Breaks Interstate Park

July 5, 2015

Today is the last day of my three day weekend.  Tomorrow the pressure begins.  One consistent about FEMA.  They often feel it necessary to harass Project Specialists to get grant applications done quickly.

With that in mind, I headed to Breaks Interstate Park because it is the closest place that has hiking trails.  It is a 45 minute drive.

the Prospector's Trail

the Prospector’s Trail

Prospector's Trail

Prospector’s Trail

The Geologic Trail to the State Boundary Overlook

The Geologic Trail to the State Boundary Overlook

View from The State Boundary Overlook

View from The State Boundary Overlook

The Daniel Boone National Forest

July 5, 2015

It is Saturday and today I decided to head west to the Daniel Boone National Forest.  I had done some research and the Red River Gorge Scenic Byway seemed like a place I’d like to see.  It took two plus hours.  I drove the Scenic Byway and did short hikes to “Angel Windows” and the “Whistling Arch”.  Here are a few pictures of my adventures…

Daniel Boone National Forest

Daniel Boone National Forest

Angel Whispers

Angel Windows

Angel Whispers

Angel Windows

Many Rhodes in the is forest

Many Rhodes in the is forest

Whistling Arch

Whistling Arch

The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

The Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

It was a pleasant day, although I’m getting tired of driving.  It is the 4th of July and I’m heading home.

Once in Pikeville, the gala 4th celebration was in full swing…

4th od July in the square

4th od July in the square

What can I say?  I decided to pass and go back to my hotel for a movie.  I will say between 9:30 and 10:30 I thought World War Three had started.  Two things are sacred here…Go USA and God.

Asheville, NC

July 5, 2015

Today I drove three hours to visit Asheville, North Carolina.  Every time I have seen magazines publish the top cities in America I have noticed that Asheville, NC always shows up!  As it turned out, it was an impressive town (65,000).

Street Bluegrass in Asheville

Street Bluegrass in Asheville

view in Downtown Asheville, NC

view in Downtown Asheville, NC

A beer at the "Wicked Weed" Brewery in Asheville

A beer at the “Wicked Weed” Brewery in Asheville

I would rate Ashville an A.  It was a large version of Nevada City (it is in the mountains), but it was much more lively.  It was obviously a destination town.  It also reminded me at times of Berkeley…many art galleries, lots of very liberal types and minorities.  I liked Asheville a lot.

The drive home was pretty as well.

View from I 26 between Pikeville and Asheville

View from I 26 between Pikeville and Asheville

Keep in mind that I had to drive three hours to get back to civilization.  Asheville seems very “California”.  My trip took me from Kentucky, across Virginia, then Tennessee and then to North Carolina…all in three hours.  The geology and thus landscapes varied in each state.  The picture above was in Tennessee I believe…the valleys were much broader than in Eastern Kentucky.

FEMA

July 5, 2015

Not much in the way of photos to share here.  I was told I would be “deployed” to Eastern Kentucky”…Appalachia.  To Pikeville, KY…self acclaimed to be the coal capital of the USA…

So, after a busy day of getting things to work, and asking questions about how they wanted the grants to be written, I was off to Pikeville…three hours east of Lexington.

A quick word about Kentucky Parkways.  They are divided highways, four lanes, with no billboards and few intersections.  They are litter free and quite beautiful.  A nice way to travel at high speeds.

I’m trying to be brief here.  I was surprised to find that Pikeville is actually a decent town.  No Nevada City by any means, but a lot better than I had feared.

The Hatfields and McCoys

The Hatfields and McCoys

All towns in Eastern Kentucky are situated in valleys between the omnipresent hills.  Pikeville is no exception.  On of my favorite aspects of being here is that the locally famous “99 steps” are very close to the front door of my hotel.

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I do these first thing in the morning, and several times in the evening…it definitely gets my blood running!  These steps go to the center of the University of Pike campus…a very small but relatively new Presbyterian University.  Here is a picture of the town from the top of the 99 steps:

Pikeville

Pikeville

A few observations of Pikeville and the area around it.  It is economically depressed.  They blame Obama for enabling EPA to place so many restrictions on the coal industry that it is shutting down most of the coal mines, the major source of income for many of the citizens.  People here are not health conscious!  Most (like 95%) are way overweight and many smoke. The accents are the most pronounced I have ever heard.  My lack of same, must cast doubt upon my character!  Another interesting aspect is when driving through the many valleys, one observes beautiful (albeit inexpensive) homes right next to shacks.  This is a very common sight.  Haves and have nots…One last thing…prople so far DO seem very friendly.

I’ve been out once so far doing site visits.  All my projects are state maintained local roads in the valleys.  The roads have been undercut by heavy rainfall running across the roads or creeks undercutting the roads.  I viewed five roads and 18 sites.  Each site will have $20,000-$30,000 in repairs.  I’m working in five counties here.

Frankfort Pike and the Woodford Reserve

July 5, 2015

On Sunday, I decided to enjoy a more mellow day.  I would drive the scenic “Frankfort Pike” through some of the most beautiful horse farms in the road.  Along the way, I would stop for a walking tour through “The Woodford Reserve” one of the premier Bourbon Distilleries in Kentucky.  Oh and yes, lunch at Wallace Station…an amazing little roadside deli.

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You have to see the horse farms to appreciate them.  The grass really is a “teal”…a blue green.  And I never saw a sprinkler.  While California dries up, it rains enough here that it stays green all the time.  Lining the “Frankfort Pike (An historic roadway) were trees and stone walls.  It was beautiful from Frankfort (Kentucky’s State Capital) to Lexington (The USA’s horse capital).

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Along the way I had Cajun Catfish sandwich at Wallace Station.  I had read some great reviews and they turned out to be well founded.

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Then it was time for the Woodford Distillery Tour.  I drove to the beautiful grounds and signed up for a tour.

The Woodford Distillery

The Woodford Distillery

How Bourbon is made

How Bourbon is made

Fermentation...yeast doing its thing

Fermentation…yeast doing its thing

The stills...

The stills…

Aging in the casks...there are a minimum number of years they do this.  They also put the bourbon in a second cask for some of their bourbons.

Aging in the casks…there are a minimum number of years they do this. They also put the bourbon in a second cask for some of their bourbons.

I bought a bottle of the “Double Oak Bourbon”, which I shall share when I return home.  I drove home once again past the beautiful farms….

Horse Farms near Lexington

Horse Farms near Lexington

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Some farms have their own race track

Mammoth Cave National Park

June 30, 2015

On June 27th, I decided to explore the Mammoth Cave National Park.  I researched the tours and decided to do the most difficult and longest of the offered tours.  I was fortunate to be able to get a single ticket for the “Wild Cave Tour”.  I read and was a bit intimidated by the reviews on Trip Advisor.  Read twenty of them and you will see why.

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This is called “The Bare Hole”. I “barely” got through it.

We started by crawling “forever”.  I had knee pads that didn’t fit and it was hard.  I had a headlamp, but could basically only see my hands and the feet of the person in front to me.  As was common for the whole experience, I was very aware that I was 30 years older than the next oldest person, so I was very concerned about holding up those who followed me.  So on I crawled…then we reached “The Bare Hole”.  I looked at it and literally could not believe I could get through it.  But get through it I did…barely.  At one point, it was 9 inches top to bottom.  I had to turn my head to the side to get it through.  I also had to extend one arm, and put the other at my side.  Eventually, I got half way through and got stuck.  I was wedged in and a bit nervous about getting through.  One of the guides put her foot behind mine allowing me to “push”.  It was just enough to gain and inch on every push.  It was all I needed.  It took five minutes, but I made it through.  Fortunately, there were only two such holes…one too many.

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Typical scene when we were standing

we also hiked standing or stooped over.  It was pretty amazing to see the extent of these caves…there are 390 mapped miles in the Mammoth Cave, and they are finding more every year.

We did a lot of this

We did a lot of this

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One of the many pretty scenes inside the cave

The other tricky part of the “hike” was the bouldering we had to do.  I wish I had pictures.  We would walk through narrow passages that were 30 feet deep.  There was NO TRAIL!  We had to put one foot on one side of the crevasse and one foot on the other side.  Our hands were on rocks on both sides of the crevasse…and on we slithered.  Sometimes, both feet would be on one side of the crevasse and our hands on the other…walking sideways…very slowly and carefully.

And so it went…for five miles.

By the end, after ascending 300 vertical feet over large boulders in a narrow passageway, we FINALLY emerged on an easy walking trail where we met the “easy” tour with kids and parents.  Here we were in extremely dirty coveralls, helmets and headlamps.  We made quite a sight.  We felt like studs…

So in a nutshell, that was the Mammoth Cave experience.

