No, I’m not talking about camera lenses OR airline travel! I’m talking about beautiful, hand-crafted glass like that found at Lexington Glassworks in Asheville, North Carolina.
I had intended to write this post a while back, but it sort of got lost in the shuffle of fall and the holidays. During our visit to Asheville for our 40th anniversary, Kathy & I visited Lexington Glassworks during one of our walks around town. We’ve visited Lexington before, and have acquired only a small amount of their glass, given the number of times we’ve been there, but it is one of those places we just have to visit whenever we are in town.
One of the many cool things about Lexington is that they openly encourage picture taking. I asked anyway, just to be polite, and the girl we talked to was very nice about it. Sure, she said, let me know if you have any questions or need help.
The larger pieces are stunningly beautiful, and the reason we don’t have more is that we just don’t have a suitable place to display things like that. We have some shelves on order which will hopefully rectify that situation, although after buying the shelves we’ll need to re-stock the souvenir fund to buy more things to put on them! 😉
Partially-related question: I post photos to Instagram through my Firefox browser, using a well-known workaround that “fools” Instagram into thinking I am on a mobile device. I’ve taken the app off all of my mobile devices. With the app I used to be able to create a post with multiple photographs, but can’t seem to find a way to do it through the browser. Anyone have any experience with this? I’d like to be able to share these photos in a single post and tag the company’s page, rather than post them individually, which makes for a really annoying feed!
I recently posted a few reflection photos to Instagram, and it got me thinking about how much time I spend looking for reflections. My conclusion? Not nearly enough!
Photos of boats in a marina with still water are pretty low-hanging fruit. I need to remind myself that while I am looking for lines, pattern and shadows, to keep my eyes peeled for good candidates for reflections.
When I was growing up, my family would regularly attend stock car races at a couple of local race tracks. A few times a year the tracks would have events called Demolition Derbies, where a bunch of stripped-down cars would start out running around the track and purposely wreck each other, with the last car running declared the winner. I’m recalling this through 50+ years of possibly (likely!) faulty memory, but as I recall, somewhere near the end when there were only 2 or 3 cars running, the announcer providing the blow-by-blow commentary would say something like “CAR 83 IS SMOKING BADLY, HAS A COUPLE OF FLAT TIRES BUT IT’S STIIIIIILLLLL RUNNING.” I have to say that after the demolition derby that was 2020, we’re badly damaged but STILL RUNNING. And hopefully running well enough to hang on through 2021.
Somewhat counter to the rest of society (contrarians? us?) and despite the various impacts of the virus, Kathy & I look back on 2020 as overall a very good year. We made some important changes that we possibly would/should have made anyway, but the arrival of Covid made them imperative. It worked out, and WE”RE STILL RUNNING! Believe me though, I am quite sensitive to the fact that not everyone can say the same about 2020. For way too many folks, 2020 was a very ugly year. A disastrous year. A demolition derby with not everyone escaping unscathed. From where I sit, however, life has been pretty darned good and I am thankful for that.
But we traveled. We traveled a bit differently than in past years, with a little more attention paid to places and conditions, avoiding the famous places with big crowds, carrying more of our food and water than we might have taken otherwise, but the country was open and we went. In fact, we traveled more in 2020 than we ever have. We spent 90+ days away from home, crossed off 5 new states and visited friends and family in locations far & wide. Despite only driving 426 miles in March, April & May, we’ve put over 18,000 miles on the Subie since 12/31/19, mostly in the second half of the year and including our 8,000-mile road trip to the Oregon coast and back in September. And we did it safely, staying away from popular places like National Parks and sticking mostly to sparsely-visited National Monuments, National Historic Parks, State Parks and Wildlife Refuges. A number of places were not open so we made do by seeing just the outside. Yes, we traveled!
With exceptional (in hindsight) timing we took three cruises in January-February before the virus hit but have stuck to car travel since then. Staying off airplanes and cruise ships has saved us a bunch of money and allowed us to see parts of the country we might have put off if we had continued to fly places. It looks like that trend will continue in 2021, since the question of when we might expect to receive a vaccine remains a bit of a mystery. That assumes that the vaccines are actually effective, that we can eventually actually get one and that the virus begins to subside. Cruises and air travel will likely need to wait until 2022 for us, but there is still a lot of this country to see and we’re ready to go.
Staying out of restaurants has been very good for our waistlines and for our budget. Kathy & I have never been and will never be skinny, but there is a lot less of each of us to haul around these days. We’ve been making regular donations of too-large clothes to our local Goodwill. Even now when restaurants have mostly re-opened, we’re finding that we like our own cooking just fine and we continue to lose weight at a reasonable and sustainable pace without “dieting.” Interestingly, our reaction to a lot of restaurant food now is that it is over-seasoned, over-portioned, overly meat-centric and over-priced. We’ve got a great source for fresh fish, a nice selection of our own wine, and find that we can dine in for a fraction of the cost of a fancy meal out. We love our restaurant people and have many friends in the business, but it is an estranged relationship these days. We weaned ourselves off of junk food years ago and didn’t succumb to the temptation of “comfort food” during the pandemic.
