What about St. Louis, MO?

There are probably many other cities like St. Louis that exist in middle America today, big cities that came into existence along the major waterways of country, along rivers like the Mississippi, Missouri, and the Ohio, cities that supported the industry, trade, and growth, of a nation that in those days was experiencing a grand optimism about its industrial future.

But times have changed in many ways, and the nature of many of these cities has also changed with these times.  The very nature of the commerce that sustains these places has necessarily changed, and brought with it changes in the lives of the humans who occupy these spaces.

Many of these cities are still easily recognizable by their distinct downtown areas, with their humongous skyscrapers that now support, or attempt to support in some way or another, the new kinds of businesses that have inevitably replaced the old ones.

But the people who live in these cities have for the most part left.  The office-goers scurry in from their comfortable suburbs in the mornings to earn their keep, and then depart just as quickly as they appeared, after work in the evening, leaving the cavernous spaces beneath the huge skyscrapers for the most part abandoned.  There are very few people in the streets.

Move just a little bit away physically from the downtown areas and you may see another unfortunate impact of these changes.  There are the poor and even abandoned neighborhoods – where the weeds may have taken over in some places, where the only people present, if any, are those living on the fringes.  These are places that one could justifiably feel uncomfortable wandering into, but their stories, and the stories of the people who once lived there, are no less compelling than those of the more fortunate.  These are the people and places that time has left behind.

Cities try to revive themselves, and thus does the city of St. Louis.  I think these processes can succeed only if the entirety of the spaces that they occupy become more livable places, not necessarily when they become places where there is simply a lot of commerce going on, and not necessarily when they become the places that people tend to visit (but only the “safe” sections!) to get a temporary thrill of some kind or another every once in a while, only to abandon the place when night falls.

 

 

Zooming Into The St. Louis BBQ Festival

These pictures were taken from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.  By changing the scale of the captured picture, one is able to zoom into the BBQ festival that was going on and even see the stage on which they were having performances.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did, of course, stop by the festival to sample the food.

Visit to Camden Hills State Park in Maine

We had the opportunity to visit the Camden Hills State Park in Maine during our trip to New England earlier this year, and the chance to hike a couple of mountains (or perhaps they should be called hills!) in the park.  I got to take pictures from some locations that took into consideration differently scaled perspectives of the scene in front of us. I did this by zooming into the scene in front of me to different extents to change the scale of the shot.

Here is a panoramic rendition of a view from Ocean Overlook on the Megunticook trail in the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (You can open the picture in the intended resolution for viewing by clicking on it.  The picture should open in a new tab.)  If one were to take a different picture of the same scene with a different scale factor, you can zoom in on the details of the bay on the left hand side of the original picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA further scaling would reveal the town of Camden at the right side of the bay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, if you scale the picture even further, you can even see the individual boats on the left side of the bay.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If you take another look at the panoramic picture (preferably in its full resolution), you can also see Mt. Battie (a smaller hill) at the center of the picture.  If you look at this part of the picture zoomed in, at a different scale, you can see the road up to the top of Mt. Battie more clearly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you continue to scale the picture, you can make out the tower on Mt. Battie a little better. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is another example of the effect of scaling.  If you were to take a picture from Mt. Battie of the Ocean Overlook on the Megunticook trail, it can look like this from a distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you zoom in to a different scale, you can see the details of the people sitting at the overlook.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is clear that one needs to have a closer look at the picture in order to be able to make out the details and make any definitive statements about them.

If you have not done so, you should see this short video about scaling in the context of the universe that we live in.

From a philosophical perspective, one can see that you are likely to make mistakes if you do not have the right perspective on what you are seeing or experiencing. You should not accept any statements regarding such details from a person who has not done the necessary homework in this regard.

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

The Old Chain of Rocks bridge is just a short distance north of St. Louis, MO. This bridge used to carry the famous Route 66 highway across the Mississippi River. Today this bridge is limited to pedestrian and bicycle traffic and is part of a trail system that is being developed in the area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you wish to visit the bridge by car, you should park on Chouteau Island on the Illinois side of the river. The parking lot on the Missouri side is closed off these days, most likely due to safety concerns.  You can also ride a bike from St. Louis to the bridge if you wish, or park a couple of miles away from the bridge on the Missouri side and walk.

