Places

Christmas Highlights

Now that the Christmas season for 2010 has officially wound down, I wanted to share a few highlights:

  • When we landed in LAX to visit the Swanson side of the family, the attendants said, ‘Welcome to Seattle’. It was a joke due to all of the rain that was falling there — which was actually far more damaging than we realized.  Huntington Beach, our destination, was spared.
  • Katherine, at just over a year old actually responded enthusiastically to her gifts. The craziest was when she announced ‘I love it’, while opening a Fisher Price Little People toy. She really does love these toys of characters and people she can hold in her hand.
  • Southwest Airlines – Sometimes it is wonderful to have unassigned seating and this is true when having infants. It means for the most part that if someone sits with you, they know what they are getting in for. We met a wonderful woman on the way out who was a saint in the way she treated sitting next to Katherine who was not having a good flight for the most part. It made us feel a lot better. Also, on three of the four flights we made, we didn’t have to share our row with anyone.
  • Time with family. It really doesn’t matter how much or how little we get with one another, but that we cherish the time we have. I feel like I have always had this appreciation, but this year was much different. It was the first time seeing it through my daughter’s eyes and the way she lights up getting to see her family.  It was also the first time seeing it through the eyes of an expecting wife, making the effort to visit even though I know she is exhausted. We all do it because it is important.
  • Fortunate to get home.  With all of the bad weather, we are really glad we didn’t fly through Chicago.  Otherwise, we might still be there. We feel lucky.
  • Family Pictures. I made an effort this year to attempt to get group pictures of the families from both sides as we got together. They didn’t all turn out great visually, but content wise, I am happy. I have below the pics from the Swanson and Jacobs crew respectively.
  • Sometimes, bad pictures are great. I found a few pics that I took were just noisy, blurry or otherwise ‘wrong’, but still captured a great moment.  Therefore, in my mind, they are great pictures. A few are included below.

Swanson Crew - (Back to front) David, Monique, Chris, Rebecca, Ryan, Linnea, Katherine, Bea, Luke

Jacobs Crew - (Back to front) David, Katherine, Steve, Ryan, Rebecca, Jen, Mark, Allison, Diane, Abigail, Grandma Curler, Greg, Cindy

Content trumps photo quality example #1 - Motion is everywhere. This is the way it is on Christmas Eve with kids opening gifts.

Content trumps photo quality example #2 - There are so many technical problems with this photo. However, I love the way it captures Rebecca's contentment with Katherine's joy.

Katherine Meets Pacific

Katherine Meets Pacific

Katherine Meets Pacific: Huntington Beach, CA

This is one of a few pictures I was able to take of Katherine with Rebecca during our first visit to Huntington Beach with her.

We spent a bit of time on the beach so that she could experience the sand and the surf for the first time.

I didn’t make it to the Pacific ocean until I was 26. This was also her first trip on a jet airplane. I was 21 before I first flew on a jet. Then again, my grandparents didn’t live in California like Katherine’s does.

She didn’t seem to mind the sand on her feet. She just seemed curious about it. This was pretty much her same reaction to the waves. Curious, but not fearful.

Charleston Sidewalks

Last week, we drove to Charleston, SC for a wedding. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time touring downtown and tour but had a few hours to explore. We started out around Vendue and Concord and walked to the Battery via Church Street. We then came back via East Bay . I greatly enjoyed viewing the historical houses and landmarks along the way.

Carriage Ride in Charleston

Carriage Ride in Charleston

The picture below is of the South Carolina Bank and Trust building. On the side of the building are some historical plaques explaining that it was a Freemason Lodge built in 1736.  For America, that’s pretty old.

Solomons Lodge #1

Solomon's Lodge #1

I would love to have more time to tour the city and take more photos.

As it happened, we didn’t have a lot of time and had our 3 1/2 month old daughter with us.  We learned that the history was so well preserved that it really isn’t very friendly for strollers. Apart from the bumpiness of the old sidewalks, several areas, like going from The Battery Park to the path across the waterfront didn’t have a ramp at all.  We managed fine, but I did wonder about those in wheelchairs.

Since I spent a lot of time looking out for hazards to navigate the stroller through, I did notice that the sidewalks had metallic inserts in them to show the name of the street. I thought that was neat.

