Visiting Gettysburg – A Step Back In American History

Visiting Gettysburg – A Step Back In American History

We were on our way home after visiting St. Augustine, Florida and points in-between. The weather was below seasonal and rain was falling intermittently all day long. That meant that the decision to veer away from out straight through route was rather difficult to consider but in the end we decided to make the detour and head east to Gettysburg. Well worth the detour.

Gettysburg info and images to follow.

The temperature dropped continuously throughout the day and eventually the rain turned first to sleet and then to snow. With conditions like that, we decided to stop driving and find shelter in a Fairfield Inn ans Suites in Hazleton, PA. After a nice supper meal at nearby Damon’s Sports Bar and Grill we headed back to our room and looked out our window. Fresh falling snow always looks nicer when one is inside a warm hotel and looking out through a window.

Will post images later.

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Heading home

After the warm sunshine of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, it was time to head back north to our home in Kanata. Driving conditions were fine although the amount of traffic was surprisingly high in some sections of our route. When we got to the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway it was close to dusk but we decided to drive a portion of it anyway. Beautiful vistas along the parkway. In some locations large rhododendron bushes tower above both sides of the narrow roadway. We were a couple of weeks too early to see these beautiful plants covered in their pink blossoms but I imagine that it would be quite the sight to see if one’s timing was right in the middle of the blossom period.

Some Photos and more details to follow when we reach home.

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Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

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We arrived on Hilton Head Island after a short drive from Savannah, Georgia. Looking forward to a couple of days of blue skies and warm weather, a bit of golf, a bit of cycling, and perhaps a bit of sand between the toes. Of course, my camera will accompany me most of the time. Photos and more stories to follow (eventually)

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Savannah, Georgia

Today we visited the historic section of Savannah, Georgia. Although the historic section is not large, we decided that it would be a better use of our time to enjoy riding around in one of the many tour services that are offered at the information center rather than spending the time walking.

Very interesting city to visit and lots of history to be seen and stories to be told in this Georgia city.

More blog entries and photos to follow once we return home.

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Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia

Rented a kayak and paddled for almost 4 hours in the swampland ‘trails’ tody. Got close and personal with a few alligators, saw three species of snakes, a few turtles, some young barred owls, a couple of sandhill cranes, and got some much-needed exercise.

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A good day – photos from the swamp will be added later.

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Exploring St. Augustine, Florida

Exploring St. Augustine, Florida

The day before, we had travelled from Charlotte, NC, avoided a potential accident when a semi-trailer in front of us had a tire failure, and arrived in St. Augustine rather late in the day only to find that hotel rooms were in short supply. We did eventually get settled in for the night and come morning we followed up a recommendation a enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Jaybird’s Restaurant. The breakfast, the ambiance and the service were wonderful. As an added incentive to eat here (from a photographer point of view), the owner had a significant number of photos displayed on the walls from travels he had done around the world. If you wondered what one of the images was or where it was taken, the staff were happy to supply a key identifying each image by number and location.

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After breakfast, we headed off to visit the Spanish fort before walking through the streets of the old city.

More to follow … when time permits.

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Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida

Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida

This was our third day of travel south and was a rather uneventful day of driving along interstate highways – first I-77 and then I-95. The interstate highways bypass the major cities and other points of interest so,if you are not leaving the interstate, you primarily get to see what is immediately ahead of you on the highway. There is significant traffic on these interstate highways so just trying to keep an eye on what is ahead of you on the highway can be sufficiently tiring. Today’s drive was, for the most part, no exception.

Along the way, I had commented on the number of trucks on the highway and also the amount of debris (primarily bits of truck retread tires) along some of the stretches of highway. When travelling on major highways, such as this, it is not unusual to see chucks of retread tire, but today, one large piece of rubber in the passing lane led to a car, a distance ahead of us ending up in the center ditch as it tried to avoid hitting the chunk of rubber. We didn’t see the actual accident event but were not far behind when it happened.

By chance, as we passed one semi-trailer, I noted that the retread hon one of its rear tires looked to be on its last legs. What an observation that ended up being. Many miles further down the road, and after a few tourist stops, we found ourselves driving behind this same semi-trailer when that retread decided it was time to separate and hurl chunks of rubber back at us. Thankfully, none of the numerous pieces hit our car but it did lead to a few anxious moments.

