Kristy and the National Zoo

If you really think about life, it is a very simple routine; you get up in the morning, hopefully eat something, go to work, take care of bodily functions somewhere in the middle, eat lunch, eat dinner and go back to bed only to begin the next day. I like to think of this as the frame work in which I live in. These are the things I have to do to stay alive and functional; all the other things are what make life worth living. The most important thing of all is the people in our lives! Without them our live regress into the rigid and cold scenario I mentioned in the beginning. That is why I take special notice of the certain people in my life. Have you met Kristy? She is an exercise therapist at the Hampshire Wellness Center. Everyday she brightens up the lives of the people she comes in contact with. Sometimes I swim laps in the pool while Kristy conducts her exercise class. She is enthusiastic, caring and fun to watch. I know my wife comes home in a better mood after one of Kristy’s classes. Every time I see Kristy she greets me with a smile and pleasant conversation. She is one of the many special people who work at the Wellness center. I hope her employer and the people whose lives she touches realize how special she is.
Hali…you’re next.
Sometimes you have to jump into the water with no idea how deep it is. I did this today in a literal sense. My wife and I took our grandson to the Washington Zoo. We drove to Vienna VA, where we caught the orange line of the subway to Metro Central.

metrorail
metrorail

Dylan and I made our way to the front of the train so we could see out the front window. Dylan ooed and awed as we made our way down the track over bridges and highways and finally we dove into the earth where it became very dark. When we entered the subway station, Dylan eyes grew large as he scoped out the size of this underground cavern. We stopped and changed to the red line to end up four blocks from the zoo. We went up an escalator that almost disappeared into the distance; it must go 150 feet into the ground and finally the sun appeared. After the short walk we came to the large stone lions that mark the entrance to the zoo. As you can imagine, Dylan was a very excited to be at the zoo. The first stop on our trip was the Asian Trail where the ever popular Panda bears live. It took a while to find the Panda but finally he ambled out into the open where we could see him.

panda bear
panda bear

Next we saw the otters playing in their stream, then onto the several Asian cats. The Elephant trail was under construction so no excitement there. Finding our way back to the main path, we headed to the Great Apes. One of the mother apes had a baby clinging to her chest. Dylan seemed to enjoy that.

ape love
ape love

Next on our journey was the Reptile Center where we saw the snakes, lizards and very large turtles. On to the great cats, which Dylan had been talking about since we left the house. The tigers were interested in a man near their cage cutting tree limbs. I am not sure if they thought the man was lunch or what, but they would not take their eyes off him.

tiger
tiger

The lion on the other hand was wound up. He roared and swaggered around his area taking occasional glances up into the crowd that had responded to his loud roars. It was reassuring to have a large water moat between us and the perturbed lion.

King of the Beast
King of the Beast

Dylan was getting a little tired and cranky, he is almost four years old, so we headed back to the train. As we made our way to the main gate we checked out a few things we had missed on the way. To our surprise and delight the Orangutan’s were moving about the park on their overhead ropes. This is an incredible sight to see and Dylan laughed and called to them as they performed for the crowd. Since the day was getting late I loaded Dylan on to my shoulders and Sue and I hurried to the entrance of the subway.
The trip home was crowded in the subway so Dylan struck up a conversation with anyone near him. This made some of the DCites uncomfortable but most enjoyed his pleasant demeanor.
Every kid should go to the zoo at least once a year! The DC zoo is FREE and has been totally refurbished with many new additions.
Our cost for the day was the $14 subway tickets which is an all day pass, (under 5 is free) Gas to get to Vienna, $4.50 for parking at Vienna and we packed food. You can check out the zoo at their web site where there are web cams of the animals and an event calendar.
http://nationalzoo.si.edu/default.cfm

Thanks for reading.
Thanks for reading. No, this is not my twin brother.

The Great Allegheny Passage of Sue and Charlie

Sue, Charlie & Art
Sue, Charlie & Art

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
In the morning Art Mills drove Sue and me to a small town called Boston, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA.; not to be at all confused with Boston, Massachusetts. Art followed us to Cumberland, Maryland where the trail ends and we parked his car and then all three of us continued our journey with the tandem strapped to the back of our car. At about noon we arrived at our destination, the Yough Manor Inn, which is only a stone’s throw away from the Great Allegheny Passage. In case you are unaware, the GAP follows abandoned train routes from Cumberland to just outside of Pittsburgh. It is their hope to complete the trail to the center of Pittsburgh in the next couple of years; we can’t wait! Sue, Art and I found a place to have lunch, and then Art went back to Cumberland to drop off our car and drive his car home. This allowed us to have a car available when we finished our journey to Cumberland.

