Sunday, December 27, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #243The Ancient Ones Stand, Tulum, Mexico, September 2003

Most of my nomadic travel finds me in the continental lower 48 of the United States. But, there have been those occasions when I have crossed borders and oceans to lands afar. The U.S. has so much land to explore and has been so much development during the approximately 500+ years since Europeans invaded the “New World” there is a vast abundance of things to see and learn. Of course, other than the native American Indian nations that inhabited this land before the Europeans and their antiquity, most of the historic cities, towns and structures in the U.S. are considered pretty modern compared to what one finds in Europe, Africa, especially the Middle East, and Asia.

I took this photo on one of my expeditions outside the borders of my native country. This was also one of my earliest uses of digital photography. The camera I shot this with was actually not much more sophisticated than my first Kodak Brownie box camera I shot black and white photos with. I got it for Christmas when I was probably 8 to 10 years old. True, this little digital camera was about half the size of my Brownie, but utilized, basically, similar technology. It had a simple viewfinder, a simple, fixed lens, a limited amount of memory only allowing so many photos before they had to be “developed” in the case of the Brownie or “downloaded” (no removable memory) in the case of this small Olympus digital.

This photo is of the ancient Castillo (castle) with the watch tower overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Tulum dates back to the 13th Century and is the only Mayan city known to have been built on the coast. It was a seaport trading city in its day. While it has largely been overridden by the jungle surrounding it, it is now a Mexican national park and, accordingly is maintained. Tulum is also an archaeological site, providing much information into the ancient Mayan culture. When I visited, in 2003, visitors were no longer allowed to climb on the ruins or go into the structures. Prior to restricting open access, the ruins were being ruined, no pun intended, by people climbing and chipping and leaving behind graffiti.

This site is beautiful and, I was there on a beautiful day in September. It is pretty darn hot and very humid in this region, so my New Zealand friends, who were also with me, and I shed our clothes to our bathing suits and took a dip in the beautiful Caribbean with other tourists. While it is a ruin, it is still remarkably well kept and I would highly recommend a visit to Tulum if you happen to go to nearby Cancun, a modern resort city, circa 1974, about 700 years newer.

Live free and be happy. EH    

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #242 – The Commencement Site, The Oakhill Ranch, Winchester, Virginia, October 2008

Photos of this house have appeared here before. But, as I was sitting here the Sunday before Christmas 2015, I find myself contemplating a number of aspects of my life. The idea of “commencements” crossed my mind. Most people experience several commencements of various kinds during a lifetime. This week's photo actually represents both a graduation and commencement in my son's life and mine.

I moved into this house in February 2003 and I departed the house the end of October 2008. That was exactly five years and nine months from the beginning to the end of my tenancy. It actually ranks as the home I lived in the second longest time during my adult life. My son lived here with me for about one year of my tenancy. It's actually the only residence I've lived in since 1972, or about 30 years, where I didn't have a full-time spouse/significant other living with me for any part of my tenancy.

To be a little more accurate, a graduation, beside the traditional definition of receiving some kind of academic diploma or degree, also means markers of some kind of designated measure. While a commencement, often used to refer to the meaning of the word graduation, actually means the beginning or starting place. This house and property, I called it The Oakhill Ranch after my business name, is both a graduation marker and a commencement place in both my son's life and my life.

There are a several markers or graduations, this house and the 49 acres it sits in the middle of, represent for me. I mentioned two in the previous paragraph. A third is that living on a property with a sizable amount of acreage fulfilled another of my dreams. Still another is it was the last residence/property I lived in that was under my name and control. Yet another, it was the last place my son lived on the east coast before departing for and commencing his life on the west coast 12 years ago. And, finally, it is the commencement place of the new, non-conforming, alternative, living free, nomadic lifestyle I embarked on at the end of October 2008.

When I moved to this property, The Oakhill Ranch, I only planned to stay for two years. Ultimately, I lived here just short of six years. From my birth until this property, I have lived in no less than 17 properties. That's one for about every four years of my life. There are probably not many career military people who can claim that many locations. Frankly, I'm not sure if that's a positive or a negative claim. It is what it is and, of course, it's part of who I have become.

So, today I've been ruminating about my past and present. I just viewed a YouTube documentary titled, “I'm Fine, Thanks,” and a feature film distributed by titled, “The Words.” Both of these movies moved me to my state of contemplation. Throughout our lives we are inspired and moved by many people, places and things. I have called them “pivotal” people, places and times on this blog. As Thoreau wrote, something over 150 years ago, “ The mass of men (and women) lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”

Everything this final third of my life is about commenced October 31, 2008 at this location. Since that day, I have been assembling all the pieces of the puzzle that have been my life. The vision has become clearer and clearer and now, just over seven years later. I believe the words of a popular song, penned by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and made popular by Johnny Nash, are apropos, I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It's gonna be a bright bright sunshiny day.”

I hope you have had or are on your way to your commencement of living free. I hope you can see clearly and the rain, obstacles and dark clouds are clearing and your bright, sunshiny future is beckoning you.

More on some of the things I touched on in the article will follow in future articles. For now, live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #241 A Favorite Restaurant, Fresno, California, June 2012

This week I thought I'd feature something a little on the lighter (and tastier) side. This is one of only 43 restaurants from a chain called The Old Spaghetti Factory. This one happens to be in Fresno, California, not far from my former mother-in-law's (still a best friend of mine) and one of my former brother-in-law's places in nearby Clovis, California.

I have been to a few of the restaurants in different parts of the U.S. including Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee. This restaurant is located within, perhaps, a mile of the local, more widely known and prolific national Italian cuisine restaurant, Olive Garden.

There are three significant differences between the two restaurants in my mind. First, most Olive Gardens follow a pretty common external appearance and decor. While they don't all look exactly the same, they are usually unmistakable. The Old Spaghetti Factory restaurants are all very uniquely different on the outside. They are often built into very old buildings. In some cases the building might have been a warehouse at one time. There are no two restaurants alike from exterior appearance.