As we travelled along these busy highways, there were times when our view ahead and to the sides was sometimes rather limited and we just hoped that the truck drivers didn’t have to come to any quick stops.

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More photos will be added to this blog entry at a later date.

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Escaping the Ottawa winter of 2014

Escaping the Ottawa winter of 2014 With cries of “ENOUGH ALREADY”, I found myself finishing off the month of March with a snow shovel in my hand, once again valiantly heaving shovelful after shovelful of that darned white stuff (SNOW!!!) of to the side of the driveway. image Only days earlier, another blast of winter had deposited a fresh white coating a few inches thick over our front yard and everything else. Looked really pretty, but meant more shovelling and I was getting tired of winter clothing and shovelling. Now, it was finally time to head off on that winter vacation to Florida that had been postponed many times for various reasons.

Our plan was simple, drive south on the 416 to Ogdensburg, cross the border at that point, slant over to Interstate 81 and then head south on I-81 as far as it would take us. Plan worked great. By the time that we crossed the St. Lawrence River, the amount of snow beside the highway had diminished and we knew instinctively that it wouldn’t be too long before snow would be just a memory. Every winter, Canadians head south for relaxation and to get a bit of winter warmth. Collectively, they are known as “snowbirds” but, since we were driving, not flying, “snowbirds” wasn’t a perfect fit but, this trip, we had no objections to that concept.

The last time that I crossed the Canada/US border was in February when I was hauling three kayaks back to Vancouver from the Grand Canyon. Usually, I don’t get slowed down at the border. A few questions get asked, I provide simple answers and off I go. The February crossing was a bit more dramatic as the border agents decided that they would like to pull me aside to “inspect” what I was carrying in the truck. This time around, we were driving our Volvo C70 convertible with its limited trunk space completely filled with luggage, two golf bags, my camera equipment and, as an added feature, my Martin Backpacker guitar. My wife was driving when we reached the border so she got to answer the questions. “Where are you from?”, “Where are you going?”, “How long?”, etc. Then there was that moment of silence before “Pop the trunk”. After the February truck search incident, that delayed that trip by an hour, all I could envision was the task ahead of taking everything out of that tightly packed Volvo trunk space so that the Customs agent could check to see that nothing untoward was packed in the golf bags squeezed tightly into the furthermost depth of that trunk. The trunk was opened, the agent took a quick look and closed the trunk. A sigh of relief from my side of the car. Then, the agent asked my wife to open the trunk again. “Oh no, what now?”, I thought. Just wanted to check that it had closed properly the first time! That was a relief. No long process of unpacking and repacking would be needed. A few minutes more and we were on our way again.

Temperature about 0C (+32F).

As we drove along, we could see many birch trees bent over from the experience of being heavily laden with ice from a freezing rain storm that had passed through the area only days earlier. Many trees had the far worse fate of breaking rather than bending and broken tree branches littered the ditches in some locations. The roads were clear though as we drove to our first night’s destination and indulged in some MacDonald’s fries. Not a gourmet meal LOL) but the two large fries for $3.33 special was the perfect treat, especially since it was the only eating establishment in easy walking distance from our hotel.

The next morning, we crossed over into Pennsylvania with me doing the driving. At almost precisely 9:30AM, we switched drivers just as it began to rain. When driving in winter months and early Spring, rain is always better than snow or freezing rain so we weren’t complaining.
image As the day progressed, the temperature slowly rose. By the time that we stopped for a break we were enjoying more pleasant +50F temperatures and wife enjoyed her pot of tea. (Bigelow’s spiced orange tea in Carlisle, Pennsylvania at Kimberley’s cafe – a nice place to stop for a quick bite to eat)
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Our destination for the day’s travels was Charlotte, North Carolina so once we had stopped for our lunch break in Carlisle, PA, we were on our way again. Our travels would take us briefly into Maryland and West Virginia, though Virginia and then into North Carolina. Our trip options for this leg of the trip were I-81 or I-95 and we chose to follow I-81 to avoid the heavy traffic loads of the Washington area. As we travelled south along I-81, the temperatures continued to rise, the grass continued to get greener and by the time that we got into the valleys of Virginia and West Virginia, Spring flowers were beginning to appear and flowering fruit trees dotted the landscape and the edges of the roadway forests. Temperatures were in the low 80′s by the time that we turned south onto I-77. image image image image We left the I-81 near and headed south along the I-77. This section of the road took us to higher elevations and as we climbed the temperature dropped into the low 70′s. Definitely not unpleasant, but Spring was not as far advanced in these areas and the trees hadn’t begun to flower yet. We reached our destination of Charlotte, NC that evening and we were able to walk outside in high 70′s temperatures surrounded by green grass and flowering fruit trees. Definitely different than the snow-covered lawns we had left behind only a day and a half ago. image

