Valley Forge

It wasn’t REALLY on the way home exactly, but close enough. I made Rob take us to Valley Forge after we saw Nine Inch Nails in Atlantic City. He didn’t mind.

I had been to Valley Forge once before, on a junior high school field trip. Can’t say I remember much, though.

It was a dreary November day but the fall colors were out. We drove around to a lot of the stops on the driving tour. The National Memorial Arch (seen here), a covered bridge in the park, some of the old quarters. Washington’s Headquarters was closed, unfortunately. Looks like I will have to go back again.

History of the area: This is where the Continental Army under George Washington spent the winter of 1778. Conditions were horrible and the army was poorly trained and equipped. Prussian officer Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was brought in to remedy the training part and he succeeded in turning our boys into a force with a fighting chance.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge Day 2

Sandy Hook Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by etacar11

What did I learn from doing the NJ Lighthouse Challenge? Climbing lighthouses = great cardio! In fact, my legs are still sore. The weather was a little bit better on Sunday than on Saturday, much more sunny. But it was still chilly and windy. We only had four lighthouses left, so it was a much shorter day than the first day.

Our first stop was the Twin Lights of Navesink, a two-towered structure that sits on the Highlands overlooking New York Bay. I climbed one of the towers (they aren’t very high); there are good views of New York City. Interesting historical note: Marconi sent the first wireless messages from the site in 1899.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse is just a few miles from Navesink and was the logical second stop. It was built in 1764 on a tiny strip of land several miles long stretching out into the Atlantic (a serious navigational hazard for those entering New York Harbor). The Americans tried to destroy the lighthouse during the Revolution, to keep it out of enemy hands, but they failed and the original light still stands today. Amazing. The view from the top had even better views of New York City than Navesink did.

Next was Sea Girt Lighthouse, further south down the coast. It’s a beautiful redbrick Victorian building. Very windy, just across from the beach. Mom and Dad managed the easy climb up the tower. There was a long line and a narrow ladder but they did just fine.

The final lighthouse was Barnegat, on Long Beach Island. It’s a tall, red and white structure but I wasn’t able to climb it, unfortunately, due to the high winds (they had closed it). I was disappointed. I guess I’ll have to go back someday. Our actual last stop on the challenge was the Barnegat Light Historical Museum, where the original Barnegat first-order Fresnel lens is housed. We got our challenge completion cards and they even gave us a special card for doing the Long Island Challenge too, though the card actually said New Jersey and Maryland. Oh well, the thought is all that counts, I guess.

So my second challenge was fun. My sights are set on the Maryland one next September.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge Day 1

East Point Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by etacar11

My parents and I did the Long Island Lighthouse Challenge last May. We enjoyed it immensely, except for the horrific traffic getting to and from Long Island. We missed the Maryland one due to me being in Philadelphia at the time. This weekend we’re doing the New Jersey Challenge.

Our first stop was Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse in Paulsboro, on the Delaware River across from Philadelphia. It’s a steel tower light and one of the volunteers explained how it’s used by pilots in the river in conjunction with a forward range light to stay in the center of the channel. The top of the tower gave a great view of Philadelphia, including the airport.

The second lighthouse, Finns Point Range Lighthouse in Pennsville, is also a steel tower, almost identical in appearance to Tinicum. It’s a part of the Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and used to guide ships between the Delaware Bay and River.

East Point Lighthouse in Heislerville on Delaware Bay was our third stop. My mom and I were going to take the tour and go to the top (it’s not very tall), but the line was long and didn’t seem to be moving. We gave up, since we were behind where we wanted to be at the time, and left.

Next was Cape May Lighthouse. It was a good climb, although I of course had to do it myself, since my parents are getting on. I think my parents had been to it before, since they have vacationed in Cape May in the past. It’s a nice little town, I wouldn’t mind visiting it again and spending more time. There’s a nice beach near the lighthouse, which is in a state park. The next stop was not a lighthouse at all, but Cape May County Historical Museum in Cape May Court House. The reason? They have the first-order Fresnel lens from the Cape May Lighthouse. Those first-order lenses are humongous…

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse was the next stop, in North Wildwood. It’s a Victorian style lighthouse and looks very similar to Point Fermin Lighthouse, which we visited in July in San Pedro, CA. Wildwood was pretty sparse of people, but there were hardly any parking spots around Hereford Inlet. All the lighthouse goers were clogging up the place!

Late afternoon took us to Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City. Man, it is a bitch to get there! The traffic in that town is awful. I’m returning to Atlantic City in a couple of weeks for another Nine Inch Nails show but I definitely don’t like the looks of the place. It’s the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey. I took the climb in stages.

