Battle Creek, Michigan – September 2018 – Fantasy Forest

There was once a forest of ash trees near the Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan. As with thousands of these trees across North America, they fell victim to the Emerald Ash Borer disease and died.

But in the ultimate ‘if life gives you lemons make lemonade’ story the park brought in chainsaw artists who transformed them into a ‘Fantasy Forest’.

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They had a competition in 2015 for the artists, who came from all over the country.

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Some are the more traditional animals that you see from chainsaw artists.

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Others are more whimsical.

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Even though I have thousands of destinations on my list this was not on it, we just got lucky and drove by.

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The website for the arboretum has before photos of the dead trees – what a great transformation.

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Battle Creek Bigfoot?

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My favorite – the strange disappearance of Farmer MacDonald.Notice the UFO abducting the farmer. Not seen on this view is the wife outside the cabin with a shotgun trying to fend off the aliens.

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A close up of the Tree Wizard.

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The sculptures are at least 10′ high.

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This sculpture gives an idea of how some of trees appeared before being transformed.

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A centaur keeps guard over the forest.

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While a tree genie appears.

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The Fantasy Forest in Battle Creek, Michigan was a great find – even if it was by dumb luck.

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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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Columbus – August 2018 – Looking Over the Topiary Garden

Regular followers of this blog will know we often visit parks and gardens for the interesting landscaping that many contain.

A small park in downtown Columbus is no different. As you approach you are welcomed by a flower bed surrounded by some shrubs.

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The flowers were a home for numerous butterflies

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But this is no ordinary park – it is the Topiary Garden, sculptures in nature.

This park’s subject is the George Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.

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The shrubberies were groomed to make the painting.

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The couple with the umbrella are the center of the design.

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Soldiers with helmets stand guard.

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Some of the figures are easy to make out.

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They use framing the force the shrubs into the correct shapes.

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Interestingly we did indeed spend some of a Sunday afternoon in the park.

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An overview including the rowing crew. The garden is composed of 54 human figures, eight boats, three dogs and monkey and a cat.

It was first planted in 1988, and has continued to be enhanced through the years.

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Next door is the former Ohio School for the Deaf. This school was built in 1868, and features a number of gargoyles shaped as faces above the doorways.

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Rather than the normal grotesque gargoyles, these are friendly faces.

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To me they are the children of the school welcoming others.

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The keep a watchful eye on all who arrive.

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Situated on the east side of the building, they face the Topiary Gardens.

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Not quite sure many of them are sticking their tongues out, but they add some humor to the impressive building.

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A visit to the Gardens and the school are a must.

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Mansfield, OH – August 2018 – Kingwood Center Gardens

For this warm and windy Saturday we headed to Mansfield to see the Kingwood Center Gardens.  These gardens, and the mansion, were built by Charles King, who made his money leading a company that made electrical fittings for the trolleys and railroads of the early 1900s.

The house and grounds were built in 1926, and feature 47 acres of formal gardens, as well as greenhouses.

When Mr King died in the 1950s the estate was turned over to a private foundation that to this day own and operate the beautiful grounds.

My first photo of the day was taken with the ‘wrong’ settings. A couple of nights earlier there was a vivid full moon and I had changed the white balance and numerous other settings, forgetting to reset them. When I took the photo of the fountain it did not represent it’s actual look, but rather this ‘full moon’ look.

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Returning my camera to more proper settings for garden photography we set off. We were immediately impressed with the landscaping.

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As we made our way through the gardens we passed numerous planters with interesting mixes within each one.

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The stone paths and perfectly trimmed hedges framed the flora.

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The newest lens was perfect for some close ups.

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With the full frame capabilities, getting clear shots of the flowers is much easier.

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So much easier I came home with numerous photos of insects on plants and flowers.

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Additional planters on stone walls.

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The lawn and gardens in front of the house was immaculate (except for some gardener put tire tracks in it 🙂 )

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As with most gardens, weddings are a big business. Unfortunately for the bride this day some heavy rains came later, after we finished our tour.

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The house opened at 11, and a local peacock was there waiting for entry.

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While not extensive, there was some statuary well placed throughout the gardens.

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The carriage house had 5 bays for automobiles. What could be better, a 5 car garage and great landscaping.

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One of the greenhouses featured cacti.

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More insect closeups, this time in the greenhouse. Fortunately for this one he stayed away from the nearby Venus fly trap.

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We were pleasantly surprised by the Kingwood Center Gardens. While not Longwood (who is), this is one of the best, if not the best, gardens we have seen in Ohio.

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Columbus – August 2018 – Make Your Own Tour

While reading online for something to do I read that there was going to be a tour of the Ohio Statehouse grounds, focusing on the sculptures and landscaping. It was to occur at 10 AM on a Sunday morning.

We arrived 10 minutes early, and waited until 10:15 and nobody showed up, so we decided to make our own tour.

