Newport, Rhode Island Mansions

We had two mansions to tour today, The Elms and The Breakers.

The Elms is a large mansion (sometimes facetiously called a “summer cottage”) was built in 1901. The Berwind’s amassed their fortune through coal. The house cost approximately $1.5 million dollars in 1901. It has 60,000 square feet, it is the 19th largest historic house in the United States. Below are pictures of the home.

The Elms
The South Alcove
One of many Chandeliers
Dinning Room
Entertainment Room- Ballroom
Drawing Room
Conservatory Room
Library
Breakfast Room
Mrs Birdwind’s Bedroom
Main Kitchen

The Elms home was beautiful, so big and stately. It took about 1 1/2 hours to tour and still didn’t see the entire house.

Next we went to the Breakers.. The Breakers was built in 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his wife Alice, who is frequently referred to as “Alice of the Breakers.” A Vanderbilt lived at the Breakers from 1895 to 2018. It’s said to be three times the size of the White House. It cost $7 million to build in 1895, about $220 million today.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II only lived at the house for one summer and for four years after the house was built, before dying of a stroke at age 55.

The house had everything, best of the best. Much more elaborate and detailed than the Elms Mansion.

The 70-room mansion, with a gross area of 125,339 square feet and 62,482 square feet of living area on five floors.

The Breakers
Inside front foyer of the Breakers
Vanderbilt
Dining Room
Bullard Room
Music Room
Me Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
Bathroom
Sitz Bath

Sitz Baths were used to sit in and to soothe your bottom, sometimes after riding horses.

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s Bedroom
Grand Staircase
Kitchen in basement
Butlers Pantry

Outside of the mansion, you have cliff walks with beautiful views of Easton Bay.

Easton Bay

The small town of Newport is very rich in history with its preserved mansions. Today I got to see two beautiful mansions where each family had an idea and a dream of how they wanted to live. These families were rich and powerful because our nation gave people the opportunities to make their wealth. It’s all a part of what our forefathers in Philadelphia drew up with freedoms and independence. I enjoyed visiting both of these mansions.

Philadelphia – The City of Brotherly Love – Nations First Capital – Philly Cheesesteaks – Philadelphia Freedom

Our adventure takes us to Philadelphia, I named our trip, Fall Retirement Trip 2021. Our good friends the Scite’s are with us celebrating Missy and Debbie’s retirement. Greg and I are just here for the adventure.

The drive on I95 through Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, and then to Philadelphia which had us on the road at 5 AM. Our first stop in Philadelphia was the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell became an iconic symbol of Independence for our young nation.

The Liberty Bell was made in 1751, weighing 2080 lbs, height is 4 feet, and is made from metals of copper, lead, zinc, arsenic, gold, and silver. Because the metal was too brittle, it cracked during a test strike and had to be recast twice. On July 8, 1776, the bell was rung to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1846, when the city decided to repair the bell prior to George Washington’s birthday holiday (February 23), metal workers widened the thin crack to prevent its farther spread and restore the tone of the bell. The wide “crack” in the Liberty Bell is the repair job! The repair failed, causing a second crack running up the bell. The crack silenced the bell forever. Today the bell rests in the museum with thousands of visitors annually. Now a worldwide symbol, the bell’s message of liberty remains just as relevant and powerful today, as it did hundreds of years ago.

Next, we went to the Betsy Ross house. Betsy was credited with making the first flag for our nation. Making a flag was a very dangerous job, if the British caught her she would be charged with treason and imprisoned. Betsy was credited for making the first flag at this house which she didn’t own and lived in from 1776-1779.

Betsy Ross House

Betsy is buried just outside of the house.

Next, about 3-4 blocks is the gravesite of Benjamin Franklin.

Just down the street from there is a statue of his bust with the head formed from 80,000 melted pennies and below the neck 1,000 melted keys.

Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia is the oldest street in America. There are 32 houses on the street which were built between 1703 and 1836. The houses are small but have stood tall over time. Today the street is well traveled with tourists.

View looking down one side of the street.
One of the front doors decorated for fall. Notice the pumpkin carvings.

It was now time for lunch. You probably guessed it, Philly Cheesesteaks.

After lunch, our next stop was the Rocky Balboa statue. Missy and I had to run the steps leading up to the art museum. Our endurance would never make us boxers, but we both felt like champions!

We then found the Benjamin Franklin Museum. It’s location is at the site of his home. One of the leading figures of early American history, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor, and diplomat. Franklin signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. He was the first Post Master of the United States Postal Service.

Franklin became the owner and publisher of a colonial newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, which proved popular and to which he contributed much of the content, often using pseudonyms. Franklin achieved fame and further financial success with “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” which he published every year from 1733 to 1758. The almanac became known for its witty sayings, which often had to do with the importance of diligence and frugality, such as “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

Our last stop of the day was Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and adopted by our forefathers.

Independence Hall
Windows of room where Declaration of Independence was debated and approved.

This concludes our adventure in Philadelphia. Off to our next adventure.

Ferry Farm– George Washington’s Boy Hood Home

The future general and first president was 6 years old when his family moved to King George County (now Stafford County), Virginia, in 1738.

George Washington Bust in Visitors Center

The farm was named after the Washington family had left the property. Its namesake was a free ferry that crossed the Rappahannock River on Washington land—the family did not own or operate it.

In 1738, George Washington’s father, Augustine, acquired the plantation while owning two other plantations with Ferry Farm being the smallest at 600 acres. Augustine Washington died unexpectedly in 1743, from a respiratory infection leaving George fatherless at the age of 11. His fathers death devastated the young George. He wouldn’t be able to afford a formal education. He felt that his life was over. In Augustine’s will, he endowed Ferry Farm and ten slaves to young George. The boys are awarded the estates of the family by age with the slaves divided. George was third born and inherited the third plantation. Different from today where it usually goes to the spouse. It was done this way to keep the family money in the family.

The family struggled several years through some tough financial times. Although he would not legally become the owner of Ferry Farm until his twenty-first birthday, George still assisted his mother in running the farm. Mary Washington had control of the estate until George turned 21.

Mary Washington expected the children to be refined while expecting them to help raise the family up in society. Despite this, George and his brothers worked hand in hand with the slaves to keep the farm running. George lived on the farm for another five years before moving.

Ferry Farm is the setting for some of the best known stories about George Washington, a 6-year-old George barked one of his father Augustine’s favorite English cherry trees with a new hatchet. Upon being confronted by his father, the boy confessed, saying: “I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet.” Today this story can’t be verified, but they do know there were cherry trees on the plantation. In the foundation of the original house, they found cherry pits embedded.

The Washington-era farm, then referred to by others as the Washington Farm and by the Washingtons as the Home Farm, had a 1½-story central passage house, two rooms deep, perched atop a bluff on the Rappahannock River. It was built by Augustine Washington. Around 1830, the house is believed to have collapsed from disrepair.

House reconstructed to the believed state of George Washington’s boyhood home. The front of the house faces the river.
Inside house, this room was the dining room, ball room for entertaining and office for running the plantation.
This room with it’s large fireplace was the parlor. Plaster was a show of wealth.

The ferry that crossed the Rappahannock River was adjacent to the plantation. There are letters written by Augustine seemingly being annoyed by the people coming to the ferry so close to his house.

Ferry Road circa 1763
Site on river where ferry was located

Throughout the Civil War, the area surrounding Ferry Farm was prone to encounters between Confederate and Union armies due to a concentration of ferry and train traffic.

Because of these encounters, many significant battles occurred in the city surrounding Ferry Farm, although no battles occurred on the actual site. Ferry Farm was periodically occupied by Union Soldiers as a war campground, which military personnel used to prepare for battle. The soldiers not knowing the Washington home had collapsed thought they were burning wood from the house to stay warm in the winter. They were burning other buildings on the plantation. In 1862, amid the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln toured Ferry Farm.

George, being a land surveyor, left behind information that today historians and archaeologists have been able to recreate the farm. George left a list of contents inside of the house. The historians were able to find a lot of information about the plantation, thus making the house we see today historically correct.

Mary Washington continued to live at Ferry Farm until 1772 when George Washington bought her a house in Fredericksburg. In 1774. Washington sold the 600 acre farm for two thousand pounds to Hugh Mercer, a Scottish immigrant and physician who served as a brigadier general in the Revolutionary forces.

On January 12, 1777, American Brigadier General Hugh Mercer dies from the seven bayonet wounds he received during the Battle of Princeton, while under the command of General George Washington.

Mary Washington died at age 82 from breast cancer. She lived to see her son, George, become the first president of the United States of America.

Autumn in Virginia, Blue Ridge Parkway and Peaks of Otter 🍁🍂

An early birthday celebration for Mama O took us on a drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is part of the Appalachian Mountains, in southwestern Virginia for lunch at the Peaks of Otter Restaurant.

With Mother Nature running about three weeks behind we quickly noticed her showing off her fall colors.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which is America’s longest linear park, runs for 469 miles through 29 Virginia and North Carolina counties, linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For us the Parkway runs through Roanoke.

Parkway Road headed North from Roanoke, Virginia
View of Mountains from Overlook

As we traveled the thirty miles we stopped at numerous overlooks to take in the fresh mountain air and the fall colors.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “the mountains of the Blue Ridge, and these of the Peaks of Otter, are thought to be of a greater height, measured from their base, than any others in our country, and perhaps in North America.” Of course, this later turned out not to be the case, but not before Virginia had sent stones from the peaks to be its part of the Washington Monument.

Every bend in the road gave us a beautiful canvas to admire.

One red tree standing tall amongst all other trees

You are not in the mountains, the mountains are inside of you- John Muir

Appalachian Trail
AT

The Appalachian Trail stretches 2050 miles from Northern Georgia to Maine while crisscrossing the Blue Ridge Parkway for 100 miles in Virginia.

At milepost marker 86 of the Blue Ridge Parkway stands the Peaks of Otter. The Restaurant and Lodge was established in 1964. I think I have been visiting since 1965. Manmade Abbott Lake lies in the valley between the three peaks. Archaeological evidence under Abbott Lake indicates that Native Americans have been visiting the Peaks of Otter for at least 8,000 years for hunting, travel, and rest.

Inside Restaurant
Deer Antler Chandelier
Beautiful Buck 10 Points
And of course an Otter
Beautiful Hearth Fireplace
Sharp Top Elev 3850 ft
Abbott Lake

There are 3 Mountain peaks, Sharp Top, Flat Top (Elev 4001 ft) and Harkening Hill (Elev 3372 ft). We hiked part of Harkening Hill to Johnsons Farm. Johnson’s Farm was originally built in 1850, but today it is restored to its appearance of the 1920s.

