Ursula Sadiq

"Hey, how did I get here?", asks the once and future geek. "Each step made sense along the way, didn't it?" Didn't it?

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In a lovely November weekend, I head out to my local winery. While buying a case, I notice there is a photo of a Mason-Dixson crownstone framed on the wall.

I get excited. “You have a Mason-Dixson stone! Can I see it?!!?”

Alas, I was informed, it’s on the owner’s property, and not available for public viewing. Except EXCEPT, occasionally when they do the behind the scenes vineyard tours. Which they aren’t doing now due to Covid, but expect to do so again. As one of the workers there carried my case out, he took me to the side and pointed out where the stone is - in the distance, behind the vines, under a tree. 

I am so going back for the Vineyard tour.

Mason and Dixon and crew placed "crownstones" every 5 miles, way back in 1763. Smaller stone markers were placed in the inbetween miles. The stones were quarried in England, and crown stones were engraved with the crests of the two great houses that commissioned the survey: House Penn and House Cavert. (Calvert was also Lord Baltimore, and the Maryland state flag has this same graphic on two quardrents of its flag)

Five miles north of the Harvest Ridge Winery is the town of Marydel, on the border of Maryland and Delaware. In an unassuming spot by the road is a little chain marked square, with a crownstone inside. My understanding is that this marker was removed and displayed in St. Louis in 1904, and later in Baltimore. It was returned to Marydel in 1954 and was reset in 1964. So it may be a few feet off the original spot. 

The next day, we traveled south to the south western most point of Delaware. I planned the route to take us across on the Woodland Ferry. (Google maps doesn't realize this ferry is an option, so you have to convince it.) Apparently this ferry has been running since 1743ish, by the Cannon family, who were eventually granted “exclusive ferrying rights”. The Cannons ran the ferry for 100 years, among other business ventures. The Deldot brochure on the ferry mentions a jilted groom, strongarm foreclosures, slaving, and honey disputes that end in death. Apparently the Cannons were assholes, and their demise was not mourned. The county and eventually the state took over the ferry, which is free to use today. It’s about a 2 minutes crossing and can fit 4-6 vehicles at a time. (And from my home in Dover to the southwest corner of Delaware, only a 5 minute detour from google’s “fastest route”.)

Anyhow, at the south western most point of Delaware there is - you guessed it - and monument placed by Mason & Dixon. It is another crownstone, called the Transpeninsular Midpoint Marker and it is much better protected than the Marydel one. Also in the protective cage are 2 smaller survey stones done by other surveyors before Mason & Dixon came around. Mason & Dixon verified the earlier survey work. There is ALSO a third smaller stone, which apparently is just there because when they were building the cage, a local had it, thought it looked similar and belonged with the others, so put it with them. Another point for my Delaware is Awesome tally.

People throw change into the cage. Dunno why. We left our 2cents and moseyed on.

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Out of 24 county equivalents in Maryland, exactly half are named for people directly related to the Calvert family.
Cool! History is cool.
I am trying to engage my kid on seeing the connections. Astronomy! Surveys! Taxes! The crests! The Flag!
Ferrys before Bridges! ... mostly she just roles her eyes at me. But I'm hoping some of it sinks in.

She did seem to perk up when I said that Jeremiah Dixon was a miscreant that got disowned from the (Quaker) church. But I'm hoping she remembers the other stuff too
Some of it will sink in. Says the guy whose father dragged him to every civil war and American revolution battlefield in driving distance.
 

My research of Mason-Dixon markers on the Delaware Border. All of which I plan to go see in the near(ish) future.




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At the northwest corner of Delaware, where it meets Pennslyvania & Maryland, is the “Tri-State Marker”. It was first located by Mason and Dixon back in 1765, though the marker was placed later, in 1849. I learned pretty much everything I know about it from this newspaper article from 2015: https://www.newarkpostonline.com/news/new-trail-provides-first-public-access-to-mason-dixon-tri-state-marker/article_a5ec3a04-fe1a-58d4-a317-93c3e887c863.html

I’ve hiked to the marker twice this year, from Delaware's White Clay Creek State Park starting at the Chambers House Nature Center parking lot. It’s about a 3.5 mile roundtrip, meaning an hour and a half walk for me. I walk slow, and stop to look at things a lot. I had the path mostly to myself when I hiked it Friday afternoon, saw just 6 others in the 1.5 hours I was walking.

I understand you can also walk to the monument through other shorter pathways, but I haven’t done so. That’s an adventure for another time.

