Saturday, August 29, 2009

A New Toy , An Old Story

"Of all the toys available, none is better designed than the owner himself. A large multipurpose plaything, its parts can be made to move in almost any direction. It comes completely assembled, and it makes a sound when you jump on it."

Stephen Baker

I picked-up Adobe Photoshop this morning. And like any kid with a new toy I've spent most of the day playing with it. With the manual in hand I've pushed a lot of buttons, slid little arrows up and down tracks, and dragged icons to and fro. What follows are some of my "experiments." The topic de jour is a walk down memory lane. Its October 2005 and we are heading back to Louisiana........
Checkpoint to --"Ground Zero"
Military checkpoint going into Cameron Parish which was the hardest hit area in Louisiana. To get though this checkpoint I had to show my credentials that confirmed I was on official business. Being an insurance adjuster was sufficient.
No Idea Where it Came From
There was no foundation, or other indication, that this building had stood anywhere near this site. The closest area with housing is about a mile back down this road.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Cameron Parish along the coastal road. The only sign, literally, that there had been a house here is the address spray painted on a piece of plywood.
The Power of Mother Nature
Cameron Parish along the coastal road. Except for the telephone pole in the front yard there is no other debris visible. There is nothing left of the house except for the sidewalk and foundation.
Without the sign to the right you could not tell that this was the Post Office in Cameron Parish.
Temporary Housing
New Orleans--A typical tent city in a downtown shopping center parking lot. No real amenities here.
A Typical Street Scene
New Orleans--A typical neighborhood street. Nothing on this block was salvageable.
A Typical Home
Driving through New Orleans this is what you would typically see. This house had been searched and no bodies found.
One of the Lucky Ones?
New Orleans--This neighborhood was flooded but the homes did not suffer extensive structural damage. The interior would probably still have to be gutted. During the rescue operations it was reported that the SPCA had sent volunteers down to look for stray pets. As the spray painted message noted a dog had been found in the backyard on 9/28. The animal was gone the following day. The pink "X" on the door shows no numbers indicating that the house had been searched but no people or bodies were found.
Lunch Time
During my day in New Orleans I thought it would be nice to have lunch in the French Quarter. I call a friend of mine in Fredericksburg who had lived here and she was able to zero me in to one of the local "watering holes." Napoleon House had just reopened but was still not able to offer its usually extensive fare. This menu was taped to the front door. The first item on the menu--MRE--means "Meals Ready to Eat" which are military field rations. Saw a lot of these during my travels. On this occasion I ordered the Red Beans & Rice. It was very good. I was joined for lunch by some representatives of FEMA.
The French Quarter
We can't leave New Orleans without a shot of the French Quarter. You will note the absence of people. I had the unique opportunity to see this famous neighborhood without the usual throng of tourista. Other than some of the locals there was only myself, the local police and the Louisiana National Guard.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Drive By Shootings--Sposylvania, Montross, Heathsville and Some Places in Between

My apologies for the gap between postings but putting a new computer, camera, and photo program into the hands of a 50-something male is not much different than letting a chimpanzee change the oil in your car.

"One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon--instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our window today."

Dale Carnegie
For no particular reason I decided that during my travels over the past two days I would only take photos from my car. In coming to this decision I realized how far I had come in my life. When I was nineteen I would have been tossing empty Miller "pony" bottles over the roof of my car trying to hit mailboxes. Ah, how we mellow with age.............
A Prophesy Comes To Pass?
The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to allow a Walmart to be built on the Wilderness Battlefield. Concerns about its impact and future development in the area were discounted by Supervisors. Twenty-five plus years ago this would be a photo of fields on either side of the road. It is the site of the Battle of Salem Church. A uproar occurred when a Texaco station was to be build at the far right. It was later approved--after the applicant agreed to give the station a "colonial" look. It was stated then that a single gas station would not have a significant impact on the battlefield. Today the station had been replaced by a bank and shopping centers on both sides of the road. The clump of trees in the upper right corner is all that is left of the battlefield.
Here I Stand I can Do No Other
Spotsylvania--An old house on Robert E. Lee Road. Still in use today. How many generations have called this house home?
Unknown But to God
Spotsylvania--The Confederate Cemetery. Unlike the National Cemetery at Fredericksburg even the unknown received a grave of their own here. When I see these headstones I have to wonder whether their families ever knew what happened to them.
" Field of Dreams"--Spotsylvania Style
An old backstop standing vigil over a soybean field that was once a baseball
field......or maybe it still is used for ball in the off (farming) season.
Please Indulge Me
OK another old house falling down. But its in the middle of a soybean field! Don't see that everyday now do you. Actually I've got a photo of another abandoned house in the middle of a cornfield. I'll spare you from that for now.
There from the Beginning
Heathsville--St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. The first church in the parish which was established in 1653. Not the original church but this one does go back aways.
From Another Time
Lottsburg--The Holley-Graded School established by Sallie Holley in 1868 to teach the children of former slaves. This was the third school on the site. The money was raised within the local black community and was run by an eleven member Board of Trustees from the African-American community. Fund raising started in 1914 and this school opened in 1933. No longer in use the building is still owned by the trustees.
A Memory for Little Bro
My little brother is a graduate of Washington & Lee High School just down the road from here. This was (and I expect still is) the after school hang out. "Hey guys let's breeze the Freeze." My brother is three years younger than I am and is now a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps.
A Montross Landmark
A genuine piece of Americana. The old Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Montross. Actually the drink of choice is Northern Neck Ginger Ale. The best ginger ale you will ever have.
You Never Know When You'll Need to Drop Off "Old Glory" After Hours
The American Legion Post outside of Montross. This is a typical post building but I would call your attention to the "mailbox" at the end of the sidewalk. It is for "Flags to be Retired." So if you find yourself in Westmoreland County with an old American Flag don't worry about getting it in before closing. Here you have an drop off box with no late fees.
A Typical Northern Neck Road
Rt. 624 in Westmoreland County. A narrow two lane road with corn on either side and a deer crossing sign. Now you understand why when you are driving through rural Virginia you see shotguns in the back of pick-ups. This photo also provides me the opportunity to correct a previous post regarding corn. I've been advised that the corn about to be harvested is feed corn which tastes like (expletive deleted). Sweet corn has already been picked. Its amazing what you can learn over a cup of coffee at Hyperion.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Long Day-- A Time to Reflect

