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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Chicago – May 2017 – Scenes from around Wrigley Field

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With a hotel in Wrigleyville, and a game scheduled, it was the perfect time to wander around the neighborhood while the crowd gathered. Without tickets, and being much too cold for late May, I skipped the game to focus on the outside scenes.

Th Addison El stop.

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Knock off T Shirts across the street from the stadium grounds.

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Pay homage to Cubs great Billy Williams.

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Security was out in full force.

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Some San Francisco Giants fans hanging out in front of the fire station.

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Need a Cubs shirt?

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Riding in style.

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With parking a premium, the flaggers go all out to attract attention. His 10′ high PARKING sign was mounted in his backpack. Many are jammed under the El tracks, and throughout small lots in the neighborhood. Most cost $40 for a 3 hour game.

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Columbus – April 2017 – Minor League Baseball

The Columbus Clippers are a AAA minor league team for the Cleveland Indians. As one of the larger cities in minor league baseball they tend to draw well, but on this warm, windy Sunday the crowd was somewhat sparse.

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Still it was a beautiful day for baseball, and the action was exciting.

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As with all minor league games the in between innings promotions were amusing – this one was a ‘human Wendy’s hamburger’ build.

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The obligatory T-shirt toss.

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As AAA players they are almost to the big leagues. The skill level was quite good, although there were a few mistakes in the play.

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Cleveland – April 2017 – Robotics Competition

The first day of April, 2017 offered up a Robotics Competition at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. The competition featured high school age groups from throughout Ohio as well as a few surrounding states.

The Wolstein Center is a 13,000 seat basketball arena, and for the competition the floor was divided in half, one side was the competition area and the other was the pits. The emcee hosting kept the crowd engaged throughout.

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The crowd of roughly 2000 people were extremely enthusiastic, cheering on their teams as the robots competed.

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The competition was intense.

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The teams throughout the pits were very happy to talk about their robots, and how they function.

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North Carolina Mountains – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 8

After breakfast at the Hampton Inn, we went to see the Durham Athletic Park, an old baseball stadium, built in 1926. This park is most famous from the movie Bull Durham.

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The park was originally called El Toro Park, built to support the small Carolina League crowds that arrived. When the movie came out the team became so popular they ended up building a new stadium on the south edge of downtown Durham, however this park remained as a college stadium.

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The new park, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, was built to reflect many characteristics of old-time parks and the historic downtown Durham architecture. A 32-foot-high wall stands in left field 305 feet from home plate, resembling Fenway Park’s Green Monster. The Blue Monster, as it’s called in Durham, contains a similar old-style manual scoreboard.

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The ballpark’s most distinctive feature is the Snorting Bull that stands tall above the Blue Monster. This Bull was modeled after the bull used in the 1988 film, Bull Durham. The 10,000-seat ballpark is tucked into a warehouse district similar to Camden Yards and the red-brick architecture compliments the view from the ball park diamond.

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Being in this ballpark brought back good memories of the times when we attended baseball games with our daughters twenty years ago. The new ballpark added features more similar to a major league team level with a grand concourse.

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On the drive to Winston-Salem, we saw political signs for Dan Forest running for the position of Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina. He used a catchy phrase from the movie Forest Gump “Run Forest Run” that worked perfectly for him since his last name is Forest. Voters must have remembered that phrase on Election Day by re-electing him for another term.

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On Sprague Street in Winston-Salem is a unique Shell gas station built in the shape of a clamshell and painted bright gold with red trim. This architecture gem was built the in the 1930’s by the Quality Oil Company, a Winston-based marketer of Shell Oil. The station, modeled on the brand logo of Royal Dutch-Shell Oil, was constructed of concrete stucco over a bent wood and wire framework. Two glass-top gas pumps painted in matching colors were placed in front of the shell.

Though the station fell into disrepair toward the end of the 20th century; a state historic society, Preservation North Carolina, stepped in and restored the highway icon in the late 1990s. According to the fliers for the station, it is likely that this landmark is the last clamshell gas station in the country. Today it’s used by the preservation organization as a regional office and info center about the station and other preservation projects.

