Saturday, July 26, 2014

#FWP - resolved

A few weeks ago, I suffered a frustrating loss whilst pitting my computer technology skillz against an intractable opponent in the form of a Belkin wifi router.  They goal was both simple and laudatory: I was attempting to set up the router in order to provide the miracle of Netflix on my parents' TV rather than have it available only on their PC.

The Belkin beat me to a pulp after a grueling two hour battle of wits and patience. It was my own fault, really. I knew their product to be inferior to other, somewhat costlier alternatives, but I fell for the rock-bottom price anyway.

With gorgeous Myday flying weather yet again greeting me in the morning, and with my planned trip having been cancelled due to an inconvenient injury to the passenger, I went with Plan B: take another joust at the wifi windmill.

Arriving at the hangar and hoping to see the Steely Eyed Toad, I was instead met by an interloper.  I would have expected this guy to be prey for The Toad, but somehow he seems to have sent him packing.

I think I would run (or hop) away too!  He's a nasty looking brute.


The weather on this particular Myday was the best yet. These are the kind of sparkling morning skies that we see maybe half a dozen times over the length of the summer.




After the requisite trip to Wally Mart to procure a vastly superior piece of Linksys kit, I steadied my nerves and rejoined the battle. The Linksys put up nary a whimper. It was installed and running in roughly two minutes, proving again the adage that "you get what you pay for."

Setting up the Roku and configuring it for easy access to Netflix was a little more time consuming, but nothing too difficult arose. Although as I think about it, I may have skipped an important topic in my demonstration of how to operate the Roku in Netflix - I forgot to demonstrate how to use the Closed Captioning button. That will certainly lead to problems when selecting BBC programming.

While climbing out of KVES and climbing to cruising altitude for my trip back east, I received a text message from Kyle, Sr. Gadget Procurement Officer and Event Planner for The Jackson Two.

Answering texts while flying, even with the very capable autopilot at the stick, is uncomfortable, so the potentially leading but possibly simply curious "You flying anywhere this evening?" message seemed as if it could be a precursor to a lengthy conversation that I would have trouble managing.  I Swyped out a reply targeted at getting to the crux of the matter.

"Hadn't given out any thought."  Swype isn't super accurate, so we've all learned to mentally transpose things like 'out' to 'it' based on the context of the rest of the sentence.  Thinking that quick response to not cut to the crux quickly enough, I quickly followed up with "Got something in mind?"

"How does Urbana sound?"

This is shorthand for having dinner at The Airport Diner located, surprisingly enough, on the airport at Urbana.

"Okay."

But then I got to thinking.... had he said something about meeting me at Bolton?  I couldn't remember. As I was only about ten miles from Urbana at the time, and not keen on the idea of flying the additional 18 miles from Urbana back to Bolton just to turn around and head right back, I texted "Meet you there."

Except.... no I didn't.

No signal.

And this was a critically important message, something that these so-called "smart" phones are coded to detect, or so it seems, because these are the types of messages that consistently fail to send.

I figured I would pick up a signal again once I was over the city, but it wasn't quite as easy as that. Have you ever seen those people walking around holding their phone in the air as if it's some kind of 21st century divining rod?

Yeah, like this:


Having failed to get the message through, I decided to land and try my luck on the ground. As I turned towards the airport and declared my intentions, I got a reply:

"Four delta golf, two kilo lima is [I forget] minutes out."

To which I replied, "Confirm landing at india seventy-four."

"Confirmed."

To which I replied, "Not sure why I wasted all that time trying to text when I could have just called on the radio," which was slightly facetious as I had no idea at all if they would be on the same frequency as I was.

Now, I am perhaps the last person in Ohio to know this, but in my defense I only ever eat breakfast at Urbana, and I don't think they typically have patio seating set up in the mornings. That, or I am horribly unobservant.

I grabbed a table on the patio and filled the time reading a book on my iPad.


After a good New York Strip with two sides (priced at a paltry $10.99), we wandered the airport a little bit. We got a close up look at the Grimes Flying Lighting Catalog - this thing is adorned with just about every product in their inventory. It's amazing to see at night.


From there it was just a quick hop back to Bolton, where there was no sign of the interloper. No sign of The Toad, either.

It was a little bit lonely.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Maaarrrrkkkk.....

......Twwwaaaaaiiiinnnnnn!

Or, as you would more typically read it, Mark Twain. Which, as we all know, was the pen name adopted by one Samuel Clemens, the author of a couple of books that seems as if they were on every mandatory high school reading list back in my day, and certainly for years and years prior.

