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Circus Trip 2018: Marshall, Michigan

Days 70, Sunday, September 23, 2018
Marshall, Michigan

Sunday morning my parents and I had breakfast with my Aunt Elaine, Uncle Richard and cousin Stephanie, and then we were off to the other side of the state to visit my mom’s side of the family.  Mom’s family is much smaller, but I have an aunt, uncle and cousin (and a few other relatives outside of Michigan) who live in Galesburg, Michigan, a small town outside of Kalamazoo. 

We headed over to the other side of the state, but driving separately since my parents had their own rental car.  I stopped in Marshall, Michigan and did a little wandering and shopping.  Marshall is a cute little town with a historic downtown area with shops and antique stores (which unfortunately are mostly closed on Sundays), and several nicely painted murals on the buildings.  

And then my cousin Megan met me at Dark Horse Brewing Company.  If you feel like you have heard of it, you probably have.  They had a reality show there several years ago, but I’ve never actually seen the show.  Megan and I got a beer and a pretzel with beer cheese, and I got a t-shirt!

That evening was pretty quiet, just enjoying a dinner of pork tenderloin tacos with the family, and catching up.

Not every day on the road can be thrilling I guess!

 

COVID Diaries: Day 707

I got home late Monday night from two weeks on vacation in Minnesota.  It was a much needed respite, and yet so very cold!

Getting home on Monday wasn’t easy though.  There was a winter storm warning in Minnesota that was due to bring 14 inches of snow.  Thankfully the snow came later and it wasn’t bad getting to the airport.  My first flight was great!  My second flight was canceled due to high winds.  I ended up taking the shuttle bus home, but my bags didn’t come with me.  I got one bag back last night and my second got home today.  And all the Minnesota cider I had nestled into it survived!   

Unfortunately, I got home to a cold snap so encountered temps of 25 degrees and black ice on my commute, making for a treacherous drive on Tuesday.  But the sun is out!  And it warmed up to 44 this afternoon, making it much warmer than Minnesota now.

It was so nice to have a getaway, but it just reminded me how much I want to go on a long road trip again!  But probably not in the dead of winter.  Well, maybe in the dead of winter in the south.  At any rate, a road trip is on my mind.  Hopefully soon.

My vacation was spent doing many cold weather activities.  Hiking, snow shoeing, visiting an ice castle and an ice maze, ice fishing, frozen waterfalls and other fun winter activities!  I had a great time, but didn’t always stay warm!  In the evenings, I got to work on a puzzle, watch movies, play games or just read. 

In other news, my state’s Governor finally announced that he would lift our mask mandate no later than March 21, long after most other states.  So that may mean that the COVID Diaries may finally come to an end, and it will be time to have a new “thoughts on life” series.  One can only hope.  Stay tuned! 

Circus Trip 2018: River Raisin NBP

Day 65, Tuesday, September 18, 2018
River Raisin National Battlefield Park, Monroe, Michigan

Remember the Raisin!

Seriously though, who remembers the raisin?  I’m quite confident that I never knew about it in the first place, making it impossible to remember the raisin.  If this is a thing, and they assured me at River Raisin National Battlefield Park that it is indeed a thing, its reach has been limited, at least in the last 200 years.

The War of 1812 was the impetus for the Battle of Frenchtown.  It had been occupied by the British, as a part of their larger occupation of the area around Detroit, Michigan; of course that was before Michigan was a state.  So the British occupied the area and the Americans, under the command of Brigadier General James Winchester, decided to try to drive the British out of Frenchtown on January 18, 1813.  Of course, Winchester was defying orders; he was supposed to be remaining within supporting distance of Major General William Henry Harrison’s (yes! the later President) column about 30 miles south.  Oops.

So Winchester went rogue and allowed Lieutenant Colonel William Lewis to attack Frenchtown with 666 troops, most of them inexperienced regulars and volunteers from Kentucky.  They crossed the frozen Maumee and Raisin rivers and after a brief battle, they did manage to take Frenchtown.  Harrison didn’t like that Winchester and Lewis defied his orders,but he was pleased that Frenchtown was back in American hands.  The British were less than pleased.

