Eagle-Watching on Mentor Marsh

April 11, 2010

Mama's taking a rest before embarking on a hunt for food

An eagle’s nest is still a rare thing to see in this day and age, so when we heard that there was a mated pair of eagles nesting in the Mentor Marsh, Sally and I decided to see if we could get a few photos.  We found the location of the nest easily – it’s quite visible from Rt. 44 near Headlands Beach State Park.  The Mentor Marsh is home to numerous wildlife species, but this pair of eagles are recent residents.  They first nested here last year, according to a local photographer that I met today at the site.   Approaching an eagle’s nest is highly illegal, as they are still endangered, so I want to stress that these photos were taken from FAR away.  As a result, the digital shots are pretty low quality – I had to use a digital zoom factor of 48x to get them.

I also took a few film photos with my old Nikon and a 300mm zoom with a 2x telextender, providing an effective focal length of 600mm.  I haven’t got these photos scanned yet, but I’ll add them to this post when I get them.

It’s really quite moving to see our national symbol in the wild.  Let’s hope that bald eagles are around for a long time!

Out and about

Dad is doing much of the babysitting

Here's a closer shot of the female eagle

Preparing for takeoff!


A Winter Photo Gallery

February 28, 2010

Gulls fly over the open water at the power plant discharge

At least once during the dead of each winter, Sally and I take an urban safari: a sojourn into the icy wilderness of the Cleveland  lakeshore.   Lake Erie is always home to a variety of wildlife, and trudging through the snow is a good way to see it in the wintertime.  The gallery below is a small sampling of what we saw.  Click on the thumbnails to see the enlarged photos.

Our trip was quite short, only a few hours in total, but in that short time we encountered several uncommon sights:

The power plant discharge downtown is a great place to watch waterfowl in the wintertime, and this was a great day to watch ducks, gulls, mergansers, scaup, and geese as they competed for the fish swarming about in the warm water.  I’m not very experienced as a birdwatcher, so I couldn’t begin to identify the wide variety of birds we saw.  Only a short distance away from this warm water oasis, the gulls were walking about on the frozen lake.

A short hop away, the Wildwood Marina was a frozen wonderland.  The shoreline was bordered by huge ice dunes, formed by frozen spray blown up on the sand to accumulate in large piles.  These dunes are more commonly found around Presque Isle State Park, near Erie, PA.  I’ve never seen them here before.

A truly strange sight on this winter’s day was a couple of ultralight pilots flying over the marina – I hope they were heavily dressed, because it was pretty cold even at ground level.

Our little jaunt outdoors was a real cure for cabin fever.  Try it sometime, you may be very pleasantly surprised!


Myrtle Beach Notes, Vol.1

October 26, 2009

 In the course of my job search, I decided to contact a few former business acquaintances and explore the employment opportunities elsewhere.  For various reasons, we elected to visit South Carolina.  A very good friend offered us the use of his condominium in Myrtle Beach, and that made the trip feasible.  So Sally, Andy, Sally’s parents, and I packed up the van and headed south.

 The first day we travelled through Ohio, West Virginia, and into North Carolina, stopping in Winston-Salem.  It rained incessantly throughout the entire journey.  Southern hospitality prevailed at the Holiday Inn Express, where we spent our first night out.  Although the Winston-Salem property is not of the newest design, the staff was courteous and friendly, and their service more than made up for any deficiencies in the facility.

We stopped at the Huddle House for a quick lunch, consisting of a chopped pork barbecue sandwich and onion rings.  I wasn’t expecting much from the BBQ, since Huddle House is a chain, albeit a small regional one. However, I was amazed to find that the chopped pork here is the real thing.  The sauce was sweeter than one would get further south, but very smoky, with a strong hint of spiciness.  The meat was slow-cooked, and the crusty burnt ends were chopped up along with everything else, resulting in a product that most Northerners wouldn’t even recognize as what they call barbecue. 

 We finally got a chance to walk on the beach and pick up a few shells the following morning.  Haven’t found any shark teeth yet, but we did get a chance to photograph some of the plant life, etc.

We had lunch north of Myrtle Beach, at Mama Jean’s Home Cooking, where we got some more barbecue, this time with the more familiar South Carolina vinegar-based sauce.  Again, the meat was sumptuous, and the coleslaw and hushpuppies completed the feast.  Magnificent!

After lunch, we checked out an antique mall and did some shopping. We decided to look for pizza near the condo, and luckily, found the Mellow Mushroom a stone’s throw away. Their pizza is incredible, loaded with toppings on a garlic-parmesan crust I can’t begin to describe. As Yogi Berra used to say, “Don’t miss it if you can.” Or something like that.

