Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Just Another Excursion...

This one was  to visit our son and family, plus meet some friends for sightseeing.  The trip south was uneventful.   Well except for a couple things...

With my wife present, I traveled in women's shorts and a short sleeve tunic, flats (no pantyhose), my necklace, and purse.    (As well as, the ever present pink nails and long hair - of course.)

At a gas/convenience stop in Maryland, my wife went in to use the potty while I filled the car's gas tank.  She returned and said nothing about anything being amiss.  So I moved the car to a parking place and went in to use the restroom.   Both men's and women's rooms were in the same hallway, with the men's room further down.   Four fat, bearded and mustachioed "stereotypical bubbas" were standing there by the women's room door, waiting in line for men's room, which was being cleaned. 

My need to use the restroom was very, very urgent.  Strangely enough, with my purse over my shoulder, I didn't give it a second thought...   Four pairs of eyes were watching me as I tapped on the women's room door.  Hearing no answer, I entered.  (Luckily it was a one-holer.)   I used the facilities as a woman, and came out in an appropriate length of time, to find the "bubbas" still waiting in line.   I said to them..."Have a good day, guys."  Their response:  "You too, Ma'am."

Though I don't do something that brazen very often (and specifically avoid it as much as possible), it was rather uneventful...considering that so many things could have gone wrong.   (Like a fight with the "bubbas", or soaking wet shorts...) 

Back at the car:  "I thought you'd take a lot longer than that, with the line for the men's room.  Do we need to stop at the next place with a restroom?"    "No, I used the women's room."  "Oh.  Well, at least you look the part."  Then, the subject was changed.

Surprising, right?

We stopped for lunch enroute - at a Cracker Barrel.  There, we were addressed as "ladies" as we were escorted to seats.  And the same situation existed all through dinner...   Hmmmmm -  I didn't think I looked all that feminine.   Guess I was wrong!

Among friends, who already know my gender, there is no confusion.  During our trip, I did hear a comment from one male friend.  He commented..."I can tell that you don't work on your antique car yourself."  I already knew the reason he would I replied "And why might that be?"   His response: "Those pretty nails wouldn't survive if you did."  From there, I led the subject off the nails path and into a discussion of my mechanic, and it never came up again.  (Incidentally, this guy was the same one who joked "Hey, nice skirt" when I had my sweater tied around my waist last year.  At least he doesn't pursue it further.)

My typical traveling outfit,...this was taken during a historic house tour on one of our sightseeing days:

Guess I look a bit more feminine than I thought....


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Trip finale...

By that time, I was getting hungry, and ready for dinner.   And,  I chose to avoid the crowds elsewhere by eating in the "dining car."  It worked, and I beat the rush.  Folks were too busy with the fun things in the area and hadn't stopped to eat yet.

From the window pattern on the side of the restaurant, it appeared to be a former coach, converted to food service.  But whatever it was "back in the day," it looked nice inside.    And the food was good.

Obviously, I managed to get there before it got too busy.

Walking around the venue after my meal, I spotted this unusual vehicle.  It looked more like a kiddie toy than a real car, but it had a right-hand drive and looked capable of on-road use, so it must be European.  And it has the VW emblem on it.  Could it be the new version of the venerable old Microbus that VW is allegedly bringing out?  I looked up on the internet...but it just seemed too small (inside and out) to be a real car.   Those wheels and tires are simply tiny.  

So I'll ask the question of the day:  "Does anyone know what it really is?"

What finer way to cap a long day, than with a pretty sunset?   Visible right from my room was this beauty:

The second (and  final) day of my excursion dawned sunny and clear (after some overnight showers), and I decided to visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, a short drive (three minutes) away.  After checking out of the motel the next morning, and before heading home,  I dropped in.  Having been there before, I concentrated my visit on the outside display areas, which had been closed on the previous visit.

Seen above are a former Lehigh Valley rail diesel car - a self-contained passenger car, complete with traction motors and a diesel engine on board, and cab controls in the vestibules, so it can run in either direction without a separate engine - and a former Reading Railroad observation car which ran on their streamliner "The Crusader."   There were many more historic pieces in the yard, including a former Amtrak AEM-7 electric locomotive, recently retired - the most modern exhibit.

"Take a ride on the Reading..."     That was a slogan the railroad used in its ads, "back in the day."  But automobiles and airlines took became darlings of the travel industry, and the Reading (along with other historic passenger railroad names) became part of US Transportation History.    At least we still have Amtrak, and I hope it continues to operate...for a long time to come.

