Category Archives: Travel

Checking Things Out

We are in Savannah now. The weather is sunny and in the 70′ and 80’s. I am stuck in meetings all day, so husband spent our first day exploring the historic area of Savannah by himself. He took a trolley ride that took him all over the city with a tour guide who explained the sights and scenes. Then he explored a little on his own. I like guided tours. I know some people like to explore on their own. There is sure a lot to see here.

How do you like to get to know a place?  Any memorable guides who you have encountered 

My Day Trip

Today’s post is by littlejailbird.

Until last fall, I had never been to Banning State Park. I had driven by it dozens of time, because when I head up to my sister’s house, I always turn off 35W and take Highway 23 into town. I didn’t know much about Banning, but when I was looking for a day trip, it seemed to fit my needs perfectly.

First, I wanted a park where I could drive there and back in one day without getting too tired. Second, I wanted a park that didn’t involve driving several back roads, because I knew that I would be driving in the dark due to the shorter fall days and my night vision and sense of direction is bad enough that I would get lost unless I kind of knew where I was going. And third, I wanted a state park because I had a state park sticker and wanted to use it as much as possible to get my money’s worth out of it. Banning fit all of those qualifications. Plus it has a waterfall, which is a big plus in my book.

So, off I went, one sunny morning in October. When I arrived, I stopped at the visitor center to get maps and ask where the best spots were. I was so excited. It seems that often when I go north, I am early for the fall colors and often find myself driving home just a few days before “peak”  and this time I was not too early! I said something about that to the woman at the desk (while trying to not jump and down in excitement) and she shook her head woefully and told me in a discouraging tone, “You’re going to see LOTS of brown out there.” Gee thanks, way to burst my bubble.

Of course, since I drove all the way up there, I figured I better go on the hike anyway even if I would see mostly brown. I drove to the parking area and when I stepped out of the car and looked up, I knew it was going to be a good day (see header photo).

I hiked all the way to the falls and back and shot lots of photos. It was an incredibly beautiful day: that clear, deep blue sky that you only seem to see on autumn days and – surprise! – lots of colorful leaves on the trees. It can be a challenge shooting in bright sunlight, but I was so overcome by the beauty of it all that I just took that in my stride. There was that wonderful northwoods smell in the air – pine trees and dead leaves. Nothing like it! and nothing else invigorates me like that does.

 

It was getting pretty cool and the sun was going down quickly by the time I was heading back on the trail but the golden evening light only made things more beautiful and the colors more intense. I went home pleasantly tired and very happy and glad that the woman’s prediction of “lots of brown” wasn’t true.

 

When has someone’s dire predictions not come true for you?

Carousel

Today’s post comes from Occasional Caroline

I think it was back in October, when I was too busy with my mom to even be occasionally on the trail, and was catching up days or weeks after a post was current, that the topic of carousels was raised in a post about something else. Anyway it was too long after the fact for me to comment by the time I read it, but I did have something to say, so here we go. Has anyone been to  Lark Toys in Kellogg, Minnesota? http://www.larktoys.com/carousel/

When we first started going there, I think when my 40-something daughters were a pre- and young teen, the carousel was in process and you could sometimes watch the carver working on the individual animals. They are all hand carved from large hunks of beech-wood, and stained, not painted. The intricacy of the carving is fantastic. When it was being carved, there were informational posters on-site and one of the things I partially remember reading was that Merry-Go-Rounds had only horses and Carousels had many different animals. This one was originally going to have 4 horses, one representing each primary compass direction; North, South, East, and West. I believe by the time the mechanicals were sourced and acquired, some of the carved masterpieces had to be left off the final collection to keep the weight down. I think only one or two horses made the cut, and a moose and several other larger pieces are now displayed in the building, but not on the actual carousel. The horses are beautiful, but the dragon, the goat, the goldfish family, and others are works of an amazing imagination. You could study the goat for an hour and not notice all of the intricacies hidden in it’s depths.

The entire complex is wonderful. There’s a children’s book store; a toy store with a model train running on a long track high up and around the perimeter of the store. Among other wonderful, unique and creative toys, is a huge collection of hand puppets. A Christmas shop, an antique toy museum that has every toy you or your cousins or friends had as a kid, a boomer toy store that carries replicas of many of your old toys, a candy store, an ice cream stand, and a mini golf course in the summer, are all part of the magical experience.

The original owners lived nearby and walked their pot-belly pig (his name was Gip, (Pig backwards)) to the store every morning to take up his supervisory post in a large open home away from home in the building.

The complex changed hands probably about 10 years ago (maybe longer ago, time flies when you’re old) but the current owners seem dedicated of maintaining the original spirit of the experience. Kellogg is south of Wabasha and north of Winona on Highway 61. BiR, you must have been there, possibly even posted about it, and I missed it. This hidden jewel is well worth a day trip with children, grandchildren, or nostalgic boomers. I haven’t been there for several years, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’ll have to make the trek soon.

Where do you go for a day trip?

 

The Lesson from Cuba

Today’s post comes to us from Crystal Bay.

My son, Steve, along with his girlfriend, sister, and best friend, all returned from Cuba three days ago. He said that the trip was life-changing and overwhelming. Unfortunately, all four suffered “Montezuma’s Revenge”, and were violently ill the last day and are still sick. Imagine a 12-hour flight while being sick from both ends?

It’s worth noting here that it hurt my feelings that I wasn’t invited. He’d told me that I’m not physically strong enough to endure 15 hours a day hiking and walking. When he shared the horrific illnesses they all suffered, my exclusion from this adventure quickly felt like dodging a cannon ball.

