Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dodging the Raindrops

Dodging the Rain Drops


                Early morning, just  a bit before 4, the sky was dark and sprinkled with stars.  A couple patches of grey drifted across the sky, hiding the stars temporarily. Red and I were on our way back home after walking around the circles that made up the neighborhood.  Looking upward, I saw the International Space Station break free from the earth's shadow.  I followed it as it slowly disappeared into the east.

                Back home again, I finished packing my gear, my camera, my GPS, my test kit and glucose tablets along with a couple bottles of water.  Frank and I were heading south towards Meyersdale to do some caches and some train watching!  Hopefully, the good weather would follow us.

                My first stop after I left home was a Sheetz store located on the hill above Oakmont.  There is a cache very close to its parking lot, I had plans for this to be the first cache of the day.  These plans were not to be followed through.  It was still dark out and parked in the parking lot were 3 police cars with the officers standing outside watching the customers as they pulled in.  I was tempted to explain why I was going scrounging around in the shrubbery, but thought better of it.  I figured I'd stop again on my return trip.

                I got to Franks house about 15 minutes early and we piled all our stuff in his truck and headed towards the turnpike.  We finally saw the sun long after it had crossed over the horizon.  The clouds and haze covered it until it was well up into the sky.  The trip out to the Somerset exit was uneventful and we spent the time catching up with each other.
End of the Road!
(Pictures will enlarge when clicked!)
Frank signing the log with his cowboy buddy
                The first cache was located in a gamelands near the town of Somerset.  It was called "End of the Road", a very well named cache!  The road was Rt 219, a nice 4 lane divided highway.  We came to where the new section ended and it turned into a 2 lane highway.  The 4 lane pavement continued past the 2 lane road and ended about a 1/4 mile further on.  It came to the woods and just stopped.  A couple Pendot trucks stood near-by and that was about it.  We parked and walked a short ways into the woods where Frank saw what we were looking for,  Hidden under some rocks was an ammo can with a log and an assortment of "geo-junk".  We signed the log and dropped off a travel bug I had with me and then returned to the truck and our adventure.
Rt 160, below Berlin
                The clouds were getting rather dark but we still hadn't seen any rain so far, our luck was holding off!
Turnoff at Mance
                The next stop on our itinerary was the small town of Mance.  This little community is situated on the CSX Railroad line.  It is about a mile away from a tunnel.  We drove up a dirt road towards the tracks above us and came to a crossing.  Beside the crossing was an old building that looked as if it had been built a century ago. 
Mance Post Office
From the cornfield
                The tracks passed right in front of it, a wide porch provided seats to watch the trains passing by.  Near the roof line was a large sign declaring it the Mance Post-Office.  The building was closed up tight and no one was around.  We waited for about a half hour for a train to go by, but with no luck.  Finally, we packed up our stuff and continued on.  If nothing else, seeing this building made the trip down here worthwhile.  Too bad no trains had gone by!

                About a mile or two up the road, we passed a dirt road leading to the railroad tracks.  There were 4 large sets of lights on the tracks, 2 pointing uphill and 2 pointing downhill.  The 2 we could see were downhill from us and we could see a green light at the top.  Things were looking better!  After a few minutes passed, we could hear a whistle in the distance.  Soon, we could see the light of the Amtrak train coming toward us.   It would have made a nice picture as it passed the post office, but beggars can't be choosers, we were happy just seeing it.
Frank at the top of the steps
                Our next stop brought us to an old foundation of a farmhouse.  Not much was left to let us know it had ever been there, just some stone and cement steps, an old wall and a weed covered depression in the ground.  Off to the side was an old spring and it was near here that we found our second cache of the day.
Sand patch
                Next on our hit list was the small dot on the map called Sand Patch.  A nice new bridge crossed the tracks here.  As the tracks curved down the valley, high above them on the mountain tops were windmills, slowly spinning away in the dark sky.  Looking up the hill, the tracks crossed over each other to allow trains to switch tracks.  Light signals stood guard, all showing red for the uphill trains.  We took some shots and walked up the tracks a way to see if we could see the tunnel.  As we walked uphill, the rain started falling and we put the tunnel search off for later.  Returning towards the truck, we met two people from Meyersdale who had come up to watch the trains.  We BS'd a bit and not hearing any trains coming, returned to the road once again.  The rain stopped soon after.
                Our next cache was off the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trail but we couldn't find a place to park closer than a half mile away.  This cache involved climbing up a high, steep hillside and had warnings about being extremely careful.  With the dark clouds and the possibility of rain and even more importantly, the difficulty of the cache, we decided to pass on this one.  We would save it for another day.  This was one we both were looking forward to doing.