We started along State Street on the south end of the grounds.

 

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From here we had a nice view of the classic Ohio Theater as well as the flower beds along the entryways.

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The statues flanking the McKinley statue are known as ‘Peace and Prosperity’.

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While McKinley towers over the west entrance to the grounds.

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The other side of ‘Peace and Prosperity’

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Even the lamp posts are stylish.

 

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There is a statue of a ‘Doughboy’ from World War I – this is the plaque beneath the statue.

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The north entrance features a statue called ‘Peace’, with floral beds.

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The sundial was added by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1932.

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A second look from the south entrance across the grounds to the Huntington Bank Building.

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While the northeast view from this vantage point looks towards the Statehouse, Senate building and PNC Bank Building. Clearly banks like to overlook the government buildings.

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Christopher Columbus (with yet another bank building in the background)

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Some of the famed Ohioans on the statue ‘These Are My Jewels’.

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This statue is topped with Cornelia, a wealthy and respected Roman woman who when asked where her jewels were – pointed to her sons.

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The back entrance to the Senate building.

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Fountains in front of a World War II memorial wall. It seems almost all of the statues on the grounds have to do with war, or the hope for peace.

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The grounds are fairly open to the streets, this fencing is decorative to protect the landscaping. We didn’t have a formal tour – but had a nice morning wandering the grounds with nobody else around.

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Pittsburgh – August 2018 – Sights on a Saturday

In town for the Regatta, we were able to check out a number of other sites for sights during the day.

Throughout downtown there were ‘earths’ painted with messages of making the world a better place.

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Flags of the world on the relief of the countries.

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A very artistic earth.

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Market Square is always busy with something going on.

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Meanwhile on the North Shore a large artistic installation graces the riverfront.

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I believe that architecture is the most beautiful art form – and functional.

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Alcoa Headquarters building.

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After we left the Photo Antiquities Museum we came across a festival in a park where they were promotion the protection of animals, including many vegan food options.

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There were many artists as well.

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But most booths had various animal protection themes.

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He needs our help.

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The cat rescue group leader.

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Origami art

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A novel use for test tubes.

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I was tempted to bring home a beagle rescue – but we travel far too much – it wouldn’t be fair to the dog.

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Nearby is the Children’s Museum – formerly the Buhl Planetarium – with a nice carved relief.

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A series of tubes would occasionally created a fog cloud.

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Making our way to the river for the Regatta we passed by the baseball stadium, and the Willie Stargell statue.

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As well as Roberto Clemente, along with the bridge they renamed for him.

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As we made our way to our seat for the regatta fireworks nature provided one last shot for the day.

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Pittsburgh – August 2018 – Ya Gotta Regatta

For Decades now Pittsburgh has celebrated their position on the rivers with an annual Regatta. More than just boat races, the Regatta features all sort of events – on the water, on the land and in the air.

First up – The Red Bull Paratroopers.

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They came down fast, dropping into the valley from above.

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Before pulling up just before they….

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Hit the water!

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The XPogo crew were on hand for some amazing acrobatics.

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They have amazing skills on a pogo stick.

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Doing backflips while dismounting their stick.

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Flipping the pogo stick between their legs in mid air.

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These guys were crazy – but very skilled.

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Next up – the Anything That Floats competition. When we would come to the regatta back in the 1990s there were 20 or more contestants.

While fewer this year, those that were here were enthusiastic.

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A nice water touch.

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The boat was misnamed.

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The Isaly’s Ice Cream Shop boat wasnt fast, but it was steady.

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Not sure if the beer cans were empty or not.

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Sharks and Pirates together.

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As they made their way down the river they met up with one of the Tiki Hut floating bars.

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Which left them at the finish to sail into the sunset.

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The water jet guy came out to wow the crowd.

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Followed by the jet ski’s, who all were adapt at doing flips.

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They seemed to be upside down as much as upright.

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A perfect shot – an upside down jet ski with the Point Fountain, Ft Pitt Bridge and Mt Washington in the background.

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But it was time for boat racing – the officials surveyed the river.

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The crews were ready for the start.

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Some less intense than others.

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And it was time to race – first up were smaller boats that made a turn before the Ft Duquesne Bridge.

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They were quick down the straights.

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The larger boats finally took over the course.

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The south turn was right at the point where the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers meet.

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Another nice view of the Point Fountain.

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It is amazing how fast the boats separate – just a few laps and they were all over the course with little grouping together.

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Downtown Pittsburgh offers great backdrops for the racing.

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After the races, we headed over to Point Park where they had other activities. One was an amazing sand sculpture dedicated to the historic (and defunct) Pennsylvania Railroad.

This entire sculpture is sand.

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The detail was fantastic.

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The train.

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Detail of the train wheels.

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After dinner we headed back to the North Side for…..

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FIREWORKS!

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A great ending to a great day.

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