Thursday, November 22, 2012

My expanding girth, my increasing bulk, my encroaching planetutdinous waistline.

We start this post with a reference to our overnight trip to Texas. We went down on Monday, met with friends who were putting us up overnight and went to Cracker Barrel for dinner before our meeting.

For those of you unfamiliar with Cracker Barrel here's a picture.

It is a restaurant and store. Usually when we eat, we browse at the store which is their intended idea. Tonight we didn't have time, as we had to get over to the Sheraton DFW for a BOFCI meeting.

Things went very well at the meeting with excellent information that was applicable to business people across racial, gender, age, economic and cultural lines.

Since today was the American Thanksgiving, we started cooking when we got home yesterday afternoon. On the menu was homemade mac & cheese.

The next thing on the menu was stuffing, with onion, nicely spiced and baked separately from the main dish.

What would a holiday dinner be without gravy? Giblets, finely minced and added to the gravy, with a chopped boiled egg, and cooked until thickened. Yow!!! I'm a big fan of the gravy.

Here we have collard greens, also cooked with onion, red bell peppers and heated. Delicious and good for you because they have high fiber content.

So to the main dish. Scooterchick went with duck this year instead of turkey. It was stuffed with cut apple which itself was spiced. It came out perfect, juicy and delicious.

Here's Tracy with a full plate, ready to tuck in. After all that cooking we were ready to tackle this meal and really stick our boots in it. Delicious.

Here's a picture of Scooterchick going after her food like she's mad at it. She is an excellent cook, and I love to eat. We finished eating by about 3, had the leftovers packaged and the kitchen clean by about 4:30 and I couldn't even get near the Sweet Potato Pie util about 8:00. I was stuffed like  a Boa after swallowing a peccary. I had to become one with the couch and wait until my stomach reduced to  a manageable size and I could contemplate pie with cool whip.

After the kitchen was cleaned, I took out the garbage. I noticed the crepe myrtle had changed color and wanted to catch a picture of the sun sinking on the upper branches. Soon all the leaves will be off and it will be time to head back to the Great North Wet.

Now, with my girth reduced to a more human and less sideshow size, I retire. Bon Soir!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Along came a Snyder

You may be conversant with the child's nursery rhyme, Little Miss Muffet. If so you know the line which starts "along came a spider". Not professing a fondness for spiders of any stripe, I thought a Snyder would be a workable compromise. So off we headed to Snyder OK. (pop. 1394). It is less than an hour's ride from here. Here is the indefatigable Scooterchick ready to saddle up.

Here are some bridges across a wide span of dry land, weird no? Actually, These bridges span the North Fork of the Red River, and during flood stage, the entire river bottom would be flowing fast. Hard to believe now, but there you are.

Turning off onto Bus 62 we drive east to Snyder. more about Snyder later, but our first stop is Great Plains State Park at Tom Sneed Lake. This is a large Lake and a popular recreational area.

There is a large campsite on the east side of the lake with space for 34 tent sites and 64 RV sites. There is a large swimming beach and a boat launch for those wishing to fish. Here we have 2 scooters hiding in the shade of a tree.

This is the first time I have seen one of these next-gen fire pits. These are manufactured by a company called Pilot Rock. This model is so new they don't even have it up on their website yet. It includes a formed and welded steel base. The entire ring and grill section is hinged at the back for tilting and easy clean out. The grill portion is over sized and multi-adjustable. Now that's camping innovation.

This is a picture of  Tom Sneed on the road to the dam. It's a nice lake, and I would like to return at some point in the future. The one thing that surprised us was the flies. Even at this late date there are still plenty, and with fewer tourists, the flock in pretty quickly. Not biting, just looking for food I guess.

Here is a picture of my darling Scooterchick, smiling and posing for the camera. What a great riding companion she is. She has been feeling  little iffy today, sore throat and such but she keeps rolling on.

This is the dam that impounds Tom Sneed Lake, and provides flood control for those downstream. It has been said that a person whispering at one end of the dam is clearly audible to someone listening at the other end due the curvature of the face, and the benefit of  acoustics. Sadly we were unable to test this out. I was kinda looking forward to it.

