"" Writer's Wanderings: 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Have You Ever Missed The Boat?

It's probably not kind to say this but some of the best entertainment on board a cruise ship is found standing on the promenade deck and watching as people run for the ship just as the gangplank is about to be taken up. We've heard screaming, pleading, seen a husband leave his wife trying to catch up, watched as a woman discarded her shoes to run faster and more.

We've also seen those who have missed the ship and stood stranded on the dock as our ship pulled away. Two men who missed the ship threw their hands in the air and then doubled over--either from exhaustion or despair. They were met by two officials who handed them their passports, courtesy of the staff who had announced their names and waited for thirty minutes for them. They were on their own to catch up at the next port.

Another time the ship's crew lowered a boat that they use for maintenance to pick up a passenger who was crying on the dock when she missed the ship. That was an unusual courtesy and we suspect she paid for it and not just in embarrassment when, for the rest of the cruise, every time the ship's departure time was announced it was followed by "and that means you too, Mrs. ***".

So here are some tips to consider just in case you venture out on your own in port and run the risk of not getting back in time.

  •   If you want to see something in port that is quite a distance from the ship consider booking a ship's excursion rather than doing it on your own. The ship will wait for a booked excursion that is late. 
  • Take the daily program with you. The name and number of the port agent for the cruise line will be listed there. If there is a problem that's the place to start if you get to the dock and see the back of the ship as it sails away. 
  • Keep a copy of your passport with you. The cruise ship usually keeps your passport for the duration of the cruise for immigration purposes. Plus carrying your passport with you is not always a good idea with pickpockets plentiful. At least if they have not left your passport with the port agent, you will have a starting point.
  • Be sure you have a credit card with you just in case you find you need to book transportation to the next port. 
The best thing you can do for yourself is to be aware of the time you are expected to be back on the ship before it sails, account for any time zone changes that could throw you off by an hour and leave plenty of time for the unexpected, like traffic. As I say over and over, do your homework. Know how long it will take you to get to your destination and back to the ship. Then you too can stand and watch the others who run for the ship at the last possible minute.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Graffiti Art - Legal Or Not?

Have you ever stopped at a rail crossing and watched as train after train goes by covered in graffiti? We all know what it is. As Wikipedia defines it: writing or drawings that are scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface often in public view. It goes on to say that it has existed since ancient times.

Today's graffiti in most cases is considered illegal and destruction of property no matter how elaborate the painting or design. In an effort to contain the rampant spread of would be street artists, many communities have set aside certain areas where artists can express themselves with their unique type of street art. It is said that there is an honor code and true graffiti artists will not paint over another's work.

Often times the art work is an expression of political views. I remember the artwork along the Berlin Wall. Some of it was still standing when we visited several years ago. Mostly though, it ends up simply being a "tag", someone's name spray painted on the side of a building or rail car or bridge. Those labeled as art and being recognized more throughout the art world are more colorful, designed well, and evoke the elements found in work that is considered artistic and valued.

You will see graffiti, art or not, in most any place you travel. There are some places in the world that are actually known for their artistic graffiti: Hosier Lane in Melbourne, Australia; Warsaw, Poland; Tesnov, Prague; Paris, France; Taipei, Taiwan; Zurich, Switzerland; Sydhavnen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Burghausen, Germany; and in the United States, Queens, New York and Venice, California. An article, 10 Places Where Graffiti Is Legal, is well worth reading if you are planning to visit any of those areas.

In my researching, I did find another interesting place online, The Graffiti Creator, where you can type in your name or other word and play with the colors and designs to create your own work of art. That's where my TRAVEL graffiti came from. Have fun!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Gettysburg, PA

There are many ways you can explore the Gettysburg National Park. Self-guided and audio driving tours, bus tours, bicycling, hiking, and our choice, a licensed battlefield guide. Since John is a friend we made special arrangements with him but you can reserve a tour with a guide for up to six people for $75. It would be well worth it.

John met us and we spent a little time catching up as we walked to our car. He got behind the wheel and started us out with maps on which he'd drawn the battle lines for the three days of battle that were fought here, explaining the advancements and retreats. With the information from the movie and the museum, we felt a little more prepared and able to understand.

It was nice to have John driving. It gave Bob the opportunity to look around rather than have to concentrate on where he was going on the road. John began with some stops to see some of the Ohio monuments that were in the park since he knew that was our home state. All of the states that participated whether Confederate or Union are represented in the park. Each of the regiments usually have a monument placed at the spot where they held the lines or advanced.

When the battle took place of course there were not as many buildings and roads and as John explained, there was less undergrowth and trees. More open space meant that you had less cover to hide behind. The hills of Gettysburg were instrumental in the Union winning the battle. They had most of the high ground and with cannons that fired a little better than the Confederate side's they held their position.

