Archive for the ‘Travel’ 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.

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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.

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

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)

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

Cool Cruise – Part 5: Facts about Halifax

November 23, 2009

Little did I know what an interesting and charming place Halifax, Nova Scotia would be.  Besides knowing the name, I was ignorant about the place, which made it all the more entertaining when the Carnival Triumph slid into Halifax Harbor.

Georges Island, Halifax Harbor, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

As we passed an island that had a lighthouse and lighthouse keepers house, it appeared to have no people.  I had to look it up on Wikipedia after I got back to Columbus, Georgia, my home town, to learn about it. Indeed, there is no one on Georges island.  The lighthouse has been automated since the 1970’s. The Canadian government is working on turning it into a tourist attraction. After all, it has a historical fort, from which a shot was never fired in anger.

Noon cannon firing for tourists at Fort George, Halifax, NS

Only having a few hours to explore Halifax, we took a tour of the city on a London double-decker bus.  We saw a beautiful, clean town.  We stopped at a fort that is open to the puiblic, Fort George, which dates back to the 1700’s. A cannon is fired at noon every day for the tourists.  Halifax has never been attacked. But it had the two forts in case France, or, later, the United States decided to do it.  The Fort is now a park.  

We got off the bus at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.   If  you ever get to Halifax, don’t miss it.  you’ll learn a lot about the area’s history. Not only does it have a Titanic exhibit – survivors of the sinking were taken to Halifax, and a lot of those whose drowned bodies were recovered are buried in a Halifax cemetary – but it has have exhibits that explain that Halifax was a very important port in both World War I and II. Because it is a protected harbor that was safe from German submarines, it was the staging area for the convoys that took supplies to the United Kingdom in both wars.

Entrance to Halifax explosion of 1917 in Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, NS

The French also used the harbor in World War I, which led to a colossal disaster. It was and still is the largest accidental man-made explosion in the world. I learned about it while visiting the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. On December 6, 1917, SS Mont-Blac, a French cargo ship loaded with explosives destined to France, collided with the empty Norwegian SS Imo. The Mont-Blanc caught on fire, drifted close to shore, and exploded, destroying structures , killing 2,000 people and injuring 8,000. The explosion caused a tsunami in the harbor and a pressure air wave that demolished more buildings, grounded ships and carried fragments from the Mont Blanc for miles. I had never heard of it before.

1930 Snipe, a racing sailboat similiar to one I owned and raced, though this one is a lot older

I found the racing sailboat exhibit especially interesting because it sported a 1930 Snipe. I owned and raced a couple of Snipes for a number of years.  One was destroyed by a tornado at Lake Harding, which is north of Columbus,  on a Christmas day in the 1970’s. But that’s another story. Back to Halifax.

Having a 3-year-old friend who loves Thomas the Train, I found the exhibit about Canada’s answer to Thomas interesting.  The television program about Theodore the Tugboat was produced in Halifax and aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Kids love it, and still enjoy the re-runs and DVDs.  The actual real Theodore the Tugboat used for the show was docked nearby.  The model used for the annimated show, which is shown in the inset, is displayed in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Theodore the Tugboat docked near the Museum of the Atlantic, and (inset) the actual model that was used in making the annimated TV show, which is displayed in the museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is the largest Canadian city east of Montreal and is the capital of Nova Scotia. Like Columbus, the economy gets a boost from the military; however it’s the Canadian Navy not Army, and Halifax is home of Canada’s Atlantic fleet. The Canadian Navy is not very large, only 33 ships. And though there are less than ten-thousand people employed by the naval base, Halifax’s economy is stronger than Columbus‘, with the median household income of more than $55 thousand.  Columbus has a median household income of almost $40 thousand. Halifax is a very busy port, the fourth busiest in Canada, and there are a lot of government service jobs there since it is the province’s capital. 

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada as seen from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship's dock All in all, we enjoyed Halifax. For one thing, we found a great Irish pub there where we had wonderful seafood chowder for lunch. Being the last stop, that should end this series of posts, but the trip back to New York had a little excitement. That will be the Cool Cruise finale. Don't miss it, and tell your friends to tune in!

Cool Cruise – Part 5: Saint John, New Brunswick, Where the River Flows Both Ways

November 16, 2009

As our ship eased into Saint John Harbor, I thought, that quaint little scene is what I expected to see in coastal Canada in the fall. 

Oct 12 2009_Cruise_1369

Saint John Harbor, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

There were actually some pretty autumn leaves.  Our cruise was billed as an autumn leaves New England and Canada  affair, but we didn’t see hardly any of those until we got to Saint John.

