A Jim of All Trades

Posts Tagged ‘PA

The Reading Pagoda

with one comment


Last weekend my wife and I went to The Reading Pagoda, here is some information and a few pictures from our visit.

The Pagoda is located in Reading, Pennsylvania, which admittedly isn’t the first place one would expect to find a Pagoda.  It has a very interesting history and I’d encourage you to look around its website for details, but I’ll share a few bits about it here (all info taken/paraphrased from the website):

  • It was commissioned in 1906 and completed in 1908 with the original intention of being used as a luxury resort. It was never opened, changed hands, and eventually in 1911 was “sold” to the city of Reading for $1.
  • It sits on top of a mountain, is 7 stories high and stands over 600 feet above the city of Reading.
  • It is the only Pagoda in the world with a fireplace and chimney.
  • The bell on the 7th floor was cast in Japan in 1739.
  • Before the days of radio broadcasting, its lights flashed as signals to the people of Reading. Morse Code was used to direct fireman, promote fundraising campaigns and give the public results of sporting events. The Code was based on the lights – a white light was a dash, while a red light was a dot.
  • Every year at 9pm on Christmas Eve the Pagoda lights flash to let the children know that Santa is on his way.

Pretty neat, huh?

It was a hot and hazy day when we went, which made photographing a challenge for me. The location does provide some nice views though and there are a lot of neat things to see in and around the Pagoda. Driving to the Pagoda is pretty cool too. As you enter Reading you catch glimpses of it on the mountain side above overlooking the city. I unfortunately didn’t stop to get a picture. The road leading to it is pretty steep with some fun corners and sweeps. Twice per year it is actually shut down and a “hill climb” is held there – a timed race to the top done in cars. (Hopefully I’ll make it to one sometime!) Anyway, back to the Pagoda!






There was a system of stairs and some walking trails in an area that apparently used to be a rock garden, but it has not been maintained and is now closed to the public. There were a few accessible walking trails to elsewhere on the mountain though, and there were signs that people still venture into the “off limits area.”



Inside on the ground floor there is a gift shop and cafe. There were many neat things to see and a lot of little knickknacks for sale and reasonably priced beverages and snacks.





Admission is technically free but they do ask for a $1 donation to go to the top floor for adults, or fifty cents for children.


The bell at the top:


The top floor provides quite a view of the city of Reading and the surrounding area.



A compass below, in what I think used to be the rock garden:


There were also rooms on various floors inside the Pagoda. I believe one can be rented as a conference room, and there was a “museum” with various pieces of memorabilia from its history (where the gold bowl above was located).

All in all it was pretty neat and I’d definitely recommend checking it out if you’re in the area and have an afternoon to kill. I don’t think my wife and I spent more than 1.5 hours there, which included eating some ice cream in the cafe. There isn’t a lot to do there, really, it just depends on how much time you want to spend exploring the grounds and looking at the things inside the Pagoda. It’s cheap, too. Not counting the gas to drive there, I spent a grand total of $4 for donations to go to the top and ice cream sandwiches for the missus and I!

On the way home we passed a park with a number of monuments and statues and decided to stop quickly to look around. The park is called Penns Common and had a large area dedicated for memorials for veterans, and a number of other statues of figures who, I presume, hold significance to the area’s history. I didn’t do well shooting pictures at the park and sadly have few to share…





Written by Jim

July 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Antique Auto Museum in Hershey, PA

with 3 comments

This past weekend I went to the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) Museum in Hershey Pennsylvania. Hershey, the sweetest place on earth, is less than an hour drive from my house. The museum is just one of many attractions in the area, but in the 10 years the museum has been open, I had never been there before. With some family visiting from out of town, it seemed like a good thing to do for an afternoon.

There were a lot of interesting vehicles there, everything from cars to buses to motorcycles. The two current exhibitions of interest were “The British Invasion” (British motorcycles imported to the US from 1940 through the 70’s) and “Pop Culture and Cars” which featured cars and items from the 50’s through the 70’s. My dad organized this outing and it was no surprise why seeing these things on display; he loves muscle cars and old bikes, both of which he’s had a few of over the years.

I of course had my camera along and here are some of the pictures I took. I’ve added some captions where possible.

A note on the pictures (just skip ahead if not interested in camera stuff)… These were all taken with my Pentax K-r in Museum mode. There was no flash and the camera basically just kept the lens wide open. I left ISO automatic but limited it to a maximum of 1600. When using anything higher, the ISO noise just becomes too distracting in my opinion. I’m reasonably satisfied with these. The kit lens isn’t very sharp when shooting at large apertures and there’s still a bit of noise, so these aren’t as crisp as I’d like, but they aren’t bad overall. I need to work on focusing, too. In most of these the front of the car is in focus but it fades out into the background (another consequence of shooting wide open) and I think it would be better to have more details in focus. So, I have to work on that.

Anyway, on to the pictures:

The Hershey’s Kissmobile was on display at the entrance.





I don’t consider myself a huge street rod fan, but thought this car was gorgeous!



1962 El Tiburon Shark – neat story behind this


1969 AMC AMX:


1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans-AM:


1988 Porsche 959 coupe – fastest street legal production car in the world when it was first made.


1969 Dodge Super Bee:


I always thought these BSA’s were too cool…



This Triumph, the X75 Hurricane, was of particular interest to my dad. He owned one back in the 70’s (forget if he bought it new or used) and had told me quite about it, but I’d never seen one in person before. This one is a modified drag bike, but it is still really cool. It’s a three cylinder with the exhaust exiting to the right side. Dad said when getting deep in corners you could sometimes get the exhaust to drag on the ground a bit. One of the many things he wishes he still had today…



Triumph bobber. I think it would be awesome to build a bobber someday, they are much cooler than choppers, in my opinion.


Briggs & Straton Motor Wheel:


Finally, I didn’t take any pictures of buses, of which there were many, except for this one of an old bus line logo. Peter Pan looks a little scary, and almost like he’s sneaking up on something, doesn’t he?


Written by Jim

July 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm