Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 7 North Big Island back to Kona

Day 7 started out with breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes – enough breakfast we didn’t have lunch. When in Hilo, stop at Kens 🙂

About an hour north of Hilo we arrived at Waipii’o Valley Overlook. The valley is 2000′ deep, with great sea cliffs just beyond.

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A waterfall comes out of nowhere along the cliffs.

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Hawaii has a number of micro climates, with the landscape looking very different. Once we passed Waimea (Cowboy Capital of Hawaii), it all of a sudden switched from rain forest to ‘Central California hills’.

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Our next stop was one of the highlights of the island  – Polulu Valley Overlook. With a bit of a hike down and toward the ocean, the view south was stunning. I realize after 7 days there are a lot of ‘cliffs and ocean’ photos, but this is one of the best spots.

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The town of Kapaau is famous as the birthplace of Kamekameha. It is celebrated with a statue of him. Legend has it that this statue was made for placement in Honolulu but it was lost in a shipwreck, so they made a replacement.

Locals in Kapaau believed it was karma as they felt Honolulu should not have the statue since he is from their town. The original was recovered from the sea and sent to Kapauu.

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Kapaau is a nice little Hawaiian town.

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On the way back to Kona we stopped at the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory.

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Some of their processing is located here where you can check out people preparing the nuts.

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We left with plenty to last us the rest of the trip.

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As we neared Kona, we headed 3000′ up a mountain (and from 86 degrees to 67 degrees) to the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation.

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Kona is famous for their coffee, and this nice small family business gave us a tasting and a tour.

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The beans after the first step of processing.

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The coffee trees are grown on top of lava shoots, which provides the unique chemical balance that makes Kona coffee what it is.

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Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Chicago Special Tours

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to two Open House Special Tours.

Our first tour was of the CTA El Train Repair Shops in Skokie. Directions to our tour was to go to the Howard Street Station on the Red Line and gather on the far end of the platform.

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For this Saturday morning the platform was jammed with many people not used to taking the train, as they were in town for the University of Nebraska game against Northwestern in Evanston. To the normal commuter seeing a 1922 El Car come rolling into the station would be a surprise, but to this large out of town crowd it was stunning.

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One of the volunteers was dressed in a period uniform.

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While others had their safety vests on. All of the vintage cars are maintained by volunteers – many retired CTA workers.

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The passengers were excited…

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As we arrived at the yard we were greeted by other vintage cars awaiting restoration, as well as the revenue generating current cars.

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The 400 series cars really stand out against the modern cars in the yard.

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But it was time to tour the shop.

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Our tour guide was the manager of the facility.

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The shop.

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There were El cars in various states of repair.

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This station refurbishes the wheels.

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While another lifts the entire car for easy access.

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They also have some bays with pits to get underneath the cars.

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A great Chicago tradition is the Holiday Train. Started in 1992, the Holiday Train is a labor of love for the CTA employees who volunteer to work on the cars, as well as the public. During the holiday season the Holiday Train visits every El station on every line, usually taking food baskets to local organizations.

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Another vintage car along ithe snow removal engine (minus the blower)

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The El Cars have springs and shocks like a regular car, just much larger.

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An axle and wheels.

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A pile of wheels waiting on refurbishing.

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A collection of contact shoes that connect the train to the third rail to provide power to the engines.

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A series of trucks ready to go. After this we headed back to our vintage car and returned to Howard Street Station.

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Our second tour of the day was the Chicago Tribune Printing Facility

The Chicago Tribune Freedom Center is a printing and inserting facility located along the Chicago River. Built in 1981, it was located along the river with the theory of bringing the paper products directly into the facility by boat, but the first shipment showed that with the bend in the river, the bridges and the building itself they couldn’t get to the dock. While the doors are still there they have never been used for their original purpose.

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Our guide was someone from the receiving department.

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Our tour of the 800,000 square foot facility started in the warehouse with massive 1 ton rolls of paper.

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From this warehouse they are loaded onto carts that are electronically routed (via a wire in the floor – 1980s technology at it’s finest) to the appropriate press.

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There are a total of 10 massive presses that are used. The Tribune facility prints not only their own newspaper, but also for the regional suburban newspapers, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for the Midwest, and even their local competitor the Chicago Sun Times.

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The tour group was very focused.

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The massive printing presses are very cool.

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The Chicago Tribune Printing Facility was a great tour – one of the best we have done.

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Chicago – September 2018 – South Side Sights

Our weekend continued as we made our way into Chicago on an early Sunday morning. There were a couple of places I wanted to check out as we made our way across the city.

First up is the Pullman District. Built in the 1880s by railroad car manufacturer George Pullman, the neighborhood was a model for a company town. Pullman was determined to make a town that met all the workers needs, thus resulting in attracting better workers.

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They built many homes throughout. While most of the workers lived in row houses, there are a number of single family homes.

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A strike in 1894 brought to light the fallacy of some of Pullman’s statements, as the workers struggled to make ends meet.

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The neighborhood however lived on until the 1950s when many people left to move to the suburbs.

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Threatened with the possibility of the entire neighborhood being bulldozed for an industrial park, community leaders pulled together  a civic organization and lobbied the city to save their neighborhood.

By the early 1970s the Pullman Historic District had received landmark status. Today it is a National Historic Park, as well as a neighborhood that people live in.

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There is still more to do, but it does live on as a showcase for the South Side.

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Further into town is the Fountain of Time, a sculpture that is 126′ wide x 10′ high. Completed in the early 1920s, it was designed by Lorado Taft.