When we first saw our bed and breakfast, The Yough Manor, we were a little concerned. It looked pretty rough on the outside but on opening the door we were met with a clean and fascinating place to stay. Our host had not arrived yet so we made ourselves comfortable and waited. When Lin walked in we experienced a wave of excitement. She took us through the B&B and showed us all the rooms including: the Safari Room, The Las Vegas Room, The Oriental Room, The Cowboy Room and the Garden Room. Each one was decorated in the appropriate decor and very delightful. Sue decided we would stay in the Safari Room for reasons left unexplained.

The Safari room
The Safari room

We had a good time chatting with Lin for a while but then we decided we wanted to catch a bus to Pittsburgh. We walked about three-forth of a mile to the Olympia Shopping Center and unsuccessfully tried to find a bus to the downtown. We stopped at the McDonald’s and chatted with the senior citizens. I asked them how we could get to Pittsburgh. One of them said we needed to walk about one half mile, which was farther from our inn, and there we could catch a bus. As we left Micky D’s the man we were talking to came out to offer us a ride to where the buses picked up. We agreed and climbed into his car. After almost a three-mile drive he stopped and let us out. As he drove off, we searched for a bus stop sign which did not exist. We were over three miles from our room with no apparent way to get back, other than to walk down a very unfriendly and dangerous road for pedestrians. We walked around looking stupid, hoping someone would take sympathy on us, which did not work. I tried to hitchhike, which did not work. Finally we stopped at a firehouse and asked for help. One of the fire-fighters felt sorry for us and volunteered to drive us back to our inn…Saved by the fire fighters of McKeesport, PA. Thank You! After removing all the stuffed lions from our bed, we settled into a great night’s sleep…what did you expect?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The next morning we made our second attempt at making our way into Pittsburgh. We found the right bus about one quarter miles from the B&B and went on into Pittsburgh. After only one bus change we arrived in town about an hour later. If you have been watching the news, you are aware that the G20 conference was held in Pittsburgh. It was supposed to start on the 24th of September, so we thought we would be ok. It became obvious that Pittsburgh was a city under siege. There were more police than people. Buses of troopers rolled into city as we walked the streets. We went to the Incline, a large elevator/train used to move people up the mountain, and began our accent, so we could see the town from above.

Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh

As we took in the view of the city, the police were gathering near us to prepare for a protest, and guess where the protest was going to be, at the top of the Incline. So, after a short visit, we decided to head down the Incline in case things got crazy. The police seemed happy that we were leaving. After a short walk through the Station Square at the bottom of the Incline (which was like a ghost town), we caught the subway for a ride to the center of town. The subway dropped us off near Point State Park where the three rivers meet. We planned on walking out to the Point to see the view. Wrong, the Point was closed for security reasons due to the G20 conference. We discovered all too late that the Point State Park is considered the most strategic security point in Pittsburgh. We made our way back to the center of town and did the tourist thing walking around and looking stupid, while Sue took pictures. Since there was no place to play in the middle of town, we bused over to Oakland, to see the Natural History Museum. What an incredible museum! Sue and I had a great time even though we only had about 3 hours. When the museum closed we proceeded to the bus stop. After many questions and answers from bystanders, we found the right bus and began the long journey back to the B&B. When I say long, I am referring to time. Actually we were not more than 10 miles, as the crow flies, from our place but it took almost one and a half hours to get there. I think we went through almost every neighborhood in Pittsburgh. We finally got dropped off about one half-mile from our room. On the way back we stopped at Woody’s Italian restaurant and had a great dinner and then returned to the room.

Thursday, September 24, 2009
We got up, had breakfast, loaded up the tandem, said our goodbyes to Lin and began our journey down the GAP towards Cumberland. Sue wanted to stop at every information sign to take pictures which helped break up the riding but also added a lot of time to our trip. We were having a great time and the weather was fantastic. The trail is flat and smooth and we were cruising along having fun.

Is Charlie ready to jump?
Is Charlie ready to jump?

We met and chatted with many interesting people along the trail as we made our way the 44 miles to Connellsville, PA. There we stayed at the Melody Inn, approximately two miles from the trail almost all uphill. It may be the most secure motel in the US. Nothing was left to chance at the Melody Inn; even the bell on the check-in-desk was secured with a chain to prevent theft. There were notes in the room warning us not to take the sheets or the bed cover, demanding that we place toilet tissue only in the toilet; the pinnacle of security…the remote control was attached to the wall with a cable…thank God, it was on my side of the bed!
We met an interesting man that evening, a Lutheran minister traveling on a triple-seat bike all by himself. It seems his “flock” had abandoned him and left him to travel the GAP alone. He was doing a charity drive to raise money for poor people so he felt he had to complete the ride.

