06 June 2010

Vacation: St. Louis, MO

We moved on from Indiana, through Illinois, to Missouri. After a beautiful drive by the Mississippi River, we arrived in St. Louis.

What little we saw of downtown St. Louis was quite nice. There were even pull-in parking spaces downtown! They had meters, but you didn’t have to parallel park.

We didn’t stay at the Marriott, but we did walk through the lobby. The hotel is in the renovated Union Station, and the lobby is absolutely breathtaking. That train station is where the famous Dewey Defeats Truman photo was taken.

Then we went to the Arch.

We climbed in a car on the tram. It’s really more of a pod.

The ride up is short and the tram makes lots of clicking noises as it rises. Once we arrived at the top, we could look out over St. Louis

and the Mississippi River, which was over the docks and sidewalk.

The top of the Arch is 630 feet above the ground.

The windows are small, and the floor is, of course, arched.

Then we drove through the Ozarks to Arkansas to look for the graves of relatives, which we found.

And then we came home.

Vacation: Ohio & Indiana

We drove from Pennsylvania to Ohio and saw more Amish in Ohio than in Pennsylvania.

We also saw dead groundhogs on the side of the road. They must be the armadillos of Ohio. Although I did manage to see a live one on the side of the road, as well. Can’t often say that about armadillos!

Our only real stop in Ohio was Hopewell Mounds. We toured Mound City

and learned about the various artifacts that had been found in the mounds. These included items made of materials from the Gulf Coast, Lake Superior and Wyoming. The trade network the Hopewell people established was extensive.

Then we drove on to Indiana for one reason only – James Dean’s gravesite.

I love James Dean, and this site has been on my list of things to see for quite some time. It was a highlight. Now I need to see the site where he died.

03 June 2010

Vacation: Western Pennsylvania

The next day we went to the temporary Flight 93 Memorial. Construction on the permanent memorial has just begun. The mementos and tokens left behind by people, most of whom probably did not know anyone on that flight, were moving.

You can see the crash site in the distance from the temporary memorial.

From there we drove to Fallingwater and toured the famous house.

Designed in 1934 by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufman family, the home sits right on top of a waterfall. Most of the furniture was designed by Wright as well. Photos were not allowed inside.

It was a beautiful home, and I would love to live there. But it also screamed COLD in the winter with all the windows and stone floors and only radiators to heat the place. It’s also not a home built with the elderly or small children in mind.

Although, since I adore rocks and water, I could see myself being quite happy in the house.

Then we moved on to Kentuck Knob, the other Frank Lloyd Wright house down the road from Fallingwater.

This home was built about twenty years after Fallingwater during Wright’s Usonian period.

Pictures weren’t allowed inside the house, but the kitchen was fabulous. Especially the range which featured four burners that could be folded up against the wall to save counter space. Mom and I want one of those!

The Hagan family, the original owners, were friends with the Kaufmans. They sold the home in the eighties to an English lord. He still owns the home and has sculptures scattered inside and out.

We stayed the night in Chalk Hill and ate at the Stone House Inn which was delicious. I had the prime rib, and it was practically half a cow!

Fort Necessity was our priority the next morning. This fort, a reproduction stands today, was hastily thrown up by George Washington in 1754. He returned to the location many times over the years, eventually buying the land where the fort had been built.

In this field, which he called “a charming field for an encounter,” Washington and other British troops battle French soldiers in what would become the French and Indian War. Rain, exhaustion and a terrible location on the field led Washington to surrender to the French.

We even had rain. Although it wasn’t as hard as the rain that fell on Washington.

31 May 2010

Vacation: Gettysburg, PA

We spent seven hours at the Gettysburg Battlefield. Touring the museum, which included a film and a cyclorama, took four hours.

The cyclorama was a painting from 1883 by Paul Philippoteaux. It measured 367 feet long and 42 feet high and featured the third day of the battle. Until we were told about the cyclorama, we had no idea we were looking at a painting that was more than a hundred years old.

The museum was very informative – there was a reason we spent so much time there. We learned lots of history and interesting tidbits about the town itself, the people involved and, of course, the battle.

Once we started driving around the battlefield, we saw the places we have only ever read about. Places like Little Round Top

and the Devil’s Den

and Pickett’s Charge.