I doubt that they are anymore. If fact, one of them, Huckleberry Finn, is probably found prominently displayed on banned lists more often than not - people these days have no patience for the "unenlightened" manner of speaking of our forbears.

'Tis a shame - Tom and Huckleberry had a number of valuable life lessons to share, and before teen "literature" became all about witches and vampires, they provided stories of great adventure.  And not for nothing, they painted an intriguing view into the world of the old riverboats that plied the waterways of the big Mississippi.

Having grown up in Cincinnati, itself having grown up back in those days and benefiting in no small way from the river commerce enabled by the big paddle wheels plying their trade on the Ohio River, I have always been aware of some of that history - it was simply part of the fabric of the city of my birth and development years. I even had a tiny role in my high school's stage production of Tom Sawyer. I think my only line was 'Ugh!', uttered as I was struck on the head with a grave stone.

When Don, patriarch of The Jackson Two, mentioned to me that there is a river boat museum not too very far from the airport at Gallipolis, a small-ish town on the banks of the Ohio, I figured it was just a matter of time before I made the trip to see it.

This past Myday was that day.

I was met at the hangar again by my new hangar frog, whom I have yet to negligently run over with my car or trample underfoot. I cannot count on his survival instincts to help - this guy has absolutely no fear of me whatsoever. If he's perched in a dangerous location, I have to pick him up and move him.

I'm going to start calling him The Steely Eyed Toad.




The ride down to Gallipolis was glass smooth, but the high overcast kept it from being "sparkling." There wasn't much by way of morning fog in the valleys, so presumably the humidity was low or the ground temps were fairly high.


I did see this mysterious single line of cloud stretching off into the distance, looking for all the world like a contrail from a very low flying jet.


I eventually figured out where it was coming from.


The museum is located in Pt. Pleasant, WV, which is, like Gallipolis, located in the confluence of the Kanawha and Ohio rivers.  I think. As the Kanawha  is actually a tributary of the Ohio, I might be using the word 'confluence' incorrectly. In any event, the Kanawha is largest inland waterway in West Virginia, and it has formed a significant industrial region of the state since the middle of the 19th century.

Since I was approaching from the north, I was well positioned to enter a left downwind to runway 5 at KGAS, but I was also six minutes early for the agreed upon 9 am rendezvous with Kyle, lead slide whistle player for The Jackson Two. As such, I thought an orbit of the confluence was in order. This is a simple thing these days as I can just set the autopilot to hold my altitude and use the 'track' control to manage my heading. Just an easy twist of the knob and the plane will turn to and follow whatever direction I give it. That allows me to devote a few more seconds to picture taking than I could when I was solo sans assistance, which usually meant that the best I could do was hold the camera in the general direction of the subject area, press the button, and hope for the best.


Ah, well, I guess it was inevitable that I would look it up:
A tributary is a freshwater stream that feeds into a larger stream or river. The larger, or parent, river is called the mainstem. The point where a tributary meets the mainstem is called the confluence.
So there ya go, and here it is. Pt. Pleasant is the little burg on the right, and Gallipolis is on the left, on the far side of the Ohio. To get from Gallipolis to Pt. Pleasant, we would borrow the airport courtesy car, cross two bridges, and find the museum.


I crossed back over the Ohio and entered the left downwind for runway 5. The pattern is somewhat like landing at Portsmouth, OH (KPMH) in that there is a line of hills just off the side of the runway. At Portsmouth the hills are positioned such that you fly over them, but at KGAS you they are between you and the runway.


As you come back around on you final approach, you are actually below the tops of the hills. The winds were light at no more than four knots, but even then there was a notable amount of churn and turbulence from the disruptive influence of the hills. I don't think I would want to try this place on a windy/gusty day.


The little brick airport building was donated by Bob Evans Farms, the corporate owner of the venerable Bob Evans restaurant chain. I don't know if the rest of the country/world knows about or has Bob Evans restaurants, but they're a big deal in the American midwest region.


Sigh.  Yes, I looked it up.
The Bob Evans Restaurant chain started from a single truck stop diner near the Bob Evans Farm in Rio Grande, Ohio in 1946. The chain has grown to nearly 570 locations in 23 states, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern, and upper Southern states. All locations are corporately owned, not franchised. 
The restaurant chain started up after Bob Evans began slaughtering and packaging his own sausage for his diner. Truck drivers and other patrons began telling him that his sausage was superior. However, but did not have the capacity to fill large orders. He contracted with his cousin Tim Evans of Evans Packing Co. to package Bob Evans Sausage products. In the early years of The Bob Evans History, Bob was known to have made his way across the Southern Ohio Hills seeking some of the best cuts of meat. He was very well known in a little town along the Ohio River by the name of Gallipolis, Ohio, where at the local Meat Market & Grocery Store he and Earl Nance created sausage recipes. Evans tried to sell his sausage to area restaurants, but they turned him down, saying that customers wouldn't pay more for quality. Evans felt differently and opened his own restaurant on his farm in Rio Grande in 1962.
Having skipped my customary morning repast, the mere mention of his name got me thinking that perhaps the local Bob's (as we call it) would be a great place for breakfast. And as were were just a short drive from the farm in Rio Grande, we would go to the restaurant located there rather than the one located within walking distance of the airport.

