Pittsburgh – October 2018 – More Architecture

Having spent the weekend in the city for Doors Open Pittsburgh, we had additional time to check out the sights that weren’t officially part of the tour.

 

The Armstrong Tunnel. Built in 1927, there are longer tunnels in Pittsburgh, but none have a curve in them like the Armstrong.

There is great debate as to why the tunnels have a curve.

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South Side Slopes – An old church, an old bridge and new condo’s.

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The Warner – it was once a theater, then a food court, now a welfare office. But the sign is cool, with one of the newer skyscrapers as a backdrop.

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The famed Kaufmann’s clock – the store has been closed for some time now, but appears to be getting new life soon.

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Some classic cornices.

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A streetlight, the US Steel (aka UPMC) building with interesting lighting after a thunderstorm.

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Even the smaller old buildings on Liberty Avenue have excellent detail up high.

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From Mt Washington the view of the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt looks quite small. In reality it is 500′ high, but partially hidden behind the hill.

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Another vintage downtown building.

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Not to be outdone by Kaufmann’s, Gimbels had a cool clock too.

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Heinz Field just after a University of Pittsburgh game ended.

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Carnegie Science Center on the north side with one of the subway trains in the background.

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A view from Mt Washington through downtown buildings up the Allegheny River.

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It has been almost 40 years since Station Square restored the old rail station and yards and it is still going strong.

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Sun setting on the Mon.

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Replica Christopher Columbus ships have been making their way up the Ohio River all summer, and are now in Pittsburgh – as this panorama shows the Nina and Pinta.

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Four Gateway Center.

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Gateway Center with a purple fountain. (must have been Raven’s fans sneaking the water coloring in).

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The 1764 Ft Pitt Blockhouse, the 1960 Ft Pitt Bridge and Mount Washington in the background.

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A major rowing competition was occurring on this early Sunday morning as the first of the boat tailgaters were arriving for a Steelers game.

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An amazing wildlife photo from the Allegeheny River.

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The Point Fountain from a different perspective with the apartments on Mt Washington in the background.

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The very cool Duquesne Incline.

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Along the Mon Wharf.

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The Gateway Clipper crews getting ready for that Steelers crowd.

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Pittsburgh is the city of bridges.

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Finally a shot of PPG Place with one of the more architecturally interesting parking garages.

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Jersey City, NJ – May 2018 – Liberty State Park

Our day ended in Jersey City with a stop at Liberty State Park. As we entered we paid our respects at the 9-11 Memorial. With the late afternoon sun and lack of crowds it was a moving moment to see the names of those who lost their lives that day.

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Nearby is the iconic view of lower Manhattan.

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The former Jersey City rail station continue to be refurbished.

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There were numerous sailboats out in the harbor.

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Including a large sailboat for tourists.

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The last of the day’s Statue of Liberty cruises was returning.

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Later we were treated to a great full moon over Manhattan.

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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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Canton, OH – April 2018 – Model Ship Museum

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At the edge of Canton, Ohio behind a row of old shopping areas, is a building that at first appearances is a vacant factory. As you drive up you see a small sign that says ‘Blue Water Majesty Museum’.

Once you enter and meet Larry Pulka, the owner and craftsman, you see it is much more. For more than 40 years Larry has built from scratch model ships. These ships are built just like the real thing, starting with the skeleton and beyond.

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The display area is well done, with display cases and backgrounds very professionally done.

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Most are scale sailing ships.

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Each ship has details such as lifeboats, railings and masts. All are built out of exotic woods, using different woods to represent the various colors.

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Larry goes into such detail that he has made tiny wood nails that are used extensively.

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Further detail is shown in the peripherals on the ship.

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If you find yourself in Canton, Ohio it is well worth a visit to go see Larry and his amazing ships.

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Southeast Alaska Panhandle – September 2017 – “Uncruise” Part 1

(please note there are 20+ photos on the next few postings, they might take a bit of time to load)

One place we had always wanted to see was Alaska, but much of it is very difficult to get to. We decided the best way to see it was on a cruise.

I had been on a large ship cruise once for 3 days and kissed the ground when I got off, the tacky shows and lines for everything got old fast. For this trip we chose to go on a small ship cruise from a company aptly named ‘Uncruise’. And no this is not an advertisement for them, but an honest assessment on how great this turned out to be.

We set sail on a rainy Saturday evening from Juneau. The next day we arrived at a fjord called Endicott Arm. The walls soar 1000′ above the water for dramatic effect.

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At the end of the fjord is Dawes Glacier, a tidewater glacier.

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The main ship was close enough to get some dramatics up on the glacier with a zoom lens.

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The difference between the large ships that most people cruise on and the small ships like Uncruise is you get off the boat and do things other than shop at trinket stores in ports. For this portion groups of 8-10 people took ‘skiffs’ the last 6 miles up the fjord to within 1/4 mile of the 200′ high face of the glacier.

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As we neared the glacier a guide plucked what she thought was going to be a small piece of ice out of the water. It turned out to be much larger. This piece of ice was brought back on board the ship for a contest when it would finish melting. It took 3 days.

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We spent about an hour at the base of the glacier in the skiffs. Every once in a while you would hear loud cracking sounds and nothing happened. For us though, we were fortunate enough to see a major ‘calving’ event, when a large chunk of the glacier fell off into the sea.