The second difference is in the interior decor. Most Olive Gardens (and I've been in a lot of them all over the U.S.), have a distinctly similar Italian decor, but it is still, in most ways, a very typical restaurant. The Old Spaghetti Factory typically uses the original brick walls, open ceiling of the particular structure it's built in and features unique lighting and uses church pews, antique bed headboards and foot boards that one might typically expect to find in old European castles, villas and manors to create dining booths from. Additionally, prominently located in the center of the dining area is an old streetcar fitted with tables and chairs. None of the restaurant interiors are identical.

The third difference is the menus. Olive Garden has a very diverse and comprehensive menu featuring many special items to meet everyone's tastes. The Old Spaghetti Factory menus may vary slightly from location to location. But, more importantly, they are more limited in the numbers and types of meals they offer on their menus and all entrees on their dinner menus feature three courses. Of course, there is a tasty bread service, but they also offer a choice of an Italian soup or salad, the entree of the diner's choice and dessert consisting of their house specialty, Italian Spumoni ice cream, all inclusive in the price of the meal. There are, of course, extras, like appetizers and such. But, still the menu is, in my opinion, smaller, simpler and easier to make choices from. In general, the prices are in line with Olive Garden prices, or perhaps a little less.

When I first went to one of The Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurants in the late 70's or early 80's, there were a lot fewer restaurants and the menu was even simpler. If I recall correctly, there wasn't a printed menu at all. You simply ordered one of, typically, three entrees off a chalk board at the entrance. All meals were the same price and all were the three course meals they still serve. I really liked that aspect of the restaurant back then. I find huge menus to be a pain in my brain. Too much to read and think about to make a choice.

This restaurant is, obviously the one located in Fresno, California and the photo was taken from the car as we were driving past it. I've been to this one several times with BJ, my former mother-in-law. It's one of our favorite places to go when I'm hanging out in Clovis. And, to be honest, we usually patronize the Olive Garden, too, though we often have to wait longer to get seated at the Olive Garden. We seldom have to wait more than a few minutes at The Old Spaghetti Factory, probably because it has a larger seating capacity.

Look them up on the Web and if you're ever in a city near one of these restaurants, give yourself a treat and try it out.

Live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #240 Scene of Latest U.S. Terror Attack, San Bernadino, California, December, 2015

This is not my photo! It's a stock photo I downloaded from the Web. I could have chosen any of a number of photos of the scene of the horrific terror attack that took place in the city of San Bernadino, California this past week, but I chose something that was more indicative of the city.

I was in San Bernadino this past winter. It is a California city of something over 215,000 people. Like several cities in California, it has been going through difficult economic times and is dealing with a bankruptcy. But, I don't care what the specific circumstances of any city, town or village in the U.S., nothing should make it the target of a terrorist attack. And, just as happened in Paris only a few short weeks before, this unsuspecting city was dealt an undeserved blow below the belt. But, even worse, it took the lives of 14 innocent people, physically wounded another 21 and emotionally and psychologically wounded not only hundreds of people related to these direct victims, but tens of thousands who see their hometown and the world through different eyes, now.

My first visit to San Bernadino was in the early 1970's, when the now closed, Norton Air Force Base was part of that community. I was in the Air Force, based in Washington, DC assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Information. I was on a TDY (temporary duty) assignment in California and was ready to return to Washington. I was authorized to fly home by commercial airline, but chose to don my blue uniform, drive my rental car to San Bernadino and fly home from Norton Air Force Base on the “U.S. Air Force Airline.” That was about 43 years ago.

I've driven through San Bernadino a few times since then and, as I mentioned, the latest time being in December of last year and again in the early part of this year. And just one year later, this horrendous event takes place. Of course, I couldn't have imagined such an event taking place in San Bernadino, or anyplace else in the U.S. for that matter. But, then again, just a little over 14 years ago, in plain sight of where I grew up, two airliners became the weapons of foreign terrorists who ultimately took the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent people that day.

No! I'm not going to be stupid and blame workplace violence. No! I'm not going to be stupid and blame inanimate, brainless, objects, namely guns, for this. No! I'm not going to blame global warming or climate change (whichever anyone wants to call it), racism, religious persecution, the economy, education or anything else for this. I'm going to blame the REAL cause – HATE! It's that plain and simple. For all the good there is in this world, there is a lot of evil and it manifests itself in four ways – HATE, GREED, CORRUPTION and STUPIDITY!

The stupidity part is mainly home-base right here in the U.S. It starts from the top down. I'm so sick of political correctness and our government trying to make us believe we're to blame for all of this. Yes, we are arrogant. Yes, we are affluent in many ways, other than just financial. Yes, we are materialistic, over-indulgent and even shallow. But, in general, we are the most generous, caring, sharing people in the world. We, in general are not the Kardashians or the Trumps or the Obamas or the Caitlyn Jenners or any of the other “over the top,” bigger than life, so called “idols” of American idiocracy. We are just a whole lot of nice people.

Guess what? A whole lot of nice people were massacred this week because they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were celebrating a part of our American way of life when a couple STUPID people full of HATE, and one of them born, raised and educated in this very country, decided they were going to become the judges, jury and executioners of people who never did a thing to them or their child. They were treated like welcome members of The American Way.

People often ask me - because they know I'm a wandering, living free, freedom loving nomad, exploring the country of my origin, experiencing its beauty and wonder and meeting the wonderful diversity of people who make up this great place – whether I carry a gun with me for self-defense. Frankly, whether I do or whether I don't is no one's business except my own. It's another of the personal choices we can all make in our lives. In order to defuse a controversial subject before it has the opportunity to turn into a discussion or argument that I personally don't want to be involved in. I typically will say, I don't. But, only I know the truth and that's going to be the way it remains.