Still the Confederate armies made a valiant effort, pushing back the Union soldiers in some spots and advancing. Over the three days however, there were 51,000 soldiers dead, wounded or missing. Not long ago after reading Gods and Generals, I looked up the toll the Civil War took on our country. There were 620,000 that lost their lives, more than World War I and II combined.

Each time we stopped at a different vantage point and got out of the car, John would explain what part of the battle took place in front of us on which day. It began to make some sense as we compared it to our maps.

Our last stop was at the Soldier's National Cemetery. It is adjacent to the Evergreen Cemetery which is the cemetery for the town of Gettysburg. The general public is not allowed in the Evergreen Cemetery but that is actually where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. He was invited to speak along with Edward Everett. The dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery could not take place at the actual spot where it is because they were still in the process of the reinterment of the soldiers from other hastily dug graves. On November 19, 1963, Edward Everett gave his two hour long speech followed by Abraham Lincoln's mere 272 words that obviously made a much bigger impact.

The cemetery is in a half circle surrounding the Soldier's National Monument. Many of the graves are marked "unknown". We were surprised to learn that there were actually some Canadians who also fought in the Civil War and are buried there.

It was a beautiful fall day and a wonderful three hours spent with a very knowledgeable friend who joined us for dinner as well. Bob still was looking for ice cream though and since it was a Friday night we thought we would try the ice cream shop again. To his delight it was open.

We never questioned why the shoppe might be called the Cannonball Old Time Malt Shoppe. As we stood outside while Bob ate his ice cream, a family with some young children came out and a man with a flashlight engaged them with some information about Gettysburg. Then he centered his light on a spot just above the door to the shop. There stuck in the brick was a small cannonball. It had been shot toward the town from a distance of 1800 yards according to the man who it turned out was a historical interpreter who dressed during the day in the period and gave talks to passers by.

It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. I was amazed at the information I'd taken in. If only history had come alive for me in high school I wouldn't have struggled so much with it. I might even have enjoyed it.

 John R. Krohn is the name of our friend who is a licensed Battlefield Guide. He has a lineage that dates back to the Civil War and because of that it created the desire in him to learn more and eventually become a guide. You can contact him for reservations at the address and number on his card pictured here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Gettysburg, PA

After an eight hour drive from Waynesville, NC to Gettysburg, PA, we checked in to our hotel and found a nearby restaurant. Our dinner was disappointing so Bob decided we needed to finish off the evening by finding some ice cream. With his handy dandy TripAdvisor app, he found an ice cream shop in the historic area of Gettysburg. It sounded quaint and we found it easily enough with our GPS. The only problem was that it was closed.

Surely, we thought there had to be some ice cream somewhere so we left the car parked and wandered around a bit. There was a large circle in the center of town and we walked around it noting that most places were already closed with the exception of a few restaurants. As we completed the trip around the circular town square we came upon a historical marker that pointed out that the brick building before us was the Wills House. It was here that Abraham Lincoln was the guest of David Wills on November 18 and 19 in 1863. He met with the governor and other public figures and was said to have finished his Gettysburg Address there.

Eventually we ended up at Dairy Queen for ice cream which was a real "scream." I've never seen one so fully decked out for Halloween. You had to duck the ghosts circling overhead from the fans.

The next morning as soon as we'd finished breakfast we drove to the Gettysburg Park Visitor Center. It had been at least 30 years since we last visited Gettysburg and things had changed immensely. A beautiful building now held a movie, a cyclorama, and a huge museum to look through. Our friend, John, who was to be our guide in the afternoon had suggested we do all three in the morning to reacquaint ourselves with the history of the battlefield.

We purchased a ticket to see all three of the center's offerings. (To see film, cyclorama, and museum was $14 for seniors. Museum only tickets were $9.) The film, A New Birth Of Freedom narrated by Morgan Freeman, was well done. While the cyclorama's history and artistry was interesting, I was not as impressed with that presentation. The cyclorama is a huge painting mounted in a circle around a viewing area. There is a narration that tries to put you in the position of someone actually viewing the battle. It dates back to 1884 and was a major restoration project that was finished in 2008 and opened to public viewing along with the new visitor's center.

It took us two hours to go through the museum. I had not expected it to be so large and so inclusive. There was everything imaginable that had to do with the Civil War and the part that Gettysburg played in it. It was quite enjoyable as museums go but I was really looking forward to getting out and exploring the outdoors.

