"" Writer's Wanderings: September 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Glacier National Park

The Glacier Park Lodge is located in East Glacier and was built over a hundred years ago by the Great Northern Railway. Passengers would arrive at the station across from the lodge and then start their Glacier Park adventure from there. They usually explored by horseback. We would rely on horsepower but it would run the engine of our car.

The lobby of the lodge is amazing. Three stories high, it is supported by huge Douglas fir timbers that are about 36" to 42" in diameter and still have their bark on them. It is estimated that they were already 500-800 years old when they were cut for the construction of the lodge.

The lodge has not been updated with an elevator--at least for the guests. We did happen to see a service elevator on our second day. Our room was on the third floor but luckily the lodge was updated with young strong bellmen one of which grabbed both suitcases and hefted them all the way to the room.

The room. Well, to say the least, it was a little small. The double bed took up most of the room and I wasn't sure if we could open both suitcases at the same time and be able to walk. The bathroom was small too but the upside of that was that it would be impossible to fall in the shower. We sucked in a deep breath and decided we'd go for a drive and find a trail to walk.

Two Medicine Valley is near the lodge so we decided to spend a few hours exploring. It was about a fifteen minute drive up the road--that is until we had to stop and wait for the cattle to cross the road. Free range cattle freely wander along the roads there so you have to be careful around every curve.

We drove to Two Medicine Lake and found a trail that took us part way around the lake. I kept hearing jingle bells and it made me think of our Polar Express days where the elves wear lots of bells with their costumes. I turned almost expecting to see someone in elf costume and a lady smiled at me as she and her hiking companion passed us by. On her wrist was a set of bells. I remembered then that we were in bear country and making noise on a hike was a good thing to avoid the bears. We talked a lot more after that.

Another trail we had been told of by the ranger at the station in Two Medicine was a hike to Running Eagle Falls or "Trick" Falls so nicknamed because there were actually two waterfalls one on top of the other. Unfortunately for us only the spring fed waterfall was active since the summer had been so dry. It was still pretty and we enjoyed the walk.

When we returned to the lodge, Bob stopped at the desk and inquired about the possibility of upgrading. There was still a vacancy sign out front so we knew the lodge wasn't full. We were told to check out a room in the annex and see if we'd prefer that. It had a queen sized bed so at least we knew it had to be a bigger room. Sure enough. It was perfect if you didn't mind not having a view so much. The windows were shoulder high but the room was three times the size as the other. It was a deal, especially when he said we didn't have to pay extra for it. We were quite comfortable for the two nights we spent there.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Glasgow/Fort Peck, Montana

It had been a long drive day and when we arrived in Glasgow, Montana, we really wanted to find someplace where we could take a nice leisurely walk. Unfortunately there didn't look like anything nearby our hotel so we opted to make the 20 minute drive south to Ft. Peck where there was a large earth dam, museum, and campground where we could walk around.

Our drive took us over the dam and we stopped at an overlook to see the spillway. It was said that this was at one time the largest earth dam in the world until China built theirs in the Yangtze River. It was amazing and the lake that was formed from damming the Missouri was beautiful.

The nature center/museum was really nice and featured a lot of dinosaur skeletons that were representative of many that were discovered in the area. We quickly moved through as we were more interested in taking a walk and getting some fresh air.

It was a beautiful sunny late afternoon and we found several trails to follow but halfway through one, we decided we'd better take a shortcut and go through the camping area to get back to our car. There were not a lot of campers. It was getting late in the season. Several times we questioned our direction but eventually found our way back to the original trail and made our way to the nature center parking lot and our car.

Glasgow was a small town in the middle of nowhere according to many reviews on Tripadvisor but there were several restaurants mentioned that were worth trying. We searched for the #1 choice but somehow the address we had only matched a building that had an Elks Lodge and a Mexican Restaurant in it. We were getting hungry so we shrugged and said, "How bad could it be?" I must say, we'd never take our Hispanic friends there. I've never tasted such bland Mexican food and the burrito was big enough for two or maybe even three people. When we'd had enough, we left and promised ourselves a better meal the next night.

