Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

Westward Bound–Acadia to Teddy Roosevelt National Park

Sunday, June 12th, 2016


After a circumnavigation of New Brunswick, I re-enter Maine at Calais (pronounced callous) and wander down the Maine Coast photo-oping in front of all the cute buildings.  Here’s one that I can’t resist–not sure of the architecture style–perhaps a cross between French and Stave-church Norwegian?


An interesting NPS park unit is St. Croix International Historical Site.    This was the second permanent settlement in North America (after Castillo de San Marcos/Fort Marion in Florida) settled by the French, half of which died after the first year so they moved out to St. Croix Island.  One of 411 NPS park units.


I give three talks in Bar Harbor, SW Harbor and Acadia Park Headquarters–a very beautiful National Park.  John D. Rockefeller, and others, captured Mt. Desert Island (pronounced both ways–Dessert and Desert) and built wagon roads and fancy homes there, eventually donating much of the island to the NPS.


This is the Northeast Harbor marina with clear blue waters and an active fishing fleet.




On the summit of Mt. Desert Island you can see for miles as you walk around a 1/4 mile loop.  Worth the effort.


The new tourists are from…….. Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).  I recognized their language and greet them in Vietnamese–which surprised them.  They insisted on a photograph and so did I.  Three-quarters of the Vietnamese have no recollection of the “American War.”  I learned a bit of their language in 1965 and 66 which came in handy when I visited Hanoi with an NGO in 1989.  The Vietnamese are very industrious, clever people who I predict will become a strong ally of the US sometime in the future.  Obama did right by visiting there last month.


This is one of the longest ships in the world–or so it was told to me by my next door camping neighbor at the Duluth Marine & RV Park.  It is about 1100 feet long and carries iron ore from Duluth up the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Iron ore is a major export for Minnesota–a fact I didn’t know (or perhaps was asleep in high school geography class).  Duluth lies at the far west of the Great Lakes system and is chuck full of old brick buildings, quaint pubs & restaurants, a unique bridge, and very bumpy streets.


Driving about 350 miles a day I visit Voyageur National Park and this huge trout. Voyageur is a huge lake system bordering Canada and a first visit for me.  This was the “highway system” for the French Canadian fur trade.   I have been asked by many ‘fans’ to make a poster for this park and I think I will.  I witnessed not one, but two wolves cross in front of my car on the 10 mile drive into the visitors center at Ash River.   Park headquarters is located at Kabetogama.


Had to visit the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio even though it was 150 miles out of my way.  This is a modern trailer; mine is a 1948 Trailwind, the logo for this blog (serial #3) which didn’t seem to be of much interest to them; and they have absolutely no parts for the old ones.  There was also an Airstream rally there, Alumapalooza, for $500!–but packed with Airstream techs, demonstrations, etc.  I didn’t have the luxury of time or money.  And after my rally experience in Florida, I’m a bit weary of macaroni & cheese banquets.


Here is the geographic center of the North America in Rugby North Dakota. I’m headed west….


….to Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Unit.  This CCC overlook is perhaps the most photographed building in the country.  I’m doing a poster of this very place–stand by fans!!!!


Here’s another CCC campground building with typical massive cornerstones.  The CCC trained about 3 million 18-23 year old men practical skills and was run by the US Army with NPS (and State Park) input. It lasted 9 years and their works are nearing a century old.   They were paid $1/day and had to send $25 of it home to mom and dad (back when they had moms and dads).


This modern park building was built in 1991 and is condemned due to massive structural failure.  My guess it was built on poor soils–a centuries old bison wallow which is very unconsolidated.


Within a few years, the sidewalks began oozing sideways as the building settled and the foundation cracked.  Where are those CCC boys when we need them!   Stay tuned!

New York, New England, New Brunswick, New Places

Monday, May 23rd, 2016


Two years ago I published a screen print of the Statue of Liberty at the request of Eastern National Bookstores so thought it about time to visit the Statue and the bookstore below.  It’s quite a monument.  I trained down from Connecticut in about 45 minutes, then stood in two lines–half hour to purchase tickets and another hour to get on the ferry.  The poster has a silhouette of my 1899 tug as the border for the statue with additional silhouettes of actual immigrants taken from an historic immigration photo.  The actual Statue of Liberty was not accessible–that takes a 6 month advanced reservation….so I contented myself with a walk around Liberty Island.   And the poster was still not up on the walls of the bookstore, but it’s only been two years……


This is the footprint of tower #1 of the WTC which today is another monument.  The new WTC towers above a full 1776′


Truly impressive.


Ranger Kevin Oldenburg of the Roosevelt Vanderbilt National Historic Sites in Hyde Park NY invites me to give my talk at the FDR Library/ Visitors Center–I am absolutely flattered.  First there is a tour of the Vanderbilt Mansion.


This was the age of “conspicuous spending” and Frederick (grandson of Cornelius) was certainly conspicuous.  Pardon the blue tarps–they’re rebuilding the porches, columns and all.  Kevin gave me a private tour and we delved into many nooks and crannies……


In this nook, we found an orrery or clock of our solar system with only the Sun, Mercury, Venus and the Earth and Moon–which was pretty much all that was known when these were figured out.  The ecliptic rises at 23 degrees.  Kevin had answers to all my questions.


And then a piano hidden in this cranny.  Now I’m a sucker for pianos–even broke my leg walking to one a few years back–but this is quite fancy;  an 1883 Steinway which is tuned and occasionally played.