We lunched on the outdoor patio of the cafeteria and enjoyed some warm sunshine on the cool autumn day. Then it was off to meet our friend who is a licensed guide with the park. It would be good to see him and glean from his wealth of Civil War knowledge.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Pisgah National Forest

Our last full day in NC with our family started out with another beautiful sunrise. I was going to miss having my coffee and cereal on the deck as the sun rose over the mountains in front of us. Today's adventure would involve a trip to the Pisgah National Forest but first, it was Wednesday--Pancake Day.

All of the grandkids love to cook and their kitchen skills are quite impressive. This morning, my grandson decided he would make the pancakes so in addition to my usual cereal, I was treated to an artistic creation, plated perfectly and served with syrup on the side. Did I mention that though he lives in Florida his heart is with the OSU Buckeyes?

After we gathered kids and lunch, we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway and followed it to our destination--Graveyard Fields with a stop at the highest point (6,053 feet) of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The kids had been to the Graveyard Fields (so named because an area of tree stumps resembles gravestones) last year and wanted to see the second falls rather than the upper falls which had been quite a trek the year before. There were a lot of steps getting down to the waterfall which was quite nice. After enjoying the falls for a bit, we found some flat rocks and spread out our lunch.

Nourished, we started back up the steps, some of us a little slower than the others. Near the top I paused to catch a few pictures of some pretty butterflies that took a moment to pose for me. Then we were off to the highlight of the day--Sliding Rock.

It took us a while to find Sliding Rock. Our phones were rather useless for mapping our route since there was no service in most of that area we traveled through. Eventually we found Looking Glass Falls that was near our destination and we took a few minutes to explore that. Then the anticipation grew as we neared the Sliding Rock parking lot.

The season was over so the dressing rooms and restrooms were closed and there was no lifeguard so it was slide at your own risk. My clever daughter-in-law had brought a tarp and draped it over the back door of the van to create a private dressing area where everyone who was sliding changed into their bathing suits. 

Sliding Rock is a smooth waterfall that you can climb and then slide down the 60 foot boulder into an eight foot deep pool of chilly 50-60 degree water. The outside temperature was about 78-80 so at least when the adventurers got out they could warm up some. There were few people there when we arrived so the kids got to go as often as they wanted without having to wait long.

The youngest grandkids found a small smooth spot in shallow waters where they could take a mini-slide. Everyone had fun and Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed watching it all.

As it was getting close to dinner, we decided to make a stop at Ingles, the large grocery chain, and pick up some fried chicken, potato salad and beans for a quick easy dinner. We needed to finish up in time to see the space shuttle pass overhead at 7:45.

As we watched in wonder as the bright spot in the late evening sky passed overhead, I thought it the perfect ending to a perfectly fun day. 

Friday, October 06, 2017

Mini Road Trip -- Cherokee, NC

At the southern end if the Blue Ridge Parkway and at the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains lies Cherokee, NC. It is the headquarters for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. It lies in the Oconalufte River Valley and is a great spot for some trout fishing. With great expectations, we purchased fishing permits for the day for $10 each (for 12 years and older) and set off to catch our dinner.

Only four of us were interested in fishing so after our lunch, the others went to the visitor center nearby at the Smokey Mountains Park entrance and enjoyed the displays and the examples of farming in the old days.

Meanwhile, my grandson and one of my granddaughters, my son and I worked the shores of the river trying to entice a few trout to bite on our lures. My grandson and I ended up wading into the water a few times to find what we thought might be better spots and eventually we all ended up at a calmer deeper spot in the river where we could actually see a couple of trout in the water.

Suddenly my son yelled, "Got one!" and pulled up a nice rainbow trout. We put it in the cooler we'd brought along that had some ice in it and looked forward to hooking a few more. It was not to be. We fished that spot for quite a while and then all piled in the van and tried a couple of other spots further up the river. All to no avail.

The trout dinner would have to wait. Meanwhile we found a Mexican restaurant that had some terrific food and satisfied our hunger with that.

It would be fun to go back and wander around the Oconalufte Village a bit. There is a lot to do in the area and a lot to learn about the culture and tradition there. For a preview, check out their website, Visit Cherokee, NC.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Mini Road Trip - The Smokey Mountains

Cup of coffee in hand, I sat in the quiet of the morning on the wonderful deck of the house where we were staying with our son and his family and watched the sun come up over the mountains. The view was spectacular as was the sunrise.

With four kids twelve to three years old, there is a bustling start to the day when they are all up and ready for breakfast. As I watched my daughter-in-law in the kitchen, I remembered the days I had five young mouths to feed. Great memories. Kids fed, we made sandwiches to pack for lunch and gathered chips, drinks, and apples and were on our way to our first outing in the Smokey Mountain National Park.

On our way down the mountain we saw the local gang of wild turkeys. A few comments were made about Thanksgiving being only a couple months away. The sun was shining brightly through the trees and promising a beautiful day ahead.