Okay, if this was Friday of our trip west, Glacier National Park must be up next!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Lewis & Clark Trail

Either just before or just after the Theodore Roosevelt National Park stop, we began to notice signs along the highway indicating that we were on the Lewis and Clark Trail. I remember looking at that once before but had forgotten all about it until I saw the signs.

While my Facebook post commented that the pair did a nice job on the road construction, I knew that there was much more to their expedition than imagining a paved highway. They actually set out on May 14 1804 to discover a waterway across the continent. The expedition group was called the Corps of Discovery and included others beside Lewis and Clark who headed the trip across the continent from Washington DC to Chinook, Washington on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in getting Congress to fund the expedition. He had tried several times before to get an expedition to explore the West. He had quite a sense of adventure himself.

Meriwether Lewis had been secretary to President Jefferson when chosen by the president to head the Corps of Discovery and explore the west. Lewis went to school for a year before the expedition set off to study the sciences, medicine, and navigation.

William Clark had been in the Army in Ohio with Meriwether Lewis and when Lewis was appointed by the president to lead the expedition, he chose Clark as his co-leader. Clark was instrumental in mapping the territory they covered.

York was perhaps one of the least known of the expedition's members. He was a black man, a slave of William Clark. He made significant contributions in hunting for food and serving as a scout. He was also a bit of a good luck charm when dealing with the Indians who had never seen a black man before.

Of course the most famous woman of the expedition was Sacajawea. She was the only woman and traveled with a baby. She was married to a Frenchman who was hired as a translator and was said to have guided the expedition when in fact she was more of a fellow traveler. Clark mentions in his diary that she was a token of peace in dealing with the Indians. They did not see the expedition as a war threat since they were traveling with a woman in their party.

We picked up the trail in North Dakota and followed it through Montana. On the way home, we follow part of the trail through South Dakota as well. Thankfully our travel is a lot more comfortable than theirs.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Always looking for places to stop and take a break from long drives, I spotted the Theodore Roosevelt National Park along the way from Jamestown, ND to Glasgow, MT. This was one of the longer stretches of our trip, six and a half hours, so the opportunity to stop about midway was not to be missed for both of us. Besides, Bob would be able to get an extra stamp in his National Park Passport.

Theodore Roosevelt used to hunt bison in this Dakota Territory in 1883. He became interested in cattle ranching as well and eventually owned two cattle ranches. When his wife and mother died, he thought he would make Elkhorn, the second ranch, his home. It was finished in 1885 and the men who ran his ranch for him moved into the site. After a couple of disastrous years and with Roosevelt now living in New York, he sold the ranch in 1898. By 1901 however, the Elkhorn ranch had been stripped down to its bare foundations.

Today, you can visit the land where the ranch once was and the foundation of the original ranch house is visible but nothing has been done to reconstruct the structure. The ranch is about 35 miles north of the town that sits just outside the park, Medora.

We did not want to add too much time to our travel day so we stopped only at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center that was just off I-94. It has a spectacular view of the North Dakota Badlands that Roosevelt fell in love with and not too far away we had passed several bison grazing.

It is only fitting that Theodore Roosevelt have a national park in his name. During his presidency he fought for conservation and urged the creation of the Forest Service in 1905 to manage government-owned forest reserves. He also exercised presidential authority to set aside land to be protected. In his years as president, he set aside more lands than his predecessors combined, 194 million acres. Acres we are enjoying today.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Books For The Road - Sackett's Land by Louis L'Amour

Knowing we were going to be in Louis L'Amour territory I decided to download one of his books to read. I wasn't terribly excited about reading it. How good could a book by someone with the name L'Amour be? And I'd outgrown my cowboy western days when Bonanza went off the air. Isn't that all he writes? But I figured I needed to be informed so I started reading.