However, let me go on record to say, I support the 2nd Amendment. No! I'm not an NRA member. I have no need or desire to become an NRA member. But, I know one thing for certain. Evil, stupid, hate-filled, greedy and corrupt people WILL always find a way to get their hands on the inanimate objects we call guns and all their accessories and ammunition and will use them against unarmed people, regardless of whatever controls are put on obtaining and owning such inanimate objects.

Further, they will continue to buy readily available materials and, with knowledge readily available on the Internet, construct bombs, IEDs (as they are now called) and weapons of mass destruction just like these two mad dogs in San Bernadino had. Evil people with no outlook for a future for themselves will embrace ideologies that reward them in their death to take on suicide missions and attacks (and suicide attacks are as old as humanity).

So, my heart, my thoughts and my prayers go out to the families of the dead victims, the wounded and their families and the people of San Bernadino, California for the losses they experienced this past week. But, even more, my heart and thoughts go out to all the personal freedom loving people in the U.S. and the world and ask you to pull your fucking heads out of the sand and start calling evil what it is. Stop blaming it on everything that has nothing to do with it.

I'm sorry, but innocent people will die when right/good stands up against evil and destroys evil. No civilized person is happy about that and none of us condone it. But, that is part of the cost. And, I have to support that over innocent people anywhere being tortured and massacred barbarically and inhumanely by stupid, hating, evil people who don't give a damn who they kill, period.

That's my piece for today. Like it or lump it. I don't care. I love life. I love living it without fear and intimidation. And I sure as hell don't want my life ended because of too damn many politically correct assholes, both in and out of our government, who can't stand up like real men and women and call a duck a duck, a hate monger a hate monger and a terrorist a terrorist and stop this shit! 

Happy Holidays and remember to live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #239 The Badlands of South Dakota, September, 2010

Here is just one of the many vistas of this unique landscape. This is in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It's one more example of the awesome scenery, topography and geology that makes up the United States.

I drove through Badlands National Park the first time in late September of 2010 when I drove to Rapid City to finalize my change of residence and domicile to South Dakota and obtain my South Dakota drivers license. This is the fifth state I've held a drivers license from and had voting privileges.

It continues to amaze me how much there is to see just in the lower 48 of the United States. I've only scratched the surface and I've been traveling around this country for the better part of 50 years. Of course, a good part of that was on business, so the travel was mainly to major cities and metropolitan areas. But, now, while I've been to most of the major cities and metro areas, my focus is really on exploring the smaller cities and towns and the natural wonders of this land.

Of course, there is even more to see in Canada, Alaska and Mexico. I dare say, I have a lifetime of travel and exploration ahead of me without even leaving the North American continent. There are still a few places I'd like to see overseas, but frankly, with the hassles and inconveniences of air travel these days and so much turmoil in various parts of the world, for the most part, I'll be just as happy to visit the rest of the world through travelogues on large, flat screen, 3D TV's.

No, it's not the same as actually going to the places, eating the food, smelling the aromas and mingling with the people, but I've learned that everyone will die with “unfinished business.” So, I will still be looking for an opportunity to revisit New Zealand and I'd love to get to Australia. I would also like to revisit Ireland.

There are places in Europe I haven't been, but that's okay. I wouldn't mind getting back to Prague and Budapest. I've been to China, but frankly, from what I've seen of the explosive growth and pollution there, it's not high on my list to revisit. I wouldn't mind spending some more time in Hawaii and exploring the Big Island. I'd also enjoy visiting some of the Caribbean Islands and revisiting the Bahamas.

That's a lot of territory to cover in the X number of good travel years I have left ahead of me. Wherever I make it to will be a gift and I'm going to continue enjoying the lifestyle of a nomadic wanderer.

Live free and be happy. EH 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #238 Freedom in Florida, Haulover Beach, Miami, Florida, February 2004

What can exemplify personal freedom anymore than being on a beach sans any clothing? So, you might be asking what might I have been wearing and how far away was I with my telephoto lens? I am not a practicing nudist or naturist, the two labels that seem to be used interchangeably for this lifestyle. However . . . when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Yes! I was a full participant and the photo was not taken with a telephoto lens.

The backstory for this photo begins with a trip to Florida with my friend. We had the use of another of my friend's house in a Miami suburb while he was traveling on business for an extended period. The friend I was traveling with, who I'm still good friends with, decided she was going to test me and see how much of a prude I was. What she didn't know is that I had gone skinny dipping on a few occasions before I met her. I also spent two weeks in New Zealand where the folks are much more laid back about things like the naked human body, as are people in most of the rest of the world. So, I had enjoyed several group nude experiences there as well. I passed her test hands down.

This is Haulover Beach in Miami, Florida, an internationally acclaimed, clothing optional beach. I hadn't been there before, nor had my friend, but she is an RN and very comfortable with the naked human body. She adapted instantly to being on a beach, nude, with numerous other strangers all wearing the attire we were all born in.

I grew up in a relatively conservative, northern New Jersey family. I attended a puritanical Baptist church from as early as I can remember. Modesty was heavily stressed. Nudity, the naked body, had shameful, dirty and sinful connotations. So, believe me, my first couple skinny dipping experiences were very, very stressful for me. Thankfully, while, as I said, I'm not a practicing naturist, I'm much more comfortable in my skin (no pun intended) today than I was as a repressed teenager and college student.

Being nude with other people in a situation like this is very natural (thus, the label, naturist) and freeing. One rapidly learns to accept that all the beautiful bodies we see in movies, soft and hard core porn magazines, Playboy and similar magazines are the exception. People are just people. We all have different bodies. Naturists, for the most part, at least according to my experience, are not who we may define as exhibitionists. If they were, they wouldn't allow children and teenagers to be exposed to the lifestyle. That being said, yes, there were at least a few exhibitionists on the beach. They had to make sure everyone knew they were there and focused on their usually unexposed “assets.” Exhibitionists have always fascinated me. Some time I'd like to interview some. But, naturists are just you're average person who accepts their bodies and those of everyone else as a natural part of life.

