Welcome!

To any readers of my old blog, following me to this site, thanks for checking out this new one. I hope you’ll follow my postings, as you did the at the previous blog.

Many thanks!

Mandy

To the Northeast!

As you read this, remember that this vacation took place over 5 years ago!

A nice first day’s stop on our vacation was Slater’s Mill in Pawtucket, RI. 

Built in 1793 on the Blackstone River, the old Slater Mill was the first successful factory in the US. It was dedicated exclusively to the production of cotton thread until 1829, and then continuously occupied until 1921 with various owners and renters who altered its physical structure to suit whatever enterprise they pursued. 

Today, Slater Mill is a museum complex that includes the Old Slater Mill, built in 1793 and restored to its c. 1835 appearance; the Wilkinson Mill, built in 1810; the Sylvanus Brown House, built in 1758; archival materials, collections of hand-operated and powered machinery, a gallery and a recreational park. Highlights of the site include demonstrations of flax processing, cotton spinning, and weaving in an 18th century artisan’s home, exhibitions of 19th and 20th century machinery, and an operating 16,000 pound water wheel.  It was a fascinating trip back in time, to the early days of the Industrial Revolution here in the US.

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Sylvanus Brown House, Slater’s Mill
Slater’s Mill

Not much happened that first day, gender-wise or otherwise, but I was wearing my one and only pair of jean leggings, which I brought for the first day of sightseeing.   Since I didn’t spill anything on them, they actually were worn again a couple of times!  And with two pairs of daily-wear leather ballerina flats, with one pair in patent leather, and my white Keds,  I had shoes for all occasions.

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I’ve worn them a lot since then.

Actually, I’ve worn them so often that they’re wearing out – I really love my (now several pairs of) ballerina flats!

Today the group started its sojourn by visiting Mystic Seaport, in Mystic, Connecticut – a living history museum established in 1929 as the “Marine Historical Association”. Its first fame came with the acquisition in 1941 of the Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving wooden sailing whaler. The seaport was one of the first living history museums in the United States, with a collection of buildings and craftsmen to show how work was done.

No “Sir” comments,  as the only pants remaining in my suitcase were my feminine stirrup leggings, and I added my womens’ Keds to help keep my ballerinas from getting damaged by the gravel. What I was wearing caused no issues for anyone.   Folks in our group addressed me by first name and took my appearance in stride.  It was just “business as usual.”

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Entrance to Mystic Seaport, prepared for Halloween.
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Guess who?
These formerly were the homes of captains and sailors., very convenient to the Seaport. Some were very large.
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Water certainly was calm, and the sky was a rich blue!

After lunch break, we drove to Groton, Connecticut to tour the Submarine Force Museum, and among the displays is the actual submarine SSN-571, the Nautilus, as in “Nautilus 90 North” fame. It was America’s first nuclear powered submrine.  That’s a fabulous place to visit – simply fascinating… (But not if you’re 6’5″ and 275 pounds like one of the folks trying to get around inside it! And before you ask, that’s NOT ME!)   

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Gangplank to the Nautilus
If you were claustrophobic, you were in trouble!
Tiny kitchen, just like a Pullman car…
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Submarine Force Library and Museum, Groton, CT.

Seeing the interior evoked reaction from just about everyone that “I’m sure glad the USA built it, but I’m so happy that I didn’t have to exist in such cramped quarters..”

Today found us looking at preserved American naval ships at Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA, a maritime museum and war memorial that traces its origins to the wartime crew of the World War II battleship USS Massachusetts. This dedicated veterans group was responsible for the donation of the decommissioned vessel from the Navy and its subsequent public display in Fall River. 

Battleship Cove harbors the largest collection of preserved US Navy ships in the world. The fleet includes five National Historic Landmarks: Battleship USS Massachusetts, Destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Submarine USS Lionfish, and PT Boats 617 and 796. Individually, each ship represents different moments in history and technical achievements; collectively, these vessels symbolize American sacrifices made in defense of our freedom.

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 Mandy on the deck of the USS Massachusetts
 Big 16 inch guns on the Massachusetts.  Can’t you just imagine the noise they made!
On the Bridge
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Remember, these opulent little “cottages” were not intended to be full time residences!

In the afternoon, the bunch of us were off to see some of Newport, Rhode Island’s greatest examples of conspicuous consumption from the Gilded Age of the “robber barons”: the Breakers (a 70 room “cottage”, built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895), and the Marble House (a 50 room “cottage,” built by William K Vanderbilt in 1892.)   Cornelius II was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt of New York Central Railroad fame, and William K was his younger brother.

By the way, did anyone realize that Rhode Island is the smallest state, with the longest name?  Hint; before counting the letters in states like Mississippi, North Carolina and Massachusetts, look up the official state name for Rhode island:  it’s “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” – this evolved years ago, from the merger of two local settlements.  It’s the way the state is listed on official documents like the Elevator licenses, too.   Just be glad you don’t need to write that out with each letter you post to Rhode Island! 

More sections (and more pictures) will follow in the days to come.

Mandy

Another "trip" – with sightseeing!

Back in 2016, I had to take my wife to a couple of appointments the day before we left for a visit to the kids’ place down south. 

After I delivered my wife to the dentist’s office, I set off for the cell phone store for answers to some questions about upgrading to a newer phone.  There, the only clerk was busy selling an expensive i-phone, so I waited for about 20 minutes after having been told by the clerk “stand by for a few minutes, Ma’am – I’ll be with you shortly.”   Twenty minutes later, they were still at it, so I said “I’ll be back later, Miss.”   “No problem Ma’am.  Thanks for understanding.”

So it was back to the dentist to wait for my wife.  When I entered the waiting room (in black capris, a red tee-blouse with necklace, and black flats) while she had her appointment, a woman walked in and sat down.   Instead of sitting there and staring at me, she chose a much friendlier approach to figuring out the enigma – start a discussion about the weather.  I had my laptop with me, and used it to check the forecast as we chatted. (At that time, I didn’t use a smart phone.) 

Naturally, this developed into a wonderful back-and-forth about places we’ve lived and the weather there.  Then a man walked in (her husband, it turned out) after parking their car.  On his way over to sit down next to her, he smiled at me and said “A-ha, a working woman with a laptop.  Where do you work, Ma’am?”   When I told him I’d retired…he said he spent 26 years in the Navy, and was also retired.

As more folks came in, they simply picked up a magazine and started to read.    It was a real pleasure to not end up playing “Peek-a-Boo, I See You” with folks in the waiting room…whether they’re wearing sunglasses or not! 

I heard my wife come out of the office and make her next appointment at the front desk (around the corner, out of direct sight), and the clerk asked if she wanted to check with her husband since he had his computer.  (In other words, she knew precisely who I was – and thus my gender.)  My wife said no, and she actually guessed right about a good date for her next appointment.  The folks I was talking with didn’t seem to relate the medical assistant’s “husband” comment, and when I got up to leave, they said, “so long, Ma’am.”

The experience “made my day”…that’s the way things should always be.

Preparations for our upcoming visit to the kids’ place was fun…and on the appointed day, we left the house with me dressed androgynously, in capris and a blouse, with flats.

Enroute, at a couple of rest stops enroute I got the usual “looks” at the men’s restroom, but no real issues.   And at our lunch break, the clerk did not use gender specific pronouns.   Other than that, the trip was quite uneventful, giving us time to stop in Marion, VA – home to Hungry Mother State Park.

Here we found the Lincoln Theatre, a restored early 20th century vaudeville venue, beautifully restored after a number of years in disrepair.  The door was unlocked, so we walked in and were only able to get a short, unofficial tour, as there was a planning session in progress on stage – full tours were out of the question.  

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And a bit further along the street, we “discovered” the Francis Marion Hotel…obviously named for (at least one of) the town’s founder(s).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Our short visit was sufficient to let us know that stopping by for a show at some point in time, should be added to our list of things to do.   

Coincidentally, the guide locked the theatre doors as we left….oops!   Guess we weren’t supposed to just walk in!

And in Virginia, nearby Marion, is Hungry Mother State Park.  A curious name…beautiful hills and lake, with a morbid reason for the name.  Related to an Indian battle, which resulted in settler Molly Marley and her baby being captured, they escaped but while on the run, the mother died.  When a search party found the toddler, the only words the toddler could say were “Hungry Mother.”  Thus the park honors the solemnity of this event.

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Thanks for reading!!
More later…
Mandy

Honey, I shrunk the train…

Below is a picture from our visit to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum in Portland in 2009. (Wow, ten years ago!)  It was a fun ride on a little (and I do mean little) train, along Casco Bay.  The track is 2 foot gauge (between the rails.)  For comparison, regular railroads are 4′-8.5″ between the rails. The museum has great narrow gauge exhibits, and if you get a chance, it’s worth while stopping, especially if the train’s running.

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Don’t the narrow gauge trains look a bit gangly and overgrown, when compared to the tracks?  The equipment is:

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almost full size, teetering on those rails so close together.  Sort of like big and tall ladies teetering on 5” stiletto heels!  But it was a fun ride, regardless.

Bet you wondered how those cranberries we all had for Turkey Day were shipped? 

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Let me leave you with a sunset picture, of Portland, Maine’s waterfront at sunset, with a beautiful sailboat in the water between our boat and the shore…

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More later…

Mandy

A While back…

A while back (while it was still warm outside) I visited the auto parts store – the one where a “male clerk in a skirt” used to work…they have a whole new crew there.   No familiar faces at all.  So I guess they’ve all moved on…  A guy leaving the store ahead of me stood “extra long” at the door,  to hold it for me as I approached.   I gave him my sort-of-feminine-voiced  “Thank you, Sir” and he said “You’re welcome, Ma’am.”  I think my “secret” remained safe…

And at the hardware store, I bought a 50 pound bag of mulch.  The clerk summoned someone to “carry the bag of mulch out to the lady’s car.”  I thanked her…and the guy said “You’re welcome, Ma’am.  “Secret” still safe…

When I got home, after running the car through the local self-wash, our neighbor lady (a seventy-something grandmother) was sitting under the cherry tree in our side yard, having a picnic with her four-year-old granddaughter, whom I also know.  The little girl is a cutie…and we’ve known her since she was a baby.  It was an unexpected surprise that she got up and excitedly ran to my car door once I’d turned off the noisy  V-8, greeting me with a truly friendly “Hi, Mr. (insert my real given name here) and welcome home.”  It was so thoughtful to get this enthusiastic greeting from an unrelated little tyke…I was very touched by it and teared up a little.  Sunglasses are definitely an asset at times like that.  And I hope it’s something which will eventually happen with our own granddaughter.

The three of us chatted for a few minutes, but I had to get to work drying off the remaining water from the car, so I didn’t end up with water spots on its finish.   And as I did, I overheard the little girl (for some odd reason, kids don’t know about whispers at that age) tell her grandma that I was a boy with long hair.  “Yes, he is.”  “Why does he have long hair?”  “Because he likes it.”  The discussion went on for a couple more exchanges and then the little girl changed the subject.   I was shocked (and pleased) to note that my capri pants, tunic and flats (all plainly visible) were not mentioned.  She fixated on my long hair…apparently as do most folks.    The girl’s mother arrived by car a few minutes later and picked her up…so their picnic ended rather abruptly for the day.  But I suspect they’ll be back again – it’s a nice little picnic spot!

At the Nursing Home the next day, my mother was having a public hissy-fit that one of the elderly ladies was staring at her (and of course me) as we traveled down the hall, and dropped her feet to stop movement so she could yell at her some more.   My comment to Mom (which disrupted her yelling) was “So what? I’ve been stared at by more influential people than her.”   Mother persisted in her diatribe.  Thus, Mandy’s Nursing Home Rule Number 1 – “Always separate the verbal combatants and they forget about it after a while.”

Since Mom had her feet firmly planted on the ground, which effectively prevented her wheelchair from moving forward, I simply took the handles, backed it around and hauled her backwards to her room.  She continued yelling at the lady who stared, as we retreated into the distance.   When you can’t stand up, trying to plant your feet on the ground as a brake, makes very little difference when being pulled backwards.   But she gave it her best shot.  Fortunately she doesn’t know about wheelchair brakes…and I don’t plan to show her.  (Not that she’d remember anyway.)

Wonder if the lady was interested in my outfit?  We’ll never know…but haven’t heard any more arguing since then…

More later…

Mandy

Duck!!!!

North Carolina, that is… Another interesting excursion we took – this one in 2015. We drove the old car, and had a good time seeing an area of the country which neither of us had ever explored. And got to check out a couple of semi-formed waterspouts over the Atlantic. Enjoy!

For a few days, some antique car owners of various marques descended upon the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  (Just as Tropical Storm Ana was – thankfully – leaving.)

