Category: Places

Goodbye Graysville

Posted by – June 26, 2014

Well, after seven weeks working tornado response in the City of Graysville we are finally saying “Goodbye” and moving on.  There’s been a lot of progress made here since the April 28th tornadoes and soon you will be better than new.

I’ve worked with a great team here and the residents have been so friendly.  The only way I could have felt any more at home is if I had bought a house.  But that’s nothing new for the good people of Alabama.  I was here three years ago after the 2011 tornado super-outbreak (also in late April) and was treated very well then also. 

The folks here love to make and share cakes and other goodies.  I’m not much of a sweet eater but I’ve had plenty this visit.  In my defense, it’s considered offensive to refuse the love (goodies) someone prepares for you and I don’t want to offend anyone.  On the contrary, I have accepted any and all love.  And I have the added 10 pounds on me to prove it!

So Graysville, I just wanted to say thank you for your kindness, your support, and your southern hospitality.  It’s truly been a pleasure serving the people of Alabama again and I wish you all the best.

Deja View

Posted by – February 18, 2013

(The Preface)
Last time I was in New York I had the opportunity to play tourist in the city twice. Both times only for a few hours and both times very quickly. It was bitter cold and my energy level was very low but I had no idea how many of these opportunities I would get so I tried to see as much as I could.

The first day I took the Staten Island Ferry over and walked around lower Manhattan. I checked out Wall Street, Battery Park, the 911 Memorial, and took a cruise up the Hudson River that included a look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Those two sights were (and still are) closed due to damage caused by Superstorm Sandy.

The second day I met up with a good friend of mine at a train station in New Jersey. There we hopped a train to Penn Station and walked around Midtown Manhattan. Our goal for the day was to go up in the Empire State Building so that was one of our first stops. We went up to both the 96th floor observation deck and the 102nd floor lookout. There’s not much you can’t see from that height. After a quick lunch we checked out Rockefeller Center, Macy’s Christmas windows, Bryant Park, and numerous other sites in Time Square.

This sort of “drive by” sightseeing was good enough for me at the time because I thought it was my only opportunity. But now I’m back! I’m feeling good and I’m hoping to make the best of my days off. That includes revisiting those places I sped through on the last visit. And hopefully an up close and personal look at the lady.

Good Eats in York

Posted by – March 10, 2012

When I’m playing road warrior it’s sometimes difficult to eat healthy when I first get to a destination.  I usually grab whatever fast food is close.  Then as I get to know the area and talk to locals I find better places to get meals.  The same was true for York.  After a few weeks I had a hankering for some seafood so I searched my Yelp and Urban Spoon apps for a nearby restaurant and found the Blue Heron.

According the restaurant info, the Blue Heron served French style and Mediterranean influence cuisine.  Years ago I ate at a French restaurant and it is NOT my favorite of cuisines.  The only French food I like:  French fries, French toast, French bread, French-style green beans.    I do however like Mediterranean food so I decided to give it a try.   The following Saturday we were able to leave work at an earlier time so I headed to the blue heron for dinner.

The restaurant sits just off the Queens Street exit off interstate 83 south.  It’s a very small building you can easily miss if you’re not really looking for it.  I got there fairly early for dinner.  Later I would realize that wasn’t a bad idea.   The place only seats 36 so it didn’t take long to fill up.

I did what I usually do and went with one of the specials:  Crab cake dinner.  I love crab cakes but most places put so many fillers in them they’re terrible.  I had to try these, though, based on the server’s description.  The dinner consisted of two nice size crab cakes (ALL MEAT) plated with some type of lemon sauce, a raspberry sauce, a special slaw, garnished with two 2 thin fried apple slices, and accompanied by fresh grilled green beans and a basket of rolls.

While I was enjoying my meal something caught my attention.  The folks at the next table over reached into a bag they carried in and pulled out a bottle of wine.  The woman who joined them pulled another bottle out of her big ole purse.  I’m sure the look on my face was one of complete confusion.  I sat staring with my mouth open as the waiter came over to their table carrying wine glasses and then proceeded to open the bottle for them and pour the wine.  The only thing I could figure was maybe they had no liquor license and therefore could not SELL the stuff.  I never did find out for sure what the story was.  By the time I finished my meal the tables were full and folks were pulling bottle out everywhere!