Gotta do some business tomorrow, but I’ll be posting more pics as the week progresses!

 


Summer’s Over, Winter’s Rolling in, What Happened to Fall?

October 14, 2009
View to the East from Lakefront Lodge
View to the East from Lakefront Lodge

Sunday, Sally and I stopped at Lakefront Lodge and walked down to the lakeshore to get a look at Lake Erie.  The wind was high, and the air coming off the lake was really cold.  One distinctive thing about Lake Erie’s beaches is their wild look when summer is over and the weather starts to get cold.   The beauty of the scenery is probably an acquired taste, since the sky is sometimes leaden and so is the water.  Nevertheless, I like to get out and walk around at this time of year.  I will, however, be praying for warmer weather – today it never got above 46 degrees!

Looking West toward Willoughby

Looking West toward Willoughby

Yes, the water looks grayer than the sky!

Yes, the water looks grayer than the sky!

A little blue sky really helps, even when it's cold

A little blue sky really helps, even when it's cold


I Miss Zantigo Chilitos!

October 9, 2009

LogoOnce upon a time, long,  long ago (actually, it was in the 70’s), in a galaxy (a city really, Norwood in fact), far, far away (250 miles to be specific) there was a Mexican fast food restaurant called Zantigo’s.   The Zantigo chain had a reputation for fresh, fast, simple, flavorful Tex-Mex at low prices.  Without a doubt, the most memorable item on their menu was an item known as the Chilito, a wonderful mixture of chili and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla.  The Chilito was not merely a wonderful fast food product, but it was, beyond doubt, the perfect eating-while-driving entree.  The chili-cheese ratio was perfectly balanced to insure that after a minute or so of cooling off, the chilito simply would not drip, run, or drop into the lap of the unsuspecting driver.  Three chilitos was the minimum order for a real man (or woman), and to a Zantigo’s aficionado, there was simply no substitute.

Alas, Zantigo’s was a small operation, lacking the gargantuan funding of their primary competitor, Taco Bell (owned by the even more gargantuan PepsiCo), and as time went by, Pepsico took notice of Zantigo’s market penetration.  Eventually, PepsiCo bought Zantigo’s and folded their locations into the Taco Bell chain.  Some of us were aware of the acquisition, and took whatever measures we could to stave off the inevitable.  A friend of mine actually stockpiled Zantigo’s taco sauce packets in his freezer to ward off the day when he would no longer have access to its spicy goodness.  Even I was saddened when he informed me, about two and a half years later, that he had finally run out. 

When Taco Bell absorbed Zantigo’s, the Taco Bell menu took precedence.  Zantigo’s essentially disappeared.  But one small trace remained, a trace that still appears occasionally even today.  It’s called the chili-cheese burrito, and it’s pretty good, although Taco Bell simply can’t seem to get the proportions of chili and cheese right to make it a driving food.  You really don’t want to try eating a chili-cheese burrito in the car without a couple of napkins in your lap.  Nevertheless, it’s the only thing most of us have left by which to remember Zantigo’s (Ha! You thought I was going to end that sentence with a preposition, didn’t you?).

But this story has a (sort of) happy ending.  It seems that two brothers, Don and Kevin (no last names given on their website) have purchased the trademarks, recipes, and franchising rights to the Zantigo restaurants, and now have six locations in operation.  Unfortunately, all the locations are in Minnesota, so for the time being, I’m not likely to get a fix for my Zantigo jones any time soon.

So, today in Elyria, Ohio, I found a Taco Bell that was still serving the chili-cheese burrito, and consumed one reverently with a Diet Pepsi,  all the while silently praying for the success of a couple of fellows named Kevin and Don, somewhere in Minnesota….    http://www.zantigo.com/

Zantigo's menu - almost worth a drive to Minnesota!

Zantigo's menu - almost worth a drive to Minnesota!

Note: the parenthetical comment about ending a sentence with a preposition is inserted in honor of my high school English teacher, Sarah Kensinger, who is often in my thoughts as I compose this blog.


Cleveland is a More Beautiful City than You Remember

October 1, 2009

As I was reading Sally’s blog about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame candidates for induction, I got a twinge of regret.  Not for myself, but for the people out there who wonder why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located in a dirty, dingy, sooty, pollution-ridden, poverty-stricken town like Cleveland.  The answer is simple: it isn’t.  It’s located in a beautiful downtown venue on a truly gorgeous (and clean) lake, surrounded by historically significant, breathtaking architecture.

Not the Cleveland you remember?  OK, I’ll give you the fact that Cleveland had some truly bad years before the cleanup began.  When I was younger, the Cuyahoga River caught fire, the downtown buildings were stained with soot, and Lake Erie fish contained so much mercury that only the truly brave would dare eat them.

