Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Our adventure today had us leaving Denver on a 3-hour drive to Steamboat Springs, Colorado at 7 am. Steamboat Springs is Northwest of Denver, and with an elevation of over 10,000 feet, Steamboat Springs is home to natural hot springs that are located throughout the area and skiing.

In the late 1800s, Upon first hearing a chugging sound, early trappers believed that a steamboat was coming down the river. When the trappers saw that there was no steamboat and that the sound was coming from a hot spring, they decided to name the spring Steamboat Springs. The Utes Indian tribe lived here until 1879 when they were forcibly moved to Utah.

Steamboat Springs has produced more athletes for the Winter Olympics than any other town in North America.

We arrived a little after 10 am for our snowmobiling adventure. The snowmobiling was in the Routt National Park. The check-in was in a cabin that looked more like a trappers shack.

Missy on her snowmobile

Being the national forest, there were no houses or disturbed snow other than the snowmobile trail or animal tracks.

12 degrees

There were somewhere between 12-24 inches of snow in some spots.

Brandee on her snowmobile

Our snowmobile adventure lasted 2 hours in mother nature’s winter playground that once again reminded us of a Hallmark Christmas Movie.

In the picture below, the orange marker on the tree shows how high the snow will become around March.

Unbelievable

We ended up our fun day in downtown Steamboat Springs having lunch outside at the Backdoor Grill.

Brandee and Missy

Evergreen Colorado, Lookout Mountain, Red Rock Music Museum

As we woke up in Denver, Colorado the night had brought us 4 inches of freshly falling snow. The snow here is powdery dry that can be pushed with a broom. Luckily Brandee’s car is 4×4, with no problems getting through the snow.

Today’s adventure took us to a slightly larger town of Evergreen, Colorado (8,000). We first noticed Evergreen lake, frozen of course, with ice fishermen. Below the lake was a dam with water running freely.

Next to the dam was an ice sculptor of The Polar Express train.

We decided to walk out on the lake and talk to an ice fisherman in his portable igloo. He was fishing for Rainbow Trout. He hadn’t had any luck today, but a few days ago caught 4 keepers. 4 Rainbow Trout are the limit for the day. They use a almost child like fishing pole with 4lbs of test line. Jigs or dough balls are the bait of choice. The fisherman assured me that the lake was safe with about 8 inches of ice, it could support a car.

We then moved down the lake to see if any other fishermen had any luck catching Trout. They told us they had caught some small ones, but none worth keeping. Everywhere we have been and conversed with the locals, everyone has been super nice and friendly. This next fisherman was kind enough to let me fish and get my picture taken. I think he was hoping I would change his luck. I was so excited!

Notice the small fishing pole and ice hole

As we hiked around the lake, Missy found her a home in Colorado. Luckily it wasn’t for sale! It was beautiful with the snow and the lake.

Took picture from standing on frozen lake

We then went into town to visit the shops. We had this black crow follow us around and squawk. He didn’t seem to like us being there, but when I took his picture, there was a rainbow that showed up on the picture. Thought it was pretty cool and was this rainbow like a sign of a angel following us? What could it mean? I guess I can imagine whatever I want too.

See the rainbow, pretty unusual

At one of the shops, the clerk said hello as we entered and proceeded to say, “ I have to show y’all this video!” She had put a trail camera on her back deck and it was a mountain lion. Pretty cool! She was so excited. Outside of her store was this stuffed bear that I will let you see below, haha.

Notice his mask and shorts

We then went to Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave on Lookout Mountain. Buffalo Bill had originally wanted to be buried in Cody, Wyoming, but as he laid dying at his sister’s house in Denver, he recalled this beautiful place called Lookout Mountain and asked to have his will changed to be buried there. His wife is buried there too. The plaque said, Colonel William Frederick Cody, Buffalo Bill, noted scout and Indian fighter.

