Tag Archives: American Travel Series

America’s North Country~Trip Part 1

6 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

Prolog:

 

Growing up in the Southwest (New Mexico), I have always been interested in the development of the western United States. I have visited all of the southwestern states many times, but have never ventured north. I had always wanted to visit the Western Plaines states or America’s North Country/ (as I call them), so I decided to take this opportunity to checkout this part of our beautiful country. During my research for this trip I quickly discovered that this area of our country is still pretty much wide-open and the trip was going to be much different from many of my recent trips. Whereas, I was accustomed to having multiple airplane, auto, railroad and maritime museums to choose from, I now found very few of these type museums. What seemed most prevalent in these states (Nebraska, North & South Dakota, Montana, Idaho & Wyoming) were Frontier type museums. This consisted of Historic Site & Town restorations, Pioneer Villages, Lewis & Clark Historic Sites, Territorial Prisons and Dinosaur museums. There would be a few airplane, car and railroad museums scattered along the way, but very few. What did I expect?

 

 

Day 1 (Friday)

The only city in any of the six states I was going to visit, into which I could get a non-stop flight on Southwest Airlines, was Omaha, NE. I was amazed to find the curbside check-in stand at the Orlando Airport with less than a dozen people in line to check their bags. The security check line was also minimal, and I was at the gate before I knew it.

 

 

My 2-hour, 10-minute Southwest non-stop flight from Orlando to Omaha, NE was smooth and comfortable. The Honey-Roasted peanuts were fresh and went well with two glasses of apple juice. I had brought along a couple of Roasted Almond Crunch bars to supplement the peanuts, so was not too hungry by the time we landed in Omaha.

 

 

At the rental car desk, the agent asked me where I would be traveling to, and I just picked Fargo, ND off the top of my head. I was informed that the rate I had been quoted by my travel agent would not allow me to take the car out of any state that did not border Nebraska. What kind of scam was this? What could I do? The agent said she could give me a “Commercial Rate” which would allow me to travel in any state I wished, for only $250 more! I said, “No Thanks” and went to another rental car desk. There I was able to rent a top-of-the-line car that I could travel anywhere in, for only about $40 more than my originally quoted price. That car had more “Bells & Whistles” than I knew what to do with.

 

 

With that task finally settled, and since I had gained an hour during my flight, I still had some time left to visit a few museums before they closed for the day. I headed across the Missouri River to visit my first museum. It was only about 3½ miles to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, IA. This museum, located in the old, beautifully restored, Council Bluffs Carnegie Library, has several exhibits covering the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad in the years after the Pacific Railway Act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and the ultimate growth of the Union Pacific Railroad system.

 

 

I had chosen to go to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum first because it closed early, so now I headed back across the Missouri River, to visit the Lewis & Clark Historic Trail Headquarters in Omaha, NE. I found it very interesting that this area, on the west bank of the Missouri River, was originally obtained by the U.S. Government in 1854 from the U-mo’n-Ho’n (Omaha Indians) or “upriver people.” I really had never related the word “Omaha” with an Indian tribe before. Doesn’t say much for my American History knowledge does it?

 

 

History seems to suggest that the wandering Omaha Indians established their first permanent village west of the Missouri River around 1734. I was impressed to learn that the Lewis & Clark Expedition Trail extends over 3700 miles, thru 11 states, from the St. Lewis area to Fort Clatsop in Oregon Country on the Pacific coast. As part of the Historic Trail, it is said that the Lewis & Clark Expedition traveled, camped, hunted and fished around this area. They also met and traded with the Omaha Indians, and held council with many of the Indian Chiefs in the middle Missouri River area. My travels on this trip would follow much of the northwestern portion of the original historic Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804-1806.

 

 

Next it was just a short drive to where I visited the Durham Museum located in downtown Omaha. This museum is housed in the beautifully restored former Union Pacific Railway station, and has several displays depicting the early days of the Union Pacific Railway system during the growth of the city of Omaha. The museum also has a nice selection of restored rolling stock outside.

