Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A tropical teaser

Tomorrow at O-dark-thirty hours diarist-woman and I will hit the road for sunny FLA.  Our son Erik is back in school and so will have to sit this regatta out and crack the books instead.  We'll stop for the night in Ocala with Moth Boating friends and then drive the final two hours to Gulfport on Friday morning.  I'm posting a few teaser pix from previous years just to get in the mood.

This is a shot of the launching beach at Gulfport Yacht Club taken during the 2009 regatta.  Looks inviting doesn't it?  Photo credit: Lennie Parker
A group of boats racing towards the weather mark.  Another Lennie Parker pix from 2009.  I'm sailing Nr 110 in this shot.
Joe Bousquet almost gets air-borne at last year's event.  Photo credit: Ed Salva.

Team Albaugh before departing Maryland for last year's regatta.  This is why we drive 2000 miles each winter!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cape May

Cape May is the southern most tip of the state of New Jersey.  This particular piece of property was "discovered" by a Dutch captain named Coenelius Mey in 1611.  Cape May is located at a point where the Atlantic Ocean meets Delaware Bay and is an interesting place to visit because of the many well preserved homes as well as the beach.  Additionally, Cape May is well known as a good birder's spot along the Atlantic fly-way for watching migratory birds.  We usually visit Cape May several time a year.  It's roughly an hour's drive south of Brigantine.

Enough about birds; what my female travelers want is shopping and Washington Street, a pedestrian Street, offers plenty of that.

We parked our car in the municipal parking lot behind the liquor store, fed the meter and headed straight for Washington St.

First stop is always "Swede Things", a small shop that specializes in Nordic linens and knick-knacks.  My bride already has several of every item (bought back in the old country for less money that the prices here) that the shop offers but she still likes to look.  Must be the "gatherer" instinct.  I have no idea who this couple is, but no doubt she has the gatherer gene as well...\

Need I say more?  OK, I like to browse there too, but it would be  way more fun if they had Swedish beers or something besides lace and little Jul Tomtar.

Two things you can always count on at a beach town are shops selling candy and t-shirts.  Cape May does not defy one's expectations.
Fralinger's has not quite let go of Christmas yet.  They go way back in the salt water taffy business.

Sea Air and Sunshine sealed in every box.

The price is right but I don't need any more hoodies.

Casale's shoes--another "must stop" location for my bride.
But enough of merchandising.  The other thing that Cape May is known for is it's collection of "painted ladies"; old Victorian era homes that now are for the most part Bed and Breakfast joints.

What is it that appeals to the female mind about a B 'n B?  Is it the fancy beds and linens?  Is it the fact that the place is "just so" but they didn't have to make it that way?  What, already?  Oy! It gives me the Heebie-Jeebies!  I mean, I could see it if it was part of a Lionel train lay out...

Ok, Ok, I get it--it's the architectural stuff
Like the "snickar glädje" on this house.  But SOMEBODY has to paint all this stuff!

There are lots of fancy signs in Cape May.

I've often wondered where Betsy Ross went for vacation.  Now I know.
An interesting house on Jackson Street
Zooming in on the details.  I like the iron work around the widow's walk on the roof.

I've just touched on the surface of the interesting buildings in the old part of Cape May.  We'll visit again went the weather warms. But now I must start packing for Gulfport.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter Gale: Down on the Jersey Shore.

This past weekend was one of the so called "three day weekends" observed by the U.S. government and generally, but not universally, followed by most schools and other employers as well.  These long weekends are much loved by folks like your diarist who look forward to a small break from work.  Actually this coming week will be unusual in that I'll only go to the lab two out of five work days.  This coming Thursday and Friday I'll be traveling down I-95 to Gulfport, Florida for the Moth Boat Mid-Winter Regatta.  But back to this past weekend; we went to check our cottage on the island of Brigantine.  Saturday was quite windy as a winter gale blew through along the coast.  The Atlantic City airport recorded wind gusts up to 52 mph and other near-by locations had gusts higher than that.  This gale was not the usual Nor'easter but one associated with a front moving across the island from the west.  West winds tend to accentuate full moon low tides (i.e. a "blow out" low tide).  Such tides sometimes uncover interesting bits of sea glass, shells and other odds and ends.  Your diarist found no sea glass but did manage to snap a few pix.

