A Little Shopping Trip

With virus cases climbing a bit here, I stopped by my nail salon to make an appointment for renewing my fingers and toes. “Just in case they close the salons again.” They weren’t busy, and both female techs came running over to see me. They oooh’ed and awww’ed about my white toes and cute sandals!

The girl who does my nails thinks I should trade my gray capris and short sleeve polo for a red above-the-knee-length skirt and tan sleeveless tunic, and have her do my fingernails in white, to match my toes. “You’d look really pretty, hon! And it’s soooo hot, lots of my customers are now wearing skirts!” The other girls agreed with her. I passed it off with “We’ll see…” It might work if I were going out on one of my excursions. But this year…not so much!

Then I took a minute to pick up some things at the hardware store. I was greeted with “May I help you, Ma’am?” “Thanks, but I’m just looking.” “If you need anything, I’m right around the corner!” As I shopped, I found what I needed, and took it to the 20something female cashier. “Is that everything, Ma’am?” “Yes, thanks.” “And from the name on your card, you’re Mrs. ____________, right?” “Yes, dear.” And from there I was addressed as Mrs. _________-

Followed up by a similar experience at the grocery store…all together, Very Affirming.

That would be nice to hear, every day!



Steamboat’s a-comin’

We had occasion to be m in Louisville, KY back in July of 2010, and as usual, did just a bit of sightseeing while we were there.   One of the premier sights was  a steamboat sunset tour of the area, which included a nice dinner.  Not being one to spare the pictures, here are a few from the tour!

Enroute, we stopped at a Cabelas store as we had heard it was pretty neat. Nice float plane hanging from the ceiling! (I hear they all have that.) But back in 2017, they were merged into Bass Pro Shops, and though some stores remain under the Cabelas name, there is still some uncertainty about their future.

Ever wondered where Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made? We got a quick tour of the factory.

Hillerich & Bradsby Company (H&B) is the company, now located in Louisville, which produces the famous Louisville Slugger baseball bat. The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory is downtown Louisville features a retrospective of the product and its use throughout baseball history. H&B also makes baseball gloves, golf clubs, golf gloves and other equipment (under the PowerBilt brand).

In 2015, the company announced plans on March 23 to sell its Louisville Slugger division to sporting goods manufacturer Wilson.

Then for a highlight of our time in Louisville. The Belle of Louisville is a steamboat owned and operated by the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and moored at its downtown wharf next to the Riverfront Plaza/Belvedere  during its annual operational period. Originally named Idlewild, she was built by James Rees & Sons Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the West Memphis Packet Company in 1914 and was first put into service on the Allegheny River. Constructed with an all-steel superstructure and asphalt main deck, the steamboat allegedly holds the all-time record in her class for miles traveled, years in operation, and places visited. Belle of Louisville‘s offices are aboard Mayor Andrew Broaddus, The Broaddus is a floating lifesaving station built by the United States Life-Saving Service and located in Louisville. She is named in honor of Andrew Broaddus (1900-1972), former mayor of Louisville (1953-1957).

This floating lifesaving station’s historic purpose was to protect travelers on the Ohio River from the Falls of the Ohio, with rescue crews for those who fell victim to the rapids. Louisville was the first place where a lifesaving station was placed in western waters. The first lifestation in Louisville was in 1881, with Mayor Andrew Broaddus as the third. A National Historic Landmark, she is the only surviving floating lifesaving station of the US Life-Saving Service.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see that sight…

At the dock, before the cruise…
Louisville Skyline from the steamboat….
Pretty sunset from the water…
Getting ready to dock…

This post will end with the old classic pun: How do you pronounce the name of the capital of Kentucky?? Is it “Louis – ville” or Louie – ville?” Hmmmm….decisions, decisions. The correct answer is “Frankfort!” (Don’t feel bad…most folks get it wrong…) I was told that Louisville (named after King Louis XVI of France) has never been the capital.

Be well,


Quickie in Florida, 2001.

