Tuesday, December 28, 2010
When Steve heard that I'd never made the pilgrimage to Charlottesville, VA, he wanted to take me. He went on and on about how cool Monticello was and that even as a young boy, he was fascinated. In 16 years of marriage, we'd never gone though. Other vacation meccas had always lured us away with their siren songs. Our cross country adventure trip changed all that. We would make Monticello our last stop before our abrupt bump back into work from vacation.
Since they were the last nights we'd spend "on the road", I wanted to stay at a posh hotel. Steve let me choose the Omni hotel, downtown near the pedestrian mall. Posh it was! We availed ourselves of the pool and the hot tub. We walked down the pedestrian mall trying to decide which of the myriad delights we'd eat for dinner. We chose a Mediterranean restaurant, Bashir's Tavern. Yummy! Next morning, we got up early (for us) and headed to Monticello.
Lunch was our first order of business after picking up our tickets. We tried the snack bar at the Visitor's Center. Not bad. As we were eating, we recognized a couple of our fellow visitors, the Stewart's and the Palmer's from our church. We enjoyed visiting with them, and they helped ease the transition from vacationing with strangers (mostly) to arriving back home to friends.
We had some time to poke around the Visitor's Center before our tour time at the house. We watched the introductory film, Thomas Jefferson's World, as an orientation. We were fascinated by the exhibit, Thomas Jefferson and the Boisterous Sea of Liberty. It consisted of a wall of flat LCD screens and interactive stations. It explored Thomas Jefferson's ideas about liberty and their continuing influence today. Basically an era of Jefferson's life was highlighted on the screens which would generate streams of words. On one of the touch screens one only had to touch one of the words to open a text box explaining the importance of that word and defining it. After an allotted amount of time, the era would change, and a new batch of words would flow. We spent at least 3o to 45 minutes in this room alone. We wandered through the architecture exhibit and the exhibit highlighting Jefferson's experiments. At the appointed time, we boarded the bus that took us up to the house proper.
We were escorted through the rooms of Monticello, walking through the doors that opened together using a pulley system, looking at the day and time clock that was so tall a hole had to be cut into the floor to accommodate it, marveling at the beds that were standard bed size but seemed so much smaller due to being built into alcoves designed to conserve heat and space, allowing the rooms to be used for more than sleeping. Jefferson used mirrors to bring light into rooms, had a dumb waiter to bring food up from the cellar kitchens and used pocket doors to save space. I was thoroughly captivated!
After the house tour, we could explore the gardens and outbuildings on our own. We saw the kitchens, the servants (slave) quarters, bathrooms, wine cellars, and took an extremely interesting tour of the gardens. Our guide explained the various plant species that were cultivated from seeds that Thomas Jefferson had hybridized. She told us about Jefferson's experiments in plant growth and how his daughter had to make sure that at least part of the garden was planted with actual usable food. Jefferson was all about the experiments and observations. He wasn't concerned with such trivial matters as eating. Our guide also explained that the Jefferson foundation was trying to buy back more of the original land including the small mountain that Jefferson had intended to plant with grape vines. Why was his land sold off? Jefferson actually died bankrupt.
Jefferson's money troubles were more than just him caring about experiments more than practical matters. They were actually caused because he was a two term president, devoted to his country. In his time, the president was required to pay for all White House Staff salaries and supplies to run the household or have state dinners from what he received as his salary. Needless to say, he didn't make nearly enough to cover expenses. He took what needed from his own Monticello. His incurred debts should have been covered by what land and holdings that he had. Unfortunately for him and really because of him, as president, Jefferson had made the Louisiana Purchase. Suddenly, the United States had all sorts of land instead of being locked into the relatively narrow strip of the east coast. Jefferson's own land value plunged. He effectively bankrupted himself by expanding this country. Amazing devotion!
We left Monticello with our heads and hearts stuffed with facts and impressions of this great man and his home. Our own home was our next stop.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Dinner that first night was a banquet at the Aquarium. Since evenings could still run to the chilly side, I knitted myself a rectangular shawl. I went to All About Yarn and asked them what pattern and yarn I could use to make a quick shawl. They suggested this lovely. thin yarn in black with a silver thread running through it. I knit it on big needles. I was almost finished with it. A morning's concerted effort of knitting in the room completed the project in the nick of time. With the black Barbie shoes I bought, I matched Steve's elegance in his long-sleeved shirt, dress slacks, jacket and tie. We started out near the sting ray tank with a cocktail party and then were escorted into the first floor of the aquarium. The food was pretty good, and all the contract people at the table were anticipating the speaker. Unfortunately, the acoustics in the room did not lend themselves to public speaking, and his words were distorted and unintelligible by the time they reached us in the back. We cut out to the awaiting buses while the party leaders were patting themselves on the back for a good year.