The NPS manages dozens of units in  the Hudson River Valley, and in Hyde Park I visit three:  The Roosevelt Home, Val-Kill Residence (Eleanor Roosevelt’s retreat) and The Vanderbilt Mansion.  The Visitor Center at the Vanderbilt hosts nine posters which introduce an exhibit about FDR and his National Park and WPA–CCC involvement.  It will run a year or more so try to attend.


This is FDRs desk at his home.  He was born in this house and was an only child–which nearly killed his mother at childbirth.  Eleanor moved into this home with FDR’s parents, so never had her own to raise their 6 children–five of whom survived.  I met Elliot Roosevelt in Puget Sound in about 1983.   FDR hosted world dignitaries here in 1939 including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill.


FDR’s wheelchair can be seen center left–it was a simple oak kitchen chair with wheels added.  That way, he could sit with a blanket over his knees and not draw attention to his polio stricken legs.  He contracted polio when he was 39; it was misdiagnosed which may have allowed this disease to progress further.


Posted at the FDR Library is this “Message to Congress” that everyone over 80 remembers hearing FDR read on the radio.  Besides plunging the US into a two-front war, it also ended the WPA and the poster project with only 14 parks having participated.


Also posted in the FDR Library is this letter from Albert Einstein.  Einstein said this was probably the biggest mistake of his lifetime.


Who wouldn’t love this 1936 Ford Phaeton.  It was equipped with hand controls so FDR could operate the vehicle, which he often did.


I get back from my talk at 8pm and offer my condolences to my next door campers–a tree crashed down nailing two cars–this was the worst.  Now, I had the pick of this site a few hours earlier and almost camped here, but chose the next one.  My trailer, seen just beyond, was spared……  whew!


After that scare, and with a week of free time before my Baa Haaba (Bar Harbor & Acadia) talks, I decide to explore the Bay of Fundy.  I live in Alaska where 26′ of tidal variations are the norm.  However, the Bay of Fundy boasts full 46′ tidal fluctuations on average shared at various points around the bay.  The ‘mother of all extremes’ occurred in 1869 when the Saxby Storm piled 71′ of water at the head of the Bay of Fundy.


The beautiful New Brunswick town of Shediac–Home of the Worlds Largest Lobster–visit if you can and stay tuned……..

ELDA Revisited

Friday, May 13th, 2016


My journeys take me back through New York State and I simply must stop to visit my great uncle’s old estate in Ossining.  He, and all of his siblings, were inventors and David T. Abercrombie was no exception having founded Abercrombie & Fitch in 1892.  This estate, named ELDA after his four children (Elizabeth, Lucy, David, Abbott) was built in 1925-6 by Portuguese stone masons, is five stories tall, sits on 52 acres with three lakes and was once a grandiose estate.


A closer look at the south side of the building.  It’s massive!  The walls are 3-4′ thick and reinforced with Abbott Steel.  David’s wife was Lucy Abbott Cate of the Abbott Steel Company who built the turret on the Monitor and the steel trusses and compression ring on the US Capitol rotunda.  They held patents on fireproof steel–which wouldn’t warp when heated.  They knew their stuff.

Entrance Reduced Size

This is the north side of the building with the curved entrance.  It enters a foyer with the dining/kitchen on the left and living room on the right.  A tea house was later added right behind the tree in the center of this photograph.  The square tower housed guest bedrooms, a gunroom above, a cistern above which gravity fed the entire house.  On top was an observation level where the NYC skyline could be seen, but only when crawling up a narrow catwalk out over the corbelled rim–seen here left center.


This is the same view today–the entire wing is gone.  A faint roof line can be seen on the square tower.  The newspaper accounts of the time attribute this destruction to a paint factory fire in 1944. But I question this account.


Here is the living room ca. 1930.

ELDA 070

An identical perspective in 2010……


…..and today.  Vandals have moved in and have simply trashed the place.  Every window, gone.


The alcove in the living room.

ELDA 077

A 2010 photo of the hinge details…..


… the doors have been ripped out and stripped of their hardware–here half a hinge survived for some unknown reason.

ELDA 092



Today, the toilet and tub fixtures are gone.  Who would steal a 1960s turquoise toilet?

ELDA 118

Attic 2010…..liveable.


2016–the far left panel chopped through the roof.


And on it goes.  The future leaders of our country.  Or more likely, the welfare kings & queens?


I think this was a kitchen.


This was a habitable living space only 6 years ago.


The entry.


The gun-room–intact in 2010 has been stripped of doors and some of the intricately carved panels were crow-barred off the walls.


One parting photograph as I leave.  Every window in the house is gone, every door removed, every appliance tipped and smashed.  I walked on 2″ glass everywhere.  In 2010 I gathered the local/county/state park folks together to try and preserve this property to no avail.  Now 6 years later, it’s worse.  I’m still trying to interest local governments in a park on these 52+ acres.  I’ve also contacted the present day Abercrombie & Fitch–given their track record contrary to the original A & F mission–to  kick in a few shillings–don’t you think?

Oh…..the missing wing of this building.  In 1960 a physicist bought this estate and cleaned it up–a life-time mission of raising his two daughters here.  He was a student of, and understudy to, Norman Ramsey, who won the Nobel Prize in physics for……the Manhattan Project.   Now, it’s just a hunch, but could that forceful blast in 1944 on a secluded 52 acre estate, within a stone’s throw of Manhattan, that took out one wing of Abbott Steel, been related to the Manhattan Project?    Stay tuned!