Perhaps you've already had the opportunity to experience the freedom and less stressful environment of a place like Haulover Beach. You know how enjoyable it is to strip away any facades and just be yourself. If you've never had the opportunity or made the effort to walk on an ocean or lake beach au naturel, you should. After all, all you're doing is removing those last few scraps of cloth separating you from a feeling of real freedom. And, truthfully, it's not like we all don't know what the small pieces of cloth are covering? It doesn't matter if you're beautiful or not. It doesn't matter if you're thin and fit or a plus size and lumpy. It doesn't matter how large or small or perfect your male or female “attributes” are. It doesn't matter if you're wealthy or poor, belong to the country club or dine at a soup kitchen. No one judges anyone else. There are just no facades.

Of course, I would never force anyone to go to a clothing optional beach or participate in any kind of situation, like taking all their clothes off in a group of nude people if it made a person feel uncomfortable. Like everything else in life, this is a lifestyle choice and doesn't suit everyone. I've not had an opportunity to revisit Haulover Beach since this time, but I will the next time I'm in the Miami area and the weather is conducive.

Live free and be happy. EH   

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #237 – In Solidarity with the French People, November 13, 2015

This week's photo, or actually a symbol, isn't about me or the places or experiences I've had. It's about the horrific experience the French, and especially the Parisians, had on November 13, 2015 . . . Friday the 13th.

In the U.S., the Friday following our Thanksgiving Day holiday has become known as Black Friday. Frankly, I never got it . . . the designation, that is. However, Friday the 13th of November this year is truly a Black Friday for France.

We may not all agree with each others' or other countries' politics, but no one, no people or country deserves what happened in Paris on that day.

I have little more to say than my thoughts, prayers and condolences go to the people of France and especially the families and friends of those who lost loved ones through the carnage that occurred that day. That includes at least one American family (so far). Vive la France, God Bless America and God Bless all freedom loving people everywhere. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #236 – The Sandy Hook Lighthouse – 2,500 Miles Removed, Lake Havasu, Arizona, May 2015

Behold, what you are looking at this week is a miniature model of the replica of the Sandy Hook (New Jersey, my home state) Lighthouse which is 15 miles from this location on Lake Havasu and approximately 2,500 miles from the actual, real McCoy on Sandy Hook in New Jersey. Go figure.

So, now I've seen the actual, original Sandy Hook Lighthouse and the model of the replica on the opposite side of the continent. I didn't actually go to see the life size replica. I'll look forward to doing that the next time I'm in Lake Havasu City.

Here is the “Rest of the Story” as Paul Harvey would say. This information is on the plaque to the right of the “monument” of the replica of the original. What? Does any of this make sense? Maybe I should just say . . . “Only in America.”

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week # 235 – Happy 7th Anniversary Day To Me – November 1, 2008

This is a view from the front door and porch of my residence and the world headquarters of Oakhill Press and Oakhill Recordings for nearly six years. I affectionately called it Oakhill Ranch. It was located just outside Winchester, Virginia in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. This day, exactly seven years ago today, was the first day I was no longer residing on Oakhill Ranch and Oakhill Press and Oakhill Recordings were no longer headquartered at this location.

This was, as I sometimes refer to it, my “Emancipation Day.” I had made a decision several months earlier that when the long term lease I had on this property terminated I would not renew and I would leave. This bucolic vista greeted me everyday for most of those six years (except for those days when I was traveling). I have displayed other photos of the house and property in Photo-of-the-Week posts in the past. To be honest, there wasn't any view from the house that I didn't cherish. But, I loved this view from the front probably most of all.

I've been very fortunate and blessed during my lifetime and professional career. I have only worked (and operated my businesses) outside my home at some commercial or similar location for a total of about ten years at the most. The places I've lived and operated my businesses for the other approximately 40 years, have been idyllic. While some may feel I wasn't as financially successful as many entrepreneurs, my quality of life made my life very rich indeed and definitely better than many of the others.

Finally, the day came when it was time for me to make another lifestyle choice. It was with no small amount of anxiety and trepidation that I made the decision and took the action. So, here I am, exactly seven years later with nary a single regret for my decision and looking forward to an even richer future as a location independent individual and entrepreneur.

For anyone who finds himself or herself at a crossroad and place of decision regarding your future, I am in full empathy with you. As the saying goes, “been there, done that.” My simple advice is that you weigh your options, have some idea what you would like your future to look like and then make the decision and take the action. DO NOT become a victim of the “paralysis of analysis.”

Could you make a mistake? Of course! Does that make it the end of the world? Absolutely not! And remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Even if you make a mistake, you will learn something. Mostly, you'll learn more about yourself, who you are and what you are seeking in life. As stated, I have not regretted my choice or decision for a single minute over these seven years.

If you want to talk with someone who has, as I said, been there and done that, contact me. My contact info is here. Ed's Contact Info 

One last note about this photo. It is not a very high definition photo because I took it with the very basic and simple first digital camera I bought to enter the world of digital photography. But, I like the photo and even though it's not one of the higher resolution photos I took in succeeding years with a better camera, it's still a keeper for me.

Live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #234 – A Beautiful Pacific Sunset Every Evening, Manhattan Beach, California, January 2015

This week it's a simple photo. These homes and apartments are overlooking the beach and the Pacific Ocean at Manhattan Beach, California. It's January, so the sun sets around 5:30 PM. It's about 4:00 PM when I took this photo. I've seen Pacific sunsets and I can guarantee, they are breathtaking. But, then again, so are all the other ones I've seen.

I can only imagine what it costs to live in these homes on the beach, but I'm sure everyone who lives here believes whatever it costs is worth it. My friend, Dan has a fantastic view of the Pacific from his home perched high above the Pacific near Santa Barbara, California. I saw a sunset at his home and it was glorious. But, even back east, the sunsets are glorious. My friend Barbara lives on the top floor of an eight story condo on the beach in Sarasota, Florida overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and the Gulf of Mexico. Her view is nothing short of awesomely amazing.

