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Arizona Getaway 2019: Chiracahua National Monument

Day 3, Saturday, March 16, 2019

The last day of our Arizona trip, Mom and I went to Chiracahua National Monument.  It is located in the Chiracahua Mountains of southeast Arizona.  We had been planning to visit the day before, because I really, really wanted to go, but it had been closed due to an unusual cold front and snow the day before.  When I found out it was scheduled to reopen the next day, I made sure we took the opportunity!  I was so excited!  However, when we got there, we learned that although the monument was technically open (The Visitor’s Center at least), the road was closed past the Visitor’s Center; basically, the scenic drive up the mountain.

Chiracahua National Monument

Chiracahua National monument is a rugged section of land, of which approximately 85% is designated as wilderness.  It protects the hoodoos and balancing rocks of a volcanic eruption 27 million years ago, when the Turkey Creek Caldera exploded and spewed white hot ash all over the area.  The ash has, over time, eroded away and created the hoodoos and rock formations that exist there today.  Chiracahua is high-elevation, ranging from 5,124 feet at the entrance station to 7,310 feet at the summit of its tallest mountain.  In addition to the volcanic eruptions, they get the effects of seasons, and a lot of erosion from the winter rain and winds.  The area was designated as a National Monument on April 18, 1924, by President Calvin Coolidge.

Chiracahua is known as the Wonderland of Rocks for its beautiful rock formations.  Apparently though, people in general are less impressed by rocks than I am, as it is one of the lesser visited monuments with annual visitation in 2018 of 60,577.

Faraway Ranch windmill

We checked out the Visitor’s Center, got my passport stamps, and did a bit of shopping.  There was a tour starting at the historic Faraway Ranch, so we headed over there to catch it.  The Faraway Ranch started as a cattle ranch in 1886, owned and operated by Neil and Emma Erickson, Swedish immigrants who met and married in the United States.  They ran the ranch as a cattle ranch from 1886 to 1917, when Neil accepted a job with the new National Park Service and had to relocate.  At that point, his oldest daughter Lillian took over the operation of the ranch and began renting it out to tourists as a guest ranch.

The house at the Faraway Ranch

The guest ranch was quite popular, and many people visited over the years; even though it was remote, you got all your meals provided, a chance to relax, and later on there was even a swimming pool!  After running the ranch for many years, Lillian died in 1977 and the family decided to sell it to the National Park Service to be added to the monument.  It was a fitting end of the ranch of the family who for so long had been a part of protecting and advocating for this beautiful area.

The home is very well preserved to its time as a guest ranch and had many artifacts belonging to the family and stretching back to the late 1880s.  It was fun seeing products and items that were used there over time.  An antique butter churn!  Vintage cleaning products!  One of the lamps in the living room was fascinating, with a beautiful hand painted shade painted by one of the women in the Erickson family.  Lillian went blind as she got older, and although she still managed the ranch with help from her staff, she did need accommodations.  One of the items on display are her Braille playing cards!

A quarter mile away, there is a rustic cabin that once belonged to a neighbor of the Erickson family.  Mom and I walked down there to check it out, despite the cold.  It would have been tough to live in such a remote area during a cold, Arizona winter.  And yes, in case you were wondering, parts of Arizona get very cold.

The cabin at the Faraway Ranch

 

Mom and me, in the cold

Interestingly, it was near here that Park Ranger Paul Fugate disappeared without a trace in 1980, so there’s a cold case for you amateur sleuths to research.  Hopefully one day they find out what happened to him, so his family can have closure.

After we visited the ranch, we ate lunch at a picnic table and got word from a park employee that the road up the mountain had reopened!  We got to drive up and see the beautiful scenery!  Chiracahua is known for its hoodoos, narrow canyons and rock formations.  Unfortunately, there was a thick layer of fog blanketing the higher elevations of the monument.  We drove to the top of the road, but our views were non-existent once we got very high.  We did get to see some gorgeous rock formations at the lower elevations though, which were still above 5,000 feet!