Here is a motion shot of Scooterchick riding lakeside, doesn't she look cool. Yes she does!!
The weather today was warm and dry, and it didn't get too windy until we were almost home.

Here is another picture of my beloved. She stopped at the side of the road to take a picture. And just what would this picture be you ask?

Why, it's a barn in a rather dilapidated condition. This one is just about done, and has an interesting angle to it. I suspect next year about this time it will be an artfully arranged pile of lumber.

We rolled back into Snyder. Remember Snyder? This is a sleepy little burgh, and has sections which look fairly prosperous and other neighborhoods which one looks at and goes Sheesh!

This is the FRANROY. It is a theater from the 1930's, now in disrepair. I'll bet it was quite the hot spot back in the day though.

Her is a building which gives little clue to it's previous occupants. I thought the construction interesting though. The lower floor would have been glazed originally, and the upper story looks like stone. Looks can be deceiving though since the face was about one and a half inch stone veneer, and the turret was faced with pressed tin. stamped and painted to look like the stone facing. Only the weathering and integrity of the tin gave it away.

This is a picture of Floyd's. Too bad it's closed up. I would have liked to spend a dollar or two on something useless and when someone asked where it came from I could say, "why, I got that down to Floyd's in Snyder."

Here is a picture of Snyder City Hall. Although it looks in good repair if you look at the next building you will see it is not a building at all.

Here is another picture of the "building" beside the City Hall. Only the brick pillars and frontispiece remain. What was Gem? Was it the Gem, a Gem or Gemlike in it's simplicity. Another riddle......

There is a gas station in Snyder. It's called Willis' Quick Stop. One had better be quick in case someone else wants to use the pump.

For your edification I thought I would include a few shots of Altus Oklahoma, although in truth we were actually there yesterday. Here is a picture of a statue entitled "Crossing the Red" which shows a cowboy trying to get longhorn cattle across the Red river during a flood stage. It almost looks as if the steers are rolling their eyes in terror, while the cowboy wears a look of grim determination.

This statue which rests at the corner of a city park is called "Vision Seeker". I though it reminded me of  "The Thinker" by Auguste Rodin, in a contemplatively western way. I wonder what he's thinking, or if he's simply trying not to think and let the Creator tell him which way is up.

This is a decommissioned B-47 bomber. They were built between 1951-1965 and used for tactical nuclear support for the US Strategic Air Command.

And so we hit the highway to roll back to Lawton. At one point Scooterchick said her speedo read about 75mph (124km/h) and there was no more throttle left. Going uphill resulted in a loss of speed back to about 70mph, but that's pretty respectable for her scooter.

We arrive back at Lawton as the sun is sinking into the horizon, and grab a quick pic of the Welcome sign as we enter town. glad of a ride in the sun and new sights seen.

Scooterchick suggested some food, and we stopped at Hong Kong Buffet. The bill was $22. Hard to beat for all you can eat.

My beloved is pointing to her sore throat. Poor baby, she has calamities. Time for food though.

I don't know which brave frog gave up his leg for her dinner, but in his memory I say merci!
Sadly, although the jambe de grenouille was the first thing to go, she was unable to finish her plate.

I however made shot work of my plate, and went back for dessert. As you can see, I got my broccoli. I am a big fan of broccoli, and always look for some when we're out......or in.

I have included 2 sunset shots although strictly speaking they are Texan in origin. we collected them a little over a week ago on our way back from Texas. The colors of sunsets on the great plains are always arresting if the weather is clear. Any cloud cover is always brilliantly underlit.

The colors are always so transitory and ephemeral in nature. At times like this, I always feel thankful and privileged to be allowed to witness such beauty.

The end of my tale comes blessed until next time.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Repack, Reheat and Return

Our last day in Virginia. We managed to pack almost too much fun into our time here. We came right up to the line but we did not go over it. Any more fun may have resulted in permanent injury.

The repack is self explanatory as we put everything back into it's suitcase, rollerboard or computer case to repack the rental car. The reheat deserves a bit more explanation. We had way too much ice cream, too much broccoli, too much macaroni and cheese and altogether too much meatloaf for dinner, so guess what we had for breakfast? .....right first time.


After we had finished our dinner, er um breakfast,  and packed the car. We were ready to check out and head to our next destination. On the way to the resort check out, the sun was shining and I saw the opportunity for some excellent pictures.

