Friday 2/4: arrived in Cambridge to a winter nightmare

Cambridge snow boundThinking that we would avoid a Saturday snow storm we drove to Cambridge from Hudson this evening. The snow in Cambridge seems as deep as our memories of the Blizzard of ’78.

Cars are drifted over not to be moved for weeks or surrounded by wallls of shoveled snow.

Sidewalks are still not being shoveled with much thoroughness though we have heard from friends that the city is actually fining people for not shoveling. Nevertheless, unlike Hudson where the city can actually clear the streets of cars and haul all of the snow away right to the curb, Cambridge can only do this on major thoroughfares.


view from Esther's kitchen window

Friend Esther Hanig put us up for the night.

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Saturday 2/5: Cambridge and environs

inside Miracle of Science for breakfast

Breakfast at the Miracle of Science. Then off to Central Sq. to Radio Shack to replace our FM transmitter for the iPod. This handy little device allows us to listen to podcasts of This American Life, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Studio 360, TED Radio, The Moth and more while we cruise along. Our old gizmo blew up on the way to Cambridge. Lacking this Karen and I might have to talk…….

We passed most of the afternoon at the movies. I saw The King’s Speech (I highly recommend this) and Karen saw Blue Valentine (“not an up movie, but I recommend it.”)


We closed out the day with dinner with friend’s Ruth and Paul at the Dolphin in Natick.




They gave us a travel gift, ever practical.


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Sunday 2/6/11: Johnny Ds, Art, and Super Bowl

The day started with brunch at Johnny D’s in Davis Sq. Somerville with most of the usual cast of characters.

Now off to the Photographic Resource Center to see a big show by Jeff Jacobson who will be appearing in our gallery in late summer 2011.

We looked for a cook stove part at REI in Boston. I was not quite sure what it said about whom. “Dog Products” lane in REI store?Dog products at REI

Along the way we ended up in Starbucks where our Boingo wifi account gets us to the web. Karen had to make adjustments to a Constant Contact email for the gallery.

Our last culture vulture stop for the day was at the List Center at MIT for a Stan VanDerBeek retrospective. VanDerBeek is a darling of the avant garde, best known for his experimental movies, a political cultural radical and extraordinarily prescient. The exhibition is very large and at least for Mark overwhelming.

While wandering about it struck both of us again how wonderful the architecture of MIT is. This was probably roused by the great contrast with the dreadful darkness of the buildings at BU.

Here is a view of the Stata Center by Gehry.

Stata Center by Gehry at MIT

Stata Center by Gehry at MIT

We had a quick lunch at the Dosa Factory in Central Sq. This hole in the wall at the rear of an Indian food shop serves up Indian street food.

Finally, back to Belmont to watch the Super Bowl with Bill and Nancy

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Monday 2/7: Drive to Washington DC (Silver Spring)

Left Belmont by about 9 am.

With only one major traffic snafu made it to Harvey and Betsy’s house in Silver Spring before 6pm. Wonderful dinner and much chewing the the fat (some lamb and other conversational).

451 miles.

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Tuesday 2/8: Washington DC – museums and friends

We cannot keep up with all of these postings. So, we are going to just list places and events and later fill in with pictures.

  • National Gallery of Art West
    • Dale Collection – mostly French Impressionism
  • National Gallery of Art East
    • There’s Nothing Here and 3rd floor modern art collection
  • National Museum of American History
    • Pop Up/Fold Out Books
  • National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
    • Photography – Close to Home
  • National Portrait Gallery

Dinner with Bob and Elissa at Pesce near DuPont Circle

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Wednesday 2/9: Travel Day – Skyline Drive and Appalachians

With some new understanding that the length of the hypotenuse is shorter than the sum of the other two sides of a triangle, we elected to travel south along the western side of the Appalachians, this via US 81 (thanks to Betsy for suggesting this route).