Note: The Chambers House nature center is also the location of one of the Selfie spots for the Delaware State Parks passport program. It's still closed due to COVID, but I saw some staff heading in to work. They arehoping to repoen in January. They gave me a map, and seemed to think the walk to the monument was "far". 

Trip start

OUTBOUND

Trail is mostly wooded trees, but it does open up to a field or two upon occasion. You cross from Delaware to Pennsylvania pretty early in the hike. And yeah, I bough hiking boots (Merrells). Last time I hiked this in the Spring, I had just bought hiking sandles (Tevas), which I love. But it's getting too crisp for sandles.

THE MONUMENT

I later learned (from reading that article above) that the monument has no D because in Mason-Dixon's time, Delaware was still part of Pennsylvania. Hence 2 P’s , 2 M’s no D.

THE WAY BACK

On the way back you cross into Delaware, then back into Pennsylvania, then back into Delaware.  Also, there is a peace love & happiness tree (Yo peeps: don't graffiti trees, even with nice sentiments). I understand there is a CAVE near one of these PA/DE borders, on the PA side. Something to look for next time.

So, pretty easy hike, cool historical marker, not crowded. Recommended.

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A beautiful day for hiking. If you ever lack things to look for, https://www.geocaching.com has thousands, including https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC1EN31 in White Clay Creek State Park.
I just today learned about letterboxing. Which sounds like fancy geocaching... I might give that a try
Ursula Sadiq 10/30edited
Yeah, letterboxing long predates the practice of "using multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods".
 

I take myself out and about to expand my horizons on a fairly regular basis. I'm retired, and mom only 50% of the time. Meaning even after house keeping, I have a lot of free time. In this year of not-leaving-the-country, and not willing to risk getting on a domesticc flight, I've been learning about things to do within driving distance.

I've been thinking of my trips as Quests or Missions. These are the ones I'm currently working on:

1. Delaware State Park Passport Quest. One goes to each of 19 state parks, take a self at a designated location in each park, and submit the photos to the park system via an online form. I think you get a free pass for next year if you complete it. I've been to 13, 6 to go!  https://destateparks.com/Passport

2. Delaware Tourism has 5 "Trails" you can complete.

  • Delware on Tap, (I'd be 11/34th done if I'd know about this earlier)
  • Delaware Discoveries (3/9th done!),
  • Delaware History,
  • Delaware Outdoor, and
  • Delaware Culinary trail.

Frankly, I just learned that there were 5 of them. Like, today. I've been working on the Delaware Discoveries one, but now I think I'll work on all of them. At once! Yeah! https://www.visitdelaware.com/things-to-do/trails/

3. The Mason-Dixon markers: Ok, I made this one up. But there is the Tri-State Marker in White Clay Creek park (been there! twice!), a Mason-dixon crownstone marker across from a gas station in MaryDel, and a Middle Point Marker on Delaware's southern border near Delmar.  There may be another crownstone 10 miles north of the Marydel stone. It's a bit of a scavenger hunt. There is a site that documents all of the PA-MD stones, but not the Delaware ones.

4. For beyond Delaware: I found out last month that the National Park system has a Passport book. Like a real booklet that is setup for you to collect stamps. I have 4 stamps already! https://americasnationalparks.org/passport-to-your-national-parks/

Are there more quests? I'm sure there are. But theses are the ones I'm keen on just now. 

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I've been wanting to make a project of getting to the 4 extreme points of the continental US for a while. I've only been to the northwesternmost point (cape flattery in WA) so far, but key west seems nice. and I'll be going to Maine with Ellynne pretty regularly for years to come, so I'm sure we can collect Grand Isle pretty easily. so then there's just Lompoc CA to work out.
CM Adams 10/25
That sounds like an awesome quest.
 

<since I'm now home all the time, I started playing DnD again after all these years. Stephalorus is my current character, a young fighter. This is a letter to her older sister, who is also a fighter out adventuring somewhere in the other half of the world.>

Dearest Candalorus,

I hope this letter finds you well. I don’t know what adventures you’ve gotten yourself into or where you are just now, so I’m sending this to Da. I hope he can forward it to you, and that this finds you in good health.

As you know, I have been traveling in Vilhon and was in the city of Northbridge as of late. Few weeks ago I fell in with a group of other travelers (ok, we were newly met drinking buddies) and we got ourselves hired as caravan protection heading to Redport. Haha, yes, I know. Me, a caravan guard just like you were! Following in your footsteps, sis! 

I was expecting it to be a dull trek escorting the esteemed Lord Grahm Weylan and entourage to the capital Redport, but it has been anything but. Yeah, that Weylan, the brother to Lord Tomin Weylan, new ruler of the Duchey of Storm Coast! If Da hadn’t dragged us along as kids all those times to see every minor nobility that came to town, I would be cowed by His Greatness. Instead, I just try to keep my own council and let the more charming members of our group do the talking. Mostly.