In 1924, Thomas Rowe purchased 80 acres of land in St. Petersburg, FL for $100,000 to begin his dream of building a “pink castle”. He hired Indianapolis architect Henry Dupont to design the hotel and Carlton Beard as contractor. To ensure the stability of the hotel on the shifting sand and avoid the high cost of sinking so many pilings, Beard devised a floating concrete pad and pyramid footings. To this day there is no sign of evident settling of the hotel. The architecture is a blend of Mediterranean and Moorish styles modeled after different hotels and developments that Rowe and Beard saw in Palm Beach, Coral Gables and Boca Raton. The original design called for a $450,000 six-story hotel with 110 rooms and baths. It was later expanded to 220 rooms and 220 baths and the costs soared to $1.25 million, 300% over budget. Rowe named it Don Ce-Sar after Don Cesar de Bazan, the hero of William Vincent Wallace’s opera Maritana.

Rowe’s “Pink Lady” opened on January 16, 1928, with an extravagant party attended by the elite of Tampa and St. Petersburg. The hotel quickly became a favorite romping ground for the rich and famous of the Jazz Age including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clarence Darrow, Al Capone, Lou Gehrig and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Pink Palace continued to attract the rich and famous throughout the Great Depression, thanks in part to a deal made with New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert to house his team during spring training for three years.

However, after the sudden death of Rowe without a will, “The Don” was left to his estranged wife and began to fall into disrepair until the United States entered into World War II and the hotel was bought out by the Army for $450,000. It was converted into a military hospital and reopened in December 1942. In February 1944 the Don Ce-Sar became a US Army Air Corps convalescent center. In June 1945 the Don Ce-Sar was ordered closed and was vacant by September of that year. It was converted into a Veterans Administration Regional Office by the end of 1945.

In November 1967 the Veterans Administration began moving out of the Don Ce-Sar. By spring 1969, the once grand hotel was vacant. The General Services Administration planned to raze the graffiti-covered hotel, but this was met with fierce opposition from local residents. In March 1972 the Don Ce-Sar was sold to C.L. Pyatt and William Bowman Jr., a Holiday Inn franchise owner. The Don CeSar (now spelled without the hyphen) reopened on November 23, 1973. Multiple renovations from 1985 to 2001 have updated and added onto the hotel, including a 4,000-square-foot spa, a signature restaurant, and a second outdoor swimming pool. After the addition of the full-service beach club and spa, the official name of the hotel was changed to The Don CeSar Beach Resort and Spa.

The Don CeSar was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and became a founding member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America in 1989. Nightly rate on an arbitrary weeknight in 1.2021 will be allegedly between 350 and 400, plus tax and fees.  Not the place to stay if you’re looking for an economy room!

The original Twistee Treat (below) was a franchised chain of ice cream restaurants, founded in 1983 in North Fort Myers, Florida. The restaurants are characterized by buildings shaped in the form of soft-serve ice cream cones.

This one was in St. Petersburg…

The original company, which had 23 locations in Florida, went into bankruptcy in the early-1990s. A new Twistee Treat company, based in Orlando, FL, was formed in 1996. As of 1999, the new company had 35 locations in Florida and Missouri.

In 2010 a new company, Twistee Treat USA began building new stores.

I saw this rail equipment down in Florida on the trip, but don’t have any information about it! Even Wikipedia doesn’t have much useful information!

A quick drive-by netted a picture of the Bradenton FL former Atlantic Coast Line station. At this point, it was disused, but apparently it was refitted into a dentist’s office a few years later. At least it wasn’t demolished – yet!

And keeping with the train theme, below is where your Tropicana orange juice begins its journey to your favorite grocer…not far from Bradenton, and it travels in a dedicated train.

And at last, a west-coast-of-Florida trademark sunset – so beautiful!

Stay tuned!


A quickie…

This is a seldom-seen-scene these days.

The view is the Chicago skyline as seen from a traditional single-level compatible vista- dome car on the Capitol Limited, from back in the mid-1980’s. This style of dome, with almost full view all around and overhead, continued in service on the “Cap” until Superliner II cars entered service in 1994. That enabled their retirement, in favor of the more modern Superliner II “Sightseer Lounges” – bilevel cars with side windows, and curved windows which went part way up into the roof.

(And enabled some of the old ones to enter short-line (and private) ownership.

