Mike and Julie's Summer Vacation, 2002
======================================

Day One
-------

CHRISTMAS MORNING, July 18, 2002.  Thursday.  The day of the Fire
Expo, when Yours Excited gets to dive headfirst into a fully stock-
ed pool of fire equipment, fire apparatus, and even fire *toys* at
the 19th Annual Firehouse Magazine Fire, Rescue, and EMS Expo in
Baltimore, Maryland.  The show started yesterday-- with pre-confer-
ence workshops like "Company Officer Development," "Getting Grants
From Non-FEMA Situations" and "Crew Resource Management Applied to
the Incident Management System."  Whatever that means-- but the ex-
hibit floor doesn't open until today.  At 11:00 a.m.  I'm awake by
4:30.  Wide-eyed.  Don't bother trying to sleep anymore as there's
still packing to do, plus a couple other preparations-- boxing col-
lectibles to sell at Sunday's "firematic" flea market, carefully
choosing three or four dozen music and spoken-word CDs*, and skim-
ming Paul Freeman's fabulous "Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields"
site (http://members.tripod.com/airfields_freeman/) for interesting
stops.

FEED THE CAT.  Pet the cat.  Leave provisions for cat's caretakers.
Set automatic timers.  Grab film, first-aid kit, and second pair of
sneakers.  (Truth be told, I'll be flip-flopping for the duration,
but a little extra sole is never a bad idea...)  Sweetie arrives by
7:30 and the car is by then half-packed.  Leave Raleigh right after
8:00 a.m. and arrive in downtown Baltimore right after 1:30 p.  The
five-and-a-half-hour (!) ride is utterly unremarkable, save for
three things:

  o what looks like a brand-spanking-new Virginia visitor's center
    on I-85, which we don't stop at

  o winning $20 after spending $5 on scratch-and-win lottery cards
    in South Hill, VA

  o viewing a monster-sized heavy rescue truck at an Alexandria, VA
    car dealership, where a fire 'n' police appreciation day is in
    progress

Even the usually hideous I-95 slash Beltway corridor is relatively
painless, 'cept for a couple construction zones that slow us to an
expletive-inducing crawl.

CAMDEN YARDS.  The air is hazy; the humidity thick.  Pratt Street
is bumper-to-bumper; the Camden lots are packed with red pick-up
trucks and white passenger vans, every other one possessing warning
lights, gold-leaf lettering, or firefighter license tags.  We have
three quarters between us, which we add to the time on the stadium
lot's meter.  Two hours to play and two blocks to walk, the latter
involving hoofing along a narrow asphalt sidewalk and feeling like
slow-motion aquanauts exploring a planet whose atmosphere is half-
water.  Not so distant siren or two.  And the horn of a light-rail
commuter train approaching on Howard Street.  More fire vehicles
passing or parked in front of the Convention Center.  Large men in
dark tees converge from all directions.  Some are alone or accompa-
nied by wives and children; others are clumped in fraternal groups
wearing wide, inviting grins.  Sweetie struggles to keep the pace
upon entrance, as I beeline for the registration area.  And with
badge in hand, I'm moving even faster until we finally part ways at
the bottom of the stairs. She heads to the restroom and I head to
the Exhibit floor.

TODAY'S VISIT is a scouting mission, specifically to see what toy
and collectible dealers are on hand and, if necessary, snatch up
any one-of-a-kind items that might not be come Friday to Saturday.
Rushing to the right, rear of the gigantic room, I rapidly pursue
the racks at a firefighter's bookstore booth and promptly purchase
a lone copy of Fred A. Conway's most-excellent historical guide to
"Chemical Fire Engines."  (See, a century ago, most fire apparatus
carried "chemical tanks," containers filled with water mixed with
sodium bicarbonate.  Upon arrival at a fire, sulfuric acid was in-
troduced, resulting in immediate pressurization and, thus, rapid
discharge of the extinguishing agent.  And which was ultimately
faster-- if messier-- than either the hand- or steam-powered pump-
ing engines of the time.)  Sweetie spends some money next door, at
Marilyn and Gil's Fire Station, snatching the last gold-plated (or
at least *painted*) miniature replica of a self-propelled "steam-
er."  From there, it's racing 'n' browsing booths of Code 3 Col-
lectibles, Corgi Classics, Best Choice Collectibles, Westchester
Collectibles, and so on and so forth.

REENTERING THE HEAT about two hours later, Sweets and I conclude
(a.) it's damn hot and (b.) ice cream is the appropriate course of
action.  Haagen-Dazs, if we please, from the Haagen-Dazs stand ap-
proximately four long blocks east at Harborplace Place.  Way too
hot to hoof it, though, so we walk two *short* blocks to the car.
Fifteen minutes later and two blocks closer, Harborplace is a-hop-
pin'.  We travel from air-conditioned building to air-conditioned
building, sweating and cursing and then cursing some more, when we
discover said ice-cream stand has just *one* person working.  And
three people waiting.  The bastards.  And they're out of my abso-
lutely favorite flavor, Belgian Chocolate.  Oh well, Doctor says I
shouldn't eat chocolate anyway... One ice cream bar, soft pretzel,
and cherry-flavored "ice" later, and we're back in the heat, re-
turning to the car, returning to Pratt Street, and returning to
I-95.

HEAD SOUTH to the hotel, to check in, chill out, and maybe take a
nap.  Er, *probably* take a nap, as a certain someone's sugar-ov-
erloaded system is fading fast.  Sweetie rests, too, and, blink,
the day disappears.  By 7:00 p.m., we're moving again, but groggy,
grumpy, and hungry.  Consult yellow pages for edible ideas and find
a "Famous Dave's Barbeque" in Columbia.  Wohoo!  (Same is a chain
based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and fondly remembered from my last
visit home, when Seattle Sara and I converged upon the Twin Cities
for a Christmas Season trip to the Mall of America.)  Can't find
the exact location on our trusty street map, but the Columbia Mall
is identified.  Hmmmm.  Sounds like a good place to start.  Drive
south, then west.  Find mall, but no Dave's.  Ask security person
sitting in vehicle for directions.  Thanks.  Drive north, then
east.  Five minutes later, we're seated for dinner.  Julie has a
chicken sandwich; Mikey has ribs.  They're good.  Return to hotel
and watch Letterman.  He's funny.

* music selections include albums from Deep Purple ("Nobody's Per-
  fect"), Judas Priest ("Hell Bent For Leather"), Extreme ("Extreme
  II: Pornograffiti"), Sarah Brightman ("Classics"), Various Art-
  ists ("Classic Disney, Volume II"), and those rapping, kvetching
  humorists 2 Live Jews ("Fiddling With Tradition")


Coming on day two:

  o apes!
  o fire boots!
  o more sweating!
  o the smell of urine!
  o railroad bridges nearly two-hundred years old!


Watch this space!


Photos now available!  [ outdated link deleted ]

Day Two
-------

APES.  ACTUALLY, men dressed as apes.  Or maybe they're hominoids.
You know, prehistoric man.  Been channeling surfing for a few, af-
ter awakening a couple hours ahead of my companion.  (Spent same in
the suite's second room, continuing work on a model guide started
last night-- a text list, with whatever pictures I can find, of all
releases of a particular brand of die-cast model fire trucks.  See
http://www.legeros.com/toys/guides.)  Sweetie's ambulatory by 8:30
a.m. and, by 8:45 a.m., we're downstairs in the poorly cooled lob-
by, catching the ass end of a lame-o breakfast buffet.  (The ba-
con's limp, the eggs taste processed, and the waffle maker's ig-
nored in favor of toast-them-yourself squares.  Blech.*)  Back to
the room, back to the bed, and activate the television.  Channel
surf through the typical dreck until happening upon "2001: A Space
Odyssey" playing on free HBO.  Stanley Kubrick's classic.  Motion
for Watson to come quick, as the ape is about to toss the bone into
the air.  You know, when the camera cuts from tossed bone to drift-
ing space station in one of cinema's most famous contemporary jux-
tapositions.  Sigh.  Once a film fan, always a film fan...

