Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Face the Music at Martin Guitar Factory Tour

I love factory tours. It is interesting seeing things go from nothing to something, and the factory tour at C.F. Martin & Co. Guitars didn't disappoint. What I didn't realize was what a rich history the company has and how much of the process still is hand done.

At this station, the wood is "candled" to determine whether the wood is perfect enough to become a guitar.

The Martin Guitar Company has been continuously producing acoustic instruments that are acknowledged to be the finest in the world: mostly guitars, but also mandolins and ukuleles, and more recently, banjos.

A Martin guitar signed by Johnny Cash, among others, is in the C.F. Martin Museum collection.

Contemporary musicians such as  James Valentine of Grammy Award-winning group Maroon 5 and Sturgill Simpson also strum Martin guitars, joining their world-famous predecessors, icons of rock, pop, country, folk and bluegrass such as Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash.

The back and front bracing can make or break the quality of sound in a guitar.

During the tour you will learn about the company's history and culture, as well as learn how Martin guitars are created. You will experience first-hand the rich history of the oldest guitar manufacturing company in America.

Wooden "ribbons" are added to the sides to provide a surface to attach the guitar front and back.

The Martin Guitar Company has, through the years, managed to survive with each succeeding generation from C. F. Martin, Sr.’s Stauffer influenced creations of the 1830s to recent developments introduced by C. F. Martin IV. Continuous operation under family management reflects six generations of dedication to the guitarmaker’s craft.

The Martin Guitar Company has evolved from a one-man operation in 1833 into a thriving entity employing more than 500 employees today. 

At almost every stage of construction, the guitar is put together by hand.

Originally located in the Martin family homestead, Martin guitar construction operations had expanded to the point by the 1850s where a separate factory building was needed. In 1859, the company built a factory on the corner of Main and North Streets in Nazareth PA. Having undergone numerous expansions, the North Street plant is still used today as a warehouse and shipping location for strings and accessories.

The company weathered the market fluctuations through WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII by creatively marketing its product and introducing new products, such as ukuleles.  

After WWII, demand for Martin guitars increased at a far greater pace than did production capacity, and thus by the early 1960s the company's guitars were back-ordered as much as three years. The new factory opened in 1964 at its present location on Sycamore Street. Despite its multi-story building and numerous additions, the North Street factory building was no longer adequate to service the demand for the company’s guitars and ukuleles. 

Production methods at the new Sycamore Street Martin plant have evolved slightly from production at North Street. Hand craftsmanship was and remains the trademark of the Martin guitar. However, with the building’s efficient one-story layout, Martin has been able to improve the flow of materials and introduce some automation, such as in the drying, buffing and polishing stages, and thus gradually increase production.

The guitar's neck is expertly shaped.

The tour takes you right out onto the factory floor, where you'll see the entire process of creating a guitar unfold, from design to cut out to assembly to the final touches, including flourishes and bling such as mother of pearl inlay. There's more to these instruments than I realized! The tour also takes you to the several places in the process where robots sand, buff, and polish the instruments.

Mother of pearl inlay adds lovely bling to a guitar, but doesn't impact the sound.

You'll leave the tour impressed by the amount of hand finishing and craftsmanship involved in creating a Martin guitar. You don't have to be a guitarist to enjoy this tour -- it's simply fascinating!

Each guitar is carefully inspected for flaws before being moved on to the final stages of production.

Getting there: 510 Sycamore Street, Nazareth, PA 18064. Be sure to use this address as the one that pops up in GPS for C.F. Martin & Co. will probably take you to the distribution center rather than the museum and factory tour location.

Yet another quality inspection.

Hours: Public tours are conducted at regular intervals between 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Frequency varies by season based on demand. The Martin Guitar Museum and Visitors Center is open Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

These guitars are drying, and awaiting the next stage of construction.

Website: https://www.martinguitar.com/about/visit-us/

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Made possible by Discover Lehigh Valley.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

PVSP: Marriottsville Road to McKeldin Rapids Hike

This hike takes you along the Patapsco River, up some slight elevation gains (nothing strenuous) that offer pretty views of the river below, and then along the river to see the falls and the rapids that come just after the falls. You won't encounter much solitude -- lots of other hikers and quite a few groups of horse riders also use the trail. This would not be a trail to take a dog on that is scared of horses. But it is a pleasant walk in the woods, along a scenic river, and well worth an afternoon or morning!

Experimenting with my camera's panoramic setting creates an interesting view of the straight river.

Park along Marriottsville Road, either immediately by the railroad tracks (where there's a lot more parking spaces) or a little away, on the northern/western side of the road, near where the road creatively named "Marriottsville Road 2" and Ridge Road intersect with the main Marriottsville Road.

