Belle Isle, Detroit, Motown, RV Hall of Fame, and Cahokia Mounds

Visit Michigan and All its Lakes!

I grew up near Lake St. Clair.  Besides the Great Lakes there are hundreds of lakes in Michigan.  We caught up with friends one weekend at Indiana Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan.

Picture yourself Here!

Gorgeous paintings of animals outside the Visitor’s Center@

The Visitor’s Center is state of the art with helpful rangers!  Capturing the stunning beauty of the sand dunes as they kiss the lake is impossible. Your eyes can’t believe that anything can be so sparklingly beautiful.  Part of the excitement for the day was visiting the Bailly Homestead and Chelberg farm with lots of  farm animals. We also trekked into a dark forest of ancient trees to an unusual 200-year-old grave site.

Motown Record Company. Hitsville USA

How exciting!

Visiting Motown Museum in downtown Detroit was a superb highlight in Michigan.  My brother told us to take a gun.  Not so!  Hundreds of people were flocking to the two stitched-together houses on Grand River. Tom and I have watched videos about the music and musicians at Motown but had never considered how the record company functioned.  Nor, had we considered the millions of records it produced.  It finally sold for $61 million dollars.

Motown was more than sophisticated.  It had the music, but it also had the style.  There were people who recruited singers, taught them how to walk, talk, and to wear makeup.  They were taught manners, stage presence, and a fashion flare that made Motown one of the wealthiest record companies in the world.

We were there in that very recording studio!

Until I began studying music, I had never heard of “race music.”  Supposedly in the early 1950’s and 1960’s people did not want to hear music sung by African Americans.  Motown groups were so great that I never ever thought of race.  They were just talented people that sang tunes. We sang along to the music and danced to their beats.  We were not racists!  And my parents loved Elvis, who supposedly sang “race music!” Here is a video about the music!  Click here!

I lived only about 12 miles away from Motown headquarters and its music is still with me every day of my life.  There was the Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Lionel Ritchie, The Temptations, The Supremes, and more.  And, we looked forward to hearing and seeing them dance on The Dick Clark Show.  Even this morning, every time I heard a Motown tune on my MP3 player, I walked a little  faster with a smile on my face!  Thank you Motown!!!!

Belle Isle and the New Detroit

Historic post card of Belle Isle!

Detroit was a safe and easy-going city when I was a kid.  We would take the bus downtown to department stores and shop for the day. Sometimes we would stop for a Cherry Coke and French fries before heading home.  When I was in seventh grade, I rode a bus by myself to the Wayne State University Library to work on a paper about the history of Egypt.  Those days seem like a myth now!

Another post card of Belle Isle.

After visiting Motown, I had to circle Detroit.  The Detroit I knew is mostly gone.

1950’s in Detroit. What a magnificent place to live!

We got a glimpse of Cobo Hall sitting on the Detroit River.  It has had a make-over.  Next it was a jaunt to Belle Isle.  Belle Isle was “the” place to go when I was young.  There was a zoo.  There was an amusement park.  There were flowers and cascading waterfalls.  There was a beach.  There was an arboretum.  It had an aquarium.  It reminded you of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.  Today, there is nothing left of that beauty.  It has all been torn down, and in its place, there is a wasteland.  How sad! My brother told me that while we were there a man was murdered on the bridge going across to the island. Ouch!

Detroit today! No Federal’s Department Store, No Hudson’s, No Crowley’s!

RV Hall of Fame in Elkart, Indiana

Here is a home town video of the RV Museum.  Click here.

Mae West’s 1931 Chevy RV.

Fantastic! Mind-blowing! Beyond Belief!  This museum houses RV’s that go back to the first cars that were manufactured.  I took a hundred photos. It is a huge place but it should be three times larger.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site  (Click here to go to the website.)

Artist’s conception of Cahokia. The mounds are huge!

Cahokia was a welcomed stop just across the river from Saint Louis.  We were stunned by the size of the mounds that had been built so long ago. Cahokia museum is free but leave a donation if you decide to visit.  Here is a video for you:  Video

Imagining the people who lived at Cahokia. Why are Native Americans always shown with so little clothing? It gets cold in St. Louis today!

The museum is state of the art with an interesting video.  The archaeologists and anthropologists attempt to reconstruct the Mississippian culture.  (This takes a lot of guess-work!) If you have read a history of Missouri, you know that there was a huge mound exactly where St. Louis sits today.

Their website reads:  “The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia.”  This is worth a visit!

Home at last!

Tom and I will be heading to Florida to take up residency soon!  We will split our time between Florida and Missouri, with, of course, a trip north during the heat of the summer!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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In What Country are We? Do I need my Passport?

“You aren’t from around here, are you?”

We had entered a time machine!

Late at night we could hear the constant sound of trains, eighteen-wheelers gunning their engines, motorcycle enthusiasts, and the clickety clack of horses and carriages going by our door.  We were at the world famous Newmar Service Center in Napannee, Indiana.  Our motorhome had issues that only Newmar could fix.  These problems had to be fixed before our warranty ended.  We were stuck in Anabaptist territory for a week.

Inside their spotless service center. Our motorhome seemed to like it.

The ultra-modern new Newmar Service Center!

At the check-out stand at the local grocery a woman said, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”  The next morning at an Amish Dutch restaurant, the server asked the same question. Maybe it was the fact that I was not wearing an ankle length skirt and a bun on my head that tipped them off. Maybe it was the fact that I was the only woman dining at the restaurant.  The server explained that Nappanee is only a town of 7,000 and a lot of people know everyone in town.  Huh?

The waiting area for clients is stellar but it was still our prison for a week!

Look closely at this photo!

Forced to stay in Amish country for a week yielded great adventures. It seemed as if there were as many people in horse-drawn carriages as people in cars.  The carriages pull everything from other horses, equipment, or materials.  It was almost a shock to see female Mennonites with their long skirts and hat-covered buns peddling down the streets holding cups of Starbucks.  Men with two-foot long beards (no moustaches) wear straw hats or knitted caps. The beards flow in the wind.  Their bicycles pull carts, carry their pets, and usually have saddlebags on both sides.

The Amish are partying at the Dairy Queen!

Sometimes they peddle tricycles with a cart behind, especially to the grocery store.  On a Wednesday night, at the Dairy Queen we encountered a dozen Amish folk who were meticulously dressed in line ahead of us.  I figured that they had just had a meeting.  They all sat together and did not interact with anyone else in the restaurant.  I said hello to one young man and his eyes beamed with joy.  Throughout our stay we waived to many Amish and Mennonites. And they waived back!

Shopping at a local grocery store and leaving poop behind! Yuk!

Little did we know the beauty of Amish homes and farms.  Everything is perfect!  Grass is mowed, paint is new, horses are in the fields.  Gorgeous!  They live on two lane roads and have businesses far away from town.  In between farms, you will find wood-working, or canning, or quilting, or furniture-making shops, or a restaurant or creamery.  They build their own carriages, buckboards, and wagons.  One store sold ready-made carriages.  He displayed them on his front lawn. We felt as if we had left the United States or at least gone back in time.

We went back twice for the great food, and it was 30 miles away.

If we look like we have gained 100 pounds, it is because of the fantastic Amish pastries, pies, cheeses, and home-made chocolates.  While the main menus in the restaurants were normal country food, the desserts sent you flying.  We even ate a couple of meals at a local grocery store, Martins.  Their food was better than most of the restaurants where we dined, and the pies were only $3.99–FRESH!  Visit Shipshewana someday, you will want to stay just because of the food.

The Amish guys at the Newmar plant peddle to work.

Amish pay taxes, but do not collect Social Security.  They can opt out of paying it when they sign up for a card.  Some vote!  Most have 8-10 children that only go to the sixth grade.  They do not have electronics in their homes.  (I bet they have cell phones?)  They do not drive cars and only use a small bit of electricity. (But, interestingly enough, while touring a Newmar motorhome plant, the guide told us that the Amish drive the trucks in the buildings.)

They can collect food stamps but decline.  They are among the wealthiest group of farmers in the United States.  On our tour of Newmar, only males worked in the factories.  Read about them on line!!!  Nappanee houses the second largest group of Amish in the country.

While this is Amish territory, it is also Anabaptist territory.  These hearty souls were known as twice-baptizers in the 16th century and broke with the Roman Catholic Church, not without much pain and torture. Originally within Mennonite groups, they are now separate.  There are many other Anabaptist groups such as the Bruderhof, Hutterites, and more.  Just around the corner from Nappanee is the Anabaptist Seminary and close by is the Mennonite Goshen College.

Founders Building but it is no longer.

While in Indiana we had the opportunity to visit Fort Wayne.  This is where I received my B.A. so long ago.  The college is defunct, but I thought the buildings would still be standing.  Wrong! Most of the college is gone.  I did find my old dorm.  I kept thinking about this private college sponsored by The Missionary Church.

I knew when I was a student that the college had warm relations with the Mennonites in the area.  Some said that it broke away from the Mennonites. (Who cares about these things when you are 17 years old?) While in college, I was assigned extra-curricular activities at Mennonite Churches.  After researching the history of The Missionary Church during our stay in Indiana, I found, “The Mennonite Brethren in Christ changed their name to the United Missionary Church in 1947.”  I was actually schooled by Mennonites! Who da’ thought!

When I learned this, there was an explosion in my mind.  My first major book was published by a Mennonite Press, how ironic, or did they know my past?  In Michigan, we knew nothing of Mennonites.  I lived in Catholic country.  When I was about seven years old, I picked the little 100-soul-Missionary Church as my church.  (My family was not religious.) It was my home away from home.

While the pastor was very right-wing and even preached against drinking, dancing, and playing cards,  I paid no attention to him.  He seemed a little weird to me.  They eventually convinced me to go to their denominational college and even sent me off with a few dollars.  Irony, Irony, Irony prevails!  Maybe they thought the college would convince me not to dance!

This is certainly a commentary on the Anabaptists in the area.

They have hitching posts like in the old west!  One of the women is pulling a trailer with her bike!

There are some negatives to being in Amish country.  Amish do not catch the droppings from their horses.  There is poop everywhere and it smells.  After a while you get used to the smell.  Local businesses have set up bars for the Amish to park their buggies or carriages and hook up the horses.  It’s like the wild west! They leave so much poop that workers have to scoop it up at the end of the day.  YUK!

Mennonite females work in a lot of stores and businesses, but I did not see any employed Amish women. We did see many Amish carts with several children hanging out the window, or a female clinging to two or three babies.  Old Amish females wear all black and a huge black bonnet.

There are a lot of different Mennonite groups in the area.  All the females wear long beautiful dresses.  Elbows are covered but the head gear and color of the dresses change so it is hard to know who is on which team.  In one store out in the country, I asked a female clerk if she was required to wear the dress?  She told me it was her dress and she made it herself!  It is funny to see a female with a floor-length dress operate a fork-lift!

If you have time visit Nappanee, Shipshewana, and Middlebury. We had a great time!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  The next blog will tackle our trip through Michigan and our tour of the Motown Studio.  I lived only ten minutes away and grew up with their music.

 

 

 

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Tootsie Rolls, Donuts, Dollarama, and Friendly People in Canada

Fear and Loathing on the Canadian Borders!!!!!!

(Kabow!@Bam!Yuk*#% Warning! This is not a pie in the sky piece. Tread lightly!)

Happily entering Canada at International Falls with our buddy, Smokey! Photo by Cindy.

I confess.  I idealized Canada!  We love Canada.  Vancouver is my favorite city.  If I had five million dollars, I would live there.  We have visited Vancouver many times.  Tom’s favorite is Halifax in Nova Scotia.  We circled the entire province in an RV.  Montreal is stunning and both Toronto and Ottawa boast diverse populations and lots of amenities.  We have camped along the spectacular route from Calgary to Jasper, through the Rockies, Banff, and the Ice Fields.  Then we headed East through the bad lands.  We expected our adventure around the north of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway to be just as adventurous and memorable.

 

Thunder Bay.  Can you hear it rumbling?

Thunder Bay is no longer Thundering.  I have dreamed of visiting Thunder Bay since our honeymoon 37 years ago.  Minnesota has been a destination several times, but there was never enough time to cross the border.  Who wouldn’t want to live in a city with that name?

I should have done my research before I began dreaming.  After checking into a very crowded, dusty, noisy, day care, and no WIFI KOA (Kampgrounds of America) we headed toward the dream.  (Campgrounds north of Lake Superior are lost in the 1950’s.) First off, Google GPS took us way past our target.  It happened to us again the next day, when we were directed to someone’s home. Google needs to talk to the Canadians.  I think I will find the number for them.

After getting lost, we decided to visit the Mission Island Marsh.  There were supposed to be trails along the lake and panoramic views of the city. We passed over a bridge heading toward McKellan and Mission Islands.  On the right side, just before the bridge, we saw two Orthodox churches.  We had to return.

Driving through McKellen and then, Mission Islands, felt like something out of a Sci-Fi thriller. Rusting structures flanked us on both sides.  Grass was six feet high in many places.  Debris was everywhere.  We wondered if there had been a nuclear disaster and we were the only people left on the earth.  The bleakness was interrupted only by two men directing one lane of traffic across a crumbling and sinking bridge.  We were not alone.

Very interesting walk into the water.

After crossing the bridge, there were no signs pointing to the Mission Marsh.  It was eerie.  No one was around.  We turned around and went back to another road where we finally found it.  Mission Marsh was a great idea.  Walkways went into the lake and grasslands, but no one was taking care of it.  The grand water view was of a power plant.  The best thing about the place was the oversized, clean, porta potty.  (It looked brand new.) Soon the bridge will fall, and no one will visit.  It will turn into another graveyard of decaying structures.

The Harbors of Marathon and Thunder Bay.

All over Marathon these houses were standing. Very odd. I found out that they were built by the railroad in late 19th century to house workers.

The harbor of Thunder Bay, like that of Marathon, a town a couple of hundred miles to the East has been destroyed and polluted by Big Business.  Marathon’s harbor is being remediated to remove PCB’s and mercury (carcinogens). The view from the hill to the harbor in Marathon is glorious, with small islands dotting the bay.  I could build a house there.  We found only one fisherman at the harbor the day we visited. (I would not eat that fish!) And I wondered when we camped in Marathon about the water we were using.  Eventually, the water flow diminished in our RV, so Tom changed the filter.  It was brown!

In Thunder Bay, old abandoned Silver mine buildings and equipment, defunct paper mills and more, block the gorgeous views of Lake Superior and nearby islands.  The harbor is so polluted that they don’t know how to clean up debris that would fill 130 football stadiums.  Around 1958, in Michigan, I was playing with my Brownie Troup in Lake St. Claire.  The next day, all of the Great Lakes were closed to swimming forever!  The next day I became violently ill and was sick all summer from the poisoned water.  It eventually gave me mononucleosis.  Pollution is real and harmful. We were told not to eat any fish from the lakes for ten years.

Those Churches!

Lord Jesus Christ Ukrainian Catholic Church

It was a good thing that we noticed what we thought were orthodox churches.  It diverted our attention from the holocaust sites.  The area had been settled by Ukrainians and Slovakians.  Houses were built so close that they were leaning on each other.  We haunted and stared at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Peter’s Ukrainian Church, and the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ Ukrainian Church, all within a block of each other.

These people had fled violence in their countries around the beginning of the twentieth century. We searched their history and learned that thousands lived here and throughout Canada. It was a haven for them.

The Trans-Canada Highway and Tootsie Rolls.

The vistas from the Trans-Canada highway are incredible.  Every turn presents a fantastic view of Lake Superior, its bays, and hundreds of tiny islands.  But, creature comforts lack for tourists. I woke one morning having dreamed that First Nations peoples were smiling and offering us Tootsie Rolls and donuts all along our route.  The truth is that many people are not very welcoming.  We can only speculate as to why they look downward and won’t speak to you. It was particularly obvious in Kenora.

They threw away the food! How horrible!

Entrance to the Finnish Restaurant. It was an old Finnish temple. We ate in the basement.

Service is so bad in restaurants that we left before we ordered.  At a Finnish restaurant in Thunder Bay, a table of four people right behind us got up and left.  They complained loudly that the food was cold, came out at different times, and it ruined their lunch.  We waited, it seemed like an hour, for our Finnish pancakes.  (We thought dining on Finnish food would be a memorable experience–and it was but in a different way!)  And while, as mentioned above, most people do not look at you, we did find two very friendly Canadians who shared their stories with us.

Gracious Canadians who Welcomed us!

Such a wonderful man!

Along the way we met Arnold, a First Nations Canadian at Pukaskwa National Park, and an Austrian, Sophia at Batchawana Bay.  Arnold, whose middle name is Eagle, was so interesting.  He told us about how the national park came to be and how long he had worked there.  He wanted to know what we thought of Trump.  (That discussion has to be private.)  He made us feel so welcome that we would come back to the park again just to see him.

 

Inside the restaurant. I forgot to take a pic of Sophia after I got the bill.

Sophia owns a restaurant, Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort on Batchawana Bay, that was built by her father.  Getting to this Austrian restaurant proved to be a little fearful for us.  Tom brought the rig with car attached down a lonely gravel road.  The closer we got, the more we realized that the place would probably be closed.  Yes, it was only open for dinner.  When we arrived, Sophia ran out to greet us. “Would you like to come in and dine with us, we are hosting a group.”  She told us the story of her family and life, while at the same time, asking us where we had traveled.  It was an unexpected treasured moment for us.

Natural Sites Without Critters!

As the RV sped Eastward, we discovered lots of mines, amethyst mines, gold mines. They have saved a lot of towns from bankruptcy. Clear cut logging has killed a great percentage of the landscape. We did not see any animals or birds. We wonder if the land is toxic.  I can’t remember any road kill either.

This is so different from Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, or Nova Scotia, where every day we would see a wild creature.  Here the only wild creatures we encountered were stuffed or made out of copper. Moose signs warned us often.  The signs were the closest that we got to a Moose. The only evidence of people along this route from Thunder Bay to Wawa were small rocks piled on top of each other. First Nations people sometimes attach beads to a stop sign as a way of reminding you that you are in their territory. The land is so harsh that it would be difficult for anyone to live on it.

The Hype does not match reality!

Here is another goose at Wawa!

Wawa was an overnight stop for us.  We welcomed the little town because it has a few amenities like a donut shop and a general store,  but it is also in decay.  During a very rainy day we visited two waterfalls, Scenic High Falls and Silver Falls. Both were found at the end of muddy roads that eventually covered Tom’s car.  We had to wash it twice before we got most of the mud off of it.

All across Ontario we picked up slick brochures but when we visited the sites, the reality did not match the hype.  Sault Saint Marie has more of those comforts we need in a town of about 75K. We found a well-stocked grocery store, Dollar Tree, and Dollarama (My favorite Canadian store.) just outside the city.

Downtown Sault Saint Marie (Canada side) is a grizzly, empty, dirty place to visit.  This once-beautiful town is dead.  Wild flowers grow in the streets.  It reminded me of some of the towns we found on Hokkaido, Japan or in Eastern Europe.   Helena, Arkansas would make this list too!  I am not going to mention Detroit.  We thought we would walk the streets and find a restaurant.  None was found!  We ended up in the busiest place in town — Tim Horton’s donut extravaganza–for lunch!

Tom and I have speculated as to why most of the towns on our trip are so depressed.  It could be the results of hundreds of closed mines and mills. But we think it is partially due to the number of Provincial and National Parks.  There is barely any room for development along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Fear and Loathing as we pass through Customs

Bridge from Sault Saint Marie to USA.

Read the rules regarding what you can bring back into the USA.  I called Customs and asked which lane  we should choose for our RV when entering the United States.  The lanes are small and we could get into trouble. They reminded me that we could not bring in any fruit, vegetables, or meat.  We are in an RV and have to have food.  We chose not to throw everything out.  If they wanted to throw it out at the border, they could do the work.

Taking canines across the border is mind-boggling.  There are three Federal agencies that have rules.  I worried about all the documents we had to prepare for them.  A specially-trained Vet has to sign papers and you need to show that the dogs have had their shots for a number of years. My Vet had the classification but was very stressed when we went through all the paperwork.  Dr. Hecker is such a good vet!!!