SCHELP to the car by 10:30 a.m. and part ways around 11:00; myself
again to the Expo, herself taking the car to the Art Museum.  She's
a Monet lover.  Inside the gloriously cool convention center, it's
back to the Exhibit floor, this time for casual perusal of the doz-
ens-- or is it hundreds?-- of products on display.  There are fire
boots, fire shoes, fire hats, fire caps, fire charts, fire helmets,
fire floors, and fire numbers.  (Reflective numbers, for identify-
ing houses at night.)  Fire locks, fire hooks, fire coins, and fire
cards; fire horns, fire hoods, fire shirts, and fire ducks.  (Rub-
ber, of course.)  Fire shields, fire charms, fire pins, and fire
pens; fire art, fire books, fire crystal, and fire fundraisers.
(Rural departments are always raising money.)  Fire bags, fire box-
es, fire brackets, and, of course, fire insurance.  Fire chocks,
fire smoke (fake), fire mics, and fire vests (reflective).  Fire
film, fire paper (water-resistant), fire pants, and fire suspend-
ers.  Fire saws, fire strobes, fire pencils, and fire credit.  Er,
credit *cards*.

LIFTING TOOLS, lighting arms, illuminated clipboards, and portable
pumps.  Crow bars, pry bars, water guns, and rope guns.  Air bot-
tles, tool belts, equipment bags, and latter racks.  Valves and
gauges and nozzles and hoses.  Instruction guides, training videos,
reference cards, and Dalmatian suits.  (Not to mention remote con-
trolled *animatronic* Dalmatians that the little kiddies love.  As
do, I suspect, the *big* kiddies...)  Ambulances sit in the center
of the hall, patient-compartment doors open and ready for examina-
tion.  Same for a double-dozen fire trucks, all free for the climb-
ing, touching, or general exploration.  Drooling optional.  Some
are demonstration models-- either partially or fully finished--
others are "working rigs," shiny clean on the outside, but with
varying degrees of soot on the inside.  One monster rig, a foam
pumper from Somewhere in New York, boasts the biggest "deck gun"
this lifelong "buff" has ever seen.  (See pics of same at [ outdated
link deleted ].)  I'm agog, as is the approaching
pair of attendees, one of whom simply states "Holy shit!"  Another
truck, a pumper-tanker from Royersford, PA, has all of its roll-up
compartment doors open.  On the driver's side, atop the dual rear
axle, are a row of identical-shaped tool boxes labeled in big let-
ters:

  o Door Markers
  o Forestry Hose
  o Toolbox**
  o Tools
  o Flare Kit
  o Fire Line Tape

PLATFORM LADDERS, aerial ladders, heavy rescues, light rescues, wa-
ter tankers, mini pumpers, Chief's buggies, and equipment trailers.
Baltimore City's new "Rescue 1" is here, fresh from the factory and
still awaiting outfitting.  It's a mammoth rig, the size of a small
house, with 80-degree slanted steps in the rear that lead to a dia-
mond-plated roof area.  Same has enough *lateral* compartment space
to "store six bodies," notes awed firefighter who also makes the
climb.  I coax Sweetie to the top.  She's wowed, too.  I also take
a "panoramic" series of photos, standing and turning 360-degrees in
the same spot.  (See aforementioned Web address.)  Another giant
rescue truck, this one orange and operated by a Virginia rescue
squad, has a crane in the rear that retracts upon itself like a
double-joined elbow!  Presently, though, it's extended *above* the
truck, with a "stokes basket" (metal stretcher) and American flag
hanging from its tip.  (Such devices are common in Europe, but not
here.  Go figure...)

LUNCH IN LUTHERVILLE after reconnecting at 1:30 p., which requires
a northern drive on I-83, along a hideous corridor of mangy build-
ings, patchy roads, and off-color bridges.  (Baltimore 'taint the
prettiest of cities in places...)  L'ville is north of town, on the
northern edge of I-695.  Takes about twenty to get there.  Our des-
tination is a fire museum, though first we must. find. food.  Noth-
ing appeals for the first few minutes post-Interstate.  Finally de-
cide on a diner a couple miles "up" York Road.  She orders a BLT; I
choose pork tips over rice.  Fruit cup for her, too; vanilla 'shake
for me.  Plus rolls and one small cup of matzo ball soup.  Wohoo!
Place looks family-run.  Maybe by Greeks.  Or Spaniards.  The por-
tions are large, though, so we're left well-filled.  $22.00, in-
cluding tip.  Conversation includes highlights of the Art Museum
and the museum gift shop and a set of itsy-bitsy Money magnets that
she declined to purchase.  More on that later.  We also read our
respective periodicals.  (Love is never having to say "do you mind
if I read the paper?")

THE MARYLAND FIRE MUSEUM is (for me) the day's second major attrac-
tion.  Forty pieces of "rolling stock" from hand- to steam- to gas-
powered; from hose reels to hook 'n' ladders to "water towers" to
searchlight trucks.  The staff is ultra-friendly, the gift shop has
a book I'd been looking for, and they even have a working telegraph
alarm system.  (We ask for a demonstration, of course.)  One hour
is all we get, as the museum closes at 4:00 p.m.  And one hour is
all we *need*, as the museum is sans cooling.  Well, save for one
room.  I buzz about, sweating, snapping, and grinning like the pro-
verbial fool.  Sweetie is amused, too, by both the authentic (tho
minimally restored) exhibits and my endless enthusiasm.  Poke,
peer, peek, and gawk.  And climb aboard a classic Mack hose wagon
in the children's room, so Sweetie can take pictures and I can ring
the bell a few hundred times.  (As my fellow firefighters said of
Yours Excitable during driver training so many years ago, if I was
smiling any wider, I'd have bugs in my teeth...)  Depart by 3:50,
but not before Julie has promised to them that I'll leave gobs of
money to the Museum upon my death.  (Seems the MFM lives "day to
day" and can use all the contributions it can get.  She relates
that school trips are there bread 'n' butter and, thus, snow days
are dreaded in the winter as that's X hundred dollars missed when
the kiddies are out.)

LADIE'S CHOICE for the next stop, some place called Lexington Mar-
ket that she's curious about.  It's downtown and takes a good forty
minutes to get there, 'cause I drive *through* town, 'cause I'm se-
cretly planning a stop at the Art Museum, to acquire the aforemen-
tioned Monet magnets and subject the gift store clerk to a barrage
of bad puns.  ("Show me the Monet!  How much Monet?  You're worth
your weight in Monet.  etc.)  Arrive at Lexington right around 5
and discover a rancid, indoor, fresh air-style marketplace that
reeks of fresh fish and other opens meats, transforming the non-
cooled atmosphere into the sweltering stench of a butcher's shop.
Yuck, but I endure, as Sweets wanted to see it.  A second building
shows promise--  maybe it's air-conditioned!-- as we wait to cross
traffic, but it, too, is a grimy stew of grocers and merchants with
stinky wares on sale to multi-ethnic crowd of all ages and lower-
end class levels.  (From homeless on up, it appears.)  Mercifully,
we flee within fifteen minutes.  I opt for mouth breathing while we
pause to purchase grapes (for her).  Same for the pee-smelling
parking garage.