After about a forty-five minute ride, we found our destination, Deep Creek near Bryson City, NC. The trail was said to be easy and there were several options we could take to see three waterfalls. We chose the shorter trail to one of the waterfalls--a concession to Grandma and Grandpa and a three year old whose little legs might not go the distance.

Not a minute into our walk and our grandson spotted a blue tailed skink, a black and white striped lizard with a blue tail. With all the attention upon him, the skink quickly backed into a clump of leaves so all I got was a picture of his head. Yes, he did have a blue tail.

There were many starts and stops along the way to examine flowers, bugs, and butterflies. A few more stops to look for salamanders along the water's edge and wave to a few people brave enough to tube on the cold water of the creek.

We arrived at one waterfall and admired it through the trees. The next one could be viewed at the bottom of the stairs but I did my admiring from the top while the others ventured down and back up again.

Avoiding the trail that would take us on a long loop, we answered our growling tummies with a return trip down the trail to our van and lunch. A picnic table next to a shallow calm area of the creek made an excellent venue for enjoying our sandwiches. It didn't take long though for the kids to be attracted by the shallow waters. Shoes came off and exploring began.

When they didn't immediately come out complaining that the water was cold, I thought I'd give it a try. I pulled off my hiking boots and socks and started in. I imagine what I felt is what it might feel like to a football player to put his sore appendages into an ice bath. Do toenails really curl? I looked to be sure. How those kids were staying in that cold water so long was beyond me. Guess my age was showing. While they enjoyed the water Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed the sunshine and the rest.

We made a stop on the way back to Eagle's Nest Mountain to buy corn and sample some apple cider, then the grocery store for some sausage and accompaniments for dinner and we were on our way back up the mountain, past the gang of turkeys again to the beautiful retreat on the mountainside.

The air chilled quickly with the setting sun and as nighttime fell, the sounds of crickets and the occasional owl filled the air. It was off to bed to recharge for our next day's adventure.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Mini Road Trip - Off To North Carolina

After a long hiatus from travel, it is starting up again. Our Florida son had the opportunity to enjoy a stay at a beautiful home in the mountains of North Carolina and invited us to join them there for a few days. We broke the long eight hour drive in two, staying overnight in West Virginia. There was no need to arrive so tired that we couldn't enjoy our grandchildren.

Arriving in Waynesville, NC, we spent a few minutes driving around the little downtown area and then followed our GPS to the road that the house was on. The house sits on Eagle's Nest Mountain at about 4500 feet and we knew the road would wind and climb for a while.

As we started up, the GPS said to take a turn on another road. It was a bit contrary to what our son had told us but we thought maybe the name of the road changed as some do or connected back to where we needed to be. In all fairness, it was a long day of driving and we probably weren't reasoning correctly.

The street narrowed quickly as we wound our way up the mountain. Soon it was gravel and no more homes. Then it was ruts. "I don't think this is right," we both said. Thankfully there was a flat spot to turn around and we headed back down. On the main road again, we ignored the GPS and just followed the winding, but paved, road up and up and found the place we were to be.

As we pulled up the driveway, four little people ran out to greet us. They looked very familiar and kept yelling, "Grandma! Grandpa!" Yup, this was the place.

The air smelled fresh and clean as mountain air does. It was a welcome fragrance after a day in the car. Leaves were falling even though many of them had not turned colors yet. It was just the beginning of autumn yet to fully burst into full glory.

Dinner was at a rustic restaurant called Bogart's with several stuffed toy bears laying on the exposed rafters. The sun had set by the time we were done and the chill in the air was a reminder that we were in mountain country. It cools off quickly.

On our way back up the mountain we fessed up about our excursion up the back road. We all speculated that the GPS thought it was a short cut. The only thing that really struck in my mind though was the sign we'd seen on a fence up there, "Beware of Bear." Was that a dog named bear? Or was it meant to be the warning of a real bear? This was after all, mountain country.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Sports And The National Anthem

It's football season and instead of arguments over who will win the season and duke it out at the next Super Bowl, the argument is over standing or kneeling for the National Anthem. As always my curious mind takes over and I begin to wonder, why do we even play the Anthem at sports events? I know I love to hear it played by the OSU marching band at the beginning of the Buckeyes games especially because the horseshoe stadium full of 100,000+ usually sings with the band. It is a moment of pride in my country--right or wrong in some instances but free in so many ways that others around the world are not.

Francis Scott Key penned the words. As the story goes he was inspired by the flag that flew strong in the midst of the battle at Fort McHenry in Maryland as the British bombed it in the war of 1812. What some might find amusing is that the words were set to an English drinking song, "To Anacreon In Heaven" written by John Stafford Smith. But where did it start playing at sports games?

