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!
Posted in Camping, Camping in Montana, Camping in Wyoming | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Camping in Montana, Camping in Wyoming, Glacier National Park, Montana, National Parks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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! Here is a link to “Riding with the King,”  a favorite of ours.

So cool. This was on the side of a building and it was fading away!

 

The Blues Trail. Helena, Arkansas

If you are interested in Blues music, find time to visit some of the historic places along the Blues Trail.  (There is a map to help you find the greats.) These Blues giants are worshipped today in ways they were not during their own lifetimes. Yesterday we made a trek to Helena, Arkansas.  KFFA has been broadcasting the King Biscuit Time for more than 75 years from Helena. African American Blues singers and players found audiences here when they were not allowed to play and sing on other radio stations.  Have you ever heard the term “race” music?

How big is that guitar?

Tom and I were hopeful of visiting sites in Helena, but the trip was a “bust.”  It seemed like most of the houses were unoccupied or condemned.  Huge storage facilities were lifeless and rusting.  What a shocker!  It reminded me of the miles of abandoned factories on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was Monday and almost everything downtown was closed.  There were no public restrooms.  We considered entering the Courthouse as a last resort.

After visiting a Civil War cemetery, circling Ft. Curtis, and photographing several very large well-trimmed churches, we found The Tavern and had a great lunch.  My favorite spot in Helena was the Jewish Synagogue.

Temple Bet El

Sometimes you learn more than you can quantify, even if a site does not meet your expectations. Memphis and Helena will long be on our minds as we continue investigating the Blues.

For the next week Tom will be improving his musical skills at the Blues Camp at the Shack Up Inn.  I hope that he will write a paragraph or two about his experiences soon!

As always this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

P.S. “Elvisland” is a word that I created! Maybe others have used it too.  I was thinking of that famous novel, Herland!

Posted in Elvis, Graceland, Shack Up Inn, The Blues Trail, Tunica | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make Your Dreams Come True. Head for Alaska!

Alaska.  More Than An Adventure is Published!

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

Think about placing Alaska in your bucket list.  It is one of the most astonishingly beautiful places on earth.  It is a place where the air is crisp and clean.  It is a place that can revive and restore you!  Wild animals abound and fish can be larger than a human beings.  There is so much more to Alaska than can be captured in a book, but I hope to lead readers  to the “Promised Land.”

Cruising and RVing in Alaska

What is the best way to travel to Alaska?  Well, there is no “best”  way!  But– you could cruise the Inside Passage, or you could rent an RV and skim across the countryside.  Linking the two experiences will bring you up close to the landscape, historic sites, people, fish, foul, and animals in the wild.  Of course, you could just call a travel agency, sign up for a bus tour, or travel by train through some of Alaska.  Or, you could launch into the travel-planning yourself!  But if you are considering visiting Alaska your way, this book may help to make your dreams come true. And you just might enjoy its 200+ photographs and illustrations of Alaska.

The Peoples of Alaska

Not only will we visit the most important sites of Alaska — you may learn a little about the peoples who have inhabited the land.  Back-stories on glaciers, Russians, First Nations, and myths/stories that have been preserved by Alaskans, permeate the book.

A Shaman’s Mask!!

Ancient oral traditions reveal how early peoples lived very challenging and scary lives.   Raven’s story about how he survived and escaped the belly to of a whale to freedom is inspiring.  And the blind boy who begins to see because of a Loon, teaches us that parents should take care of their children. And during the gold rush days, the story about Soapy Smith and the gunfight on Moore’s dock is a nail-biter.

One of the more than 30 Russian Orthodox Churches that you will find all over Alaska!

 

 

Alaska. More than an Adventure will visit most of the major cities and towns in Alaska, with advice on how to plan and prepare for the adventure.  By land, we visit Fairbanks, the Arctic Circle, Anchorage, Seward, Whittier, Prince William Sound, Valdez, and across the Kenai Peninsula. We will meet a moose who adopted us as we speed by Kenai, Soldotna, Kasilof, Ninilchik, and the Homer Spit.  By sea, we will explore Vancouver, Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, and the Tlingit stop at Hoonah.

The beauty of Alaska is on every side!

Gold Rushes.

B&W Version of the Book

We consider the gold rushes and the hundreds of thousands of men and women who fled to Alaska with high hopes of wealth. And those that died from exposure, hunger, or avalanches.

Exploitation of First Nations Peoples.

Being one quarter Cherokee, I was compelled to consider the indigenous peoples in Alaska. There are feature stories about the exploitation of the First Nations by both Russia and the United States. It was their land and now it is our land! Understanding a bit about the land and its peoples makes the journey even more meaningful!

Dream of Denali!

Soon.  The original book is in color.  Both the Kindle and Second book (Two) are in Black and White.  At this point Amazon has uploaded the B&W and Kindle versions of the book.  I am waiting for the color version to emerge.

They have incorrectly run the text together that describes the book.  Hopefully that will be fixed soon!  In the next few days, I hope to send you an excerpt or two from the book.  Click on the title of the book above and it will take you to one of its locations on Amazon.  Find a legal pad, keep your pen ready, and take this fascinating journey with me!  More photos will be coming soon!

If you have questions about Alaska, please email me at selvidge@ucmo.edu

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

Posted in Cruising Alaska, Rving in Alaska, Wildlife in Alaska | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida in February and Skipping the Missouri Winter Blues

Where are the palms?  Where is the sun?  Where are the ocean breezes in Missouri?

(Beware, there are lots of photos below!)

On the Sebastian Inlet Beach. Ohhh so gorgeous!

Conquering the world for God and the Spanish crown!

Did you know that Juan Ponce de Le’on landed at Melbourne Shores? And he wasn’t looking for the fountain of youth, he was looking for land to exploit and conquer for the monarchs of Spain. He had already served as governor of Puerto Rico and joined in the massacres of the native population in South America. This is the type of important info you learn while trying to escape the cold winter in Missouri. (Tongue in cheek, of course!)

 

Camping in Florida

RV Spaces at a premium!

Florida is gorgeous and everyone knows it. That is why there are hoards of people hitting the beaches. Luckily, we arrived one week before Spring Break. While in Florida we began looking for a place to park our motorhome for a couple of months next January and February. We want to be sun worshippers too.

Finding a place to stay (rent) for our motorhome in 2019 is a bit overwhelming. Every campground or resort has a date when you can begin to reserve,  IF anything is available. Some very nice RV resorts require a rental of at least three to six months. We love the sun but we love our home in Missouri too and don’t want to stay away that long. Many campgrounds that might be available pack RV’s into spaces like sardines. You can’t breathe! We have tried for two days to book St. Sebastian Inlet Campground but there are so many rules and so many people trying to book that we think we will be out of luck. One campground would not even allow us on the property to determine if we wanted to rent one of their driveways. We were so frustrated that we stopped looking for a spot.

Should we Purchase our Driveway in the Sun?

Our hotel in Melbourne Beach on the beach!

One solution to this problem is to purchase our own pad at an RV resort. Those little pieces of ground, as big as a small driveway, start at about $60K and go up to $250K. We could not believe it! There are too many people floating down to Florida, I think. They must drive up the prices.

A friend told us that more than a million people visit Florida during this time of year. But in 2016 there were 110 million visitors and in 2017 eighty eight million visited Florida in spite of the hurricanes.   There are only 21 million residents of Florida at the moment.

Sunshine is not cheap nor reasonable.

We loved all the dogs playing on the beaches!

Once you have purchased your little piece of sunshine (pad), then you are assessed a monthly fee starting at about $200-$500 and going up depending upon the resort. I am not sure that we will ever be able to reserve RENTED spots for next year.

 

 

 

 

The Beach 

Indiatlantic Beach (in Melbourne Beach) was our ocean home for a week. I forgot how grand and memorable the waves could sound! Dogs, birds, treasure hunters, surfers, sun bathers, runners, fishers, bicyclists, and children of all ages walk the beach. Everyone is happy and staring at the ocean. Everyone is uncovering their knees and shoulders and ….

The lines were a hazard!

She did not find any gold!

Tom loves the water!

ET Experiences

Oh say can you see …

We had several ET experiences here including a rocket launch.  (This link is of a silly tune “Rocketman” by our friends Igor and the Red Elvises.) We started gathering on the beach and looking north toward Cape Canaveral a few minutes before five in order to see the rocket /satellite launch. From our balcony we held our cameras high to catch the space wonder. I thought it would be boring. After all, I had watched Sputnik fly over my home as a child. It was not at all boring! A gleaming object leaving a white trail passed right in front of us. The white exhaust began to fade and that is when the impact and noise of the launch hit us. WOW! Let’s do it again!

Sunrise every morning! Another ET event!

Moon over our hotel! Could that be ET?

Treading Sacred Water and Land

This photo is from the Fish Museum at Sebastian.

St. Sebastian Inlet Park was beyond beautiful. It is where the Indian River heads out to the Atlantic Ocean. Hundreds of fishers set up their stakes hoping for the catch of a life time. One fisherman told me to get off the pier because tourists bothered him. I wondered if he was really a local. The scenes around the beach were unbelievably gorgeous!

The bridge to Sebastian Inlet State Park

Combat fishing on the pier at Sebastian!

The Pelicans posed for me!

 

The waves were huge and surfers took advantage of them!

Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands.

These wetlands, dedicated to a sixteen year old boy who lost his life here, took us by surprise. As we walked a lonely road hundreds of birds were singing, dancing, and clucking. I have only heard songs like this in the jungle of Sierra Leone, West Africa. Alligators stealthy patrolled the marshes and occasionally dined on foul caught off guard. Oh no!

Birds had nested in almost every palm tree!

