Saturday, June 28, 2014

Small Adventures with Little People

Franklin Institute .....Wandering through the Brain

We haven't spent near enough time in the city of Brotherly Love, but we seldom miss a chance to visit Anthony's favorite Place --The Franklin Institute. 

 Since Anthony was five, he has been seamlessly guiding grandparents to the really cool stuff.  "Up here.  You can crawl through the heart.."  

This time the "BRAIN" exhibit was open and promised more aerobic excercise for Meme and other "Cool Stuff".

The exhibits were first rate and tested us in so many ways.  We learned that "multitasking" is a myth. Doing two things at once practically guarantees doing two things poorly.  At lunch we tried out new knowledge about navigating.  We learned that women normally navigate by landmarks while men tend to use cardinal directions. 

BIG HE: How do we get back to the institute?  

SHE:  Walk back that way,
          turn at the bicycle with green tires,
then past the book shop,

past the stand where they are frying onions... 

LITTLE HE: ...and then...and then, you walk over to the fountain and you can see it from there! 


A (Hopefully) Unreported Incident

When a guy is seven and not too far from training wheels it's hard to get in solid mileage on your bike and prepare for a REAL bike ride, like on a Rail/Trail.  Meme and Papa go on Rail/Trails and send back bloggy pictures.  So, we all went down to the trail behind the Fire Station.  Papa rode over on his bike (four miles). Me and Meme brought ours in the Yukon.

  I rode faster, so I got way ahead.  Then came the "soft spot".  It stopped me the first time and the second time I was going "speed demon fast" and WIPED OUT! 

 I DIDN'T Cry (even a little) and Papa had a huge bandage for my knee.  He said that if I rode a lot I probably wouldn't fall. He can't remember the last time he fell.

Then I rode more.  Papa said to ride around the soft spot on the grass, and I did.  It worked.  Papa was so proud that he forgot to miss the soft spot and when he saw it, HE CRASHED.   He said he was OK and we should keep going, so we did.  He sat on the bench. I think he cried. Then we had ice cream.  I got Mango Ice, which everybody said was the best.  

I wanted to ride some more, so we did.  I rode four miles, which Meme says is a great start. Papa missed a couple laps, but he rode home really fast.  About the crashes, Meme says "We will never speak of this again."  She says that a lot.

The Grounds for Sculpture

I'm not experienced enough to know how the The Grounds for Sculpture ranks among the world's great exhibits, but I do know that it never fails to delight. Our little people are always ready to wander the park like grounds and wonder again.  When fifteen year old Cassie flew it, we knew that we would probably cover all the "secret places", reprise all the old gags, and probably be awestruck at least once or twice. If you are serious about ART, you may want to pass on this entry, but you would miss a lot.

It's a very welcoming place.  You learn right away that this is the home studio (Atelier) for Steward Johnson whose realistic "people" have made you do double takes all over the world.

All through the grounds, in the open and tucked away, you discover little vignettes.

Your interaction with the art work is optional, but not discouraged.

We decided these New Jersey folks know NOTHING about Barbeque!

Down a gated path, along  stepping stones and across a little rivulet, three young boys are discovered... with a centerfold.

There is (always) at least one great story.  Mr Johnson has a bronze of a well dressed man sitting and checking the contents of his briefcase.  It is called "Double Check'' and was placed near the front of the Merrill Lynch offices at the twin towers.  When the towers tragically came down, "Double Check" was unmoved, but nearly innundated with the paper blizzard that issued from the towers. In the early rescue efforts, more than one first responder thought the statue was a dust covered victim in shock.  Johnson was told it was the only laugh in a long, long day.

This is a representation of that initial chaos.

Over the weeks of debris removal, the statue was never moved, but remained blockaded behind fences.  It became a sort of shrine for the workers.  When Johnson visited the site, "Double Check" was festooned with dead flowers, wore an FBI hardhat,  with badges, crosses and other memorabilia crowding around. The new Bronze he created faithfully represents the original as he found it. It is the only exhibit in the new Hall which  honors Mr Johnson and his wife.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Aristophanes: A tale of big adventures deffered and little adventures multiplying

Shuttling down 1000 miles of highway to visit our Grand Boy has been a regular pattern in our retirement.  It has been a JOY --  never the task that Al opines with rolling eyes..."Every SIX Weeks!".  He looks forward to watching the non-stop giggling as much as Granny Patty.  Through the years we have found many amusements along I-81 corridor -- hiking and fishing in the Shenandoah , sightseeing, and making every effort to enjoy all the bike trails nearby.  But this Spring we have been too long tethered in the Deep South.  It was clear we would appear in Jersey as soon as said Grand Boy was released from school; what was in question  was whether there would be adequate "play time" en route.  Al has taken to printing full page calendars, printing out West Virginia maps and quoting Aristophanes.