Kentucky

June 30, 2015

I arrived in Lexington late in the evening on June 22nd and started work at the FEMA field office on the 23rd.  This blog will be about the things that I do, places I visit and people I come across.  As I write this retrospectively (I’ve been here for over a week) I will summarize by saying that Kentucky is a beautiful state!  It is as green (or maybe bluish…) as any place I have visited, and that includes Ireland!

My first week was all FEMA.  We spend the first three or four days getting equipment and getting it to work.  FEMA has so many computer “firewalls” that it is not as simple as one would think.  Plus there are no fewer than six passwords that need to be updated every three months.  Anyway, I spent four days doing all the administrative prep and attending disaster briefings.  It would appear that I will be assigned to eastern Kentucky, Appalachia.  Eastern Kentucky was hardest hit by the March storms that caused this disaster and the resulting damage…primarily to roads.

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The metropolitan Museum of Art

January 22, 2013

Today I decided to brave the impending snow and the cold (20’s), and take the train into Manhattan to go see the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’ve moved from White Plains to New Windsor, so the trip takes about two and a half times what it took before.  It was definitely worth the extra time!  I saw so many great pieces of art today that I can only summarize by saying it was a wonderful day!   But on to my day…

The train I took was the Hudson Line.  I picked it up in Beacon, New York, not too many miles south of Poughkeepsie.  It was a pleasant ride with views of the Hudson River throughout.  The two pictures, taken out the window of the train, are of an un-named “Castle” on a rock, and the underbelly of the Tappan Zee Bridge that connects Tarrytown and Nyack.  Some may remember Tarrytown and the nearby glen called “Sleep Hollow”.  I looked for a Headless Horseman”, but none such appeared.

Castle on a rock    The Tappan Zee Bridge

Finally, after an hour and fifteen minutes, I arrived at Grand Central…

Grand Central Station  Keeping in mind that it was 23 degrees out, I decided to brave the cold, and instead of taking the subway, I would walk to the Art Museum.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art is on the Central Park side of Fifth Street where 81st avenue intersects the Park.  Here you see just two scenes I saw on my icy two and a half mile walk to the Museum…

Carriage at Central Park  Fifth Avenue between Central Park and the %22East Side%22 You can guess from the lack of crowd, that it was cold outside…

And then the highlight of my day…this magnificent Art Museum.  I’m not at all sure how to order my pictures here, but I’ll try to follow the path I took on Sunday.  Once I was in, the first thing I saw was this suit of armor.  Sadly I did not look at the inscription, and as with some of the other pieces I will insert into this post, I cannot tell you the period this armor came from!  It wasn’t long before I realized my mistake, and so many of the works I’ll show, will also have the written descriptions.

Roman Armor, but what is the other stuff?

So next I walked past an attention grabbing sculpture on my way to the European Art Section of the museum…check this out!

Awesome Swiss Sculpture  Jean Tinguely

So this piece was done by a Swiss Artist Jean Tinguely.  I now understand why Swiss watches are in such high demand.  Or perhaps Jean started off as a watch maker and got demoted to being a Sculptor.  Regardless, I loved this piece!  Soon I figured out that I was in the modern art section of the Museum.  The next room I visited had Jackson Pollock pieces that I actually recognized!  Here are two.

Number 28, 1950   Pollock # 28 picture

Such original titles…that was #28 and here is #30:

Jackson Pollock #30  Jackson Pollock Autumn Rhythm # 30

And of course, walking through modern art, sooner or later, one comes face to face with a Picasso…

Picasso

Soon I arrived at the first of my two main destinations for this visit…the European Section of the Museum.  I was immediately greeted by a Gauguin painting, one of his famous Polynesian portraits…Gauguin’s Hail Mary

00 Gauguin's Hail Mary   02 Hail Mary by Gauguin

I apologize for the poor quality of the nameplates.  So many pieces of art and so little time, I just stuck my camera down and snapped the photos.  Hopefully, my pictures of the paintings are of a higher quality.  Right after Gauguin, I fond some Van Goghs.  Here is a recognizable painting, “Wheatfield with Cypresses.

05 Van Gogh 06 Wheat Fields with Cypresses

Followed by his rather famous self portrait:

07 Van Gogh 08 Self Portrait with Straw Hat

 

(It is Friday, and I should be able to finish this post with the rest of the pictures.  There are a few good ones coming…:)

Greenwich Village and “Newsies”

January 15, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013.