Well, was I ever surprised! Wow, great writing and the story of Barnabas Sackett that starts his series was amazing and spellbinding. L'Amour starts the saga in England where Sackett is hunted by a nobleman who it turns out wants him dead for more reasons than just an embarrassing encounter with Sackett. It leads to Sackett's sailing, though unwittingly, to America and determining his destiny--to settle in the New World. It is a great beginning to what I guess will be another series (there are 17 books in the series) to add to my reading list. I can't just leave him hanging with his future undetermined.

If you've not tried L'Amour don't let his last name deter you. So far I'd say he's a great read for the road.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Jamestown, North Dakota

Give me a home where the buffalo roam, the skies are not cloudy all day. That about sums up our excursion into North Dakota. Beautiful golden landscape, corn fields, and acres of sun flowers whose drooping heads were ready for harvest. I could only imagine how beautiful it had been when they were in the prime of the blooming season.

Jamestown was our destination. Jamestown? What could their possibly be in Jamestown? Why, the world's largest cement buffalo, of course! And a wonderful place called Frontier Village. Once we checked into our hotel, we headed out, crossed the highway and found the signs for Frontier Village. The little town has about two dozen little shops and buildings most of which I think were donated and moved or built new but show the historical significance of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

A jail, a fire house, a school, a bank, a barber, a dentist and a writer's nook are among the little buildings that line the main street. I knew that Louis L'Amour was a western writer but until now, I didn't know that his birthplace was Jamestown, ND. And he went to college there as well. I had already started one of his books (I'll leave that for a Books For The Road post later) so it was with great interest that I perused the displays in the little house that was dedicated to him.

We meandered in and out of buildings and especially enjoyed the shops. One was of art work and another an old fashioned trading store with all sorts of goods and finds including leather bound L'Amour books. During the summer season, there are stagecoach and pony rides in the village.

Bordering the village is a buffalo museum that we passed on mainly because we wanted to be out in the fresh air on a beautiful day. On our way to look it over though, we passed a fenced in field that held a rare albino buffalo.

Of course we couldn't resist getting a selfie with the giant buffalo. Built in 1959, it is 60 tons of concrete and gives the town the distinction of being called "Buffalo City."

After a little exercise, some education, and lots of smiles and we left Frontier Village to find a spot to get dinner. Then it was back to the hotel to get some rest. There was a whole lot more road to cover before we got to Glacier National Park.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Mall Of America

From Wisconsin we crossed over into Minnesota through the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Actually to Bloomington which is where the Minneapolis Airport is and the Mall Of America. Bob had chosen a Best Western Plus which was very nice and, like most of the hotels in the area, offered a free shuttle to the MOA.

We dropped our bags in our room and hustled out to the lobby to catch the 3:30 shuttle. It had to drive clear around and past the airport in order to get across the highway to the mall entrance where the shuttles dropped off passengers. (The ride back wasn't nearly as long.) We entered and took some escalators up to the main floor and were immediately awed at the size of the mall as we faced the center amusement area.

I started my Map My Walk app just out of curiosity to see how far we would walk to cover the whole mall. We started by walking all around the center which featured themed rides from Nickelodeon. It wasn't very busy but all the rides were manned and ready for riders. The roller coasters were amazing--to watch. We don't ride any more. The whole center of the mall opened up through four stories and maybe beyond and was a maze of tracks and zip lines and flying rides. There was also an Aquarium you could pay to see.

Once we had covered all there was to see there--including a huge American Doll store, we started our trek to walk the whole mall. The mall actually radiates out and around the center amusement area so it was very easy to get around without getting lost. We just followed around in a circle and each time we came to where we could see the American Girl store, we took another escalator up.

There were some very unusual stores and many of the familiar ones. We stopped in one that had the little robot from the new Star Wars movie and got a demonstration. On one time around, we spotted a Bubba Gump Restaurant and immediately decided that was where we would stop for dinner. By the time we made it around to the third floor where the restaurant was, I was tired, thirsty and really hungry. We were led to a table and once I sat down, I stopped my app. We had walked almost four miles in an hour and a half! And we still hadn't done the fourth floor which had a couple more restaurants but didn't go all the way around like the other three floors.