Yours truly was fortunate enough to have been on the next-to-the-last run of the “Cap” with this type of dome equipment. It was quite a sight to sit up here and watch the block signals ahead change from green to red as the train entered each block.

Can’t do that with a Superliner Sightseer Lounge:

This was from a trip in the winter of 2007.


It’s hard to stop a train…

But water over the rails can do it every time…unless the locomotive is a steam engine!

With no electronics in the running gear, and boiling water making the steam, those old-fashioned steam engines are able to negotiate a little water. However diesels have electric gear (traction motors) on the axles, which turn the wheels, and water quickly shorts them out. Thus it always becomes a no-go situation.

This picture was taken about 20 years ago. I was a crew member on this train, thus able to de-board for a picture. And the rain started in earnest right after I’d snapped the picture, thus the water was still going up, not down. (We were later told that the storm took out power locally, thus those pumps (which normally kept this low spot dry), couldn’t operate.

So much for that day’s run. Needless to say, the train reversed direction and returned to the yard, to await a drier day!


OMG, I broke a nail…instant replay!

A couple weeks ago, the nail on my right pointer finger got a big chip, where the gel separated from my nail and a chunk of it fell off. I stopped by the nail salon, and the tech fixed the problem. Well, 3 days ago a nail on the middle finger did the same thing. So, same drill… While she was fixing the issue, I got to thinking: these nails have not been removed and replaced in a long time. In fact, other than fills every few weeks, they are basically the same set I’ve had for months, including the over-two-months with no fills. I asked if removing them completely, and putting on a new set, would be practical, especially with another virus closure always lurking around the corner.

She highly recommended it for my fingers. But since my toes are just painted (well, except for the broken ones), they don’t need it. There were only 2 techs on duty at that time, so there wasn’t much fuss over me.

My fingers looked much better than they did before…much shorter, of course, in case of another salon shut-down. But you really can’t tell in a picture…so I didn’t take one! Close-up, of course, it’s a big difference!

Then there was the pedicure…the noticeable part of it. And the white polish really pops!

And I bought some white nail polish, to do them myself if the polish fails during a shutdown…

I did get a compliment on the outfit…at the grocery store afterward! (A neighbor, but who cares?) It looked nice to them. That’s all that counts…

More later,


A new adventure…

I’m going across the bridge (solo) to the western shore of the bay, for a much-delayed-by-Covid eye appointment, plus a couple of other errands. I’d have put it off longer, if I weren’t running out of contact lenses…there’s much less virus over on the eastern shore, where we live.

My plan is to wear white capris, a black boat-neck tunic, and my white sandals, so that my white toe nails will show but not be quite as obvious. I don’t plan to take any closed toe shoes, so hiding them won’t be possible. But due to where I will be (where neighbors shop), no skirts today…necklace, bracelet, pink fingernails, long hair, and purse will have to do.

And the following summarizes my successful trip:

First stop was the grocery store. There, I was identified by a passer-by as female (“excuse me, Ma’am”), and several times by the female check-out clerk, ending with “have a wonderful day, Ma’am.” Very affirming!

Then off toward the bridge… Eastbound traffic was backed up for about 3 miles, but westbound (the way I was traveling) was fine. However, thoughts of alternate routes to get home danced through my mind for a few minutes. Going the long way (north on I-95 almost to Wilmington, DE and then on country roads from there, adds about 3 hours to the trip. But it’s better, and much less stressful, than sitting in stop-and-go traffic, with the car idling at zero miles per gallon and running the AC full blast in traffic for 2+ hours!

My first errand was at a shop I’ve been to before and the female owner knows me. No issue there, and I was addressed as “Sir.” Understandable. No problem.

After that, I had a few minutes to detour past one of the rail stations on Amtrak’s northeast corridor. I brought the tripod to make taking pictures of trains better. But not only were there no trains while I was there, the parking lots were almost empty. On a mid-week workday. Wow….these lots are typically 98% full during a normal work week!

I’ve heard about almost-empty trains (like aiplanes) but hadn’t really thought much about it. It’s true. Given the number of cars there, and the scarcity of trains, it made me a believer.

