Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Sailing Where Juan Ponce de León Sailed, Maybe

March 31, 2014

Schooner Freedom

Schooner Freedom

Some historians say he landed at St. Augustine, but others say he landed south of there. The record shows that Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés settled the city in September, 1565. It had been at least 40 years since I had visited America’s oldest city. Besides the fine dining and historical sites,  a highlight this time was sailing on the Schooner Freedom.  It’s a 76 foot long,  double-masted replica of a 19th century blockade runner.  It has something they didn’t, an engine.  The Coast Guard  requires it.  Also, it makes it possible to make at least three excursions a day.  Sailing against the wind and a strong current means almost stranding still.  The trip I was on took 90 minutes.  The skipper did turn the engine off for a little while and used only wind power on the way back when the wind was behind us and the tide going in.

St. Augustine 046

One of most interesting sites at the St. Augustine docks was a replica of a Spanish galleon like the ones that plied the Florida coast between the 15th and 16th centuries.  It’s really looks at home in St. Augustine since Spain used ships like it to bring people and supplies to the city in 1565.  I asked the Freedom’s skipper how it compares in size with one of Columbus’ ships.  He said, “It’s huge.  C0lumbus’ ships were really small.”  He told me that Columbus’ ships were about the same length as his schooner, which is 76 feet.  The galleon replica is 175-feet long.

If you go to St. Augustine, I recommend the cruise.  It was fun.  Also, I recommend the Reef,  a restaurant on Vilano Beach.  My Mahi Mahi was really good; the decor is nautical, and every table has a view of the Atlantic. There are many good restaurants in St. Augustine, but that one really stood out to me.

A Nice Day to Get an Oil Change

September 30, 2010


It was such a beautiful day I decided I needed to go out and do something. So I went to a get an oil change.  Now you may think that’s not a good way to enjoy a nice sunshiny day with a refreshing Autumn breeze.  Well, then maybe you don’t realize they have a nice bench to sit on outside. 

I just sat there enjoying the weather, watching the Stars and Stripes with a Gastrol flag underneath flapping in the breeze and writing about it on Facebook.

The oil change itself was eventful.  I was offered a new oil that gets 15,000 miles before another change.  That means you won’t need another change for about a year, depending on how much you drive. It costs $20 more, but, in Columbus, GA,  they throw in a $20 wash job, and $15 off on your next change  if you buy it, so I bought it. 

My 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis is one of the best-riding cars on the road, and that V-8 engine is hard to beat, but it has started using a little oil.  Not to worry.  “Just bring it in and we’ll top it off for free.”  

How about that.  A beautiful day,  flags flying,  sociable oil changers, and a new oil that gets 15,000 miles before you have to get another change.  Life is good.

Why Everyone in Georgia Should Care About the Port of Savannah Deepening Project

September 7, 2010


 Ships continue to be the main source of transoceanic cargo delivery.   That’s why the Port of Savannah is so important to the state, and even the Southeast region.  I read that it is the second busiest port on the East Coast, the fourth busiest and fastest growing one in the country,  but it has a big problem.  Namely, the foot-dragging bureaucracy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  

The Savannah port just isn’t quite deep enough to handle the really big ships.  Sometimes they use it anyway, but they can’t load them to capacity.  In  2014 this will be a bigger problem. That’s when the Panama Canal’s expanded canal is expected to open. It will allow huge container ships in the Pacific to call on East Coast ports.  

The Savannah River is only 42 feet deep.  The Georgia Ports Authority wants to deepen it by at least another 6 six to allow the larger ships to come calling.   

The big problem is the Corps of Engineers seemingly never-ending environmental study that, according to an editorial in the Savannah Morning News, has been going on for 14 years at a cost of more that 36-million dollars.  This getting beyond absurd.  

The study was supposed to ne finished by 2007, but wasn’t.  Now the corps is saying it will not be finished until 2011, if by then.  It will take three years to deepen the channel.  That means it is critical that the study is completed no later than 2011 because not to deepen the channel will mean the really big container ships will use East Cost ports that can serve them.  That will be an huge economic  loss to Savannah and Georgia.   