Road up to Johnson’s Farm

I am an old time country lane for many years cows clattered back and forth over me. Wagons rumbled up and down. Children ran and played while farmers farmed wearing my road deeper and deeper into the earth. Now I am empty and silent except for a few hikers daily. Unused, Unwanted and forgotten. Ah, but what stories I could tell. Author Unknown, This is on a plaque on trail.

Approaching Johnson’s Farm from Trail
Johnson’s Farm, notice the old bell

The Peaks of Otter village of 22 families supported a school, a church, two mills, an Odd Fellows Lodge and the Hotel Mons. The Johnson Farm, one of the few remnants of the old community, supplied fruit and vegetables to the hotel.

Back of House

Site of Apple House where it was built on a 5-foot deep pit in the ground, with two levels, the upper serving as a storage/drying area for food and the lower level as a root cellar. Canned goods as well as apples and potatoes, were stored in bins on the earthen floor. The floor would be lined with old leaves and quilts to protect from the cold.

Barn
Spring House

The Johnson family continually worked the farm for 90 years.

Looking down at the farm
Hiking on trail

On the drive home we stopped at another overlook, Iron Mine Hollow.

Iron Mine Hollow

Over the years, I have had many experiences at The Peaks Of Otter. I have seen black bears and many deer. I was hiking one time and a deer came upon us and let us pet him. Later I found out from a ranger that the deer had recently been released by a zoo.

If the bear shows no interest in your food and you are physically attacked, fight back aggressively with any available objects- the bear may consider you prey! You are too Close!

Today many people visit the Peaks, eating, hiking and lodging. It’s also a popular venue for weddings around the lake as it was today. There is a campground and picnic area as well.

Virginia has a lot of beautiful sights to see and I have been lucky to have them as a part of my entire life.

Just as if you have hiked one of the 3 hikes, It’s Good To Be At The Peaks!

Cave Mountain Lake Virginia

“You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you.” -John Muir

Our adventure today is in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Cave Mountain Lake in the Jefferson National Forest. Just a little over one hour north of Roanoke past Natural Bridge, VA, crossing the James River, passing through Arnold’s Valley, past the general store, past an old Buffalo farm, up the mountain, we revisited an old National Park Campground with its quaint trout-filled seven-acre creek feed lake. Trust me everything I said is true, you just can’t make things like this up.

I have camped at Cave Mountain Lake since I was old enough to walk. I camped there with my parents, siblings, and with my family. All in all, 3 generations from my family have camped here over the last half-century with lots of great memories.

As I write this, tons of memories are rushing through my head. I remember turning over rocks to get nightcrawlers for fishing. I remember playing in the creek. I remember riding bikes through the campsite. I remember gathering wood for the fire. I remember one of the buffalo from down in the valley got loose and came up to the campground. Ranger “Slick” had to shoot the Buffalo for the safety of the campground. You never knew what adventure might occur while camping.

Cave Mountain Lake gets part of its name from the lake. The lake was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which used the naturally found rock, to form the 35-foot dam. Since the lake is creek feed, the water is always cold and crystal clear. The campground has 41 campsites that are spacious, private, and wooded.

Beach Area of Lake
Otters and Trout share the lake What a Beautiful View
Salamander seen through the lake Water

The CCC also built the log picnic shelter using trees and rocks from the area. Its rustic design includes a large stone fireplace and rough-hewn beams and shaker shingles.

Picnic Shelter– Yours for a Rental of $25 a day
The Stone Fireplace with left to right, Melissa, Mama and Missy
Shaker shingles covered in Moss

Our good friends, Ronnie and Melissa, are the campground hosts at Cave Mountain Lake. We had a nice picnic lunch with grilled hamburgers and potato salad while reminiscing and laughing about old adventures camping with the crackle from the fire in the stone fireplace popping in our ears.

Ronnie Grilling Hamburgers

Throughout the campground, there are wooded pathways with bridges to cross the babbling creek, and two trails you can hike, Wildcat Mountain and Panther Knob.

Picnic Area
One of Many Pedestrian Bridges
LISTEN! Sounds of Creek

I learned several things today while visiting the campground. Persimmon trees were growing nearby and Ronnie was telling us how a seed split from a persimmon predicted the winter weather by looking at the shape of the split kernel.

If the kernel is spoon-shaped, expect plenty of snow to shovel.

If it is fork-shaped, plan on a mild winter with powdery, or light snow.

If it is Knife-shaped, expect frigid winds that will “cut” like a blade.

We cut open several persimmon seeds to verify they all were the same…and you guessed it, spoon-shaped. Get your shovels out, you heard it from me first.

Can you see the spoon?

Next, I learned of PawPaw trees that grow near the creek leading into the lake. Pawpaws are an old fruit that I had heard of but never have seen in our area.

Paw-paw
Paw-paw tree

The Pawpaw fruit reminds me of papaya with a mango-banana taste. Pawpaw trees are the largest edible fruit trees native to North America. Keywords Native to North America. The fruit is usually ripe when it is falling off the tree. They are used in cooking, puddings, mixed in drinks, and even to flavor ice cream. For me, the best way to eat one is to tear open the skin and spoon the meat out.

Finally, I learned that there is a tree that supposedly Robert E. Lee carved his name in 1854 or 1864. General Lee died in 1870, just down the road apiece in Lexington, Virginia. We had never seen this in all our years of coming here. The tree is off the road next to the creek. The signature is fairly high up on the tree from either tree growth or he was saddled on his horse “Traveler”. Traveler died in 1871 in Lexington too. Just down the road in Natural Bridge we supposedly have George Washington’s initials carved into the rock. There’s so much Early American history in these mountains.

Robert E. Lee

Cave Mountain Lake is a quiet haven while being a place to disconnect and immerse in nature while listening to the creek with the frog’s croaking to the wind whistling through the trees to the snap, crackle, pop of a campfire. It is truly an undiscovered gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. There aren’t many places we can go in today’s world where there is such beauty and solitude.

For those interested, day-use only costs $8 a day per car, camping is $20 a night. I remember when camping was $8 a night. There is running water and bathrooms with showers throughout the campground. There isn’t electricity and they don’t allow boats on the lake.

Camping in these mountains, you feel as if you are far far away from the city. You truly live with the other campers and wildlife upon these protected woodlands. While camping we would have to put away all food and trash. I remember looking outside my tent to seeing a raccoon eating dog food. I remember an owl hooting in the tree. Years ago the trash cans were down in the ground at each campsite with a closeable lid to keep the bears out. Many times black bears would be dumpster diving. Today Ronnie was on the lookout for a black snake.

Today, in 2021, Cave Mountain Lake looks the same as it did 50 years ago. Some upgrades look to fit the timeline of 1934. I am sure the insects, animals, wind, frogs, and the crackling fire all sound the same as they did 87 years ago!

As a kid, I do remember with the heavy tree canopy how dark it got in the campground at night. It was always fun to get the lantern out to walk to the bathhouse at night. We would get back to the site and as we did today, and have smores. Everyone would sit by the campfire and act silly, telling ghost stories, playing cards, etc. We could just let our imagination run wild. I remember waking up when the sun came up to the smell of coffee, bacon, and eggs, or sausage gravy biscuits all cooked over an open firepit. Discussing what we would have to eat for lunch and dinner, as we always ate good while camping. Oh, I long for those days again.

We often take for granted what we are used to seeing, but today I saw these mountains as if I might never see them again. I left no footprint but took lots of memories.

There’s something about being in the wild of nature, that every time you come if you pay attention and listen to the land it will teach you something as it did for me today. We will see if the winter weather prediction comes true?

Our friends Ronnie and Melissa are responsible for the awesome upkeep over many years to the campground. They are great hosts as well. Thanks for keeping the memories alive! We had a fun day!

Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania

The last adventure of our trip brings us to the borough of Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe was a famous Native American athlete. He was what we know as before Bo Jackson or Dion Saunders multi-athlete. He won Olympic gold medals, played professional football and baseball.

Jim Thorpe

We started our journey at the Asa Packer Mansion. Completed in 1861, it was the home of Asa Packer (1805–1879), a coal and railroad magnate, philanthropist, and founder of Lehigh University. The mansion is one of the best-preserved Italianate Villa homes in the United States, with original Victorian furnishings and finishes.

The Asa Packer Mansion was built over a cast iron frame and cost $14,000 dollars. It contains a total of three stories, 18 rooms, a red-ribbed tin roof, and a two-story covered porch.

Asa Packer Mansion

Upon the death of Mary Packer Cummings, Mr. Packer’s daughter, the home was willed to the Borough of Mauch Chunk (today Jim Thorpe) to remain as a memorial to her father and his many accomplishments. The borough, not certain what to do with the home, closed it, and for 44 years the home sat idle.

Inside the home, everything is original, all of the furniture, carpet, wallpaper just as it was in 1912. It’s truly a beautiful home. I have never seen anything so old with everything original. Asa paid workers 50 cents plus room and board a day to hand carve all of the woodwork inside of the house. It took a year and a half to complete the hand carvings. How would you like workers in your home for a year and a half?

Asa never fully forgot his humble beginnings, his generous deeds spoke for him. A philanthropist throughout his lifetime, Asa gave 33 million dollars to the town of Mauch Chunk and the Lehigh Valley. At the time of his passing, Asa retained an estate valued at 54 and a half million dollars.

Because Mary Packer left the home to the town, the 5,000 residents all own the mansion. Very cool.

Next door was Asa’s son’s home which is a bed and breakfast today. It looks to be a mansion in itself.

Harry Packer’s Home

We then walked the streets of Jim Thorpe looking at shops and restaurants. We had lunch and then headed to the old jail.

The jail was built in 1869–1870 and is a two-story, fortress-like rusticated stone building. It has thick, massive walls and a square, one-story guard turret above the main entrance.

It features arched windows on the main facade and the turret. There is a basement that was used for solitary confinement until 1980. The building is most notable as the jail where a number of suspected “Molly Maguire’s” were imprisoned while awaiting trial in 1875–1876 and subsequently hanged. There is a movie about the hangings that was filmed at the old jail.

Dungeon in the basement for solitary confinement

In cell 17, there is a handprint left by Alexander Campbell, a “Molly Maguire” who was hanged in 1877, to proclaim his innocence. Legend has it that despite many attempts to remove it, including building a new wall, the mark remains today.

List of people hung in jail
Gallows in jail for hangings
Cell Room

We enjoyed our day in Jim Thorpe, there also is a passenger train that departs from town. Cute town with plenty to do.

Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame

Our first stop was the museum. Dedicated to James Naismith, who invented the sport in Springfield. The Hall of Fame was opened and inducted its first class in 1959. They have inducted over 400 basketball individuals. There are coaches, players, referees, contributors, and teams inducted. Penny Marshall (Lavern and Shirley) is a big basketball fan and has contributed several items.

Outside of building

In the lobby, they had some of the more notable players’ game uniforms, shoes, basketballs, and some trophies.

They also had an imprint of their shoes.

