Abandoned Prosperity

America, for all its supposed wealth and prosperity, has many abandoned places. From natural disasters, to foreclosures, to budget cuts, to rebuilding; I've seen quite a few in my short life-time. All across this vast country people are homeless, when there are many buildings and places that could be "repurposed" to house them. This blog is all about the places I've lived and explored, over the past 50 years. It also involves other things of interest to me, which will become apparent as I continue along. Most places and events I can only remember and have no photographs of them. Currently, I'm active in exploring the current state I live in, Tennessee, when time permits me to do so. Follow along in my foot-steps as I clambour over and sometimes into the abandoned debris of our society...from junkyards to cellars to my own mind.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Abandoned Renewed

Been a while since I've updated this here blog. No, I've not completely abandoned it; more I've been pretty busy in the "Real World". Since I abandoned New England (I'll get into that story at a later date) and took up residence in Knoxville, Tennessee, there's been no end of abandoned buildings to explore, here. Like the one below. I found this old manse on Middlebrook Pike not far from where my new home is. From the looks of things, someone's attempting to rehab the place but, they've a long way to go. The inside has been pretty much gutted to the studs but there are some outstanding features on the outside of the building. The stone-work and the chimney come to mind. I'm not sure when this house was built or what it will be "repurposed" for but, I'll be keeping my eye on the (slow) progress of the renovation.

 Sundays are good days to go exploring, especially in the early morning hours. No-one's up or about until later on. Not that I actually go into the buildings I explore, because I usually don't. Most of them aren't safe to tread through. So, if I can peer into a window (or where a window once was) I can get in some shots of the interior. The early morning sunlight cast an eerie orange glow in the upper floor when I took these. And I still wonder, as I wonder with all the abandoned places I find, will they eventually get torn down or will someone give them a new lease on life?

Like I said, the interior has been gutted but a few details were left in place; such as the French doors and what I'm assuming are the original hardwood floors on the main level. I could be wrong. Every now and then I'll spot someone there. When time permits me to, I'll have to make some inquiries.

The garage is in particularly rough shape as is the old upright piano that stands therein...

Last but not least, the chimney and main gate to the yard (or in this case, just the stone wall remains.) I love the design of the chimney...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Abandoned The CVT

5-speed equipped!
*Author's note: I am in no way, shape or form, getting paid to write this but wish I was. Maybe someone from Car and Driver or even Nissan will happen upon this and learn something from an actual customer.*

 I will never go back to owning any car with an automatic transmission, especially one that is a CVT. Antique vehicles would be the only exception. Lesson learned the hard way. A few months back I did a post about the 2014 Nissan Versa Note I had recently bought. You can read that HERE if you want to. Car and Driver had it right when they stated that "you could do worse than having a 5-speed manual in this car...you could buy the one that was CVT equipped." Unfortunately, the article did not come out until the winter and I had bought the first Note in July of 2013. It wasn't until December that I found out about not one, but two recalls on the early models. Both problems were minor and eventually fixed. A couple other foibles of the CVT-based model: The front seat belts had an irritating way of knocking against the b-pillar when not in use. Also, if your front seat isn't adjusted properly (in my case to far forward), you have to be a contortionist to get at the belt. I noted all the problems areas in my J.D. Power survey.

It only took one test drive to get back into gear.

In February of this year (2014), I finally got to get my manual back. It took seven months for the dealers to get any on their lots, or so I was told. I can believe it due to all the hype over getting a CVT equipped car. That seemed to be all the dealers were ordering out of Mexico, at the time. I had the same problem about ten years ago when I went to buy a Chevy Tracker. Only then it had only taken five days to find a stick-shift model, not seven effing months! But, I digress. And I suffered and complained. But at least the updated model's seat belts didn't knock up against the b-pillars. And the lid for the extra 12-volt socket is now spring-loaded.

 What I can't believe is how bad these things (CVTs) really are. The "acclaimed" mileage is a joke. As one who has owned both the CVT and 5-speed models, I can attest to the 5-speed being the better choice. I've driven both cars as far as Lower Virginia (from Massachusetts), along the I-81 corridor. Lots of nice hills to climb.

 Let's compare: The CVT-based car can't get out of its own way, literally. You can forget about merging into traffic unless your foot is to the floor. And only then you'd be lucky not to get crunched by that fast-approaching semi. Climbing hills? Yeah. Right. The CVT caused the engine to go into warp drive when getting anywhere near a hill, much less a mountain. The tach ran anywhere from 4,000-5,100 RPM just to keep up to the speed limit. The end result for this trip is that I averaged 29.2 MPG. A bit better than the guys at C&D did but then they were driving the manual. After seven months my over-all mileage was 37.2 combined. Meh.

It's...it's so...black and shiny!

