Dry Tortugas National Park

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

There are only two ways to get to the Dry Tortugas – boat or seaplane. We opted for the Key West Seaplane, which allowed us to see Key West from above, as well as have an opportunity to view sea turtles, sharks, rays and the occasional shipwreck. The turtles were hard to find at first, since their color allows them to blend in so well. We did manage to locate a few, though. Generally, we were passing over them too quickly to get any photos.

Tortugas is Spanish for turtle. The Dry was added because there is no fresh water here. That’s true for just about all of the Keys, fresh water has to be brought in, or collected in cisterns, which the early settlers did.

On the way, we flew over the Marquesas Islands, a coral atoll, where sea life can usually be spotted. After that was an area called the Quicksands, a good spot for sea turtles. The sea bed here is covered with huge sand dunes that move with the strong tidal currents. It’s an active treasure site, and millions of dollars worth of gold and silver have been found over the years.

Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846. The US wanted to control navigation to the Gulf of Mexico and protect the Mississippi River trade. Construction continued for 30 years, but was never completed. The fort was used as a military prison for deserters during the Civil War, and it also held 4 men who were convicted of complicity in President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, including Dr. Samuel Mudd who treated John Wilkes Booth after he broke his leg leaping onto the stage at Ford’s Theater.

There were numerous construction problems, and the site was plagued with Yellow Fever. The fort was abandoned in 1874. It was designated a wildlife refuge in 1908, and was named a National Park in 1992 – Dry Tortugas National Park.

The waters around the fort are clear, making for excellent snorkeling. Even just walking around the fort’s moat allowed us to see several fish.

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Exploring Key West

Monday, February 21, 2022

Nothing much planned for today – we had tickets for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour, so rode that this morning, and got a feel for some of Key West’s history. We can use the tickets all day today and tomorrow to go to the attractions we find most appealing.

We drove by the southernmost point, only 90 miles from Cuba. The line for photo ops was very long, so we passed on that opportunity. We’d already done this about 20 years ago, so not too disappointed. There was a sign for Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, which was intriguing. The distillery was opened in 2013, and it really is the first. They did give a pretty good tour, and had some interesting flavored rums. Just a block away is the Papa’s Pilar Rum Distillery, also opened in 2013, and owned by Ernest Hemmingway’s son, Patrick, and grandson, John. They offer classes as well as tours.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Today is our 20th anniversary. We were married two decades ago in Belize. When looking for a warm place in the US to celebrate, Key West fit the ticket. No overseas travel, no cruises for us yet, since COVID is still part of our life. Two years is too much!

Anyway, we heard that Latitudes Restaurant is one of the places to dine in Key West. Months ago, we made dinner reservations, but they were cancelled (I guess they had a better offer?) Not one to give up too easily, I then made reservations for lunch. The restaurant is located on Sunset Key, a short ferry ride from Key West. Lunch was delicious, and the setting was even better.

After lunch, we visited the Shipwreck Museum, and concluded that we had wasted our money. It was quite small, and the only real thing of interest was the lookout tower that provided some great views of the town and surrounding waters.

Dinner tonight was at Azur, a Mediterranean restaurant, where we had an excellent anniversary dinner.

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Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

Sunday, Feb 20, 2022

People were taking advantage of the wind today. We were greeted with the sight of two kites flying at our resort. Unfortunately, there was a kite-eating tree that captured one of them for a while.

We enjoyed a leisurely drive to Key West, stopping at a couple of spots along the way. One stop was at Coco Plum Beach, a nice long stretch of white sand. Here, we found several groups of kiteboarders. It was the first time I’ve ever seen the boards and sails up close. It’s a beautiful sport.

Then we came upon the Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, a 63 acre park in Marathon, with a bird sanctuary and rehabilitation center, an intact home from an 1800’s Bahamian settlement, as well as the largest tropical hammock in the Middle Keys. Hammock is a term used here to describe a stand of trees that forms an ecological island in a contrasting ecosystem.

At one point, we were able to dip our feet in a lagoon and have tiny fish nibble at our feet – nature’s pedicure! They really liked Mark’s feet.

On to Key West, where we will spend the coming week. After checking into our VRBO, we walked about a mile to Sloppy Joes, which was a favorite hangout for Ernest Hemmingway. The bar has been located here for 85 years, and is on the US National Register of Historic Places. It was packed, but we managed to find a couple open stools at the bar. The sloppy joes were good, the drinks were good and the band was good.

