"" Writer's Wanderings: November 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

Traveling With a Lacrosse Ball?

Do you like articles that give you lists of five or ten or twenty reasons, ways, top ideas, etc., for any and all things? They catch my eye once in a while and I couldn't help but wonder what 5 things I should never fly without when I saw the newsletter from Smarter Travel.  The first four I could understand but then came the last one--a lacrosse ball! What?

Turns out that a lacrosse ball can be a way to ease muscle tension and pain from sitting too long in coach. (I guess first class and business don't have that problem.) Well, this is too much, I thought so I typed in relieving pain with a lacrosse ball into the search box and came up with all sorts of articles about how to use tennis balls and even golf balls to relieve tension and muscle pain. Who knew?

You could put a tennis ball (or lacrosse if it's handy) under your stocking feet and roll it around to stimulate blood flow after sitting too long. I had visions though of the tennis ball popping out and rolling under seats or down the aisle. There are pictures on some of the articles that show how to wiggle it under your legs and against a wall but that might be a problem when the air crew really doesn't want you back in the galley rolling a ball up and down your back against the wall.

The one I found to be a little more realistic was the article on using a golf ball put into a sock so you could lower it down your back and wiggle against the seat so to massage the back muscles. Of course all of that would only lead to people thinking you needed to use the restroom.

I think I'll stick with the simple flex your ankles and stand up once in a while if possible when it's truly a long flight. But then a truly long flight usually means a long nap as long as someone else's lacrosse ball doesn't pop me in the head.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Christmas Markets

Hello? Anybody out there? Or are you all out shopping and making the economy a better place at least for Black Friday? For those of you not shopping til you drop or in the case of the internet shoppers--til your fingers cramp up, here's a little information on an old tradition in Europe, the Christmas Markets. These are large areas of booths set up each Christmas season with all sorts of arts and crafts and gift items as well as food and drink for purchase in many of the old European cities.

From researching them, it appears that the Christmas Market in Strasbourg, France, is the oldest and has been around since 1570. With the backdrop of the Strasbourg Cathedral and the famous astronomical clock it must be very impressive. It was originally called Christkindelsmarik or Market of the Infant Jesus. If that sounds a bit German rather than French it is because Strasbourg is near the German border and over hundreds of years that border has moved back and forth creating an area where German and French are spoken.

There are Christmas Markets in most countries including England but the greatest number of them are in Germany. There are many tour companies that specialize in taking you from one to another and there are even river cruises with a Christmas Market theme. You do have to book them quite a ways in advance. They fill up quickly.

This is a definite bucket list item. I'm not a shopper and if you read my blog you know that. But I am an interested observer and while I may not purchase a lot, this is the kind of thing I'd like to see and experience. I'll take it over the Black Friday experience any day.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What Were The Pilgrims Thankful For?

History was not my favorite subject in school. It might have been if I'd had some better teachers who made it interesting and/or relational rather than just a rote memorization of times, dates, and places and battles and wars and more dates. Now as an adult, I'm finding history a lot more fascinating especially as we travel and see how some of it fits together--how it affected cultures and changes and yes, migrations.

All of the postings on Facebook about what people are thankful for got me to wondering--what was it the Pilgrims were thankful for? And so my search began.

The Pilgrims were actually a group that had moved from England to escape religious persecution and settled in Holland where they had greater freedom to worship as they wanted. The problem came in that their children started taking on too much of the Dutch culture and the parents didn't want them to lose their English roots.

A group of 44 "saints" and 66 "strangers" as they were called boarded a ship in Plymouth, England, bound for the New World. They were financed by a group of merchants who gave them passage and supplies in exchange for their agreeing to work for them for seven years.

It took 65 days to cross the Atlantic. On a wooden ship there could be no fires so food was eaten cold. Many were sick. By the time they landed at what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts, it was November 10 and they had no idea what the winter would hold.

By the spring, less than 50 had survived and they were less than competent as farmers. Enter in two Native Americans who miraculously spoke English learned from Englishmen on fishing boats. One had even traveled to England and was much more proficient in the language. They taught the group (now officially called Pilgrims after a pact that united the saints and strangers) and by the following autumn harvest, the fields yielded enough for them to store food for the coming winter.