Now for the 5 speed version: Yes, the shifter is a bit notchy but then, it's still an upgrade from the old KIA Cinco's 5 speed. With 107 horse-power and equal torque, it's enough for me to be able get out on the highway, especially if I'm stomping throttle in 3rd gear. Going through the same mountain chain (the Shenandoah Mountains), I saw a remarkable difference. The 5 speed kept up with traffic at barely 3,500 RPM and no down-shiftings required unless I was hitting an off-ramp (and even then I'd just throw it into neutral.) My trip average was 35.4MPG. And this was at and average speed of 65MPH. Quite a difference. My current over-all average is now 40.2 MPG. But then, I tend to drive in neutral a lot, especially on the back roads.

End result? My money's on the 5 speed. Better acceleration, better mileage and a whole lot more fun to drive. No more complaints.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Past Its Usefulness

I currently live parallel to a major state highway. Route 20. The section of Rt. 20 I'm near is in the central part of the state of Massachusetts. It's a fucking nightmare. In many places there are but two lanes for traffic flow. The section in my area is four lanes from the Auburn/Worcester line to the old Ballard Spring Co. in Shrewsbury, about a 10-15 minute drive East (depending on traffic, it could take even longer to cover the, less than ten mile, span.)

 A few years ago, there was a rather large road-works project to connect the Route 146 corridor from Rhode Island and link it directly to I-290, which cuts through the centre of the city of Worcester. The road-works project also added a new exit to the Mass Pike via Rt. 20. Amazingly, the project was done within the time and budget constraints (or so I'm lead to believe and after viewing the construction over the years I tend to agree upon this and this only.) As for what came later, I can only swear in profusion every time I try to get out of the parking lot.

 Unfortunately, as with so many urban projects, businesses and homes were uprooted and either relocated or dissolved (i.e. torn down). Entire city blocks were demolished and old streets completely disappeared. All in the name of trying to improve the traffic-flow into Worcester. It almost worked. Almost.

As I said, Rt. 20 is a nightmare. I'm not sure what city planners were actually thinking and I can only guess that they (the city planners) must have over-looked the "big picture". Traffic-flow has always been a problem in any city. But when you tie two major highways (the turnpike and Rt. 146) into one state road (Rt. 20), things are gonna get...ugly. In my area the vast majority of Rt. 20 has no centre lane(s) for turning. And the 2-into-1 merge-lanes are even worse and that's when there isn't even much traffic.

The nightmare comes on if there's ever an accident on either the Pike or from other road-works projects in the area, but it's usually due to an accident on the Pike (which usually occurs around the Millbury area.) I noticed over the past four years that the traffic congestion comes mainly on the week-ends and usually starts around late Saturday mornings (around 11.00-11.30), and can last well into the night. On one particular Saturday (the summer of 2011, which was when I took the above photo), there were multiple accidents on the Pike and the ensuing vehicular horde was in "stop-and-go" mode until well past 20.00. In the picture above, the tractor-trailer to the left took a full ten minutes to span the equivalent of two city blocks. I should know. I timed it. The driver then had to merge left and really, who wants to get crushed by a vehicle that outweighs one by forty times as much? Particularly on such a nice day as it was at the time.

Business owners decry that the congestion actually hurts their sales, due to no-one being able to access the parking lot. I find this hard to believe as I've seen the lots pretty well packed even during the rush hours when traffic is at its heaviest. The only thing really hurting sales is the mass of competition in the surrounding areas (and really, how many damn grocery stores does a city have to have, anyway?) The other thing that drives the custom away is the fucking idiots that hang out in the lot, smoke pot and drag-race across it. But I'll save that for a future rant on the city's (lack of) policing.

I say the congestion occurs mainly on the week-ends but can happen at any time during the week. But not all the "back-ups" are due to the cause of a smash-up on the Pike. To be fair to all concerned, there are more than enough smash-ups right in front of my home. One can hear the "CRUNCH" of vehicles colliding quite clearly. Some have been pretty bad. Most are minor. Motourists cutting each other off is a common occurrence and speed is usually a factor. The speed limit is 35MPH from the light at the Greenwood Street intersection, to just over the bridge that spans the flood-controlle canal, which is less than a block away from the shopping centre. I shudder to think of what the average speed is through here but as I do not posses a LIDAR, I can't be certain. I can make an educated guess and say "at least 50-60 MPH". Drag-racing is also common through here, as are pedestrian fatalities. Though I work just across the street, I no longer walk to work. I'm better off to get into my car and drive across. Six airbags are better protection than my clothing is. Fuck having a "reduced carbon footprint".