But first, we had to walk over and look at a Waco that had stopped by on its way from (or to) North Carolina.  They were getting ready to fly out, and with a radial engine that means pulling a few blades through to make sure that any oil that has seeped past the piston rings doesn't cause a disastrous (to the internals of the engine) hydraulic lock.


While it is only four miles to Rio Grande, one never really knows how reliable an airport courtesy car is.

We made it.



Anyone who has eaten at a Bob Evans restaurant has seen a picture very similar to this:


The chain has spent the last few years completely (and sadly, in my opinion) updating all of its restaurants to a consistent, homogeneous design. If I had hoped for a "down on the farm" distinction between the home restaurant and the rest of the chain, well, it wasn't to be.


After another short (yet rife with tension - the gas gauge said 'full', but the sporadically illuminated 'low fuel' light didn't agree) drive, we were parked at the River Boat Museum, a readily apparent fact based on the huge paddle wheel and connecting rod.


Oh, and the painted sign, lest there be any lingering doubt.


One of the first exhibits was this collection of steam whistles recovered from the Mississippi paddle wheeler. Or so I thought at the time. Compare:



I was surprised at the level of interactivity the museum allowed:

video

As regular readers of this journal might remember, I am a big fan of the engine control repeaters common on older ships.


Chronographs, to. It's interesting to me how much two of the most important navigational breakthroughs in the history of our world were enabled by the advent of reliably accurate time measuring devices.  Before the development of accurate time reporting, mariners could only guess at their longitude:
The history of longitude is a record of the effort, by navigators and scientists over several centuries, to discover a means of determining longitude.
The measurement of longitude is important to both cartography and navigation. Historically, the most important practical application of these was to provide safe ocean navigation. Knowledge of both latitude and longitude was required. Finding a method of determining longitude took centuries and involved some of the greatest scientific minds. 
Determining longitude on land was fairly easy compared to the task at sea. A stable surface to work from, a comfortable location to live in while performing the work and the ability to repeat determinations over time made for great accuracy. Whatever could be discovered from solving the problem at sea would only improve the determination of longitude on land. 
Determining latitude was relatively easy in that it could be found from the altitude of the sun at noon (i.e. at its highest point) with the aid of a table giving the sun's declination for the day. For longitude, early ocean navigators had to rely on dead reckoning. This was inaccurate on long voyages out of sight of land and these voyages sometimes ended in tragedy as a result. 
In order to avoid problems with not knowing one's position accurately, navigators have, where possible, relied on taking advantage of their knowledge of latitude. They would sail to the latitude of their destination, turn toward their destination and follow a line of constant latitude. This was known as running down a westing (if westbound, easting otherwise). This prevented a ship from taking the most direct route (a great circle) or a route with the most favourable winds and currents, extending the voyage by days or even weeks. This increased the likelihood of short rations, which could lead to poor health or even death for members of the crew due to scurvy or starvation, with resultant risk to the ship. 
Since the Earth rotates at a steady rate of 360° per day, or 15° per hour (in mean solar time), there is a direct relationship between time and longitude. If the navigator knew the time at a fixed reference point when some event occurred at the ship's location, the difference between the reference time and the apparent local time would give the ship's position relative to the fixed location. Finding apparent local time is relatively easy. The problem, ultimately, was how to determine the time at a distant reference point while on a ship.
And, of course, the breakthrough that we ourselves have seen in our lifetimes, GPS, is based on the triangulation in 3D space of very. very. VERY precise time comparisons.

What does this have to do with an old river boat which, by the very nature of its design and purpose, was limited to an area constrained by the banks of a river?

Not a single thing.  But... it's still a fine looking clock.


Ooooh, another repeater!


More interactivity: and old steam calliope powered by an electric vacuum cleaner.  Seriously.


video

My performance was abysmal, as can be seen by the reaction of the audience.

So, so dejected.  He's heard it all, alas.



Covington, KY is just across the river from my home town of Cincinnati.  I was just down there a couple of months ago, and this bridge looked familiar somehow.


This would be why:


The Delta Queen has always been a part of Cincinnati history, and is easily the best known of the river boats there.