Key West is pretty busy right now, with people having a good time during this long President’s Day weekend.

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Florida Keys

February 19, 2022

In 1513, Ponce de Leon, called the Keys ”Los Matires.” The name means the martyrs, names for the natives which, from a distance, de Leon thought looks like suffering men. Calusa and Tequesta Indians populated the islands at that time. Native peoples have been here for at least 12,000 years. They were living in villages by about 7,000 years ago, and firing pottery 4,000 years ago.

Permanent European settlers arrived about 300 years after de Leon, taking advantage of the fishing as well as the treasures to be reaped from shipwrecks in the area.

We flew into Miami yesterday, leaving below zero temps in Minnesota. What a treat to get off the airplane and find that it was hot! At least, it was to us, definitely in the 80’s. Our dry, scaly skin has begun to soften, and our hair to curl up in the humidity. This is heaven to us.

This morning, we headed to the Keys, driving over the Card Sound Bridge which arrives at Key Largo a few miles east of the Hwy 1 bridge. We were interested in visiting the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.

The park has about 6 miles of hiking trails. We hiked a fraction of the park, but enjoyed being outdoors on this warm, sunny days. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were enjoying it too, especially the fresh blood that I supplied. We spotted a Brown Anole lizard in a tree, puffing up its red dewlap to warn us away. Unfortunately, it ran off before I could get my camera focused on the dewlap. There were several Poisonwood Trees. I asked Mark to touch it and see if he reacted, but he wouldn’t oblige me. Sigh!

Traffic was pretty heavy on US Route 1, as vacationers like us chased the sun. This section of US1 is also called the Overseas Highway, and it was first constructed in the 1920s. Initially, the entire route was not connected; with one segment running from eastern Key Largo to Matecumbe Key, and the other from No Name Key to Key West. If you wanted to connect, you could take a ferry to cover the 41 mile gap. The segments were eventually connected, with the entire route opening for traffic in 1938.

The slow traffic made it easy to take a detour or two along the way. The first, and most fulfilling was at the Key Lime Pie Factory in Tavernier. One of our goals on this trip is to sample as many key lime pies as feasible, so we can assess for ourselves where the best one is made. This was a good start. You could have a slice of pie with whipped cream, with chocolate sauce, or plain. There was even a chocolate dipped frozen key lime pie slice. Fortunately, I didn’t see that until we left, or I would probably have had chocolate all over my shirt. Several people stopped in to buy whole pies for the road.

We enjoyed our pie in their lovely Serenity Garden. If you wanted, you could purchase a love lock to add to their very large collection.

Because of the heavy traffic, we thought it would be wise to continue to our lodging for tonight. We are staying at the Rainbow Bend Resort in Marathon. Right now, I’m sitting on the beach, looking at the many cranes, herons, egrets and other water birds. There is a gentle breeze, which just might lull me into a nap.

Dinner tonight will be at the Hideaway Cafe, located at the Rainbow Bend Resort. We had driven this route about 20 years ago, and stopped here for dinner. We have never forgotten how good it was, so made it a point to stop here.

And it was still good! Mark enjoyed the half duck, and I had the seafood special. Although I wasn’t planning to take my leftovers, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have it wrapped in a swan! Dessert was a carrot cake, with a message for our anniversary coming up on 2/22/22 – 2 decades! After dinner, we went to the beach to view the stars – a clear night with no urban light pollution to spoil the view. Gorgeous!

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Gettysburg

Monday, September 21, 2021

We pulled into Gettysburg last night, and are lodging at an inn downtown on Lincoln Square, right next door to the house where President Lincoln stayed the night before giving his Gettysburg Address at the National Cemetery.

Many of the buildings in this area date from before the war, including our inn, built in 1824. One building has a shell casing still embedded in its wall. Buildings that were here at the time are identified by sign, and many have stories of the people who lived or worked in the buildings. In spite of three days of spirited battle, only one civilian was killed during the battle.

Before visiting the park, we had breakfast at Ernie’s Texas Lunch, a diner that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and it was easy to see why it’s survived for so long. The food was good as was the service (our waitress has worked there for 33 years). We’ll probably go back tomorrow.

This is Mark’s first and my third visit to Gettysburg National Military Park. My first visit was in the early 1990s, my second in 2013. Each visit is emotional. Over three days, from July 1 through July 3, 1863, about 50,000 people were killed, injured, captured or missing.

