Thanks for the warning

Every so often a road sign helpfully lets you know where you do NOT want to go.  This one is in Comstock, CT.


You can see other helpful signs that I have found here.

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Worse for wear

This Florida sign, kidnapped long ago from its nice warm home in Palm Beach Gardens to Belchertown, Massachusetts, is not handling the harsh winters very well. I first spotted it in 2013 during a paddle on the Swift River.

I’ve been back to the Swift many times since then and have watched it getting older and older.

The top photo is from 2013 and the bottom photo is from this year.

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Say again…

This is one of the cleverest town signs I’ve seen in my travels.  It welcomes one into Echo Bay, Ontario, a small Canadian hamlet on Lake George.

It’s situated near where lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior almost meet. 

I passed through there about three years ago on my way from Connecticut to Colorado. Yes, I am just now finally going through the many photos I took on that trip.

Echo is in the awkwardly-named township of Macdonald, Meredith and Aberdeen Additional (a consolidation of three different townships).  It started life as many small towns did in the 1800s, as a railroad station serving the small mining industry.  It has since evolved into a lumber and agriculture area.

Echo is also the birthplace of Robert R. Carmichael, the artist who designed Canada’s “loonie,” the one-dollar coin introduced in 1987.  It replaced the paper version of the Canadian Dollar and the nickname became so popular that Canada trademarked it in 2006.

Meanwhile, the best real echo I’ve found lately is the one I discovered in the covered entryway at Manchester Memorial Hospital.  The first time I was there with granddaughter Margeaux and we passed under it I stopped, and said to her, “Listen to this,” and demonstrated.

She was impressed.

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Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico, was a couple hours out of my way.  But something drew me there…

No, it wasn’t my tabloid background.  As a reporter for the National Enquirer in the late 1970s, I did work alongside many of the real reportorial talents on the alien front, but my meagre experience in that field consisted of a few wasted evenings in an Ohio reader’s backyard waiting for the UFO to show up.  It never did.

So, what supernatural force was drawing me….

It wasn’t on my way, that’s for certain.  It was two hours or more south of old US Route 66, the path I was taking eastward through New Mexico on my way back to Connecticut.

It was only when I got there that I realized the power that had pulled me: the town’s visitor center was in a very nicely recycled gas station!  Another one for my collection!

But seriously, Roswell was All Things Alien, as I had hoped.  A day on the road for me is complete only with a stop at an interesting town.

Even staid Wikipedia sums it up thusly: “Roswell’s tourism industry is based on aerospace engineering and ufology museums and businesses and well as alien-themed and spacecraft-themed iconography.”

Roswell, of course, is famed for the reported crash of a flying saucer on the Foster ranch, about 30 miles outside of town in 1947.   

Briefly, here’s what happened back then: On July 6, a ranch foreman reported debris on the property to the local sheriff, who notified the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF).

The next day RAAF officials went to the ranch and brought the debris back to Roswell and on July 7 announced they had recovered a “flying disc,” but the Army quickly retracted the statement and said instead that the crashed object was a conventional weather balloon.

And there the story died, basically.  It was off the national scope for nearly 30 years, until the 1970s, when a retired lieutenant colonel stated that the weather balloon account had been a cover-story.

The “Roswell Incident” then blew up, blossoming over the ensuing years into a full-fledged media extravaganza, with enough conflicting theories to suit every UFO conspiracy theorist and naysayer in the land.  The circus included countless experts, real and self-described, and an official government investigation.

To simply read Wikipedia’s digest of all the claims and counterclaims from the 1970s to today is exhausting and confusing. 

I am not going to attempt to summarize it all, so let’s move right on to the photos.  Clicking on one will open up the slide show.

Visitor’s Center

Around Town

International UFO Museum and Research Center

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Head’s up, Dick Tracy fans!

I stumbled across this Dick Tracy Museum a few years back in Pawnee, in north central Oklahoma.  The place wasn’t open the day I drove by, so I had to content myself with a few outside shots.

Connection?  Pawnee is the birthplace of Chester Gould, the creator of the Dick Tracy character. 

Born in 1900, Gould moved to Chicago in 1921 to pursue his dream of becoming a cartoonist with the Chicago Tribune.  It took ten years, but finally the paper accepted one of his many cartoon strip ideas and Dick Tracy was born. 

Gould authored the strip from 1931 to 1977.  The franchise continued after that with various artists and writers.

I cannot look at an Apple Watch without thinking of the famed cartoon detective.

I will admit that although I read the comic pages avidly in my youth I only once in a while read an entire Tracy installment.  My aversion to continuing storylines, be they in print or on TV, continues to this day.