The colors are starting to fade a little now but there are still a few brilliant examples. We were prepared to head out and I was sure I knew where I was going, having Google mapped it early in the morning. The route was firmly fixed in my head.....or so I thought!

After leaving the resort we noticed some big giant heads. It was clear that this was a park dedicated to Presidents and notable figures from the colonial days forward, all cast in busts of 10' high.

George Washington was clearly visible, If you look carefully in the background you can see Dwight Eisenhower, there were many others, but the park was closed.

After about an hour of driving on a trip which should have taken about 40 minutes, we came to our destination Berkely Plantation. The gates of the plantation are about a mile from the main residence.

The main house is accessed by the drive, and carriages would have drawn up to this main entrance to deliver guests. There was no such thing as an overnight guest. Due to the distances involved, guests came for days, weeks or even months, and the hospitality of this plantation was legendary.

Here is a quarter view of the main house. The construction of the house began in 1721, all of the bricks were made on the plantation and construction was completed and opened for occupancy in 1725.

This is one of the outbuildings, which was used as a recreation facility for the plantation indentured servants back in the day. It now houses the washrooms, and a rental premise for people who want to host an event on the grounds.

 This is another of the outbuildings. It was constructed around the same period as the main house, and was used for guests. Later as the girl children of the plantation became of marriageable age, it became known as the "bachelor's quarters" as unmarried men could not sleep in the main house with the single girls. Even in the 1700's young passion could overwhelm prudence and propriety.

This is the kitchen. They were deathly afraid of fire, so the kitchen was separated from the main house. It was connected by an underground passageway "known as the whistling passage" between the two, and apparently houseboys were instructed to whistle a tune while carrying food to the main house dining room, on the presumption that one could not whistle and eat at the same time!

If you look closely you can see a cannonball lodged in the wall that was never removed from the Civil War. General McLelland and his staff were quartered here for a portion of the Civil War and Presient Lincoln came down for a visit. As an interesting side note, McLelland encountered the confederate army in a fierce battle and sounded the retreat. Yeah....he was relieved of his command shortly thereafter.

This is a side view of the house. The tour begins with a descent to the basement. there is a short film with an overview of the history off the plantation. The foundation of the house is six feet deep of brick and mortar to support the massive weight of the structure. The exterior walls of the house are three feet thick, the interior dividing walls are eighteen inches thick, and the construction is solid timber and brick all of which was milled or cast and kilned on the property. The mortar was ground oyster shell, clay and horsehair with some lime. They did such a good job of building, that the bricks are still solid, and mortar still firmly set almost 300 years later!!!

This is a view towards the James River. The plantation was if not the first, within the first 3 or 4 land grants from James the King of England. Initially the grant was to the Berkely company, founded at Berkely Castle, Berkely, Gloucestershire. The then current Lord Berkely invested a group of adventurers with a grant form King James of 8,000 acres for the purpose of shipbuilding, logging and the growing of tobacco. The arrival of the Berkely company on the 4th of December 1619 is generally regarded as the First American Thanksgiving, as all the employees were directed in their instructions to kneel and give thanks to God for their safe arrival on the soil of the New World.

One of the unintended byproducts of the plantation was a distilled corn liquor, superior in all respects to English Ale, which was brewed by the Anglican priest in charge of the souls of the employees in 1721. This corn liquor's fame spread throughout the colonial holdings and thus the distillery of bourbon was born.

This is a view towards the river from the main house and shows one of the low fields where tobacco or cotton was grown.

The approach to the river was via a series of  5 terraces, dug by hand and ox cart in a traditional Georgian garden style. All of this work was accomplished by hand labor and many implements were recovered from the time and are on display, along with cannon balls, shot from the colonial days and minie balls (the forerunners of modern bullets) from the Civil War Days.

This is an example of the Harrison Rose which was brought over from Britain and grown in great quantity on the plantation.

In 1622 a coordinated Indian attack designed to drive the whites from their ancestral lands took place, where all of the inhabitants of Berkely were killed, and great losses inflicted in all plantations along the James River, the plantation charter lapsed and then was reissued to the Harrison family in 1634.