Crossing the border into Canada at International Falls, the agent never even asked us if we had dogs. (They did not bark at all.  They were so good!) We wondered if they would stop us at the border when returning home because of our pets or the food we had on board.  Shaking like a leaf, we entered the truck lane to cross the border.  We had all of our documents ready.  The agent asked Tom a couple of questions about his passport (only) and then waived us on.  He did not even look at me.  Not one person looked at the canine documents that were painstakingly prepared.  We were angry and relieved at the same time.

Mackinac City, Michigan is such a lovely place. This is a pic of the bridge to Mackinac Island.

So happy to be on USA soil (In spite of the cruel politics in the news every day.)!

A Positive Note.  We are now in Michigan and the temperatures and humidity are high and can harm.  We were so happy to be in Canada for a month where the temperatures hovered around 65 degrees.  And, while the harbors are polluted, most of the lakes and streams were crystal clear. It was a shock to see the rivers in Michigan (once crystal clear when I was a kid) flowing brown and ugly.  And driving was a breeze in Canada compared to millions of cars on I75 near Flint, Michigan and around Detroit!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  Soon, we will write something about our trek through Michigan, my home state.

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Circling Lake Superior #2–No Dementia Yet!

Canadian Natural Wonders and War History! 

Here is a giant sweep across the north of Lake Superior.

Our home for six weeks!

Typical Vistas of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway 11/16

Follow our Route! from Thunder Bay to Sault Saint Marie!

Follow the map from Thunder Bay east.

Thunder Bay

Beauty in Thunder Bay high above the city.

Kakabeka Falls about 20 minutes east of Thunder Bay. You can walk right over the falls! Awesome!

Persians are found everywhere in Thunder Bay! Tasty!

Just north of Thunder Bay is a great smoked fish and amethyst shop. We spent an afternoon digging for Amethysts at a mine!

The Town of Red Rock and Neys Provincial Park

On a day trip from Thunder Bay we discovered Red Rock.  It is named for the red cliffs around it, but the cliffs are now covered with trees.  At the interpretive center we learned about this mill town governed by a huge industrial whistle that told the people when to get up, when to eat lunch, and when to go to bed.

One of the best things about the Red Rock interpretive center was an underwater simulation of a trip around Lake Superior.  We saw fish, sunken ships, invasive species and more.  It was so real that it made you dizzy.

The interpretive center also described how German POW’s were housed at Red Rock during WWII.  They tried to escape through a tunnel and were later transferred to another site.  At Neys Provincial Park Germans were also imprisoned. After the Germans were moved, Japanese were forced into the prison. The Canadian Japanese had to sell everything they had.  We did not know that Canada had such harsh policies during WWII.  And we did not know that Canada was invaded by Germans who shot down 23 of their ships in the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  What a lesson in history!

We walked among the remains of the buildings. Metal and glass still sits on the ground from WWII.

This is a miniaturized site that imagines the WWII prison.

I have ordered two books about the evidence of how Germans invaded Canada and were off the Eastern shores of the United States.  I knew that they were in POW camps in Alaska!

Marathon

The best thing about Marathon was the hike that we took through the forest around the campground.  People had created little towns of trolls with houses, ladders, clotheslines, and more.  It was as if magic had happened and we were part of it.

Here is one little troll house! Keep looking and you will see more.

Pukaskwa National Park

I took this picture on a hike from hell above the bay at Pukaskwa.

Tom doing his thing in the Bay.

Wawa

One of the three gigantic birds at Wawa!

Magpie Falls on a rainy day in Wawa –down a muddy road.

Batchawana Bay down a long, lonely, wet, muddy road!

We met Sylvia who fed us lunch even though her restaurant was closed.

Sault Saint Marie, Canada

Sault Saint Marie’s locks are for “show” and don’t really work any longer!

This is a new way to camp. They said that they did not have guns, only children inside.

The Mackinaw Bridge. We were so happy to be heading back to the states!

This blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  One more blog will consider the economy and environmental devastation of this region! BAM, you might not want to read it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventure Before Dementia: From Tom’s Dashboard

Mini-College Reunion in Paradise²–Kenora, Ontario

The gathering in Kenora, Ontario. By Steve Riedel

When Ramona, the nicest person we know, suggested a college reunion at her home in Kenora, Ontario, Canada, what else could we say but Yes, Eh! 

Planning started about 8 months ago. The location was set, but we needed six people to agree on a date. Things worked out and we were able to include the reunion stop in our tour across the top of Lake Superior.

The group graduated from Carthage College, Kenosha, Wisconsin 38 years ago.  I had lost touch with everyone, until 15 years ago when my college roommate Steve, returned from a multi-year overseas assignment with the US State Department.

The Group.  By Dennis?

This small group initiated a reunion eight years ago, and I attended one on the Carthage Campus 3 years ago. The group is three males and three females residing in: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Ontario Canada. Several of us shared a freshman honors class in college and most of the group majored in liberal arts subject like: psychology, sociology, and religion. (I majored in Chemistry.) Four of the group are well-rooted in the Lutheran faith. ***I met Marla at Carthage during the last semester of my senior year so she is an adjunct member of the group.

The best place to snooze in Paradise.

Kenora is 100 miles north of International Falls, Minnesota. We have all heard of International Falls during winter weather reports, as it is often the coldest location in the USA. We picked up Cindy and Brenda at the International Falls airport, before venturing across the border.

With unclear markings of the driving lanes at the Canadian Customs for a Motorhome towing a car, Marla got out to ask directions. Big Mistake! The customs officer came out of his booth with his hand directly over his gun and ordered Marla back in the vehicle. With that disaster avoided, we passed through Fort Frances and head north through glacier carved rock and beautiful lakes. So many lakes! Check the map. If Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, then Western Ontario is the land of 10,000,000 lakes. Crystal clear water everywhere you turn.

Paradise home on Willard Lake in Ontario, by Steve Riedel.

The reunion started with a dinner Saturday evening at Dennis and Ramona’s summer place on Willard Lake. Paradise is a fantastic layout of three buildings (main house, guest house/studio and boat house), on a 2 acre point of the lake. The location has a very Zen feeling and is complimented with 2 Zen gardens. The Carthage group caught up on each other’s lives, while Dennis and Marla discussed world travel and archeological discoveries and myths. It is funny how the conversations picked up as if we had just seen each other the day before in the dorm or class room.

Paradise by Riedel.

Sunday at Paradise started off with blueberry/raspberry pancakes followed by water sports. We brought Princess Twinkers and Madam Hillary along and they made friends with everyone. (They even avoided doing their business in the Zen Gardens).

I thought we were in Japan! Dennis built this Zen garden… and others!

We were treated by Dennis to a four hour boat tour of Willard Lake, which included a history of how his family settled on this portion of the lake, and numerous references to scenes he painted. Dinner back at Paradiseof gazpacho soup was provided by Steve and Dixie. All the guests shared in providing the meals.

They launched the pontoon boat from this superb deck!

Monday, which was cool and drizzly, was a tour of Kenora. Sitting on the shores of Lake of the Woods, Kenora is mainly a tourist town, but it was started by Europeans in the logging and paper industries.

Abandoned Greek or Russian Orthodox? church in Kenora!

The town features Catholic and Lutheran, but also a Ukrainian Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. Kenora is also home to many Native Canadians, but as in the USA, they were not treated well by the invading Europeans. Many still suffer as a result of that today.  Post tour Ramona treated us to a dinner of local pickerel back at Paradise1.  John, the final member of the group arrived solo and joined in the dinner.

Is that Tom in the kitchen? by Cindy.

Tuesday was a venture to Ramona’s family retreat on Favel Lake. It took a 1 hour drive and 20 minute boat ride to arrive at Paradise2.  Ramona’s father, a Lutheran Minister, discovered and purchased this place about 50 years earlier.

The retreat has multiple cabins and lodges and includes a ice house, but has no electricity, no cell connection and limited water. If you want to get away, this is the place. The location is equally as beautiful as Paradisebut lacks the creature comforts we have come to depend upon. We had to boat in our food and beverage for the day. Between meals, we enjoyed the lake and touring the area. Paddle-boarding, I learned, is not my thing. Three of our group stayed a couple nights at Favel.

Best picture of the trip to Favel by Steve Riedel.

Marla and I said our good-byes to the group on Tuesday. We both agreed that Ramona was perhaps the nicest person we had ever met. We were also glad to meet her partner Dennis, who shares with us an avid interest in seeing the world.

I thought about how the six of us Carthaginians were still very much friends since meeting 42 years ago. Even though most of us are now orphans and are considering what to do in retirement.  Most have children they raised and who have left home, and many have suffered some type of tragedy.   And, we still share common values. Seems I uncovered another reason the decision to attend Carthage College worked out pretty well.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and Thomas C. Hemling

Title “Adventure Before Dementia” tune by The Wardens (Here is a link to their site, could not find individual tunes. They are one of our favorite Canadian groups.)

 

 

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Circling Lake Superior. Installment #1. Two Harbors!

Head North to the Lakes.  You won’t regret it!

We camped on our honeymoon and  Tom is kayaking again!

Almost thirty-seven years to the month, Tom and I honey-mooned in this part of the north. Our wedding took place in a field on a farm in Illinois.  It was a covered-dish affair.  Tom was working as a chemist in Chicago and I was teaching at the University of Dayton in Ohio.  We were too busy to take our honeymoon right after our wedding, so we postponed it until August of 1982.

I won’t show you a pic of the campground.

Our trek so far has taken us to a flood-ravaged RV stop in Story, Iowa.  It is one thing to read about the flooding, it is another thing to see what it does to people’s property and business.  Whispering Oaks was a mess.  We wondered if our RV would sink into the land that was water-saturated.

 

 

 

What a nation!

Hinckley, Minnesota was waiting for our arrival at the Grand Casino Hinkley run by the Ojibwe tribe. These Native Americans have it all together.  They have created a clean and well-run campground with lots of space to walk, bike, or play golf.  It takes me one hour to walk around the perimeter of the site.  They manage the landscape and buildings to perfection! We don’t gamble but we do enjoy the space they have created for other gamblers.

Such a creative moment with the Amish!

We know Hinckley well. Our favorite restaurant, Firestorm, had gone out of business.  In the parking lot of the Fire Museum, we bought pastries, once again, from an Amish family.  The town itself is sinking into the ground, like so many other small rural villages in Minnesota.

The Slewfoot Women!

On a Sunday evening we visited the local St. Paul Lutheran Church to hear the Slewfoot Family perform. Their music seemed as if came from another time and place.  All eight children, including the mom, played string instruments with a flute here and there. The children’s ages ranged from 25 to 8. And all were home-schooled.  The girls wore long home-made dresses with knee socks.  The boys looked more normal.  I kept wondering if they were part of an intentional community or “Children of God.”  I did not ask.  In between singing high-pitched tunes that sounded like they were from Appalachia, they danced jigs with tap shoes.

Talented but in a very different way.

The Slewfoot Family performed 220 times last year in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  I wondered if the older children went to college. I wondered if any of them could separate themselves from the family, ever.  Apparently, none of the children have full-time jobs.  They are proud to announce that they don’t have internet at home or a Facebook page.  The father works and supports all of them.  I am still thinking about those children and that family that lives in a Minnesota town of 350 people!

Twin Harbors was only a hundred miles away from Hinckley.  On our way we drove through Duluth.  This is Bob Dylan territory.  Duluth is situated on a huge hill across from Lake Superior.  The town and port are stunning.  It is a destination! Thirty-seven years ago, there was only a two-lane road that went from Superior, Michigan to Duluth, Minnesota. Now there are highways piled on top of each other.  On our way to Minnesota 61, we traveled underground.  If you ever have a chance to visit Duluth, do it!

Two Harbors Lighthouse from a Kayak!

Two Harbors has grown up. It used to be just a gas stop on the way to natural wonders, now it is a welcoming town.  The city has its own RV campground and just enlarged it to accommodate modern RV’s.  They knew what they were doing when they created Burlington Bay Campground that overlooks Lake Superior.  What a place! We are sitting on a hill, with lots of space around us, looking at the water.  You can’t find a better campground than this one!  The facilities are stellar!

#13b in Burlington Bay. Our resting spot for a few days.

Tom and I had planned to stay in Bozeman, Montana next summer.  We fell in love with the town last summer, but the campgrounds around it were less than desirable.  They pack RV’s on top of each other.  We found a spacious and open campground about forty miles from the city.  Forty miles is a long way to travel if you run out of milk or bagels.

Need a quiet moment?

After only spending one night in Two Harbors, we knew that we would be coming back.  Tom booked us here next year for two weeks.  Why is Two Harbors so much better?  The temperatures are cool, and the mosquitos are few.  There is plenty of room to walk our beloved canines.

Dream, dream and you will find a cottage by the sea.

We are camping next to a beautiful lake.  I can walk down to a historic lighthouse and mesmerizing port in about twenty minutes.  We can bike to state parks.  Tom can kayak on the lake.  There is a golf course across the street and a Dairy Queen only a minute away.  Restaurants and businesses abound about one-half mile from the campground.  And, there is a grocery store only two minutes away.

Gorgeous! Split Rock Lighthouse

During our visit to Two Harbors we tried to visit Gooseberry Falls State Park but could not find a place to park.  Tom recalled that this had happened to us in the past.

We went on Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.  (Admission was $10 and $8, but it was worth it.) We have visited lighthouses from Maine to Oregon and more, but this lighthouse was different.  The Minnesota Historical Society has created a video about its history and restored the grounds.  Who would have thought that so many ships and people died in the waters of Lake Superior before the lighthouse was built?  The renovated lighthouse has been made it into a spectacular place to learn about maritime activities.

Take a walk with us!

There is a walkway of a thousand steps (hyperbole) down to the lake and plenty of other opportunities to hike.  An old forgotten tramway habited this pathway.  If you are not in shape when you start the descent, you will be when you go back up the hill.  The wooden steps reminded me of Shinto shrines dedicated to Amaterasu in Japan where wooden steps circled around a hill that displayed a shrine at the top.  The steps were a form of meditation.

Nice place to live if you want to be alone!

So much work was involved in maintaining the lighthouse that three families were employed to take care of it. ( In an old photo, there were six houses on top of this hill.) Thus, three houses were built for them.  Supplies had to be brought in by boat until highway 61 was built.  What a treat to visit this place!  Thank you, Minnesota!

Tomorrow we are heading toward Kenora, Ontario in Canada to catch up with some of Tom’s classmates. Then, we resume the trek around Lake Superior.

Tom sends greetings from his kayak on Lake Superior.  How does he take those photos?

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Ain’t Nothing Better Than Kansas City Music. From Tom’s Dashboard!

Six Weeks of Fantastic Music in Kansas City

Since semi-retiring our world has become filled with music listening and performing.  Marla studied music history, theory and piano, and I have become a student of guitar technology.   Stellar events engage us and teach us about the power of music.

Uptown Theater – Randy Rainbow

Here’s Randy!

We were under some pressure to leave the palm trees, ocean, and warm weather of Florida because we had tickets for the Rainbow event. Mr. Rainbow creates fantastic musical parody videos. We have enjoyed him on YouTube (click on YouTube for an example) and decided to take in the show in spite of the price exceeding our usual $15 limit. Randy Rainbow’s vocal talents match his creativity and humor. There was exceptionally high energy in the audience even before the show started and it only increased once Randy came on stage. Before he sang one note, the audience gave him a standing ovation.  We found a community!  Money well spent. (If you worship Trump and associates, you might want to skip the video.)

BB’s Lawn-side BBQ

BB’s is a barbecue dive, serving up blues six days a week.  Not sure where the lawn-side fits in, unless you’re counting the outdoor dining that overlooks the asphalt and gravel parking lot. For a $3 – $5 cover charge, you get your fill of Blues at BB’s.

BB’s:  Brandon Hudspeth and Randy McAllister, “Magic Men”

Randy and Brandon

Brandon is my guitar instructor when he’s around, but he travels extensively with Randy McAllister and others. They make a great duo with Brandon on guitar and vocals, and Randy on harmonic, vocals and drum. What a voice! (and that’s singing with a sore throat). They play mostly original work with some adaptations of blues standards. Now if I could just become infected with Randy’s voice and Brandon’s guitar skills, I might be able to set up on the street corner….

BB’s:  Fiona Boyes,  “Strong Women Everywhere”

One of the many guitars that Fiona played.

What a character!

BB’s  monthly calendar is a mix of 10-12 different local, mostly male bluesers, so when the schedule showed a female blues musician from Australia we had to take in it. Fiona is a one women band, playing a variety of guitars, tapping some foot drums and singing. I am not sure how to exactly classify her music other than its clearly rooted in the Delta blues. Her energy was over the top,  so she clearly was not suffering from any sort of jet lag. Turns out she was the lead guitar instructor at the Pinetop Perkins Blues Camp in Clarksdale, MS,  I attended in June.

BB’s:  Jaisson Taylor

Jaisson is one of Marla’s favorite Blues players.  He can hold an audience spellbound, especially with his rendition of “Candy Man.”

A Real Talent, Jaisson!

Knuckleheads :  Igor and the Red Elvises

High energy is the name of the game for Igor!

If you have never been to Knuckleheads try taking in at least one show to check out the venue — and to people watch. Knuckleheads is on many musician’s bucket list. Its KCs leading honky-tonk. We have followed the Red Elvises for about 8 years and Marla has written a biography of Igor’s life, Igor and the Red Elvises. In Florida, we took in two of their shows, and now one in KC. (They are returning to KC in September.) Marla received a shout out from Igor and a signed drumstick from “ Jasmin,” the beyond great drummer. Always an entertaining show with such high energy and clever lyrics you almost miss the exceptional musical talent. Since the latest show I am thinking about acquiring a red bass balalaika, but that is another story.

The Gin Mill on 135th:  Levee Town with Randy McAllister.

Levee Town

This is a new venue that has no cover charge and is only eight miles from home, so we had to check it out. Music is offered four nights a week including a jam session on Thursday evening. Levee Town is Brandon Hudspeth’s group that plays mostly original blues. “Do-Si-Do with the Devil,” is a startling picture of a love-hate relationship. WOW!  They have a new CD coming out later this year. The Gin Mill is upscale compared to BB’s or Knuckleheads, although the food menu needs some improvement.  Don’t order the Mac N’ Cheese.  The joint was full for this show, as Brandon and Levee town have a strong local following. Randy added energetic harmonica playing to the mix.

New Theater Restaurant:  Buddy Holly

We did not realize how many of their songs we knew!

What a show! This venue is a buffet dinner theater. Given our musical interests we decided to take a chance on the Buddy Holly musical performance. Don’t go for the food – very average. This show, however, was over the top. It showcased Buddy Holly’s fantastic but short-lived career. The Beatles were inspired by Buddy Holly and the Crickets and took the name “Beatles” to mimic them. “Hello Baby ….”  Neither of us had ever really followed the Big Bopper or Ritchie Valens, friends of Holly.  Their performances kept Marla out of her seat screaming like …

First Baptist Church Jazz Vespers 

First Baptist offers a free Jazz program the third Sunday of every month. (Free, but a collection plate is passed, and you have to sit through a short sermon). We have enjoyed two  shows this past month.

First Baptist:  Millie Edwards

Millie is the preeminent gospel singer in town. Her mesmerizing voice and connection with the audience is unforgettable.  When she sings “His Eye is On the Sparrow,” your mind melts with the Infinite.  She is truly an amazing singer and entertainer.

Millie can take you to the stars with her music.

First Baptist:  Charles Williams Trio

We were aware of Charles Williams’ stellar piano skills from his work with the KC Jazz Orchestra, performances with Spirituality & All That Jazz, and with Eboni Fondren, so this show was a must see. The Trio played 90 minutes of mostly instrumental Jazz. Keys, bass and drums never sounded so good. Charles, a humble and gentle 63-year-old, is a KC legend on keyboard and has played around the world.

Marla was really happy to see that Williams played on a high-end Yamaha keyboard.  Her first Yamaha keyboard was 77 keys.  She thought that it would be enough.  It wasn’t. Middle C is not in the middle and when playing you feel like you are falling left.  Also, the Yamaha had keys that were really easy to play without much resonance.  Almost five years to the date,  Marla bought her second keyboard and it is a high-end Yamaha.  It has weighted keys and resonates just like her Baldwin piano. She knew the moment she touched the keys that it was the one for her.