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A Spring Outing

A Spring Outing

Graeme wanted to get out on the trail to obtain some high speed shots of birds in flight with his Sony NEX-FS700 with SELP18200 lens.The easiest place to do that is on the many trails in the National Capital Commission’s Greenbelt where the Chickadees and Nuthatches are quite happy to come in close and personal to obtain a sunflower seed or two from outstretched hands. Graeme was shooting at 1080p and either 240fps or 480fps. I on the other hand was shooting with my Nikon D300 and a 70-300 f2.8 lens. I restricted myself to 1 frame at a time. My finger can’t click at 480fps LOL. I hadn’t been out on the trails much this winter, so was a willing participant and offered him a hand – actually offered to hold out my hand with an offering of sunflower seeds.  The temperature has continued to be rather chilly so winter clothing was a necessity and outstretched hands can become uncomfortably cold rather quickly.

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It was a Sunday, so the birds had already seen plenty of outstretched hands offering all sorts of bird seed. All along the trails, there were small piles of seed left behind by hikers and skiiers sharing the trails with the birds and the squirrels. After leaving a few seeds scattered among the snow-covered branches of the cedars alongside one portion of the trail, so that Graeme would have plenty of winged visitors to photograph, I headed further along the Sarsaparilla Trail to see if there was anything else that might catch my attention.

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There had been reports of a Barred Owl in the area and others had seen a Porcupine sleeping in the higher branches of the trees, but I saw neither. Often, when I walk along this trail, I will be greeted by a Blue Jay or two, but this particular day, the Chickadees were my only companions. There were signs that a Pileated Woodpecker had recently been hard at work, but as this large woodpecker tends to be a bit wary of humans. I suspect that this particular woodpecker had taken a few days off from its labours to avoid the weekend crowds of humans.

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014_9218-Pileated-holesWhen we arrived back at the parking lot, we found that someone had left a copious supply of seeds and peanuts at that spot, so we stopped again to watch the Chickadees and Red Squirrels return time after time for another bit of food to add to their cache. As we were about to leave, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch joined in and returned a few times.

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014_9224-r-b--nuthatchOur next stop was the Bird Rescue center.  Although the sunshine was sufficient to melt some of the snow on the roof, it was still quite chilly when not in the sunshine.

014_9231Icicles-After that stop, we headed over to the Old Quarry Trail, hoping to see a White-tailed Deer or two. We saw only one doe this time around, and she was a bit skittish and raised her tail in alarm as the X/C skiiers passed by. The Chickadees and Red Squirrels were happy to entertain us, though, and in addition to a few Red-breasted Nuthatches, our more common feathered friends were also joined by one White-breasted Nuthatch. The sky was blue and the sun angle was warming, so I was able to tolerate standing with my hand out for quite a lengthy period of time, as about 20 Chickadees swooped in, one after another, to pick out their favourite seeds. Red Squirrels watched on waiting for their opportunity to run in and get something to eat.

014_9245-w-b-nuthatch  014_9253-red-squirrel 014_9256-Red-SquirrelTwo years earlier, the temperature was significantly warmer and snow had all melted away.  Not this year, though!!!  Nice to be able to interact with the birds and mammals we find along the trails and provide them with a few more seeds to help them get through the winter.

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It’s Tax Time Again – Revenue Canada PHISHING e-mail time

Since returning from my trip to the Grand Canyon with the three kayakers, I have spent a bit of my time reviewing which photos I will be adding to our MegaPixelTravel website. Much of my time, though, I have spent catching up on world news and getting the various information ready to submit the required information for tax payments and tax refunds for various family members (as well as breaking strings in my badminton racquet – a non-deductible expense – :-)).