Buffalo Bill Cody

From Lookout Mountain, you can see downtown Denver, The Coors Brewery, it’s truly in the mountains of Colorado.

Downtown Denver
Coor’s Brewery
View from Lookout Mountain

Next, we went a few miles down the road to the Red Rock Amphitheatre and Colorado Music Museum. The amphitheater was large with large red rocks as the backdrop of the theater. In 1971 John Denver performed at the amphitheater.

Amphitheatre

At the Colorado Music museum that had The Grateful Dead, John Fogleburg, and of course John Denver along with others. I think most people think of music and Colorado, have to think about John Denver.

John Denver bust
Statue of John Denver titled Spirit

As we were leaving the parking lot, we saw a Magpie Bird. It is considered one of the most intelligent animals of the world, and one of only a few non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. Could you imagine testing a bird in a mirror? Magpies are well known for their thievery, avidly collecting shiny objects to adorn their nests. We felt lucky to see one and snap a good picture.

Magpie

Another fun day with lots of interesting things. I got to Ice Fish!!!!

Georgetown, Colorado

We decided to take in some small-town charm and boy was Georgetown just that. It was like a Hallmark movie with the snow and the Christmas decorations. With a population of just over 1,000 people, we succeeded in finding a quaint little town that on this day only had about 10 tourists walking around. As we took the exit we saw a herd of bighorn sheep. The sheep weren’t afraid of us as they allowed us to take their pictures.

I was pretty close to this Bighorn sheep

Next, we went to the visitors center and then into town. Parking was plentiful, with most shops open.

Downtown Georgetown
Another view of downtown
Town hall and police department

In one of the stores that was like a general store, there was a father-son who was working and they were the friendliest. They were both vibrant and full of cheer. They made their spiced cider and kettle corn. They gave us samples and talked while thanking us for coming to visit. Honestly, they could be in a Hallmark Christmas Movie. We continue down the main street visiting the various stores.

The store owners suggested we go to Cabin Creek Brewery for lunch and we were glad we did. They had portable igloos outside with heaters since you can’t eat inside in Colorado now. My first experience in a portable igloo, and what a great idea.

Portable igloo
Inside of igloo

The brewery was on a lake that was frozen and had these igloos where people were ice fishing. The brewery got their idea from the ice fisherman to buy portable igloos so they could stay open during the restrictions.

Ice fishing
Another view of the frozen lake

Another fun day trip!

Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park

After a restful night from the hike in the snow we woke up with visions of snow with temperatures of 1 degrees feeling like minus -13. Yes I said that right.

As we started to ease into our day we had plenty of laughs from the day before. We then contemplated what would our adventure be today. Nothing was planned, but we came across a brochure of a guided tour of The Rocky Mountain National Park in a heated van. That was going to be very important. We booked it at the last minute with the tour company calling the driver for his availability since we were the only tourists for the tour. Our guide was Alec who was very knowledgeable about the park. Today’s sky was blue without any hints of clouds.

We saw beautiful snow-capped mountains as well as some Elk.

We then saw one of many Ponderosa Pines with their reddish bark.

Huddled trying to stay warm from the wind gusts

The snow-capped mountains with a clear blue sky made for some beautiful pictures.

We then learned about the Aspen Pine with it’s white bark.

Our guide then dropped us off to explore at one of the passes that were closed to cars. We saw a few skiers headed up the closed road.

These were our views at just over 9,000 feet.

In this upper section of the park we saw Englewood Pines which has a whitebark too.

Missy and Brandee walking down the closed road.

We then ran across some mule deer in the road.

Next, we went to Sprague Lake where we saw guys playing hockey on the frozen lake. Mr. Sprague was the first habitant to the area and also a big ambassador to bringing others to the area.

