Friday, April 18, 2014

Mega Church & Mansion Urbexing

On Sunday I meet with friends to explore a couple of places, the first being a mega church in Baltimore. Emily and I had first discovered this place 3 or 4 years ago but after gaining access to the back of the house, we saw alarms had been set up, and not being sure if they were linked to a police station we left.
Today the church part of the building was open so we strolled in. Vandals had obviously spent some time here along with scrappers. Parts of the ceiling were hanging down, pews were ripped up and walls had gaping holes smashed in them.
There were a lot of these fans scattered on the floor and I could imagine the great atmosphere and loud singing that had once rang around this huge room.
A corridor led directly to the house and a metal shutter could be brought down in front of a pair of French doors leading directly into a living room where huge mirrors on the walls had been smashed. We had barely set up our tripods when we heard a door slam upstairs. We had company but we weren't sure whether they were friendly or not. We stood stock still and heard footsteps with more door slamming. We decided to quickly take some photos but not go upstairs.
We crept through the rooms, silently setting up our shots but the guy upstairs continued his racket undaunted. I was getting a little frazzled by this, and stuck close to the others. An old piano kept us occupied for a while and then we decided to leave.
Emily and I peeked up the staircase, Emily noting the great light. I quickly positioned my tripod and as soon as I pressed the shutter a huge crash thundered from immediately above us. I leaped out of my skin and we fled. We had also heard an engine noise from out the front and so crept around to our exit. Outside was a police car. Obviously our friend upstairs had created such a din that the neighbors must have put in a call.
We ended up waiting around for an hour and someone had the great idea of sliding down the pole above. That wasn't happening. I was concerned about the angle of the pole and it possible pulling away from the wall and also we didn't have gloves to control our down speed and stop the metal burning our palms. Eventually we decided to just stroll out as though we'd never spotted the patrol car. There were 2 officers inside studying a monitor and we didn't see them look up. so we strolled nonchalantly past looking the other way, assuming that if we couldn't see them then they couldn't see us. Besides there were no signs forbidding trespassing, so we sauntered towards our car without looking back. Either the cops never looked or we must have looked like a sad bunch because we weren't stopped.
We then took a drive over to a mansion I'd visited a few weeks ago. Thankfully it wasn't freezing cold like before and I was glad to return. I still won't divulge the house's location but it seemed already others had started pulling the place apart.
My main objective on this trip was to document the glass. I'll get around to putting the photos onto Flickr so they can be publicly accessed. I've been paranoid about the glass being smashed and the beautiful windows never having been photographed.
These were 4 windows in one room, representing the 4 seasons.
I missed these 2 in the hallway last time too. I'd been having doubts since my last visit as to whether the windows really were stained glass or transfers. I inspected them closely, these were stained glass with hand painted panels. I hope to God someone saves these before some ingnorant degenerate lobs a rock through them. The thought makes me shudder.
I took some more photos of the wood panels too and discovered that more elephant drawings had been added to the walls, so I shot those also.
Another trip up to the roof, and I noticed that the hearing test equipment had been taken. Fair enough, as long as it's appreciated. But someone had been in and pulled ceiling panels around and strewing the other contents about the floor.
We pottered around the grounds, looking in outbuildings I hadn't noted on my last visit.
On leaving the mansion I felt a little relieved that I had photos of all the glass and wood panels from inside the 100 year old building but was still a little restless wondering about the mansion's future. It's not beyond restoring and is still structurally sound. I hope it can be saved...
Our crazy day was rounded off with our customary beers. We found a cool little dive bar which although it didn't have food, it had fine beer and a magnificent ceiling covered with prominent album covers. A fun day with my mission accomplished with cool friends and a situation dealt with that showed our dependable team spirit. An excellent reason to toast with another beer!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Biking with Bipanes and Bottles

On Saturday I drove back to Remington to restart the bike ride from last week. It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm with a brisk breeze. I set off, actively checking the road for any random pieces of glass that could threaten my recently repaired tires.
A cool gate emblem, would love to know the meaning behind it.
The Green Genie looking awesome. I'm loving the new taped handlebars and it glides like a dream.
On one of my brief stops as I took a photo of something that caught my eye, I looked at my phone app which I was using to plot my route and show me where to go. My phone had only 20% power left so I had to memorize the simplest loop route back to the car. It was very frustrating not being able to check the map but I needed to conserve the little power I had in case of an emergency. but it was also nice just pedaling along not worrying about checking a map.
I stopped at a country store in Elk Run, I think, and got some water. The lady owner was very chatty and had the most amazing collection of incredibly healthy plants on top of one of the fridges. The finest African violets I'd ever seen.
Further on my ride I spotted a lot of tents in the distance and wondered what the event was, until I got closer and ducked as a biplane swooped down over me. I had unexpectedly come across one of my favorite places, Bealton's Flying Circus, and the boy scouts were meeting there. I stopped and watched the planes for a few minutes, enjoying the free display, then carried on.
I guess a mail carrier lives here?
Near to Remington I got drawn towards this very American scene of a train and an old abandoned farm in the background.
The house was tightly boarded and padlocked up but I still had a nose around the outside and the outbuildings. I found these old bottles lined up, a Mountain Dew, a Sprite and a Pepsi, all with the names debossed on the glass. I was tempted to grab them all but had nowhere to put then, and they were too skinny to fit in my bottle holders on the bike. I have enough junk already so I soon moved on without fretting about not having them! Getting back to the car, I plugged my phone in to charge and worked out my mileage. Not as far as I would have liked to ride but a modest 24 miles. And I didn't ache so the legs are getting stronger. Roll on the next ride!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Remington and the C & O by Bike