Beware!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom found another nature preserve for us to hike near Sebastian Inlet Park. Trees were gnarled,  Indian River slapped against decaying foliage. An occasional palm stuck its head out of the bushes. We heard not one bird, not one animal, not one insect on this trek. We were not even bothered by mosquitos. A sign warned us that alligators were ahead, so we turned back. The silence made me think of the polluted Treadmill mine in Juneau, Alaska. I think we were walking on a superfund site again! Were there really alligators ahead?

Sun and Fun

From left to right: Rick, Barb, and Ines!!!!

We extended our stay to catch up with old friends Barb and Rick from Delaware, and found a new friend, Ines. In the past, we traveled with them to Alaska, Ireland, Belgium, and a memorable Caribbean cruise. It was so nice to talk with people who were of the same mind!  While in Melbourne, living it up, we had such a great time talking, and dining, and thinking about the future, that I forgot to take a photo of all of us. Shucks! Rick took this selfie for me.  Thanks Rick!

Moos and Ron Jon

It was a meeting place for all ages!

Moos became our favorite place to load up on calories. They serve Cow ice cream and we ordered the coffee flavor more than once.  In Cocoa Beach we visited the Ron Jon Surf Shop extravaganza.  Bass Pro and Cabela’s would be jealous!

This was really too much for us!

When you walk the beach, you are never alone!  Many creatures accompanied us on our strolls!

Florida was a fantastic break from the cold chill in Missouri!

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

 

This could be you next year during February!

Below are pics of some of my books that may be purchased at a variety of online outlets.  Alaska.  More than an Adventure will be published by  summer!

Posted in Camping, Camping in Florida, Cocoa Beach, Florida, Igor and the Red Elvises, Indiatlantic Beach, Juneau, Melbourne Beach, Missouri, Motorhome, Recreation Vehicles, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sebastian Inlet State Park, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Need To Sing Truth!

 2018 Folk Alliance International Conference (FAI)

“How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

Capturing our experiences at the FAI is almost impossible. I kept thinking about the quote above from the Sound of Music. The music was all around us like an uplifting light!  Next year it is in Montreal!

Don’t you think it looks like a turtle on his back?

Everywhere you looked musicians were carrying their instruments, sometimes three at a time. They gathered in circles talking, playing, or singing together. Like upright turtles with their guitars and bass instruments strapped to their backs they slowly muddled across the floor.

Tom and I attended no less than 18 concerts or public showcases in just three days. It was a musical overload when spliced together with 20 hours of volunteering as security at the Exhibition Hall. We would see the artists on stage and then talk to them at the door. What fun!

This is really a good way to get someone’s attention. I could have used a bagpipe in the classroom!

FAI took us on a world tour of vibrant and meaningful music. We sailed to many countries including Scotland and heard the thundering Talisk; the mysterious chanting of songs from southern Italy (Newpoli); to the heartfelt pleas of an Aborigine from Australia (Yirrmal); and the chided songs from a lesbian in New Zealand (Anika Moa). We missed Cubanisms and Rosie the Riveters!

Bagpipes called us to stand at a attention! We listened to the vibrant strings and Italian arias of Beppe Gambetta and were in awe of the all-Spanish Radio Free Honduras. Artists from 27 countries attended FAI last year.

What a special moment for me, standing with “The Wardens!”

During the times private showcases were offered, we visited the Alberta Room so we could hear one of our favorite groups, “The Wardens.” They were not part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but they do and did keep the peace in Canada’s National Parks of Alberta. They sang a song about how they are replenishing the Buffalo in the National Parks in Alberta, Sleeping Buffalo.  In the Alaska room we caught up with a fabulous pianist Kat Moore. I could see her work sung on stage in a musical and contacted her about the idea.

What a voice! What a talent! Ruthie Foster!

Our favorite evening was spent in a session sponsored by the Blues Foundation from Memphis, Tennessee. Hands down Ruthie Foster held us spellbound with her compelling voice honoring her slave ancestry.

We danced in our seats to Chris Barnes‘ Hokum Blues set. Rita Chiarelli, a Canadian, brought us to a lonely cell in a prison where she has been working with inmates. “Four Walls” was a chilling reminder of the isolation of incarceration. Hans Theessink, an Austrian Blues player, set us straight about the appeal of the Blues all over the world. Guy Davis took us back to the early days of the Blues and channeled Sonny Terry. He was very funny!

Her penetrating voice goes right to your heart. Martha Redbone!

The most spellbound and challenging concert for me was by Martha Redbone. Martha captured her African American, Cherokee-Choctaw, and Kentucky roots, by chanting the story of how the U.S. Calvary massacred 1,000 Native Americans. She even sang in the language of the Cherokee. I related to her tunes because I am one quarter Cherokee. My mother grew up in Kentucky not far from Martha’s roots and lived in abject poverty as a child. See, Life Everlasting and the Twelve Mile Blues.

Our own Kansas City group, Victor & Penny and the Loose Change Orchestra deserves a standing ovation. Like so many other groups we heard, they have resurrected tunes from the early 20th century and put a modern spin on them. They were fantastic and made Kansas City proud!

So professional! So talented! So much fun! Victor and Penny!

The conference itself is a feast not only for the ears but also for the mind and eyes. People were dressed in period costumes or not much at all. Hair was a myriad of colors. I envied the males who had long curly hair streaming down their backs. It seemed as if everyone wore a hat from cowboy types to dainty little diddies with a feather on top.

Our very nice BOSS. Mike!

FAI is more than a music festival. It offers opportunities for participants to engage in issues related to their fields through discussion panels (70 of them)  staffed by professionals. FAI also offers a health fair with hearing, vision, blood, etc. screenings. It helps to support musicians/artists with access to agents, advice on planning a career, and legal issues! There were even sessions that evaluated tunes developed by artists.

Tom is frowning because Sheriff’s never smile. He is guarding the Exhibition Hall. We decided to wear badges!

We were constantly reminded that music can change lives, reveal lives, and heal lives.

It can create underground movements and many of those tunes pointed out the devastation to people that the current administration has caused.

I kept wishing that someone would create a tune that we could all sing together that would force the politicians to do the “RIGHT” thing! It could happen!

We need to sing truth!

Tom has encouraged me to place a list of my recent publications at the bottom of my blogs. I hope this does not distract from the fun you might have reading our thoughts.

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

Below are only a few of the books I have published since retirement!  I will add more to the next blog!  Alaska.  More Than An Adventure will be published soon!

Posted in Folk Alliance International, Folk Music, Music, Underground Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love in the KC Music Community. From Tom’s Dashboard!

Everette DeVan is a Kansas City Star!

Since resigning from full time employment, Marla and I have focused a portion of our energies on music. Marla has been studying piano and I have been practicing guitar and, now, harmonica. In addition to learning new skills we are enjoying the local music community by attending Blues shows at BB’s Lawnside BBQ, rock and blues at Knuckleheads, Jazz at the Phoenix, musical Vesper programs, and the monthly offering of Spirituality and All That Jazz at Unity Temple on the Plaza. Cover charges range from $4 to $15 so it hardly diminishes the 401K. We have also volunteered at the Folk Alliance International Conference held the past 2 years in KC and will be here again on 2/14/18. Next on our agenda is visiting the Green Lady Lounge that offers Jazz seven nights a week on two stages. There is no shortage of venues to enjoy the local and visiting musicians in Kansas City.

Starving Artists

As you may know many musicians would fall in the category of “starving artist.” Some are full time musicians who perform and give lessons. If they get gigs three nights per week, at $200 per performance, that adds up to just over $30,000/year without benefits. With that low stipend it is difficult to put away money for a rainy day or for retirement. This is quite different from the internationally famous musicians and singers who visit KC, like Billy Joel or Taylor Swift, who’s stadium concert tickets sell for $100 to $500 and more.

Benefit for Everette DeVan

Today we attended a benefit for Everette DeVan at BBs. The event featured Kansas City notables from the blues and jazz communities. Everette, a graduate of the Colorado Conservatory of Music, has been a shining staple of the Kansas City jazz scene for 40 years on piano and Hammond B3 organ. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, a career in music does not lead to a financial nest egg.  And Everette is in need of a liver transplant ($575,000).   We do not know the details of his financial situation, but assume the medical expense may be covered by Medicare, but with his illness, he can not perform to make a living to cover expenses. (Or, given the health care system in the US, he may need to cover at least some of those expenses also).

The benefit performance by over 20 musicians, young and old, was an outpouring of love for Everette and demonstrated the bond among the musicians in the local community. All of the musicians had played with or learned from Everette over the years. The music was full of warmth, caring, and energy. Even though we are predominantly consumers of music, the event made us feel part of the music community, and we were energized by the experience.

Why not get out and support your local musicians. They give their heart and soul to their music, and you and they will benefit from it. There are a couple of Go Fund sites for Everett online, we know Eboni and her site but it appears to be dated. Here it is:  https://www.gofundme.com/everettedevan

And we wish that we had more information to give you on how to help him!

Here is Everette playing his heart out on a Hammond B3 organ!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

Posted in BB's Lawnside BBQ, BB's Lawside BBQ, Benefit for Everette DeVann, Benefits for Musicians, Blues, Blues in Kansas City, Everette DeVan, Jazz, Jazz in Kansas City, Kansas City Blues Scene, Musicians in Kansas City | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Alaska More Than An Adventure” to be Published in the Spring

This cover is a work in progress!

Sneak Peak!

Below is a sneak peak of the book before it is published! The book will be titled, “Alaska More Than An Adventure.”  It’s goal is to function as a beginner’s guide to RVing and Cruising in Alaska — including hundreds of color photographs.

