As we traveled throughout the United States with our Casita travel trailer, full-time for one and one-half plus years, the lack of racial diversity in RV Parks and Campgrounds was striking ! I do remembering seeing 2 or 3 Asian families, lots of Europeans, but no Hispanic or African American families. I’m sure there are a few out there, but we never saw any in our travels. According to a 2009 National Park Service survey, people of color are underrepresented on public lands. Minorities make up about 40% of the population, but they only comprise 20% of national park visitors. According to Ambreen Tariq (of brown people camping), “There are some deep-rooted and dark history for some people of color in the outdoors”. There needs to be more minorities in our parks and public spaces, perhaps in numbers that are a reflection of our population.
Being white campers, why should we care? After a bit of research, I determine that we should care for many reasons, but for two important ones in particular: our national health and passing the baton.
BEING IN NATURE
My first reason is a strong belief in the benefits of being outdoors. When you spend time in nature, it gradually but firmly establishes a sense of connection to the earth. It promotes health for you and for the planet. Breathing fresh air, camping, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and reading the stars in the night sky are only some of the outdoor activities that promote a healthy lifestyle. The sense of solitude helps you to destress and can promote introspection. Minority history can be found in many natural areas, which helps us to discover and understand who we were yesterday, as well as who we are today – valuable lessons for all of us. Spending time with nature can inspire in us the desire to protect vulnerable public lands for all of us to enjoy. The experiences you have when camping and spending time outdoors echo for you and your children, long after you return home.
This is a photo of Kevin Sims, former NFL linebacker, his wife Tia and several of their children with their RV, from soulfulfamilyrv.com.
There are seven scientifically proven benefits to being outdoors. (Credit to The Trek Blog)
VITAMIN D – is essential for a healthy immune system. We can get enough by just sitting in the sun. This is perhaps the most obvious reason to get outside, since the sun supplies us with the best source of Vitamin D. Those who don’t get enough Vitamin D are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Getting enough sunlight has also been linked with the prevention of diabetes, auto immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease. How much sun do you need to get enough vitamin D? When the sun’s UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that enables skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. If you’re fair skinned, experts say going outside for just 10 minutes in the midday sun—in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen—will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units. If you are dark skinned, you will need more a bit more time in the sun.. In fact, people with very dark skin need around five to six times more exposure to UV radiation to produce as much vitamin D as someone with fair skin. People who are dark-skinned may need sunlight exposure during peak times – i.e., the middle of the day, in the summer. More than 30 minutes without sunscreen is not a good idea for anyone. Too much sun can cause Melanoma, dangerous form of skin cancer.
In May 1981 the music world lost a legend when Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley, died after a four-year battle with a melanoma skin cancer that started on his toe.
2. EYE HEALTH –
A. Being outdoors helps prevent CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome) – blurred vision, double vision, dry/red eyes, irritation, and headache
B. Artificial light has negative effect on nearsightedness, especially in children.
3. IMPROVED SLEEP – Sleep patterns are regulated by an internal body clock called the Circadian Rhythm, which is tied to the sun’s schedule. If you don’t get outdoors enough, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm, and disrupt sleep.
4. CLEAN AIR – Outdoor pollution is bad for your heath for sure. But inside pollution can be worse – 2-5 times worse, leading to heart disease, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and asthmatic attacks
BONUS: According to NASA, there are 15 houseplants that can improve the quality of indoor
air including aloe, snake plant, golden pathos, and chrysanthemum.
5. GROUNDING – On the fringe of mainstream science is the practice of Grounding. Grounding is walking barefoot on natural surfaces like dirt and sand. Because the earth is negatively charged, your body will absorb the negative electrons. According to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine , Grounding can have an intense anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
BONUS: See the documentary film, The Grounded.
6. EXERCISE – I know you’ve heard this endlessly, but here we go again. Exercises like hiking, kayaking, and other outdoorsy exercises, and even light walking, help prevent heart disease, strokes, Type II Diabetes, Obesity, Osteoporosis, and many psychological conditions.
7. PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH – There are massive benefits in getting outdoors, on our mental health. Spending time in nature is linked to improved attention span, and boosts in serotonin ( the feel good neuro – transmitter). It also shows increased brain activity in the parts of the brain responsible for increased empathy, emotional stability, and love. Conversely, urban environments tend to boost brain activity in centers for fear and anxiety.
8. IT’S JUST CLEAN, SIMPLE FUN.
GET OUTSIDE !!! GO CAMPING !!!
(Credit for this photo goes to OutdoorAfro)
PASSING THE BATON
My second reason is ultimately a selfish one. Although there are messages both subtle and not so subtle, that the “outdoors is for white people” – that must change. Due to the fact that the United States is moving towards a greater population of non-whites, it is important to pass the baton of caretaker to that next generation. If the next generation isn’t aware of the treasure they are responsible for, it may be lost. We need more people involved in supporting policy decisions that affect access to public spaces, and that consider the size of the footprint we leave for the next generation. We need everyone to care about the development of open spaces, and the ecosystem at large. Funding for our public lands is in jeopardy. Falling in love with the outdoors will encourage everyone, including minorities, to use their spending power to work alongside any company or group that share a vision for equity in access and enjoyment of our parks and open spaces. I hope that you, dear readers, will embrace the chance to work with regional and national organizations, companies, and leaders who support and give voice to diverse participation in the outdoors to achieve important goals for allof us.
IF YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS, PLEASE COMMENT AND I WILL GET BACK TO YOU AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Some thoughts –
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“If we don’t learn to hang together, surely we will hang separately”. – Ben Franklin
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you”. -Frank Lloyd Wright
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt”. – John Muir
Of our National Parks: “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir
“Not just beautiful, though—the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they’re watching me.” – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Much thanks to the following blogs that were instrumental in helping to get my thoughts in order:
www.NAARVA.com (National African-American RV’ers Association )
I know – that last post was a very, very long one. But the good news, this is very, very short. Actually, I forgot to put it in the last post. But that’s ok, because now it can get the attention I think it really deserves. Yes, for all of you pasta lovers out there, may I present – Stile di Famiglia, or what I like to call, THE FORK .