I still enjoyed visiting, but definitely want to return when it is warm enough to do some hiking and see the view.  I bet it is spectacular!

 

Arizona Getaway 2019: More of Tombstone

Day 2, Friday, March 15, 2019

After we checked out the OK Corral site, we still had plenty to see in Tombstone!  Mom and I had lunch at a BBQ place just off one of the main streets; Puny John’s BBQ – it was delicious!

After lunch we visited the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park to get some of the less sensationalized history of Tombstone. The Cochise County Courthouse was built in 1882, after Cochise County became its own county and needed a county seat.  The Courthouse is filled with some fantastic exhibits, a few on the Earps and the OK Corral, but mostly on the other parts of Tombstone history.

There is old mining equipment, and an antique bar from one of the local saloons from the Old West era.  There is furniture and other artifacts from late 19th century homes to show what life would have been like in Tombstone at the time.  You can see the historic courtroom too!  And then, there is the gallows.  Four men were hanged at the gallows behind the courthouse; this one is a reconstruction.  It is interesting to see it as it looked then though.

We checked out the newspaper printing office where the Tombstone Epitaph as published back in the 1880s.  It was free to visit and you could wander around and look at the old printing press that was used to run the paper.  We picked up our souvenir copy of the paper from the day in 1881 when the story of the OK Corral ran; it was complimentary with our ticket to the corral from earlier.

We also sampled some wine from the Silver Strike Winery, which sadly was a big disappointment and the service was incredibly slow.  Oh well, I guess not everything can be wonderful in life.  I did keep my souvenir tasting glass, and pull it out from time to time when I just want a small glass of wine or juice.

Silver Strike Winery

A short distance down the street we visited the Bird Cage Theatre.  The Bird Cage was opened in 1881 and was intended to be a theatre for the for the “respectable women” of Tombstone, featuring appropriate entertainment and free ladies’ nights.  Unfortunately for the respectable women of Tombstone, “appropriate” doesn’t sell so the owners soon began featuring more bawdy entertainment and gambling for the miners.

The Bird Cage was the home of the longest poker game in history.  It cost $1,000 to buy in, and then it ran for eight years, going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Players included Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, among other famous gamblers of the time.  It is estimated that $10 million dollars changed hands over those eight years, with the Bird Cage getting 10% of the winnings.  Not bad, considering that would have been on top of the drinks that the men bought!

We didn’t take the tour of the Bird Cage, but instead checked out the front room and exhibits.  Perhaps one day!

We enjoyed our day in Tombstone and were both tired by the time we wandered back to the car for the drive back to Tucson.  That evening we found a Pho restaurant for dinner and mom got to try this delicious noodle soup for the first time.  What a good day!

Pho!

Circus Trip 2018: Churchill Downs

Day 29, Monday, August 13, 2018

Louisville, Kentucky

Most years, I sit in my living room on the first Saturday in May and watch the Kentucky Derby on TV.  Live from Churchill Downs, the field of colts and a few fillies attempt to become the winner of the Derby and have a chance at winning the Triple Crown, a title which has become the most prestigious in horse racing.  The Kentucky Derby is the first race of the Triple Crown, which also contains the Preakness and the Belmont, raced at other tracks around the country over a five week stretch.

I have always wanted to visit Churchill Downs, especially on Derby Day, to see the crazy hats and feel the excitement of race day!  I spent a few days in Louisville and had a chance to visit the racetrack, although there wasn’t any racing going on that day.  For $15, you can visit the track’s museum and get a tour of the track.  Considering that pre-sale event prices to the infield for the Kentucky Derby start at $65 and $85 on the day of the race, $15 is pretty good!  Of course, other racing days at Churchill Downs aren’t so expensive, so a typical day at the track can be pretty affordable if you aren’t betting and losing!  One day, I will be there on Derby Day!

Churchill Downs opened in 1875; after Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. (William Clark’s grandson) leased the land from his uncles John and Henry Churchill, a prominent Louisville family for many years.  Clark sold subscriptions to the racing club, and used the money to develop the track.  Racing has occurred here since that time, with a number of changes to the track over the years.  The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875, which means that 2020’s Derby will be the 146th running!

