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?

Jordan Pond House

While enjoying a day at Acadia National Park, we decided to eat lunch at the lodge – known as Jordan Pond House. IMG_1035 2.jpeg

Jordan Pond House is in the park itself, overlooking (you guessed it – Jordan Pond). During warm weather, they put tables outside so you can eat overlooking the pond.

I read that it’s busy in the summer, but we were there in October – peak of the color season – and it was still very crowded. You can make reservations, which we didn’t know, so we registered with the host and then wandered around the gift shop waiting for our buzzer to go off. (I truly can’t remember how long – but I’m thinking 40 minutes.)

Not a good picture, but you get the picture!!!! (Not a good sentence either.)

I did find maple sugar candy at the gift shop, which is a treat which brings back memories. Seemed like all Eastern historical sites had boxes of maple syrup candy when I was growing up, and my dad always bought me some. Now, you don’t find it quite as often, though every once in a while …

IMG_1063.jpgOnce inside the crowded restaurant, we ordered popovers and blueberry lemonade, because that’s what the restaurant is known for. Nellie McIntire started that tradition back in the 1890s – though I’m not sure who she is. Guessing she was a cook at the restaurant and not just some tourist who happened to be walking by hungry for popovers.IMG_1037.jpeg

The popover is served with strawberry jam and is delicious. The lemonade was good, too.

I also got a lobster roll, one of several I had while in Maine, don’t remember liking it as much as I liked the popover, but it was ok.

Like I said, they were busy and the people at the table next to us (maybe a foot and a half away), had finished their meal and were waiting for their bill when the server came with another round of their exact food. Somehow, he had forgotten that he already served them!

So – all that to say this. If you visit Acadia, stop at the Jordan Pond House and have a popover and some blueberry lemonade. You’ll be glad you did.


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.


The Glasshouse

One of my favorite places to visit in the Historic Jamestowne part of the settlement is the Glasshouse.

Back in 1607 when Jamestowne was first established, the Glasshouse was one of the first attempts to start an industry in the New World. Everything they needed: fuel, sand, etc. was there in abundance. They just needed people who knew how to actually make the glass.

In 1608 another ship arrived and this one had eight German and Polish craftsman who knew how to make the glass and the Glasshouse was in business. But the Glasshouse was not successful, though it struggled alone for a few years.

Again in 1622, a Glasshouse was established, this time with Italian artisans. But again it failed.

Then in 1948, the furnaces were rediscovered. A new facility was constructed from the excavated ruins. Now, once again, glass is blown in Jamestowne by modern artists who make glass as they did almost 400 years ago.

Watching glassblowing has always, always fascinated me … as it did this time.


Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown has two separate areas for visitors to enjoy.

One area is where the settlement was actually located with ruins of various buildings in a parklike area.

The second area is a settlement reproduction with replicated buildings, villagers in period customs, authentic activities such as cooking over an open fire, working on a ship and building a canoe … all making the English colony come to life.

If you’re traveling with kids, I definitely recommend the village. You can wander through the buildings, talking to the “village people,” go on the boats and if you’re lucky (like I was), be taught how to make a knot that the sailors used.

The settlement site has a lot of room to run, and is in a beautiful location right on the shore of the James River. Older kids might enjoy the history aspect of it – but I think younger kids would enjoy the village more.

And this is the truth. If I would get these posts up sooner than four months after I’ve been somewhere – I would do a much better job remembering details.

Here are some pictures of the village.

The church
One of the houses.
Looking out at the village.
The ship.
Another ship picture
And another
Learning to tie a knot which I could do while he was teaching me, but could not replicate it for you now.
Another part of the village.
Building a canoe – which was interesting to watch.
Another canoe building pic.


Shields Tavern

I have been to Williamsburg several times, but have never had the opportunity to eat in one of the taverns/restaurants on Duke of Gloucester Street. This time we decided to do it.

Shields Tavern was opened in 1705 and given the name Marot’s Ordinary. John Marot was the owner. Not only was there a place to eat, but also dry goods and a garden room. Often travelers stopped there to socialize.

Seventeen hundred and five is a long time ago. The building has gone through several renovations, but it is still on the same site and still serving food … an historical aesthetic.

We parked and walked down the street (you can’t drive on it), just as dusk was settling over the town. We were led downstairs to the basement which was lit by candlelight including a lantern at our table. Our server was in custom and very pleasant. I ordered the ale-potted beef (a delicious beef stew) because it sounded very colonial to me.

Expensive, so not a place I would go to every week, but for a once-in-a-lifetime treat, not bad. I mean, I’ve been to Williamsburg at least six times and this was the only time I got to eat on Gloucester Street. Hey! That has a nice ring to it, I could write some poetry.)

A very old tavern – opened in 1705


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View from our table.
View at our table.
My ale potted-beef


Youghiogheny River

img_0863We stopped to see Ken’s parents and then headed down through West Virginia and Maryland toward Virginia. We stopped at an overlook that gave us a great view of the Youghiogheny River and Reservoir. Unfortunately, the day was cloudy and our view wasn’t as good as it would’ve been on a sunny day (or even a snowy day), but it was still pretty.


Wondering how to say Youghiogheny? Think Allegheny – that’s a start and then look it up on the Web – that’s what I did.

Later we stopped at another breathtaking overlook.


Christmas Lights in the Northwoods

So one night while in the Northwoods, we drove to Rondele Ranch (pronounced Rondalay) because we heard they had a Christmas light display. Most of the seasonal event was over (the part with rides and cookies and such). But the lights were still up and the weather was crisp and cool …

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The church – the dark spot in the front kind of baffled me. Why would they leave it dark?
Lighted balls which looked cool in the snow.
And reflecting in the water.
The gazebo.
Ghost of Christmas past or maybe just Jacob in a blanket.
The ghost is trapped by his sister.
Snow, lights, water



M. Matsumoto Shave Ice

DSC_1039 2.jpgOne of the foods on the you-must-try-this-when-in-Hawaii lists is shave ice. (Not SHAVED ice, but shave ice.) One of the most popular places to get your shave ice is at M.Matsumoto. The place was busy

Being a person who needs my ICED tea as soon as I get up in the morning – I knew I would like this AND I did. A. Lot. Shave ice is kind of like a glorified snow cone, but not really. The ice is shaved thinner and the flavors are stronger.

And truly it’s a place not to be missed.

As we sat in the courtyard, enjoying our treat, the sun was going down in the West (Duh! Seldom does it go down in the East.) The night was beautiful and I perfectly understood the lure of the Islands.

The next day was a long flight home … in time for another conference journey – this one about as far across the country as you can get.

A great trip!