Shopping and exercise. All in one place.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Wisconsin Dells

It was exciting to cross over the state line into Wisconsin. Now we were really getting into uncharted territory for us. Unfortunately I was feeling a little motion sickness. Unusual for me. Perhaps I shouldn't have had the sweet blueberry muffin for breakfast. We stopped for coffee but I thought better of it and walked across the McD's parking lot to the gas station's convenient store and got a bottle of ginger ale. It did the trick and I began enjoying the ride a lot more.

I had asked the friends on the Barn Door blog where I post once a month what things we should see on our road trip west and one suggestion was Wisconsin Dells. We weren't sure what to expect so it was a real adventure to arrive in town and explore. Our first stop was the information center where a very friendly lady gave us some suggestions.

"Are you interested in our water parks?" she asked.

"Do we look like water park people?" I countered with a smile and a chuckle.

"Trust me," she said. "You can never be sure. That's why I ask."

She pointed out the area where all the water parks were just in case we changed our minds and then suggested we take a ride on one of the boat tours along the Dells. A dam separates the upper Dells from the lower along the Wisconsin River. A quarter mile river walk takes you along the edge but the best way, she said, to see the Dells was from a boat.

We thanked her and walked around the block to where the tickets were sold for the boat tour. The boats left on the half hour and the whole tour for one section of the Dells took two hours. It was tempting but by the time we waited for the boat to leave and then added the two hours, it would have gotten us to our next destination a little late. We opted to just do the River Walk which was very nice and gave us a feel for the natural beauty of the area.

The town area we walked through reminded us of Niagara Falls especially when we passed a RIpley's. Lots of souvenir shops, exhibits, salt taffy and fudge, and tons of other novelties that a summer fun destination might offer.
There really is a Wally World!

Back in the car, we took a direction that would take us past the water parks that our information lady had pointed out to us. She was right. They were amazing. Mile after mile had one water park after another and bigger and better along with several amusement rides as well. Anyone into water parks really needs to make this a destination.

Onward. Our next destination: Mall of America!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Westward Ho!

Our car packed, cups of coffee to go, we headed out and set the navigation system for Elgin, Illinois, our first stop on our trek west. Knowing it would be about a six hour drive, I had looked for a stopping point to have lunch and stretch our legs. I found the perfect place, Linton's Enchanted Gardens in Elkhart, Indiana.

Linton's is actually a huge nursery but they have creatively arranged their display of plants, trees and flowers around several miniature houses of all sorts. Actually the structures are not all that small but certainly not large enough to go inside except for the crazy house that is for kids with a slide they can play on and a swing.

This really would be an enchanted place for kids. Besides the playhouse, there is a petting zoo, a pond with a giant swan that is a paddle boat and a train that wasn't running that day but looks to follow the winding paths around the huge garden area. They can also buy a bag of "dirt" and pan for gems.

Inside is a large gift shop with lots of garden related products and a greenhouse area with plants and a macaw that won't let you pass without saying "Hello!". In the back corner of the store is the Garden Cafe that has a delicious assortment of sandwiches, soups, and sweets. A waterfall is right next to it giving you the feeling that you are outdoors. It's a very small area and filled up at lunch time while we were there. Some ladies (it seemed to be ladies lunch day) took their food out to the greenhouse area (I think they call it the conservatory) and ate on picnic benches there. The sandwiches we had were wonderful.

Back on the highway, we again turned west toward Chicago. I wondered if we would hit construction traffic. In all the years I traveled to a writer's conference in the Chicago area there was always construction. I wasn't disappointed. At least, I thought, it's not rush hour. We were passing through around 2:30. The closer we got, the grayer the skies became and the slower the traffic moved which I decided wasn't all that bad when the skies opened up and poured down upon us. At least we weren't going too fast. You couldn't see the city for the overcast skies and rain and the radio began talking about some areas being closed because of flooded ramps and streets. It's always a little nerve wracking to drive in bad weather in a place you are not familiar with.