Of course there would need to be a celebration. The Native Americans were invited and it is said that 90 came. The celebration lasted for three days! But what about that thankfulness?

One story I found said that the Pilgrim Governor, William Bradford, who had ordered feast and prayer put five corn kernels on each plate and said that each person should share five things they were thankful for.

So, what were they thankful for? Political correctness aside, it was for a God who had supplied their needs, saw them through hardship, and provided a place in which to express their worship without fear of reprisal.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Books For The Road - Every Girl Gets Confused by Janice Thompson

Sometimes you just need a book as a distraction. Something that will make you smile. Something fanciful and sweet--like wedding cake. Every Girl Gets Confused is just such a read. Each time Revell sends me a Janice Thompson book I know I'm going to get a few chuckles and come away feeling good.

Thompson, a wedding planner, has written several series of books around the wedding and bridal theme. This one takes place in a bridal salon that designs specialty gowns. There is a Doris Day theme that weaves in and out of the chapters and culminates in a bride having a designer make her a dress similar to one worn by the iconic actress in one of her movies.

The main character, Katie Fisher, comes to the big city to work at the salon and meets the salon owner's son, Brady James, a basketball player with a potential career ending injury. The two become a couple (it is a romance novel) and of course there is the ex-boyfriend, Casey, who may have decided that breaking up with her was not a good idea.

The fun begins though when Katie's grandmother, a Baptist, marries the Presbyterian minister and they have part of the reception at the Methodist church so they can have dancing. By the time you are through this wedding and reception, you will be in stitches and you'll always be checking out the punch at any reception before you drink it.

Rather you pack this in your ereader or tuck the paperback in your travel tote, you'll have a great book for the road. Happy endings and happy travels go together.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Traveling With Tech

It used to be that the most important gadget to take on a trip was an adapter for foreign outlets but now with all the tech gadgets we take along power sources become a little more challenging. We still need those adapters for international travel and they have become a little easier to handle. I remember the bag of plugs each labeled for the country or area of the world where it could be used. Add to that, an adapter if you were going to use it for a hair dryer. I have been known to fry a few because I forgot that little detail. There are some simpler answers today to those problems and with a little research you can find a one-size-fits-all adapter like the one offered by Conair on TravelSmart's website. 

Many hotels and even cruise ships lack enough outlets for all the tech charging that needs to go on especially if you are traveling with family. To solve some of that, take along a small power strip. We have been on some cruise ships that actually had a mini power strip in the room so the cruise industry is catching up.

Have you ever wondered where all the spam and junk mail comes from after you've traveled? A lot of it is because you use public WiFi which may not be entirely secure. One way around it I found was to make my iPhone a hot spot. I feel a lot more secure and I use it sparingly to save my data usage. Of course that's not always possible so just be wary of sharing your credit card number over a public WiFi that is not secure.

I remember several trips where we either took a zodiac (small inflatable boat) or a water taxi where we waded out through waist deep water to get on in order to get to our destination. I didn't have as many tech gadgets then as I do now but one way to protect them if you find yourself in that situation or traveling through a rainy period is to use a sealable plastic baggie. Pack some in your suitcase. They come in all sizes and you can protect a tablet/laptop, smart phone, e-reader, camera, etc. from damage.

Do you take lots of pictures? Uploading them to the cloud (whichever one you choose) can be a way of saving space on your laptop/tablet. Of course that's not always practical if you have a lot of pictures and a really slow internet connection. I carry a USB flash drive as a backup. I upload when possible, backup always, and keep the flash drive in a separate place from my camera and laptop so that if, horrors, one or both should be stolen, the flash drive is not with it and at least I still have my pictures.