East Bay Street

East Bay Street

Oden State Fish Hatchery

Oden State Fish Hatchery

Oden State Fish Hatchery

While in the Petoskey area, we got a tip to check out the Oden State Fish Hatchery.

This old railcar is now used to give some information about the hatchery. Back in the day, the trains used to be used to transport the fish from the hatchery to various lakes and streams.

Also, there are free guided tours available throughout the day as well as self-guided trails that take you past some of the ponds and streams containing various broodstock.

Petoskey Vacation

Rebecca and I returned  from roughly a week in northern Michigan. We rented a cottage on Crooked Lake near Petoskey and had access to a fire pit, canoes and swimming if we wanted. An advantage to staying just a bit outside of Petoskey apart from having more reasonable rent was that it was very quiet and very relaxing. It was a perfect spot for our ‘babymoon’.

Simple Serenity

Simple Serenity - Our cottage view of Crooked Lake

We originally planned that the Petoskey area would be our base of operations for our various sightseeing adventures. It turned out that Petoskey was probably our favorite area apart from our time at Sleeping Bear Dunes Park. There is a lot more to see in the area that we didn’t have time to experience, but I think this is one area we’ll go back to with some regularity.

Below are some highlights.

The Good

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park – This park offers many beaches and scenic views.

The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive seemed well worth the 10 dollar admission to us.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - Glen Lake Overlook

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - Glen Lake Overlook

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - Lake Michigan Overlook

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive - Lake Michigan Overlook

Glen Haven Beach – This beach is in Sleeping Bear Dunes and at first glance gives you the impression that it isn’t a public beach at all. The beach is very secluded, but there is a bath house to change in. When we were there, the water was very, very cold yet exhilarating. It was colder than the pacific for sure but it felt great.

Glen Haven Canning Company

Glen Haven Canning Company

Glen Haven is a restored historical logging village located in the Leelanau Peninsula. This building used to be a Cherry cannery, but is now a boathouse museum.

Petoskey State Park - This park had an entrance fee of 8 dollars. A bit steep, but as far as beaches go, this was a really, really nice one. The beach was on Little Traverse Bay and so the water was a bit warmer. Also, when we were there, the waves were incredibly high and ocean like. I forgot how fun it is to play in the waves.

Downtown Petoskey - There are a lot of high quality establishments in a downtown area that could otherwise just take advantage of being located in a touristy area. Here were the ones we were impressed with.

  • Papa Lou’s Pizza – The pizza quality was great  and an outdoor view of Petoskey Bay is hard to beat.
  • Roast and Toast - When we peeked in to this place at first, I thought it was just another soup and sandwich shop that served coffee. However, after reading a bit more about them, I found that they did roast their own coffee, so I figured it warranted further investigation. I ordered a ristretto, which was very well done. While we didn’t sample the food they served, it did look very good and the place was always packed with people eating.
  • Crooked Tree Arts Council – This is an active facility for dance, theater, pottery, and other arts. The building is repurposed space from a Methodist church that moved out of the space in the late 70′s and the exterior still looks like a church. It also hosts private galleries  as well. I was very impressed by what they did with their space. It would be welcome in any community.
  • American Spoon – They specialize in jam’s and sauces made from Michigan produce. The flavor combinations are exceptional. The gelato from the cafe wasn’t bad either, though it wasn’t quite Jeni’s good.
  • City Park Grill – Phenomenal food at a phenomenal price. Almost too good of a price. Oh, and Hemingway hung out there.

House of Pies – Located in Oden, MI is this wonderful pie shop. Holy moly were they good.  Indeed , their website is awful, but the pies are great.  A place serving pies this good shouldn’t have been as empty as it was.  I have no idea why they mess around with gourmet hot dogs and antiques. I think they’d do far better to partner with a good local coffee roaster.

Leelanau Coffee Roasting Co. – Located in Glen Arbor, I noticed this establishment while driving through the little town and smelling the familar aroma of roasting coffee. Judging from the outside, I did not have good vibes about the quality of the product and was concerned that even if it were good quality, that it would be served by summer help.  I was mistaken. The espresso I was served was probably the best I have purchased in the last 5 years. Kudos.

The Bad

The Little Traverse History Museum – There was a 2 dollar admission fee for this museum in Petoskey, which seemed reasonable, but in retrospect should have clued me in that they couldn’t command a higher entrance fee. There just wasn’t much to look at and quite honestly, I was already tired of hearing about Hemingway hanging out in the area, so it didn’t do much to read about it yet again.