Next stop was at the Eye Doctor. Good news, my prescription hasn’t changed! And though I was examined by a new doctor, she had worked there in a different capacity for many years, and knew me. So I was still “Mr. _________” despite my rather feminine attire. Such is the way it goes when folks know you as male.

Then, decision time: do i try to cross the bridge, or take the long way home? A quick check on line didn’t show any about problems on-line, so I took a chance, and won the bet. No issues! Yay! But I did see some very VERY fresh “dually’ black tire marks on the “jersey wall” barriers which protect everyone from going over the side. Wonder if a truck accident had occurred earlier, causing the backup I saw?

Last stop was at a paint store in a nearby town. I needed to buy some paint for around the house. The clerk was careful to avoid any gender-specific greetings, but I was able to accomplish the task at hand…

It was a very successful trip, in spite of the fact that 2/3 of the stops were at places where people already know my biological gender…

Stay well,


California 2007! Vol. 5

Just a few miles south of San Simeon, and just off the Pacific Coast Highway, is a small town by the name of Harmony. It was founded as a dairy settlement, including a creamery, in 1869.  Many of the founders were Swiss immigrants from near the Italian border — the same background as many of San Luis Obispo County’s founders, including the Madonna family, owners of the Madonna Inn, located in San Luis Obispo.

According to Wikipedia, the operation changed hands repeatedly because of rivalries that led to a killing. In 1907, owners and ranchers agreed to call off their feud and called the town by its present name as a symbol of their truce.

As the town grew, it hosted a dairy management office, dormitories for employees, a livery stable, a blacksmith, and later a gas station. A school was built, and a feed store and post office gave Harmony official status as a community. At its peak, the creamery employed 10 workers, producing high quality dairy products, including butter and cheese that gave Harmony name recognition statewide. Tourists traveling the PCH often stopped in the one-paved-street town for fresh buttermilk, and famed publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst stopped often on his way to his opulent home in San Simeon

Since the 1970s, Harmony has ridden cycles of prosperity and neglect. It’s been home to upscale restaurants, crafts, ceramics and art. More recently, Harmony became a town in name only; a single restaurant remained, but went through several owners before closing in 1997. The post office closed in 2008.  Harmony Glass Works keeps the town alive, selling art objects, locally hand blown glass, and pottery.

But Harmony faces an uncertain future.  It was put up for sale. In 2014, it was purchased by Alan VanderHorst and his family, who plan to restore and preserve the 2.5-acre historic town.  Perhaps a brighter future awaits…

Then, back in the car and on to the PCH, to Morro Bay and its curios island, Morro Rock.

The 581-foot Morro Rock is one of 13 volcanic plugs (remnant necks of extinct volcanoes), lava domes, and sheetlike intrusions between Morro Bay on the north and Islay Hill on the south, all in San Luis Obispo County.

Morro Rock is important to historians, biologists, geologists, and ecologists. It’s also the location where countless Indian rituals have taken place over the years. A sacred site to the Salinas people, it’s central to at least four of their legends. The Salinan Tribe has been climbing Morro Rock twice a year, during the summer and winter solstice, for centuries to perform religious ceremonies.

It, was originally named El Morro by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo when he first set his eyes upon it in 1542 (Morro).  In Spanish “Morro” means crown-shaped hill. Allegedly the origin of the word comes from the Spanish word for Moor, because round hills resemble the Moors’ turbans.  The rock was at one time completely surrounded by water but was periodically quarried from 1891 to 1968; a causeway and breakwater were built from the rocks and sediment, connecting Morro Rock to the mainland.

Back to the good old PCH again…on to another nearby burg, Los Alamos (CA, not NM!) There was a big antique-looking building there, called the Union Hotel:

From the hotel’s website: The original Union Hotel in Los Alamos was constructed in 1880 as a stagecoach stop. When the Pacific Coast Railway arrived in 1882, it began serving customers riding the rails as well. It was also the local telegraph station, a showroom and way-station for traveling salesmen and the Wells Fargo office. Like many wooden structures of its time, it burned down in 1883, most likely due to a knocked over oil lantern. A replacement hotel was built on this site in 1915. The new hotel had a stucco facade, which was less likely to burn down.

