Another Form of Distancing

Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Much is made these days of the idea of “social distancing,” a term I abhor because there ain’t nothing “social” about it.  I understand and support the idea of maintaining space, but I can’t help but wish that “they” had come up with a better term for it!

Kathy & I were having a conversation recently where – one of our frequent subjects – we talked about the fact that there is way too much information available these days – that there is a big difference between information and facts.  And she mentioned that there needs to be some term for the idea of maintaining “virtual distancing” from all the crap that circulates in the media and on the Internet.

Social Distancing, of course, means that my chances of getting cooties from someone decreases dramatically if they are outside my imaginary 6-foot personal space.  By a similar token, if some virtual boogieman – real or imagined – is outside my zone of relevance, it’s importance to me means very little.  We as a society pay way too much attention to people, voices and noise that have little or no direct influence on us.  Because it is out there we feel some sense of obligation, and we never take the time to think about whether or not it is useful, helpful or relevant.

Case in point: our upcoming presidential election.  We now know who the candidates are for each respective party.  I now know who I’m going to vote for.  Until I get my ballot in the mail, I don’t need to follow every analysis and every story relating to who vs. who or what vs. what or he said/she said.  And you can be assured there will be plenty of it – it’s been going on for months and will really get started today (although I would love to see a head to head debate between Ms. Harris and Trumpty Dumpty, which of course will never happen).  Send me my ballot and let me vote.  Beyond that I have no influence, I have no emotional investment.  I’ll do my civic duty as a responsible citizen and live with the results when I read them the next day.

Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico

I’m liking the concept of Virtual Distancing even more than Social Distancing.  Social Distancing is pretty easy – stay away from people!  Virtual distancing isn’t any harder, as long as we pay attention to who and what is trying to get our attention.  While the most effective form of distancing means staying completely away from people,  their ideas and their opinions, that just isn’t practical.  But just like we cast a wary eye on that person behind us in line at the grocery store, we need to approach our media consumption with the same level of caution and skepticism.  And turn it off when it makes sense to do so.

Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico

 

A Recalibration of Compromises

Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Kirk Tuck recently used this phrase in regards to making choices between camera options, specifically about different lenses.  The full quote follows:

The “science” of optical design can not have changed a tremendous amount in four or five years so you have to understand that the “new versus old” shift is largely a recalibration of compromises. Buy the new one and watch your left biceps atrophy. Buy the old one and suffer the dreaded effects of manual portage. Suffer the ruinous added weight of the original for the extra 1% of quality in the corners or choose the lightweight version and forever wonder how much optical magic they had to remove to get the lens corpulence under control.

It occurred to me, however, that the concept applies in a much broader context, especially in recent months.

Every decision we make requires some effort to balance the options, to compromise.  Do I want the camera with the big sensor that is huge, heavy and requires a large suitcase to cart around, or am I better off with the compact camera with a smaller sensor, small but excellent lenses and “good enough” image quality?  We want to travel – we love to fly but not not any time soon.  We have spent a lot of time on cruise ships but won’t for a while.  Our trip to the beach worked out really well – just like living at home but with better scenery. 😉

We love to eat our but have limited our restaurant outings.  We’ve gotten even better at preparing simple but delicious meals at home – much to the delight of the bathroom scale!

Kathy and I are currently in the process of planning a road trip to the Pacific Northwest.  The places we’re planning to visit are the places where we’re less likely to encounter big crowds.  As crazy as it sounds, we’ll probably drive within a few miles of Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks, but have no intention of stopping.  First, crowds are not our thing.  We probably would be doing pretty much the same thing even without all the Coronacrisis hoopla.  But second is that we don’t want to have to deal with the logistics of large crowds.  Third is that when we do go to those parks we want to be able to spend several days or even a couple of weeks there.  That isn’t the plan for this time.

Our recent drive to Ohio and Wisconsin taught us that we can eat, sleep, pee and get gas just about anywhere.  Sometimes it requires a little compromise on location or timing, but it can get done.  Ultimately, once we solve that basic equation we can go just about anywhere!

People ask us why we don’t buy an RV.  For some people it’s the perfect solution.  For us, we like knowing that when we get to the motel, tired after or driving or exploring all day, we don’t need to spend another hour setting up camp.  I can have cocktails made within minutes after arrival!  And the next morning, we grab a cup of coffee, drop the keys at the front desk and get on our way again.  Neither option is right or wrong, just different ways to calibrate the compromises.