 

 

Next I visited the Omaha Memorial Park, located another few miles west of the Missouri River. This memorial park was dedicated in 1958 to honor all of the men and women from Douglas County, Nebraska who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

 

 

Then I drove a couple more miles to visit the Lewis & Clark Landing, located on the west bank of the Missouri River, also near downtown Omaha. The landing represents the original 1804 landing site, in the Omaha area, of the Lewis & Clark Expedition as they explored some of the vast lands (828,000 sq. miles) which made up part of the Louisiana Purchase for the U.S. Government.

 

 

As an interesting side note, there was a “labor” sculpture adjacent to the landing to honor the many men who had been a part of the lead refining industry that operated in this area, by one name or another, from 1871 to 1997.

Note: See the man with the hammer raised over his head in the photo below? When I Googled this sculpture, I came across a photo of this same sculpture during the Great Flood of 2011, showing the water level so high that only his hand and the hammer were above the water, when the Missouri River crested between 30-35 feet above normal.

 

 

Another interesting area in downtown Omaha was the Pioneer Courage Park. This park represents the many struggles and hardships the early pioneers faces on their trip west thru this area. The picture of these stalwart pioneers is beautifully rendered in several bronze action sculptures, one of which is shown below.

 

 

On my way to visit the CAF Museum in Council Bluffs, IA I happened to spot sign for the River City Star. I stopped to see what it was all about and discovered that the “Star” is a passenger excursion riverboat that sails on the Missouri River and is docked at the Miller’s Landing & Yacht Club. The Yacht Club was closed, but a group had chartered the “Star” for a party and people were going aboard.

 

 

Since I was not invited to the party, I headed back across the Missouri River to check out the CAF Museum located at the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport. Unfortunately the museum was closed by the time I got there, so I just headed for my motel located there in Council Bluffs. However, before I got to the motel, I spotted a KFC restaurant and decided to have dinner with the Colonel. Yummm! I do like his chicken. The 3-piece chicken dinner came with green beans, mashed potatoes & gravy and one of their homemade biscuits with butter and honey for dessert. I had a very happy tummy after that delicious meal.

 

 

 

 

—– To Be Continued—–

My 2016 Mid-West Trip~Part 6

10 Aug

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Day 6 (Thursday)

 

I was surprised when leaving Oklahoma City, on I-70, to discover that it was a Toll Road. As it turned out, by the time I got to Kansas City it had cost me eight dollars in tolls. On the way I stopped in Tulsa, OK to check out the Tulsa Air & Space Museum located adjacent to the Tulsa International Airport. This was a small museum with only about six nicely restored airplanes.

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However, they did have a very unusual Spartan 12W as part of their collection. The Spartan 12W is an upgraded, tricycle gear variant of the Spartan Executive aircraft. I’m going to see if I can talk to my friend Terry (the airplane buff) to see if he has ever heard of, or seen, a tricycle geared Spartan 12W aircraft.

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Just as I was about to cross the border out of Oklahoma I stopped in the small town of Afton, OK to visit in the Afton Station Route 66 Packard Museum. As part of the museum’s name implies, their claim to fame is a nice collection of beautifully restored Packard automobiles, dating from the 1920s through the 1960s. So, it surprised me to see a 1990 Maserati TC sitting off by itself in a side room.

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The museum is located on the old Route 66 Highway and they have every conceivable Route 66 type of memorabilia for sale in their gift shop. It brought back lots of memories from my childhood, when I was raised in Albuquerque, NM with the two-lane Route 66 as our main street (Central Avenue) through town.

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Just down the road a few miles was the National Rod & Custom Car Hall of Fame. I was amazed at the display of some 50 one-of-a-kind custom cars in this collection. I discovered that most all of them were designed and built by Darrell Starboard, who is a famous car show participant with his magnificent original designs.

There is no way to describe the beautiful workmanship of these cars. I would have to compare Darrell Starboard with Bert Rattan, as far as forward-looking design concepts are concerned, in their respective fields.