Monday night we were at dinner in an oceanfront restaurant, and I looked out to sea – there was what appeared to be two rotating white pouches hanging down from the dark offshore cloud deck.  I believed it was the formation of twin waterspouts (later confirmed from others) and ran outside to try for a picture.  The waterspouts never formed trademark “full funnels”, but there was spray on the ocean surface beneath them for a short time, leading me to believe the circulation was just too weak to develop further.  They paralleled the coast for a short while, and then disappeared. This is the best picture I was able to take of them…not long before they vanished.

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Waterspouts over the Atlantic

And we were even treated to a pretty rainbow – after the storms passed!

Too bad it wasn’t a half circle rainbow!

For those who aren’t familiar with the Outer Banks (or OBX as the locals – and the bumper stickers – say), they are a very narrow strip of sand (under a mile wide and maybe in places as much as 12 ft above sea level). Called barrier islands, just off the NC coast, some are accessible by bridge or causeway, and others by ferry.  We traveled to a few, but by no means all, of the islands, and had a fabulous time.

Our little jaunt was actually fairly tame as far as “miss-identifications” were concerned.  There were some, to be sure.  Most of the time at restaurants, no gendered forms of address were used for us. Instead, we heard “y’all.” “folks,” and “guys”, but we were almost always asked if we wanted one, or two separate, checks.  Hmmm, very curious.  

Then, when they finally gave the check to us, it was always placed midway between us, like they typically do for ladies dining together.  Only one time did I actually hear “Sir,” and that check was given directly to me.  Their confusion might have been because my presentation (as you can see below), was less feminine than I prefer,  but still not clearly male.  Fortunately, my wife was fairly comfortable with how I looked.  And, she was not always by my side for the true “miss-identifications.”  Only for the men holding doors for us – “go ahead, ladies” and the like.  Which she seemed to take in stride.

Unless the folks we were touring with, were paying close attention to the fine details of my daily presentation, I doubt anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary.  At least, nothing was said.  (Either timely, or later on…)

Early in the excursion, we made a stop at the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station in Rodanthe, NC.  Per Wikipedia, Chicamacomico was an active US Coast Guard facility from 1915 until 1954. After its decommissioning the facility was transformed into a museum.  

Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, Outer Banks
Anyone care to guess what the gold dome covers?

The CLSS is perhaps best remembered for the 1918 rescue of the British tanker Mirlo. Forty-two crew members of the Mirlo were saved by station personnel. Numerous accolades and awards were bestowed upon the 6 life-savers including gold medals in their honor presented by King George V of the United Kingdom  and the Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor. To date only eleven Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor awards have been bestowed in the history of the United States with six being bestowed upon the members of the CLSS.

Wonder what the gold dome in the center of the picture, between the big building and the outdoor kitchen, is?  If you guessed the septic tank, you’d be wrong! But if you guessed a cistern, you’d be right.  The roof gutters connect to it, to store rainwater for future use.  Remember, back in the day,  town utilities were not common…nor were towns…especially out in the hinterlands like the Outer Banks.

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Inside view
Some of the lifesaving equipment

Below is a pic taken on the ferry boat to Ocracoke Island.  You’ll notice that I’m not smiling at all.  Before you ask, yes, there’s a reason… mainly because I don’t feel comfortable on boats of any size.  Knowing how many boats (particularly ferries, but do remember the Titanic, Andrea Doria and Costa Concordia as well) have sunk, worldwide.  And. being almost out of sight of land in choppy post-tropical-storm seas mid-voyage, did absolutely nothing to ease my anxiety.  Fortunately, neither this ferry, nor the one we rode back to Hatteras, sank – thus, I’m still around to talk about my experiences.  And,  having survived two more voyages,  I can do my own version of the “happy dance”!  (Just don’t expect to meet me on any cruises!)

At least I was wearing my typical touring outfit…but with my 2″ heeled clogs instead of strappy sandals.  They collect less sand and are easier to remove sand from.  Just ignore the glare from my un-tanned “winter legs.”  Maybe some day temperatures will be conducive to wearing shorts more of the time…

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On the car ferry Lupton, enroute from Hatteras to Ocracoke.

Enroute to Ocracoke, my GPS showed the icon moving across the water at 12 mph!   Follow Route 12 any way you can!

What’s that white stuff we see in the following picture?  It looks and acts like snow, but it really was sand.  Pictures can’t accurately show the fine streams of sand blowing over the top edge of the dune.  Sand blows around so much that the state has to use front end loaders and road graders to rearrange it.  Must be a boring job, going from place to place, scraping the same stretches of road and shoulders, time and again.