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As noted this face is 200′ high, so the splash it made is likely + 75′. Amazingly it does not create a tidal wave, just some small ones like someone went by with a small boat and created a wake.

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We returned through the icebergs on our way back to the ship.

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The Wilderness Adventurer is about 190′ long with 30 passenger cabins. Our trip had 55 passengers and a crew of 20 (or so – I didn’t do an exact count !). As shown below the ship has a number of 2 person kayaks, some paddle boards and the skiffs (which are missing on this photo since they are out at the glacier.

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After everyone had returned to the ship we continued on our way we came upon a number of whales who were diving for food. They came upon a couple of sea lions, one of which took refuge on the back of the ship, which got the crew all excited as they said they had only heard of this only ever happening once before.

Since we were stationary at the time he sat there for a while. Once the crew was confident these particular whales had moved on they shoo-ed him/her off the back.

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Even things as simple as the wake on the very calm waters made for great photo ops.

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Later we came across more whales feeding.

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Finally (for this portion of the trip) we passed a small island filled with more sea lions.

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The day ended with a great sunset.

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More to come…..

 

 

 

 

 

Southeast Alaska Panhandle – September 2017 – “Uncruise” Part 2

With the small ship the entire crew, and other passengers, quickly become familiar with each other on a first name basis. One of the great features was the permission to go onto the bridge anytime you like during the day, unless they were in an especially tricky navigation spot.

This day I went up and it was just the Captain and me, jamming out to ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd, while we cruised along at about 5 knots looking for whales.

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Later we anchored in a bay and set the kayaks out.

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This bay offered more wildlife, which if I recall the information from the guides correctly are Cormorants.

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A mama otter with her baby on her chest floating in the bay.

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One of the paddle boarders and a kayak backed by 8000′ mountains.

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Later on the same kayak outing we passed this otter, who was not happy we were in his space as he bared his teeth and hissed at us.

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You can tell the females as their noses are dinged up from rough sex where the male apparently bites their noses in passion.

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Why paddle board with your feet on the board when you can do a handstand.

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Nothing better than to be in a still bay in Alaska checking out the sea life near the rocks.

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A Harbor Seal.

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The waters were so calm everything had great reflections.

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The next morning there was thick fog that gradually lifted through the morning.

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An eagle soaring above the fog.

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A skiff returns across the calm waters.

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The afternoon was spent ‘bushwhacking’ through the forest. No bears or other wildlife was found but there was evidence of foresting that once occurred there.

The ground was so thick with the moss that it was spongy.

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more to come….

 

 

Southeast Alaska Panhandle – September 2017 – “Uncruise” Part 3

As we arrived at Glacier Bay National Park we went ashore for a hike. A Long House greeted us as we passed the visitor center.

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The house is made out of cedar which gives it a great smell.

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The hike through the forest was filled with scenes of fungus growing everywhere.

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As we reached the river at low tide there was evidence of animals, as shown with this bear paw print. The guide indicated it must be a baby since it is so small, but they have great claws.

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We returned to the ship and continued past Gloomy Point, where mountain goats populate the steep terrain.

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The flow from a glacier ends up at the sea in a small river.

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We stopped by Margerie Glacier, or “Large Marge” as the crew call her.

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Nearby we dropped the anchor near Lamplugh Glacier, where the kayaks were put out for exploring.

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We paddled around the small icebergs to get a close look at the Glacier.

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Trying to avoid the larger ones, recalling that 10% of the ice is above the water, the rest is below. They also at times will ‘roll’ and you don’t want to be close to one this size if that happens.

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Around the corner from the ship was an impressive waterfall with glacier melt water.

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We returned to our home for the week thoroughly in awe of the opportunity to kayak in such an amazing setting, while wishing we could spend more time and go on the other adventures such as hiking up the ridge next to the glacier, or along the shoreline in front.

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While checking out the beautiful scenery one of the large cruise ships went by. Amazingly despite they fact there are 2000 people on the ship, and they are passing the glaicer behind us, I counted about 40 people out on the decks or their balconies checking out the scene.

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The day ended with a polar bear plunge for the daring.

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The crew of the WAV were amazing. It was obvious that they are passionate about the sea, glaciers, wildlife and the opportunity to share it with the passengers. The great thing about the Uncruise people is the crew gets opportunities too, and many of them participate in the polar bear plunge.

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The bartender Heidi was celebrating her birthday by going into the cold water.

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One of the Stewards Jessi had a goal of doing the polar bear plunge each of the 18 weeks she was working, and since she had missed a couple early, was doubling up on the last 2 weeks (we were the second to last trip of the season), so Jessi went in twice!

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As we began our return to Juneau we passed more Sea Lions, these guys are caught on a small rock island at high tide

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Plenty of birds.

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Early Saturday morning we returned to the harbor, where Captain Gavin carefully parallel parked the ship at the dock.

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Our week had ended, but the memories will last forever. Most of our fellow travelers were from Australia and New Zealand, with some Americans mixed in. They were fun, friendly people who shared a passion for not just seeing the scenes roll by their ship windows, but get into the kayaks and paddle around, go into the forest and get muddy, or just sit around in the evenings sharing stories or learning about America.

As I noted on the first posting very few times do things turn out better than their advertising but the Uncruise folks came through. Even the weather was better than expected with very little rain (although I don’t think they get credit for that!).

Thanks to Captain Gavin and the entire crew of the Wilderness Adventurer.

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