In my view, no thinking person would want to deepen the channel if it causes irreparable environmental damage. It is known that it will cause more salt water to flow upstream, which could have negative impact on the delicate estuary system. An estuary is where salt water and fresh water meet and mix. It is critically important to sea life. Channel deepening could also send salt water into the freshwater aquifer beneath the Savannah River.  The study should answer those questions.  Why, though, has it taken 14 years and 36 million dollars to come up with those answers?  

Massive container ship starting its 15-mile trip down the Savannah River from the Savannah Port to the Atlantic Ocean. This shot was taken from the balcony of the VU Lounge and Restaurant at the Hyatt in downtown Savannah.

Many Really Big Hitters come from Really Small Towns in Georgia

July 26, 2010
As we drove into Young Harris, Georgia recently,  I had to reflect on why it is so famous – and it is famous.  It’s not big.  The 2000 census counted 604 residents.  That’s almost a hundred less than the town’s very famous college, Young Harris College, which only has 700 students.

Zell Miller, former Georgia United States Senator and Governor

Like Plains,  Young Harris illustrates that a town doesn’t have to be big to produce big leaguers. Zell Miller might not be quite as famous as Jimmy Carter, but he’s plenty famous – and, to a lot of Democrats,  now infamous.  He served as  Georgia’s Democratic Lt. Governor,  Governor, and United States Senator.  But, even though never resigning from the Democratic Party,  he took up with the Republicans, even speaking at the Republican National Convention that nominated George W. Bush for president.   

 Just as Young Harris is famous because of people like Zell Miller, Young Harris College  is also famous, because people like Zell were students there.  And, I’ll bet you didn’t know that, according to Wikipedia,  these famous folks also went to Young Harris College:  “entertainers Oliver Hardy

Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy, is on the floor, and Oliver Hardy is standing next to him in this lobby poster for their first movie, Lucky Dog, as Laurel and Hardy in 1921.

, Wayland Flowers and Amanda Bearse, country music singers Ronnie Milsap and Trisha Yearwood, Major League Baseball player Nick Markakis, and Waffle House founder Tom Forkner. Poet and novelist Byron Herbert Reece was a student and teacher at YHC.”

Wonder if Zell is going to endorse a Democrat or Republican for governor this year?  You just never know what he will do. But, we do know that he did one very important thing for Georgia. He was instrumental in establishing the state lottery, which funds the HOPE Scholarship program. Furnishing college tuition and textbooks is a big deal.

Why Just Teenagers?

July 1, 2010

It’s too bad the Georgia legislature made it against the law for only 16 and 17-year-old drivers to use their cell phones while driving.  It’s not a safe practice at any age.   I suppose the reason the legislature didn’t ban it for those over 17 is that anyone 18 and above can vote.

However, the lawmakers were brave enough to ban texting for everyone.  While kids seem to text all the time, it appears adults are quite addicted to it also.  I just saw a report on CNN about parents who are ignoring their children because they are so wrapped up with smart phone texting and emailing. The reporter said physical presence is not enough. You have to be there mentally for your kids too.

Both laws were necessary, but the one that bans driving while talking on a cell phone should not just be for teenagers.

A Better Way to Control Pressure when Landing

April 13, 2010

When you get an email forward, especially an anonymous one, you just never know how true it is.  Sometimes you can find out by seeing what Snopes has to say  about it. However, whether the one that a friend sent is true or not, it certainly could be and made both of us think of a flight we took to New York not long ago.  I was sitting in a window seat. Next to me was a five-year-old boy who behaved well, spending most of his time coloring. Next to him was his mother holding his baby brother in her arms. He was no trouble either since she was either hugging or breast-feeding him all the way.  This brings me to the email:

 During a commercial airline flight an Air Force Pilot was seated
 next to a young mother with a babe in arms. When the baby began   crying during the descent for landing, the mother began nursing the  infant as discreetly as possible.

The pilot pretended not to notice and, upon disembarking,  he  gallantly offered his assistance to help with the various  baby-related items.

When the young mother expressed her gratitude, the pilot responded,    “Gosh, that’s a good-looking baby..and he sure was hungry!”

Somewhat embarrassed, the mother explained that her pediatrician  said that the time spent on the breast would help alleviate the pressure in the baby’s ears.