The iconic twin spires on the grandstands weren’t placed until 1895, but have survived weather events since that time, including a tornado that damaged the stables.  The grandstands seat about 50,000, but it is standing room only on the infield on Derby Day and the crowds can grow to almost 170,000 people!

My tour ticket included an interesting movie on the history of the track.  They usher you into a large oval shaped room, and you sit on swivel stools to watch the film, which is projected on the wall above you all around the oval room.  You can swivel on your stool to get a better view of the scenes, and because it is above you, nobody’s head is in the way!  Then the docent took us out to the track – you get to see the grandstands, the saddling area, the track, the winner’s circle and the other views you see on television when you watch the Derby on TV.  They have plaques showing all of the names of the Kentucky Derby winners over the years, and marking the names of those who won the Triple Crown.  Of the 146 winners of the Derby, only thirteen of them have also won the Triple Crown.  Three of the Derby winners have been fillies.

The tour was a bit canned; they clearly have memorized a script and move the tour groups along pretty quickly, but it was really interesting to see the track!  The museum was cool too, with exhibits on the history of the track and the horses that have raced there.  They had a display of hats and the tradition of crazy hats at the Derby, a display of the horseshoes that race horses wear, and an exhibit on the history of African Americans in the Churchill Downs racing industry.  Thirteen of the fifteen horses in the first Kentucky Derby were ridden by African American jockeys, and fifteen of the first twenty-eight Derbies were won by black jockeys.  Of course, it took a long time for them to be recognized for these accomplishments.

One of the Derby’s three winning fillies

After the tour, I did enjoy the restaurant at the track.  They had a special where you could try a Mint Julep and keep the commemorative glass (which actually turned out to be a Kentucky Oaks stemless wine glass, rather than a traditional mint julep cup, but I liked that too).  I use it all the time!  I learned that I’m not a fan of Mint Juleps – I don’t think I’ll ever be a Bourbon girl…  I did learn that I love Louisville Hot Brown though!  It was a very messy sandwich, with Texas toast, turkey, bacon, tomato, cheeses and herbs all cooked together in a casserole dish, and it was so delicious!  The one at Churchill Downs was so full of gooey goodness I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a sandwich until I looked up the recipe.  I haven’t had it since, but maybe I should try to make it at home sometime!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

After my visit to the track, I drove around Louisville to check out some of the historic homes, and then went back to my campground to relax at the pool.  It was a fun day!

The pool at the Louisville KOA

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Lincoln Boyhood NM

Day 28, Sunday, August 12, 2018

Lincoln City, Indiana

After I left the Indiana Military Museum, I had one more stop I wanted to make in Indiana.  I was headed to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

The site was home to Abraham Lincoln and his family for 14 years, from 1816 – 1830.  Lincoln was only 7 when Thomas Lincoln moved the family to Indiana, after losing his previous homestead due to bad surveying and challenges to land titles.

Unfortunately for the Lincoln family, white snake root plant grew widely in the area; cows ate the plant and their milk and meat became contaminated and poisonous to humans.  Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, ended up dying of the milk sickness in 1818, when Lincoln was 9 years old.

Lincoln’s older sister Sarah became Lincoln’s caregiver, until Thomas Lincoln remarried another Sarah, Sarah Bush Johnston, who nurtured Lincoln’s children as if they were her own.  The blended family and one of Lincoln’s cousins all lived in the one room cabin together.

Lincoln lived in the settlement until he was 21; in 1830 Thomas Lincoln moved the family to Central Illinois.  The homestead faded into obscurity until interest was renewed in 1879.  Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s grave was discovered, as well as the graves of several others who had died over the years at the settlement.

In the 1920s, funds were raised to do an archaeological study to learn more about life in the community during the time Lincoln lived there.  The site became Lincoln State Park in 1932 and ownership of the land was transferred to the National Park Service to create the National Memorial in 1962.  The living farm on site was created in 1968.