Unity on the Plaza:  Spirituality & All That Jazz

Jameson is on the left and his dad, Jim Mair, is on the right! WOW!

This is the longest running Jazz Gig in KC, Tim Whitmer leads a jazz quartet made of highly talented musicians. Their show, on the first Wednesday of every month, typically features guest artists. Last month the multi-talented Kathleen Holmen from St. Joseph joined on vocals, piano and trombone (yes trombone). Jim Mair’s 12-year-old son, Jameson, also joined for three songs on trumpet. This is always a bargain at eight dollars, but ask for the non-senior discount.

Last week Tom DeMasters, gifted KC singer and guitar player, headlined the night at  Unity.  He easily took us back to the sixties and it felt as if Elvis had not left the room!

Tom DeMaster’s teaching Tom Hemling a few chords and scales.

Holmeswood Baptist Church Community Chorus

Marla got us started on this. We continue to enjoy meeting and singing with this group.  The Chorus has weekly rehearsals and performances at senior centers and nursing homes about twice a month. The chorus is 40 mostly retired people, and about half are members of the Holmeswood Baptist Church. The music we perform is a mix of secular and non-secular, show tunes, gospel. We get to sing, socialize, and bring a little entertainment to others. What a great experience!

Loch Lloyd Turkey Vultures

The Vultures

Neighbor Charley German suggested forming a jam band. He has a very sophisticated music studio on the lower level of his home. Several neighbors have jammed there about 3-4 times. The five other jammers (besides me) have  performed in groups around town. I am a beginner-intermediate on guitar but took a chance to join the group.

Typical jam session goes this way:   Someone suggests a song and a key, and away we go hoping to match the chord changes and rhythm. The music is mostly folk-Americana-country.  I have never heard of half of the songs.  They haven’t thrown me out yet, but they might have my microphone turned off when we record. I am playing acoustic rhythm guitar(strumming) or singing vocal harmony (harmony = off key). I haven’t mastered doing them together yet.  Plans are to send in an audition tape for the Porch Music Festival in KC in September. Stay tuned.

Our next blog will originate from our trip to Canada.  Hopefully the scenery will be wonderful.

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and occasionally by Thomas C. Hemling.

 

 

 

Posted in BB's Lawnside BBQ, Blues in Kansas City, Igor and the Red Elvises, Jazz, Jazz in Kansas City, Kansas City Blues Scene, Knuckleheads, Music, Music in Kansas City, Musicians in Kansas City, Randy Rainbow | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Tom’s Dashboard: The Good Life is Now!

Maybe I’m just jealous.


Pinetop Perkins Foundation Blues Workshop

We returned to the scene of the crime.

No photo can capture the essence of the Shack Up Inn.

Those of you who read “www.motoringwithmarla.com” recall that in 2018 I attended a harmonica camp in Clarksdale, MS,  birthplace of the blues (sort of). You also recall that since retiring from full time employment I have a thing about guitars. We just completed 5 days at the Shake-up Inn in Clarksdale for the Pinetop Perkins Foundation Workshop: Masterclasses in Piano, Guitar, Harmonic, Bass and Drums. I was keen to improve my guitar skills, but funny — I missed that word Masterclasses when I signed up.

So, who is Pinetop? He was a blues pianist who originated in Clarksdale and toured with Muddy Waters before enjoying many years in a solo career. He died without heirs, but surprisingly for a blues artist he had a lot of money. He set up a foundation with two goals: 1) to enable upcoming young blues musicians, and 2) to help with medical needs of older blues musicians.  What a great guy!

Bob Margolin

“I wonder if they wrote a little something about me.”

The musical director for the workshop is Steady-Rollin Bob Margolin, also a former member of the Muddy Waters band and now a solo artist, record producer, etc.  What a talent and what a character! Bob Margolin is a damn good musician and band leader.  He is also clever, witty, and perceptive, and one of the sweetest guys around. When we shook hands when leaving Ground Zero, he apologized for not having time to coach me on proper palm muting of a Chicago Blues lump-de-lump. How many Grammys and blues awards does he have?– and he is apologizing to me?  If you would like to check out his web site, click here.

Sophisticated Guitar Players

The Pinetop Workshops are targeted to the young and the young at heart. This year was no exception There were forty-two participants, with about five of us over the age of 25. There were 18 people in the guitar workshops. I was the least young by about 40 years.

But what about skills? These kids could play. From the ages of 10-22 years, they could play blues solos all over the guitar. And they had the equipment. Pinetop offers scholarships to cover the workshop fee and housing so I assumed it was a program to help the disadvantaged. (au contraire)  These kids had $500 to $2500 guitars, and $1000 amplifiers. Several in the group were already professionals. Many were repeat offenders. They had been at Pinetop workshops several times in the past.  Pinetop is grooming these kids to be the next stars. They came from across the USA and the world, including France, the UK and Japan.

The Workshops

Our talented musician teachers!

So, what is a workshop anyway you ask?  I assumed the classes would be mostly blues guitar lessons, while learning new skills/techniques to move from basic to intermediate, to advanced.  Not exactly.  Each of the three days followed the same format.

Morning session starting at 10:00 AM  (no early start for musicians) was a “How to be a Musician/band member session” featuring life and storytelling from Bob Margolin, Fiona Boyes (more on Fiona later) and Anson Funderburgh. It was interspersed with blues music of a particular style with everyone given a chance to solo.

Memories

When Bob Margolin had the stage, he recounted a story of the Muddy Waters Band opening for Eric Clapton on a 10-week European tour.  Bob arranged for Muddy to meet Eric. He said he had the photo on his phone but couldn’t find it. Yours truly happened to have Bob’s “Chicago Rhythm Blues” book with the photo of Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters and Bob Margolin. The book was circulated. I now have the book with Bob’s autograph on the photo. (sweet)

The Drill

To start the morning sessions, the 18 guitarists, sat in a circle, 2-3 inches apart, guitar in hand, plugged into their 50 to 100-watt amplifiers. Everyone was warming up, or showing off with different riffs simultaneously, with the amps gradually getting loader and loader until the session started.  The wonder of the event is that 15 teenage boys sat with their guitars slung across their shoulders for ninety or so minutes while listening to life lessons talk from elders without banging on their guitars.

In the afternoon, we broke into three groups for 2.5 hours of hands on blues guitar skills lesson. I was in the 3-person, entry level group. We learned 8 and 12 bar blues, ways to add some ornamentation to the 12-bar blues, and a little slide guitar.

Each evening was a jam session, with the Friday session on the stage at Ground Zero. Ground Zero is Mecca for blues artists, and has been voted the best Blues Club in the nation.  If you have the skills and the means, blues artists must play at Ground Zero once in their life. I have now done it twice!

Fiona, Fiona, Fiona

Fiona Boyes was the director of the guitar workshop. She hails from Australia and plays a broad range of blues styles on a collection of guitars including cigar boxes.  Fiona is described as Bonnie Raitt’s evil twin sister. That may apply to her guitar style, but she was gentle, caring, humorous, and inspirational in managing the workshop filled with “guitar heroes.”  She managed the program with a smile on her face and a wink in her eye, adapting to the situation when demanded. She is a strong woman in a field of men.

My Thoughts (Photo below is from Ground Zero)

This youngster  was 11 years old. He played and sang, “The Homework Blues.” WOW!

 

So, am I jealous of the youngsters?

Tom’s debut on stage at Ground Zero.

 

I grew up in a lower middle-class family. No money for any kind of camps or any instruments. But I was able to get a great education, have a fantastic career,  travel the world, and share the experience for the past 38 years with the most wonderful companion I could imagine. (“Is he kidding?” says Marla.)

No reason to be jealous, right. But if I could only manage to get my hands on an Eighty-five-Watt Fender Twin Reverb….

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and Thomas C. Hemling

Our next posts will probably come from the great country of Canada.

 

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Flashbacks and The Monkey God

Ciudad Blanca, “the White City”

A couple of years ago, I read a review of Douglas Preston’s, “The Lost City of the Monkey God.” Since I had studied archaeology, and even taught it, I wanted to read about the new archaeological find in Honduras.  The book sold for about $25 and I usually don’t spend that much money on books, so I ordered it from the library.  But I was 150th on the list to read it.  Of course, I gave up, but I saved a clipping of the review.

Recently I went online to find the book again and “low and behold” it sold for about $3.00 on Amazon.  This was right in my price range.  I promised myself that I would read the book while Tom was practicing guitar at the Pinetop Perkins Workshop in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Lidar creates a 3-D image!

The story of discovering and then plotting this archaeological dig using Lidar technology was fascinating. Lidar technology is used by our military for a variety of secret missions.  It can penetrate/see through anything on the earth’s surface to several feet below.

Mosquitia is an area in Honduras that has been lost for at least 500 years.  (The locals believed in a legend of a huge lost white city in the jungle.)  It is so remote that when the scientists began to explore it, they found no human beings.  Animals were not even afraid of the team, presumably because they had never seen humans.

The “FIND!”

This book is full of adventure that keeps you spellbound.  Preston describes the thickness of the jungle, their primitive make-shift sleeping arrangements, and details of attempting to chart what Lidar had uncovered. His descriptions are more than marvelous. The group did find a million-dollar cache of artifacts that are now housed in Honduras.

As I followed Preston and all the Ph.D. specialists, Honduran military, politicians, scientists, and more, I began having flashbacks.  I experienced many of the same things they had experienced on my first trip abroad to Sierra Leone, West Africa when I was 21 years old.  The trip was a way for me to scout  Africa to determine if I would take a job offer.

The mud was 6 inches deep.

Preston painstakingly describes machetes cutting holes in the overgrowth that looked like green tunnels. He said that it was like night inside of these pathways.  On a safari in Sierra Leone, my hosts did the same thing.

I did not even understand what the word “safari” meant. I thought we were just going into the bush.

Beautiful Colobus monkey!

As the locals cut through the cane and huge vines in Sierra Leone, we came to a small clearing.  We looked up to hear and see Colobus monkeys (white-faced monkeys) screaching down at us.

Preston describes similar white-faced monkeys that circled their camp. The animals were gorgeous.  All of a sudden, I heard a pop and one of them fell to the ground.  I screamed! What is happening?  The locals told me that they were hunting meat for the tribe.  I will never forget those monkeys falling from the trees.  They hit the ground with great thuds and looked like humans as they lay their writhing in pain.  I was sick!

The jungle is dangerous.

I was told not to step on any green snake because its venom would go through my shoes.  Preston describes meeting a fer-de-lance (supposedly one of the most- deadly snakes on earth).  It can shoot its venom six feet and burn through snake guards on your legs.  In the jungle, it is highly unlikely a person could be saved, even with anti-venom.

The Cobras or Puff Adders looked like this!

I did not step on a green mamba, but I came within inches of three Puff Adders or Cobras.  I was walking back (by myself, how silly) from the local village and wanted to see what was in the valley.  As I stepped toward the edge of the path, I heard hissing, and looked down to see three Cobras ready to strike.  My heart beat so fast, I could not breathe.  I stepped back slowly and stayed away from that side of the path.

Parasites

At the end of the book, Preston describes how almost everyone came down with a potentially fatal and disabling parasitic disease.  It seems that they had been bitten by sand fleas that deposited the parasites in them. The book goes into detail about how millions of people have this disease and it has made its way into the United States.  Gone untreated, it can disfigure and eventually kill a person. But treatment can cost into the tens of thousands of dollars which most people cannot afford.

All of the archaeological team developed skin ulcers that would not heal, and after much research it was discovered that they had a rare form of leishmaniasis.  Leish, like malaria, is a disease that you will have for the rest of your life.  It can go dormant, but in times of stress, it can return and devastate a person. Preston has the disease and was able to go through the grueling medical therapy needed to attack it.  It is dormant now, but he has to get checked every year to determine if it has returned.  Others were not so lucky.

When I went on the safari, I was not told to wear protective gear or clothing.  I wore open-toed sandals and shorts.  At the end of the trek, my arms and legs were full of bites. I do not remember anyone sharing Deet spray with me in the 1970’s.  I also developed ulcers on my legs.  I don’t know if they were parasites or not, but it took about a year for the problems to go away.

Hiking down an unknown and un-named river.

Africa was known as the “White Man’s Graveyard.” 

Before Jimmy Carter’s administration changed the rules, the CDC required everyone traveling to countries in Africa to be immunized.  Today the CDC can only recommend. Back then, you could not return to the United States without the following shots:   hepatitis Ahepatitis Btyphoidyellow feverrabiesmeningitispoliomeasles, mumps and rubella (MMR)Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)and more.  I spent about six months traveling all over Ohio finding places that would give me the shots. Today the CDC recommends even more immunizations.  I think these shots protected me?  No one should leave the country without consulting and following CDC guidelines!  It might save a life!

Like Preston, I had to take quinine tablets while in Africa.  When we could find it, I also drank quinine water.  I was lucky because I did not contract Malaria, even though I had many, many mosquito bites.

Preston, tells his story, like a child in a new world.

When I visited Sierra Leone for the first time, I could not believe my eyes.  People lived in straw and mud huts and I stayed in them.  While the jungle was thick, parts of Sierra Leone were green and lush, other parts had no grass at all.  There were no roadside stops on the way to the interior.  The roads had to be managed by huge trucks.  There were no bridges over the rivers.  Like Preston, I had never seen a monsoon rain come across a valley.  It was so thick you could not see through it.

As I traveled in Sierra Leone, the sound of drums followed us everywhere we went.  Women were naked from the waist up and men bathed and defecated in very dirty streams. Downstream piranha feasted on dead animals while the Rhinos sunned themselves.  None of the locals wore shoes.  Wild animals beat at the barred windows where I stayed every night.  And nights were very long because we only had one hour of light created by a gas generator.

I was raised by parents who talked about white and black people.  In Sierra Leone, in a market in Freetown, I saw hundreds of shades of color.  The people were so beautiful, beyond any humans that I had ever seen!

I was a child in a new world too!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Click Here for article in National Geographic.

P.S.

Most of the images were taken from the net.  National Geographic has good articles online about this archaeological adventure.  But, the book is more than about archaeology, it describes big business and how Honduras was torn apart by wealthy men in the United States who did not want to abide by the rules of any government.  It is a sad story and a story that keeps unfolding at our borders today.  In a very real way, WE the United States, created the immigration problems that have devastated Central America.  Read his opinions!

 

Posted in Archaeology, Honduras, The Lost White City | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flip Flops in the Sun!

Silver Alerts, Thongs, and the Real Florida

Imagine yourself standing on the bank!

Visiting Florida in the winter can’t be beat.  Living there for two or three months can be a culture shock.  As Tom says, “Drivers in Florida click on their turn signals and forget them.”  Silver alerts abound.  News of missing seniors regularly flashed on the Interstate.

I have a theory. Remember the hippies, counter culture, and free love children of the sixties who dined on LSD for lunch?  Well, I think they all moved to Florida.  But now, they are in their seventies and eighties and well-worn.  We wondered if they had been out in the sun too much.  They still wear bell bottoms, long hair, and tie-died t-shirts.  As one couple in a multi-colored limping bus said to me, “If it walks and talks like a duck, it must be …”

Igor and the Red Elvises performed near us twice! They were in Cocoa Beach and Orlando.  Our favorite band!

A Love Affair with the Sand

It is amazing to watch beach-worshippers disrobe in cold weather while the locals are wearing sweatshirts.  While walking down A1A in Cocoa Beach, waiting for a concert to start, a naked woman passed by us.  Well, we thought she was naked.  We think she was wearing a thong and nothing else. It was 68 degrees or less.

Pardon me Boys ….?

Do you see that LSD in their pockets?

Florida is on the East Coast and counts more than 100 million visitors every year.  It took Tom and I several weeks to get used to the break or is it brake neck speed and lack of manners of people in the stores and on the highways. Shoppers would run right into you because you were walking too slow or were in their way.  If they wanted something, they would lean over you (touching or pushing you) and pick it off the shelf.  They rarely said, “excuse me.” While walking in a parking lot, they might try to run you over or trip you on the way to a door!  (How do you take a photo of this?)

Not in my back yard. We did not want to camp near this!

Are we Nuts?

This is only a small slice of the things we donated to SPCA. They were old and full of dirt and grease.

After considerable hunting over a few years, we finally settled on purchasing a “hut” (They call them executive suites.) at the Great Outdoors RV Resort (TGO).

This is a small map but you can see how large and open TGO is. The brown areas are roads.

The negotiations were painful because two couples owned the hut and were at war.  They had ignored maintenance on the hut for years while fighting.  Many things had to be fixed.  We knew of several before we bought, but others surfaced after the purchase.

We spent about three weeks scraping grease off everything, donating most of the dirty items in the hut, and painting the inside.  I spent six hours just trying to clean the windows in one room.  We had to throw out very expensive blinds because we could not get the grease off of them.

How about tearing out the siding and fixing this mess!

It took five buckets of water to clean a 10×10 room.  We also had to have the roof fixed, rotted wood replaced, a shower re-grouted, a fan installed, other electrical work plus the installation of overhead lights.  There is more to do next December.

 

 

Have you Ever Owned Palm Trees?

Small view of the hut and our RV.

Our hope was to find a very large double-driveway, open space, and room for our beloved canines.  Tom plays the guitar and I wanted a place for my keyboard.  RV’s can become very tight in rainy or cold weather.  We needed a bit more space.

Our street!

View from the screened-in porch!

Our unit at 130 Windsong Way measures up to our dreams.  The four rooms of the “hut” are about 600 square feet and our screened in porch is 600 square feet.  There is a front room with a small kitchen, a study, a man-size shower and bath, plus a storage room with a place for a washer and dryer.  The driveway can hold at least two large RV’s plus a couple of cars.  And, we are situated on a lovely pond, now named Harvey Lake.  Palm trees drape both sides of our driveway.

Our place is about ten minutes from the beach.  We are near the Space center and about 30 miles East of Orlando.  Canaveral National Sea Shore and Cocoa Beach are just hops away.

Come watch the Manatees!

Why Purchase a Driveway in Florida!?

View looking out to the driveway from the porch!

The problem is reservations. Campers have come to Florida for a hundred years and they want to go back to their old camping spot.  It is very difficult to break this cycle because owners of RV Camps give priority to prior renters.  It takes hours and hours to find a spot and when you do,  it could be one foot away from another camper.  It is a very stressful enterprise!

We discovered that TGO took one-month reservations for the winter starting in August.  We had bundled a few weeks together for next year but had gaping holes of three days where we could not find a place to stay! By August everything in Florida is booked, so you could not add to your vacation at this point.  It is a strategy they used to encourage people to purchase pads (driveways). It worked.  Some individuals rent their pads but identifying those individuals is a mysterious process.

The Great Outdoors is Different

TGO  (click on TGO to go to the resort.) is built in the midst of a 2800-acre gated nature preserve.  The park is gorgeous.  Most RV pads have space in front and back.  So, people have a lot of personal space.  TGO maintains all of the grass and landscaping.  You can purchase a small driveway with utilities for $69K up to homes that are worth several million dollars. Yes, they have huge garages for their Class A Motorhome beauties.

 

One of those multi-million dollar homes!  Notice the big RV garage!

 

Activities and clubs abound. Special events dot calendars around golf events and the local non-denominational Christian church.

I took this while it was raining.

It is a place to stay healthy and meet people from all over the continent.  There are miles and miles of roads, nature paths, ponds, dog walks, pools, and all the rest of the games you would find on a high-end cruise ship.  Plus, it has an 18 hole golf course.

It seemed like thousands of golf carts were parked outside the church on Sunday mornings.

Several exercise classes are taught almost every day.  There are two restaurants, a post office, RV service center, RV sales, a Nature Center, and a state-of-the-art recycling area.  You can bring anything to this area and it will be disposed.  People are connected by two Facebook accounts and receive monthly newsletters about events, classifieds, homes for sale, services and so much more.  I could go on….  Here is the main website:  http://www.tgoresort.com

Neighbors Made Us Feel at Home

What a place for conversation! This is our neighbor’s yard. You can see our RV across the street.

From the first day to the last people were more than cordial.  When exploring neighborhoods on foot, people would come out of their RV’s and tell us about a property and why we should purchase on their street.  Some even had keys to properties and willingly allowed us to tour the homes.  Literally everyone waves when they see you.  One evening we were walking back to our RV after a concert and a man offered us a ride. We told him that we wanted to walk. He said that was very sad because, “he wanted to get to know us.”  He was one of our neighbors.

