The Great America Eclipse 2017

Unless you live in rocks, chances are you’ve heard about the Solar Eclipse that swept across America on Monday, August 21st, the day the Sun disappeared for more than two minutes, from Portland, OR all the way to Charleston, SC.  Probably you were one in the crowds with the solar glasses on and stared at the sky waiting for the magic moment of totality.  Yes, we were too!

It is being called the “Great America Eclipse” for a reason, it hadn’t happened in 99 years! Last time the total eclipse occurred on June 8th, 1918 crossing the States from Washington to Florida. Since this was my first time to witness a solar eclipse, I was determined to scratch this off my bucket list.

 

Thanks for the modern technology, an app, Eclipse2017, calculated for me the starting times of Partial Eclipse and Total Eclipse to the accuracy of seconds. After careful study, we chose Fort Loudoun State Historic Park in Vonore, TN as our viewing site.  The park was surrounded with lakes and it gave about two and half minute of totality, and it was within 200-mile radius, three-hour drive from us.

 

I was impressed by how organized and orderly the Park was in despite of the fact it was packed with people and cars.  People from all over the country came to see the eclipse, we met people from Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, even Connecticut.

 

The partial eclipse started 1:04, you would notice no difference if not looking at the telescope or staring at the Sun.  Everyone in the park put on their solar glasses and looked up to the Sun.  What a wonder! The Sun looked like a Pac-Man been eaten up a tiny chunk.

 

Then the rest of the hour and half went by eventless, people chatting and having picnic on the lawn, the sky slowly but surely getting grayer, it was kind of weird quer.  Even with 99% of the Sun blocked by the Moon, we still can’t look at the Sun with our naked eyes. Then it happened, the Sun was completely blocked by the Moon, all visible was the halo of the corona of the Sun!

 

This was the MOMENTS we’ve been waiting for, I took off my solar glasses, gaped at the Sun, the time seemed stopped! Loud cheer of the crowd, I joined them, screaming from the top of my lung! Excitement, yes! Fear, definitely! In awe, you bet!

 

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the Moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human being that you care for them?”

We got two and half minutes totality.  Before the Sun was swiped away, we heard loud chirping of crickets, we saw flock of birds frantically flutter by, i could hear my heart pondering as if to jump out of my chest! Theoretically i knew there was nothing to worry about, the sun would shine back in a minute, but I felt the unspeakable panic,  i could actually imagine the end of the world might look like this,  with no turning back…  I was on autopilot aiming my camera to the Sun and shoot; if it was not for the pre-set setting on my camera I would have missed the whole photographying, I was too dumbfound to think of anything!!

What an unforgettable experience!  Everyone should watch a solar eclipse totality at least once in one’s lifetime.  I realized how helplessly trivial and significant I was in His omnipotent presence!  Yet He loves me just the same!  The amazing grace!

 

 

 

 

A Birthday Celebration with Outdoor Concert and River Front Cycling

The celebration kicked off with an outdoor concert at the Riverbend Music Center with Rod Stewart, Arthur’s long-time admirer and fan. It’s dream come true to see the knight on stage. After overnight at Marriott, a lazy morning of too much breakfast, we picked up Cindy Red bikes to explore both sides of the Ohio River on two wheels.  It was a fun weekend!

No surprise, we’ve been to many attractions in Cincinnati, but this was our first visit to Riverbend Music Center.  The Riverbend located adjacent to Coney Island Recreation Park, along the north side of Ohio River Front.  The concert tickets included parking, we were surprised by how organized and orderly this place was,  from parking to going through security, to find our spot on the lawn, the lawn was synthetic, nice and dry despite the heavy rain in the afternoon.

Cyndi Lauper opened for Rod Stewart.  She still wore her iconic pink hair, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I googled and found out her being 64 years old!  Her voice was still amazingly girly.  She rallied the crowd with songs, like Time After Time, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, and True Color, etc.

 

The weather was so nice, evening breeze, beautiful sunset, everyone was in high spirit when Rod Stewart got on the stage!  He promised an hour and half nonstop fun, boy! He knew how to deliver!  Definitively world class, totally different caliber than Cyndi Pauper.  The crowd wouldn’t sit down, singing and dancing along, you couldn’t help but get pulled and sucked into his vortex.  With his raspy voice, he captivated the audience with one song after another, Rhythm of My Heart, Have I Told You Lately, Forever Young, Tonight Is the Night, Maggie May, Reason to Believe, You Are In My Heart, Da Ya Think I Am Sexy, Young Turks, and many more!!!

