Friday, June 15, 2007
Driving through Dueling Banjo Country
Our hotel is located just off US-192 in Kissimmee, Florida, and to get there, I decided, like on my last trip, to take the back roads to get to our final destination. The plan consisted of taking US-441 north to Kenansville (north of the more well known Yeehaw Junction) where we would then turn left onto Canoe Creek Road until it runs into US-192, whereby we then take another left until we arrive at the hotel.
Another aspect of this trip is that I wanted to avoid any and all chain restaurants and eat only in local establishments—my own private Feasting on Asphalt if you will. And our first stop was in Okeechobee at a place called the Brahma Bull. A rustic place, it was practically dead when we arrived mid Friday afternoon. I didn't think much of it at the time, but that could be a bad sign.
Fortunately, it wasn't. Bunny and I had the special, Fish-n-Chips (using perch instead of the traditional cod) and it was quite good. The coleslaw was particularly good; enough so that Bunny asked for the recipe.
I must note that the men's room theme was rather disturbing—a bull chute—I guess the clientele can get a bit rowdy there.
We then continued northward along US-441, through Yeehaw Junction til we hit the major Kenansville metro area, which consisted of a livestock feed store, a human feed store and what I could only assume was a bar. It was rather difficult to miss Canoe Creek Road, it being the major, and only interesection in Kenansville.
The ride up Canoe Creek Road was nice, although I was surprised at the high amount of traffic we encountered along the road—about one car every other mile or so. I had expected to be the only vehicle along this road.
And contrary to the title of this entry, Bunny and I encounted not one single banjo player, much less two dueling banjo players, much to our relief.
Geeking out at the end of a long day of travel
Bunny and I arrived at the hotel around 6:00 pm. I was planning on calling Bob, our D&D DM to see where he was, but while Bunny was checking us in, I followed the various signs for SleuthCon and found Bob already set up for our weekly D&D game in one of the conference rooms. He'd even gone so far as to set up a projection screen so that some of the early arrivals for SleuthCon could watch our D&D for the evening.
So I checked in with Bob, and Bunny checked in with the Front Desk. We then found our room, unloaded the car, and then headed back to the conference room to partake of some D&D action.
The only exception to my “non-chain restaurant” rule was tonight, as Bob ordered multiple pies from Pizza Hut. This was the only chain-restaurant food Bunny and I ate during the trip.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
In the Land of the Crystal Wavers
We made it to Cassadaga, although we didn't travel the backroads but instead took I-4 East.
I had planned on arriving before 3:00 pm so we could take a historic tour of Cassadaga, but by the time we got going, it was a bit after 2:00 pm, so speed considerations took over asthetic considerations and thus, the trip up I-4. Cassadaga proved to be a bit futher than I expected, about 60 miles away.
We didn't arrive in time for the 3:00 pm historic tour (but more on that in a bit).
But we were in Cassadaga, a place so thick with mediums you can't wave a crystal without hitting one (as I joked to Bunny).
When we enquired about the tour we just missed, we were informed that the Nighttime Orb Photography Tour (which we planned on taking) included the historic tour normally given at 1:00 and 3:00 pm, only at night, and with the opporunity to take pictures of ectoplasmic orbs (or, whatever they are, and I'll be getting to those in a bit). Fortunately, we didn't really miss anything.
Photographing the unseen
Cassadaga is a small town and everything to really see is on the main street. We poked around the few shops there, and while gawking a large display of polished rocks in small side room of the Purple Rose, a medium came in carrying a Polaroid camera and leading a gentleman to a chair in one corner of the room.
He was having his aura photographed.
The man was a bit skeptical of the whole thing and asked how the camera could take a picture of his aura. The medium answered that the it was a specially modifed Polaroid with a computer (mounted on the bottom of the camera) that could detect the aura and modify the picture to reveal it visually. The gentleman then asked how the computer worked, and the medium professed no knowledge of things related to computers. “I can barely turn them on,” she said.
Okay, so now I have to get a photograph of my aura.
Bunny and I wait around for several minutes until the medium is finished with the previous customer. His first photo was deemed unacceptable by the medium, having entirely too much red, which was “residual auric energy from the previous customer.” She then handed the gentleman a large crystal to hold in taking the second photograph, which turned out “better” as far as the medium was concerned. She then spent several minutes interpreting his aura and handing him a small stone from the rack nearby to help him to boost one of his chakra points.
Once she was free I then asked if I can get my aura photographed while taping the procedure (I had borrowed a video camera from Smirk and had it with me in the store). The medium was a bit reluctant. “My mother, who owns the store,” she said, “generally doesn't allow filming.” Okay. Not terribly surprising really. “But let me ask,” she said, wandering off to another part of the store. A few moments later the medium returns and says that it's okay for me to film the procedure.
I'm guessing that $25 is $25 more than they would have had had they said no.
So I set up the video camera in the small room, angled such that I'm the only one in the shot—I was less concerned about getting her picture than I was her answers to my questions recorded. I asked where she got the “computer” attached to the Polaroid camera, and she said it came as a complete unit from a dealer (like this camera for about $3,000.00).
You don't say?
How curiously expensive.
Just prior to the medium snapping my picture, a pure tone filled the store. “Hear that sound?” said the medium.