Shaquille O’Neal
Size 22
Michael Jordan
Size 13

As we walked into the museum, this quote from Wilt Chamberlain says it all. “They say nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they would make up their minds!” Great Quote.

Next, you could size up to Muggsy Bogues at 5’ 3”. Look at Missy towering over Muggsy. Missy’s response was “ I could of played”.

The tour starts on the third floor overlooking the court. You got to shoot hoops on the court at the end of the tour. They also had a peach basket to shoot on. Pretty cool!

There were a lot of jerseys. Below are some of the players I was looking for.

Michael Jordan
Dr. J
Meadowlark Lemon
Lorenzo Charles
1983 NC State

There were a lot of films on players, memorabilia, and trophies.

College trophies above, to the best of each position. Pretty cool trophies named after a player.

The basketball hall of fame museum was about all of basketball, men, women, NBA, College, and a few other leagues. It included basketball’s biggest fans, coaches, and referees.

Missy wasn’t excited about going, but afterward, she said she enjoyed it more than the baseball. I had told her it would be good.

I got to hold the NBA trophy.

As well as try my hand at being an ESPN Sportscenter announcer.

My first experience with reading a teleprompter.

I finally got to hang out with my buddy Shaq!

We both enjoyed our visit, I only have the Football Hall of Fame left to visit.

Mount Washington and The Vermont Country Store

Early morning came……… EARLY! We had reservations for the Mount Washington Cog Train at 8:30 am.

Mount Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire at 6,288’. You can either drive up or ride the cog train. We decided to take the train.

1 passenger train
We had this steam locomotive

The cog trains are in their 152nd season climbing to the top of New England. The track has inclines as much as 37 degrees. They have both steam and diesel locomotives. Its track is straight up the mountain. It takes 1 hour to climb at a speed of 3-4 mph. The Cog train has these large cogs that pull the train up the track. There were 5 cogs on our train. The steam engine then uses air pressure instead of steam coming down the mountain. There is a brakeman inside of passenger train to keep the train from pushing the locomotive down the mountain.

Once we got to the summit the fog cover was so heavy it was hard to see anything.

We made it
Train in fog
Brakeman working the brakes on train
Picture of our steam locomotive who pushed passenger train up the mountain

They claim to have the worst weather in the world in Mount Washington. There have been lots of deaths on the mountain. The highest recorded wind speed was 231 mph. Part of the Appalachian Trail runs up Mount Washington. The trail is the very first trail in America. It was first laid out in 1819.

At 10:30 am the temperature was 61, feels like 57 degrees at summit.
Wow, that warning sign is brutal.

Our next adventure was back across Vermont. Weston, Vermont is home to the original Vermont Country Store.

The store is very large. It’s 3 buildings to make 1 big store. Our day concluded with driving to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Vermont and New Hampshire

Vermont is very much about Maple Syrup and Cheese. New Hampshire ‘s motto is “Live Free or Die”. Which would you prefer to be known by?

Our first destination is Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont with a summit that peaks at 4,395 feet above sea level. The toll road is 4.5 miles up. The scenery was typical Vermont post card quality.

Beginning of trail
Lots of views
The yellow is a bloom from a flower
Flowers on mountain

Next we drove by Fisher Bridge in Wolcott , Vermont. The last railroad covered bridge in use in the United States.

As we drove towards New Hampshire, we stopped in a small town with a farmers market open on a Wednesday morning. This little girl (about 6 years old) came up to Missy and I and was talking jibberish, just jibberish, not making any sense too me. Missy figured out she was telling us about a butterfly cocoon on a tree. I had no idea what she was saying. She kept saying “CHRYSALIS” over and over. Thought it was just jibberish coming out of her mouth. Me, never heard such a word in my life, and this 6 year old is telling me this.

Green capsule looking is the Chrysalis it’s probably gonna make a monarch butterfly

She then wanted to show us the Chrysalis. She was right and I stand to be stupid!!! It’s the new skin forms the chrysalis that covers the caterpillar’s body. When the skin hardens, it takes on a green color. The color helps the chrysalis blend in with vegetation, which makes it less noticeable to passing birds and other predators. So I learned something today from a 6 year old.

After crossing into New Hampshire, we saw a covered bridge gift shoppe in Bartlett.

1790
There’s a store inside the bridge

Our destination was Jackson, NH. And yes they have a covered bridge there too, built in 1876, the bridge was nicknamed “Honeymoon” bridge from the tradition of lovers kissing under it for good luck.

It’s a bit wider than bridges I have seen before

In Jackson, NH they have a puzzle store. Missy was in heaven, she bought 3 puzzles.

In Vermont and New Hampshire every little village has the large church steeples with bells.

Next in Conway, NH we saw another covered bridge, the Swift River Bridge, est 1869.

Next the Saco River Bridge est 1890.

River under the bridge

Finally the Jackson Inn, the Inn was the summer home of the Baldwin family who made Baldwin pianos. It’s an old home converted into an inn.

Jackson Inn

Closet next to our room

Harry Potter Closet

So I hope y’all are enjoying my blogs, for us it’s a new adventure everyday! Our country sure has a lot to offer.

Witch Dungeon, Maple Syrup Farm and Stowe, Vermont

Our last order of business in Salem, Massachusetts was the Witch Dungeon Museum. What made this worth seeing was it touched more on what happened after they were found guilty.

Which Dungeon Museum
Salem, Ma

Salem’s laws were unique to the rest of the states for witches. If the accused admitted guilt then their lives were sparred.

After being told that they would be shown mercy if they confessed, 54 of the accused witches admitted guilt. Families and friends often urged their loved ones to confess to save their lives. Families sometimes turned on one another. When Margaret Jacobs confessed to witchcraft, she implicated several others, including her grandfather, Reverend George Burroughs.

From February to May, events escalated until 180 residents had been accused of witchcraft. Formal action was taken against 144 individuals, who were often chained and thrown in jail for months under harsh conditions. At least 55 of the accused were tortured or terrified into admitting guilt. Neither the young nor the old were spared. Four-year-old accused witch Dorcas Good went insane after spending months in prison and watching her baby sister die while in jail with their mother, who was later hanged. Three women and two infants died while imprisoned.

Ultimately, 19 individuals who had refused to admit guilt were hanged and another was pressed to death.

Around the end of September, the use of spectral evidence was finally declared inadmissible, thus marking the beginning of the end of the Salem Witch Trials. Although spectral evidence, evidence-based on dreams and visions, wasn’t the only evidence used in court during the Salem Witch Trials, it was the most common evidence and the easiest evidence for accusers to fake.

Massachusetts Governor Phips, who had returned from the colony’s border, was shocked by the state of the trials. Already nineteen had been hanged and more and more influential and important people were being accused. One of these people was his wife, Lady Phips. The governor put an end to the trials immediately and dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer (to hear and determine ). He also released all those who had been accused but not yet stood trial. Finally, he established a new court known as the Superior Court of Judicature to hear once more the cases of those who had stood trial and been sentenced to death. He then offered apologies to the families accused of being a witch.

So I wonder if the Governor’s wife wasn’t accused of being a witch would Governor Phips had declared the witch trials unconstitutional.

Torture for the witches included being put in the dungeon with some cells only big enough to stand up inside. There was no luxuries for the witches.

Interesting facts about the accused witches

We then headed north, driving to Montpellier, Vermont to go to an eighth-generation maple syrup farm.

I learned that trees can produce maple syrup for many many years. The process to make maple syrup is a detailed process. It’s not just catching the sap in a bucket. They tap the trees with a drill in the early spring when the ground freezes at night and warms up during the day. It takes a lot of sap from a tree to make a gallon of syrup. The people who own the maple syrup farm are farmers. They can’t make a living on maple syrup alone. After a maple tree is planted it takes many years before it produces sap.

Tubing connects from tree to tree to gather the flow of the syrup
Tap in tree

The sap runs for about 20-30 days a year. We had some maple-flavored ice cream that was very tasty.

Next, we drove to our destination of Stowe, Vermont. Stowe is a ski resort town at the base of Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain peak in Vermont. There is no snow here now. We did get to see our first covered bridge. Emily’s bridge is supposed to be haunted. The story states that on the day of her marriage, Emily was stood up at the altar. In a state of despair, Emily took her life at the bridge.

The covered bridge is still being used today

Many people who have visited the bridge have experienced disturbing paranormal activity. People have reported scratch marks appearing on vehicles that were parked on the bridge and being touched or scratched by Emily’s ghost. Often strange noises are heard on the bridge, such as footsteps, ropes tightening, and a girl screaming. Many have also reported seeing a white apparition around the area of Emily’s Bridge. People that have parked their vehicle on the haunted bridge say they tend to hear banging noises from Emily hitting the vehicle on the outside, or a dragging sound across the tops of their cars. The most distinct paranormal events tend to take place between the hours of 12 AM and 3:30 AM.

In the town of Stow, we saw the classic view of what you think of Vermont and its beautiful church steeples. We just need snow to complete the picture.

One if by land, two if by sea

Our adventure took us on the old town trolley along the freedom trail. The first stop was The Old North Church in Boston. This is the church steeple that Paul Revere had a person hang lanterns in the steeple, one lantern meant the Redcoats were coming by land and two lanterns by sea.

The steeple was high enough to be seen from a distance

After seeing the lanterns , Paul Revere crossed the river to Charlestown the night of April 18, 1775, and then borrowed a horse to report to John Adams and John Hancock that the British were coming and with great force. This is the story of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere

Contrary to what history has taught us Paul Revere never said “The British are Coming”. He also never finished his midnight ride, the British detained him before he ever got to Concord. Samuel Prescott was the only one of three riders that made the journey to Concord to warn that the British were coming. Paul Revere’s ride became famous from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem.

We next walked a few blocks over from the church to Paul Revere’s home.

Front of Paul Revere’s home

Paul Revere had 16 children in 30 years. They said he always had 5 or 6 children at home at one time. Paul became quite the businessman in Boston. He was a silversmith. He used the profits from his expanding business to finance his work in iron casting, bronze bell and cannon casting, and the forging of copper bolts and spikes. In 1800, he became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets for use as sheathing on naval vessels. He was a Massachusetts militia officer. He was a member of the Sons of Liberty. Paul Revere left his mark all over the city of Boston which can still be seen today.

Back of Paul Revere’s house

We then passed by the skinniest house in Boston. A plaque outside the house reads, “The Skinny House Est. 1862.” In addition to its odd dimensions, the home also has a spiteful history of sibling rivalry, which contributes to its local lore and tourist appeal.

Two brothers are said to have inherited the property from their deceased father during the Civil War, and one built himself a massive home, while the other was away fighting. When the latter returned home, he found only a shred of property remaining. The soldier decided to build the narrow house out of spite, blocking his brother’s sunlight.