But that was then.  When I moved to the Cleveland area, the Rock Hall, Jacobs Field, Gund Arena, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Flats renovation had just been completed.  Browns Stadium was under construction.  Now Jacobs Field is Progressive Field, the Gund Arena is the “Q” (for Quicken Loans), and the Flats area is undergoing its second resurrection, this time with upscale apartments to bring a sense of community to the area.  Those who bemoaned the failure of the downtown renaissance simply missed the point – it’s a work in progress that will take years to complete, but the city will be better for having made the effort.

The new construction in the downtown area should bring more attention to the beautiful and historic Burnham Mall, planned in 1903 to bring neoclassical (“Beaux-Arts”) architecture to Cleveland.  Its brainchild, Daniel Burnham, was the architect responsible for Chicago’s “White City”, the buildings constructed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, otherwise known as the Columbian Exposition.  In any case, Cleveland’s Burnham Mall still stands as a landmark that you shouldn’t miss when you visit the city.

A sightseeing tour of downtown Cleveland can be done in two ways: by trolley or by boat.  The trolley tour cruises the downtown and provides close views of the Mall, numerous public buildings including Burnham’s Federal Reserve, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on Public Square, and the War Memorial Fountain (also called the Fountain of Eternal Life).   You can obtain information on trolley tours at http://www.lollytrolley.com/ .  I’ve taken the tour and I highly recommend it.

But the trolley can only show the view from the street, and much of Cleveland’s beauty is best seen from the water.  The Goodtime III, Cleveland’s largest excursion ship, operates from the North Coast Inner Harbor at the East 9th Street Pier.   A trip on the Goodtime III includes a winding trip up the Cuyahoga River through the Flats to the industrial area of the old city.  Practically every iron bridge design known to mankind is visible on the cruise: lift gates, knife gates, swing bridges, etc.  The Cuyahoga twists and turns through the old neighborhoods, providing a historic look not otherwise possible.

If you get the chance to spend a few days sightseeing in Cleveland, give it a try – you’ll be amazed at what the city has to offer.  Furthermore, if this has piqued your interest, check out Cleveland on Foot, an excerpt from the book by Patience Hoskins.  The book is an excellent guide to hiking in the Greater Cleveland area.  The excerpt describes the architectural marvels of the downtown area – check it out.


Bounding through Brown & Adams County in Search of History

September 23, 2009

A couple of weekends ago, Sally, Andy and I visited my mother in Brown County.  We decided to take a jaunt around the area to visit a few of our favorite places, and hopefully, to find a few new points of interest. 

This crypt occupies the summit of the hill, shaded by a large tree

This crypt occupies the summit of the hill, shaded by a large tree

Brown & Adams Cty Sept 3, 2009 009

Georgetown:  A Beautiful Tomb

Our first stop was the Georgetown Cemetery, where we encountered this very interesting and elaborate crypt in a prominent location.  The marble statue at the apex of the roof is still beautiful in spite of (or perhaps because of ) the patina she has acquired over the last 90 years. 

Two women are interred here; their relationship to one another is not evident.  Clearly, the older of the two women purchased the tomb, as it is her name that adorns the lintel over the door.   The names of the occupants and their dates of birth and death are inscribed on tablets beside the steps up to the door.  Who were they?  If you know about Mary Shelton or Mary Cochran, please post a comment and enlighten us.

Mary Shelton

Mary Shelton

 

Mary Cochran

Mary Cochran

Incidentally,  if you visit Georgetown, you should visit U.S. Grant’s boyhood home and the school he attended as a young man, both of which are open to the public. 

 

Ripley, Ohio - destination of many fugitive slaves before and during the Civil War

Ripley, Ohio - destination of many fugitive slaves before and during the Civil War

Ripley: Home of Abolitionism in Ohio

 

After a hearty lunch at the Fireside Restaurant in Georgetown (highly recommended!) we headed down the road to Ripley, Ohio.  Ripley was a very important town in the days prior to and during the Civil War; it was a hotbed of  abolitionist activity, a major stop on the Underground Railroad, and the home of  Rev. John Rankin.  Rev. Rankin and his sons were conductors on the Underground Railroad, providing safe conduct to numerous fugitive slaves on their way to Canada and freedom.   Harriet Beecher Stowe was highly influenced by Rankin’s anti-slavery activities.  Sights not to be missed in Ripley include the Rankin House (check it out at http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/places/sw14/index.shtml),  the monument to the first abolitionists in Ohio, and Freedom Landing (right below the monument). 

