Build a bridge

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Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Have you ever considered how amazing bridges are? I mean, think about it. An astounding amount of engineering expertise produces the construction of a bridge.

I wonder who it was that looked over a span, whether it be a stream, creek, or river, and thought, “Huh…I could just build something to arch over that.”

If I remember from a long-ago college course in western civilization, ancient Romans were builders of bridges, some of which still stand today I believe.

Here in my part of the world, wooden bridges were the norm hundreds of years ago. You can take scenic drives in my home state, as well as several others, and view covered, wooden bridges some still in use now as they were in days gone by.

A lot of the simple, uncovered, wooden bridges that crossed streams and creeks along country roads here are disappearing and being replaced by concrete spans, safety being the reason of course as those wooden structures have succumbed to wear and tear by years and weather.

Those super-long suspension bridges are the ones that boggle my mind and I thought about that in Maryland as we crossed over the Chesapeake Bay on the Bay Bridge during our summer trip there.

While we were driving upon that span, I captured a few photos,  and I thought about the thousands of cars, trucks, and other vehicles that cross bridges each and every day.

We cross without thinking of the feat accomplished in the building of that bridge. We cross trusting and assuming the bridge is completely safe and won’t collapse while we’re on it. We cross not giving a thought that hundreds of years ago, the only way to get from this side to that would have been by boat or ferry.

It occurs to me that bridges are something we take for granted in life. We assume someone will build and maintain a bridge to get us where we want to go. But shouldn’t we be responsible for some bridge building of our own?

When you and I disagree – name the reason, there are many – whether it comes to politics, religion, social causes, or just some ridiculous meme one of us posted on social media, and we resort to anger and blustering and name-calling, we’re tearing down bridges that connect us as human beings.

We stomp off either virtually and unfriend someone we once called friend or we literally stomp off in reality and never speak to the person again.

I suppose you could call it burning our bridges. But is that really a good thing to do? I don’t think so. If we are all going to attempt to live together on this planet Earth in some kind of unity or harmony, we have to learn to build bridges instead of burning them.

Building a bridge is far more constructive.  And it’s more fruitful to reach out to someone – to span across that disagreement with them – than to cut them out of your life in anger.

I’m a firm believer in what my Bible, God’s Word, tells me. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to believers in Thessalonica: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). He did not say discourage those you know, tear them down with your words and deeds, incite anger and violence.

He went on to say, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” in verse 15.

We can use those verses in our words and actions with fellow believers and non-believers who don’t agree with us. And we can pray for peaceful reconciliation instead of angry rebuttals. It’s called bridging the gap between us.

When Jesus died on the cross, that’s what He did. He is the finest designer of bridges. With the cross, He built the most significant and greatest bridge of all  – an old wooden and rugged cross – across the huge chasm of sin, despair, and death so we could cross over it to life with Him.

It’s never too late to build a bridge. You don’t even have to be an experienced engineer to do so.

“Build a bridge by extending your hand.” ~ Ken Poirot

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

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Words for Wednesday: love is blue

blogIMG_8816Whenever I notice something blue, an old song from the late 1960’s entitled Love is Blue, (music composed by André Popp, French lyrics by Pierre Cour, and English lyrics by Bryan Blackburn) pops into my mind.

To me, the music sounds somewhat ethereal, almost haunting. I can remember loving to play the piece on the piano as a teenager and I still have the sheet music somewhere.

The lyrics to that song are sad and melancholy, telling the woeful tale of lost love.  “Blue, blue, my world is blue. Blue is my world, now I’m without you” are the opening lines.

Blue is always associated with feeling down, sad, lonely, or downright depressed. But for me, the color blue doesn’t have the same connotations.

Blue is one of my favorite colors and when paired with my absolute favorite, yellow, those two together just make me cheerful and happy.  I get a mental picture of bright yellow daffodils or vivid yellow sunflowers against a brilliantly blue sky. So beautiful.

I also love the clean, crisp look of blue enhanced with white. Wedgewood china comes to my mind. And Chinese porcelain or Holland’s delftware, or French toile fabric with blue designs. Again so very lovely.