We watched the movie, ”Gettysburg,” based on the novel ”Killer Angels,” by Michael Shaara, before coming here. The movie was filmed on location here, so we could get a sense of just how large the scene of battle was, about 18 square miles, and encompassing the town of Gettysburg. We also hired a private guide, well worth the money, only $75 for two hours of driving around the battlefield and telling the story day by day.

Fighting was fierce throughout the campaign. Possibly best known of the various actions, Pickett’s Charge took place on the last day, an infantry assault by the Confederate Forces that cost them 9,000 casualties our of a force of 12,500 infantry. The Union forces lost only 1,500.

Our own state of Minnesota played a role at this battle. The 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment was indeed the very first group of volunteers to the Union. When Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey learned of the attack on Fort Sumter, he immediately volunteered 1,000 men to President Lincoln. Then he went home and recruited the volunteers, who signed up for a five-year commitment. By the time the 1st arrived at Gettysburg, there were only 262 men left. Under orders from General Winifred Scott Hancock, and let by Colonel William J. Colvill, they faced 1,200 men from General James Longstreet’s corps and Richard Anderson’s Division, protecting a vital Union position. Within minutes, 215 of these brave soldiers were wounded or killed. They attacked with bayonets, buying time for more Union forces to be brought up, earning high praise from General Hancock (“there is no more gallant deed recorded in history”) and future President Calvin Coolidge (“Colonel Colvill and those eight companies of the First Minnesota are entitled to rank as the saviors of their country.”) Yay for Minnesota!

The State of Minnesota was the first to put up a memorial at Gettysburg Battlefield, a flower urn that resides in the National Cemetery, where 52 Minnesotans are buried.

Instead of advancing further north, Robert E. Lee was forced to withdraw his troops to Maryland. General George Meade halfheartedly pursued, but seems to have squandered the opportunity to quash the rebellion and end the war. Instead, it continued for almost two more years.

States that participated in this battle, from both sides, raised money to build and install monuments here at the park, often in the area where they played the greatest roles. Virginia’s monument has General Robert E. Lee astride his horse, looking across Pickett’s Field to where General Meade looks back.

The Gettysburg National Cemetery holds the graves of more than 3,500 Union soldiers who died on this battlefield. Initially, bodies were buried on the battlefield, in shallow graves. A few months later, a cemetery was created. Mostly Union soldiers were buried here, all but a few of the Confederate soldiers’ bodies were relocated to cemeteries in southern states. The cemetery also has graves of veterans from succeeding wars, and there are now over 6,000 soldiers buried here.

It’s been a wonderful trip, but like all good things, it’s coming to an end. We’ll be heading back to Minnesota where the temps are a bit lower than they are here. Oh well!

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Antietam

Monday, September 20, 2021

We actually began our tour of Civil War sites a couple of days ago, at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick. The museum operates the Pry House Field Hospital Museum near Antietam, so we stopped in there as well, but it was not open today. The Pry House sits on the east bank of Antietam Creek. In September, 1862, the Union Army appropriated the house for its battle headquarters. General George B McClellan and other officers observed the battle from this location.

The house was also used as the headquarters for the medical department, under Dr. Jonathan Letterman. The barn was used as a field hospital for enlisted men. Along with two other farms on the west bank of the creek, at least 1.500 men were treated for their injuries.

The Pry family were prosperous farmers before the war. Their losses were great – food stores depleted, livestock slaughtered, fences burned for fuel, hay used up. Crops in the field were consumed, seeds and farm animals lost. They ultimately moved out of state.

On September 17, 1862, just 149 years ago, Antietam became the site of the deadliest one-day battle in US military history, with 23,000 casualties. Had we arrived a couple of days ago, we could have participated in the Battle Anniversary. Hikes, tours, talks, weapon firing demonstrations, were all arranged over a 4 day period ending yesterday. Today, it’s a bit quieter here. We arrived just in time for a docent-led tour, which we appreciated.

The Battle of Antietam was part of Robert E Lee’s first invasion of the North. Lee had invaded Maryland with his full force, in an attempt to shift the focus of the war to Federal territory. He hoped to garner enough victories to propel him to the nation’s capital in Washington, DC, and to convince European nations to recognize the Confederate States of America. The losses on both sides were close enough that it was hard to say who was the victor. However, Lee’s forces were greatly diminished, and he returned to Virginia.