After our tour, we went for some lunch for barbecue, brisket, and pecan-crusted trout. The trout was very tasty. Our next stop would be the Stanley hotel, where Jack Nicholson stayed in the movie The Shining. We learned that Stephen King wrote the whole movie in one night in room 217 of the hotel. The hotel is considered haunted. It is told that Jim Carrey stayed in room 217 while filming Dumb and Dumber with the Stanley Hotel being the Danbury Hotel in the movie. One night around midnight, Jim Carrey checked out without any explanation. Wonder if he saw something ghostly that night?

View from the porch of The Stanley Hotel

Notice the wind blowing the snow on top of the mountains.

Brandee inside of The Stanley Hotel

We concluded our day with plenty of shopping from the local stores in Estes Park, Colorado. I would recommend Estes Park and The Rocky Mountain National Park as a place to visit.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Our winter adventure takes us to Denver, Colorado to visit Brandee. We arrive in Denver with it snowing. Oh what a wonderful Christmas trip. Temperatures have been below freezing with fresh white powdered snow falling daily.

Our first adventure takes us to The Rocky Mountain National Park for a 3.4 mile hike to Emerald Lake. As we arrive in the park it begins to snow with accumulations of 3 inches on top of the snow on the ground.

The trail begins at Bear Lake Trailhead and we walked across Bear, Dream and Emerald lakes during the hike. There are signs warning of snow and ice as you walk across the lakes. The lakes were frozen completely with a small layer of snow on top.

As we headed farther up the trail the snow became deeper and the views became prettier.

Little tree growing out from rock
Bear lake completely frozen
Our Trail Guide Brandee

As we got closer to Emerald Lake with elevations of 10,118 feet and about a foot of snow we find the lake frozen.

Frozen Emerald lake behind us
Emerald Lake during warmer months

After riding around The Rocky Mountain National Park we went back to Estes Park and stopped at a brewery before dinner. We drove through the cute little town to see the Christmas lights.

After spending a day in the snow and looking at the lights, I think today put us all in the Christmas spirit.

Thanksgiving 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Thanksgiving to me is a time to show thanks and appreciation to the ones in our lives and God. I think this is what the pilgrims and native Americans were doing hundreds of years ago. They were setting their differences aside and showing each other that they could coexist. For my generation, it was time to step away from our usual everyday commitments and spend time with family and friends.

As a child, we always watched the Macy’s day parade, usually choosing our favorite float. I remember getting excited when floats like Tony the Tiger, Scooby-Doo, Snoopy and of course Tom the Turkey came down Times Square. The floats always looked so big to me alongside the towering buildings of New York City. NYC looked as if it was a fictional place that didn’t exist with buildings that even on tv you couldn’t see the very tops of. I had a fear of heights, so I couldn’t imagine people living or working in such tall buildings. Nothing I had seen in Roanoke, Virginia compared to what I saw on tv.

My family was small, with really no relatives, so we never traveled on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was a day when no business was open, no start of Black Friday, just one of the few days of the year where the car never left the driveway. If the weather was good we would go up in the park for an hour or two and play football or basketball. We always watched football on one of the 2 channels on tv. The third channel ABC was out of Lynchburg and unless we adjusted the antenna on the house, the picture was what we called snow. A simpler time and day, but not necessarily better. It’s all really a mental perception of what you make it be. I just wish today that people didn’t have to work and were able to spend the day as they wish.

One of my fond memories of Thanksgiving was the smell of food being prepared, and all of the baked desserts and cookies. We only had feasts at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Rest of the year, it was eaten if you were home when dinner was prepared, or fix something when you did come home. As the youngest of four, I don’t remember getting seconds, probably why I was so skinny growing up. Thanksgiving, I wasn’t keen on turkey, so my mom would fix ham for me. Even on Thanksgiving, I don’t remember having so much food that I was stuffed as I do as an adult. I do remember the smell of cinnamon and brown sugar with freshly baked bread. Hence I having a sweet tooth!

Thanksgiving was a day I looked forward too because it was a day that was different from the rest of the year. As much as we try to hang unto traditions, times change and things become different. As corny as it may be, we need more days like Thanksgiving, to spend time with our families, relax, and create new memories with the ones we love.

