A few weekends ago, Kathy & I visited Staunton, VA to meet up with our friends Jim & Lisa, who drove down from Pennsylvania. We like to find interesting towns to visit for a few days when we have a chance to meet up. Last summer we met in Lewisburg, WV, and we’re planning a trip to Kentucky for later this year.
Staunton (pronounced STON-ton) is a pleasant and vibrant town located along I-81 just north of Roanoke and is about halfway between Jim & Lisa’s home in Pennsylvania and our home in Charlotte. In addition to a nice downtown with good restaurants and interesting shops, Staunton is home to the American Shakespeare Center, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Mary Baldwin University. Oh, and the Camera Heritage Museum.
We spent a few days walking around the town, saw a play at American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse, had some good meals and visited some interesting shops. We were there on St. Patrick’s Day and enjoyed a dinner at a restaurant with a live Celtic band.
One afternoon we were walking around town, and at some point came across these old railroad trestle supports. I don’t remember the words, but Jim asked me if I thought they would make a good photograph. I had seen them but hadn’t responded to them yet, so Jim’s question woke me up. Yes, they were quite interesting, and as it turned out I was able to make a few photographs that prove the point.
Just like with the photos of Bill’s tree in my last post, sometimes it is someone else’s eyes that discover the photo, and my job is to do something with it. Looks like I may have to make another print! 😉
Whew! After the (not) overwhelming response from my last post I needed a break. Actually, I just kind of got distracted and forgot that I hadn’t finished the series from our Florida trip.
If I had any boyhood heroes that weren’t astronauts, one of them would certainly be drag racing legend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits. Garlits’ name is to drag racing fans what Richard Petty’s or Mario Andretti’s names are to stock car and Indy car racing. Old fans, at least. 😉
As we were driving past Ocala, FL on I-75, I saw a sign that said “Drag Racing Museum Next Exit.” Then I saw whose museum it was! We didn’t have time to stop on our way south, but made a point to visit on the way back home from St. Petersburg. Yes, it was another museum, and art of a different kind than painting and glass! And of course Kathy was thrilled to have something else to look at besides airplanes. 🙂
Here are way too many photos from our visit. But there were way too many cars, and even this is a small sliver of what we saw. Highlight of our visit, of course, was that “Big Daddy” himself was there, giving a personal tour to a small group of fans. We listened to a few stories before they disappeared behind a door that said “Employees Only.”
Garlits has assembled an impressive collection of not only his own cars, but cars from the history of drag racing. And that is just in one building! A second building houses hundreds of mostly stock cars from the 30s forward. A few even older than that. Many of the cars are from Garlits’ personal collection, but a lot of them have been donated over the years by thoughtful and generous owners. We spent a couple of hours there. I could have spent longer, but we needed to move on up the road. So we could get home just in time for a winter storm!
While Kathy & I were in Wisconsin visiting our friends Jeff & Mary Pat, Jeff, his son Luca and I left the ladies at home and headed to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois. The museum boasts a huge collection of rolling stock of all varieties, from horse-drawn cars to vintage steam locomotives to more modern diesel-electric engines. It was a great place to make photographs, and while I took some photographs of entire engines and cars, it was the the little details that really appealed to me – in this case what I’ve come to refer to generically as “Rust and Peeling Paint.” It is the details that are “about” a place, taken “at” at place that I love to photograph.
We spent several hours there and had a chance to take a ride on a vintage electric “Interurban” train car (much like a trolley but larger and faster). It’s the kind of place where you can find something new with as much time as you have. A few hours was plenty for us, but it wouldn’t be a bad place to return to some time in the future.
Kathy & I had some time to kill yesterday on our drive to Wisconsin, so what better way to stretch the 6 hour drive into 8 hours than to look for photos? 🙂
Earlier in the day we had encountered the tail end of some of the soaking rains that passed through central Illinois in previous days and were treated to beautiful skies as the storm clouds broke up into what I call “Ansel Adams Clouds.” It was quite a treat. We detoured down several side roads and came across some interesting scenes, including extensive wind farms and old barns. Quite a nice day to extend a trip on a nice day!