Tom and I have visited Alaska about eight times and rented motorhomes twice,  with Marla lecturing on several cruise ships over the years.

Let’s Visit Some of the Towns in the Kenai Peninsula

Driving South on Seward Highway toward the Gulf of Alaska

 

What a drive this is! I think one of the best in Alaska!

Crossing the Kenai Peninsula is like floating through a wonderland. The Kenai River is massive and sparkling clear. People who like to fish or adventure in the water will be stunned by its beauty of Kenai Fjords National Park or Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

You can go south to Seward, east on Portage road to Whittier (the Chugach National Forest) , or west on the Sterling Highway that will take you to the Kenai Spur Highway going north, or continue on Sterling until you reach Homer. Take your time and enjoy the scenery and wild life along the way. If you see someone stopped along the road, you know there has been a sighting.

This bear is in captivity but I have photos of many in the mountains!

Driving South on Seward Highway

Turnagin Arm

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love Turnagin Arm. Take your time as you wind around this great geological site. The views are breath-taking and the air is so crisp and clean you will feel years younger than you are! It deserves a lot of attention on your trip. The tide goes in and out and sometimes Turnagin is full of water and other times fish are stranded as the water flows out to the sea to reveal a sea of mud.

Stop at Potter’s Marsh and walk the wooden walkway through natural surroundings that welcome all types of birds and fish. We have seen Sockeye Salmon by the hundreds here. Just down the road at Bird Creek Fishing you might run into combat fishers hoping for a mother load of salmon!

Combat fishing is very dangerous!

Take time to visit the Potter Section House Railroad Museum. You can visit an old train with a rotary plow that used to plow through the snow. Skagway also features a rotary plow which can be viewed if you book passage on a cruise ship floating through the inside passage.

           

If you are hungry, sit and eat lunch at Beluga point where whales have been seen. Sit quietly and wait for Nature to find you.

This is a photo near Turnagin.

We have visited Alaska during the salmon runs and witnessed combat fishing down the streams flowing out of Turnagin. Hundreds of people stand side by side and, sometimes, three deep as they throw their lines into to catch one of the golden fish. Last time we were in Alaska a fisherman threw his hook into someone’s ear. As blood dripped down this fisherman’s face, people tried to free the hook. With no luck, he went off to the emergency room at a hospital.

More to come later ….

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

Posted in Alaska, Alaska More Than An Adventure, Camping, Gold Mines, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Ketchikan, Mendenhall Glacier, Motorhome, National Parks, Recreation Vehicles, Rving across America, Save on your next Cruise, Skagway | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ghost of Katrina, Jefferson Davis, and the Beach

Two Hurricanes and the Angry Gods.

This white beach goes on for miles and miles.

It is ironical. We should have been enjoying Buck Island at Tamarind Reef Resort on St. Croix, USVI. Hurricane Maria thought otherwise and plowed down everything it could on the island. In December, only 30% of the island has electricity and about that percent has clean drinking water. Instead we headed for Waveland, Mississippi to camp as close to the beach as we could. But it was quiet in Waveland, too quiet!

Waveland after Katrina.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit Waveland, dead center. If you remember, New Orleans was in the news. We heard only briefly about Mississippi. “Katrina’s storm surge was a wall of water 20 – 35 feet high moving at 80-100 MPH.  When the surge came ashore, it swept clean the first few lots along the beach.” See  http://www.schlatter.org/Katrina/aerial_photos.htm

 

Driveways along the coast lead to open fields.

 

Twelve years later most of the lots facing the beach (Gulf of Mexico) are empty from Waveland to Biloxi. It is an eerie sight! Lonely pylons out in the Gulf look like sticks thrown to earth by some great and angry god.  The storm surge reached I-10 some ten miles north and plowed down all that it could in its path. We

Support beams echo the ghost of Katrina as you walk the beach. You wonder, what did they support?

are so lucky that the State of Mississippi rebuilt Buccaneer State Park so that we could enjoy the gorgeous beach!

The Beach Boulevard sign still stands!

We hope that St. Croix will be rebuilt enough for us to return next year!

Jefferson Davis

Early portrait of Jefferson Davis.

Neither Tom nor I had studied the life of Jefferson Davis, first and only president of the Confederacy. (He also served as a Senator from Mississippi in the US Senate.)  So we visited “Beauvoir,” the last residence of Davis, discovering a home, two guest-houses, a large museum, and a Confederate cemetery. Included with our ticket was a tour of his home. Donna Barnes, an ordained minister guided us through each room of the main house. With the zeal of an evangelist, she pointed to Davis’ bed, “This is where he slept!” Or, “This is where he sat!” “This is where he bathed!” She seemed to be in the presence of the Divine as she told us several of the places where Jefferson “read his bible!” He was loved by all! During his time at Beauvoir, he wrote several books, among them “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.”

The lovely home of Davis.

Our enthusiastic guide, Donna Barnes.

We had mixed emotions about our trek through the property and museum. What about all of those 600,000 boys that lost their lives in the Civil War? Why wasn’t Jefferson imprisoned for life for his deeds? Of course, the more you read about him, you discover that many people came to his rescue and supported him after the war.  He was a very lucky guy!

Jefferson Davis Museum.

Inside the very spot where Jefferson Davis sat.

After visiting Beauvoir, we learned that Sarah Ellis Dorsey bequeathed the property to him. Our guide said that he purchased it! Sarah was a constant companion of Davis until she died in 1879. Varina, second wife, for a time, also lived at Beauvoir.

It is interesting to read accounts of the lives of these people. Some stories are written like a hagiography and others tell a different and more complicated story.  Jefferson was ill with Malaria most of his life along with other chronic diseases. And he may have been a bad-tempered recluse who had bouts of depression. After losing his 140 or so slaves, he was left penniless after the Civil War. Jobs alluded him! And he could not run for Congress again because he had lost his citizenship. There is so much more!

It is so sad that all of these people had to die!

Cousin Charles

Lunch was too short with cousin Charles.

Today we caught up with my world-traveled cousin Charles. He drove in from Pensacola, Florida and we met in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Our homes were only a mile apart when we were children. Our fathers were brothers. Charles worked at Bower Roller Bearing Company with my dad. It so good to hear him talk about my dad. Apparently when he asked Joanne to marry him, Joanne’s father asked my dad about the trustworthiness of Charles. Said my dad, “He’s the best of the Selvidge’s.” Unfortunately Charles’  beloved spouse Joanne passed away over two years ago! It was a fine lunch with a great cousin!

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

Posted in Jefferson Davis, Katrina, The Confederacy, Uncategorized, Waveland | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mississippi Blues Pilgrimage

Mississippi Blues Don’t Make You Blue!

Who da’ thought that tooling down to the Mississippi coast would be such a learning experience!

Arkansas

My little friends who wondered who I was?

Our first stop on our way to Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Mississippi was Dardanelle State Park in Arkansas. We know this place. It is peaceful and even more peaceful this time of year. Arriving at sunset I hurried to break out my camera for a shot of the gorgeous rays on the water and the mountains. Luck was my friend. Two children were trolling the lake in a Jon boat. Their silhouettes were breath taking. As they came close to the shore I said to them, “This is so beautiful.” One of the young boys replied, “Yeah, and we got a lot more places even more beautiful than this around here.” The other boy said, “You ain’t from around here, are you?” I asked them how they knew that I lived somewhere else. “You don’t talk like us.” I said, “How should I talk?” And they replied in unison, “Southern!”

Cotton Fields

The bales of cotton were like pieces of candy in the fields.

Our trusty motorhome took us across fields of harvested cotton for hundreds of miles. Along the edge of every road and highway were puffs of cotton that clung to the weeds. It looked like snow but at 70 degrees we knew it could not be snow. Bales of cotton lined the side of the road ready to be transported. I reasoned, “If cotton was really worth anything, people would be picking up all the cotton along the roads.”

On a beautiful sunny day as we crossed Arkansas, the skies were suddenly

This photo was taken from a petition asking to ban the burning of fields in Arkansas. My photo was not quite as close to the action.

filled with black smoke. For many miles we could see fire in the fields at least six feet high. What a hazard! We supposed the burning was intentional because we could find no alerts on the Internet.

 

Clarksdale

Shack Up Inn

We planned to investigate Clarksdale, Mississippi because Tom has enrolled in a weeklong intensive harmonica class there in April of 2018. We left the highway and crept through some narrow streets only to discover that we could not visit downtown because the overpass was one foot shorter than our RV. We will save this adventure for another day when we rent a car. Tom did find the Shack Up Inn where we will be staying in April. It is a working plantation with refurbished sharecropper shacks and has become a blues destination!

Indianola

BB King lives on in his museum!

Indianola, Mississippi was our next stop. Here they have built a $16 million dollar museum dedicated to the late B.B. King, the blues singer and player. It was top-notch and more than enjoyable to learn about his life. Orphaned at four years old then living with his grandmother for another four years, he found himself alone when she died. Finally a relative came to his

Our RV parked outside the BB King museum in Indianola.

rescue when we was a teenager and sent him to school. The museum did not mention if he had studied music formally.  His notebook demonstrated that he understood chord changes and keys!

He led a wandering life.  During his career two marriages failed as he dedicated his life to music. When he died in 2015, he had fathered 15 children and gladly paid for all of their educations. King’s music is legendary around the world and Mississippi has dedicated September 1 as BB King Day. This place is a must-see if you visit Mississippi.

Jackson

Andrew Jackson stands proudly in front of the old city hall!

“I’m going to Jackson, I’m going to mess around,” sang Johnny Cash. The Jackson stop was not planned  but after reading about the town, we decided to stay two days in order to walk its streets. On the fly, we rented a car, and began our lonely tourist discovery. I say lonely because Jackson is the state capitol but hardly anyone was enjoying it. The streets were empty.

