Kathy & I like to seek out train stations during our travels, especially ones that appear to be historically significant or that have some amount of architectural uniqueness. That’s what took us to Fairbury, Nebraska on our recent trip.
When I photograph these train stations, they are usually locked up tight, so I mostly walk around the outside, documenting interesting features and taking overviews of the building and surroundings. Since most of these stations are in fairly busy towns I get my usual curious looks from passersby, but for the most part no one pays any attention to me.
The station in Fairbury houses a museum, but I knew when we were on our way there that – even if the museum wasn’t observing a Covid-related closure – that we would arrive well after their normal business hours. But as we pulled up, a good 30 minutes after closing time, a woman was coming out of the building on the opposite end of where I parked. I got out and started my usual walking around. The woman drove down to the end of the building where I had parked. I said hello and told her – as if she hadn’t made the assumption – that I was just a train station buff out to take a few photos. Then she said, “would you like to see the inside?” Uhhh, sure (it didn’t take me that long to say yes)!
As it turns out they were having some kind of meeting there that evening, and she had been there to make sure things were set up. With evidently nothing else to do she talked to me and Kathy for about 30 minutes while I wandered through and took a few pictures. She told us that a local train club was in the process of building a model train layout in one of the upstairs rooms and apologized for that room being locked, but otherwise I had the run of the place.
Not wanting to overstay our welcome and knowing that we still had several hours of driving left, we politely said our thanks and goodbyes, and headed off for the rest of our adventure. It was a special and unexpected treat to be able to get inside this old station, if only for a few minutes!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I mentioned this find in the previous post, and here are a few photos. The rotunda design reminds me a bit of the station in Hamlet, NC but that station is much larger. This station now houses the public library. I like to see these old stations repurposed and maintained as they should be, respecting their history.
An annual event in Waynesville, NC is the Folkmoot Festival that takes place at the end of July. We typically get to Waynesville during the month of July, but for all our trips there we had never made it to the Folkmoot Festival or anything that had to do with it. This year, while planning our July visit I happened to notice that some of the performers would be participating in the annual Street Dance in downtown on Friday night, and that the Parade of Nations on Saturday would be right down Main Street That was too easy to pass up, so we went.
At Friday’s Street Dance, the Ogon’ki Ensemble from Russia (Siberia) were featured. They put on a great show with several groups of performers. These photos are from that performance. I also got some photos from the parade the following day, but those will need to wait for another post!
In my Computer Update post I noted that the one remaining item (and unexpected expense) from my recent computer conversion was the decision to replace my aging printer. This past weekend I received and set up my new printer – a Canon Pixma Pro 100. It has a lot going for it – most notably the price. With a $200 rebate the net cost to me was under $200, and it came with $50 worth of free paper. And I sold my old iMac to Gazelle for $150, so the out of pocket cost is practically $0! Of course I immediately reinvested some of that savings in a second set of ink, but at $125 for the new printer instead of $900 for ink for my old printer, it was an expense that is far more easily digested.
Some would say that it was foolish to get rid of a functioning printer just because I didn’t want to spend the money on consumables. In some respects those comments would be correct, and that was something I seriously considered in weighing my decision. The cost of said consumables was substantial, especially for a printer that got only occasional use. Every time I turned that thing on, it had to go through a long startup and cleaning cycle, and it felt like I was replacing an ink cartridge (at $75 each!) every time. Certainly the cost of ink is less per drop (or milliliter or however one chooses to measure ink cost) for a larger printer than a small printer. And the cost of roll paper is less than the cost of sheets. Regardless of those factors, it was hard to ignore the low initial and operating costs of the smaller printer. That, combined with a smaller footprint in my office, the promise of improved technology and a newer generation ink set made it a no-brainer.
The negatives are few, but include the fact that this printer uses die inks instead of pigment inks. Die inks are traditionally thought of as being less archival than pigment inks – they might only last 100 years…gasp! But pigment inks are generally thought of as being more prone to clogging than die inks, and for a printer that doesn’t see daily use, that was somewhat important to me. Importantly, color accuracy is similar between the two ink types as long as they are set up properly, and I think I’ve just about got that nailed.
The ability to use the Soft Proof function in Lightroom has been a welcome addition and has been leading to more accurate results without wasting a lot of paper. Since I wasn’t able to print from my computer when it was impersonating a Mac I never had a chance to use Soft Proofing. But now that I can use it from Windows, that improvement alone was worth the cost and effort of the change.
The fact of the matter is that my needs have changed since I bought the large printer. I rarely need to print anything larger than 13×19, and more often than not I would need to print larger than the old printer could print and would have to send the file to an outside print lab anyway. I have a couple of excellent choices for outside printing, so as long as I know I have an accurate file I have no problem sending the file to someone else to print. The smaller printer gives me a “good enough” proof for those purposes. For my own use, I have a lot less wall space now than I used to have, so I don’t do as much printing for my own use. Most of what I print for myself is for décor purposes, and printed on wood, canvas or metal. So I’m sending that work out anyway.
Probably the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get rid of the old printer. No one wanted it, for the same reasons I didn’t want it. I could take it to the county recycling center, but it weighed 120 pounds and wasn’t something that Kathy & I were going to move ourselves. I could have asked the kids to help me but decided against it. As it turns out I called one of the “Junk Hauling” companies, and two guys and a truck came on Saturday morning and hauled it away for under $100. It probably made our neighbors curious but was well worth the cost. Done and gone!
So there you have it. I think the transition can be called a success, and I am still way ahead of that $3,000 bill that I would have had with a new Mac. And I didn’t have to buy all those dongles!