Word is, if we are judged exceptional over the course of this journey, we may be able to find employment with House Weylan. Then at least you’ll know where to send my care packages!

Apparently Lord Tomin is traveling by ship to the capital as we escort Lord Grahm overland. Lord Grahm is also checking out the local leadership and securing support as he goes, and driving out hostiles (both man and beast) along the way. And things are not as peaceful as they once were. As you know, the succession was initially contested and there is lingering unrest. 

My crew consists of a young priestess of the light (i.e. Goddess Ann Barros) named Keydove, a small fledgling wizard Mertly (who has a pet cat! A very useful pet cat! I never knew pets could be so helpful!), and a spry sneaky roguish sort Drago who is surprisingly good in a fight. We had another woodsman join us for a while, but he got pretty roughed up and has decided being caravan muscle isn’t for him. We’re trying to come up with a crew name. We are using TEAM RIGHTEOUS, but that’s not exactly a fit. Still hoping to come up with something better.

Anyway, we are tasked with scouting ahead, and we weren’t more than a few days into the trek when we came upon a looted farmstead with defiled slaughtered sheep outside. We took a look, and sadly found bodies of the farmers, some funds and notes, and surprisingly a trapped great mountain cat of sorts. A cougar maybe? Anyway, right after we dispatched the vicious cat to kitty heaven, we were attacked by some goblins. I know, goblins, right! Just like you always said, those pesky vermin are always popping up and causing headaches. We kept one alive for questioning. So yes dear Canda, I did listen to your advice of not killing all the vermin, in case one can prove useful.

Back at camp with the main force the goblin was questioned, and it became clear that there was a *great* goblin shaman Scragnar who had a band followers harassing and pillaging the countryside. They were holed up in ruins nearby. So we went in and cleared that place out, killed Shaman Scraggy, and rescued a captured noble Lord Daren Delvo. It’s great to have the gratitude of a Lord, and he saw to it that our gear was upgraded nicely afterwards. And we got some cool loot - including a potion of Enlargement, haha. Oh, and it turns out that these goblins were not random vermin, but encouraged by some nefarious party. We’re still trying to sort that out. Regrettably, this is also where our woodsman friend took some grievous wounds, and decided to give up the dangerous fighting life.

Oh, when we got back to the main caravan, there was an attempt on Lord Gramln’s life - they even got into his lordships private pavilion before they were stopped. We helped defend him, and subsequently learned that not everyone is happy with the current power structure. And that his brother is also threatened. Nothing really we can do from here except hustle on to Redport.

And man, that goblin escapade seems like a walk in the park compared to what has transpired since. And it seems so long ago, even if it was only a few weeks past. After bringing Delvo back and foiling the assassination attempt, we headed on again as advance guard. The next stop was supposed to be the village of Highmeadow. But as we got to the area, we instead found a lake. Apparently there had been a natural dam break that flooded the entire town. Highmeadow was completely submerged. While we were still trying to figure out what had happened, we found some woeful miners camped out in the hills.

The miners told us a strange tale of bizarre happenings in their mine. They had broken through to a lower, more ancient level and to their horror they released a necromancer. Or at least an evil dude with a staff that is raising the dead. Yikes. OF COURSE we decided to deal with that issue. 

So we went, met some faeries on the way, killed a boar and ate oh so well that day, cleared out the undead filled mine with help of a friendly ghost (I killed an undead skeletal Owlbear! I kept its skull as a helmet/trophy. It looks ridiculous. I love it.),  and got some good weaponry from a tomb. Yes, sis, I know. Tomb looting is bad. But we needed the stuff to fight the bigger bad aka undead raising Hekros worshiping staff wielding evil ancient halfling necromancer Tervous Mep. We’ll figure out a way to rebuild the tomb later. Then we killed a Redcap (I HAVE A REDCAP TOOTH NOW!!! I’m gonna mount it on the Owlbear helm.), and we made it back to the lake formerly known as Highmeadow without dying! Even the horses all made it! Well, horses and a dog. Our diminutive wizard Mertly rides a dog. My horse is named Mable. She’s sweet.

I’m writing this from New Highmeadow. They have started rebuilding Highmeadow on higher ground. Maybe they should call it Highermeadow? We just contributed to New Highmeadow’s new temple’s building fund and will have a stone engraved with our names placed there. Tomorrow we’re off to the abandoned Seven Cliffs Monastery, to take care of Necro Mep. I figure if I don’t make it back from attacking this necromancer, at least our names will be remembered in stone. Something to show the grandkids! I mean, assuming. . .