This is the entrance to the bridge from Illinois.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a pedestrian’s view of the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge is unique because of a 22 degree bend in the middle.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is some memorabilia on the bridge from the old days when it used to serve road traffic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou find this rusted sign at the Missouri end of the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere also is a small rest area on the Missouri side of the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is what the entrance to the bridge from Missouri looks like.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next few pictures are from the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pictures below were taken from one of the trails on Chouteau Island.  The first picture also shows a water intake from the river, and the new Chain of Rocks bridge that carries Interstate 270 across the Mississippi.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Window Into Our Travels

For this week’s challenge, I scrambled around looking for any and all pictures taken during recent travels that could be relevant to the theme of windows, regardless of the context in which the theme could be invoked.  The result could appear to be somewhat scattershot. Perhaps the real unifying theme is that these pictures a part of larger stories that appear elsewhere in my blogs.

During our recent visit to New England, we stayed one evening at a lovely Bed and Breakfast establishment in Gorham, NH.  I wandered around early in the morning, taking the following pictures that showcase some of the windows in this old home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken during the same New England trip in Tip-Top House, which used to be a hotel right at the top of Mt. Washington in NH.  The entire facility still exists in its original form even though it is not in use today. The windows here seemed somewhat small.  Perhaps they are that way in order to minimize the loss of heat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken from the window of my plane on my way to the Canadian Rockies for a six day bike ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken from the window of our van as we drove into Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies for the start of the bike ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese last pictures was taken during the rescue operation after the bike ride, during my train ride from Edmonton to Toronto on The Canadian.IMG_20170804_094454299IMG_20170805_154810189_HDR

The Last Leg Home

As if the three days on the train to Toronto were not enough, we had one more whole day of traveling to deal with to get home from Buffalo. We were up early enough the next morning, but took a little while to get going.  A quick stop for breakfast at a Starbucks, and we were on our way.  We could not take too much time getting home because we had time constraints at the end of our ride.  We wanted to avoid paying for an extra hour on the car rental (at $100 per hour) and Tom needed to make his flight home.

Having visited the northwestern corner of New York State many times in the past, I thought I would be familiar with the route to take from Buffalo to get back home.  I was mistaken.   Instead of a highway, we took a local road heading down south through the countryside.  It was a beautiful ride, especially at this time in the morning.  It occurred to me that this was quite a different kind of beauty from what I had experienced  in Canada.

We only made a couple of stops along the way, one for gas, at Lewis Run, PA,IMG_20170806_102217074IMG_20170806_102242995and the other for lunch at a place called Family Chill and Grill near Bald Eagle, PA.IMG_20170806_123339525IMG_20170806_125550174We got on to Interstate 99 after lunch, and I was feeling good enough to give a lecture about how the numbering of this highway violated the numbering convention as far as interstates were concerned.  (It took a politician and political action to make that happen.) I was also reminded that Altoona, a place along this highway, was a railfan destination.  Soon we were in Breezewood, PA, and on a familiar interstate highway, on our way home.

We were slowed down closer to home due to heavy traffic and barely made it back in time.  I retrieved the key to the house from a neighbor as soon as we got home.  (Fortunately they were around!)  Jesse and Christina immediately departed to BWI airport to return the rental car. They were a little late in returning the car, but the agent was nice enough to waive the extra charge.  Tom immediately called a Uber to take him to DCA airport.  He was able to get on his flight.  Jesse caught a flight to California early next morning.  And Christina stayed home for a few more days to take care of me.

It has now been a few weeks since I got back from the trip to Canada, a trip during which my return home was delayed by a week. Life is returning to a different kind of routine these days.  The day after we got back I was able to see the doctors here in Gaithersburg about my injuries.  I had a hard splint put on my left hand for the fracture of the metacarpal bone, a splint that  stayed on for three weeks, and which made it more difficult for me to do things, but which did nothing in the end to reset the broken bone.  The doctor now thinks it best to leave things the way they are if I do not have any pain and if I have no loss of functionality.  We’ll have to wait and see.  But now that the splint is off, I can at least do things around the house.  The road rash on my left side has healed for the most part.  Even the shoulder injuries look good these days.  It will be a while before the broken ribs are back to normal, and that is when and I can try to do much more with my left hand.  A new complication was the discovery of an AC separation of the left shoulder, a condition whose discovery seems to have eluded all the doctors along the way, until I diagnosed the situation myself at home and confirmed it with the doctor last week.  This might need some additional attention going forward. Hopefully there is nothing else latent lurking in the system waiting to raise its ugly head.  Que sera sera.

Well, this will probably be the end of this particular thread of blogs.  A final thanks to all of you helped me along the way both physically and mentally, and an apology to those whose lives and mental well-being I disrupted in any way along the way.  I owe all of you.

And now back to our regular programming!

Travels With My Brother – A Delivery in Toronto

Our third morning on the train found us stopped at some location I could not identify. IMG_20170805_073451787The time was about 8:30am.  Shortly after, I noticed passengers walking outside.  IMG_20170805_083734660My guess was that this was a train station.