RELAY, MARYLAND is where we wrap things up, a wee town and long-ago
railroad stop with a 170 year-old viaduct spanning a valley of the
Patapsco River.  The stone masonry structure is 704 feet long, in-
cluding both approaches, with eight "elliptical arches," each span-
ning a little over 58 feet.  And it's constructed on a 4.5 degree
*curve*, which was no small challenge Back Then.  (Source: "Land-
marks of the Iron Road: Two Centuries of North American Railroad
Engineering" by William D. Middleton, Indiana University Press,
1999.)  The 'duct is still in operation and we observe a MARC train
pass as we approach said structure from above, curious about an...
obelisk spotted from the road below.  (We drove below the bridge on
both sides, first.  Then, weaved through Relay to reach the top.)
Turns out it's a marker commemorating the structure's completion in
1833.  The names of the railroad's board of directors are included,
etched in the unnaturally bright-white stone.  (Methinks someone
paints or maybe sandblasts the thing from time to time.)  Back to
the hotel, for resting and/or reading.  Then finding food, which is
always a chore in Southern Maryland as the crisscrossing Interstate
highways are never *anywhere* near restaurant-laden shopping areas.
Worse, there's nary a sign, billboard, or visible urban area to be
found.  You can drive forever and not find a thing.  Just like Con-
necticut, with trees and more trees hiding the towns, cities, and
suburbs.  Sucks.  Don't remember where we eat.  Close evening with
Robin Williams on HBO.  He's funny.


Coming on day two:

  o ridin' the rails!
  o listenin' to the show!
  o the subject of men and women!
  o fire toy geeks on parade!
  o still more sweating!

Watch this space!


* I taste a few things, grimace, and cross the lobby to the Suite \
  Shop.  Vanilla Dove bar with milk chocolate and almonds.

** Except for this label, which is handwritten on masking tape


Copyright 2002 by Michael J. Legeros


More photos added at [ outdated link deleted ]


Day Three
---------

SATURDAY MORNING is another early one, again awakening an hour or
more before Sweetie.  Read 'n' write for a while, then exit room.
Time for food.  Bypass unremarkable breakfast spread in lobby and
head straight to car.  Not a damn thing's nearby, so I go south,
then east.  Toward Glen Burnie, explored *last* year and the known
location of at least an IHOP.  Fifteen minutes and no bites (HA!)
later, I enter the International House of Pancakes.  And it's *all*
non-smoking.  Glorious.  Pick a booth, any booth, and promptly or-
der three eggs, scrambled, bacon, crisp please, and pancakes, sans
butter.  And a Diet Coke.  Read paper or maybe Fire Expo program.
Can't remember which.  Place is busy but not horribly so.  Food ar-
rives, wrong.  Pancakes *with* butter.  Bacon limp.  The waitress--
sorry, wait*person*-- catches her flapjack faux pas and hustles the
'cakes back to the kitchen.  I decline to comment on my pork prob-
lem, but spend ten minutes *mulling* my choice of declining to com-
ment.  I don't even get called "hon."  Memo to food servers every-
where: would it kill you to actually *write* our orders down? Sign-
ed, Picky J. Eater.

BACK TO HOTEL, where Sweetie's almost awake.  Hammer out the day's
plans, having discovered a couple alternate modes of transportation
-- light rail, from Linthicum (the town that the hotel's in) to the
Convention Center and push scooter, from the Convention Center to
Harborplace.  (The latter being a big collage of shops 'n' stuff on
the waterfront.)  The former costs a mere $3.00, for a day pass and
maybe fifteen minute travel time; the latter is a freebie, extract-
ed from the trunk and seemingly the perfect alternative to stroll-
ing four sun-baked blocks.  (Three hours later, riding the rails
back to Linth, one very sweaty brow suggests otherwise.  More on
that later.)  Change clothes.  Steam shirt in shower.  Grab camera,
notebook, and Expo badge.  Julie takes me to the train stop, lo-
cated in downtown Linthicum and conveniently across the street from
the fire station.  Wohoo!  (She'll later take the car to Columbia,
to the mall, where there's a... Nordstrom.  Says she: Wohoo!)

DAY THREE is supposedly the busiest day at the Expo.  Doesn't look
it yet.  By 11:30 a.m., there's a steady but hardly surging crowd.
I'm already antsy, though, having had much of my fill on Thursday
and Friday.  So I pace myself, walking slowly or sometimes sitting
and taking notes.  And all the while reminding myself to "get it
while you can."  (The show is yearly, though there's a Fire Expo
West that I suppose I could attend...)  They're still plenty to see
and touch.  *And* listen to.  Sounds of the show include intermit-
tent pager tones, radio dispatches, air-bottle chirps, and the rhy-
thmic slamming of apparatus compartment doors.  (Ah, such a sooth-
ing sound...)  There's a bagpipe playing somewhere in the rear and
a host of happily honking accents from the northeast.  Firefighters
all say the same thing, "we need one of these," while firefighter
*wives* yell at kids running toward fire trucks "we did that one
already!"  Add the cacophonous chatter of several hundred male
voices, plus the odd siren yelp, and you're there, dude.

GENDER DIFFERENCES are impossible to ignore, notably the relentles-
sly feminine appearance of many exhibitors-- big hair, pushed-up
busts, and tight-as-politely-possible pants.  Mousse adorns every
woman's head; make-up is ample on every woman's face.  And they're
all exceptionally tanned.  And thin.  No, nothing new in the trade
show business, where attention-getting is everything.  It's just
the contrast that's so funny, with the bulk of the bulky male at-
tendees so minimally adorned.  (The other women in attendance are
either similarly styled-- they're the wives and/or girlfriends-- or
have a more rough 'n' tumble appearance.  They're the firefighters
and/or EMTs.)  September 11 is mentioned a lot, as are assorted me-
morial funds.  (There have always been such funds as there have al-
ways been firefighters dying on duty.  They're just more obvious
this year...)  Lots of flags flying.  Lots of FDNY tributes.  Tee-
shirts are particular popular, both for New York and other fire de-
partments.  One booth sells "shells"-- fire helmets without the in-
terior webbing.  Used, of course.  From Baltimore City.  (See, Bal-
timore *County* also has a fire department, hence the continuing
references to Baltimore *City*.

TECHNOLOGY ON DISPLAY includes a stair-climbing stretcher chair, a
super-long shower trailer (for decontamination), handheld carbon-
dioxide detectors, portable anthrax test devices, blow dryers for
turnout coats, voice-to-voice language translators, and infrared
cameras that can see through walls.  (That is, infrared cameras
that can see *inside* walls.)  Other innovations are decidedly low-
tech, like the brightly colored accountability tags used to track
personnel at an incident and, more importantly, determine whose in-
side versus outside of the "fire building" should Something Happen.
Something called an "introsseous infusion system" is promoted by a
poster showing an IV stuck in the middle of someone's neck.  Yikes.
Equally gruesome is product described as a "high-volume hemostatic
absorbent agent."  For cleaning up blood.  Another person is plug-
ging "bail out bags," small pouches with enough rope 'n' tackle
that a firefighter can beat a hasty retreat through a high-up win-
dow.

SOME OF THE FIRE TRUCKS are named or lettered with Fire Department
slogans:

  o "Fighting 55th" (Emlenton, PA)
  o "Big Easy" (Quality demo pumper)
  o "Somethin in the Water" (Coram, NY)
  o "www.humanefire.org" (Royserford, PA)
  o "Second To None" (Baltimore Rescue #1)
  o "Still Riding With Pride" (Accokeek, MD)
  o "station28.org" (Union Fire Association)
  o "Snobs on the Knob" (Schuylkill Haven, PA)
  o "Protectors of the Gateway" (Union Fire Association)

I scrawl accordingly.  And, about noon, decide I'm bored.  Reclaim
scooter from Services desk and exit stage, er, exhibit floor left.
The Pratt Street sidewalks are smooth, but narrow, so I scoot along
the brick walkways adjoining the Convention Center.  Bump City, but
at least it relieves me of ringing my bicycle bell.  (Same is han-
dlebar-mounted...)  Harborplace is a solid throng, but, surpris-
ingly, I secure seating in a barbecue joint in the space of five
minutes.  Order water, soda, and rack o' ribs.  And begin mopping
my brow, which, thanks to the open windows, remains moistened until
I depart about ten minutes later, telling the waiter to "cancel my
order.  It's too hot in here to eat."  Try Ben and Jerry's, but the
line is out the door.  And there's but one person working.  Grrrr.
Try Barnes and Noble next.  It's packed, but air-conditioned.  No-
where to sit, so I snack on my emergency provisions (beef jerky)
while browsing the usual racks (transportation, music, humor).  Re-
turn to Ben and Jerry's about thirty minutes later and now there
are *two* people working.  Secure single scoop of chocolate mint
chunk.  Consume same while sitting in cool stairwell.  Reenter heat
and return to Convention Center.  (Forgot to view the Saturday-only
display of fire engines from the Chesapeake Model Builders club.)