The Star Spangled Banner, written in 1814, did not even become the official national anthem until 1931 but before that time it was played for many events. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared it should be played at all official events but even before that it was played as early as 1862 during the Civil War at the opening day baseball game at Union Base Ball and Cricket Grounds in Brooklyn, NY.

In the 1890s the Star Spangled Banner was played at several ball games but not until 1918 did it really make a big impression in the sports world. It was opening day for baseball in Chicago, Boston Red Sox vs. Cubs. We were 17 months into a war to end all wars and 100,000 had already died fighting. Fred Thomas, the Red Sox third baseman who was on furlough from the Navy, saluted. Other players displayed their feelings with hands over hearts. The crowd that was standing began to sing. It was reported in the New York Times that the end of the song was met with "thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm." That's saying a lot when the game included such players as Babe Ruth.

The playing of the SSB did not happen at every ballgame simply because it required hiring a band that was expensive back then. Sound systems came into being around World War II and changed that. Soon the SSB was heard at many sporting events as well as the theater and the movies.

During the Vietnam War, the NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, enforced a policy that all players were to stand at attention during the playing of what was now the national anthem with their helmets tucked under their arms. They were not to talk, chew gum or move their feet. Apparently while the government cannot restrict first amendment rights, owners of sports teams can require certain behavior from their players in their contracts.

We have been to many countries where their national anthem has been played at events we have attended. As a matter of respect, we have stood with the citizens of that country as they honor their flag. It didn't meant that we agreed with their politics. It was all a matter of respect.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Another Road Trip Stop - The Corn Palace

In 1892, the city of Mitchell built its first corn palace as a way to prove to the world that South Dakota had a healthy agricultural climate.The palace was to be a gathering place where city residents and their rural neighbors could enjoy a fall festival with stage entertainment. It would be a celebration to top off the growing season and harvest.

In 1905 a second palace was built as the festivities outgrew the old one, only to be followed by a third building built between 1919 and 1921 when the second one proved too small as well. In the 1930s steps were taken to recapture some of the character of the original Corn Palace and minarets and kiosks of Moorish design were added.

Today the Corn Palace is more than just a building where the Corn Palace Festival continues to take place each year in late August. It is also a venue for many other celebrations and some sports events such as high school basketball. But its charm goes way beyond the inside activities.

Each year the Palace is redecorated with naturally colored corn, grains, and native grasses. There are thirteen different colors or shades of corn including green corn. A different theme is chosen each year and the murals are designed around it.The Corn Palace is known around the world as a folk-art wonder on the prairie of South Dakota.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Would You Live In A Hole In A Rock?

While you may have visited a "hole in the wall" restaurant have you ever visited a "hole in the rock" house? If you are out in the Moab, Utah, area you might want to check out Hole N" The Rock, a 5,000 square foot home carved out of sandstone. For real!

Albert Christenden, originally from Sweden, worked in the uranium mines in America. Upon retiring from the mines he and his wife located to Moab, Utah, where Albert began creating a home--from the sandstone mountain. He and his faithful donkey, Harry, excavated 50,000 cubic feet of sandstone to create the living space. There are fourteen rooms that are heated by a large fireplace with a 65 foot chimney.

It took twelve years to create but was not completely finished when he died in 1957. His wife, Gladys, continued the work of finishing his dream. In order to survive she set up a restaurant and gift shop where she sold jewelry that she made. She died in 1974 and is buried with her husband at the site.

In addition to being able to see this unusual home, there is also a petting zoo with live animals (Harry passed on long ago and is mummified) and many of Albert's paintings and sculptures are on display as well as Gladys' doll collection.

Just another one of those stops to break up the monotony of a road trip. If you'd like to preview it before you put it on your itinerary check out the Hole N" The Rock website.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Where Does Unclaimed Baggage Go?

This is hard to believe but a facility in Alabama is the collection center for thousands of pieces of unclaimed baggage. I can understand there being a lot of lost baggage but I can't imagine anyone leaving a bag on the luggage belt to go round and round until it's eventually set aside and after 90 days of trying to find the owner, sent off to be disposed of in Alabama. Now that doesn't mean it is trashed. Oh no. Let me explain.

It all started with Doyle Owens back in 1970. He was apart-time insurance salesman in Scottsboro and the son of a general store merchant who had a friend working with a bus company in Washington, DC. The friend asked Owens if he might be interested in buying lost luggage from the bus company and reselling the contents. Owens saw an opportunity and took his pickup truck to DC for his first load. His wife, Sue, sorted the contents, priced it and the two set up a table and sold what they found.The business eventually grew to include luggage left behind at taxi companies, car rentals, commuter trains and of course the airlines.

