As you read the following, remember this trip occurred several years ago…
Yes, I’ve been traveling again… Opportunities tend to arise from time to time, sometimes on the spur of the moment. And while my wife was visiting her sister in Chicago seemed to be one of those good moments.
This time the trip amounted to three sightseeing days as a gal, and one day impersonating a guy. I had things to do in Pennsylvania, and I never let these trips happen without taking my girl stuff along. I planned for several selfies. Those are the outfits which made it into my suitcase. You may have already seen my skirts and dress…(I would have loved to buy new things, but with no storage space???) My objective was to try out some everyday tops with my existing outfits. Everyday tops eliminate some of the laundry hassles I’d otherwise encounter.
The first day was for traveling, and some light sightseeing. Enroute at Severna Park, a suburb of Baltimore, I came across a former substation/power plant for the long-defunct Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad (a walking trail on the old right-of- way runs right past it.) In addition to its being an antique in its own right, the building is now an antique shop.
A lot of driving later, I found myself heading west on US Route 30, the Lincoln Highway. And near the small town of Everett, PA, I came across one of many so-called “roadside oddities” – or as they call it: one of the “Roadside Giants of the Lincoln Highway.” It’s the “world’s largest quarter.” Unfortunately it was raining, thus: no selfie.
Having been in Everett a long time ago, I knew there was an old Huntington and BroadTop railroad station (complete with a stuffed and mounted H&BT caboose and locomotive) located there. Never known to bypass such a sight (especially as a girl), I dropped in to re-make my acquaintance. Unfortunately it was drizzling, which made staying under cover a requirement, and good pictures hard to get, but at least I was able to get one.
And it was cold…my turtleneck and jumper dress felt very cozy – and warm!
From there it was off to Altoona, site of the world-famous Pennsylvania Railroad’s Horseshoe Curve. Notice the silver signal gantry behind me, up at track level. The railroad is now owned and operated by Norfolk Southern (as part of the breakup of the Conrail system), and before I left to head for my motel, a train went by. Of course the curve is on a significant grade, so you can hear westbound trains crawling upgrade a long time before they actually appear. Naturally, I stayed around for the show…fortunately, no more drizzle.
Then, before calling it a day, I dropped in at the so-called “America’s oldest gas station”: Reighard’s in Altoona! Again, the recurring drizzle dampened enthusiasm for doing a selfie. Darn it anyway.
I checked into the motel as a female. Had no issues, but the fortysomething female clerk stayed “neutral” – most likely due to my given name nowadays being a girl’s name. No gender-specific terms were used. Once settled in, I managed to do a selfie in the room’s full-length mirror.
We’ve lived out here in the corn-and-soybean fields for a while now, and have never had a problem with aerial application of chemicals to the fields. You can immediately identify radial-engined crop-dusting bi-planes by the authoritative bark of their engines, even before you see them. (It’s nothing like the sound of “pancake” engines that are in newer small aircraft.) And the sound effect is like that of a World War 1 movie, when they swoop down to release their spray. (The only thing missing is the rattle of machine guns!) While we don’t go out of the house when they’re active, I’ve never so much as smelled any of the chemicals.
Until one day a few months ago…
We were driving through a wooded area of the countryside on our way home, with fields beyond the trees on either side. Our car windows were closed, and the HVAC was running. As we were talking, I faintly heard one of the bi-planes make a nearby pass, but thought nothing of it.
A typical cropduster, but not the one about which this is written.
We kept talking as we drove, and I heard another pass, but still never saw the plane, probably due to a combination of the trees and the fact that I was driving. About 20 seconds later we both smelled a very strong chemical odor, and within a minute my eyes started to water, then sting. Yes, I was wearing my contact lenses, which didn’t help.