It wasn't all me by myself exploring though. Steve and I walked around together in the evenings and shared dinner with a couple of MD NCMA'ers at Gladstones a local seafood restaurant with a beautiful waterfront view. Before heading to Anaheim, we also ate with his co-workers from APL at Famous Dave's. Typical food but good fun seeing what everyone else was doing with the rest of their week's vacation.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
The California landscape is so different from what we have back East. Snow-capped mountains or just really huge weird shaped hills. Desert! Cliffs dropping straight into the ocean. Gargantuan, three-bladed windmills. Palm trees. We loved the drive, alone with our thoughts since the wind from the topless convertible blew our words out of our mouths. At one point, we needed gas. I suggested Palm Springs. I'd grown up hearing about Bing Crosby and Walt Disney and Rock Hudson and all the rest of that era's movie stars heading to Palm Springs to do whatever it is movie stars do on vacation. Steve agreed to this detour. We stopped at the Visitor's Center, got some brochures, cruised the town, fed the car and fed us (at the In and Out Burger--fast food is also different in CA). After that, a couple more stretches of desolate road and a couple more hills, and we were there. We checked out the Visitor's Center, reading about the indigenous flora and fauna. We drove Park Boulevard all the way down to Keys View where we saw into Mexico and viewed the ominous San Andreas Fault, sitting there quietly in the sun. Then we followed it back around past huge piles of rock and the ubiquitous Joshua trees, arms sprouting weirdly in all directions. Relaxed and filled, we headed back to Long Beach, much better off for the road we took.
And unlike the poet who never made it back to try that other road, we'll just have to plan another trip to California that includes San Diego.
I didn't give up. I kept surfing the APL-approved rental sites every so often. Lo and behold, one fine day, a special! We could rent a convertible for the cost of an economy car! I snapped it up!
Fast forward to our trip. We flew into LAX, caught the bus to the rental place, stood in line and waited and waited and waited some more. Everybody had a reservation for a convertible it seemed. Would there be enough? We waited so long the manager offered us a free day's rental. Sweet! Out came our car. It wasn't a convertible. Not sweet! The manger realized her mistake and then offered us an upgrade. "How about a Mustang convertible?" she said. Sweet yet again! Steve who thought he was going to have to travel by bus now had the cruising car of a lifetime. And we kept the top down pretty much exclusively despite highs only in the 60's. We just turned on the heat. Heaven on earth!
PCH (a.k.a. The Pacific Coast Highway) We had the time. Steve's conference didn't start until the following day. We had a convertible with the top down. We didn't want to take the freeway. We had a beautiful, sunny day. Pacific Coast Highway it was then!
First we headed north. We found a restaurant right on the beach. I ran down to the water to touch the Pacific Ocean for the first time. As we sat there eating, a pod of dolphins swam by corralling their own food. Magical!
Then we headed south. We saw glorious homes, quintessential beach scenes and the LA power plant. On one stretch of the PCH, Jesus' parable about the foolish man who built his home on the sand came to life. All along the roadway were signs warning about the danger of the shifting roadway. To the left we could see where mesas had just collapsed like glaciers calving into the sea. On the right, pounded the ocean. A bit scary!
We stopped on a headland and just gazed on God's beautiful creation. We cruised through towns and envied their fortunate inhabitants. We crossed a bridge that soared into the sky high above ocean liners and transport loading below. And hours later we arrived in Long Beach, entranced, inspired and in love with California!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
We spent time with the Jones' who own a little stone house on a hill in Asheville. We visited the yummy Chocolate Lounge, a dessert/drinks place that serves the most decadent chocolate confections imaginable. Steve bought a chili, chocolate drink that started sweet but ended up spicy as it slipped easily down his throat. We drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Pisgah Inn, where I dined on freshly caught rainbow trout filleted right at the table. We tromped around all the streets we could find in downtown Asheville, shopping in stores we didn't even know existed. We explored used book shops, a cigar store, a couple environmentally friendly clothing/furniture stores, knit shops, and a Celtic store owned by a particularly chatty, opinionated woman who almost forgot we were there to purchase from her rather than just talk. We sampled our way through the Biltmore winery with a childhood friend of Glenda's and just missed meeting Glenda's sister. We found the perfect grocery store, Earth Faire, bigger than Trader Joe's and cheaper than Whole Foods. Steve even got in a game of golf with Ron and Russell. The weather was lovely and the company unparalleled. The end of the week and the end of time in Asheville came too fast.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Last year I found a cool pumpkin hat pattern for little kids. I figured that I could adapt it for adults. My resulting hat was a hat made with size 11 needles was huge. I made a stuffed pumpkin with it.
This year I used smaller needles (size 8) and success. I ended up knitting three of this hat, one for me and two more for my office mates. We wore them Friday. Turns out that our principal wanted one, too so I'm knitting a fourth one and going to give it to him.
Here is the pattern: http://www.knitpicks.com/patterns/Pumpkin_Hat__D10558220.html Now it is no longer a free pattern, and they did all the work of figuring it out for adults. It only costs $1.99 though.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
We drove past her house the first time (durn GPS) but once we found it, Snooks and her husband were models of hospitality. We had figured we'd only spend the afternoon with them. They had other ideas. After dinner (!), Snooks said, "Of course, you are staying the night!" So of course, we stayed!
The next morning we slept in and then headed out to breakfast at Golden Corral. They paid despite our protests. After that, we visited a Flea Market. Didn't buy any fleas, har, har but got a pair of ace slip on loafers. Snooks got another rug. That evening she said, "Of course, you are staying the night!" So of course, we stayed again.
The next morning, loaded up with jams and jellies that Snooks had made but without the beagle that she tried to sneak into our car, we continued on our trip.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The tour starts out in an interactive area. You find out what kind of wood is used for bats and how it is harvested and learn how to tell if it is good enough for the joes (average that is) or the pros. You can compare bats from past players with those of current ones and swing them to see how they travel through the air and how they are balanced.