“There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

The Beatles

Break out the atlas. Spent Friday on the road. Starting in Colonial Beach then on to Locust Grove, then Partlow, to Stafford and home.

The first three photos were taken on Rt. 205 between Colonial Beach and Oak Grove. It is a route not traveled much unless you live in the area. There were threee memorials within a mile of each other..........

To the Statesman.........

Monument making the birthplace of James Monroe in Westmoreland County. Statesman, U.S Senator, President of the United States. On the signage on site, and on the monument itself, lists President Monroe's offices and accomplishments--except for one. It does not note that James Monroe served on the Fredericksburg City Council. I have big shoes to fill.

......To the Soldier.....
The entrance to the Taylor family cemetery established in 1887. On the pillar to the left it states that the cemetery is dedicated in memory of John G. Rowley, World War Vet, Died April 21, 1941.

.......And the Common Man
Roadside displays like this are more common than one would like to think.
Cut Me Some Slack
OK, another abandoned home. This one happens to be in Westmoreland County. But look at the gingerbread work on the gable and you've got to love the beautiful wrap around porch! And the flowered bush to the left! Come least I didn't enhance it.
" The Times They Are A Changin...."
A close-up of the World War I memorial in front of the King George Courthouse which was dedicated in 1935. It list those from the county who served in the armed forces during the war. Of interest is that the names are segregated into two groups. On top is the list of white servicemen. The bottom group lists "colored" men who served.
A Blast from the Past
One aspect of my road trips through the country that I truly enjoy is that you can still find little architectural gems. I've always wanted a house with a porch. But in this case it was not the lattice work or the dental molding on the porch which caught my attention. It was the tin shingles still on the roof. Don't get to see that everyday.
Why There is A Transportation Crisis in Virginia
One has to ask how much time and effort was wasted placing, No Trespassing, No Parking signs, a guard rail, and finally a Road Closed sign where no road exists. And unless VDOT (The Virginia Department of Transportation) is prepared to knock down two rather large buildings it is not likely that a road is ever going to be built. Did I mention that Rt. 3 is located about 30 feet to the right. Based on my seven years in dealing with VDOT plans ARE probably moving forward to build a road here. But fear not VDOT only plans and plans........and maybe 50 years from now asphalt will be laid from the intersection to the guard rail and the project will be touted as another VDOT success story.
" Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder"
Coming into Oak Grove along Rt. 3 in Westmoreland County. The stone work on this home is shall we say, "interesting." Note that the stones used get progressively smaller as you go up the wall. I have to say the vehicles in the yard, the satellite dish, and the corrugated sheet roofing truly adds to the charm.
A Typical View
Traveling along Rt. 3 east going to Colonial Beach this is pretty much what you will see during most of the 30 or so miles down the road--corn and soybeans. I'm told that corn harvesting is soon to begin. Time to break out the butter, salt, pepper, and for the high brow types--the cob holders.
A Rural Train Crossing
Stafford County--This track runs east/west which means it probably doesn't get much use. The road itself dead ends so it doesn't get much use either. No crossing gates in the country.
To the Fallen
Monument to the Irish Brigade, City Dock, Fredericksburg. I have been in communication with the City Council of Waterford, Ireland regarding the location of the sword carried by a favorite son of Waterford, General Thomas Francis Meagher, at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Gen. Meagher commanded the Irish Brigade during the battle. I took some photos of the monument to send on as a thank-you for the gracious help I received. The monument was erected by my reenactment regiment, 28th Mass. Volunteer Infantry, Company B, in December 1995. It reads:
"While posted here, in the early morning hours of December 13, 1862, the men of the Irish Brigade placed sprigs of boxwood in their caps in honor of their Irish heritage. Later in the day they took part in the futile assaults against Confederate positions on Marye's Heights. At the end of the battle the Union dead closest to Confederate positions wore sprigs of boxwood in their caps."
(List of casualties by regiment)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Excuse Me. Is this the Way to Yorktown?