All of the neighbors across the street and next to us welcomed us.  We have never experienced this in our entire life.  I wonder if it is that we all have so much in common. We all like to travel, to camp, own an RV, want to be in Florida in the winter, and, are mostly retired.  So, now we have email addresses, phone numbers, and already have been contacting our neighbors.  One of them is taking care of our “hut” while we are gone!!!!

Stuck in Florida

I took this photo as we walked to the Nature Center.

We had planned to come home three weeks earlier. But we had to wait and wait and wait on very slow contractors to help us.  No one was in a hurry!!!!  Some of the work was good and some of it was ….

On our way home we stopped to camp across the river from the Arch. It was an awesome view.

We will send more signals about this adventure when December rolls around.  Who knows, we might add some “before and after pics” of the hut!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

Posted in Camping in Florida, Cocoa Beach, Florida, Igor and the Red Elvises, Melbourne Beach, Sebastian Inlet State Park | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Borg Invaded Sebastian Inlet State Park

Sebastian Inlet Park is a Park Like No Other

Beauty beckons for you to return at Sebastian Inlet State Park in Florida.  It is located where the 121-mile Indian River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Any time of night or day you can see water flowing in and out of the Inlet.

The beach is more than a beach!

Sometimes flocks of white Pelicans take rides on the water that whisks them out to the Atlantic. My daily 90-minute walk included talking to hundreds of different birds, Dolphins, and people fishing up a storm. Water circles the campground!  Can anything get any better?  We were sad to leave.

Fishing?

During our first morning beach walk, we found people fishing who were not well-clothed and spoke languages that we did not recognize.  They were immigrants, but from where?  I wondered if they lived on the beach? or the jungle nearby!

The birds follow you everywhere!

Everywhere you look at Sebastian Inlet someone is fishing.  Heads and faces are bundled like women wearing the hijab.  (Are they hiding their identity?) As they walk or bike, dragging behind them are small trailers filled with paraphernalia.  They fish off the rocks, the beach, the docks, boats, the bridge walk-way, on the beach, from bicycles, and even from their cars. They use huge nets and bring in a dozen fish at a time!

My favorite bird photo!

This morning I saw a man cooking fish for breakfast on a little gas burner sitting on the back gate of his very old pickup truck.  He was not camping.  He was homeless because I saw the inside of his truck with his mattresses and belongings. If he was camping, he would have been at a regular site!

On my way back to our campsite, I passed by four male campers in a row standing at their respective picnic tables facing in the same direction, fiddling with their fishing gear. It could have been a movie!

Sanity, a place to purchase stainless steel jewelry. Very creative!

Sweet Awesome, yep that is her name, helped us!

Kayaking and More

Kayaking is grand on the Indian river.   Tom has had Dolphins swimming around him, and he actually paddled right over a shark. Yesterday, he a huge fish jump right across his kayak.  Park rangers have warned that there are alligators and harmful jellyfish just waiting to snap at a tourist.  But the kayakers don’t mind.  Adventure is the goal of the day.

The Borg

How ugly!

During our first week at Sebastian, we spied the steel dredging contraptions out in the water, but they were broken.  They did not make a sound.  One cyclops light watched us.  Then suddenly there was a loud hum, and something that sounded like thunder started the gigantic beating heart.  The steel contraptions came alive and began bringing sand through three-foot rubber hoses to somewhere south of the Inlet.  Click on this sentence to be taken to a link about the Borg.

This is the heart of the Borg!

Throughout the night the heartbeat continued and rattled our motorhome.  We did not bargain for this invasion of the Borg.  If you have watched Star Trek over the years, you know about the aliens, the Borg.  They are “cybernetic organisms, linked in a hive mind called the Collective.” They are to be feared.  I felt like these cybernetic organisms, the dredging machines, were killing the Inlet, or at least taking over its mind.  (You know the Hindus believe rivers are divine!) When I spoke with a volunteer at the park and told him about my idea that the Borg had taken over, he said, “I think you are correct.”

The sunsets were so beautiful that we stopped to watch them every night!

Sunsets on cruise ships are surreal experiences.  But, here, at Sebastian they are even more intriguing.  This evening as we walked the Indian River, watching the sun disappear, we smelled oil.  Yes, the Borg has killed the Inlet.  They have poisoned it with diesel.  We could see the oil pooling around the edge of the Inlet.  Where are the reporters!  (This might be a bit dramatic!)  Crews of men, dressed in yellow vests, swarmed to the Inlet while we slept. Poof!  The oil was gone!

Tentacles of the Borg.

Finding a Winter Home for our RV

Wintering in Florida at the Great Outdoors!

Last year we visited about 20 RV resorts in Florida to find a place that we might purchase or rent.  None of the resorts met our high expectations. Like Texas, Florida resorts jam RV’s together.  There is no room to breathe.   They choke your vision and your lungs.  Sebastian Inlet is a wonderful place to camp for only $26 a day.  We have no one camping in front or the back of us and there are at least 30-40 feet between camp sites with open space. The site next to us is so large that you could put six RV’s in it.  But you can only camp here for two weeks not three months.

Very unusual campers. They changed the placement of items at their site hourly! I wondered if they were palm readers?

We began our search again this year.  With a realtor, we visited RV pad sites with executive suites or as I call them “huts!”  They are no bigger than 10X10 feet and usually house a washer/dryer, make shift kitchen, and shower.  Many of the units we previewed were filled with mold and mildew.

Another sunset for you!

Yesterday we visited resorts where you could rent or purchase a pad.  (A pad is a cement driveway with all the utilities you need to hook up your RV.)  We don’t want to spend a winter camping near someone who has 30 years of junk sitting out in front of their RV.  (They are like the homesteaders we met in Alaska.) We like areas to be neat and clean with a little elbow room and a view.

The best place to winter an RV  (so far) is The Great Outdoors RV Resort in Titusville.  There is room between sites and when you are not camping on your site, you can rent it out.  They do the work for you.  I don’t know what we are going to do?  Will we purchase one of those sites?

Friends  are the Best!

We caught up with our friends Barb and Rick along the way.  We were so grateful to talk to people with a reasonable approach to life and politics.

They have sold their home and are moving back to Delaware. SAD!

We will be heading home soon.  I am thinking about uploading another blog entitled,  “Thongs, Blimps, Silver Alerts, and Pizza.”  It is still buzzing in my head.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

Posted in Camping, Camping in Florida, Florida, Marian Zielinski, Motorhome, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Two Drifters Off To See the World”

“There’s such a lovely world to see….”

Toad Suck and Beyond

Can you believe the name?  I thought it was a joke!

We know the route well, across Arkansas.  But, how did we miss the town of “Toad Suck?”   Yes,  and in an online poll it won the honor of being the “worst” named town in the USA.  There is even a Toad Suck Campground and motorcycle dealer!

Arkansas

Crossing Arkansas on Interstate 40 is more than dangerous with 12 trucks to one car — tooling down the road. Some of them were in caravans as far as you could see.  Our goal for the day was to land at the birthplace (so-called) of Elvis Presley. We have visited this holy site a couple of times but had missed exploring the rejuvenated town of Tupelo, Mississippi.

Oh, Elvis!  We remember you in Tupelo!

What an experience!

Tupelo will welcome you. Tupelo Hardware Store where Elvis’ mom, Gladys, bought his first guitar, was beyond charming.  Bolts, etc., were stored in old wooden boxes.  A well-coiffed and dressed public relations fan guarding the door, was full of stories and love for Elvis.

“People just don’t understand what a wonderful man he was.  He influenced so many people and came from nothing.”

Statue of Elvis in the Center of Tupelo

After our stroll through town, we stopped at a bakery, of course!  They were also selling chances to win a 6-caliber pistol.  Huh?  Is that legal?

Elvis was not at home when we arrived. 

Really? This has to be a reconstruction!

I made the holy circle around the home built (supposedly) by his father, Vernon.  More statues had been added to the landscape, and there was more “stuff” to do and view while worshipping his little home place.

There is a statue of a little boy Elvis.  According to legend, Elvis had his nose fixed early in his career.  You can find photos of him with a flat nose when he was young.  He said that his father, having a bad dream, threw him against the wall when he was a baby.  Elvis had Native American blood in his line and his great? grandmother bore many children by many men.  I always wondered if he had African-American ancestry too!

Did Elvis look like this?

 

 

 

 

 

Even a bus-load of foreign tourists, carrying hefty box-lunches, loved the museum and their moment of silence with Elvis.

The bus was so slick and the passengers were very-well dressed!

I always thought the cape-thing that Elvis wore was pretty silly. Did he think he was divine?

Elvis was a most-interesting and generous person!

(I have written a book about Elvis and a blog on Elvis issues.  If you are interested, chick on the links, and check them out.)

Sweet, Sweet Alabama

Heading toward Birmingham, the state sign, “Sweet Home Alabama” welcomed us! Remember that tune?  I don’t.  And the rendition is a little rough for me.  Click on the title to hear Lynard Skynard sing!

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you, here I come

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two (yes they do)
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue, now how bout you?

Next was an overnight at the very tired Queen Peach RV Resort, and then we headed for a night’s stay in Columbus, Georgia.  Arriving early, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center near Columbus was waiting for us.

National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center

The architecture is stunning.  It evokes Jefferson’s Monticello and even the White House.  Inside this $110 million dollar building (Yes, $110 million dollars.) are tributes to Infantry soldiers and the tools of war.  But it is more.  The exhibits and re-creations of conflict sensationalize war and personal sacrifice.  They are so well-done that you feel like you are in the war.  The violence is unbearable! Why do they need to re-create death scenes, when we see them every day on the news?

I could not stand the sounds of bullets, bombs,  and more.

One former infantryman came up to Tom.  He was young!  He said that he was fascinated with guns but never understood about the killing and war.  He has PTSD and visits the museum often.  He is a broken man who can’t bear to live because his friend jumped on a grenade that saved him.  He visits the museum often!

This museum is like no other that we have visited.  It is a startingly effective venue to recruit young people.  While not as many infantrymen have  been killed in recent wars (like WWI and WWII),  thousands and thousands (50K or more) have come back physically maimed and emotionally destroyed!  I tried to find the data on the soldiers but every site listed different numbers of deaths and wounded.

Tom kept asking the question, “What about the young men and women who return?  Why don’t they tell their horror stories here?”  Young people need to be told the whole story before they sign up to sacrifice themselves!

Wonderful Friends!

In Macon, Georgia we visited our long-time friends Z and Frank. We talked and talked and talked!!!

Skidaway Island State Park

Savannah, new territory for us, was our final stop on this leg of the journey.  Crossing the Moon River (Yes, the Moon River), we entered an off-world experience at Skidaway Island State Park.  Batman would have loved trolling around here.  Spanish Moss reaches out and almost suffocates you.  Don’t touch it because it harbors chiggers!

Does this remind you of the counter-culture of the 1970’s?

The whole park felt like a cave.  Kudzu (that vicious killing vine from Japan), Red Cedars, Palm Trees, Oaks, and Maples created a surreal and gruesome landscape.  In the evenings, you could not see two feet in front of you.  Where were the stars? During the day the sun never flickered through the gnarled mess.  Save me quick, Wonder Woman!

A fella camper extolled the beauty of the medieval forest to us.  I told her that I felt claustrophobic.  Her husband asked us if we were from “out west.”  (Is Kansas City out west?)  They said they hear the claustrophobic thing a lot from people who live in Colorado and big sky country!  This is cocoon country, and they loved it!

This tree could be a secret weapon!

Lovely Savannah?

A lovely home bordering the well-known Forsyth Park

People rave about Savannah. It was not what we expected! Certainly, it had plenty of graceful historic buildings, but I had a great need to take a pressure hose with bleach and wash everything clean on River Street and Factor’s Walk.

The Cotton Exchange is sinking! Built in 1886.

Talking with a bartender, we both agreed that Savannah was a lot like New Orleans.  To me, it was an outdoor museum that needed a bit of upgrading.

While walking around the historic district, we did not talk to single person who had a southern accent.  We heard plenty of other languages.  Even the store owners did not speak with a southern accent.  How odd!!??

We passed by gorgeous religious buildings.  The 19th century Reform Synagogue, begun in 1733, is housed in another building now! They claim to be the oldest Reform Synagogue in the United States.  And the Cathedral of St John matched the beauty.

This is not the original building of Congregation Mikveh Israel.

St. John’s

The best part of the day was the grand and expensive dinner we shared with Tom’s colleagues at Garibaldi’s.  (Tom was teaching a short-course he had developed with researchers from around the world, at the National Mastitis Council.)  It had recently been renovated “to appear as if” it was an elegant 19th century restaurant.

How elegant!

After leaving Savannah, we headed for St. Augustine, and are now residing in sparkling Sebastian Inlet State Park where the temperatures are in the seventies.  Look it up on a map.  The sights are more than gorgeous!

Join us!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

Posted in 19th century architecture, Camping in Arkansas, Camping in Florida, Camping in Georgia, Florida, Marian Zielinski, Mississippi, Motorhome, National Infantry Museum, National Mastitis Council, Savannah, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Skidaway Island State Park, Tupelo, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Paradise Broken ….

“Then war broke out in heaven ….”

Paradise

Déjà vu

In my early twenties, I was invited to visit Sierra Leone, West Africa.  After a horrendous flight and stay over in Dakar, Senegal.  I landed in Freetown.  What a historic city!   From Freetown it was an 18-hour drive in a Lorry over primitive roads (although you could not really call them roads) to our destination, deep in the jungle.  After about 10 hours on the road, we stopped at a place where there was a huge mound of “stuff” hidden under military camouflage. The guards sold us hot and no-fizzy sodas that were dug out of this big pile.  I went over to the pile.   All the boxes read “CARE United States of America.”

All of the “stuff” in that huge pile was meant to be given to the indigenous peoples.  But  it had landed in the hands of smugglers associated with those in government who stole the CARE packages and sold the contents.

What does this have to do with St. Croix? 

Trucks like these from New York were all over the island!

We talked to several locals and  industry people employed to reconstruct the island.  They told us of the government stealing money.  They told us of how the government is replacing all the telephone and electric poles and then they will replace those poles with composite poles in about a year.  Then they will put the utilities underground.  No one knew why two sets of poles had to be installed and then torn down.

Stories about how FEMA money, some say $85 million, has been awarded to one company to do the electrical work.  And other multi-million-dollar contracts have been given to a variety of companies.  Does any of this money translate to help for the locals?  There are too many blue tarp roofs left to think that the locals will benefit from the millions.  There are only 55K people on the island, you’d think that some of these companies could share the money with the locals.  These stories went on and on and on!  People are livid about their governor and how he lives like a king, while they have to stand in line for everything.  Sounded like Sierra Leone to me!

Living Through a Disaster

Walk this beach.

Over a year ago Hurricane Maria flattened St. Croix and knocked the air out of most people on the island. Some lost their lives and others lost everything.  The entire electrical grid had to be replaced and some phones still don’t work.  People have left the island in droves.  Some islanders were in their apartments when the wind burst through the windows and tore everything (including cabinets) off the wall.  Some lost roofs and all lost power and water.  Many homes in St. Croix have cisterns but without power, the water was inaccessible. Our local friend went to bed hoping her condo would still be there in the morning.  (We are so thankful that we did not purchase a condo in 2016.)

Snorkel forever!

Survival

Our first Venezuelan restaurant with corn Arepas!!

We were amazed at all the progress the island has made.  Yet not all is safe.  Curvy two-lane roads are still very dangerous because tall (10 feet tall) grass hangs over rails and the sides of roads are rarely marked.  Many street lights are gone.  Few street signs remain. GPS is a godsend, sometimes!  Food (everything) is extraordinarily high.  Cereal is $6.00, Off is $10.99, canned soup is $4.00. Just take your grocery bill and double it, maybe triple it.   Every meal at a restaurant is $40 and up without ordering a drink.  It takes months to purchase household goods because everything has to be brought in by boat or plane.  People wait and wait and wait!

Kayak until your arms fall off!

Weeping for Frederiksted 

Skirting police who blocked roads for a Triathlon, we made our way to Frederiksted.  The water to the west of Frederiksted was so gorgeously blue–our eyes were glued to the horizon.  The town itself, while still standing, took the brunt of Maria. Vacant lots replaced homes.  Many buildings reach out screaming for help. Roads north of Frederiksted are almost undriveable.  We gave up looking for the mysterious monk’s bath because the road was washing away into the ocean, and the huge potholes were swallowing our rented car.  But the street facing the wharf where cruise ships dock is almost totally restored.

A Local

What a great place to “hang!”

Tom has talked to several people about their experiences during the Hurricane.  I could not ask because I was afraid of the answers.  A kind and gentle local who works at the Shack at Tamarind Reef, said that after the storm, you did not come up to people and ask them, “How did you fare?”  She said, the first thing that you asked was, “Do you have power?”  And then you ask them how they fared.

There is Hope for More Jobs!

Beautiful Christiansted

British Petroleum is rejuvenating an oil refinery, and some are coming back to work on the island.  BP has purchased hundreds of new trailers for the workers that the locals are calling the “man camp.”

This photo was taken from the car. All of those boxes are trailers and they go on and on and on ….

(People who live on the island could use them!) It reminded us of Williston, North Dakota during the fracking frenzy.  Guys were living in trailers that vented on the ground (no sewer), or in plastic boxes with air conditioners in the Walmart parking lot.

Sail one of these!

Unfortunately, Violence is Escalating

Downtown Frederiksted is all patched up. But one block East is crumbling!  Of course, this is for cruisers who will enjoy the sea view!

Two days after we arrived on the island, there were five murders. Locals told us that there have been 55 murders this year.  The average per capita murder rate in the United States is 4.9 per 100,000 citizens. The rate in St. Croix is ten times that number.

This guy is wearing dreadlocks just like the guy who broke into the car. He looked very familiar to me. Dreadlocks are a fashion statement in St. Croix.

Unfortunately for me, I could have been one of those statistics.  I was standing by our rental car waiting for Tom in Frederiksted, when a car alarm went off about 50 yards in front of me.  I looked up and there was this tall dark-skinned man carrying a pillow case full of “who knows what.”  He looked at me as he crossed the street in front of me.  He seemed too calm.   I looked at him.  There was nothing I could do to stop him.  I froze.  A few minutes later two guys ran out to the car.  I was very grateful that the burglar did not shoot me!

 

 

 

 

 

Locals say the problems begin with drugs and drug gangs from South America and Puerto Rico.  They told us that drug boats passed right by our hotel room around 2:00-4:00 a.m. every morning.  A block or so from our hotel two Coast Guard vessels were moored.  A couple of days later a huge Homeland Security boat was docked near us.  They sported four 350 horsepower outboard motors.  This was too real!  We were spooked.  So, we left five days early.

We are hoping that things will improve in a couple of years.  Rumors say that the cops are selling drugs out of the trunks of their police cars and standing by while looting takes place.  St. Croix is in a battle for its very existence!  This is another type of hurricane they have to overcome!

Yet the locals were warm and inviting and hopeful of our return.

Meditate on this!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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A Room By The Sea–Paradise is NOT Lost!

There is joy in the air.

Click on the link below! 

“I’m coming back some day, come what may to Blue Bayou….”

Flying into Miami before we hit St. Croix was a treat!

Here’s Tamarind!

Two years ago, we fell in love with the US Virgin Island, St. Croix.  We even looked at several properties with an agent. Today it is like visiting an old friend but as we become re-acquainted with the island, we realize that some of our memories have faded.

Tamarind Reef Resort is and was our home for about two weeks.  It is a small boutique hotel with an outdoor Deep End restaurant, sand beach, pool, tennis courts, spa, and marina.  Every day the Deep End offers activities for those staying in the yachts at the marina and at Tamarind.  Our number 10 hotel room is 20 feet from the waves.  It is fairly large with a small kitchen, sofa, and chairs.  On a covered porch we can sit and ponder the many moods of the ocean all day long for $120 a day (off-season).

Our porch so close to the water!!!

View from our porch!

Beauty All Around Us

They were budding everywhere.

There are budding gardenias everywhere.  White egrets follow us during our morning walks.  Mongooses tease us. Hermit crabs circle around us while Iguanas slither on our porch with the Geckos and sun themselves by the water.