Skyline Drive Shenandoah national parkOn impulse this lead us to the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park (Harvey and Betsy have biked portions of this route). 105 miles of scenic road built during the Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corp. One of the great drives in the US in the most visited National Park. However, in early February, there was virtually no one else on this road. We saw fewer than fifteen vehicles over its entire length. One benefit of the winter is that there was no leaves to block our views. We hardly had to stop at more than a few “scenic overviews” among the seventy. There are over 70 pullouts for viewing, but with no traffic we hardly had to use them to look at the vistas on both sides of the car as we traversed around the mountain tops.


lunch-skyline drive shenandoah national ParkAfter 105 miles of scenery we were not tempted to continue on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We retreated to US 81 and continued to Knoxville, TN where we paused to rest.

551 miles.

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Thursday 2/10: Chattanooga and on to Birmingham, AL

Left Knoxville for Birmingham, AL.

-chattanooga-overviewDrove 112 miles to Chattanooga. We did not intend to do more than a drive by of Chattanooga. Having driven by sites related to Davy Crockett, Cyrus McCormick, and Andrew Jackson and more.. we asked ourselves – shouldn’t we stop more often and look around? And, it is not as though we don’t enjoy cities. I took the picture above at the visitors’ cneter thinking that it might be a stand in for our visit.

trail-of-tears historical plaque

Chattanooga is definitely a tourist destination. Twenty miles of restored riverfront. Bluff View art district. Giant aquarium – river and ocean exhibitions. Chattanooga is the beginning point of the History of the Trail of Tears.





Hunter Museum of American ArtThe surprise was the Hunter Museum of American Art. This not so small regional museum is a gem. Glass collection is exceptional. Great presentation of modern and contemporary American art including a number of new discoveries for us.  Well represented were southern and African American artists. The special exhibition was a retrospective of the paintings of Lois Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color, a graduate of Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts; active in the Harlem Renaissance and way beyond.

The Hunter integrates three buildings, nineteenth century mansion replete with columns, 1975 concrete abstraction and a 2005 Gehry-like structure designed by a Tennessean, Randall Stout, into a wonderful series of exhibitions spaces. The art is shown chronologically. The large plaques with curatorial notes introducing each category are wonderfully direct, simple statements. These were clearly written so that people of all ages and sophistication can learn about the various art movements. Better in some ways are the frequent use of quotations from the artists themselves in the individual curatorial notes. The number of classes of kids and teens in the museum indicates that the local schools use this museum actively.

We stopped for lunch in the Bluff View art district at Rembrandt’s Coffee House.

Left Chattanooga and drove to 15o miles to Birmingham.  We stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center for maps and information.  The first thing we noticed, beneath the flags of the country, state and something else(?) was the stone marker, engraved on four sides: Alabama, We Dare Defend Our Rights.  A plaque on the wall near the entrance noted the dedication of the center by George C. Wallace in 1983 (this in his post-racist period.)

Now we’re in Central Time.



We checked into a motel then headed out to Rib-It-Up, a fantastic rib “joint” where you can pick up your ribs at the drive-thru or eat in.  We ate in. The food was very good and  ambience to match.

Posted in Alabama, Birmingham AL, Chattanooga TN, Hunter Museum of American Art, Knoxville TN, Road Trip 2011, Tennessee | 1 Comment

Friday 2/11: Birmingham, Moundville and then south to Meridian MS

Started out looking for the location of Karen’s Uncle Bob and Aunt May’s Avenue Deli which Karen remembers from visits in the 50’s with them. Along the way to a part of the city edge where Karen had memory of a golf course, she began to recognize places and names including the village, Mountain Brook.

Karen in front of Old Mill - Mountain Brook AL

Then we came on the Old Mill. Karen recalled a photo of her taken in front when she was a pre-teen. Here she is “several years” later back in front of this site.

04062011 – Karen found the old photo during some hunt in her studio.

Karen, age 15, in front of mill.

Karen, age 15, in front of mill.


Now on the hunt for the village center we wandered around this hilly area of very expensive homes built predominantly in the decades before the Depression. With  directional help from a grounds keeper we came to the village center. Though there is no deli, there is no doubt that the buildings are the right age and Karen has memories of the name of the street, Church St. and the appearance of the neighborhood.