From there, you go into the factory itself. You see the hand lathe that used to make the bats and the computer-driven one that now makes them. Each player has his own template. The computer is programmed with his template to make his bats. Then the bats are painted or stained. The player's name is either painted on or burned into the wood. All along the tour, you get to touch and swing all sorts of bats. Especially cool were the special pink bats used on Mother's Day and then sold on eBay for breast cancer research. At the end of the tour all participants receive a mini-bat made from wood that has too many flaws to be used for bigger bats.
We then explored the wall where all the players who ever used a Louisville Slugger are listed by their signatures. There's a special spot for the Hall of Famers like Cal Ripken, my personal fave. We visited the Negro League Art Gallery, the batting cage area and of course, the gift shop. We even saw a movie about hitting taught by the pros, past and present, called "The Heart of the Game." 5 pm and closing time came too soon. (literally for us; we didn't realize that we'd passed back into Eastern Standard Time and lost an hour. :P) Next stop, Snooks'!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Disney Trivia--where did Walt Disney pattern his Main Street USA's after?
Marceline, MO. At least that's what trivia buffs say. Steve and I couldn't see the resemblance really when we stopped by to visit the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, housed in the old train depot. It was kinda exciting to be so close when trains went past at full speed. The miniature Disneyland upstairs was cool, but really the museum was underwhelming.
The Loopy Ewe in St. Louis, MO stirred my knitter's blood though. I love this store online and when I heard that we'd be traveling close enough to visit, I jumped up and down with joy. Imagination proved no contest to the real thing. Loved the socks on the wall, loved the knitting quotes, loved the masses and masses of yarn, loved meeting Sheri and Knitting Daughter. Then she gave us a suggestion for dinner at a nearby pizza joint with double decker pizza. Wow! What a great stop! More than made up for the lameness of the Marceline.
Friday, September 17, 2010
2. So we've got to go on with my skills as a writer. For that, see 1.
Anywho, here it goes.
At the Eisenhower library, Steve and I picked up a brochure of all the Presidential Libraries in the US. Being the wonks that we are, we decided that in addition to visiting all the major league baseball stadiums in the US we should try for all the Presidential Libraries, too. Lo and behold right in the next town over in Independance, MO, Truman had opened his Presidential Library. Joy and rapture! Off we drove.
After a bit of a tiff on where we should park (which I chalk up to long hours stuck together in a small car), we entered the wide front hall to pay and start our journey into Truman's life. We started with a film about his life to get an overview. Hmm, he lived through FDR's death, dropping the A-Bomb, the end of WWII, recovering from the war, the Berlin Airlift, the start of the Cold War and the starting of prosperity in America. Okay, I guess we didn't need to run out screaming.
Before we entered the exhibits proper, we entered this roundish room filled flanked by two exhibits one on letters from Truman to his wife (sweet) and one on something else that I don't remember now but thought it was clever at the time. The roundish room was a mock-up of the Oval Office during Truman's time. Truman's desk was huge and set up for two people to work on it. The artwork and decorations were certainly mid-west and masculine. Fascinating to see the seat of all power here in the US.
More fascinating, however, were the exhibits. I especially loved the interactive ones called Decision Theatres in which the viewer could examine how Truman did his job i.e. make world altering decisions. He seemed to be an out-of-the-box thinker who also was swayed by his heart. He was liberal for his time, but I, conservative that I am, agreed with all his decisions. Could the liberals of yesterday be the conservatives of today or do liberals just push the envelope so that liberal today is even more way out? Or am I not really conservative? Also, I had never really thought about post-War Europe and how ravaged it was and strapped for cash. Helping sort all that out was a great part of his legacy. I had also never thought about how television,televison advertising and all the news available really changed America in the 1950's. I just love being stretched. Really.
After leaving the Presidency, Truman established his Library and could be found there most days, getting there even earlier than the staff and even answering phones. Apparently, like Disney, he thought that the library shouldn't ever be static because there were very modern exhibits and even a children's interactive area.
Steve and I enjoyed the Truman Library even more than the Eisenhower one, even though we really enjoyed that one, too. I love getting a sense of the man and his times. Now I can't wait to go back to California and see Reagan's and Nixon's libraries.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I interrupt my vacation blogging to bring you--Gracie Ruffa! She's the cutest dog, ever, bar none! She sits in front of us and talks to us when she wants to go out or when she wants some of our food. She trots perkily next to me when we go out for a walk. She curls up next to us on the couch and sleeps. I'm totally smitten! Even Steve calls her awful adorable. My only question--do we have to give her back?
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Why was Bill Cody called Buffalo Bill? Because he was the rootinest, shootinest buffalo hunter in the West. This link has the full story of the battle of the Bills. I got right in the middle of it. I had to protect the poor Buffalo!
We stayed that night at Salina, KS,near the Eisenhower Library and Museum, which we toured the next morning. We started out watching a introductory film which increased our curiosity about this 34th president of our Union. Abilene, KS was his childhood home. On the museum grounds was the exact house in which he grew up with his Mom, Dad, Grandad and 5 brothers. It had all the stuff in it that he had grown up with because it was given to and maintained by the Eisenhower Foundation right after his Mom passed away. The docent told us all about the family. Apparently one of the brothers, Milton Eisenhower, was the director of the Applied Physics Lab. Steve says that APL has a building and a department named after him in fact. Also, we learned that President Eisenhower's parents weren't really pleased that he went into the military; they had Quaker tendencies, but they also believed that their boys should choose their own lives. They were fairly progressive parents for time in which they were parenting. The Museum houses exhibits about Eisenhower's military career, presidency and family. The way he progressed from a mediocre student at West Point to the Supreme NATO commander was fascinating. I also loved the exhibit about Mamie Eisenhower. She seemed like a real feisty but likable and amenable lady. I especially loved looking at outfits that she had worn and the discussion of "Mamie Style." The Library itself was gorgeous with the walls lined in marble and a huge chandelier. The most touching building on site was the Place of Meditation. President and Mrs. Eisenhower were both buried there along with their first son who died of scarlet fever at age 4. These quotes line the walls of the Place of Meditation.