Superstar he is!  The way he controlled the air flow, the charisma that flew through his songs, his body language were so electrifying!  He himself was the magic, the total package!  Seeing him on stage in person totally has converted me, now I join my husband, am a die-hard Rod Stewart fan!

With Sir Rod’s amazing voice hanging in our heads and ringing in our ears way past midnight, a lazy morning was expected; we did not leave the hotel until noon!  Thank the Lord for a beautiful sunny day with high of 77F, couldn’t beat that for a summer day.  We waited no more time to pick up our Cindy Red Bikes.

The Purple Bridge (shown above, in blue color actually) is a traffic-free pedestrian bridge, especially for walking and biking. I liked the convenience of its connecting Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY.

The city of Cincinnati has newly renovated the river-front bike trail.  However, we had to forfeit the plan to bike the whole length because we lost the whole morning.

If you need a hotel in Cincinnati area, I strongly recommend SpringHill Marriott, newly opened in July.  The furniture and bedding, everything smelled fresh and new! The furnishing and decoration was very tasteful and modern.

If you haven’t tried Cincy Red Bike system, similar to the pay-and-go cycling system in many big cities, you should give it a try. We used similar system in Chicago, IL, and Montreal, Canada. For a fixed starting fee, you can get a bike, as long as you return the bike or exchange to a new one, at any station within 60 minutes, you will not be charged for more.  We love how the system works, because it usually takes less than an hour to bike from one destination to another, we never go over the time limit.  You drop your bike, visit the museum or park or whatever, when you are done, pick up another bike, keep going. A fun and economic way to tour a city!

If you ever go to an outdoor concert at Riverbend, one thing to remember that the lawn chair has to be lower than 9-in, which is much lower than your ordinary lawn chair. The soccer chairs we brought were too high, we had to drop them back to our car.

Since the traffic to the city was so congested because of the construction, we had to cancel our pre-concert dinner reservation, relied on concession food to hold off the hunger.   The concession food was typical: burger, hot dog and snacks like nacho and pretzel, pricey yet nothing special.  If not for the detours and stuck in the traffic for hours, we would not have eaten concession food for dinner.

Another way to save money at Riverbend is to buy lawn tickets.  For Rod Stewart concert, the lowest ticket price for a seat was $195, which located at the last roll with obstructive view; the front seat ticket was $388.  Since it was so expensive, we thought about purchasing two front seats for us and leaving the kids out in the back on the lawn for $40 each.  So glad that we eventually decided to stay together on the lawn. The lawn was clean and soft, dry despite the heavy rain in the afternoon.  With the lawn tickets, we not only saved money, we could walk around freely, singing and dancing with the crowd when ever we felt like.  It was really fun!

 

Hiking the Billy Goat Trail on Father’s Day

This year Arthur’s Father’s Day present was to visit his family in Maryland and hike the Billy Goat Trail.

map

Billy Goat Trail is a 1.7-mile section of Great Falls Loop (4.3 miles) along the Potomac River.  According to alltrails.com it is one of the most strenuous trails in the east coast.  There are many attractions along the Potomac River, C & O (Chesapeake & Ohio) Canal National Historic Park on Maryland side and Great Falls National Park on Virginia side are just a few we frequent.

The entrance fee for the C&O Canal Historic Park is $10 per vehicle, good for 3 days. Make sure to first visit the Tavern Visitor Center, which opened in 1830 as an inn.  Imagine to reserve a bed (a bunk) for the night for only 25 cents!  During the weekend the mule-drawn canal boat ride is a popular family activity, see NP website for schedule and pricing.

We began our hike from the canal towpath, which was flat and shaded most of the way.  On our left we counted at least five locks along the canal. This wide open section of the canal is strangely named as “Log Wall”, I am not sure why since the canal bank is full of rocks, no logs.

On our right, the Potomac river, gushing through boulders and bedrocks, glittering in the afternoon sun, was quite inviting.  We saw parents with little children in strollers lingering along the towpath, having a good time.

About a mile into the towpath, the Billy Goat A Trail forked to the right.  The trail turned into a narrow and arduous rocky path.  This section A was what made this trail famous. It was so steep in some areas, we had to get on all fours, hands and knees.  Obviously the trail was destined for an agile mountain goat! 🙂 If not for the clearly marked blue sign, we would easily wonder off track since there was no visible trail, only rocky cleft!

However, our hard work paid off, the reward was the incredible view! And I haven’t mentioned the feeling of appeasing accomplishment! 🙂

When C & O Canal Company broke ground in 1828, their original plan was to dig a 360-mile canal to connect Chesapeake with Ohio River.  Of course, we know the canal never reached Ohio river.  At the time of its grand open in 1850, the canal was 184.5 mile long, getting as far as Cumberland, Maryland.  Coals were carried down on boats from the Allegheny Mountains to Washington DC through the canal.