I hope you are well, and hope you are enjoying whatever crazy you’ve gotten yourself into these days. I don’t know when I’ll be in your part of the world again, but I look forward to our reunion someday. I’m sure we’ll both have great tales to share by then. 

You loving sister,

Stephalorus 

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6/23
 

I took my 8 year old to Richmond Virgina for a summer roadtrip. We went to the Virginia Fine Arts Museum there - it's free and I'm a big fan.

While in the classical European gallery highlighting 17th and 18th century paintings and tapestries , we see this painting which is clearly not like the others.  So the kiddo asks about it.

I talk to her about how most of the portrait painting here are of (or for) Old Rich Dead White dudes, so a modern artist decided to paint a portrait of a dude who isn't old rich and dead. And we talked a bit about the whys and whatfors.

In the same gallery was this small painting

To which my kid exclaimed, "Look mom, and Old Rich Dead White Dog!"

I love that kid.

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7/29 '19
 

Ok, the previous Iceland post was all practical overview stuff. Now for some detailed recommendations  on things to do in Reykjavik

  1. Hallgrimskirkja - it's a newer catherdral (finished in the 1980s). Iconic building and on a clear day it's cool to take the elevator to the bell tower and look at everything. They ring the bells a lot. Especially on Witt Monday, when jet lagged tourists are trying to nap in a hostel next door.

  2. Walk around and shop and eat. In particular, on Laugavegur (which also has the supermarket Bonus) and Skolavordustigur (which deadends into the catherdral plaza) and their side streets are good for tourist shopping.

  3. IF YOU HAVE A CAT CRAZY CHILD (or if you are a cat fan yourself) there is a cat cafe called Kattakaffihusid. With good coffee and baked goods.

  4. There are public "swimming" pools which are really more lounging around in warm water pools. We went to the one called Sundhöllin. Very clean, and of course great for kids. But also if you just want to hang in the giant hot tub and experiance some local culture. It's like $8 to get in (kids are like $1), and they do rent towels if you forgot yours. But c'mon, didn't you read Hitchhikers? 

  5. You can take a boat tour to see Puffins or Whales. I'm scared of whales, so we did the 1-2hr puffin tour. Puffins are cool little birds, but not particularly impressive. Still, getting on the water for an hour or so was good fun. They told me whale cruises are 90% on spotting whales (NO THANK YOU), an even higher precentage of spotting dolphins. 

  6. There is a small natural history museum called Perlan with an ice cave a bit out of town. There is a free shuttle (though we didn't know that and took a city bus). The building has a enclosed rooftop cafe with great views of the city - and maybe the northern lights in the winter? Anyway, the cafe was just as good a reason to visit Perlan as the museum.

  7. There is this metal sculpture of boat ribs called 'Solfar' aka 'Sun Voyager' right on the harbor. There isn't much to do, but it does make for a great photo. Especially if you happen to catch a sunset sky.

  8. There is another iconic building called Harpa right on the harbor. It's the concert hall of everything from opera to rock concerts. There were nightly events and shows but we didn't catch any. You can go in and walk around. It's a brilliant architectural space.

I'm sure there are other things to do in Reykjavik. These are just the ones I experienced and recommend. I was traveling with my 8 year old, so I have nothing to report on nightlife/bars/fancy resturants. I'm sure they have them. These is a place called Chuck Norris Grill that I wish we would have eaten at. But you gotta save something for next time.

Some photos below. More photos in my google photo album here.

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6/21 '19 2 Comments
WOOOOOOOOWWWWW.....
That top photo (I'm assuming that's the cathedral?) looks like it's made out of Legos. :)

Your photos are gorgeous!
 

I interupt my trip reports on Iceland to share this word cloud. I am involved with a regional burning man event. ~800 people gather in Central PA for this. I took a post event survey, which included a freeform answer field for the question of gender ID.

I then processed the answers through a free online word cloud generator. 

While word cloud is a far from perfect tool (e.g., the "damned" was really part of an entry of "none of your damned business. I don't do labels"), I still find the results cool and worth sharing.

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6/20 '19 6 Comments
I want to meet the person who put "damned".
CM Adams 6/20 '19
Scum, Fox, Pirate and Damned are my faves.
Ursula Sadiq 6/20 '19
I have my gender listed on Facebook as "Maple." The result is that the ads I see are less painfully targeted. I still get weight-loss-product ads, but they're less offensive.
What's the Burning Man event in Central PA? I've wanted to go to one with a climate that doesn't scare me.
(edit) Playa del Fuego. It's in Tamaqua these days. Over memorial day weekend.
Ursula Sadiq 6/20 '19edited
(scheming...)
 

