W^2 – history

WARNING: it’s Wednesday so I titled the post W^2, but it’s hardly wordless.

It’s spring break and we’ve escaped then blustery chill of a midwestern early spring for the Florida Keys and sun, wind, and sand. Mostly sun.

I remember my first visit to the Keys with my in-laws in 2002. Our son had recently turned four and my wife was pregnant with our daughter. We arrived in Miami and were picked up by my in-laws at the airport.

Until then, my only experience with Florida had been passing through the airport on the way to somewhere else: Venezuela or England to spend the summer or Christmas with my dad and stepmother.

With my father-in-law at the wheel we wove our way through Miami traffic to Homestead and US1. US1 is the only road from the Florida mainland at the tip of the Florida peninsula to the Keys where it terminates at Key West.

US1 travels along the path of the defunct Miami to Key West extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. Construction of the railroad began in 1903 and was completed in 1913. The railway operated until 1935 when the Labor Day hurricane washed out the rail bed in Islamorada and the railroad abandoned the railroad. Two years later the Florida Highway Commission purchased the right of way and began construction of a highway to Key West. They used the old railroad bridges constructing roadbeds atop the concrete viaducts and bridges built by the railroad. Over the years, the highway has replaced the original railway bridges with wider end more modern concrete bridges.

The view from the bridge to the Atlantic Ocean

The first several miles of the two lane road travel along the path of the old railway. First through the thick mangrove swamps and across Lake Surprise before reaching Key Largo where the highway opens up to the Atlantic Ocean on the left and Florida Bay to the right.

As the highway bridges were replaced, the original railroad bridges were left in place. Most have been repurposed as fishing platforms or observation decks and others have been left to decay and breakdown in the elements. The Seven Mile Bridge has a two mile extension from Knight’s Key Key to Pigeon Key open to walkers and bicycles with breathtaking sunset views.

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon my buddy and I (we are here with another couple) took off on an adventure stopping at the western approach to the Bahia Honda Bridge.

The original railroad bridge on the left and the new highway bridge on the right. Looking west from Bahia Honda State Park – photo from 3/28/2017

The old bridge has been abandoned since the present bridge was completed in 1977. The original railroad bridge is an iron trestle bridge which was only wide enough for a single railroad track and the passage of a single train. The highway engineers decided to construct a two lane road atop the railroad trestle to connect the two keys, or islands.

Continue reading W^2 – history

W^2 – spring (again, but in ’24)

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, March 6, 2024

It appears Spring has sprung, but the Spring Equinox is a little less than a fortnight away. This year, the vernal equinox is Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at 10:06 PM.

“The first blooms of spring always make my heart sing.”
— S. Brown

According to the meteorologists, it is spring. We had a mild winter here in the upper Midwest. I read a report that this past winter was one of the five mildest winters on record for the Chicagoland area. We hardly had any snow and only a very brief cold snap where temperatures went below zero (Fahrenheit). We did however have two bad weather days where I could teach from home, some folks mike call that ‘good weather.’

Daffodils blooming on March afternoon. Is it spring or winter? Wednesday March 6, 2024, 5:17 PM

Continue reading W^2 – spring (again, but in ’24)

Leaping into March

It’s leap day. I’ve been blogging since May 2010, and I have never posted on a leap day. NEVER.

Wednesday night, February 28th. Dog walk with Fern and you can three stars aligned in Orion’s Belt in the middle of the photo

After searching through the leap year Februarys, I found ONE post written on February 28, 2012. Stamps, stamps, and more stamps that was close to a leap day. I re-read it, and it took me back.

These days, I don’t write many letters, the folks I wrote have passed away. I could write to my kids or my brothers, but I don’t. It’s too easy to call or send a text. So, I don’t write. I do write thank you notes to my students, but I am behind in that of late.

Last night I was walking Fern around the neighborhood, and I could clearly see Orion spread across the southwestern sky. It was a beautiful night, and the stars were bright. Continue reading Leaping into March

W^2 – expected

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, January 24, 2024

On approach to Midway International Airport, Lake Michigan ice. Wednesday January 17, 2024 1:14 PM

Lately it seems that my life has been filled with all sorts of unexpected things, so much so that it has distracted me from the expected things in life.

It’s January in the upper Midwest. It gets cold in January, that is expected. When it gets cold here, ice forms on Lake Michigan. What is unexpected is why I was flying on a Wednesday, but there is more to that story, for now there is lake ice on Lake Michigan and a glimpse of the Chicago skyline.