Ruth Cole introduced us to the old Capitol and nearly talked us into moving to Jackson. What a lady!

Jackson is an anomaly. Part of the city is thriving and the other areas are dying (or dead). The old and new capitols, war memorial building and old city hall, are handsome flowers on the streets where they reside. But more than half of the town is empty. Ornate skyscrapers and storefronts are boarded up. If you wanted to shop, you had to visit a museum store! Mold covers sidewalks and buildings. Streets are in need of repair!

They would not let us inside the gate to take a picture of the governor’s mansion.  I had to squeeze through the bars to take it.

We stopped to take a photo of the governor’s mansion and a white-shirted man holding a folder stopped to talk with us. He was the economic development person for the city. He asked about our visit. We told him we were interested in Jackson’s history and architecture and some of the museums. He talked to us about the difficulty of Mississippi’s past and the new civil rights museum that was about to open. He was so kind.

The War Memorial was so unusual spouting all types of instruments of war!

One of the main reasons we stopped in Jackson was to visit the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. “It is the only one in the United States,” barked the brochure.  We wondered how a museum like this could be in Jackson? We soon found the

Sculptures adorn the War Memorial  building. I would love to study it!

museum.  The building in which it is housed is the failing Art Center which has been neglected for at least a decade. We made our way up the stairs to the museum. No one was at the door. We peeked in at a few exhibits that looked like high school projects and determined that we knew more about Islam than the museum. This was such a disappointment for us!

Inside the old capitol. It is gorgeous!

The old 1937 Greyhound Bus Station is a treasure!

This is a Methodist Church. It looks like the Parthenon, built in Greek Revival style.  The Baptist Church covered three whole city blocks. It was like they were competing to determine which church would spend the most money on a building. I wondered if anyone worshipped in them today?

Tax-base Eroded by White Flight

We were sad that the Civil Rights Museum had not opened yet.

Later we discovered that after the schools were forced to integrate, light-skinned people moved away from Jackson and enrolled their children in private schools. This eroded the tax base and quality of education. Without taxes the city of Jackson could not be maintained. And, I had never thought about private schools being an escape from African Americans. I thought it had to do with religious beliefs!  Racism is everywhere!

More later on our Mississippi holiday!

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

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Camping Along the Danube on a Viking Longship!

Tom called the Captain the “Warden” and our Cabin “The Cell!”

The sun and warm breezes followed us as we crossed Eastern Europe. Today it is drizzling while we float through the Iron Gate (locks) area with archaeological evidence of peoples dating back to the Romans. Multi-colored leafed mountains on both sides wave at us as we paddle for the fjord ahead.

Here is a map of the exotic cruise (in purple). Budapest to Bucharest! We visited all the cities marked on the map including Veliko Tarnovo, Vidin, Belogradchik, Osijek, Kalocsa, Belgrade, Bucharest, and more!

 

 

Viking Cruises plan and orchestrate trips very well, even down to the last day when they picked us up at our hotel (with boxed breakfast in tow) in Bucharest at 4:30 a.m. There are included excursions for every day.   They add shorter excursions (extra cost)  if you think you will be bored or can’t spend a whole day on a bus or you can’t walk very far.

The Viking Lif

King Decebalus greeted us as we paddled the Danube!

The Viking Lif hosts 180 passengers and about 80% of them have traveled the world for a very long time. We met a second woman who had traveled to more than 100 countries! Our first woman was in Turkey.  Last night we talked with a man who had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for his job.

Many passengers are in their 80’s. There is plenty enough room for everyone on the ship except in the staterooms. Twinkers and Hillary (our beloved canines) share a bigger space than we did. When we arrived on the ship, I wondered if Tom would fit into the shower. It is 50% smaller than the one on our RV. If you ever book a cruise on Viking, choose a suite so you can breathe! Tom calls the room our cell!

Sewer Gas

During the first four days of our cruise sewer gas escaped from the shower in our room.  Tom complained several times and they told us that the design of the longboat was problematic.  Finally they gave us another stateroom but it also smelled–but less!  The smell made us nauseous.  If you cruise on a Viking ship book a cabin on the second or third floor!  Some passengers knew about the problems because they had been on Viking ships in the past.  They booked a higher level cabin!

Ocean Cruises versus River Cruises

While on ocean cruise ships (not river boats), many sea and land adventures are offered. And if you don’t want to choose an excursion there are plenty of drivers waiting at the dock to take you anywhere. We usually rent a car or hike the towns where we dock. There were no cabs (or anyone other than chartered buses) waiting at our docks for this ship.  I asked one person working on the ship if he was getting off the boat and he said, “There is nothing here to see!”

A salad in Bulgaria. They serve salads without dressing!

Viking prefers adventures of the mind, eyes, and stomach. When we visit a town (all 180 of us) we are taken to “free” places such as churches, synagogues, (no mosques) with a local guide. We had never been on tours that were so large with so many people. Sometimes we listen to classical or Christian concerts. On a farm in Osijek, Croatia horses danced, sat, and played coy for us! Here we learned how the locals defended themselves with horses and whips that sounded like bullets.

Local pottery to bring home!

In Bucharest we were fed some type of chicken stew with a warm Pepsi or wine, your choice. It felt as if they were throwing feed at cows. Women pushed five foot carts in between the tables.   The best thing about this meal was the ice cream.

The same meal was served at a very nice restaurant in Serbia. It tasted like leftovers! Feeding 180 people is a challenge!   We never dreamed that everyone would go on all the excursions together!

Lace was sold everywhere but who would use it today? I saw loads of lace like this in China?

Culinary Delights

Cooking, wine-tasting, opera, and specialty foods fill in the hours. Last night on the ship our dinner was a Taste of Serbia. I thought most of the food came out of cans because we attend Serbian Fests in Kansas City with real fresh food. And a lot of the food on the ship seemed as if it had been pre-cooked, stored in plastic, or frozen.  The beef stew tasted slimy with lots of salt.  It was probably pre-cooked in plastic bags — like those you can buy at Walmart.  Rarely did we enjoy lunch or dinner. Breakfast was okay.

Lunch Buffet on the Lif.

Beer, wine, and soft drinks are free flowing and free at every meal. Plus, you can buy a liquor package that will allow you to drink any spirit 24 hours a day. (A lot of people spent their time on the cruise drinking and they were over the edge!) In between meals they greet you at the door with Hungarian specialties or some unknown blue or yellow alcoholic concoction.

They played music for us, danced for us, sang for us, and took care of us. We have been on scores of ships and  have never met such gentle and helpful people. This is reflective of their captain (the warden) who appears also to be a kind and gentle soul. My favorite person on the ship was Pedro, the piano player.  He was from Portugal.  I recognized that he was playing music from the same Fake Book (Song Book) I use.

As we marched into dinner these guys played for us!

WIFI went up in Smoke!

This trip was very challenging! While the longship of Viking claims it has WIFI, it flickers on and off. It is so unstable that I could not post any blogs. Their WIFI is suspicious too. Sometimes it appeared that I was trying to enter a Spanish porthole and at other times it is French or Hungarian or whatever! It was like a puff of smoke floating across the Danube.

Ocean Cruises versus River Cruises, again!

Before the cruise I made several calls to Viking. No one could give us any info about times at port or when the excursions ran before our cruise. They even changed the date of the first excursion which messed up our flights.  (I thought this was odd.) The lack of information was frustrating because we would have liked to have toured more on our own. We never knew how far a town was from a port and we did not know the names of the ports (If they were cities!) ahead of time. Ocean ships always have port times posted and list the name of the port where the ship would be docked.

The lounge area on the Viking

The planning and control on the Lif was too much for us! (I know I am just droning on here!) One passenger told us that we were on this trip twenty years too soon! Within a couple of days, the cruise began to feel like a jail. They dictated when breakfast, lunch, or dinner would be served. (On ocean cruises you can dine at any moment because food of some type is always available!) We were obliged to attend a briefing on rules for the next day’s activities right before dinner. And there were lots of rules!  Then on the excursions we rarely had a few minutes of freedom.

Fake Information from Guides

The guides spouted propaganda just like this image of a model in a soldier’s uniform in Bucharest.

I became frustrated with a couple of the guides whose knowledge of religions was about “zero” but they kept spouting inaccuracies. A few passengers were talking about the guides who had trouble with “real” facts. I guess this is the Trump Age with Fake News everywhere!

(Dr.) Larry our Room Attendant took care of all of us!

Both Tom and I contracted diseases on this trip. I became ill in Budapest with what, I believe, was Strep Throat. Don’t worry, I brought antibiotics with us. Tom became ill about the same time we boarded the ship and the rest of the passengers on the ship followed with their own versions of respiratory and intestinal disturbances. I believe he has had some type of flu, even though he had a flu shot.  (Three weeks later we are still recovering.) We began to worry when his fever was very high. The bed was his companion for almost two days. We do not remember a trip when both of us became ill so quickly. These are joys of traveling and flying next to very sick people!

We met a few women who were traveling by themselves.  They told us that they like the planning, cultural events, and security that they find on Viking cruises. Some people had cruised eight times on Viking!  You don’t have to worry about anything and, especially, you don’t have to make many decisions about what to eat or where to visit.  It is sort of like cruising on a floating assisted-living island!

Maybe you would like a Viking Cruise too! Everything is planned down to the millisecond!

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

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sins of the Brothers, Sons, Uncles, Cousins, and Fathers

Paddling  Through Eastern Europe.  Where am I?

Where am I?  Kalocsa or Puszta, Hungary?  Where am I? Osijek or Vukovar, Croatia?  Where am I? Vidin or Belograde, Serbia?  Where am I? Russe, Bulgaria or Bucharest, Romania?