The Air Force Pilot sadly shook his head, and in true pilot fashion  exclaimed, “And all these years, I’ve been chewing gum.”

Approaching New York City on Delta flight from Atlanta

Why Did President Obama Pick Savannah?

February 27, 2010


I don’t know why President Obama picked Savannah for his “Main Street” visit to Georgia Tuesday, but he will certainly be in probably Georgia’s most charming city.  I was there recently and really enjoyed the visit.  It’s a beautiful place, and, as you know, the most historic city in Georgia.  It’s where Georgia started in 1733. 

River Street in downtown Savannah, Georgia

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution story by Bill  Torpy and    Jeremy Redmon,  the White House will only say that ” its residents ‘have been hit hard and know well the challenges that Americans are facing right now’ — a criteria that could fit Anytown, USA.”  

The president will be conducting a town hall type meeting at Savannah Technical College.  The Savannah Morning News reports that only invited guest will be in attendance because the school’s auditorium will only seat 200 people.  After he finishes there, he is scheduled to make some more stops during his four hour visit,  but the White House won’t say where they will be. 

Port of Savannah on the Savannah River. It exports more than it imports.

According to the AJC  story, Robert Eisinger, dean of liberal arts at the Savannah College of Arts and Design,  says, ” Savannah provides racial, ideological and geographical diversity,” he said, and “It’s a president’s job to go out and listen. There’s an export story he can tell here, a manufacturing story and an education story.”  He pointed out the photographic settings, which include “historic architecture, an expansive river view,  and a busy port that all can help bring home whatever message Obama wants to make.”

There are some high profile Republicans in the Savannah area, such as Congressman Jack Kingston who is opposed to the $787 billion stimulus program – though Georgia Republican Governor Perdue’s administration had no problem in accepting Georgia’s share of the money- but,  the president will not be in hostile territory.  He pulled 57 percent of the vote in Chatham County.

The Endeavour Night Launch Reminds Me of the Night Launch I Saw 38 Years Ago

February 15, 2010

Endeavour crew space-walks to work on the International Space Station (NASA photo)


As I follow the news from NASA about the space shuttle Endeavour mission, which marked the last night launch of the shuttle program,  I remember the only space shot I witnessed at the Kennedy Space Center.  Ledger-Enquirer photographer and friend Lawrence Smith offered me a ride on a friend’s airplane to witness the night launch of Apollo 17.  Armed with my WRBL-TV 16 mm movie camera and my own still camera, I joined Lawrence and his friend and another man to take off from Columbus on the morning of December 6, 1972, . It was an interesting ride because we had to fly around a lot of thunder storms.  It was worth the excitement to see the first night Apollo launch, which also happened to be the last time Americans went to the moon.  

On December 7th, 1972, at 12:33 a.m. , Apollo 17 launches and heads for the moon. (NASA photo)


The pictures that the astronauts sent back on the way and on the moon were spectacular.  

Eugene Cernan walks on the moon (NASA photo)


Up until recently, there were plans for America to go to the moon again.  That idea has been scuttled, I’m told.  Americans were supportive of the moon shots almost 40 years ago, but priorities have changed, and unless there is some catastrophic accident, space shots get little publicity.  Save Space, a Florida website, is trying to get people to write Congress to save the space flight program.  It points out what the space program has given the world. 

“Satellite communications, microwaves, cellular phones, miniaturized computers, pacemakers, kidney dialysis, scratch-resistant lenses, medical and sports technology, adjustable smoke detectors, cordless tools, and water filters are just a few examples of the advances that have occurred through NASA space research. Not to mention the entrepreneurs, jobs, and commercial aspects of many space research spin-offs.” 

Wikipedia says this is probably the most reproduced picture in the world. It is earth as seen from the space craft Apollo 17 five hours after lift-off on December 7, 1972. It's called "The Blue Marble." (NASA photo)

Wild Hogging it Again

January 11, 2010

I didn’t go this year so I had to depend on the AP story in the Ledger-Enquirer to tell me about it.  Actually, after reading the story, I got the impression that this year wasn’t much different from last year, the one I attended.