"The real fire within the builders of America was faith -- faith in a Provident God whose hand supported and guided them: faith in themselves as the children of God ... faith in their country and its principles that proclaimed man's right to freedom and justice."
Abilene Homecoming, Abilene, Kansas, June 4, 1952
"Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends."
Guildhall Address, London, England, June 12, 1945
"Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed....This is not a way of life at all...Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."
Chance For Peace Address, Washington, DC, April 16, 1953
We figured the Eisenhower Library, etc. would take us about an hour to look through. Three hours later we exited and filled our hungry tummies at a nearby Sonic.
We kept driving through Kansas. I don't think it is as flat as people say it is, but then I slept through most of Kansas. On our way through, we stopped at Wamego. What's in Wamego? The Oz Museum! Tons of memorabilia like lunchboxes, crystal encrusted ruby slippers, games, pictures, books and life-sized vignettes from the movie. There is even an opportunity to see the movie.
We got to Kansas City, the Missouri side. We drove to the Best Western in Independence, MO, right outside of K.C. After stowing our stuff, we followed the GPS to a Smokin' Guns BBQ. Unfortunately, they had already closed, so we took advice from AAA and headed to Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbeque. This place was by far the best bbq we've ever had, ever! The baby back ribs were all meat and tender and flavorful. Steve describes it as supremely awesome. The sides of hickory beans and extremely decadent cheesy corn bake rocked. The worst thing about the place is that its nowhere near us. Amazingly, they have mail order! Hmmmmm!
So we made it through Kansas. I really don't understand all the flat hype. It's flatter heading to Ocean City. Of course, I slept through a lot of Kansas, so maybe I'm not the best judge. :0)
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Friday, Amanda made a glorious breakfast casserole with eggs, potatoes, sausage and croissants. Mike and Amanda planned an itinerary of places for us to see--Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods, Estes Park (part of Rocky Mountain National Park), Boulder, Red Rocks, Celestial Seasonings Tea Plant, the Dushanbe Tea Room, downtown Denver, tubing down the river in their backyard, Colorado Springs, touring the Denver Seminary campus, shopping the flagship REI store, walking downtown Littleton and touring the Air Force Academy Visitor's Center. Can we finish it all? What to do first?
Much to Amanda's chagrin, we decide on Colorado Springs and a tour of Focus on the Family. We got there, convinced her to get out of the car and entered. We started with a movie exploring what Focus does, looked at the models of unborn children (why I'll share later), got a free coffee and visited Whit's End. The children's area was was very fun. And free. Mike and Amanda talked about coming back there.
Next, we drove through Garden of the Gods (where Mike proposed to Amanda) on our way to Pike's Peak. We figured that after scaling the mountain we'd come back and hike around the Garden. We drove through Manitou Springs, the gateway to Pike's Peak and saw a couple of lunch/dinner possibilities. Perhaps we'd be back. On to Pike's Peak, 14,000 feet up. Amanda had warned us about altitude sickness, so Steve and I had brought our Camelbacks and were sucking down water. We stopped about halfway up to get more water and to get rid of the water that we had previously drunk. I got out of the truck and whew, I felt a bit dizzy. I managed to keep it on the straight and narrow, but I had to think about where I put each step. I refilled my water at the snack bar and got back in the truck to continue the switchbacks up the hill. Not many guard rails and lots of long drops. I was frightened, but in Michael's capable hands we were fine both up and back. At the top, I felt more dizzy, but I kept drinking, held on to Steve's arm and headed to the bathroom again while Steve bought us some yummy spiced, cake donuts the recipe of which can only be made at 14,000 feet. Yum!!!! I had 1 and a half, but I wanted a dozen more. We walked around outside a bit, watched the COG train head back down the mountain and decided to do so ourselves. We didn't get very far. We pulled over to explore another view, Mike and Amanda posed way out on the mountain, Steve stayed a bit back and I found my own spot to hand out that would keep me on the mountain instead of dizzily falling off the mountain. We kept switchbacking down to where we saw marmots posing quite suggestively on the side of the road and where Bigfoot was sighted. We didn't see him. At the bottom we drove back into Manitou Springs, parked by a cool little Farmer's Market and decided on Adam's Mountain Cafe. They specialize in slow food. Slow is right! I think they went out and killed chicken that Steve, Mike and Amanda had in their Pad Thai. Good thing that we had good conversation to keep us going. One couple behind us ran out of things to say and started necking. When we finally got our food, it was yummy, but it took so long that we didn't get to hike the Garden of the Gods. We barely saw it in the dark.