I was looking forward to getting off the cold cruise ship – the 105, 509  ton Carnival Triumph has no heating system, which I learned after I got on the ship – and getting on a warm bus to tour Saint John.  The bus was warm, but we got out a few times, and the high that day in October was around 42 degrees, and it was drizzling.

The high tides there are the big tourist attraction.  The tides on the Bay of Fundy are among the highest in the world. The power of those tides is graphically demonstrated at the Reversing Rapid Falls.  The flow of the river reverses for a  few miles when the tides change.  It was really cold and wet when our bus stopped there, but shutter bugs like me hopped off to get a few shots. We didn’t  tarry, though.

SJNS copy

Reversal Falls Rapids on the Saint John River which feeds the Bay of Fundy, home of some of the highest tides in the world. That's an Irving family paper mill in the background.

All in all, Saint John is pretty small, a little more than 120,000 people in the metropolitan area.  That’s the second largest in New Brunswick. The city, with a little more than 68,000, is the largest.   It is the 6th largest port in Canada.   And it is the home of the late industrialist K.C. Irving, whose company is the largest single landholder in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine.   His company uses a lot of timber for its paper mills. His  three sons now operate the business, valued at between $7 – $9 billion.

As we say farewell to Saint John, we get ready to say hello to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a very different place.

(This website has some interesting pictures of Saint John and the Bay of Fundy)

Cool Cruise – Part 4: Hello, Portland!

November 8, 2009

Finally, as promised, Portland, Maine!

PORTLAND, MAINE DOCKS

Portland, Maine Harbor

Like Boston, entering a historic New England city by sea is a good way to do it.  It was the way that English Naval Captain Christopher Levett arrived in 1623 to settle the Portland area. His ship would probably fit in a dining room of the Carnival Triumph,  the cruise ship I was on. 

Oct 12 2009_Cruise_1381

Portland, once a busy port for sailing ships, still has some of them, but they are for sightseeing cruises

Like so many old cities in the United States, the old downtown area, now called the Old Port section, with its art college and art colony,  entertainment venues and many restaurants is the city’s main tourist attraction.  Also like many cities, a modern mall in another area of town is the main shopping center.  Our tour bus didn’t go there. It’s the historic stuff that pulls in the tourists. 

When you get into the names of historically significant Portland natives, number one would have to be Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the most popular poet in the world during the middle and late 1800’s.  His poems include The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and Hiawatha. He is the only American represented with a bust in the Poet’s Corner of London’s Westminster Abbey.  Buried in that corner are the great English writers  including Chaucer, Dickens, Elliot, and Wordsworth. 

Oct 12 2009_Cruise_1380

Portland Head Light Lighthouse

Probably the biggest tourist attraction in the Portland area is the Portland Head Light Lighthouse. This New England icon was built at President George Washington’s insistence.  Using whale oil as fuel, it was first lit in 1790.  It attracts more than  a million visitors a year.  The one negative is that it has no public restrooms with plumbing, only a long row of porta-potties.  Come on, folks,  restrooms don’t cost that much. 

Part of the attraction for taking a New England-Canadian cruise in October was to see the turning leaves in all of their glory.  We saw very few that would make you want to start humming “Autumn Leaves.”  In fact, you really don’t have to leave Georgia to see beautiful turning leaves.

Now, on to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.

Cool Cruise – Part 3: You Have to Fly 500 MPH to Get to a Cruise Ship that Goes 25 Miles MPH

November 2, 2009

In my last post on our “Autumn leaves” cruise up the coast of New England and Canada, I said we would go to Portland, Maine next, and we will, in our next post, after a little side trip on the joys of getting to the ship which is about a thousand miles from where I live.

Flying to and from New York was mercifully not long.  On the flight to, I sat next to a woman with a baby boy in her arms and her other son, who was about five, in the middle seat. I thought, oh no, little kids are walking germ dispensers. (I did end up with a cold when I got back, but who knows where I got it.) Fortunately the kids were well behaved. The one in her lap was quite content because she hugged and kissed him just about all the way. The other kid was busy coloring most of the time.  I made a point of not talking to them because I figured I had best leave well enough alone. As we were landing, I did strike up a conversation, enough to learn that she was a native New Yorker who lived in Atlanta and was bringing her kids to visit relatives.  Mom and the kids got all excited when New York City, her home town, came into view,  with Mom pointing to the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks. “Look, there’s the Statue of Liberty,” she exclaimed to her two Atlanta boys. “See it?”  The five-year-old had a hard time zeroing in on it so I joined her in pointing it out.  He finally saw it.  They got almost as excited as I did. I’ve been to the Big Apple a few times before, but it had been a while.  NY from Delta lMG_0010_edited-1

Our Delta from Atlanta to New York was about 30 minutes late leaving, which made me anxious that we would literally miss the boat, the cruise ship Carnival Triumph. However, we got a tail wind and the pilot said he would notch up the plane’s speed to make up for lost time.  We arrived at LaGuardia five minutes early.