All of this tech stuff can really make travel so much easier. Boarding passes are now stored on our smart phones and information for filling out the immigration forms is also stored there so we don't have to dig for our passports in flight. But would you believe that the one thing most people forget to take along on a trip is a pen? Just watch people scramble on an international flight as the immigration forms are handed out when they suddenly realize that even with all their technology, a simple ballpoint pen is probably the best tool to have around.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Room With A View

We just finished booking our stay at the East End in Grand Cayman for our annual dive trip with our grandson. I love The Reef Resort which has now been taken over by the Wyndam. This year we'll be renting a condo from one of the owners of a time share. The nice thing about the condos is that they all have an ocean view--a real ocean view.

I remember several times when we've booked a room with a view and it's been a partial view of the ocean and sometimes only if you stepped to one end of the window and placed your cheek against the glass to be able to see it. I think enough people have complained about the misdirection in the room description that now you get "partial ocean view" in the listing.

There are lots of other views that are spectacular other than an ocean and if you can afford to splurge I can tell you that the views from the Grand Canyon El Tovar Lodge are great. Our room didn't look out on the canyon but we did sit out front often and take in the view. We also visited the Many Glacier Lodge in Glacier National Park for lunch one day and sighed as we wondered what it would have been like to have the beautiful view of the lake and mountains from a room there.

One of the most spectacular views I've seen was that from the lobby of the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park.

And lest we forget, there are always amazing views from a cruise ship (unless you get an inside cabin). The views of the ocean are generally unobstructed as long as your stateroom window isn't blocked by a lifeboat. Just be sure to check the deck plans carefully. Then there's always the Royal Caribbean ships like the Oasis and Allure and the newer ones that have views of the interior that can be very interesting.

When booking a room with a view be sure to check out several review spots online and get tips on which rooms are the best for a view. Just remember that a view comes with a price and think about how much time you are actually going to spend in that room looking at the view. If it's worth it, book it!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Essays on Life - R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Otis Redding sang about it in 1965 and Aretha Franklin in 1967. Aretha even spelled it out in the chorus. Looking back I wonder if that era was the one where we began to lose what the singers/songwriters were immortalizing in song.

Our recent visit to Greenfield Village gave me food for thought when we listened to the recording that is played when you enter the schoolhouse where Henry Ford attended classes. I wish I would have written down the exact words but it referred to school being the place where morals were taught as strongly or more so than the three Rs. That certainly wouldn't fly today. The question would be whose morals will you teach? And how would you define morality?

When I went to grade school we were still allowed to say the pledge to the flag, for a time even allowed to say the Lord's Prayer and one holiday season, we were privileged to share how we all celebrated the holidays differently. It was the first time I'd heard of Hanukkah. It taught respect for other's beliefs.

While it isn't politically correct any more to have posted the Ten Commandments in any public buildings, there is a lot that can be learned about respect in those simply laid out guidelines. Respect God. Use language respectfully. Respect yourself with a day of rest and reflection. Respect your parents. Respect life and preserve it. Respect relationships. Respect other's property. Respect truth and honesty. Respect your neighbors.

One more thing about respect--you don't receive it unless you give it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mini Road Trip - Ford Rouge Factory Tour

The Ford Rouge Factory today is where the F-150 trucks are assembled. It is an amazing place but before I tell you about our tour, I'd like to tell you a bit about the concept that Henry Ford began with. We all know about his assembly line and how it changed manufacturing but his idea for the Rouge Factory was that raw materials would come in and the plant would be able to make cars starting with those raw materials. Steel was made, parts of cars shaped and formed, and then assembled. Everything that was needed was made from scratch. Amazing.

Today I believe many of the parts now come from other factories Ford has built and those parts are all compiled and supplied to the assembly line by quite a computerized choreography. The tour begins with two movies and a warning that no pictures are allowed in the factory area. One movie centers on the life of Henry Ford and the second is quite a production involving robots and a truck that rises from the floor amid theatrical smoke. Throughout the program, the truck that is all white turns different colors and appears to be a real truck through the magic of expertly placed projected video.

From the movie level you take an elevator to the viewing level which is probably about mid-level in the huge assembly building. You peer down at the assembly line while parts of trucks and some full bodies pass overhead moving to their place in the next part of the assembly line.

