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!

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