“I love to travel but hate to arrive.”
Albert Einstein

It is time to carry you back to old Virginny. Today we are heading down the Fredericksburg Turnpike to Bowling Green. This is part of the route taken by the combined Continental/French army under Generals Washington and Rochambeau on their way to defeat the British Army under General Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781.

The Old and the New

A farm located just off the turnpike in Spotsylvania County. If you look in the background you will see a new housing subdivision. My guess is that in the next twenty years the houses will be closer in or the farm will be replaced by a shopping center. Progress marches on. Not saying whether it is good or bad. Just facing the realities.

A Sign of the Times
The GM Powertrain assembly plant is closing as a result of the restructuring of the company. This facility made the national news. In all reports is was said to be located in Fredericksburg. It is actually located in Spotsylvania County. Spotsylvanians get a bit upset when they are lumped in with the city. So I'm setting the record straight.
A New Beginning
Right off the turnpike in the "town" of Corbin this abandoned church is now being restored. By strolling through the graveyard off to the left and behind the church you can trace the genealogy of the Corbin family. Descendants still reside in the area.
Welcome to Bowling Green
A view down Main Street. One has to wonder with the growth in our region how much longer Bowling Green will be able to maintain its sleepy southern charm?
Home Sweet Home
A typical home in downtown Bowling Green. Well maintained and patriotic.
Like Every Southern Town.......
The statue honoring the sons of Bowling Green who fought for the Confederacy located in front of the courthouse. This scene is repeated through out Virginia except for Fredericksburg. Have yet to find out why the city never dedicated such a monument. May have something to do with the fact that Fredericksburg was devastated by the war.

A View from the Road
It is nice to get away from the malls, gas stations, and traffic and just sit back and enjoy the view.
A Right Turn off the Turnpike
Minarchi Road in Caroline County. Reminds me of a rural road in Ireland-- Except for the fact that there are not any stone walls or hedges right up to the road edge and the 25mph speed limit as opposed to the 100km an hour (50mph) limit in the home of my ancestors.

What is Wrong With this Picture?
This picture was taken after a little detour off the Fredericksburg Turnpike on they way to earning my paycheck. A "Speed Bump" sign on a dirt road. Don't expect that this is something you see everyday.
Time Warp
What I enjoy most in my back road travels is that your surroundings can transport you to another time. On a dirt road you can almost expect to run into a Confederate picket line. In this case our trip back in time is measured in decades as opposed to a century and change. Sorry, couldn't resist the button.
For My Grandson
Manny this one is for you--The John Deere dealership. Straighten up and fly right and you can achieve and or be anything.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Have Returned—A Visit to the Ancestral Sod

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Saint Augustine

I have returned from the family wanderings in Ireland. And to my credit, I am told; I turned in the rental car with the mirrors intact, with only very minor scratches to the finish on the passenger side, and only missed one turn on a roundabout. With me I have brought back roasted barley from the Guinness brewery in Dublin, slate from the Cliffs of Moher, 361 photographs and 113 video clips. And now a quick travelogue and then its back to the back roads of Virginia………………

Day One--Bunratty

Bunratty Castle
Impressive on the outside. Too touristy on the inside. Located only a few miles from Shannon Airport. This is a major tourist hangout.

My First Pub
My travel companions crashed soon after our arrival. Having nothing better to do I put down a few pints at the local pub which is a converted creamery--thus the name. I must say I left a bit disillusioned when I saw Budweiser and Coors Light on tap and were informed they were quite popular in Ireland. The Coors Light being quite popular with the ladies. This fact and the realization that there were more Yankee than Boston fans in Ireland were the two greatest shocks during my visit.

An Abandoned Church Yard
Located directly behind our hotel was this abandoned church yard. The cemetery is still in use. I did notice that a few distant cousins have been laid to rest here.

Day Two--The Cliffs of Moher

I'm going to let these pictures speak for themselves. I do think it is important to point out that we did hike the entire length of the cliffs, four miles out, and four miles back, along the edge. Its amazing what a 16 year old can talk you into.......