With the museum's location (just across the street from the Strasburg Railroad), it was easy to walk over there and do some sightseeing as the first train of the day was assembled and prepared for departure.

From there, I pointed the front of the car toward home.   No cornfield changing needed this time!
And yes, as you can tell, I had a wonderful excursion!

Even without the added attraction of the Tri-motor, the Strasburg area is great for families...if you ever get a chance to visit, be sure to take the whole gang.  There is plenty to do in the area...


Friday, September 1, 2017

"Red Cabooses" - which aren't all red!

My "home away from home" for this short visit was the Red Caboose Motel.  Pictured below, the cabooses are all lettered for different railroads, and thus aren't all red.  But they're in decent shape, the bed was comfortable, everything worked properly, and the room was clean.  What more does a girl need?

After a walk around the property, I headed for a nearby airport to see the other "object of my desire" - a 1929 model airplane designed by William Bushnell Stout (following some principles copied from the work of Professor Hugo Junkers, noted German all-metal aircraft design pioneer.)   Ford bought out Stout's "Stout Metal Airplane Company" in 1925, thus the aircraft was truly manufactured by Ford, with 3 Curtiss-Wright radial engines.  And aptly called a "Ford Tri-motor.  In its day, it won success as a dependable cargo plane/early commercial airliner, which had 8 or 9 removable seats.   And these planes ultimately participated in an early air-mail arrangement with the Post Office.

The last Tri-motor was built in 1933, but that wasn't to be the end of Ford's aviation adventures.  During WW II, the largest aircraft manufacturing plant in the world was built at the Willow Run, Michigan plant, where Ford produced thousands of the B-24 Liberator bombers under license from Consolidated Aircraft.

Maybe someday I'll get a chance to ride in one of those...

Here I am, standing next to the Tri-motor.

And an interior shot:

Rather luxurious digs, much nicer than some of today's aircraft, IMHO.  And the windows are huge, large enough to actually let the occupants see the passing scenery.  With a ceiling of just over 16,000' and a cruising speed in the vicinity of 110 mph, this plane stayed low and slow, for fantastic viewing of the countryside.

Above is an in-flight picture...

This plane was lettered for the Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), an airline founded in 1928 and merged in 1930 with Western Air Express to form Transcontinental and Western Air, which ultimately became TWA (now defunct.)   It initially offered a 51 hour train/plane trip for just over $300 including sleeping car berths) from NYC to Columbus on the train, Columbus to Waynoka, OK, by plane, and train again from Waynoka to Clovis, NM.  (At the time, there were no sophisticated naviagtional aids in aircraft...thus no long distance night flight.)  There they would board another Tri-motor to finish the trip to Los Angeles in the daytime.

After the flight....

Stay tuned for more...


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Some fun...both trains, and planes...

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Lancaster, PA area for some rail-and-aviation-fanning.   The Strasburg Railroad is a perennial favorite, as is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  And as an extra added attraction, an operating Ford Tri-motor aircraft was scheduled to be visiting a nearby airport.  I seldom miss a chance to visit Lancaster - whenever the opportunity arises.  And I heard it calling my name...

Before anyone asks, on this trip Mandy did not have any opportunity to climb out of the suitcase, even though I had packed some of her clothes.  I went with my everyday feminine appearance,  wearing shorts, women's tunic top and flats, but no skirt or dress.  I carried my purse, had my long hair flowing in the breeze and my pink acrylic nails glowing in the I wore my necklace and bracelet,  makeup with lipstick, and perfume.  As you can see, I was fairly androgynous, and perhaps a massive enigma for the locals.

Remember, that area is very religious, and as I understand it, the Amish influence means strict adherence to the male/female binary.  Boys are boys and girls are girls. Period. Women/girls raise the kids, and men/boys work the fields.  None of this "Boys are Girls in the wrong body" or gender dysphoria stuff.  

I didn't hear "Ma'am" very often.  That was disappointing.  But on the other hand, I didn't hear "Sir" at all.  Ninety-five percent of the time, there were no hints of any gender recognition.  Yes, I did notice a few of the local kids in Amish garb doing double-takes.  I expected that, and would love to hear the questions their parents got (as well as their probably-brutally-religious-inspired answers.)   I just wonder (and will never know) if wearing a dress would have improved or decreased my odds of being recognized for what I am?