THE RETURN RIDE is crowded, standing room-only unless you sit with
a stranger, as I do beside an older man smelling of onions.  Two
firefighters to my right rear, one telling the other that he's off
to work, with just enough time to shower.  His station is "second
in" to BWI, meaning theirs are the second set of fire trucks called
to an emergency at the airport.  ("First in," also called "first
due," is the airport's own fire department.)  His companion, who's
riding the train to the airport "for somethin' to do," works at a
smaller department, somewhere.  I believe he says he's paid.  To my
immediate left, an African-American man of some size stands, facing
the opposite direction, the direction the train is traveling, his
hand methodically moving to his mouth from the big bag of off-brand
potato chips.  Later, he'll extract a giant plastic bottle of Coke
from the tote bags laid across the seats he's standing in front of.
Ah, the joy of public transportation...

ARRIVE AT TRAIN STOP still feeling hot 'n' sweaty.  Eye the fire
station across the street, but head first to the food shop to my
right, whose outdoor payphone I use to call the hotel and request a
shuttle.  Eye the fire station again.  Something yellow in the bay
window.  First things first, though.  Enter food shop and purchase
address immediate need for hydration and sustenance.  (Bottle of
water and bag of peanuts.)  Buy a $3.00 scratch-off lottery card,
too, and place in pocket for later.  Exit food shop and begin walk-
ing toward fire station.  Shuttle bus then arrives.  Damn.  (I'll
check said fire station later, peering into the bay windows after
visiting a teller machine in town later tonight.)  The ride to the
hotel takes all of five minutes and is made extra-enjoyable by the
presence of two others-- youngish guys in TSA uniforms, AKA the re-
cently created Transportation Security Administration.  They're a
colorful pair, talking about the temperaments of fellow staff mem-
bers and their tolerances thereof.  And something about Spanish-
language soap operas.  With lots of profanity scattered about.  Ah,
the joy of travel...

DINNER IN LINTHICUM, around the corner from the Hotel, at sugges-
tion of front desk clerk who advised of a nearby Italian restau-
rant.  The Olive Chamber.  Or something like that.  Local place.
Busy, it being 5:30 p.m.  We're leading to the back, to the *way*
back, asking for seating as "far from the smoking section as possi-
ble."  Pass through about three different dining rooms.  Place is
huge!  Lotsa families in attendance; folks dressed more down than
up.  (Though I think I'm the only one wearing a Hawaiian shirt and
flip-flops...)  Sweetie and I are having a Serious Talk, so the or-
dering, salad serving, and entree waiting all goes pretty quickly.
(That's what trips are *for*, no?  Serious Talks and / or fights?
They're best done while driving, however.  It's like time-travel--
blink and an hour or more has passed!)  She has spaghetti with mar-
inara sauce; I roll with spaghetti and meat-a-balls.  They're
yummy.

CONCLUDE THE EVENING with a trip downtown, alone, at the invitation
of Corgi Classics, the US office of the renowned UK model maker*.
A dozen-plus die-cast collectors-- specifically fire and emergency
vehicles-- are due at the Tremont Suites on St. Paul Place.  The
meeting's at 7:00 p.m., on the eleventh floor; I arrive early and
take a ride to the thirty seventh-floor, the top, hoping for a view
from the hallway.  No dice.  Check the stairwell and find a set go-
ing... up.  Climb one flight and there's the door to the roof.
Unlocked.  Some sign states "must be accompanied by security per-
sonnel."  Whatever.  Open door and walk outside.  Glorious view of
city.  Tiptoe toward edge, all to aware of potential for slippage
as I'm still wearing flip-flops.  Spin in half-circle and shoot
pictures of skyline.  (See [ outdated link deleted ])
Return inside, return to elevator, and prepare for confrontation
with rent-a-cops, Baltimore Police, or agents of the newly created
Office of Homeland Security.  Elevator arrives... empty.

THE MEETING, my first trade show tête-à-tête in *any* industry, is
deliriously informal.  Bunch of guys in jeans and slacks, chewin'
the fat over beer, peanuts, and pop.  (Plus a deli platter or two.)
The Director of Marketing is there, and a Marketing Manager.  We're
asked to sign in, as they'll be a drawing later.  Wohoo!  (*Double*
wohoo, in fact, as Yours Truly walks away with one of five of their
newly released Baltimore Seagrave.)  No promotion, just an exchange
of information and occasional outright interrogation of them by us.
What is learned on the fire-truck front (condensed version):

  o look for 1 to 2 newly "toolings" per year
  o look for around 12 releases period per year
  o production runs no greater than 10,000
  o first new tooling for 2003: Seagrave Anniversary tractor-
    drawn aerial ladder.  Lettered for two, maybe three differ-
    ent fire departments
  o second new tooling for 2003: Seagrave K pumper, *open* cab
  o Spring-ish for both
  o no Maxim in the forecast
  o pleaded the fifth on (my) suggestion of C-130 Hercules air
    tanker for aviation line
  o revamped Web site in September.  Won't be mere extension of
    UK site
  o probably can post *production* photos on same, instead of
    less-desired *pre*-production ones
  o comments, suggestions, ideas, etc. are all welcome.  They
    want to hear from us.


Cool.

Coming soon:



* See:

  http://www.legeros.com/toys/


Copyright 2002 by Michael J. Legeros


Rest of pictures posted to [ outdated link deleted ]

And a map!


Day Four
-------

CHRISTMAS MORNING AGAIN, July 21, 2002.  Sunday.  The day of the
Fire Expo *flea market* and the one day of the year where Yours
Excited stands the best chance at finding die-cast model fire en-
gines.  Forget the seasonal toy shows and once-or-twice-a-year
train shows.  Forget the toy stores and hobby shops and out-of-town
model dealers.  Forget mail order, which is my primary means of ac-
quiring said trucks.  (Bigger selection, sure, but you don't get to
see 'em in *person*...)  Today, roughly six-dozen dealers special-
izing *solely* in fire-related stuff will display their wares from
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  They'll have models both expensive and not,
both realistic and toy-like.  They'll be *gobs* of them, actually,
and I'm crossing my fingers for a wide *selection* in addition to
simple sheer numbers.  (Toys ain't all they sell at the 'market.
T-shirts and patches are hawked en masse, as are figurines, framed
pictures, old books, new books, stickers, decals, dolls, bears,
polished brass extinguishers, and a long table of used equipment,
from straight-bore nozzles to spanner wrenches.  And in addition to
my finds-- er, find, singular-- I'll purchase a 96-page, full col-
or, 2002 Guide to New York City Fire Apparatus from Marilyn and
Gil's Fire Station, 'cause it's $0.95 cheaper than at the publish-
er's table*.)

BOUNCE OUT OF BED sometime around 7:00, maybe earlier.  ("Go back
to bed," she's fond of saying, "you need your sleep.")  Dress 'n'
dart out the door, in search of something sustaining.  Downstairs,
the sucko smorgasbord is serving biscuits and a big ol' sloppy pot
of gravy.  Yuck.  Depart for Points Nearby, eager to return to the
room and continuing impatient effort at willing time to move fast-
er.  McDonald's, for a pair of (tasty) biscuits, and the aforevis-
ited Linthicum food mart, the one across the street from the fire
station, for a Snicker's ice-cream bar.  The giant size.  (And one
more scratch 'n' win lottery card.  More on that later.)  Return to
hotel after slow pass past fire station, where the bright white 'n'
yellow rigs are resting on the apron.  (Well, all except a vintage
pumper that's left inside.  And it's red, not yellow.)  Sweetie's
moving now, though nowhere nearly as impatiently fast as I'd pre-
fer.  Pass time playing with maps, pre-packing for tomorrow, and
straightening up the car.  Finally *start* the car, waiting out the
remaining ten minutes listening to the first side of Judas Priest's
"Stained Class" while idly idling at the lobby door.