Palm trees sway in rhythm to the sounds of the waves.  Even wooly worms without the wool are criss crossing in front of us signaling the beginning of winter. What winter? And the water keeps beckoning us to come back to this place.

There are several families of Iguanas that live around us.

Tom wanted me to include this wooly worm without the wool? There were hundreds.

We did not know what these were little creatures were. They crossed in front of us often–Mongooses!

Where is the Charm or Culture?

We have docked at 30 islands or more in the Caribbean, but St. Croix touched us.  It doesn’t have the glitzy undertone that some have embraced.  Islands like Dutch Curacao lost their charm to casinos.  Many islands have turned into shopping malls on the sand. Noisy guys hawk tours and jewelry and free drinks as you try to enjoy the landscape.

Hurricane Maria kept us from returning last year.  This year we wondered if enough of the island had been restored for us to enjoy it. Evidence of the hurricane is everywhere. We have seen this type of devastation along the Mississippi and Texas coasts.  But the water and sky are so blue that you can’t help but ignore St. Croix’s need of repairs and upgrades.

Other Rooms

I met a couple from Denmark who were staying at the Cottages by the Sea south of Frederiksted.  They loved it because the units have large kitchens. You can find hotels north and southeast. We prefer staying on the East end of the island.

Here is only one building of the Buccaneer.

Only a few blocks from Tamarind Reef is the high-end and expansive five-star Buccaneer Resort. Hundreds of rooms go upwards to $500 a night.  None of the properties were directly on the water but the views from the hills were stunning.  It is a gorgeous place.  Here is a quote from their website:

THE BUCCANEER’S PREMIER GROUNDS FEATURE AN 18-HOLE GOLF COURSE, EIGHT TENNIS COURTS, THREE BEACHES, TWO POOLS, WATER SPORTS CENTER, FULL SERVICE SPA AND SALON, 24-HOUR FITNESS CENTER, THREE RESTAURANTS, BANQUET AND MEETING SPACES, AND A SHOPPING ARCADE WITH FINE BOUTIQUES.

Re-Acquainting Ourselves

I could sit here all day in Christiansted.

The island is only 27 miles long, but it can take you an hour to go from one end to the other because of the curvy and non-direct roads.  On the East end is the National Park Site of the town of Christiansted.  Its boardwalk is strikingly beautiful.

Ft. Christiansted is a tourist draw. It weathered the hurricane–just fine!  Looks like it needs a little paint!

We aimed to retrace our steps across the island and so began with a visit to Point Udall, the furthest point East in the United States.

We happened to visit Point Udall during a squall!

The Cruzan Distillery

Yesterday we toured the Cruzan Rum Distillery.  It is a lot smaller than  the Captain Morgan distillery not far from it.  We gave our guide, Shelly at Cruzan, two thumbs up for her presentation and tour of the rum-making-process  out of molasses which they import.  St. Croix, ironically, used to be full of sugar plantations!  Remnants are across the island!

This could really burn you! Molasses boiling and fermenting into alcohol!

But we wondered about the stories.  Jim Beam had bought the 300-year-old distillery and was using it as a source for the production of many types of Rum.  The fruit-flavored ones are the best-selling.  Jim Beam?  How romantic!

We began researching Cruzan and discovered that it is now owned by a Japanese company, Suntory.  Supposedly the holding company is called “Beam-Suntory.”  Shelly did not mention the Japanese probably because most American tourists would rather hear about their local and world-famous Jim Beam rum.  We wonder how long they will keep the distillery on St. Croix?

Crab Races and Jewelry from Heaven

You win if your crab makes it across the white line first! Thanks “Farmer.”

A highlight of the trip so far has been the hermit-crab races.  You pick a crab, name it, and then pay your entry in a running contest. During the last race our crab “Farmer” won a prize for us!  There was a lot of jumping and screaming from the peanut gallery as they watched their entries battle for the prizes. (Supposedly the crabs only run races one night and then are set free?)

Here’s Sue! Anyone want to market her jewelry?

Last time we were in St. Croix, I bought jewelry from a local.  (Saw her again outside the ship in Fredriksted.)  She was at the crab races also and I traded some cash for jewelry. Sue is very young and on disability because she has had four back surgeries.  Without meds she can’t move.  As a marine biologist she feels lost and so creates interesting jewelry. But it is not her dream life!  I went back twice and traded.  I wish I could do more for her!

This is my first installment on St. Croix, more may be coming soon!

Tom checked to see about rooms available on St. Croix after we leave, all of them are booked for the foreseeable future.  Probably, this is partly due to the “First Responders” that are still rebuilding the infra-structure.  At Tamarind, we were among the few tourists.  The rest of the rooms were rented to First Responders.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

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Grocery Gridlock and a Few Alternatives!

Some …

It may not be a happy for some who are very close to you!

Some might not like turkey.  Some may not be able to indulge in ham because of their faith.  Some might be from another country so they might not understand the holiday.  Some might not be foodies.  Some might not have relatives or close friends nearby.  Some might have abusive relatives or friends they want to avoid.  Some may have to work.  Some may not be able to afford a huge meal and all the fixings.  Some might want to do other things on Thanksgiving day than socialize.  (How about sleep!)

Some might be tired of eating the same thing over and over and over again.  Some may not have the time or energy to plan a big bash! Some might live in a very small space that would not accommodate a crowd.  Some might be Native Americans who know what happened to them after they fed the new settlers.  It is a day of mourning for them.  (How about all the fires, floods, hurricanes, killings, diseases, and general verbal abuse on social media that we experience?)

If someone is thinking of escaping a traditional Thanksgiving encounter, please consider a few alternative experiences that might fill the void during that week.

St. George Eastern Orthodox Church

Dine with the Serbs!

Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving the ladies at St. George organize a Serbian festival.  Have you ever visited Serbia?  No?  Yes?  We have.  Well, this is your chance to experience American Serbian culture without purchasing an airline ticket.  You don’t have to purchase a single thing at the festival.  You can join the crowds, music, and fun for free!

Strong, masculine music fills the air!

There is singing, dancing, lots of food, Serbian jewelry, clothing, and canned food (etc.). You can buy raffle tickets for just about everything.  A roulette wheel was swirling endlessly as seated spectators bought scores of tickets. (It was like a party in the Colosseum in Rome.) How would you like to purchase/win a fifth of Scotch for a $1.00?

The names for the entre’s reminded me of Klingon (Star Trek) food;  Bahgol, Bregit Lung,  Gagh, Gladst, Pipius, and Racht.  We purchased Kobasica, Prebanac, and Glovedji Gulas.  It tasted great!

What would you order?

Some of the cookies were a dollar!

St. George Church is beyond beautiful.  I could sit in a pew and gaze at the Iconostasis (image stand) (front of the church) and striking stained glass images in the windows for hours.  It is a peaceful place to sit while the rest of the world is partying.  A sign says that only 150 people can visit at a time.  So there is room for you, if you need a break from the festivities!

 

 

A stern figure, I believe?

Beautiful design!

Children’s Dance Group in front of the Iconostasis!

Consider Free Music Venues around Kansas City

Brandon Hudspeth of Levee Town at Knuckleheads. He can sure burn up a guitar!

On Saturdays and Sundays, Knucklehead’s offers free Jam Sessions featuring local musicians.  We heard Levee Town on Sunday.  They were funny and talented.  For a few hours groups take their turns playing for an appreciative audience.  Knucklehead’s also offers its brand of religion on Wednesdays with Carl Butler’s Gospel Lounge (Free).  There won’t be an altar call, just good old- fashioned gospel singing and music!

BB’s Lawnside BBQ loves to open its doors to new people.  On Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons there is “no cover charge.”  You can just come in and sit down, order a drink (soft or hard), and enjoy the tunes (for free).

Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge

If you enjoy sunshine–take a break and head north to the Wildlife Refuge. We did on Thanksgiving day.  We packed a lunch for us and the canines and made the trek.  At a break in Platte City (The girls needed to potty.) the parking lot of McDonald’s was full and more than 20 people were working.  One cashier had been there since 3:30 a.m.

Loess Bluffs is about 100 miles north of Kansas City off I29 and near Mound City.  We had heard about this place from a Kansas City reporter.  He takes his family to the Refuge every Thanksgiving.  That sounded interesting to us! And when we arrived, we discovered scores of people doing the same thing!

The Wildlife Refuge is amazing!  There is a 10 mile circle that will lead you to the promised land!  I have been to four countries in Africa witnessing huge flocks of birds, but I have never seen anything like the Snow Geese at Loess Bluffs.  Tom took videos.   I cannot load them into WordPress but I will point you to where you can view similar videos. FACEBOOK ALLOWED ME TO ADD ONE OF TOM’S VIDEOS.  IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, GO TO MARLA J. SELVIDGE’S FACEBOOK PAGE AND FIND THE LAST IMAGE!!

We parked the car and looked out over the pond straight ahead of us.  There was something white in the water?  What?  As we looked closer, it was millions of birds.

We did not really know what all of this was!

Here is another view!

They were moving.  And all of a sudden the sky turned black as they began to fly!

This was beyond awesome!

Here is another photo!  The sound was deafening!

They flew from pond to pond while we hung out at the Refuge!

This is an amazing place.  We saw eagles, Blue Herons, Canadians, all sorts of ducks, and a hundred other birds that we could not name!  We also saw scores of Muskrat houses.  I have seen reproductions of ancient Native American homes that look very similar. Wonder if  they learned the technique from the Muskrats?

Aren’t they cute!

The swans were gorgeous and they lived in all of the ponds we visited!

Loess Bluffs has a website and all sorts of information for you.  When you arrive, you can pick up an auto tour guide.  It was very helpful.  All of the videos have stunning shots of the birds and wildlife.  Go to the second video to see the birds in action. Here is the link!

Here is a link to the auto tour and map!  Superb!

Maybe we will meet you there next Thanksgiving!

Last Moment!  Did they forecast a hurricane or winter storm?

The Saturday before Thanksgiving I stopped to pick up a few things at a grocery store. Upon entering the store, there was total chaos.  People clogged the aisles!  I did not have a cart and could hardly make it down the aisles.  Lots of items were sold out!  When I went to check out, there were 20 or more people in line at the self-check-out.  It was overwhelming!  Every year I am shocked at the gridlock that we experience in the stores and on the roads.  One year, up in Independence, there were so many people on the roads that not one car could move at the I70 and 291 intersection!

There was no gridlock at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge!

Tom and I are off to St. Croix soon.  I will send up smoke signals as we explore the island once again.  We are looking forward to the Christmas boat parade that happens every year!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Missouri Jewels! Friends and State Parks!

Missouri Mines Historic Site is Historic!

It was raining.  It was cold …  and the windows were steaming up, so we thought we would head for an indoor experience.  The Missouri Mines Historic Site did not look too interesting on paper!  Who wants to go to a dirty ole’ mine?  But, I thought, it would make a great photo.  We have seen ghostly rusting structures like this one the island of Hokkaido, Japan; Bulgaria, Detroit, south Chicago, Minnesota, Helena, Arkansas, and more!  The St. Joseph Mining Company donated the property to the state in the 1970’s, lead tailings and all!  Below is only one of the buildings of many!

Walking into the rusting expired giant gave you an eerie feeling.  I kept looking up and wondering if the yellow-brown buildings were safe enough to inspect?  Outside the park office, there were two guys taking photos of one of the buildings. Whatever they saw in their three-foot lens kept them busy.  Click on this link to reach the park!

St. Joe Mine is a Jewel!

Glow in the dark rocks! Awesome!

Mark Hodges, a very knowledgeable Interpretive Resource Technician with the parks, greeted us.  (His father had a career in the mines.) We paid the admission charge ($4.00 a person and a bargain!) and entered into the mineral sanctuary.

On one side of the museum were restored oily machines that were used in the mines.  On the other side was a collection of minerals that were beyond anything that we have seen in the Midwest. (Yes, there are some pretty neat Agate museums in Minnesota.)  I asked if geology classes used the space and they do, coming from around the country to study the landscape and visit the museum.  The place is a jewel!  Click on this link!

Here’s Mark!

The Hazards of Mines.

Look at how much land was taken up by the mines!

A very-well-done 1950’s movie of the processes used in the mining of lead was played for us.  Remember the issues with lead paint and lead in the water in Flint, Michigan?  It affects the brain– big time!  Mr. Hodges came back to the small theatre and answered our questions.  We asked about the carcinogenic chemicals used in the process?

We asked why people did not have their hands protected and something over their nose and mouth?  (“They did not have laws that required them to do this when the movie was made.”)  I asked how many people died in the mines?  (“Less than you would think,” was the answer.) Were there fans to bring air to the miners?  No!  Did they go into bankruptcy, so they could avoid a clean-up?  “Yes.”  The poor guy sat there and answered everything he could.

These lamps were used by the miners!

The Department of Labor keeps statistics for each state and there were as many as 900 miners who died in any one year.  That large number dwindled to 13 in 2017.  I wonder how many miners died early or were incapacitated because of diseases related to their work?

French Fries in Missouri.

Mining for lead, granite, silver, and more has been going on in Missouri since the French owned the properties.  According to several sources there are thousands of miles of shafts and railroads under Missouri.  Many of the mines are flooded with water now that is used by the locals.  (I am not sure that I would drink it.  Uh Oh!  I think I did in Park Hills!)

A new style hat!

“More than 1,000 miles of abandoned multilevel mine tunnels that underlie the region and 300 miles of underground mainline railroad tracks that connected various shafts and mills are testimony to the 108 years of persistent mining operations in this area. Today, these mines, flooded naturally with ground water, provide a water supply for Park Hills and surrounding communities,” according to the Missouri Mines Website. Here is a link to an article about the clean-up! 

And another!

Mark Hodges next to St. Joe State Park

St. Joe State Park sits next to the Mining Museum with thousands of ATV enthusiasts hitting the lead dusty trails.  There has been a multi-million-dollar clean-up of the tailings or lead dust, but it is not complete.  You wonder why Missouri allows people to use the park? Could it relate to $$$$?   And I wondered after I left the museum if Mark Hodges himself was “infected” with the lead dust?  Did he not see the danger of working in that old mine office?  The entire area around the old mines has very little population. I need to read more about Missouri’s history.

Rain, Rain go Away!

Our hiking was nixed by the cold rain for the last couple of days in south-central Missouri.  We have decided to make Shut-Ins an annual trek when the leaves turn every year.  Next, we aimed the RV toward St. Louis to find Edward Babler State Historic Park. The park was almost empty when we arrived.  What a relief!  But, then,  they turned the water off and closed down the shower house.  Huh?  Twenty-four hours later scores and scores of trailers made their way into the park. How could they turn off the water and know all of these people would be camping for the weekend?  No heart or …?

Walking the lonely campground at Babler State Historic Park before the scores arrived!

St. Louis and Chuck Berry, here we come!

What a handsome family!

Memory lane kept us going in St. Louis.  We drove by the house on Howdershell where I lived when I was in graduate school at St. Louis University.

On the way to the Basilica Cathedral of St. Louis on Lindell, we veered toward Washington University where Tom spent a winter term.  Before we met our friends, we had to take a photo of the arch!

Pablo and Ines were close friends years and years ago.  We all lived in Kansas City and ate a lot of pizza together.  While they were here they had two children and Ines finished her Ph.D. in an area of Neuro-Science while Pablo worked with Tom.  They left us to work in China and New Zealand where we caught up with them occasionally.  Now they are back in Chicago with four lovely children and life keeps going on and on and on.  It was a grand reunion and the very intelligent children were perfectly behaved!!!

Sugarfire Smoke House, a down and dirty place, ran out of food!

We dined with them at two very unusual restaurants.  One of them Guidos, was on the Hill, a predominately Italian neighborhood!

 

 

It used to be the best place for Italian food, on the hill!

Boring but NOT to US!

I suppose this blog is a little mundane, with no exciting excerpts of grand vistas.  Yet, it was a great week and Missouri was beyond beautiful this time of year.  Life is good!  Get Thee to Missouri!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Thee to Missouri! 

Did you phone while we were gone?

We missed it all!  We were camping and there was little or no signal for most of the time! No robo calls from politicians, pseudo-social security police, or computer guys who tell us our PC is broken.  We missed the fifteen political “mean” commercials between the local and national news on CBS!  How lucky we were!

 

Roller-Coasting Across Missouri

The little Beetle was right behind the giant!

We are road-testing our new RV.  (Yes, you have to do this.) So, we brought the Beetle with us just in case we ran into trouble.  It followed the black and blue Newmar giant everywhere it went.  We broke up the ride to our Shut-Ins destination to a couple of days because the roads were so questionable.  A 3.5-hour drive from Lake of the Ozarks State Campground in Osage Beach took us all day.

It reminded me of the 12-15 hour rides we took as a child from Michigan to Holly Hill, Kentucky on old US 25.  We were up and down and around and to the left and to the right on the road.   This topsy-turvy drive kept me motion sick. 

On today’s trip the roads went in every direction and the motion sickness came back. The sun kept creeping around us.  Many times, I saw Tom and the RV go down a hill and I wondered if I was going to find them, especially at Dillard Mill. He crept down a 90-degree sand and gravel road.  What? How will he ever turn around?

Here’s a good one for you! This is a trailer and two guys were camping in it!

St. James,  but it did not have the Infirmary Blues!

I am worn out — just looking at these!

By the by, we passed through a small town just off I44, St. James.  We want to explore this little town with a winery and a Vacuum Cleaner Museum and Factory!  Ft. Leonard Wood is nearby! Next time

Johnson’s Shut-Ins is a Hallelujah Shout-Out!

Today we settled in at the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park Campground.  It is one of the best campgrounds in the state!!!  There is a lot of space between sites, very little smoke, and we can’t see a single person camping around our neat full-hookup concrete pad!  We want to return but when?  The Shut-Ins are south of Interstate 44 and the territory hasn’t been claimed by anyone yet! Just kidding!

The Shut-In’s and Black River

These are the boulders called “Shut-Ins.”

This afternoon we hiked the Shut-Ins!  (There are several other well-marked hikes in the area.) What a funny geological name but the sight was to behold.  There are paved paths and wooden stairs that lead you to a great viewing place.  Anyone can enjoy the Shut-Ins.  (They spent a lot of time and money on planning this park.) Then, if you want to continue around the ravine, you must climb straight up to the sky on rocks close to the edge of the ravine.  We kept going but our bodies are complaining now.

Do you see Tom at the top? I am following!

Who would have believed that Missouri had a gorge with teal blue glimmering water and loads of huge fish! If you have the courage you can climb on the boulders in the middle of the East Fork Black River and swim? for a foot or so! We saw many people doing it!  This is a fantastic place to visit!

Here is the gorge and Black River!

This was taken with a long lens high above the water. These fish are huge!

Dillard Mill State Historic Site Offers a Peaceful Respite to All Who Visit!

What a beautiful park!

Yesterday on the way to the Shut-Ins we stopped at Dillard Mill State Historic Site.

Months ago, we attended a lecture by Brent Frazee, a retired nature reporter, from the Kansas City Star.  We found his descriptions of the south-central Missouri intriguing, so we followed his lead for this trip.  You won’t find a more calming and beautiful setting in Missouri than Dillard Mill with the pond and waterfall calling out to you.  Be warned, the road to Dillard is a killer!  Tom says that if you ride motorcycles or ATV’s, this would be a great dusty adventure!

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Ironton, and Lesterville

What is this in Lesterville? Do you suppose they sell gas?

Visiting Lesterville was a “must” because my dad’s name was Lester.  Lesterville’s greatness faded a century ago.  The area near Lesterville was mined for almost 300 years. The names of the towns betray the thousands of miles of underground caverns and railroads; Steelville, Irondale, Leadville, Chloride, Mineral Point, Mine La Motte, Vulcan, and of course, Ironton.

Here’s the courthouse!

Ironton is stuck somewhere in time. The Iron County Courthouse display recognizes battles from the Civil War.  One of the best buildings in town was the Masonic Temple (again!).  We searched for a restaurant and found a great Checo’s (They spelled incorrectly.) which seemed really out of place.  Tom commented that we only lived a few hundred miles away, but it seemed as if we were visiting another country!

Masons are in almost every town we visit. What an influence they must have been on our history!