Steve and his girlfriend, Lani, went to Cuba to film an episode for their hopefully upcoming reality cable series. My daughter graduated with her BSN a month ago, so this was his graduation gift to her.

He said that he’s never met a more loving, kind, happy population in his life. He joined a little band on the street and played guitar with them as they sang and danced.  He told me that Cuba doesn’t have toilet paper or even toilet lids!  He shared the surreal beauty of the architecture, plant like, and generosity of the Cuban people.  I asked how they could be so happy given that they live under a dictatorship. He replied; “You wouldn’t know it. In fact, these people are far happier under a dictatorship than we are under a democracy.”

This leads me to the most “life-changing” part of his adventure. He spoke of meeting people from every corner of the world and, without exception, the very first thing out of their mouths was; “Why did you put a man like Trump in office?” Every single one. They shared how Trump’s impact on their own country has been devastating because it’s unleashed extremists, racists, bigots to gain traction and threatens to endanger their own democracies. Steve and the others were stunned by learning how foreigners around the globe are now viewing the United States, and how our president has the power to damage so many nations abroad. “It’s like a cancer, Mom”.

He, Lani, Mary, and Sully found themselves profusely apologizing and saying, “This is not who we are as a people – please know this”. It’s a very sad day when my own children have to apologize for being Americans.

What do you think kids studying this era in 20 years from now will be reading?

Today’s post comes to us from Occasional Caroline.

I don’t really have a bucket list, but for quite a while I’ve thought it would be delightful to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC. It’s tough to predict when to be there, but last year I thought I had it nailed. I found a website ( https://cherryblossomwatch.com/peak-bloom-forecast/ ) that predicts and tracks the probable peak bloom days for the annual display. Without knowledge of this website, you probably do not know that there is an “indicator tree” that helps the National Park Service fine tune the prediction of Peak Bloom. For reasons too complicated for me to comprehend, one particular tree hits stage one of the 6 stages of blossom development nearly 2 weeks before the all the rest; the others usually follow on a predictable timetable. Usually, but not in 2017. 2017 was not a typical year in DC, on many levels.

http://www.cherryblossomwatch.com

The latest information and forecasts on when Washington DC’s cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin will reach peak bloom in Spring 2018.

But I digress. In late February, due to a very mild winter in the nation’s capital, the indicator tree indicated that the 2017 bloom would possibly be the earliest in history and particularly spectacular. The original prediction was March 10-13. The earliest ever recorded was March 15, the latest, April 18, and average somewhere around the last week of March to the first week in April. The whole show lasts 1-2 weeks, from buds to petals on the ground and green leaves on the trees; and peak lasts 2-3 days. That time frame was particularly convenient for us to take a trip last spring, so the planning began. We decided to leave on March 11, the day after our granddaughter’s 7th birthday party. We hit the road (yes, we drive on vacations) early Saturday morning, heading east. The plan was to be in DC from the 13-15 and then spend a week in the Williamsburg area. Day one was going well until we started hearing reports of the cold snap hitting the East coast. The NPS started pushing back the prediction for peak cherry blossom bloom. Suddenly the buds were encased in ice and it might possibly be the first no-bloom year in history. Peak, if there was to be one, would be at least a week later than previously predicted.

Time to rethink. Go to Williamsburg first, spend the week there and go to DC on the way home. Good plan. No problem changing reservations, peak Williamsburg season and peak cherry blossom season do not correspond. Remember the cold snap hitting the East coast. Yep, that includes Virginia. We weren’t looking for Florida weather, but 20s? Blustery, frigid winds? For days? We made the best of it, we went to the attractions that were open; most opened April 1. We were there March 13-20. We had a good time in Virginia and there was going to be at least a 50% of normal blossom “peak” on March 25, it was now March 20 and time to leave Williamsburg. Husband had been fighting off some insidious eastern US disease for a day or so, but seemed to be winning. It wasn’t peak yet, but this might be the closest we’d ever get, so we scheduled a Cherry Blossom bus tour of DC for the next day, that would require getting up pretty early, but we could handle that. Right? Nope. The illness won during the night and a feverish, achy, mess of a man was not going to make it from Williamsburg to DC and enjoy a bus tour that day. Well medicated and much later than our original plan, we headed west without ever seeing a single cherry blossom.

I have a new cherry blossom plan in mind now. My chiropractor tells me that his uncle lived in Traverse City MI, which is known (at least in Michigan) as the cherry capital of the US. If they have cherries, they must have cherry blossoms, right? While checking it all out, I discovered that a shortcut to Traverse City is to go to Door County WI and take a ferry to Traverse City, thereby going across Lake Michigan instead of around it, and with a boat ride to boot. I’ll just look at pretty pictures of the DC peak, and head for Wisconsin next time I have a yen to see cherry blossoms.

Have you ever fought with Mother Nature?

Coping with the Cold

We drove 500 miles Tuesday straight into wind chills of -30 F.  The van performed admirably, not kicking up a fuss until we got home. The Check Engine and You are Skidding lights came on and wouldn’t turn off.  Tonight the temperature soared to 11, and the lights went off.  I don’t blame the van for the protest.  I am grateful I don’t have to take the van in for repairs.

Husband traveled to the Fort Berthold reservation tonight to find that the pipes are frozen in his tribal housing. He got tons of bottled water,  turned on the space heater, opened the cupboard doors, and prayed that the pipes thaw in the night. If not, he stays at the casino tomorrow. We remain grateful, cheerful,  and hopeful. After all, what else is there to do?

What are good ways to cope with the cold?