Back to the trip...   Naturally, I took the "route less traveled" going north.  As such, I went through some agricultural areas, including many farms owned and operated by the Amish (or Pennsylvania Dutch) folks.  They do not drive cars, and travel in one-or-two-horsepower buggies.  (Yep, real horses...not gasoline-powered engines.)  This type of travel helps tremendously in the fight against pollution from burning fossil fuels...   Of course,  it also results in a very predictable type of pollution, an accumulation of which is left behind with each buggy's you can see below.

Eeeeeeewwwwwwww....especially in road spray from rainstorms...

This type of transportation is much simpler to maintain than our current automobiles, with their fancy tecnological features and internal combustion engines.   The only "blue tooth" you might find on these early types of conveyances, might be a bluish cast on the tooth/teeth of one of the horses after they eat blueberries.  Some buggies even seem to have moved into the age of technology, with battery-operated lights on the front and back. and most of them have natural types of air top, sides or backs.    (Like the old cars from the 1950's which had what we called "2-60 air conditioning".  Roll down 2 windows and do 60 mph.)

Buggy owners can do most maintenance themselves.  But this does not bode well for the auto mechanics of the area.  So what can they do to make up for lost business?  One enterprising individual in Nickel Mines, PA opened a "coach shop."   When a farmer's buggy finally needs professional help, or after a wreck, he can take it to the coach shop....

As I drove past, I noticed a number of buggies in the coach shop's yard, hidden by shrubbery.  Couldn't get a picture... and wasn't ready to go in and ask if I could take one.   :-(

A bit about Nickel Mines, PA:   Per Wikipedia, it's named after the mines where millerite (a sulfide) ore (a form of unrefined nickel) was mined in the mid-1800's.  The first mining company sold its interests to Joseph Wharton (founder of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania) in 1862. And he refined the ore to retrieve the nickel, in Camden NJ.   Ultimately, between 1862 and 1893 they extracted 4.5 million pounds of nickel from the mines, and Wharton was influential in persuading the US Mint to issue the first five-cent nickel coins in 1866, using the nickel from his mines.

The last mines closed in 1893 because of competition from new nickel mines in Canada., and there are no traces of mining left, except for a few waste piles. The area is now completely agricultural.  As of 2016 there are 16 households in town, and the area has a high percentage of Amish residents.

The above is central downtown Nickel Mines.   There is a crossroads between the gray stone house and the white house in the distance.  No stop light, of course.  Just a stop sign, with a rather ignorant driver of a modern "horseless carriage" who apparently wasn't happy with me sightseeing in the area.  It appeared as though he was trying to ram me as I pulled through the intersection.  A motion of my foot, a squeal from my tires, and I was clear of him.  He roared off into the distance.  Obviously not an offended Amishman...they don't drive cars.

All the "action" made me hungry, so I headed into Strasburg, PA for lunch.  It's a lovely old town, founded in 1733, and the architecture is very "period."  I ate in an old storefront, now an ice cream store and deli. 

Though the above photo doesn't show it (due to a temporary lull in traffic), there were a fair number of tourists in town, doing what I was doing...getting lunch.  And most of them were elderly....local schools may have been back in session, based on the number of cars in school parking lots.

After lunch I did a bit of train-spotting.  It's easy, as the line parallels the main road, with intersections every so often.  And I wasn't alone...there were other railfans out and about.   On such a beautiful day,  why not? 

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves....

Stay tuned for part 2...


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse Day

August 21, 2017 - the day of the total solar eclipse (moon gets between the earth and the sun),  which traversed the USA from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast.  Though there have been many generic eclipses since then, reportedly the previous total eclipse to go from the west coast to the east coast across the USA was 99 years ago...about 1916. 

This one certainly was widely publicized, and it tempted many folks to flock to the 70-mile-wide line of totality - despite no assurances of good weather for viewing the celestial event.    Areas not within that narrow line were to be treated to a partial solar eclipse, where the moon only partially covers the sun.   Those are much more widely viewable.

We elected to stay home and view the partial eclipse with friends in the neighborhood...any excuse for a party!

Back in 1963, my dad and mom took me to Cadillac Mountain in Maine (near Bar Harbor) to see the eclipse from there.  It was magnificent.  While I don't have pictures, I have the memories - of the darkness at totality, the temperature change, the birds preparing for night, the change in insect noises, and so on.    But I used a small telescope and used a method of projecting the sun's image onto a piece of cardboard so as to not need to use viewing glasses - which were not as readily available back then.

This partial eclipse confirmed that partials do not afford the changes which I previously noted in the total eclipse "back in the day."  But the same telescope I used back then, once again served yeoman duty, and we - along with a number of other folks at the gathering - used the projected image as shown below, to safely view the eclipse without glasses.  It was fun - even though it only reached about 80 percent coverage.

