Sunday 27 April 2008
It dawned a beautiful day, much too nice to stay at home and clean or do laundry or cook or any of that stuff, so we hit the road. We headed north into Hoosierland toward Brown County.
Brown County State Park is the jewel of Indiana's park system; I hadn't been there in about forty-five years, and CVH had never visited (somewhat odd for a former Louisvillian). I figured now would be a good time; come summer the place will be crawling with people, and in the fall it's just bumper to bumper.
We took the "scenic" route (as described by our road atlas); seems the atlas editors had some difficulty in finding what would qualify as a scenic route in Indiana, but there were some nice spots with twisty roads that allowed us to show off our car.
We drove straight through to Nashville, which has, I'm afraid, become quite the little tourist trap of Indiana. For our dear Texas friends, think "Fredricksburg". We arrived hungry, which I would strongly caution against. Eat before you go, and then have some nice dessert there. There's off-street parking behind the Methodist Church for a love offering.
After doing a little bit of shopping in Nashville, we headed into the park. I was thrilled to see that you still drive through the wooden covered bridge to enter the park. It's cooler than you might think.
The park itself looks almost exactly the same as it did when I was a little kid. They really do a great job with keeping it up, considering how many people must visit it each year. There are several lovely vistas, such as this one, where you look out over what was once farm land about a hundred years ago. Seems that the farmers over-farmed the land, however, and the topsoil washed away. Then came the Great Depression and the land's destiny as a public park was pretty much sewn up.
The view from the Bird Room
They have a lovely Nature Center with this special bird watching room. It has a glass wall with several bird feeders just on the other side, as well as microphones that pipe the bird sounds into the room. CVH was quite entranced.
Just outside the Nature Center was a hummingbird and butterfly garden. No hummingbirds today, but we did see some of these butterflies.
CVH at Lake Ogle with Cream Pop
We took the Interstate back to Louisville, and you'd never guess that gasoline was selling for more than a dollar a gallon. I'd estimate that the average driving speed was eighty miles an hour. And although it drives CVH nuts, I found that if I get behind a truck going sixty-five, her car gets nearly forty miles to the gallon. And it's a V-8. Amazing technology.
Saturday 26 April 2008
Farewell, old paint
Today we sold our faithful old sedan. It was a little sad to see it go, but we know that it went to a good home in the country, where it will have plenty of room to drive around, and even has another BMW sedan to keep it company. Here we see CVH about to drive it for the very last time.
The view from our front door
Today we noticed that many of the flowers and trees that were in full bloom last week have dropped all their flowers, so we thought it was time to go around and take pictures of what's in bloom this week, in case they're gone next week. This is a sample of what our street looked like this sunny afternoon.
One of our neighbor's azalea bushes. Except I think they call them rhododendrons up here.
A neighbor's front garden
Some sort of flowering hedge thing
The front of a neighbor's house
Another neighbor's tree
Friday 18 April 2008
I don't know if Genevieve Bujold or Victoria Principal was in town today; more likely, they were just flying over, but we did get hit by an earthquake around 5:30 this morning. CVH and I slept right through it, but I do remember the cat going ballistic and waking us up. Maybe Marjoe is in town for Passover?
Sunday 13 April 2008
The Best Thunder - Ever!
Yesterday was Thunder Over Louisville, the annual air show and fireworks display. We had attended last year, but got tired and left early and ended up watching the fireworks on TV. At that time I wrote that the fireworks show was "far grander and more innovative than any fireworks that I had ever seen before". So this year we decided that we were not going to miss it.
However, because last year about eight hundred thousand people showed up, it took two to three hours for people to get home. There was no way we were dealing with that, so instead I was lucky enough to get a room at the Seelbach Hilton downtown. The Seelbach is a grand old nineteenth century hotel that is a true Louisville landmark (Al Capone used to hang out there when he was in town). I had noticed that my Hilton Platinum status (earned while I was living at the Hilton in downtown Detroit) was about to expire, and figured this was a good way to use up my points.
Thunder day dawned cold and grey, with a forecast of rain for the fireworks. But we were commited, so we went downtown, bundled in our winter wear, and watched the airplanes fly around for a while. Then back to the hotel for a quick bite to eat at the hotel bar. I initially thought it was great that the city banned smoking in bars (not that we go to bars often, but at least now it's an option), however these days people are bringing their small children. Talk about unintended consequences.
The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, afire
Returning to the riverfront as night fell, we watched a guy flying through the dark sky. His tricked-out plane flashed all kinds of lights and shot off sparks in time to music, most notably, flashing lights to the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme, just like the spaceship did in the movie. Then the fireworks began, and they are an incredible sight up close. It did not rain after all, and the wind blew right upriver, making for perfect fireworks watching. And the I think that the poor weather forecast and the crowded experience of last year kept a lot of people away, so you could easily find a spot right up front on the river to watch from.