Eventually it became one of Alabama's most unique businesses, the Unclaimed Baggage Center. The center was purchased in 1995 by Doyle's son, Bryan and now covers a city block. And of course it is open to the public for exploring and buying items left behind and unclaimed by travelers from all over the globe.

Everyday at 2:30 PM you can have the unique experience of watching as baggage is opened and discoveries made. Some of the more unusual things that have been found are a shrunken head, a 40 carat emerald, a suit of armor, and the ever popular vacuum packed bag of frogs. As they open the luggage and go through the contents there are four piles it can end up in, clean it, sell it, trash it or give it away. I'm assuming the clean it pile ends up in the sell it pile eventually.

There are bargains to be had at the store. IPads, cameras, clothing (a Versace dress was found in one suitcase), etc. A vase was sold for $80 and later found to be worth $18,000. Unbelievable isn't it that people would not be able to track down that kind of valuable stuff! And then there was the camera from a space shuttle (it was returned to NASA) and a missile guidance system for a fighter jet (returned to the Air Force).

If we are ever anywhere near Scottsboro, Alabama, you can bet we're making a stop.

Monday, September 25, 2017

An Ice Cream Graveyard

Several years ago we did a road trip through the New England area to see the fall leaves in full color. It was a great trip and one stop we made was especially fun--the home of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in Waterbury, Vermont. There was a tour that explained their ice cream production and of course sampling.

What I don't remember is the graveyard. Perhaps it is something that has sprung from some innovative employee or marketer since our visit or the other logical explanation, I'm getting old. I found an article about it while surfing the net and while it might be more appropriate for a fun Halloween post, I decided to bring it to your attention now. After all, maybe you are in the midst of a fall foliage tour and could stop and check it out yourself.

The graveyard is both physical and virtual. It is the place where ice cream flavors are buried when they have passed away, out lived their tastiness. The dearly de-pinted, as they are referred to, are honored on gravestones that can be found in a graveyard just outside the factory. Each headstone has the name of the flavor, a cheeky poem and the years it was in production.

You can visit the virtual graveyard on the Ben & Jerry's website. There is a clever video of a funeral for a flavor and a list of 34 flavors that have passed into eternity--unless of course it gets enough votes to be resurrected.

One de-pinted flavor that caught my attention was Chocolate Comfort. Now how could anything chocolate pass away? Then I read the description. Chocolate truffle low fat ice cream swirled with white chocolate low fat ice cream. RIP! Low fat? White chocolate?

There are all sorts of links to interesting fun things like ideas for becoming your favorite ice cream flavor for Halloween. While it doesn't seem to involve eating it, I'm sure that it would help with the inspiration.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Lounging On A Long Layover -Airport Lounges For Economy Flyers

For a lot less than first or business class tickets you can get into those comfortable airport lounges with a little luck and ingenuity. We get access to United lounges and some of their alliance airline lounges with a credit card that we pay extra for. It still is cheaper than buying those premium tickets and when we have long layovers for our more lengthy trips, we enjoy being able to get out of the busyness of the main airport and enjoy some snacks and beverages as well as WIFI and other amenities.

But you don't have to pay fees for a credit card to gain access. There are day passes that can be bought and would be the way to go if you are not a frequent flyer. Of course those passes are predicated on whether or not the lounge is at capacity. You wouldn't want to try to get into the Ft. Lauderdale United lounge (or probably any other there) on a big turnover day for the cruise ships. Cruise lines drop their passengers at the airport and often there is a long wait before the flight home. We sat in the Orlando airport once when Disney dropped us off seven hours before our flight was due to take off. Thankfully we didn't have any little ones with us.

I ran across a great source for finding lounges in airports all over the world and how much a day pass would cost. I was surprised that they could go for as low as $20 in some cases. The site is actually called Sleeping In Airports and details places to sleep if you are delayed as well as hints for making yourself more comfortable. One of their pages though is all about airport lounges and lists hundreds of possibilities all over the world.

Go to the site and see if your next long layover might be in a spot where you can snag some time in a comfy lounge--maybe even take a shower if you desire. Also do a search online for airport lounge day passes and you will find several companies that will book your lounge time for you or sell you a pass that you can use for a limited time. You too can travel as though you paid first class.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Travel Companions Through Life

Forty-nine years ago my husband, Bob, and I traveled down the aisle and made promises that we've kept pretty well over the years. Little did we know when we made our first trip as a couple to the Hocking Hills of Ohio that we would become world travelers one day. That was quite a three-day honeymoon since we were the only visitors to the Lake Hope Lodge other than a large group of park rangers who were having some sort of conference.