Today’s cost to buy this house $1.2 million

We kept moving down the freedom trail until we came upon the U.S.S. Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides, is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy. She is the world’s oldest ship of any type still afloat. It was launched in 1797.

USS Constitution

We then saw the monument for the battle of Bunker Hill. It looks like the Washington monument with the Bunker Hill monument being older. It’s a rare monument in America where the Americans lost the battle. It was an early battle in the American Revolution with bloodshed. This became pivotal to the war.

Battle of Bunker Hill monument

We then jumped on the trolley to see where the Boston Tea Party took place. The Boston Tea Party was a political protest that occurred on December 16, 1773, at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston, Massachusetts. American colonists, frustrated and angry at Britain for imposing “taxation without representation,” dumped 342 chests of tea, imported by the British East India Company into the harbor. It took 3 hours to dump the tea. The event was the first major act of defiance to British rule over the colonists. It showed Great Britain that Americans wouldn’t take taxation and tyranny sitting down, and rallied American patriots across the 13 colonies to fight for independence.

Replica ship in harbor carrying tea

The Granary Burying Ground in Massachusetts the city of Boston’s third-oldest cemetery, was founded in 1660. It is the final resting place for many notable Revolutionary War Patriots including Paul Revere, the five victims of the Boston Massacre, and three signers of the Declaration of Independence; Samual Adams, John Hancock, and Robert Trent Payne.

Samuel Adams
John Hancock
Paul Revere

Today was a busy day, but I felt like I saw a lot of cool history. Boston has a lot of history for one city. Massachusetts was very important to the development of our country without English Rule.

Salem Witch Trials and The House of Seven Gables

Beware the following content contains information about witches! It is not for the timid! You have been warned! I accept no responsibility for any bad MOJO that might occur!

Today started with us staying in Salem, Ma because of tropical depression Henri. After going to breakfast we went to The House Of Seven Gables. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the story about the house in 1851. The house was built in 1668. It has 17 rooms and over 8,000 sq feet. It is the oldest 17th-century mansion in New England. There were secret rooms and stairwells in the house. Today people claim the house is haunted.

House of Seven Gables

Next to the house and museum is the house of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace, July 4, 1804. Both of these houses are in really good condition for their ages.

Nathaniel Hawthorne ‘s homeplace 1750

The two houses are near the bay where we walked and saw the Salem Maritime. This is where ships came in for trade until the harbor water became too shallow for the newer larger boats.

The building is where they collected taxes on the goods of the ships

We then walked about a mile to see the museum of the Salem Witch Trials and found this nice statue of Roger Conant, the first settler to Salem, Massachusetts in 1606. His hat looked like a sorcerer‘s hat. He lived from 1592-1670.

Across the street was America’s oldest candy company, Ye Olde Pepper Companie Manufacturing Confectioner since 1806.

Oldest Candy Company

The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft, the Devil’s magic, and 19 were executed. Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted.

The museum story was of January of 1692, Reverend Parris’ daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, started having “fits.” They screamed, threw things, uttered peculiar sounds and contorted themselves into strange positions, and a local doctor blamed the supernatural. Another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes. On February 29, under pressure from magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: Tituba, the Parris’ Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman.

All three women were brought before the local magistrates and interrogated for several days, starting on March 1, 1692. Osborne claimed innocence, as did Good. But Tituba confessed, “The Devil came to me and bid me serve him.” She described elaborate images of black dogs, red cats, yellow birds, and a “black man” who wanted her to sign his book. She admitted that she signed the book and said several other witches were looking to destroy the Puritans. All three women were put in jail. This was an old fashion which hunt.

With the seed of paranoia planted, a stream of accusations followed for the next few months.

On May 27, 1692, Governor William Phipps ordered the establishment of a Special Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) for Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex counties. The first case brought to the special court was Bridget Bishop, an older woman known for her gossipy habits and promiscuity. When asked if she committed witchcraft, Bishop responded, “I am as innocent as the child unborn.” The defense must not have been convincing, because she was found guilty and, on June 10, became the first person hanged on what was later called Gallows Hill.

By the end of the Salem witch trials, 19 people had been hanged, and 5 others had died in custody.

We then took a look at a memorial for the 19 that were hanged. Below is one of 19 memorials carved in stone. The one below says; Sarah Wildes Hanged July 19, 1692

Simple and to the point.

Next we saw an old cemetery dating back 3 Centuries.

The Salem Witch Trials came about from the strict Puritans religious standards and intolerance of anything not accepted within their scripture.

A strange story as we were traveling on our trip in the car, about 4 days ago, the car radio reported that more than three centuries after a Massachusetts woman, Elizabeth Johnson, was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death, she’s finally on the verge of being exonerated – thanks to a curious eighth-grade civics class.

Why Elizabeth was not exonerated is unclear but no action was ever taken on her behalf by the state general assembly or the courts.

Possibly because she was neither a wife nor a mother, she was not considered worthy of having her name cleared. And because she never had children, there is no group of descendants acting on her behalf.

Isn’t this crazy that this story came about while we were traveling on our trip to Salem, Ma? After 3 Centuries?

Hannah has heard that beginning October 1st, everything gets decorated big with the witches in Salem. The amount of tourism reaches its peak for the season. She lives about 5 minutes from this fun event about to unfold beneath her very own eyes. I am excited for her.

Cheers to Everyone

If Hannah knows anything, she knows breakfast. We had breakfast in Salem, MA at Dotty”s and Rays, Salem”s oldest diner since 1958. A great place to start your day.

After breakfast, we headed to Lexington/Concord to see the Orchard House. The Orchard House was home to Louisa May Alcott. It was first built between 1690-1720. The Alcott’s moved into Orchard House, which was then a two-story clapboard farmhouse, in the spring of 1858. At the time of purchase, the site included two early eighteenth-century houses on a 12-acre apple orchard. After moving more than twenty times in nearly thirty years, the Alcotts had finally found their home place at Orchard House, where they lived until 1877.

Orchard House

In 1868, Louisa May Alcott wrote her beloved classic novel, Little Women in her room on a special “shelf desk” built by her father. Set within the house, its characters are based on members of her family, with the plot loosely based on the family’s earlier years and events.

Desk wheee she wrote Little Women

Fortunately, there have been no major structural changes to the house since the Alcotts’ time, with ongoing preservation efforts adhering to the highest standards of authenticity. Since approximately 80% of the furnishings on display were owned by the Alcotts, the rooms look very much as they did when the family lived here, causing many modern-day visitors to comment that, “A visit to Orchard House is like a walk through Little Women!”

Next we headed just down the road a piece, to the site where on the night of April 18, 1775, hundreds of British troops set off from Boston toward Concord, Massachusetts, in order to seize weapons and ammunition stockpiled there by American colonists. Early the next morning, the British reached Lexington, where approximately 70 minutemen had gathered on the village green. Someone suddenly fired a shot, it’s uncertain which side, and a melee ensued. When the brief clash ended, eight Americans lay dead and at least an equal amount were injured, while one redcoat was wounded. The British continued on to nearby Concord, where that same day they encountered armed resistance from a group of patriots at the town’s North Bridge. Gunfire was exchanged, leaving two colonists and three redcoats dead. Afterward, the British retreated back to Boston, skirmishing with colonial militiamen along the way and suffering a number of casualties; the Revolutionary War had begun. The incident at the North Bridge later was memorialized by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1837 poem “Concord Hymn,” whose opening stanza is: “By the rude bridge that arched the flood/Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/Here once the embattled farmers stood/And fired the shot heard round the world.”

North Bridge

This spot we visited today is where our country stood up to the British and fought to become our own self-governing country. If not for the brave minutemen we might have been an entirely different country.

Next, we headed into Boston to visit the bar from the show Cheers, in Beacon Hill. “Where everybody knows your name.” Its a iconic bar in Boston where you can go and relax and enjoy time with friends. A Boston trip is not complete without visiting Cheers.

Adjacent to Cheers is the Boston Common, it’s a Central Park in Boston, Ma. Since 1684, it is the oldest city park in America.

In this park is “Make way for ducklings, statues with Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings are there for the young and old to see. The city decorates the ducks during holidays to attract sightseers.

Picture from Hannah’s personal photo gallery collection taken last winter of ducklings dressed up for Christmas

The statues are from Robert McCloskey’s 1941 beloved children’s classic, Make way for the Ducklings, where Mr. and Mrs. Mallard come to Boston when searching for the perfect home for their soon-to-be family. They find the Public Garden, and decide to spend the night on the little island in the Lagoon. Today the story continues with these ducklings.

We then walked up Beacon Hill to the Union Oyster House, from 1826 it is the oldest operating restaurant in America. The Union Oyster House serves traditional New England food – oysters, lobsters, clams, baked beans, steak, and chicken – just as it did years ago. It also was known as a place that John F. Kennedy frequented a lot. I give the lobster two thumbs up!

After dinner, we strolled over to Mike’s Pastry. Founded in 1946, Mike’s Pastry is located in Boston’s historic North End on Hanover Street. Michael Mercogliano (the “Mike” behind the famed Mike’s Pastry) created the one-of-a-kind cannoli that keeps loyal Bostonians and tourists coming from around the world to enjoy. With 19 different Cannoli’s to choose from, it is a fun experience just to stand in line to order your favorite cannoli or pastry.

What I am seeing in Boston is that age and tradition are what make this city unique. I look forward to our next adventure.

Cooperstown, NY Baseball Hall of Fame

Our adventure took us from the Catskills Mountains to Cooperstown, NY to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Today is all about baseball, America’s favorite pastime, where the boys of summer gather to determine who will become World Series Champions.

Baseball Hall of Fame

For baseball enthusiasts, this is where baseball started. The museum opened in 1939 and houses every inductee plaque to the major league hall of fame. As a baseball player this is the ultimate award.

Babe Ruth’s plaque

I have been lucky to now have seen the Hall of Fame, Louisville Slugger Bat Museum, and attend many games at a number of different stadiums.

In my opinion, baseball is more than a game. There are probably more international players than in any sport we have in our country. What baseball does is bring the kid out of adults. Everyone probably has some memory of throwing and catching a ball. It’s an escapism from the adult world to being a kid again.

As a kid, I didn’t play organized baseball but it didn’t mean I couldn’t love the game. I remember going with my dad to ball games and rooting for the Salem Pirates. Getting excited when someone hit a homerun or stole a base. I remember standing with everyone for the national anthem and hearing the PA announcer say, “play ball!” I remember standing and singing, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, during the seventh-inning stretch. I got excited if I got a foul ball or even an autograph.

Baseball helped to teach me math, keeping statistics of my favorite team. I collected thousands of baseball cards, which I still have, and always got excited opening the wrapper and chewing the gum.

Brooks Robinson, the best fielding third baseman ever to play the game, came to Roanoke for a grand opening of a bank in Roanoke in 1972. I went to my second-grade teacher, to ask for permission to leave school to attend. My teacher’s response was that I could go only if I got her an autograph too. I remember telling Brooks this and him laughing and granting my teacher’s request.

Some of the best sports movies are from baseball with great one liners. The Bad News Bears, The Natural, Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come”. A League of their Own, “ There’s no crying in baseball”. The Sandlot, “You’re killing me smalls”,to name a few.

There have been many of characters to play baseball. We had Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Luis Tiant, Billy Martin to name a few. Some of the mascots were just as colorful as the players. The San Diego Chicken would make any kid or adult laugh. All in the Hall of Fame museum.

Baseball had the kissing bandit, Morganna, whom famously rushed the field on many occasions and kissed MLB players. She has been described as “baseball’s unofficial mascot” and “the grand dame of baseball”.

Morgana kissing George Brett during a game

Baseball has always had streakers that ran across the field during the game. Everyone always got a good laugh while cheering for the streaker to avoid security.

Also, there was the Bob Uecker commercials. Google them for some laughs. He was the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball.

Baseball has always been famous for its baseballism too. Yogi Berra said it best with his words of wisdom.

A few of his most famous sayings:

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

You can observe a lot by just watching.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

It’s like déjà vu all over again.

No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.

Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.

A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

Seeing the player’s names at the Baseball Hall of Fame museum brought back these memories for me. I saw names of players I hadn’t thought of in years. Most players from yesterday had nicknames. Hamerin Hank Aaron, say Hey Willie Mays, Joltin Joe Dimaggio, Willie “Pops” Stargell just to name a few.

Baseball has also been a very colorful sport over the years. I have to mention my favorite team the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 1979 World Champions. They wore the old pill box hats with mix and match polyester uniforms.

The 1979 Pirates team song was “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. Their slogan was, “ if you hear any noise, it’s just me and the boys bopping”!Captain Willie Stargell gave out stars for their hats for individual achievements. What a fun bunch of individuals who came together as a team to win the World Series.

On deck circle from Pittsburgh’s old Forbes field 1909-1970 in Hall of Fame Museum

In Cooperstown, there were plenty of shops with baseball memorabilia. Every kid needs an MLB baseball. A Cooperstown slogan I liked was, “Cooperstown a drinking town, with a baseball problem”. The town itself was very small, but very cute. We enjoyed coffee and an old fashion doughnut at the corner bakery.

We then drove to Boston in time for a baseball game at Fenway Park. Fenway Park opened in 1912 and with the green monster wall is one of the iconic ballparks today, The Fenway Franks are a must as well as the Dr. Mcgillicuddy shots. Thank you Connor for a great time.

The Green Monster

I hope this post brings back some sort of memory or interest. Enjoy

Kutztown, PA to Windham, NY

Our trip to visit Hannah in Salem, Ma began with a 6-hour drive to Kutztown, Pa. I had never been to Kutztown but heard of the German Festival they have every year. Our timing wasn’t that of the festival but with just an overnight stay we figured we would adventure around town.

Our first stop on our journey was lunch and then the Lindt factory in Carlisle, Pa. Lindt chocolate is probably my favorite chocolate treat. If you have never had one, think of it as a soft chocolate tootsie pop with a liquid flavor in the middle. After getting the “Special”, 75 pieces for $25 I calmly, with a sincere look, asked for my Lindt Master Swiss Chocolatier application! The cashier didn’t take me seriously and just laughed as if I was joking. Oh well, maybe another time. I am now set for chocolate on our trip.

After arriving in Kutztown we decided to look around town. Our first stop was Folino Estate Winery. We did a tasting and discovered a blueberry sangria, blueberry syrup in Riesling wine with a sugary rim. Very different, but quite tasty. The winery had lots of different wines, with grapes of their own and grapes from other vineyards. This vineyard was like the IPA of wines with many infused wines.

We explored downtown Kutztown and ended up driving on some backroads singing our favorite songs like we were the artists. We sort of made our own fun while adventuring around Kutztown.

The next morning we headed for the Catskills Mountains of New York, you know where Rip Van Winkle slept for 20 years under a tree. Oh, how it would be nice to sleep for just a day. I have my eyes out looking for Rip while I drive through hoping I might get to nap with him. I wonder is there a difference between a “Yankee” snoring and a “Rebel” snoring, I should be careful it might start another civil war!

I think we could be friends! Haha

Somewhere in a remote spot in the mountains of New York, we ran across our first covered bridge. Halls Mills Bridge. I find covered bridges soothing like sailboats on the water.

Halls Mils Bridge

Our drive avoided the toll interstate roads while putting us on back country roads and two lane highways. This route only added 20 minutes to our destination of Windham, NY. I have never seen the countryside of New York and who would ever think New York has grass, trees, flowers, and cornfields. We decided to stay in the Catskills Mountains at a hotel called Albergo Allegria in Windham, NY. I reserved the Millennium Suite, and what a wonderful hotel it is. Windham, NY is known as the “gem of the Catskills,” with Windham Mountain and its ski trails.

Albergo Allegria

After arriving we decided to have some lunch and then venture out. The hotel clerk was very nice and gave us suggestions. Our first destination was Kaaterskill Falls, with being perhaps the crowning jewel of the highest cascading waterfall in New York State. Dropping in two tiers at over 260 feet. Much prettier than the Empire State Building in the city.

Missy on trail to Waterfall
167 feet drop
View from above waterfall

Just further down the road was the Laural House, built-in 1852 as a 50 room boarding house. By 1884 it was enlarged to accommodate 300 visitors. It was located on the edge overlooking the falls. It operated until 1965 and in 1967 it was burned to the ground to make way for the Laurel House campgrounds. Unfortunately, New York State does not respect historic structures, and they have a reputation for burning historic structures.

Laural House, Can you believe they burned it down?

As we headed back to our hotel, we passed by South Lake with all of its beauty in the mountains of the Catskills. The mountain air is fresh and the temperatures cool making the Catskills a favorite destination during all four seasons for New Yorkers.

Before our trip, I decided I would experiment to see where you couldn’t order sweet tea, Windham, New York wins! It’s strange to think of the amount of sweet tea drank in the south and not in the north. That’s probably why Rip Van Winkle slept 20 years, he didn’t have enough sugar in him!

National Ice Tea Day

(fun reading)

June 10th is National Ice Tea Day. As our world evolves, I can’t think of a better holiday on a hot humid day. Yes in the south I consider today a holiday.

In my travels, it’s funny how different parts of our country feel about Ice Tea or Sweet Tea. In the north, you can’t buy it by the gallon at McDonald’s. I consider northern Virginia the beginning of the north, while going south of northern Virginia through Georgia as the south. Florida is its own hodgepodge, with no one truly being from Florida. As you travel west you usually find unsweet tea and then you have the Pacific Northwest with all of it’s coffee. No wonder they are protesting in the northwest.

Now that we have the demographics in order, think about it, if everyone took time out of their day to have a cold glass of iced tea how much enjoyable your day would be. I think the civil war was really about iced tea. Lincoln’s proclamation should of been about making tea available for everyone. Maybe Atlanta would not of burned down, and what about the Boston tea party? Dumping all of that tea into the harbor, shameful, shameful, shameful!

There is truly two kinds of iced tea, sweet and unsweet, not raspberry tea, not lemonade tea. Just plain ole brewed tea. At night, I will give you Long Island Iced Tea to knock the edge off a hard day, but that’s it, no Arnold Palmer or any other variations of tea.

I believe the southern slow accents in the south come from the bottom lip wrapped around a cold mason jar. Think about it, the bottom lip pressed up against a cold wet glass jar, just pressing for more happiness! Now when they speak the lip is numb and has the shape wrapped around the mason jar. You try to speak this way? Bless their heart!

If we all just step back from our daily hustles and enjoyed a nice cold refreshing iced tea, I believe we would have a much happier place to live in. The Southerners figured it out a long time ago. So on this day I proclaim iced tea for everyone.

This writing was meant to bring laughter or even a slight smile to your face. It isn’t by NO means meant to offend anyone, even if you are a Yankee! 😊

Cheers

Notice the fancy jar

Please respond with pictures of your ice tea!

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

Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and The Badlands of South Dakota

As we head further east, our first stop was Mt. Rushmore.

The mountain was named after a New York attorney, Charles Rushmore in 1885. It took from 1927-1941 to complete. The sculpture features the 60-foot heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The four presidents were chosen to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively.

Picture of Mt. Rushmore before carvings

Next, we made the 30-minute journey to see Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse was a Lakota war leader of the Oglala band in the 19th century. He took up arms against the United States federal government to fight against encroachment by white American settlers on Native American territory and to preserve the traditional way of life of the Lakota people.

In 1876, Crazy Horse led a band of Lakota warriors against Custer’s Seventh U.S. Cavalry battalion. They called this the Battle of the Little Bighorn also known as Custer’s Last Stand.

Crazy Horse was in negotiations with the U.S. Calvary when an interpreter misinterpreted what Crazy Horse said, and he was imprisoned where he wouldn’t surrender. He was wounded by a bayonet and later died.

Carving today, basically just the head is carved

The rock carving started in 1948, and is still being carved today.

How it will be carved out when completed
Replica of Crazy Horse Rock Carving

We then drove an hour and a half to the Badlands of South Dakota, where we found temperatures of 92 degrees.

As we drove into the national park, there were lots of rock formations. There was an ancient sea, 37 million years ago, that covered what we call the badlands today. There are fossils in the rock from the sea animals. The rock has windblown volcanic ash. The ash weathered into clay and formed these rocks.

We saw several signs warning us of the hazards that might lie ahead.

We didn’t see any Rattlesnakes but we did see Big Horn Sheep, Bison, Prairie Dogs, Prong Horn, and an owl.

Big Horn Sheep
Prairie Dogs were everywhere
Prairie Dog hole
Prong Horn

Part of the park was the rock formations and the other part was prairies with Bison and Praire Dogs. The Owl we saw was small but had these large neon yellow eyes. So disappointed I couldn’t get a picture of the owl but found it online. I wanted to share it with everyone.

Burrowing Owl which will live in an abandoned Prairie Dog hole
This plant grew in the badlands, the fuzzy look in the picture was sort of like the white that forms from a dandelion. Very pretty plant.

The Badlands were just as interesting as the other parks we have visited.

I promise we are moving East and tomorrow’s blog will be from Minnesota and from there we will be driving southeast.

Deadwood Part 2

After a good night’s rest and no need to reach under my pillowcase to stop an outlaw from entering, we went to the ’76 museum. The western museum has a huge collection of items from Deadwood’s history. They have a celebration every year that attracts over 20,000 people. In the 1920s the days of ’76, was modeled after Buffalo Bills traveling show.

Buffalo Bill’s storytelling was an integral part of keeping the stories alive in Deadwood
Guns of the old West
Pioneer wagon
Stagecoach
Deadwood

We then headed to the Adams Museum. It had a huge assortment of artifacts. I learned that in 1922, Babe Ruth played in an exhibition game in Deadwood, that was against MLB rules and he was suspended for six weeks for the upcoming season.

Potato creek Johnny, discovered an 8.05-ounce gold nugget which is considered the most important artifact from the Black Hills history.

This is the real nugget
Calamity Jane
Sheriff Seth Bullock
He became a Federal Marshall in 1905
Cards from Deadwood
Stagecoach rides on Main Street

We then went to the Adams historical Victorian home. Mrs. Mary Adams was the second wife to Mr. Adams and was 44 years younger. Mr. Adams tragically lost his entire family to tragic death while in California and then 2 years later remarried. Mr. Adams was one of the wealthiest men in America with a net worth of about $5 million.

After he passed, Mary locked the doors on the house and left town. She would come back to town once a year, staying at the Franklin Hotel and not at her house. The house remained intact with all furnishings for the next 50 years. Yes 50 years, unbelievable! The city of Deadwood purchased the house with all of its contents and today the home is currently historically correct.

In the late 1800s, this home had beautiful wallpaper, hardwood floors, porcelain sinks, a dumb waiter,electricity, water, radiator heat. It was the first for the State of South Dakota. Today the home is beautiful!

Below are some pictures of what we have seen in Deadwood.

Bullock Hotel at night
Franklin Hotel

We found ourselves looking at the spot where Wild Bill Hickok was killed while gambling. An interesting fact I learned was when his body was exhumed to be moved to the current cemetery, was that the casket had leaked water onto his body in the ground. The water here is very harsh with lots of minerals and iron. The water had petrified his body and left it intact. His skin was real white and very hard. They said when they moved him it felt like he weighed 400-500 pounds.

Outside bar where Wild Bill Hickok died
Bar next to where Wild Bill Hickok died
Replica guns of Wild Bill Hickok
Reenactment of shooting of Wild Bill Hickok

We finished our evening in Deadwood by attending a play about the trial of Jack McCall. Jack was acquitted of murdering Wild Bill Hickock. Jack then left town and started telling people that he killed Wild Bill Hickok. He was arrested again and tried again. This time he was found guilty and 2 days later was hung. Although McCall had already been tried, the proceeding in Deadwood was not legal because the town and its inhabitants were inside an Indian reservation established by the federal government and, thus, had no right to be tried there.

Deadwood is a neat old western town with a lot of history. We both enjoyed our time exploring around Deadwood. Deadwood was truly a tough, and rowdy town in 1876.

Deadwood Part 1

Today’s drive brings us to the badlands of Deadwood, South Dakota.

Our first stop was the Tatanka Museum to learn about the sacredness of the Buffalo to the Indians. The Museum was dedicated by Kevin Costner, Dances With Wolves. The Indians thought as the buffalo as a sacred animal, it provided them with food, clothing, and weapons, it also played a central role in their spiritual life. It was a strong powerful animal that spirituality could help protect them.

The buffalo almost became extinct because poachers were killing the buffalo to sell their bones for grinding up for fertilizer. The tongue was a delicacy, while a buffalo hide could be traded for a cup of whiskey.

Buffalo bones

We saw Kevin Costner’s costume and a wonderful statue of the buffalo running off the cliffs in Dances with Wolves.

Next we went to Deadwood’s Boot Hill, Mount Moriah where Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Sheriff Seth Bullock are buried.

Wild Bill Hickok
Sheriff Seth Bullock

Our hotel is the Bullock Hotel, built by Sheriff Seth Bullock. It was rebuilt in 1895. In 1892 the town of Deadwood burned completely down and then in 1894 it was destroyed by floods. Today it really makes you feel as if you are in a old western hotel. The rooms are squared off with high ceilings and tall wooden doors.

We decided to do a ghost tour of the old Fairmont hotel. During its day, it was a hotel, bar, gambling hall, and brothel.

Prostitution came to be because of the civil war. There were so many men killed in the war, that it left a lot of widows. As the men in the military moved around they would find women to be with. After the war, the women had to find a way to make a living, thus prostitution began.

We learned that the term cathouse originated in Deadwood. The owner of the brothel had a problem with rats and decided to get cats to help with her problem. She got a cat for every room. The girls had to tend to the cats. Well, prostitution was illegal, and when the cats took care of her problem the men started to lineup to come to her business. There were 20,000 men in Deadwood and about 200 prostitutes. When asked if she was running a brothel, she said she had a cathouse and she had a cat in every room with a girl to take care of the cats. The sheriff said well there ain’t no law against having a cathouse so that’s how the term cathouse came to be. The owners of the brothel also were know to make a payoff of $100 a month to keep their business open.

On the ghost tour, at the Fairmont Hotel, there were some brutal murders in the brothel and gambling hall. The hotel is considered haunted and has had some paranormal reports where they have had tv-shows investigators at the hotel.

Deadwood’s main street is about 8 blocks long and when Sheriff Seth Bullock came to town, he physically took his boot and drew a line across main street designating the lower 2 1/2 blocks as uncontrollable and if you were in those 2 1/2 blocks then you need not look for his help. In those 2 1/2 blocks there were 88 gambling halls, brothels, and bars. These 2 1/2 blocks became known as the Badlands.

A look down main street today

Deadwood is a western town, where the famous Wild Bill Hickok was shot from behind while playing cards at the old No. 10 Saloon. Wild Bill normally likes to set in the back of old saloon No. 10 facing the door, but on this night there was only one seat available in the saloon with his back facing the door. Jack McCall entered the saloon and raised his pistol and killed Wild Bill Hickok. They never knew why he killed Wild Bill, but 2 days later Jack McCall was convicted and hung to death. Wild Bill was holding 2 black Aces, and 2 black eights. Today it is considered a deadman’s hand.

We finished our night off at the Ole No. 10 saloon where we ordered a whiskey to toast our trip. You have to order Whiskey when you are in a western saloon?

Some notable famous westerners to stay in Deadwood were Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Wyatt Earp came with intentions to be sheriff, but when he arrived the job was already given to Seth Bullock.

I am sleeping with our door locked and a gun under my pillow and a knife on the nightstand. Haha Tomorrow look for more adventures of Deadwood.

Yellowstone to Jackson Wyoming

I would like to like to thank our good neighbor, Chris Beck, aka Moviestar, for assisting us on our motel stay at Yellowstone River Motel at the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Montana. The very best motel we have stayed in on this trip. Highly recommend. 👍

The motel is walking distance to the park entrance. As we entered we instantly had a herd of elk along the side of the road.

America’s First National Park
Dedicated by an Act of Congress
March 1, 1872

Our first stop took us to a waterfall in the Yellowstone River.

As we drove further into the park, we saw a lot of cars pulled off the road, and we instantly said, “there must be a bear”! Sure enough our first sighting of Yogi Bear.

He actually ran across the road towards all of the tourists and practically in front of our car. Ranger Mary was in a full sprint hollowing “Hey Bear”! She kept her cool in protecting the tourists from Yogi Bear. What a experience to see a innocent viewing almost go bad. My adrenaline was pumping now. A little late for the sign below.

Next we saw lots of thermal springs. I didn’t realize that they were all over the park. The colors were so pretty. Deep below the earth, magma from an active volcano heats water that rises to the surface through fissures in the rocks. The high temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit ensures that steam stays on top of the water.

Looking down into a thermal pot

As we moved along the park we saw lots of Buffalo.

Buffalo’s at Thermal Pot

We also saw Antelope

Further, into the park, we saw a petrified redwood tree from 50 million years ago. The volcanic ash and mudflow preserved this tree.

Petrified tree

Last but not least at Yellowstone we saw Ole Faithfull. It erupted about every hour. It was really something to see. It erupted a lot higher than I imagined.

Prior to erupting
Erupting

Yellowstone is such a big beautiful park, and I see why it’s the most visited park in America.

After leaving Yellowstone, we drove through The Grand Teton National Park. The Teton Mountain range we’re very large while being snow-capped.

Grand Teton

From the Grand Tetons, we drove to Jackson, Wyoming. It was a charming real old western town. In the town square, there were 4 arches made from antlers.

We then decided to get a jump on our travels for tomorrow and stumbled upon Fort Washakie an Indian reservation of Shoshone and Arapaho Indians. Fort Washakie was a old U.S. Army Post that is closed and the government has given it to the Indians. Median income is $20,000. There is nothing there, the soil doesn’t look as if you could grow anything. Very desolate except for the Indian reservation. So sad to see that is all our government could give to Indians.

Chief Washakie tombstone

Just down the road was Sacajawea cemetery. It was my first experience of being on an Indian reservation and seeing a sacred cemetery. There was an Indian family tending to a family grave while I was visiting. The cemetery was poorly kept up. Most of the graves had handmade crosses as tombstones. The caskets must have been hand dug into the ground. Most of them had dirt thrown on top to cover caskets. One burial had a iron headboard and footboard from a twin bed. It was sad to see. I felt bad that our federal government hasn’t helped to keep these cemeteries in better condition.

Sacajawea was famous for leading Lewis and Clark in their expedition across the western United States
Sacajawea’s gravesite was by far the nicest tombstone
Other graves at cemetery

As we traveled the roads of Wyoming, I thought it was neat to travel on open range highways.

There wasn’t a lot of flowers in bloom in Yellowstone.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

We saw a lot of cool things today, off to a new adventure tomorrow.

Will You Be My Huckleberry?

Glacier National Park, Montana, Big Sky Country, and Big Foot

We arrived just outside of the park entrance last night. We decided to rent a cabin instead of reserving a hotel room. The places we have stayed in the Pacific Northwest haven’t had air conditioning, and we haven’t needed it. We checked in and had dinner at a local diner. For dessert, we had huckleberry pie a la mode, and boy was it good. Huckleberries grow wild in Montana and sell for as much as $60 a gallon. They say it grows everywhere so I am sure the locals pick their own.

Cute cabin with bunk beds
Cool enough for a fire

Once again there were some Big Foot sightings. As I walk through the woods I am on Big Foot high alert. He sure travels a lot.

Big foot crossing, Beware!

After a very restful night, we traveled into the Glacier National Park. As we entered the valley that was once an ancient sea. You would never have guessed it today.

The first sight we saw was Lake Mcdonald. It’s a huge lake that draws its water from the glacier melts. The water was very clear with a blue hue.

Lake Mcdonald
Looking at the bottom of Lake Mcdonald. The water was crystal clear.

Next, we decided to hike the Avalanche trail. I am going to try and take you on the journey with me. The beginning of the trail was the valley of pines. Throughout time the Kootenai and Salish peoples have revered this as a special place, with special qualities. We were among ancient trees here, some were around when Peter the Great ruled Russia (1682), and when Sacajawea helped guide Lewis and Clark to the pacific. When we walked around these trees, I wondered what stories they could tell.