Three different United States Presidents have sailed on Delta Queen: Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, and Jimmy Carter. 
In 1946, Delta Queen was purchased by Greene Line of Cincinnati, Ohio and towed via the Panama Canal and the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to be refurbished in Pittsburgh. On that ocean trip she was piloted by Frederick Way, Jr. In 1948 she entered regular passenger service, plying the waters of the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers between Cincinnati, New Orleans, St. Paul, Chattanooga, Nashville, and ports in between. Ownership of the vessel has changed seven times over the last fifty years. 
In 1966, Congress passed the first Safety at Sea Law that would put the Delta Queen out of business. After consulting with attorney William Kohler, Richard Simonton, Bill Muster, and Edwin "Jay" Quinby traveled to Washington, DC, to save their boat. As chairman of the board of Greene Line Steamers, Jay Quinby testified before the Senate to ask for an exemption to the law. Greene Line had to renegotiate the exemption every two to four years (probably in addition to campaign contributions - ed). The boat's Betty Blake Lounge is named in honor of the woman who rose from public relations officer to savior of the boat when Congressman Garmatz tried to block the 1970 exemption.
Thanks to the efforts of Betty Blake and Bill Muster, the Delta Queen was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was subsequently declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989. 
One unusual feature of Delta Queen is her steam calliope, mounted on the Texas deck aft of the pilot house. It covers approximately three octaves, and was used to play the ship in and out of her berth while she was docking and undocking. The Master of the Delta Queen sometimes extended this courtesy to other vessels as well.
Was that the calliope that I played?

Nope.

The museum is not expensive - it was $5 each to get in. I was wondering how they get by on such a low entrance fee. As it turns out, they also have an amazing simulator that they use for teaching river tug drivers, and amazingly, they allow museum visitors to play with it at no additional charge.

A docent introduced us to the correct operation of the sim:

video

He also showed us a speedboat located right there at the confluence of the rivers:

video

I'm not joking when I say it was pretty easy to get a little seasick just watching it!

When it was my turn at the helm, I followed in Mr. Clemens footsteps and tried my hand at piloting a barge, with predictable results.

video

The liability concerns that are a natural reaction to an overly litigious environment probably preclude it, but I sure would like to ride one of those boats down river as far as Louisville, KY.

Rather than potentially performing as poorly as I did as a tug captain, Capt. Kyle opted instead to drive a speed boat in San Francisco Bay.


Elsewhere in the museum was a map that demonstrated why it took two years of study for Clemens to become a riverboat pilot.  This is similar to the amazing depth of knowledge required to be a London cabbie.


Just across from the museum, there is a small state park that is primarily a monument to a couple of local historical events that I to date had been completely unaware of.

One was the embarkation of a group of local militia that would make their way upriver to join in the battle of independence from the British.  The other was a memorial to Lord Dunsmore, the proximate leader of a battle against a consortium of indigenous Indians.


Lord Dunmore's War — or Dunmore's War — was a 1774 conflict between the Colony of Virginia and the Shawnee and Mingo American Indian nations. 
The Governor of Virginia during the conflict was John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore — Lord Dunmore. He asked the Virginia House of Burgesses to declare a state of war with the hostile Indian nations and order up an elite volunteer militia force for the campaign. 
The conflict resulted from escalating violence between British colonists, who in accordance with previous treaties were exploring and moving into land south of the Ohio River (modern West Virginia, Southwestern Pennsylvania and Kentucky), and American Indians, who held treaty rights to hunt there. As a result of successive attacks by Indian hunting and war bands upon the settlers, war was declared "to pacify the hostile Indian war bands." The war ended soon after Virginia's victory in the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774. 
As a result of this victory, the Indians lost the right to hunt in the area and agreed to recognize the Ohio River as the boundary between Indian lands and the British colonies.


There is also a commemoration to one Col. Andrew Lewis, who for some reason Kyle thinks he may be distantly related to.  Could be - they share the name.



Like Portsmouth, Pt. Pleasant has a flood wall, and they have had murals painted on them.



There was no descriptive text to be found, so I had to do a little research after the fact.  Like, what was Ms. Bailey so angry about?
"Mad" Anne Bailey (1742 – November 22, 1825) was a famous story teller and frontier scout who served in the fights of the American Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War. Her single person ride in search of an urgently needed powder supply for the endangered Clendenin's Settlement (present-day Charleston, West Virginia) was used as the template for Charles Robb's 1861 poem Anne Bailey's Ride. She is known as the Heroine of the Kanawha Valley.
Of course, these days there is a completely different type of heroin that the local area is known for.