Although the deep snows of early winter have melted, another 4 to 8 inches of snow is forecast for Monday night.  This is a rude awakening from the two days of balmy 70 degree weather we've just experienced.  Day time temps dropped like a rock as Saturday progressed.  So much for the groundhog's prediction of an early spring.

The strong west wind blew the tops off the waves.  The waves were breaking fairly close to shore.  This is about a half hour after the ebb.

Although not visible in the photos, the wind was also picking up a fair amount of dry sand making any prolonged attempt of a walk an exercise in sand  blasting.  Your diarist returned the camera to the safety of the case and retreated to the warmth of the house.  Portugal is the next land fall due east from this picture.

Sunday we will wander down the coast to Cape May.  Stay tuned.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Raimo Ahti's Raleigh Team Replica

My two similar Europe design Moth Boats.  One is a beautiful woodie the other is the boat Meg Gaillard
used in the 2004 Olympic Games at Athens.  Which one will I take to Gulfport?  Decisions, decisions...
Your diarist has been distracted with preparations for the up-coming Classic Moth Boat Mid-Winter Regatta, to be held down in Gulfport, Florida the last weekend of Feb.  I'm still trying to decide between two boats.  But more about that in a future post.

Currently Bowie, Maryland is enjoying a rare couple of days of 70 degree weather in the middle of what is generally the coldest month of the year.  I don't plan on launching into a discussion about global warming or whether or not human activity is contributing to that other than to say as long as I don't have to shovel anything I'm not going to complain.  The warm temps have gotten me thinking about my bicycles resting in the garage since last November (yes, I'll admit it: I'm a cold wimp).

While I'm rummaging around in the garage looking for boat parts I may as well introduce you to one of my bikes: A Raleigh Team Pro Replica from the early 1980s.  I picked this little bike up after seeing her malinger through several bid cycles on a certain popular on-line auction site without attracting a single bid.  The seller relisted the bike for one final time stating that if nobody bid this time he'd break her for parts. The bike although missing her head badge was unmistakably a Raleigh Team Professional Replica, i.e. built to the design of Gerald O'Donovan but constructed at Raleigh's main Worksop factory rather than the SBDU or Special Bicycle Development Unit in Derbyshire.  I also have a pukka SBDU Team Pro frame but I'll talk about that one in a later post.

The bike in question retained a mish-mash of  period correct Campagnolo Nuovo Record components, but mostly with Campag patent dates which were slightly out of sync with the age of the frame. However, the most curious aspect of this machine was that the frame had been repainted an attractive but admittedly unauthentic shade of blue and sported an unusual name painted on both sides of the down tube:"Raimo Ahti".  I think the combination of odd component dates, and that paint job contributed to the reason why this particular bike failed to attract the lust and bidding frenzy from the usual bike snob crowd that lurks in the dark corners of "Flea-bay".I placed the minimum opening bid and waited to be snipped at the last second.  Much to my amazement that didn't happen and I won the auction.

Raimo Ahti's Raleigh Team Pro Rep
After receiving the bike I did a little web search to see if I could discover anything about this mysterious Raimo Ahti.  Obviously the name was Finnish.  What I discovered is that my bike was the one time property of a 70+ year old stone mason who lived in Lunenberg, Massachusetts.  It turned out that Raimo's first love is cross-country ski racing and he used to run in the summer months to keep fit.  As he aged he switched from running to bike racing because cycling left him fresher. In a quote from the Worcester, Mass Telegram and Gazette ( Raimo said of his training rides "You can go three to five hours, and when you come back you can wash the floors and cut the grass. If you run three hours, you can't go dancing afterward. My wife and I love to dance."  (Ah, the allure of Nordic dancing--diarist-woman also loves it but your diarist is clumsy and can't get the steps down to all those dances...).  In his mid-60s Raimo was still winning citizen races in his age group. 