Today I am going to focus on the expected things in life – family, school, taking care of my puppies, and taking care of me. So I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day, and press publish. Making the days Count, one day at a time, exploring, learning, and being curious and focusing on the expected things in life.

What’s been unexpected or expected in your world?

All Hallows Eve

It’s been haunting me that I’ve been silent so long.

I haven’t disappeared or gone into hibernation, it has simply been school and family. All good things, but it keeps me from writing, sharing, and creating.

the ivy and the maple tree

Last week, while I was helping my wife trim our puppies, who are not really puppies any longer. Ivy, at all at thirteen and half, is a senior dog and Fern, at four and half, is a full on adult dog and both are lively Britany Spaniels. I was patiently holding Ivy, when I looked up to see the most amazing color combination of the creeping ivy, not the dog Ivy, but the plant ivy climbing up the trunk of the maple tree.

There is light out there against the fall colors, even on Halloween, All Hallows Eve.

Today is going to be an amazing day. I know it and I can feel it. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the days Count one day at a time, even as the days grow short.

How are you holding up this Halloween?

Say their names….

It’s Monday, Nine-eleven.

Every year, I go back to my seventh-grade geography class when I first learned of the horror of that morning. It was son’s first day of school of school and his excitement was dashed when he saw his mother, my wife, standing television set crying as she watched the news unfold that Tuesday morning twenty-two years ago. She comforted him when he asked,

“Why are you crying momma” he asked.

She collected herself and replied,

“It’s just bad news.” She replied.

It was bad news and we have come together and moved forward since that awful day.

a replica of the fifteen star, fifteen stripe flag which flew over Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814.

I am reminded of the names on this day, some two thousand nine hundred seventy-five men, women, and children who perished that morning.

This summer I stumbled across the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland in downtown Baltimore. Earlier in the day I had visited Fort McHenry and seen a replica of the flag which had flown the night the British bombarded the fort. It had fifteen stripes and fifteen stars. The memorial moved me to create a movie of me reading each the victim’s names.

Todd Beamer, LeRoy Homer, Wanda Anita Greene, and Honor Elizabeth Wayne

I am inspired by the events of that morning and fellow bloggers Beth at I Didn’t have My Glasses and Mary at Wilderness of Words who encouraged me to say their names.

It is Monday, the first day of a new week. It’s raining for the first time in weeks, and it is going to be an amazing day. I know it and I. can feel it, so I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, saying their names, so we never forget.

Is there a name you remember from that day?  

W^2 – ducky

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, August 30, 2023

It is Wednesday and I am feeling ducky. I am five days into my twenty-fifth year of teaching and feeling like a duck on dry land, or perhaps skewered on a car antenna.

Rubber duckies on a car antenna, Naperville, IL, August 19, 2023 10:30 AM

I spied these rubber duckies on a car antennae a couple of Saturday’s ago while volunteering at Loaves and Fishes. The car’s owner is a regular and she lifts us up with the joy she shares with the world through her personality and her sticker adorned car.

I noticed the rubber duckies were a new addition and I talked to her on her way out.  She shared her story of how the week before she’d been on a trip with her family and collected more than a dozen rubber duckies playing a game and decided to skewer them on her car’s antenna.

A new school year is full of joy and excitement. It’s also change from the carefree life of summer break and audition for retirement. I inched a little closer this year to retirement this school year as I began my twenty-fifth year of teaching. Interestingly, this year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of my own year as a sixth grader, time marches on.

This morning I am more than just ducky; I am filled with joy and passion and excitement for learning. Today is going to be an amazing day, it just might be a million and six times better than yesterday. I get to teach kids and share my passion and curiosity.  So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the days Count, one day at a time, exploring, learning, and being curious.

How is your summer finishing?

me, first day of school. 25th year of teaching and 50 years since I was a 6th grader, Wheaton, IL August 24, 2023 6:40 AM

Tuesday’s Tune: Thank God I’m a Country Boy

Summer break is winding down and next week at this time, I’ll be getting ready for a new group of students. I am excited and I am looking forward to this year, it will be my twenty-fifth year of teaching.

Today, I am travelling home from last ballpark trip for the summer. I was in Florida for two games: Sunday in Tampa Bay and Monday in Miami – both indoor games. It was hot and humid in Florida much warmer than is comfortable for me.