Friday, September 25, 2009
After sleeping in, we finally got moving at about 9:30 am towards Rockwood PA. It is important to interject here that even though the trail is essentially flat because it is an abandoned train track, it is a 1-2% grade climb for almost 100 miles. This tends to wear on you after a while. This means that there are no breaks; you must pedal all the time! Despite this, we were averaging almost 12 miles an hour and NO ONE PASSES A TANDEM ON THE FLATS!

Sue on an abandoned bridge going nowhere
Sue on an abandoned bridge going nowhere

We rolled into Ohiopyle for lunch as a group of 50 cyclists riding from Washington DC to Pittsburg rolled in from the opposite direction. We had a great time talking and exchanging stories. We said our goodbyes and continued down the trail to the Gingerbread House in Rockwood PA. Arriving there we were pleased to see a wonderful old house right off the trail which honestly looked like a Gingerbread house should. Maryann, the owner, left a note on the door for us to call her when we arrived. She soon appeared to show us our room which was delightful, decorated with wonderful antique furniture and a very comfortable queen size bed. We cleaned up and walked into town to find some dinner. Needless to say, Rockwood does not have an excessive number of restaurants, but we found a small diner/bar and had a good dinner. The bed felt particularly good when we got back and falling asleep was not an issue.

Saturday, September 26, 2009
Time to leave for home! If you remember Saturday the 26th, it was raining almost all day and the convertible top on our tandem bike was stuck open, so we rode 43 miles in the rain on a crushed stone trail. I am sure you can imagine the enjoyment of riding a bike 43 miles in the rain.

I see the light...
I see the light...

The first 20 miles was 1-2% grade up and we worked real hard to keep up our pace.

The top of the mountain
The top of the mountain

After reaching the Continental divide at 2392 feet we began the 23 mile downhill into Cumberland…and we flew! We pulled into Cumberland in less than four hours wet, cold, covered with mud and tired. We quickly loaded the bike, took off as much wet clothing as we could in public, cranked up the heat in the car and headed to the Wendy’s drive through for nourishment.
Despite the rain on the last day Sue and I had a great time. We met many interesting people, saw incredible scenery and enjoyed our time together.
We are already planning next year’s trip and we want to take along some of our friends so they can experience the GAP.
Life is a journey!

The state of education…America

Have you seen the Walt Disney movie Wall-e? What an incredible movie! If you have not seen it, it is an animation depicting a small robot sometime in the future (picking up trash on a planet devoid of humans), which I believe is Earth. He is quite intelligent and goes about his daily routine picking up trash, compacting it into cubes and stacking it in very large piles. As the camera pans Earth’s landscape, we see the never-ending piles of human trash stacked neatly…but no humans. The humans made the planet so dirty and polluted that they had to leave and live in a giant space ship somewhere deep in space. So in the movie, earth is lifeless.
The point of the movie is that we have destroyed the earth, moved to space and become obese, dumb and complacent as we float around the cosmos with our every whim and need provided by the computers and robots. With-out giving too much more away about the message, Wall-e finds one small, living plant and takes it to his home and cares for it.
The title of this article is, The State of Education, and here is the connection. Is a Walt Disney production accurately predicting the future? It does appear that as a society we are becoming fatter, dumber and more complacent while we destroy the planet. Maybe this is just a coincidence…or the writers for Disney are experiencing it firsthand. Maybe they are saying what many companies in America are saying, public schools, as a rule, are not preparing young people for the work place. I am not an expert in educational philosophy and statistics, even after teaching 30 years in a public school classroom, I can tell you the interest to excel by students I have instructed has declined steadily during my entire career, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, but definitely heading down.
No doubt, I will spend much time writing about education due to the fact I spent most of my adult life involved in it but I just wanted to nibble at the edges of this extremely complex issue.
Rent the video and see Wall-e. The nice thing is, you can watch this movie with your family!

On another note…

I have some great news to share with everyone. I am the proud father of Betsy Streisel. She just became a fully certified as an Occupational Therapist at the

logo

in Florida. After two years of being a full time student she has passed her bar and is ready to practice OT…Slow down now, she has decided to continue her education and get her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree also.

I hope I do not turn into one of those parents who never shut up about their kids accomplishments…it is going to be hard…I am sooo proud of her and all the work she has put into her education.

Cross Country, health Care, cell phones and Charlie Sheen

Here is a picture of the Shenandoah Ladies cross country team from last week when they placed third out of ten teams at an invitational meet in Salisbury, Maryland . The boys placed fourth.  Coach Andrew B. Marrocco is very  proud of the girls and their hard work.  (This is the group I drove for last weekend.)

Shenandoah cross country

President Obama spoke to the nation this past week and outlined his ideas for getting health benefits for all American and getting the cost under control.  In his speech he said we were running out of time, and  if we do not get the cost under control soon it would undermine the financial fabric of this country. Here are a few thoughts that need to be considered. We Americans are becoming less healthy.  Diabetes and heart disease are on the rise due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise.  Our state of West Virginia is always mentioned as one of the most overweight states in the nation. We also have one of the largest populations of smoking, pregnant mothers which can’t be  good for the young ones… In order to get health care cost under control, we are going to have to become healthier and offer some competition to the private insurance sector.