We watched with amazement at rear windows being installed by robot. Moved to a place where headers were being snapped into place we marveled at the organization. Each truck cab that came down the assembly line was a different color and differ size and some had a sun roof. From a mobile set of slotted cabinets the assembler would reach the next slot in line and pull out the correct header for the truck cab.

At another spot on the line a team of two men installed the gate to the back of the truck bed. As they worked, the platform they stood on moved with the assembly line. When it reached a certain point the platform moved back to work on the next truck moving down the line. The two had only a minute or two to set in the gate and hook up the cables that held it in place.

The engines were installed in another part of the factory that wasn't within view of the observation area that was a large walkway making a square around the assembly area available for viewing.

The orchestration of the whole operation was unfathomable. I wondered what Henry Ford would have thought of his assembly line today.

One last stop on the tour was the observation deck. From there you could look out on the rooftops of the factory building that have been planted with a special mix of succulent plants to contribute to a better environment. Then the guide stationed there pointed out a green line in the employee parking lot. Everyone with a car that was not a Ford had to park to the left of the line. Certainly would make me think twice about what kind of car I drove to work.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mini Road Trip - Henry Ford Museum

The shift in our plans worked well for this trip as evidenced by the gray and much colder weather we awoke to. Our previous day at Greenfield Village had been quite sunny and warm. This day definitely looked like autumn was arriving--maybe even early winter. So off we went to The Henry Ford Museum where we would be nice and warm and out of any foul weather that might happen.

We were there as the doors opened at 9:30 AM and entered with a large group of high school kids. I thought at first it was an outing for them but actually there is a school that is within the museum--the Henry Ford Academy. My legs were a little sore as we started out. We had logged over 4 miles walking around the village the day before.

The museum has changed a lot from what we remembered. All for the good of course. There is a lot more emphasis on educational information and not just on industry and cars. Sections of the museum included the Civil War (with the chair Lincoln sat in the night he was shot) and the Civil Rights struggle with the actual bus Rosa Parks sat in when she refused to move to the back.

There is a lot of memorabilia from different eras and you are invited to figure out which era you belong in. With our age, we kind of passed through a lot of them. One of the displays that brought big smiles though was the Oscar Meyer Wiener car. Of course, like It's A Small World, it took a while to get the Oscar Meyer song out of my head.

The most intriguing exhibit was the Dymaxion House designed by Buckminster Fuller back in the 1920s. It wasn't actually built though until around 1945. It was the answer to the need for mass produced, affordable, easily transportable and environmentally efficient housing. The structure, made of lightweight steel, aluminum and plastic, is supported by a central column and is built around it in a circle. Supposedly it maximizes space. Lots of perks inside included an enclosed closet full of shelves that rotated to display your clothes. It was said to withstand a tornado that passed close by where it stood in Wichita, Kansas. There's a good post about it at Yesterland. com. 

Wandering through the Heroes of the Sky area, we came upon the Ford Tri Motor. It has a special place in my heart. When I was young, we spent many weekends at Put In Bay, Ohio, in the winter and the only way to the island was to fly in the Ford Tri Motor from Port Clinton. I wonder now though what my mother must have felt every time we went taking her children on a plane built between 1925 and 1933. I guess back then the plane was only 25-30 years old and lovingly cared for although it shook so much on take off I wonder how it stayed together. There is some talk that the plane will be making a comeback to the island in the summertime.

Among the cars on exhibit is a progressive representation of presidential limousines including the one JFK rode in Dallas. Somehow they don't seem as large in real life.

We wandered through the progression of all kinds of cars and trucks--not just Fords, and then headed for the train section. Bob remembered a huge engine there the last time and he wasn't disappointed, It still sits there. The steam engine was built in 1941 and used for hauling coal in the Allegheny Mountains. It weighs 600 tons and towers above you as you walk past it. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to see it working.

For lunch we enjoyed sandwiched in the Michigan Cafe. There is a hot dog dining area by the Oscar Meyer Wiener car but we didn't want to walk all the way back to it. There is also a diner where we had some great coffee and a couple of glazed donuts recommended by our waitress. She was right. As good as Krispy Kreme.