Fortunately, my wife wasn’t affected quite as much, so she offered to drive. But with airborne chemicals in the area, I wouldn’t stop or have either of us get out of the car, since we were only about 10 minutes from home. I kept going (fortunately, little traffic to speak of). The watering stopped, though stinging continued. When we got home. I immediately removed my lenses and cleaned them thoroughly, then treated my eyes and put on my glasses for the rest of the day…which cured the symptoms.
While I really didn’t think about it as I heard the plane the second time, I recall the noise being much louder. I wonder if the pilot overshot the field and accidentally left the sprayer on as he flew up and over the trees and road? Or, perhaps he neglected to factor the wind into his spraying pattern. IMHO he should have let Snoopy (or as a last resort, the Red Baron) make his runs that day, or else he was a scarf-wearing, hotshot throttle-jockey, with no regard for his drift cloud and its effect on the innocent civilian population. We really don’t like the idea of being exposed to Round-Up (or whatever it was.)
If I could have known what was going to happen in advance, and had seen (or better yet, gotten a picture of) the plane’s registration number (they fly that low – just a few yards off the ground), I would have happily reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration. Next time (if there is one), I’ll have my camera within easy reach.
Remember the old aviation adage: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. But there are NO old, bold pilots.” The pilot of that offensive cropduster may not make it!
To August of 2015, when I was waiting to pick up my wife, as she arrived back in Baltimore from the visit to her sister’s house in mid-America, I stopped in at a nearby big-box store (no, NOT Target) for a few things. And when I first arrived, a restroom visit was in order.
I was dressed in typical androgynous mode – white shorts, bright blue tee top, and feminine white sandals – all from the women’s department. Picture of sandals below. I was carrying my purse, and of course I had all my normal feminine cues, including my long hair and nails, with light pink toe nails. The unisex toilet option was not available as the door was locked – presumably occupied. So I used the men’s room, which was empty upon my arrival. So far, so good.
As I washed my hands, a man entered, apparently noticed me standing at the sink (with my purse toward the door, plainly visible) and reversed course long enough to re-check that he had indeed entered the men’s room. As he re-entered, he announced “Ma’am, you do know you’re in the men’s room?” And he headed for the urinals.
Feeling just a bit feisty, I replied back, in my normal voice “Yes, but thank you so much for pointing that out.” And as I had finished drying my hands, I exited, leaving him standing at the urinal, probably not “aiming well” because he was staring intently at me, and obviously not quite sure what had just happened. Wonder if he drenched himself? We’ll never know…
After finishing my shopping, before checking out and heading out to the next stop, I stopped at the snack bar for lunch, and decided to wash my hands before eating, since with burgers, a knife and fork generally aren’t provided. Once again, I tried the unisex toilet door – still locked, occupied – or maybe at this point, out of order. So I ducked into the men’s room again and went straight to the sink. Deja vu – in walked a man, fortunately not the same one as a half hour earlier. He said almost the same thing as the man did earlier, and it resulted in almost the same response from me as I walked out, also leaving him staring at me as I disappeared around the corner…
The lunch counter cashier, “free-sample clerk”, check-out clerk, and the “checker” at the door (all under-40 females) universally used “Ma’am” in our interactions.
This is a diametrically opposite response from the one I noticed on my recent weekend journey into the hinterlands of rural northern Maryland and the rural southeastern tier of Pennsylvania. There, only a few folks vocally acknowledged my femininity – and I clearly was wearing a feminine outfit – skirt and blouse, sandals, with full makeup and jewelry, including earrings.
In the more urban areas, (wearing a much more androgynous outfit with no makeup, and only a necklace for jewelry), being addressed as female is more frequent…and very affirming. The only thing I can attribute this to is the more liberal mind-set held by residents of the more-urban areas. Of course, there may be other causes. But possessing a fully-feminine appearance does not seem to be one of the deciding factors…
I picked up my wife mid-afternoon at the commuter rail station, and we headed home, luckily skirting a couple of traffic slow-downs (we know back roads) enroute to the bridge (which fortunately was un-congested.) And with no more stops, there were no more chances for “miss-identifications.”