There were several reasons for the large number of casualties including: many raw recruits saw their first (and for many of them, their last) action on this day; and the rolling terrain made it possible to hide from the enemy until they were very close and then catch them by surprise; soldiers moving through surrounding cornfields could not see the nearby enemy, and were easily mowed down as they exited the fields.

Almost 5000 Civil War soldiers are buried in the Antietam National Cemetery. Over one-third are unknown. There are a couple hundred non-Civil War dead buried here as well, but the cemetery was closed in 1953 when it was deemed full.

Following the Battle of Antietam, President Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, freeing the slaves of all states still in rebellion as of the following January 1. This proclamation redefined the Civil War, which was no longer just a struggle to preserve the union, but was now a war focused on ending slavery.

The drive to Gettysburg took us close to the Camp David presidential retreat located in the Catoctin Mountain Park of Maryland (not open to tourists, of course). We stopped at Sach’s Covered Bridge outside of Gettysburg, designated Pennsylvania’s Most Historic Bridge in 1938, and put on the National Historic Registry in 1980. It played a vital role for both sides during the Civil War.

Our route also took us by several scenic orchards and fruit farms. A few wrong turns provided opportunities to enjoy the beautiful countryside around Gettysburg. Apples, apricots, berries, pears, peaches, and many other fruits thrive in this area. We stopped at The Historic Round Barn & Farm Market in Biglerville, to check out some of the products from the many farms and orchards.

Just a few miles away from the Round Barn is another ”must see” attraction: Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium in Orrtanna, PA. Mr. Ed Gotwalt received his first elephant as a wedding gift, bought a few more on his honeymoon, and continued collecting, amassing a collection of about 12,000 figurines, statues and other elephant paraphernalia. Sadly, Mr. Ed passed away earlier this year, but the store is still operating, with his granddaughter and her husband as the current owners. Besides the thousands of elephant figurines, there is a great variety of candies and fudge. You won’t leave disappointed.

Tonight, we are staying in Gettysburg, and will visit that park tomorrow.

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Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Sunday, September 19, 2021

My only other visit to Harpers Ferry was eight years ago, with my father and brother. That particular trip was the impetus to start this blog, and I have truly enjoyed the experience of writing about my experiences.

This part of the country is full of history, and any traveler to the area should add a few days to explore sites related to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the French and Indian War as well as the Civil War. That’s a lot of warfare is less than 100 years.

West Virginia is our 50th state! Prior to 1863, it was part of the state of Virginia, and commonly called Trans-Allegheny Virginia. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, many of the delegates in the northwestern corner of the state were opposed to secession. Representatives from that area advocated for separate statehood. An election was held on October 24, 1861, with overwhelming support for the formation of a new state and constitution. A new state government was formed the following year, and the state petitioned for admission to the United States. President Lincoln stipulated that admission be predicated on the gradual abolition of slavery, and West Virginia was admitted as a state on June 20, 1863. That status was confirmed by the Supreme Court in two different cases.

The town of Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. At the easternmost point, you can view three states, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

You can follow the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath on the Maryland side of the Potomac. Canal Lock 33 was on the Maryland side of the Potomac, less than a mile from Harpers Ferry. The 184.5 mile canal operated between Washington, DC and Cumberland, MD, handling freight that the often shallow Potomac could not. Built in stages between 1828 and 1850, it operated almost 100 years before being shut down in 1924.

Hikers can connect to either of the Appalachian and the Potomac Heritage Trails here in Harpers Ferry. The headquarters for the Appalachian Trail is located in Harpers Ferry, and the Potomac Heritage follows the C & O Canal Towpath.

Harpers Ferry was home to a US Armory and Arsenal, and Meriwether Lewis came here in March, 1803 to procure guns and hardware for his and William Clark’s upcoming exploration of the newly acquired land covered by the Louisiana Purchase. While waiting for the materials, he oversaw the construction of a collapsible iron boat frame that he designed. The frame, which could come apart in sections, was covered in hide, and sealed with pine tar. It was designed to be light (176 pounds) but sturdy enough to carry a load of up to 4 tons. We saw a model of this boat when we were in Great Falls, Montana. The boat was abandoned near there because there were no pine trees in the area, and substitutes for pine tar proved to be leaky.

