Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cars A Century Ago

We think we know what old cars look like, but we really don't. I visited a museum of vintage automobiles and motorcycles this weekend and their collection astounded me.

A century ago vehicles were far more varied and interesting than we believe. For example, many of the cars were electric and not gas-powered! That technology was explored a hundred years ago before being rejected in favor of gasoline engines.

This assortment of vintage vehicles includes many obscure brands that disappeared during the early years. Some ingenious designs caught on, some did not. It was possible to start your own car company back then, compared to its almost-impossibility today (due to high capital demand).

Examining these cars in the flesh lets you understand them realistically. Piloting one over unpaved roads must have been a jaw-rattling adventure!

Look at the beauties pictured below. They stand as physical testament to human creativity.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Camping and History

Sleeping outdoors is like riding a motorcycle -- a bracing rush of physical sensations. And when you do it in challenging conditions, like cold temperature, being outdoors makes you conscious of the visceral experience of being alive. And also of bugs. Did I mention bugs?

Modern living is designed for comfort. Effortless, invisible comfort. When you take the protections of comfort away, you're left with struggle. But, as I've learned from hard motorcycle rides, adversity offers its own satisfactions: achievement and deeply-carved memories.

I enjoyed my trip this weekend to French Creek State Park. French Creek is the largest block of contiguous forest between New York City. and Washington D.C. It covers 7,700 acres. Betcha didn't know that, did ya?

While away I did two fun things. I visited an exceptional museum of vintage automobiles and motorcycles (which I'll write about later) and I hiked to Hopewell Furnace. Hopewell Furnace is a National Historic Site right next to French Creek.

From 1770 to 1880, Hopewell Furnace was one of the country's first "iron plantations" where blast furnaces were used to smelt iron. This early industrial process extracts metal from iron ore by using a "blast" fire furnace (one that pumps air into the fire to increase its heat up to 3,000 degrees). Iron was an important raw material used back then to produce guns and machinery for the American Revolution and Civil War.

In 1930, the federal government bought Hopewell Furnace to preserve its 200-year old furnace and structures for historical display. Visiting now, you can see how early Americans lived and worked during the first century of our nation. Smelting iron was a labor-intensive process; many workers toiled hard at it. Half of them were needed to cut down numerous trees which were turned into charcoal used to fuel the furnace. Others maintained the furnace and casted molds for the molten iron.

Places like this were self-contained communities where thousands lived and died. The history of Hopewell Furnace is surprisingly interesting and I find myself fascinated by it. For example, while slaves were used in its beginning (1770-1820), slavery was phased out of Pennsylvania before the Civil War and Hopewell Furnace became a station of the Underground Railroad to help those escaping slavery in the South. You can learn more of this history here.

Today Hopewell Furnace -- and camping -- offer us perspective on the ease and comfort of modern life. To make a cup of coffee now, we push a button or talk to the person in the Starbucks drive-through. We forget the hidden labor required to put that Joe in our hand. That's why I like to camp and visit historical sites -- to be reminded of life stripped of modernity.

This is the huge waterwheel used to generate a "blast" of air that runs into the furnace. You can see the pipe that carries the air atop the wheel in between two bellows.

This is where the troll... um, I mean collier lived. A collier is the person who tends the fires that make charcoal out of burning wood.

This is how they made charcoal. They piled wood planks into a tower and then built a low-heat fire beneath them. Over time, the fire transformed the wood into charcoal which was later used to fuel the furnace.

Workers lived on the site so they bought their food from the company store. The cost was deducted from their wages.

Hopewell Furnace was a complete community with everything needed for survival, including animals for food. This guy gave me the evil eye.

Friday, April 26, 2019

On The Road

I love being in another state. It means you've left home and are on a path to adventure. Even rain can't dampen my enthusiasm.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


I need to unplug for a while. To disengage from modern life and relax.

My Winter was consumed with anxiety over serious health issues and when I finally put them behind me, my return to work was full of agita. No surprise there; my job is always, inherently stressful.

I know what I need and made a plan to get it. I need the meditative calm offered by a long-distance motorcycle-ride and the peace of camping in the woods. Next week I'm sailing down to a remote area in Southern Pennsylvania. An empty campground in a PA State Park awaits my frenzied brain. I hope a few days wandering the wilderness will refresh me. Shivering a little at night will be a price I'm willing to pay.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Holiday Report

There are only a handful of record stores on Long Island but over a dozen in Brooklyn so... road trip!

Yesterday I ventured into the hip heart of Kings County. Williamsburg, natch. Despite its proximity to me, Brooklyn is as difficult and time-consuming to enter as a longer trip elsewhere -- you have to endure delays on the dreaded BQE and futile searches for parking. Fortunately at the end of my trek there was a cold Guinness waiting to refresh my spirits. In a basement dive, of course.

I hit several record stores but Rough Trade is my favorite. Big, clean and full of festivities. Yesterday they had a full roster of live bands performing and three separate celebrity-signings. The crowd was way larger than usual but in a party mood. It's Record Store Day! Cool kids unite!

No visit to the 'burg is complete without a drop into Artists & Fleas. It's a marketplace of well-curated products sold by their makers. We should support craftsmen and -women; they create fun stuff you can't find at the mall.

BTW, kudos to whoever came up with the idea of putting salmon caviar on deviled eggs.  :-)

Pics below. Next time come with me!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Saturday -- Records and Names

Today is Record Store Day! Go out and patronize your local shop.