My only souvenir (besides the memories) is an acorn. There was a large tank for heating oil or propane for the winter guests just outside our cabin window. We could hear the acorns rustle through the leaves as they dropped from the tree and then ping as they hit the tank. I still have the acorn. It's preserved in a chunk of plastic.

Since then we raised five kids, accumulated a gang of grandkids and made friends all over the world. What a great time! I'm looking forward to fifty next year.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Salvation Mountin

Maybe it's because I was preparing a talk for a ladies' retreat this week that an article caught my eye. My talk includes the mention of Elijah visiting Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God. So when I came across a place called Salvation Mountain, well, I just had to take a look.

Leonard Knight was the creator of Salvation Mountain, the sole creator, and it was pretty much a life long work of his. It was begun in 1984 after he discarded his first idea of how to tell the world about his new found faith and the love of God. He wanted to build a hot air balloon and basically advertise the sinner's prayer so that others could find the peace and joy he had through Jesus.

The balloon never got off the ground and just about the time he was to leave the Niland, California area, he decided to make one last attempt at a monument to God's love. He began building a mountain.

The first attempt collapsed after four years of work. He learned that the sand and cement he was using was not strong enough to support the size his mountain had grown to. It collapsed. He began to make an adobe and straw structure that proved to be successful. The work grew to a height of 50 feet and breadth of 150 feet. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of paint, all of which have been donated, cover the mountain with artwork and scriptures and of course the central message of the sinner's prayer.

The story is fascinating and I will put links to the information I found below. Leonard Knight died at the age of 82 after a stay in a care facility because eventually he was a victim of dementia. All those years though he never faltered in his quest to make known his love of God and the importance of telling others. An organization has now picked up the cause but I think it is more to preserve what has become a beloved piece of folk art. Have a look at the links and if you are ever on a road trip in that area take time to have a look. It's on my list now too.

Salvation Mountain "official site" - has detailed biography and history of the site.

Salvation Mountain Wikipedia

Salvation Mountain FaceBook page

Salvation Mountain, Inc,  - the group working to preserve the mountain

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ranch Vacations - Are You A Dude Or Guest?

In all our travels we have never considered a stay at a dude ranch. Perhaps it didn't cross our minds or make the bucket list mainly because we have no desire to get on a horse. The last time I did I thought I wouldn't be able to walk again. Of course that was after having climbed Mt. Fuji and I couldn't make it back to the bus on foot.

Even so, the time before that when I was coaxed into mounting a horse at the ranch in Uruguay where our World Cruise group had an event (Carol and Carolyn, if you read this--I still love you) it was not pretty. The mounting or the dismounting. I was pretty proud of myself for following through though.

No, a dude ranch wouldn't be for us but it might for you if you love horses, the outdoors, and all sorts of activities that center around a working ranch. The question I had was what was the difference between a dude and a guest. Turns out, not much.

The term dude usually referred to a guest who gets involved by doing chores around the ranch like rounding up livestock and such and the term guest referred to someone who likes to watch someone else do the work. I'm guessing that for insurance purposes most of the dude ranches are really guest ranches where there are lots of activities but they don't really involve hands-on ranch work.

In the research I did online I couldn't find a ranch that even listed roundups as part of the activity or even feeding the livestock. There were a few where you could get a little more up close and personal with supervision. I'm sure they exist. They just didn't pop up in my search box before I stopped looking.

There is an association of Dude Ranches however and if you are interested it would be a good place to start looking. It's called (drum roll) the Dude Ranch Association. They explain the types of activities to expect. I must admit that while the horseback riding does not appeal a lot of the other stuff did, especially the trout fishing.

So dudes and dudettes, as my husband would say, if you are looking for some wild western adventure or just some home on the range relaxation put some Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers music on your playlist and check out the ranches. Who knows you might even find one of Trigger's descendants there.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Laptop Bans On Airlines

While I haven't seen it highly publicized (perhaps because it's old news and there is so much other fodder to feed on) there is an easing of the ban on laptops in carry-ons when flying from certain countries nonstop into the U.S. The problem apparently was that there were airlines or airports that did not do an adequate job of screening or did not have the equipment to screen that was approved by the Department of Homeland Security. There had been reason to believe that terrorists were planning to and/or had the capability of carrying a bomb on board with a laptop.

The checked luggage apparently goes through a security check that is different than carry-on luggage and is a better way to see if there i
s an unwanted device hidden there. Now the airlines, mainly those flying out of the Middle East, are complying with the standards set by the DHS and the ban has been lifted for several.