Next day, I woke Marchetti-style as the food was being brought out--cinnamon rolls! Yum! Estes Park Day! By the sign, we saw a cute, fat-cheeked chipmunks that ate out of Amanda's hand. They had obviously been fed a lot; they were not afraid of humans. The alluvial fan called to us next. A dam had burst a\nd spread its detritus in a fan shape hundreds of feet wide--logs, rocks jumbled everywhere and the most beautiful waterfall in between. We snacked on treats brought because cinnamon rolls don't last very long and decided to follow a little road that Mike and Amanda found last year but couldn't use because it had been closed. New territory for all of us! Again, Mike's great driving got us through gravel and switchbacks and views of surprise waterfalls, later we talked to a park ranger who said that the road we'd taken had just opened up July 4, only 13 days before. He said that it was too soft before, and they couldn't trust the tourists in rent-a-cars to not get stuck. The road led us out to a choice. We could either circle back through areas we'd already seen or press on to lake views. Press on and see . . . moose! A mama and a baby, from afar. And elk! Right next to the road! We exited the park and found Grand Lake and their annual Buffalo Bar-be-que! We bought tickets and feasted on buffalo bbq, buffalo brisket, beans, potato salad and mountain pie of apple and spicy pepper apple. And for a 2nd dessert, homemade custard ice cream. Yum again! The only downside of this little adventure was the 2 hour drive back. Dang, spaces are big and wide in the West!
Sunday, we all slept in. Ahh, the joys of an evening service. Monkey bread and getting ready later, we decided on a Boulder, CO tea day for our day's trekking. First, we toured the Celestial Seasonings Tea factory--home of sleepytime bear! We started the tour by trying as many samples of tea as we wanted. I found a couple new favorites--acai mango sweetened ice tea and cold brewed tropical tea to be exact. Of course I bought some there because at the end of the tour there was the ubiquitous shopping opportunity! I even found some stuff at half off. My favorite part was the mint room--it is shut off from the rest of the factory by a steel rolling door. We walked in, and whew, that mint cleared our sinuses and brought water to our eyes. I could've stayed there all day--it really perked me up! We shopped Boulder downtown while we waited for our table at the Dushanbe Tea Room. It was a gift from the people of Dushanbe, Tajikistan to their sister city of Boulder, CO. Beautiful and yummy! Their spiced tea was awesome! We got to church on Marchetti time and heard a sermon that furthered knowledge about Creation that we'd learned at the Creation Museum. Cool! Then Steve and I shopped at Barnes and Noble (for knitting books for me and history books for Steve) and at Game Stop while Mike and Amanda had a Guatemala missions trip meeting. Another fun, exciting day in Colorado!
Our last day--the most exciting of all! Baby Marchetti! Yes, you read right. Mike and Amanda are expecting! We got to see the pictures. We call her or him Baby Kumquat Danger since he/she is the size of a kumquat and Mike wants to call him/her Danger. 14 weeks old and due for our world at the end of January! Yippee!! We traveled into Denver for a look-see after a banquet server job interview for Mike and a foot tour of downtown Littleton for Amanda and I. We found a spice store that takes its spice blend names from Colorado. I got Pike's Peak Beef rub as a souvenir. In Denver, we walked down Denver's walking mall, 16th Street. We ate at Ted's Montana Grill for dinner enjoying their specialty, bison. We caught the free bus back to our car, much to poor Michael's sick stomach's relief. The next morning we tearfully got up and ready, took a walk down to the tubing river and had to leave for our long drive to Kansas City. We loved being with Mike and Amanda and can't wait to fly out in February to see the newest Marchetti and see if we like Colorado in winter.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Sonic for breakfast again. Then dah, dah, dah, dah, dah , dah DAAAAAAAAH! Mount Rushmore! I was so psyched! As we drove, I could see glimpses through the trees! I tried to get pictures but Newman! I couldn't. I decided to just enjoy. Then we rounded a corner and there it was! Yippee! We parked the car and walked up the steps. The closer we got the better the views. We walked down to the museum. Then we were able to walk right underneath the Rushmore faces on a half mile loop to the artist's studio. After exploring, we even saw a mountain goat walking through the trees!
Wow again! Crazy Horse! When it's done, it'll be huge. I felt guilty the whole time though about how the Native Americans have been treated. It made me feel bad, too, that the family that is working on the Crazy Horse statue won't take money from the government to finish the statue. It's been 68 years and only Crazy Horse's face is done. Steve pointed out that perhaps there are too many strings attached.
Next we figured out that we weren't making it to Colorado this night. We called Mike and Amanda and set up a hotel in Nebraska. Then we headed to Custer State Park for their wildlife loop. Cathy Patrick recommended it to us. She said we'd see lots of animals. Did we ever! We saw prong-horned antelopes, prairie dogs, burros and tons and tons of bison. The bulls were as big as our car and right next to it! Some of these bison are sold in the fall because with the new babies the herd swells to 1,500 head and the park can only sustain about a thousand.
