Archive | July 2019

Circus Trip 2018: Effigy Mounds National Monument

Day 17 & 18, Wednesday, August 1, 2018 – Thursday, August 2, 2018

After lunch and my tasting at Four Daughters Winery, I made it into Iowa – my 7th state and my 2nd new state!  I traveled to Effigy Mounds National Monument, to check out the mounds there.

I’m in Iowa!

Effigy Mounds is located in Harper’s Ferry, Iowa, and preserves more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans of the Woodland culture in the first century AD.  The mounds are relatively unique, in that they are shaped like animals.  Thirty-one of Effigy Mounds’ 206 mounds are effigies (animals); the largest is Great Bear Mound, which is 42 meters long and a meter tall.  The National Monument was designated on October 25, 1949, and welcomes approximately 77,000 visitors per year.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Researchers don’t know why the mounds were constructed; they believe that they were built for religious ceremonies, burial ceremonies, or as clan symbols.  There are four types of mounds at the site; conical mounds that were often used as burial mounds, linear mounds (also known as “cigar-shaped”) for ceremonial purposes, a compound style which looks like a string of beads and were often used as burial mounds, and the effigy mounds, the animal shapes that make the monument famous.  Interestingly, the linear and compound mounds are only found in the Effigy Mounds Region.

I arrived in time to check out the Visitor’s Center and do a hike up to some of the mounds.  It was muggy that day and it was a nice workout!  I enjoyed being able to see the mounds up close, although I do wish that they had more platforms so visitors could view the mounds from up above.  When you are barely above the level of the mound, it is difficult to see what the mound looks like from above it.  The trail I hiked did have a great view of the Mississippi River though!

After my visit to Effigy Mounds, I found my home for the evening; the Sleepy Hollow Campground in Oxford, Iowa.  It was right off the freeway, but somehow the road noise didn’t carry so far.

This place had a lovely pool!  I ended up staying two nights, just so I would have a chance to spend a few hours in and around that wonderful pool.  It was glorious.  Some days, you just need some pool time.  I drank some sangria, read my book, journaled and was offered a job cleaning the Iowa rest area bathrooms (I know this will surprise you, but I turned it down).  It was a wonderful day of down time!


Facebook Memories

Ah Facebook memories, you are a complicated bunch…

I have been on Facebook for a little more than 10 years now and have posted various photos and thoughts on life along the way.  As a result, most days, I get a Facebook memories post.  And that’s where it gets complicated.

I, like other people I’m sure, have a tendency to want to remember the happy times and not the bad memories.  Facebook, I’m sure, wants to remind you of those.  But not all of my memories are happy, and even some of those that were at one time have become tainted by what came later.

I see all those posts of my early marriage, when I thought I was going to have a genuinely happy union.  I was bright-eyed and fresh-faced and wanting to make it work.  But the posts later showed a person who was just pretending.  Keeping up the appearance of a happy marriage, while I felt like I was the only one trying in our relationship.

Me on the Mary’s Rock Trail

I planned vacations, only to hear complaints about how a drive was too long or a historic site too boring, or how we didn’t do what he wanted to do, even though he hadn’t given any input when asked.  I see the pictures of him hiking far in front of me, with no interest in interacting.  I see pictures of my food at dinner, or selfies at national parks, because there was no way he was going to agree to a picture with me.  I see what I call the mug shots; those times when I insisted on a photo, and he just tried to ruin it with a sour expression.  Those Facebook memories are complicated; I loved the places we went and the things we did, but I hated having to “manage” a person who was so often so focused on the negative.

But I also see the experiences that have come since then – the trips with girlfriends and by myself, the hikes, the happy hours, family times, the morning walks.  I see that I have found joy again, that cheerful face that shines through in photos.  I have grown immeasurably and become more comfortable in my own skin.  I have gotten older, and lost love ones along the way, but still see the happy times.  I have faced my share of adversity, and despite it, I enjoy the experience of living.  I enjoy my life!  Those Facebook memories are welcomed.  Places that I want to see again, and people that I love spending time with.

My Facebook memories currently include lots of photos of my trip last year – I love seeing them but it is making me nostalgic about being on the road again.  I think about all the places I visited, and all the ones I didn’t have time to make it to.  I long for that kind of freedom again, and I hope I get more opportunities to travel without so much of an agenda or a timeline.  I worried about that last year as my trip began; would I be too nervous if I didn’t have everything planned out?  Where would I stay each night?  What if I got bored?  What if I got lost?  But it was quite the opposite in fact – I came to enjoy not having a reservation to make it to each night.  I could stay longer if I wanted to or move on earlier.  Freedom.