When I visited, I checked out the Memorial Building, which has a movie about Lincoln’s childhood, as well as exhibits about the Lincoln’s time in Indiana.  The Park Service has a few of Thomas Lincoln’s possessions on display.  After I saw the Memorial Building, I walked down the trail to see Lincoln’s mother’s grave, and the reconstructed settlement site.

The cabin where Lincoln lived with his family is long gone, but flagstones and a reconstructed hearth mark the outline of where the cabin was.

Me with the foundation of the original cabin

Reconstructed barns and cabins provide visitors a sense of what life was like on the frontier during Lincoln’s time there.  Historical interpreters are there to answer questions and describe what they are doing during their days.

There is also a trail where you can see various stones from important times in Lincoln’s life.  There is a stone from the store Lincoln owned in New Salem, Illinois, as well as a stone from the boarding house where Lincoln was taken after he was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.  There are twelve stones in all, with explanations of where they came from.

A stone from the Berry-Lincoln store

It was interesting to see what life would have been like for Lincoln as a child and young adult.  The site has been planted with new trees that better represent what the land would have looked like 200 yeas ago, and about 150,000 people visit annually.   I enjoyed checking it out, and talking to the interpreters.  It was so profound to be able to walk where Lincoln had walked as a child and young man!

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana Military Museum

Day 28, Sunday, August 12, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

Sunday morning was my last day in Vincennes.  Although I loved the town, I needed to keep moving east!  I did want to visit one last place before I headed out; the Indiana Military Museum.

This museum is obviously a labor of love for a military collector.  They had thousands of artifacts displayed, packed in a series of display cases and floor space.  They had weapons, vehicles, uniforms and other military artifacts.  They also had crossover items, including needlepoint and sewing made by the spouse of veterans, military movie memorabilia and an assortment of eclectic items that once belonged to Indiana Veterans.

The highlight of the museum was Sergeant Carey, a Veteran volunteer who showed me around.  He served from 1957 to 1963, then rejoined 20 years later and served for another 13 years.  He took so much pride in his volunteer assignment, and truly enjoyed pointing out some of his favorite pieces.

The photographs of New York City and the Twin Towers taken by astronauts orbiting the earth on the morning of 9/11 made me emotional.  Watching the smoke swirl up into the sky from space was heartbreaking.  There was a cargo dump truck that is one of only three known in the world.  They even have a glass eye from the late 1800s!

An antique glass eye

Outside the museum, there are a number of planes, helicopters and tanks on display.

I enjoyed wandering among the exhibits and seeing pieces of military history up close.  I could have spent much more time there, but I needed to get back on the road!

Circus Trip 2018: George Rogers Clark NHP

Day 26, Friday, August 10, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

George Rogers Clark was born in 1752 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  He was the second of ten children, the youngest of whom gained greater fame than he did; William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

George Rogers Clark Memorial Building – built 1931 -1933

George Rogers Clark went to live with his grandfather as a child, and received very little formal education, but he was trained as a surveyor.  He left home for the frontier at age 19, surveying the wilderness and learning about the natural history and the lives and customs of the various Native American tribes.  So why does he have a whole National Historical Park dedicated to him?

Well, Clark joined the Virginia militia at the age of 22, and set about making a name for himself.  He presented a plan to Virginia Governor Patrick Henry to capture British forts and outposts north of the Ohio River, in an attempt to destroy the influence of the British among the tribes there.  Without their alliances with the tribes the British would have less control over the frontier area, therefore giving the Americans a better chance at success.  Henry went for the plan, and in the spring of 1778, Clark’s party of men set out to begin their secret mission.

Clark met with little resistance along the way, capturing Kaskaskia in present day Illinois in July 1778, Cahokia the next day, and Vincennes in August.  Hamilton, the British Lieutenant Governor who commanded the British forces in the area, recaptured the garrison in Vincennes in December 1778 and renamed it Fort Sackville.