Last year the budget was the main concern of just about everyone I talked with when the politicians and lobbyists and media folks gathered at the Georgia Railroad building in Underground Atlanta, a stones throw from the Capitol.   It appears that’s the same main topic this year.  Last year the state had to cut spending and this year it’s going to have to do the same thing.

With the legislature struggling to balance the budget, does the Capitol really need a lavish gold dome? Gold is expected by some to go to $1500 an ounce this year. Why not melt it down and use the proceeds to help balance the budget?

Last year, gubernatorial candidates were smiling big and shaking a lot of hands. That was no different this year, from what I read. It will be interesting to see how legislators handle the huge problems of water, transportation, and education. With elections looming, their decisions could very definitely have an impact on who wins. 

I received this comment today from a person identifying himself as Norman on the post I did last year about the Wild Hog affair.  “Who pays for this dinner of 1500 or more people? If the budget is as bad as they tell us, be nice if things like this could be cut, not police, fire fighters, and teachers.”

According to what I learned last year, the state doesn’t pay for the Wild Hog Dinner. The affair is hosted by Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin.  State Rep. Carolyn Hugley told me last year that it was paid for by “sponsors,”  which probably translates to lobbyists.  It’s pretty safe to assume that’s what happened this year, too.  So you don’t have to worry about the state paying for it, but those teachers, fire fighters, and police could decide to take retribution at the polls when the budget slashers who cut their compensation run for reelection?

Cool Cruise – Part 7: Rocking and Rolling at Sea

December 13, 2009

As I woke on the morning of our last full day at sea,  I felt the ship rolling. Curious as to why, I pushed back the drapes of the cabin’s window and gasped an unprintable word – this is a G- rated blog – at what a I saw. 


Then it occurred to me that the noise I was hearing through the double-pained glass was the wind howling. I turned on the cabin TV to the ship’s channel where I learned that we were in a force 8 gale.  That means the wind was blowing from 39 to 46 miles per  hour.  

I have been in rough seas before.  I made two North Atlantic crossings back in the 50’s when I was in the Army. We had a pretty good storm on one of them.  The ride on the troop ship was more exciting because there is a big difference in a relatively small troop ship without stabilizers and a 105,500 ton, 12-deck tall cruise ship that has state of the art stabilizers.  

A lot of soldiers on that troop ship got demonstrably seasick.  Fortunately, I wasn’t one of  them. In fact,  I actually enjoyed going on deck for some fresh  air and feeling the sea spray on my face.    One sight I’ll never forget was when I went to the head on the fantail of the ship.  As the fantail went up and down like one end of a seesaw, the water in the toilets – there must have been at least 20 of them in a row – shot up like fountains. 

 On the Carnival Triumph we had expected the day at sea steaming from Halifax, Nova Scotia to New York City,  would be fun, with ballroom dance lessons,  delicious food, an afternoon tea,  the chance to lose some more money in the casino,  and the passenger talent show in the big lounge.  

 You should have seen the ballroom dance class  trying to do cha-cha steps with the ship rolling that way.  I tried it for a little while, but decided that at my age I wouldn’t want to fall on a hard dance floor.     

Carnival Triumph back in the calm waters at Pier 88 in Manhattan following the 7-day cruise. That barge on the side is refueling her for her trip to Norfolk, Virginia, then a cruise to Miami, and finally back to her home port of New Orleans.

 As the ship pulled into New York Harbor the next morning, all was calm again.  Getting off the ship was a lot easier than getting on with not as many security hoops to jump through which made lines to the customs stations short.   

Wending our way through downtown Manhattan via 42nd Street and Broadway on the way to La Guardia and the flight back to Atlanta.

  We got to enjoy the bus ride down Broadway and 42nd Street and Time Square back to La Guardia Airport.  I reflected that was a good way to experience downtown Manhattan.  You got the ambience without having to get involved with the throngs on the sidewalks or the pushing and shoving of what must have been a million people in Times Square.    

Greystone at Inverness Apartments, Columbus, GA.

Now that I am back home I am seeing more beautiful fall leaves than I saw anywhere in New England and Canada, and the main reason for going in mid-October was to see those leaves.  The rest of the adventure made up for it. 


Autumn leaves on the Riverwalk, on the overflowing Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA