I’ve always loved maps.  I believe I inherited this love from my father, who always had lots of atlases and road maps in the house.  Even though we never took many trips by car that were farther than 200 miles from our home, he always had maps: road maps, atlases, National Geographic maps.

I always like to read maps like a book.  I look at the names for the small towns that are in the hinterlands between two cities.  Sure, Google maps will show some of them, but I’m not sure Google Maps’ resolution will indicate “wide patches  in the road” the way paper maps can. Try it sometime.   Pick up a map & read it.  There are some quirky town names out there in this great land of ours.

So happy belated birthday GPS!  I think, however, that I shall keep both my GPS and paper maps in my navigational quiver.

Travelogue: Red Rock & Roll

While doing some pre-move cleaning I found a spiral notebook in which I had written my travel notes for a trip we took to the Southwest.  I tore the pages out; but most likely they will be lost forever as we pack them for our move. Sooooo, I decided to digitize the notes… and add photos, for the win! Herewith, I bring you,


Vienna –> Phoenix

Took the taxi to National [Airport] — [paid a lot more that expected. Abut $40 — yikes!

We left at 7:30 for a 10:30 flight. Not bad — Matt snoozed at the airport

Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

while Michele used her Palm [Pre] to while away the time.

We each had aisle seats, at at first it looked like we’d both have no middle seats…but Matt ended up with a married couple in 14A&B.

The US Air flight had no in-flight entertainment, so we both read. Matt snoozed some more. 🙂

We arrived in Phoenix at about 12:30 local. It was about 102°!  We got our car (a Chrysler Sebring), but the rental guy was a real PITA [pain in the a**]. Sleazy. Kept trying to talk us into an upgrade. Anyway, we got our car and off we went.

Our chariot through the Red Rocks.

Our chariot through the Red Rocks.


I realized I forgot the tour books and AAA maps, so we stopped at a Circle K (or something like that) and got a map. Then we located a Barnes & Noble (in a “big box” store shopping center).  Kind of incongruous in the middle of a desert!

Well then we stopped at a Carl’s Jr. so I could get some lunch (Matt was fasting). THEN we were on our way…at least to Sedona.

PHOENIX –> sEDONA (7/4/2009)

Up I-17, then AZ-179 to Sedona. Nothing too unusual, but the sudden appearance of the red rocks was exciting. Before that, it was cactus (Phoenix) and than scrub and small trees.

See them? See them through the window?

See them? See the rocks through the window?

The drive through the main part of Sedona was, well, fun — all the roundabouts. It felt like England.

We used the GPS to locate our hotel: The Southwest Inn “is ahead,” it said. We check in around 4:30 or 5:00-ish.

We asked for dinner recommendations & settled on D’Lish, which was right next to the hotel.  It was great! Vegan pace;l Matt had a “cup” of curry lentil soup, I ha the grilled veggie wrap.  They were GREAT.  Also, Matt picked up some kombucha. [Note: D’lish is now closed, but here’s a link to Yelp entries for D’Lish.)

We came back to the room & settled in. Matt “took a soak” in the Jacuzzi. Went to bed at around 10:000-ish. Sooooo tired.

Sunday july 5, 2009

Hitting the trails in Sedona:  Started out with a continental breakfast at the hotel and made it out by about 8:00 AM.

We drove up Dry Creek Road” and got our Red Rocks pass, then drove a bit and hiked on Dead Man’s Pass Trail (really!). It wasn’t too hot out, but as the morning wore on, it got hot.

Next we went to Doe Mountain Trail. It’s pretty steep, so we only went partway up. We sat on a rock for quite some time there (it was in the shade). Saw a rock formation across the road that looked like an old Native American with a pointed hat on.

The face was watching us...

The face was watching us…

Next we went to Fay Canyon Trail and walked a fir bit. It was getting really hot, so we turned back.

For lunch I got a vanilla date milkshake and Matt got a fruit juice blend …back at D’Lish! We talked to the owner about the place and other things (healing, medicinal treatments, etc.).