One sight on the Danube as we paddled along!

Budapest is a vibrant city but as we sailed the Danube across Eastern Europe the faces and towns changed. They talk of the wars, especially the war in 1991 between Croatia and Serbia. We hear about the Ottomans, WWI, WWII, Civil Wars, and …. We pass by ruins. We hear about the killing of brothers and neighbors and friends!

 

 

Mass Murder on a Grand Scale

Synagogue with Jews!

Yesterday we were taken to a lovely Synagogue complex in Novi Sad, Serbia.  I asked the guide about its name. She said it has no name. It has no name?  Huh? The synagogue has a name but no one remembers it. (I found the name of Beit Hatfutsot?)

The town elders assassinated the Jews and destroyed the Jewish quarter.  Upon their land they built white businesses and a theatre. Apparently less than 10% of the Jews survived the Homeland extermination. Serbs killed them where ever they could find them and dumped their bodies in the river. (This killing of Jews in WWII had also happened in Budapest earlier in the century. There is a monument entitled “Shoes” along the Danube.)

Holocaust Monument! Iron Shoes along the Danube in Budapest. The Jews were killed but the shoes were kept because they had worth!

We drove through Vukovar, Croatia with tears on our faces. They did not stop the bus to allow us to take pictures of the houses that still lay in ruins.

This Vukovar pic was taken off the net. It looks like Syria today, doesn’t it?

 

Another shot of the city in the 1990’s.

 

See website:  http://mediaobservatory.net/radar/vukovar-life-size-monument-dead-city

Serbs destroyed 90% of this small town in what they call the “Homeland War” in the 1990’s. They say is was a massacre. Every other house and business is in ruins. The Serbs told the people to leave because they were taking over their town, their businesses and residences. A few thousand remained to fight the Serbs and try to protect their homes. In the end, like Syria, nothing much was left of the town and the Serbs went home. Their greed ended up killing 5,000 people, according to our guide. All of this violence did not mean too much to us as we traversed the town. How do you take sides in a war?

She sang Christian hymns! It sounded like chanting!

After this heart-wrenching sight we went on to a the Holy Cross church in Osijek, Croatia which is in the center of Croatia.  The church itself looked like a place where furniture (altars) had been collected and stored to protect them.  Nothing seemed to fit its structure and there were many different pieces of furniture with varying colors and styles.  We were treated to a concert by a young lady who had won singing contests! And then taken out to a courtyard where there had been a fort?

Belgrade, Serbia

While Belgrade needs a facelift and seems to be in decline. It’s shopping area was stunning!

The next day we visited Serbia and spent the afternoon in Belgrade. Immediately we understood what the Serbs had done. Belgrade has magnificent buildings similar to Budapest. You could see a long history of wealth and power on every street, unlike the country hamlets in Croatia that we visited. Like a child who wanted the toys of others, Serbia made a land-grab. Our guide in Belgrade protested that NATO sent bombers to Belgrade and destroyed parts of the city. We were shown a quadrant that stood destroyed like a holocaust monument to the past. She lamented the death of 4,000 children and civilians. But that bombing stopped the Serbs in their greedy path according to some.

On the Prince Michael’s shopping street, little girls and old men played for tourists hoping to make a little cash.  I have never seen little kids play toy pianos for money!

They were quite the hit on the mall!

 

Novi Sad, Serbia

Lovely Novi Sad, Serbia. A Thoughtful Guide in the Square!

A sadness covers the faces of many people as we visit country after country. Our guide in Novi Sad, Serbia said, “We don’t look backward, and we don’t look forward.” We live day by day and hour by hour! We are not planning because another war could come any time. I kept thinking about what she had said. I think the people are still grieving about the wars.   How do you ever stop grieving for all the atrocities done by your brothers, fathers, cousins, or your family?

 

Bucharest, Romania

This is not my photo. I wanted you to view the grand area created by the Communists. It is overwhelming to experience. It is called the Palace of the Parliament!

There is more. Bucharest, Romania rivals Budapest in its grand stature but it needs some redecorating. They are trying to renovate block-long apartments constructed by the Communists.  Communism under Nicholae Ceausescu re-ordered the lives of the people until they went over the edge and assassinated him. Massive buildings line the crowded streets. I felt like I was entering an arena of a God. This man murdered thousands with his strict approach to allocation of resources, and was said to be the cause of a civil war that also killed thousands.  To build his monumental valley, he uprooted and destroyed whole communities.  Some say that he tore down 30 churches.

According to the Economist, “The government (Romania) is in the midst of liberalising the economy, opening up new sectors (most notably, energy and telecoms) to competition and investment. Economic growth is at 4.1%. Wages are rising fast. Adjusting for prices, Bucharest’s GDP per capita is above the EU average. Indeed, the average Bucharest resident is comfortably better off than the average resident of Manchester.”

More than ugly apartments. You find these in all Eastern Europe Countries! I would tear them down! They remain symbols of tyrants!

And while there are great sites like the Parliament, the practical side of running the city seems to be lost.  There are nine cars for every parking spot. Roads look like parking lots and people park wherever they can, even in empty lots.  We saw people driving on the medians. We did not see motorcycles or bicycles.  This is a big-car city that is as large or larger than Budapest.  At sidewalk level, almost every building is covered in graffiti. Over and over I kept reading “fascist” on sidewalks and walls.  As you walk the city, you feel a harshness in the air. You see a determination in the eyes of the people. An employee in the Sheraton Hotel assured us that it was safe to walk the downtown area.  Interesting? We did not ask him if it was safe!

People do not respect the property of others in Bucharest!

 

Nationalism

As we landed in country every country, I noticed a pronounced nationalism. The countries are no bigger than many of our states. We are facing our own issues of nationalistic ideologies these days with the president. Does it matter in the USA whether you are from Ohio or New York? Yes, there are regional differences but we do not have the need for a specific local identity, do we?

Even within the countries people take on regional identities? It is helpful that these countries are working toward membership in the European Union. It may mitigate  the nationalism we felt as we crossed borders. Tom argues that people need identities because they have been conquered by so many outside forces. Those who have survived hold hands and wave a proud flag.

With almost every guide the speech was “superlative.” This bridge is the third largest, or this building is second in weight next to the Pentagon, this was the first, best, most beautiful, most important, most intelligent or brilliant, filled their speeches.

St. Sava in Belgrade. It is just an ugly  shell to be finished!

When we arrived in Belgrade, Serbia a guide took us to an unfinished Serbian Orthodox Church, St. Sava.  She said it was the largest on earth. I asked, “What about St. Sophia in Istanbul.” She retorted that it was a museum now and her church was three meters higher!

St. Sava  pales in the shade of  St. Sophia but in her mind it was the largest and best on earth!

Hagia Sophia has to be the largest Greek Orthodox church! It was turned into a mosque!

As we entered the church, we were stunned by the state of ruin or as she said, “It is in a constructive stage.”

Notice that church and state are together in this image in  St. Sava, a Serbian Orthodox Church.

But, the basement was finished with fabulous painted icons on the walls and an iconostasis (altar) where services were held for the locals.

There was no way for a handicapped person to enter this space.  So people on our tour just waited at the top of the steps.

 

 

Pollution is Highest in The Balkans.  The Sins of the Fathers.

You wonder about pollution after the wars?  We experienced very dark skies (polluted air), crumbling buildings (asbestos?), and traversing empty dusty farmland. The European Environmental Agency has done studies and concluded that 90% of European countries have dangerous levels of toxins in the air.

“East European countries, including Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia, were found to be the most exposed to particulate matter, largely, it is thought, from coal and wood burning.

Particulate matter remains a serious threat to health, because no threshold for PM has been identified below which no damage to health is observed. In western, central and eastern Europe it has caused 430,000 premature deaths,” it said.

We have traveled to the war-torn countries of Cambodia and Vietnam and there we heard of the bombs and pollution in the soil from the wars.  As we criss-crossed Eastern Europe, you know that it has the same issues. And you wonder how the pollution is affecting you?  Eastern Europe is a bread basket much like the midwest is for the USA.  Is it migrating into the food that is grown?

Reflection

One of the goals of this blog is to bring people to places they might not have visited.  I usually write with an upbeat and positive pen about our travels.  The current blog introduces you to the REALLY difficult side of traveling.  You become more informed and it changes your life in ways that you never dreamed!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Forget Paris! Head for Magnificent Budapest

“From Budapest to Bucharest!”

“Budapesht.”  Yes, this is how the locals pronounce it!

The Parliament is an overwhelming neo-Gothic building that is several blocks long!

After listening to someone who had recently been to Budapest, I thought the town would be run-down and out-of-date! My friend was out of her mind when she told me about her thoughts of Budapest!  Thank goodness we heard “good” reports from others! We came in four days early to enjoy Budapest before our river tour  on the Viking Lif.

Here is Tom pondering the founder of Christian Budapest next to the Parliament. Statues seem to be on every street!

St. Matthews, so gorgeous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t snap enough photos to capture all of the beauty of this city. It was named the second most beautiful city in the world by Flight Network. Paris is ninth! (I could add Valencia and Barcelona, Spain to that small list.) The 1.7 million city is influenced by Greek, Moorish (and Turkey), Art Deco, and Neo-Gothic architecture and cultures. The breadth and sheer variety of buildings is rivaled by few cities in the world. It reminded me of Istanbul and Ankara in Turkey. One passenger on our ship told me that I would love Vienna too!

What a gorgeous synagogue!