We stopped briefly at Cumberland, Maryland on our drive back home.  This little historic town, the west end of C&O canal, is worth of a longer trip to fully explore.  We will be back for sure.

Georgetown, Maryland, the east end of the canal. The pictures were taken during Thanksgiving 2015.

So glad that Arthur rose to the challenge on this Father’s Day to tackle the Billy Goat Trail!  Now he has one more thing to boast about. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Flat Lick Falls

Summer is here, it is time to hit outdoor again! Our friend Sarah told us about this hidden jewel, Flat Lick Falls, in Gray Hawk (Jackson county), Kentucky.  Last weekend we decided to check it out.  So glad we did! Thank you Sarah!!

Flat Lick Falls is 43 miles from Richmond, half way between Berea and London, pass McKee on KY-421.  A detailed direction is listed on their website.  From parking lot to the Falls is a short distance, very easy access.

Our first stop was the top view of the falls, then we took a stroll upstream. We were surrounded with lush green and untouched nature.

Across the top of the falls, there was a steep down-send to the base of the falls and pool. In no hurry we took the long route, a scenic and graduate descend, less than a mile long.

We were in the shade the whole time.  The temperature was at least 5-10 degree cooler.

Flat Lick Falls! What a great view! Other than a few people cooling on the left side of the pool, we almost had the whole falls to ourselves.

Facing the falls to our left, behind this fallen tree, Arthur discovered a huge, thin, curvy, free-standing rock, we called it potato chip!

Overall, it was a very enjoyable outing.

We noticed people started to come around two in the afternoon when we were ready to head back.  There was a large shaded BBQ area looking brand-new near the parking lot, and the last mile to the falls was paved gravel road.  Maybe the business is picking up, so make sure to go visit before it is getting too popular (crowded).

 

 

 

 

A Weekend of Broadway Show and Sight-Seeing at New York City

New York City is one of my favorite cities, I can’t get enough of her.  Last year alone we were there three times: college tour of NYU in the spring with our daughter, Broadway show in the summer with our son, and parent weekend in the fall. We also visited NYC in the winter months, one year we even attempted to wait for the Big Apple drop at Times Square on New Year’s Eve!  However, our children were not ready for eight-hour without bathroom break, around dinner time we declared defeat.

A friend of mine is planning to visit NYC this summer, I thought to share some tips for her.

IMG_4436

First of all, don’t attempt to drive in Manhattan. When we were there last summer, we parked our car on the Jersey side of Hudson river (Weehawken, NJ), the parking was indoor, very clean, and conveniently located near the ferry dock (Port Imperial Terminal).  Because we purchased the Broadway tickets from the NY Waterway-Your Key to the City, we not only got free round-trip ferry tickets, the deal also included 40% off our Broadway tickets.  Way to go!

IMG_4440

The ferry dropped us at the West 39th street of Midtown Manhattan.  There were public transportation nearby.  However we packed light since we planned to do a lot of walking in the city, it took us half an hour to walk to our hotel on 46th street.

Broadway at Times Square Hotel is only two blocks from Broadway and Times Square.  Great location with walking distance to all actions.  Staying in the center of attractions has always been our strategy when visiting big cities. It may cost a bit more for hotel stay, but the right location save us from the hustle of commute.  Why wastes time and energy on driving and fighting traffic?  After checked in and left our luggage, we were ready to explore the city.IMG_4465_1

Depending on the hours of the day and days of the week, such as crowded evening at the weekend or early morning rush hour of a weekday, Times Square has very different vibes.

IMG_4489

Highly recommend “Something Rotten”! A great musical, very funny!

As always, there are lot of things to see in this magnificent city, too little time. Manhattan is very walkable, and metro was reliable most of the time.

We could easily spend a whole day at Central Park and the nearby Metropolitan Museum.

Know ahead that there is no way you can do it all.  Pace yourself, save something for the next time.

Brooklyn Bridge is a favorite for many.  If you pick one bridge to walk through, make it Brooklyn Bridge! The view is amazing in any time of the day no matter which season. But it is spectacular at sunset.  So linger a bit longer, you will see the brilliant light of Manhattan as the night falls.

We walked cross Brooklyn Bridge in a cold afternoon last spring.  That time we took the New Jersey Transit train to Manhattan. Very nice ride.

One last tip to save money on Broadway tickets: if you don’t mind staying in lines to wait for the same day show, you may visit tkts Ticket Booth at Times Square (or other booths).  You may not have a huge selections, however the catch is you pay only half the regular price!

%d bloggers like this: