Monday, January 31, 2011

An outing to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Part I: Le Grand Depart

Over this past weekend your diarist and diarist-woman took the choo-choo from Washington, DC's Union Station out to White Sulphur Springs, WV to meet up with the diarist's brother and sister-in-law, aka John and Alice.  Alice, a WV native, had sussed out that the Greenbrier Hotel, the sort of address generally a bit too up-scale for your thrifty diarist, was offering a cut rate weekend that made this swish, over the top resort seem almost affordable.  The Greenbrier once the haunt of Presidents, Royalty and Hollywood types got its start in the 1700s after European colonists discovered the mineral springs that native Americans had been using since time out of mind to cure a variety of ailments.  It soon became fashionable to "take the waters".  Little by little a resort was built around the spring.  An interesting factoid that was unknown until the 1990s is that the federal government had constructed a top secret underground bunker at the Greenbrier large enough to house the entire U.S. Congress in case the Russkies dropped the big one on Washington.  Currently the Greenbrier is owned by Jim Justice, a local coal billionaire who sold some of his coal mines to those same Russians in order to buy the bankrupt hotel from the railroad.  Mr. Justice seems committed to returning the Greenbrier to her former glory.  More can be read here:

For your diarist one of the high lights of the weekend was sure to be the train ride.  It's been dog years since I've ridden a train any great distance and the ride from DC to the Greenbrier is over 250 miles.  Would there be a security pat down?--another possible high light!  And what to do once arriving at the resort?  Do they give tours of the bunker?  Do they still use the hot spring?  Your diarist didn't know but figured that he could sit in a hot tub with a glass of wine and exaggerate his importance with the best of them if the opportunity presented itself.  So join us as we listen for the conductor's plaintive cry: The Cardinal, now departing Uuuun-ion Station for Alexandria, Culpepper, Clifton Forge, White Sulphur Springs, Charleston, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago; All Aboard!

It was snowing lightly when we arrived at Union Station

While there was a heavy police presence both in and outdoors your diarist was not "patted down".
The interior of Union Station is quite elaborate.

Like most large train stations, Union Station is a city unto itself complete with liquor stores, barber shops, eateries, book shops, &c.
You could probably live here, under this escalator, and sneak over to the French baker (left side of the photo) for coffee and fresh pain au chocolat.  Just keep an eye out for the station watchman and his German shepherd....

Train nr 51, the Cardinal, leaves on track 23 at a civilized 11:10 am.  This train originates in NYC and changes engines at Union Station.  The ride out to White Sulphur Springs should take about six hours.  Will the train run on time?  We shall see.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eastport, Part III

OK, I'm back.  Weather Channel says we're getting 4 to 6 inches of icy snow tonight and tomorrow.  Big deal.  I've got firewood on the front porch and a new bottle of Cockspur Rum.  Let's continue our walk on Severn Avenue before the tree limbs come down and power goes off.  Did I mention that I hate ice?

Severn Ave. is a satisfactorily mixed bag of boat related businesses, bars, restaurants  and homes. 

APS or Annapolis Performance Sailing is a Mecca for dinghy racers.  For those viewing this blog who have only done business over the phone or internet here is what APS headquarters looks like.  This is at least the third Eastport building this business has occupied in the time I've lived in this area.  Who says racing small sailboats is a dying sport?

All right, enough of business.  Back to the walking tour; here at almost the end of Severn Ave.  we have the oldest surviving house in Eastport.

Of course it has it's own marker.  Remember to click on the photo to enlarge it if you'd like to read the signage.

Across !st Street from the oldest house in Eastport is this little "fixer-upper".  No, I have no idea what the asking price is but I'm sure it's lofty and I'm also sure that the buyer will have to preserve at least some bit of the old building's fabric rather than tear the old structure completely down.  No extra charge for the non-hysteric fireplug or the blue Porta-Potty.
Walking down 1st Street.  Severn Sailing Association still has an old Optimist Dinghy doing service as a Christmas decoration. 

Back up to the corner of 1St. Street and Severn Ave. we find this attractive house.  My camera work doesn't do it justice.  I could be very comfortable here--easy walking distance to APS. the Boatyard and SSA.

This narrow house is typical of original Eastport architecture.
Another pleasant house on Severn Ave.
I like the oar used as a house marker.  Details, details...
A fine looking ship model in an upper window of another house.  Check out the mini-ship wright in the right hand corner.

Walking back toward the bridge and looking up Spa Creek,  Looks bleak doesn't it?
St Mary's church and school viewed from the Eastport side of Spa Creek.  It costs $$$ to moor to those buoys in summertime.  Having said that, there are times in summer when one could probably step from boat to boat and cross the Creek without getting a foot wet.  In the distance one can see the spire of St. Anne's up on Church Circle..
This concludes our walk up and down Severn Avenue.  It was cold and there were a couple football play-offs to watch (Green Bay won their game and the Steelers prevailed over the Jets--so there's a way to date these pix).  We have barely scratched the surface of Eastport and Annapolis and I will explore them both further for you as the weather warms.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Eastport, Part II

Fresh batteries in the camera, check.  Spare batteries in a warm pocket, check.  Funny looking winter hat pulled well down over the ears, check.  OK, let's go for a stroll...

Casting a backwards glance at the bridge we've just crossed, the power of bubbling water can be seen.  There is a skim of ice everywhere except where the submerged bubblers are located around the perimeter of the floating docks.

Zooming in on one of the bubblers.  Note the moustache of ice on the dock just above where the water bubbles up.  During hard freezes the bubblers help prevent the ice from crushing  the boats which are moored during winter instead of being hauled out.

Now the Boatyard Bar & Grill may not have a little number next to its location on the  official walking tour map but your diarist highly recommends a visit.  This is a good little sailor's bar and gets quite animated during the summer months after the conclusion of Wednesday night boat racing.  The car park is rarely empty regardless of the season.  My daughter is fond of the Boatyard's Dark 'n Stomies.

Although Eastport's past was that of a gritty, blue collar working class town it now sports a fair number of top drawer eateries.  Ruth's Chris and O'Leary's are two of several from which one may choose.

Up Severn Avenue from the Boatyard, on the opposite side of the street, one finds a wood carver's shop.
This was the former site of a glass factory.

The carver is an independent soul and keeps hours to suit himself.

A view through the display windows still features his Christmas train garden.
There's more to see on Severn Avenue but for me it's time to head back to the Boatyard to warm up.  Part III will take a look at a few of the  homes up and down the Avenue.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A cold walk in Eastport, Part I

This weekend has been unusually cold for central Maryland.  The day time temperature never rose above the mid-twenties either day and Saturday's overnight low was a chilly 10 degrees F.  This certainly wouldn't break any records up at International Falls, Minnesota but it's plenty cold for here--especially when combined with brisk winds.  Your diarist would have been happy to sit by the fire with a small glass of brandy but a Blog Spot is a stern mistress.  So dress warmly and we'll go for a walk-about in the Eastport section of Annapolis.

I parked the wagon in Annapolis (not a problem during the winter months) and walked across the Spa Creek Bridge.  Spa Creek separates Annapolis from Eastport.  Originally the Creek was called Spar Creek because of the presence of spar makers along the banks of the creek.  However "Spa" was as close as 17th century British sailors could come when attempting to pronounce the word Spar and so it became easier to change the creek's name than to continually correct yet another boatload of newly arriving sailors.

Although Annapolis Yacht Club has a presence on both sides of the Creek the club house is on the Annapolis side.

The hard core Laser sailors were out frostbite racing.  I hope they're wearing dry suits!

Closer to the bridge a skim of ice makes the water look calm.  In the previous photo of the Lasers one can see that a good breeze was blowing.

AYC's fleet of 420s wait for warmer weather.

The small keel boat fleet is also sleeping.

Although now a part of Annapolis,  Eastport residents are proud of their town's history and have proclaimed their "independence" as the "Maritime Republic of Eastport".  See more at:  There is an annual tug of war across Spa Creek by teams made up of Annapolitans and Eastport residents.

The camera batteries are so cold that my camera keeps shutting down.  So read the signs and I'll get some fresh batteries.  We'll poke around Eastport in my next post.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Governor Bridge Park

Today was a dull, chilly day with temps in the low 40s.  I worked on one of my boats and then took a quick walk around a local natural area about five miles from home.

In warm months this park is a favorite of bird watchers and canoeists.
The small ponds were frozen.  I just missed a photo opportunity with a bright red male cardinal.  The winter berries will have to stand in as a substitute.
The snow from last week was still around in the shady areas on the path to the canoe launching area.
All quiet at the launching site.

The Patuxent River was ice-free.  The Patuxent flows into the Chesapeake Bay.  You can read more here:
This woodpecker was one of the few birds seen today.

He was busy doing what woodpeckers do best.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Chesapeake Bay around Thomas Point

Over the weekend I attempted to get a good picture of the Thomas Point lighthouse.  This particular lighthouse is a "screwpile" type light (a lighthouse mounted on top of a foundation of pilings driven into the bottom mud:

More about Thomas Point light can be found here:

I had hoped to be able to park the car and walk to a good vantage point for my photo shoot, but unlike Charles Winpenny's Cornwall which features many coastal walking paths and plenty of access, most of the areas around the Annapolis area with water views and access are owned by extremely wealthy individuals and hence "no parking" signs are the order of the day.  With Elisabeth at the wheel of the station wagon I was able to snap the following pix before someone released the hounds!

Thomas Point Lighthouse seen from the shore at the community of Arundel on the Bay.  It was a cold, windy day which did not help the quality of the photographs!

There are always several large ships anchored just south of the Annapolis bay bridge.  I generally only see them when crossing the bay bridge.

Another ship waiting for orders to approach the port of Baltimore.

The other iconic structure visible from this community is the Bay Bridge which spans the Chesapeake Bay between Sandy Point on the western shore of Maryland and Kent Island. Kent Island is a large island between the eastern and western shores of Maryland. The houses in this neighborhood have spectacular views of bridge, the shipping traffic and the lighthouse.
Zooming in on the bridge.  Actually now two bridges.  This bay bridge, officially called the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, is not to be confused with the similarly named Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel at Norfolk, Virginia.  The closest bridge, in the photo above, is the original one which is a two lane bridge which originally handled traffic in both directions.  It now carries east-bound traffic.  This span was supplemented by a second three lane bridge which carries west-bound traffic.  During summer weekends these bridges often have extensive traffic back ups in both directions.

Driving on, we turned west for a view back towards Annapolis.

We were able to find a place to pull off the road without ruining our tires.  The green dome across the water is the Naval Academy Chapel.  The day was growing late and we wanted to meet up with our daughter at the Boatyard Bar and Grill in nearby Eastport so we'll leave you for now.