Theodore Hertzl, one of my heroes, was born near the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest. He dreamed of an independent state for Jews and his dream came true after he died. “If you will it, it need not be a dream.” This is the largest and most opulent synagogue that we have ever seen. Some suggest that only the New York City synagogue Temple Emanu-El is bigger! Its facade is adorned with pick and green bricks and reminded me of the Duomo in Florence.

Here is the  inside of the synagogue. This reflects the wealthy of the Jews at one point in history.

People in Budapest are affluent, earning more than twice the average of other EU countries. Everything seems to run very smoothly, almost a million people use mass-transit every day. There are buses and trams and under ground trains. Very few people use motorcycles, some use bicycles, but most drive big cars! There are bicycle lanes everywhere. The locals and city officials love their dogs. We saw no strays and every few blocks there was a dog part!

The locals follow the rules. They wait for the lights to change, stop when crossing a street, and place their refuse (not on the street) but in bins, even cigarettes. If you hand them the wrong change, they don’t cheat you and they even stop and give you directions in Hungarian–that work!

 

Great shopping at the indoor market!

Some of the best sights include St. Matthews Cathedral, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Parliament Building, Memento Park (Statues torn down after the fall of Communism. See the website:  http://www.mementopark.hu ),  Castle Hill, Margaret Island, The Ferris Wheel in the middle City Square, and every street in town!!!

To view the fantastic sights you can hoof it, ride a tram, bus, or underground train.  Or, you can rent a bicycle, a one person electric car, a scooter with twelve inch-wide wheels, or a Segway.  Or, you can book a bus tour to anywhere!

So huge, St. Stephen’s Cathedral!

The owner of the bed and breakfast where we stayed, Wahab, was originally from Chad and had been a professor at the University of Bengazi before Libya fell apart. Wahab is an electrical engineer who chose Budapest as the best place to raise his sons and provide an education for them. There are 40 colleges and universities in this remarkable city. And education is free!  He purchased some property to create the Evergreen, the bed and breakfast, so it would generate funds to pay for necessities for his sons’ education. How smart!!

Inside of St. Stephen’s Cathedral! Stunning!

The Hungarians have been through hundreds of years of wars and atrocities, siding with Hitler at one point, and saved by the Russians who tried to destroy their culture. They have only had a democracy since the 1990’s so it is almost unbelievable to see the progress they have made in creating a wonderful and welcoming city.

We were sad to leave Hungary. If we choose to live in another country, it would be high on the list. They have free health benefits. I may return to Budapest to share additional photos in another blog!  There was so much to see and digest!

This is like the long boat that was our home for almost two weeks, the Viking Lif

I thought you might like to see how Hungarians view Trump. And this t-shirt was a tame one!

As always this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

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Forty-Two Years Later…. From Tom’s Dashboard!

Munich in 2017!!!!

Day One

 

Glockenspiel is going full speed!  Old Town Hall is massive!

It took only 42 years. After my sophomore year in high school in 1975, at age 16, I participated in an exchange program with a Catholic girl’s boarding school in Altotting Germany, located between Munich and the Alps. Frau Graf organized the event. We toured Southern Germany/Bavaria for one week, then lived with a family for three weeks. School was in session so we attended or were expected to be in attendance, along with our host. What an experience for a 16 year old! There was international travel, German beer, and girls. This trip created an interest in visiting new countries and since then I have been to over 70 countries for work and vacation.

Frauenkirke! Wow!

On a business trip to Poland two years ago, I considered adding a stop in Munich/Altotting but Poland itself provide enough interesting sites, so I decided to leave it out of the itinerary. When I learned that an International Conference and Symposium on Lameness in Ruminants was being organized by Dr. Andrea Fiedler (one of the strong women everywhere) for 2017, I decided to submit a paper. It was accepted so now I am back in Munich.

Another bloody Kirke!

It has changed. I do not have very specific memories of Munich other than visits to the old city with the town hall/Glockenspiel, a few churches, the Olympic Stadium (Munich Olympics in 1972) and a visit to the Dachau WWII concentration camp. It was the largest city we visited during the trip in the summer of 1975.

A Road Sign in Bavaria!

The city today is swimming in tourists. There is a very strong international bent to the crowds with Africans and Asians in sizable proportions. While visiting the old town/city center with massive and ornate Catholic churches on every other corner I am amazed at the number of Muslim women among the crowd of tourists. Some of them were fully covered with the slits for their eyes covered by sun glasses. Where was my camera?

Just use your credit card and leave the bike wherever you land!

Munich is very easy to navigate with an excellent network of buses, subways, trams and trains. Bikes are everywhere and are available to rent via a simple use of the smart phone (see photo). After a stroll through the very large and lovely English Garden (large city center park with lakes, trails, Chinese tower and beer gardens ), I headed for the city center and the old town hall. The Glockenspiel was doing its performance on a cool September morning upon arrival. I wandered about, visited the Frauenkirche (strong women everywhere) with its twin domes; St. Michael’s Church where a noon time service including organ music was just ending; St. Peters Church*, with gold and gold leaf adorning the many status and icons; Viktualienmarkt (traditional food market) and a required visit to the Hofbrauhaus.

* I had not planned this to be an ABC tour: Another Bloody Church. Marla has taken me to many of these over the past 35 years, (ABC, ABT (temple). ABM (mosque)) so I guess it is now part of my DNA.

Are you hungry?

There was a bit more walking around to admire the architecture then back to Hotel Leopold in Schwabing (up scale area) for a rest and dinner at Bavarian style restaurant/café where I enjoyed watching the people from my street side table right on Leopold Strasse.

 

Day Two

Nymphenburg Palace, Olympic Stadium, and BMW World

Just three mass transit connections and I am in the gardens of the summer home of Bavarian royalty. Nymphenburg Palace was designed as Munich’s version of Versailles just outside Pari. It is a beautiful palace adorned with paintings, statues, chandeliers, spacious gardens and plenty of water features. The stories of the occupants are filled with intrigue. Built with money from the people–the money that the church didn’t take– the opulence makes Trump look like a hack. The palace is famous for a wall of beauties, which I think should be labeled “all the girls I’ve loved before.” The tourist books do not explain why the paintings are there. In one room, they could be “Stepford Wives.” They all have the same face. The palace is also famous for the birthplace of Ludwig II, an eccentric prince who built many castles. More on him tomorrow.

With a new Japanese friend in Nymphenberg!!!!

I met a nice Chinese couple. He is a civil engineer, with a Ph.D. from France. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. With the construction boom in China that has been going on for over 15 years, I wonder how he has time to get away?

 

Nymphenberg is gorgeous!

 

Olympic Center. I decided to take a visit to this site from the 1972 Munich Olympics. The site had a novel use of tent like canopies that was unique at the time. It looks faded and dated now. Some young Mormon missionaries asked me, a heathen, to take their picture. I mentioned the tragedy of the Israeli athletes from the Munich Olympics. They knew nothing of it. Kids these days!

Next, was time for modern opulence and a walk through BMW World. BMers, Minis and Rolls Royces were all on display. Funny that at $500,000+ the Rolls seemed to have the same seat adjustment levers as my Chevy. Some nice slogans about riding and life were displayed with the BMW motorcycle exhibit.

BMW World with Tom in the picture somewhere!

Final notes. 1) Munich is a city of 1.5 million and a metropolitan area of 4-6 Million. It doesn’t seem so crowded. Must be the use of mass transit and bicycles. Three hundred thousand of the 1.5 million are not German citizens. 2) Inflation is everywhere. It cost $1.2 Euros to use the WC in the central station. I will probably water the bushes next time. (Just kidding!)

 

 

Day Three    Life of a King

Linderhof Palace!

King Ludwig II took over the thrown at age 18 and was removed at age 40. He is most famous for having a relationship with composer Richard Wagner, and for building three wonderful castles: Linderhof, Neuswanstein, and Herrenchiemsee. Only Linderhoff was completed. Today’s trip was a bus tour with Norma Blowey to Linderhof and Newschwanstein, with a stop in Oberammergau home to the famous Passion Play. The castles are located in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps about 2 hours from Munich. We traveled through lush farmland where the roofs of nearly all of the quaint farm houses are covered with solar panels. Linderhof is a small, but ornately decorated castle, with lovely gardens and water features. Rain did not dampen the experience!

In Oberammergau the citizens put on the Passion Play every 10 years in payment for the ending of the plague many centuries ago. Only citizens of this small town can be part of the 500 person cast. The play lasts 5 hours.

Neuschwanstein is the castle that inspired a logo for Disney. It is wonderfully situated in a rugged mountain with views across a lush valley. The castle is the most visited tourist site in all of Germany with 6000-7000 visitors per day. Our visit was no exception. The exterior views are fantastic. The interior is relatively simple.

Norma was a great traveler!

I was entertained during the 11.5 hour trip by Norma Blowey, wife of my good friend Roger Blowey, both from the UK. Norma told me her life story and explained how Roger became her boy-toy. They have been married for 45 years. Who would have thought relationships could work with the woman older than the man?

 

Days Four, Five, and Six

I attended the International Conference on Lameness in Ruminants, and presented a paper on the final day. It was a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues from across the globe. This conference was attended by about 500 people. As usual there were excellent evening events including a gala dinner and party. After the closing of the Conference there was a tour of the Munich Residenz, home of the Bavarian Royal Family the Wittelsbach’s. Much of the Residenze was destroyed during WWII, but has mostly been restored.

Walking to my hotel from this tour I encountered three kilometers of Munichers enjoying a street fest. Some type of warm up for the upcoming October fest? In spite of a constant light drizzle Leopold Strassa was filled with people enjoying food, beer, music, dancing and various other diversions.

 

 

Pounding their way down the street!

Is this my new harpsichord?

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

Posted in Germany, Munich, Neuenschwanstein, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Find a Friend and Fall in LOVE!!