We considered ending the day after Absecon, but since the next lighthouse, Tucker’s Island in Tuckerton, was open for night climbs, we decided to cross it off our list before heading to our Saturday night hotel. It’s located in one of those “historic” seaports. Can’t speak to the quality of that, since it was dark. But it was interesting to see one of the lighthouses outside of normal hours.

It looked to be a chilly, but sunny, day at the beginning but it clouded up and even rained a little. Hopefully tomorrow will be an improvement.

Posted in Photography, Travel | 3 Comments

Trying this again: Philly and more…

Philadelphia City Hall
Originally uploaded by etacar11

Ok, hopefully Flickr will like my new blog better.

I visited Philadelphia again in September, just a couple of weeks after going there for the Nine Inch Nails concert. What can I say, I can’t get enough of the place. This time it was for the MEETin Celebration. I was staying just a few blocks from City Hall, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. It was a fun three days. The highlights included visiting the Barnes Foundation, a great museum full of impressionist paintings; and running through the haunted house at Eastern State Penitentiary.

The day after I returned from Philly, I had to go on a business trip to the New Orleans area. I hadn’t been down there since 1991. I didn’t have much chance to sightsee but we (me and some of the other attendees of the meeting I was at) did take an evening to visit Bourbon Street. It was fun, but kinda gross considering that it seems like every other place on that street is a strip club. If I get sent down there again, I’ll have to take a couple of days and see the real sights of the city.

Tomorrow, my parents and I are doing our second lighthouse challenge, the New Jersey one. Last May we did the one on Long Island. Maryland’s unfortunately was during my trip to Philly. Maybe next year.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

The death of this blog

I discovered last night that Flickr stopped allowing me to post photos to this blog.  I’m not sure exactly why this happened.  I erased the link in my Flickr account and tried to re-add it.  Didn’t work.  It kept claiming that my username and password were invalid.  This despite the fact that I can obviously log in to the blog itself with them.

I started suspecting that it might have something to do with the fact that this site uses WordPress 2.0.2.  The latest version of WordPress is 2.6.  So, I tried to upgrade.  Well, that didn’t work.  Must be too many intermediate versions…things are hinky.  Luckily, I backed up the old version files and was able to reinstall them.  But, of course, that didn’t solve the original problem: not being able to post photos from Flickr.

The only solution I’ve been able to come up with is starting another blog.  So that’s what I’ve done.  It’s not completely set up yet, but I’m working on it.  All new posts will go there.  If I can figure out a way to migrate all the old posts here to the new blog, I will.  I might have to ask around on some WordPress forums.  We’ll see…

Posted in Web | Leave a comment

Hello new blog!

Yeah, I’ve got to pay attention to updating my WordPress software or my blog will die.

Posted in This blog | 1 Comment

In Philly for the Greatest Show Ever

Rittenhouse Square pigeon

Originally uploaded by etacar11

Ok, the pigeon is just a random photo I took in Rittenhouse Square. I didn’t smuggle a camera into the Nine Inch Nails show at Wachovia Center. I should have; the security chick barely glanced in my bag. On the other hand, fiddling with a camera might have detracted from my enjoyment of the concert.  If and when the band posts some shots of the show on their Flickr page, I will post one here.

The day didn’t have an auspicious start: Rob’s car wouldn’t start (we later found out that he had been given the wrong type of battery two weeks prior) so we were delayed in getting to the train station.  Then we got caught in a massive traffic jam on I-95.  We were forced to call Amtrak and change our tickets to the next train.  No way we would have made our original one.  But once on the train everything went smoothly and we got to Philadelphia around 10am.

We bummed around for the afternoon, walked over to Rittenhouse Square and down to the Schuylkill River.  It was drizzly and not that nice a day but whatever.  I didn’t care!

The Wachovia Center was an easy shot down the Broad St. subway line.  Our seats turned out to be great, five rows up from the floor of the arena, on the left side of the stage.  It took a while for the place to fill up, but I think it was pretty near capacity by the time NIN came on.  I was pleasantly surprised (and I think the feeling was shared by many there) by the opening band, a bunch of trippy English dudes called Does It Offend You, Yeah?  I didn’t expect much from them, but they turned out to be pretty cool and worthy of a closer look.