The Grand Finale
During the show, they set the George Rogers Clark Memorial bridge on fire. We were standing right at where the bridge comes ashore, so we had a great view. The grand finale made me wonder how they ever got so many fireworks out there on the river in the first place, and also made it clear why the term "Thunder" was applied - it does make your ears hurt. Incredibly, some people had actually brought dogs; I had to feel sorry for them. The dogs, that is.
The next morning, we got up and had brunch at the Oakroom. The food was delicious, especially the bourbon bread pudding dessert. Their recipe calls for so much bourbon that you hope you don't get pulled over on the drive home.
Friday 11 April 2008
An Embraer 145
I went to a computer conference in Orlando this week. It's a sad commentary on the state of domestic airline travel that the new service quality standard is if you get to your destination the day that you are supposed to. I was fortunate that my plane landed on time (and even landed early on the return trip!), although the trip on the Embraer 145 was like spending two and a half hours riding in a Mini Cooper. At least I was flying on Delta (actually Mesa's "Freedom Airlines"), which only puts fifty seats in the tiny plane, not the 53 that Continental's ExpressJet crams in.
Landing at Orlando airport, and seeing all that lush green extending to the horizon, was a lovely sight for someone who is still waiting for the Midwestern winter to end.
The conference was an excellent value, and I learned a lot. It was held at the Gaylord Palms near Orlando. I had stayed at the Gaylord in Nashville about twenty years ago, where you could take boat rides on the river that runs through the hotel. I don't think the Florida one was quite as big, but it did have huge atriums filled with acres of plants and flowers. Not a bargain hotel, but services were very good.
When I checked in at the hotel, the desk clerk asked me which part of the hotel would I like to stay in.
"I hadn't thought about it. What are the options?" I asked.
The clerk immediately produced a map of the compound. "This area over here is sort of party central. This area is the relatively quiet area."
"The quiet area, please". (You can see a view of the area I stayed in here.)
And it did turn out to be rather quiet; the rooms are very well sound insulated and I slept fine until three a.m. when a group of drunken kids came back to their room across the hall They hooped and hollered for a while and then apparently one group locked another outside of the room. The ones on the outside started screaming and cursing and pounding on the door (theirs, not mine) and I called security. After several more minutes they calmed down or passed out; in any event it got quiet.
Them maybe forty-five minutes to an hour later, security shows up (I don't know if it was for the first time or if they came back) and started pounding on their door to open up and got everything stirred up again. About what I expected to encounter in Orlando during spring break.
Tuesday night the conference folks arranged for us to visit Pleasure Island, over at the Disney complex. If you haven't been to Pleasure Island in four or five years, it has changed completely. I was last there about ten years ago (cf. weblog entry of 24 February 2008), and at the time it was an adults-only area that opened at night. It had concert stages and a jazz bar and was a nice place to go to get away from all the kids in Orlando. Well, apparently attendance wasn't what Disney wanted, so they removed the adult-only restriction and the place became overrun with local teenagers showing up for the free concerts, which Disney found unseemly. So the concert stages are gone, and now it's just part of the massive shopping mall, overrun with tourist teenagers who have more money than is good for them. Not so nice for grownups anymore.
(Note: the following recommendations are based on visiting Universal Studios on a clear, warm evening, and not having to wait more than five minutes to get into any of the attractions. Your experience may vary.)
Wednesday night the conference arranged for us to visit Universal Studios, and that was fun, at least for a film lover like me. The park is closed to the public in the evenings (why, I can't imagine - it's the most comfortable part of the day down there), and they had four of the movie-themed attractions open: "Disaster", "Jaws", "Men in Black", and "Terminator 2". (You'll note that all these attractions are somewhat dated. I don't know if it is so expensive to build one that they have to run it for years and years, or if it has something to do with licensing and royalties.) "Disaster" was a spoof of B-grade disaster movies, primarily ones from the seventies. It featured a holographic Christopher Walken as a B-minus disaster movie director. The fun part is that they green-screen you in several crazy configurations, and then while you ride a BART train into the Embarcadero station during a major earthquake, and short disaster film is put together and screened for you on the trip back. It's absolutely hilarious, and I highly recommend it.
The "Jaws" ride was a boat ride around a pond with Bruce popping out of the water at predictable intervals. Maybe it's because it was so long ago, or because I had the worst seat on the boat, but this one was pretty dull. Now, if the shark had actually bitten our boat, it might have been another story.
If you love fifties & sixties futuristic architecture and graphic design (think Jetsons & The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), then you're going to enjoy the Men In Black. It's really cute to look at. The ride is OK.
And you're either going to love T2 or hate it. If you know that the T2 Judgment Day is 29 August 1997, you'll probably love it. If you've never seen a Terminator movie, you probably won't.