None of our choices are either/or or yes/no.  We need to consider what we can do instead  We have to look at the options and recalibrate our compromises.  Our priorities, if you will.  It can be hard, particularly for those of us who don’t care for change.  But the effort is worth it, because there are still plenty of things to do once we have worked out the details.

Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Reprocessing Old Photos – Glacier Bay 2005

NEW VERSION: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

I’m going back through my old photos for a website update.  This one is already on my website, but I thought I would see what the current software (and my current Lightroom chops) could do with some of the files.  This is the first one I’ve tried this go-around, and I think I’ve made significant improvement.

I made a Snapshot in case I messed something up, then hit Reset.  Using the Adobe Landscape profile, I went though my usual routine with contrast, etc.  I added a gradient to the sky, using a Luminance Mask to apply the settings only to the lightest parts.  Overall contrast and saturation is much better, which is hard to see in the web versions.

It will be interesting to see what I can do with other files.  This may take a while…. 😉

Canon 20D w/17-40 f4

PREVIOUS VERSION: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

A More Reasonable Accommodation

This one would be quite enough, thank you!

Several of the commenters on my previous post mentioned the excessive-ness of the huge cottages on Lake Geneva.  Kathy & I did find a few that would be more reasonably sized, assuming you could afford the lot.  The top image is just the boat house for a larger mansion.  The A-frame would be just about right, I think.  Anyway, wanted to show what the folks on my side of the wealth curve would buy if we could! 😉

This would be the “stretch” home. Quite a stretch for anyone reading this blog!

How The “Other Half” Lives

Lakefront home belonging to the owners of the Mecum Auto Auction company

One of the highlights of our visit to Wisconsin was a cruise on Lake Geneva with our friends Jeff and Mary Pat.  The cruise featured a look at the numerous “summer cottages” that surround the lake.   They ain’t like any “cottages” I’ve ever seen, and would make a lot of the so-called “mansions” around Lake Norman look like guest houses.

Largest and arguably the ugliest home we saw on the lake!
Cottage built to look like a ship
An example of some of the “cottages” on Lake Geneva during our boat cruise
An example of some of the “cottages” on Lake Geneva during our boat cruise
An example of some of the “cottages” on Lake Geneva during our boat cruise
An example of some of the “cottages” on Lake Geneva during our boat cruise
An example of some of the “cottages” on Lake Geneva during our boat cruise
An example of some of the “cottages” on Lake Geneva during our boat cruise

I didn’t attempt to document them all, but I did take some photos of some of the most noteworthy ones.  It was a nice cruise, a pleasant afternoon with fun people.  Good weather and smooth sailing! 🙂

Boat cruise on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Roadside Finds: Jasper, Indiana

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

Our first overnight stop on the return home from Wisconsin took us to the town of Jasper, Indiana.  We chose Jasper primarily because it was just about the right distance for the day, but also because it looked like it had an interesting downtown area for us to check out.

Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana
Historic train depot in Jasper, Indiana

I was initially attracted by the fact that Jasper has a train station, but we noted that the train station was an anchor for a new mixed-use development called River Centre.  A brand new Fairfield Inn sits along the Patoka River and is connected to the Jasper Riverwalk, a 4.5 mile multi-purpose trail that connects several businesses and restaurants, and winds through a scenic section along the river.

Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana
Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana
Fairfield Inn & Suites in Jasper, Indiana

Across the river from River Centre and connected by a very nice steel bridge is the historic Jasper City Mill.  The current mill building is a replica of a mill that was established on the site in 1817 and was in operation until 1933.  Among the customers of the mill is said to have been Thomas Lincoln and his son Abraham Lincoln, who bartered goods for corn meal in 1828.

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana
Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

We got into town late and left early, and it was a Sunday so not too many businesses were open.  But we got a good look at the town – enough to determine that it would be worth a re-visit.  It is “on the way” to a lot of places we hope to visit, so we will be sure to add Jasper to the itinerary on a future road trip!

Jasper City Mill in Jasper, Indiana

An Attempt at Night Photography

Comet NEOWISE viewed from Neck Road near Huntersville, North Carolina

If there is something you really want to do, don’t avoid doing it just because things you can’t control make it uncomfortable.  Go! (Me)

We had been waiting for a clear evening to try and see the Comet NEOWISE and finally got it on Sunday.  Unfortunately, our neighbors are afraid of the dark and we have way too many lights around to see the sky.  We had pre-scouted a place out in the country for just such an occasion, and ventured out there after dark on Sunday.