I'm still leaving the laptop at home for this next overseas trip. It's time to take a break from some of the electronics. I'm not even taking a camera this time although I will rely on my cell phone for pictures and of course a connection to family and friends but that will be minimized as well. I'm not ready to disconnect all together.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Caribbean Hurricane Season - Deals and Dangers

Harvey, Irma, Jose. Who is next? And where will they travel? It's been quite a season already and there are still a few weeks to go. We can easily see why there are deals to be had during the hurricane season in the Caribbean if you are willing to take the chance that a windy woman or malevolent man won't upset your plans with their bluster.

When Ivan hit the Cayman Islands a few years ago it was quite a shock. They were famous for dodging the hurricanes that usually passed to the north or south of them. It's that way with some of the other islands as well--at least during certain times of the hurricane season. I found an article on SmarterTravel that helped to explain why.

The water heats up and feeds the tropical storms that turn into hurricanes but it doesn't heat up all over the area at the same time. In June and July the Gulf of Mexico waters are warmer. In August and September, the  Northern Windward Islands (Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, etc.), Leeward Islands (U.S./British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Guadeloupe Islands, etc.), Greater Antilles (Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, etc.) are more likely to see storms build to hurricane strength from the warmer waters. In October and November, the western Caribbean and Southeastern U.S. are more likely to see a hurricane although I always thought the danger was pretty much over by the end of October.

If you are willing to take a chance on a trip to the Caribbean during the hurricane season you may just snag some really good deals. Cruise ships usually offer lower prices as do resorts in the area. Just be sure to read the fine print and if you are nervous and take out travel insurance but remember there's fine print to be had there as well. I can't speak for the resort areas but I know the cruise lines will change course and ports of call if there is the chance of being caught in a bad storm and especially a hurricane. While there have been horror stories of a few bad cruises those are the exception, not the rule.

While experiencing a hurricane is not a pleasant prospect there is usually enough time to get out of Dodge before it hits--unlike the tornadoes we experience in the Midwest that give little or no warning. Resorts and cruise lines want you back as soon as they can have you. There is sure to be compensation if your plans are blown away. (A friend was given full credit toward another cruise when Irma changed their vacation plans.)

You are not living dangerously by planning a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season. Just be as cautious as you would crossing the street and look in all directions. And on some of those islands hit this year the tourist dollars are going to a welcome sight for their rebuilding.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Books For The Road - Casey Stengel Mysteries

In anticipation of working toward a third book in this series I have combined the first two Casey Stengel Mysteries into one volume. Murder Among The Orchids and Death Among The Deckchairs are available in one book now on Amazon. Here are the teasers for the two:

Murder Among The Orchids: Among his beloved orchids, Mr. Popelmayer lay as if he'd gone down swinging. Casey and her detective friend, Max, discover more than one bizarre and exotic turn to the mystery of Mr. Pop's death. Did his daughter, Cattelya, or his son, Garo, want an early inheritance? Or perhaps his first wife has had her revenge. The answer lies in the Costa Rican Forest of Orchids.

Death Among The Deckchairs: All Casey wanted was a relaxing cruise where she could visit with her daughter, the cruise director, but suddenly she finds herself in the middle of a murder at sea. Who would have guessed the beautiful young woman dead in the deckchair next to her had an enemy who would use her love of the sun to end her life? When Max joins Casey, what she thought would be a romantic ending to her cruise becomes an intense search for evidence. Somewhere among all the dermatologists holding a conference on board ship is a killer. Is it the victim’s doctor husband? Or one of his co-workers? And how does the shark expert fit into the puzzle?

Two for the road!

Monday, September 11, 2017

I Don't Make This Stuff Up!

Being a novelist you might think that some of my posts sound like fiction. Some are but I always tell you when it's a short story or I'm promoting a book. This story is true and happened last week when Bob and I decided to get a little exercise at one of our favorite places, the CleMet Zoo. (By the way, the photos are of the new Asia Highlands exhibit under construction.)

We sort of have a route we take and we had just stopped by the medical center to see if any of the animals were getting a root canal or other procedure. There was nothing going on so we continued toward the bridge that goes over the creek and up to the tiger exhibit. There were several kids with their moms on the bridge running back and forth and looking in the water. As we started on to the bridge we heard the loud call of a monkey.

Hmmm, I thought. Is there a new exhibit nearby with a monkey in it? There are some changes going on at the zoo. New exhibits being started so it was possible. Most of the monkey and gorilla population though is way up on the top of the hill quite a ways from where we were.

As we passed the kids who were still a little excited and one of the moms Bob said to her, "I thought all the animals were in cages." He was being funny as she was trying to obviously gather her kids together to move on.

Her face pinked a bit and she said with a smile, "My son asked me to make one more monkey call."

"That was you?!" I said with amazement. "You could have fooled me!"

I'm not making this stuff up--but I am saving it in the file. It's sure to fit into a story somewhere.

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