I took nearly 17,000 photos this year. Not as many as 2019 when I took over 21,000, but still a lot! Why so many? I take a lot of our grandson Edison, and he moves so fast most of them are blurry! The number of photos that are actually worth keeping will be far less but remains to be seen as I’m still working on them. I did get a new camera this year, which was fun, and I have enjoyed working with it and the constantly updated software to process the files.
We have a lot to be thankful for from 2020 despite all of the negative happenings, and we have plenty of reason to look forward to 2021. I don’t know how it will all shake out, but the best we can hope for is to get to 12/31/21 in at least as good a shape as we got to the finish line of 12/31/20. My primary goal is to keep a positive outlook, to find the silver lining in every situation and seek out the positive wherever I need to go to find it!
The photos here are just a selection from the friends and family we were able to visit with this past year and who we look forward to seeing again this coming year!
I’ve finally finished processing all of my picks from our Pacific Northwest road trip!
The last two stops were Fort Scott National Historic Site in Fort Scott, Kansas and George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri.
The two things we most wanted to do in Fort Scott were (1) visit the fort and (2) visit the Gordon Parks Museum. The trip from Fort Larned took longer than we expected, so we arrived at the fort just as they were shutting down for the day. Fortunately, a kind ranger was able to arrange for Kathy to get her Passport book stamped, and we were only able to see the outsides of the buildings.
The Gordon Parks Museum is part of Fort Scott Community College, and the college was closed at the time we passed through. So that will need to be reserved for a future trip. The town of Fort Scott was very quaint with a number of interesting looking shops and restaurants, so it’s likely that we’ll make a point of getting back there at some point.
After spending the night in Joplin, MO we stopped at George Washington Carver National Monument the next day enroute to our last overnight in Clarksville, TN. We had always thought of Carver as the “peanut guy” but he did far more than that. It was another unexpectedly educational visit. After our night in Clarksville we “took the last train” and drove home through Tennessee while (unsuccessfully) dodging heavy thunderstorms!
All in all we drove a total of 8,230 miles over 25 days, and I took nearly 4,500 photos. My picks brought the total down to 1,745 and there are just over 800 photos in the 10 online galleries.
I now have a complete collection of photos from our road trip in my Adobe Portfolio page here.
I woke up this morning about 5:45. A little early for me but not unusual. As I lay in bed listening to the furnace cranking out some welcome BTUs, I started hearing this voice. A voice that sounded hauntingly similar to the voice in a podcast I listen to. This voice was saying, “ya know, this might just be one of those mornings where you’ll be glad you went out to make photographs.”
I reluctantly crawled out from under the covers, wandered down the hall to my computer, where the Weather Service told me that it was 25 degrees. Ugh. I almost got back into bed. Reasoning that 25 degrees wasn’t any colder than Fort Collins, and remembering that the UP of Michigan is even colder, I resisted and got up.
Although I got rid of my down parka and Sorel boots when we left Ohio 26 years ago, I thankfully held on to some long underwear and wool socks, and I knew where to find them! So I got out my stuff, gathered my gear and headed out.
I arrived at my newly-found sunrise spot at right about 6:30, an hour before sunrise and my preferred time to start taking morning photos. The best color in the morning often happens long before anyone else has their camera ready, just like in the evenings the best color happens while most everyone has packed up and is heading off to dinner.
It was pretty dark when I got there, and the parking lot was empty except for one car. The sky was clear with plenty of stars, or as many as we can usually see here in the suburbs of Charlotte. As the light level came up I could see that there was some fog on the lake, and it was moving around in a very slight breeze.
The first boater arrived about 7:00 – an even heartier soul than me. He offloaded his boat, nursed a sputtering outboard to life and headed off in search of some radioactive catfish. A second boater came a few minutes later and much better luck with his engine. He’s the one I was able to catch leading a wake out through the fog.
By the time the sun came up I had taken 144 frames and it was time to head home for coffee and a shower. As I was putting my camera back in the car I realized I had frost on my tripod. That’s about as cold as I’d like it to be, at least with my current gear!
Not bad for a winter Sunday morning. Weather permitting I hope to be getting back out there again, real soon!
Kathy & I gave up covering our house with lights years ago, but still enjoy driving around nearby neighborhoods to check out other peoples’ efforts. Some people really get carried away!
Most neighborhoods we go through have few places to park or walk safely, but this particular spot in Huntersville has two houses next to each other, spectacularly decorated and with reasonable parking, at least when we visited. We were able to get out and walk on the sidewalks without worrying too much about distracted light peepers.
The forecast is calling for some interesting weather here for tonight and Christmas Day, but I don’t think we’ll see any snow. It sounds like a good day to stay snuggled up with coffee and a warm fire. Later in the day we’ll open the bourbon and wine!
We hope everyone has a good holiday this year despite all the mayhem. We are looking forward to lots of positive direction in 2021.