A few freight trains went by while we waited at this location.  An hour and a half later the train moved slowly to another location not too far away where I saw this sign.IMG_20170805_100631291The train then started moving forward as if it were going to depart the place and then stopped.  If only they could make up their minds!  It then returned to this station at around 11:00am. IMG_20170805_105902917Apparently somebody on the train had had an accident and broken a hip. The person had to be taken off the train.  When the train finally departed Sudbury Junction, it had lost what little time it had made up the previous night. By then it was about ten hours late.

I did join others for breakfast for the first time during this ride.  Met up with a young couple who were from different parts of of Europe, countries in the east and the west.  They were used to traveling all over the world.  The train ride they had enjoyed the most was the one in South Africa.  It turned out that their main complaint with the Canadian was the fact that the timing was predictable.  That was what I heard consistently from other people that we dined with.  Their main issue, and ours, was the inability to create reliable plans for their destinations.  Some had connections to make to other places.

We showered that day on the train (finally!) in preparation for our arrival in Toronto later in the evening.  It was also time to change the dressing on the wounds on my left arm for the first time since we started the trip.  Tom had to do it.  He remembered the procedure but the process itself did not do him any good.  Concentrating on the effort of completing the dressing was too much for him.  He had been feeling good in the morning, but the effort set him back.

Meanwhile, the rescue party from the US were on their way to Buffalo.  They had started the previous day and had run into their own share of adventures.  They had booked a car with a rental agency, only to be told when they arrived there that there was no car really available.  They decided to try their luck at another place, and fortunately a car was just being returned at that time.  They jumped at the offer to rent that car.  The escape plan could have become even more complicated without this car.  Christina and Jesse were also arranging a place for us to stay that night in Buffalo.  Because of the proximity to Niagara Falls, prices for hotel rooms were quite exorbitant, but they managed to find a place that would do.  The only matter now left was to coordinate times of arrival in Toronto, a challenge under the circumstances.

Tom had given up on flying out of Toronto.  There was no way the train was going to get there on time. In addition to the idea of flying out of Buffalo, he was also considering coming down to Gaithersburg with us and flying out of one of the DC airports.  He had been doing a lot of research in this regard on the train.  The Gaithersburg option was less expensive, but he would have to be in good shape to travel in the car.  Both options would get him home in time.  In the end he decided to travel with us all the way to Gaithersburg.

Since the train had originally been scheduled to arrive in Toronto in the morning, lunch that was served in the dining room ended up being an improvised effort.  The chef managed to produce three fresh entrees to choose from. The staff did a great job under the circumstances.  I learned that the train was supposed to head back from Toronto to Vancouver the same evening, and that the staff who had accompanied us on this trip were supposed to work the train going back.  This meant that, because of the delay,  they were not getting a long break in Toronto.  That must be tough.

I took more pictures of the landscape along the way as we approached Toronto.  It was quite cloudy.IMG_20170805_153052648_HDRIMG_20170805_153718131IMG_20170805_153949579_HDRWe rolled into Toronto a little after 6pm.  Our rescuers had been trying to get updates on the estimated time of arrival of the train from us and from Via Rail through the day.  Jesse seemed to have left Buffalo at a good time to pick us up and was on his way. We took the nearest exit we could find out of the train station and walked out onto Front Street and got in touch with Christina.  We were instructed to cross the road and wait in front of the Royal York Hotel. IMG_20170805_181614815_HDRIMG_20170805_181629428_HDRJesse arrived in the red corolla that we had been advised to look out for a few minutes later.

We quickly packed ourselves into the car.  A message was was broadcast that the package had been picked up successfully!

We made a quick getaway from the city and headed towards Niagara Falls to cross the border into the USA.  We grabbed some food from a Subway along the way.  Tom was already feeling good enough to eat and we both had good appetites.

The immigration officer at the border asked about the purpose of the trip when Jesse handed our passports to him.  “A rescue mission,” Jesse said.  The dressing on my arm was enough to convince him.  The officer asked if I was bringing anything back from Canada.  He then laughed and said that I probably left some skin behind in Canada.  Not only skin, but some flesh also!  I told him that I was only bringing back some gravel from Canada.  He smiled.   For some reason this seemed funny at that time.

Christina was waiting for us at the motel.  We were tired.  We crashed out!

As a postscript to this part of the adventure, I should make it very clear that I would not have made it this far without Tom.   Traveling in my condition was not a easy exercise.  Tom was always there making sure I was OK.  He was the one who did all the planning.  He was the one who had to do the heavy lifting.   He was the one who even had to cut my steak one night at dinner when I foolishly ordered something that had been recommended by others but was difficult to handle.  Thanks for everything man!

Last stage of our travels here.