In two different houses where we lived in the past (in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest), our kitchen colors were blue and white. And even though I’m not that fond of cooking, I enjoyed being in those kitchens because of their décor color.  

Blue. When I see it, I’m definitely not feeling blue.

Blue is calming to me and I find myself drawn to blue in nature…blue skies, blue water, blue on a bird, blue flowers.

It’s one of the reasons I wanted a hydrangea – a blue one, of course – planted in our yard several years ago. When it blooms in late summer, I just want to sit and gaze at its gorgeous color because I love it so much.

For me, love IS blue. Big blossoms of blue. How could anyone feel blue looking at these?

“Blue thou art, intensely blue; Flower, whence came thy dazzling hue?” ~ James Montgomery

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

A quiet spot

blogIMG_8205Sometimes you just want and need a little peace and quiet. A serene spot to just sit yourself down and rest. A tranquil moment or perhaps an hour or so in an undisturbed place, far from the maddening crowd.

Papa and I found quite a few of those moments and places on our Maryland trip and we were so grateful for them.

We have three grandchildren who are the apples of our eyes. We don’t get to interact on a regular basis with two of them because they live several hours away from us. But our oldest, she’s with us quite a bit since we watch her while her nurse mommy works different hospital shifts.

And as much as we love our oldest grandchild, our house becomes noisy and chaotic when that four-year-old reigns.  She keeps us busy, entertained, and hopping up and down by playing with her or taking care of her needs. And this old empty nest rings with laughter, shrieking, and noisy clomping of feet while we play endless rounds of hide and seek and chase. 

But it also tires me out and I find I need a respite from time to time. That’s why Papa and I anticipated a relaxing little trip away from home and hoped to find some soothing scenes of serenity. Thank goodness we succeeded.

After we left the busyness of Baltimore and Annapolis, we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, not to be confused with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in Virginia. We have also traveled through that one a time or two and frankly, it freaks me out going under water in that long 20-mile tunnel.

But the Bay Bridge in Maryland is only a 4.3 miles long span above water and connects the urban western shore of the bay with the more rural eastern shore, which was our destination.  

Once we crossed the bridge, we stopped on a peninsula where we found the Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor’s Center. In addition to Maryland travel information, the center also housed a small but interesting museum.

But this little spot offered so much more. We climbed a circular staircase outside to the top of the building’s tower and surveyed the scene before us – wetlands and a 530-foot boardwalk over the marshy area and leading to a trail in Ferry Point Park.

The paved trail was an enjoyable, easy one-mile walk and it took us to a small beach area with a picnic table and park bench and we were the only people there.

Ahh…just the spot to spend some soothing, restful time.  I don’t even think we talked much to each other. We just embraced the solitude, listened to the birds singing and the rhythmic sound of the water, and felt the gentle breeze in our hair and the sun on our faces.

 That’s what I call a vacation.

“It isn’t how much time you spend somewhere that makes it memorable: it’s how you spend the time.” ~ David Brenner

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

So Big

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In the right background, notice that huge boat!

Back in the day when Mama’s Empty Nest wasn’t empty, when our children were babies, we used to play a little game with them, a game I continued with the grandbabies.

“How big is baby?” we would croon. And baby would lift up his/her arms overhead and we would clap and say, Sooooooo big!

While we were on our week-long Maryland trip back in June, I was tempted to repeat that phrase over and over again. Sooooooo big!

Before we left Annapolis and drove down the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, we purchased tickets for another harbor cruise.  Cruising on a boat is a relaxing and refreshing way to see sights from a different perspective on a warm summer day.

We weren’t disappointed as we had the opportunity to view the US Naval Academy from the water, including the area where the naval midshipmen learn to sail.

Prior to boarding our bay cruise, Papa and I noticed a huge boat – well, you couldn’t call it a boat because it was so immense. But not being a nautical person, I called it a boat. I imagined the proper term was yacht.  Sooooooo big!