Harpers Ferry is best known for John Brown’s Raid. Brown and his sons fought for abolition, often violently, throughout the Kansas Territory. They rented a farmouse near Harpers Ferry in 1859 to launch a war against slavery. His plan was to assist slaves in their escape from the South, via the Appalachian mountains. He hoped that a mass migration would so damage the slave economy that it would fall apart. The first, and ultimately fatal step for Brown, was to capture Harpers Ferry. Things did not go according to plan, the local Jefferson Guards were notified, and were able to seal any escape routes. Brown was captured, most of his men and both of his sons were shot. Brown, himself, was tried for murder, treason and inciting slave rebellion. Found guilty, he was hanged six weeks later.

If you decide to visit, plan on parking at the Visitor Center located outside of town, and taking the shuttle to the site. There just aren’t enough parking spaces to accommodate all of the tourists. Take some time to enjoy the lovely neighborhoods as well as the boutiques downtown. We enjoyed a stop at “True Treats,” a shop that specializes in historic candies, made with recipes dating from the 1500s into the late 1900s. We managed to control ourselves and only buy a few items, including molasses hard candies popular in the 1800s – yummy!

It’s a charming town. I was delighted to come across a ”Blessing Box” outside of an Episcopal Church, shaped like a Little Free Library. However, instead of books, it had snacks, waters, even dog treats for those who pass by.

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Fun with PawPaw

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Like many others, we have been watching the COVID news to see if it’s still safe to attend events, or even if they will still be held. Optimistic, we ordered our tickets last month. We drove from Baltimore to Frederick, Maryland today. The 6th Annual PawPaw Fest was held this afternoon.

The pawpaw grows best in shaded, moist lowlands and floodplain soils. The leaves and stems contain a compound that can repel deer and rabbit. Too bad it won’t grow here! On the other hand, the compound is good for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars that dine exclusively on the pawpaw leaves.

Pawpaws don’t generally ripen after picking, but when ripe they only last a few days before getting mushy. These traits make it difficult to ship to other parts of the country. That’s why we had to travel to Frederick, Maryland to find out for ourselves just what the fuss is all about.

But, on the way from Baltimore, we visited the Monocacy National Battlefield, just south of Frederick. Three years into the Civil War, Confederate General Jubal Early was pressing towards Washington, DC, and set up a position at Frederick. Union troops were sent to Monacacy to try to stop Jubal’s advance. Federal forces were outnumbered; they were defeated and forced to retreat. However, this battle slowed Jubal down, allowing Federal troops time to reinforce their numbers outside the Capital, enough to repel Jubal. So, in spite of the defeat at Monocacy, it was considered a strategic victory for the North, and was referred to as “The Battle That Saved Washington.”

The battlefield included several farm fields at the time of the war, and much of the area is still farmland today. The Visitor’s Center has a model of the battlefield along with a narrative that explains how the battle progressed throughout the day. Very interesting!

The Pawpaw Festival took place at Long Creek Permaculture Haven, home to several eco-zones. Mushrooms, nuts and medicinal herbs are grown here. The center of the haven is a house that was built in 2016, a circular home that makes use of its surroundings and the environment.

There were several varieties of pawpaw to sample, all of them delicious. There are subtle differences, with some tasting more sweet, some more mellow. We even tried some pawpaw ice cream. We purchased a few to eat, and plan to bring the seeds home to Minnesota. Whether or not they will grow there remains to be seen.

After visiting the festival, we stopped at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick. The museum has over 5,000 artifacts in its collection, only a fraction of which are actually on display. Here we were able to learn more about how injured soldiers were evacuated from the battlefield, the operations of a field hospital, and how innovations during the Civil War impacted health practices going forward. While we may think that the medicine was primitive, it was actually technologically current for that era. Unfortunately, the concept of germs was not accepted at the time, and many infections resulted from the unsanitary conditions. In fact, of the over 600,000 soldiers who died during the war, two-thirds died of disease, only one-third died of their wounds.

Tomorrow, Harpers Ferry.

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Downtown Baltimore, Maryland

Friday, September 17

Today started early with a Baltimore City & Fort McHenry Sightseeing Tour by Viator. There were several stops to give us a taste of this city’s culture and long history.

First stop was at Federal Hill which we could see from our hotel room. Federal Hill Park, south of the Inner Harbor, was a favorite place for public gatherings in Baltimore. In 1788, thousands of local citizens celebrated Maryland’s ratification of the US Constitution with a parade that ended there. One of the parade floats was a 15 foot scale model of a fully rigged sailboat, named the ”Federalist,” which was to be installed at the park. After a bit of celebrating, some of the citizens decided to push the boat down the hill and launch it in the harbor. It was later sailed down the Chesapeake and up the Potomac to be presented to George Washington at Mount Vernon.