Congratulations to the high school for having the courage to remove cell phones from school. This applies to teachers and students. This will allow for a more orderly school environment. Maybe their next move will be to stop students from driving to school. Some states have raised the driving age to 17 and guess what,  less kids died in auto accidents…go figure.

This is wild! Check out this web site.  Charlie Sheen, the actor has always been very out spoken, just like his father, but you have to see this video.  For the sake of our country,  I hope he is out to lunch.

Twenty Minutes With The President

Just wondering

I have to wonder what is going on in the minds of some of the parents in our country. The President of the United States is addressing the children of our country and some of our parents do not want their children to hear it. I really have a hard time believing that any past presidents, regardless of their political views, would have to face this kind of reckless disregard for the office of President. Do you remember when parents would say to their children, “Someday you may be president,” with pride and respect for the office of president? Most children say the pledge of allegiance to our country every morning before class starts. Our commander in chief is the one who represents our country and is responsible for defending our right to recite the pledge. He should have our respect even if we do not agree with him.
Wake up America! This president faces more difficult problems than any president in recent history: our economy is on the brink of collapse, a medical insurance nightmare that could bankrupt an already weak society, a war that has no apparent end and a scary polarity created by an out-of-control media.
Folks, we elected President Obama with one of the largest majorities in decades because we as a nation decided he was smart enough to figure a way out of this giant mess he inherited. He has only been working for half a year and due to a small group of people making bizarre accusations about everything from his political views to where he was born, we are stuck in the mud while the very rich sit back and increase their wealth.
Children of America, listen to your president. Even though you (or your parents) may not agree with everything he says, he is OUR President, the most influential man in the world.

On a lighter note, I drove a group of cross country runners from Shenandoah University to Salisbury Maryland to compete in a ten team ladies and men competition. It was a great group of young adults and we had a fantastic trip. The girls placed 3rd which I believe is their highest ever at that meet and the men placed 4th which I believe was their highest ever in that meet. After the meet we drove another 30 miles where they spent 2 hours basking in the sun and enjoying the lovely sands of Ocean City Maryland.
Congratulations!

An Isolated Society

Normally I try to avoid the ugliness on the nightly news. I believe it has too much violence to take in on a regular basis, but the story of 18 year old saga of Jaycee Dugard bothered me in many different ways. In case you are not aware of this news story, Jaycee was kidnapped 18 years ago from the Lake Tahoe area and taken by a man named Garrido to Antioch, California and imprisoned in his backyard for the entire 18 years. There, he fathered two children with her and used her to vent his need to rape women. Living with him in his house was his wife who must have known about the atrocities occurring in the back yard. Below is a picture from Google Earth of the backyard. The cluster of blue tent is where he kept Jaycee.

1500 walnut

When I was a young boy, I was always exploring the area around my house. In fact there was a man up the street with a small patch of woods that was basically uninteresting to us guys. Once in a while we would walk through his woods on the way to somewhere else. He did not care for us walking through his land so he set up signs telling us to stay out. Contrary to his intentions, this enticed us to use the woods more. He then put up wires and barriers as the confrontation escalated. To us it was great fun and intrigue in an otherwise boring neighborhood. This chapter in my life came back to me when I saw the image of the neighborhood that Jaycee was incarcerated in. It is not an upper class neighborhood by any measure but it is a group of closely grouped houses with backyards. How is it that neighbors lived in such close proximity and never wondered what was going on behind the barriers he erected? Jaycee occasionally left the house to get the mail and no one wondered why this young girl rarely left the premises…Apparently one of the neighbors called the police. The police visited and asked a convicted rapist if there was anything going on, and I bet his answer was “No.” So they left him to continue his incarceration of Jaycee. She had two children but somehow the neighbors were unaware that there were babies living there. If you look at the photo you will see a swimming pool and a trampoline in the back yard. This is unbelievable!
Are we so afraid of each other that we turn our heads and ignore such horrific behavior? Have you noticed that when you walk down the street fewer people make eye contact, say hi or acknowledge your existence? I open doors for people who never even say “thanks.” Are we so glued to our TV sets, computers and video games that the world is passing right in front of us and we are unaware of it? Hillary Clinton said that a community raises a child. Where was this community?
Folks, I have some real news for you… you are not a nosy neighbor if you are concerned about the well-being of a fellow human being whether it be a child or an older person. It does not hurt to check on your neighbors. Maybe this is a wake-up call for all of us to keep our eyes open to the monstrous things we humans are capable of doing.