Monday, June 23, 2014

Apple #675: Gondolas

Continuing the discussion of my many travels this spring, at one point in my travels, I rode in a gondola.  No, I was not in Venice.  This was one of those gondolas that is an enclosed little box that hangs suspended from a cable and carries you up the side of a mountain.  No, I was not skiing, I was riding up over a hillside covered with redwood trees.  Pretty spectacular stuff.

The gondolas of the SkyTrail. As you ride in your gondola, you're suspended hundreds of feet above the ground as you're being carried up the hillside through the trees until you're at the top of the hill and the top of most of the redwoods.
(Photo by the Apple Lady, a.k.a me)

But the fact that I have to explain what kind of gondola it was leads me to think about gondolas.  How many kinds are there?  Why are so many different things called a gondola?

Maybe a better shot of the SkyTrail gondola and its high altitude situation.
(Photo from the Trees of Mystery)

  • The first kind of gondola is the one from Venice.  A flat-bottomed boat with prongs that stick up, one at the front (prow) and one at the back (stern). (see also Venetian gondolas)

The Venetian gondola -- the first kind of gondola.
(Photo from Local Venice Tours)

  • The Merriam-Webster dictionary says there are also gondolas -- flat-bottomed boats--that were used on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  But I can't find images of any such boats. 

Gondola on the Charles River in Boston. Note the Venice-wannabe-suit the guy is wearing, but with Boston in the background.
(Photo from Gondola di Venezia a.k.a.

  • Venice or Boston, it's still pretty much the same idea -- a flat-bottomed boat that takes you across a river.  But there are many other types of gondolas.
  • There's also the railroad type of gondola, which is a flat-bottomed car with fixed sides but no top.  This sort of railcar is primarily used to transport goods.  Like coal, for example.

This train is nothing but gondolas full of coal. 
(Photo by the Apple Lady. That's me.)

  • Both the boat and the railcar have one thing in common: flat bottoms. 
  • The flat-bottomed boat and the railcar gondolas are also very long & skinny.  Elongated, if you will. So another type of gondola is also elongated, but this one is up in the air.  Not riding on top of something, as the boats were on top of the water and the railcar was on top of the train tracks, but beneath something.  Beneath an airship. As in, the place where the people ride under a blimp or a zeppelin.

In this photo of the Goodyear blimp over Miami Beach, the gondola on its underside is clearly visible.
(Photo by Chris Hansen, sourced from the State Archives of Florida)

  • Then we have other types of gondolas, which are neither flat-bottomed nor elongated, but they are suspended from airships -- from hot air balloons, to be precise. 

You could call the person-holding thing that hangs below a hot air balloon the wicker basket.  Or you could call it a gondola.
(Photo from HotelChatter, describing the hot air balloon rides you can take from the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, CA)

  • Now that we've got things hanging down from airships, and those things don't necessarily have to be elongated, we might as well include the closed, spherical things that also hang down -- not from airships, but from cables.  And here we have arrived at the ski lift gondola.

Whooee, that gondola is way up high in the air.  This is at Crystal Mountain in Washington. 
This photo is copyrighted by Jeff Caven, and normally I would not post a copyrighted photo. But this is just too good not to show it to you, and I hope he will be kind and realize that this blog's purpose is educational only, and allow you to see it so you can admire his work.
(Photo by Jeff Caven at VisitRainier)

  • Along with ski lift gondolas, we have other types of gondolas that hang from cables such as the one I rode in, and now we are back where we started.
  • So we've followed the progression from flat-bottomed boats to flat-bottomed railcars, then to elongated things that hang from airships, to smaller circular things that hang from airships, to smaller circular things that hang from cables.  But these are all pretty disparate things, lumped together under that one word, gondola.  Which leads me to wonder, what the heck does that word "gondola" mean, anyway?  I mean, what is its etymology?
  • The word originates in Venice in the 1540s, so the Venetian boat is the original gondola.  The etymology people aren't not sure, but they think the word comes from the pre-Italian dialect (called Rhaeto-Romanic) word, also gondola, which means "to roll or rock."
  • Yes, that's right.  Gondolas are rock & roll, baby.  The original rock & roll.

Led Zeppelin. Oh, the word play and the actual rock & roll. My Apple Lady heart is about to burst.
(Photo from Glow Magazine)

  •  Ahem.  [Adjusts Apple Lady attire, regains composure.]
  • So. I don't know if you'd want to tell your mother before you coaxed her into the swaying ski lift that the word gondola actually means "rock & roll" and therefore it is that to its core.  But you could keep this little fact in mind as you grin to yourself while you slowly sway up over the vast abyss below and tell yourself, I am so rock and roll.

P.S. This is the message that the SkyTrail in all seriousness gives you at the end of the ride:

(Photo by the Apple Lady. That's me.)

For more information about Venetian gondolas in particular, see my entry on Venetian gondolas.

Merriam-Webster dictionary, gondola
Online Etymology dictionary, gondola

Monday, June 9, 2014

Apple #674: Blue Star Memorial Highways

I'm still getting caught up from all my travels last month.  When I was visiting out Northern California way, I drove through the famed Avenue of the Giants. You'll be hearing more about this in the future, I promise.  But for now, briefly, this is a two-lane scenic highway that winds between enormously tall and very old redwood trees.  Jaw-droppers these things are.

