Saturday, May 30, 2009

#390 Dating the rails

Did you know every section of railroad track is marked with the manufacturer's name and among other info, the manufacture date? Me neither! William Least Heat-Moon brought this to my attention in Roads to Quoz. So I followed up with some fieldwork of my own and some research on The Google.
The tracks we cross every day on our way to work are vintage September 1956 from the Steelton mill weighing in at a hefty 132 pounds per yard. (Click on the photo to see the mark.)

Translation tips for your own fieldwork:
Look for the information embossed on the side of the rail. If the numbers / letters you see don't match with the scheme described here, look on the other side of the rail.
Weight: The first 2 or 3 numbers give the weight of the rail in pounds per linear yard. Here's a chart to further expand the weight into dimensions.
Name and year: You can directly read the name and year. The name can be the steel mill or in some cases the railroad company.
Month: Count the vertical bars following the date to find the month. Nine bars mean September.
Yours in railfanning,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

#389 Panama vs James River

Since we couldn't join our friends sailing through the Panama Canal last week, we decided to do the next best thing. We visited a restored lock of the James River and Kanawha Canal, a massive public works project envisioned by George Washington in the 18th century to connect the seaport of Richmond, Virginia to the Ohio River and points west.
During our visit, we learned
- the ranger staffing the James River Visitor Center believes his post to be the most beautiful along the Blue Ridge Parkway. - the James River is the largest (but not the longest) river wholly within a state.
- the James River is older than the surrounding mountains.
- the canal reached its zenith in 1851 covering nearly 200 miles from Richmond to Buchanan but was quickly made obsolete by a new technology called the railroad.
- the canal lock we visited, one of 90 along the James River, was only 15 feet wide and walled with massive locally mined stone blocks.

So except for the lack of live web cameras, Virginia's James River and Kanawha Canal and the Panama Canal are a lot alike. ;-)

Yours in comparing canals,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

#388 Kellys on the trail

Just to clear up any confusion, I was NOT in Panama this week. I captured the images of the MV Explorer sailing through the Panama Canal from a web camera and then made the animation right here at home. But if I can't be sailing around Central America, I might as well be enjoying the gorgeous spring right here in Charlottesville.

I'm lucky enough to get to walk to work with Kelly every day. And when I'm extra lucky, I get to walk with 2 Kellys. Here are Kelly and Kelly walking through the woods near our home.

Yours in appreciation of springtime in Virginia,

Monday, May 18, 2009

#387 Through the Panama Canal

Had you been in Panama this afternoon, you may have seen the MV Explorer zooming through the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal. It really is the world's fastest passenger ship.

Is that Sam standing on Deck 8 wearing the black baseball cap? I think so.

Yours in appreciating the miracle that is the Panama Canal, a sunny day, and a web camera,

Sunday, May 17, 2009

#386 Let's Go Fly a Kite!

The 4th Annual Quetzal Kite Festival was held in Palmyra, VA on Saturday, so I was not surprised to discover that the kiter in our family had every intention of dusting off his kite and driving over.

Despite Kelly's excellent kite flying on Saturday, he thinks he'll need to practice a little more before he's ready to enter the prestigious Old Dominion Sport Kite Championship in Richmond on June 20 and 21.

And I need to practice on the piano that great Mary Poppins classic...
Oh, oh, oh!
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!
It turns out the quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. Sam and Shannon, have you seen any quetzal (quetzals?) while you've been traveling around Guatemala and Central America?

Yours in wishing I could capture in photos the beauty of a kite festival,

Friday, May 15, 2009

#385 Grand Canyon of Indiana?

My author friend Mike Habeck tells me about a dramatic human-induced landscape change threatening to create the new Grand Canyon of Indiana. Let's have a look from the air.

The town of Buckskin is in the red oval. The Grand Canyon is inside the moving red polygon.

Yours in keeping an eye on Indiana canyons,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

#384 Restaurant in the Round

We've not yet visited the "Southern Palace and Hardtail Saloon" in Oriental, North Carolina, but after reading Heat-Moon's account, seeing this photo, and working for Butler Mfg for about 20 years, I want to go to there.

Photo credit: Michele Connors

Yours in grain bin appreciation,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

#383 Live Long and Prosper

Alright, I admit it. We haven't been to see the new Star Trek movie. But we have been to see the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. The captain of the Starship Enterprise will be born on March 22, 2228 in Riverside, Iowa.

Yours in trekking,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

#382 Happy Mothers Day

It's been a long time since we've been able to celebrate Mothers Day with our moms, but we think about them every day. Here is Mary's mom shortly before her 1951 wedding.

And here is my mom shortly before her 1946 wedding.

Mary sees my mom in me whenever I stop to admire the peonies.

And I see Mary's mom in her whenever she plays the piano.

Yours in remembering Mom,

Saturday, May 09, 2009

#381 S&S's Excellent Adventure

Shannon and Sam are off on an excellent Central American adventure. (Here are S&S with Kelly at the Rathskeller in Indy - back when it was still cold outside.)

For those of you who like to travel via blog (and I know who you are), you can follow along with S&S at Bloomquists in the Blagosphere. Between the spring and summer voyages of Semester at Sea, the MV Explorer is sailing from Florida to Costa Rica and back to Florida with stops in Jamaica, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and Nicaragua. This enrichment voyage is staffed by some of our favorite people - Debbie (from our Fall '06 sailing), Iain (from our Summer '08 sailing), Jill (from our Summer '08 sailing), Rita and Judy (from both our sailings), and Shannon and Sam (who we've never seen in a boat of any kind.)

Yours in wishing bon voyage to all,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

#380 Monticello Revisited

Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello is just three miles from our house. So we feel we've grown to know the place after many visits to the little mountain.
With our friend Rita on our most recent visit, a casual suggestion from our guide led to a slightly different perspective. And even with the same old camera, things look better.

Yours in seeing again,