Nebraska had a yummy Mexican restaurant, a Walmart, a pool and a cheap pancake place for when we got up to late to get the free breakfast. And Carhenge! What's Carhenge? Stonehenge modeled with cars. We Americans are so classy!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I was never very afraid of Nuclear War. I don't know if it's because I never thought about it or if my Mom and Grandma didn't worry about it so I didn't. Maybe I assumed we'd never be capable of using nuclear devices (aka bombs) again after we saw the devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Who knows? I think if I'd lived in North or South Dakota or Wyoming, though, that I'd have been worried, very worried. Did you know that we had 1,500 minuteman missiles scattered around these states? You could see the tops of their silos from the highway. You could see the house-like launch sites, too. You couldn't miss them; they were surrounded by 8 ft. high fences with antennae. Why South Dakota? Because we could shoot the missiles up over the Arctic Circle and they could be in Moscow within 30 minutes. Of course, Moscow had their long-range ICBM's pointed at us, too. Theirs could be over to targets (like Washington, DC) within 30 minutes, too. Oh, happy day! This is what I learned on Terrific Tuesday or at least that's what was written on the tickets that we received at the Minuteman Missile Visitor's Center. At 8 am, they started handing out free tickets on a first come, first served basis to the 9 am, 10 am and 11 am tours of the launch control facility. We got there at 8:30 am after calling to make sure there were still tickets. We secured our tix to the 10 am tour and then drove back 17 miles to the missile silo itself. We looked down into the silo and saw the top part of the minuteman missile and the huge door that gets blown off when the missile flies. After checking that out we drove back down 14 miles to the launch site. We put our name on the list of tours and waited until we were called. One of the missilers (the guys who would shoot off the missile) said that their jobs were hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer panic. They had tv, books, magazines and basketball to alleviate the boredom, and a cook made them 4 meals a day. The support staff had the same boredom troubles except they had to go out in all kinds of weather to check security breaches like the local jack rabbit or grasshopper who tripped the alarm. Then we took an elevator down 31 feet to where the missiles were launched. Steve almost forgot to take pictures he was so fascinated by being in the actual room. The two missilers were seated 12 feet apart. They monitored 10 missiles per launch facility during their 24 hour shift, locked in a vault with a 5 foot thick door. They each had keys that they had to turn simultaneously to launch the missile when they got the alarm and processed the codes. The man who ran the elevator for us had spent time as a cook in several of the launch sites. He worked 3 days on and 6 days off and lived in the area. He said that he was never worried about dying in a nuclear attack and actually preferred that to living in the aftermath.
After seeing a man-made "wonder" we headed to see a God-made one, the South Dakota Badlands. We stopped at the first pull-off spot. There was a boardwalk down to a gap in the hills that fronted the parking lot. It opened up to a vista of a desolate yet striking landscape. We wandered around a little and then got back in the car to drive the 36 mile loop, hoping to see some denizens of this part of the world. After about 6 miles, we were done. not with the drive, mind you but rather with the landscape and the lack of life. We'd seen a chipmunk and a few birds and that was it for wildlife. Of course, it was pickin' hot, so maybe all the wildlife was smarter than we were and hunkered down in the shade. All in all we were glad to get to mile marker 110 and the town of Wall.
South of the Border has nothing on Wall Drug. Since we'd left Rapid City we'd seen signs for this Wall Drug place. At first, I was put off by all the advertising. I do tend toward being a gosh darned independent, but after seeing so many signs, I was caught up in the spirit of the thing and asked Steve if we could eat lunch there. He agreed. We walked in to one big shopping opportunity. Not all of it was gaudy souvenirs. You could buy cowboy boots, hats, spurs, camping equipment, rocks, fossils and western art if you were so inclined. We were content with the souvenirs and the free bumper sticker. We treated ourselves to a buffalo burger each and onion rings and spent the rest of the couple hours we were there just looking around and posing for pictures with the various statues posted around the place. Wall Drug even had a t-Rex that would look at you and a few times an hour would huff and puff and scare the kids. We wanted Americana kitsch as we drove around this great country of ours, and we found it in Wall Drug.
Badlands--Not a place you'd really want to go, hmm? Wrong! In the case of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in the North Dakota Badlands, you'd totally want to spend time there. Check out a couple of the pictures we took. We drove a 36 mile loop. It was a little more time than just going straight down the road, but we didn't care. The views were amazing. The visitor's center had lots of information about Teddy Roosevelt and his conservation efforts, too. The prarie dogs were hilarious. They were none to fond of me standing there laughing at them. One kept cheeping, cheeping, cheeping, until I moved. We drove to Rapid City afterwards. The land was so desolate. We got down to a quarter tank of gas, and I got a little nervous. We kept passing exits that said "No Services." Not too comforting. Finally when the GPS directed us to get off the highway, we found some gas and snacks. Good thing because we didn't get to Rapid City (outside Mt. Rushmore) until 9 pm. By the time we checked in, everything nearby our hotel, the Alex Johnson (not to be confused with Howard Johnson) where Alfred Hitchcock stayed while filming the ending of North by Northwest, was closed. We drove to the business district where fortunately, we found a Wendy's. Unfortunately, when we were driving back to the hotel, we also found a Sonic Drive-in. It would have been yummier. We decided that we'd head there for breakfast the next day.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Kari's Mom introduced us online 6 years ago. Both of us were having the same kind of problems. Jude thought we'd benefit from emailing each other. We did. Life is easier when you know you have a friend who gets what you are feeling. It didn't matter to either of us that we were on the other end of the internet from each other rather than the other side of town. When Steve and I thought of this cross-country trip, I knew I just had to add Bejou to our itinerary! I was so excited to finally be meeting her. We drove up from Minneapolis on Saturday. We got a message (because our cell phone reception was sketchy) saying that Kari and her family were helping her Dad bind and bring in the hay and to give her a call about an hour out. Unfortunately, we didn't get the message until we were about 10 minutes out. Fortunately, they were already back from haying, and it worked out fine. We greeted each other with hugs and tears. We spent the afternoon talking, laughing, meeting the kittens and sheep, enjoying Kari's world famous pumpkin bars and playing Wii Mario Kart with Terry and Lovi. After a dinner of real brauts(!) grilled expertly by Mike and yummy pasta salad (and more pumpkin bars along with chocolate cake), we talked some more, watched the kids swim, watched some tv (Dirty Jobs rocks!) and turned in. (Coco, Kari's and Mike's lab-rotweiller mix, spent the night by our bed. She's so cute!)