It’s location is at the edge of Washington Park and the Plaisance Midway.

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Nearby is Jackson Park, and the 59th Street beach. The grasses protect erosion from Lake Michigan.

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The Golden Lady is a 24′ gilded bronze likeness of a statue that was known as the Republic. The original was a 65′ high statue that was displayed in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

She sits in the general area they are planning on building the Obama Library.

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With the University of Chicago nearby there are a number of architecturally interesting buildings in the area.

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The most important building in the area is the Robey House, a classic Frank Lloyd Wright design.

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They are restoring the interior so we opted just to check out the exterior and return after the restoration work is done for a full tour.

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Even from the outside the style and grace of FLW is noticeable.

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The area that the park and the university is located is known as Hyde Park. This was President Obama’s Chicago home, which he still owns The block is off limits to traffic, but someone has modified the ‘Residents Only’ sign to be more appropriate.

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Leaving the South Side we headed downtown, passing Soldier Field. Originally built in 1924 in a Neoclassical style, with columns lining the sides, it has undergone numerous renovations.

The last in the early 2000 added a strange modern look sitting on top the classical columns.

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Passing through downtown, we crossed the Chicago River on Lakeshore Drive.

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While not technically on the south side the Washington Library is Chicago’s main branch.

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Definitely not on the south side, the 606 is a bike/walking path on former elevated train lines (similar to the High Line in New York). It’s name comes from the zip codes for the areas it passes.

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Originally a rail line known as the Bloomingdale Line, it was converted to a trail starting in 2009. At 2.7 miles long it is twice as long as the High Line.

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Nazareth, PA – June 2018 – Martin Guitar Company Factory Tour and Museum

The Martin Guitar Company has been making guitars since 1833. The current CEO is the 5th generation of Martin’s to run the company.

The business started in New York City but moved to Pennsylvania after a few years, being located in Nazareth ever since.

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As you enter the facility you are immediately greeted by the company museum.

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The museum houses over 130 guitars from the 1830s until now. It is striking to see how similar they are from 200 years ago.

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In addition to the guitars they have some components from over the years.

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The craftsmanship is amazing.

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Martin also makes ukuleles and mandolins.

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The museum housed some custom ones, including one from the Grand Ole’ Opry.

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Having finished the museum portion, we headed out on the factory tour. The guide handed each person a headset and we headed out. First stop was where they are ‘booking the wood’, basically splitting it and attaching the pieces so the grain matches and is wide enough for the body.

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Nearly all of the manufacturing is done by hand.

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After formed they sit for an extensive amount of time with their collection of clothes pins to hold it together.

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The build process involves weeks and months of time as components dry.

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Fret board assembly.

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It was amazing the workers could focus with the continual tours walking by taking their photos.

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A polishing/sanding station.

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Closer to being completed, but still more waiting – it takes months to get a custom guitar from Martin.

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One of the few automated functions – a polisher.

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Note someone from a tour watching the worker.

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This person was applying the detail around the edge of the body of the guitar.

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Similar to this worker – their lighting has been custom built to provide the optimum view.

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The work continues….

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Throughout the plant….

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Applying the strings.

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And a final polish.

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Before a test drive!

The visit to the Martin Guitar Factory Tour is easily one of the best we have done. Having the chance to walk the factory floor and take great photos of the quality work and hard working craftsman was fantastic.

If you ever get the chance to go to Nazareth, Pennsylvania and visit them – it is well worth the effort.

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Baltimore – May 2018 – Views of the City

A couple of days in Baltimore allowed us to check out the sights, most from the ‘Top of the World’ observation deck on the 27th floor of a building situated along the harbor

First up though is a statue in West Mount Vernon Place, with Baltimore’s 175′ Washington Monument in the background.

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Meanwhile back in the observation deck; a view of Federal Hill with the Inner Harbor in the foreground and the Outer Harbor in the distance. Fort McHenry would be in the distance.

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The famed Oriole Park at Camden Yard. Built in the early 1990s it was the first retro stadium constructed, setting off a stadium building boom.

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Another harbor view with the still active Domino Sugar factory.

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Much of Baltimore is very old, but there is some new development near the harbor.

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Including a high rise with views of oil tanks in the distance.

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Baltimore has more row houses than any other city, it seems 90% of the city lives in them.

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The ‘Seven Foot Knoll’ lighthouse – built in 1855. In the foreground is the top of the National Aquarium.

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The historic Power Plant. Built in the early 1900s it was re purposed into commercial stores in the 1980s.

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The USS Constellation. Built in 1854 and used for 100 years, she is a center piece of a museum.

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Columbus – March 2018 – The Bronze Age Comes To An End

The American Bronzing Company was located in a Southeast Columbus industrial area, enjoying an 80 year run of providing America a needed service – bronzing baby shoes (and I found out today many other things). Amazingly this company had bronzed 14 million baby shoes in their history.

This traditional now however has essentially disappeared so the business recently shut down. Today they were auctioning off the entire factory; office equipment, machinery and any remaining inventory.

We paid a visit not to participate in the auction, but to check out the factory – it was well worth it for a unique piece of American cultural history.

Up first – a bronze hat, and not to be outdone – a silver one.

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An ice skate!

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Some of the aforementioned 14 million baby shoes.

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A taco shell???

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Bras??????

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Meanwhile back in the idled factory you got a sense of how dirty the job must have been.

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A discarded sprayer.

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The shelves are now empty.

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With a number of baby shoes that went without the honor of being encased in bronze.

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But mine had been bronzed (many years ago).

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