Saturday, July 17, 2010

Remembering TWA Flight 800

In the darkening skies of July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 departed New York's Kennedy Airport en route to Paris. As the Boeing 747 climbed over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island, the jet was torn apart by an explosion. All 230 passengers and crew members aboard were lost. Tonight, fourteen years later, families and friends gathered again in Smith Point Park, at the memorial to the crash victims, to remember their loved ones.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Fire Underground

Centralia, a small town about an hour southwest of Wilkes-Barre, PA, was founded in 1866, and was a thriving coal-country community, reaching a population of over 2,500 people by the mid-1960s. Today, fewer than a dozen remain. In 1962, while burning trash in the town landfill, an underground coal seam was ignited. Although the fire was thought to be extinguished, it remained burning underground, spreading through the mines which crisscrossed below the town. Over the years, a number of unsuccessful attempts were made to extinguish the fire. Finally, in the early 1980s, when a number of sink holes and subsidences opened up, the true extent of the situation was discovered. Ultimately, the federal government purchased the land, and paid to relocate the residents. A handful of residents have remained in the town. Most of the buildings have been torn down, leaving an almost empty grid of streets and sidewalks.

I've made two visits to Centralia in the past year and a half. On my first visit, on January 1, 2009, rising smoke could clearly be seen in several areas, and patches of ground clear of snow told of the higher temperatures below.

I made another trip to Centralia this past Sunday to further explore the area. I ran into a film crew from The History Channel shooting footage for an upcoming program.

Route 61 was a four-lane highway heading south out of Centralia. After the roadway repeatedly cracked and buckled from the fire, approximately three quarters of a mile of the highway was closed, and a new two-lane road constructed to the east of the original road. Heading south on the closed section of highway, the road appears to be in serviceable, if unmaintained, condition. Grass and weeds have sprung up along the sides and in the center median, but the pavement is still intact.

About one half mile south of the northern end, you come across the first real signs of the damage caused by the fire. This fissure, some thirty feet long, one to two feet deep, and two to three feet wide, is evidence of the fire in the mountain below.

Continue another hundred yards south, and you see more damage - this section of roadway has buckled.

And everywhere on the roadway, you see graffiti - some of it profound, much of it profane.

Local riders use the section as part of their off-road trails around Centralia.

At the south end of the closed section, looking southward toward the open section of Route 61.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mopar Heaven

The fairgrounds in Carlisle, Pennsylvania are home to a number of car shows annually, most grouped around specific brands or types - there is a show for GM products, Fords, Corvettes, Trucks, you name it, they have a show for it.

My favorite show, though, and one I've been to for most of the past 14 years, is the All Chrysler Nationals. The mechanics of the show are simple - invite a number of specific cars that fit into a theme - this year it was "Barn Finds" - rent space to manufacturers and other vendors, then throw open the fairgrounds to anyone with a Chrysler product who wants to park their car or truck on the acres of this "Fun Field".

Along with seeing all those great Mopars, the show also offers the opportunity for various car clubs to meet at the fairgrounds. I have been a member of the Mopar Mailing List for close to fifteen years, and have joined them at the annual Carlisle BBQ for most of those years. It's a great way to see some terrific cars, get together with friends from around the country, and eat some amazing food!

Two of our MML family found this 1953 Dodge pick up on E-Bay - it's one of only thirteen of it's type known to exist.

Another MMLer's car, a 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner.

One of our youngest members meets Elvis.

Patiently waiting for dinner to be served.

The gang's all here!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Let's Go Mets!

Fireworks Night at Shea Stadium was an old tradition, and I had attended a number of them, tailgating with a group of friends. With the construction of Citi Field, the fireworks came to an end. After a three year break, the Mets introduced "Pyrotechnics Night" for 2010. Not sure what to expect, our group made plans to tailgate pre-game, then see what the night brought.

Making last minute preparations before the game.

After a particularly egregious call, Met manager Jerry Manuel argues, to no avail.

After the game (the Mets never came back after that blown call...) it was show time.

In the end, it turned out to be a very nice show, better than we were expecting, and a fun evening with friends.