Fort Larned National Historic Site in Kansas was our final major stop on our way toward home from Fort Collins, CO. We had spent the previous night in Hays, Kansas and stopped for a picnic breakfast at the picnic area just outside the entrance to the park. While we were there, we only saw one car drive in, and it was a guy with a dog, both of whom needed to use the “facilities” but neither went to the fort.
When we arrived in the parking lot for the fort, there were a few cars in the parking lot, but I have no idea who they belonged to. Other than a groundskeeper, who we only saw a few times and from a distance, we didn’t see another soul the whole time we were there. The metadata from my photos shows an hour and fifteen minutes between the first and last pictures. But all of the buildings were open for viewing, and the rangers had set up a little table to get stamps for our National Parks Passport.
We visited a number of different historic sites on our western loop, and three of them were forts. Interestingly, all three of them were from different periods in our history, and each one served a unique purpose in its time. Fort Clatsop in Oregon was established by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and was their quarters for the winter of 1805-1806. Fort Scott, which we visited later the same day as Fort Larned, was established in 1842 as one of a chain of forts intended to protect settlers from the Plains Indians, as well as to protect the Indians from the settlers’ encroachment.
Fort Larned was originally established in 1859 as The Camp on Pawnee Fork. It was renamed Camp Alert in 1860 then moved to the current location and renamed Fort Larned, after Colonel Benjamin F. Larned, the paymaster general of the United States Army at the time the post was established. Fort Larned’s purpose was to protect traffic along the Santa Fe Trail.
The park is very well done, with numerous buildings all restored and preserved in near-original condition and is a fine representation of a complete and authentic army post from the 1860s -1870s. This well-preserved fort on the Santa Fe Trail shares a tumultuous history of the Indian Wars era. The sandstone constructed buildings sheltered troops who were known as the Guardians of the Santa Fe Trail.
I’ve added a gallery of more photos from Fort Larned on my Adobe Portfolio site for anyone who wants to see more. Enjoy! 🙂
As we started our eastward return leg from Ogden toward Colorado, we had one more stop to make in Utah. Dinosaur National Monument straddles the eastern Utah and western Colorado border. The park’s primary claim to fame is the Fossil Quarry, located on the Utah side near the town of Jensen, UT. Jensen lies along US-40, roughly halfway between Park City, UT and Steamboat Springs, CO.
The Quarry Visitor Center contains numerous exhibits about the history of the area, including the quarry wall itself that is now housed within an impressive building. The building itself was operating at a greatly reduced capacity with reservations required. We made our reservations several days in advance and had no trouble getting in. Interestingly no one actually asked us for documentation of our reservations, although I’m certain they are checked randomly.
The dinosaur fossil beds were discovered in 1909 by Earl Douglass, a paleontologist working and collecting for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. He and his crews excavated thousands of fossils and shipped them back to the museum in Pittsburgh, PA for study and display. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the dinosaur beds as Dinosaur National Monument in 1915. The monument boundaries were expanded in 1938 from the original 80 acres surrounding the dinosaur quarry in Utah, to 210,844 acres in Utah and Colorado, encompassing the river canyons of the Green and Yampa. It’s hard to believe that the fossils that remain today are the “leftovers,” as it still makes for a very impressive display.
While the quarry is the main attraction, I was in many ways more impressed by the stunning scenery of the area surrounding the visitor center. We saw only a tiny portion of the 210+ thousand acres, and it would be quite easy to spend a lot more time exploring. But alas, we were on our way to Colorado and could only devote a few hours to the park. It’s not the kind of place you just happen to pass by, but we may decide to detour that way the next time we head west. The drive along US 40 is much more pleasant and scenic than I would expect I-70 or I-80 to be!
Kathy & I made another trip to Latta Nature Preserve this past weekend, and met our son Scott and grandson Edison there. Edison enjoys taking “nature walks” and we knew this would be a good place to take him.
Interestingly, the water levels were much higher this time, even though we really hadn’t had that much rain. I know that Duke Energy manages the lake levels along the Catawba River, so it likely had something to do with that.
It was a little chilly but the sun was shining and we had a nice visit. We then returned to the house for pizza and chips, so it was a good day all around!
I’m finally making good on my commitment to find some decent sunrise and sunrise spots close to my home. I started just this morning with a quick trip to one I had recently identified. The Riverbend Boat Launch is located literally 4 miles from my house. I’ve driven by numerous times thinking that I should stop and check it out, but was always in a hurry to get somewhere else so I didn’t bother.
Based on how it is oriented, the boat launch is only good for sunrises in the winter, roughly from early November until early February, when the sun moves around toward the northeast and behind the peninsula on which the area is situated. But in the winter, other than a few hardy souls launching their boats in sub-30 degree temperatures (this morning there were three trucks and empty trailers in the lot), it isn’t nearly as busy at sunrise as it would be in June or July. For me, it’s a start!
Riverbend is not as quiet as tranquil as Monte’s morning place or as dramatic as Jeff’s, but it will give me a suitable morning destination until I find another one!