National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA Summer 2013

I was an Army brat.  We moved a lot but we always seemed to go back to Columbus, Georgia, home to Fort Benning.  Oakland Park, Baker Village, Benning Hills- those were the neighborhoods we lived in while my dad was stationed at Fort Benning, while he was in Vietnam and after he retired.  I consider Columbus my home town.

That being said, my trips back to Columbus have been few and far between.  Life gets in the way.   My wife and I did take a trip to Columbus in 2013 to attend an impromptu reunion of the Baker High School Class of 1978.  I really enjoyed seeing my classmates and I was amazed at how Columbus had changed over the years since I was last there.

There are a lot of really nice things to do in Columbus and one of them is the National Infantry Museum.  Opened in 2009, the museum has one several awards, including USA Today’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Free Museum.  We visited the museum as part of a memorial luncheon for classmates who are no longer with us.

The first thing that struck me was the Infantryman, or Follow Me, statue at the entrance to the museum.  The statue was originally located at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning before being moved to the Infantry Museum.  What was interesting to me is that the sculpture was created by two U.S. soldiers, Private First Class Manfred Bass and Private First Class Karl H. Van Krog.  It’s a beautiful monument to the Infantrymen of our country.

Infantry Museum Entrance HDR Structurized 1
The Infantryman sculpture

The museum campus has a 2,100 seat stadium where Army trainee graduations are held twice a week.  We visited on a graduation day and there were a couple hundred very proud graduates and their family members at the museum that day.

The exhibits inside the museum honor the men who fought in the many wars and conflicts the United States have participated in over the years and can only be described as incredible.  The entrance to the exhibits is called the Last 100 Yards Ramp.  As you walk up the ramp you pass Infantrymen fighting battles from the Revolutionary War through the Afghanistan War.

Infantry Museum Paratrooper
The Last 100 Yards Ramp

My favorite exhibit halls were the World At War 1929-1947 and the Cold War 1947-1989.  Life size displays are combined with projected images to create amazing interactive dioramas.  Here, a Korean War soldier sits and writes a letter to home.

Infantry Museum WWII Trench HDR Deep 1
The Cold War Exhibit

A special exhibit, the Hall of Valor, pays tribute to the nearly 1,500 American Infantrymen who were awarded the nation’s highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor.  It’s a beautiful exhibit.

Infantry Museum Medal of Honor Hall
The Hall of Valor

Some of the weaponry on display is quite scary.  There’s one weapon, kind of a rocket launcher, designed to launch a shell armed with a nuclear warhead up to five miles.  Fortunately, it was never used.

There are exhibits focusing on the Rangers, Cavalry, and Armor, all important parts of the Infantry.  There’s even an exhibit hall celebrating the connections between Fort Benning and Columbus.

Infantry Museum Ranger Room
Ranger Exhibit

There’s a lot more to Columbus.  There’s the Chattahoochee RiverWalk, the Coca Cola Space Science Center and Planetarium and a whitewater kayaking course on the Chattahoochee River.  The Infantry Museum, though, brought back a lot of memories from a childhood lived around Columbus and the Army.  Our day at the museum was a day well spent.

 

Piedmont Farm Tour, North Carolina, April 28-29, 2018

A chicken on a leash, a herd of bison and a Burmese farmer sowing rice; these are just a few of the things we saw when we visited some of the farms on the 23rd annual Piedmont Farm Tour.  The farms ranged from tiny but productive urban farms to rural farms of more than 100 acres.  Over two days we visited 9 of the 45 participating farms and, I think, learned something from each of them.

Our tour began on Saturday.  The first stop was Ninja Cow Farm, a family-owned farm in suburban Raleigh.  We knew when we got out of the car that we were at a “different” kind of farm.  Several girls were greeting visitors, and each either had a chicken in their arms or on a leash.  In nearly sixty years this was the first time I’ve seen chickens on leashes.  Ann Marie got to hold one of the chickens and you could tell they were used to being cuddled.

The farm sells pasture raised beef and pork and farm fresh milk, as well as products from farms they’ve partnered with.  They had quite a variety of products in their store.

After browsing the store, we went on a tour of Ninja Cow Farm, led by a young man called Spork.  Again, this is a different kind of farm.  The farm feeds the cattle and hogs produce from the local farmers markets.  As Spork explained, the produce has a flaw, it might be a bruise or a spot, that makes it unsalable.  Ninja Cow makes the rounds each day and collects whatever produce would normally end up in the dumpster and feeds it to their livestock.  The cows and hogs looked happy and well-cared for so I guess it works.

