Friday, October 19, 2012

The Highlights, Pennsylvnia Trip 2012

Highlights from our trip across Pennsylvania

(click images to enlarge)

1st stop was Philadelphia to see The Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin's grave, The Mutter Museum, and to eat a genuine Philly steak sandwich (not a Steak-umm with Velveeta cheese).

These are the worn steps outside the hall of congress.  On July 9, 1790. The Act established the District of Columbia on the banks of the Potomac River between the states of Maryland and Virginia to serve as the new federal capital. However, Robert Morris, a Senator from Pennsylvania, convinced Congress to return to Philadelphia while the new permanent capital was being built. As a result, the Residence Act also declared Philadelphia to be the temporary capital for a period of ten years.
During the almost ten years it served as the capitol, Congress Hall witnessed many historic events including the admittance of three new states. The United States Bill of Rights was ratified at Congress Hall in 1791. The second Presidential inauguration of George Washington took place in the House chamber in 1793, as did inauguration of John Adams in 1797. Congress also used the time to establish the First Bank of the United States, the Federal Mint, and the United States Department of the Navy. The Jay Treaty, which secured a temporary peace with Great Britain, was also ratified at Congress Hall in 1796.  Think about the people who walked here so often that the solid concrete is now concave with wear.

 Edgar Allen Poe's basement!  
 Is there ANYTHING creepier than being IN Edgar Allen Poe's BASEMENT!
 Yes.  Because in this house he wrote, "The Black Cat,” and, "The Cask of Amontillado."



 Not much has changed since the iconic battle.  Sure, there are monuments but it's still farms and fields.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was the battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War and is often described as the war's turning point.

Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine

Ashland, Pennsylvania

 The original Pioneer Colliery was operated in Mahanoy Mountain at Ashland in the late 19th century and gave its name to the Pioneer Tunnel, which was owned and operated by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company from 1911 to 1931.  A steady breeze of 52F flows out of this opening all year round.  Luckily, they provide coats.

 Pioneer Tunnel is a horizontal drift mine. Its level tunnel runs 1800 feet straight into the side of the Mahanoy Mountain. 

 This is the same vein of coal that runs through Centralia, a little town a few miles down the road.

 Good luck from one of the mules that worked this coal seam

 The ceiling

 From outer space to deep underground!  Graffiti from our Mercury astronaut, Scott Carpenter! Always an explorer, Carpenter spent 28 days living on the ocean floor off the coast of California on SEALAB II. 

Centralia, PA

I KNOW you've heard of the city that has been burning since 1962.  Well, this is it!  As soon as I knew we were going to Pennsylvania, I looked up the exact location of this ghost town because I have been hearing about it forever!  

  These are the vents by the old trash dump where the fire started.  No smoke, no heat.  There are some who say the fire has been out for a few years.  There are also those who say smoke comes up from the graves in the winter. I was here in August.  But this is the REAL Silent Hill, the inspiration for the game and movie.
If you're planning a visit, remember that the government doesn't want people here.  Nothing is marked.  Everything is overgrown, roads are torn up or blocked with berms of earth.  This road up to one of the cemeteries was potholes and rubble.  Maneuver that rented car carefully. 

 Stairs that once went to a business or a house?  It's all gone now.  Torn down and grown over.  "Attempts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, and it continued to burn throughout the 1960s and 1970s. 
In 1979, locals became aware of the scale of the problem when a gas-station owner inserted a stick into one of his underground tanks to check the fuel level. When he withdrew it, it seemed hot, so he lowered a thermometer down on a string and was shocked to discover that the temperature of the gasoline in the tank was 172 °F (77.8 °C). Statewide attention to the fire began to increase, culminating in 1981 when a 12-year-old resident named Todd Domboski fell into a sinkhole four feet wide by 150 feet (46 m) deep that suddenly opened beneath his feet in a backyard. His cousin, 14-year-old Eric Wolfgang, in pulling Todd out of the hole saved Todd's life, as the plume of hot steam billowing from the hole was measured as containing a lethal level of carbon monoxide.
In 1984, the U.S. Congress allocated more than $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the residents accepted buyout offers and moved. A few families opted to stay despite warnings from Pennsylvania officials.  In 2002, the U.S. Postal Service revoked Centralia's ZIP code, 17927. 
The Centralia mine fire extended into the town of Byrnesville, Pennsylvania and caused this town to become extinct also."

What used to be the main highway, 4 lanes wide.  Closed and hidden from view.  

No longer safe to drive, the underground fire has buckled and split 2 lanes of highway.
I think Centralia serves as a social experiment into dystopia.  The old highway is covered in graffiti, nothing like the barren lifelessness Hollywood portrays a dead world.  If there's even one human being left on the planet, trust that he or she will want to leave their mark in history.  