Clark didn’t like being bested, so he planned a daring overland march and assault on the fort to recapture it.  The only problem was that in February of 1779, much of the winter ice had melted due to an unusual warm thaw, and flooding meant that the troops were not really marching, but wading through cold floodwaters up to their necks.  Add to that that the floodwaters meant that their supplies were delayed, so this unpleasant march was done without much in the way of food and dry provisions.  Crazy!

Clark and his men left Kaskaskia on February 6, 1779 and arrived at Fort Sackville in Vincennes on February 23, a trip of just under 200 miles.  Their siege on Fort Sackville didn’t take long and the British surrendered on February 25, and they captured Hamilton!  Clark was considered a hero for his daring feat of bravery, even more so because his exploits were without formally supported with supplies and funds from the regular Army.

Unfortunately for Clark, he had borrowed money on his own to finance the campaign, and ultimately, neither Virginia nor the federal government would reimburse him for his expenses.  He received a large tract of frontier land in present-day Indiana, but had to give much of it to friends and family to protect it from creditors, and ultimately ended up penniless because what was seized by those same creditors wasn’t enough to pay off his debts.

A stroke in 1809 finally did him in; he fell into a fire in his cabin and the injuries to his leg required amputation.  He survived the amputation, but was unable to live independently any longer.  He moved in with his sister and her family near Louisville, Kentucky.  The United States finally granted him a pension in 1812; he received $400 per year for his service.  He suffered another stroke and died in 1818.  He is buried at the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Rotunda was built on what is believed to be the site of what was once Fort Sackville between 1931 and 1933; the interior features a more than life-size statue of Clark on an impressive pedestal, and seven murals depicting his campaign in the wilderness, his capture of Fort Sackville, and the history after the territory became part of the United States.

It is beautifully painted and very detailed.  You can read more about the murals and the history here.

The Visitor’s Center is small, and contains a few artifacts from the time period.  It also has a movie of the events.  The real draw is the Memorial Rotunda and its murals. The Visitor’s Center is open until 5, but the memorial closes at 4:45pm, so be sure to factor that in.  145,596 people visited in 2011, so it isn’t a heavily traveled historical park, but it is interesting to see.

Just down the street is the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, the first Catholic Cathedral in Indiana.  It was built in 1826 and is the third Catholic church on the site; the previous two were log cabin, frontier style churches.

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral – built 1826

The cathedral was closed when I visited, but there is a cemetery with graves of early settlers and a grotto with the Virgin Mary.  The Old Cathedral “French and Indian” Cemetery, active between 1750 and 1846, contains the graves of some 4,000 souls, including some of the men that Clark led during his assaults on the British forts, as well as other Revolutionary War soldiers and settlers.  The graves are mostly unmarked, but a few of the remaining stones have been moved along a short walkway that leads to a large Crucifix.  It is quite peaceful there.

This was a portion of our history that I knew nothing about, and although the National Park Service leaves out the parts about Clark’s later troubles, it is an informative look at his important military exploits.  It was certainly worth the time!

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Newfields

Day 25, Thursday, August 9, 2018

Indianapolis, Indiana

After I toured Oldfields, I was ready for a bit of a break – luckily, the grounds at Newfields has a little outdoor café with a limited menu.  I stopped there for a bit and had a glass of white wine, some water and the charcuterie plate.  It was a nice respite on the hot, sunny day – because all that walking around in the sun wears you out!

After my light lunch, I went inside to check out the main museum building; it is incredible too.  There are four floors of exhibits, spanning a number of different artistic styles.  I have written before about the fact that I prefer traditional art to modern art, so I visited the traditional art exhibits.  There was so much to see!

I had no idea that the LOVE sculptures were originally an Indianapolis thing – they have caught on and moved to other cities around the U.S. and the world, but the original one is in Indy.  It was fun to see!

Let me just say that although I love visiting art museums, I rarely have the patience to record who painted or created what…  It makes it better if it is a mystery right?  I did capture some of the artists of these works, so enjoy!