I was treated to my first ever visit to a jazz club in New York City for Fathers Day. The Birdland is known for its historical association with jazz, with many famous musicians having performed there over the years. The club is named after Charlie “Bird” Parker. It has been at its current location near Times Square since 1985. The club has operated in a few different locations in Manhattan over the years.
Our entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of local musicians who have an regular and ongoing gig at the club. Eric Comstock, a pianist and singer, was accompanied by Sean Smith on Bass. They were joined by Barbara Fasano, a singer who also happens to be Eric Comstock’s wife, for a portion of the show.
I enjoyed all aspects of the evening – the music, atmosphere, food, and drinks. It was a perfect blend in spite of a small miscalculation on my part regarding one of the items in the above list.
My lasting memories of Manhattan are from a time long long ago when I was a graduate student at what was then The State University of New York at Stony Brook. It was nice to be back last weekend in Manhattan to experience the space once again.
Some aspects of the Midtown Manhattan experience have not changed with time. There is the palpable energy of the city which remains the same as before. The hustle and bustle of the city hits all your senses and makes you feel alive! There are crowds everywhere. The tourist is everywhere. The sidewalks and crosswalks are filled with pedestrians dodging incoming foot traffic. Traffic on the streets and avenues looks chaotic. The place is noisy as heck. People are impatient as heck!
But, there have also been some changes to the place. During the early 1980s New York City was still in the process of recovering from the near bankruptcy of 1975. Things feels somewhat different these days. There is more of a sense of prosperity. The place is not as grungy, gritty and grimy as it used to be. The subway looked cleaner than in the past. I did not get as much smell of urine in the stairways and walkways as I used to. The subway cars looked clean. The graffiti also seems to have gone. The places where we walked felt safer than in the past. The storefronts and shops looked well maintained. There seems to be enough capital available to keep things moving. Places like Times Square and the area around Madison Square Garden appear to have been cleaned up, etc..
At Hudson Yards we saw what was supposed to be the centerpiece of the future development of this area – a piece of architecture called Vessel. Vessel has had an troubled and controversial opening. One wonders how long this structure will survive. Next to Vessel is The Shed, a place for the arts (as I understand it).
After coming home, I did some research to discover that the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has a new storage yard for its trains in the Hudson Yards area. The yard is currently in the open, not covered over, but the full development of Hudson Yards will result in the railroad yard going underground – under all the new buildings that are supposed to come up over the tracks.
I also learnt that since my time in the New York area, Amtrak has restored the once defunct West Side Line in Manhattan in order to support train service from the north directly into Penn station. The connection from the new West Side Line into Penn Station goes under LIRR’s Hudson Yards, and allows Amtrak’s trains running on The Empire Corridor (into New York State and beyond) to avoid having to use Grand Central Station. This change has allowed Amtrak to consolidate all of its services in Manhattan into a single location. Previously, they had to lease space in Grand Central Station and provide shuttle service between the two stations.
We had come to the Hudson Yards area in order to get on to the High Line near its northern end. This elevated park did not exist during my time at Stony Brook. The High Line park runs on the viaduct that originally used to carry the overhead tracks of the West Side Line down to the southern part of Manhattan.
We only stayed on the High Line for a few blocks. It would be worth further exploration in the future, from end to end, if the opportunity arises. The High Line has already become an extremely popular tourist destination.
The next discovery was the new Moynihan Train Hall serving trains running into Penn Station. The hall has been built within the confines of the existing James A. Farley Building, just west of the existing concourse for Penn Station beneath Madison Square Garden. This is an amazing change from the old station concourse.
I was already familiar with the changes that have occurred around Times Square, the next place we visited, because of a few more recent trips to the place. It has become a family friendly destination, quite different from the sketchy area that it used to be in the early 1980s. The place has become more pedestrian friendly. It always used to attract big crowds.
Midtown Manhattan today looks like a happening place. This part of town had a very different vibe to it in the early 1980s, one that was perhaps better appreciated by a young, penniless, and somewhat carefree graduate student.
We had just stopped at the Turtle Run campsite near Whites Ferry towards the end of our bike ride in order to take a break. I happened to stop next to a tree. She had stopped further along on the trail. She turned towards me and had a reaction that I know well from past outings. I looked back to see a Black Rat snake shedding its skin while descending down the trunk of the tree next to me. I moved my bike a little bit out of the way and grabbed the camera from the backpack. This was the sight!
The snake knew what it had to do after leaving its old layer of skin behind. It slid down to the bottom of the tree, and then moved purposefully through the grass towards the edge of the trail.After making sure that its path was clear, its crossed the trail in its brand new skin!
We had gone to the Seven Oaks Lavender Farm in Virginia for the morning. The idea was to spend some relaxation time in an outdoor environment, and to also incidentally experience something that could be possibly unique and different. It turned out to be a very nice morning in the countryside. It was early for some of the lavender flowers, but we got to pick some of the earlier flowering English Lavender. There were also other plants and flowers in the field.
In keeping with the spirit of the morning, we bought some lemonade and lavender cup cakes and wandered over to the the rocking chairs on the porch at Grandma’s house on the farm – to relax and enjoy the scene in front of us.