Pets ALWAYS love you!  It is Magical!

Jack sort of looked like this fella!

My first dog, “Jack” was a collie,. He had lots of fur and stayed outside in his own house. We were always friends until the dog-catcher came and took him away. My dad said that he was sick!

My life has always been filled with doggie friends. So, this year I decided I would learn how to volunteer at Wayside Waifs, a no-kill shelter for all sorts of pets. After taking classes, I became a dog socializer, then, cashier at Whiskers and Wags, and now also dog photographer. I wanted to be part of the effort to rescue animals.  Both of our pets are rescues!

What hoopla!

Last weekend I experienced a $35 bonanza Mega Match where all animals were up for adoption. Sometimes puppies can run $200 or more. Even at that price, Wayside loses money. They take a stray, give it medication or medical help. All pets are spayed and some have surgery because of wounds or an illness. Staff and volunteers at the Peace Academy, train pets to be with humans if they have problems. I have seen volunteers just sitting with a dog in its kennel, or holding a dog for a very long time. Someone told me that it costs more than $25 a day just to house the pets.

Dogs respond to all the love they receive!

Wayside has lots of services for pets and humans. I have talked with many people who come out to place flowers on their pet’s graves!

Here are staff just waiting to help everyone!

People lined up for a block, at least, to adopt their favorite dog. One woman told me that she was at the door at 5:30 a.m. We opened at 10:00. That weekend people adopted 241 pets at Wayside Waifs and 724 among all the shelters. SPCA and KC Pet Project worked together to make the event happen. There were hundreds of volunteers who logged in over 750 hours.

It was difficult to process. Only ten people were allowed inside the building at one time.

From the moment the event kicked-off, volunteers and staff acted as if they were at a tip-off at a basketball game. Such excitement! Everyone was in a good mood! And Whiskers (the pet store) was packed for the two days I volunteered.

Here is a look at the store where I volunteer! Pam keeps it in good order and sparkling!

 

 

You can’t capture the anticipation of people who adopt a pet. There is so much happiness and hope. Before they leave Wayside, they have found someone to love and that pet is loving them back. It is magical chemistry!

Often I wish that children in state homes were loved as much as the Waifs that Wayside saves! There is so much care, and patience, and attention to the needs of the pets. But sometimes the adoption does not work.

Some apartment buildings do not allow Pit Bulls or Pit Bull Mixes. Or, apartments regulate the size of the pet or do not allow any pets. After a call to the apartment manager, adoptions are cancelled. People leave in tears but Wayside, often, gives them a voucher to return to adopt another dog.

The adoption process takes a long time. People during this extravaganza could meet and greet three dogs, one at a time. After choosing the dog, then they have to fill out paperwork so the counselor can determine if they would provide a good home for the pet. They have to answer questions like: Where will the dog  be housed when they are not at home? Where will the dog stay when they are at home? How long will the dog be left alone? Is the yard fenced, and so much more.

Everything was so well-planned. They even had special treats for the humans and animals!

People are more than willing to adopt pets recovering from wounds or heart worm disease or even a loss of a limb. Some dogs that seem fearsome because they are so large, are well-managed by new adoptees who love the breed. And how can anyone pass up adopting a kitty or a bunny?

 

This beautiful pet wanted to get out of jail fast!

How could you not want to take this dog home with you? Look at his eyes! You can see into his heart!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wherever you live, why not drop by a shelter and talk to the animals. You might just fall in love with one of them! If you don’t live near Wayside Waifs in Missouri, just visit your local animal shelter. The sad eyes of the animals will break your heart! In the USA try the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and in Kansas City there is always the KC Pet Project.  Cities and towns usually have shelters of their own that protect the pets too!

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

Posted in KC Pet Project, No Kill Animal Shelters, SPCA, Uncategorized, Volunteering at an Animal Shelter, Wayside Waifs | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Flying Car is here! The Future is Now!

The Flying Car!  And, Minneapolis is a Charmer!

Here is Tom, Steve, and Dixie from left to right. Handsome aren’t they?

Heading home after a super duper holiday near Lake Superior we stopped to visit friends Steve and Dixie. We had originally planned to create a picnic for them, but they had something better in mind for us.

We parked our car at a Walmart parking lot near their home, canines all squared away, and they picked us up for an fast and furious afternoon. We toured their home and then walked across the street on a floating sidewalk across a pond to a farmer’s market. After purchases, we snacked on Dim Sum and then headed for downtown Minneapolis.

Such a peaceful place to walk! I had never walked on a floating sidewalk.

Such good corn and peppers!

We had no idea that greater Minneapolis-St. Paul included 3.8 million people. We thought it was about the size of the Kansas City area, 1.8 million. Once you get on the highways, you know that the population is big! We parked in a restored manufacturing area with loads of restaurants that faced the Mississippi River.

I guess I really had not thought of sharing OUR Mississippi River in St. Louis with Minneapolis.

I have been to Minneapolis a number of times but never to this spot!

What a treat to see the downtown area and to walk across the Mississippi on an old brick and beautiful railroad bridge. Clouds threatened us but the rain was kept away by all the sunshine coming from our guides. Sadly, the day had to end and we headed home toward Kansas City.

 

This is from our windshield. The picture is a bit distorted. They are only a few feet away and loud! Yuk!  I call it “trash” camping!

I think we might have stayed longer at our campground but it was a holy hell mess. When we pulled into our spot, there were tons of people camping in pop-ups and tents right at our door. Tom said it looked like Woodstock. In all of our 35 camping years, we have never seen such a packed campground. We visited the same campground last year in September and it was so beautiful and quiet. It looked like there were as many as 30 people at each site. Who was counting them?

We called around to determine if there were any other places we could camp in the Minneapolis area. They were all booked on a Saturday, and Walmart is not a place where we camp!

Steve is a Business Development Guy for the State of Minnesota. On one of his recent international trips with Dixie, he had the opportunity to see the future. They were given a tour of the new Aeromobil. Since Tom and I are not going to visit this area of the world any time soon, I asked Steve to write about his adventure. The following was written by Steve. Dixie took all the photos. I am also providing a link for you to Aeromobil itself.

“When visiting Bratislava, Slovakia in July, we were visited the showroom of Aeromobil, creator of a flying automobile.  Normally, they don’t give tours, but a friend helped to open the door for us. While it sounded at first like science fiction, Aeromobil is quite serious.
  The company is made up of top engineers from the automotive and the aerospace industries, many of whom we met and chatted with.  They have no illusions about their vehicle replacing ordinary cars. Their target market is financially comfortable flight enthusiasts who wish to drive their plane off the tarmac onto the highway.

Flying Car Showroom. You can stand in line!

The actual Aeromobil is dazzling up close.  It’s loaded with one-of-a-kind innovations, such as, ultra-light-weight materials, and it just looks cool.  When transitioning to a driving mode, the rear-mounted propeller simply folds up and the wings gracefully fold inward, all of which were demonstrated for us. 

Where’s the parachute?

The cockpit/cabin is fairly simple, with seemingly fewer gauges and controls than the average small plane.  That’s in part because of the advanced automation–they are already preparing for the driver-less car technology to come.  I don’t think that included pilot-less flight, but who knows?

Steve is really flying here!

Interested in buying one?  Next year, they will hire a sales team to offer the Aeromobil at $1.3m-$1.6m each. Deliveries are a couple years later.  I won’t be buying one, but I will remember fondly my chance to sit behind the controls.”

The Aeromobil would have really shortened our commutes to work.  Mine was 70 minutes and Tom’s was 50.  And, instead of meeting for dinner in Lees Summit, we could have gone to Jefferson City or who knows where?

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

Next installment will cover all the hoopla at Wayside Waifs recently.

Posted in Aeromobil, Camping, Flying Cars, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, Motorhome, Recreation Vehicles, Trash Camping | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Up North!! Two Weeks is NOT Enough!

Great Lakes.  No Salt. No Sharks. No Worries”

Here is Tom on Cisco Lake in his new blow-up kayak!

I felt a little sad this morning when we left the north woods of Drummond, town of about 400. I can’t put my finger on why I felt that way? Maybe it was the luscious green and sometimes overpowering landscape? Maybe it was the largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Superior?”

There are a lot of trees in Wisconsin and Minnesota!!!

Such a beautiful place on the lake!

Beautiful St. Croix National Waterway!!!

Maybe it was the plain-spoken helpful and friendly people? Maybe it was the sky and the crisp clean air? Maybe it was the kindness of our friends who offered their cabin on a beautiful lake as a respite from the campground? Maybe it was the loons, or the sea-gulls, or deer crossing our path?

This is Bark Point on a bay adjacent to Lake Superior. What a sight!

I grew up in Michigan, surrounded by the Great Lakes. Some people say they live on a lake. But they are not lakes, they are ponds. Once you see the Great Lakes you understand!

Bored passengers on the ride around Apostle Islands!

Thirty five years ago we camped on our honeymoon and reached the Apostle Islands National Seashore. The boat trip was rugged! It was inviting! It was a challenge as our vessel swept through the islands.

 

Almost to the day this month we took the trip again to the Apostle Islands, but they were almost gone and you really could not see the shipwrecks! The Park Service has decided to let the twenty or so islands go back to their natural state, whatever that might be! Now all you see on the islands are green trees–no bears, no deer, no fishers, no mining, no boats, nothing! We are so happy that we saw them in their rugged and well-used state so long ago!

The best place to stay so far is in Hinckley, Minnesota at a Casino. Who would have thought? But it is not far NORTH.

Tom and I explored the possibility of purchasing a lot for our RV or finding a stellar RV Resort to park our rig for a summer. We found neither but I am sure we will look again. I want to go back to the lonesome roads and quietness of the north. I feel at home there.