There’s also a Dick Tracy Museum in Woodstock, Illinois, where Gould lived after retirement and died in 1985.

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A quiet Fourth of July in 2021

I like to spend July 4 in Contoocook, New Hampshire, the home of Brother Rick and his family.

The tiny town is also home to a nice, all-inclusive kids’ holiday parade and a comfortingly traditional regular parade, complete with a local band, fire engines, a few antique cars and the throwing of candy to onlookers in lawn chairs along the route.

It’s a pleasant, comfortable routine I have been in for about the last decade, ever since I started spending summers in Connecticut, where daughter Jennifer and company live.  New Hampshire’s just a couple hours away. 

The parade was cancelled in 2020 because of Covid, and I ended up staying in Florida anyway, so I didn’t miss much.

I went to Contoocook for the Fourth this year, but it was very different. 

There was no parade, a victim once again of the uncertainties of Covid, but there was something even more significant missing.

There was no brother Rick. He left us earlier this year.

He was not there, sitting in his chair by the window looking out at the trees and the fields and the pond he so enjoyed.  He was no longer there to explain to us what happens to those trees, fields and pond in the harsher months, when we’re not there to witness it.

He was not there to chat with about the many things we have talked about over the years. I couldn’t watch him as he patiently explained various kinds of berries to my grandchildren.  I could no longer watch him interacting with his own children and his granddaughter. 

And I couldn’t watch him meet his newborn grandson.

But it’s not that simple. He was absent but he wasn’t.  He wasn’t NOT there this year.  He was just sort of somewhere else. 

He was still very present in the home that he and his partner, Ginni, built and he was present most definitely in the family they created, and for that I am grateful. 

But I just wish I could call him up and ask him how he’s doing and what things are like where he is.  Maybe he will leave a comment below….

Here are some photos from this year’s Fourth.  It wouldn’t be a Fourth in Contoocook without some stringed instruments, would it?

And some photos from other years are here, here, here and here.

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Another pink elephant

Dubbed Ella, this statue was acquired by 21 Brix Winery in Portland, NY, way back in 2011, and placed at the entrance to the parking lot on Highway 20 to make it easier for customers to find the place.  

She was originally grey, and the plan was to paint her a different hue every few months.  Before she became pink she was yellow, to match the winery’s grape harvester.

In 2012, however, the winery launched a pink catawba wine and ran a naming contest for it on Facebook.  “Ellatawba” was the winner. 

Ella went in for a paint job, came out pink, and has been pink ever since!

For more pink elephant trivia go here.

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Baby Boom at John Prince Park

I ran into a baby boom over at John Prince Park on one of my paddling trips the other day. 

This large county park, real close to my house in Lantana, FL, has always been my year-round, go-to spot for birds, but it was only last spring, when Covid kept me pinned in Florida for the first time since I’d retired, that I realized it was also a pretty good nesting spot in April and May. 

Last spring I discovered a bunch of baby green heron hanging out around the dead-end lagoon over close to Congress Avenue and JFK hospital.  There aren’t any babies visible back there yet this year, but judging from the amount of adults I saw last week there should be a bumper crop of green heron young coming along soon.

But back to the babies that are there now.  On the boring, mundane side there was this family of Egyptian geese.   See more about these geese here.

More exciting to me were the large nests in the tall Australian pines lining the water south of the Sixth Avenue South bridge.  I had looked up there to watch the pelicans that usually roost precariously on the thin branches with their webbed feet.

Looking closer I realize there were blue heron adults on two of the nests and in one there was a baby or two.  This is the first time I’ve seen blue heron nesting in the park.   I’d seen blue heron scrounging for nesting material in the tiny patch of scrubby land next to my house several weeks ago but until now didn’t know where the nest building was happening. (Just click on any photo to scroll through the larger images)

Even more fun were the limpkin babies.  I’ve seen babies around in previous years, even in my backyard, but I was lucky enough to see a youngster being fed. Limpkins feed mainly on snails, which they find by pushing their beaks around into the bottom in shallow water. 

In this instance, the baby would wait on the shoreline while the adult went wading out to find food.  The adult brought the snail back to the shore, extracted the meat of the snail and gave it to the youngster.

I’d like to say I hid in the shallows in my canoe for days, subsisting on crackers and water and peeing in a jar, to get these photos, but the reality is that I was loading the canoe on the car, walked around to the back to get some rope and there they were, fifteen feet away.  Sitting limpkins so to speak.

Here’s a shot of an adult limpkin with a small snail (and a bit of weed stuck to it):

And here’s a couple photos of a baby limpkin. Coincidentally, baby limpkins go through the same frizzy phase my granddaughter Margeaux went through about ten years ago, so I’ve tossed in some photos of that.

