Category: Alpaca

Charter Day 2018

Charter Day Blues
Charter Day Blues

Yesterday three museums in Lancaster County celebrated Pennsylvania’s 333rd birthday by offering free admission for Charter Day. Charter Day commemorates the charter King Charles II granted Pennsylvania founder William Penn in 1681.

I went back to the Railroad Museum to practice using my 35mm lens. While most people seemed to be enjoying themselves, I heard several bored kids ask their parents when they could go home. The smart ones just used body language.

The Great Blizzard of 2018

Suzuki GS550L
Suzuki GS550L

Last night the weathermen were very excited about another Nor’easter heading towards Lancaster overnight and continuing into today bringing up to nine inches of snow and probably a complete apocalypse. School closings were flashing on the screen and then a special notice about vehicles prohibited from major roads, including motorcycles.

I thought that was strange because most motorcycle owners know that bikes don’t handle well in heavy wet snow. Its hard enough on a warm summer day to do 80mph on back roads here without hitting a deer or getting a speeding ticket (with a lawyer and a little luck that ticket can be reduced to 45 in a 40 with no points).

When I woke up it was snowing pretty heavily and I was about to head to my survival shelter but after checking my email and the weather channel I saw that the forecast had changed to an inch or less. This is not the reason I dropped out of my meteorology class in college but if anyone ever asks I’ll say it was.

George Carlin as the Hippy Dippy Weatherman knew how to keep things simple and accurate. He used to say: “Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.” He also said: “Some people have no idea what they’re doing, and a lot of them are really good at it.” Touché.

Murdering the Hours

Working on the railroad
Working on the railroad

Charles Bukowski used to go to the racetrack as often as possible for something to do during the day, or as he called it: “To murder and mutilate the hours.” In his book The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship he wrote: “It gets boring, even when you’re winning. But where else could I go? An art museum?”

So on this rainy March morning with a high wind advisory and gusts between 40-60 mph I asked myself what am I going to do all day. And for some reason I decided to go to a museum, not an art museum but The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg.

It was fairly interesting with many badly lit displays and signs that asked you not to climb on the best things like the fancy dining cars and hundred year old steam engines. There were also a lot of mannequins dressed in period clothing posed in trains, storefronts and working on the railroad.

I walked up the stairs on one of the few locomotives that allowed it and what I thought was a dummy reading the newspaper was actually an old man who wanted desperately to talk to someone, about not suprisingly, trains.

A few minutes later I saw what I thought were costumed workers setting up a new exhibit, but this time it was dummies. I was fooled again, fooled by things because I wasn’t paying enough attention.

Shunryu Suzuki once said: “The kind of life you have is not so important. The most important thing is to be able to enjoy your life without being fooled by things.”

That seems to be good advice although the part about the kind of life you have not being important is a bit confusing. I’ll start off with trying not to get fooled again, maybe even tipping my hat to the new constitution.

Note to self: Buy a hat.

Face Off

Horse (obviously)
Horse (obviously)

I was on the way home this afternoon and couldn’t resist stopping in at Aaron and Jessica’s Amish Buggy Rides to get more practice with my 35mm lens. I didn’t see Aaron or Jessica but there were two horses standing there probably wondering why tourists get so excited about a buggy ride.

I wanted to see how close I could get, the specs say the minimum focus distance is 11.81 inches but I rarely bring my ruler so I had to guess. I was talking to him and even calling him by name but he wouldn’t turn to face me. It occurred to me that there was a distinct possibility that his name was not Mister Ed and for all I knew he only understood Amish.

Finally as another buggy was pulling up he turned around to look at me for a split second and I took this shot. American Horse trainer Pat Parelli once said: “If your horse says no, you either asked the wrong question, or asked the question wrong.”

Note to self: Learn Pennsylvania Dutch or at least get the horse’s real name.

Reconsidering Attachments


Brad Warner, author of ZEN Wrapped in Karma and Dipped in Chocolate said: “True nonattachment is understanding that you are fundamentally attached to everything and, through that understanding, dropping your attachment to the view that you are detached from that which you encounter.

At the same time, real nonattachment means not clinging to things or people. It means dropping the idea that if you don’t have this or if you can’t get that, your life will be a catastrophe.”

I wish I read that before I went shopping for a new car this week, the decision would have been much easier and probably much less expensive. Or not.

The Aristocrats

Strasburg Rail Road Station
Strasburg Rail Road Station

“There was an air of indifference about them, a calm produced by the gratification of every passion; and through their manners were suave, one could sense beneath them that special brutality which comes from the habit of breaking down half-hearted resistances that keep one fit and tickle one’s vanity—the handling of blooded horses, the pursuit of loose women.” Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Note: I did not speak to this woman so I have no idea if she’s loose.

Nothing Is Free

Free for the taking
Free for the taking

Toba Beta, author of Master of Stupidity wrote: “Nothing is for free, even in heaven.” But driving around the back roads of Lancaster, Pennsylvania today I proved him wrong. I was thinking about nothing in particular when I saw them, not one, not two but three FREE gently used tractor tires.

I stopped to take a look, wondering what I could do with such a generous gift from a simple Amish farmer. My first thought was to buy a tractor, but I don’t have a garage. Then I considered making tire swings for the kids, but I live in an apartment and don’t have any kids.

After what seemed like hours but was probably minutes of racking my brain I realized that I had no need for them at all. But it bothered me, after all they were free. As free as a fly, as free as light, as free as a mountain bird, but to me they were useless unless I become a hoarder (briefly considered).

Robert A. Heinlein once said: “Nothing of value is free. Even the breath of life is purchased at birth only through gasping effort and pain.” Dammit.