In the 1970s, this stucco faced building was clad with aged wood siding and architectural details in an attempt to make it look more like the original building. The 1915 version of the hotel with its retro rustic wood facing is still standing and in use today. Of particular interest, this is where Michael Jackson filmed the video for “Say, Say, Say” with Paul McCartney in 1983 and the 1950s, Johnny Cash played in the dining room. 

Not only does the 1880 Union Hotel looks like part of that wild-wild-west era, the phantoms still lurk to celebrate these times. Unidentified footsteps walk on the old creaking wood floor, and the piano in the bar plays by itself. 

And then, on to the town of Solvang.. a city in Santa Barbara County, CA. It is located in the Santa Ynez Valley. Population was 5,245 at the 2010 census. Solvang was incorporated as a city on May 1, 1985.

Solvang was founded in 1911 on almost 9,000 acres (3,600 ha) of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant, by a group of Danes who traveled west to establish a Danish community far from the midwestern winters. The city is home to a number of bakeries, restaurants, and merchants offering a taste of Denmark in California. The architecture of many of the façades and buildings reflects traditional Danish style. There is a copy of the famous Little Mermaid statue from  Copenhagen, as well as one featuring the bust of famed Danish fable writer Hans Christian Amderson. A replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower (in 1:3 scale) was finished in 1991 and can be seen in town center.

Stay tuned…more to follow!


Ya say it never snows in Maryland?

It didn’t last year, of course. But where did ya get that information?

The Blizzard of 2003, also known as the Presidents’ Day Storm II or simply PDII, was an historic and record-breaking snowstorm on the East Coast of the United States and Canada, which lasted from February 14 to February 19, 2003. It spread heavy snow across the major cities of the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, making it the defining snowstorm of the very snowy winter of 2002-2003.

These pictures were taken near Baltimore during that time, as the area got hammered by the biggest blizzard in years.

The storm developed in the southern Rockies on February 14, and moved through southern Missouri and the Lower Tennessee Valley during the next few days. It brought heavy rain, ice and severe weather to some areas of the South, including the nation’s first tornado of the year. Farther north, snow and ice affected the Midwest. Southern Iowa and eastern Illinois also got significant snow, with 11 inches (28 cm) in Des Moines. In central Kentucky the storm produced mostly ice, with some locations including Frankfort and Lexington receiving up to 3/4″ of ice. Much of Ohio received heavy snowfall.

However, early on February 16, snow started falling in the northeast.  Heavy snow was continuously reported, falling at rates of up to 4 inches per hour.  In addition, temperatures were frigid, around 15 °F. The heavy snow continued all day.  By the evening, snow changed to sleet in Washington, D.C., and significantly lowered the accumulation. Throughout the rest of the Northeast, however, the snow continued for much of the night. The sleet changed back to snow by the next morning in Washington, D.C., and soon ended. The storm weakened until it was completely absorbed by other systems by February 19…  after it had paralyzed much of the East Coast with its heavy snow. All in all, it was the most significant and powerful storm to affect the major cities of the Northeast since the Blizzard of 1996.  Airports from Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York were closed. Dulles Airport in Washington DC had just one runway open, and National was closed. With snow continually accumulating, road travel was nearly impossible.

In Baltimore the roof of the historic B&O Railroad Museum built in 1884 collapsed, damaging many valuable engines, historic railroad cars, and train exhibits.

Parts of the Baltimore suburbs were some of the hardest hit areas of the blizzard. Snowfall totals in the towns immediately north of the city were estimated at between 38″-40″ while the downtown city center recorded only 28″ of snow. Many school districts affected by the blizzard  closed schools for the week. Some districts in New Jersey finally ended their school year as late as June 30, 2003.

We were in a “sweet spot” during the blizzard, and escaped the worst of it, though schools were still closed, due to back roads being drifted shut from 12″ – 16″ of windblown snow…

It was a weekend to remember…


California 2007! Vol 4

“Look dear, there it is!” Specifically the famed pink sign identifying the Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo:

The Madonna Inn opened as a motel inn on December 24, 1958 upon the completion of its first twelve rooms.  Named after the Madonna family (not the religious Madonna), the Madonnas were so excited to have their first guest, they refunded his $7 room rental.   Demand was sufficient to expand to forty rooms in 1959, and the Inn facility was constructed in 1960.  Reportedly, when architect Richard Neutra stayed at the Inn, he asked Alex Madonna, the owner, about his design: “Alex, you didn’t have an architect here, did you? It’s just as well you didn’t because you couldn’t have captured all the details if you had to draw them out. I don’t know how you would draw these things!”