Grab the beverage of your choice and settle down for some reading…bearing in mind that this blog covers an event from May of 2013 – almost 7 years ago. Time flies when you’re having fun…
At long last, it was time for Mandy to visit again…and also to exercise the antique car. Off I went, in androgynous mode, to an out-of-town solo car show weekend, with Mandy’s clothes in the trunk. Unfortunately I was off to a late start, which affected how much sightseeing I would get to do that day.
Enroute was a quick stop for lunch at a fast food restaurant (have stopped there before), with a one-occupant restroom, where Mandy exited in a skirt and blouse, as in the picture, with refreshed makeup. Then it was on into Winchester, VA for some sightseeing. First stop on my agenda was the Moore house, a Gothic Hudson River Revival Style dwelling originally built in 1854, which Confederate General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson was invited to call headquarters from November of 1861 to March of1862, by Mr. Moore, the then-current owner. After that, General Jackson left Winchester to begin his well-known Valley Campaign.
Mandy at Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters in Winchester
The name Moore may ring a bell for those of you who are old enough to remember Mary Tyler Moore – as in the Mary Tyler Moore Show on the telly, years ago. The docent mentioned that Mr. Moore was one of her ancestors. And when restoration of the Moore house was under way, Ms. Moore paid for the remanufacture of the wall paper found in the study.
The day of my visit, the Confederate flag was at half staff… it turns out they were celebrating the recent 150th anniversary of Jackson’s death. I was the only visitor at that moment, so I was treated to a fabulous “personal” guided tour, and found it fascinating to learn all about the man and his history.
Afterward, I went directly to the house where Patsy Cline – born Virginia (Ginny) Patterson Hensley in 1932 – lived from age 16 to about 21, hoping to get there before it closed.
Mandy visiting the childhood home of Patsy Cline, who lived there from age 16 (about 1948) to 21 (about 1953.)
Unfortunately, with the late start, my timing was off – the last tour was finishing up as I arrived. Thus, I had to settle for taking some pictures. But I vowed to return again…”maybe even tomorrow!”
Next, I detoured to the pedestrian mall in “Old Town”, and parked the car, and walked around, even as rain threatened. A fascinating place to visit, with outside cafes, shops, etc. I walked thru “Old Town” for a while, even as rain threatened, and found some interesting properties. Above is the f\ormer G & M Music Shop, where Patsy made some recordings. Property is now part of the Grace Lutheran Church.
Handley Regional Library, old town Winchester…
A fascinating place to visit, with outside cafes, shops, etc. Next visit, I’d like to spend more time here, and perhaps if I’m feeling adventurous, try out one of the sidewalk cafe restaurants for dinner! Enroute back to the car, I walked past some colonial buildings (now law offices, et cetera), and couldn’t miss the fabulous Handley Regional Library Building, built in spectacular Beaux Arts style. The story behind it: Judge John Handley of Scranton, Pennsylvania made his fortune in coal investments, and developed a relationship with Winchester and its Scotch-Irish heritage. In 1895 he donated a sum of money for construction of a library “for the free use of the people of the city of Winchester.” Designed by J. Stewart Barney and Henry Otis Chapman of New York, work began in 1908 and was completed in 1913. The library was a model for its time. And it is still truly spectacular, with its “green” copper dome and roof.
Rain began to fall as I was about a half block from my car, so I didn’t get too drenched. But that was my clue to head for the motel to check in. And the process was absolutely a non-issue in my skirt and blouse… they asked for my ID, so they ‘knew the score” and just chose to ignore pronouns completely. Once settled in, it was time to shave and reapply my makeup for dinner…
By the time I was done and back on the road, clouds which had been building since I arrived at the motel finally opened up – the rain came down fast and heavy. Crowds everywhere were taking all the close-to-the-door parking places at nicer restaurants (it turned out to be graduation weekend at one of the local colleges), and it was dark enough from the clouds that you could see folks inside waiting. I finally elected to settle for a fast-food-drive-through-burger. It was still raining (but a bit less intensely) when I got back to the room with my delicious (?) dinner. What a disappointment! However, I was too hungry to wait till later to eat, and – what if the rain was still falling at that point in time?