Ninja Cow

Our next stop was the Well Fed Community Garden, an urban farm in Raleigh.  From the road it looks like any other house in the neighborhood, with a few more plants and a small greenhouse.  The garden partners with Irregardless Café, who buys 80% of the organic produce and donates the remaining 20% to volunteers and neighbors.  Garden manager Morgan Malone took us on a tour of the farm.

The garden makes great use of the tiny 1 ½ acre lot.  It was still early in the season but there were rows of lettuce and the greenhouses had seedlings ready to be transplanted.  They also have some hydroponically grown lettuce in one of the greenhouses.  There’s quite a variety of veggies as well as herbs, figs and even kiwi.  They also have a few mushroom logs.  Later in the year they’ll grown tomatoes, melons and squash.  The front of the property has a pollinator garden.

Well Fed Community Farm 1

Our third stop of the day was another small urban farm, this one located in downtown Raleigh adjacent to Peace College.  The non-profit Raleigh City Farm was established in 2011 on a one-acre vacant lot.  Farmer James Edwards gave us a quick tour of the farm.  I asked him what made him want to garden in the middle of the city.  He said, “I just like growing things.”

The tour was quite interesting.  The perimeter of the farm is lined with pollinator attracting plants.  Inside that border, there are rows of lettuce, mustard greens, and a variety of early season produce.  There’s a small fruit orchard, but it was too early in the season for the trees to be producing much.  A crop rotation maximizes production of the tiny farm.

The plants are watered by an irrigation system that starts with the collection of rainwater from the roof of the business next to the lot.  From the collection tank, water is distributed over the crops as needed.  Harvested crops are sold weekly at the on-site farm stand, providing convenient access to healthy, fresh produce for urban dwellers.

Raleigh City Farm

Next up on our tour was Funny Girl Farm in Durham.  This 180-acre farm was the first large farm we visited.  This is where I learned the difference between a high tunnel and a greenhouse (high tunnels have no climate control; greenhouses do).  We also learned a lot about mushrooms.  Funny Girl Farm has around 3,000 mushroom logs and they take mushroom farming very seriously.

Funny Girl Farm utilizes a lot of environmentally friendly techniques in their farming.  They use reduced tillage because it doesn’t harm the fungi that helps the plants grow.  By rotating a variety of crops and using cover cropping between production crops, they manage to keep the soil healthy.  The sell their produce through their CSA or at their on site farm-stand.

Their hens are pasture raised.  Their natural diet of bugs and seeds is supplemented with vegetable scraps and spent grain from a couple local businesses.  Their mushroom logs are cut from trees on the property and can be productive for up to five years.  It’s quite an operation.

Funny Girl 1

Our final stop on Saturday was Carolina Farmhouse Dairy in Bahama.  Carolina Farmhouse Dairy is a Jersey cow farm that produces yogurt, smoothies and kefir which they sell at several area markets.  They’re in the process of upgrading their milk barn, so we saw how they currently milk their cows while seeing how the coming changes will increase their production.  Along the way we got to snuggle a couple calves.  Turns out they like head scratches and neck rubs.

AM and Baby Calf

On Sunday, we headed west.  First up was Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm in Roxboro.  This was probably the best farm tour and you could tell they do it a lot.  We rode around the farm in a covered wagon while the farmer explained buffalo and buffalo farming to us.  It was very interesting.

Buffalo are quite energetic.  A buffalo, according to the farmer, can jump a six-foot fence if so inclined.  He said that if you can drive your pickup truck into a fence and the fence stops the truck, you’ve probably built a fence that will hold a buffalo.  The pen they use for vaccinating the buffalo was made of the heavy duty galvanized steel you normally see along the sides of the road.

Sunset Ridge 2

Buffalo may look quite docile as they graze in the field, but they’ve never really been domesticated.  You must be very careful when working with them; if one decides to, it can easily overturn a tractor.  When the farm rounds up the herd for health checks and vaccinations, they look for the one who seems most cooperative at that time, get that animal started and hope the rest follow.

After the tour we stopped at the farm-stand and purchased a variety of buffalo meat.  We’ll be exploring buffalo cuisine in the next few weeks.

After Sunset Ridge we headed to Maple Spring Garden in Cedar Grove.  Growing vegetables and herbs using organic practices, this 80-acre farm had some beautiful vegetable gardens.  Sunshine Dawson and Fern Hickey gave us a tour of the high tunnels, greenhouse, mushroom logs and herb gardens.  They’ve been growing organically since the early 70s and sell at both the Carrboro and Durham Farmers Markets.  The herb gardens are new to the farm; Sunshine is using her education in herbal medicine to expand the business in a new direction.

