BigWeather's Blog

February 18, 2013

Early Morning Fencing

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:59 pm

As Genetta had to check-in between 7a and 8a for her tournament we had to get up really early (like 5a early!), pack up, and get breakfast.  We ate at the hotel, Michelle and the kids had the buffet and I had two eggs (over medium), bacon, and an English muffin with some strawberry jam.

Though the morning was as cold as Sunday the wind had really died down.  It was almost pleasant, especially with all of the sunshine.  We walked the short block or so to the convention center with me taking a photo of an interesting cupola along the way.

Cool cupola, Baltimore

At the convention center Genetta checked in and started practicing with her coach as well as her friend (the coach’s daughter).  A bit after 8a (in our experience fencing tournaments never, ever start on time) the fencers started pool play.  The 173 fencers were split into groups of 7 (and a couple of 6) and each group member fenced the other group members to 5 touches.  Epee thankfully is a good deal easier to watch as many of the crazy rules that are involved with foil (“ah, you would’ve got a touch — but you weren’t on the attack”, etc.) are not in effect for epee.

Fencing epee during pool play

Genetta didn’t advance beyond pool play but she did have a ton of fun and got to fence against new opponents (our local fencing scene does not have a ton of female fencers).  Her teammate (the coach’s daughter) advanced not only through pool play but the DE round, round of 64, and made it to the round of 32 before being eliminated (coming in 27th overall).  She also got to rate up from a E to a D.  The ratings go from E to A, and U for unrated.  The eventual top 8 were all A rating — mostly from L.A. and the NYC area.

We decided to head out, pick up our bags and check out of the hotel, and hit the road.  We drove by Camden Yards and the Ravens’ stadium on the way out.  At 2p we stopped at Hard Times Cafe (yes, again, same one even!) for some lunch.  I even had the same exact thing (shocking, I know).  Genetta drove the entire NC leg of the journey.  We arrived home at 8p and settled in for the work week ahead.

February 17, 2013

Blustery Baltimore

Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 11:43 pm

Michelle and Genetta got off to a very early start and had breakfast and headed to the Baltimore Convention Center to register and see how Genetta’s team mates were doing with their bouts.  Addison and I slept in, with me switching to the more comfortable bed that the ladies abandoned earlier in the day — much to the happiness of my back.

Addison and I awoke after 10a but, as I didn’t feel well, we were not quick to leave.  Michelle and Genetta headed back to the hotel and grabbed her fencing bag and then went back to the convention center to get her equipment inspected and approved.  Once they returned I was feeling a little — but not much — better and we headed off to the Inner Harbor for some food and to see some sights.

Baltimore Convention Center, site of the US Junior Olympic fencing tryouts

Pratt Street Pub with really neat blue and gold styling

Wow at the cold.  As the temperature was in the low 30s I’d obviously felt colder.  It was the howling wind, amplified by the very tall buildings that made it downright brutal.  I even wore long pants!  We did take the time, however, to admire an organic mural (made of grass and other stuff) on the side of one of the buildings.

Organic mural on the side of the PNC building

I took some pictures of the USS Constellation docked at the pier.  What a gorgeous ship.  She was built in the 1850s and served for 100 years (including the Civil War) before sailing to Baltimore after being decommissioned.   There was a deal of confusion over whether the ship was the original USS Constellation built in 1797 (and the second of the US Navy’s first six frigates) until 1999 when it was proven that the original was broken up in the early 1850s and the one in Baltimore was built in its design from some of the original timber.

USS Constellation, built in the 1850s

We ate at M&S Grill right near the ship.  I had a turkey Cobb salad that was quite good.  Michelle had a shrimp cocktail with humongous shrimp, Genetta some chicken and linguine, and Addison a burger and fries.  While we were there a pretty nice snow shower came on shore.  Though it didn’t accumulate to speak of it was quite beautiful.

Hillside celebrating the Superbowl XLVII champions Baltimore Ravens

We next headed to the National Aquarium as it was only 2p and it doesn’t close until 5p.  Unfortunately, however, it turns out that they only admit on busy days at certain times and the time for us would be 4:15p.  As cool as I’m sure the place was, paying $30 a head for 45 minutes just wasn’t worth it.  We opted instead to take some pictures of the other sights of the Inner Harbor including the Power Plant, the light boat Chesapeake, the submarine USS Torsk, and a Coast Guard cutter.  Addison noticed that the water was starting to freeze (in the calmer areas only, of course).  There was also a Domino Sugars plant across the harbor that reminded me of the similar plant on the Mississippi that I photographed last year — I just had to take a photo.  World Trade Center has a building in Baltimore as well and in front was on display a girder from New York’s destroyed WTC buildings.

The National Aquarium, Chesapeake light boat, and USS Torsk

USS Torsk and the National Aquarium at Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Domino Sugars plant, Baltimore

"We come from the land of ice and snow!", paddle boats in the Inner Harbor

September 11th girder at the World Trade Center, Baltimore

Chesapeake light boat, Inner Harbor

Phillips restaurant and the Power Plant, Inner Harbor

On the way to the convention center we stopped at Panera Bread to get some bagels for Genetta to eat tomorrow if she got hungry while competing as well as some hot chocolate for Michelle and Addison.  The way back to the convention center was so very cold as we were facing the wind.  Once there we resolved not to leave for a bit and enjoyed watching some of the competition, including the men’s epee semifinals and finals as well as one of Genetta’s team mates in the women’s foil.