We found the fork in a neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska. It is a sculpture by Jake Balcom, that was finished in 2010. It is a beautiful Stainless Steel utensil with dimensions of 13’x7’x8′. It is owned by The Towns of Little Italy Homeowner’s Association.The sculpture was funded by a donation from Bluestone Development, a hip real estate development company, and their developer partner, the Caniglia Family. The Caniglia Family owned and operated an Italian restaurant for 60 years and when they decided to close, they wanted the property transformed into a benefit for the neighborhood that treated them so well. After sitting down with the family, an agreement was reached to create a City Neighborhood Townhouse Project. Through the development, it was learned that there is an Omaha Mayor and a Little Italy Mayor, and that there were/are underground tunnels dating back to the bootleg prohibition era. It was also learned that Little Italy can be divided between white sauce and red sauce (depending on what side of 20th street you lived.)
It was the residents of that townhouse project, The Homeowners Association of the Towns of Little Italy, that commissioned a sculpture through a design competition. The residents called for entries, based on a vision to commemorate the unique history of the neighborhood, one of the city’s oldest. Residents selected the artist, Jake Balcom, from among the entries. Once Balcom was chosen, the committee worked to select a site and make sure the sculpture was appropriate and met their goals. Balcom came up with an installation that is distinctly Italian, and that represents the feel for the town’s neighborhood at 7th and Pierce. This area seemed fun, friendly, and where the people are close to each other, much like a family. Balcom kept coming back to the idea of a big Italian family sitting around a table eating dinner, everyone talking about their life or how their week went, laughing and enjoying the company. ”With this in mind I went down to one of our local Italian restaurants for some research/inspiration and as I was eating my favorite pasta dish there, I looked down and caught myself twirling my pasta around my fork and instantly knew that this would make a fun and dynamic sculpture that would represent both the Italian heritage, the playfulness of the neighborhood, as well as pay homage to the Italian restaurant that used to occupy the lot”. As for the name, ‘Stile di Famiglia’ or ‘Family Style’ was chosen, which is in reference to a restaurant serving style, where food is served to guests in the same way you would at a big family dinner.
I love this sculpture. It may be because I’m Italian. Or maybe because I love pasta. Either way, this artwork just makes me happy!
This is a very long blog post, so grab a bottle of water, maybe a snack, and get comfy. Ready? Here we go…
First things first. I chose this title, purely to get your attention. Surely, you want to know how Barbara Walters
could possibly be connected. Well, they are – and they aren’t. Let me explain. Tim tells me I missed my calling. I should have been an interviewer like Barbara Walters. Once I get to talking with someone, they’ll usually tell me anything. I really don’t even have to ask. But I’ll let you in on my secret. I have learned that people just love to talk about themselves. I can talk to a stranger for 20 minutes or so, (it has happened), and they never once ask me anything about me or us. As long as the conversation is about “them”, they are perfectly happy to go on and on. I’ve used that to my advantage over the years. It used to upset me a little, as in poor me, nobody gives a hoot about us – they didn’t even bother to ask our names or where we were from… Truth is, they really don’t care! Fair enough. I’m ok with it after all this time, and have learned to accept it. But if you ask questions, trust me, you will get answers. We were in a campground on this trip where a woman, her 2 children, and her mother were intrigued with our little trailer, and asked if they could checkout the inside. Tim went in with them, and gave them a “tour”. When they came out, we continued to talk for more than a few minutes. She shared that she had just completed a seven-year sentence in prison. I made sure my face didn’t register any horror. I’ve never met anyone who spent time in prison. I wanted to ask her, “What for?”, but that’s where ignorance of “prison etiquette” comes in. I mean when someone tells you they just got out of prison, is it ok to ask, “Why did you have to go?” I just don’t know. I figure if she wanted me to know, she would have told me. As in, “I went to prison for robbing a bank”, or” for killing my husband”. She didn’t, and so I didn’t – If anyone is familiar with prison etiquette – please let me know. I may run into this situation again – you know I will!
If you follow my blog, you may remember Chislick, the food found only in the southeast corner of South Dakota. Now, allow me to introduce you to Runza, a regional treat found in Nebraska.
A runza (also called a bierock, fleischkuche, or kraut pirok) is a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, onions, sauerkraut or cabbage, and seasonings. They are baked in various shapes such as half-moon, rectangle, round, square, or triangle. In Nebraska, the runza is usually baked in a rectangular shape. There are actually fast food restaurants called, what else,
It’s a Mid-western fast food restaurant chain specializing in ethnic food that was once served by the Volga German immigrants to the United States…and there you have it a Runza.
By the way, it was delicious !!!
You’ve probably figured out by now, we finally made it to Nebraska, and I’ve got the sign to prove it.
But we didn’t make it to Minnesota or North Dakota. Unlike our big trip last year, there were time commitments. Rather than rush through it all like the Griswalds, we decided to take our time and “smell the roses” (or the corn, as it turns out.). Before we go on, let’s talk about the rather circuitous drive we took to get here. Even though our ultimate goal was north, as in Minnesota, we went south. We decided to stop in Northeast, Maryland, for a crab feast. I won’t go into detail, because we stopped here almost two years ago when we started out on our first year and a half road trip.
Here’s Tim in his glory.
After our crab feast it was pretty late, so we had to find a campground. Lucky for us, we stumbled upon Elk Neck State Park in Northeast, Maryland. What a gem. (Please check out this park in my Campground Review Page). No RV? No problem. They have two different kinds of cabins that you can rent by the night. It was so lovely, we plan on visiting this fall for a few days.
Up and at em’ the next day, we came across an outdoor shrine that honors St. Padre Pio, in Buena, New Jersey. St. Padre Pio is an extraordinary example of a pious man. It is said that God gave Padre Pio many extraordinary “spiritual gifts and divine powers, including the gifts of healing, bilocation (the ability to begin two places at the same time), prophecy, miracles, discernment of spirits, the ability to abstain beyond man’s natural powers from both sleep and nourishment, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues (the ability to speak and understand languages that he had never studied), the gift of conversions, the grace to see angelic beings in form, and the fragrance which emanated from his wounds and which frequently announced his invisible presence”. When a friend once questioned him about these charismas, Padre Pio said, “You know, they are a mystery to me, too.” He does sound like quite a man – a saint , if you will. Please Google him if you want more info. But, here are a few photos.