We are blessed to live on this beautiful planet with all that nature and God laid out before us. Some people are able to afford to live in places like these. But, that doesn't mean we all can't enjoy these scenic and glorious sunsets, sunrises and all of nature's other bounties. Don't let life slip by and not do everything to you can to explore these wonders of God and nature. That's one regret I won't have and I hope you won't either.

Live free and be happy. EH

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #233 A Really Big Boat, Cozumel, Mexico, September 2003

Of course, this isn't really a boat, it's a ship. I learned a simple differentiation between a boat and a ship during my younger days when I did some boating with friends. It made it very clear. You can put a boat on a ship, but you can't put a ship on a boat. Works for me.

At any rate, this photo was taken when I took a cruise from New Orleans to Cozumel and back on a Carnival Cruise Line ship, the Holiday. Actually, the ship in the photo is the Fascination. If you look carefully, you'll see another ship right behind it. That was our ship, the Holiday.

The lovely lady who posed so nicely for this shot is my friend, Carol. She and her husband, Brian, are long time, good friends from New Zealand. They were coming to the U.S. and told me to meet them in New Orleans to join them on this cruise in September of 2003. Having never been on a cruise before, at least not on an ocean going ship, I figured – another adventure and something to cross off my life list.

So, here we are, two Kiwi's from down under, one Yank, originally from northern New Jersey, meeting in New Orleans and ending up in Cozumel, Mexico. I wasn't particularly enamored by cruising on a ship that was like a small city. For my liking, there were too many people. A lot of people love these cruises. Personally, I'd like to sail on a much smaller ship with perhaps not more than 50 to 100 people on board. I'm sure we wouldn't have all the amenities, but that's okay since I really didn't use most of the amenities on this ship.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed the snorkeling I did that day off the coast of Cozumel and the visit to the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum. Was it a great experience? Absolutely! And, a good time was had by all. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Photos-of-the-Week #232 Blast From The Past, Gone But Never To Be Forgotten, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, August, 2008

This unassuming building with the antique Chrysler parked out front and the ExecutiveBooks.Com sign is not what one would assume from the outside. It was, in fact, the personal library of my dear, long-time friend, the late Charlie “Tremendous” Jones. I write this in the past tense because Charlie died October 16, 2008. I took these photos on my next to the last visit I had with my friend about two months before he passed away.

As you can see from the other interior photos, this building held a treasure in old and antique books and other memorabilia. There is nothing new in this room. There are no new or current books. There are no new or current recordings. There are no new or current paintings, photos or graphic works. Even the fliers, brochures and booklets on the tables are vintage or antique.

Yes! That is a real, working player piano with a large selection of piano rolls. You can see one threaded in the window on the piano. Over near the windows there is a wax cylinder player. I believe it was an Edison unit. There was a large selection of historic wax cylinders including some important speeches. There was also an old Victrola from the Victor Talking Machine Company with a collection of historic 78 rpm phonograph records.

There was an aura about this room. Over the years I knew Charlie, I had been in the library on several occasions. The building stood adjacent to the guest house Charlie maintained on his small farm in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. For many years during some of the tougher times and the start-up days of his publishing business and his international speaking career, this guest house was his headquarters. The building where the library was housed was the warehouse. Charlie had his personal, private office in the guest house where it remained until his death. Yes! There was a sizable library of books there, too. Some of those were more contemporary. Charlie and I spent many hours in conversation in that comfortable office.

As you look around the library you'll see all kinds of books. Charlie loved books, all books. There were many first editions. He would be speaking to a huge audience and he'd hold up a book and kiss it to get his point across. I don't recall a lot about Charlie's childhood or education. I know he was originally from Alabama. I don't recall if he attended college. He became an insurance salesman for one of the largest U.S. insurance companies at age 22. By age 23 he was winning major sales awards. By 30 he was one of the most successful insurance sales people in the U.S.

This room is the essence of Charlie Jones' love of books, learning and sharing the books and the knowledge gained from them. During his lifetime he published countless books for, at the time, lesser known or unknown authors, several of his own books, supplied millions of books to individuals and businesses and spoke to over 5,000 audiences around the world. To say I cherish these photos and the photos I have with Charlie, is an understatement.

This building still exists. It's now owned, along with the guest house, by one of Charlie's daughters and her husband. I haven't been in either building since the ownership changed. I do know the library, and everything it represented to Charlie, to me and the countless others who visited it, is gone. Charlie had made arrangements to donate all of its contents prior to his death. So, being in that room in the past and now looking at these photos is definitely a “blast from the past” for me. However, while the library is gone, it will never be forgotten, nor will my friend, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones.   

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #231 One Instant In Time, Sparta, North Carolina, August, 2011

That's all it takes to change the course of your life. Just one Instant in time. In this particular instant, actually, a couple nights before I took this photo, I was driving this car. I finally found this particular car and bought it less than a year before in September of 2010. I had already acquired my South Dakota license plates and left as soon as I put them on the car for Rapid City, South Dakota to complete my official residence change and obtain my South Dakota drivers license. This car was destined to be the “toad” (RV slang for the car towed behind a motor home) for the motor home I was shopping for. And, in one instant all my plans changed.

Yes, you're looking at a totaled 2002 Ford Focus that had the low mileage, the exact door, seating and cargo configuration, the five-speed manual transmission, the engine and other features I specifically wanted. It even had a satellite radio receiver installed. It took me two months to find this particular car. I downsized from my 1996 Cadillac Seville STS, one of my favorite cars of all time. I had 256,000 miles on the old Caddy. I bought it with 104,000 miles on the odometer. The Focus was about 8 years old when I bought it and only had a few thousand miles over 50,000 on the odometer. Then . . . 

a kamikaze deer shot out of the darkness of the night and in that instant everything

about my future plans changed. No! I wasn't hurt, just a little stunned. I didn't even make contact with the airbag when it deployed. And, therein, lies the crux of the matter. There was no one in the passenger seat, but both airbags deployed as you can see in this photo.

When the insurance adjuster went over the car, he had to total the car. The actual damage to the front of the car, headlight, grill and windshield were all repairable at nominal expense. It was those two airbags that moved the car into the totaled category. They brought the cost of repairs well over the threshold that made sense for the insurance company.

Obviously, one doesn't plan for an accident, therefore they always happen at an inopportune time. This was no exception. The insurance company had me in a rental car virtually immediately. So, I had wheels. However, due to my schedule and upcoming events, I had absolutely no time to go shopping for a replacement for this vehicle. It took me two months to find this Ford Focus, so I fully expected it to take that much time or possibly longer to find another car matching my precise requirements as the “toad” I had planned this car to be.

Ultimately, by the middle or end of September I had changed my plans. I decided to alter my plans for a motor home and a toad. I decided to find either a Class B or Class B+ van based motor home or a high-top conversion van I could modify myself to use as both a tiny house on wheels and a daily driving vehicle. I looked at a couple vehicles, but ultimately decided on the self modified, high-top conversion van, now known as My McVansion.

The positive outcome is the change in plans saved me from paying insurance on two vehicles, double maintenance, upkeep, operating expense, repairs, depreciation and the cost to modify the “toad” vehicle for towing. The frustration is that I had sold a beautiful high-top conversion van with a slightly larger engine, nicer interior and even lower mileage only about 18 months earlier.

Such is life! Everything can change in an instant. It certainly did for that kamikaze deer. It's “lights” went out permanently in that instant. Of course, I'm very thankful I didn't lose control and roll the car or hit a tree or worse. Ultimately, perhaps, there was a message from the universe in that event. Although, I just think it was a standard dumb deer doing what dumb deer do and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time that night. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Photos-of-the-Week #230 Fish n Chips – Mmmmm! Coos Bay, Oregon, May 2015

I'm not going to deny it, I love food! As a matter of course, since I live a simple, minimal and frugal lifestyle by choice, I enjoy a simple menu with foods I can easily keep and prepare in or outside My McVansion. BUT, I will splurge from time to time when the occasion calls for it. And this occasion called for it.

This order of fish and chips was so good, I almost forgot to stop and take a picture. Those two large pieces in the back of the tray are the remains of several large pieces of deliciously breaded and fried, hand cut fish. I believe she told me they used halibut. The cole slaw was homemade and very fresh. The tartar sauce is also homemade. Unfortunately, as seems to have become the standard, the chips, aka french fries, were of the commercial variety. Had the fries been real, English style, homemade “chips,” the meal would have been perfect. It was still excellent. (Side note: That is ice tea in the Coke Zero cup in the photo, I don't drink most carbonated soft drinks.)

No! I will not deprive myself of some of the great food tastes of our world . . . even if it is fried and I know fried food is “bad” for me. I don't want to be one of the health advocates who eat nothing but the best, organically grown, hand processed, healthy food and one day die . . . of nothing. We're all going to die one day and I aim to enjoy my share of pleasures before I do. So, some food may not be the healthiest and best, but it tastes good, so I'll indulge, guilt free.

This seafood delight is one of the most popular dishes, er, make that baskets, on the menu at the Fishermen's Seafood Market in Coos Bay, Oregon. Maybe I should rephrase that to say “on” the bay at Coos Bay, Oregon. As you can see, the place is actually on a floating dock off the main boardwalk that parallels the Oregon Coast Highway, Rt. 101.

I couldn't have asked for a better day to drive through Coos Bay. The weather was beautiful. The town was vibrant and busy with a three block farmers and outdoor market with a festival atmosphere. I had so many choices of locally grown, raised and prepared foods, including a great looking hot dog stand – yes, I was tempted.

But, I parked a few parking spaces down on the Oregon Coast Highway from the gangplank leading to the Fishermen's Seafood Market. It caught my eye. I asked a couple local people about it and they gave it a hearty thumbs up. So, my choice was made.

It's quite small and it's very simple and quaint inside. As you can see, it is a seafood market with fresh seafood in the case on the left side of the photo. So, you can buy, fresh, local seafood or you can buy prepared meals (notice the menu is small and limited) and take it out, or you can eat in at one of the four tables and chairs in the very small dining area. I, obviously, chose to eat in and enjoy the ambiance.

Now, to be honest, the best fish n chips I've ever had, to date, was still somewhere between Amagansett, New York and Montauk Point, at the eastern tip of Long Island. I'm remembering back about 35 years because my son was about two years old and he's now 37. The place was on the side of the road, near the ocean, probably on a sand dune, if my rememberer is still picturing it, even semi accurately. It was certainly not pretentious.

I was told, and I don't know how accurate this story is either, the place had been established on that spot about 300 years ago when some of the early colonists were making their way to the New World. Maybe that's a wive's (or fish) tale. I do know it was like other, similar, established, family places that had been around for a long time and handed down through generations. I've not been back to that precise area since that time, but the fish n chips are burned in my memory.

So, the bottom line, Fishermen's Seafood Market in Coos Bay, Oregon, Mmmmmm, good. If you're in Coos Bay (and you'd have to, pretty much, go out of your way to be in Coos Bay), do try it. I believe you'll find it worth your time and your taste buds will thank you.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Photos-of-the-Week #229 A Touch of London Town in the Desert, Lake Havasu City, Arizona, April 2015

So, here we are at the London Bridge. Yes! That London. But, No! Not in Merry Old England.

It was in the early 60's when this little wide spot in the Arizona desert across the Colorado River from California became a small town and the site of a unique undertaking. The historic London Bridge from the British city by the same name was purchased from the City of London. It was painstakingly disassembled and each component carefully numbered and shipped to the U.S.

After arriving in Lake Havasu City where preparations had already been made, the London Bridge was reconstructed to its former glory. It was opened to the public in 1971 and remains a unique tourist attraction of this isolated desert city with a current year round population of around 52,500 people. This location has become a very popular spring break destination for thousands of college students each spring. The activities of these students has been the subject of much controversy over the years.