“Anyone who has to ask about the annual upkeep of a yacht can’t afford one.” ~ J. P. Morgan

While on our way back to shore, our cruise captain pointed out that yacht anchored in the harbor. This wasn’t just any, everyday yacht though; I found out later it’s actually called a “super-yacht.”

That mega opulent super-yacht definitely dwarfed all the other vessels in the harbor. Matter of fact, our boat captain told us it was the largest privately-owned vessel he’d ever seen in the Annapolis harbor. Sooooooo big!

That 240-foot long luxury liner, named the Hasna, is owned by a very wealthy Australian, a multi-millionaire.  According to information I gleaned from internet research, this vessel accommodates up to 12 guests overnight in six cabins: a master suite, one VIP stateroom, two double cabins, and two twin cabins.

Just to make sure everyone on board has a “relaxed luxury” experience, the super-yacht can also carry up to 21 crew members.  Amenities listed on-board include a helipad, on-deck Jacuzzi, elevator, infinity swimming pool, interior sun deck for parties, bar-be-que, gym, movie theater, hair salon, and spa. In American currency, the Hasna reportedly cost $100 million. You read that correctly, $100 MILLION. Sooooooo big!

Of course, I had to snap a bunch of photos at something I’d never seen in my life and probably never will again. (Slide show below) I’m not sure my pictures truly give you an idea of the size of that super-yacht though.  But let me tell you, it was sooooooo big! 

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Just last week, I learned that the Hasna is up for sale for around $110.3 million, give or take a few hundred thousand, in US currency. Anyone have several million dollars lying around and want to purchase a super-yacht? It’s sooooooo big!

For a look at the super-yacht’s features, click on this site.

“Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it.” ~ David Lee Roth

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Words for Wednesday: I spy osprey

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Often when we’re traveling with our oldest grandchild by automobile, she and I play a game of I Spy. “I spy with my little eye…” one of us says followed by some kind of clue like “…something red.”  Then a guessing round begins. She’s become quite good at this game and it’s a good lesson for this Nana too.

While traveling, I do try to spy with my little eye. I keep on the watch for unusual things in view or catch a glimpse at sightings that make for a good photo op with my camera. 

Our Maryland trip was no exception. I spied many interesting aspects with my own two eyes.

While on-board two different cruises in the Chesapeake Bay, I captured a few shots of ospreys, often called sea hawks.   The photo above was taken in the Baltimore harbor on an overcast day after a deluge of rain, which gave the water a gray cast and made the birds hard to see. 

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It’s quite a contrast from this picture I captured while on an Annapolis harbor cruise on a beautiful, sunny day. If you look closely to the right of the green and white marker, you will spy an osprey sitting in its nest.

I was amazed at where the osprey built their nests out in the middle of the water. So far away from humans, that’s for sure. Can you blame them?

But they still must leave their nests to gather up some grub as they soar into the air on wings and swoop down to the water to nab a fish for dinner.

Do you suppose birds are thankful for their wings? I surely am when I step out of my comfort zone and spread my ‘wings’ by traveling to places I’ve not visited before.

“A bird in a nest is secure, but that is not why God gave it wings.” ~ Matshona Dhliwayo

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Naval inspiration

blogIMG_8173The desire to serve his country in some way was instilled in my husband, the Papa of this empty nest, when he was a young boy.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may recall that Papa is a military veteran having served as an officer in the U.S. Army.  But the army really wasn’t his first choice. From the time he was a young’un, he was fascinated by ships and the Navy.

Maybe it was because his family always took summer vacation trips to the Atlantic seaboard, so the ocean entranced Papa. Or maybe it was because a favorite uncle served in the Navy during World War 2 or that Papa’s oldest brother also did a stint as a sailor.  

Whatever the reason, we have old black and white photos of Papa as a youngster hamming it up for the camera in someone’s old navy uniform. But trying on old uniforms is not where his interest stopped.

As a young teenager, my hubby joined the Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC), an organization for youngsters aged 13 through high school graduation.  Sea Cadets are sponsored by the Navy League of the United States and supported by both the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

During the school year, Papa attended Sea Cadet weekly meetings where he learned about being a sea-farer. He also recalls weekend trips to maritime destinations like Baltimore’s harbor; Philadelphia, where they boarded a destroyer ship; and staying on a lightship in St. Michael’s, Maryland. 