In Morgantown, West Virginia, we stopped for fuel. Stopping for gas is pretty common, but I don’t think this is. On the drive leading out of the station, there was a “Blessing Box”. Having never heard of one, I looked it up.
So what’s a Blessing Box? The concept is simple. The box is a miniature food pantry — receiving items from those who want to donate, and offering it to those who need them.
“Whether you’re taking or giving, you can just go to the blessing box, “There’s not a lock on it — it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Nice idea !
Ohio was full of surprises.
Always on the lookout for roadside attractions and oddities, we read about Dr. Ryan, the chiropractor, with his 25 foot tall tree trunk carved into the replica of a spine, and “splines”. Sometimes these excursions don’t quite work out. Dr. Ryan told us that his tree had fallen just two weeks ago. But – we did find something very cool, especially since my son Christian is a chiropractor.
Here’s the remnant:
What did we find? SPLINES !!! what the heck are splines you may ask. Well, “splines” are lines to delineate spaces in his parking area, in the shape of spines – hence, “splines” ! Don’t you just love them?
Not too far from the chiropractor was a field of 6′ concrete corn, in Dublin, Ohio.
This former corn field, sprouts 109 people-sized ears of concrete corn. Although it is a large oddball art display, it’s also a salute to Sam Frantz, an inventor of hybrid corn – a very weird sight along the highway. M. Frantz farmed this site from 1935 to 1963, using it as a study field for tasty mutant strains. Apparently, he was well known for his development of hybrid corn seeds, and worked with Ohio State University on hybridization projects. He donated this land, now named Sam and Eulalia Frantz Park, after his farming days were over.
In Zanesville, Ohio, we found Cotrill’s Sidewalk of Sculpture. The block outside Alan Cottrill’s sculpture studio serves as an open-air bronze statue gallery, with many more pieces inside. Check out the sheep wearing ice skates, a boy reading, and the Indian on the roof, just a few of the scores of sculptures.
Also in Zanesville, we found a Pile of War Dead Helmets, erected in 2010, This sculpture is a nod of thanks to 297 Muskingum County servicemen killed in World War II and the Korean War, represented by a pile of individually named helmets.
In Dublin Ohio, we found the Watlao Buddhamamakaram Buddhist Shrine. While driving, you start to think “there’s no way there’s a Buddhist temple around here.” Then, all of a sudden, there it is. It really is beautiful and if you visit on a sunny day it glistens and sparkles. The colors and shine seem to be out of place in the neighborhood. The yard is surrounded by a low brick wall and every brick column is a shrine to someone who has passed. It was dedicated on 6-13-2009 and is known as the Watlao Buddhamamakaram, which translates as Lao Buddhist Temple. It was built by the local Laotian community, and is also used as a place to gather. The temple is very ornate, with two sets of dragons on both sides of the steps leading to the front entrance. There are spires and golden flames on the roof, and lots of decorative columns all around the building. Check out these photos, although they really don’t do it justice.
We arrived at our 1st destination, Omaha, the the Pine Grove campground. ( For a review, please checkout campground reviews) But I will say, that in all the many months of traveling, this is a first. A complete bar and lounge in the camp office, including jello shots. They also have sandwiches and delicious pizza. You just can’t go wrong here. Plus, they have a decent working internet. Love it!
When crossing from Iowa into Nebraska, the first notable thing we saw was a shrine – The Holy Family Shrine it turns out. It was oddly beautiful from the highway, and so we vowed to visit once we were settled in at Pine Grove. And so the next day, we did. This is a very special and unusual church. “It serves as a place of rest and solitude for people of all faiths and allows the Holy Spirit to have free access to their soul”. Strangely, The Holy Family Shrine does not host any weddings, funerals, baptisms, renewal of wedding vows, proposals, or anything connected with wedding parties.
In order to visit, you must go through this entrance.
Here is the view of the church when exiting the very small visitor’s center.
Once inside, this is the interior roof.
This etching is on the glass pane above the altar.
Water plays a large role here. In the visitor center, there is a very large sculpture that comes down from a skylight in the ceiling. Water drips from that sculpture and pools into a base of tiny stones.The water then flows out from the building in what looks like a natural, rivulet, with potted flowers on either side, all the way to the church entrance.
Once inside, the water continues to flow down both sides of the center aisle, as can be seen from the floor cutouts, and drains into pools beside the alter. At each pew, the devoted can hear the rush of water. It’s pretty spectacular.
By this time, we’re pretty hungry. When I think of Omaha, I think of steaks. Maybe that’s because of the ubiquitous “Omaha Steaks” advertising. Naturally, we felt that we had to have a really good steak. When in Omaha, do as the Omahan’s do – eat at Gorat’s, serving great steak since 1944. I’m not saying everybody eats at this restaurant, but this guy does, every week. And if it’s good enough for Warren Buffett, well, it’s good enough for the Reillys.
Hey, stop staring at me Warren!
Being the masterful “stalkers” that we are, here is a picture of Buffett’s home. Very modest, right? But while Tim was taking his pictures, a voice whispered from the hedges,”Please, move along”, and we did.
After leaving Omaha, we headed for Grand Island, where we would be watching the solar eclipse. We are in a KOA campground called KOA Grand Island Journey. It’s ok. We got a bad taste in our mouths upon arrival. I wanted/needed to use a restroom – immediately. Rather than stopping in the office first and being told they had no public restrooms, we drove directly into the camp to use a facility. A man in a golf cart came zooming over to tell us that we couldn’t use the restroom if we weren’t registered guests. Tim explained that we did have a paid reservation but that his wife needed the restroom. That brought on more questions from this crazy person, meanwhile, I’m like “dying”. Finally, finally – he told Tim the combination, while I barely made it to the door. We would not have stayed except that every campground in this area has been booked solid for a year due to the eclipse. People, when someone asks politely to use your restroom, please say “Yes”.