Everything that Lake Havasu City has become, including the acquisition and reconstruction of the London Bridge is the brainchild of Robert P. McCulloch, the man behind the famous McCulloch Chain Saw. He bought the land to create the city, opened three McCulloch manufacturing plants there and provided over 2,700 free flights on his own Lockheed Constellation to bring prospective buyers to visit the fledgling city to purchase lots and begin populating the area.

I find it all pretty remarkable, especially when one takes into consideration that Robert McCulloch died at the early age (by today's standards) of 66.

It's an interesting and pleasant place to visit. However, I would avoid going there during the spring break time, unless you're a voyeur and want to watch a bunch of young people going wild. This was the locale, along with New Orleans, for much of the filming of the somewhat infamous “Girls Gone Wild” video series.

I'd also avoid visiting during the late spring, summer and early fall months when the temperatures easily top out between the high 90's and the record high of 128 degrees. during the day. The nights are cooler during that time, but seldom below the mid 80's and often upwards of 94 degrees.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #228 Sunset over Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, January 2015

What can I say? I just love sunrises and sunsets and here's another example of a majestic sunset. I took this photo from one of the highest points in Los Angeles' Griffith Park, just below the Griffith Observatory. This was early evening, probably around 6:05 PM on January 8, 2015 to be precise.

There's not much to say about this photo. I think it speaks for itself. Nature projects its majesty even over a huge city and metropolitan area like Los Angeles. This view is, of course, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, which is not visible in the picture due to the buildings.

If you look carefully, you can see a blimp in the picture. I don't know if it was the Goodyear Blimp or some other advertiser's blimp, it was too far away to tell. But, I can honestly say it's been a while since I've seen a blimp. And, I can just imagine the view of the sunset over the Pacific from that blimp. Oh Yeah!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #227 You Don't See This Everyday, LaVale, Maryland, September 2013

LaVale, Maryland is a suburb of Cumberland, Maryland in what's known as the "panhandle" in the western part of the state. It's about 22 miles north of my West Virginia base camp. As you can tell from the photos, this is the parking lot at the Walmart Supercenter and these are vehicles you won't see everyday.

I was in the LaVale (also spelled Lavale and La Vale, I can't be sure which is the most accepted) Walmart picking up some items for My McVansion that were not in stock in the New Creek, West Virginia store. When I came out to the parking lot, there was this unusual tow car and teardrop trailer. 

Obviously, the car was an antique and had been nicely restored. It reminded me of the old black and white, cops and robbers movies from the 1930's that either the police drove or the mobsters drove. Probably both when you think about it. The trailer appeared to be a homemade teardrop trailer. It looked to be built very sturdy, but it just didn't quite have that commercial "finish" to it.

I snapped a few photos and waited a short time to see if the owner(s) could fill me in on both vehicles. Alas, I couldn't wait all that long and they didn't return, so I never met the owners or had an opportunity to learn more about this RV arrangement one won't see everyday. It's just another example of the originality, uniqueness and individuality of the mobile lifestyle. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #226 Security With Style, Charleston, South Carolina, December 2004

There are bars and there are bars. No, I'm not talking about places you imbibe adult beverages or the kind you find in correctional institutions. I'm talking about the kind homes and businesses install on their windows and doors to keep the occupants of the house or business safe and secure from theft and physical harm. And who would perpetrate such theft and physical harm? They are the individuals who may patronize the bars where one imbibes alcoholic beverages and who often end up behind the bars in the correctional institutions.

Charleston, South Carolina is a city with a long history, including being recognized as the location of the start of the U.S. Civil War. It's a city of considerable charm. Many parts of the city feature homes and commercial areas dating back well over a hundred years and in many cases over three hundred years. There is an elegance in this city reminiscent of the "Old South." The wrought iron stylized bars on this window are indicative of the Old South and that elegance.

No plain bars on my windows, please. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #225 New York From The New Jersey Palisades, Northern New Jersey, October 2013

This photo is self-explanatory. During the second of my two New Jersey 2013 treks, this one in October, I was again retracing many of the "footsteps" of my youthful days growing up in Northern New Jersey. The actual purpose for this trek was to attend a wedding on the eastern end of Long Island. I had completed that part of the journey just before I was back in Jersey and cruising up along the Palisades (fairly sheer cliffs on the northern New Jersey side of the Hudson River).

As the sign indicates one can see a lot from this overlook on the edge of the Palisades. While I was only about 15 miles from where I lived in Clifton, New Jersey as a kid, I didn't get to this specific overlook very often back then. I did spend more time a few miles further south in the Fort Lee and Palisades Park area of the Palisades with the summer job I had during the summer breaks while attending college.

You can tell by the fall colors that this was definitely that time of year. Despite the fact this region is one of the most densely populated parts of the U.S., there is still a lot of wooded area. Some of the views along the Palisades are spectacular during the fall.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Inverter Reports: Thor TH400 and Bestek MRI10011

I have been buying and using all kinds of equipment, accessories and devices for my personal use in technology and in equipping my van, aka My McVansion, as an on the road, mobile tiny house. I've generally researched the items before making my purchases and, so far, I've made, what I would say are, excellent choices. It's time for me to share these items with you.

I have purchased two inverters for my van as seen in this photo. The inverters are mounted on a piece of plywood that covers my 8D8A 245 AH, sealed gel cell house battery. They are located in the storage area under my bunk. Both inverters came from Amazon after researching for best value and reliability.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Photos-of-the-Week #224 - Scenes From The Past, Asbury Park Palace Casino & Laingdon Hotel, Asbury Park & Ocean Grove, New Jersey, June 2014

Some things seem to pass the test of time like the Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall of China and a city like Venice, Italy. The U.S. isn't near as old as these other examples, but there are still some places that have that certain historic aura. Parts of the Jersey Shore are like that. For readers who are not from New Jersey, the Jersey Shore is the name used for at least a century for  the entire 141 mile New Jersey Atlantic Coast. You may also hear the phrase "down the shore" commonly used by those who frequent this major eastern resort area. And, yes, there was a cable TV show titled "Jersey Shore." Three guesses what it was about.