The Harrison family was considered to be one of the First Families of Virginia, and it was Benjamin the 4th. that took charge of Berkely. The fist Benjamin Harrison came from Britain in 1630, Ben Jr. and Ben the 3rd resided in Bermuda as tobacco growers. Ben the 4th. was the first to really work the plantation, founding a shipyard and Harrison's Landing for the receipt and shipment of freight.  Many colonial and American vessels were built here from the timber at Berkely. When you couldn't be sure when the next ship was to arrive from Britain, and there were furs and tobacco to be shipped, you built a ship to send it. This is what becomes of a grinding wheel when it has outlived it's intended purpose. It is still useful as a flagstone in a swampy area.

Or as a decor piece to offset the color of a berry bush beside the path.

This is a view towards the house that is lined with English Boxwood. This was a very popular hedging shrub in the colonial days, and has since fallen out favor.

Berkely was eventually bought at auction in 1907 by John Jamieson in 1907 who had served in General McLelland's troops 50 years earlier. He purchased the plantation used the timber value and leased the 1000 acres to tenant farmers who used the main house as a barn.

His son later took up residence and spent decades lovingly restoring the plantation and replanting the grounds. only 5 major trees had been left when the logging was finished. He and his wife spent their days happily at Berkely and their descendants still own the grounds, though their principal residence is in Richmond VA.

Leaving Berkely we took a leisurely drive up Hwy. 5 and ended up in Richmond. The vista over the James River is very pleasant. Here we look towards downtown.

It was time to eat again. We found a Starbucks that had tables inside and spread out our comestibles. We were trying to finish off everything we had and not have to carry anything else home with us.
We also made a tablecloth of paper towel, as the tabletop was was filthy.

This is the view out over the market. Not exactly splendid scenery but comfortable and warm. We had a leisurely lunch and proceeded towards the airport.

There are a number of buildings in the Main St. area of Richmond that have historical significance, most of which are old factories and warehouses.

The area is undergoing gentrification however, as forward thinking individuals are converting old factories to loft and condo spaces. Proximity to offices downtown, recreational opportunities along the river and great views are strong draws for hip young urbanites considering these spaces.

Lofts and condos start at $179,000 and this is not considered exorbitant by today's standards. To those of us who came up in the 70's and bought family homes for around 100K this seems pricey, considering there is also a condo fee. I know that in downtown Vancouver the same condo's would be 500K+. Life can be funny sometimes.

Upon leaving our "picnic spot", wee rode up the hill to view some historical homes. Most of these are from the 1840's and 1850's, some still as private homes and others converted to apartment rentals. This area is know as Rockett's View.

This is Rockett's View. This is a high promontory that overlooks the James River. The view is about 160 degrees and showed Confederate soldiers if the Union lads were coming up the river to attack. Many confederate cannon were eventually captured here.

This is a memorial to Confederate soldiers and sailors erected by the Daughters of Confederate Soldiers. This memorializes their sacrifice, even though the war was eventually lost by the Confederate  side. I am sure there are still many folk who swear "the south will rise again!"

This is a row of houses on the street fronting the park and monument. I found the cast iron posts and filigree detail quite interesting. it was slightly different to each house.

This is a view of the fall foliage, showing the fall away from the edge of Rockett's View. It's a steep drop. Mind your step, the first step is a looooooong one!

This is a long shot of the houses on Libby Terrace. This was named after the original Libby who built a four story brick house on the corner of 28th St. in 1851.

Returning to Main Street we caught a picture of Henrico County Court House. It would have been better without the man-lift. But hey.........

It was time to turn in the rental car and check in at the airport for our flight home. The sun was sinking in the Western Sky by the time we got to our gate.

Here's a picture of Scooterchick talking to someone on her phone. We have been making use of  Skype a lot while in the U.S. We need a wifi connection for this, but the cost beats cell rates by a mile.

Here is a picture of our arrival back at DFW. having had as you will recall dinner for breakfast, what could make more sense than breakfast for dinner, lunch having been in it's accustomed location. So for us it's off to IHOP. Then back to our friends home, a hot shower and a soft bed.

Our tale ends here. From the 1620's to the present day, with the 1700's, 1800's and 1900's in between this has been quite a day. And so, have a good sleep. I know we will...