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By the time I arrived at the TWA Museum located at the Kansas City International Airport they were closed. When I googled that museum I discovered that it was mostly memorabilia items recording the history of TWA’s hub, at what is now the Kansas City International Airport, from the 1920s to the 1990s.

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On the other side of the airport was the National Airline History Museum which was also closed. This is one museum that I was really sorry to miss visiting as I am interested in the history of all the different U.S. airlines. It appears that this museum and the TWA Museum are closely linked, as both display mostly aircraft used by TWA over the years. This is not hard to understand since what is now the Kansas City International Airport was the TWA hub for so many years. The museum’s website indicates it has set an ambitious goal for itself, with the restoration of several large projects. A 1934 Northrop Delta 1D, one of America’s first single engine commercial transport airplanes.   A Lockheed Constellation, known worldwide as one of the first international piston-engine passenger aircraft. A Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, one of America’s premium international jet airliners, and a Douglas DC-8 jet transport just to name a few. Any one of these projects would be a challenge for any museum to take on.

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The last museum on my list today was the Kansas City Automotive Museum located southwest of the city, just off I-35, between Lenexa and Olathe, KS. The museum was closed, but I was able to look through the windows to discover that this was a small museum consisting of 12 nicely restored cars dating from the 1950s and 1960s. There are just not enough hours in the day for me to see everything I want to see along the road I am traveling.

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I had a quick and easy dinner at Taco Bell tonight. Three Crunchy Beef Taco Supremes with lots of Verde Salsa to spice things up. Then it was back to the motel for some TV and a good night’s rest.

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—–To Be Continued—–

My Colonial States Trip~Part 15

25 Feb

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane

 

Then I checked out Carpenter’s Hall where in 1774 the 1st Continental Congress met in response to the “Intolerable Acts” the British Parliament had imposed on the colonies, as punishment for the Boston Tea Party. They ended up voting to support a trade embargo against England, one of the first unified acts of defiance against the King of England.

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Then there was the tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution which was a very moving monument that honors the thousands of soldiers, of George Washington’s Army, who died during the American Revolutionary War, fighting for our freedom.

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I left my glasses in the Ben Franklin Post Office (luckily they were there when I went back for them) where they hand stamped a letter I mailed. Most of us know of Ben Franklin from our history books as the guy who, in 1750, flew a kite in a thunderstorm proving that lightning was electricity. But, Franklin was a man of many talents; he was a prolific author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. He was the first United States ambassador to France (1778-1785), and the 6th president of Pennsylvania (1785-1788).

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I had never heard of the Eastern State Penitentiary where, in mid-1800s, it set the standard for penal reform with its castle-like Gothic architecture and its founders’ Quaker-inspired belief that solitary confinement could reform criminals.  Eastern State’s radial floor plan (known as the hub and spoke plan) and system of solitary confinement was the model for hundreds of later prisons worldwide.

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The next day, while I was trying to take in as many of the interesting things in Philadelphia as I could, I decided to take a quick self-guided tour of the current U.S. Mint there in Philadelphia.   It turns out that the first U.S. Mint (better known as “Ye Olde Mint”) was authorized by the “Coinage Act” of 1792 and was built that same year.  The Mint Act (as it was called) also instituted a decimal system based on a dollar unit; specified weights, metallic composition and fineness; and required that each United States coin be impressed with the word “Liberty.”  It was fascinating to see how our U.S. coins are produced, most of the process now being automated.

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I checked out the City Tavern which was the site of many early business transactions, patriot gatherings, and musical performances and has been restored to look as it did in the 1700s. Today one can sample ale recipes by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. I didn’t stop and partake of any of those, as I was on a mission to see as many of the places as I could before the close of the day.

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Down the street was the Philadelphia Merchant’s Exchange, built between 1832 and 1834, and was originally a gathering place where merchants met to barter or sell their cargoes and merchandise. From Exchange the ships could be seen approaching from up or down the Delaware River.

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—–To Be Continued—–

An Amazing Adventure~Part 14

25 Jan

SUNDAY MEMORIES

Judy Wills

JUDY

 

After our venture into the mountains, we drove back to Denver. We parked and walked some of the downtown area. It is a lovely city. We walked through Lincoln Park.