Then there was Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in Missouri at over 1700 feet above sea level. People have raved about this park to us for years!  The best thing about the park was the lovely autumn trees whose branches (arms) reached across the road to touch their friends–stunningly beautiful!

Tom is standing on the highest point in Missouri!

Who lives in this trunk?

Today we visited the Missouri Mines State Historical Site!  In the heart of Missouri, it merits national and regional attention! More on this later!  It is raining too hard to adventure out the rest of the day! Tomorrow we head for St. Louis!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Gasp! It’s Butte, Montana!

We thought we had traveled back in time!

Oh Butte!

Butte, Montana is a jewel.   The U.S. government is so impressed with Butte that it has been awarded the designation of “National Historical Landmark.”  It should be a National Park.

Heading west on I 90, driving at lightning speed, we came around a corner after crossing the Continental Divide, to a stunning, puzzling, and overwhelming view of the Berkley Pit and a strip-mined mountain!  Gasp!  Follow this video for about five minutes until you reach Butte, keep watching for what appears to be a yellow mountain.  Here is the link.

I found this photo on line. It shows the pit in relationship to Butte sitting right above it! No lie!

The Berkley Pit. Beautiful but oh so dangerous!

Tom parked the motorhome at a Walmart and we headed straight toward the yellow mountain in our rented vehicle.  We really did not know what it was.  Tooling up Harrison Street to Main Street and then to the top of the mountain can not be described.  We passed at least eight mining rigs spouting their ironware throughout the neighborhoods.  Who builds a mine in the middle of a bunch of houses?  Now I know that there are 40 mining rigs still standing in Butte.

Here is one of the rigs. It is located in the back yard of several homes.

Butte used to be the proud owner of the largest copper mine in the world, Anaconda Mining Company.  Both silver and copper made many rich and brought people from all over the world to work and live in this community.  One local told us about the Chinese who ran opium smuggling underground in the more than 10,000 miles of shafts below our feet.  Really?

William Clark’s home, the Copper King of Butte.

Having passed through ghost towns, ranches, and crumbling infra-structures of other western towns, we were shocked at the beauty and architectural wonder of Butte.  We could have been in Ghent, Belgium! or any other smaller European city.  All of the late 19th century buildings in the main part of town were built out of stone and brick.  They were gorgeous!  (There was a fire in the 19th century and the town decided to build everything out of stone or brick.) And we could see Asian influence in the designs!

Here is Clark’s son’s home! The finest in Butte and,  maybe even, Montana.

Yet, only steps away was the Berkley Pit, the largest superfund site in the United States. Measuring 1.5 miles wide, and 1780 feet in depth, it contains carcinogenic chemicals including arsenic and sulfuric acid.  By 2020 the liquid in the pit will begin polluting ground water in the whole area.  At the moment they are draining off millions of gallons from the pit, but it is not enough.  For $2.00 admission you can stand and stare at the Berkley Copper pit!

The long hallway to the Berkley Pit!  We could have used a drone!

And while I would recommend that everyone visit Butte, how could I recommend living there?  Only about 30K residents live south of the pit and a few downtown!  Mining operations have resumed and I presume that this has brought people back into the area!

New life for this church as a theatre in Butte!  We could not believe the beauty of the Masonic and Knights of Columbus buildings.  In fact, we found Masons in every town we visited!

Masonic Temple

Post card of Butte High School!

Reflections on Our Trek Toward Glacier National Park!

Gorgeous Montana blue skies reflect valleys surrounded by dark and snow-capped mountains. It is everything that you see in photographs, but, it is more.  In the process of preparing for our recent adventure, I read several guide books on Montana.  Their romantic descriptions beckoned to me.  The poetry dripped of adventure, historical reconstruction, and the wilderness.  It reminded me of the books written by Christian missionaries (Jesuits) that lured thousands of  people to a mind-altering adventure to the WEST!

Here is one of the books that captured me! The photo on the cover is from Glacier National Park!!!!!

Now that I have visited Montana, I know that I was duped.  Those books painted a rosy and idealistic picture of a very harsh landscape. Montana is rugged and mostly wild, even in sophisticated towns.  Gravel is the mainstay of every campground and parking lot.  Not only did we have to contend with smoke from burning forests (They happen every year!), we were covered in dust all day long.  Nothing could be kept clean.  It crept into the motorhome (on the walls, dishes, floors)  and car and rested on every surface. Our white canines turned gray (grey).

Virginia City, however loved, was just a pile of old dusty wood! We thought we might follow the Ghost Town trails but they were too much for us!

Tonight we are staying in a hyped state campground that needs a lot of scrubbing.  (The description must have been  written when the writer was in an altered state.) There is no telephone signal.  We drove 10 miles just to check our emails.  We are planning the next few days but cannot do it without WIFI. It is like we are isolated from the rest of the world in a place where the earth ends.

I listen to NPR whenever we are traveling.  I found NPR on the radio until we reached Bozeman.  After Bozeman, the airwaves could not find NPR.  Most of the stations were religious and when I did find a public station, it was playing classical music. Huh?

Guidebooks do not mention that the largest “big” business in Montana is religion.  There are signs in yards, fields, on fence posts, on counters in restaurants, on maps, in restrooms, and flying in the sky. Just outside of Hungry Horse (Glacier National Park) there is one entire acre of billboards about religion.  I was going to take a photo, but I thought, how do I capture this? Who would want to see this?  Why is this here?  Have I been transported to another planet or captured by aliens?

Here is one stretch of Billboards I found on line!

The largest and best-built buildings in towns and prairies were religious structures.  Sometimes out in the middle of nowhere there would be four structures in the same area representing different religions. (Where are the people who attend these services?)   It made sense to me that there were so many religious organizations after I realized that the strongest radio stations in the area were religious.  And it reminded me of Buddhist and Hindu temples that are laced with gold in Cambodia, Vietnam, and India, while the people live in grass huts or worse!!! just outside the walls of the temples!

So rugged and so few people live here!

A couple of guidebooks invited us to visit the Bitterroot Valley.  We bought the tale and toured the missions, mansions, and the towns of Hamilton and Stevensville.  There were a few good moments but the trek was long and difficult.  Along the way, we saw yard after yard with old not-wanted and forgotten stuff that was piled up all around the houses.  (But many of the homes did  not really look like houses. I call them dwellings!) Most people had at least one rusting car and RV somewhere on their property.  These homes reminded us of homesteaders in Alaska who save everything because they just might need it.  Old rusty pickup trucks were the norm!  My Uncle Homer was a sort-of-homesteader in Kentucky.  He saved everything and even had a toilet to greet you in his front yard.

When you tire of the flora and fauna its time to take a break.  Many people gamble.  If you want to gamble, Montana is the place to visit.  Casinos can be found in the most unlikely places.  Want to get a haircut?  You can gamble while you wait.  Need some gas?  You can gamble while you fill your tank.  Are you hungry, just pull up to a restaurant that will show you to the casino first.   Bring some cash to lose and the business owners will love you!

I don’t often write such critical notes of places we visit.  We are both city-folks who like adventure but are really not built for the wild west.  While I spent my summers on a farm in Kentucky, which I thought was a pretty wild place, it does not measure up to the challenges of living in Montana.

But, still, visit Montana.  You will never forget it!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

This is the cover for the color version of the book.

 

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From Tom’s Dashboard: Appreciating the Good Life!

White Girl at the Wheel!

Tom’s Top Twenty

Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska

In no particular order!

  1.  Buildings and Architecture in historic downtowns: Sheridan, Bozeman, Butte, Sheridan…. Amazing buildings built in the early 1900’s based on wealth from coal, copper, oil, and cattle. The wealth from that time period is not apparent in most towns today.

    Night life in Sheridan, Wyoming

    Not in my backyard! Everyone in Butte lives in the shadow of this gigantic pit!

  2. Berkeley Copper Pit, and mining history; Butte Montana. You can see it from miles away, but stop at the Visitors center and get the history. Some copper mining continues but the area is still dealing with the environmental impact.

    It brought prosperity and much more that people did not want!

  3. Wildlife.  Bears, Moose, Prawn Deer, Prairie dogs. The prawn deer are everywhere. The bears and moose are more elusive.

    Smarter than your average bear!

  4. Jagged Mountains and Wild River. Shoshone National Forest east of Yellowstone in Wyoming. Unexpected fantastic scenery.

    On the road to Yellowstone the morning it snowed!

  5. Petroglyphs at legend Rock State Petroglyph outside of Thermopolis, Wyoming. We have seen lots of petroglyphs over the years but these are the best! No one knows what they are or what they mean (could simply be graffiti) but it is worth the journey down the small roads to see these.

    True Blue! at Yellowstone!

  6. Dinosaurs. For some strange reason I always think the dinosaur discoveries must have been in Africa, or Asia, but many of the most significant finds were in Wyoming and Montana. Fantastic exhibits of mostly local discoveries are at the Tate Geological Museum in Casper and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

    Sharing the Road

  7. Sinclair Dinosaur Logo. As a kid I also thought the logo at the gas station was cute. I never realized that Sinclair was from Wyoming, and the oil is processed in the heart of dinosaur country. Sinclair still processes oil in Casper Wyoming.

    She was smiling at Glacier! Who are these people?

  8. Glacier National Park. In spite of the fire, in spite of the smoke, in spite of being stuck above the back wheel well, the scenery was fantastic!

    A coffee table that would be a good addition to our music room.

  9. Music Villa guitar store in Bozeman. In a day when brick and mortar guitar stores are struggling to survive, this place is a gem: hundreds of electric and acoustic guitars, including a nice collection of resonator guitars, tables in the image of guitars, door handles from guitar parts…. There is even a Gibson acoustic guitar factory in town and a couple of individual guitar luthiers.
  10. Huckleberry Pie is widely advertised around northwestern Montana, and it lives up to its reputation. Huckleberry ice cream is not bad either.

    Yellowstone Beauty!

  11. Ennis Montana on Festival Day.   “A small drinking town with a fishing problem.”  Situated on the Madison River, north of Yellowstone, this small town is a mecca for fly fishing, and Californians with millions to spend on vacation homes. Lots of small restaurants, a brewery, a distillery and a famous butcher shop (try the jerky). Nice scenery in the valley surrounded by small mountains.

    Wild Woman!

  12. Missouri Headwaters State Park Hike. The muddy MO has to start somewhere and it is near Three Forks Montana, at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers. Nice State park for hiking, picnicking or just taking in the views.

    Where the dear and antelope play!

  13. Wheat Montana Bakery. Cinnamon rolls to die for (or because of). Don’t stop here if you are diabetic or gluten intolerant. Everyone else simply enjoy the calories. After driving past hundreds of miles of “amber waves of grain” it is nice to sample some of the product. We made 4 visits. (Three Forks Montana and other locations)

    To die for!

  14. RV Vacation. Doing 3000 miles in 4 weeks across 3.5 states means a lot of driving, but, you see a lot of diverse scenery, you can stop and take a break any time you want, you sleep in your own bed on your own sheets, you can make your own meals, you can bring the dogs along (the white girls).

    Logan’s Pass for our Canadian Friends

  15. Pony Express.  Museum (St. Joseph) and Pony Express Station & Museum (Gothenburg, NE). In St. Joe you get the full history of this short-lived delivery system and the complexity of the logistics are fully explained. Gothenburg is an example of one of the stations along the way from St. Joe to Sacramento California.
  16. Downtown Walking, Biking Trails. Missoula and elsewhere: I was surprised that almost any town of substance in Montana, and Wyoming has developed trails, similar to the trails available in Kansas City and Johnson County, as well as sophisticated places like Minneapolis.

    We’re not in Kentucky!

  17. Wyoming Whiskey.   Small Batch Bourbon. Wyoming’s 1stdistillery is found in Kirby.  44% alcohol because Wyoming is the 44th Drink responsibly.
  18. Mountain Meadow Campground Showers.  Showers in motorhomes are small and water pressure is usually minimal, so I use the public showers. If you have camped you know these may be marginal. These were fantastic, 5*: large, very clean and plenty of hot water. (The author has received no compensation for this message.)

    Premium golf course with black copper tailings for sand!

  19. Golfing 4X.   With the RV we have room for the clubs and the pull carts. Even the smallest of towns in the wild west has a 9- or 18-hole course. In Three Forks we played with a local couple who invited us to a 3-day Calcutta golf event in West Glacier. That event overlapped our visit to Glacier, so we chose to visit Glacier NP and Hungry Head Reservoir instead of the high stakes golf event.

    Who is that blocking the scenery?

  20. Gratitude: Having the time and resources to enjoy a 4-week trip in the RV. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are, but we are fortunate to be in the position we are, and to live in a country and at a time in history were trips like this are possible.  This post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and Thomas C. Hemling

    Mountain Majesty

  21. My apologies on the numbering.  Tom used them in Word and I could barely control them in WordPress!
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Heading West to Discover the Big Rock Candy Mountain!

Exploring the Purple Mountain Majesties Above the Fruited Plain!

You can see forever, and ever, and ever ….

Herds of Pronghorn deer followed us as we headed south toward home.  They were watching high up on the mountains, in the golden fields, and right next to a herd of cattle taking a break.  Prairie dogs waved when we left the dark canyons to oil rich Wyoming and the Little Big Horn Battlefield.  Where were the bears now?

Montana and Wyoming

They call it “Big Sky” country.  The view is almost hypnotizing.  From the top of mountains or valleys you can see for miles and miles and miles.  There is a sense of freedom that we don’t have in our well-ordered, tree-lined streets.  Interstate highways post 80 mph speed limits because it takes so long to get from one town to another (I suppose).  On some Interstates or highways there are few exits.  I can see how this could be dangerous and lonely.

How about a casino in a church!

Wyoming’s population is about 500K.  The prairies are empty and few people drive the dusty, gravel, and oil-enriched roads.  I can understand why the military men went a little crazy when they were stationed at Fort Laramie!

 

 

There were so many RV’s!

Bozeman

Every city or town we visited in Montana had its own personality.  Hands down our favorite city was Bozeman.  We knew something was different about Bozeman when we visited a quaint super Walmart with a brick facade and shutters.  What?

Squatting in the parking lot were at least thirty camping vehicles.  Some had disengaged their pickup from the trailer and left the RV sitting in the parking lot … along with a leashed canine.  A homeless man living in his car, with a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup, welcomed us.  Did we miss the turn again?

Inside Walmart we met tall thin men and women who were perfectly coiffed wearing designer clothing and jewelry.  Many of the items we were looking for were gone.  It looked like the place had been raided.

Tom loved the guitars!

We discovered that Bozeman housed Montana State University with very low costs for people who lived in state, total $17K and out of state $34K.  It is a clean preppy town with lots of restaurants and entertainment on Main Street.  We were surprised that the median cost of a home was around $500K and that was a small bungalow.  Wonder what the average cost would be?  We heard that wealthy movie stars had begun moving into town.

 

A guitar created from a toilet seat. Tom is drooling!

Our Main Street walk was a  treat with Tom’s stop at the guitar store.  I found a keyboard that was retro-cool!!

The town itself is not diverse with a 95% or more light skinned (white) population.  We were happy to find a very good Thai restaurant in town.  (This was the best meal we had at a restaurant during our long journey.) So we know there are other ethnic groups around.  The  dry cool sunny weather with no mosquitos in the air or chiggers at our feet was agreeable.  We will be back again soon!

Glacier National Park was not Mecca (Makkah)

We rented a car and I often followed Tom. This is one of those roads!

Glacier was going to be our majesty mountain trek.  A Hungry Horse campground was to be our home for four days while we adventured in the park. Up until the day we arrived, the west end of the park was closed due to fire.  Luck was our friend when they opened up the road for buses only.  You had to stand in line in order to obtain a free pass for one day.  Tom did not want to risk standing in line and decided to book us on a Red Bus at $95 per person to see the park.  I thought the cost was a bit steep.

This is the Red Bus!

Another view of the 1937 Bus!

Fall arrived on the day we were to travel through the park on the Going to the Sun Highway.   We met the Red Bus at Abgar Visitor Center.  When we arrived, there were hundreds (or more) of people standing in line hoping for a free shuttle pass.  One man was handing out the passes and ended up with only three left for a party of five.

Feeling sad for the group a young Asian lady came up and gave them her pass and then another did the same thing, so that the group could travel together.  These acts were more than unselfish!!

What a mountain!

Fall colors blossomed in the 40 degree heat!

The park ranger announced to the hundreds of people waiting in line that all the passes had be given out. (I almost cried.  People were so sad.) One man said that he had been waiting at the park since 5:00 a.m.  It was now 8:30 a.m.  International travelers come to the park, maybe once in their lives, and now they have missed it!

I love national parks. But so do millions of other people. Glacier is only open 8-12 weeks a year with over 2 million visitors.  We figured that there were 30K visitors a day.  There are not enough parking spaces anywhere in the park for that many people.  We were told that parking lots were filled by 9:00 a.m. every morning.  The free shuttle will drop you off at parking lots but it is not the same as wandering through the park on your own.  And, the shuttles fill up quickly so you might still miss the park even it was totally open, as I have read in one international visitor’s blog!

A great place from which to hike! Logan Pass!

Our tour guide and driver Matt was excellent but the 8-hour ride in a 1937 re-tooled bus was horrendous. We were quickly shuffled through the burning part of the park toward the east end.  It was too hazardous to stop.  Probably the most meaningful stop on the trip was Logan Pass, the Watertown-Glacier International Peace Park where both the U.S.A. and Canada fly flags in a show of a peaceful relationship.

This was the view of most valleys in Glacier.

Tom had to endure this seat. My knees were in my chin!

Smoke filled the valleys and clouded our view of the park.  Some of the views were stunning but we saw them only for a fleeting second. There was a pitiful lunch stop at the Many Waters hotel with bad food while it rained and sleeted outside.  In fact for most of the time we toured Glacier it was in the 40’s with wind, rain, and sleet beating us down.  All of us were anxious for the trip to end so we could warm up and get off the crappy not maintained roads.

Best shot of Glacier!

This pilgrimage was full of side roads and wonderful adventures.  We can’t share all of them.  Tom is thinking of making a list of the places he loved.  My next blog will attempt to describe Missoula, Butte, Ennis and more!  What a trip!

As always this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.

P.S.  There are only 25 glaciers left in the park out of 150 that were discovered in the 19th century.  I believe our driver said we could see only nine of them (Not impressive!).  If you want to see glaciers visit Alaska where there are perhaps 100,000!

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Did We Miss The Turn? Quick, Find The Passports!

Maybe The Sun Was In Our Eyes?

The valley is so quiet and appealing!

The East Entrance to Yellowstone is even more awesome than Yellowstone National Park itself.  Below towering mountains the Shoshone River has created a stunning valley floor.  We hiked some of the overlooks in the valley.  One of the stops  was not labeled, but there was a parking lot, and the hiking path was paved with cement?  (It really was!) It lead to a place where there were benches facing a cliff that looked as if there were statues carved into it.  We wondered if we had stumbled onto a Shoshone sacred gathering place?

Snow in August

We are Not Alone!

You don’t often see people as giddy as the international tourists at Yellowstone.  (I think about 95% of the travelers were from another country the day we visited Yellowstone.) It had snowed the night before and the steam coming from the ground was even more intense.  People were jumping out of their cars and playing in the snow while photographing the steam.  One Indian woman dressed in a sari was shouting and dancing when she saw and felt the hot earth!

A grand experience!

A Nice Place for Dessert!

We only spent one day at Yellowstone because they were working on the roads.  It took us four hours to go fifty miles and we did not want to do it again.  We were so exhausted by the time we finally entered the park that we went straight to the historic 115 year old Lake Yellowstone Hotel for lunch.  They sat us by a window overlooking  Yellowstone Lake.  What a treat! (I did not book a campground inside Yellowstone because I was afraid to leave our beloved pets alone in the RV.  Everything I read said that Grizzly bears frequented the campgrounds.)

Yellowstone Lake at Geyser Bay. Awesome!

Our server told us that most of the tourists who stay at the hotel are Chinese.  One website quoted the cost of a single room at $900 a night. On the day we dined at the hotel, their quote was around $500 a night.  Tom and I wouldn’t pay that much for a hotel room anywhere.  We would probably sleep in the car if that was our only choice.