The comet was harder to spot than I thought it would be, but we finally did locate it with binoculars.  I tried to make a decent photograph of it, but between not being able to focus and using a too-long shutter speed for the focal length of my lens, I got mostly junk.  The in-focus shots are sharp but have long star trails, and the out of focus shots have blurry lines.

Most night photography how-tos suggest using a wide-angle lens, but I was using a longer lens because I knew that with a wide-angle lens the comet would be even less visible than it was with the telephoto.

The first shot was taken at 55mm for about 10 seconds, and even it has some blur.  The second one was taken at 200mm, but I made a rookie mistake by using a 12 second exposure when it should have been about 5 seconds or less.  Oh well, it was an interesting outing with or without photos and satisfied my desire to just see the comet.  My philosophy is that there are other people taking night photos far better than mine, so I don’t need to make my own, just look at theirs instead!

One of my sharper blurry shots of Comet NEOWISE

The Sessions Hotel in Bristol VA/TN

The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

It’s not often we get to stay at a brand-new hotel.  It’s even more rare to be the very first people to stay in a hotel room.  But that was our experience at The Sessions Hotel in Bristol, VA.  The hotel had just opened a week or so before our visit, and a paper in our room asked for feedback since we were the first ones to occupy the room.  Cool!

The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

When we were making our plans to return home from Wisconsin, Bristol was in the right location for our last night’s stay.  We had been to Bristol before, but had only stayed at the usual next-to-the-freeway chain hotels.  When I searched on hotels, one of the search results was ‘The Sessions Hotel, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel’ by Marriott in downtown Bristol.  The price was a little higher than the freeway-side options, and the location was shown as being right in the center of town.  Whenever possible we like to be “in town” so we can walk to dinner and shops instead of searching for a place to park.  So what the heck?

Bristol is a historic town situated on the VA/TN border.  In fact the VA/TN state line runs right through the middle of State Street, the main street through town.  Bristol’s primary claim to fame is as the Birthplace of Country Music, so named because of “The Sessions,” recording sessions that took place in Bristol in 1927.  These recording sessions launched the widespread appeal of musicians who, up until that time, had been known only locally in the areas where they performed.

Hallway outside our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Key cards for our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Sitting area of our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Sitting area of our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

According to the Marriott website, the Tribute Portfolio is a collection of boutique hotels designed to reflect the character of the city in which they are located, operated independently but under the Marriott umbrella.  Each hotel has its own theme, decor and vibe.

The hotel occupies three buildings that previously housed a mill and warehouse.  The public spaces and rooms were all designed around the theme of The Sessions.  Music-inspired artwork, furniture and accessories abounds in the public areas, and each room is uniquely decorated with the theme of a specific recording.

From the hotel website:

“Situated in the heart of the Birthplace Of Country Music, our boutique hotel is named after the 1927 Sessions made by Ralph Peer and a few others. Bristol’s energetic passion for country music is reflected throughout the hotel’s thoughtful décor with curated pieces and musical offerings. Experience a free-spirited environment in repurposed buildings where rustic meets contemporary. Rest comfortably in uniquely designed rooms and suites with exposed brick and modern furnishings. Indulge at Southern Craft restaurant, an upscale wood fired smokehouse, offering award winning barbecue, classic favorites and sides. Sip cocktails on the rooftop bar and lounge by the cozy fire pit overlooking the city of Bristol. Get pampered at the Vision Salon and Day spa with invigorating spa treatments and body rituals. Host a special event in our indoor or outdoor music venues with a music stage or attend one of the concerts at our Bristol, VA hotel.”

Shower in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Bathroom in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Bathtub in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Framed guitar picks in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Do Not Disturb sign in our room #224 at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

Our room was Room 224, which was a Junior Suite.  The room was named after the tune “Tell Mother I Will Meet Her,” recorded by Ernest Stoneman.  The room number plaque outside the room had a replica of the record label, and in the room was a framed copy of the lyrics.  The “Do Not Disturb” sign was a wooden record with “Time For A Rest” imprinted on it.

Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Shadows at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia

We didn’t explore the hotel much since we were only there overnight, but we certainly enjoyed our room.  We did not, for example, sample the rooftop bar, but we did have breakfast at the adjacent restaurant.  A lot of the amenities were still being finalized, as there were still painters touching up some of the rooms and hallways during our stay.  Our conversation with the manager indicated that there are plans for an outdoor music venue and other additions in the near future.