While in San Luis Obispo, the Petruccis did a bit of splurging by staying at the Madonna Inn, which is one of the new tourist attractions in that coastal area. According to Mrs. Petrucci, “fabulous” is the word for it.

In May 1966, the Inn’s original units were burned to the ground in a fire.  It reopened a year later, and by the end of the decade, all of the rooms had been rebuilt in manner for which they are known today. There are 110 rooms.

In 1975, critic Paul Goldberger penned an article about the Madonna Inn for the New York Times, which elevated it to national prominence.   By 1982, the Madonna Inn was already well-known, and Alex Madonna was quoted as saying, “Anybody can build one room and a thousand like it. It’s more economical. Most places try to give you as little as possible. I try to give people a decent place to stay where they receive more than they are entitled to for what they’re paying. I want people to come in with a smile and leave with a smile. It’s fun.”

The view from the inn is very pretty:

And having stayed there, in a suite with a separate living room, and a working fireplace, I have to agree…it’s a fun venue.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a visit!

The next day, it was off again, south on the PCH. Next stop was the magnificent William Randolph Hearst (of newspaper fame) Castle. If you don’t recognize the name “Hearst” from newspapers, you may remember his daughter, Patty Hearst, whom in 1974 was kidnapped by the radical group Symbionese Liberation Army from her Berkeley, CA apartment…

This lovely mansion is located in San Simeone, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.A bit of history, from the website and other sources:

In 1865, George Hearst, a wealthy miner, purchased about 30,000 acres from the Rancho Piedra Blanca, a Mexican land grant. He also bought portions of the 4,800 acre adjoining Rancho San Simeon and eventually about 3,000 acres of the Rancho Santa Rosa.

George died in 1891. His only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited the land from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst after she passed away in 1919. After purchasing more land, W. R. Hearst eventually grew the ranch to encompass nearly 250,000 acres.

Originally known as “Camp Hill,” its wilderness offered a place for family members and friends to “rough it” on camping trips. Despite elaborate arrangements, Hearst envisioned more comfortable accommodations. In 1919, he told famed San Francisco architect Julia Morgan: “Miss Morgan, we are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.”

Hearst and Morgan’s collaboration was destined to become one of the world’s greatest showplaces and an accredited museum. As they were planning and constructing his dream estate, Hearst renamed the rocky perch from which it rose “La Cuesta Encantada” – The Enchanted Hill.

And enchanting it is…

If you get there in the wintertime, as we did, you may even find a half inch of ice on the fountain! The guide broke the ice to show us…

Working in collaboration with Hearst, Morgan sought to capture the grandeur of European architecture, and many features were inspired by foreign buildings and artworks. Construction continued into the late 1940s.

And the effort was well worth it, as you can see!

The centerpiece of the estate is the main residence, which became known as Hearst Castle. It was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style, and its facade suggests a Spanish cathedral with its bell towers and ornate decorations. The main entrance is flanked by bas-reliefs of knights, and a sculpture of Mary holding the infant Jesus is perched over the door.

The splendor of the exterior continues inside the mansion. Covering 68,500 square feet (6,360 square metres), Hearst Castle contains 115 rooms, including 38 bedrooms, more than 40 bathrooms, a theatre, and a beauty salon. Typifying the mansion’s opulence is the Doge’s Suite, which was inspired by the Doges’ Palace in Venice and was reportedly reserved for Hearst’s most important guests. The sitting room features walls adorned with velvet fabric, and the 18th-century painted ceiling was originally in an Italian palazzo. In addition, Hearst’s extensive collection of antiques and artworks is prominently displayed in the suite as well as throughout the rest of the mansion.

It was well worth spending the time at Hearst Castle on our visit.

More to come…stay tuned!