We learned that one in four Confederate soldiers who died at Gettysburg were from North Carolina. And I saw a token someone had left for those soldiers.

Monuments rest all over the battlefield. My favorites were the ones honoring the soldiers from Virginia

and the one honoring Longstreet.

We drove past the Texas monument but didn’t get a chance to read it. It resembled the marker at Antietam – both made of pink Texas granite. I looked it up on the web and found what was written on the marker.

29 May 2010

Vacation: Hershey, PA

Our next stop was Hershey, otherwise known as “Chocolate Town.”

We took the chocolate tour and the trolley tour.

The trolley tour was great. We learned a lot about Milton Hershey, but we also learned a lot about the Milton Hershey School. The school was established for socially and financially underprivileged boys and girls. They stay in homes, beautiful homes, with house parents – a married couple who are paid by the trust that runs the school – to provide the children with a loving home. That would be a pretty sweet job.

I think it would also be fantastic to be the librarian at the school. Since the school is private and funded by a trust worth billions of dollars, you could almost have anything you wanted.

We also happened to see the creator of Reese’s Pieces while we were on the tour. That was pretty cool.

The street lights in downtown Hershey are kisses, both wrapped

and unwrapped.

We visited the Hotel Hershey, too.

Well … the lobby anyway. Quite nice. I would recommend staying if you can afford it. You apparently get your choice of a milk or dark chocolate upon your arrival.

From there, we drove to Gettysburg where we made a quick stop at Boyd’s Bear Country. I had to visit there because a friend of mine collects the bears.

The next day we went to the battlefield.

20 May 2010

Vacation: Valley Forge

A dreary, rainy, cold day greeted us for our drive into Pennsylvania. When we arrived at Valley Forge it had gotten even colder and was raining even harder.

Valley Forge has been transformed into a lovely park since it became an historic site.

The first thing Mom and I learned was that Valley Forge was not the worst winter the army spent during the war – that was in Morristown – but it is the most well-known.

The second thing we learned was the the “winter” in Valley Forge was actually from December of 1777 to June of 1778. We both always thought it was November to March.

The final thing we learned was that almost 2,000 wooden huts were built by the soldiers for use by the army during that winter. When George Washington was there during the American Revolution, the site would have been much more barren and less green. The trees in the area in 1777-78 would have been cut down for firewood and the huts.

The weather turned truly sour on us at Washington’s Headquarters. He leased the home from Isaac Potts and used it as the “Pentagon of its time.”

Most of the furniture is replicas, but the bannister is original. Imagine how much history that wood has seen? George Washington’s hand used that bannister … and Martha … and Alexander Hamilton.

And then I used it on my own way upstairs. Wow.

We left his headquarters and walked over to the “lifeguard huts.”

These were the cabins of the men whose job it was to protect George Washington – his life guard. The tradition of this unit continues as the soldiers who serve at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

By the time we returned to the car, Mom and I were soaked clean through and completely frozen. Imagining the soldiers in little wooden huts with one fireplace during the long winter of 1777-78 gave me a renewed appreciation for the men and women who fought in the American Revolution.

Vacation: Baltimore

We went to the National Aquarium the next day. This was a lot of fun. We saw a 4-D movie – 3-D glasses along with snow, bubbles and spritzes of water – and the dolphin show.

The exhibits were interesting. They even had month-old baby seahorses! They were so tiny. I have no idea how they survive in the wild.

The rainforest exhibit had a two-toed sloth who actually started moving while we were there. It was beautiful!

They also had a special exhibit about jellyfish which was fascinating. The purpose of the exhibit was to demonstrate how jellies have taken over locations where they are not native and how destructive that is to the environment. They even had some jellies there. They look so beautiful.

And the Australia exhibit was great, too. How some of those animals survive the weather extremes in Australia, I will never fully understand. They had a fish that spit water to knock bugs off low-hanging leaves! And even though we didn’t get to hear the kookaburra laugh, we did get to see one.

Our next stop of the day was Fort McHenry. Mom and I had been there before, but we didn’t really remember much of it.

When we got there, the Pride of Baltimore II was sailing in the harbor. Except for the cargo ships, other vessels and the bridge in the background, this could be a scene straight from the 1800s.

We also managed to be there to see the flag-changing ceremony.