Former B & O Passenger Station, Kent St., Winchester VA…
Saturday found me in capri pants, a sleeveless top and flats, which I wore to the car show. I took a few minutes before the show, to locate the former Baltimore and Ohio railroad station in town. (These trips usually involve some sort of railroad theme, somewhere along the line!) While the Winchester station still exists, there are no passenger trains in town, so it’s used by the railroad as office and storage space.
There was off-and-on drizzle at the show all morning, then the sun came out after lunch. However, as the temperature rose, cumulus clouds started building in the humid air, and looking rather ominous. Show sponsors ended the festivities a bit ahead of schedule, due to the likelihood of impending rain. Since I had the chance, I headed back to the room to shave and reapply makeup. Enroute, the heavens opened up again, though only for about 5 minutes, ending before I reached the motel driveway.
Gaunt Drug Store, where Patsy Cline worked as a teenager, making soda treats for her customers.
At the motel, Mandy re-appeared, as I changed back into a skirt and blouse for another try at getting into the Patsy Cline house. This time, my attempt was successful, but just barely. The final tour of the day had started a few minutes before my arrival. The docent took pity on the lady in the old blue car, who arrived late! He mentioned that he recognized me from my photographic adventures yesterday (how could he have missed me, with the tripod set up out front?) That apparently was his motivation in letting me join. So, I got my tour, along with about 8 other folks (mostly women) of middle age. I was the oldest one there…and was able to get the senior discount…a big advantage to being retired!
He really enjoyed his job, telling us about the house, which started out as a 2 room log cabin, and was added on to over the years. The visitors all enjoyed the part about his being alone in the house, and hearing noises, including footsteps and interior room doors actually slamming shut on their own – could it be paranormal activity?
It was interesting to see where and how the family lived at that point in Patsy’s life, and to hear some of the stories he was able to relate. And since I got there late, he stayed a few minutes after the tour to cover the points I missed before I arrived. If you ever get to town, you might want to check it out…even if you’re not a Patsy Cline fan, it’s well worth the visit, just for the period furnishings and nostalgia about life in that era.
Afterward, he helped me with directions to locate Gaunt’s Drug Store, where Patsy worked as a teenager, making soda treats for her customers at the fountain. While the drug store was closed for the day when I arrived, the docent at the Patsy Cline mentioned that the soda fountain was still there, unused, because it had become part of a closed-off storeroom due to a remodeling project.
Then it was off to dinner, which was actually at a real restaurant this time. When I present as a woman, I always enjoy being treated as one (even though I know I often don’t pass well), and the server did a great job. Which resulted in a big tip for her…hope that’s an incentive to give the next girl she serves, good service, too!
Girls in skirts sometimes have to clean cars, too!
Then I went back to my room, to return to androgynous mode so I could listen in on the awards presentation at a nearby hotel, and discover if my car earned a trophy…
Before I left, and while I was dusting off the car, I noticed nearby male voices out in the parking lot. Turned out it was a group of clean-cut-looking motorcyclists, all who knew each other and were guests at the motel, sitting out on the sidewalk relaxing after their day on the road. A few minutes later, when I emerged from my room, to get into the car, they addressed me as “Ma’am,” apologized for the noise, and asked me questions about the car, which I answered, but quickly, as I had to get going. I guess they were more interested in the car, than in me…that’s a good thing.
At the end of the rainbow…in this case, was a trophy!