But the biggest thrills were the summers Papa was 14 and 15, when he boarded a bus with the rest of the Sea Cadets and traveled to Florida. That first summer, he attended a two-week boot camp at a naval training center in Orlando. The second summer, he trained on-board the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier out of Pensacola and spent a week at sea on that vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.  

So Papa fully intended to join Naval ROTC when he enrolled in college. However, his college choice because of a particular major thwarted those plans since NROTC wasn’t offered there. Instead he opted for Army ROTC.

Even though those days are long gone by, ships and anything nautical or naval still interest Papa, so on our trip through Maryland, we chose to visit Annapolis and tour the US Naval Academy.

As always when it comes to history and military information, Papa’s attention was riveted on each display in the visitor’s center. My interest piqued while observing exhibits on the many naval graduates who became astronauts, including Alan Shepherd. (I recall first grade memories writing sentences about Shepherd being the first American to travel into space.)

blogNaval AcademyLater, as we strolled through a nice, well-stocked gift shop, we found it humorous that Papa had not worn his ball cap with U.S. Army emblazoned on it as we noticed numerous items proclaiming “Beat Army!” on them.

As noteworthy as our visit there was, one aspect will remain in my memory for quite some time.  On our way out of the academy, we were ensnared in a group of elementary-aged school children who obviously were on a field trip that day.

Most of the kids were noisy and excited and trying to run ahead of their tour guide, except for one young fellow. While all of the other kids skipped along and paid no attention, that boy spied two brawny naval midshipmen walking towards us and immediately ran over to them, asking a question.

What might a young boy ask a naval student? “How did you get such big muscles?” No, not the question. “Where’s your uniform?” No, not even that.

The young boy asked if he could get his picture taken with those two fine fellows. They agreed immediately without hesitation, posing with him in the center, grinning from ear to ear, while one of the chaperones snapped a cell phone photo.

And you know what? I could picture my husband as a little boy doing the same thing. It warmed my heart. Because I thought that poignant little vignette is one of the aspects about what’s right about our country. There are still parents raising a young boy to respect, revere, and be inspired by those who want to serve this land, uphold the U.S. Constitution, and protect our freedom.

I have to wonder if someday that young boy will grow up to serve his country proudly. I certainly hope so and I hope he gets the respect he will deserve.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” ~ President Ronald Reagan

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When country meets city

blogIMG_8047Being a country girl has its firm roots in me. I grew up in a rural area about five miles outside of my hometown.

My playground wasn’t one of concrete, swings, sliding boards, and monkey bars. My playground was a four-acre yard with apple, peach, and plum trees and a tiny stream of water running through it.

My swinging consisted of a hammock in the shade of the apple trees and a front-porch swing. But I didn’t stay in my country home.

After a couple of decades living in the suburbs of big cities, Papa and I decided to move back to our home state and build a house in the country, just a few miles from my childhood home. And I’ve been a happy camper ever since.

I’m not a fan of city life. I can appreciate a day in the city, seeing sights, taking in worthwhile spots to visit, enjoying a fine dinner, but the noise, the traffic, and just the sheer amount of people on the sidewalks makes me yearn for a simpler place to be.

And even though cities aren’t my cup of tea, we’ve visited plenty of them across the nation – from New York City to Los Angeles, Seattle to Dallas to Boston, and many in between.  I’m grateful for the enjoyable times we had in those metropolises, but I always repeat that old saying to myself, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

My intention here is not to offend city-dwellers; I know many people relish the hustle and bustle of the big city and are happy there. And vacations to metropolitan areas thrill scads of folks. Me, not so much; my idea of a perfect vacation is somewhere calm and serene, away from all the busyness of urban life.

In June, Papa and I embarked on that last-minute, spur-of-the moment week-long trip I’ve been writing about in the last few posts. We needed a little rest and relaxation, some spots for peaceful reflection but yet some noteworthy places to visit. However, we didn’t want to travel far, so we headed south to Maryland.