The we took the Loop Roads. Went to Red Rock State Park and saw the movie about Sedona. Drove around some more — the road turned into an unpaved road & we had memories of Salisbury, England! (What if we got stuck in the road??) Luckily the road became blacktop again — no worries.

We had an early dinner at D’Lish (again!) before our Earth Wisdom Jeep Tour.

Ridin' the Rocks.,

Ridin’ the Rocks.,

Kevin was our guide.

Our trusty guide.

Our trusty guide.

We saw almost all of the main sites, including Al Pacino’s house! Keven even played his wood flute for us. A great tour. [The end of our tour was at sunset, so we got an iconic shot of Cathedral Rock.]

Moonrise over Cathedral Rock.

Moonrise over Cathedral Rock.

Early to bed and up early to gop to ….

Sunset crater &  wupatki (4/6/09)

Up early for breakfast, then took of for points north. First we stopped at Airport Mesa [in Sedona] — and the Airport Vortex.  There was a Disney Discovery tour bus at the overlook. Afterwards we saw the sign for the Masonic Temple up there and the Shrine of the Red Rocks. The Vortex energy was very strong there.

At the Airport Vortex.

At the Airport Vortex

We hung out there for a while then took off up AZ-89A North through Oak Creek Canyon.  Lovely drive.   But first…

…we went to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  It was built into the red rocks.  Pretty amazing!

What a view from those windows!

What a view from those windows!

Back to 89A North.  We got lost looking for a AAA office in Flagstaff. Apparently I put in a wrong address & we ended up on a residential street. OH WELL….

So we continued on to Sunset Crater.

It was pretty freaky, all the black cinder ash and hardened lava. We took a 1-mile loop in the park. It was hot but there was lots of wind and occasional shade.

A little life amid the cinders.

A little life amid the cinders.

900-year-old lava from

900-year-old lava from the volcanic eruption

Then on to Wupatki, site of some ancient Navajo ruins. It was HOT! HOT! HOT! there with absolutely NO shade. We walked the path through the ruins.  Saw a blowhole — a vent in the earth’s crust that blows cool air (if the air pressure is lower outside the hole). That was the only cool place on the site!

Do you see any trees?

Do you see any trees?

On the way to Wupatki, we stopped at the Painted Desert overlook.  Off in the distance was the Painted Desert.  Truly magical. It almost looked like a pink mirage.

Had to see the Painted Desert, but it's there.

Hard to see the Painted Desert, but it’s there.

On the way back to our hotel we stopped at the “amphitheater” to watch the sunset [and moonrise].  (Kevin had taken us there the evening before during our Jeep tour.) It was more peaceful.

Fortunately the moon was full during our visit.

Fortunately the moon was full during our visit.

Then we drove across to where we could look at West Sedona and the rocks beyond. We going tomorrow AM.

[This is where that particular trip record ends. Hope you enjoyed this part.]

Incredible Trompe-l’œil Flood Wall Murals

A couple of weekends ag0 my husband, my brother and his girlfriend, and I traveled to Portsmouth, Ohio.  Our main purpose for visiting that part of Ohio was to go to Serpent Mound the next day; but that’s a separate blog post.

Having visited Portsmouth last year with my husband, I knew that my brother and his girlfriend would enjoy the incredible murals on the flood wall in Portsmouth along the Ohio River.

The murals are on the city side of sixty 20-foot-high panels. See a portion of them below:

Portion of Portsmouth Flood Wall Mural

A couple of the murals caught my eye.  Of particular interest was the trompe-l’œil cat shown here:

Think this is 3-dimensional? Think again.

It sure looks 3-dimensional; but really, it’s not. The “step,” the door, even “Woodrow’s” food dish only appear to be 3-D.  And poor Woodrow? He’s flat as a coat of paint. (See below.)

See? I’m 2-D.

Many of the murals are realistic depictions of scenes in Portsmouth from one era or another.

Another notable mural panel was a view of Portsmouth from the perspective of someone on the opposite bank in Kentucky.

Here’s looking at you, Portsmouth!

It looks like a photograph.  Even looking at it from across the street, as we did, it looks remarkably realistic.

