Big Boy 4014

A day or so ago, I started seeing pictures of a huge steam engine on Facebook with narrative about the awesomeness of the huge train. Curious, I looked into it and this is what I discovered.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the First Transcontinental Railroad, the powers that be decided to restore one of the Big Boy Steam Engines. Originally there were 25 (so the Internet says) and now there are seven (again – Internet).  I added the part about the Internet because I am not a steam engine expert, so, though I trust the site I looked at, I don’t know for sure.

None of the seven were working and most often permanently parked in a museum/park somewhere. But at a cost of 4 million, Big Boy 4014 was restored over the past four years for transcontinental tours this summer.. Because you can’t just order a steam engine part from Amazon, everything had to be made from scratch and the restoration was quite challenging.

The locomotive is 132 feet long and weighs 1.2 million pounds. Because of it’s length, it is made with hinges, so it can turn in tight spaces.

Now the engine is once again running and currently on a Midwest tour … most recently in West Chicago.

I used to drive through West Chicago (which is a town west of Chicago, but is not the west part of Chicago) every day on the way to work, so, since I was going out to the grocery store anyhow, I thought I’d stop by and see the engine. Didn’t even bother asking anyone to come with me, because I figured in and out. I knew being a Saturday morning, there would be several people around, but figured I could quickly find a parking space, take a pic or two and be on my way.

Think again. Instead of several people, there were several thousand – every parking place within a two-three mile area was taken (we’re talking narrow city streets). (Their big parking lot was closed for the train exhibit.) I drove the loop a few times looking for a place and was about to give up, when I saw a small parking lot next to an ice cream place which turned out to be very fortuitous (I’ll explain later).

And then I started walking … and walking … and walking. The temp was mid- eighties, not too bad, but a little warm. People were getting worn out from the crowds and the walk … and rewarding those who set up water stops along the sidewalk. I got to the bridge over the train and walked down the other side. I mean this was back-to-back people. People everywhere!!!! I got some good pictures, decided not to stand in the endless line to walk through one of the cars and headed back … but not before someone handed me a coupon for a free cone. Here comes the fortuitous part – the coupon was for the ice cream shop next to my car! A welcome treat at the end of my hike … and it was a large cone! I heard one of the workers say they were closing down the shop – maybe this was the last gift to the community, I don’t know. But a fun end to a unique Saturday morning.

Bridge view – but there were more people on the other side of the train and the bridge itself was packed.
Notice the Big Boy label
From the South side of the train.
Part of the entourage.
From the North side.



Walking to Canada

So, the southern coast of Maine is breathtaking. Rocky shorelines dotted with pristine white lighthouses, quaint shops, cozy cafes … and then you drive north of the ocean and the scenery suddenly lacks shores, and lighthouses, and quaint shops.

Now instead of an ocean bordering Maine, the state is bordered by Canada.

Friend Cindy and I both had our passports, but looked at the rental car agreement and saw that we couldn’t drive our car across the border.

To get there – we’d have to walk. Now I’ve been to Canada several times, but I have not WALKED there. (However, I did walk to Mexico once.)

But how could we walk there? Only a few towns had border crossings and some of the crossings weren’t conducive to foot traffic. We asked and were directed to the town of Calais. Near the bridge was a Maine Visitor’s Center (for people coming into the U.S.) and the kind people there gave us some direction as to what to do.

By this time, a misty rain was coming down, but we were determined, so parked our car and headed for the bridge.

The actual border is mid-river (the Calais River) and we we got to stand in both countries at once.

On the other side was the town of St. Stephen, New Brunswick. We wandered down Prince William Street  looking for a place to eat. We were there in late afternoon and some of the shops were already closed, including some of the restaurants.

We finally found a pizza place (I think it was called Pizza Delight) and were seated in the back room by ourselves. Our table overlooked the river and the pizza was good and the server friendly.

Afterwards we walked back out into the rain and back to the border crossing and back to our car.

A couple 20-something guys went into Canada and came out at the same time we did, but for some reason were asked a lot more questions than we were. Guess we just looked we were who we said we were.

And that’s how we walked to Canada. Kind of fun.

Us. Standing in the U.S. and Canada at the same time.
How we knew we were standing in both countries.
Looking at Canada from the U.S.
Where we ate.
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U.S. from Canada
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The U.S. welcome sign was not quite as colorful … wait – where IS the U.S. welcome sign?

A Hunt for the Planets

This adventure happened last fall, but because of some computer glitches, etc., I am not getting it up until now … I hope (unless the computer glitches again).

Last October my friend Cindy and I headed up to Maine to do some in-depth exploring and to speak at a conference. We wanted to head up the East side of the state, but after you get so far, there aren’t many famous landmarks to visit.

But we were determined and wanted some fun on the journey. One of us (I truly can’t remember which one) found this solar system model. The catch was, it was to scale so you had to find the different planets over a distance of forty miles. We did have a map or sort of a map guiding us to the next planet and how far it would be … but some of them weren’t that easy to find … especially when they moved  from the hotel parking lot to the gas station next door. (Don’t remember reading about that in my science books.)

The first one is on displayed at the visitor center in Houlton – which is Pluto, which I know is no longer considered a planet, but so be it.



The picture isn’t good because this one is behind glass and indoors. But now the fun began

The evening was beautiful as we headed north and soon came upon Mercury.


And the earth.DSC_0305


I think this was our favorite.


Saturn was also rather impressive.



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We knew our last find – the sun would be at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and truly expected to see something magnificent – since this was to scale. We walked around the building a few times, not thinking it would be open on a Sunday night.

But it was open and we walked in – no one was in sight – past classrooms and computers and trophy cases.

Where was this sun that HAD to be massive?

Well – not quite. Actually it was part of the railing – sort of anti-climatic.

But the evening was perfect weather-wise and we agreed we had never been on a planet hunt before.

The anti-climatic sun.


Sugar Creek

I was home from Hawaii for three days before Sue and I left for the East Coast a road trip over familiar territory. Our first stop was near Sugar Creek, Ohio. One of the touristy things we saw advertised was a giant cuckoo clock.

Early the next morning we drove through beautiful country looking for the town Sugar Creek and the clock. The day was covered in fog with drizzly rain and few people were walking around the streets … except for a couple who were also waiting for the clock to cuckoo.

The clock was okay. I did live near Frankenmuth for four years and just a few miles away from the Glockenspiel Tower – so, well ….

If you’re somewhere in the area and seeing the world’s largest cuckoo clock is on your bucket list or todo list, then this is what you’re looking for.

Afterwards, we did wander down the street and enjoy pastries from an Amish bakery and had a great conversation with the baker herself.

So a good start, but not overly memorable, start to the day.



Pearl Harbor

I knew a little about Pearl Harbor. Like when it happened. What happened. Where it happened. But most of my World War II reading has been from the Jewish perspective, so I found visiting Pearl Harbor to be sobering and fascinating.

The two museum complexes are detailed and interesting – and give a detailed view of what happened when. After going through the museums, I felt like I had a good understanding of the event – including the fact that the planes were picked up on radar, but when reported by the servicemen who saw them on the screen, were ignored by their commanders. (Has to be a devotional there somewhere.)

At this point, you cannot go on to the memorial itself  because of an oil leak (think I have that right), but you can take a boat ride around the memorial. (The brown structure in front is part of the sunken Arizona. The memorial will be open again in March.

On the grounds.
Ford Island and the Nevada
The Arizona Memorial with remains of the Arizona visible in front.
Radar detected.
Needs no caption.


Some friendly people I met there!!!!!

Backing Up a Bit


Over the years, I’ve done a lot of blog posts about places I’ve visited while speaking at conferences. And I always feel kind of funny because I talk about the scenery, but not the people. That’s because it’s hard to talk about the people. I don’t have permission to post their pictures, and I don’t want to break any confidences by talking about questions they asked or challenges they have in their ministry.

And part of this trip was ministry.

The conference was at Calvary chapel, Pearl Harbor, a fairly large church located in a strip mall. I met so many friendly leaders.

And the music during the opening was appropriately Hawaiian!  Such fun.

The next morning we were able to attend the service at Hawaii Kai. (I love saying Hawaii Kai!) Good service and more friendly people.IMG_0781.jpg

In fact, afterwards, one of the men took us out to lunch at the Maona Cafe – a popular breakfast place in Hawaii Kai. He told us that there is always a wait. I had a super delicious strawberry waffle and good conversation.




That afternoon we visited two Awana clubs in two different areas and once again, I had the opportunity to meet great people. (I took a lot of pictures but can’t post them because of privacy restrictions.)

But here is the Game Square for one of the churches.


And here is Marti teaching at the other.



One night we drove through Wakiki – which is a part of Honolulu best known for its beaches. But Wakiki is also an area of city lights, upscale stores – think Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

The night we drove through the area, the roads were semi-empty because some of them were blocked off for a festival. However, the sidewalks were packed with people. I mean, we kind of wondered how they could walk there were so many of them. You can’t really tell from the video because a lot of the people were back off the sidewalks a little – but one corner must’ve had 500 people standing on it.

I didn’t get a great picture since I took it out of the car window at night – but the red and blue building is the Aloha Tower which is actually a lighthouse that can be seen 15 miles from shore, an iconic symbol of Hawaii.

Some people say that like the Statue of Liberty welcomes people on the East Coast, so the Aloha Tower welcomes people into Hawaii.

The tower was built in 1926 and up into the 60s was the tallest building on the islands. Now, it is being redeveloped by the Hawaii Pacific University as a residence hall.

(Ok, interesting sidenote – Honolulu ranks seventh as US cities with most high rises.)

During World War II, the military protected the tower and in fact, painted it in camouflage colors and turned off the light so it could not be seen. Finally, in the late 40s it was sandblasted back to its original color.



Three More Real Birds and a Fake

Three more alien birds I saw in Hawaii.

The Pacific golden plover – known mostly for being able to fly the 4,500 miles nonstop to Alaska in 3-4 days. He is also from South Asia as are many of the birds I saw in Hawaii.
This is a chestnut munia and at one time was the national bird of the Philippines. The bird also lives in Bangladesh, China, India and many other places.
This cute guy is the java sparrow or Java finch. Sometimes it is a cage bird. And is from Java and Bali.

Ok, so a week in Hawaii and saw not one native bird. The one we probably had the best chance of seeing was the Nene or Hawaiian goose, but alas …

But when Tom and Marti took me to Pearl Harbor, we did see a stuffed one in the gift shop – so Tom held it up so I could take a picture. Best I could do :(.DSC_0966.jpeg


Shrimp Trucks

One of the places a visitor to Hawaii must stop is a shrimp truck on the North Shore. They have a reputation for great, locally caught shrimp.

Deciding what to eat.
A place to sit in the comfort of Hawaiian breezes.
My dinner.


That says it all. (I wonder if customers forgetting their cars is something that happens a lot.)
And then the cats show up for their handouts.