We found this nest on the porch.Turns out that there were some young babies in the nest. The parent birds flew in and out of the nest feeding the nestlings. The birds did seem to be somewhat distracted by our presence, but they did continue their process while we sat there.
We had just stopped at Edwards Ferry during our bike ride to take a break and use the portapotty. I spotted this little one next to the trail.I slowly walked towards the rabbit, fully expecting it to bound away into the grass. Quite unexpectedly, it just sat there – very still.I got right up to it. Eventually getting tired of my meddling presence, it decided to move away to a different location. But it did not leave the trail. It actually moved in the direction of our bicycles. It paused on the trail while I approached. I got almost right in its face.It was then that it finally decided that it had had enough of my botheration. It departed into the grass.
I also had a couple of turtle encounters on the trail during the ride. But these animals would not have been able to get away from me even if they wanted to. They just sat there on the trail watching me inquiringly.
And then there were the Indigo Buntings. There were so many of them! Some day I will be in a position to even get some more pictures of of these birds. Some day I might even run them over on my bike inadvertently. They are not good at getting out of the way.
At one point, I even had a deer keep running ahead of me on the trail for a while, while I kept catching up to it slowly but surely on my bicycle. We were moving quite fast. I had not realized until then that it was possible to keep up with the speed of a deer.
One day I will also be hit by either a squirrel or a chipmunk darting across the trail. It seems inevitable!
Here is a picture taken during our walk last weekend. We walked from Dickerson towards Monocacy Aqueduct that day.
This section of the trail is near the power plant at Dickerson, just before you get to Spinks Lock. It was early enough in the morning that the rising sun still lay hidden behind cliffs next to the canal.
Early mornings on the C&O Canal towpath are the best for a number of reasons.
We went out for our second joint bike ride of the season the day before yesterday. Since we knew ahead of time that it was going to be a scorcher of a day, with temperatures in the 90s (°F), we left early to try to beat the heat, but we were not very successful in achieving that goal.
I managed to get a new bike rack for the Prius in the meantime. This one fit over the bump in the rear end of the car. The bike rack itself looked less sturdy than the one we have for the Honda, but the reviews that I had read makes me want to give it a try. This being the first time the rack was being used, we were very deliberate and careful about how we mounted the bikes, checking every strap along the way, and placing duct tape over areas of the bike that might rub against the carrier itself. This bike rack unfortunately does not have an additional strap that goes around the multiple bikes in order to attach them to the main section of the frame. The bikes just hang on the carrier rods that they are attached to.
We were more careful than usual during the drive to the canal. We did not go far, and I kept looking back at the bikes as we drove. It all went well.
We rode upstream from Violettes Lockand ended up near Whites Ferry before turning back.
It was cool under the trees, especially earlier in the morning,but you could feel the heat on your shoulders the moment we were exposed to the direct sunlight. One felt the most exposed when crossing the open stretch of trail under the crackling and buzzing high voltage power lines that cross the river.
We took a few breaks during the ride. Going forward, we will need to also carry more water with us. It is easy to get dehydrated.
Considering the conditions, I was surprised to see people on the river later in the morning, completely exposed to the sun. I hope that there was liberal use of sunscreen.
I did hear and see a bald eagle flying over the trees in the area near Rileys Lock, but it was difficult to stop in time to follow the flight of bird, to see where it was going. We did see a few Indigo Buntings. These bright blue birds would land on the trail in front of us, but we would be going too fast to stop in time to take a picture. I had to settle for pictures of an egret and a great blue heron. I even managed to chase the egret away! There were also plenty of dragonflies beside the trail, but I did not stop for pictures.
We also found a lot of fluffy white seed pods all over the place in certain sections of the trail and on the canal itself.I do not know what tree or plant these come from.
We spent a good part of the rest of the day recovering from the efforts of the morning. It does not seem to matter that all of my past biking efforts took place in the heat of summer. It still takes a good deal of effort to get used to the conditions once again.
It has cooled down in the days since the ride, but I am sure that this is only a temporary reprieve.
We made two trips to the towpath this week. First, there was our usual Sunday morning walk – this time from Point of Rocks to Catoctin Aqueduct and beyond. And then, with new bike in hand, and the old one back in the hands of its original owner, we went out together for a bike ride on Wednesday. We rode upstream from Sycamore Landing to Whites Ferry and beyond. I am hoping that joint bike rides along the towpath will also become a regular habit going forward.
But the idea of joint bike rides has also opened up another issue to consider, one of transportation of bikes on the back of the car to whichever place we happen to be going. Carrying two bikes is more problematic than carrying one. Fortunately, we did manage to carry the bikes on the older Honda using the original trunk mounted bike rack that we have had for many years. We were successful in spite of a broken rubber strap on the carrier. Since that strap was meant for the bike that would have to be placed in the inner position, closer to the car, it turned out to not be a critical issue. The bike in the outer position was secured and we made sure that the one in the inner location did not move. Nevertheless, I was extra cautious about the bikes on the back of the car while driving. I had visions of bikes flying off the back just because I had forgotten to consider some aspect of the process of tying them down.