A couple of weeks after school ended, I attended a professional development opportunity put on by Adobe to teach me how to use their newly updated software – Adobe Express. Click the link to check it out! I’ve been using Adobe Express this summer to edit photos, create a graphics,  and in general  playing with it toying with possibilities of using it with my students.  I am sticking with iMovie for videos because the software is the same on my iPhone, iPad, and my MacBook. And it is easy to use.

Monday night’s graphic

After each ballpark visit, I’ve created a video and posted it to my YouTube channel. I started during last year’s trip recording the seventh inning stretch and then adding the national anthem. I’ve been working on my video production and editing skills adding new elements to each video.

Sometimes I feel like a country boy as technology in the classroom continually evolves. My first year of teaching was almost entirely paper and pencil (or pen) for me and my students. This year, almost all of what I do will involve using technology for presentations to assignments and assessments but I still am going to ask them to use paper and pen for their notebooks in class.

last Thursday’s graphic – after 25 ball parks more than a hundred baseball games, I finally got a game ball.

Last week when I was in Baltimore, I recorded the national anthem and posted the video along with last week’s W^2 (wordless Wednesday) I changed the name to anthem, it made more sense to have a single word, rather than the phrase ‘O say can you see.’ Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: Thank God I’m a Country Boy

W^2 – anthem (renamed)

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, August 9, 2023

It is Wednesday, and I am in Baltimore for another baseball trip. This city and ballpark make 25 of 30. I have one last trip before school starts in less than two weeks.

These baseball trips have been more than baseball. Each stop has been an adventure full of curiosity, history, learning and growth, and excitement. Sometimes it is planned, but most times it simply happens.

the Star-Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry Baltimore, Maryland August 8, 2023 2:14 PM

Yesterday, I arrived my flight from Chicago arrived late morning. I had planned to visit Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine before checking in to my hotel. Fort McHenry guards, or guarded, Baltimore Harbor in 1814 during the War of 1812. The British had planned to invade and take over Baltimore in September 1814. The War of 1812 was started by the fledgling United States who was losing the war to the might British Empire. Only weeks before, in August, the British had routed the Americans in Washington, D. C. and burned the White House.

But the British attack on Baltimore is the unravelling of the British advantage and the strengthening of American resolve. In battle it isn’t always might and strength which decides the outcome of a conflict. Sometimes it’s an idea.

During the British bombardment of Fort McHenry an American, Francis Scott Key, watched the battle from a ship in Baltimore harbor. When morning came, he looked across the harbor to see the fort and he saw the American flag flying through the ‘dawns early light.’ He retreated to his sea cabin and penned a poem which spread like wildfire across the young American nation.

In 1931, the United States adopted this poem as its national anthem. We know the poem as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

The poem was four stanzas, and we sing only the first. Last night before the baseball game the crowd rose and sang the song proudly.

Today is going to be an amazing day, it just might be a million and six times better than yesterday although Tuesday night’s ballgame was the best baseball game, I’ve seen this season. Who knows? So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the days Count, one day at a time, exploring, learning, and being curious.

What adventure are you off to today?

POST PUBLICATION NOTE: I decided to change the post’s name, from O’ say can you see to anthem.

Arch Rock, created slowly over time

Arch Rock Mackinac Island, Michigan USA

We toured Mackinac (pronounced – mack-i-naw) Island in a horse drawn carriage Monday with friends. One of the stops along our tour was Arch Rock. Our tour guide shared the Ojibwe legends of a young woman whose tears slowly created the arch and another of how angry pileated woodpeckers slowly pecked away at the rock so a maiden could see the lake. But erosion, and science, explains the arch.

Mackinac is the Ojibwe word meaning ‘turtle’ as the island looks like a giant turtle shell emerging from Lake Huron. The Ojibwe were the Native American tribe which inhabited the island and the region long before Europeans explored and settled the region in the seventeenth century.

We had a wonderful time with our friends on Mackinac Island. They returned home yesterday while we helped our daughter move into her college apartment before the new term begins. Sometimes, I should simply stick to six words as Debbie from Travel with Intent suggests.

It’s Saturday and today is going to be an amazing day. After week with friends it is back to life andI have a long list of chores with all sorts of diversions possible. But I am going to try to stick to six words and make the day count. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, carving away at the to-do list. (My Saturday six words)

What are your six words for your Saturday? Or Sunday?  

My video of our trip to and from the island on the ferry.