The photo above is what remains of the historic Asbury Park Palace Casino. To the very right edge of the photo you can see just a small portion of what was known as the Carousel Building where an historic merry-go-round resided for decades from the time it was originally built. The structure, or what remains of it, except for the part of the complex that extended out onto the beach and has been demolished, is undergoing restoration.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Photos-of-the-Week #223: Sweet Memories--Fall On The Ranch, Winchester, Virginia, October, 2008

Today's photos are about reminiscing. It's just nice to be able to stop, relax and recall some wonderful past memories. This is a photo I shot along the front fence line looking north with the early morning sunrise to my right and the long, relaxed shadows. It's obviously the fall of the year with the resplendent colors Mother Nature reveals during this season as the northern hemisphere prepares for the coming winter and its muted tones.

The ranch provided so many awesome Kodak moments. The rolling pastures, the stark black fences, the beautiful forested areas, lots of different kinds of wildlife and birds including eagles and hawks. Of course, the horses in the pastures were a subject unto themselves. They are not pictured in this photo.

This photo is the old ranch house with the morning sun lighting it up. This was during my last month living on the ranch, so it's particularly poignant. If you look closely, you'll see "stuff" on the porch I was eliminating through "moving sales" during this period. I have so many fond memories of standing (and sitting) on this porch in the early morning. It was glorious and the view was mine, all mine, for about six years of my life.

I also have fond memories of sitting on this porch in the evening as the sun was setting. The house faced east, so the sunset was behind the house and it was all wooded back there, so I didn't get to see the actual sunsets. But, Nature was kind and usually reflected the beautiful colors, albeit a bit more muted, in the front of the house.

Especially pleasant times were discussing any topic, typically, not earth shaking, with my buddy from our Air Force days, sitting on the porch in the evening and sipping a glass of 16 year old, single malt Scotch. Those were grand days. Dave and I speak of those days from time to time and how we miss them.

But, this is not the only beautiful place I've experienced, so, while it's nice to stop and reminisce once in a while, I look forward and onward to more awesome vistas.  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #222 -- Saved by a Song, Winslow, Arizona, June 2010

Here I am, "Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona" on the legendary road from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California, Route 66. As you can see, Route 66 runs through the Main Street, downtown area of Winslow.

Most people of an age remember Nat 'King' Cole's timeless hit song, "Get Your Kicks On Route 66." Cole did his 1946 version of the song the year it was written by Bobby Troup. It may be the most remembered version of the song. Troup's wife, Cynthia, actually came up with the title of the song based on a trip she and her husband took from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles. The song has been recorded by scores of artists and groups since then including The Rolling Stones. The highway even had its own TV drama from 1960 to 1964, titled "Route 66" starring Martin Milner for the entire series and George Maharis for the first three years and Glenn Corbett for the final year.

Yet, despite the fact that Route 66 goes right through Winslow, there was no mention of the small town in the song lyrics. Also, not one episode of the 116 shows from the Route 66 TV series was ever filmed in Winslow. Shows were shot on location all over the U.S. The majority of the shows were filmed in towns and cities I've been in during my life. Many of those cities were hundreds or even a thousand or more miles from Route 66. Winslow just didn't seem to have the appeal of Flagstaff or Kingman.

Then, along comes a group of troubadours by the name of the Eagles. Glenn Frey, one of the founders of the group, co-wrote a song with Jackson Browne titled, "Take It Easy." Browne started writing the song for himself, but couldn't come up with a second verse that worked. Frey liked what he heard and saw and convinced Browne to let him finish the song. The rest is history. "Take It Easy" became the Eagle's first hit single. And, though the name Winslow, Arizona is only mentioned one time in the second verse of the song, it has immortalized this little town that has all but been bypassed in time by Interstate 40.

So, what happens when you write a song with a name of a small Arizona town in the lyrics? First, a park is built in the center of the tiny town immortalizing "Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona." A life sized bronze statue by sculptor Ron Adamson, is erected to immortalize the song's singer, Glenn Frey. A brick wall is erected with a trompe l'oeil mural by artist John Pugh, depicting the scene of standing on the corner when a flatbed Ford driven by a blonde girl drives by, reflected in the window of the storefront in the mural. And tourist trap stores capitalize on the name along with all kinds of knick-knacks, memorabilia, tee shirts, etc. spring up and this is the main thing . . . thousands of tourists flock to the little town each year to "Stand on the Corner" in front of the mural and next to the stature of Glenn Frey while their photo is snapped. It doesn't hurt that the huge Route 66 U.S. Highway shield is painted in the middle of the road at that particular intersection.

I'm sure Jackson Browne, Glenn Fry and the rest of the Eagles had no idea the impact that one line in a light rock song would have and, quite likely saved the small town of Winslow, Arizona. It's just another of the interesting things one learns when living free and traveling this country (or the world). 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #221 A "Sign" of the Times . . . or at least of A Time, Boca Grande, Florida, January 2014

Simple photo this week. I found this sign at Whidden's Marina in Boca Grande, Florida on Gasparilla Island off the southwest coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. It's near Port Charlotte.

Is the sign for real or just a hoax? I don't know. It caught my eye and gave me a feeling of a much earlier time in this laid back island community. Whidden's Marina is on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to this other sign near where we parked our car (my friend, Tommy Head, from Port Charlotte brought me out to the island to visit this quaint little town), the marina has been in operation since 1925. That's 90 years and counting.

I have to say, the structure appears to be the original 1925 building and may have actually been the 'Sity Hall' back then. They've done a great job of maintaining the appearance of a building that's been around and actively used since 1925. A coat of paint would definitely destroy its state of senescence.

There is also a beautiful, stately, old resort hotel on the island, The Gasparilla Inn, but that will be the subject of another Photo-of-the-Week article some time in the future.