Sunday was filled with some new experiences for me! I had never had caramel rolls. Kari's were excellent. Are you getting the idea that she's an awesome baker and cook? :0) And I'd never ridden a 4-wheeler. We drove over to Jude's and Lonnie's house after breakfast. We met Jude and Lonnie for the first time (although I'd talked to Jude on the phone one Christmas) the goats, the chickens and Jude's dogs and then took off for some 4-wheeling around the fields. Wow! I finally got the hang of steering and giving it gas at the same time but Kari had to help me get out of the ditch. I was afraid that I'd tip over. Steve took a ride with Lonnie and Mike afterward and came back wanting to buy a couple 4-wheelers. We went to lunch at the Ness Cafe and then drove around seeing the sights. Finally I'm able to picture where Kari works, where the kids go to school and Bejou proper. We also went through a great exhibit of a really small church, a log cabin, a tank and helicopter (as a tribute to the military) and a house full of historical items in Fosson. Very fun. Too soon, we had to load up the car and head out. I cried as we pulled away, sad to be leaving but thankful that I'd finally met my friend!
Our first impression of the Mall of America was one of disbelief. We thought as we drove around the outside that Columbia Mall was bigger! Once we got inside, however, and especially after we walked all three floors shopping, we felt differently. It is huge! It even has a whole theme park in the center. We went to Crave for lunch. We started off with beef spring rolls. They were crunchy outside and savory with beef and soba noodles inside. I had the lunch special of half a muffaletto sandwich and a Crave salad. Steve asked what the best burger in the place was. The waitress said that their bacon, barbeque burger was best. Steve got it and agreed. Our hunger sated, we started shopping. We hadn't been on a shopping spree for years. I found some tops on sale at Nordstrom Rack and some capris at Coldwater Creek and some shoes at DSW. Steve found some tops and shorts at Columbia. We got a couple of gifts, too. We ate dinner at Kokomo's Island Cafe. I felt like I was at Disney World the theming was so good. The food was good, too. Both of us had shrimp enchiladas. Yummy! We thought about a movie and then decided to get things ready for our next day's first time ever visit to my friend, Kari's.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
This is Frank Lloyd Wright's first home after he started his career as an architect and designer. He lived here until 1909 and tried out techniques and conventions that he would become famous for later on in his career like going over budget. And like using patterns based on Foible blocks, using natural forms, Japanese prints, and two other things neither Steve nor I can remember. Sorry. His front room flowed like an open floor plan of today. He had an inglenook fireplace, built-in couches and two tree trunks growing right through his house. His dining room had indirect lighting with a beautifully carved screen over it. The dining room table with its very high backed chairs were like a room within a room--showing the first signs of the prarie style for which Wright was known. Upstairs his children's bedrooms had a soaring ceiling and a wall which partitioned off the 4 boys from the 2 girls. The master bedroom had a soaring ceiling as well and a couple of friezes on the walls and Wright designed pendant lamps that fit in with the art. Also, his windows were arranged to look like a kimono. His wife's sewing room had a lower ceiling for part of the room--creating a room within a room, a deep closet where she could hide from her overbearing mother-in-law who lived next door and a flat ceiling due to the magnificent children's playroom beside it. The playroom was reached through a small hallway--the guide suggested that this was to increase excitement and anticipation--all the large family gatherings took place in the playroom--Christmas, birthdays, etc. The playroom had a semi-circular arched ceiling, a frieze at the end, a Steinway piano that was built in to the wall so that it wouldn't take up floor space, a gallery for either putting on plays or watching plays and everything was child-sized. It also had a sky light that had one of those magnificent carved screens over it. By far the playroom was my favorite room in the house.
After a brief look at the kitchen that was reconstructed from recollections of his children, but of which nothing original remained (because Wright could care less about kitchens in his designs), we toured Wright's studio. Both the studio and the library, the two bookends of that wing of the house, were octagonal in shape. The studio had chains that held up a balcony and that held the room together basically. It showed that he had a lot of skill with engineering. Each drafting table was a room unto itself along the sides of the room. The windows were at the top of the walls rather than smack dab in the middle of them. He had a mural over his fireplace made just like one he made for a client's home. His library housed his design books and showed off some of his current plans. It was also where he met his clients. His waiting room and reception area had a stained glass sky light with 1,500 pieces of glass in each of the 3 panels. It had windows that showed off the tops of the columns that he had built on his porch. They each had a open book signifying the laws of architecture and the tree of life and two storks symbolizing prosperity and fertility. The studio was the end of our tour. We briefly looked at his Unity Temple, also in Oak Park, got our lunch at Long John Silvers and headed down the road to Minneapolis. It took about 6 hours to get to our Extended Stay hotel. Tomorrow--Mall of America!
Friday, July 9, 2010
We tried a new place for lunch, Claim Jumper. Never heard of it, but it had a chain-y feel. It was good though, themed after the Gold Rush in CA. Steve had a wonderful shrimp pasta and I had a beet and goat cheese salad with cheese bread. Yummy for both of us, but neither one of us liked what the other had. Different strokes for different folks.