 

We saw, across the way, the County Courthouse, decked out with pink ribbons on the columns.

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We saw a statue memorial to a Medal of Honor Recipient from World War 2;

 

we saw a cowboy and an Indian warrior.

 

We saw bronze statues,

 

and the library, and a cow!

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In front of Katie Mullins bar were some bagpipers.

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We went through the library and were fascinated by it. Very modern. It was of great interest to Karen, as she is a librarian in her hometown. We rode the downtown bus—free—for several blocks, just to take in some of the town, and the architecture.

Finally, tuckered out, we drove back to the hotel. Actually, we stopped at the Texas Roadhouse Grill for supper. The food was really good, but there was an enormous amount of it! We were stuffed! Then back to the hotel to pack and sleep.

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel, then went back to Rosie’s Diner for one more breakfast. Then Karen and Brian drove us to the airport, where we said our goodbyes to them. We then flew home. Karen and Brian had most of the day to do with, and they made a full day of it.

So, as you can see, the whole thing really was an A…M…A…Z…I…N…G adventure! One we would happily repeat!

As promised, one last word about the friends we stayed with our second night (I invite you to revisit my November 2, 2014 post).

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Ruth Anne and I have known each other since early childhood. We both lived in New Mexico: she was in Deming, and I was in Albuquerque – about a four-hour’s drive apart. Our fathers played college basketball together in Louisiana (early 1920’s). We are fairly convinced that her father was partly responsible for bringing my father to Albuquerque. I would spend weeks in Deming in the summers with her, and she would spend weeks in Albuquerque with me. We met up with her and her husband while studying at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in the early-to-mid 1960’s. Charles went on to become a pastor, while Fred went into the Air Force. We visited with them and their family once when we were all living in Kansas. After their daughters were grown and away from home, Charles and Ruth Anne went to the mission field, in Malaysia. They were invited back recently by the Malaysian Christians to help them. They are absolutely lovely people, and we rejoice that our family has stayed connected with them all these years.

~~~~~~~FINALLY…..The End…of an AMAZING adventure!~~~~~~~

 

 

 

The whole earth is filled with awe at Your wonders…..

Psalm 65:8

My Colonial States Trip~Part 10

21 Jan

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Lites

 

It was getting late, so I drove over to Hershey World which was really on my list for the next day, but I had checked the hours of operation before the trip, and I thought they were supposed to be open until 11:00 pm daily. My first clue that something was amiss was that their huge parking lot was almost empty. Well, when I got there, I found out they have different operating hours on different days of the week, as well as different months of the year! I hadn’t researched their operating hours thorough enough, and by now it was 5:45 pm and they were due to close at 6:00 pm that day. As I walked into the lobby, I saw the entrance to the Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour Ride and asked the lady if it was too late for a tour. She said, “Not at all, step aboard.” So I did. On their moving tour chair, I got to see how the cocoa bean is processed from the tropical rainforest to Hershey, PA and is transformed from a bean into the many forms of Hershey’s famous chocolate. That was all I needed to do there, as DiVoran had instructed me NOT to buy any chocolate for her because of her diet. That evening, for dinner, I treated myself to another one of my very favorites; a “Southwest Specialty Burger” at Fuddruckers in Harrisburg, PA before heading for the motel to relax and write-up my notes about the day’s activities.

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The next morning I drove the 15 miles back over to Hershey, PA to visit the Antique Auto Club of America Museum, and what a collection they have there. The AACA’s collection of vehicles includes such rare early autos as a 1895 Chicago Motor Benton Harbor, a 1896 Ford quadricycle, a 1897 Aldrich Autobuggy, a 1905 Paragon Roadster, a 1917 Pierce-Arrow Model 38 Runabout and even a 1924 REO Funeral Hearse. I was simply amazed at this fine collection of early means of transportation. They even had the Hershey Kissmobile parked out front under the portico. This was one of the finest antique auto museums I had ever seen.