Being from a small family, I always wondered what it would be like to have more than six people attend a holiday gathering. Hopefully, one day, that the people who are close to me and the few I have opened up too as a family will get together for a large festive and create some memories of our own.

These are my Thanksgiving thoughts with room for many new memories.

Happy Thanksgiving!
James




Hurricane Mills, Tennessee

It’s been over 2 months since our cross country trip, so I guess we are ready to venture out on a road trip. Our journey will take us through Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.

Our first stop is in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Who knows what’s in Hurricane Mills????????

Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch! Any correct answers?


Upon entering the grounds of Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, you will wind down a small road that leads down in the holler to the community of Hurricane Mills. Years ago, Loretta and her husband, Mooney, purchased the pre-civil war home not knowing it included the whole town. While Loretta was on the road, Mooney would go and purchase more property. As fans found out where they lived, they began camping out in front of their mansion with hopes of seeing the famed star. Soon, the Lynns would come up with the idea of having a full entertainment complex of sorts for the fans.

The ranch is 3,500 acres with horses, camping, cabins, museums, stores, a Post Office, and a replica of her original home in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, as well as her mansion. She bought this property to be near Nashville. Soon after building the campground, the ranch began to grow. They estimate they get over a million visitors a year to the ranch.

Butcher Holler homeplace replica that was used in the movie Coal Miners Daughter
Bedroom where they used Sears and Roebuck Catalog pages as walpaper

The Coal Miners Daughter Museum has lots of memorabilia. There are countless outfits worn by Loretta. Many awards and pictures of her family and friends. One entire section was dedicated to Conway Twitty, the movie Coal Miners Daughter, and her family including Crystal Gayle.

From Movie Coal Miners Daughter
Remembering Conway Twitty
For the Kid Rock Fans, whom recently mock married Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn and her husband Mooney lived in this gorgeous pre-civil war 14 room, with 8 fireplaces, a historic plantation home for 22 years. She has since built another house behind this one that she currently lives in. Now you can tour this historic home.

Built in 1850
Room where Loretta Lynn wrote a lot of her songs

After moving to Hurricane Mills in 1966, the Lynn Family heard stories of the historic home being haunted. The Lynns, visitors, and employees have experienced strange occurrences throughout the years. A woman dressed in white and two Civil War Soldiers have been seen on many occasions. Strange sounds and happenings are commonplace in the home.

The Travel Channel aired a special on the Haunted Home in October of 2003. The woman in white is Beula Anderson who, after the death of her newborn son, died twelve days later from grief. Sightings of her crying and wringing her hands have been witnessed at the Historic Home and Anderson Cemetery.

After multiple sightings and unexplained occurrences, Lynn learned that the ranch was the site of a Civil War battle. In fact, nineteen Confederate soldiers are said to be buried on the grounds.

The country singer herself says she has seen a woman in mourning on the property, both inside the home and in the graveyard.

The house has been left as originally decorated by Loretta Lynn with all of her personal belongings still in place. It’s like walking back into the 1970s.

What I learned about Loretta Lynn, she was a tireless worker who made time for her fans. She, as the guided tour said, was a collector and not a hoarder. She loved her Avon decanters. Today she is 88 years old and is working on a new album. She definitely went from rags to riches because of her voice. I personally haven’t been a Loretta Lynn fan but after visiting her ranch I have a new appreciation for her.

Abingdon, Virginia, Barter Theater, Wizard of Oz, and a Ghost Story

As this virus drags on, limiting our travel, while staying within Carilion Clinic’s travel guidelines of staying in Southwestern Virginia, we find ourselves in Abingdon, Virginia. Approximately 15 miles, as the crow flies, from the Tennessee border, and at the beginning of The Virginia Creeper Trail as we nestle back in our convertible to watch the Barter Theater performance of The Wizard of Oz.