BARREL TOWARD BALTIMORE, barely noticing speed limit.  No cops and
not much traffic.  Highway 295, straight into downtown, though not
straight to the Convention Center as the annoying roadway curves
along the west side of Camden Yards, requiring an extra couple of
minutes of stoplights.  8:30 a.m. and people are already arriving.
Some are the flea vendors, no doubt.  Others appear to be securing
their spots for the parade.  See, there's also a *parade* every
Sunday, every year at the Expo.  Parade of fire engines, of course,
over "120 pieces of new and antique fire apparatus from all over
the eastern seaboard" that'll wind their way "through the Baltimore
Inner Harbor, past the waterfront, hotels and past the Baltimore
Convention Center" displaying "engines, tiller-aerial ladders,
tankers, crash trucks, and brand new equipment just delivered."
(Or says the brochure.)  So, some folks are already sitting at cor-
ners.  Same *also* starts at 9:00 a.m.  Yup, same time as the flea
market.  The bastards.  This year the program guide promised "the
flea market begins after the parade ends."  The service desk on
Saturday, though, confirmed that the retail event is indeed sched-
uled to start at 9.  No biggie, as I've always skipped the parade
in favor of getting to the flea market before as many others as
possible. **

THIS YEAR PROVES NO exception as the ol' adrenaline tugs Yours Pre-
dictable *into* the Convention Center instead of outside.  There's
minimal bustle at the outset, so I don't have to dodge others as I
race around the room as fast as flip-flops allow.  (Sweetie doesn't
bother trying to keep up.)  The tables locations are the same from
year to year, so bee-lining is easy.  Route 1 Scale Models first,
the most likely place to find harder-to-find European models.  Im-
mediately purchase a 1:43 scale, fluorescent-red replica of a fu-
turistic-looking European pumper made by Cursor of Germany.  $90. Pay
cash.  They have other models for sale, averaging $100 or $150.
(Route 1 specializes in Ashton Models, a pricey-but-exquisite line of
handbuilt replicas of vintage apparatus.)  I eye the other Cursors for
sale: a trio of boxy-but-not-futuristically-so European pumpers (or
perhaps *rescue*-pumpers).  Each is also priced in the $90 range.  One
is a variation in dark blue, which I think about, but think about
for too *long* as it's nabbed within the hour.

FLIT AROUND TO OTHER dealers, looking at everything while searching
for my "wants."  (Both new releases-- such as a 2002 Siku chief's
car and fire motorcycle-- and older models, say Cursor's replica of
a Bronto skylift.)  One person's selling a Franklin Mint American
LaFrance aerial ladder for one-twenty.  Still in original packing.
Same retails for $195 and is presently on sale online for 25 per-
cent off.  Wonder if she'd take $100, cash? ***  Continue flitting,
soon joined by Sweetie who's been holding my bag and which now con-
tains an additional *plastic* bag.  Present!?  Pour moi!?  (Balti-
more City Fire Department tee, with embroidered patch.  Fabulous.)
Lots of Corgi for sale.  Lots of Code 3 for sale.  A row of bright
brass extinguishers keeps catching my eye.  They're as low as $35.
Browse a couple book collections, becoming increasingly excited
upon discovering a dealer who's selling fire department yearbooks.
Charlotte!  Wilmington!  But, alas, no Raleigh.  (Specifically, the
first Raleigh Fire Department yearbook, published by Taylor in '84.
Can't find a copy for purchase to save my *life*.)  Sweetie disap-
pears again, heading to the rear of the room to sit and wait and
people-watch.  (She's also in charge of feeding the parking meter
across the street from Camden Yards.)

TIME TO SELL.  Extract box of *own* stuff for sale and produce one,
hard-to-find, never-removed-from-box, Toys 'R' Us-exclusive-from-
1995, Firefighter Barbie.  Extract markers and extra cardboard and
fashion sign.  "For Sale.  $80.00."  Then I begin... walking, Bar-
bie in hand and hand held above head.  Back and forth between the
tables, turning the box toward those approaching and watching their
eyes to see if anyone "bites."  Once or twice I'm asked "how much"
or "do you have any more?"  An African-American gentleman inquires
if I have the "black version."  And one blonde woman stops me, ex-
citedly examining the figure for a few minutes.  She's been looking
for a Firefighter Barbie, but needs to think about it.  I drop the
price to $70.00.  She bites her lip.  Still needs to think about
it.  But, if she's interested, she *will* hunt me down.  Walk and
hawk a bit more, maybe twenty minutes worth, till about 10:30 a.m.
Arm getting tired.  Mind getting bored.  Haven't seen Blonde Lady
again.  (She'll ask about me at another table, after I've left, and
be handed my address by a fellow collector.)  Sweetie returns from
feeding the meter (again) and informs that there's a game today.
At the Yards.  And we're parked along the street, where signs warn
"no parking on game days.  Tow-away zone."  Sigh.  Guess it's time
to leave.

WHERE NEXT is the pressing question, after a six-block side trip to
Fuddruckers on Pratt Street.  Where to go, where to go?  B&O rail-
road museum back by Camden Yards?  The Baltimore Zoo?  The *Nation-
al* Zoo??  (In this humidity, we answer each other, are we *nuts*?)
Bookstore?  Mall??  Hotel???  I consult street map, unfolding and
refolding until the west side of town is shown.  How about Granite?
Then Savage Mill??  Sweets says okay and, giddy-yup, we're gone.
Destination #1 is an abandoned nuclear missile facility in Granite,
Maryland, about X miles west of downtown.  'Twas built in the Fif-
ties, to shoot down bombers, because those were the days before
ICBMs, AKA Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.  Meaning, the Roos-
kies would have to *fly* over our cities to actually bomb 'em.  So
strategic "rings" were created around select cities, complete with
radar towers and underground missile "magazines."  And, in later
years, nuclear *tipped* missiles.  Bigger, badder, and longer-range
armaments eventually rendered such facilities largely useless, so
they were closed.  And their existence was eventually declassified.
And, by the beginning of the 21st Century, most have been either
bulldozed over or recycled for peacetime purposes.  (In Fairfax
County, Virginia, for example, the Federal Government sold such a
site to the local government, which, in turn, sold same to an as-
tronomy club.  I believe they're gonna turn the domed radar tower
into a viewing platform.)

WE WANDER WEST, outbound on Interstate 70 until reaching the first
of several side roads required for zigzagging to Granite.  (Named
for a quarry formerly there.)  I have specific directions, thanks
to Paul Freeman's excellent "Abandoned and Little Known Airfields"
site****, where I first learned of the Cold War artifact.  Rural
MD, we discover, is quite lush.  And hilly.  And curvy.  Traffic is
steady, if light, so I endeavor to keep "eyes front."  (The rolling
hills and hazy green pastures are. quite. hypnotic.)  Pass houses
and barns and a handful of stores.  Churches, too, but nothing like
the steeple-every-quarter-mile frequency found in more southern
Southern states.  Can I get an Amen, brother?  And then, maybe a
mile from our destination, we hit The Bump.  There's a sign, which
induces acceleration.  Wheels cease contact with surface.  Stomach
charges into throat.  Yeeeeeoooooowwwwwhhhhhoooooaaaaaaa!  Brake,
stop, and turn around.  One more time.  Yeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooowwww!
This time without warning, as it doesn't occur to us that the bump
is just as big in the *opposite* direction.  Brake, stop, and turn
around again.  And again.  And even a *fifth* time, for one final
eastbound pass.  (The subsequent laughter lasts for *some* time.)
Reach location around 1:00 p.m., the intersection of Granite Road
and Old Court Road.  But nothing's there but woods.  Dense woods.
According to Freeman, the old site has two separate sections:  the
"fire control" area and, about a mile north, the "launch facility."
(The technology of the time required the radar and such to be lo-
cated at least 3000 feet from the actual missiles.)