Unfortunately, Mandy was not able to be everyday persona was front and center.  Our friends know my sartorial style...and I was not misgendered  (or more appropriately, was addressed as a male all afternoon.)  :-(

Projecting the image of the eclipse for safe viewing.

Just as the camera was tripped, the sun darted behind a cloud.  Fortunately it reappeared a few seconds later.

Another projected image

Even the trees assisted in providing a good view of the eclipse - through their leaves!

Would it have been nice to see the "totality" part of the eclipse?  Sure.  But the financial risk wasn't worth it.   Sometimes second choice is better...


Monday, August 21, 2017

A lull in the activity here...

It's been quiet as far as exciting news goes...only two things in the "Something New" category:

Our post office has a number of new employees - retirement lured all the old timers away.   And today a number of things marked "college loan" (but for a girl - not me) arrived in our mail.  It looked like important stuff, and had first class postage.  So I took it into the post office and went to the window.  A sweet young girl came over, apparently a new employee.

"May I help you, Ma'am?"  My response:  "Sure.  These came in my mail.  The address is correct, but there's nobody here by this name." "Oh.  So you're not Jessica?"   "No, Miss, I'm not." "OK, we'll take care of it."  "Thank you so much, Miss.'"  "Glad we could help, Ma'am.  Thanks for bringing it to our attention."

I guess to her, I'm a girl.  For as long as that lasts!  Love it...

But when we went out for lunch a few days ago (at the same restaurant where we were "ladies" last time), this time the hostess did not use gendered greetings, for either of us.  And the male server used "folks" a few times, nothing the rest of the time.   

 My wife wasn't offended by not being addressed as Ma'am.   So I'm not either.  (At least I didn't hear the dreaded "S" word.)   Oh, well, it is what it is!!!

Till next time...


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Another short excursion...and the day after.

A Quickie:

We'd known for some time that my wife's niece's wedding was forthcoming.  Their special weekend approached and we headed out of town by car...

My daytime outfits enroute to/from this event were women's shorts and short-sleeve tops, with a pair of women's sandals.  To bystanders, my wife apparently was the lady of the pair, and I was neither "Sir nor Ma'am."   (This same phenomenon occurred on the way home.)

Enroute west by car, my wife noticed my pink nails (first time in 2+ months), and commented that she wished I had gotten clear.  I replied that they have been this way for a while (true), and it's hardly noticeable (except to her.)   Fortunately, the subject was dropped...

The wedding itself was a wonderful celebration.  And as I greeted the happy couple, I actually had tears of joy for them in my eyes...   (Since guys aren't supposed to cry, I wonder what this means for me?)  I wish for them a long and happy life together!

My dress-up outfit for the wedding was a blend of male and female...the men's part of it was the sport coat I wore at work till I retired.  (It was a bit snug at the waist when buttoned, but basically it still fit.)   Also, a pair of women's polyester dress slacks (which don't wrinkle, no matter what you do to them), black pantyhose, a women's short sleeve white shirt with shirt collar, and a nondescript necktie, which  I still can tie.   (All those years of tying one every day make it sort of like "you never forget how to ride a bike!")    And black patent ballet-style flats.  My nails were pink, my hair was in a relatively high ponytail, and I carried my purse... but wore no makeup or jewelry.

Some of the folks knew me, and addressed me by name.  Younger friends of the happy couple met us for the first time, and there was no issue - we are our son's parents.  (I couldn't tell if they believe we're a boy-girl couple or a girl-girl couple - because my given name is now used by females.)

However, at the reception afterwards, the answer became a bit clearer.I asked the female server for more water.  And I heard "yes Ma'am." When she returned with the water pitcher and filled my glass,  I thanked her.  Her reply:  "You're welcome Ma'am."  My wife was deep in conversation with the kids, thus they didn't hear the exchange.  (Which is fortunate.)

I found this quite attire did not reek of femininity.  Does that mean I'm becoming effeminate in my everyday behavior?  Or since she approached me from the back, did the ponytail cause her to identify me as female?  The latter is possible, but I'll never know...

And the day after getting home from the trip, I stopped at the auto parts store in a nearby town - not the one where the guy in a skirt used to work.    :-(    I was wearing a shorts and women's tee outfit, with sandals, and was promptly identified as "Miss."  They even installed the wiper blades on my car for me, "so you don't mess up your nails, Miss."

Definitely another good day for me...