We arrive in Abingdon a couple of hours early, to take in some historic sites in downtown.

Next to the welcome sign was an old phone booth that is now converted into a phone charging station. Who would have thought!

Just further down on Main Street, the majestic and stately Martha Washington Inn sits on the right of Main Street. Originally built in 1832 for $15,000 by General Francis Preston, a hero of the War of 1812, for his family of nine children. Over the course of the last 188 years, the building has served as an upscale women’s college, a Civil War Hospital, and barracks, and as a residence for visiting actors of the Barter Theater.

The Inn is said to be haunted by several spirits from the civil war. One ghost story that I felt as a true love story that carries on forever is entitled The Yankee Sweetheart. ❤️

The Yankee Sweetheart story is about a tragic love affair between a student at Martha Washington College and her Yankee sweetheart. Although still a girl’s college, Martha Washington College served as a hospital during the Civil War. Several of the girls did not return home during the war but bravely volunteered to stay at the school as nurses. Captain John Stoves, a Yankee officer, was severely wounded and captured in town. Soldiers carried Capt. Stoves through the cave system under Abingdon and up a secret stairway to the third floor of the building. Capt. Stoves lay gravely wounded in what is now Room 403. For weeks, a young student named Beth nursed and cared for him. She found herself falling in love with the brave captain, and he returned her sentiments. Often, Beth would lovingly play the violin to ease his pain and suffering. But, their love was not to last for long. As he lay dying, he called, “Play something, Beth, I’m going.” Unfortunately, Beth was too late to escort him out with a song, because he died suddenly. Beth tearfully played a sweet southern melody as a tribute to him. When a Confederate officer entered and explained that he was taking Captain Stoves as a prisoner, Beth faced him triumphantly and said, “He has been pardoned by an officer higher than General Lee. Captain Stoves is dead.” Beth died a few weeks later from typhoid fever. Many of the female students who later attended the college, as well as inn employees and guests, have heard Beth’s sweet violin music in the night. Others report that Beth visits Room 403 to comfort her Yankee soldier.

Isn’t that an awesome story!

In 1935 the Inn opened up and has been a host to many guests. Among them have included, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Down Main Street, and adjacent is The Barter Theater. It opened on June 10, 1933. It is the longest-running professional theatre in the United States.

In 1933, when the United States was in the middle of the Great Depression, many people could not afford to pay for theater tickets, and many actors had trouble finding employment.

Beginning with “some twenty of his fellow actors”, Robert Porterfield, founder of the theatre, offered admission by letting the local people pay with food goods, hence the name “Barter”. He said, “With vegetables that you cannot sell you can buy a good laugh.” The original ticket price for a play was 30 cents, or the equivalent in goods.

Barter Theatre’s first production was After Tomorrow by John Golden. An AP news story reported that the production “was played to a capacity audience that came laden with cakes, fruit, vegetables, poultry” and a live pig. Yes a live pig! Needless to say, the actors ate well.

Many well-known stars of stage, screen, and television have performed early in their careers at The Barter Theater, including  Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Kevin Spacey, and Larry Linville.

In 1946, The Barter Theater was designated as the State Theater of Virginia.

After sightseeing, we took in dinner at the Peppercorn Mill. It was a old home with beautiful hardwood, high ceilings, and a grand staircase. Our meal was good with a flight of margarita’s.

Now for the main attraction to what brought us to Abingdon. Tonight, because of the virus, the Wizard of Oz play was put on at the Moonlite Drive-In Theater. Everyone sat in their cars and listened to the play on their car radios. The stage was upfront with the drive-in theater’s screen above the stage showing the performers. What a great way to continue the performances. The play was just as good as if it was at the theater.

Dorothy with the Scarecrow

Dorothy sums it up best at the end of the play.