After we checked in and settled, we drove to Wasabi Bistrofor sushi. It was quite delish!
The next day, we settled on Hastings as a town to explore. The first stop was the birthplace of Kool Aid.
Like the excursion to the “spine” tree, visiting Kool Aid’s footprints in concrete was a bust. We found the place, but someone had lifted the footprints. Now who would do such a thing ??? I had no choice but to take this picture from Google Images of what used to be..
After visiting KoolAid, it was time to visit the tombstone of Andy The Footless Goose. It was very hard to find this sight because it was hidden behind a fence and cars. We really had to do some sleuthing. But Tim was not about to be done in by a tombstone. The story of Andy is both heartwarming and incredibly sad.
This is a likeness of Andy on the mailbox of the home where his tombstone rests.
Andy The Footless Goose was born without feet, and couldn’t walk or swim like other geese. So his caretaker, a local manufacturer and inventor named Gene Fleming, designed shoes for him. Andy’s fame was assured in 1989 when he appeared on “The Tonight Show,” and he was featured in People magazine. He went on to make hundreds of appearances, delighting schoolchildren, especially disabled children for whom he was something of a role model. STOP READING HERE if you don’t want to know about the disgusting and sad final bit of Andy’s life.
In October of 1991, Andy was kidnapped and murdered. Although his head and wings were missing when he was found, he died with his trademark boots still on. His neck apparently had been broken. Who killed Andy? The sheriff’s office was bombarded with tips and suggestions. Some thought that a disgruntled former employee of Fleming’s might be responsible. Others thought the dismemberment pointed to a satanic cult. Andy fans sent in $10,000 in reward money, but the murderer was never found. The reward money remains in a local bank.
YOU CAN READ AGAIN NOW : Another day had us checking out the Marble Museum, in York, Nebraska. Collectors would have the time of their lives here at this colorful museum, viewing the millions of marbles on display. “We have the largest collection of collectible marbles in the world”, the owner,Lee Batterton told us. And I sure do believe him.Some of the items you will find there are: Handmade, machine made, carpet balls, sulphide, Lutz’s, European swirls, onionskins, agates, marble-related games and toys, and much more. All marbles are identified. Here is a photo of the outside of the “museum”.
Here is a picture of one small part of a wall. Everything is as neat as a pin for your viewing pleasure.
And finally, I save the best for last. Me and Lee, of course.
Check his crazy hat, complete with a shock of blond hair. (He’s actually bald as a steely.) In fairness to Lee, he wanted to take the hat off, but I told him he looked cute with it on. My reason? To show you how fun-loving a guy can be who’s been collecting marbles for 54 years. He still goes to shows looking to buy stand-outs, and maybe selling a few as well. Rare ones can go for thousands of dollars , EACH! Worth a peek if you have the time.
That same day, we checked out the World’s Largest Time Capsule ( or so they say), in Seward, Nebraska.
Truly odd I think…
Time fora change – off to Cedar Hills Vineyard & Gardens.
We spoke to the owners, Heidi and Clay for a while.
They told us they had been planning the eclipse weekend for two years. In fact, they had T-shirts made, commemorative glasses etched, and a full weekend of food and entertainment scheduled. They even had people from South Africa, Italy and Great Britain coming to stay at the winery/B&B for the event. We purchased a special vintage wine that was released on Thursday, the day we visited, called Dark of Day. That is what actually brought us to this particular winery on that very day. If we have time, we may go back after the actual eclipse for the pig roast – yum!
On Friday, we were so darn tired. We decided to just take it easy, straighten a little and do four loads of laundry. As I’ve told you before – just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean the chores stop.
On the day of the Solar Eclipse we were camped in Mormon Island State Recreation Area. (Check out review in Campground Review section). This park was named for the winter stopover used by the Mormon emigrants, who were headed west. For those of you who are “birders”, this park is a gathering place for hundreds of thousands of Sandhill Cranes to rest and pursue their courtship rituals from February to late March.
Now that’s a lot of birds !!! (Photo thanks: Nebraskaland Magazine).
Although all of this is stunning, the real reason we were camped at this particular park was the Solar Eclipse. Mormon Island sits directly on the path of totality for optimal viewing. Like everyone else in our area, we were watching the weather reports daily – and they changed daily, always giving us bad news. In fact, on the day of, there was a report that there would be scattered thunderstorms in our area. The nearest place with a “clear” prediction was Casper, Wyoming, 400 miles to the west. We considered driving, but thankfully decided against it, insisting and praying that it would be fine right where we were.
Armed with our glasses and chairs, we chose our viewing spot. You can’t be too careful when the stakes are 2 minutes and 30 seconds of total eclipse.
Here’s my man the “sun gazer”
Lots of folks at the park, picnicking and watching.
The Solar Eclipse was one of the most magical things we’ve ever seen. As the moon is crossing the sun, the surroundings get steadily darker and really quiet. Darkest glasses must be warn while even a sliver of sun is exposed, so only the tiny dim crescent is visible. But the instant that the moon fully covers the sun , the magnificent corona bursts into view. The glasses come off and a silver hue pervades the sky and the earth. Stars and planets are visible around the mystical solar ring. The insects begin to go crazy, each of them making their own music, which only adds to the surreal vision. And the people let out a spontaneous cheer. You cannot look away. A full 2 minutes and 30 seconds of beauty – the true reason we made this journey. And was it worth it? Emphatically, yes, yes, yes!
We realized traffic would be horrible right after the eclipse, with literally millions of people having traveled to this thin slice of America. So what do you do with a free afternoon in Grand Island? You take a drive to Kearney, to see the famous “Archway”.
Now, I know it doesn’t look like much, but if you are in the area, do visit.
The Archway is fairly new to Great Plains tourism, opening in 2000. Using giant multi-wheeled transporters, the 1,500-ton, 309-foot structure was rolled across the Interstate 80, in one piece on the night of Aug. 16, 1999. The interstate was closed for eight hours while the archway was locked onto its support platforms.
The Archway presents the 170 year history of America’s westward movement through detailed displays and harrowing stories you’ll hear as you walk over one of America’s busiest interstate highways.