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It is Veteran’s Day today, and true to life in the south this time of year the temperature has warmed from a frosty cold into a sunny sixty degrees. It was a good day to visit Stone Mountain Park in Roaring Gap, North Carolina. The centerpiece of the park is Stone Mountain, a dome of exposed granite that rises sharply over 600 feet above the surrounding terrain.

The mountain, which has an elevation of 2,305 feet above sea level, is known for its barren sides and distinctive brown-gray color, and can be seen for miles. Because the mountain is the best example of a monadnock in massive granite in North Carolina it was designated a National Natural Landmark. Monadnock is originally a Native American term for an isolated hill or a lone mountain that stands above the surrounding area. It is thought to derive from the Abenaki language, from either menonadenak (“smooth mountain”) or menadena (“isolated mountain”) but here monadnock is used to describe a mountain that rises from an area of relatively flat and lower terrain.

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There are more than 18 miles of trails in the park. We started on a trail from the upper lot that looped up to the top of the massive granite rock and then down to the opposite side. The trail led us up in elevation and down about one thousand steps completing more than five miles. The summit of the rock gave us a terrific view of colorful leaves of the trees, wild rhododendrons, and faded ridges in the distance.

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The smooth rock looked slick and solid but at points short trees seemed to grow straight from the rock without any soil. We sat for a bit to rest and enjoy the view while some young adults piloted a remote monster car over the rocky landscape and on the trail.  We climbed down nearly five hundred steps through the wooded side of the trail until we reached the meadow at the foot of the great stone. The barren face of the rock was clear to us from where we sat in the meadow.

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The trail directed us to a 200-foot waterfall that slid over the rock into a small creek. We nearly stepped on a small black snake as we trudged on the trail that took us up three hundred more steps to finish the trail. Our hike was completed in four hours with only brief stops and it felt great.

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Leaving the park, we hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway in the direction of Boone, North Carolina. It was slightly cloudy as we drove on the Parkway so that the Blue Ridge Mountains appeared dark and the ridge behind it seemed a faded smoky blue. Fog hovered low in some areas separating the colors of the field and the mountains for a really beautiful scene. As we rose in elevation closer to Boone, the trees were less colorful and began to drop their leaves.

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Boone, North Carolina is home to Appalachian State University and also the location of our hotel for the night, the Courtyard Marriott. We had a physical day and were hungry so we hurried across the street from our hotel to eat at the Stagecoach Steakhouse. Our table was surrounded by many military veterans who came to get their free dinner by courtesy of the restaurant owners honoring those who served our country. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel physically tired from our busy day.

Eastern North Carolina & Raleigh – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 7

Our Thursday morning saw us leaving the Outer Banks westbound, with our first stop in Edenton, North Carolina, a quaint town from the Cotton is King Era.

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The original cotton mill is now a condominium building. The town also had well-kept majestic old homes of the pre-Civil War period.

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Edenton’s waterfront of the Albemarle Sound was picturesque with tall leafy trees growing from the water with roots visible above and below the surface. The roots seemed to wrap around the tree trunk and support it in the water. The lighthouse at the edge of the pier was not a tall columnar structure as most lighthouses but a unique lighthouse constructed as a two story home with a widow’s walk and a large lantern placed on its roof.

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Edenton’s Chowan County Courthouse is one of the oldest courthouses in the country. Built in 1767, it is one of the finest examples of public Georgian architecture in the American South. Edenton was settled in 1658 and incorporated in 1727, and is counted as the first permanent European settlement in North Carolina.

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In addition, to the courthouse and the Confederate Soldier memorial in the square, Edenton has the famous Historic Hicks Field, a baseball stadium that is now home to the John A. Holmes High School Aces as well as the Edenton Steamers of the Coastal Plain League. So, we as baseball fans wanted to see it.

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Hicks Field was built in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project at the corner of East Freemason and Woodward, adjacent to the high school. The main structure is a wooden grandstand with a roof that was built to accommodate slightly more than 500 people. The main grandstand is the oldest remaining wooden grandstand of its type in the state of North Carolina.

Hicks Field was home to minor league baseball and semipro teams up until 1952, including the Edenton Colonials of the original Coastal Plain League, the Albemarle League, and the Virginia League. Players such as Bob Feller and other major league all-stars have stepped foot inside this historic stadium.