                Soon we were in Meyersdale and driving up the hill to the old train station that serves as a museum, the Meyersdale Historic Society headquarters and a gift shop.  Outside was a cache hidden in the parking lot.  We made quick work of it and returned to the truck.  The rain that was falling lightly as we left the truck was done by the time we returned.  The building was closed, we were about 15 minutes too early, and once again...we'll return another time.
The Meyersdale Windmills
                The last cache on our list was called "The Meyersdale Windfarm" and as you might have guessed, it brought us up to the big windmills on top of the ridge above Meyersdale.  I've been to a number of these places and the size never ceases to amaze me.  The wind was blowing and the humidity was gone.  The sky was still cloudy, but there was no rain. We were able to see the first three of twenty windmills from the cache site. Supposedly, each blade is about 115 feet long!  We quickly located the cache and signed the log and then took some shots of these behemoths.
The rain is just starting...
 Less than a minute later
                With this cache found, our list was finished and we headed back towards home.  Passing through Meyersdale, we came across a couple CSX engines sitting by some lights, waiting for permission to continue on.  We pulled over to get a couple shots.  As I left the truck, the rain started, light at first but soon a torrential downpour.   As I snapped my second picture, a crack of thunder pealed and I quickly returned to the truck and safety.  (We later learned that an Amish Lady had been fatally stuck by lightning right around this time, a few miles from where we were.)   Continuing on, we were soon back in sunshine once again.

                After changing cars at Franks house, I returned to the Sheetz and got that cache that eluded me earlier in the day.  Then I stopped at the Oakmont Library to post my finds.
Allegheny river Blvd.
                Leaving the Library, the sky was once again turning dark grey and thunder could be heard across the river.  By the time I reached Verona, the rain was coming down so hard the windshield wipers couldn't keep up with it.  I basically followed the lights of the car in front of me.  Two or three miles down the road, by the time I got to the Highland Park Bridge, the sun was out again.  What a weird day!
Home again...in the sunshine
                Arriving at home, the road was drying but lots of branches laying on the ground was evidence of the power of the storm that had just passed through.  I fed the dog and then walked him on dry streets.  

                It was a fun day, we found everything we searched for and only had to pass on one cache.  We found some neat sites and got some cool pictures and, for the most part, we had managed to dodge the raindrops!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Early Morning Cruises

Early Morning Cruises

    Taking advantage of the cool temperatures in the early morning, I took the camera with me yesterday and today and got a couple shots from around the Pittsburgh area.
ARV in Allison Park
    On Wednesday, I managed to catch the Allegheny Valley Railroad engines as they pulled a consist of cars full of scrap metal.   I heard the train coming as I pulled up in front of my house, I quickly put the Jeep back in gear and managed to  get to a spot in Allison Park about a 1/2 minute before the train came around the bend.
    On Tuesday, I took my notebook and pen with me, figuring I'd find a nice spot near a stream or river and sit and write for a bit.  It was very overcast this morning, I couldn't tell when the sun crossed the horizon.  There was a haze covering the city.
Pgh & Ohio Central depot and city in background
    I pulled out my camera first on Island Ave in McKees Rocks.  The Pittsburgh and Ohio Central engines provided a nice foreground for the city off in the distance.
City from a Neville Island Bridge
 CSX train heading towards Pgh
 Reflections in the Ohio River
     Moving further down river, I parked near the bridge on the back channel going over to Neville Island.  Walking across the bridge, I found a couple nice shots, both trains and reflections.
"Highballing train"
Trailer train
    Talking with a friend on the radio, I went over to the Emsworth Locks to meet him for awhile before he went in to the office.   We BS'd about cameras, photography, trains and radio as we waited for some trains to pass.  Naturally, as soon as he said he was leaving, along came a Norfolk and Southern train.  Moments later, one passed going in the opposite direction, heading towards the Conway Yards.  This train was MOVING! I can't even guess how fast it was going.  It was comprised completely of trailers placed on railroad wheels, a neat concept, I'm sure this saves some money for someone!
    After waiting around for another couple minutes, I decided to head back home and start the rest of my day.  I'm sure a train passed with-in a minute or two of my leaving....so goes life.  Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't.   I figure I got my share of shots for the day, it was a good start!