The trail was about 4 miles roundtrip, with elevation gains of only 500 feet. It gets it’s name from the avalanches in the winter into the lake.

One of the first unusual pines we saw was the black cottonwood. It stood straight and tall with bark that had deep grooves.

Black Cottonwood

We then cross a wooden bridge with the river crushed between giant boulders almost creating a waterfall.

Following the river, it had a very swift current as the river takes a turn.

We continue our hike, and discover a whole mountainside of moss growing to the right of the path.

Moss was growing on the trees and rocks for as far as you could see

Continuing on, we see a forest of trees straight and narrow. Growing as close as their branches would allow.

We then hiked up and down coming on an area that looked to have some form of destruction lately. Trees were down like a powerful storm had hit. Looking around we noticed a mule deer looking at us from a distance as he ate. We stood there for a few minutes admiring his beauty with his large ears, careful not to spook him.

With more hiking to go, we continued till the river was again to the left of us and noticed a small waterfall coming off the side of a huge black rock that formed the other side of the mountain.

As we hike away from the water, the trail climbs in elevation and clears to more plants and trees with the sun gleaming out from behind the clouds.

Green Rock on trail

As we walk the trail we see a lot of red and green rocks. The red rocks oxidized years ago with iron and the green rocks were underwater with no oxidation.

As we near the end of the hike going up, we see a pathway of small plants on our right leading to some pit toilets.

Pit Toilet is what they called it

After our bathroom break, we walk down to the opening of Avalanche Lake. We are stunned at what was now directly in front of us. There are 3 waterfalls that are melting from Sperry Glacier into the lake. So, in essence, we go from the pit toilets to the view you now see from your hike up the Avalanche Trail.

Panoramic view
3 waterfalls from glacier melt in June
Glacier is hidden behind the mountains

Up at Avalanche Lake, we had 2 visitors that apparently were use to people. After asking the locals both were chipmunks, one was similar to our chipmunks and the other was about the size of a small squirrel with different stripes down it’s back.

I hope you enjoyed your 4-mile hike as much as we did. The views were amazing! So far, this has been my favorite park. Pictures really don’t give just to how it really looks. Montana is a beautiful state with lots of hiking, rafting, and canoeing. I encourage everyone to visit GNP and Montana.

Hannah and Brandee find you travel assignments in Montana, you won’t be disappointed! It stays daylight until 10 pm!

My flowers of Glacier National Park

Left is Beargrass

Also our special treat from the great state of Montana, Otter Water, has to be just for us.

Only 4.5% Alcohol by Volume

Mount Saint Helen and Mount Rainier

Greetings from the state of Washington! Today we decided to hunt for Big Foot and take in a few other sights. After driving several hours we saw several sightings of Big Foot but not until we got in the foothills of Mount Saint Helen was I able to get a picture of him. The visitor center gave me a tip on where I might find Big Foot.

My hunt for Big Foot is officially over!

After the sighting, we drove up to Mount Saint Helen.

Mount Saint Helen last erupted in 1980. Who remembers this event? It devasted a 14-mile radius around the volcano. The government has spent millions of dollars on replanting trees and landscaping the area.

The eruption began with a massive landslide filled the valley with at least 150 feet of mud, rock, and intact pieces from the mountain. This created a new landscape of hills and depressions providing new places for water to pool, forming 150 new ponds and wetlands. Virtually nothing survived the landslide.

Picture of Mount Saint Helen erupting in 1980
Mount Saint Helen today

Forty years later, the forest is thick with trees and to the visitor unnoticeable of the destruction. The creeks carried rock debris and ashes to the lake forming a delta. This new marshland is a haven for wildlife today.

Next we drove about 2 hours to Mount Rainier about 60 miles southeast of Seattle.

As we entered the park the vegetation was large and thick. It was if the plants were on steroids. It seems volcanic ash is very good for plants.

It last erupted in 1894. Its height is 14,410 feet, almost 3 miles high. Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the decade volcano list. Because of its large amount of glacial ice it threatens 80,000 people and their homes. We got to see a glacial river that was still flowing pretty strong from the ice melt.

Glacial River

There were several beautiful waterfalls. Some we didn’t get to see because of the snow still in the park.

The top of Mount Rainier was covered by the clouds. You can see snow coming down its sides.
Reflection Lake is frozen in June

We saw several animals in the park.

Hoary Marmot
Stellar Jay
Deer
Elk

And today’s flowers from the parks.

The bottom right flower is a foxglove

Both parks were very interesting but quite different because of the difference in the time of their last eruption. We enjoyed the beauty as well as learning about their history.

Coastal Redwoods

Today we left Hannah’s home to head back to Roanoke. We have driven 4,300 miles. It was good to see that Hannah was doing well and that she has a nice safe place to live. She truly is living her life, and we both are very proud of her and the young lady she has become. I would like to report that Bee and Olive are doing well, and are happy being with their mother.

We headed, this morning, northwest to drive up the coast to see the Redwood National Park. We didn’t realize that today’s drive would take us off the beaten path for some pretty cool sights, nothing was planned except the redwoods.

Our first stop was at Fort Bragg, CA to see Glass Beach. Glass Beach gets its name from the smooth colorful glass pieces that you can find in the pebbly beach. The site was once a trash dump so broken bottles from garbage cans of local residents are now little treasures to be found. The pounding waves broke down the glass and pottery and tumbled those pieces into the small, smooth, colored pieces that often become jewelry-quality, which cover Glass Beach

Top Large rocky shoreline
Bottom Glass found on beach

We then stopped at an overlook to view the beautiful coastline of the Pacific Ocean. The cliffs and rocks don’t give away to much of a beach. The path we walked had 100’s of butterflies that literally hit you as you walked.

Butterflies everywhere

We then stumbled upon the Chandler Tree. In 1937 the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree was added to provide a unique treat for travelers. Visitors have been taking pictures of their vehicles inside the opening ever since. It’s 315 feet high by 21 feet wide. A vintage postcard of the Chandelier Tree was shown during the opening credits of the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation. Our car barely fit through the opening, and it was fun to drive through.

Full tree on left
Our car on the right

When we finally found our way into Redwood National Park. The trees were very tall and straight. There were lots of Redwoods in the forest. They are not as old or as big as the Sequoia trees but every bit impressive.

From the base of Redwood
A Grove of Redwoods

Ferns like to grow at the base of the Redwood trees. These ferns are the biggest ferns I have ever seen. There is no shortage of these beautiful plants.

Next, we stopped in Crescent City, Ca to see Battery Point Lighthouse which was one of the first lighthouses on the California coast. It was constructed in 1856 for $15,000. The 1964 Alaska earthquake, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in the northern hemisphere, caused a tsunami, leaving the lighthouse unscathed.

From Northern California and into Oregon there were lots of BIGFOOT sightings. It was actually pretty cute how the locals had displayed their own Bigfoot. Now we can say ”We saw Bigfoot”.

This Bigfoot was in a field along the road, he may be big and scary but at least he wore his face mask to stop the spread of Covid-19.

While driving in Oregon, we saw the most beautiful double Rainbow. It was as if it was finishing our day of unplanned adventures with a real treat.

And last but not least my flower of the day.

Lassen National Park

When you think of catastrophic events in California you think of earthquakes and wildfires, what I don’t think about is volcanoes.

Lassen peak is the largest plug domed volcano in the world and the southernmost volcano in the Cascade range. The last eruption here was in 1915. The park ranges in elevation from 5,650 feet to 10,457.

Lassen Peak

The area surrounding Lassen Peak is still active with boiling mud pots, fumaroles, and hot springs. Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the few areas in the world where all four types of volcano can be found, plug dome, shield, cinder cone and stratovolcano. The mud pot in video below is from minimal water on the surface with clay dirt and thermal heat from under the earth. The mud pot puts off a sulfur smell.

As we went further into the park and climbed elevation we encountered snow on the ground. We had snow flurries with 38 degree temperatures.

Hannah inside a natural snow cave made by a creek
Emerald Lake frozen

In the park there is a Earthscope, it’s used to study the movements of the Earth’s crust. It is attached to the earth and uses GPS to track any movements.

Next, we came across a big boulder, a lava rock, which was formed over 27,000 years ago when the volcano first erupted. There were lots of lava rock in the area from a avalanche that came from the 1915 eruption. Some lava rocks travelled over three miles.

Lava Rock

We then drove down to the meadow where snow melted water was running into a lake.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful in this National Park. We enjoyed our visit and felt that it was very educational. I will finish with some of the scenes that we saw.

It’s June 15th and it’s snowing
Only flowers I saw in bloom in park

Napa Valley and San Francisco

We headed out for a 1 hour trip to Napa Valley. Our first stop is at Benessere Estate Winery.

The Napa Valley is nestled in a valley where volcanic ash is in the soil and the temperature combined with precipitation is ideal for grapes. Each winery is practically next to another winery. The master wine maker at this winery was from North Carolina.

Grapes will be ready to Harvest around October

Our next Winery was Beringer Brothers Winery, from Mainz, Germany. It has the distinction of never having ceased operations since its founding in 1876. That’s 144 years and running. I learned that if a wine doesn’t say it’s from Napa then it could be from the Sonoma region where it’s mass-produced. Beringer has wine in Sonoma and Napa Valley, with Napa Valley being a different wine. Each grape in Napa Valley is handpicked making it unspoiled and a truer taste. Wine tastings in Nappa Valley can run between $25-$45-$60 a tasting. Usually, you get between 4-5 different wines to taste. Some places let you choose from a list of several different wines.

One hour further west from Napa Valley took us too San Francisco. As we entered San Francisco we pass over the Golden Gate Bridge.

AWESOME BRIDGE
Now you see it, now you don’t
Left to Right, top to bottom

When the fog rolls into the bay, it’s as thick as pea soup. In the evening, the temperature dropped into the 50’s.

We had tickets to visit Alcatraz, but it got canceled ☹️ due to the virus. The island that Alcatraz sits on was a lot closer to San Francisco than I had imagined. There were only 3 prisoners that escaped while Alcatraz was open. Two of the three were brothers from Ruskin, Florida next to our home in Apollo Beach, Florida.

Alcatraz

We stayed at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The sea lions come into the bay because of the food available and they are protected from the whales.

San Francisco is known for The San Francisco Treat (Rice-A-Roni) and Sourdough bread. The bread is absolutely delicious. Breakfast was a cup of coffee and some sourdough bread.

Oracle Park is home to the San Francisco Giants. The park was built-in 2000. With statues of Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, and Gaylord Perry outside of the stadium. It’s funny that Gaylord Perry was known for his spitball and now has a statue.