We headed back to the hotel in the rain to get ready for the night's event. We were driving into the city to see Million Dollar Quartet. Apparently Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were all together for one night at Sam Phillips' studio, Sun Records. The show was all about that one night, how Sam had had to sell Elvis to RCA to keep his studio afloat, how Johnny Cash didn't renew his contract, all about Jerry Lee Lewis starting out. The show was filled with music from all four of those men plus a woman only identified as Donna. It was hilly-billy rocking! An hour and a half of great music! And the parking was only $10 and right next to the venue and easy to get out of. Afterward we drove around and saw the sights of Chicago (like the Buckingham fountain) one last time for this trip. We'll be back again. And I think we'll stay in Evanston again. It was a great deal and an easy place to make our home base.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
After arriving safely at the Museum, we bought our tickets and started exploring. I'll tell you right now that we didn't finish it. We'll have to return. First we got onto the first diesel train ever. The Zephr traveled from Colorado to Chicago to take part in the Chicago World's Fair. It got there in 13 hours with a top speed of 112 miles per hour and an average speed of 77 mph. And we learned that the Museum itself was the one remaining World's Fair building. All the rest burned down. Next we checked out the only captured German u-boat in existence, the U-505. The picture is Steve in front of the U-505. The exhibit was fascinating. It told the story of the German u-boat control of the Atlantic, our defense tactics and then the bold decision to capture a u-boat intact and the inherent difficulties of that task. It culminated with the U-505 itself in all its bullet-riddled glory. We spent a good 2 hours exploring this exhibit alone. Then we realized that we were hungry and headed to the Brain Food Cafe before it closed for the day. We looked at an exhibit that held pictures of our solar system's planets and sun gleaned from 40 years of space photography from the various space probes (some of them sent off by APL). We explored different extreme weather conditions like avalanches, tornados and tsunamis and then the museum closed! The audacity! We weren't done with it! Guess we'll have to plan another trip to Chicago. :0)
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
In college, my friends and I were in love with Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. We watched it over and over. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters were brilliant, and the cast contained Brent Spiner before he was Lt. Data on Star Trek. The whole musical centered around Georges Seurat and his painting, A Sunday on La Grand Jatte. I never thought I'd get to see it. I never thought I'd get to Chicago. Today I made it--to the Art Institute of Chicago and to see A Sunday on La Grande Jatte . The painting's location isn't obvious. Actually nothing in the museum is obvious. It's a museum made to wander around in. We wandered around in English landscapes for an hour before we found it. Steve saw it first. He brought me around the corner and ah, beautiful and so cool. You can see the dots that Seurat made the painting with. You can tell their individual colors when you are close enough. You can see how they meld together in one cohesive whole when you stand further back. On top of that, the Art Institute has American Gothic and lots of Monets. Love it! We saw lots of Egyptian, Greek and Roman art. Amazing! And the miniatures--a whole room of diorama rooms from different time periods and different countries made by one woman as her hobby. Fantastic!
After the art museum, we set off to find the Silver Bean, aka the Cloud Gate. We asked information and a security guard, and we not only found the Bean but got to walk over a cool aluminum bridge from the museum into Millennium Park. Finally, the monument that eluded us on our first trip was found!
Then we took it on faith that the information man was telling us the truth when he said that the John Hancock Observatory was only 8 or 9 blocks up Michigan Ave. It was more like 12 or 13. But since we walked on the shady side of the street and there was a breeze, it wasn't too bad. We zipped up 94 floors in 40 seconds on the "world's fastest elevator" and listened to David Schwimmer tell all about the sights of Chicago that we were seeing. There is even one section that they call "the front porch" that is screened in and open to the elements. I just love Chicago! I'd love to return. There is just so much to see and do here. We haven't even scratched the surface.
We hopped back on the El after getting some good advice from a City Concierge and headed to dinner at Cesar's (home of killer margaritas) and our next destination--the Blue Man Group theatre. Steve has been wanting to see the Blue Man group since he has known who they were, and his dreams came true this night. It was spectacular! They are a very clever, talented group of men. We loved the music and drumming, and the skits were funny! Also, I almost made it into one of the skits. They were looking me over, but I guess I didn't seem scared enough because they didn't choose me. Bummer! Steve was mentioned, though, in the introduction as the guy with the credit card bill unpaid. Dubious honor. We are getting used to this El stuff. It's very convenient. We found a station really close to our hotel on the way back tonight. It's only a couple blocks down which beats the 4 or so we traveled this morning. Of course, we then got too cocky as tomorrow's episode will show. Stay tuned for details.
Ever been on a long trip and decided to swear off highways? We tried it once in California when we took the Pacific Coast Highway. The ride on the highway would've only been about 20 minutes, and it took 2 hours on the PCH, but the views were so beautiful, we didn't care. Sunday after church (we visited a Vineyard Church in Cincinnati--that's Steve with the trip mascot, Donkey), we told the GPS to avoid highways and off we went. We took two hours longer, but we saw some pretty country. We also saw some scary sections of city like in Gary, IN (yes, that one from the Music Man), but then when we got to Chicago, we drove the whole length of Lakeshore Drive. Lake Michigan is just so gorgeous with its blue, blue water. Since it was July 4th, there were so many picnickers. I loved seeing all the family groups. Happy 4th, Everyone!