Oh yeah, I never got around to doing any writing............yet!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hump Day (The Longer Version)

Hump Day  (The Longer Version)

                It was a Wednesday, like any other Wednesday.  I woke up, did my normal morning obligations and then went downstairs and let the dog do his.  I showered and made coffee and fed the dog, cut up some vegetables for my lunch salad  and then took the dog for his walk.  The morning was unremarkable, a bit hot but nothing like the hot, humid days we had the week before.  I put the dog in the house and left for work.

                At work, I signed in, checked my e-mails, did some paperwork and then headed over to the coffee pot to fill my cup.  At the pot, I BS'd a bit with fellow employees, talking about our nights and what we would be doing in the days ahead.  The company was one of the topics of conversation as it always is.

                After a bit, I returned to the machine shop to work on a job I had.  This particular job was a "G" job.  This stood for "Government" job, one done for a friend or oneself.  It was a non paying job.  When the shop didn't have any real jobs, I would often do quick little jobs for friends.  My boss had no problem with this, as long as the real jobs took precedence.  Over the years, I've sharpened lawnmower blades,  made tractor flag holders, antenna mounts, cabinet door knobs and a wide variety of other objects. 

                This job today involved putting some slots and holes in a piece of aluminum.  It would keep me busy until a real job showed up.  I made a couple more runs to the coffee pot as the day went on.   After lunch I had one more cut to make on my job.  I adjusted the machine, turned around and nearly jumped out of my shoes seeing my boss standing behind me.

                I turned the radio down a bit to better hear him but all he said was "Sorry to startle you, could you come over to my office?"  He didn't look like his normal self, he looked serious and I had a feeling I knew where this was going to go.

                "Should I clean-up before I come over?" I asked, attempting a bit of humor, but he wasn't biting.  He just said "No let it wait."

                We walked across the floor of the shop and I noticed how no one would meet my eye.  Perhaps they had that same feeling also.   Trying to ease the tension a bit, I asked him how his day was going, knowing full well the answer.  All he replied was that it was a terrible day.  Things didn't look very good.

                Coming around the bend, I could see the Human Resource's woman's back, as she sat at a table in the office.  She turned around and I could see her eyes were red and swollen.  Now, there was no doubt in my mind what they were going to tell me.  After closing the door, my boss apologized for the silence on the way over to the office.  He hemmed and hawed a bit, seeming as if he didn't know quite what or how to say what needed to be said.  I had never seen him like this before.

                I'm sure it is probably my imagination, but I felt as if I had the best grasp on things out of the three of us in the office.

                They explained that due to a lack of work, the company had to eliminate certain jobs.  It seems that my number had finally come up.  The meeting which probably only lasted five minutes, seemed to drag on forever.  I was thinking more thoughts than my mind could process.  I know they told me things that I immediately forgot, but I also remember them both telling me that it had nothing to do with my job performance.  This was something that stuck with me, I'll take any good comments and remember them!  It was just a small comment, but one that I really appreciated hearing them say!

                As the meeting came to a close, they told me there was a company that would help me write up a resume and help me in my future job searches.  I was taken upstairs to meet with them.  I finally got get a chance to wash my hands, to remove the kerosene that was still on them from the job I had been working on.  The smell and feel of it had bothered me during the meeting.  I didn't want to shake my bosses hand, not because he had just laid me off, but because I would dirty his hand.

                I was put in a small office with a woman who expressed her concern for me and what I had just been told.  The sunshine, coming in from the window behind her made me squint at times to see her and the papers she was showing me.  She asked what I thought about the news I had just received and what I would be doing when I got home.  She also asked if I had someone I could talk with, friends or family.  I got the feeling she was looking for any type of depression or suicidal tendencies.