Me on the bank of the Yellowstone River

For now, work is keeping me from being on the road.  So I focus on those memories, and knowing that I will be making more soon!


Nope, Not Julie

I was downtown for a haircut after work, and then I had a few errands to run before I went home.  A man literally followed me a block and a half to ask me if my name is Julie.  I know this because I heard him ask the first time, but there were lots of people around, and my name is not Julie, so I assumed he was talking to someone else and did not respond.  It wasn’t until he asked the second time, after passing me and looking intently at me…

So meet the new face of Julie…  And if you are the real Julie, there is a man downtown who seems very interested in seeing you!

Book Review: The Radium Girls

It is pretty interesting to think about how much of history gets lost to time, until someone comes along and digs it up again.  Have you ever thought about how they get your watch hands and numbers to glow in the dark?  Well, once upon a time, it was radium that gave them that glow, and that luminescent paint was applied by women.

The problem was, radium, and the paint that was manufactured from it, is radioactive.  Exposure to very much of it will kill you.  Of course, the men who ran the watch dial factories didn’t tell the women that; instead they taught them that the best method of applying the paint was to lick the brushes to get a fine point.

The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore, tells the story of the female dial painters, who got sick and died as a result of their work.  And the women who stood up for their rights and changed history.  These women, some as young as 14, were excited by the high wages they earned, and never believed that the companies they worked for were knowingly exposing them to a poisonous substance.  It wasn’t until after the women started falling ill, with numerous diseases caused by the radium, that they finally began to make sense of what was happening.

The Radium Girls offers an excellent account of the period in U.S. history when thousands of young women worked as “dial painters.”  It tells the stories of these women, their hopes and dreams and families, their reasons for coming to work in the factories, and what happened to them there.  The book explains in frank and often gory detail the effects that radium has on the human body, and how it slowly poisoned and often killed these young women.

It also details the women who fought back, bringing suit against the companies whose executives showed such a callous disregard for their health and lives.  Even after there was irrefutable evidence of the effect that the luminescent paint was having on the workers.

This book was very well researched and laid out.  Moore captivates the readers with her details on the lives of each of the women who worked at, and became sick at, the factories.  It is quite emotional, as I’m sure you can guess, many of these women died as a result of the exposure.

Moore also writes extensively about the lawsuits and worker’s compensation claims brought by the women, relying on court testimony and media coverage of the events.  She details the changes to workers compensation laws that were passed as a result of the illnesses and deaths among the dial painters.

I like that these women’s stories are finally being told.  They didn’t set out to change the world, but with their suffering, they did.  Thanks to Moore, perhaps a new generation of worker’s will understand their sacrifice.

It isn’t for the faint of heart, but The Radium Girls is an excellent read!

Circus Trip 2018: Four Daughters Winery

Day 17, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I had not intended to see much of Minnesota on my road trip.  I mean, in the perfect world, I would have visited much of Minnesota on my trip, as I had never been there before, but… it is not a perfect world, and there was not unlimited time on my trip to go everywhere.  Sadly, I had to pick and choose.  From Austin and the SPAM Museum, I headed east and then south to drop into Iowa.  And found an unexpected gem.

Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery

The Four Daughters Winery is on Highway 16, one of the highways I traveled to get to Iowa.  I wasn’t expecting to see a winery, and I hadn’t done any research on Minnesota wine, but there it was.  I drove past it, noticing what it was, and ended up turning around to go back.  A winery – with a restaurant, and it was lunchtime!  It was clearly a sign.

I went in and chose a spot at the bar – the tasting included your choice of six white or red samples (not SPAMples this time) – I chose the whites.  You could also select two samples of their ciders (but I was so very enthusiastic that she let me taste more).

Four Daughters has some fantastic wines.  Their sparkling Brianna is delicious, and their Tea Time Loon Juice, a black tea infused cider, is amazing.  The sangria is a light, refreshing, summer time sipper.  I bought all three, and I’m sad that Four Daughters doesn’t ship to Washington…  I long ago drank them all…  I am going to have to make it back to Minnesota.  Not to mention I had their pork tacos for lunch, which were so delicious – and paired perfectly with the sparkling Brianna.

Pork tacos

That’s the thing about road trips – sometimes you just find a place you want to stop at and explore.  I was so glad that I did!