Overall the hotel was nicely done.  The decor and furnishings are of high quality, and the bathroom is the kind that makes you want to call a bathroom remodeler as soon as you get home!  The hotel is a couple of steps above the typical “chain” hotel, and just the kind of thing that Kathy & I look for when we’re looking to get away  but don’t want to drive too far.  Bristol isn’t exactly known as a foodie mecca, but we don’t consider ourselves foodies anyway.  There are plenty of unique, interesting and local places to eat – just the kind of place we look for.  Who could pass up a hotdog or two from a place called the Earnest Tube (as in the musician Ernest Tubbs) or a place called The Angry Italian?  We did pass them up this time, but would definitely put them on the agenda for another visit!

Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel
Light fixture at Southern Craft BBQ Restaurant in Bristol, Virginia next to The Sessions Hotel

Bristol and The Sessions Hotel is definitely on our short list of places to return to when we are looking for a few days away.  We hope they can start the live music back up soon.  It would be a great place to visit this fall when things cool down and the leaves heat up!

Earnhardt-Petty Mural at The Sessions Hotel, Tribute Collection by Marriott in Bristol, Virginia
Birthplace of Country Music Mural in Bristol, Tennessee
The Earnest Tube restaurant in downtown Bristol TN/VA
Train station in Bristol, Virginia
Downtown Bristol TN/VA

Roadside Finds: Casey, Illinois

World’s Largest Teeter Totter in Casey, Illinois

“Big Things In A Small Town”  That is Casey’ Illinois’ claim to fame, and the reason we stopped off on our way home from Wisconsin.  Scattered around the downtown area of this town of about 3,000 located just off I-70 between St. Louis and Indianapolis.  Casey only has one traffic light, and most everything is walking distance from the center of town.

World’s Largest Yardstick in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Wind Chime in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Rocking Chair in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest antlers in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Barber Pole in Casey, Illinois

Casey holds eight Guinness records, including giants such as largest wind chime, golf driver, knitting needles, giant chair, giant mailbox, wooden clogs, rulers and giant bird cage, constructed by businessman Jim Bolin.

World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mailbox in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Bird Cage in Casey, Illinois
The Largest Knitting Needles and Crochet Hook are located in this shop in Casey, Illinois. It was closed on the day of our visit but they are visible through the window.

We didn’t visit all of the attractions, and unfortunately didn’t try the ice cream 🙁 but we did do a pretty reasonable job of visiting the sights.

World’s Largest Wooden Shoes in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Truck Key in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Bent Nail Puzzle in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Pencil in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Spinning Top in Casey, Illinois
Worlds Largest Bookworm at the Kline Memorial Library in Casey, Illinois
World’s Largest Mouse Trap in Casey, Illinois

Roadside Finds: Dwight, Illinois

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

For our drive from Wisconsin back to Charlotte, we decided to stick completely to back roads.  Taking 2 1/2 days to make a drive that many would make in 1 is just the way we roll.  We encountered a number of interesting places along the way, some planned, many unexpected.

Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois
Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station on Historic Route 66, Dwight, Illinois

Case in point is our stop in Dwight, Illinois.  We were attracted to Dwight because of the old Texaco gas station that is associated with Route 66.  While at the gas station, I spoke with the docent there who encouraged me to visit some of the other landmarks in  town, including the historic railroad depot.  Never one to pass up a railroad depot unknowingly, we headed into town.

The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Chicago & Alton Railroad designed Dwight in 1854 around a “depot ground” between two main streets. By 1891, the expanding town needed a new station. The railroad hired Henry Ives Cobb to design this Richardson Romanesque building. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

In addition to the depot, there is a bank building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and a building  that once housed an at-that-time famous treatment center for alcoholism.  We couldn’t find the windmill or the church immediately and decided to not take more time looking.

Built in 1905, the First National Bank on West Main in Dwight, IL was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Of the three banks he designed, it is the only one still in existence. Its simple yet dignified style rejected classical influences of the time.
William Fox Developmental Center in downtown Dwight, Illinois. The building originally housed The Keeley Institute, founded by Leslie Keeley in 1879, was the first to treat alcohol addiction as a disease rather than a vice. At its peak, 800 patients arrived here by train each week, and over 200 branches of the Institute were operating in the US and Europe. The famous “Keeley Cure,” reputedly gold chloride injections, we never accepted by the mainstream medical community.
Dwight, Illinois
Dwight, Illinois

Photographs and stuff!