                After she explained what her company could do for me I returned back downstairs.  As I was escorted to my toolbox, I said some good-byes to the people we passed.  My friends and co-workers that I had spent more than half my life with.  I nearly broke down when I said good-bye to the receptionist.  She had recently been left go as part of the security force and was just rehired.  I could feel my eyes tearing up as I hugged her good-bye.

                My (ex) boss took me the long way back, allowing me to stop and talk with some of my other friends.  I had a chance to tell them how I enjoyed working with them and wished them good luck in the future.  This is always tough, the only difference was, I had never been on this side of the conversation before.  I joked with the boss how he was with a "Dead Man Walking" and I think he finally cracked a bit of a smile.

                Back at the shop, I locked up my toolbox, took the "G" job out of the mill, put my coffee cup in my lunchbox and headed out the door.  The boss had to let me out since I no longer had an employee badge. 

                We shook hands once again, wished each other luck and I turned around and walked across the parking lot to my car.  The same way I had done for the last 33 years.

 Only this time, I wouldn't be coming back.

(Note: I just want to mention that I have no bad feelings about any of the people I worked with, no matter where they were in the hierarchy of the company.  It wasn't as much their  decision as it was "the company's".   For the vast majority of them, I enjoyed knowing and working with them and I hope our friendships continue!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Hump Day

This will be short and to the point.  I was laid off yesterday from a job I've spent more than half my life going to.
The lack of work made it pretty obvious that something would happen there eventually.  I was holding my breath and hoping for the best.  Unfortunately, it never came.  Instead, I was visited by my (ex)boss and asked to accompany him to his office.  In less than an hour, I was walking across the parking lot, the same as I had done for over 30 years....only this time I wouldn't be returning.
I will be back to work soon. This will become my new job, looking for employment.
Keep me in your thoughts and prayers.  I KNOW something is out there waiting for me!
In the meanwhile....maybe I'll tackle another cache or two....
Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Visit Back in Time (part 1, to be continued…)

                The fourth of July fell on a Wednesday this year, basically cutting most people's weeks in half.  The temperatures were predicted to be in the mid 90's and of course, humidity was predicted right along with them.  Our goal was to make the most of the day and avoid the hot weather as much as possible.

                We decided to visit an amusement park.  Rock Point Park, located near Elwood City, at the junction of  Connoquenessing Creek and the Beaver river.  This park originally opened in 1885, operating for about 26 years before closing down in 1912.  The property was kept "off limits" for visitors with the hopes that the park would be reopened again.  During the next couple years, a couple fires swept through the park destroying most of the buildings and further dashing the hopes for a revival.  Thoughts are that they were started by sparks from passing steam locomotives.  The property was leased to King's Quarry Company in 1922 and they removed the rest of the standing buildings.  In 2006, the property was purchased by Wild Waterways Conservancy and once again, the public was allowed into the area.