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A stop in Zebulon brought us to see the Carolina Mudcats high A baseball stadium. The Mudcats are affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers and play at Five County Stadium. The friendly office workers there allowed us to enter the stadium to take photos and they even opened the gift shop for us so that I could buy a t-shirt for my collection. A perfect photo op from the top of the stands captured a shot of the field with the water tower outside the stadium painted as a baseball in the background.

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Since we used to live in Raleigh, I tried testing my memory with names of the roads. I remembered the main roads although the area has developed a great deal. One thing that had not changed was the Char-Grill.   The Char-Grill has a company motto, “Simpler Times, Simpler Choices.”  This place cooks up classic hamburger patties cooked over charcoal flames and serves red hot dogs. The hot dogs are in a casing that looks very red unlike any other hot dog that I have ever seen. There is a protocol to ordering, you need to check off your options of your order slip and drop the paper order into a slot. The place was very busy but after a short wait we heard our name called for our order for pick up at the other window. The burgers are great but not the best we ever had.

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We drove into downtown Raleigh and parked the car across from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

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We walked to the North Carolina State Capitol for a self-guided tour of the building’s three floors. The Greek revival Capitol building, completed in 1840, currently houses the offices of the Governor of North Carolina, located on Union Square at East Edenton Street.

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During much of the Colonial period, North Carolina was without a fixed capital. Governors lived in their own homes and the Assembly moved from place to place, meeting in private homes, and in courthouses when available. In 1722 the Assembly selected Edenton as the capital, but years passed by as the center of the population had shifted westward. in 1788 a State Convention voted to set a capital plan for Raleigh, based on the then nation’s capital of Philadelphia.

Construction of a State House began on the town’s central square in 1792. First occupied in 1794, the building served as the capitol until it burned in 1831. The cornerstone of the present State Capitol, constructed on the site of the former State House, was laid in 1833 and the building was completed in 1840. The Capitol remains largely unaltered from its completion of 1840.

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The Capitol building also housed the original state law library and the geology department. The geology room had cases lining the walls shelved with rocks labeled by type and specific name. The next room that we viewed was the House of Representatives chamber which follows the semi-circular plan of a Greek theater in an architectural Corinthian style. The Senate chamber was decorated in the Ionic style of an ancient Greek temple.

The Capitol is a cross shape, centering on a domed rotunda where the wings join. The rotunda stands 97-1/2 feet from the floor to the crown atop the dome. Centered on the interior ground floor of the rotunda is a statue of George Washington depicting him in a Roman general’s uniform with tunic, body armor, and a short cape fastened at the shoulder.

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The North Carolina Museum of History is where we began our tour of the museum with the early history of the settlers along the coast, then into the tobacco and industry era where we learned that the Portuguese brought the first African slaves to America before the English arrived.

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On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their resistance in the act of a sit-down helped to ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South; a small section of that lunch counter is in the museum.

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In addition an authentic slave’s cabin plucked from a southern plantation and reassembled in the museum was also on display, showing how harsh their life was.

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An athletic prominence of North Carolina section honored those athletes associated with the state in their professional sport with large banners of the athlete and some memorabilia. Most surprising to me was a tribute to the golfer, Arnold Palmer, a Latrobe boy, has a connection to North Carolina from his college days at Wake Forest University. Motorsports hailed Richard Petty and showcased his race car. The football section highlighted Carl Ellis who played for the Minnesota Vikings, and Buck Leonard for baseball. Many more professional and college athletes were also admired.

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Since we still had a bit of time before the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences closed, we headed over there for a speed tour.

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The museum had exhibits of local wildlife past and present. Models of dinosaurs stood stories high and skeletons of a sixty-foot sperm whale and a blue whale hung from the ceiling. Preserved and embalmed fish, birds, and insects were displayed in recreated environments.

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We had a quick dinner at Panera’s before venturing to the PNC Arena to watch the Carolina Hurricanes play ice hockey against the Anaheim Ducks. Because nearby Durham was hosting a UNC-Duke football game, the ‘crowd’ was sparse, announced at at 4000 allowed us to move around seats throughout the game for various angles of shots.  The Carolina “Canes” lost the game 4-2 to the Ducks.

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A short drive later we arrived at our hotel in Durham, a Hampton Inn, that was packed with the aforementioned football game fans.