I am taking a photo of Tom taking a photo of a Buffalo.

On our way out of Yellowstone we ran into a herd of Buffalo that stopped traffic… cold.

Wapiti  was Different

And while we know that the land inside and outside of the park is part of the United States, there were moments when we felt as if we were in another country.  We camped at a motel/campground in the beautiful little town of Wapiti. An older Chinese man greeted us and then pointed us toward a fellow who would check us into our RV site.

We felt as if we were just shadows of ourselves!

The young man at the front desk said he was from Romania?  Both of these men knew only a few words of English.  The young man said that the Chinese man owned the place.  We told him that we had just visited Romania but it did not phase him. He did not or could not talk about Romania.   I think he was not from Romania.  This has happened to us in the past when people try to hide their country of origin for some reason. It was indeed a very odd place to camp!

Weird Mansion in the Sky!

High above our campsite was an unfinished empty wooden multi-storied mansion. Ironically, the local news announced that it was going up for sale the very day we camped below it. A man had spent his whole life building it.  His life ended when he fell from one of it floors.  So weird!  None of the floors were finished!

Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming

How beautiful the water falls were!

Thermopolis’ residents number only about 3,000.  It is a small and declining town.  The state park was located inside the city and had curbs.  You could choose to bathe in the hot spring waters from among three different pools. (We didn’t.)  The park felt like a huge “spa.”  One of the pools was free because of a treaty made with a Shoshone tribe who gave the hot springs to the town!  An interesting sight was the Teepee fountain that was no longer a Teepee.

The Teepee Fountain has changed over the years!

This is what the Teepee Fountain looks like today. It is Travertine stone  with hot water pouring out of it.

Golfing? in Thermopolis

Our friends for the day!

Shooting a few golf balls at the Thermopolis Golf Course was a unique experience. Before we set foot on the course we were told to avoid a rattlesnake family on hole #3.  Okay!  Did we really need to know this?

The moment we hit our first ball the wind kicked up to about forty miles per hour.  Was it going to rain? No, the wind was going to blow us from hole to hole.

As we pulled our carts up the hill, all different types of “poop” surrounded us.  What? poop on a golf course?  And the poop continued at every hole.  When we arrived at hole #7 we ran into about twenty Pronghorn deer feasting on the grass.  They ignored us while we played through.

To my right I saw what appeared to be an animal lying in a ditch.  I walked over thinking that I might be able to help it.  To my surprise a deer had been shot and beheaded right there on the course.  And all of this had happened not long ago!!!  I was happy to finish the round and leave!

Dinosaurs on the Left and on the Right and at the Gas Station

These dinosaurs were everywhere at $2.99 a gallon!

It never dawned on me that the creature featured at Sinclair gas stations was a Dinosaur.  In fact Sinclair has funded archaeological (paleontology) digs that have unearthed all sorts of Dinosaur fossils.

Sinclair has two huge refineries in Wyoming, both created in the early 20th century.  In Casper, a town we visited, Sinclair has a refinery that produces 25,000 barrels of crude oil a day!

Dinosaur Extravaganzas

Tom and I visited two first rate Dinosaur museums that housed fossils  we had never seen.  Believe me they were stunning!  The Tate Geological Museum at Casper College and the private Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis house huge fossils of many different types of animals, birds, fish (and so much more)  that have been discovered locally.  I kept thinking that some of the fossils looked like giraffes? or elephants? or  Rhinos?, or ….

There were just too many fossils to describe here.

One of my favorite fossils was of a turtle. Of course, it was not labeled a turtle.

Below is a nest of baby Dinosaurs.

Several of these have been discovered all over the world.

Petroglyphs, again  (Native American writing on rocks?)

Here is Square Pants! What do you think it means?

We have seen plenty of petroglyphs on rocks.  Archaeologists try to interpret the hen-scratching but no one has cracked the code.  At a cute female-owned rock shop, a local encouraged us to visit a Petroglyph site just outside Thermopolis.  We told him that we were unimpressed but he persuaded us to visit anyways.  And he was correct.  They were the best images that we have ever seen.  We don’t know what they mean?  One person commented that probably the Native Americans got high and just scratched around.  Who knows?  My favorite is one that I call “Square Pants.”

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  We are near Glacier National Park right now!  They have opened the West Entrance for buses only because of the fire.  The next blog will highlight the fabulous cities we have visited in Montana!

We saw these signs everywhere

 

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Time Travel.  Real Life on Western Military Forts!

Caution!  Scream!  Scream! Screech!  KaPow! There may be history ahead! Tread lightly, it could be boring for some!

Blacksmith Shop at Ft. Kearney. Sod roof!

Fort Kearny State Historical Park (Click on the name of the fort for their website.) in Nebraska opened our eyes to the amount of land a Fort could acquire.  Today’s historical park is only 40 acres but the original was hundreds of acres.  We might think of personnel on a Fort as being ready warriors heading into battle.  Ft. Kearny was more like a Holiday Inn and Wal-Mart for the over 400,000 travelers making their way west than a site for staging war.  It was a welcome stop along the road where trekkers could refresh themselves on the Oregon Trail.

Most of the buildings consisted of dirt (called sod or adobe) and a few were built with logs.  The 500 or so soldiers who inhabited these shabby structures were poorly dressed and dirty according to one traveler. Kearney lasted only a few years, 1848-1971, and then was sold to the locals.  Its wood was appropriated in order to construct other forts further west.  One author claimed that they sent Buffalo Soldiers (African-Americans) to dismantle it.

Today, only one building has been re-created, the blacksmith shop.  The visitor’s center displays artifacts found at several archaeological sites on the property.

Fort Laramie

Crossing over into Wyoming, we discovered Fort Laramie proudly sitting next to the beautiful Laramie River.  Like Kearney, it had no walls.  As we walked the reconstruction site, it felt as if we were in a grand western town.

Fort Laramie  (click to go to the site.) began as a fur and buffalo trade depot in 1834.  The military purchased the site in 1849 and created the Fort.  Again, it was a place for trekkers along the Oregon Trail to rest and purchase supplies.  It also was abandoned around 1890.

Great living quarters  for the officer in charge!

All of the buildings that have been reconstructed are painstakingly outfitted with materials from the mid-nineteenth century.  It was so instructional! Signs in front of each building informed us about how it was used.

The lower floor was the jail!

The guardhouse was particularly interesting to me.  Supposedly, when the soldiers were paid, they often would end up in jail due to drinking and fighting with each other.  Over 40 men could be placed in confinement in one basement that did not seem to be bigger than 30 by 20 feet.  They ate, drank, and defecated in the same room.  I have seen rooms like this in Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge kept people in confinement.  It was a shock!  A new guardhouse was created later due to health issues.  No kidding!

The Barracks were very well done!

The kiosks also described the boring and lonely life of a soldier.  They had very little outside stimulation and were stuck living in a harsh landscape with not much to do but to practice soldiering.  They missed the amenities of their homes back east. At least 33% deserted.  According to some accounts, there were people living outside the fort who traded with the travelers too.  Relationships with the locals is rarely mentioned in the forts we visited.

Inside the barracks. You can almost see the men living here.

Fort Laramie is a stunning example of western history.  It was here that over 10,000 Native Americans came to discuss treaties.  In one room of the reconstructed barracks, copies of dozens and dozens of treaties made with the local Native Americans were free for the taking.

How do I capture the diversity of all of the tribes? I can’t!

The U.S. government made a concerted effort to listen to the indigenous peoples and for a time the outcome was peace.  It was only after Native Americans reacted to the destruction of their homelands that the fort was used to launch strikes against them in order to protect the trekkers going west.  They even built iron bridges across the river to facilitate the war.

 

 

Such artistry by Native Americans!

In 1867 The Indian Peace Commission was established.  The Sioux, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, and Northern Arapaho negotiated for peace.  I picked up a copy of one treaty to share with you.  Here is how it goes, Treaty With The Yankton Sioux, 1858. The names of the 16 chiefs who signed the agreement are at the top of the treaty.

“The said chiefs and delegates of said tribes of Indians do hereby cede and relinquish to the United States all the lands now owned, possessed, or claimed by them, wherever situated, except ….” (There were exceptions to certain plots of land.) 

In exchange for the ceding of land, the U.S. was to protect them, and pay them one million and six hundred thousand dollars over ten years, plus other sums of money.  The U.S. was also to build schools, and educate and train Native Americans and more!  The U.S. Congress did not ratify many of these contracts and so the terms were not kept, but the U.S. obtained the land anyways.

Fort Casper

Ft. Casper was not built to last very long!

The last fort we visited in Wyoming was Fort Casper.  (Click on Fort Casper.) It lies on the edge of Casper, Wyoming.  This fort was built with logs.  The buildings are small with low ceilings.  One structure was built for horses, and then several other structures were added using the previous wall, like duplexes added to each other. They housed the laundry, officer’s quarters, barracks, and trading post.

A modern laundry?

Fort Casper manned a bridge crossing the North Platte River and collected the tolls.  Army personnel were stationed here to protect a Pony Express outpost and the Telegraph from 1861-1867.

This looks good to me!

All of the Forts serve as a bridge to the past for tourists.  Sometimes they encourage you to touch artifacts but most of the time the stories are told behind glass.

They take you back to a time that you might not know or have forgotten.  This was our country and our people and the forts become a visible link to the conflicts, culture, and values of those who settled the west.  It takes your breath away!

And it strongly reminds us, with the exception of Native Americans, that we are all immigrants!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Below is a photo of some friends who were dining just outside our RV!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 19th century architecture, Calvary, Camping, Camping in Wyoming, First Nations, Forts, Nebraska | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dancing West with the Rain Across Nebraska

The Hills are Singing!

The North Platte River is a river abundant with little islands! What a sight!

Stepping outside your normal life by traveling can be rejuvenating.  We have only been on the road for a week and have learned and experienced more than we could share with others.  We are humbled because we know so little about the states that we are visiting.  I kept thinking of the tune, “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music,” as we entered the western part of Nebraska with its grasslands and canyons. I am certain I heard them singing!

Pony Express Here we Come!

When I think of the Pony Express an image of a blonde young man riding the wind on a painted pony appears before me.  The Pony Express lasted less than two years but we all know about it.  Of course, I did not know the three entrepreneurs (Russell, Majors, Waddell) bought hundreds of horses, hired hundreds of men, and built 186 Pony Express stations all the way from St. Joseph to Sacramento, California.  I had no idea of the plans and extravagant cost. Neither had I ever thought of snow, tornados, wild animals, heat, or the fact that the rider had to change horses about every 10 miles.  I just imagined that the young man rode as fast as he could until he dropped!

If you live near Kansas City, a daytrip to St. Joseph to the Pony Express Museum could make your day. The place is like a repository for saints.  They have uncovered the lives of many of the men who rode the ponies or worked for the Pony Express.  An inviting video explains how imagination and an adventurous spirit made the Pony Express come to life.  Too bad newer technology, the Telegraph, put the men out of business.

One of those Pony Express Saddles!

Take A Swim!

Pack your bathing suit and a kayak!

We are heading toward Glacier National Park and decided we would make a visit to Nebraska again.  (Have you noticed that the park is burning?  We hope we are allowed to enter on the west entrance,) Nebraska doesn’t boast about its natural beauty but it is a gem.  One of the most outstanding natural beaches in Nebraska is at McConaughy’s Reservoir.  If Florida is too far to travel for a beach experience, head north.  The white sandy beaches are gorgeous.

 

 

Scott’s Bluff

So inspiring! Scott’s Bluff!

One of my favorite places in Nebraska is Scott’s Bluff National Monument.  The views from the hill above the visitor’s center are beyond description.  While visiting Scott’s Bluff we stayed at the city campground, Riverside, where the locals greeted us with kindness and corn! True!

Visitor’s Center at Scott’s Bluff

Scott’s Bluff is a place where at least 350 thousand people headed west in search of their dreams, gold, adventure, or the divine.  More than 20,000 died along the way of cholera, small pox, starvation, the cold, bullet wounds, or crushed by their oxen.

The destruction to the landscape by these trekkers was horrendous.  Their trek reminds me of devastation done by miners in Alaska during the gold rushes.  They pillaged the land and rivers as they dug into them, and in the process destroyed the lives of many native Alaskans who lived off the land.  The above trekkers, who were heading along the Oregon Trail, cut down all of the trees, poisoned the water, and killed off all the buffalo around and in the North Platte River.  Native Americans were left with an empty, useless land, and water that could kill!  Cholera! It is no wonder that war broke out!

Hand Wagon

Mormons made up a large number of travelers heading west.  We camped at Mormon Island where thousands of Mormons stopped and wintered before heading west.  This past year I read a biography of Brigham Young, by John Turner.  It was an eye-opener.  While many worship Young, this writer painted a picture of a selfish powerful king and ruthless entrepreneur.  The #me too! movement had not begun yet!

Read it, if you dare!

In order to save money, Young decided that it was costing too much to bring converts to Utah by wagon.  He devised the strategy of requiring people to pull or push their belongings in carts across the country.  How many people do you think made it across the mountain ranges pushing a cart?

Today we visited Fort Casper in Wyoming where Young built a ferry in a few days because he was having trouble crossing the North Platte River.  Afterwards he left behind seven men to run the ferry and collect money from those heading west, even converts!  He was, indeed, a shrewd businessman!

We are now traveling through Wyoming.  The sky is gray/grey (from smoke) and the dust stings our eyes.  There are oil wells and coal mines everywhere. It reminds us of the Texas oil fields and Williston, North Dakota. We hit Ft. Laramie, Ft. Casper, and are now in the historic town of Thermopolis and its hot springs!  Next is Cody, then Yellowstone, and then we head for Montana!

Come with us!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

Posted in Camping, Camping in Florida, First Nations, Mormons, Motorhome, National Parks, Nebraska, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Up North! Escaping the Heat and the Noise!

Minnesota Marvels.  Let’s Go!

Golf Cart Fourth of July Parade. There were 25 carts dressed for the day!

We love the cool air of Minnesota! The locals opened their arms to us as we explored their towns.  Our camping home for a week was an RV Resort in Hinckley.  There is plenty of room to bike, an 18 hole golf course, manicured lawns, full-hookups, and stellar showers if you need them.  You will also discover a Casino with modestly-priced restaurants, and a place to deposit your money or win big and buy a condo on St. Croix. Grand Casino RV Park is owned by the Ojibwa tribe and they do a great job of managing it.  We also visited their Grand Casino on Mille Lacs Lake that features an Indian Museum.

Here they are Steve, Dixie, and Tom!

Dixie and Steve, two of our friends from Minneapolis,  came up to spend the weekend with us.  The goal was to bike a lonesome trail or kayak on the St. Croix River.  Rain cancelled those plans, so we visited the Hinckley Fire Museum and explored the town of Mora with them.  It is always great to find people who have similar views about politics and life in general.

A wall painting of the 1894 fire storm that completely destroyed Hinckley and other towns in the area.

Mora’s Swedish Dala Horse!

The courthouse, from 1894, was a sight to behold!

Fourth of July was spent without bangs and fireworks!  What a relief!  The full-timers at the RV Resort got together and decorated their golf carts.  About 25 of them circled the resort for a couple of times throwing candy and gifts at everyone!  I thought it was Mardi Gras!

Mille Lacs Indian Museum Stunning Architecture!

Exploring Minnesota

Along the way we bought great food from Amish ladies and the famous Toby’s bakery and restaurant. After our friends returned home to their jobs, we explored a few of the towns around Hinckley.

One day we circled Mille Lacs Lake in search of a summer RV site on the lake.  We drove as far as Brainerd and found no cement or paved pads for RV’s.  We camp on gravel or grass only if we are staying for a day or so.  For long term stays we prefer cement and a clean area for our beloved canines.

Photo of Masonic Temple taken from the car, my apologies. Isn’t this a beautiful building?

The small and isolated towns of Northern Minnesota have been in decline for years.  In Askov, a Danish town, we discovered gorgeous sandstone architecture with the windows boarded up.  One of those buildings was a stunning Masonic Lodge.  The steps were crumbling and all of the windows were open with the door ajar.  How sad!  This was not the first time I wanted to rescue historic buildings that locals do not treasure.

Inside the Fire Storm Cafe with great food!

In Hinckley we dined at the Fire Storm Cafe.  The food was terrific! I wondered how you could make a living with so few customers?  I asked the owner.  He said that he made enough to live and he was his own boss!  The restaurant did not have a mortgage and he didn’t have to work for Walmart!

Real Estate is undervalued in this part of Minnesota.  Land costs about $1000 an acre and you can purchase estate-sized properties for less than $300,000.  Many homes sell for under $100,000.  

It is tempting to think about selling all and trekking north to the land of luscious trees and a thousand lakes.

P.S.  Wait A Minute!  Exit Vacation

Just as we were about to make a daytrip to Duluth and Lake Superior, we received a call that Tom’s mom was dying.  This was a shot in the heart!  We had to negotiate a longer lease on the rental car, plead for a refund for our days left at the RV Resort, and then find a RV place to stay in Wisconsin on July 5 the busiest camping day of the year!  Almost everything was booked but we found a sultry spot about 40 miles away from Tom’s mother.

Tom and his mom in May of this year!

On the Go!

It was a long, fast, and hard 350+ mile drive with the RV and a car following.  When we arrived his siblings were holding a vigil day and night with his mother.  This has been going on for days.  His mom Janet Mabel Oscar Hemling passed away only hours ago on July 9 at the wonderful age of 88. I kept thinking of the tune, “Will the Circle be Unbroken” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Johnny Cash.  If you would like to hear this tune click here!  

Tom has created an appreciation on my Facebook Page also.  Click on Facebook.

In the midst of the vigil for Tom’s mom, my dear friend Anne Connole lost her battle with cancer.  I have written An Appreciation for her on my Facebook page. (Click on Facebook.) I thought a fitting tune for her passing was “Oh Death.”   Click on “Oh Death!”

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

Posted in Camping, Duluth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, Uncategorized, Wisconsin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Tom’s Dashboard: The Blues Ain’t Blues Any More

Keeping the Blues Alive – KCK Street Blues Festival

Instead of visiting our regular blues destination (BB’s Lawnside BBQ) we headed West to the 12thKCK Street Blues Festival. The event is organized by the volunteer members of the KCK Blues Society at Lavender’s Circle L Ranch in North KCK.

The event was attended by more than 500 people and featured infectious blues groups. We learned that in earlier years the event was held in downtown KCK with 5000-10,000 attendees. Because of a dispute over the practice of allowing attendees to BYOB, the event was forced to move to a more rural location.  (We think local businesses were angry because they were not selling their own brews.) Unfortunately the rustic location of the Circle L Ranch limits attendance because of its remoteness and lack of parking.  For a history of how government bureaucracy nearly killed this event see this article in the Pitch.  (Just click on the word “Pitch.”)

Danny Cox (on the right) was great!

The Blues Festival included three musical groups on the hilltop Acoustic Stage and four on the valley Electric Stage. All the musicians are KC area residents. We were entertained by an engaging Danny Cox, a legendary blues singer, who performed traditional blues and his original music. Danny and his band even improvised a message about a parking issue that needed to be addressed. We were so impressed with Danny Cox that we will check him out at another venue around town.  What a voice and personality!

Norman got everybody up and dancing!

Next was The Norman Liggins’ group with their version of funky blues, including guest singer Jason Vivone on the awesome slide guitar. People were swinging and dancing in the field!

Host of a 99.1 FM KKFI Blues show. the “Boogie Bridge.” Jason mesmerized the audience.

Jaisson (pronounced Haisson) can be heard at BB’s also. What a talent!

On the Electric Stage in the valley, we enjoyed the Jaisson Taylor Group.  Jaisson, on drums and vocals, is a fantastic musician. He understands that the audience wants to be entertained.   Music is good but a little humor can make the event sizzle!  He interspersed his music with a well-crafted message about national politics and engaged the audience in a mischievous manner with a Muddy Waters tune, “I’ve got my mojo working.”  He was hilarious!  His base player really rocked!

Here they are again, Jaisson!  Great base guitar player on left!

A panorama of one venue. We were listening to tunes up on the hill. Later this field was filled with worshippers.

After four hours in the sun, unfortunately, we had to depart before the 2018 “King of the Street Blues Festival” D.C. Bellamy took the stage. Given his outfit for the day, we likely missed a very entertaining show.

