Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Are we there yet?

Map of Southeast USABelow is a list of driving distances in miles (with estimated driving times) from Pensacola, Florida to many cities in the Southeast United States. I also included a link to tourist information for each city.

Both the distances and the driving times are from DeLorme's Street Atlas USA 2006. The routes that the program suggested are based on using the fastest highways, not necessarily the most direct ones.

ALABAMA Birmingham 250 miles (4:25) • Fairhope 58 miles (1:06) • Magnolia Springs 49 miles (1:08) • Mobile 57 miles (0:57) • Montgomery 164 miles (3:06) • Troy 137 miles (3:07)

ARKANSAS Little Rock 511 miles (10:35)

FLORIDA Apalachicola (via Rts. 71 & 65) 216 miles (4:22) • Cocoa Beach 499 miles (7:58) • Destin 58 miles (1:35) • Fort Lauderdale 643 miles (10:23) • Fort Myers 582 miles (9:05) • Gainesville 332 miles (5:07) • Jacksonville 349 miles (5:23) • Key West 835 miles (15:15) • Lake City 290 miles (4:30) • Miami 668 miles (10:42) • Ocala 365 miles (5:36) • Orlando 441 miles (6:56) • Panama City Beach 131 miles (2:33) • St. Augustine 387 miles (6:07) • Tallahassee 188 miles (3:00) • Tampa 460 miles (7:05) • Venice 524 miles (8:10)

GEORGIA Atlanta 323 miles (5:32) • Blue Ridge 414 miles (7:25) • Savannah 485 miles (7:29)

LOUISIANA Lafayette 312 miles (4:55) • Lake Charles 382 miles (5:56) • New Orleans 200 miles (3:06)

MISSISSIPPI Biloxi 119 miles (1:52) • Jackson 251 miles (5:17) • Natchez 335 miles (5:44) • Summit 272 miles (4:14) •Tunica 449 miles (8:43) • Vicksburg 292 miles (5:57)

NORTH CAROLINA Asheville 555 miles (9:05)

SOUTH CAROLINA Charleston 585 miles (930) • Florence 599 miles (10:01) • Hilton Head 524 miles (8:18) • Myrtle Beach 704 miles (11:29)

TENNESSEE Chattanooga 394 miles (6:37) • Gatlinburg 544 miles (9:18) • Knoxville 503 miles (8:18) • Memphis 440 miles (8:46) • Nashville 442 miles (7:19)

TEXAS Austin 708 miles (11:12) • Dallas 697 miles (10:48) • Galveston 559 miles (8:42) • Houston 524 miles (8:06) • San Antonio 719 miles (11:04)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Astronomy Pictures from NASA

An Aurora in Alaska, from Wikipedia
Click here to view NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. There's also an archive of the photos from previous days.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Maine Trip, May 2007 -- Day 2, Part 3

Fort Western, Augusta MaineAfter looking at the arsenal restoration project we passed the nearby, and beautifully restored Fort Western, built in 1754. For reasons I must have known as a child, but have forgotten -- I do not know why the fort, clearly on the east side of the Kennebec River would be called Fort Western.

We crossed the Kennebec and continued south along the western bank of the river to the next town, Hallowell. In pre-colonial days Augusta was part of Hallowell. The first settlement was in 1625 by British traders and trappers. The city of Hallowell was founded in 1762 and Augusta became a separate city in 1797.

Maine became a state in 1820 having been a territory of Massachusetts before that. In a way it was a colony of a colony. Hallowell's granite quarries were famous and many grand buildings throughout the U.S. including several in Washington, DC and New York City were made from Hallowell's stone.

Governor Bodwell House, 1875, Hallowell, MaineToday Hallowell is best known for the many antique shops that attract visitors from all over the northeast U.S. and eastern Canada. There are many beautifully well-kept, lovingly restored old homes big and small here. But there are many more in sad shape. One needing massive restoration work is the 1875 Governor Bodwell House on Middle Street in Hallowell.

Fortunately an organization in Portland identifies the state's most endangered structures and coordinates restoration efforts. To read about the Governor Bodwell House and other properties on Maine Preservation's list of Maine's most endangered historic properties click here. Their site also has a list of their success stories. The photo is by Joe Phelan of the Kennebec Journal.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Maine Trip, May 2007 -- Day 2, Part 2

Greetings from Augusta, MaineThe drive from Bangor to Augusta takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. On a sunny day it is very pretty, with low hills, distant mountains and some lakes here and there. For my drive I didn't see much of anything other than the highway. There was fog and heavy rain all the way.

I got to my parents' house mid-morning and we had a nice visit. After lunch we went out to run errands and drive around town. On the east side of the Kennebec River along the riverfront we drove through an area that was the Augusta Arsenal.

Augusta Arsenal The old Arsenal is a complex of eight granite block buildings, dating back to the 1820s. Today it is part of the Kennebec Arsenal Renovation. The buildings will be fixed up and will be part of a riverside recreation and tourist area -- planned are residences, a marina, a major hotel and lots of shops.

After the military stopped using the arsenal buildings they housed patients of the Augusta's Insane Hospital, later known as the State Hospital. In recent years the arsenal building looked abandoned although I believe the state government used them for storage.

The location is on a beautiful part of the Kennebec River looking across to the State Capitol buildings. If this project goes as planned it will be a great benefit to the city, its visitors and residents. It will take unused land and make it a destination -- creating something from nothing.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Maine Trip, May 2007 -- Day 2, Part 1

Bangor Water Tower, 1906 postcard
On Friday morning, May 18, I woke up in Bangor, Maine. Something
I had not done in probably 45 years. It was cold and rainy. My room overlooked the airport terminal building. It was very grim in the gray light that morning. It looked like an Eastern European concrete block building from the Cold War period. Like a rural East German airport in a black and white movie of a John LeCarre novel.

After a really bad breakfast in the hotel coffee shop I checked out of my room and went across the street to the airport lobby to pick up my Hertz car.

I realized that despite the warm weather in Maine the week before, I was now facing more cold than I had planned for. So I stopped on the way at a Wal-Mart to get a sweatshirt and some jeans.

Bangor looked a little bit more prosperous than my last visit four years earlier. Probably from all that gambling money. Recently a slots-only casino has appeared downtown and there was more tax money pouring in than the locals ever expected.

Author Stephen King's Home, Bangor, MaineFans of Stephen King's books also bring money with them when they visit the area to see some of the real-life locations mentioned in his books. They may not bring in as much money as a shoe factory provided 50 years ago, but they are relatively non-polluting and don't burden the public schools. Mr. King himself is known to be a generous donor to good causes in the area. He probably provides as much, perhaps more, than a typical factory owner did in charitable giving. His house is quite the landmark, Gothic towers, spider-web gate and a high iron fence decorated with bats and gargoyles.

Bangor was a very well-off city through much of the 19th Century and into the 20th. But business and jobs moved away and it showed. A bad joke from years ago: at a party sombody said, "Bangor has seen better days." Sombody else said, "No, Bangor has seen better years." And then, "No, no, Bangor has seen better centuries." We all laughed, but it was true.

By the time I headed out of Bangor, south-bound on Interstate 95, the skies were brighter and the town looked very green with signs of spring all around. But the heaviest rains were between Bangor and Augusta and that's where I headed in my rental Toyota Matrix.