Once we made it through the downtown area of Chicago, the sky began to clear and traffic moved a little better at times. Elgin is just outside the city near the airport. We were happy to see the Hampton Inn, our stopping point for the night. Bob found a spot to eat from Tripadvisor's list and we had a nice dinner topped off with Dunkin' Donuts coffee. We also topped off the gas tank so we'd be ready for the next day's journey.

So far, so good. We would now be heading into new territory for the two of us. We'd never been west of Chicago along this route.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Flashback Friday

[Looking back at a fun time from 2007.]

Okay, all you who have had farm experience can sit back and be prepared for a laugh now. While I grew up next to my grandfather's farm, the animals and fields were gone by the time I was old enough to appreciate them and learn from them. I've always wondered what it would be like to milk a cow.

Yesterday, our grandkids accompanied us to a large public farm in our area set up to let kids learn about farming. We adults learned a lot too. (Hubby is a city-boy). I didn't know there were so many different kinds of cows and that they each produce different kinds and quantities of milk.

Nancy was in line to be milked next and she was quite the lady walking up a couple of steps and into her milking station. We got a few quick tips on how to gently squeeze and pull and then lined up to milk the cow. I was the only grown-up but I pretended to be there for my grandkids. Our grandson started to back out at the last minute but he stayed for Grandma's sake and we each milked Nancy a little bit.

What an experience! Nancy was so kind to stand quietly and put up with our inexperienced hands. I didn't know until I saw the picture my husband took that I had my pinkie finger out. Hmmm. Maybe that's the formal way to do it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Luxury Hotel Without The High Price Of A Room

Confession time. Yes, we've done it. We've walked into the lobby of an expensive posh hotel and not stayed the night. Some of the truly lavish hotels have lobbies that are amazing and worth a look, even a sit-down in a lobby chair and a little people watching just for fun. Smarter Travel has an article about this very thing and I was amused to find several hotels on their list that I'm familiar with.

The first, I've written about before, The Hyatt Regency at the Arcade in Cleveland. We've been to the Arcade often on trips downtown just to walk in the historic building and enjoy the ambiance and a cup of coffee.

We've actually stayed at the second, the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. We were there years ago for a business convention or trade show. I remember being awed at the huge cavernous central lobby with elevators crawling up and down. The lighting and landscaping is fabulous. It was a real treat and thankfully a business deduction.

Another that I was a bit surprised to see was Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas. I don't think it compares with the elegance of some of the others but certainly is very interesting as are most of the hotels along the Strip. It is quite a tour to just go and walk through the lobbies of the hotels. They are each unique and did I mention they each have unique restaurants and shops?

Also on the list was one will will have to check out soon on our next road trip west, The Glacier Park Lodge. Who new a park lodge would rate as a lavish hotel lobby?

The next time you are in need of a little luxury but it's not in the budget, stop in and have a look see at some of the big hotel lobbies in the area and maybe splurge at one of their restaurants. After all, hopefully you've saved some money staying at the Holiday Inn.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Book Giveaway on Goodreads!

Click on the link below and enter your name to win a free copy. Already have a copy? Pass the word on to a friend!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ruby, A Novel by Karen Robbins

Ruby, A Novel

by Karen Robbins

Giveaway ends September 28, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day--What Is It?

Researching things for my blog and my books is always an adventure that leads me to new discoveries. I wanted to do a little post about what Labor Day actually is other than the signal for the end of summer. I had no idea it went back so far--all the way to the 1880s!

The first labor day celebration, according to the Department of Labor website, was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. In 1884 the first Monday in September was chosen as the official day to celebrate a workingman's holiday and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to adopt the day as well. It became a federal holiday in 1894.

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday. There should be a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.

The spirit of the holiday is meant to honor the ingenuity and productiveness of the American worker. Unfortunately some of that has gotten lost. It's the end of summer, signals the beginning of the school year, and, oh yes, there still that question about the end to wearing the color white until spring.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Flashback Friday - 70 Years Ago

"It was a monumental year--the end of an era and the beginning of a new one," says my copy of The Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates. The year of course was 1945. The war was ending in both Europe and the Pacific.