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Next I went back into downtown Harrisburg to visit the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum where I saw how the firemen lived and worked, and also some of the equipment they used during the early 1800s. The museum is housed in the 1899 Victorian firehouse used by the Reily Hose Company No. 10 and features an outstanding collection of artifacts and equipment including an early hand-drawing pump wagon and other firefighting equipment used over the years. This was where the tour guide told me about how the term “Fire Plug” came about. Seems as how, in the early days, the water mains were made of wood, and held together with metal straps. These water mains were buried underground and when there was a fire in the vicinity, the firemen had to dig down to the water main, drill a hole in the pipe and install a hose adapter. When they were finished with the hose adapter, they removed it and inserted a wooden ”Plug” in the hole before covering up the pipe and marking the “Plug” location for future use. I wonder how that process morphed into what we knew when I was a kid as a “Fire Plug” or better known today as a “Fire Hydrant?” How is that for a piece of firefighting trivia?

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—–To Be Continued—–

An Amazing Adventure~Part 13

18 Jan

SUNDAY MEMORIES

Judy Wills

JUDY

 

 Our next stop was Idaho Springs. This is an area that Karen and Brian had visited to go white-water rafting four years ago,. It is a quaint place, and we enjoyed visiting the town and the museum there.The Argo Tours leads tours through the old gold mine and mill. (We didn’t) There are rocks on display that show the placement of holes that held dynamite.

We took in the museum and were fascinated with all the displays and information about how the mine/mill worked in the old times. They had two life-size models dressed in what women of that day would have worn—even for traveling. Much different than today. They were very elegant.

We had lunch at the Buffalo Restaurant.

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Their specialty was buffalo meat! They explained to us that buffalo meat is much healthier than beef—it contains less fat, has more protein, and therefore better for you than beef! I had a buffalo burger that was delicious!

I took quite a few pictures of the inside of the restaurant. Lots of “old time” stuff.

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But the most fascinating to me was the bar. It was a beautiful piece of furniture, and had a history, of course. According to the info on the menu, it was originally built in 1861 in Chicago. It traveled from Chicago to Denver, then eventually, to Idaho Springs. It’s amazing that it survived all those moves, but it did.

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Behind the restaurant, by the road, there is a cliff, that has a waterfall. And by the waterfall is an old wheel.

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There is also a small park (Turkey Lake Park) that contains a Narrow Gauge Colorado and Southern train on display. Brian even got up in the coal car for a look-around.

 

Leaving Idaho Springs, we went up to Echo Lake. Part of Echo Lake area is Summit Lake Park which tops out at 12,830’, and the temperature was a whopping 53°! Well above the tree line, so there was just scrub. We saw many, many Big Horn Sheep— some old, some young. They were close, not bothered by all those humans around them. It almost looked like they were eating the dirt! I got a good picture of one jumping over the fence. Someone brought out their dog—which looked like a sheep dog—and it really wanted to herd those sheep!

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On our way down, we saw some Virga rain showers. Don’t know what that is? Neither did Brian. But my retired-meteorologist husband informed him that Virga is a rain shower that evaporates before it reaches the ground. As Brian stated—he continues to learn something new every day!

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We stopped briefly at the Mount Goliath Station. Here is a cute sign:

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We did stop and park at the Arapaho National Forest. There was a lovely small waterfall with more gorgeous Aspen stands across the road. Brian got down and personal with the waterfall.

 

There was also a very large outcrop of rock that had a “Christmas” tree atop it. A little difficult to see in this picture, but it’s there. It fascinated me.

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~~~~~~~To Be Continued~~~~~~~

 

My Colonial States Trip~Part 9

14 Jan

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane

After looking over the P-61 restoration project and talking to one of the museum’s volunteers, I decided not to try to visit the Golden Age Air Museum in Bethel, PA or Jerry’s Classic Cars in Pottsville, PA since I needed to be heading south and not north. So, my next stop was to visit the Choo Choo Barn model train museum in Strasburg, PA which has a large model train display that features over 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles and 22 operating trains. This display includes miniature replicas of such Lancaster county places as The Willows Restaurant, the Dutch Wonderland amusement park, and the Strasburg Railroad.