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

And just like that I clicked my heels three times and said, “there’s no place like home”, and 2 1/2 hours later I was home. Haha

I hope you have enjoyed our trip to Abingdon, Virginia

Little House on the Praire and Field of Dreams

On our final journey of this vacation, we find ourselves going to Walnut Grove, Minnesota to the museum of Little House on the Praire.

Most of us have watched Little House on the Praire at some point in our lives. Most of the story took place in Walnut Grove. What I discovered was that the Ingalls family moved several times and each time they moved a little further west. Walnut Grove was the original home to Laura Ingalls Wilder. The home was a sod house. A sod house is built into an embankment of a hill. Today the sod house is just a depression in the hill. The roof collapsed a long time ago.

A reconstruction of the original sod house.

The Ingalls lived in the sod house from 1874-1876. After 3 years of crop failures, they decided to move to Burr Oak, Iowa. Laura wrote mostly of her time in Walnut Grove and Plum Creek.

Plum Creek

She wrote of her swimming hole in Plum Creek and the spring hole. She also wrote about a big rock at the creek and described it enough that today the rock can still be seen.

Rock at Plum Creek

Next, we saw the prairie that I could imagine the girls running with the youngest (Carrie) falling and Laura and Mary helping her up. Mary went blind at age 14, allegedly from Scarlet Fever. She never married or had kids, and died at the age of 63 from pneumonia.

Prairie View from the sod house

A Prairie looks like a Meadow to me. So I googled the difference and basically, a Meadow is in the South and a Prairie is in the Midwest.

In the museum, there was a lot of memorabilia and some props from the show.

Top Pa’s Fiddle
Bottom fireplace mantle
The picture on right is of the real Charles Ingalls

Walnut Grove was not originally on our itinerary. Since we were within driving distance we decided to make the trek. The show was a part of both Missy’s and my childhood that helped us set our values as adults today. The town of Walnut Grove was cute and very small. We enjoyed out time there.

The next stop was the movie set of Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come.” They were right because we were there.

We then met our tour guide who was wearing a 1919 Chicago White Sox wool uniform.

He was very informative and really enjoys his job. We toured the house and watched clips of the movie.

The picture below is the window where Kevin Costner first saw the image of Shoeless Joe Jackson in the cornfield.

Another view from the wrap around porch and swing
Home Plate
The cornfield in the outfield
Is that Shoeless Joe Jackson getting ready to step out of the corn?

Some interesting facts I learned from our tour guide was that it took about 6 weeks to get the field ready for the movie. They had to paint the sod in the infield to keep it green.

The producers asked the community around Iowa for anyone with cars from the early 1900s to be extras in the movie. About 1500 old cars showed up to attend the field to watch the game for the movie. Because there were so many cars that showed up, they just lined them on the road. To make them look like they were driving to the field they had them flicker their lights from low beam to high beam.

They are building a major league field adjacent to the movie field. MLB is supposed to host a game this August. It officially hasn’t been canceled, but the tour guide felt it would probably be played next summer due to this years shorten season. So be on the lookout.

From the movie, there is a quote that sums up the movie.

“This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that was good, and that can be good again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will definitely come, definitely come.”

This is a place where reality mixes with fantasy and dreams can come true. For me, it brought back how I lived my dream through Hannah and her days of playing college softball. I wasn’t as successful as a college athlete so I got to relive my dream through her. Thank You Hannah! I carry our memories with me forever.

Finally as we drove further southeast, we stumbled upon the American Pickers store, in Le Claire, Iowa, from the history channel show. Mike, Frank, or Dani weren’t there to chat with, but it was fun looking around.

This blog will conclude our 24-day cross country trip covering 9,000 miles and around 175 hours in the car. We saw some wonderful things that our country offers. We tried to leave no stone unturned but there are many more sites in our country to see. I hope you have enjoyed my blogs as much as we enjoyed our trip. I have to report that after spending so much time together that Missy and I are still married and speaking to each other. Haha. We both are looking forward to getting home and seeing my buddy, Riley.

One of few pictures we got of us together