I have to say my dinner was delicious!  I would definitely return to this place if I’m ever back in the area.  In fact, the selections listed on the menu, as well as, the specials my server told me, ALL sounded delicious.  If you’re in the York area, the Blue Heron is a definite ‘must eat’.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Shoe House

Posted by – March 9, 2012

I spent a month and a half working in York, Pennsylvania but with only a few Sundays off I didn’t get to see much.  (Not a lot happening on Sundays either.)  One of those days I drove over to Wrightsville hoping to get in on a group hike from Shank’s Mare.  Unfortunately, that group was full up and I was told that it was the last hike of the season.  It was a beautiful day so I took a scenic drive along the Susquehanna River instead.

On the way back to my hotel I decided to check out the Shoe House.  One of the local ladies at work suggested I check out the local attraction that had appeared in the tv show “The Amazing Race”.  I knew it was off Market Street just east of York so I drove until I found Shoe House Road.  I drove up the hill and, sure enough, there was a shoe (house).   I parked in back of the house next to the shoe-shaped doghouse (of course).  As I walked to the Shoe House I was met by a gentlemen coming from the garden shed.  He stated he was the caretaker and guided me into the shoe as he shared a little info about its maker.

The Shoe House was built in 1948 as an advertising gimmick by Mahlon Haines, also known as the Shoe Wizard of York.  Haines was an eccentric millionaire who built a shoe empire in central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.  He had the house modeled after a high-top work boot.  It has 5 levels with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, living room and kitchen.   It was pretty cool but hard to believe people used to live in the thing.  Were people smaller back then?  I visited the gift/ice cream shop in the soul of the shoe where I browsed a bit and finally picked up a post card souvenir.  Then headed back to my hotel and called it a day.

That was one of those oddities you find off the beaten path.  If you’re interested in more info about the house or Haines, you can check out this article or the Shoe House site for tour hours and pricing.

HOG Heaven

Posted by – November 10, 2011

Harley FactoryI finally had the opportunity to tour the Harley-Davidson vehicle operations plant in York, PA.  To say I enjoyed the tour would be a complete understatement.  I was completely fascinated; at times entranced.  The building itself was impressive enough but watching them build the bikes ….

I arrived at the plant early in the morning and signed up for the next available tour.  Perfect timing.  Turns out there was only one other guy signed up, a bike enthusiast from Canada.  I walked around the lobby area until our tour began checking out the exhibits, sitting on some of the bikes, and wandering through the gift shop.  At tour time our guide directed us into the theater for a short, 5-minute film introduction to the birth of the Harley-Davidson legacy.  Afterward, we were led to a small room where we were given goggles and an amplified listening device so that we could hear our guide while we walked through the plant.  From there we entered the manufacturing area where we were able to watch the entire process of building the Harley bikes.  From the big sheet metal presses popping out the various parts, to assembly, to the paint process, to roll testing, and finally shipping.  We did this, not in some viewing booth somewhere in the plant but, right next to the production lines.  The tour, which is normally 50 minutes, took approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes because I and my Canadian friend couldn’t seem to break away at times from what we were watching.  There was so much to see and take in.

It was a fantastic experience and at the bargain price of FREE you should really check it out if you’re in the area.  Definitely a “must see”.  The only thing that could have made it any better would have been getting to roll test one of the bikes.  Hey, I can dream can’t I?

If you would like to check out tour times and info, visit


Posted by – October 23, 2011

Back in early September I flew to Connecticut to help folks who had been affected by Tropical Storm Irene.   Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Lee formed in the Gulf and was slowly making its way North.  Most folks seemed concerned about the impacts of Irene but didn’t seem to give a second thought to Lee’s impending presence.  But Lee proved to be as much, if not more, of a menace dumping heavy rainfall on the (already saturated) northeast and causing historic flooding.

I worked in Connecticut 3 weeks and two days before I was scheduled to leave; I got my first day off.  The locals had been giving me ideas about where I should go.  The two most suggested places were Mystic Seaport and the casinos.  So, in the days leading up to that day I mapped out my journey, printed some info, and charged up my camera.