On the way back, I sat in a row with two ladies, one of whom should have paid for two seats, because she was that large.  Both middle arm rests had to be left down in order for her to slop over into the seat next to her. I was scrunched up for the entire flight. Such is life in the cheap seats.  

The bright side was the ride through downtown Manhattan to get to Pier 88 where the mega-ship Triumph was waiting.  I started singing the George M. Cohan classic show tune “Give My Regards to Broadway” when our bus crept down 42nd Street.  Remember the line ” tell all the gang on 42nd Street that I will be there?”  Everyone, all cruise bound like I, was enjoying the ride and in a good mood so nobody seemed to mind.  We even rode by Times Square where it looked like a million people were milling around. Intreped

Once we got to the docks, we got a brief glimpse of the aircraft carrier Intrepid floating museum, which is docked near the pier where the Triumph waited.  Maybe I’ll go back to see that some time. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go to Warner Robbins to see the Air Force Museum there first.  That’s only a hundred miles away, and I have never been there.

But I digress. I promise to do the Portland thing next.

Cool Cruise – Part 2: Boston

October 25, 2009

When Ruth Kiralfy advised me that she was organizing a group to take an autumn cruise from New York City up the New England- Canadian  coast,  I decided that could be an interesting and fun adventure.  Of the four ports of call, New York was the only one I had ever visited before. 

Our cruise ship Carnival Triumph sailing past the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  This picture was taken by Leslie Serach who was with another Columbus group touring the New England and Canadian coast.  She took it from the Caribbean Princess.

Our cruise ship Carnival Triumph sailing past the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. This picture was taken by Leslie Search, a fellow member of CALL, the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning, who was with another Columbus group touring the New England and Canadian coast. She took it from the Caribbean Princess.

 

Not knowing that Leslie and other Columbus folks like Jimmy Motos, retired school principal, Springer Opera House regular, Bob Barr band clarinetist were aboard, I took this shot of the Caribbean Princess as we well leaving New York Harbor

Not knowing that Leslie and other Columbus folks like Jimmy Motos, retired school principal, Springer Opera House regular, Bob Barr band clarinetist, were on board, I took this shot of the Caribbean Princess as we were leaving New York Harbor

I thought it would be neat to get my first glimpse of Boston by sailing into its historical harbor, the scene of the Tea Party and the British naval bombardment of Boston during the Revolutionary War.  And it was.

When we entered Boston Harbor two other cruise ships were already there.

When we entered Boston Harbor two other cruise ships were already there.

We took a bus tour of the city, which I thought was quite attractive,  and made two special stops, one at the Old North Church and the other at Harvard University.

Sitting where Paul Revere sat in Boston's Old North Church in 1775.

Sitting where Paul Revere sat in Boston's Old North Church in 1775.

It was a memorable experience for folks to sit in the pews of the  Old North Church. This is the church that figured in the midnight ride of Paul Revere.  Revere, who served as a messenger in the Revolutionary War,  instructed the sexton of the church to signal American militia in Charlestown how the British troops would be coming on their way to Lexington and Concord by showing one or two lamps from the Church’s tower.  You probably remember “one if by land, two if by sea” from your grade school history book, or from Longfellow’s famous poem about it. In case you forgot, it was two.
The house at Harvard University that served as George Washington's Headquarters in the Revolutionary War

The house at Harvard University that served as George Washington's Headquarters in the Revolutionary War

Then, to walk on the Harvard campus and gaze upon the house that George Washington used for his headquarters, also tickled my history funny bone.

The weather was fine for the tour, a nice sunny day  in the upper fifties.  But, when we got back on the Carnival Triumph for the next leg of the cruise to Portland, Maine, we were once again reminded that our cabin contained no heat.  The low that night was in the thirties.  Jimmy Motos later told me that his ship, the Caribbean Princess, did have heat for its cabins. Wish I had known that before I signed up for the cruise. 

A look at the Portland one-day experience coming up.