You start at Ft. Kearny in the 1840s where the Oregon Trail converged with the Mormon Trail and California Trail, and end up in a drive-in movie theater. The Archway takes visitors along the trails, rails, highways and superhighways in a self-guided audio tour that includes stories of the travelers along the way. You can hear the rumble of the Iron Horse on the transcontinental railroad as it passes overhead. You watch a Pony Express rider make a quick stop to change horses as he races to deliver mail across the country. Listen in as the first transcontinental telegraph transmits the news of the breakout of the Civil War to the West Coast. Travel the historic Lincoln Highway, catch the newsreel at the drive-in theater and take a break to check on the traffic below in the roadside diner. Our favorite exhibition was the Mormon Handcart Display. Neither Tim nor I had ever heard of Mormon Handcarts. Mormon devotees who didn’t have the funds for wagons and animals to help transport themselves and their goods westward, used handcarts. If you think traveling west in Conestoga wagons and such was harrowing, imaging pulling a hand cart with your goods and perhaps a child or two, for over a thousand rugged miles! This was a very, very courageous group of folks. I can say with full certainty that I would have not made that trip. Quick Fact: How long do you think the Pony Express was is existence? 18 months – that’s it !!!
Two different pictures of people pulling their handcarts. This first picture was taken from “True West” Blog from 2015.
This second photo is from the Deseret News, “LDS Church News”, from 2006.
The Archway is a perfect stop for a family vacation. The displays can be viewed in under an hour, but why hurry? Take your time. It is an amazing structure, and an amazing final experience before heading home.
We started back home the day after the eclipse, retracing our journey through the maze of maize that forms our nation’s heartland. After a 20 hour and 37 minute drive, we arrived in Galloway, NJ. We’re already planning our next road trip. Maybe we’ll try to get to the last two states, Minnesota and North Dakota. Stay tuned…
Today we drove to the beach town of Stone Harbor. It’s only about 35 miles from Galloway, NJ, our home, but the traffic makes it a little bit of a trek. But today, we didn’t go for the beach. We went to see an artist named Romero Britto. He was born in Brazil, but has lived in Miami since 1989. Why him? Well, because I saw this very, very cool luggage – loved it – and Tim bought me an entire set for Christmas. The graphics on all of the pieces is crazy, colorful, and fantabulous. It so happens that Mr. Britto created the graphics. Here is a picture of the whole set –
And here is a pic of just the small case –
He has many styles of luggage, but since I’m an “island girl” at heart, this was my favorite.
It also happens that he was showing his work at Ocean Galleries in Stone Harbor- hence – the trip. The entire gallery was devoted to his work. It was an absolute explosion of color.
Though the gallery was exciting, more so was meeting him and having him autograph my luggage tag.
Check out these beauties. Below is Tim’s favorite – a crab – of course.
I liked this sculpture, aptly titled “Martini”.
Since we were in Stone Harbor for the first time in decades, of course we checked it out.
First a bit of history. If you can read the sign, it’s pretty cool. If not, it says that the first airmail delivery in New Jersey was a delivery of 500 pieces of mail that flew from Ocean City to Stone Harbor, using the beach as an airstrip. Who knew?
You know, sometimes east coast beaches leave a lot to be desired, but the beach in Stone Harbor is pretty spectacular. Below is a picture of the dunes. The upright sticks you see are masts of catamarans and other small sailboats.
The town itself is only 3 blocks wide, east to west. There are bike paths on both sides of the main street, with a wide grassy median showcasing trees, plants, and gorgeous flowers. There is a 42-block stretch considered the “beach block”, meaning that at the easternmost end of the street is a short path to the beach, making it super accessible regardless of where you are.
There are plenty of opportunities for enjoying nature and the outdoors, like the Wetlands Institute. Established in 1972, the Wetlands Institute is an organization committed to protecting and preserving the wetlands and coastal ecosystems along New Jersey’s shore. You can visit the exhibits, explore the marsh, join a bird watching walk or take a guided beach hike. Another spot to explore is the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary.
The sanctuary features four different paths that go through woodlands, gardens and marsh and are home to a variety of birds and waterfowl. It is quite lovely. Note: Bring Bug Spray !!!
Stone Harbor’s business district has plenty of old-fashioned seashore charm, with lots of restaurants and up-scale shops.
To top off the great day, it just so happened that the Festival of Lights was taking place. A beautiful sight with lots of boats all dolled up for the parade.
I would definitely visit again some day. If you love beautiful beaches, then you should too!
You know that road trip I’ve been talking about. It’s hard to believe, mostly for you, but it’s finally happening. We’re leaving on Thursday. So stay tuned for Minnesota, North Dakota, and Nebraska. You never know what we’ll discover !
Greetings everyone. We returned from our 9-night Bermuda Cruise on Sunday, July 16th. What a wonderful time we had. In case you’re wondering who is this “we” I speak of, it’s these two lovely ladies pictured right below for your viewing pleasure.
That’s me on the left, and Joyce on the right. Being cousins, we’ve known each other since the day I was born – just a little plug to let you know I’m a little younger (sorry Joyce, lol), but not by much. We even lived in the same town for many years, on perpendicular streets – as did the rest of our huge Italian family.
We’ve been traveling together for a very long time. In the late 60’s, I believe, we took a road trip from New Jersey to San Diego, CA. There used to be a company called AAACon, where you could transport other peoples’ cars for them. They didn’t pay us, but nor did we pay them. For us it meant free transportation to California. We picked up a brand new Mustang convertible, and were to drop it off in Fort Hood, Texas. It was only when we arrived in Cherry Hill that we discovered it was a stick shift. I certainly didn’t know how to drive it, but Joyce told me she had somewhat of an idea how to drive a manual. We said our goodbyes to the owners of the Mustang, and proceeded down the highway, literally jolting and hopping along, Joyce frantically trying to get out of first gear. I looked in the rearview and saw the owners running after us. I told Joyce to step on it, and drive away before they could catch us. After the drop off in Fort Hood, we picked up the second car in Texarcana, and made it to San Diego. Suffice it to say there were many laughs and “bumps in the road” – stories for another day. About 15 years later, we tried to recreate that trip in our own vehicle, making it as far as Albuquerque, New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. Another wild ride. So this cruise is the third, and hopefully not the last of our adventures.