If you’re ever near south-central Ohio,  make a trip to Portsmouth and check out the murals.  You’ll be glad you did.

Trail Magic? Hidden Gem? Probably Both.

Herringbone table runner created by my mother.

Ever heard of “trail magic?” In hiking, it’s something akin to a serendipitous blessing received (sometimes anonymously) when one expects it least and needs it most.

A “hidden gem” is something wonderful that is hidden (or unknown) prior to unexpected discovery,

The Historic Smithville Park in South Jersey is one of those hidden gems.  And the quilt exhibit we saw there last weekend was the icing on the cake (er, gem; but you get the idea).

My husband and I were out taking a ride with my Mother In-Law, just (sorta) looking for Historic Smithville Park.  If we couldn’t find it, no harm, no foul; we were just out enjoying the great weather.

The park is listed on the Burlington County, NJ, Parks web page. They provided directions to the park, but we opted to use our GPS to find it.  I could not for the life of me get my navigation system to find the location, so I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever find it.

Well, we did find it. And what a hidden gem.

It’s a lovely little park (well, not too little: it’s 312 acres along Rancocas  Creek includes a “floating trail” over the 22-acre Smithville Lake.  The park also includes restored workers’ homes from the 19th Century Smithville Industrial Village and well as the mansion belonging to village founder H.B. Smith.

And here’s the trail magic:  It so happened that there was an ongoing exhibit (it was to end the following weekend!) at one of the restored workers’ homes.  This newly renovated “Workers House Gallery” was being inaugurated with a quilt exhibit.  “[The exhibit] contains quilts made, used, and still owned by 6 succeeding generations of the same Burlington County family. The quilts are similar to what might have been found in homes throughout the village of Smithville.” [Source: exhibit brochure/Board of Chosen Freeholders, Burlington County, NJ.]  (Here is a news report about the exhibit.)

One of the ladies who made 6 of the quilts on exhibit showed us around.  (Thank you, Dorothy, for allowing me to take pictures and for the wonderful tour of your family’s collection.)

I was so excited to see these quilts.  My mother made patchwork scrap quilts to give as gifts, to donate to charities such as Care Wear and their clients; and to use at home. I was tickled to see one of the many patterns my mother used (narrow strips sewn together) in one of the quilts.  My mom used this technique in lap robes for Senior Citizens as well as in table runners and other small items.  I’m looking at a table runner right now that used that technique.

Check out the photos of the quilts on exhibit.  (Please don’t miss Jack’s quilt that he designed at age 6!)

The quilts speak of history and the lives of the women who made them. Most of them are not the examples of outstanding artistry one find in a typical quilt show. They are not dazzling showpieces; they are workhorses made – and used – by one local family.  Although some of them were intended as precious heirlooms, others are quilts made by a child learning to sew under protest, hardworking bedclothes made from craps during an era when waste was unthinkable, gifts to welcome new babies, art projects made by a little boy with his loving grandmother, and quilts made as a created outlet by women with busy lives and demanding careers.  — Source: exhibit brochure.

The Quilts:

(l) Pattern: Flying geese. 1880.
(r) Pattern: Pineapple (a log cabin variation)

Larger view of Pineapple pattern quilt.

Pattern: Sampler. 1980.

(l) Pattern: Square blocks. 2011.
(c) The center panels of this quilt are from a cloth story book. 2005.
(r) Pattern: Peony. 1997.

Quilt by 6-year-old Jack. Jack laid out the rows, which were then stitched by his grandmother Dorothy.
Pattern: Random rows. 2012.

(l) Pattern: Seven stars. 1930.
(c) Pattern: Pinwheels. 1930.
(r) Pattern: Crazy quilt. 1880.

(top) Pattern: Flying Gees, log cabin corner squares. 1990.
(bottom) Pattern: Rose of Sharon with scalloped border. 1930.

A Visit to the Plague Village

The churchyard at Eyam, Derbyshire, on the rainy day we visited.

It was a very rainy day, something not unheard-of in those parts. We were making our way across the midsection of England from visiting a friend in Shropshire over to our next stop, Cambridge.

But first we had to make a stop.