People stay all summer at the RV Resort at the Casino. Here is one of the campers. It was like a little village.

We explored Knife River in Minnesota and rented a pick-up truck in Duluth. Duluth is a fascinating city. The canal area was beaming with people celebrating all sorts of things. Officers on horses mingled with us. We dined and then walked toward the lighthouse.

The lighthouse walk in the Canal area in Duluth!

Thirty five years ago, this area did not exist. We remember two pot-holed roads that met in Duluth, one coming from Superior, Wisconsin and the other going north. Today the landscape rivals any other port in our country. You can view Lake Superior and all its greatness from any perch high above Canal Street. What a town!

This is a bench in Bayfield where I will sit again.

Heading East we toured Bayfield, Wisconsin a couple of times. It is tempting to think of living at the edge of Lake Superior in a condo on Front Street.

 

 

We loved touring Ashland!

Nearby we admired Ashland’s architecture with its red sandstone buildings and murals. The town had been a booming timber, ore, and coal industry.  Now it is struggling to survive.

The murals told stories about Ashland. This one made me think of my  mother and father.

Look at the detail in this building!

We could not find Zanzibar any where else but at ice cream stores.

 

 

 

It is here that we discovered Zanzibar Chocolate Cedar Crest ice cream. Made in Wisconsin! What a treat!

 

 

 

 

I was sorry that I did not purchase anything at this store in Duluth!

We ran across many unusual tiny houses and campers.  Here are two of them that rose to the top!

This is an ice fishing trailer that people are camping in at the Casino RV Park. We saw three of these on our trek.

This is a homemade trailer. It was small but stunningly beautiful.

There is more to come on this trek to the North.  Stay tuned!

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

Posted in Camping, Drummond, Duluth, Minnesota, Motorhome, National Parks, Rving across America, Wisconsin | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arrow Rock…Rocks! But does not Explode!

July 6, 2017

To Escape the Fireworks Head to Arrow Rock!

Sign in front of the Lyceum Theatre

Sign in front of the Lyceum Theatre

About one year ago, I created a blog about Arrow Rock.  We were about to launch our southern extravaganza trip and this was our first stop.  Today I am combining some of that data with a new twist on Arrow Rock.

Arrow Rock is one of the first places we took our 24′ Fleetwood many years ago.  It is both a National and State Park or Monument or whatever! And a great place to spend a weekend!  There is plenty of space for camping with 30/50 hookups!

Arrow Rock was ready for the holiday! But the shops were closed!

Unlike a year ago, when we set up our site at sleepy Arrow Rock, this time the town was teeming with tourists.  They were waiting in line to chow down at J. Huston’s Tavern and then on to a play at the Lyceum.  Yet our cellphones would not work and most of the shops were closed. We thought we had entered the Twilight Zone!

Such a lively place!

The Tavern

J. Huston’s Tavern

Arrow Rock is located on the Blackwater River and riverboats used to stop by with loads of good stuff to purchase.  And before it became a town it was a place where Native Americans carved out their flint arrow heads! Their biggest problem was malaria-carrying mosquitos.  A local, Dr. Sappington,  invented quinine which became the malaria-drug and saved the day.

One of the best things about Arrow Rock is the fried chicken dinners served at the Tavern.  This year we spent two lunches at the Tavern and certainly gained a few pounds.

While camping at Arrow Rock we took our bicycles for a tour of the town and stretched the ride on the second day to the Arrow Rock Cemetery and beyond.

Here is Tom showing off his bicycle!

 

 

 

 

The oldest grave we could find was from 1822 and many people died in the 1860’s.  It was interesting to see the different faiths and symbols displayed on the headstones.  Some of the them were unfamiliar to us.

This person was a Mason, a Jew, and what else? If you know what the symbol is on the left, email!

The cemetery was well taken-care-of and a real joy to explore. It  reminded me of the Gilreath Cemetery (My mother’s family) in Holly Hill, Kentucky.  My ancestors deeded the land to the rest of the family.  Some say that slaves are buried around the edges of the cemetery.  I do not believe any slaves were buried in the Arrow Rock Cemetery.  Dr. Sappington had given land to the slaves for their cemetery a few miles down highway TT.

 

We loved biking this road!

Sappington has his own very ornate and elaborate cemetery near the old mansion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It appears that free African-Americans were also buried at the Negro Cemetery.  There were very few headstones at the Negro Cemetery.  I could not find one that mentioned slavery.  Of course slavery had been outlawed when most of these people died.

More than slaves were buried at this cemetery.

Here is a very old headstone carved by someone who did not know how to carve! The name on it is Robert Banks! I could find no history on him.

Tom and I also stopped at the very little town of Blackwater on Highway K that is located just west of Arrow Rock.  It boasts 160 residents (Where were they?)  and Arrow Rock has only 56?  We were looking for a restaurant in which to dine on July 3 with long-time student assistant  and helpful editor Anne and her husband, Elliott.  All the restaurants in Arrow Rock were closed.

And the churches in Arrow Rock were closed too, even on Sunday!

Blackwater’s architecture is amazing!

The family posing for a picture in Blackwater!

We were so lucky to hook up with Anne and Elliott in Blackwater.  Anne has been battling cancer for a year and recently recovered from surgery.  She was, of course, the best and brightest Student Assistant and editor who helped me at UCM!! and later.  Here they are!

How happy they are!  Oh, Twinkers is taking advantage of them!

If you haven’t visited Arrow Rock, take time to do it some day!  You learn so much about the history of our country and the people who live there are beyond kind!  We are so lucky to have a state and a national park system that sees the value in preserving the past as a way of educating all of us!!!!

Here is a a new candid camper for you.  This camper was created by its owner.  It appears to be a SUV.  He told us that it took him six months of work to make the thing work.  It has a fridge and all the amenities!

What a camper! The owners were from Kentucky.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Camping, Fourth of July, Missouri, Rving across America | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sleeping in the Bush!

Our pop-up trailer looked something like this when the wheels were working!

RV’s Galore!

Tom and I spent our honeymoon in a tent on the shores of a lake somewhere in Wisconsin. We don’t remember the spot? (Maybe global warming swallowed it up!) I do remember that Tom woke me up at 5:00 a.m. (I say it was 4:30.) in freezing temperatures to head out in a row boat to fish. I declined!

Our first wonderful Fleetwood!

This is sort of like the camper we rented in Alaska. It was small!

 

We spent many years tenting across the United States, gradually upgrading to a pop-up trailer, then renting all sorts of Motorhomes. Finally we purchased a small Class C in 2011 and then our 34 foot home in 2015.

Our first Motorhome adventures began in Alaska. What glorious trips! Twice we rented small motorhomes and crisscrossed the state, taking plane rides, floating across Prince William Sound, and joining some pirates in search of calving glaciers. There was the forceful Kenai River, the spit at Homer, a friendly Moose and her calf, and of course flies as we headed toward Yukon Territory.

We often camped alone (no other campers) and wondered if bears were keeping watch over us. We kept our eyes peeled  for scat (bear poop)  on the trails and sometimes turned back because neither one of us wanted to go first. We adventured in July when it was often cold and raining but we did not seem to mind it!

Notice that this old truck camper is camping where it is not allowed in Alaska!

People camp for a variety of reasons. Many people are homeless and volunteering at a park allows them to maintain a good standard of living. Recently, at Rifle Gap State Park in Colorado, there were at least five volunteer hosts. They perform a variety of jobs including cleaning restrooms, parking sites, picking up the trash, and security. They receive free water, sewer, and electricity and a camping site on which to place their RV. (We figure that amounts to at least $10K a year.) Anyone can volunteer. I thought about volunteering in Alaska near the Blue Ice Trail for a summer but Tom is not too keen on cleaning toilets to save $7.00 a night.

Not a viable option!

We came across many homeless people in the National Forests of Oregon. You can camp for about $7.50 a night. Of course, there are no amenities. So dry camping is the name of the game! We ran into very old people who seemed to pile everything they had in their RV, tent, or boat. Most campgrounds allow you to stay two weeks on one site, but you could move from site to site, and break that rule. We also saw people camping off-road in the mountains of Utah without water or electricity. Many of these small motorhomes looked like they were prepared for the winter.

This is a 10 year old Newmar Class A motorhome. The owners had just painted it! WOW!

Ten years ago we explored northern Utah and beyond. We encountered groups of people living together. At one campground, it seemed as if there were about 24 Latinos in two sites linked together. They had a turkey boiler and were cooking food for everyone. (It wasn’t Thanksgiving.) Their tents looked permanent.

The blue cone-shaped tent is a shower and used to change clothing.

 

And why are Middle Eastern looking people camping in Arkansas? One holiday we parked next to about ten sites of Middle Eastern people outside Hot Springs. They did not use the picnic tables or eat normal meals together. They squatted around fires and had food in their hands, not on plates. The license plates on their vehicles were from Texas. They were not frolicking in the lake or the sun. Tom says that they were new to this country.

 

 

I love retro RV’s. This is a very old trailer.

On one camping trip there was a couple who camped across from us in a tent. The young woman was in a wheel chair. Each morning the man lifted the woman out of the tent, wheeled her to the restroom, brushed her hair, made a fire, and cooked food for her. The rest of the day they sat under the trees or the stars talking to each other. One morning when we got up, they were gone! And so was all the love that they gave to each other.

Typical Nova Scotia Campground–no organization!

Probably one of the greatest shocks for me was in the many campgrounds in Nova Scotia. They were really trailer parks and the trailers looked like they should have been demolished or burned down. The restrooms smelled and parking areas were not very well developed. We were happy we were camping in someone else’s RV.

 

Candid Campers