Saturday was a bright and breezy day with plenty of blues skies and sunshine, so I drove down to Remington for a bike ride. There are a few rides in that locale mapped out and I planned on doing two of the smaller ones, totaling about 20 miles. I unloaded my bike and started pedaling out in the country lanes, enjoying the peace and quiet.
That was until I came close to a gun club. I'd heard the shots and was a little nervous about stray bullets putting an end to my ride. But the club seemed to be focusing on clay shooting and with the guns pointing upwards my worries passed.
I kept going, noticing that whatever direction I traveled in the wind seemed to be against me but it wasn't cold and it was heaven to have the roads to myself. I came to some traffic lights and dismounted, checking my map and seeing that I'd need to cross the busy Rte 29 to continue on quieter roads. But as I climbed back on my bike I noticed immediately that I had a flat rear tire. I then realized that I hadn't checked the air in my tires before I'd set out and assumed the tire had just run down. There was an ice cream parlor across the road and so I pushed my bike over there asking folks if anyone had a bicycle pump. No one did, I guess ice cream and cycling don't go hand in hand. But very fortunately for me, although I'd cycled about 5 miles, it was only 2 miles back to the car so I walked. I carry a tiny pump with an air canister in my emergency bag attached to my bike seat but didn't want to use that unnecessarily. Back at the car I pumped up the tire but it went down again, this was a puncture.
So goodbye Remington, until another day. I loaded the bike back on the car and headed to my bike shop in Warrenton where they found a huge piece of glass in the tire. With a new inner tube in place I drove home, not really too upset as I had another bike ride arranged the next day.
On Sunday, I met with friends at Brunswick. Today I was riding my other bike with hybrid tires as we were cycling along the C & O canal path to Shepherdstown, WV. We met at Beans in the Belfry, a wonderful cafe that offered a fabulous breakfast and coffee. The cafe is a restored 100 year old church full of comfy chairs and sofas and interesting antiques, as well as a superb selection of teas and coffees.
The crew gearing up for our ride. With bellies full of tea, coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we started on the trail, immediately pedaling through beautiful woodlands along the Potomac River.
After a few miles we came to Harpers Ferry and I had to take a photo of poor Ed's seat. Absolutely rigid and unforgiving, compared with Margie's pad of comfort in the background.. The poor guy was already complaining and we had a ways to go.
A quick drink stop and a chance to fiddle with seat posts, gloves, remove jackets, etc. We were amazed at how empty the trail was, we had it to ourselves for most of the ride. Rob, above, chose to ride down a hill while Jason in the background took the flat route!
The white sycamores looked beautiful in the bright sunshine and buds of bushes were popping out in the hedgerows. We arrived at Shepherdstown, instantly recognizable by the Bavarian Inn on the river bank. We rode into town and stopped at the Blue Moon Cafe.
A quaint little restaurant with a place to park our bikes and a gorgeous collection of blue glass.
Emily trying to get a photo of Jason's trendy wrap around sunglasses.
The food here was amazing and they also had a great beer menu. I was very cautious and chose just a taco salad with 1 beer, envying Richard's choice of a beef and brie sandwich with fries and 2 beers. There was no way I could have continued the ride having consumed all that but I was envious. Ed, above, looked pretty content with his large burger too.
After our meal we hopped on the bikes and started our ride back. I was grateful that I'd chosen wisely at lunch and kept sneaking looks at Richard but he showed no signs of discomfort.
Jason was just in front of me when his rear wheel went flat with a loud explosion. Completely undaunted he flipped the bike over and had the inner tube replaced, tire pumped up and the bike ready to ride in under 10 minutes. No wonder he's known as a Bike Master.
We all stopped for this deer. Two of her friends had crossed the path in front of us so we halted to let her join them.
Completely unfazed she trotted across the trail and into the undergrowth.
The shadows were getting longer as we neared the end. Richard and I rode along together for a while. This had been a great day. We'd all kept up with each other and it had been so nice to ride with one person to chat and then another, or even to push on alone for a bit. We all got back to the car park at the same time and heeding Jason's advice of doing some stretching exercises, Emily and I laid on the ground and wiggled our arms and legs. We'd done about 38 miles in all, which wasn't bad for a first proper ride of the year. Stopping at Beans in the Belfry again, we had more coffee with a delicious blueberry and lemon meringue, having well earned the right to consume some extra calories. After goodbyes I managed to get home before dark and was grateful at having done those stretches. I didn't have a single aching muscle the next morning!