I had only seen Nine Inch Nails live once prior, in 1994 at the Universal Amphitheater in LA.  I was in college at the time and NIN had just broken big with the Downward Spiral album.  During the Fragility tour in 2000, I was living in Hawaii and few bands ever play over there.  NIN wasn’t one of the few.  In 2005, I was living in New York City when they played two shows there.  I tried to get tickets for both and failed each time.  That left me quite angry and resentful.  But I’m over that now…

The show we saw last Friday night, the show Nine Inch Nails is playing every night on the Lights in the Sky tour, is simply the greatest show ever.  Ok, maybe I exaggerate but it’s definitely the best show I’ve ever seen, hands down.  The music itself was amazing enough.  And it would have been a great show with just that.  It was the lightshow that really made the night.  What they did is really hard to describe, mainly because I don’t know how any of it works.  But I can say there were at times screens in front of and behind the band.  Sometimes opaque, sometimes transparent.  Lots and lots of stuff going on throughout the show.  Damn, words just fail to convey how cool it was.  Trent Reznor sounded amazing.  You’d never know he’s had some throat/voice issues on this tour that led to the postponement of two earlier shows.  His speaking voice did sound a little off, that was the only hint.  Did I mention he had the magical power to control what the screens were showing, just with touch?  AWESOME.

Anyway, two hours of visual coolness and lots of great songs from the NIN catalog.  I hated to see it end.  Now I’m trying to figure out how to see it again.  There’s no DC date on the upcoming Fall leg of the tour.  The closest is in Charlottesville, VA.  A little farther than I am willing to drive but maybe (fingers crossed) a DC date will be announced later.  Please, please, please!

Posted in Music, Travel | Leave a comment


I only spent about two days in Minneapolis this past weekend, so I didn’t get to see much. The purpose of the trip was to see my grad school friend Yan get married. I didn’t want to use up too many vacation days so I flew in on Friday and left Sunday (the wedding was Saturday).

My Magellan GPS, bought just before the trip, performed admirably.  It took a few minutes to update once I left the airport rental car garage, but once it did, I got to the hotel with no problems whatsoever.  I can’t imagine traveling without one of these now.  Oh, and Hertz gave me a Mustang!

I think I was the only one at the wedding who stayed at the Holiday Inn Express.  I have to say, it was not bad at all.  A king-size bed, couch, coffee table, free wi-fi, free breakfast, exercise room.  The people staying at the Doubletree didn’t have all that and the Doubletree is a supposedly “better” hotel.  Yeah, right.

There was only time to do one sightseeing destination on Saturday morning/afternoon (the wedding was in the evening).  So my friend Don and I went to the Mall of America.  Just to say we’d been there.  There’s an amusement park in the center of the damned thing, so that’s where we made a beeline for.  One log flume and two rollercoasters later, I felt a little queasy and wondered if I was getting too old for that stuff.  Maybe it was just the environment shift from traveling or jet lag.  Hopefully.

The wedding of Yan and Sonia was very simple and informal.  Very sweet.  It was in an oak grove a short hike from the park pavilion where we had the dinner afterward. Since Yan is a vegan, let’s just say the food wasn’t to my taste.  But I tried to try everything.  Leftovers from dinner the night before (my room had a fridge and microwave too!) helped when it was over.

My GPS dutifully got me back to the airport on Sunday.  There was lots more in Minneapolis I wish I could have seen.  Another time…

Posted in Travel | Leave a comment

California, Part 3

Point Fermin Lighthouse
Originally uploaded by etacar11

It’s been about a week since we got back from California and I’ve been meaning to post on the last part of our time there.

Thursday, July 24th, was my brother’s 39th birthday. We visited his grave at Westminster Memorial Park and released balloons while singing Happy Birthday. My parents have done this every year since his death, but it was my first time being there. It was a nice thing to do for him, though I had trouble singing. I miss him so much, every day.

That afternoon, my mom and I sat on the beach for a while, several blocks north of the Huntington Beach pier.  It was a bit windy and we watched two men doing something called “kitesurfing.” It’s an extreme sport involving (not surprisingly) kites and surfing.  It looked very difficult and dangerous.  But those guys seemed to be having no trouble at all.

On Friday, we drove up to Palos Verdes to visit my dad’s old boss from when he worked in Seal Beach in the ’70’s, Bill and his wife Maureen. We went to their house lots of times when I was growing up, though we hadn’t been there in many years.  It’s a very beautiful area on a peninsula overlooking the Pacific and the hills are literally “rolling.”  One of the roads we used is quite bumpy due to the constant shifting of the land.  At one point, years ago, I think Bill and Maureen and their neighbors feared their entire neighborhood would slide into the ocean.