Love that outfit! D.C. Bellamy!

The Blues is thriving in Kansas City.  We keep meeting new musicians who can be heard at various venues around town.

Join us the next time we check them out!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge!

 

 

Posted in Blues Festivals, Blues in Kansas City, Jazz in Kansas City, Kansas City Blues Scene, Music, Music in Kansas City, Musicians in Kansas City | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Tom’s Dashboard. Tooling Around in Milan, Italy!

Pizza, Music, Expresso and Gelato

Milan Cathedral or the Duomo dominated the square. How awesome!

Having visited many countries over the years, Marla and I have recently cut down on international travel. Airport security hassles and smaller seats on airplanes have made that an easy choice. I returned to Milano only because I was offered a chance to teach a short course on my “Seven Point Plan for Mastitis Control” with a panel of friends who are international experts.

 

Santa Maria delle Grazie influenced by Roman architecture and home of Michelangelo’s Last Supper.

In addition to the National Mastitis Council meeting, I played tourist in Milano and Lake Como for three days. With a hotel in the city center, it was easy to explore the churches, historical buildings, shops and cafes. Milano, like most European cities offers an easy to use matrix of subways, buses, trams and trains. The metro stop for my hotel was interestingly called Misouri (spelled correctly).

In Milano, there are churches every 100 meters as I discovered on my walking tours. After visiting many churches, temples, mosques… with Marla the past 36 years, the need to visit these sites seems to be in my DNA. The Duomo is the highlight, but the architecture of the collection of churches was diverse and interesting.

Saint Stephano’s Baroque facade is gorgeous!

Churches not readily apparent on the tourist map were pointed out by my friend of 25 years Paolo Brambilla, over a nice dinner conversation. Milano also offers a castle, parks, some remnants of the city wall, and upscale shopping at the Gallery Victor Emmanuel and Montenapoleone.

 

 

Only in Italy!!!!

To keep your batteries charged up there are no shortage of coffee shops, pizzerias and gelaterias. The expresso and pizza were as expected, but the gelato exceeded expectations: dark chocolate + hazelnut + pistachio anyone?

Can music get any better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My musical interests led me to a Django Reinhart Festival at Spirit de Milano, an interesting old factory converted to an event space. I arrived around 6:30 PM to observe a master class on gypsy jazz and jam sessions (Listen to the link.) This was followed by a concert with three three groups playing variations of Django inspired music. The performances started around 9:30 PM and were going strong at midnight. The demographics of the crowd got younger and louder as the evening progressed and there were 50 people waiting to enter the event when I departed.

Lake Como and the wealthy!

I also enjoyed an excursion to the Lake Como and a boat tour. The scenic lake in the foothills of the Alps is ringed by villas owned by the rich and famous. George Clooney purchased one of the smaller villas a few years ago for $80 million.

This is Tom’s creation!!

Sometimes they used three screens just like the rock stars use in the main auditorium.

Oh yes, the excuse for the trip! I also attended the NMC conference which was a major success for the organizers, with a collection of 650 experts from 39 countries. I enjoyed conversations with many of my international friends. Our 3.5 hour short course lasted 5 hours and everyone stayed to hear our plan for reducing antibiotic usage while maintaining animal health and milk quality (We need good milk for gelato and that wonderful Italian cheese).

Friend in the air!

Even though air travel is a hassle, sometimes you make new friends!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

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Corpus Christi and its RV Resorts!

The Oil Kings and the People of Corpus Christi

A happy trailer on Port Aransas.

 

Tom reasoned. Texas is closer and a straight shot from Kansas City. And the sun shines there in the winter also. Dreams of sunrays filled our minds as we headed toward Texas.  (Within the last ten years we had visited and camped near Corpus Christi, and we had a great time.)

 

The Hunt for an RV Spot 

After visiting approximately fifteen properties labeled RV Resorts (to buy or rent), around Corpus Christi we wearily gave up the search.  Apparently Texans define Resort differently than the rest of the world. Many of the “resorts” were good places to tie up your pet and sit a while.  There was no room to even stretch out your arms.  Their main attraction was the sky and the dirt.

This was the RV Pad that cost $166,000.

Two of the sites we inspected were livable, but the costs were excessive.  There was a cute little Casita on a driveway about 30 miles away from Portland for $132,000.

We really liked the RV Pad on the island of Port Aransas for $166K with monthly costs of maintenance and taxes of $500 or more a month.  But that was all it was, a driveway.  And right to the side of it they were building a three story home?! It felt like a closet.  Tom just reminded me that we looked at a two-bedroom loft condo, 1.5 baths on St. Croix for about $165K negotiable.  Which would you choose?

Remnants of Harvey 

We checked out the area all around Corpus Christi going as far as Mathis, Fulton, Port Aransas, and Mustang Island.  (We could not go as far south as we wanted because the roads were blocked.) Remnants of Hurricane Harvey that hit last August were everywhere.  Downed signs, empty lots, blown out gas stations, blue-tarp roofs, and sagging buildings greeted us.  One very sad building was blown in half.  You could see furniture on all the levels.  Debris was piled up in many places.  But most of the buildings looked like they had new paint.

The best hours we spent in Corpus Christi were on the ferry to Port Aransas and the winding drive through the southern Mansions on Ocean Blvd.  (I will return to this shortly.)  While we did not appreciate 75 mph signs on two lane highways without shoulders, we discovered that the best road in town was a runway at the airport.

Would you want to live near one of these. They inhabit most of the coast along the Gulf.

Greedy Petroleum Kings

What really shocked us was the presence of the Petroleum Kings (industry) everywhere.  Refineries circle the town.  One source says there are 6 oil refineries and over 1,000 oil wells in Corpus Christi. Seems like there were more to me. Tall prayer-like minarets spewing flames were everywhere.  (At first I really thought they were minarets.) The only place we have experienced these tall stacks/chimneys burning off gas was in Williston, North Dakota during the height of the fracking.  We camped in Williston and the burning gas kept us awake all night.

Is Corpus Christi a Potential Bhopal?

Church Row in a very dismal downtown Corpus Christi!

We know that people depend upon this industry for survival, but it seems to us that people should not live around the refineries or wells.  It reminds me of the Bhopal tragedy!  Oil is stored very close to humans.  The round cylindrical storage units look like flowers popping up out of the ground everywhere.   It seems like a disaster just waiting to happen.

I love farms and some of them outside Corpus Christi were right next to a refinery.  The cattle grazing and especially an old church looked out of place against this rusty backdrop. I kept thinking about the wind turbines.  They seem to be a better alternative than digging up, burning off methane gas, and processing oil –leaving rusting steel giants behind as oil Kings do all over the world. (Check out the abandoned plant at St. Croix)

We worried about polluted ground water.  We worried about the air and food on the farms.  Was petroleum seeping into everything?  Most older roofs were black from the fallout from the factories or mold??  What about the fallout from the gas being burned?  And then there was the sand!

Look at the tire marks! It was dangerous to walk!

We walked on the beach at Port Aransas and found two lanes of cars driving up and down the beach. Sand was constantly being thrown in the air.  Some beach people brought their campers.  Others taped off sections of the beach that they were claiming as their own.  It was really a weird, bizzare, and hostile experience.  I wondered about the safety? of whizzing cars and trucks right next to the water.  We decided the place was not for us.

Here is another close-up on the beach. I guess we would have to pull a trailer behind our motorhome to visit the beach.

Now, let’s get back to the mansions.  I thought that those wealthy people were really lucky; they did not have huge chimneys or refineries in their backyards.  On our way back to town, because Ocean Blvd was closed at Texas A&M University, we took a break and walked along the water again.  Wait a minute!  What is that out there in the water?  Is it a floating city?  What is it?  It was mile after mile of offshore oil platforms right in front of the mansions.  The wind blows from the East across these platforms and lands right on top of the mansions.  Not one person, not even the well-to-do, can escape the effects of oil pollution on their property and lives.

The USS Lexington is in the background. The dog is obeying his master.

Just before we left, we stopped to take a photo of the USS Lexington.  Right next to me was a sculpture of a dog and two white feet.  The dog was looking up in the air to the invisible person who owned the feet.  Some say that the title of the sculpture should be “The White Man and the Indians (the dog).”

I thought the dog sculpture was an insightful commentary on our experience of Corpus Christi. It should have been entitled, “The Oil Kings (feet) and the People (dog).”

My apologies, when I took this photo I saw shoes and so an earlier version of this post discussed the shoes and the dog.  Obviously, it is the dog and two feet!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

Posted in Camping, Corpus Christi, Discounts on campgrounds, Rving across America, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Playing Games with the Devil!

The Devil Plays Straightline Blues

Here is a photo of Robert Johnson taken from Wikipedia!

Highways 61 and 49 run right through the middle of Clarksdale.  Elvisland is less than an hour away.  Legend has it that a teenager Robert Johnson in the 1920’s came to this crossroad and made a deal with the devil.  Johnson agreed to sell his soul if the devil would teach him how to burn up a guitar! According to the myth, he did indeed begin to kindle a fire in his guitar.  Today, at the crossroad where Johnson allegedly made the deal, there is a statue of two guitars! Although there is some dispute as to which crossroads he was at and in what city!

 

The Famous Crossroads

Ground Zero Blues Club

What a building! Ground Zero!

Clarksdale is a Blues town!  Ground Zero Blues Club was voted #1 Blues Club in the nation by bestbluesclub.org.  One of its owners is Morgan Freeman!

On the second day of the Harmonica Camp, attendees had to perform at Ground Zero.  It was an amazing place and experience.  Local bands were so electrifying that the lights seemed to dance.

The audience was surprisingly international on Jam night.  Anyone who wanted to play could sign up.  The aging Buzzards from the UK  (Listen to this link!) sent shocks up the spines of all of us.  I called them the “Rocking Grandpas.”  They were in their 60’s but they really energized the house!

One or two  of the Buzzards!

We learned that there is live music every day of the week in Clarksdale.  Other Clubs include Hambone Gallery, Bluesberry Cafe, Levon’s Bar and Grill, the Stone Pony, and of course, the Shack Up Inn where we stayed while Tom was at the Harmonica Camp. The Shack Up Inn has a few hook-ups for RV’s and they plan to add additional sites! Call ahead for a reservation.

I went over and cheered the Buzzards and one of them kissed me!

 

The Town of Clarksdale

Last December, on our way to the Mississippi coast, we tooled around Clarksdale.  I was not sure if I wanted to return to this city of 17,000. The downtown area, like so many other major downward U.S.A. cities in the late 20th century, was in ruins.  Businesses had fled and many of the buildings were in disrepair.  Houses around the south side of the city were also crumbling.

The Stone Pony Restaurant

But, behind some of those crumbling facades are vibrant businesses.  We dined at the Stone Pony.  The inside of the restaurant looked like any local restaurant anywhere, and the food was delicious.  After touring the city, and even finding a landromat, I discovered wonderful southern charm.  Everyone was very polite and helpful!

Delta Blues Museum

There are many interesting sites in Clarksdale, but I really enjoyed the Delta Blues Museum.  It was so great to see African-American musicians plastered in posters all over the walls.  The museum has created glass cases to showcase the Blues careers of both females and males. (Photography was prohibited so I can’t give you a glimpse of the wonderful displays.)  The steel sculptures of Blues greats were fantastic.

Female Blues singers included Dorothy Moore, Big Mama Thornton and Denise La Salle.  Many of the names of Blues players were unusual, like Model T. Ford,  Jimmy Duck Blues, Little Mike and the Tornadoes, Ike Turner and Ikettes and Furry Lewis.  Jug bands were also featured!

Muddy Waters had his own holy area. He is probably one of the most well-know Blues musicians.  You entered his sacred space by ducking under a canopy.  Another musician whose story took up a lot of space was Charlie Musselwhite (a light-skinned person). His harmonica rocks!  Just listen!

The Delta Blues

Several Blues singers ended up in this prison farm! I think it is 18,000 acres and still farmed today by inmates.

There are so many different types of Blues, it can make you go crazy.  Check out Piedmont Blues, Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, West Coast Blues, Country Blues, Hillbilly Blues, Jump Blues, Piano Blues and many more.  For the past few months I have been trying to understand the differences in this music, but I have not made very much headway.

One of the books I was reading created cameos about popular Blues singers/musicians from the Delta.  The stories of gunfights, violence, physical and verbal abuse were too much for me.  Who sleeps with a knife or a gun under her pillow?  I sent the book back to the library.

You could be sent to prison for any little thing, like stealing a ham!

Party Blues

There has always been this idea of the “devil” associated with Delta Blues.  I surely did not understand this link. I thought the  churches were very puritanical and bad-mouthed the Blues.  But, now I am reading a book,  Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues a Musical Journey.  To my surprise, the early Blues (1920’s) lyrics  were on the edge if not square in the middle of pornographic.  The singers referred to body parts with vocabulary that fit the heat of the song in what are termed “Party Blues.”  “Shave ‘Em Dry” by Lucille Bogan is heart and soul Party Blues. (You can look up those lyrics if you are interested.)  All of this vivid sexual imagery (often grotesque) went right along with their drugs, liquor, brawling, and sleeping around.  Many of the lyrics we listen to in the “tame” Blues really allude to the same sexual imagery.  We just don’t make the connections.  What does “Dust my Broom” mean?  If Johnson did not sell his soul to the devil, it seems pretty obvious that others did! (Just kidding!)

Cotton field and the Shack Up Inn Lodging. One of my favorite photos from this trip!

Harmonica Blues

I have never been a fan of the harmonica.  It seemed that the harmonica players I heard were always too loud and they wailed too much. I wanted to turn down the music!  (Had it not gone out of style like the accordions?)  After an entire week of hearing harmonicas played every day, I understand the so-called “drugging” effect of music.

A great harmonica can sound just like a person who is talking to a guitar or the audience.  The conversation mesmerizes you.  The more you hear it, the more you want to hear it.  For the first time in my life, I understood why people spend their lives singing and playing and inventing music.  I think listening to music all day long rewires your brain,  and that brain is not happy unless the tunes are playing or being played.  I get it!

Harmonica Power!!!!

So Much Is Left OUT!

There is so much more to see, hear, and experience in this area of the world.  Visit it yourself.  We can’t capture all of it for you!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

Posted in Clarksdale, Delta Blues Museum, Devil Blues, Ground Zero Blues Club, Robert Johnson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harmonica Heaven! From Tom’s Dashboard

Blues Harmonica (Fantasy) Jam Camp

This is energetic Jon with Harmonica, guitar, and singing the Blues.

Think of a music camp and envision young musicians learning to advance their skills in a traditional educational format. Then think of a fantasy baseball camp, where you get baby boomers living out a fantasy for a few days at a baseball camp at a major league spring training facility, run by former baseball players.  Combine those two images and you get Jon Gindick’s (jongindick.com) Blues Harmonica Jam Camp in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

A room full of harmonica players, playing at the same time. WOW!

We met Jon when he performed (harmonica, guitar, and vocal) at the International Folk Alliance Festival in Kansas City in 2016. Jon invited me to join a one-hour group harmonica lesson where the Jam Camp was mentioned. The April 2018 Jam Camp fit our schedule so I signed up. I thought this would be the traditional music camp, but it was more!

Baby Boomers

Imagine 30 baby boomers, with interest in the Blues, most of whom have put musical interests aside for careers and family. Now retired, with a few dollars to spare, they take the opportunity to live out a life- long musical fantasy.  They visit the epicenter of blues music in Clarksdale, MS. The participants range in age from about 55 to 80, coming from across the US, Boston to San Francisco, Portland to Atlanta. Throw in some international boomers from Switzerland, Scotland and Canada, and 5 of the best Blues harmonica players in the country as coaches and trainers.

Shack Up Inn

Check out the link to the Shack Up Inn.

The event was held at the Shack Up Inn, a B&B (Bed and Beer) where the housing is a mixture of shacks and metal cotton bins. The main venue for performing was appropriately called the Blues Chapel.  To imagine the Blues Chapel think of cross breeding Knuckleheads with BBs Lawnside BBQ in KC.

The Blues Chapel from the second floor. Quite an experience!

Back to School

The “training” included some large group lessons, small group lessons, and one-on-one sessions. “Training” is dominated by jamming, that is, playing/creating music together with others. Students were learning by doing. For the more experienced players, the opportunity to jam with other musicians seemed to be the highlight and the reason for attending.

For me and the fellow “raw beginners” we were handled with care in small groups, and in one-on-one lessons. We were still required however to perform solos along with the experienced players at the camp.  By the second day we had to perform at the Blues club Ground Zero during their open jam session.  Our final was a solo of our choosing on day 5 at the close of the program.

Tom’s solo was “I feel like a motherless child.”

The talented group of instructors and local musicians.

The musical excellence of the trainers can not be overstated.  Jon Gindick was the master of ceremony, lead “class room” instructor, expert on single note blues harmonica style, and creative musical story teller. RJ Mischo, who was born 20 miles from where I lived in Wisconsin, tours internationally and will be in KC at BBs September 9.  Cheryl Arena, was the vocal and harmonic instructor and can set off smoke detectors with her harmonica playing. Hash Brown, accompanied us on guitar through the week and helped work out arrangements for our solos. He was so kind and encouraging that even when I misplayed 3 of only 4 notes during a rehearsal, he said “that sounded good, keep it up.”   TJ Klay plays a folksy-blues guitar/harmonic. On the second day he forced beginners to play 2-3 minutes extended solos, re-enforcing the message about the safe notes. Richard Slay plays a contemporary and introspective Blues harmonica.  How about listening to a short piece of Harmonica Blues?  Here ya go...

Tom on the same journey the famous Blues player Robert Johnson took!

By the end of the week I had learned a lot about the Blues and learned a lot about playing the harmonica. I also listened to tremendous playing, singing, and song writing by campers and trainers, attempted 3 solos, and spent 5 days with 35 of the most supportive people I have ever been with in my life.  Now, back to trying to bend the 2 draw on the C harp (harmonica)

In about a week, I will post my own blog on the Harmonia Heaven experience!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

This is the cover for the color version of the book.

 

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Elvis Re-Imagined and Re-Commercialized

A New World.  Elvisland!

The Guest House is located behind a steel fence!

On our way to a Blues Harmonica Conference in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Tom decided to camp at Sam’s Town Casino in Tunica because it was in between Memphis and Helena, Arkansas.  We were surprised at the quality of the RV Camp at the Casino. Full hook-ups were only $20 a night. (Full hook-up means water, 50 amps of electricity, and sewer.)  It was a bargain.

Here is the new Elvis Mall. It looks like a military installation, hidden from view!

Graceland Has Lost Its Grace

The first day out we headed for Elvisland.  We have done the tour of Graceland on every trip through Tennessee. Usually we hit the shops.  And we have even camped across the street from Graceland a couple of times.  After enjoying Elvisland.  There was always a lot happening in Memphis.  So, Sun Record’s bus would pick you up in front of the Heartbreak Hotel and bring you down to Beale Street (for free).  We know the beat!

But … when we arrived at Elvisland this time, we found that everything, except Graceland itself, was destroyed.  All that was left of Heartbreak Hotel were piles of sticks.  The shops were gone.  The planes were hidden.  The retro-cars had left the scene.  The humanity of Elvis was gone!  If we wanted to visit the new Elvis MALL, we had to pay to park.  Huh? We even had to go through guarded gates to visit the new humongous Guest House Hotel that dwarfs Graceland.  What a heartbreak!

Rockin’ Beale Street

Chicken and Waffles and a vegetable plate for me!

We decided not to enter the highly guarded holy site and headed down to Beale Street and Miss Polly’s for lunch.

Beale Street was everything it has always been!  Huge guitars dotted the landscape this time.  Tom had time to visit the Gibson guitar showroom again.  Guitars run in the thousands of dollars.  W. C. Handy’s and Elvis statues welcomed us.

Just dream! You will have to work a long time to  purchase one of these

Sign said, “Do not touch!”

At the Visitor’s Center west of town, we paid homage to B.B. King and Elvis once again.  The first time I saw the King statue (years ago), I wondered why he was enshrined near Elvis.

His life and work make us all proud!  BB King!

Now that I have been studying the Blues for more than a year, I understand that both Elvis and B.B. were kings in the music world!  B.B., like Elvis, was a tremendously talented self-made man!