 Raimo, now in his 70s, still skis.  I was able to track him down via contact with a Finnish-American cultural society up in Massachusetts and we exchanged some enjoyable letters.  Someday I  hope to get up to his neck of the woods and shake his hand in person.  It's not every day you meet a multi-discipline champion via flea-bay!  This man very definitely has "sisu".   As for the mish-mash of component dates on the bike it boils down to this: Raimo was a racer, stuff broke during events and he replaced them with whatever a local bike shop had on hand without worrying about what a bunch of collectors might think years later.  To me those mismatched patent dates are a silent testament to the bike's racing history and make her all the more special. I also like the Finnish blue paint  job and will always keep Raimo's name on the down tube.  I told him that I do plan to change one little thing:  I'm going to paint the lug cut-outs on the frame bright yellow since my bride is a Svenska fickor!

Heart shaped lug cut outs will soon be Swedish yellow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A day on the Delmarva

"Delmarva" is a contraction of Delaware-Maryland-Virginia.  If you look at a map of the Mid-Atlantic region you will see that the eastern shore of the Chesapeake bay is defined by a peninsula which is split between three states: Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.  Today after crossing the bay bridge I passed through two out of three of those states on my way to Bill Boyle's house.  Such is life if one lives in the smaller states of or Union.

The Delmarva is flat.  Think Holland.  This is one of the main roads to the Delaware beaches.  In summer there's a back-up, guaranteed.  Coming home, driving into the sun, drivers glaze over after a hard weekend of drinking at the beach.  Mix that with slow moving farm equipment, which stacks up a long line of impatient DC and northern Virginia drivers, along with on-coming logging trucks and you've got one of the reasons why headlight use is required on these long straight stretches of road.  The local emergency crews are kept quite busy...

If you can't think of any other reason, maybe your state can be famous for tax-free shopping.  Lots of people cross the state lines from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia to purchase big ticket items like kitchen appliances.  You can easily save the cost of the fuel.

The Delmarva is also famous for chickens.  Frank Perdue got his start in this region.  Local farmers contract with large producer firms like Purdue to raise chickens factory-style in houses like these.

If it wasn't for the presence of a large local demand for scratch-corn (chicken industry), there would be no way Delaware would be able to complete with big corn states like Iowa in terms of corn production.  Without center-pivot irrigation most of these farms simply could not grow corn.  The soil is sandy-loam which is very droughty.  Every third year on average there is a drought and farms without irrigation don't give back the seed which the farmer puts in the ground.  Soybeans are the other major row crop here and frankly are better adapted to local conditions.  But chickens don't like soybeans...
This is also the main eastern shore route to the Cape May-Lewis Ferry which crosses Delaware bay to southern New Jersey.  Sorry about the annoying date stamp on today's photos.  I've managed to push a button and will need to find the camera owner's manual in order to remember how to turn that off.

Coming into the outskirts of Harrington, DE.  Harrington is the site of the Delaware State Fair.  Bill's house is not far from here.  Time to get my game face on for an afternoon of boat building.

Off to "slower" Delaware

Make that lower Delaware, as in south of the Chesapeake & Delaware canal.  The natives call their portion of the state "slower" Delaware in reference to the agricultural nature of the bottom 2/3 of the state compared to the northern 1/3 which is highly developed, hectic in pace and centered around the chemical industry.

My purpose in this trip is to help one of my boat building buddies, Bill Boyle, work on a boat he's building under contract for a young New England designer.  Since this hull is the prototype, the project is hush-hush so expect no photos of the boat under construction.  When I get home perhaps there will be a few snaps of the Delware tundra for your inspection.  In the meantime I'll leave you with a nugget from William Shakespeare which for me sums up this somewhat depressing middle part of winter.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late
the sweet birds sang.

— Wm. Shakespeare

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Greenbrier, Part II along with ruminations about Groundhog Day/Candlemas

Ha, I'm back.  I'm settling down in front of my poor ol' flatscreen iMac with a glass of Cycles Gladiator Merlot.  Today is the 2nd of February, better known as Groundhog Day and also Candlemas (not to be confused with Candlemass which is a Swedish heavy metal band).  Today, out at Gobbler's Knob, Pennsylvania,  Punxsutawney Phil--Mother Nature's mid-winter prognosticating spokes-varmit, failed to see his shadow.  Cynics in the audience will no doubt trot out the old chestnut about how this means we only have a month and a half of bad weather as opposed to six more weeks of winter if Phil had seen his shadow.  Say what you will.  I'm an optimist.  I see signs of the coming spring every time I go for a walk; birds are flirting, squirrels are running around, snow is melting and it's less than a month before I go down to Gulfport, Florida for the Classic Moth Boat Association's Mid-Winter Regatta.