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As it turned out, and since I was in the middle of Dutch country, Isaac’s Famous Grilled Sandwiches restaurant was right next door to the Choo Choo Barn, so I stopped in and had one of their hot Reuben sandwiches for lunch. Yumm, was that ever good!

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Then I slid over to the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, PA where I discovered a small living history village, depicting the early 1740s German culture in that part of Pennsylvania. There was a large Mennonite cemetery adjacent to the village and I wasn’t sure if it was associated with the museum or not.

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Next it was over to take a look at the Haines Shoe House located in Hallam, PA that sits all by itself, out in the middle of a field, just off Shoe House Road. Built by shoe salesman, Mahlon Haines in 1948 as a form of advertisement, Haines gave the architect a boot and said, “Build me a house like this.” And he did. Mahlon claimed that his boots were all-inclusive, or what he called from “Hoof-to-Hoof” because the company did all of the boot making process starting with the raising of the cattle to the finished product.

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Then another few miles down the road I visited the Golden Plough Tavern in York, PA, but it was closed, so I worked my way back to the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. As I walked up to the museum from the parking lot, there was a guy sitting under a tree, all by himself, playing a clarinet.   The museum’s exhibition covers the period from 1850 to 1876, with the major focus being on the Civil War years of 1861-1865. The collection has over 24,000 artifacts, photographs, documents and manuscripts related to those historic years in our history. When I exited the museum to look out over the scenic Susquehanna River valley, not far from where the 1863 Sporting Hill skirmish took place during the Gettysburg campaign, the guy was still playing. His music was enchanting and very restful and it really set the stage for the view from the top of the Prospect Hill where the museum is located.

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—–To Be Continued—–

An Amazing Adventure~Part 10

28 Dec

SUNDAY MEMORIES

Judy Wills

JUDY

                                                  

The next morning, we had a buffet breakfast at the hotel, then stopping for a gas fill up before heading East. Our first stop was at Beaver Creek Ski Resort. Brian parked the van and we headed up to the Beaver Creek Village.

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Very swanky ski resort there—unique shops mostly pertaining to the ski industry. And apparently President Gerald R. Ford and his wife, Betty, were great enthusiasts in the area—so much so that there was Gerald R. Ford Hall, a convention center of sorts.

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We saw some gorgeous bronze figures there.

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It was heading on toward lunchtime by that time, so we decided to just stop there and eat before heading on to Vail. We stopped at The Blue Moose for pizza and a soda. REALLY good pizza! We ate at one of the outdoor tables, and thoroughly enjoyed the sunshine and cool weather.

From Beaver Creek we drove on to Vail, Colorado proper and Lionshead Village. We visited Vail Village and Ford Park—the Betty Ford Alpine Park, which is the world’s highest botanical garden. Beautiful garden, with a children’s section in it, as well. Some gorgeous leaf-changing color, as well.

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From Vail/Beaver Creek, we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park.

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We saw Grand Lake, and Lake Grandy. We saw some very old cars! Don’t know exactly why they were there, but it was fun to see them.

There was also a bronze memorial to Park Ranger Suzanne Elizabeth Roberts, who was killed by a rockfall while in the Haleakala National Park on Maui, Hawaii. She had served at Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 years before going to Hawaii. Nice Memorial.

We were most impressed with the huge stands of Aspen trees we saw. Those were the trees that I grew up seeing in the New Mexico mountains outside Albuquerque, so they meant a lot to me. Those yellow and orange leaves were just beautiful!

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The outside air temperature was 71° as we started up the mountain, and was 58° at 10,500’ which was two miles above sea level!   Brian was quite insistent that he wanted to see a MOOSE! So we kept looking all along the drive up. He did finally see one—laying down—but he saw it! It had quite a large rack (of horns) on it, as well. Brian was well pleased.

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We crossed the Continental Divide at Milner Pass, which sits at 10,759’ above sea level. The air temperature was 60° there—rather chilly!

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~~~~~~~To Be Continued~~~~~~~

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