Cross carefully -- traffic does come fast. Follow the trail into the park. It's not marked well with blazes, but you'll soon notice some white blazes and/or blank trail markers (rusty, without any blazes).

Follow it slightly up a hill and toward the river, which, in case you're curious, is the South Branch Patapsco River. You'll descend again (both elevation changes are really minor) and the trail will parallel the river, which flows gently here, for approximately three-quarters of a mile. You'll notice some trails splitting off to the left, but keep following the main trail as it grows narrower and starts to curl around a slight hill that offers you lovely glimpses of the river below.

The trail emerges at the top of the hill by restrooms and a paved road. Listen and you'll hear the falls. Turn right on the road and follow it to the parking area where it dead ends. From there you'll pick up the path descending to the falls below.

Enjoy the kids, and most likely the dogs, playing on the sandy beach in the water (but no swimming). This is an ideal place to take a selfie with the river or falls in the background.

For this hike, I followed the orange (either white or no blazes on the
trail itself) to the yellow/orange- blazed McKeldin Rapids Trail. 

When you're ready, you'll notice the trail headed off along the river. Follow it as it twists around the river bend, carefully picking your way through the downed trees and rocks. You'll notice quite a bit of erosion has nipped away from the trail and sometimes it feels precarious.

Once around the bend, continue following the trail until you come to rock face. Pick your way carefully over -- you're walking at an angle and if you have slippery-soled shoes, you might be in for a dip. You have a few choices: you can pick your way carefully along, almost at water level, or you can climb up and pick up a dirt trail, or you can backtrack a bit and find the dirt trail shooting off from the left.

Once over the bare rock face, you're back on a more or less flat trail, following the South Branch until it meets up with the North Branch Patapsco River and join together to head further downstream. That's where I ended my hike -- approximately 2 miles, give or take -- and turned around to head back.

Of course the falls and rapids were the stars of the hike. But I encountered several groups of horse riders, and thoroughly enjoyed watching them (you also must watch the trail itself, as the horses leave manure along the trail as well).

But it was a good thing I was looking down, as I noticed the first wildflowers of spring: beautiful wild violets, more delicate purple star flowers, and then a very bold white flower that was on the slope leading down to the falls. Simply lovely.

Getting there: The intersection of Marriottsville Road Number 2 and Marriottsville Road, Marriottsville, MD.

Hours: Dawn to dusk.

Website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/PatapscoValley/McKeldin/McKeldin-Area.aspx

For other hikes in the Patapsco Valley State Park, check out the following articles:

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop

Hugh Mercer Apothecary was a pharmacy founded by Hugh Mercer in the mid-18th century.

Mercer is an interesting figure in his own right. He initially served with the Jacobite forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie; he fled Scotland after the Battle of Culloden.

He initially settled in Pennsylvania, and served with the British forces during the Seven Years' War, where he met and became a close friend to George Washington, who likewise was part of the British forces. A physician by training, he followed Washington's advice to move to Fredericksburg to practice medicine and operate an apothecary.

The museum tour discusses what passed for medical treatment in the 1700s, reviewing what different plants and herbs and chemicals did, how effective some of the treatments actually were.

Dr. Mercer served the citizens of Fredericksburg with medicines and treatments of the time. Leeches, lancets, snakeroot, and crab claws made up just some of the remedies. Dr. Mercer practiced medicine for 15 years in Fredericksburg. His patients included Mary Washington and other members of the Washington clan, as well as other local notables.

The primary medical theory of the first half of the eighteenth century was the body was composed of fluids and fibers. Bones, muscles, and blood vessels were made of fibers that could become either too stiff or too relaxed and thus cause disease. It was also thought that some medical problems were caused by a failure of body fluids to move properly.

In the eighteenth century, the main reason for bloodletting was to relieve inflammation: redness, swelling, pain, and heat.

Dr. Mercer left his practice to join the Revolutionary army and died as a Brigadier General at the Battle of Princeton. Mercer died as a result of his wounds received at the Battle of Princeton and became a fallen hero as well as a rallying symbol of the American Revolution.

The star of the tour is the leech that the tour guide pulled out of the apothecary jar in Mercer's doctors office -- he was pharmacist, physician, and dentist, all in one. The discussion of the dentists' tools and how they were used elicited heartfelt groans from the others on the tour: fear of dentists stretches back in history and is nearly universal.