After our outing on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, we drove east to Baltimore, a city Papa’s been to before and I’ve been through and flown out of the airport there but never actually toured. After spending a morning at Fort McHenry (which I wrote about here), we drove downtown Baltimore to the Inner Harbor.

A couple of years ago, when we visited Boston, Papa got to board the USS Constitution, so he really wanted to see the USS Constellation moored in Baltimore as well. If Papa had a bucket list, visiting those two grand old historic ships would be on it.

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USS Constellation (upper left, lower right); Baltimore Inner Harbor area (upper right); and Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse (lower left)

Since we arrived at the Inner Harbor on a Monday afternoon, it wasn’t too crowded and I was a happy girl about that. No doubt the deluge of rain that lasted for over 30 minutes also probably ran off some tourists. We hunkered down in a parking garage, waiting for the downpour to stop before we wandered up and down the harbor area.

After seeing the Constellation and three other historic ships, including a submarine, we also saw the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, the oldest screw-pile lighthouse in Maryland.

After that, we decided to take a 45-minute narrated harbor cruise which proved to be an enjoyable and relaxing way to see some of Baltimore’s harbor sights. We also ate a delicious early dinner in the area where Papa was content to chow down on seafood.

Since we were driving to our next destination that evening, we headed out of Baltimore. Well, we tried to leave Baltimore, but it was the peak of rush hour. Actually, we just attempted to get out of the parking garage onto a street where absolutely no one would let us out. The traffic was heavy and congested and too crazy for me.

Finally, Papa just plunged right into the thick of traffic. Relieved that my husband (former city dweller and sales rep seasoned to navigate in heavy traffic which never seems to rattle him in the least) was driving, I cringed in the passenger seat, closed my eyes, and prayed we’d get the “heck out of Dodge” safely. We did almost get hit by a driver changing lanes who obviously didn’t see our vehicle.

Goodbye, city life! I couldn’t wait to get away from the busyness fast enough. And get away we did.  After a stop in Annapolis, we ventured down the eastern coast of the Chesapeake Bay to lovely quiet spots we’ve never seen before.

And I have to think that spending time in the city always makes me appreciate country life all the more.

“The country is lyric, the town dramatic. When mingled, they make the most perfect musical drama.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: amber waves

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I captured this shot while strolling around Fort McHenry, a historical and national monument park in the Baltimore, Maryland area. 

It never ceases to amaze me how one single picture when given close attention sends me off in words of inspiration just as this one did.

Steeped in history that morning while touring the old fort, this sight made me remember the words to the patriotic song, America the Beautiful:

O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

We Americans live in a beautiful country from sea to shining sea. But in recent years, there have been aspects of our country that have been anything but beautiful.

It seems as if we are tearing our beautiful land and what it stands for down with hateful rhetoric, with divisiveness and angry vitriol. Why are we so angry with those who don’t agree with our way of thinking? What happened to that sense of American brotherhood we once had?

My prayer is that we can just agree to disagree and move forward united in gratefulness for this beautiful country of ours.

“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” ~  Henry Miller

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

O’er the ramparts

blogIMG_8001It’s August. The 4th of July is over, Flag Day (June 14) is long past, and Memorial Day an even more distant memory but the American flag still flies from our front porch.

Some folks only display our country’s red, white, and blue on those holidays with maybe Veteran’s Day tossed in. But at our house, the flag waves from its post yearlong.

I can’t remember exactly when Papa and I decided Ol’ Glory should always remain outside our home come whatever season, whatever weather, day or night, but I know we’ve already worn out one flag and put it to rest as custom and respect dictates.

Our flag flying might be attributed to the fact that my husband is a military veteran and our family is proud and thankful for his service to our country and that flag.  Or it may also be attributed to the history buffs in our family – namely Papa and Middle Daughter.

In any case, we’re a grand old flag flying family. A few years ago, our family’s Australian friends came to the United States to visit and as they traveled around the country, they kept track of how many American flags they spotted flapping in the breeze.  They were surprised as the number increased significantly on their journey and I can only deduce that they don’t see Australian flags in abundance in their own country.