HEAD NORTH on Granite Road, passing absolutely *nothing* that looks
like an abandoned missile facility.  Just homes.  Most of 'em newer
looking.  Did they demolish the site and build houses on the land?
Turn around after five minutes and return to intersection of Gran-
ite and Old Court.  Let's look around.  Park 'n' walk.  The woods
are thick-- rainforest thick.  And not a single thing that looks
manmade within them.  Walk into a field, behind an expensive look-
ing house.  Nope, nothin' here.  Walk into another backyard, still
peering into the woods.  Nope, nothin' *here*.  Did I get the di-
rections wrong?  Did the *Freeman* get his directions wrong?  (As
it turns out, *yes*.  More on that tomorrow.)  Walking along Old
Court now, toward something called a "protected buffer" about a 100
yards east.  It's a clearing, marked with sign 'n' chain.  Woods on
two sides, tall weeds on the third.  We walk the length, looking in
every direction.  Nothin'.  But wait, what's *below* us?  Sweetie
starts finding chunks of concrete.  Something *was* here.  Build-
ing?  Apron?  Launch facility?  Bits of asphalt, too.  And, buried
two-thirds into the dirt, an orange-colored, pyramid-shaped piece
of plastic.  With patent numbers.  A-ha!  (There are worse things
than dating a librarian, who already knows how to look such stuff
up...)  Return to car.  Crank air-conditioning.  Resume travel,
puzzled.

SAVAGE MILL is the day's final destination, an old manufacturing
complex-turned-marketplace located in Savage, Maryland, a town a-
bout halfway between Baltimore and DC, near the junction of "32"
and "1".  It's also the site of another historic railroad struc-
ture, the last remaining Bollman Truss Bridge***** in the world.
(See photos: [ outdated link deleted ])  Getting there
takes a little while, as a Certain Chronicler experiences difficul-
ty returning to I-695.  (See map at [ outdated link deleted ])
One in Savage, though, "this way" signs lead straight to
mall.  'Tis a sprawling complex, we discover, but only after park-
ing in the *overflow* lot and nearly suffering heat exhaustion from
the 100 yard walk.  Gift shops, specialty stores, and even artist
studios.  Plus a bakery, a restaurant, and a wee food court.  (The
latter notable for a Hershey's brand ice-cream stand that serves
the biggest single-scoop cones that this person's ever seen in his
life.  We're talkin' almost a *pint* of cookies 'n' cream here!)

WE WALK THE LENGTH of the Mill and maybe the breadth, too.  In and
around about five different attached buildings.  Plus one detached
one, outside.  Three contain antique dealers.  Or, more accurately,
antique dealer *markets*-- warehouse-sized rooms filled with furni-
ture and clothing and seemingly endless rows of display cases.  I
move rapidly while looking for toys, trying to counter the energy-
sapping effects of the aforementioned sugar-infusion.  Doesn't work
and, within twenty minutes, I'm sprawled on a bench beside a clock
store beside the entrance.  Sweetie purchases a couple cat-themed
items for a friend back home.  I spy nothing of note, though my in-
terest is temporarily piqued by the rare presence of a model car
shop.  Alas, no fire engines.  (Same for the clock store, which I
hope stocks Franklin Mint merchandise, particular their expensive-
but-worth-it precision fire models.  No dice.)  Return to the car,
ahead of my companion.  She's still browsing.  I opt for motorized
waiting, outside the entrance, with the music and air-conditioning
cranked.  (The true sign of the ADD-endowed individual:  waiting in
a vehicle is *way* more fun than inside any building.)  Back to ho-
tel for more napping.  Back to Famous Dave's for more ribs.  Back
to random service station, to claim latest winnings.  ($3 win from
$3 card.  Another ticket, please.  More on that later.)  End of
day's story.

Coming soon:

  o packing!
  o showering!
  o uneventful hotel checkouts!
  o locked gates!
  o correctional facilities!
  o entering underground bunkers!
  o when dinosaurs roamed West Virginia!


Watch this space!


* Fire Apparatus Journal Publications.  FAJ, the magazine, is pub-
  lished bimonthly and is a glossy, largely-but-not-entirely full-
  color compendium of recent apparatus deliveries, feature articles
  on departments and their trucks, retrospectives on fire engines
  of yore, and reviews of related items, such as models, books,
  and videos.  See http://www.fireapparatusjournal.com.

** Not entirely true.  This year, after a fast first-pass, Sweetie
   and I return to the street, to catch the passing trucks.  But...
   they're not there.  Wait.  Wait some more.  Ask someone, who in-
   dicates parade has already started.  Consult brochure.  Same
   says they pass the Convention Center.  Walk outside again.  Look
   left.  Look right.  Look *far* right.  Fire trucks, over on a
   *side* street.  What!?!?  Discover parade is *not* passing Con-
   vention Center, but is instead winding its way a couple blocks
   behind us.  Grrrrr.  Hastily trudge the humid distance and stay
   for all of five minutes.  It's too hot.  And I'm now grumpy.
   Waugh!

*** Don't bother asking after Sweetie lifts the protective packing
    materials and spots a blemish on the passenger door.  Sigh.  Oh
    well...

**** Again, at http://members.tripod.com/airfields_freeman/

***** Or so says the historical marker.  Bridges built by Wendell
      Bollman, a Baltimore native who patented his suspension-truss
      design, were shipped all over the Western Hemisphere, notes
      http://mes.loyola.edu/faculty/phs/RR/BOLLMAN.html
Day Five
--------

REGRETS, I'VE HAD A FEW.  Ah, the mixed emotions at vacation's end.
Feeling refreshed, for having rested.  Feeling accomplished, from
successful recreating.  Feeling guilty, for not recreating enough.
And feeling excited about returning home, to reassuring routines
like breakfast at Bruegger's and "Imus in the Morning" (both seem-
ingly absent from the Baltimore-Washington area), to waiting mail
and maybe presents (read: mail-ordered fire trucks that are *much*
easier to wait on when away on vacation!), and to rediscovering the
rituals of everyday living-- structures so quickly forgotten five
days ago, but now newly viewed through travel-tinted glasses.  If
only it lasted longer.  Vacation and life...

MISSED THE MISSILES, we learned last night.  The radar towers and
underground magazines were a couple miles *west* of our location--
north on Herndon Road, not Granite-- and which I confirmed from Mr.
Freeman, who apologized for the brain fart and corrected his still-
excellent Web site posthaste.  Hmmmmmmm.  Only a mile or two from
where we were looking.  Hmmmmmmm.  And how often does one get to
tour an abandoned nuclear missile facility?  Hmmmmmm.  Monday morn-
ing finds our plans unplanned-- we've been too busy to think about
definitive distractions for our last day in (or, rather, leaving)
Baltimore.  Floated ideas have ranged from a day in DC to a coastal
drive down to Virginia Beach.  (The latter likely requiring an ov-
ernight stay, something Sweetie isn't enthusiastic about arranging
at the last minute.  FBP-- Flea Bag Potential-- and all that.)

TOY FIRE TRUCKS are still on my mind, too.  Notably *Franklin Mint*
models, as the collectibles maker has not one, not two, but *three*
retail stores 'round here.  They make a monster-sized, 1:32-scale,
$245-in-five-easy-payments, working-parts-out-the-wazoo replica of
an E-One aerial platform that interests me.  (Under-budget from
Sunday's flea market, my credit's card been burning a hole by my
ass.)  I'm also looking for a retired piece, a tractor-drawn Sea-
grave aerial ladder from the Sixties that I don't expect to find in
stock.  Breakfast has been long-gone; I'm watching the clock now.
9:48.  9:52.  9:57.  10:00.  Pounce on the phone, dialing each of
the three stores.  Nope, no Seagraves.  But the E-One's in stock.
And on display.  And there's a Mint at the mall in Glen Burnie,
which is right around the corner.  Mall = food court = that takes
care of lunch.  Giddy-yup.