 As we enjoyed our donuts and coffee, we discussed the possibility of getting in the tour of the Ford Rouge Factory. If we did it this afternoon, we could leave first thing in the morning and get home a little earlier. Besides, we really couldn't think of anything else we wanted to do and the factory tour was said to take about two hours. It was another plan shift. We were getting good at those. Never say we aren't spontaneous.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mini Road Trip - More of Greenfield Village

Built in 1871 in Dayton, Ohio, the Wright home eventually became a part of Greenfield Village. I didn't get a picture of the front of the house because it was decorated for the Halloween festivities going on during evenings on the weekends. I was fascinated though in the parlor when I saw the painted walls and the wallpapered ceiling.

Susan Wright never got to see her boys fly. Maybe that was a good thing. As a mother, it could have been very scary. Their father, Milton, supported their bike shop and their experiments with flight. Neither boy went to college but their sister, Katharine, did.

The Sarah Jordan Boarding House built in Menlo Park, NJ, in 1870 was one of the first homes ever to be wired for electricity. Perhaps that's because many of the men who worked at Menlo Park stayed in the home run by the widow, her adopted daughter and a maid. Since Bob is always sensitive to booking a Bed & Breakfast with an ensuite bathroom, I couldn't help but chuckle and point out that this place was definitely not ensuite as indicated by the two out buildings in the back yard.

One of the more unique and unusual homes in the village is the Mattox House. It was built around 1880 in Bryan County, Georgia. The family lined the walls of their home with newspapers to insulate against the cool Georgia nights in the winter. Amos Mattox worked a variety of jobs to provide for his family during the depression--shoemaker, farmer, barber and preacher. His wife, Grace, was known to help feed the needy.

There were several buildings dedicated to educational history. A large log cabin, the McGuffey Schoolhouse and a smaller log cabin, the McGuffey birthplace. Yes, that McGuffey. The one who wrote the readers that have been around for 200 years. Across from the log cabins is a brick building, the Scotch Settlement School where Henry Ford sat next to his friend, Edsel Rudiman. Apparently the boys enjoyed playing pranks and eventually John Chapman was hired as teacher and paid an extra $5 a month to keep the boys in line.

What struck me most about visiting the school was what was said in the recorded information that played upon entering the door. The school was where morality was taught as much as the three Rs. How far would that go today? And is that perhaps where we've fallen short as a society? Enough. Climbing down from soapbox now.

There were so many good things to see. I could go on and on. The print shop, the tin smith, the weaver (where they had a version of a "computerized" loom using punch cards), the pottery, the train yard. Another favorite spot was the general store with all sorts of interesting items that would be for sale in the late 19th century and early 1900s. The store was often the only place that had a phone and was available to the public. Of course how many other people had phones? So who would you call?

We were pretty tired but when we discovered, by way of Facebook, that one of the kids we had watched grow up at church was working for Ford and just around the corner, we couldn't resist meeting him for dinner. And of course, the younger folks know the best BBQ places.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mini Road Trip - Greenfield Village

Of course there is a lot of Henry Ford represented here in the Greenfield Village. His childhood home for one and his early Bagley Avenue workshop where he put together his first gas powered car, the quadricycle. The workshop was actually a coal shed behind the duplex he and his wife, Clara, lived. Ford at the time worked as a powerhouse superintendent at the Edison Illuminating Company a short distance away.

The car was built inside the shed but Ford discovered that it would not fit through the door and had to enlarge the entry in order to take his vehicle outside for a test run. The first building of the company is here at Greenfield Village but only a smaller version of the original. Between 1903 and 1905, Ford assembled his cars at stations from purchased parts. It wasn't until 1913 that he came up with the moving assembly line.

The Mack Avenue plant produced 15 cars a day. The Model A sold for $750. And as it is today, various options were available at an additional cost.

Ford grew up and lived in an era when great innovations were being discovered and produced. He was truly an admirer of Edison and eventually opted to move the Menlo Park building from New Jersey to Michigan. Unfortunately, the building had so badly deteriorated that they had to rely on building plans to reconstruct Edison's workplace. Some of the materials of the original building were used but much of it is newer construction.