All of these thoughts meander through my mind since one of the stops we made on our week-long venture from home in June was Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland If you’re not familiar with this historical site, during the War of 1812, American soldiers at this coastal fort successfully defended Baltimore Harbor in the Chesapeake Bay from the British navy. 

After the battle finally ended, a large American flag was raised over the fort demonstrating British defeat and American perseverance.

Watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry from a truce ship in the nearby Patapsco River, Frances Scott Key witnessed the flag hoisted into the air and was inspired to write a lengthy poem about the red, white, and blue. Eventually that first verse of his poem became the familiar lyrics to our American national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner.  To read the poem in its entirety, click here.

blogIMG_7992It was a misty, slightly rainy morning as we toured this national park/monument and yet our country’s flag waved overhead.  We shared our time with a few busloads of elementary-aged school children on one of those end-of-the-year field trips and it was tricky to snap photos without getting the students in view.

But amidst all the running and climbing and yelling performed by the children, Papa and I managed to enjoy our tour. We walked around the parameter of the pentagonal-shaped fort, o’er the ramparts, so to speak.

We found a few serene moments just gazing out at the Chesapeake Bay and imagining a fierce battle taking place all those many years ago. And I felt awe and respect for that American spirit of battling for freedom and what is right that those who fought on that ground had done.

But the best part of all for me, the most awe-inspiring moment of the morning, was inside the visitor center. We rested on benches in a small, darkened theater-like area watching a short documentary video detailing the battle at Fort McHenry and the story behind Frances Scott Key witnessing the grand ol’ flag still flying.

At the end of the video, the Star Spangled Banner began to play. Each person stood in respect; some of us placed our hands over our hearts as we listened to those old words that most Americans know by heart.

O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

As we faced the large screen where the video had informed us and listened to our national anthem playing, the screen lifted up into the ceiling and in its place, we faced an entire wall of large, floor to ceiling plate glass windows…overlooking outside where the American flag proudly waved.

I was too awe-struck to even pull my camera up to my eye and snap a photo.

Call me sentimental. Call me patriotic. Call me proud to be an American. Call me however you wish to categorize me, but the sight choked me up and tears overflowed as I listened to those words and music while gazing at my country’s symbol of freedom.

It was a moment I won’t soon forget. We may have our struggles in this country. We may not all see eye to eye on a variety of issues. We have our virtues and we have our faults.

But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but this land, the land of the free and the home of the brave. America, God shed His grace on thee.

“There is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed with what is right in America.” ~ former President Bill Clinton in his first inaugural address, 1992

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

What a ride!

blogIMG_7972Once you reach retirement age, those tracks you were riding along in your train called life suddenly change. For some, leaving the station of work and career is a difficult transition. For others, they embrace the track switch and enjoy the ride.

So far, Papa and I like the retirement age ride as it gives us more time to travel and do what we want to do without the restraints of work obligations. Yesterday, I posted about a train ride Papa and I took at the beginning of a week-long excursion in June. If you missed that, you may want to read it first here.

We had embarked on a three-hour train ride in Maryland because we enjoy railroad journeys. So we began our jaunt by boarding the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.

That day Papa decided to wear his burgundy T-shirt with the Pennsylvania Railroad emblem on it, which he had acquired on a repeat visit to Strasburg, Pennsylvania last August.

Papa’s interest in the Pennsylvania Railroad stems from the fact that his father spent his entire working life at that railroad company and retired from it. So it has always been a special part of my husband’s life. He has fond memories of riding the train and we continue feeding his fascination by taking those kind of outings when we can.

As we were waiting in line to board the train, a gentleman initiated a conversation with Papa because the man had noticed Papa’s PRR T-shirt. They chatted briefly about that and the man seemed pretty knowledgeable about the railroad itself. The conversation ended as we moved forward to board and he stepped out of the crowd.

We gave no more thought to it, just chalked it up to a talkative fellow who enjoyed chatting about trains with someone.