St. Ignace – This town just across the Mackinac Bridge seems to have pretty much everything going for it. Great views, great location, but it is just a run down town with run down stores. In a weird way, this is kind of a good thing since it isn’t congested, which makes their rundown boardwalk kind of fun to walk around. However, it seemed clear that the town is just content with being a stop to catch the ferry to Mackinac Island. Very strange.

The Odd

Stalled Wind Turbines - Driving across the Mackinac Bridge, we noticed two of those enormous wind turbines that produce electricity. It was a pretty windy day, which should have been good for producing energy, however, we noticed they were stalled. We found out, ironically, that it because it was too windy to run.  Hmmmm.

Roadside Table Litter Barrel - I don’t recall seeing signs like this in Ohio, but we saw several signs on 31, that said ‘Roadside Tabel Litter Barrel’, which seemed a bit odd until we realized it was quite literally a small stop consisting of a picnic table and a trash can alongside the road.

Raine Family Mystery

I made an attempt to get to Appomattox Courthouse this evening, but the park was closed and so I was disappointed that I couldn’t get closer to the site. That said, the drive was beautiful and the area was quite moving. I don’t recall visiting any other place in America that instills such a sense of history while seeming quite natural and uncommercialized. It was quite moving.

While I couldn’t get into the park, there were several historical markers. 

The one in the photo below is a monument to the Raine family and lists birth and death dates of several family members. I never realized it when I took the photo, but there is an oddity on the left face of the marker. 

You’ll notice the listing of a daughter born to J.A. and Hannah E. Raine, but there is no first name listed, just a block of text where a name should be. The birth and death date tragically reveal she was just over a year old when she died. 

Did she never receive a name, or is there some other explanation for this? 

 

 

Raine Family Memorial

Raine Family Memorial

I am assuming that to the Raine family, this is not a mystery, but it is to me. Please leave a comment if you know the answer.

Lynchburg, VA WWI Memorial

 

WWI Memorial at the Lynchburg, VA courthouse

WWI Memorial at the Lynchburg, VA courthouse

Walking up the staircase leading to the Lynchburg Courthouse has several memorials to those from Lynchburg that sacrificed their lives in wars.

 

Here is a pic from the WWI Memorial

Death To All Insects

I got the chance to walk quickly through the historic part of downtown Lynchburg before the sun went down.  The architecture is interesting to look at, I wish there were more of it. 

The Amazing Square building was interesting.

 

Death To All Insects

Death To All Insects

Here is a pic of the Courthouse, which is now a museum of Lynchburg history.  I guess this is a fairly famous view — it was one of the pictures hanging in my hotel room.

 

Lynchburg Courthouse

Lynchburg Courthouse

James River Foot Bridge

I chose to drive to Lynchburg, VA this week and had a wonderful drive there. I hope the drive back is as good. It was a gorgeous day filled with lovely scenery. If I had more time, I would have loved to take more pictures. 

 

 

James River Foot Bridge, Black and White

James River Foot Bridge, Black and White

Since there was a small parking lot close to this scene where one could put in a small boat like a kayak or canoe, I stopped and took this picture. A bit of googling revealed that I was taking a picture of the James River Foot Bridge. I hope that is correct.

The black and white treatment worked really well on this one. Below is a different shot in color:

 

James River Foot Bridge

James River Foot Bridge

Great View of the Chicago Skyline

 

Chicago Skyline view from 49th floor of 175 North Harbor, daytime

Chicago Skyline view from 49th floor of 175 North Harbor by day.

 

 

View of from 175 North Harbor, 49th floor

View of from 175 North Harbor, 49th floor by day.

We had a great weekend in Chicago. This picture was taken from the condo we rented on the 49th floor of 175 North Harbor. We had a perfect view of Lakeshore Drive, Millenium Park, Cloud Gate, Grant Park, Shedd’s Aquarium, The Field Museum, The Art Museum much of Michigan Avenue and of course Lake Michigan. 

I finally made it to Intelligentsia on Randolph and had what has to be the single best cup of coffee I have ever had: Kenya, Ndaroini brewed with the Clover.  I can’t wait to try the Black Cat espresso.