Getting there: 1020 Caroline St, Fredericksburg, VA 22401

Hours: March - October Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday noon - 4 p.m.; November - February Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday noon - 4 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 24-25, 31 and January 1

Website: https://www.washingtonheritagemuseums.org/

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Beginning in March, I started a series of posts about Fredericksburg, VA. To see others in this series, click on the label "Fredericksburg" below this post.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Daniels Old Main Line and Ruins Loop Trail

Patapsco Valley State Park is a park strung out like beads on a necklace, extending along 32 miles of the Patapsco River south and west of the city of Baltimore.

The Maryland Forestry Act of 1906's provisions formed the park, to protect newly completed (and now destroyed) Bloede Dam from silting from nearby farm erosion. Patapsco Valley State Park was established first as Patapsco State Forest Reserve in 1907 to protect the valley's forest and water resources. Patapsco Forest Reserve was soon expanded, as a park, to support suburban development initiatives. As other sections along the river were added, Patapsco Valley State Park became one of the largest parks in Maryland.

Looking toward the Daniels dam; Newt is practicing his "place" and ability to hold a sit.

Usually I go hiking along old Alberton Road to the abandoned town of Daniels but this time, I decided to check out Daniels Road, which leads to the entrance to the park on the opposite side of the Patapsco River. I found a wonderful new area to explore and a trail that follows a scenic, flat, old railroad bed, offering nice views of the river and rock outcroppings, as well as a bit of mystery.

I believe the trail, which looks like an old road bed, was about 5 miles. I ended up following the Old Main Line from the parking lot along the river, continuing along the former railroad bed when another trail veered right to run right along the river.

Eventually, the Ruins Trail Loop splits from the Old Main Line Trail, and veers left, heading up the hill. To the right, there were low stone fences, or perhaps these were ruins of house foundations. I am fascinated by the ruins of Daniels, especially those of homes (or which I imagine to be homes).

By 1960, the Daniels Mill was at its maximum capacity, and 90 families lived in the immediate vicinity. A few short years later, by 1968, it announced its closure and started demolishing buildings. The mill company's decision to abandon the town likely saved lives, since just four years later, the remnants of Hurricane Agnes, by then "just" a tropical storm, flooded the valley, sweeping away vehicles and bridges, and destroyed many of the remaining buildings.

A photo of former Daniels duplexes, from an historical marker near the Methodist church.

The housing areas in the valley had interesting names, such as Guilford, Calf Hollow, Lower Brick Row, and Upper Brick Row. Before Hurricane Agnes hit the area, a road bridge crossed the river, connecting the Baltimore County and Howard County sides of Daniels. 

Behind the stone walls, I noticed what seemed to be an old dump, perhaps where a family had tossed and forgotten its refuse. Among the scattered items: an old rusty crock, what looked like a bed frame, or a chair frame? A white pan. An old bicycle.

I found everything but the kitchen sink... wait, what?

Newt checks out an old crock pot.

The items looked old, like what had once graced my grandmother's attic. Did their owners dump them illegally? That seemed unlikely -- the items were too old fashioned. Where they left behind when the old mill town shut down, after the mills closed, or abandoned after Hurricane Agnes in 1972? I wish I knew more about the mysteries of this abandoned town.

After the trail dwindles to a typical hiking trail path, it soon forks, giving  you three options. Another hiker explained that if you go left sharply, up the hill, you'll get some lovely views of the river and valley below, plus see some ruins, eventually returning to the parking area in a nice loop.

If you go straight, you have a less strenuous climb up to the ridge, but you'll likewise loop back to the parking area. If you head right, you'll pick up the trail that paralleled the Old Main Line right along the river. I saved that for another day, deciding that the sharp strenuous turn left was exactly what I wanted -- I wanted to see those ruins!

The trail on the left brings you straight up the side of the mountain to the ridge, then turns again left, along the ridge. It was on this stretch, right before the trail turned right to head down the opposite side, that I found a single daffodil.

When the trail turns right to head down the ridge, you can choose instead to go straight, continuing along the ridge, with the reward of some lovely views and rock outcroppings.

If you follow the yellow-blazed trail to the right, down from the ridge, you enter a little hollow, which takes you to a creek, when you then follow back to Daniels Road and the parking lot.

Along the way you see the detrius of abandoned lives and livelihoods. Huge squared off logs lay in heaps, slowly rotting through the years.

The ruins of two buildings -- homes?

And the burbling creek itself.

Know before you go: There is parking for about eight cars. After that fills up, you park illegally (not recommended). For such a beautiful area, it is disappointing there's not more space for parking legally.

Getting there: Patapsco Valley State Park - Daniels Area, 2090 Daniels RdEllicott City, MD 21043

Hours: Dawn until dusk. Go early.

Website: https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/PatapscoValley/Daniels/Daniels.aspx

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