The weirdest thing is the statue of Orpheus with the Awkward Foot on the grounds outside the fort. The statue was the winning submission in a contest to mark the centennial of the writing of “The Star-spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key.

What in the world does that have to do with the flag? Or the poem? So strange.

We spent the next day lazing around the hotel and going to the movies.

Vacation: The Preakness Stakes

Through pure luck, we found out we would be in Baltimore when the Preakness Stakes horse race was held. We called the box office and bought tickets before we left on vacation.

Thank goodness we took public transportation to the event because parking at the track cost $75! And the traffic afterward was a nightmare!

We arrived at Pimlico

in time to see the fifth race of the day. Mom bought a program, and we learned that the Preakness would be the twelfth race out of thirteen.

We wandered around a bit before finding our seats in the Grandstand. The weather was gorgeous – sunny but not hot – but we were still pleased our seats were under cover.

We bought a Black-eyed Susan, the traditional drink of the Preakness Stakes. I’m not much of a drinker, but it wasn’t a very strong drink. And it came in an honest-to-goodness glass (not hard plastic) that we got to keep.

We placed our bets – first time we had ever bet on a Triple Crown race – and waited. I even placed a bet for my grandmother and a friend of mine.

When the Preakness Stakes began

the crowd stood and screamed. I really wanted to yell like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, but I restrained myself.

I have to admit, I was unhappy that Lookin At Lucky won because I do not like the trainer of that horse. However, I had placed a bet on First Dude,

the horse that came in second. Since he had long odds, I won $23. That’s the most I have ever won at a race track!

Being at the Preakness Stakes was a neat experience. I’ve always wanted to go to Churchill Downs to the Kentucky Derby – still do – but the Preakness is a fairly easy Triple Crown race to attend. And the atmosphere was great.

18 May 2010

Vacation: Washington, DC

We hit Washington, DC late in the afternoon during rush hour traffic. Ugh! I am so glad I don't have to drive in that mess every day.

Our first stop was Arlington National Cemetery where we saw the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

We also saw John F. Kennedy's grave with the eternal flame.

Along with two of the most famous sites in Arlington, we saw some lesser-known ones. Those included the Canadian Cross honoring Americans who served in the Canadian armed services,

the Columbia Memorial honoring those who died aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia,

and the USS Maine Memorial honoring those who died aboard the USS Maine.

The next day we visited the National Zoo. We saw lions,


and gorillas.

Then we went to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). I was really looking forward to this. When I was in graduate school, I worked on a federally-funded grant project called Four Directions. The purpose of the grant was to provide curriculum development through the use of technology on Indian reservations around the country. As part of the grant, I worked on the reading incentive project If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything. Another aspect of the grant was a virtual reality project with NMAI in New York City. I was able to travel there with a group of students from Marty Indian School in South Dakota. They took pictures of items in the collection and wrote brief reports about the objects. All of this was for an online exhibit at NMAI. That project is still online (note: you'll need Quicktime to view the collection).

When I worked with NMAI in 2000, the construction of the museum on the Mall in Washington had just begun. Finally, I was able to see the museum in all its glory! First, we ate at the Mitsitam Cafe. I had fry bread, of course. I also ate a fiddlehead fern salad with fiddlehead ferns, cucumbers, parsnips and golden beets. Quite tasty! I also had the broccoli with pumpkin seeds in lavender butter. Also good. In fact the fry bread was the worst part of the meal because it was too thick. But the drink I had! It was amazing! It was a Saskatoon berry maple agua fresca. So yummy! I had two of them. I still wish I had bought a third. It was just so good.

Then we took a brief stroll on the Mall past the Capitol

before going to see the Korean War Memorial.

My daddy was a Marine and fought in Korea. Part of the memorial is a wall etched with the faces of men and women who served in the conflict. One of those faces looked an awful lot like Daddy.

And then we visited the Wall.

Even though I don't really know anyone who served in Vietnam and was born after the war ended, the Wall always makes me cry. The mementoes,

the people remembering fallen comrades,

and all those names.

It's just devastating.

It rained on us while we were at the Wall. It even hailed for about ten seconds – mothball-sized hail! A loud crack of thunder hurried Mom and I back to the bus stop and on to our hotel.