In the gallery below are some up close and personal shots of adult and baby. This is what happened every time the adult returned to the shore with a snail. The baby kept an eagle eye on the adult’s beak as it extracted the meat of the snail and passed it off to the baby. The snail itself is down in the grass and not visible, but in a couple of the photos you can see the snail meat in the baby’s mouth. Click on any image and you can scroll through the larger versions of all of them.

And, finally, we saw a flasher in the park. I’ve been mooned by a blue heron before (photo included below) but this flashing was a first.

OOPS. I’ve forgotten to include some photos of the green heron over at the park who I hope are busy getting ready to have babies. Here they are:

But let’s continue the baby theme, in a different locale, I spotted a baby American oystercatcher a couple days ago with an adult on one of the islands along the eastern shore of the intercoastal south of the Lake Worth Bridge.  There were two babies, but they scattered to the weeds really fast and this was the only shot I got. Following is a gallery of some of the other shots of the day.

American Oystercatcher and offspring (Photo by Ron Haines)

And finally, the house below on the western shoreline caught my eye.  I had seen one like it on my trip down the Mississippi River in 2003, north of Minneapolis. 

So I found that 2003 photo in my files.  Here it is, with the photo of the West Palm house. Very close design, different sizes.

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My napping glasses

Starting now I can slip into a little afternoon nap and no one will be the wiser. 

Granddaughter Simone has gifted me with my very own pair of Napping Glasses. 

Sleeping?  Not me!

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Sprucing things up

My old neighborhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is getting a facelift!  Even the apartment building I lived in for a couple years has a new coat of paint.

Located in the old Piazza section of town, that three-story building was probably twenty years old when I moved into it in 1968, but even at that it was the newest and most modern structure on the block.   I lived on the ground floor, which is now a beer store.

Back then it was surrounded by a sea of one-story, tin-roofed, mud-walled shanties.  Today, that building, and a similar one near it, are the only things standing.

The Piazza district has always been the liveliest, if not the most modern, area in Addis Ababa.  Fifty years ago the city was basically an overgrown village and the Piazza was the social and commercial heart of it.  Modernization, of course, has come to many areas of Addis and it has grown considerably, but the Piazza hadn’t changed much—until now.

What’s happening around my old apartment building is part of a billion-dollar project to clean up the several rivers flowing through Addis Ababa.  This includes the Bantiketu River watershed, which cuts through the Piazza district on its way south from Entoto Mountain to the Akaki River south of town.    Just a few steps from my apartment it flows under the Ras Makonnen Bridge.

Just cleaning waterways that have been used as public laundry, restroom, bath, and industrial waste and sewer outflow since the town began is a massive project.  Add to that the envisioned public space and walkway systems in the plan and I think the job will take way longer than the planned three years.

Nice to know that if I ever moved back into that building I’d have a waterfront view!

Below are two Google Earth views of my neighborhood. The first shows what the area looked like when I lived there and the second shows the area today. My apartment building is circled in red and the river appears as a green line.

Here’s another aerial view (south is up), with my building circled in red.

And below are two shots of the building. The first I took at the end of 2018 when my daughter and I visited Ethiopia. Land clearing had already begun. The second was taken by a friend, Bruk Ezra, just a couple weeks ago, showing the new paint job.

And below are some links to more information about the river project in Addis Ababa:

Addis Ababa launches a 29 billion birr mega project to make the city’s riverbanks green public parks – YouTube

Addis Ababa builds resilience with clean rivers, public spaces and walkways | InfoNile

News Analysis: Addis Abeba Rivers and Riversides: old project, new name and a billion dollar bill. Will it work? – Addis Standard

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I don’t remember how I ended up with a patch of aloe in my front yard.  Maybe my father?  He used to enjoy planting random stuff in my Florida yard when he’d visit.  And he also enjoyed pulling up random stuff.  Like “weeds” that weren’t.

He never did come to terms with our common grass down here—St. Augustine or Floratam—which is eerily similar to the crabgrass he spent a lifetime picking out of his yards in the Midwest.

At any rate, my little patch of aloe probably began as a plant or two.  They propagated well in the otherwise unused territory under the frangipani tree in the front yard and I happily let them do so, rightly figuring that they’d come in handy every year or so when someone touched a hot pan and needed a handy, effective salve for the burn.

And once I realized they’d flower occasionally and not only look pretty but also attract hummingbirds, the patch became a welcomed, permanent fixture in the landscape, in spite of the difficulty of weeding a patch of plants with long, stiff leaves armed with sharp needles.

My plants are the widely know species of the genus Aloe called Aloe Vera, originally from the Arabian Pennisula.  You’ll see the name, of course, on a variety of pharmaceutical products.

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