Rt. 20 needs a complete overhaul. The road can no longer handle the current amount of traffic. An amount that no-one had any foresight of decades ago. The city planners should have a look at how the main streets are set up in, say, Knoxville, TN.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Eternal Voyage

Do thy duty; that is best; leave unto the Lord the rest.~Longfellow

He that will learn to pray, let him go to sea.~Herbert

Surely oak and threefold brass surrounded his heart who first trusted a frail vessel to the merciless ocean.~Horace

Warren A. Cleveland~April 21, 1940-March 11, 2014

He did his duty. He learned to pray. And he went to sea. A voyage that lasted 23 years. And from what I remember of my Uncle Warren's personality, his heart was surrounded by more than just an oak and threefold brass. It was surrounded by courage and commitment. By honour and duty. But most important...by his love and caring for his family and friends. He had a firm voice but a gentle soul. I found that out back in 1973. Now that I think of it, 'twas that one thought...one single memory of the past...that braced me as I attended his funeral, week last. I'm not sure Uncle Warren's son, Tim, would remember the event but, perhaps he may recall it, anon. Isn't it strange how we remember things, places and events?

 I wish I'd gotten to know him better over the past 28 years. Oh, we conversed via 'phone, usually during the holidays. And he'd talk your ear off if you let him, heh, heh. Every now and then we'd both swap sea stories of our time in the Navy. I can only imagine the stories he didn't tell me. And I usually surprised him with the things I knew about his era of the military. This was usually the one way I could get in a word edge-wise. But even so, we both had the utmost respect for one another, especially as Navy veterans (even though we were of two completely different eras and divisions of the Navy~Uncle Warren was in the surface fleet and I was in submarines.)

 I could go on endlessly quoting and remembering here but, there are some things that are more personal and left between family and friends and not on a blog. Better to share the best memories of those you love in person and not on a computer screen, right?

 I know that someday I'll be with my Uncle Warren and all my other Naval brothers and sisters who've come to serve before me. We'll be able to swap stories once again as we sail on the becalmed ocean into eternity. So long for now, Uncle. Know ye that we have safely arrived at our home port.

 Your loving nephew,


 For those of you that actually read this blog o' mine, you can go HERE to visit with my Uncle Warren.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Is It Spring yet?

Despite the lingering cold and lack of snow, the robins are out and about here in Massachusetts. I had a couple fly in front of my car just yesterday and I had to wonder...either they're lost or they're just so accustomed to the cold, that they never left. Or perhaps they know something we don't. Everywhere I go, it seems, I hear the age-old griping about the "damn" cold. Yes, it has been a rather colder year than most. Even NOAA got it wrong as they had predicted a much warmer winter that it actually has been. But then I've been saying for years that you just can't predict the weather. But as we are oft to say here in New England, "If you don't like the weather just wait a couple of minutes." How true that is.

 I had to laugh at the latest weather report for the southern states, that implied or "predicted" that the highs would be in the 70's. Above average for the time of year but, considering the mess that Atlanta went through with all that ice a couple weeks back, I'm sure it'll be more than welcome to bask in the suns rays. That's when I laughed and remembered that, we do that up here when it's in the 20's, as long as the sun is out and the wind is low. Hell, even the hard-core bikers come out to play!

But if you have a bad case of "cabin fever", don't worry too much. It'll be over soon...maybe. I mean, I've seen it snow up here in May, for crying out loud! And lest we forget, we can still get a major snow-dumping in March or April... So, if you're tired of looking at the dirty snow and ice, just concentrate on the picture of Brierly Pond above and think warm thoughts :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Just a Squall

Just to let anyone who's actually reading this here blog that, I'm still around but recovering from the effects of the latest flu virus and "walking pneumonia". Also, to make a point that Winter is far from over. The pics here I took February 9th, 2013 at the onset of the blizzard we had that day. I took most of the shots from behind the safety of my front screen door or window. I mean really...who would abandon their sanity and venture out into this shit? Then I forgot that I did back in the super storm of March '93. But, I was in the National Guard then and didn't have a choice. Being a true "snow baby", I didn't really mind.

I don't quite remember the amount we got in my area but, it was well over 2 feet; though the drifts may have one believing it was much, much more.

"White-out" conditions were expected, as per usual. I took these shots at 08.24 & 08.25 but as you can see, it was still quite dark...

Isn't it weird how the drifting snow will build up in one place or another yet, leave nothing on the roof of a building?

Hard-core smokers, like my neighbour here, will come out in this. I know because I use to do this, myself. I'm still thanking myself that I had the where-with-all to quit smoking when I did (March 16, 1998 but who's counting?)

Aftermath and hours of digging out the vehicles, porches and patios, not to mention the fire lanes. I have a feeling we are long over-due for a major dumping but...I could be wrong. It's just a feeling I get... I have a lot more shots but I'll be featuring them on my DeviantART page. Drop me a note if you want to venture there ;)