More about Gulfport in coming posts, but for now it's time to return to our Greenbrier adventure.  When we last left our hero and heroine they were boarding a west-bound train at Union Station.  One of the things I like about train travel is that one gets to sneak a peak into the back yards of people living adjacent to the tracks.  Sadly the train windows were filthy, precluding decent photography, so you'll just have to imagine the many wondrous sights I witnessed as the Cardinal glided along.  I use the word "glided" in the loosest sense.  The rail bed between Charlottesville and White Sulphur Springs is rather lumpy.

Yes, we made it.  This is actually a cheater shot taken a day later.  It was well dark by the time the Cardinal staggered into White Sulphur Springs.  John and Alice were waiting for us at the station, and so being distracted with the business of exchanging pleasantries, photography of the grand arrival was not possible.  Did the train run on time?  In a word, no.  We lost well over an hour as we sat stationary on several occasions to allow east-bound trains to pass on those portions of the rail bed too close to permit movement by both trains at the same time.  My ever knowledgeable brother pointed out that those other trains were carrying money-making freight rather than money-losing people and thus got priority treatment.

A view of the main building at the Greenbrier resort.  My camera doesn't have a wide enough angle lens to take in the large side wings.  Our room, Nr 2195, is the first window to the left of the center portion at about porch level (the level with the little trees).  This friends, is one honkin' big building for being out in the hinterlands of WV.  Who knew?

A view of the right hand side wing.  The other side is essentially a mirror image.

Alice kept us quite busy touring nearby Lewisburg and so I didn't get to sample the bunker tour.  Perhaps next time.  I did however get out on a couple of occasions to walk around the grounds.  I wanted to see the original Sulphur Spring.

After a number of wrong turnings I discovered that the Greenbrier possess its own fire department.

Inside were two fire trucks, one of which was an impressive OREN.  Sadly no one was about and I couldn't find an unlocked door.  This photo of the OREN through the garage door windows will have to suffice.

Walking up the hill from the fire house I encountered many fine homes.  Sister-in-law Alice indicated that there has been a small real estate boom since Jim Justice took over the hotel.  I wonder what these people do for a living way  out here?  Perhaps they deal black jack at the newly opened casino in the hotel.  The casino offers "tasteful" gambling.  Tasteful gambling appears to mean that men must wear dress slacks and a sports jacket as minimum kit.  Women, on the other hand, seemingly can wear whatever they want.  I think the hotel will lend you a sports coat if yours is out at the cleaners.

Nice paper birches.
The views of the Allegheny Mountains are wonderful.
Looking out at the mountains from one of the gardens near the north entrance of the hotel.
I walked and walked but still no sign of the elusive spring or its Oracle--surely every spring worth looking for has an Oracle to consult.  I decided to head back to the hotel and consult a map.
Map in hand, I set forth again.  Still no spring but there was this nice croquet lawn.  Someone had attempted to build a snowman between the wickets. The detached houses in the background are on "Spring House Lane".  Perhaps I don't have the map upside down after all.

Thar she blows.  the elusive White Sulphur Spring.  Will the Oracle be in session?  The resort uses the shape of this cupola as its icon.

Zooming in on the hot spring.
Hebe, the daughter of Zeus and Hera (and the Goddess of Youth), had the day off and thus was represented by statuary only.  Perhaps Ponce de Leon should have come to WV instead of wasting time in FLA.

I next went looking for the President's Cottage

Could this be it?  To hell with the hotel, next time I'm booking this!

Although this is a splendid stone pile, this is not it either.  I looked and looked for a marker or a sign (where is that Oracle when I need one?) but alas I couldn't determine which building was the President's Cottage.  The map (or perhaps the man reading it) was hopeless.

My time was running out and I needed to retrace my way back to the hotel; the train home was arriving at 11:30 am.

All good things must come to an end.  As much as I enjoyed the Greenbrier I must confess that a pair of east bound tracks looked v. inviting.  Perhaps if we return to meet John and Alice in the future I will be able to steal away and get photos of the interior of the hotel (quite interesting) and take that bunker tour.  From what I've been told the hotel has preserved only a small portion of the bunker in its Congressional state.  The rest of the space is leased out to companies seeking secure storage of electronic data.