Maple Springs 1

We met Larry and Lee Newlin on our next stop, their Peaceful River Farm in Chapel Hill.  The Haw River is adjacent to the farm, hence the name.  Larry came from a landscaping background, and it shows.  The farm is beautifully laid out to make the best use of the land yet maintain an aesthetically pleasing view.  As Larry explained, they used a farm coach, Tony Kleese, to help them design the layout of the farm.  The twin market gardens were inspired by the Edwardian Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, England.  Larry knows his stuff.  The farm is beautiful.

Lee is the culinary educator and holds cooking classes and farm dinners at Peaceful River Farm.  A cancer survivor, Lee’s research into healthy food is one of the driving forces in the farm’s use of organic practices to grow pesticide-free produce.

Peaceful River’s produce can be found at the Fearrington Village Farmers Market and the Saxapahaw General Store as well as in dishes served at several are restaurants.

Peaceful River 1

Our final stop on this year’s farm tour was the one I was most interested in.  Transplanting Traditions Community Farm is a 7-acre non-profit farm in Chapel Hill. Through a partnership with the Triangle Land Conservancy, 35 Burmese refugee families grow native Burmese crops as well as well as crops native to North Carolina and sell their produce at local farmers markets.

Most of the refugees belong to the Karen and Chin ethnic groups, and fled ethnic persecution in Burma.  Most were farmers in their home country and now farm their part of Transplanting Traditions after working full time jobs, many as housekeepers at nearby University of North Carolina.  The farm provides much needed income for the families as well as giving them a community where they can feel at home.  There are a lot of bamboo structures, including some beautiful hoop decorations.

Trading Traditions 3

One farmer was in the process of sowing drought resistant rice and there were a lot of leaf crops already growing throughout the farm.  Later in the season they’ll grow Bok Choy, Edamame, eggplants, squash and numerous other vegetables for sale, either through their CSA or at the Chapel Hill and Carrboro farmers markets.

It’s quite an interesting operation and concept.  As Project Director Kelly Owensby said during the tour, the farm is now nationally known.  Wherever she goes, when she says she’s with Transplanting Traditions, people say, “hey, I’ve heard of the farm.”  There’s a waiting list of families who want to be a part of Transplanting Traditions and other similar farms have been started around the country.  Transplanting Traditions is an inspiring and interesting place and a great place to end this year’s farm tour.  We’re looking forward to seeing what next year’s tour holds in store for us.

Three Bridges, NYC, September 2004

I took this photo on a beautiful Autumn day in 2004.  There are three bridges in the photo- the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge.

Brooklyn Bridge

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 1971

When I was eleven years old I went on a 50-mile hike in the Black Hills of South Dakota with my boy scout troop.  In addition to a week of hiking and camping we took a drive through Customer State Park, where we saw  bison and antelope, we took a swim in the pool at Hot Springs, we visited Badlands National Park, and we stopped at Wall Drug, famous for offering free ice water to visitors (we saw a Wall Drug sign in Amsterdam, Holland), and we made a trip to Mount Rushmore.  Forty-six years later I still think of the trip as a great experience.

It’s also when I received my first camera.  My parents bought a Kodak Instamatic camera for me similar to this one.  I had a couple 126 film cartridges.  Not really knowing what we were buying, one of the rolls was slide film.  Most of the photos were not very good.  This photo was scanned from the original slide.  After forty-six years it took a lot of work to clean up the scratches and dust, but it’s not a bad photo.  Let’s just say it’s my first successful attempt to document my travels.

Mount Rushmore Ektachrome 100

Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, NYC, 2004

In September 2004 my wife and I spent a week on Long Island and made a couple visits to New York City.  One one of the visits we took the Circle Line tour, a boat tour around Manhattan.  One of the landmark+s we passed was Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse, a small lighthouse located along the Hudson River and under the George Washington Bridge.

Little Red Lighthouse HDR Detail and Darken

The current lighthouse was built in 1921.  The George Washington Bridge, completed in 1931, passed right over the little 40′ lighthouse.  The bridge’s navigational lights made the little lighthouse obsolete and it was decommissioned in 1948.  The Coast Guard had intended to dismantle the lighthouse and auction off the parts but public outcry saved the little light, largely due to fans of Hildegarde Swift’s children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.

Little Red Lighthouse CFX Early Morning Light

Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and was designated a New York City Landmark in 1991.  In 2002 the lighthouse was relighted by the city.  The little red lighthouse was operational once again.

 

 

Anchorage, Alaska, May 2016

The final stop on our Alaska cruise was the city of Anchorage.  Established in 1914 as the terminus of the newly established Alaska Railroad, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with over 40% of the state’s population living in the city.