I took my 8year old to Iceland for a week. Early June. In a nut shell, there was jaw dropping scenery and it is very easy to be an English speaking tourist there. Very recommended. I do expect I'll go back someday.

I'd never been to Iceland before, and I was overdue in adding a new country to my list. I've traveled a bunch so I'm not intimidated by international travel, especially not to Europe where I've been to lots. I did some research, brunched with some Icelanders before I left, booked a hostel, some bus tours and a puffin watching harbor cruise, and embraced the idea that I'm on vacation and vacation is not a the time to be too frugal.

Early June is before all the tourists arrive, but it's building. We were there June 10-16. Tourist season officially begins June 15. It never gets dark in Iceland in June. The sun goes down for a few hours, but it is still dusk lit.

Flights were affordable - direct from Philly even. We flew Icelandair. No complaints, a basic uneventful flight. Gone are the days of endless drinks and amenity packs for everyone I guess. The 8 year old did get free meal and a play pack, and Icelandair has reduced kids airfare which I had assumed were extinct. I guess just domestically extict (sigh). The 8 year old also got a number of comps this trip. Free use of the "pay to use" public toilets, free seats on some of the tours, free transfer to the airport, next to free entry to the swimming pool. So yay, bring your kid if you got one. These freebies dissipate by the time they are 11 from what I can tell.

Something to know about Iceland - the county is about the size of Pennsylvania or of New York State. The coast is habitable, the interior not so much. About 340,000 people live in the entire country, and 2/3rds of them live around Reykjavik. The whole country has less people than Cleveland. Or about 60,000 less people as we have in here in lower, slower Delaware. To this country of 340,000 come over 2 million tourists a year. Its been growing like crazy, up from 1 million in 2014, or 0.5 million in 2010 when that volcano erupted making everyone think: Cool! Let's go see Iceland! So yeah, tourism is big there. It is Iceland's largest industry these days, eclipsing fishing industries. And in some ways the infrastructure is struggling to keep up - for example our the tour bus planned stops around acceptable toilet facilities. And hotels and tours do fill up. 

Hotels were pricey so I got us a hostel, which was still over $150 a night. Nothing against the hostel, it was a decent one, but next time I'll pay the extra $300+ for a proper hotel. Or an airBNB. But I'm naturally a penny pincher, so I got us a hostel. I just poked around booking.com again, and yeah, for an extra $300 we could have gotten an apartment. Maybe next year. (Though next year I kinda want to go to Spain.) 

Food was also pricey, and a picky 8 year old means we didn't explore the options much. I'm the opposite of picky, which also means I'm not into exploring. If it's edible, I'll eat it.

For food, we did a bunch of supermarket sandwiches. We had lots of pop-tarts, chocolate, bread, chips, crackers, chocolate crackers, cheese, & ice cream. We also split one banana, labeled as grown in Ecuador. For local food, they have a yogurt like thing called skyr (which tastes like yogurt, but apparently is made differently) that we liked. I really liked the lamb soup - kinda like beef stew but with lamb, found at overpriced tourist restaurants all over Iceland. I had 3 bowls on our 6 day trip. We tried the smoked lamb on flatbread and both (!!!) loved it - it's really rich though, more an hors d’oeuvres than something I could do a meal. We drank a lot of water, straight from the tap, like apparently everyone does in Iceland.

It is super easy to get around as an English speaker in Iceland. Every last Icelander I met spoke perfect English. And they were all very friendly - not Irish friendly who want to talk life story - Nordic friendly. So cheerful and happy to stop and help when asked. Contributing to the good cheer I'm sure was the unusually splendid weather we were having. The Icelanders were saying how it doesn't get better that what we had: 60 Fahrenheit and sunny all week.

<to be continued. gotta do some work now>

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6/18 '19 2 Comments
good lord. thanks for the heads up on the cost of lodging and food there. the airfares are so cheap that I've thought of going, but not for those sorts of rates on the ground.
CM Adams 6/18 '19
I love this.
 

So my ex-husband was fretting about the cost of getting his guitar refurbished. His guitar buying was one of the things I disapproved of when we were married.  How many guitars does a man need?!?? He has like 10 other guitars, but this is the one he plays all the time, and it needs some TLC.

So he was worried about the refurb cost. Then I said "Why don't you just buy a new one?"

The irony does not escape me.

Still living the dream.

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4/11 '19