The first leg of the ride was not quite what we expected due to some “noisy neighbors” in the same car as us.  But as the old saying goes, the tide turned on the return trip.

At our destination station where we had a one-hour ‘layover’ until we boarded the train once more, most of the passengers walked up the hill to visit the town. Papa and I enjoyed the peace and quiet of our lunch outside the depot.

Then we just lingered while perched on a park bench absorbing sunshine and tranquil surroundings. I took a few photos here and there while we waited to board the train again.  Because of Papa’s connection to the PRR, I particularly focused a few shots on a shiny Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman car that was at the end of the train. 

But then something happened that we never expected…that once in a lifetime kind of experience.

The man who had earlier conversed with Papa jumped down off that very Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman Car, approached us, and again engaged in conversation. He shared that his father, also a railroad man, had purchased an old Pullman train car back in 1972.

In recent years, he decided to attempt to restore it back to its 1949 state of glory with the help of a silent partner and the shiny, burgundy private rail car we were now looking at was the result.  He shared some history of that sleeper car and more about the renovations that had been done. He then invited us to climb up onto the back end of the car and he would take our pictures with my camera.

Who could turn that down? So we climbed up onto the tail end of the car and posed. Once we jumped back off, (it was a long way down without a platform for this short gal), we thanked the man and were totally surprised when he asked if we would like a tour of the rail car.

We nodded and said that would be amazing. So he informed us that once we boarded back in our original passenger car and the train pulled out for the return trip, he would send his daughter to retrieve us and lead us back to their private car. 

Shortly after pulling out of the depot, we were treated to a private tour of the restored Pullman sleeping car in which this man’s family was riding in a trial run to see if there were aspects that needed attention or repairing. We not only met the man’s family but also his father who owned the car.

blogPRR

Top photo: Catalpa Falls private Pennsylvania Railroad car. Bottom left: posing on the car’s back platform. Bottom right: riding in the lounge area of the refurbished car. 

I can’t begin to tell you what a fun experience it was—so vastly different from the first hour of the train ride. This family welcomed us into their midst, told us more about the restoration of the car, and then offered us the opportunity to remain in the car with them for the rest of the ride.

Papa got to talk trains. We toured the entire rail car from the sleeping berths to the completely stocked kitchen. We heard how the colors of the paint and even the carpet were as near to the original as they could achieve.

We stood outside on the platform as the train lumbered along and Papa laughingly said he felt like he should give a Presidential speech. Since the car was the last one on the train, viewing train tracks behind us while we moved forward was a neat experience. (See photo at the beginning of this post.)

We also learned that this particular car, named the Catalpa Falls, would be one of three original rail cars in a recreated Pennsylvania Railroad run in July from New York City to Pittsburgh called the Broadway Limited. To learn more about that event click here.

Ticket prices for the three-day trip were out of our league with the cheapest being lounge seats in the Catalpa Falls car, which accommodated 10 people, at $999 apiece without a hotel room to $1300 per person including a hotel stay.  To stay in a double occupancy berth on that rail car cost $2,800 per person.  Even more expensive tickets, $4000 and $4200,  were needed for another option on two of the other cars.  

So even though we could not afford THAT train ride, we still felt privileged to be the only folks on that train to have a private sneak preview and an almost one-hour ride in this reconditioned and refurbished Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman sleeper car and to hear the history of it first-hand from the owner himself.

We never could have imagined a last-minute travel plan would land us at the right place at the right time;

Or that Papa just happened to wear his Pennsylvania Railroad T-shirt that day not even knowing there would be a PRR car attached to that train;

Or that the son of a man who bought and restored a PRR car would notice Papa’s T-shirt and strike up a conversation with us;

And that the son of a man who worked for the PRR back in 1949 (when this particular car rode the rails) would encounter a once-in-a-lifetime experience of riding in a restored Pullman car from that time period.

Coincidence? I think not. Just another blessing from God above.

“We are the train and the tracks are the path our lives follow. In control at dispatch is God, and He is overseeing each of our movements and coordinating what happens.” ~Joshua Robinson

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