Oh, and I found a new name -- Cabell. Despite the fact that neither you nor I ever heard this name before, it was common in the 19th Century. There were lots of men, including prominent ones, named Cabell. I discovered it while researching one of my favorite musicians, Cab Calloway. I learned Cab's real name was Cabell.

Hmm... I'm pondering a name change to Smokin' Cab. What do ya think?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Record Store Day

Record Store Day is this Saturday!

For the past decade, independent record stores have been celebrating the survival of vinyl records. It's a movement I support: just 'cause technology grows old doesn't mean it should be abandoned. Fight back against disposable modern culture.

Also, there's charm in vinyl records: aural from their warm sound, visceral from handling them. Vinyl involves you in the process of playing recorded music; you're not merely pressing a button. They're the musical equivalent of riding a motorcycle.

Visit one of the 1,400 record stores on Saturday. There are parties, special releases and promotions.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

No Age Limit

Can someone in their sixth decade be girlish? Probably not but... I try!

The instant I saw this cute dress at Fox's I imagined myself in it at the soda-fountain chatting with girlfriends. Yes, I know there are no more soda-fountains but my dreams are unconstrained by reality.

The metal flower brooch was a gift from a girlfriend several years ago. It works perfectly with the dress, don't you think?

Saturday, April 6, 2019


Biker-Hiker. That's my name and that's my game.

I am unusual in that I'm not one thing, I'm multiple things. Even when the combination is unexpected

In high school, I won an award for "Best Scholar-Athlete." It was easy for me to win this because I had no real competition despite a large class size of 800 students.

I was among a dozen academic high-achievers (I graduated 7th in my class) but none of the rest of them played sports. Not a single one. Among my sports-team friends, none of them cared about grades. So despite being only an average student and an average athlete, I literally had no competition for Scholar-Athlete award. In contrast, I could never have won Best Student or Best Athlete because I wasn't that great in either field. But, combined, I was King. How odd.

Speaking of combined identities, I don't need to tell you guys how I mix male and female gender identities. That's a major focus of this blog.

I just noticed something about my adulthood. I love motorcycles, including sporty fast ones. I love the outdoors where I hike and camp at every opportunity. I find it natural to combine those interests so today, a beautiful Spring day, I ventured out to explore a new place. I briskly rode my speedy S1000R and traveled to a nature park I'd never visited before, the Tackapausha Museum & Preserve in Seaford, New York.

In the 17th Century, Tackapausha was Chief of the Indian tribe in Massapequa. When settlers came and offered his tribe money to "buy" the land, the Indians thought the settlers merely wanted to use the land. They eagerly accepted the offer, assuming both groups would share the property in the future. The European settlers, however, had a different concept of ownership. They wanted full and exclusive rights -- which included kicking Indians off the land and banning their return. Disputes over this were later resolved by Colonial courts which, to no surprise, ruled for the settlers. The Indians were dispossessed and never recovered.

Back to the present. After riding to T's preserve, I hiked a few miles in the woods, listening to birds chirping. I then visited T's museum which has a variety of animals, including the handsome guys pictured here. This expedition shows that I'm a biker-hiker.

My question is -- why be only one thing when you can enjoy many interests? Don't you agree?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

"Free Solo"

The film that won the Oscar for Best Documentary last year is impressive ("Free Solo"). It shows one of the greatest feats of human achievement -- a climb up the most difficult rock-wall in the world (El Capitan in Yosemite). Alex Honnold, a 30-year old climber, scaled 3,200 feet of vertical granite --and he did it WITHOUT A ROPE. The lack of safety gear meant any mistake he made would be his last. You don't plummet a thousand feet onto jagged rocks and live.

What's surprising and interesting about the film is its subtle examination of Alex's psyche. For example, it depicts his struggle to establish a romantic relationship with a girlfriend. Alex grew up in an emotionally barren home with a father who was autistic. His parents never said the word "love" so Alex has trouble opening up to his girlfriend. She's eager to forge an emotional bond with him but has to battle through his armor and confusion about personal relations.

The climax of the film is Alex's attempt at one of the hardest climbs in the world, without a net. The suspense is palpable.

The film triggers many reactions and is worth watching.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019


Shown below is one of the best photographs I ever took. I snapped it in Vancouver four years ago while hiking the edge of Stanley Park. I love a city with a park, beach and mountains. Vancouver is truly beautiful.

I was there to attend a blogger-meetup my BFF Suzanne organized. I'd met Suzanne once before when she visited NYC and leapt at the chance to go to Canada to meet several other bloggers I follow, like fashion-maven Sheila and endurance-athlete Jodi. It was a fun trip.

I haven't been to the west coast often (only once before this trip) so I was surprised to learn that Vancouver has more Asians (50%) than European-Canadians (48%). (The other 2% are original Canadian natives.) A large part of the city is devoted to Asian culture, food and shops. I hadn't anticipated that. On the east coast, Asians are a much smaller minority.

Anyway, back to the picture. The light, reflected off the Pacific Ocean, sparkles just right as an attractive woman'e silhouette is emphasized by backlight. I'm proud how well this image came out. Have you ever been to Vancouver?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Big News!

I have big news! I'm so excited I could burst!

Last month I auditioned for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, a wonderful troupe of skilled precision dancers who delight audiences every year. I kept my audition quiet because very few dancers get chosen and I didn't want to raise up anyone's hopes.

As part of their diversity out-reach program, the Rockettes are willing to overlook the fact that I'm publicly-male and older than dirty. They say as long as I stay on beat and am willing to wear sparkly outfits, I'll fit in. My biggest strength is the tone and shape of my legs which impressed the judges. Rehearsals start next week.

Here's a pic of me on the way to audition...