Some would say a morbid stop; but one I wanted to make nonetheless.  You see, I had read Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague some years earlier and wanted to see the town in which it all transpired.

The gloomy weather was a fitting backdrop for our visit to Eyam, Derbyshire, UK. (You can see better pictures of the churchyard at the link.)

We were able to see the graves in the churchyard standing in silent memory to those who perished in that awful time, but also to those who survived and were able to die of natural causes.  But we were also able to see the grave markers of the survivors’ descendants who lived out their lives in the years and generations since the Plague Year.

It was moving enter the church and see the names of the Plague victims on the walls and to know that the reverend at the time urged a quarantine for the entire town to avoid spreading the Plague to the rest of England.

Such a forward-looking act by him and a selfless act by all the townspeople.

The rain cleared as we left Eyam and continued on our way to Cambridge.

I was glad we visited.

[I was reminded of our 2002 visit to Eyam by an email I received from the “Now I Know” list. Today’s mailing was “The Plague Village.” Thank you, Dan Lewis, for the memories.]

World’s Fairs – More Than I Thought

The subject of World’s Fairs came up at the Christmas Dinner table last month. Some thought there hadn’t been one in years or at least since 2000 in London .   We all cited the Seattle Space Needle (1962 World’s Fair), the London Millenium Dome and the London Eye (2000 World’s Fair) as permanent structures in cities that hosted the Fairs.   I don’t think any of us realized just how long there have been World’s Fairs and how many there had been since 2000.

First a word about World’s Fairs or World Expos:  The Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) is an intergovernmental organization created to supervise international exhibitions (also known as Expos or World’s Fairs) falling under the jurisdiction of the Convention Relating to International Exhibitions.   Only member-countries can host a BIE-sanctioned world’s fair or exposition.

As you may notice by the list at left (part of the full list of BIE members), the United States is not part of the BIE.  The U.S. withdrew its membership in 2001, primarily because funds were not allocated by Congress for this purpose.  (Membership costs a mere $25,000.)   This page provides more information and links to contact Congress.

The first officially (retrospectively) sanctioned world’s fair/exposition was the 1851 Great Exposition in London.  There were, however, several prior world’s fairs/expositions, beginning with 1756’s First Exhibition in London.  There were several fairs and expositions throughout the late 18th century and into the first half of the 19th century.

The first time a world’s fair or exposition was held in the United States was New York’s American Institute Fair in 1829.  It would not be until 1853 that the US would host the  Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. The fair featured its own glass and iron exhibition building – the New York Crystal Palace – directly inspired by London’s.

The last time a World Exposition or World’s Fair was held in the United States was the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, a world’s fair held in New Orleans, Louisiana.   (Another famous world’s fair held in the U.S. was the 1964New York World’s Fair.  This fair was plagued with financial mismanagement. Also, despite the fact that BIE insisted that all officially sanctioned fairs have a midway, the Fair organizers refused to incorporate an amusement midway.)

The next World’s Fair/Expo is Expo 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea, from May 12, 2012 through August 12, 2012.

I had no idea there were so many world’s fairs and expositions.

Thank you for reading.

Get Your Motor Runnin’ (Head Out on the Highway)

I did something last month that I hadn’t done in 17 years.  I drove from the DC area to Pittsburgh and back by myself.  Let me explain why and what I discovered during the drive.

Continue reading

Can You Spell ASCII?

Welcome to another trip back in time.  This time we’ll look at … ASCII art.

The piece of ASCII art shown above was included in an email I received circa 1998.  Those of “a certain age” may remember when ASCII art showed up in email signatures, at the bottom of Usenet articles, and in forum posts.  Back then, most communication tools, computer displays, and printers used fixed-width fonts.  Pictures couldn’t be represented in emails or on Usenet.  So creativity prevailed:  Users used their keyboards and typewriters to create pictures.

The train shown above is relatively simple ASCII art when compared to other ASCII creations out there (examples here, here, and here). Even emoticons can be thought of as ASCII art, albeit at its most basic.

