Branching Out

Hood ornament on an ice cream truck on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina

Kathy & I visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC recently. I carried a camera with me in case I came across anything interesting. This was a bit of a “happy accident” as I photographed the hood ornament on an old truck repurposed as an ice cream shop. Sadly the ice cream shop was not in operation at the time…. 😉

Seeing Red

Morning on the Resort Deck of Celebrity Beyond

With apologies to 2clicksaway for borrowing the title, I thought this group of photos made for an interesting study. Taken during our recent cruise aboard Celebrity Beyond.

Morning on the Resort Deck of Celebrity Beyond
Morning on the Resort Deck of Celebrity Beyond
Morning on the Resort Deck of Celebrity Beyond
Morning on the Resort Deck of Celebrity Beyond
Morning on the Resort Deck of Celebrity Beyond

A Walk In The Woods

Rocks and moss. McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA

On our way to Ohio to see the eclipse, Kathy & I stopped off in western Pennsylvania to visit our friends Jim & Lisa. While we were there we made a trip to McConnell’s Mill State Park to do a little hiking. The mill itself has fallen into disrepair, but the covered bridge has been nicely maintained and makes for a picturesque scene on Slippery Rock Creek.

Covered Bridge over Slippery Rock Creek. McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA
Covered Bridge over Slippery Rock Creek. McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA

I had been to this park years ago, but enjoyed the time outdoors and with friends. I even managed to make a few photographs.

Cascades on Slippery Rock Creek. McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA
McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA
Kildoo Falls. McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA
Kildoo Falls. McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA
Rocks and moss. McConnells Mill State Park near Portersville, PA

Totally Eclipsed

Total solar eclipse from Avon Lake, Ohio

I would suggest that anyone who claims that a total solar eclipse is no big deal has never seen one. Yes, this one was heavily hyped and over-commercialized, but that should not detract from the significance. What I saw today was beyond explanation. You truly had to be there!

Total solar eclipse from Avon Lake, Ohio
Total solar eclipse from Avon Lake, Ohio

Kathy & I drove to Avon Lake, OH which was right on the centerline of totality. My sister-in-law is an astronomer who led the sciency part of a celebration at the local high school stadium.

Total solar eclipse from Avon Lake, Ohio
Total solar eclipse from Avon Lake, Ohio

I didn’t take photos of the actual sun (well, to be truthful I did but they suck). I did take quite a few photos of the crowds, and of my brother and sister in law, Kathy, our son Scott and grandson Edison enjoying the show. We were all first timers and agreed that we hope to see the next one in the US, in 2045!

Here is an actual eclipse photo from my niece Cassandra.

Eclipse photo by Cassandra Seybert

‘Going To School’ In Texas

Cherry Mountain School. Driving tour of 12 historic country schoolhouses in Gillespie County, Texas

After one day in Fredericksburg, Kathy & I decided we had seen enough cowboy art and turquoise jewelry, the wineries were busy and charged more for tastings than for a bottle of wine, so we stopped by the visitor center to see what else we might do. The woman there mentioned a driving tour of one room school houses in Gillespie County, the area surrounding Fredericksburg.

Pecan Creek School House
Cherry Spring Schoolhouse
Outhouse at Cherry Spring Schoolhouse
St. John Lutheran Church, next to Crabapple School
Crabapple School

Better than I can tell it, here is a bit of history about the schools from The Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools:

As many as 44 rural schools were in operation around Fredericksburg, the county seat of Gillespie County, in the early 20th century. German immigrants had poured into the area that became known as the Texas Hill Country in the mid to late 1800’s, starting with the settlement of New Braunfels in 1845 and Fredericksburg in 1846. As families moved onto land more distant from town, the earliest rural educational efforts normally involved hiring a teacher to educate the children in private
homes.

Eventually land was donated by a family in the area and a community school was built taking names descriptive of nearby natural landmarks such as Cave Creek, Crabapple, Pecan Creek or Lower South Grape Creek. The German heritage of Gillespie County is evident in other names like Luckenbach, Meusebach, Rheingold and Nebgen.

The Gilmer-Aikin Law of 1949 resulted in the consolidation of most rural schools in Texas, bringing a close to this era of public education. Remarkably, the main buildings at only two of the 44 rural schools in Gillespie County were demolished over the decades. In the 1950’s, community clubs were organized and maintained some of the rural school properties in Gillespie County using their own funds, even though they were owned by the Fredericksburg Independent School District (FISD).