I am trying to shoot exclusively with my prime lenses on this trip, but in a last-minute moment of weakness I tossed my 16-80 zoom into a bag. I’m going to try hard not to use it, but it is with me in case the need should arise. Interestingly, I started off the day with my 23, but at one point realized that I needed to switch to the 35. My first though started out as “oh, I don’t want to bother changing lenses.” But then my sensible side said, “you idiot, if you need to change lenses you change lenses!” So I did. I also remembered to put on my polarizer! 😉
I didn’t see the person who this belonged to, but this guy appears to be ready for anything, including a quick getaway. There’s even a mousetrap hanging off the back, I suppose for…well, I don’t want to think about it.
We were only gone from home for a little over 24 hours, but I came back with a number of stories. This is the last one from our vaccine quest.
On our way home from Southport, we decided to stop for lunch in Whiteville, a town just off the main route. The Chef & The Frog, by the way, was excellent. On our way there we passed through the town of Fair Bluff. I had seen a billboard promoting their “Depot Museum” and wanted to stop. As we entered the town it was clear that the place was nearly deserted. The main street was almost completely devoid of shops. A former car dealership sat empty with parts of the building on the verge of collapse. Directly across the street was a building marked as being the Municipal Building, but it was boarded up and silent. Urns along the sidewalks contained plants that appeared to be reasonably well cared for, or as well as could be expected for late winter. Farther up the street a gas station was open, and a pizza shop showed signs of life.
So what happened here, I wondered? As it turns out, Wikipedia summarizes the events leading up to the situation we came across:
“In 1999, Fair Bluff experienced a 1-in-100 year flood event.
In 2012, the Police Chief of Fair Bluff Marty Lewis was arrested, tried and convicted for selling and delivering oxycodone and possession with the intent to sell and conspiracy to traffic while acting as police chief. He was sentenced to a minimum of seven years in prison and fined $100,000. On April 9, 2015 Marty Lewis filled an appeal of his case. On November 3, 2015 the verdict was unanimously affirmed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, leaving in place the 90 to 117 month prison sentence originally imposed. Lewis will not be eligible for parole before November 2022.
In 2016, the town was devastated by flooding on the Lumber River caused by Hurricane Matthew, prompting the evacuation of hundreds of residents. As of June 2018 the rebuilding effort was still underway but several hundred residents who had fled rising floodwaters never returned and a number of businesses remained shuttered.
In September 2018 Fair Bluff was flooded again by the impact of Hurricane Florence, again forcing evacuations and leaving the downtown area under water again, and devastating the town for the third time in under 20 years. After Florence, many buildings in the downtown area of the town lay abandoned, with no plans to reoccupy or fix the buildings.
The population was 951 at the 2010 census but is believed to be lower following the two disasters, some estimates going as low as 450 people.”
That pretty much explains it – a town with a troubled past and cloudy future. But they do have a very nice train station.
Anyone who has traveled I-95 up or down the east coast has seen them. Endless billboards, counting down the miles to Pedro’s Place – South Of The Border at the NC/SC line. Sayings that these days might trouble the Easily Offended, but meant and usually taken in good fun.
YOU NEVER SAUSAGE A PLACE!
(YOU’RE ALWAYS A WEINER AT PEDRO’S!)
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, my family vacationed in the mountains of North Carolina, where my dad was from. On the one occasion I can remember when we went to the Outer Banks, we drove across North Carolina to the coast. I don’t remember how we got back, but we never went that far south.
Kathy’s family, on the other hand, made an annual summer vacation trek to Florida from Ohio. Back in the 60s, there was no I-77, or at least it didn’t go as far as it does now, so the preferred route was the PA Turnpike to somewhere in eastern PA, probably Breezewood, then over to I-95 to Florida.