Going My Way won the Academy Award for outstanding motion picture and earned Bing Crosby the best actor award. Commercial television came a step closer to reality as the FCC allocated thirteen channels for the new medium.

Rationing for shoes, tires, meat and butter ended. Seventy-three more consumer items were authorized for manufacture as War Production Board bans were lifted.

The Miss America title was won by Bess Myerson from New York City.

In boxing, a newcomer named Rocky Graziano scored five knockouts at Madison Square Garden. Ohio State University did not play in the Rose Bowl. (Neither did Michigan). The 71st running of the Kentucky Derby was won by Hoop Jr. The Tigers defeated the Cubs in the World Series. The NFL Championship was won by the Cleveland Rams who defeated the Washington Redskins.

And Mrs. "Snip" Robbins gave birth to twin boys! It was a very good year!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Windowless Plane?

There has been some talk that in the next ten years or so we will have planes without windows. The rationale is that the fuselage can be made lighter and therefore will consume less fuel and there can be larger seats in the plane. All of that by eliminating the little windows in a plane?

The article on the Huffinton Post website has a video that shows what the alternative view will be. The inside walls of the plane will become a screen upon which the outside world will be displayed. It will be done with cameras on the outside of the plane. The effect is kind of like the roller coasters at our Cedar Point. You will feel like the only solid thing is the seat you are sitting in.

I'm trying to imagine an eight hour flight to Europe with the sensation of floating in air. Just the thought makes me want to reach for the motion sickness meds. And what would the night sky be like? A little frightening perhaps if it's a moonless starless night? But what bothers me even more is that I've been on so many flights that have had problems with their entertainment systems. What would that plane look like if the walls aren't projecting a view?

There is also the mention that perhaps the savings in fuel would be passed on to the customer. Right. And then there's those larger seats. Uh-huh. Larger seats or more seats? I hate to be a skeptic but the airlines' track records are pretty clear and the finish line is always the profit.

Yes, I will admit to a bit of claustrophobia. Even if I'm not sitting in a window seat and even if the shades are all drawn, I still feel comforted by the knowledge that the window is there.

Hopefully there will be a choice of airplane to fly in because I, for one, will not be flying without windows. I don't do roller coasters either. I'm a leisure traveler not a thrill seeker.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Looking For Something To Do In Cleveland?

The first tour on my list is FREE! The tour is call Take A Hike and is sponsored by the Cleveland Gateway District. The tours are led by actors and actresses portraying important Clevelanders from the past. Each tour lasts about an hour and a half. Did I mention it was free? But donations are encouraged.

The different tours are:
Gateway District Tour every Wednesday at 6 PM meeting at the Arcade (401 Euclid Ave.)
Warehouse District Tour every Saturday at 10 AM merting at Constantino's Market (1278 W 9th St.)
Playhouse Square Tour every Tuesday at 6 PM meeting at the State Theater Lobby (1519 Euclid Ave)
Canal Basin Park Tour every Sunday at 10 AM meeting at Settler's Landing RTA Station (1025 W. Superior Ave.)
Civic Center Tour every Thursday at 6 PM meeting at the Old Stone Church (91 Public Square)

But you will have to hurry if you want to take a tour this year. They only go until September 16. After all we're talking Cleveland and it could snow in October. I'm guessing the guides have other places to be after the 16th--like school perhaps. Hopefully they will all be back next year.

But the mention of snow brings up the other place on my list and it is nearing the season although any time would be a great time for seeing the original Christmas Story House. The house has been restored to look like the actual set of the movie. There is also a museum and gift shop and yes, leg lamps for sale. As the brochure says, "Take home your own major award." But be careful. It's FRAGILEEEEE.

The Christmas House is located at 3159 W. 11th St. Check out their website for more information.

There you have it! Who said there's nothing to do around here?
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