Grass grows in the crack where smoke once poured.

Hit that bump at 60 mph!  I dare ya!

Just down the road is where the city of Byrnesville used to be. 
 This monument is all that's left of Byrnesville, Pennsylvania.  The entire area was bulldozed and planted with trees.

 Yes, those are bathtubs.  This is a genuine 100% homemade monument with emphasis on superstition and patriotism.  When your town is destroyed twice, once by natural forces and then by the government, you cling to any magic you can find to keep you safe and to prove you once existed.  Kinda poignant, isn't it?

The main road into Byrnesville, a city that no longer exists.

Eastern State Penitentiary

The next time you're in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, don't miss The Eastern State Penitentiary. We almost did because it didn't come up as a big tourist attraction, and since we did Alcatraz a couple of months before, who cares about another old prison? Let me tell you, Eastern State Penitentiary is a glorious ruin! It's beautiful in it's decay!

The original prison was finished on October 25, 1829 and was the very first penitentiary in the United States. 

 "Designed by John Haviland and opened on October 25, 1829, Eastern State is considered to be the world's first true penitentiary, a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts."

"Originally, inmates were housed in cells that could only be accessed by entering through a small exercise yard attached to the back of the prison; only a small portal, just large enough to pass meals, opened onto the cell blocks. This design proved impractical, and in the middle of construction, cells were constructed that allowed prisoners to enter and leave the cell blocks through metal doors that were covered by a heavy wooden door to filter out noise. The halls were designed to have the feel of a church. The small doors forced the prisoners to bow while entering their cell. This design is related to penance and ties to the religious inspiration of the prison. The cells were made of concrete with a single glass skylight, representing the "Eye of God", hinting to the prisoners that God was always watching them. Outside the cell, there was an individual area for exercise, enclosed by high walls so prisoners couldn't communicate. Each exercise time for each prisoner was synchronized so no two prisoners next to each other would be out at the same time. When prisoners left the cell, a guard would accompany them and wrap a hood over their heads to prevent them from being recognized by other prisoners."

"The system eventually collapsed due to overcrowding problems. By 1913, Eastern State officially abandoned the solitary system and operated as a congregate prison until it closed in 1970."

"Each cell had accommodations that were advanced for their time, which included a faucet with running water over a flush toilet, as well as curved pipes along part of one wall which served as central heating during the winter months where hot water would be run through the pipes to keep the cells reasonably heated. The toilets were remotely flushed twice a week by the guards of the cellblock.Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone."

"Al Capone was able to obtain special privileges while in prison. He was transferred to Alcatraz on August 11, 1934, which was newly established as a prison on an island off San Francisco. The warden kept tight security and cut off Capone's contact with colleagues. His isolation diminished his power."

 "It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966."


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wheat is Junk

I'm watching tv commercials and gleaning that most people have fallen for a big media lie.
Let's see if you've heard this before, ready?
"Anything made with wheat is empty calories."
Or how about this one-
"Whole wheat bread is better than plain white bread, but it shouldn't be the bulk of your diet."
Yeah, see, that was all common knowledge in the 80s. Since the 80s, two things have happened.
1) grains went from frivolous junk to, "healthy grains," and we've been admonished to make them the biggest part of our daily intake.
2) people are MUCH fatter than they used to be.
Even bodybuilders used to know that a proper diet was to eat something with a face and a salad. Of course, LOL, that was before steroids began winning contests. Get on the juice and you can eat anything you want. They say they can feel the fat burning off them at night in bed.
Here's a thigh-slapper.  Someone asked me what I do about fiber.  Now, this is AFTER I told him, "Yeah, I just eat meat, vegs, and fruit."  For some reason he's been laboring under the delusion the there's fiber in grains.  Ok bread eaters.  Get a big ol' mouthful of bread and chew it up (by the way, your saliva is turning it to sugar while it's still in your mouth.  We learned that in a 7th grade biology lab).  All chewed?  Ok, spit it out and rub your finger in it.  Notice any fiber in that gooey mess of paste?  If it's this bad just in your mouth, you think it'll firm up once it hits your stomach acids?  Now try it with say some lettuce.  Yeah.  There's no fiber in grains!  Don't be silly.  They lied to you.  I'll give props to corn as a fiber but as much as I adore corn, I don't adore that it filled with sugar.  You know, corn syrup?  How about corn starch?  Ever hear that starch makes you fat?  How about corn-fed?  Big ol' corn-fed cows all fat for market.
Look, I'm not that old so I can't figure why people fall for this. I KNOW y'all know this, same as me. This must be the whole, "media is all about the youth,"that old people always complain about because it looks like history is only 10 years old on tv.  Anything older than that is conveniently forgotten and no longer counts.  Well look, you don't have to be young AND stupid. Don't fall for the media. They lie.