Check-in at the USA Fencing Junior Olympics tryouts

Some fencing

Fencing lunge, wish I had a higher speed camera!

Genetta stayed with her coach and team for a team dinner while the rest of us headed back to the hotel for a little bit of rest.  On the way out of the convention center we saw some model ships including one used in filming Ben-Hur.  Across from the hotel we were waiting to cross when an obviously drunk older man stumbled on to the curb in front of us.  We asked if he was OK and a policeman on patrol in his car saw the situation and came to assist him.  It wouldn’t have taken long in that cold for him to freeze.

Scale model ship (a trireme) used while filming "Ben Hur"

Baltimore downtown as seen from the convention center

Baltimore mass transit

Bromo Seltzer!

As none of us particularly wanted to head back out into the cold we decided to eat at the hotel’s restaurant.  It wasn’t bad, a little pricey, but honestly not too much so.  I had the Asian Chicken salad, Michelle a roast beef panini, and Addison some chicken fingers.

Afterwards we stopped by the hotel’s coffee shop and got strawberry smoothies and a magnet.  Once back in the room Addison watched “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”, Michelle read the last Wheel of Time book, and I blogged.  Genetta returned soon thereafter and apparently had a great time.

February 16, 2013


Filed under: Travel — Tags: — BigWeather @ 10:19 pm

Today we headed for Baltimore so that my daughter can compete for a spot on the USA Fencing Junior Olympic team.  We awoke early and got out by 9a, stopping by NYBD for some bagels and omelets.  It was in the upper 30s and a steady mist fell.  Genetta drove us almost to the Virginia border.  She may have driven us further but we weren’t sure if the learner’s permit allowed it.

In Virginia the rain turned to a nice light to moderate snow and about 35F.  Meanwhile I learned that at home it had been snowing for quite some time though with little more than a dusting to a bit more on grassy surfaces.  Still quite amazing, given that in the lead up to this trip my primary concern had been the potential for snow in Baltimore and not in North Carolina!

The rest of the way to Washington, D.C. was largely uneventful.  The precipitation let up a bit and with the evaporative cooling no longer a factor the temperature rose into the low 40s.  We took 95 / 495 around D.C. and stopped at a very special place (well, at least for me!) for lunch in College Park, Maryland about 2p.

Raleigh used to have this yummy chili place called Hard Times Cafe.  I loved it, always getting the Texas Chili with cheddar cheese and onions.  It was almost always my “birthday lunch” — the lunch choice I could make that nobody can veto.  Sadly (and perhaps ironically) the Great Recession closed the place and the only locations left were those around D.C. where I assume the chain was founded.

Hard Times Cafe, College Park, Maryland

I had.. you guessed it… the Texas Chili.  Michelle had the spicier Terlingua Red Chili and Genetta the Frito pie with Texas Chili.  Addison had ribs.  They all ate wings for an appetizer (I passed, don’t like dem bones!).  It was excellent, and as good as I remembered.  As we were eating the place started filling up with Maryland Terrapin fans, ACC traitors that they are!

Got back in the car and headed a short way down 95 to Baltimore.  It was neat to see the (XLVII Superbowl Champion) Ravens’ stadium (purple seats and all) as well as Camden Yards where the Orioles play.  Just a block or so away was our hotel, a Holiday Inn.

Looming over the hotel is a really cool looking tower.  It has a large clock with, starting at 12, the letters OMOREZTLESBR.  Genetta, Addison, and I were stumping over it while Michelle checked us in — turned out it was the Bromo Seltzer Tower, meant to be read from 10 to 2 then from 9 backwards to 3.

Baltimore's Bromo Seltzer Tower

We settled in our room in the adjacent building.  While spacious and on the top floor the fridge doesn’t seem to work and it only had a large bed and a sleeper sofa rather than two large beds.  We’ll make do, it’s not so bad.  After messing around with reading, surfing, watching some TV and unwinding we headed out to the east towards the Inner Harbor.

It was beginning to get quite cold, about mid 30s, and steam was rising out of the manhole covers to great effect.  Almost like we were in some Noir detective flick.  The walk to the Inner Harbor wasn’t too long.  There we found many restaurants, sadly many just ones we find in any other tourist area in America.  They even had a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!  Still, the area was pretty neat, what we could see of it since it was dark.  We saw a tall sails ship and the Chesapeake light boat as well as the really neat Aquarium (all closed due to the hour).

We just gave in and decided to eat at Hard Rock Cafe.  The wait was an hour to an hour and a half (not worth it, not for that fare) and we decided to just go to an adjacent sandwich shop called “Potbelly’s.”  I imagine it is a chain in these parts but it was new to us so we tried it out.  Decent sandwiches and I had an “ok” coffee milkshake — it was a bit light on the coffee sadly.  After eating we checked out their local Barnes & Noble (another darn chain) where the kids each bought a book.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Baltimore Convention Center, the location of the USA Fencing trials.  We saw the check-in area as well as the main halls where the bouts take place.  Exciting!

On return to our rooms we blogged and got ready for bed.  Tomorrow will be a cold one (high of 35F) but we’re hoping to see some more of the Inner Harbor and maybe the Aquarium and try out some local fare.

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