The rise of ASCII art can be traced to the 1970’s and early 1980’s with the growth of bulletin boards and later with Internet email and Usenet newsgroups.  ASCII art requires a fixed-width font (such as Courier).  In the 1990’s ASCII art began to wane when email clients and monitors were able to display variable-width fonts (such as Arial).

I once tried to design an ASCII banner/ribbon that I used in a “sig file” in my early email.  The idea was that my contact information would be ‘on” the ribbon.  I got hopelessly cross-eyed while working on it, so I gave up and “lifted” one from one of the many sig files out there.

I kind of miss the ASCII art.  Now nearly all of the email I get has been created on a “rich-text” editor, with a variable-width font.  Even though I have my email setting to Plain Text, nary an occurrence of ASCII art slips through.  Now, if someone wants to include a picture in their sig file, well, they just add a picture.  Gone (for the most part) are the days of wonderful, clever, and yes, artistic creations using just the keys on your keyboard.

Travelogue of the Old Web – Part I

Yeah, well, I already ‘fessed up (here) to being a digital pack rat, so the focus of this post shouldn’t be too odd.

While sorting through my hard drive files today, I came across “oldbookmarklist-1.htm,”  an old bookmark file from an old computer I had.  I don’t have a date for it; but by the looks of things, it’s vintage 2002 or so; but it includes bookmarks that were captured in the ‘90’s.

I was clicking through some of the bookmarks and found that (in some cases) the site no longer exists or has been transformed into something completely different.  But in many cases the bookmarks were still valid and lead to sites that appear to be frozen in time. They don’t appear to have been updated, and provide a glimpse into what the Web was like back then.  (Yeah, you could go to the Wayback Machine, but my prose is way better than theirs.)

In these “travelogue” entries, I’ll take you down the path of discovery that sheds some light on the earlier days of the World Wide Web.  My old bookmark file has scores of URLs; and there are probably countless opportunities to examine “the old Web.”

First up: All Things Web (ATW).

  • The landing page indicates that it is vintage 1999. The “What’s News” link is labeled “as of May 28, 1999.”
  • It links to ATW’s Third “State of the Web” survey, which was done in May 1999. Main findings? Link rot is pervasive and pages are too big.
  • Frames, frames, & more frames.  Remember when the debate raged about whether or not to use Frames in Web sites?  ATW examines it here and here.  Is anyone else happy to see that Frames seem to have disappeared?
  • They have an entire section (“The Need for Speed”) devoted to discussing way to decrease “the actual and apparent load time of Web pages.” It is interesting to note that the AWS survey cited above reads:  “Pundits in the trade press have decreed 1999 to be the Year of Bountiful Bandwidth. (Of course, that’s also what they said about 1998!) The upward “creep” in page size suggests that some myopic Web designers may have actually begun to believe such drivel.” Thank goodness for broadband, eh?
  • The Web was fairly new back then, and Web authoring was new as well.  I recall many, many sites in the late 90’s and early 2000’s devoted to Web site construction.  AWS plays its part as well with a “Design Fundamentals” section.
  • But, some things never change.  The ATW authors note: “Don’t use reports of your browser’s popularity as an excuse for invalid, exclusionary, non-HTML markup tags.
  • Usability is key.  Although this is (almost) the last bullet here, “The Usable Web” is the first section on the ATW Web site.  User-centered design was – and IS – key.  My philosophy always has been that without users, why bother even having a site; so you should design it with users in mind.
  • Last but not least, there are the “ATW Perspectives, Essays on the WWW.” There are some interesting discussions of this “new” way of presenting information (the Web). Well worth a glance.

So, there you have it:  a look at a Twentieth-Century Web page.  It’s a very basic design (thankfully, no Frames!).  And notice how all the top-level links are visible on the Home Page, with no need for scrolling? Nice touch.

And, finally, using a technique I learned years ago (1997?), I “shaved” the All Things Web URL back to its root (  Well. Imagine my surprise when I was presented with a page that read “Down for maintenance.”  Wonder how long it’s been down?

I’m not sure where my old-bookmark URL travels will take me next.  I hope you enjoy reading these travelogues and will come along for the ride.