A few years later, a military battalion was set up here during the War of 1812, blocking the enemy’s path, and the British decided to attack Fort McHenry instead. Federal Hill Park was also used by the Union Army during the Civil War, more to prevent Maryland from seceding than to protect it from the Confederacy. The views from Federal Hill were impressive, although it was a bit rainy and hazy this morning.

It was a beautiful day to stop at the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. We weren’t there at the right time to watch the flag raising or lowering, which is an impressive ceremony. I had visited almost 10 years ago, and was able to experience a display about the Flag that moved me to tears. Hopefully, it won’t be long before others can have that experience again. Fort McHenry and the War of 1812 provided the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write our nation’s anthem: “The Star Spangled Banner.” On September 14, 1814, a little more than 200 years ago, Key wrote a poem called “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” about a lone flag flying at daybreak after a day-long bombardment by the British. The British weren’t able to take the fort, and they weren’t able to take down the flag. Key’s poem was later set to music and became our national anthem in 1931.

We visited the Little Italy district. Is it too early for gelato? How about pasta and wine? Next stop Fells Point, one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods, established in 1763, and once a major shipbuilding port. It is home to the oldest standing residence in Baltimore, the Robert Long House, built in 1765. For Edgar Allan Poe fans, The Horse You Came in On Saloon is rumored to be his last stop before his death.

That was a lot to do before lunch, and a great deal of history in about 10 square miles of the city. After lunch, we spent a few hours at The National Aquarium, which opened in 1981. The aquarium is home to more than 750 species. Visitors start on the main level and move up four more levels to see the exhibits. This was one of the most interesting aquariums we have ever visited.

The Marine Mammal Pavilion houses the Aquarium’s dolphin colony, consisting of four females and two males. There were no shows today, but we were able to watch them swimming in the tank.

Tonight, we enjoyed an Inner Harbor Sunset Sail, also by Viator. It was a perfect evening for sailing, with a gentle breeze and comfortable temperature.

By the way, the Domino Sugars sign is one of the largest neon signs in the country, measuring 70 feet by 120 feet. The original sign was installed in 1951, at a cost of $75,000, but had deteriorated over the years. It was shut down in February this year, new LED lights were installed for about $2 million. The sign was relit on July 4, as background to a fireworks show put on by Domino Sugars.

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Looking for PawPaw

Thursday, September 16, 2021

My husband enjoys gardening, not so much the tending of plants as the exploration of plants that might grow in our environment. Besides garlic, asparagus, onions, yams and potatoes, he has several grape vines (both for wine and for eating) and a few fruit trees. We have apple, pear, plum, and apricot trees that can survive in our grow zone, which seems to straddle zones 3 and 4.

Gardeners will know that many plants and trees are simply not sturdy enough for Minnesota winters, but Mark remains optimistic, constantly searching for what will work here. In his research, he often comes across something intriguing, something to pursue. The most recent example is the Pawpaw tree, a fruit tree that is indigenous to the United States, primarily in a band from the mid-Atlantic states to the bottom half of the mid-Western states, notably far south of Minnesota. The tree bears a fruit that has been described as a cross between a mango and a banana. The fruit doesn’t travel well, so is rarely available outside of that area or at any other time of year than now.

We haven’t had the opportunity to try this intriguing plant, so we are heading to Frederick, Maryland, for their 6th Annual PawPaw Fest!! in a few days

We flew to Baltimore today, our first flight in over a year and a half. I’m surprised we still knew where to go and what to do. The flight crew were all very welcoming, even acknowledging the length of time since our last flight. We kept our masks on, and found that, although a little inconvenient, it really wasn’t onerous.

We’ll spend a little time checking out some of the sights in this beautiful city before heading to PawPaw country.. Our hotel is conveniently located near the waterfront, and just a few blocks from the National Aquarium and Marine Mammal Pavilion.

While taking a short walk in the afternoon, I came across The Inner Harbor Water Wheel, aka Mr. Trash Wheel, one of two such waterwheels that were designed to remove trash from the harbor. As water flows through a raking system that diverts the trash to the wheel, which pulls it up a conveyor belt, and dumps it into a dumpster barge. Pretty cool!

Mostly we relaxed after a long travel day. Dinner tonight was at McCormick & Schmick’s on the Waterfront. We were joined by a cousin, and had a fabulous evening, with good company, good wine and good food.

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