The road has all kinds of shoulder spots and turn-off areas where you can park and get out and let your jaw hang open while you stare around.  There are also little trails that you can walk in among the trees.  At the first place I stopped, I happened to see this:

In case you can't read the sign, it says Blue Star Memorial By-Way. A tribute to the Armed Forces of America, Southern Humboldt Garden Club, National Council of State Garden Clubs, Inc. 
(Photo by the Apple Lady)

This is in California, right?  Well, there's a place I've been going to in Michigan for years, ever since I was a little applet, where there is a Blue Star Highway.  Any time we would give people directions, we would say, "Get off the expressway and take a right on Blue Star."  Which is to say, this was the only Blue Star Highway I'd ever known, and I thought it was the only one.  But lo and behold, there's another Blue Star highway (OK, this is a by-way) in California.

What gives?  Are there lots of Blue Star highways?

Blue Star Memorial Highway marker in Anchorage, Alaska.
(Photo from the National Remember Our Troops Campaign)

  • Yes.
  • The Blue Star Memorial Highways were first established in New Jersey in 1944, as a way to honor the Armed Forces from New Jersey.
  • Specifically, the first Blue Star highway was established after the New Jersey State Council of Garden Clubs planted about 8,000 flowering dogwood trees along a 5-1/2 mile stretch of US 22 in New Jersey.
  • Along with the dogwoods, they erected a large metal memorial sign with the blue star on it.
  • They used the blue star from the armed services flag, because people who had family members in the service would put a blue star in their window.  If the service member died, they would change the blue star to yellow.  But the Garden Club wanted to commemorate those who were still living and serving, so they chose the blue star as their symbol.

This is "Sergeant Adam" taking down the Blue Star service banner that was hanging in the window at home while he was serving in Iraq.  Now that he's home, he gets to take it down.  (This flag indicates that the people who live here have a family member in military service.)
(Photo from Chief Bob Lusk)

  • The idea was that the tree-planted--"beautified"--highway would accomplish three things:
    • it would act as a living memorial to those still serving
    • it would show what can be accomplished through unified strength
    • it would also be "a protest against billboards" in that the commemoration would go well beyond simply placing a marker or a sign next to a road.
  • The National Garden Clubs thought this was such a good idea, they decided to take it on as a national program.  The concept was expanded to commemorate all veterans, those who are currently serving as well as those who have served in the past.

A Blue Star Memorial Highway sign from Illinois.  This one is in need of attention, as the star has faded and the sign's color has changed over time. But you can see that it states its purpose, that it was dedicated by the Garden Club of Illinois, and it's located in Jacksonville, Illinois.
(Photo from the National Remember Our Troops Campaign

  • Where the markers could be place has also been expanded to allow other types of locations besides just highways.  By-way markers are placed in parks or grounds with civic or historic significance, or also at cemeteries or other places of importance to veterans.   
  • Most locations that have been designated with the Blue Star are highways , but you might see the Blue Star at places such as the Agricultural Museum outside of Jerome, Idaho, or at the St. James Veterans Home in St. James, Missouri.
  • I tried to count how many Blue Star Highways and By-Ways and Memorial Markers there are in each state, but let's just say there are a lot.  Florida alone has 147 Blue Star locations.  
  • Georgia's list has 7 districts, each of which contain several locations.  California's list is too nighmarishly complicated to count.
  • Suffice to say, each state has several Blue Star Memorial locations.  Hawaii is the only exception with only one location -- the Wheeler Army Airfield, Schofield Barracks.  
  • One source says that there are currently over 70,000 miles of highway designated as Blue Star Memorial highways.

The By-Way sign (left) is a plaque that goes on a thing, like a big boulder.  The Highway sign (right) goes on a 7'-tall post next to a highway.
(Photo from the National Garden Clubs
  • If you or your local garden club would like to dedicate a new location as a Blue Star Memorial spot, you have to get the approval of your state garden club's chairperson, and then you can request a marker, for a fee:
    • Highway markers: $1,410 per plaque, includes shipping & 7' post
    • Byway markers: $470 per plaque
    • Replacement posts: $325
    • Refurbishment of an existing plaque, no new post provided: $800
    • If you live west of Louisiana-Arkansas-Iowa-Minnesota, it'll cost you an extra $50 in shipping.
  • Different states have different rules about who gets to say what gets the Blue Star.  In the case of California, for example, highways are designated as Blue Stars by the California legislature.  So you'll want to check with your state's Garden Club or its local district to be sure you follow your state's procedures. (Virginia's Garden Club also sells memorial markers, but their prices are different.)

This Blue Star Memorial Highway marker is blue.  It is located on US 77 in Oklahoma.
(Photo from the National Remember Our Troops Campaign)

Here's another example of a by-way marker.
(Photo from the National Remember Our Troops Campaign)

From a dedication ceremony in By City, Texas, 1985. Vandals broke the marker off its post in 2011. At last notice, local groups were working on repairing it.
(Photo from The Daily Tribune, sourced from TXGenWeb site for Matagorda County)

Here's a marker from Punta Gorda, Florida. (This one's for you, Jarred. Because it's in Florida.)
(Photo from RV-A-Gogo)

Well, I guess I should have done this entry around Memorial Day.  But I didn't know then all I know now. I'll just have to keep my eyes open in the future for other places where I might see the Blue Star signs. Because apparently they're all over the place.

US DOT, Highway History, Blue Star Memorial Highways
National Garden Clubs, Blue Star Memorial Program
National Remember Our Troops Campaign, History and Current Status of The Blue Star Memorial Highways
California Department of Transportation, Blue Star Memorial Highways
North Carolina Department of Transportation, Blue Star Memorial Locations