The murals are a mix of depictions of the lifestyle of those early years and some of the less peaceful interactions between the encroaching settlers and the local Indian tribes.


Oh, and there are remembrances of notable historical figures that passed through.




George Washington practiced the boating skills that would later be used to cross the Potomac.

(No, not really.)




You can actually see the resemblance, if you squint.


Lord Dunmore looks to be a bit of a fop in this instantiation. One could be forgiven for thinking he arrived on our banks with the goal of blasting away the trees with RPGs in order to build a golf course.


It was difficult to discern the meaning of a few of the murals.  Here's a guy slugging back some moonshine in the shadow of some type of surgical operation. Perhaps he's testing the anesthesia.


I'm sure I saw this scene in the movie Shrek.


Yep.


The battle scene was quite wide. These are the settlers pushing the Indians back to the river.


A treaty was signed.


Before long, the Indians faced American law, as depicted in this rendering of a DEA "no-knock" raid:

"Drop the peace pipe, and come out with your hands up!!"



The muralist snuck in some pretty creepy details, if you look close enough.


As we headed back to the parked car, we went past an interesting looking antique store.

I think one of these would make a great tap for a beer keg.


Don't you hate seeing things you had as a kid in an antique store??


This looks like it would still be useful today:


It can be difficult to determine the true age of certain items.  They nailed this one, though:


A soap box derby car!  Sadly, no test drives allowed.



This would make a good pen holder, or anything else that could be used to justify its position on a desk:



Pt. Pleasant is also home to a more modern phenomenon:


This dude looks meaner than Mad Anne Bailey, a feat I would have wagered to be impossible!


We stopped in to walk look around in the Historic Lowe Hotel, which has been in continuous operation since 1904. It would be a neat place to spend the night, if I hadn't already seen everything there is to see in Pt. Pleasant.



According to Trip Advisor, it is the #1 ranked hotel in Pt. Pleasant.

#1 of 1, so I guess that's a distinction without distinction.  It rates four out of five stars, though, so it actually is a pretty decent place. No word on room rates, though.

Here's a sampling:
"We stayed at this hotel on the way to Chicago. Its main attraction for me is its location in Point Pleasant, the point where the Kanawha River(the New in Virginia) runs into the Ohio River. The town has a beautiful river walk just behind the hotel. It features statues, a long mural, and a nice amphitheater. I walked in just a few moments to the Tu-Endie-Wei Ste Park, site of a very large battle with the Shawnnee and others before the Revolutionary War. I also saw several tugs and barges on the two rivers.
The hotel is a bit dated, but our room was spacious, cool, and quiet. The beds were comfortable. I could see the Mothman from my window. The owners were very nice and were in fact preparing to travel to Mountain Lake, Virginia for their 50th wedding anniversary."
"I stayed at The Lowe Hotel on Saturday, May 24, 2014 with my significant other. It was my birthday weekend, so the stay was part of my birthday present. I've stayed at the Lowe before and I love The Lowe and Point Pleasant. The owners and the local residents are very friendly and we enjoy going to the Red Parrot Cafe and bar located on the ground floor of The Lowe. There is a lot to do in Point Pleasant and we stay busy the whole time we are there. I've noticed in the reviews that most people either love or hate The Lowe Hotel. I love The Lowe because I love historic buildings and I have an appreciation of historic things. To me, the skeleton keys that operate the doors add charm and I really like them. I noticed someone else complained about the skeleton keys, so it just depends on your taste as to whether or not you will like it. Others complained about the place being "old". I guess they didn't realize it's a historic building with charm and character and that's an attraction to people like myself. If older buildings and furnishings are a turn-off for you and you like a fancy place, I suggest you stay at The Hampton. For those of us who love historic buildings, The Lowe is wonderful. I wish I could tour the whole building and explore every nook and cranny! I find it really interesting to see how it's built and how people lived back then. They have enough modern amenities (like TV, refrigerator, Wifi, etc.) to satisfy most people."
I had just enough time left to grab a quick lunch, which as good because there was no way that Kyle was letting me leave without trying a footlong hotdog at Remos Italian Style Hot Dogs.  I have to say, it doesn't have the street presence that would have encouraged me to try it alone.


It's tiny inside, so it's mostly a carryout business. The ordering process is very simple, and typically sounds like, "Hey, a long with sauce, mustard, and onion."  You can get pickles too, but you don't really need them - the sauce tastes as if pickle juice is one of the basic ingredients.


It was incredibly good!  I bought a pint of frozen sauce to take back up north with me.


Climbing out over Gallipolis, I got one last look at the Ohio River before turning north, back towards landlocked Columbus.