AND FOR THE REMAINDER of the day?  Another possibility is central
Virginia, along the roundabout route we intended to take *to* Bal-
timore, before a certain someone's let's-just-go-straight-to-the-
Convention-Center excitement began building in the last days before
leaving.  See, I originally proposed a return to Charlottesville,
by way of Raleigh to Danville to Lynchburg, with possible detours
along the Blue Ridge Parkway and / or Skyline Drive.  Prospective
stops included a fire museum in Manassas, the US home of French
die-cast company Eligor in Earlysville, and / or the wee town of
Afton, location of the east portal of an abandoned railway tunnel
that Julie and I poked around on our last trip through the area
*and* which the entire length of can reportedly be traversed by
foot!  (Well, with feet wearing *waders*.  When visited earlier
this year, we noticed several inches of standing water.*  See
http://www.legeros.com/temp-va/)

SO, AFTER SWEETS is up and eating breakfast-- yes, inquiring reader
from Seattle and you know who you are, Julie found the free buffet
just fine-- Yours Planning is pulling out tour books and road maps
and street maps and printouts.  Spread 'n' fold, spread 'n' fold,
with a pink marker highlighting routes, alternate routes, and al-
ternate-alternate routes.  Have to be prepared, Ange!  (Say in best
Barney Fife voice.)  Here's the proposal:  let's go back and find
the abandoned missile complex, then continue west into West Vir-
ginia, turning south somewhere around Harper's Ferry, bypassing
Traffic Hell (e.g., D.C.) entirely, and returning to Raleigh via
Charlottesville -> Lynchburg -> Danville, along either Skyline Dr.
and / or Highway 29, and with possible stops at any / all of the
aforementioned places.  Oh, and can we go to the Franklin Mint
store in Glen Burnie?

(HERE'S THE DEAL.  See, most die-cast fire vehicles can held with
one hand.  The exception are the larger-scale models, 1:32 sized on
up.  And of *those* toys, most are autos or light trucks or the odd
panel van, bucket truck, or wrecker.  Thus, there's an even *smal-
ler* subset of model *apparatus*.  Like pumpers, aerials, or crash
trucks.  The number of 1:32 scale (or larger) pumpers can be count-
ed on two or three hands; the number of large-scale ladder trucks
numbers exactly four.  Or five, if you count Code 3 Collectibles'
splendid American LaFrance telesquirt to the three made by Franklin
Mint.  And each of the three are priced $200 or higher, meaning
they ain't exactly impulse items.  Which is why I wanna see the a-
fore-described E-One aerial platform in *person*.  And, after fin-
ally setting eyes on same, discover is a largely under-whelming i-
tem.  Don't "gotta have it.")

BY ELEVEN O'CLOCK, with the mall behind us and the author *still*
under-budget, we retrace our steps to the west side of Baltimore,
to the small community of Granite, this time turning on *Herndon*
Road.  And lo and behold, rising right there on the left, behind a
vine-tangled fence topped with barbed wire, four concrete 'n' steel
towers, minus radar dishes.  Whoa.  Slow and stop at gate, which is
locked and, to our surprise, sits directly across the street from a
residential area.  (Well, *rural* residential area.)  Four, maybe
five padlocks on the gate; brick guardhouse behind it, plus several
long, single-story concrete buildings.  The "fire control" area,
where Rooskie bombers would be spotted on radar and the necessary
buttons pushed to prevent total nuclear annihilation. (See pictures
at [ outdated link deleted ])

THE LOCKED GATE isn't a complete surprise, so we stop for just a
second.  Let's try the launch area which is farther up the road and
stands a better chance at being "open," because it's presently used
as a police and corrections department training facility.  One mile
later-- this time on the *right* side of the road-- there's another
gate, this one open.  Engraved wooden sign reads "Maryland Police
and Corrections Training Commissions."  Another barbed wire-topped
fence.  More long, single-story concrete buildings.  Lots of cars,
too, though none necessarily official-looking.  The road winds down
a hill, around a couple more concrete buildings, and ending at the
missile magazines.  There they are.  Two long concrete strips, dot-
ted with metal hatches.  Underground chambers, in two rows of four.
They housed the missiles and their launch platforms.  Press a but-
ton and they'd be raised to the surface.  Not silos, mind you.  Ra-
ther, elevating platforms that could launch the SAMs (Surface to
Air Missles) at varying degrees of verticality.

There's an ailing fence around each of the magazine rows, five feet
high and sagging in spots.  We're parked at the end of one row; the
other appears in use as an overflow lot.  At least a dozen personal
vehicles are lined-up there.  No one's around, though.  It's hot.
And quiet, 'cept for the rhythmic squeaking and slamming of a metal
door on an abandoned truck trailer marked "U.S. Army."  We walk the
perimeter of the barrier, our imaginations leaping ahead of us with
each newly spotted underground opening.  Over here, a pair of metal
"cellar doors."  Over there, an aluminum mushroom.  A ventilation
shaft.  Retractable, of course.  Vegetation has sprouted every-
where; the impervious facility nonetheless vulnerable to weeds.
Everything's rusted and locked.  Or welded shut.  That is, except
one pair of *open* doors!  I look around.  Sweetie looks around.  I
climb over the (drooping) fence and trod the short six feet to the
bunker entrance.  Concrete steps, gray.  Standing water at bottom.
Cups, bottles, and beer cans afloat.  Doorway to left.  Darkness
beyond.  Cooooooool.

BEGIN DESCENDING STAIRS, eyes and ears and nose on alert.  Twelve,
fourteen, sixteen steps in all.  Temperature is lower.  Atmosphere
is dryer.  Smells of age and inactivity.  Silent, too.  Or is that
water dripping?  The steps are littered with pebbles and paint
chips and small shards of something plastic.  Snap picture, looking
down.  Snap picture, looking up.  "Julie!  *Julie*!  Come on down!
It's great!"  "No thanks."  Climb back out, desperately wishing
that (a.) we had a pair of waders with us and (b.) this place was-
n't located on a *law-enforcement* facility.  Oh well...  Back on
other side of fence.  Look around.  Still no one in sight.  Wait,
movement behind far building!  Is someone there!?  (As the time's
around noon, we suspect the lot of 'em are at lunch.)  Continue
walking the perimeter and eventually circling the entire row of
magazines.  (The concrete strip's about 300 feet long and 50 feet
wide.)  Staring and imagining like there once was no tomorrow.  It
just doesn't get any cooler.  Take one last series of shots, while
turning in a half-circle, for faux panoramic effect.  Let's check
out those radar towers.**

INTERSTATE 70 is our route of travel-- west to Frederick, Maryland,
then south-southwest (via Highway 340) to Harper's Ferry, West Vir-
ginia, a famous Civil War location, or so Sweetie says and subse-
quently embellishing with a reading from the AAA tour book.  (As
we're Yankees dating Yankees, the subject of That Recent Unpleas-
antness rarely occurs in ordinary conversation.)  Cross the Potomac
River (twice_ and begin skirting a string of small and not-so-small
towns:  Charlestown, Berryville, Wheatland, Stringtown, White Post,
and Cedar Ville.  Somewhere along the "340" stretch, we encounter a
series of rolling dips.  Up and over.  Up and over.  And each time
going just a little bit faster, until cresting Dip Number Four at
approximately 70 mph as a median-parked Sheriff's car comes into
view.  Uh oh.  Brake hard.  Return to right lane.  And watch in
mirror as the copper pulls out.  Uh oh.  Slow to exact speed limit.
Fixate on rear mirror.  Come on, go ahead and flash me.  Slow to
below speed limit.  Come on, you got me.  Turn those lights on.
Finally pull onto the gravel shoulder, resigned to the ticket I
know I'll be getting.  The marked car pulls beside us, window roll-
ing down.  "Everything okay?"  Huh?  Two beats pass.  "Yeah... ev-
erything's fine.... just trying to keep an eye on my speed along
all these cool hills."  The officer blinks, then smiles.  We part
ways, un-violated.  Phew.