We embarked on the Celebrity Summit, an older but lovely ship. Our departure port was Bayonne, New Jersey. So very easy folks – no plane to get there. If anyone dislikes flying as much as I do, this is the way to go. Below is a photo of the Summit –
Our cabin was on the 8th floor, just aft of mid-ship, with a veranda. Trust me, I’ve been in an inside cabin, and one with an ocean view, but once you’ve had a veranda, it’s the only way to sail.
This is the view from the veranda on “days at sea”, my favorite!
As we pulled out of Bayonne, we had a good look at the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline.
First stop was Newport, Rhode Island. There are a lot of things to do in Newport, but we had to be back on the ship by 2pm. Not enough time to do much of anything. But we did take a tender to shore, and walked around town a little bit. As I’m sure you know, it’s a very nautical town.
The second stop was Boston, Massachusetts. We were able to see a bit of Boston because we didn’t have to be back on the ship until 6pm. We took a Hop-On – Hop-Off Bus Tour that lasted about 3 hours. We did get to see quite a few places, although we did not hop on or off. At each stop, people were irate because they had been waiting in the hot sun, without benches to sit on, for 45 minutes, for a bus to come. After the third group of complainers, we decided it was best to stay on for the entire tour. We didn’t want to be late getting back to the ship – that would have been a disaster. The ship will leave without you- unless you purchased the tour through the cruise line – which we had not. Three highlights for us on the tour were Fenway Park, “Swan Lake” and the entrance to the bar “Cheers” from the TV show.
Fenway Park is located right in downtown Boston. It looks quite small compared to other venues I’ve seen.
Boston Common is a 50-acre public park in downtown Boston. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the “Boston Commons”. it is the oldest city park in the United States, dating from 1684. The Swan Boats operate in the same pond in the Public Garden in which they have operated for over 140 years, and are a cultural icon.
After some people got off the bus to enter Cheersfor a drink and pictures, the driver/tour guide told us that the people were going to be very disappointed once they entered. The TV show only used the outside of the building for the the production. The inside was a Hollywood set. Hmmm – perhaps she should have mentioned that before the people got off…
Two days at sea were next on the itinerary before arriving in Bermuda. They are my favorite days. So beautiful and so relaxing. I managed to finish two excellent books on this cruise, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriartyand The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by Jan-Philipp Sendker. You must read them if you have time, especially the Sendker book.
For our first day in Bermuda, we took a ferry to Hamilton, the capital. We just walked around looking at shops and sights. (Photo of Hamilton from the blog of Slone Raner).
Business men wear jackets, ties, Bermuda shorts (of course), knee highs, and dress shoes. It looks kind of peculiar if you aren’t used to it.
I had to have a picture of this mailbox – isn’t it neat?
We then hired a taxi to take us on a 2 1/2 hour tour around the island. It was perfect because it was just the two us, the driver, and air conditioning -yahoo ! We determined the driver to be about 85 years old, if he was a day. He was third generation Bermudian with a Portuguese background. He drove just slow enough for us to see everything we wanted to see and more. We even drove by Michael Bloomberg’s house (below), which is powered completely by solar panels.
We next stopped in St. George, also known as the Town of St. George which is the main town at the eastern end of Bermuda. The town is steeped with history and is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. This is where the founder of Bermuda, Sir George Somers, and his men landed in 1609 after their ship Sea Venture was wrecked on a nearby reef. Mr. Somers and his men built a replica of the Sea Venture, and named it Deliverance. That replica still stands today.
We stopped for a drink at the White Horse Bar and Restaurant.
Then back to the ship.
The second day we took a shuttle to famous Horseshoe Bay with it’s pink sand each. It’s a beautiful place with blue, clear water.
On our last day in Bermuda, Joyce went to do a little shopping in King’s Wharf. I spent most of the day in or near the pool. I just love it. Below is a shot of King’s Wharf, where the Summit docked.
Our last day on board was a day at sea. We both spent the day relaxing and enjoying the ship. The entertainment on the ship was very good, and sometimes fabulous. If you have the time, go to YouTube and check out a comedian named Rich Aronovitch. He had everyone laughing out loud. Another great show was Lou Gazzara, who was on American Idol, Season 2. He did a rendition of Nessun Dorma that had the entire audience give him a standing ovation. You can check him out on You Tube as well.
When we returned to the cabin on the last night, this was waiting for us on Joyce’s bed –
isn’t he great ???!!!
If you’ve never been on a cruise, what are you waiting for? Great value for the money, comfortable accommodations, excellent food, wonderful service, some fun people to meet, relaxing, and entertaining. You can do as much or as little as you want. I just loved it, and I believe Joyce did too. If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to try to help.
Keep posted. That long awaited Casita trip may finally be happening, and you won’t want to miss it.
I found another quote that illustrates a way in which we see in people what we are.
“The liar’s punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”
This quote is attributed to George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright, critic and polemicist ( a person who engages in controversial debate). Mr Shaw had a keen eye indeed.
Such a handsome man…
Another great quote of Mr. Shaw’s is –
“We don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing.”
I especially am glad that I found this particular quote because it is an excellent segue to my next topic – CRUISING TO BERMUDA. This is the actual ship, the Celebrity Summit.
That’s right folks, Joyce and I will be leaving on Friday, July 7th for Bermuda ( ( 3 more days). I must admit it is a rather strange route – Boston -Newport – Bermuda – but it’s ok. Any time I’ m on the sea, I am at peace with the world. We will return on Sunday, July 16th. I’ll give you the blow-by-blow lowdown of our trip when we get back. I predict it will be much more than you’d ever want to know…
So I’ll say bye for now, until we return from Bermuda. But first –
The following quote is attributed to Anais Nin, a Cuban essayist and memoirist born and raised in France.
“WE DON”T SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE, WE SEE THINGS AS WE ARE.”