                At its peak, the park hosted over 82,000 visitors.  There was a roller coaster, a water ride, a merry go round, a miniature steam engine train ride, dance halls, picnic pavilions, a dining hall and even a photography gallery.  It was serviced by the P&LE RR, patrons could ride right to a station serving the park.  Competition from parks in Youngstown, Ohio (Idora Park) and New Castle (Cascade Park) and even in the Pittsburgh area (West View Park and Kennywood Park) caused a decline in attendance and 1911 was the last year the park was in operation.  It was officially closed in 1912.
 Full moon shot
(Pictures will enlarge when clicked)
                We left a little before 7, trying to get a head start on the heat of the day.  Driving through the community of Zelienople, we drove down the parade route.  Seats were put out at the curbs, reserving spots for the parade later in the morning.  Flags lined the streets.
 Parade route
                We got to Ellwood City about an hour after we started out and after packing our camera gear and water bottles we started into the woods.  We would be hiking today on the opposite side of the creek from the park.  Our hike started out on Railroad Street, the location of one of the many railroads that serviced this area.  We heard lots of trains on the far side of the Beaver River as we were hiking.  Old railroad ties were visible on the trail near the beginning.   We veered off the nice wide trail and found a smaller path going down towards the stream below.  I could see where the path had been built up at one time, we were on one of the park paths!
 AMB on path
                We then passed under large rock faces as we worked our way closer to the creek.
 Further down the path
                It was here that we found a set of steps.  These at one time led down to a footbridge that crossed Connoquenessing Creek, leading into the park.  The bridge is long gone but the foundations are still here.  This was one of two bridges that crossed the creek.  One still stood in the 90's, but it also is now long gone.
 Steps leading down to the bridge
Steps, up on one side, down on the other?
Base of bridge
Bridge base from upstream
Ring, part of bridge
                We looked around these remains for awhile and then headed down stream towards the Beaver River.  The park was mostly situated in the flat ground near this conjunction.  
AMB working her way downstream
RR bridge crossing the creek at the Beaver River
                There were fields of poison ivy all over the place.  We were able to avoid most of it, but after awhile, we hit a spot that was impossible to cross.  Here, we had to choose between bushwhacking up the hillside or returning to the stone steps and retracing our way uphill.  Both choices took us uphill.  We opted for the more direct route, straight up the hill.  It was probably only 50-60 feet up but it was steep.  The ground was loose and rocky so that gave us footholds.  There were plenty of saplings on the slope and they provided us with handholds.  We made it to the top with no real problems, but the heat of the day started working on us, the sweat was rolling freely by the time we reached the trail above.
After our bushwhacking climb
                Back on the trail on the old railroad line, we continued down towards the river.  We veered off on the next trail going back down the hillside we just climbed.  This brought us down to the stream/river conjunction. The weeds were high and there were lots of spider webs and insects flying around.  The railroad bridge was hard to miss.
                The railroad bridge crossing over Connoquenessing Creek was one of the things I had read about.  It was originally built around 1874 by The Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Ashtabula Railroad.  It was a narrow gauge line that serviced the Rock Point area amongst other places.   The stones used in building the bridge came from the old Beaver Division Canal Lock #8.   Years later, around 1903-1904 the bridge was widened after the railroad upgraded to standard gauge.
RR bridge crossing Connoquenessing Creek, the park location is behind the bridge
Two types of stones, the older ones are on the right
Bridge piers (older stones on the left)
                We roamed around here for awhile and then started back towards the car.  We didn't see anything more from the park but enjoyed the stuff we did locate.  I always think it is pretty neat finding things that were built over a hundred years ago!  We will have to return and visit the actual park location at a later date. 
                We also saw some wildlife, a couple toads, some birds and lots a beautiful flowers.  I might also mention that we found a couple geocaches on our trip, as if you didn't guess that already!  We returned home and cooled down with showers and some cold beer. 
Tiny frog
Me, off to another cache
Another fun day!  Happy 4th!

Information about Rock Point Amusement park came from
My thanks go out to them

Monday, July 2, 2012

Back on the Rails Again

Back on the Rails Again

    I had the day off again and decided to chase some trains for a bit.  I started out in Etna, waiting for the AVR train to come through.  There is "usually" a train that goes north up towards Evens City every weekday.   This is not a cut in stone schedule, usually when I am out searching for it, it doesn't come.  Today, I was lucky!
Crossing the 2nd Pine Creek Bridge, heading north towards Etna
(pictures will enlarge when clicked)
    I caught the train as it neared Etna and after snapping a few shots, I went to the 62nd Street Bridge ramp to Rt. 8.   I passed the train in Etna and went to a spot overlooking the old Glenshaw Glass plant.  (now called Kellerman Bottles)
Passing Kellerman Bottles
    As Red and I were working our way up to the top of the hill, 4 deer were spooked.   Red went ballistic and basically pulled me up the hill.   I tied him to a tree to bark and I went to the edge to snap a few pictures.   After untieing the dog, we hustled back down to the car and sped down the road to get to our next location.
A mile down the road, we caught the train...and a red light
    The train was moving fairly fast now and it cut me off from a couple nice shots, so I continued up to Wildwood Road and cut over towards North Park.  Here I caught the train passing the edge of North Parking the old Wildwood Mine site.   This is also where the flea market used to be held.
Passing the Wildwood Mine Site
     For some reason, the train stopped here, sitting under the Wildwood Road Bridge.   I got quite a few shots from there and then drove down to the mine site and snapped a few more. 
Taken from Bank School Road
Wildwood Road Bridge in background
    The train was just sitting there, not moving and it was getting hotter.  I gave it a couple more minutes and when it didn't move, Red and I headed back towards home.  Our nice cool home.
Today was fun...I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
Only Time Will Tell!