FOUR O'CLOCK-ISH and closing in on Skyline Drive, which'll wind us
through the Shenandoah National Forest for a few hours, or at least
until we get tired of all that nature shit.  Earlysville, Virginia,
is under consideration as a possible stop, though the likelihood
seems slim that we can reach the Charlottesville-neighboring town
before the offices of Eligor Inc.-- a die-cast model manufacturer
from France-- are closed.  (We later try calling from Sweetie's
crappy cell phone.  No answer.)  Alas, the scenic route is also a
*crowded* route, as there's a ridiculously long line of cars just
south of the I-66 interchange.  Great.  Guess everyone *else* has
the same itinerary, too.  Check map.  Make quick decision.   Let's
return from whence we came, Interstate 66 to Highway 17 to Inter-
state 95, north of Richmond, Virginia.  Retrace steps to Raleigh
from there.  Sweetie agrees.  And, if nothing else, we avoided the
Beltway!  And even almost saw a dinosaur.***

NAP TIME.  CHANGE DRIVERS in Fredericksburg.  Sweetie at wheel and
Yours Reclining falling into near-immediate unconsciousness.  Wake
about an hour later, outside Petersburg.  Getting hungry, too.  Hm-
mmmmm.  Isn't there a Hooter's around here?  Hmmmmmmm.  Stay awake
for all of five minutes.  Reawaken after another hour, somewhere
north of South Hill.  Still in Virginia.  Definitely hungry.  Ex-
tract beef jerky and reduced-fat Triscuits(tm).  Begin reviewing
dinner options.  "Whatcha feel like?"  "I dunno, what do *you* feel
like?" "I dunno, fast food?" "I dunno, sit-down?" "I dunno, how a-
bout Cracker Barrel?" "Are we near one?" Yes, says Mike, I believe
we are.  South Hill comes and goes.  No CB.  The Virginia / North
Carolina border comes and goes.  No CB.  Maybe in *Henderson*.  "I
hope so" says the stomach-grumbling driver.  Henderson comes and
goes.  No CB.  Nor any *other* eatery of interest, despite a time-
wasting, fifteen-minute drive through the dreary downtown.  Sweet-
ie is *not* happy.  I hand her the crackers.  And, thirty minutes
later in Wake Forest, we pull into Pizza Slut.  Buffet night.  It's
over, but the pizzas haven't been taken up.  Fine.  Let's eat.

OH, AND ABOUT THAT last lottery ticket?  'Twas a three-dollar num-
ber, with ten tries matching five numbers on something like a bin-
go board.  And a bonus area, I believe.  I'd won $3, big whoop, and
put the card aside.  I'd stop at a convenience store later.  Or on
the way out of town.  Or, as it turned out, on our way out of Mary-
land.  Stopped outside Frederick, for gas, leg-stretching, and to
claim final winnings.  "You should've been here a minute ago.  The
last card won $500" tells the aged clerk.  Great.****  Instead of
cash, I get another card.  Or, cards.  Three $1 ones.  Look around
for surface sans "no scratching here" sign.  Pull out a penny.  Win
again.  $2.  Get back into line-- the service station is busy-- and
ask for two more tickets.  Scratch again.  Win again.  $4 now.  Get
back into line-- the service station is now *very busy*-- and ask
for four more tickets.  Scratch again.  Win again.  $20 this time.
Better take the cash, or I'll be there all day.  Giddy-yup.

* Preparations for possible tunnel exploration included a pre-trip
  visit to Wal-Mart, for extra flashlight batteries, inexpensive
  hardhats, which I couldn't find, and waders, which the store no
  longer sells.  The bastards.

** Which we do, observing and photographing as close as the fence
   will allow.  Then Yours Bonehead accidentally exposes half his
   roll, requiring a second round of radar-tower photography, as
   well as a return trip to the launch area, this time with an
   audience of workmen watching my photographic adventures.  Oy.

*** Dinosaur Land in White Post, Virginia.  Intersection of High-
    ways 277 and 340.  Roadside gift-shop with giant mouth around
    doorway.  Plaster-looking creatures beside "stone" waterfall.
    Giant shark.  Giant squid.  Something that looks like an ape.
    And Elvis souvenirs.  See [ outdated link deleted ]
    and http://www.dinosaurland.com

**** The author gets admonished at this point, for Failure to Pur-
     chase Dessert Item at a prior McDonald's stop, when a certain
     someone's companion departed for the restroom and Yours All
     Too Logical informed Ms. Bladder Challenged "I'm buying mine
     and returning to the car.  You can buy yours when you're done
     with your business."  Thus, at mention of the mentioned $500
     winning ticket apparently just missed, Sweetie is quick to
     point out "see, if you'd just bought me a McFlurry, I wouldn't
     have had to wait in line, and we would've arrived here a min-
     ute *sooner* and won five-hundred dollars *ourselves*."  Yes
     dear.


Conference Sessions
===================

What were the professionals doing at the Expo, outside the Exhibit
Floor?  Select conference session titles:

  o Aircraft Emergencies: Tactical Considerations for Structural
    Departments

  o Fat Trucks!  Tips on How to Get Enough Truck to Carry Your
    Equipment

  o How to Design an Aerial Quint, or Do You Really Need One?

  o Attitudes, Behaviors, and Cultures in the Fire Service

  o Incident Command of Technical Rescue Incidents

  o The Physical Rescue of a Trapped Fire Fighter

  o Responder Safety: Hybrid-Fuel Cell Technology

  o Safe Operations of Fire Department Tankers

  o Operating Safely Around Vacant Buildings

  o What They Don't Teach You in EMT School

  o Hazmat Studies: Anthrax Emergencies

  o Is Your City The Next Ground Zero?

  o The Baltimore Train Tunnel Fire

  o The Attack on the Pentagon

  o Radiological Terrorism

  o When in Doubt... Lead!

  o Where is the Victim?

  o The Mall is Burning

  o Ventilation

  o Tornado!



References
==========

Abandoned and Little-Known Airfields
http://members.tripod.com/airfields_freeman/

Baltimore City Paper, The End of the World As We Knew It
http://www.citypaper.com/2001-07-18/feature.html

Baltimore Museum of Art
http://www.artbma.org/

The Bollman Truss Bridge
http://mes.loyola.edu/faculty/phs/RR/BOLLMAN.html

Corgi Classics
http://www.corgi.co.uk

Die-Cast Model Fire Guides
http://www.legeros.com/toys/guides

Dinosaur Land
http://www.dinosaurland.com/

Eligor Inc.
http://www.eligor.com

Famous Dave's BBQ
http://www.famousdaves.com/

Fire Apparatus Journal Publications
http://www.fireapparatusjournal.com

Fire Expo
http://www.firehouse.com/expo

Firefighting Books
http://www.legeros.com/fire/covers/

The Franklin Mint
http://www.franklinmint.com

HarborPlace
http://www.harborplace.com/

Landmarks on the Iron Road, William D. Middleton, Indiana
University Press
http://www.indiana.edu/~iupress/books/0-253-33559-0.shtml

Lexington Market
http://www.lexingtonmarket.com/

Mike and Julie's Virginia Adventure
[ outdated link deleted ]

Summer Vacation 2002 Map
[ outdated link deleted ]

Summer Vacation 2002 Photos
[ outdated link deleted ]

2001: A Space Odyssey
http://us.imdb.com/Title?0062622
Copyright 2002 by Michael J. Legeros

 


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Copyright 2014 by Michael J. Legeros