We still have to figure out how to carry the two bikes on the Prius. The shape of the rear end of the car makes it impossible to use a regular trunk bike carrier.
We started the walk last Sunday very early in the morning since we had a later engagement. Water levels were back to normal at Point of Rocks. The brown color of the water from the sediment being carried during the flooding event had vanished. You could see the clumps of mud that the overflowing river had left behind around the boat ramp. The mud made things slippery.
It is always nice to see the bridge across the river at Point of Rocks in the morning light.
This is the entrance to the first of two tunnels for the railroad just north of Point of Rocks.The tunnels are a result of the lack of space for both the canal and the railroad tracks beside the river at the time when both of these entities came into existence. The C&O canal and the B&O railroad companies were in competition with each other in those days and this was a compromise that was forced on them by the authorities. At the end of the day, over the long run, there was really no competition since the railroad provided a much more cost effective solution to moving goods and people around in these parts.
It was rather chilly when we started our bike ride on Wednesday. (A few days earlier, we were using the air conditioner in the house. The weather pattern has been crazy recently!) We rode our bikes for a few hours and did warm up during that time. It has been a few years we have last went out on a bike ride together. Some things needed to be relearned. There were adjustments to be made. One had to become familiar with the bike once again. In the end, everything went well. There was the expected soreness that a first timer can expect to experience after the first ride.It was sad to see the Jubal A. Early “beached” like a dying whale during our rest stop at Whites Ferry.The ferry service has been closed since December 2020 because the operator lost their landing rights on the Virginia side of the river. There is a conflict between the owners of the land in Virginia and the owners of the ferry. Ownership of the ferry has changed more recently, but the new owner has also not been able to find a solution. The issues involved are proving to be intractable and difficult to resolve. The local governments are also eager to help resolve the issue because the ferry was still being used as a commuting resource by people living in the area working on the other side of the river. This ferry service had been operational since 1786, and it is (was?) the only remaining ferry service across the Potomac river. I hope they can reopen.
On a different note, the flooding that happened a few weeks ago has caused severe damage to the trail upstream of Whites Ferry.I remember there having been issues like this during past flooding events. The newly refurbished and reinforced trail seems to have been no match for the force of the water flowing from the canal bed across the trail. I feel that some other approach needs to be taken to mitigate the problem.
The white Rosa Multiflora flowers seem to be dominating the canal scene in these parts these days. The flowers of Spring are slowly fading away.
We walked from Noland Ferry to Point of Rocks last Sunday. When we arrived at Nolands Ferry, we found that the road to the parking lot that we normally use was closed because of the flooding that had taken place the previous week. We ended up parking in the extended parking area on the other side of the trail, closer to the main road. Once parked, we walked beyond the gate preventing our access to the original parking lot to see what the flooding had left behind. The road to the boat ramp was covered in a layer of mud deposited by the river. It looked quite slippery.
We have been using a app on our mobile phones during our walks the last few months to help us identify some of the birds that we have been listening to. There have been names of birds that have shown up on the app that I know nothing about. Last weekend I believe we heard the sound of the bird in the picture below. I am seeing this bird for the first time in our woods.According to Merlin, it is called an Acadian Flycatcher.
Talking about the Merlin app, I was hoping that one would be able to learn bird sounds so that I could identify the birds in the future without help from the app. I realize now that this is a hopeless endeavor. There is no way that I will be able to remember the individual patterns of sound. Even a software app is better at this!
I was relaxed enough during this walk to be looking around the trail and notice the small leaf in the picture below. I thought that the picture would be nice to use for an artist’s interpretation, be it either a sketch or a painting. I might be convinced to send a higher-resolution picture to whoever might be interested in such an endeavor.
A follow up from the flooding that we witnessed couple of weekends ago at Dam 4 – It turns out that we missed all the drama and excitement that day when a couple of barges moored near the area of McMahons Mill on Big Slackwater, a few short miles upstream from Dam 4, got loose due to the flooding and started floating downstream. The barges had been involved in work being done by the National Park Service to repair the trail running beside the river in those parts. (This is a section where the trail gets damaged regularly, and even destroyed on occasion, when the river gets rough.) A big barge, including an excavator on it, got loose on Saturday evening, and a smaller barge broke free from its moorings on Sunday. If we had been there at the right time, we might have seen the barges floating by Dam 4 on the river. The smaller barge was eventually snagged at Dam 4 on Sunday. The big barge (and it was really big!) made it all the way to Harpers Ferry. They had to shut down bridges over the river along the way temporarily because of concerns about the damage that might be caused if the barges smashed into one of the piers. At the end of the day, this barge only struck the railroad bridge at Shepherdstown. Apparently, there was little damage done. There are quite a few news reports and videos about this event to be found if one does a search on Youtube. You can get an idea about the size of the bigger barge in this particular video which was taken at Dam 4.
On a different topic, I want to point readers to a blog that I would highly recommend. My sister-in-law and her husband have started out on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. They are following the French Way, starting from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, crossing the Pyrenees from France into Spain during the first (and probably the most difficult) stage, and then walking across Spain from east to west after that. You can follow their travels here.