That morning I woke up at 4am determined to be in Mystic for the sunrise.  Unfortunately, it was completely overcast and the sun did not make an appearance.  (Truth be told, I wouldn’t have made it anyway.)  Mystic is a nice coastal town in southeast Connecticut.  It’s home to Mystic Pizza, the place that inspired the movie of the same name, and sits on the Mystic River, not the one from the movie of the same name.  Mystic Seaport didn’t open til 9am so I walked around town for a few hours taking in the scenery and snapping some pictures.  Suddenly, I felt like I was in one of those old TV shows from back in the day.  Every person I passed greeted me with a smile and a “Good Morning”.  Even folks biking or driving by would wave and yell out a “Good Morning”.  Most times you don’t get so much as a grunt out of someone so this was completely foreign to me.

When the Seaport finally opened I spoke to the customer service lady.  She gave me pricing and information for what the Seaport had to offer and told me set aside two days to see and do everything.  Since my time was limited I opted to take the info and hope I can use it another time.  In case you’re wondering what there is to do at the Seaport…  tour old ships, take a boat ride up the Mystic River, rent boats, see exhibits, walk through the museum and a re-created 19th-century village, check out the last wooden whaling ship in the world (currently being restored at the Seaport), and browse the shops.

Next, I took a quick drive into Rhode Island for some lunch and then headed to Uncasville to the Mohegan Sun Casino.  The Foxwoods Resort and MGM Grand at Foxwoods are located a few miles away in Mashantucket.  (FYI, Connecticut has the 3 largest casinos in the world.)  I opted for the Mohegan at someone else’s suggestion.  The casino is impressive.  There were 3 separate casinos inside along with bars, restaurants, shops, and the Mohegan Sun Arena.  Beautiful place!   I spent most of my time checking out the architecture and the décor.  I threw a few bucks in the slots, played some blackjack, and then called it a day.

I took the long route back to my hotel so I could pass through a few other areas I wanted to see.  It was a relaxing, leisure drive and I did enjoy myself.  The following day I would be back to work to wrap things up.  Then a quick stop at home to check things out and on to Pennsylvania.

For more Mystic info check here.  My Mystic pics are here.

Swim with the Fishes

Posted by – August 9, 2011

Other than a trip to the beach, my nephew wanted to swim with dolphins while on his visit to my mom’s.  A quick search and mom found he could do that at the Miami Seaquarium.  She called to get more information and made reservations for him to “swim”.

There are actually two different “swims”:  Shallow water (where you’re able to touch, hug, and interact with the dolphin) and Deep water (where you’re able to do the same but can also hitch a ride on the dolphin’s dorsal fin).  I was glad my mother chose the shallow water experience for my nephew.  After all, regardless of their happy appearance, dolphins are still wild animals and are unpredictable.  Better the safer choice.

We got to the Seaquarium about 11am and had some time to kill so we watched a few dolphin and whale shows, checked out the manatee viewing tank, and grabbed a bite to eat.  Afterward, we checked in at Dolphin Harbor and moms filled out the necessary paperwork while we waited for the previous group of swimmers to finish up.  Finally, one of the trainers came in and directed the swimmers outside where they picked up their wetsuits, changed, and watched a short video before hitting the water.

They spent 30 minutes in the water with the dolphin during which time the trainer told them about the dolphins, their behaviors, and the hand signals they can use to get the dolphins do things.  While they do this, they have the dolphins swim back and forth so everyone can touch them and see the things the trainers are talking about.  Also during the half hour each participant is given the opportunity to hug and kiss the dolphin (photo op), play catch, and get into a splash fight.  (The dolphin wins that one.)  Quite an experience for my nephew and even I learned a few things.  Did you know that dolphins can be individually identified by their dorsal fins?  Like human fingerprints no two dorsal fins are the same.

After the swim we visited a few other areas in the park and then hit the gift shop just as the park closed at 5:30pm.  We were wiped out but it was a good day and I think my nephew really enjoyed his experience.   I did too.

(Miami Seaquarium photos)

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