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Snow? Nope…blowing sand.

The grasses they planted to stabilize the dunes haven’t started to do their job yet… And even later on, I’m still trying to wash the sand off my car…with all the nooks and crannies, “it’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!”

Following are some lighthouse pictures…my wife and I both enjoy visiting them.  I’ve climbed a few “back in the day” (Cape May, Aquinnah (Gay Head Light), Concord Point, and so on), so I’m not completely opposed to it.  The views are always spectacular, and occasionally I have gotten right up next to the lamp itself, usually off limits.  But my wife’s view of climbing is, well, “not so much.”  And, the older we get, the less appealing we both find the thought of climbing 248 steps (more or less) up, and then back down again, in claustrophobic quarters.  It’s simply lost its appeal…seems too much like unnecessary work.  One of these days, I’ll do it “one last time, just for the memories”.  

But not now…

This (Currituck light, north of Duck) is a  fine example of one of the very few brick lighthouses.  And the place was extremely crowded when we were there.  It took a while to arrange this relatively human-free snapshot.

Currituck Light, near Duck.

Paved road ends at the northern border of NC, as in  “way north of Duck.”  We’re told that parts of Route 12 were first paved as recently as 1985 north of Duck (don’t you just love that name?), remaining unpaved in Virginia.  If you have a 4wd vehicle (which we obviously didn’t), you can continue north into Virginia, where Route 12 actually moves out onto the beach.  We’re told there are even speed limit and route signs out there on the sand!

Cape Hatteras Light

There were some other interesting things to see…such as the rows of expensive beach houses between Route 12 (the only access road) and the Atlantic. (See below:)

You can bet these aren’t cheap…hope they’re well insured.

Also the bridge between two of the islands:

The bridge…

Also the Hatteras Visitor Center and Weather Station:

Hatteras NC.

Another little beachfront house:

Another “cheap little beach house…” Hope it’s well insured!

Duck, NC (where the Weather Channel often stations reporters during hurricane events):

Duck, NC – pretty little town.
The gorgeous beach at Duck.

And as if to end a very fine trip on a high note, at sunset the last night, Mother Nature provided a spectacular color show, seen right outside our hotel room balcony…we watched in awe for a few minutes, enjoying the ever changing colors.

The end!

That’s all for now…

Mandy

Perhaps blue is not just for boys?

Several years ago, our area started an internet group to communicate.  Neither my wife nor I were  interested in joining.  But we heard about it from others and she agreed that we might want a presence,  if nothing more than to see what everyone talks about on line.  And it goes without saying, that we won’t participate much.  I somewhat reluctantly joined. 

Remember that my real given name is now used by females, and there is already a female in town with the same given name.  She’s been introduced at some of the gatherings we’ve attended as “the pretty one.”  But, it’s really anybody’s guess what the result would be, if she and I stood hip-to-hip and arm-in-arm, both wearing the same dresses and heels, being fully made up, with brightly polished nails and me with a more feminine hairdo.  (It could be a bit closer vote…one never knows.)

And obviously, not everyone knows me.  Some of the neighborhood women (probably the ones who don’t attend often meet their neighbors) have been using the email group’s welcoming feature to “welcome” each other aboard.  Not so much the men.   Only a couple men have responded. It’s a girl thing.

Yet, I find that somewhat interesting – are those who don’t know me assigning a gender by virtue of my name?  Especially by new correspondents, who haven’t met me yet?  They may get a bit of a shock if we eventually meet!   This happened to our long-haired son too, at his first year in college – his male “nickname” ends in “y” but somewhere along the official line that got switched to “ie.”  Needless to say, the lucky boy didn’t accept the invitation “s/he” received with his first year’s registration packet, to join a sorority….LOL!  And other than long hair, he clearly was a guy…

Oh, well – so I can be a girl or a guy, and the way I dress daily “typically” indicates female.  I answer to “Ma’am,”  “Miss,” and other feminine form of address, as well as (grudgingly, “Sir.”)   But I can clean up fairly well, as you can see from this picture a few years back… Here I am, outside my hotel room at the motel, ready for dinner.

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From the archives, in Fredericksburg, VA…

Blue is obviously my favorite color…that skirt almost matches my car (that’s why I bought the skirt!)  Perhaps blue isn’t just for boys after all…

Till next time,

Mandy