Witness Tree seen from the riverbank

Witness Tree seen from the riverbankWitness Tree tablet

Freedom Landing

Freedom Landing

 

Commemorative tablet at Freedom Landing

Commemorative tablet at Freedom Landing

The trip to Ripley is well worth the drive – while you’re there, stop at Rockin’ Robin’s for ice cream – it’s a 50’s style soda fountain with great atmosphere.  Word of warning:  the “single dip” ice cream cone is a LOT larger than you’d think!

Adams County Heritage Center and a Brush with My Ancestors

 I have long known that my maternal grandfather’s ancestors were the first settlers of Adams County, Ohio.  Two  Ellison brothers made the journey down the Ohio River in 1790 along with seventeen other men and their families, all of whom had been offered property in return for settling at Massie’s Station, later called Manchester, Ohio.  Manchester was the first white settlement in the Virginia Military District.     Col. Daniel Collier, listed among the field officers of the 2nd Brigade, Ohio Militia in the War of 1812, was an early settler and leader of the community.  His son-in-law, Andrew Ellison was my great-great-great-great-grandfather (assuming that I’ve correctly calculated the number of greats, that is).   Andrew’s family owned a two-story log house on the ridge road (later called Vaughn’s Chapel Road) in Adam’s County built around 1803.  Why did I tell that story?  Well, for two reasons: first off, as a child, I played in that house, which was still standing on the original site right up until the late 1980’s, when it was sold, disassembled, moved to Loveland, Ohio and reassembled (or so I’m told – please contact me if you have info on this matter).   My Aunt Hattie Osman lived there with a flock of turkeys, ducks, geese, and a few score of cats until her death.  On the hill behind the house was the Ellison family cemetery where Andrew and many others are buried.

Plaque on the Heritage Center Building

Plaque on the Heritage Center Building

The second reason for this rambling account is that I recently paid a visit to the Adams County Heritage Center in West Union, Ohio to get a close look at great(x4)-grandpa Andrew’s rifle.  It’s in a glass case, incorrectly labeled as a cap & ball “musket”.  What it is, in fact, is an Ohio made half-stock hunting rifle (muskets are military firearms) of about .45 caliber with a beautiful curly maple stock and handmade iron furniture.  It is a cap and ball firearm, and that fact is troublesome.  You see, for Daniel Collier to have owned the rifle originally, it would have to have been built before percussion caps existed.  It would have to have been constructed as a flintlock rifle, then converted to percussion at a later date.  I’m not an expert, but such things did happen, so I’m assuming the rifle is authentic as represented.   I hope anyone who has information on these items will contact me – it would be nice get the facts straight and save the information for posterity.  

Andrew Ellison's rifle is the lower one in the photograph

Andrew Ellison's rifle is the lower one in the photograph

 

The label is inscribed "Cap & Ball Musket, Powder Horns, Circa 1840, Originally owned by Andrew Ellison (1811-1894), Son-in-law of Col. Daniel Collier, Presented by Stanley and Louise Rowe

The label is inscribed "Cap & Ball Musket, Powder Horns, Circa 1840, Originally owned by Andrew Ellison (1811-1894), Son-in-law of Col. Daniel Collier, Presented by Stanley and Louise Rowe

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I’m also a bit of a fanatic about old bikes, I couldn’t help but notice a “Ben Hur” bicycle, circa 1890, stashed away in the back corner of the museum.  It has pneumatic tires, long since collapsed and hardened, wooden rims, wooden fenders laced onto the frame with cotton cordage, wooden handlebars, and an amazingly intact leather saddle with a relief opening in the center.  The relief opening looks exactly like those on modern “men-specific” saddles of today.  If you like bikes, you should check out this unique example of late 19th century technology.

Headbadge shows the name Ben Hur

Headbadge shows the name Ben Hur

 

How about those wooden handlebars?

How about those wooden handlebars?

 

The wooden fenders are laced to the frame with cotton cord, still intact.  Also note the flat tire - pneumatic tires were rare in 1890.

The wooden fenders are laced to the frame with cotton cord, still intact. Also note the flat tire - pneumatic tires were rare in 1890.

 

 

Outside the Heritage Center is a public area paved with bricks, some of which are dedicated to people who lived in the area, or have donated on their own behalf.  One of these bricks is inscribed in memory of my grandmother and grandfather on my mother’s side. 

Grandma & Grandpa Ellison's brick

Grandma & Grandpa Ellison's brick

 It ‘s nice to see that so many former residents of Adams County are remembered here.  Adams County Ohio is one of the most impoverished areas in the United States, with a per capita income of around $16,000.  Those of us whose parents were born there would do well to go back once in a while and think about how hard they worked to help us get to where we are today.


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