And, finally with no rain falling, I turned the corner in the motel parking lot. And there it was, a beautiful rainbow…one of the brightest I’ve seen in years. By the time I stopped the car, grabbed the camera and started taking pix, it had begun to fade, but it truly was beautiful. The pictures I took really don’t do it justice…
Incidentally, yes, the car received a trophy that night, which now joins the others on display…
Radio Station WINC in Winchester, in whose studios Patsy Cline made her first radio appearance, and where she performed many times. Mandy’s car is in front…
On the road for home the next morning, I made a short stop at radio station WINC, the station on which Patsy made her first radio appearance, as well as many subsequent performances. Somehow, I think it’s changed its appearance a lot since then, but at least the station is still around…
Now for a little observation – something about myself that I’ve noticed from this trip (and I suspect it may be a big plus for Mandy, going forward.)
I’ve finally progressed to where I can wander out amongst the public, with my legs on display in a skirt, nylons and flats, and actually be concentrating on whatever it is that I’m doing – instead of on what I’m wearing and staring into store windows at my own reflection, That’s a refreshingly new attribute, and one that has sorely needed, to look a bit more like “just a girl out-and-about.”
Women often seem friendlier (with smiles and occasionally light chat) when I’m in a skirt, blouse and flats, than even when I’m in stirrup pants and a top. Maybe I’m “passing” more often than I think I am (which I realize is extremely doubtful). Or, because I’m in a skirt, the ladies don’t feel threatened, and just accept me as “one of them,” while men mostly ignore me. I tend to think it’s more likely the latter…
You may recognize the town name – it’s on every Wal-Mart tractor-trailer you see. And in Bentonville, there is the original 5-and-10 that Sam Walton opened.
However, rather than selling products, it has been turned into a museum about the man and his chain of retail outlets. And a good museum it is…well worth the time it took to visit…many interesting facts are presented. Did you know Sam Walton was a pilot? And that his first plane was an Ercoupe single engine aircraft that he used to personally scout out locations for new stores? A scale model of his plane is in there. And that he drove a 4wd red and white Ford pickup truck with 4-speed manual? It’s in there, too. They moved his office lock stock and barrel from the warehouse to the museum, as a memento. And there’s a re-creation of an old fashioned soda fountain as you exit (great prices…it’s hard to find Moon Pies for only 50 cents…but they have them!)
Whether you’re a Wal-Mart fan or not, this gives you a wonderful insight into how the chain came about.
If you look closely above, you can see a red and white Ford pickup of the same vintage as the one in the museum. It’s not Sam’s (his is inside the building), but is marked for the museum. Now look below…they had a 10 cent kiddie ride made to resemble Sam’s truck!
This station was built in 1925 to replace one which was not holding up well. After WW II, passenger business declined as airlines and cars sucked up all their patrons, and the railroad quit serving Bentonville. The station fell into disrepair, until a commercial firm decided to restore it, resulting in the pretty building below.
And lastly, I dropped in for a self-guided tour of the gorgeous Peel Mansion Museum & Heritage Gardens. These were built in 1875 by Colonel Samuel West Peel. Much care was taken in erecting this magnificent house, a wonderful example of the Italianate Villa Style.
The interior of the house was furnished with authentic antiquities and artifacts of the era, generously loaned by the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Old State House.
The interior of the house was furnished with authentic antiquities and artifacts of the era, generously loaned by the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Old State House.
In its day, it was a working farmstead, surrounded by 180 acres of apple orchards.
Colonel Peel, pioneer businessman, legal representative (appointed by the President) to the five civilized tribes in Indian Territory and Confederate soldier, was the first native-born Arkansan elected to the United States Congress. He and his wife, Mary Emaline Berry Peel, raised nine children here.
It was a good day for a girl wandering around Bentonville, AR in stirrup pants (over tights), turtleneck, jewelry and booties…too bitter cold for anything less than a winter coat on top, which sort of disguised the femininity. At least I didn’t hear the dreaded “S” word…though the lack of any feminine forms of address was definitely noticeable.