"Why, I'd like nothing better than to achieve some bold adventure, worthy of our trip."


   Really, Aristophanes said that; actually both of them did -- repeatedly -- until Patty agreed to "return to those thrilling days of yesteryear"  and maybe ride an end-to-end on the beautiful Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia.

Alas, time and West Virginia geography was against us, but we made the best of it with lesser adventures. 

 Towing 400 mile days is an adventure isn't it?

First night found us in a favorite campground -- Wilderness Road CG in Cumberland Gap National Park.  This is "Five Star" for a National Park with hot showers, electricity and the expected world class visitor center, hiking trails, and an bike trail connecting it with Wilderness Road State Park links here to our earlier visit to Cumberland Gap NP.  Look around there are several posts.

We biked in the early morning through a cool leafy tunnel.  The views to the North are the ramparts of Cumberland Mountain, which makes the Blue Ridge feel like a stroll in the Park.  No wonder the path of westward expansion held here for a long while! 

 The movies at both the National Park and State park are excellent.  We watched all three again in awe. 

 The recreation of Martin's Station was one of the most meticulously accurate of any in the country.  This is just one of the outlying cabins; the fortified Station is a real treat.  Go in cool weather and take time to talk to all the costumed staff  at length.  It's an education.

And, of course, we visited the Bison, remnants of the great herds that first traversed the Cumberland Gap to the Bluegrass of Kentucky beyond. 

Next morning we launched early with no clear destination in mind, but late afternoon found us at Mathews Arm CG in Shenandoah NP.  We are first timers here.  The sites are paved, branching from a long oval that extends well up the "Arm." We are off the crest here, so it was windless and a tad "gnaty" at set up time, but only a bother when you are bent over fiddling with something iron.  Otherwise, you have an arm free and other campers think that's a friendly wave... The long traffic free drive along the Skyline Drive in late afternoon was worth the price.

We had never seen the Overall Falls which is nearby and flowing well after the Spring rains. Ranger Chancey demystified the directions which variously claim 3.1 miles round trip to 5.1.   It was mid-morning as we headed down. (Oh Yes, nearly all the hiking and fishing in Shenandoah starts DOWNHILL.) 

Al with his usual question. Wonder what happened here?


The trail threads through gaps in downed Chestnut logs, still sound after a century, to an overlook at the 39 foot falls.  Lots of cascades follow until the breeze from the Shenandoah Valley below cools us and we watch as the slender thread of water falls 90 feet and continues on to the River far out in the valley below. 


We lingered quite a while chatting with the only other hiker we met.  We gave him a head start back, hoping to get a glimpse at the Black Bear he sighted on the way in.  Then the drizzle began. We expected it and reveled in it.  Besides, Patty always picks up the pace in the rain. (I once watched her pull a long grade at 16MPH with full panniers when the lightning was popping around our heads.)  And of course the hike out is always quicker.  We sealed up the camera gear when the thunder in the distance became the downpour down our necks.  I chatted about early signs of Hypothermia, and what steps we would take to achieve temperature stability once back at the Airstream.  We marveled that in nearly 700 nights of Airstreaming this would be the First time we returned like Drowned Rats. 

 "It is going to be SO much better than returning to a mountain tent." 

 "..So, So much better than trying to put one up in the rain..."

"... and the water heater... and a shower...."

Thus, totally bliss-ed out, we ignored the squall, continued the hike,  executed the plan and emerged from the Airstream an hour or so later to hang out our sodden gear in the emerging sunlight.  We basked and read a little and wondered where we might be along the Greenbrier...


Next morning, our final leg to Grandson land at "Gingerport" in New Jersey started with 25 miles of Foggy Skyline Drive.  Marvels were reveled and quickly disappeared. Wildlife and Kamakasi bikers and a young Mennonite brother sprinting uphill away from a motor home in full Old Order clothing.  There was a story there, but better left in the mist.  The rest of the day on I-81 and the Penn Turnpike was an adventure of a wholly different kind.