“That's the Crystal Bowl,” she said. “It's a pure Middle-C tone, filled with red. I hope it doesn't affect your aura.” She sat me down in front of a black cloth, had me hold a quartz crystal I was buying (I happen to like crystals as crystals, and had picked up a nice sized piece of quartz. The medium said the crystal “picked” me, and said I should hold it during the photograph). “Oh dear,” she said as she took the picture. Apparently the pure Middle-C tone of the Crystal Bowl had affected the picture. “I ran out of film,” she said, and scurried off to get some more.
A couple of minutes go by, she returns. We set up again, and my aura is photographed. Apparently the redness of the Middle-C from the Crystal Bowl had waned, because my “aura” had very strong yellow tones (“spontaneous, open, optimistic, friendly, intelligent, healthy”) with white colors over my face (“imagination, insight, higher consciousness”). In fact, of the eight colors of the “chakra,” I was missing blue (“intuitive, peaceful, loyal, calm, tender, good listener”) and I had a very minimal amount of red (“passion, vitality, creativity, energy”). She then rooted around the bins of rocks and handed me a blue stone and a red stone to help make up for the lack of blue and red in my aura.
It's amusing though. I'm looking through the meanings of the various chakra colors and I'm seeing only positive traits like “creative,” “compassionate,” “psychic,” and “charming”—stuff that most people would say could apply to them, or would like to think applies to them. What I don't see are any negative aspects, like “jealousy,” “greediness,” “pettiness,” or “gullible.”
I'm just saying.
These entries are taking long enough to create due to the heavy photography, so screw the commentary on this one and let's just see some pretty pictures of the area around Cassadaga, okay? Okay!
Bill & Frank's Brickhouse Grill—really good food
Little fluffy orbs
Bunny and I arrived back in Cassadaga well in time for the 8:00 pm Historic and Nighttime Orb Photography tour. We walked up to the bookstore and found a few people sitting around waiting. It turned out that one of them, an older gentleman who looked and sounded like Donald “Screetchboy” Sutherland was actually the Reverend Ben Cox, our tour guide for the evening.
He was a wonderful speaker and story teller. He lead us around Cassadaga, telling us the history of the place, along with the various spirits that supposedly live in the various buildings.
He then took us to the main Spiritualist Temple in town and explained how not only the church service works, but how séances are conducted in the small red-lit room at the back of the temple.
Now, about those orbs …
After the tour, he lead us to a small clearing behind the temple and told us that this area was rich with orbs and that we should have no problems with catching one or two, but for the best results, we should use flash photography.
I took a bunch of photos with and without flash.
Here's a pair (the first is the actual photograph, the second photo has been processed with histogram equalization to pull out more detail) taken without the use of flash:
and here's a pair with flash (the “orb” is along the ground just below the tree):
I took twenty photographs, some without flash, most with, and in every one with flash, there were orbs (in most cases, they were only visible when the image was equalized). In this pair, I present the picture with the most visible orb, along with the equalized version, showing even more orbs floating around:
What's going on here are light reflections, either from pollen, dust, bugs or even reflections in the lens from the flash. I seriously doubt they're really any form of “ectoplasm” (which Rev. Ben explained is similar to salt water).
Overall, Bunny and I felt the tour was worth the price. It was entertaining and informative, and everybody enjoyed themselves. It was interesting to see a real séance room and learn how séances “work.” The Reverend Ben is an excellent speaker and story teller.
And overall, Cassadaga was an interesting place to visit. Quite peaceful, and laid back. It might even make a nice place to take a vacation, if one can keep from tripping over all the crystals.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The long way home
Not much to report on today. And few pictures.
Our plan for today was to take SR-50 east towards Titusville, pass the world's largest built alligator, hit the Kennedy Space Center, then head south back home.
We left the hotel around 12:45 pm, taking US-192 to I-4 for the few miles north to SR-50. What we did not know was that SR-50 just east of I-4 is Little Saigon. For what seemed like a mile we passed block after block of Asian and Vietnamese stores.
Little Saigon in Orlando? In El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula, yes, I would expect a Little Saigon. But Orlando?
Eventually, after taking a wrong turn onto SR-520 and having to execute a U-turn back to SR-50, we found it.
The largest gator ever built, all 200′ of it. And for an attraction that's still active, I would have expected to see more advertising for it somewhere along SR-50 (along the Turnpike, you can't drive 200′ without seeing a billboard for Walt Disney World—or at least, discount tickets for Walt Disney World).
By the time we hit Titusville, Bunny and I were famished from lack of food. We turned south along US-1 (also known as Federal Highway, or Dixie Highway, depending upon where you are) and started our hunt for a suitable eating establishment. After about five miles of nothing, Bunny put down an ultimatum: “The next restaurant we see, we eat.”
The next restaurant we found was a small Chinese take-out place. “Well,” said Bunny, “that rule wasn't cast in stone.” We drove on, and eventually found a place to eat.
The Dogs ‘R’ Us Grill. A rarity these days—a local fast food restaurant. Couldn't pass this one up.
And again, it was good.
Either that, or the spice of hunger made it taste all the much better.
But so far on this trip, all the local establishments we ate at were very good and a nice break from all the mediocre conformity you normally get at a national chain restaurants.
By the time we finished eating, it was nearly 4:00 pm, and we decided that it was just simply too late to visit the Kennedy Space Center. So we turned south along US-1.
By the time we hit the corner of US-1 and SR-60, we'd both had enough of the backstreet approach to driving, so we turned west along SR-60, and hit I-95 south back home.
All told, it took us maybe six hours from the time we left the hotel to arrive back at Bunny's house. Whereupon I was exhausted and took a two hour nap.
And thus ended our weekend mini-vacation.