This thought brings to mind one of my all time favorite Buddhist parables, which goes something like this:
One day as the Buddha was sitting under a tree, a young, trim soldier walked by, looked at the Buddha, noticed his weight and his fat, and said: “You look like a pig!” The Buddha looked up calmly at the soldier and said: “And you look like God!” Taken aback by the comment, the soldier asked the Buddha: “Why do you say that I look like God?” The Buddha replied: “Well, we don’t really see what’s outside of ourselves, we see what’s inside of us and project it out. I sit under this tree all day and I think about God, so that when I look out, that’s what I see. And you, you must be thinking about other things!”
Thomas Aquinas expressed this in a famous axiom: Whatever is received is received according to the mode of its receiver.
If this is true, and I believe it is, then, as the Buddhist parable suggests, how we see others is telling about what’s going on inside of us. Among other things, it indicates whether we manage our thoughts from a good and kind place, or from a negative and unkind sensibility.
TRAVEL UPDATE –
No matter what we plan, LIFE tends to get in the way. More often than not, this turns out to be a good thing. The road trip with Tim has been postponed until mid or late July. The reason? I’m going on a cruise with my cousin Joyce.
Yep – we’re going to Boston, MA, and then Newport, RI, then on to Bermuda for three days. We are both very excited! In the 60’s, she and I took a road trip from New Jersey to California. I wasn’t quite 21. Although that’s a very long time ago, we still have the fondest of memories. Here we are in 2017, ready to make new memories – I’m certain it will be all that we wish for.
My next post will be about our cruise – stay tuned.
You do know that there is a reason to celebrate Cinco de Mayo other than eating Mexican food and drinking, right? In 1861 Mexico declared a temporary stop on the repayment of foreign debts, so English, Spanish, and French troops invaded the country. By April 1862 the English and Spanish had withdrawn, but the French remained in an attempt to establish a monarchy, and to restrain U.S. power in in North America. On May 5, 1862, a poorly equipped army under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated French troops at the Battle of Puebla.
Although the fighting continued and the French were not driven out for another five years, the victory at Puebla became a symbol of Mexican resistance to foreign domination. The city, which was later renamed Puebla de Zaragoza, still celebrates, but not so much in most of the rest of the country. In the mid-20th-century, the U.S. celebration of Cinco de Mayo became a way for Mexican immigrants to encourage pride in their heritage. For the rest of us, it’s a bacchanal.
So, we gotta’ celebrate, right? Here in AC, there are lots of venues to choose from. But we decided on Veracruz a new Mexican restaurant that opened at Harrah’s Casino about two months ago. We chose it because of the enticing advertising. Not one, but two, Happy Hours – Patron Girls giving away gifts – and Margaritas made from scratch. Feast your eyes on this – maybe one of the most delicious Margaritas I’ve ever had – ever!
And Guacamole with Blue Crab Chunks – can you hear the angels singing ??? We met lots of fun people, and had a really good time. If you’re in AC- get going. There were 5 other bars on my list to visit, but after a few drinks at Veracruz, home was the only place that really sounded good.
Saturday was the Kentucky Derby. But before we settled in to watch the race, we saw the opera, Samson and Delilah, by Camille Saint-Saens, Op. 47, a grand opera in three acts and four scenes to a French libretto by Ferdinand Lemaire.
Here is one of the actors who played, and of course sang, as Abimelch, satrap of Gaza. By the way, a satrap is a local ruler.
By now you should know it wasn’t just an opera in a theater. Oh no, this opera was held in a beautiful private home in the Venice Park section of Atlantic City.
We were told to bring our own seats, as it was always very crowded. Guess what? There were only four of us in the audience, and they performed anyway. How delightful is that? They even had champagne and snacks – all gratis. And by the way, admission is also free, with a free -will-donation.
If you are interested, they will be performing Otello on Saturday, June 17, and Rigoletto on August 5th. Both will be held at 8pm, at the Community Presbyterian Church in Brigantine, NJ.
After the opera, we made a beeline for the Hi-Point Pub. Although many venues were showing the derby, we were cutting it pretty close, and didn’t want to miss anything. We took a seat at the bar. The didn’t have the makings for a Mint Julep, so we settled Maker’s Mark on the rocks.
We bet on Patch, a blind- in- one- eye horse, Tapwrit– because Tim heard he was good in the mud, an Fast and Accurate, because I love grey horses. Look at this horse – a thing of beauty.
If you watched the race, you know we were big losers. Always Dreaming was the winner. Did I mention that we used to own a horse? Yep, her name was Nightmare. We kept her in an open lot next to our home when we lived in St. Thomas. When we moved back to the states, we had to sell her, but it was fun while it lasted. I think that’s why we try to stay on top of the derby – that and the mint juleps – it’s all about tradition !
Look at this magnificent creature…Always Dreaming.
After the race, we headed home to just sit and relax. It was a very busy weekend, and we loved every minute of it.
By the way, we’ve started a list of necessities for our next road trip. I can’t tell you the exact date – but stay tuned for the ride – it won’t be long.
It’s been a while – but we’re back. It was a blog-worthy day, if you will. Smithville Village had a New Age Fair and Drum Circle on the Village Greene, sponsored by Herban Legends. Herban Legend is a “Fair Trade Socially Conscious Boutique carrying hand-made clothing & accessories, jewelry, visual art & metaphysical materials such as singing bowls, sage, incense, etc., as well as unique & unusual gifts, natural organic body care products, teas & sauces. The Legend also conducts & sponsors workshops in chakra and crystal healing, spiritual cleansing using sage & other wonders from the Earth, Tarot Readings….and much more” – 205 N Belleview Ave, Hammonton, NJ 08037. I thought I’d give them a plug because I enjoyed myself so much, and I plan on visiting the shop – maybe you will too.
A blanket was set up with various drums so people could borrow, in case you didn’t bring or have your own.
I don’t have one, but here I am anyway.
It was our first 85 degree, and higher, day of the year. The organizers were good enough to set tents in a circle, with chairs under them for shade. Great idea!
If you’ve never been in a drum circle, it is way cool. It reminds me of chanting “OM” in a yoga class. All of the voices seem to turn into one, that vibrate your very inner core – same with the drum circle. Try it – I think you’ll like it!