The Wright brothers were also among the innovators and inventors that Ford admired. Their cycle shop is one of the more interesting shops in the village. As you move through it, you can see the wind tunnel they built to test their theories of how to get lift for their aircraft. It's all in a glass box and the wind is produced by turning a crank. Once you get it up to speed, the small model wing lifts up from it's resting position.

In the back of the shop is the bare skeleton of the plane they built to fly at Kitty Hawk. The guide in the shop explained that the Wright brothers eventually built in a control for turning the aircraft that involved laying down in a cradle that moved as you moved your hips so that you could bank left or right while still holding the controls to the aircraft's power in your hands.

If you were into motors and huge generators, there was plenty to see. I couldn't help but think of how my father must have been enamored with all that he saw on that visit so many years ago. Dad repaired motors and did electrical wiring.

Of course, looking at some of the motors, I could hear my mother telling the story of how she had to wrap wires around a spindle keeping count of the number of times around on a match book (one match bent down for every 10 times around) and still answer the phone. Once his business got going, she was replaced by several employees and a secretary.

I'm glad. It gave her time to be my mom.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Mini Road Trip - Dearborn, Michigan

What's an Ohio Buckeye doing going to visit Michigan during football season? Why exploring The Henry Ford, of course!

I know. We just finished a long road trip but there were a couple of weeks between our return home from out west and our mini road trip to Dearborn. The leaves were just starting to turn and the weather was predicted to be warm and sunny--at least for a few days. After a short stop to visit my brother and his family at Put In Bay, Ohio, for the Oktoberfest, we drove another couple of hours up to Dearborn.

Entering the Dearborn area is like entering the Seattle area and seeing Microsoft all over the place only here it is Ford. The Henry Ford is the complex of Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum along with several other attractions including the Ford Rouge Factory Tour which was on our list to see.

My first visit to Greenfield Village was when I was about eight years old. Then Bob and I spent our tenth anniversary there and later we took our kids. It has changed tremendously over the years. The museum and village were a passion for Henry Ford who felt the need to preserve history and inspire genius. He began actually with a school in 1929 and from there the project blossomed into a museum and a village full of historical buildings including the Menlo Park complex of Edison's and the Wright Brothers Cycle Shop as well as several types of farms, industrial sites and homes or replicas of homes of famous Americans who contributed to industry and/or farming.

There are almost 100 structures to see, most of which you can enter and see furnishings or machines of the era. Old vintage powered and horse drawn buses can alleviate some of the walking over the 200 acre spread (for an additional cost of course). There are also a dozen or more vintage Fords that are available to ride and even if you choose to walk as we did, they lend to the atmosphere of the historic village.

Around the perimeter is, as we were told, is the oldest regularly scheduled train pulled by a steam engine. Powered by steam, there is a huge coal tower that is filled with the coal used to fire the boilers in the steam engine. The roundhouse held several other engines that are also used for the scenic train ride.

The day was gorgeous and the colors of autumn radiant. Several of the houses had people in interpretive costume who explained some of the history behind the homes. Other places held more guides who provided stories and explanations for things we were seeing. Weaving, pottery making and glass blowing demonstrations are always interesting but we also found that that for $5 you could make a small brass candlestick in one of the buildings.

The highlight of the day was having lunch in the Eagle Tavern. The tavern was brought to Greenfield Village from Clinton, MI, where it was originally built in 1831. In keeping with the time period, the tables are all large and seat eight to ten people. We were told as we were seated that others might be joining us. Back in nineteenth century tavern life, dining was communal. In keeping with the historic aspects, the tavern offers seasonal and locally grown food products. I ordered squash soup and Bob got the corn chowder. Both were delicious and came with muffins, cornbread and rolls and the best blueberry jam I've had in a long time.

I will highlight some of the things we enjoyed the most and piqued our interest in the next couple of posts.

Friday, November 06, 2015

5,326 Miles

Well, we did it! We drove quite a loop through the Midwest. All those miles and at least that many bugs smashed on the front of the car but it was worth it. Our road trip took us west through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and into Montana to stop at Glacier National Park. Then through Montana to Wyoming for Yellowstone (we may have hit just the cornier of Idaho) and southeast through South Dakota and Nebraska before turning east again through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and home in Ohio.