Short histories of the schools can be obtained at the Visitor Information Center in Fredericksburg, located at 302 East Austin Street, at each school and on our website: www.historicschools.org

Rheingold School
Rheingold School
‘Modern Facilities’ at Rheingold School
‘Not So Modern Facilities’ at Rheingold School
Willow City Schoolhouse

The tour resulted in a very nice day, and quite a collection of interesting, albeit very documentary, photographs. It’s ultimately the way we prefer to spend our time, rather than trudging up and down the main street in a town, wandering through shops with no intention or interest in buying. When there is a bakery or ice cream shop, however…. 😉

Nebgen School
Cave Creek School
Cave Creek School

We’re off to Ohio in a few days in hopes of catching the eclipse. I do plan to take some pictures, but not of the eclipse. I just want to watch it myself and let those with the patience and proper equipment make photos I can see later. I do hope to get lots of pictures of people wearing those awesome glasses, though! 🙂

A Stop In Fredericksburg, Texas

Former Buick dealership now a winery. Fredericksburg, Texas

After our stop in Shiner we arrived in Fredericksburg, where we stayed for a few days before heading east toward Florida. The draw for Fredericksburg is that it is in the heart of Texas wine country. We drove through Fredericksburg on a previous trip but only spent one night. Ironically, despite being in the middle of wine country we didn’t visit any wineries! We did manage to drink a bit of Texas wine, did a little shopping and some sightseeing.

Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg, Texas
Fredericksburg, Texas

I was really taken with the public library. Housed in the former Gillespie County Courthouse that was built in 1881-1882 and used until 1939, the building was subsequently converted to the current use as the library. The limestone exterior, high ceilings and wooden trim are a reminder of the days of fine craftsmanship. The library even has a card catalog, although the drawers are empty now.

Public Library in Fredericksburg, Texas
Public Library in Fredericksburg, Texas
Public Library in Fredericksburg, Texas
Who knows what this is? Public Library in Fredericksburg, Texas
Public Library in Fredericksburg, Texas
Public Library in Fredericksburg, Texas

The town of Fredericksburg is like a lot of small towns these days, just with a Texas twist. Instead of antiques and country crafts there is cowboy art and turquoise jewelry. Lots of interesting restaurants, though. We had several really nice meals during our stay.

The Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas
The Hangar Hotel in Fredericksburg, Texas

We stayed in a really cool hotel located at the Gillespie County Airport. Named the Hangar Hotel, it is styled after a WWI aircraft hanger, complete with an Officer’s Club, the name of the lounge. It was fun watching all the planes coming and going, and made for some interesting photography.

Bachelorette party. Vaudeville Restaurant in Fredericksburg, Texas

Along The Way: Shiner Texas

K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas

On our journey across Texas we made a quick stop in Shiner, Texas to visit the K. Spoetzl Brewery, home of Shiner Beer. We had some gen-u-ine Texas brisket, toured the brewery and had some Shiner Beer before heading off into wine country.

K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
Texas BBQ at the K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
Texas BBQ at the K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas

The Spoetzl Brewery started in 1909. It was originally named The Shiner Brewing Association (SBA) and was founded by German and Czech immigrants who had settled around the central Texas town of Shiner. Unable to find the type of beer they had known in their home countries, they decided to brew their own. It is the oldest independent brewery in Texas and one of the oldest independent breweries in the U.S.

K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas

In the 1970s and 1980s, the brewery’s Shiner Premium Beer and Shiner Bock accounted for less than 1% of the Texas beer market. In 1983, Spoetzl produced 60,000 US beer barrels of beer; in 1990, only 36,000 US beer barrels. Sales improved after Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio acquired the brewery in 1989. Production grew to 100,000 US beer barrels in 1994, and over the next 10 years production nearly tripled. The company now has 120 employees and as of 2012 it was the fourth-largest craft brewery in the United States.

Tap Room at the K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
Tap Room at the K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
1959 Ford F-100 pickup at K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas

It was a good visit, and some of the Amber Bock even made it home for us to share with our friends, neighbors and family! 😉

K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas
K. Spoetzl Brewery & Distillery in Shiner, Texas

Morning Fun: Norwegian Prima

Morning aboard Norwegian Prima

I enjoy early mornings aboard a cruise, well before most of the people stumble out of bed and start looking for the first feeding opportunity. I only got up early one morning while we were aboard Norwegian Prima, and it happened to be the morning of our arrival in Roatan, Honduras. While I was able to watch as we approached the port, for the most part my favorite photos are the ones of different ship details, especially those lit up by all the LED lighting.

Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning arrival at Roatan, Honduras aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning arrival at Roatan, Honduras aboard Norwegian Prima
Morning arrival at Roatan, Honduras aboard Norwegian Prima
Roatan, Honduras
Enchantment of the Seas arriving in Roatan, Honduras

Along The Way: Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas

We spent two nights in Galveston before our cruise, and took advantage of the proximity to visit Space Center Houston. Known famously for “Houston We Have A Problem” it is the home of Mission Control, specifically the The Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center, from which NASA led Gemini and Apollo missions, including the momentous first lunar landing mission as well as early space shuttle missions.

The Mercury 9 spacecraft named ‘Faith 7’ flown by astronaut Gordon Cooper on May 15, 1963. On display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Gemini V capsule which carried astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles “Pete” Conrad Aug. 21, 1965 to Aug. 29, 1965. At Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Apollo 17 Command Module on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Apollo moon landing display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas

As a space geek from childhood, having the opportunity to visit Mission Control was a bit of a thrill. NASA has completely restored the center to look like it did during the moon landings. They sourced manuals, binders, furniture and even ashtrays from former workers and have turned it into a bit of a museum. The tour took us into what had been the VIP viewing gallery, where we could look through the windows while re-enactments of various scenes from Apollo 11 played out on the screen, including the tense moments of landing at Tranquility Base.

The Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center, from which NASA led Gemini and Apollo missions, including the momentous first lunar landing mission as well as early space shuttle missions. Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
The Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center, from which NASA led Gemini and Apollo missions, including the momentous first lunar landing mission as well as early space shuttle missions. Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
The Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center, from which NASA led Gemini and Apollo missions, including the momentous first lunar landing mission as well as early space shuttle missions. Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas

Another highlight of the center is Space Shuttle Independence, which is on display on the back of one of the converted Boeing 747 aircraft which were used to transport the shuttles from California back to Florida between missions. Both craft were open to walk through, with plenty of information displays. The size of the combined vehicles is quite impressive!

Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ and Boeing 747 transport aircraft on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas

The overall museum is very well done, with actual Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules, a space rock you can actually touch, information on the upcoming Artemis missions and lots of other space memorabilia. It was a great visit. Having been to space centers at Cape Canaveral, Huntsville and now Houston, NASA have done a commendable job preserving these bits of history.

Cockpit of Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Cargo Bay of Space Shuttle ‘Independence’ at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Cargo bay of Space Shuttle Independence at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Inside the shuttle transport Boeing 747 at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Inside the shuttle transport Boeing 747 at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Inside the shuttle transport Boeing 747 at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space-X Falcon 9 Rocket booster on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Space-X Falcon 9 Rocket booster on display at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas
Saturn IV building at Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas

Along The Way: Vicksburg National Military Park

Cannons with the Illinois Memorial in the background. Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

Actually a destination in itself, we spent only a few hours at Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi. It was an appropriately gloomy day for visiting a former battlefield, I thought. These are just a few representative photos from this memorial to what was one of the most important and decisive battles of the Civil War.

Entrance monument at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
Cannons with the Illinois Memorial in the background. Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
The US Navy Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
The Texas Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
The Alabama Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
Monument for Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

The sheer number of casualties from Vicksburg alone is overwhelming, and was just a portion of the overall losses from the war. War didn’t make any more sense then than it does today, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like we’ve taken the lessons to heart.

The Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
The Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

There are hundreds of monuments across the battlefield, and the largest and most impressive were those from individual states. For a history buff a lot of the battle lines were marked, with information on the troops stationed there at various points of the battle. A little too detailed for me, but interesting to try and understand the scope of the place.

USS Cairo, a restored Civil War–era gunship at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
USS Cairo, a restored Civil War–era gunship at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
USS Cairo, a restored Civil War–era gunship at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
USS Cairo, a restored Civil War–era gunship at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
USS Cairo, a restored Civil War–era gunship at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
USS Cairo, a restored Civil War–era gunship at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
USS Cairo, a restored Civil War–era gunship at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

I was especially interested in the USS Cairo on display. The ship was salvaged from the Mississippi River years after the war. It has been partially restored and rests on a cradle under this large canopy. The mechanical components of the ship are pretty much intact.

National Cemetery at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

Photographs and stuff!