Along with the drum circle, there were vendors of all sorts – acupuncture, massage, a juice and kombucha bar, a henna booth, essential oils, and lots more.
When we left Smithville Village, we were in the mood for peace and beauty. We headed over to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
We drove the 8-mile Wildlife Self-Guided Tour. Brochures were available in the newly built Visitor’s Center. The habitat consists of 47,000 acres, which is actively managed for migratory birds. But that’s not all. The Diamondback Terrapin (turtle), is a species of turtle native to the brackish coastal marshes of New Jersey. And they are protected here as well.
Spring is certainly time for L’Amour!!!
Mom, dad and babies.
Those little yellow balls to the right are baby chicks.
A lone snowy egret.
Look at this beautiful Red-winged Blackbird.
We’ll probably make this drive a 1,000 times over the course of the year. It’s only a 5 minute drive from our house, and there are different creatures to see in different seasons. If you’re headed to the shore, plan a visit here – you won’t be disappointed.
WELCOME TO SOMER’S POINT
Being Saturday night, we decided to kick it up a notch, and head to the Bay Fest in Somer’s Point. The Bayfest is now the largest, single day festival in South Jersey, with food, crafts, and music, with an emphasis on food!!!
Yikes!!! It is any wonder_________________________________ (you fill in the blank).
We wanted to hear some good music, so we headed to BAIA, a restaurant/bar, with a band on the deck. We had seen this band before, and we both really love the old-school calypso, soca, and reggae sounds of Verdict (verdictisin.com). If you have the chance to see/hear them – do – you’ll feel like you’re in the islands for sure.
Just so you know – Tim has been working on the Casita for days, getting it ready for our upcoming road trip. It looks great. Don’t you agree?
Depending on the weather, we should be going on a “shake-down cruise” next weekend. We’re thinking Cape May, because there is so much there to see and do, and it’s close to home if we need a tune-up of some kind. There are also many campgrounds in Cape May and surrounding areas.. If all goes well, the next post should be about our trip to Cape May. Stay tuned !!!
We attended the Atlantic city Boat Show, which was held March 1-5, 2017 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. We’re thinking about buying a small boat, given our proximity to water. In fact, I’ve had an interest in exploring these waterways for many years. There’s something intriguing to me about traveling on the water through narrow water paths through the marsh.
We have enough space for a small boat in our storage spot, right behind the Casita. There are many, many small craft marinas around here, and a few launch ramps. In fact, there’s one about a mile from our house.
It isn’t pretty, but it does the trick. They even have a parking lot to keep your truck and trailer. And, it is all gratis! Don’t speak Latin people? – that’s FREE! Yep, it’s a state park, and we are now residents. So…
The boat show had lots of boats and accessories. I thought there would be a few large, and larger motor and sailboats in the bunch – but there weren’t – just motor boats. Small ones! Not that we were going to buy a big one, mind you – I guess we’re just used to the Annapolis boat shows which are outdoors and pretty unbelievable to see, where you can climb on and off of some of the most spectacular boats/yachts in the world. But actually, for us, this was perfect.
The entrance was plain and simple
To the left of the entryway, there was a photo op that Tim just could not resist.
The first thing that met our eyes when we walked into the show was this incredible sand sculpture.
It was done by sand sculptor extraordinaire, John Gowdy. If you want to know a bit about him or see more of his work, go to www.jgowdy.com
Some of the boats we looked at were this style. Meh!
But this was my very favorite of that lot.
But here’s the thing…do we really need a boat this large? I mean we want to be able to take out a few people, mostly our three grandsons. So do we purchase, insure, and store something like this for the less than a handful of times we would actually take guests out? That remains to be seen. I was thinking more of something like this –
or even this-
I really want to explore the waterways in the marshes. To my eyes, they are quite beautiful.
All along the marshes, there are small restaurants and bars. You can tie up your boat, and go in for a little refreshment and a bite to eat. This one is called Mott’s Creek Inn.
Not very fancy, right? But the drinks are good, and the food is delicious, and there’s often live music. Plus, it sits just a few feet away from the Redneck Yacht Club.
Right across the street from Mott’s Creek Inn, this sign is posted .
UGH! You know how I feel about mosquitoes and green heads. But this year, I am determined to enjoy my summer at the shore, and at times, on the marshes. Note: Someone told me to wipe all exposed areas with Listerine. You let it dry, and voila – no bugs. Hmmm. I’ll try anything! And if it works, I’ll let y’all know.
Crazy! I had no idea that this world existed just a few miles from the glitz and glamour of Atlantic City casinos.
This is another restaurant/bar on the banks of the marsh. It’s called Oyster Creek Inn Restaurant and Boat Bar.
This happens to be an excellent restaurant, with very long lines during the summer.
I’m sure you get the idea! A boat sounds like fantastic fun. But we have nothing but time to decide. We plan on hitting the road in our Casita again sometime soon. Believe it or not, we miss the road. Don’t get me wrong, we love our new home. But, the road is our siren song. And very, very soon we plan to take another road trip. In fact, we are currently in the planning stages. Canada? Florida? The States we haven’t been to yet — all are being considered. For those of you who follow along, you know our trip to Mexico came to an abrupt halt; something to do with a leased vehicle. We have recently purchased the truck, so Mexico is back in our sights. I’m thinking for the winter makes the most sense. How about you?
We hosted a St. Patrick’s Day EVE party. It’s been so long since we’ve entertained in our home, that it took lots of our time to plan, prepare and host. You all would have been pretty proud of me. I even made Beer Bread, Irish Soda Bread, Shepherd’s Pie, Guiness Chocolate Cake (below),
Bailey’s Irish Cream Cake and Irish Apple Cake with Custard sauce — all from scratch. Oh wait, let’s not forget Shamrock-shaped pasta (since I’m Italian). As well as lots of other stuff. We really enjoyed ourselves, and believe / hope every one else did as well. On the day of, we went to McGettigan’s Irish Pub for corned beef and cabbage, and music of course, with friends.
That’s it for now – see you next time, hopefully with plans for the road trip.