So imagine, riding down I-95, July in North Carolina, 3 kids in the back seat of a Volkswagen Somethingorother with no air conditioning, Day 2 of a 3-day adventure, tired, hungry and bored. Those signs looked like an oasis to a person dying of thirst in the desert. The closer they got, coming from either direction, the higher the hopes. Seeing the signs for miles and miles, until as the border approached, the Sombrero-topped observation tower and the 100+ foot tall Pedro statue loomed on the horizon. Three kids silently willing dad to take the exit. But he drives on by, hopes dashed for another year.
So on our trip out to Bolivia, NC this past week, Kathy realized a lifelong dream – I took her to South Of The Border! 🙂 And it was about what we expected. We had an average lunch served by an enthusiastic but largely ineffective waitress, prepared by what I imagined to be a single moody cook, preparing each meal in the order in which it was received. The interior of The Sombrero Room Restaurant, while clean and cozy, looked like it might have been salvaged from a former Chi-Chi’s. We didn’t go into any of the shops, but they looked to be filled with the kinds of things we call “mommy-can-I-gets,” to tempt gullible kids (and their parents) into leaving some of their money behind for Pedro’s safekeeping.
The place evidently attracts a crowd during peak tourism season – it’s been in business and growing steadily for 70 years. There is something for everyone – a gas station, truck stop, motel, two restaurants, a convenience store (actually two), a campground and more shops than I can count. Not to mention the observation tower and 100 foot Pedro! But on this grey chilly Thursday in March there appeared to be more employees than guests. It’s certainly attractive – clean and colorful and large enough to make it impossible to miss and almost as impossible to ignore. I’m sure many strong-willed dads continue to resist the pull of the place, but many more likely succumb to the wishes and requests of their passengers.
We’ve passed by Lake Okeechobee on a number of occasions as we’ve transited central Florida, but have never taken the time to stop until this last time. The reason we hadn’t seen the lake before is that it is almost completely surrounded by a 30 foot earthen dike, preventing views of the lake from the roadway, but keeping the water where it belongs.
The only way to actually see the lake is at one of the access points to the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail. Even in the few towns around the lake there is no actual ‘lakefront.’ There is a large roadside park at the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam on the east side of the lake about 30 miles south of the town of Okeechobee. We stopped there on our way to Okeechobee, where we spent the night before heading out to St. Augustine.
We only spent about an hour at this stop, but it looks like a place with a lot of photographic opportunities depending on weather conditions. If you don’t mind man-made objects like dams and pilings in your photos they might really add some interest to a nice morning or evening sky. We had a few clouds around for our time there, but it was a little early in the evening for really nice light. It had already been a long enough day, so we went on to our day’s destination. We’ll see about returning for longer on a future trip!
I did a postcard from Lake Placid a few weeks ago but wanted to share a few more of the photos. I know 25 seems like more than a few, but there are a lot of murals!
Small towns these days have to work hard to attract tourism, and these murals are a testament to the pride of the community and the hard work required to see the project to completion on such a grand scale. It was an enjoyable day, we had a good lunch and enjoyed a few hours walking around this pleasant town. Thanks to our friends Bill & Cathy for sharing it with us! 🙂
I have a number of “non-mural” photos too, and will save them to illustrate some future post.
One of the spots we visited on our recent visit to Florida was the Florida Air Museum, located at the Lakeland-Linder International Airport in Lakeland. Airplane buffs will recognize ‘LAL’ as the home of the annual Sun-N-Fun Aerospace Expo.
I was a little disappointed in the museum given the status of Sun-N-Fun in the aviation world, but to be fair they are in the process of a major facilities upgrade which should provide a lot more exhibit space and room for more aircraft. Plus, we have visited some awesome aviation museums over the last few years, in particular the Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon. How can you compare seeing photographs of Howard Hughes to actually standing inside the Spruce Goose? 😉
It was a nice day and a good place to spend a little time. And there are definitely a few one-of-a-kind aircraft housed here, including the Lockheed XVF-1 which was designed to be a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle long before Space-X figured out how to re-land rockets. I can only imagine trying to set that thing down on its tail!