Anchorage 4th Ave HDR Outdoor 2

On Good Friday in 1964, much of the city was destroyed by the second strongest earthquake ever recorded.  Downtown Anchorage sustained much of the damage, but many areas of the city were destroyed.  The Turnagain neighborhood was destroyed when the land it was built on dropped seven feet and then slid into Cook Inlet.  The destroyed area was turned into Earthquake Park and can be seen from the Anchorage Trolley tour.

While we’re on the subject of the Trolley tour, our tour guide had an interesting account of the earthquake.  Her husband, a kid at the time, was at the dentist on the day of the earthquake.  When the earthquake happened, the dentist grabbed the child from the chair and they climbed out the first floor window.  The young boy, having never been anesthetized before, thought the shaking was the result of the novacaine.

Despite the extensive damage, Anchorage was quickly rebuilt and today is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.  Monuments and art, including several totems,  are everywhere.

There are murals everywhere in Anchorage, even in back alleys.  The largest and most beautiful is Alaska’s Marine Life, the 54th of artist Robert Wyland’s Whaling Walls.  Other standouts are the Iditarod mural on the side of the Alaska Experience Theater and a small mural on the side of Kobuk Coffee.

We had roughly a day in Anchorage and we made the most of it.  We like to research restaurants we’d like to visit before we visit a place and the place we chose for dinner was Glacier Brewhouse.  The place was packed when we stopped and we had to wait more than an hour to be seated but it was worth it.  The food, the beer and the service were all great.

The next morning we took a walk to Snow City Cafe for breakfast.  Another popular spot with both locals and tourists, we had about a half hour wait.  While we waited we wandered across the street to Resolution Point and the Captain Cook monument.  Resolution Point gave us a great view of “the Sleeping Lady”, Mount Sisitna.

After a wonderful breakfast at Snow City we wandered back to the Anchorage Visitors Center for the Trolley Tour.  The Visitors Center is a cute little “cabin” with a sod roof.  The Trolley Tour took us on a very informative tour of the city.  We visited Earthquake Park, Lake Hood, some of the oldest neighborhoods in Anchorage and saw Engine No. 1, the first locomotive of the Alaska Railroad.

Lake Hood was interesting. We learned that 1 out of every 60 Alaskans have a pilot’s license (the national average is 1 out of 400).  This makes sense when you find out that roads reach only 30% of Alaska.  We also saw the iconic de Havilland Beaver airplane.  Only 1,600 of these airplanes were built between 1948 and 1967.  Despite the last Beaver rolling off the assembly line 50 years ago, hundreds are still operational and are so popular in Alaska that they pass down from family member to family member.

After the Trolley Tour we took a leisurely walk back through town, eventually stopping at Town Square Park for a reindeer sausage.  The weather was great and the park was a wonderful little place to enjoy the day.

Anchorage Park HDR Outdoor 1

Eventually it was time to get to the airport.  Ted Stevens Airport was pretty interesting with a lot of art.  The ducks and geese were quite striking.

So, after twelve days, it was time for the flight home.  We enjoyed everything about the trip and will always look back on it as a trip of a lifetime.

Alaska Railroad, May 2016

Our trip from Denali to Anchorage was aboard the Alaska Railroad.  The bi-level, glass-domed McKinley Explorer cars were perfect for viewing the extraordinary landscape of Alaska.

Denali Train Depot CFX Help Me Rhonda

The Alaska Railroad’s routes are entirely contained in Alaska and the railroad carries both passengers and freight.  While the railroad depends heavily on tourism, inland residents of Alaska depend on the Alaska Railroad for supplies and transportation.  But our experience is as passengers, so we’ll focus on that.

This is not your average passenger train.  The lower level is the dining car and, from our experience, the food is quite good.  The upper deck is glass-domed, which gives the passengers great views of the passing landscape.  There’s a full-service bar on each passenger car.  Here’s a view of the beautiful yellow and blue engine from the passenger car.

Alaska RR engine from dome car 2 HDR Deep 1

The trip was around eight hours and we passed through some beautiful country.  Inland Alaska is sparsely populated, so much of what we passed was wilderness.  We never tired of watching the mountains, forests and rivers pass by.

One of the highlights of the trip was Denali.  Few visitors to Alaska get to see the Tall One.  Denali spends most of its time hiding behind banks of clouds that hide it from most people.  We among the fortune few.  The weather was perfect, with few clouds.  Denali was in sight from the train for over an hour.

Best Denali CFX Detail

Denali was the icing on the cake.  The rest of the trip to Anchorage was pretty uneventful and relaxing.  Each car had a guide who pointed out interesting facts and, in general, kept us entertained.  We enjoyed a nice lunch, a drink or two, and a beautiful journey.  Soon we would reach our last stop on our Alaska journey, Anchorage.