Time Off

A year ago at this time, I was recently back from London, where I spent a two week vacation with friends.  It was so much fun!  I came home, finished out my last couple days at my job, and then departed on July 16th for several months on the road, traveling the country.  A year ago today, I was on the fourth day of my road trip in Glacier National Park.

On that trip, I would see some of our nation’s beautiful National Parks, historic sites, and some of the places where our Presidents lived and worked.  I would see our nation’s Capitol, and stand outside the White House for the first time.  One day, I would like to go on a tour!  I also spent some time hiking in the Utah red rock desert, and seeing some of the amazing structures left by the Puebloan people.  I still have some much to share here!

It is strange to think how different my life was a year ago.  I am so much happier not being married to a man who was bringing me down and sucking the life out of me.  I was readjusting to being on my own, and it was nice to not have drama in my personal life.  My time and my money were my own.  But I was lonely too.  I love my friends, and they are amazing, but I also didn’t want to be alone forever.  I missed Oliver, my sweet orange kitty, who went over the rainbow bridge a few weeks before.  I so badly needed a reset after a toxic job.

This year, I am a little more than three months into my new job, and enjoying it.  It is a much improved environment!  Due to a recent vacancy, I’ve been doing a lot of “other duties as assigned,” and I am looking forward to getting back to the job I was hired for.  Developmental opportunities!

What I don’t have this year is time off.  The start of any new job means the vacation balance isn’t built up yet, and that is sooo difficult…  Especially for someone like me, who likes being on the road…  I was telling one of my employees about my road trip today, and it was making me so very nostalgic.  I’m doing little mini-weekend getaways, and some day hikes with friends, but it isn’t the same as having a real vacation to look forward to!

I just got back from a quick trip to Lassen National Park.  The mountains, the alpine lakes, and the gorgeous wildflowers are incredible!  It was too short, but I made some incredible memories!


Circus Trip 2018: The SPAM Museum!

Day 17, Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Austin, Minnesota is home to the SPAM Museum, and who wouldn’t want to visit there!??  Austin was a cute small Midwest town with a nice little downtown area, and after I packed up and got on the road, I checked it out.  The SPAM Museum is home to all things SPAM.  Did you know that the name SPAM actually is a contraction of the words Spiced Ham?  It was introduced by the HORMEL company in 1937 and the original SPAM is still produced today, although there are many other varieties in the line up now.  During World War II it was a popular ration item, due to its canned nature, and the fact that it was a shelf stable meat.  In the UK, soldiers began saying that SPAM stood for Special Processed American Meat.

SPAM is produced in Austin, Minnesota, so that’s why the museum is here!  Hormel has been in business since 1891, but SPAM took off during World War II, especially in the Pacific Island countries.  If you have ever been to Hawaii and had Loco Moco, you know what I mean…

The museum is free to visit, and has exhibits on all things SPAM.  The history of SPAM, worldwide SPAM recipes, SPAM in advertising, SPAM in pop culture.  They have a whole display of musical instruments made with SPAM cans.  I never knew SPAM was so influential!  Some of the exhibits explain the various regional SPAM preferences.  Varieties sold today include Classic, Hot and Spicy (Tabasco seasoned), Black Pepper, Oven Roasted Turkey, Chorizo, Cheese, Garlic, Macadamia Nut, and Classic in spreadable form…  There’s a SPAM for everyone – except vegetarians.

For Monty Python fans, the movie SPAMALOT plays on an endless loop.

When I was there, there was even a bacon-fueled themed Harley Davidson motorcycle parked in the lobby; even though it isn’t directly SPAM-related, it is powered by a Hormel product.

I admit I never knew very much about SPAM.  Besides trying it in Hawaii, I’ve never been a SPAM eater.  Somehow this iconic classic never made it to my dining table – I’m very disappointed in you Mom and Dad!  There are employees wandering around with SPAMples though, so you can try the various flavors of SPAM with no commitment!  I have to admit the Black Pepper one is pretty good.  I also learned that SPAM factories produce 44,000 cans of SPAM per hour.  And did you know that Hawaii eats more SPAM than any other state?  8 Millions cans per year!

My foray into SPAM lasted about an hour, after which time I selected a couple of SPAM postcards, and of course, a SPAM stemless wine glass.  There’s something awesome about drinking wine from a SPAM wine glass!  I must one day do a SPAM wine pairing night.  Now there’s an idea for a party!

If you have a chance to visit, check it out!  And be sure to pose with Jay Hormel outside.