San Francisco is a very liberal and diverse city. It was interesting to go to the Castro district where it became the revolution for gay neighborhoods in the 1970s. The pride still goes on today with a strong sense of unity in the community.

Crosswalk
Onboarded up storefront
Famous Castro Theatre

With diversity being what makes up San Francisco, we then went to the Haight Asbury district. Haight Ashbury is a thriving San Francisco neighborhood where cultures and eras come together. Made famous by the hippie movement in the 1960s, Haight Ashbury was once the home to revolutionaries, famous singers including the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane.

The next neighborhood we visited was Chinatown. Chinatown was the largest of the communities we saw. I have never been to China but felt like I was in China. The writing was in Chinese and had lanterns above the streets. Even the lamp posts have a Chinese flare. Lots of restaurants and markets.

Dragon’s Gate
Fortune Cookie Factory bottom right

Next, we saw the house from the sitcom Full House. It was recently listed for sale for $5.5 million. Do I have any buyers?

Lastly from the old show ”The Streets of San Francisco ” we saw the street that descends straight down to the bay. Steve McQueen, in the movie ”Bullitt”, raced his 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback around these streets in San Francisco.

Lombard Street was every bit as much fun to drive down as the video showed.

Lombard Street

Although our excursion to Alcatraz was canceled we enjoyed San Francisco. It is very different than Roanoke, Virginia but that is what makes our country interesting to visit.

Yosemite National Park

Today’s adventure takes us to Yosemite National Park.

As we enter the park from the south entrance, the elevation is around 6,000 feet. The mountainside is covered with pine trees. This is opening day since the COVID-19. A reporter from the Fresno Bee interviewed me about coming to the park. We noticed the attendance was very low in the park. As we traveled into the park, we descended down into the valley. The first big attraction we see is El Capitan. It is large! The picture is taken from the meadow from below El Capitan.

3,000 feet tall

Across from El Capitan is Yosemite Falls, which is truly amazing. The falls is the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park, dropping a total of 2,425 feet from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall.

Our next stop was in the meadow, where we had a mule deer cross in front of our car. It was the only mule deer we saw in the park.

Lake next to the meadow

Our next stop was glacier point. From glacier point you see the half dome rock, Bridal Veil Falls, and Sierra Falls. During the ice age the area was filled with glaciers and as the water melted it cut into the valley. The round rocks like half dome are eroded down smooth from the glacier water. The sharp points on rocks was above the water line.

Bridal Veil Falls at top of picture and Sierra Falls lower part of picture

The water coming off the falls is from snow melt and by the end of summer it practically dries up.

Moon in top right of picture
Flowers in Yosemite
Flower on left is a snow plant, it gets its water and nutrients from fungi which are connected to tree roots

Yosemite didn’t disappoint as it is a beautiful park with lots of sights and trails.

Below is link to my interview going into the park by the Fresno Bee newspaper. Haha too funny!

https://www.fresnobee.com/news/california/yosemite/article243465536.html

Sequoia National Park

Yesterday we saw this huge lizard with a white tail called a Chuckwalla. They are part of the iguana family and say they make good pets. He was in the desert of the Mojave Desert region.

Today’s journey takes us to Sequoia National Park. It’s a 17 mile trip through the park with elevations over 7,000 feet.

Signs of the Park

As we entered the southern entrance, we started an upward climb. You see the mountains and valleys. Nothing that resembles a large sequoia tree.

Tunnel Rock is our first sight with this massive rock overhead.

We then climbed this huge granite rock called Moro, below.

Yes we hiked to very top of Moro
People have died here! Whoa!!!

Next we started seeing huge Sequoia trees. Fire creates ideal conditions for the Sequoia seeds to germinate and for seedlings to grow. The heat from fires dries overhanging pine cones, causing them to open. Cones then drop seedlings onto ash-fertilized ground, which creates the perfect seedbed. Each cone can have over 200 seedlings. The thick fibrous bark insulates the tree from the extreme heat. The bark holds very little sap or pitch so it’s not very flammable. A lot of the giant Sequoias have fire scars. The large Sequoias are over 2000 years old. The pictures below are a 2 part, look at both pictures as one picture.

General Sherman

By volume, it is the largest known living tree on earth with a estimated age of 2,300–2,700 years. It stands 275 feet tall, and circumference at the ground is 102 feet.

A Sequoia root from a tree that had fallen
A grove of Sequoias

The Pinecone can stay on a Sequoia tree for 20 years. This pinecone is about 5 times the size of a normal pine cone.

The third largest tree by volume on earth is also in the national park. It’s name is General Grant. It is 1,500 years younger than the oldest known sequoia tree.

General Grant
In 1926 President Calvin Coolidge declared the General Grant as the Nation’s Christmas Tree

Lastly, I noticed several different flowers in bloom in the park. I just wanted to share the beauty of them. I hope my blog makes you feel as if you visited the park. Enjoy!

Change of Travel Plans

We drove through Las Vegas, NV on our way to Barstow, California. Below is a picture from our car of the new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders.

We made it to California, 3,000 miles. Our plans got changed due to Yosemite National Park being closed. I guess God is on our side, Yosemite is opening up this Thursday, and we have tickets! Yay! We will arrive at Hannah’s Thursday evening.

Calico Ghost Town

Today was a slower day with our changed plans. We stayed last night in Barstow, California. Outside of Barstow, there is a town called Calico Ghost Town in the Mojave desert region of California. A small silver mining town from 1881 to about 1900. Today it truly was a Ghost Town as Missy and I was almost the only people there, due to the virus.

Four prospectors discovered silver in the mountain and opened the Silver King Mine, which was California’s largest silver producer in the mid-1880s. The town soon supported three hotels, five general stores, a meat market, bars, brothels, and three restaurants and boarding houses. I saw no brothel! HaHa.

The town also had a deputy sheriff and two constables, two lawyers and a justice of the peace, five commissioners, and two doctors.

At its height of silver production during 1883 and 1885, Calico had over 500 mines and a population of 1,200 people. Local badmen were buried in the Boot Hill cemetery.

Overview of Calico
Building made from glass bottles, pretty cool
Home built into the rock
School house
Looks like something on Little House on the Prairie

There were about 30 students enrolled in the school, with about half attending on any given day. The Schoolteacher made around $70 a month. The average wage of a mine worker was around $3 a day. So teachers were underpaid even back then.

Claim jumpers beware! Hanging was the penalty.

It was a cute little mining town that was restored by a man in the 1950’s and today is a state park.

We all hear of how expensive it is to live in California. Let me give you my experience, gas is as high as $3.39 a gallon when the most we paid traveling cross country is $1.99. We ate at IHop and the cheapest item on the menu was $12.49. Coffee was $3.49 a cup. Our breakfast bill was $37 for the two of us. Once again all I can say is ”Wow”!

Off to bigger and better adventures tomorrow.

Bryce Canyon Utah to Zion National Park Utah

Today’s journey started with temperatures of 31 degrees and feels like 21. Is it June? Global warming? Forecast of snow showers in the mountains. Yes we were in the mountains and we did see snow showers. Our elevation was between 8000-9000 thousand feet. It was a brisk cool morning for the Otterman’s.

After entering the park, we drove to our first lookout point. I looked at Missy and she looked at me and our eyes got big and we both went “Wow.” Bryce Canyon is absolutely beautiful. The canyons rim is eroding at a rate of 1-4 feet per century. Limestone, siltstone, dolomite, and mudstone make up the four different rock types.

Closeup of Rock
Flowers in bloom in Bryce Canyon
The rock formations are called Hoodoos

The Paiute Indians inhabited this region for hundreds of years before the arrival of the white man. A sacred oral tradition of the Paiutes states that the hoodoos are ancient “Legend People” turned into stone by Coyote as a punishment for bad deeds. It is custom for the Paiutes to tell this story only in the winter season. Spring, summer, fall is for hunting, gathering, and storing food. It is out of respect for the custom that the authentic story is not repeated here.

Our next journey took us to Zion National Park also in Utah. Zion is different from Bryce Canyon but just as impressive. The altitude is not as high as Bryce Canyon but has more vegetation growth because of the Virgin River.

Just before we entered the park there was a heard of Buffalo with at least 13 calves. Buffalo are huge animals.

One of the calves

Zion is a park where you drive through the canyon floor. There is hiking and overlooks to view the huge canyon walls. The canyon walls are reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone eroded by the North Fork of the Virgin River.

Zion lacks the iron in the soil to make the walls as reddish as Bryce Canyon. Zion is where water and sand meet.

Utah has 5 national parks. Arches, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands. We are blessed to get to see 3 of them and each one was breathtaking. We had a full day and I highly recommend visiting both of these national parks.

Denver to Utah

Today’s journey takes us from Denver on I 70 west through the 1.7 mile Eisenhower Tunnel with an elevation of 11,158 feet. The temperature dropped to a low of 34 degrees, on June 7th, with some snow still on the mountains. As we passed through Vail, we saw several skiers with their ski gear headed for the slopes.

One of the many snow-capped Rocky Mountains

The countryside in Colorado is so clean and beautiful. Everywhere you look there is a postcard picture. I fully understand why John Denver wrote a lot of his songs about Colorado. The Rocky Mountains are so much bigger than our Blue Ridge Mountains while both offer their own beauty.

As we traveled through Colorado (east to west) the scenery changed as the thermostat on our car changed. The western part is more desert with little vegetation growth. The mountains remained large but instead of having large pine trees they were rock with small shrubs and plants. Our thermostat went from a low of 34 degrees to a high of 85 degrees with our elevation remaining above 5,000 feet.

Our next stop is the Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. The large red rock formations were huge. The red in the rock is from iron in the dirt. As time goes the rain washes and erodes the red from the rock. The delicate arch is eroding away and someday will collapse.

Delicate Arch

We enjoyed visiting and seeing the beautiful arches and different red rock formations within the national park.

On our drive to our hotel stay in Bryce Canyon we stopped at an overlook. Looking down into the canyon we saw Outlaw Canyon. The terrain in the canyon was very steep and rocky making it a good place for some of the famous outlaws to hideout.

Butch Cassidy, Kid Curry and others hid in the badlands canyon

Our last stop was the original boyhood home of Butch Cassidy. It is just a one room cabin in a very rural location. With living in such poverty, I guess Butch had nothing to lose by being a outlaw.

Butch lived here from 1880-1884

Butch Cassidy’s given name was Robert Leroy Parker. He was a train and bank robber, and the leader of a gang of criminal outlaws known as the Wild Bunch. Butch teamed with Harry Alonzo Longabaugh to form Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He ended up fleeing the country to Argentina and then Bolivia after the Pinkerton Detective Company started pressuring him in the United States.

Butch Cassidy

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman is a great western movie, that if you haven’t watched, I would suggest watching.

Missy and I had fun exploring the West and some of what it has to offer today. Looking forward to our adventures tomorrow.