Thanks to those who suggested a few stops along the way. We enjoyed Wisconsin Dells and the Mall of America. Glacier was beautiful. Yellowstone's wildlife amazing. Grand Tetons spectacular. Mt. Rushmore monumental.

Some surprises along the way included the Mammoth dig at Hot Springs, SD and the Buffalo Bill home/ranch at North Platte, NE. And of course meeting folks along the way is always entertaining. For instance, there was the park ranger in Yellowstone who gave his whole program talk with a toothpick stuck in the corner of his mouth and never once lost it. He was a wealth of information though.

Here are just a few of the things that impressed me about this area of the country as we drove.

  • Acres of sunflowers in ND. Wish we'd been there to see them in early bloom.
  • So many cattle and horses grazing in fields.
  • The Black Hills of South Dakota as the sun set.
  • Corn fields, their tasseled tops golden in the sunshine.
  • Bales and rolls of hay dotting the harvested fields.
  • So much farmland! Praise God for farmers!
  • And miles and miles between the next McDonald's cup of coffee.
This was a good lesson in geography but even more so in learning about what a wonderful area of the country this is.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Books For The Road - Winter Of The World by Ken Follett

A couple of years ago we downloaded an audio book for our drive south to Florida. It was the Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett. We thoroughly enjoyed the book and when we didn't finish it with the round trip drive, we found places to go at home where we could listen to it in the car. On our latest trip, we decided to listen to the second in Follett's Century Trilogy, Winter Of The World. The audio book is thirty hours long but it beats wading through a thousand written pages and the reader, John Lee is excellent.

The story picks up where the first book left off and even though it had been a while since we'd listened to the first, we fell right in with the characters again. This book covers the historical period beginning with the rise of Hitler to power, the Spanish Civil War, moves through World War II to the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and the testing of the atom bomb by the Russians.

Follett takes you through the character development as they have to make life choices dealing with politics and survival. I like the way he moves between the settings in Europe and America and the points of view from the different locations.

It is a moving and thought provoking book and we are looking forward to the third in the trilogy, Edge of Eternity, when we make our next road trip.

If you are looking for an audio book to listen to on a long trip it is easily downloaded to your phone through the Overdrive app. You can connect with the public library and check out the title you want. We plugged the phone into the USB port in the car so it charged as well as played the book. Easily paused and picked up again when you make a stop. Truly books for the road. . .trip.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Antique Archaeology

As Bob was planning our route for the road trip, I talked him into coming home in a more southerly direction so we could pass through a couple of states we'd never been in. One of those was Iowa. But what would we do in Iowa, Bob asked?

Fortunately we are both fans of the American Pickers program on the History Channel. For those of you who may not watch this is a pair of guys who go all around the country (and sometimes the world) looking for antiques. Their tagline is: "We make a living telling the history of America...one piece at a time. I guess it's for that reason that the two stores are call Antique Archaeology.

With their home base being in Le Claire, Iowa, we made sure to stop and have a look in their store. Bob was hoping for a selfie with Danielle, the gal who does the research to find places where Mike and Frank should pick. It was not to happen though.

Le Claire is a neat little town on the banks of the Mississippi and has a Buffalo Bill connection as well. He was born there. We passed on his museum and went directly to Antique Archaeology.

It was a bit disappointing although we did get to see the van up close and personal, but inside the store most of the items were souvenirs of the show. T-shirts, caps, glasses, mugs, magnets, and books on how to pick by Frank and Mike. There were several old motorcycles on display but not a lot of actual antique items to buy and certainly not in my price range. I would have loved to have picked up just a small antique item to say it came from there--and I'm not a souvenir shopper! Since our visit I found that Frank has a store in Savanna, Illinois, Frank Fritz Finds.

We strolled the main street of Le Claire a bit, stopped for a bit to look at the Mississippi, and then continued on to our overnight stay in Peru, Illinois. We were almost home and that was beginning to sound kind of good.
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