Today I decided to spend time in Greenwich Village before making my way to the Nederlander Theater to see the Broadway Show, “Newsies”.  As I made my way toward Greenwich Village, I realized I had not taken any pictures of my experience on the trains and subways.  I love the trains and subways in New York!

P1000170   This is a mediocre picture inside of Grand Central Station fairly early on a sunday morning.

P1000171  …and the inside of the “S” subway shuttle that connects Grand Central Station with Times Square.

P1000172  This guy was really good.  The entertainment underground in the subway tubes blows me away!

It took me a little over an hour to get from White Plains to Greenwich Village.  I had checked online to find a great coffee place and I did.  Jacks was small, but the coffee was great, and I could watch the locals talk about politics, their families, or in one case, a recent trip to Patagonia (I wanted to join in on that one).

P1000173  After hanging out for 20 minutes, I headed out to walk the streets of the Village.  Here are my rather bizarre observations of the streets, unsupported by photos.  First, there were Christmas trees everywhere.  Apparently, in Greenwich Village, people leave their Christmas decorations up for a long time!  Second, many people have dogs, mostly little bitty ones.  They walk around with glove doggie doo gloves as thankfully,  it is illegal to leave your dog defecation on the streets or sidewalks.  It is NOT illegal to leave your dog’s puddles.  I think everyone walks their dogs on Sundays.  There were pee puddles everywhere!

P1000176  Finally, I started looking up instead of down.  I noticed a famous street…Bleecker.  Remember the Simon and Garfunkel song???  Well, if your not in your 60’s, you may not…unless you hear it.  So up and down I went, along Hudson Street, W 11th, W 10th…which intersects with W 4th!  Charles, Perry and on and on.  Many very old brick streets, with apartments that look like they were built over two hundred years ago, yet still full of their original charm and I’m sure priced accordingly.  Finally, at 11 am, I was ready for Brunch at the “Spotted Pig”.

P1000177  This was a delightful albeit overpriced little corner restaurant, that had a line of about 25 people by the time I showed up at 10:50!  It must be good.  I sat at the Bar upstairs and had a delightful little concoction called …”Dutch Baby with House Smoked Bacon and maple Syrup.  With apologies to the vegetarians, it was very good!  It was essentially a crepe with bacon and syrup.

After Brunch, I decided to hoof it along the East River the two and a half miles to the Nederlander Theater, the site of “Newsies”.

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As always the case in New York, there was plenty to see…including these two rather cool glass buildings…and the church below…

P1000182 This a Croatian monastery…

Being too early for the show, I decided to drink beer and watch the football playoffs, so I’m sad to admit I hit the touristy Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square…

P1000184  Finally, after two beers…I was off to the show!

I was amazed to find a line around the block…”this show must be pretty good” I thought to myself.  The line moved fast, and we even had some entertainment along the way!

P1000187  And finally, we arrived…

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You are forbidden to take pictures inside these shows, but I couldn’t resist…:(

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The show was really good except that the “understudy” who had the main role, had a pretty weak voice.  Other than that, the show was fantastic!  The set was very cool, the dancing lively and entertaining, the story was good and the music had some nice melodies.  All in all, this critic gave it an “A”.

So another fabulous day in New York.  And although I wish friends or family (or both) were here to enjoy it with me, I think I am making the best of it!

Stay tuned for my next adventure…January 21st to the Metropolitan Museum of Art…

Natural History Museum

January 8, 2013

On Saturday afternoon, January 6, 2013, I decided to take the train in to Manhattan to take a preview tour of the Natural History Museum on the west side of Central Park.  I say preview, as I knew well that two hours was not near enough to take in this magnificent display.  What follows are some of the photos I took of the many displays available with a General Admission ticket.  Here are some scenes from the “North America display:

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The displays were all so lifelike…very impressive.  Soon I moved on to the Africa displays…

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P1000086  P1000089 P1000095  And the most dangerous animal of all…

IMG_0957  The Great Thom-o-Saurus on his first day of Kindergarten…

After the Africa displays, I visited the Dinosaurs…

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The following is a large scale model of an African Mosquito bearing Malaria…glad they are not that large!

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Finally, a few displays of various ecosystems found int he US…

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All in all, it was a fascinating walk.  I have included a small sample of the well-done displays.  In two and a half hours, I probably saw 15 to 20% of the Museum.  I’ll be back another day for more…