Being as it is tax time, it should come as no surprise that there are thieves out there, somewhere in cyberspace, just waiting to use tax time as an opportune time to try to scam the unwary public.

Each year, Revenue Canada warns the public to be alert and not provide information such as SIN numbers to any on-line requests for such information. This is especially true if the e-mail requests appear to be from Revenue Canada. The e-mail address of the sender may appear to be legitimate, but it isn’t. All the phisher wants the recipient to do is to click on the link to their server (not a Revenue Canada link) and provide valuable personal information which the scammer/phisher can then use to access other accounts in their on-going and sophisticated business of “identity theft”.

I haven’t received such a tax-time phishing attack in past years but this year, guess what, it’s my turn! Today, I received the following e-mail:

Dear Taxpayer,

After the last annual calculation of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of : $312.00
Regarding this, please complete the Refund Form and mail it to one of the addresses from the second page.
Your *Refund Reference Number is: Ref/12209/2013.
*Refund Amount : 312.00 $.

To access the form for your tax refund, please Click Here.NOTE!

For security reasons, remove the form from your computer after printing.

Thank you,
Canada Revenue Agency

It’s not the first time that I have been the target of such phishing scams and it probably won’t be the last but as I have recommended in previous postings on the matter of phishing and internet fraud, Canada has a government agency tasked with investigating such fraudulent behaviour (The Canadian Ant-Fraud Centre) so I immediately sent off a copy of the e-mail to their antifraud line e-mail address:  info@antifraudcentre.ca.

Seconds later, back came the automated response in both official languages. Now that I feel that I have contributed my little bit to the antifraudcentre database, I can get back to T4′s, T5′s and all  of those other nice forms that tell me that I still have to pay Revenue Canada a bit more!

Auto response from antifraudcentre

This is an auto-response, please do not reply. 

Thank you for contacting The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC).  Your e-mail has been received. Due to the high volume of e-mails, you will not receive a reply. 

If you are a victim of identity fraud, have lost money, not received goods or services, are in the process of sending money or have a question or concern, please contact our toll free number 1-888-495-8501 and speak to a representative. Due to high call volume, you may experience an excessive wait time.

Please be aware that the CAFC is a central repository for fraud data.  Our Criminal Intelligence Analysis Unit provides support to law enforcement agencies by analyzing fraud data submitted to the CAFC. We strongly recommend that consumers also report all fraud related matters to their local police agency.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre advises consumers not to open unsolicited emails or when the sender is unknown. Spam usually means scam. Just delete them! 

For more information, please do not hesitate to visit our website: www.antifraudcentre.ca 

Ceci est un message automatisé; veuillez ne pas répondre à cette adresse.

Merci d’avoir communiqué avec le Centre antifraude du Canada (CAFC). Votre courriel a été reçu. Étant donné la grande quantité de messages qui nous est envoyée, vous ne recevrez aucun suivi.
Si vous êtes victime d’un vol d’identité, si vous avez perdu de l’argent ou si vous n’avez pas reçu la marchandise ou les services promis, que vous êtes dans le processus d’envoyer de l’argent ou que vous avez des questions ou des inquiétudes, veuillez composer notre numéro sans frais, 1-888-495-8501, et en discuter avec un représentant. En raison d’un nombre spécialement élevé d’appels, l’attente peut s’avérer être excessive. 
Le Centre antifraude du Canada est l'organisme central du Canada chargé de recueillir l’information et les renseignements criminels sur les plaintes en matière de fraude de marketing en masse (télémarketing), les lettres frauduleuses (Afrique de l’Ouest), la fraude par internet et la fraude en matière de vol d'identité. 

Notre Unité d’Analyse de Renseignements Criminels fournit un soutien aux agences responsables de l’application de la loi en analysant les données sur les fraudes soumises au CAFC.  Nous recommandons fortement aux consommateurs de communiquer au préalable avec leur service de police locale afin de signaler une fraude.

Le Centre antifraude du Canada recommande aux consommateurs de ne pas ouvrir les courriels non sollicités; Le spam, pourriel ou polluriel veut généralement dire fraude. N’ouvrez pas un courriel dont l’expéditeur vous est inconnu. Il vous suffit de les effacer!
Pour de plus amples renseignements, vous pouvez consulter notre site web : www.centreantifraude.ca
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