Sloss Furnace-overview

With this trip down memory lane under our belts, we went off to find an old industrial site, Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Birmingham used to be known as the “Pittsburgh of the South” for all of its iron and steel production. (Karen remembers the red sky of the city at night and from the top of the hill where the 55 foot tall statue of Vulcan stands. Just as Pittsburgh no longer makes steel, neither does Birmingham. But, instead of scrapping all of the plants, Sloss Furnace was turned into an National Historic industrial park.

sloss furnaces-closeup

This is a rare opportunity to visit such a large facility and get some sense of the scale and grit of these operations. Sheeler would have been delighted.

The organization of the self-guided tour is not great and the audio narration soemwhat disjointed. Nevertheless this was an interesting stop.

We then went off to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute situated across the street from the 16th St, Baptist Church site of a terrorist bombing in 1963 by the Ku Klux Klan that resulted in the deaths of four little girls. Karen visited the Institute while I spent time on the phone with clients.  The institute provides a moving history of African Americans in Birmingham (steel, railroads) as well as the struggle for civil rights there.  It is both a museum of our national history as well as a museum of the history of a single city.  The displays including dioramas and video that capture the times.  Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a key figure in Birmingham’s civil rights history, returned to live in the city to this day.  His story is highlighted in the museum and, judging from the docent Karen heard speaking with Birmingham school children at the institute for a field trip, it is clear that the institute is a place of living history.  The docent, a woman in her sixties was one of the children that filled the jails of Bull Connor.

Petes-famous -hot dogs

Before leaving Birmingham we drove around the downtown business district. Like almost every downtown originally built on 19th and first half 20th century wealth, it is a fairly moribund collection of handsome buildings now grossly underused. We did make a pilgrimage to Pete’s Famous Hotdogs. While chowing down our dogs, we got advice on a must see motorcycle museum and a story about a daughter making good in NYC at Parsons School of Design.

We left Birmingham by about 2pm and drove towards Tuscaloosa, AL to reach Moundville, site of Moundville Archaeological Park. This is a key site examining remains of the Mississippi Indians who occupied a large part of the Mississippi River Valley. We have had a sustained interest in American and Mezo-American Indians since Karen first visited Chaco Canyon in the mid ’80s. Having travelled to the Southwest numerous times and Mexico to visit Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec sites and museums, we have had it in the back of our minds that we would some day visit sites in the Eastern half of the US. Moundville is a very large site with a large number of mounds built for ceremonial purposes. The small museum has interesting artifacts and a rather strange holographic program introducing research into the Mississippian’s belief systems.

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Saturday 2/12: Biloxi, MS – Gulf Coast – New Orleans

We left Meridian and drove south to Biloxi, MS and the Gulf coast. We had never been and also wanted to see first hand the damage from Katrina now more than five years on. Much of the immediate coast looked to have been scrapped clean and the reconstruction has not been particularly robust excepting, inevitably, for the casinos. For some strange reason neither of us took any pictures of this.

Entering New Orleans along US 10 does not immediately hint at the losses here from Katrina. We made our way by late afternoon to the St Charles Guest House on Prytania in the Garden District. This turned out to seem like a lot of New Orleans in myth and reality, charming with a patina of decay.

On the recommendation of our hotelier we ate dinner, after a brisk walk up and down  St. Charles St., at The Avenue Pub.

The food was serviceable and the beer endless in selection. One of us went for the daily special of Sierra Nevada Porter at $2. The best parts of this place included the patrons, heavy on locals, the juke box, and the increasingly rare delight of cigarette smoke to accompany the conversation. This induced a wonderful couple of hours of beery nostalgia (for Mark at least).

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Sunday 2/13 New Orleans – museums, music, walking about

Walked from our palace in the Garden District to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art(this a suggestion of our hotelier too). Along the way we crossed the tail end of the Rockin’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon.mardi gras marathon

The Ogden is another gem of a regional museum. Like the Hunter in Chattanooga they have quite an extensive collection of glass arts.

We were particularly taken with Birney Imes: Selections from Partial to Home – Photographs of Mississippi

We spent an hour at A Gallery for Fine Photography looking the very varied photography and talking with the shop keeper. Very knowledgeable about things photographic and also lived in Boston earlier.

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