Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22, 2012 - Tennessee River and Taco Bell

Another 20+ mile hike wasn't in the stars today and frankly I don't think either of us were up to it, so we opted for only just under 10 miles back on Wheeler Refuge again with our two youngest monkeys. All sorts of new things are blooming and quite a few of them are edible, if not darn tasty.

First up, honeysuckle. Good ol' dependable, honeysuckle. Not just for the nectar anymore!

Esther and I nibbled on some wood sorrel and dandelion too.

In a bit of luck, Esther found that random roll of screen that she's always been looking for...

Now we can have a fancy porch!
The trails were swarming with dragonflies on the hunt for gnats and other small bugs. 

We did run into some rain on this hike, but nothing like our hike a few weeks back at the same location. We were just rounding the bend to the elevated portion of I-65 and had plenty of time to duck for cover while we put on our rain jackets and wait it out a few minutes.

Esther spied with her little eye what may be a very rare flower under the bridge. Clematis is a genus of about 300 species in the buttercup family, one of which is the endangered Alabama Leather Flower, Clematis socialis. The flower she found may or may not be this same plant, but it is closely related at the very least.

We are hoping to hear confirmation of her find soon from some local experts. 


After the hike we circled back around towards Decatur and pulled off 72/20 along Bibb Garrett Road to get some pictures of the crimson clover (over and over...) that's been planted in the cotton fields.

We also saw a GE locomotive pulling a long row of boxcars on the nearby tracks...

Right, because now I can tell GE locos from the others.

...and found a geocache at this tree.

We wrapped up the day with cheap tacos and apple empanadas in town.

A whole bunch of other pictures can be found at the gallery by click on THIS LINK right here.
The tracklog of the hike can be viewed in Google Maps right here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19, 2012 - Business Trip Part 3: The Long Ride Home

Thursday morning started later than usual with me getting up at 7AM, gathering up all my belongings and then trudging down to the lobby again to wait for my two fellow travelers.

Leaving it much as I had found it.

About thirty minutes later I realized that I was an hour early. Nothing to do but watch Netflix on my phone and eavesdrop in on conversation happening around me.

I ask you, what is this supposed to be above the fireplace in the lobby?

Lights in fake trees and rams-horned vases?
We stopped at a Bob Evans for breakfast on the way to the airport for one last to-be-reimbursed-later meal. After much coffee and quarter-roll sized turkey links we but a short hop to the small Erie International Airport. The only smaller one I've seen (aside from the one-plane shed down the road) is University Park Airport in State College.

While we waited at the gate for our flight a K-9 officer came through with his partner. The dog was extremely friendly and I don't think he was strictly "on duty" at the time. He was certainly not opposed to a back scratch and after taking interest in the bottom of my shoes he rolled around on the floor like any hound.

A few minutes of standing in line and we were back in the air...

...and then back at Detroit Metro for our three hour layover. Oh yeah, my aisle seat buddy was this guy that hadn't flown in fifteen years because of "an unpleasant trip to the Philippines". He had taken two Valium before takeoff and commented that he would probably take a third before he left Detroit. I never asked what happened fifteen years ago.

Yes, three hours to explore and get to know Detroit Metro. I had only ever been inside the one half of the total airport (Concourse B/C) and had no idea the full size of the place. Concourse B/C connects to Concourse A via the Light Tunnel, a choreographed audio/visual break from the otherwise static environment of the airport.

Over on the Concourse A side of things there is also a tram that shuttles folks to and from the far south and north ends of the building.

We managed to get in one more meal (a greasy burger with fatty bacon for me, yum) before boarding our final plane back to Huntsville. The wind must have been against us or something because the return trip was a quarter an episode of Doctor Who longer than the first leg on Tuesday.  

Here's the view from my seat. This image could easily be used to present all the previous flights- for Tuesday's just flip the image left to right.

The haze of Huntsville humidity was visible from 15,000 feet as a soup with large cloud islands floating on top. 

Eventually we were back on the ground in the Rocket City. Esther and the kids picked me up and we stopped by the Asian Market on our way home for goodies. The End.

More pictures of Thursday's adventures can be seen here, along with VIDEO of the Light Tunnel, the tram ride and of me barely escaping being stepped on by a Sasquatch!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18, 2012 - Business Trip Part 2

Today starts with me up at 6AM (which my brain thinks is 5AM back home). A quick shower and a shave and I'm ready to wait in the lobby for my two travel companions for our tour. 

The Frank Lloyd Wright-ian nightmare of the lobby.

Taking the path the Nuvi prescribed for us, we made our way through the old industrial buildings and aging factories of downtown Erie. There were some truly awesome churches and older buildings that I would have loved to stop and take pictures of, but we were on our way to "work" so I snagged a few random scenes with my phone.

The pictures I would really love to show you are the ones that I wasn't allowed to take. I would love to spend about four hours with full access to the facility and get some amazing shots of the whole process that goes into building an engine, a "loco" as they call them. The whole operation takes place inside gigantic buildings that are literally a hundred years old. It reminded me of the trips that we've taken to Sloss Furnace in Birmingham. Huge multi-pane windows on both ends of long, spacious rooms and everywhere steel, dirt, chipped paint, concrete and brick illuminated by orange-yellow sodium-vapor lamps and the blue-white of florescent tubes. 

However... a quick search for images in Google has revealed to me plenty of pictures of the shop floors and manufacturing areas that I did visit. Some of these are promotional material, and one is a pro-union video on YouTube. Here are the links:

But the best video I can find is this one: GE Evolution Series. It gives a great behind-the-scenes view of the trains and the areas that I toured. It even shows them doing a "flip", something that I didn't get to see in person.

Via Google Maps, this is an aerial shot of the location to give you some sense of scale. Keep in mind that these buildings are six and seven stories tall. 

And here are the pictures of the outsides of the buildings that I was able to take.

After the really cool tour and some actual business we had lunch at the Smuggler's Wharf right in the bay next to the Bicentennial Tower and within view of Presque Isle and the Perry Monument.

Bicentennial Tower
With our work done we walked around the Millcreek Mall for a while before turning in for the night. One place thought caught our attention was RavenRock Workwear, a store dedicated to clothing and accessories for all your on-the-job needs. Highlights included steel-toed Converse and this great Stetson-style hardhat that Bill is modeling below.

I did manage to make two Geocache finds today as well, right outside the hotel- which adds Pennsylvania to my map and gives me a new "furthest north" find too.

After all was said and done, there was only one other thing to do before hitting the hay. I tried the sauna, but it was like sitting in a closet with a space-heater. Hot and boring. I had better luck with the hot tub.

A few more pictures of Wednesday can be found right here.