After a nice lunch at Bill and Maureen’s, we visited Point Fermin Lighthouse in San Pedro, as seen above.  It’s basically a very fancy Victorian house with a light on top.  It stands on the tip of the peninsula marking the entrance to Los Angeles Harbor.  The inside is only viewable by tour, so we went on one.  It houses related artifacts and period furniture.  My mom thought the guide was a bit of a dweeb (didn’t know much in her opinion) but we got to look out of the tower and were able to view Angel’s Gate Lighthouse, which is at the end of a long breakwater in the harbor itself.  Apparently you CAN walk out to that one, but doing so risks arrest.

On Saturday my parents indulged me by devoting the day completely to visiting places I wanted to go to.  We drove down to Mission San Juan Capistrano, the “Jewel of the California Missions” and, I think, the most famous historical site in Orange County.  The grounds of the old mission were filled with lovely gardens.  Beautiful flowers.  I don’t know much about California’s history (I never went to school there) but the ruins of the old Church and the cemetery were interesting.  The famous swallows return to the Mission in March, so we didn’t see anything of them, beyond a few displays.  Oh well, some other time.

We decided it would be nicer to return to Huntington Beach via Pacific Coast Highway, instead of the freeway.  This was convenient because it took us right past one of the museums I wanted to visit, the Laguna Art Museum.  My parents didn’t care about going so they walked around Laguna Beach while I went to the museum.  It was small and compact, so I saw everything in a short amount of time.  The current special exhibition, In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor, was…strange and disturbing, although the imagery wasn’t all that shocking to me, considering that a lot of the music I listen to uses it.  I really came to the museum to see the works of the California Impressionists and they had some nice ones on display.  So I was satisfied.

The drive up PCH took us past the hospital where my siblings and I were born, Hoag Memorial in Newport Beach.   That was a little on the strange side.  My parents, of course, were constantly pointing out “new” stuff along the road, stuff that wasn’t there thirty years ago.

Sunday, July 27th, was our final full day in California.  It was also the day of the Huntington Beach High School alumni picnic, one of the main reasons for our trip.  Since I never went to anything but pre-school in H.B., I had no interest in the picnic whatsoever.  So I contented myself to walking around downtown.  I walked out on the pier again, caught a glimpse of the U.S. Open of Surfing.  I also walked down to the “Ultimate Challenge” statue, at the intersection of PCH and Huntington St.  It’s a bronze statue of a surfer catching a wave.  Nude.  My mom said that part made for a lot of controversy when it was unveiled in the 70’s.  Ultimately, even with lunch, I couldn’t waste enough time wandering, so I was forced to help man the t-shirt table at the picnic with my aunt.  It wasn’t all that bad, I guess.

It was a good trip.  I fear I’m starting to seriously consider moving back out there.  But not for a couple of years, I think…

Posted in Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

California, Part 2

Bolsa Chica – Great Egret

Originally uploaded by etacar11

We left Huntington Beach on Monday and drove out into the desert. First we visited my dad’s sister-in-law, Elsie, in Yucca Valley. She’s in her eighties, a bit frail but mentally as sharp as anyone her age could hope to be. We took her out to lunch. Then we headed over to Indio to see one of my dad’s closest friends from childhood, Lester, and his wife. We spent the night at their house. Geez, I’ve been reminded on this trip that older folks spend a lot of time talking about their ailments, their friends’ and family’s ailments, and all the people they know who’ve recently died. But I suppose we all get that way as we get older…

On the way back on Tuesday, we stopped at these old dinosaur statues near Cabazon (?) that my mom says have been there forever.  She said they were the landmark that let you know you were officially entering the desert.  They had a little gift shop and I was sickened and disgusted to find that it was full of creationist garbage.  I told my mom not to buy anything and went to wait outside.  I hope she took my advice.

Closer to LA, we stopped for lunch at a hamburger place in Anaheim Hills called Knowlwood. They claim to serve the world’s best hamburgers.  Apparently, we used to stop there on our way up to vacations in the mountains.  I don’t really remember it, but it’s fun to hear my parents talk about these things.

Today, Wednesday, we drove up to Long Beach to have lunch with some other friends of my parents, Art and Harlean.  Their family was often with us on those mountain vacations.  On the way back, we went to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.  I’ve been interested in visiting it for a long time, after seeing lots of pics online that people have taken of all the birds there.  We had a nice walk on the trails and saw some egrets (as evidenced here) and some terns.

Tomorrow is my brother’s birthday and we will visit him at the cemetery, to remember and celebrate his life.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Leave a comment