The British, as you can guess, set about sending troops from Fort Malden and got to Frenchtown on January 22.  The locals tried to warn Winchester that a large column of British was coming, but he ignored the warning, thinking that the British would need more time to prepare an attack.  Big oops.

The British and allied Potawatomi tribe attacked and basically annihilated the Americans.  In less than an hour, over 300 were killed and about 500 were taken prisoner.  Anyone who could walk was force-marched to Fort Malden; those who fell behind were killed.  But those left behind at Frenchtown didn’t suffer a better fate.  The Native Americans set fire to the homes that housed the injured soldiers; those that could escape were shot as they exited the buildings.  The others were burned alive.

Winchester screwed up in not heeding the warning of the impending arrival of the British.  If he had moved his troops away from Frenchtown, it is likely that the reinforcements from Harrison’s Army would have arrived and changed the outcome of the battle.  As it was though, news of the massacre traveled far and wide and incited feelings of horror among Americans.  In fact, Kentucky, having lost many prominent citizens in the battle and massacre, encouraged many new enlistments for the war.

The National Battlefield Park is relatively new and there isn’t much there.  It officially opened in 2011.  The Visitor’s Center had some interesting exhibits and a movie on the battle, and you can walk an open field with some historical markers.  They have plans to reconstruct some of the buildings and acquire surrounding lands to protect more of the battlefield.  They are making progress, as they opened a new Visitor’s Center since I was there – it’s huge!  It will be interesting to visit again in another 10 or 20 years to see how it has changed!

Circus Trip 2018: Antietam

Day 64, Monday, September 17, 2018
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland

I was due to start heading west to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding and to spend some time with family.  But along the way, of course, I planned to sightsee!

Antietam National Battlefield was on my list.  I had visited back in 2008, but a freak snow storm deposited approximately 1/4 inch of snow that had shut down the Visitor Center (and I thought we were bad about snow in Washington state).  I was determined to return.  Too bad the rain this time was insane!

Antietam (called the Battle of Sharpsburg in the south), was a Civil War Battle that occurred on September 17, 1862, and remains to this day the bloodiest day in American history.  22,717 Union and Confederate solders were killed, wounded or missing that day.  Of course, it also has other historical significance.  Although it was technically a draw, General McClellan and his Union troops were able to stop Confederate General Lee’s advance into Maryland.  That was enough of a victory for President Lincoln, and he used the opportunity to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which would take effect on January 1, 1863 in Confederate controlled areas.

The battlefield land was established as a park on August 30, 1890 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Approximately 385,000 people visit each year.

I first stopped at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, which was supposed to be open that day.  It was just starting to rain.  The Pry House was General McClellan’s headquarters during the battle and now has Civil War field hospital exhibits inside, so I was very interested in seeing it.  Unfortunately, it was locked up tight – thwarted again!

So I headed over to the Visitor’s Center, and was happy to find it open.  I sat in on a Ranger presentation about the battle; where things happened, and how the battle unfolded.  The Visitor’s Center has a viewing area for these presentations on the second floor, so you get a good view of the layout of the field and can see a visual of what the Ranger is discussing.  It was interesting!

Then I went out on the auto tour.  I stopped by Dunker Church and took a peek inside. 

I drove through Miller’s farm, where the fighting began on the morning of the battle.  I climbed to the top of the Observation Tower.  By this time, it had started to rain really hard, and the wind was kicking up, creating quite a sway at the top of the tower!

By the time I made my way over to the Burnside Bridge, which I REALLY wanted to see, it was a torrential downpour.  I was sad, but ultimately decided to skip it, as I’m not even sure I would have been able to see it if I walked over to it.  Which just means I will have to go back!  One day, I will see Antietam as it should be seen.

Circus Trip 2018: Alexandria, Virginia

Day 63, Sunday, September 16, 2018
In and around Alexandria, Virginia

My last day in D.C. was a relaxing day with friends.  In the morning, I went horseback riding with a friend of mine in Silver Springs, Maryland.  Alexis rides at a stable there and was able to use two horses for the morning!  Mine was a 16.1 hand mare named Rosie.  She was very sweet and we had a great trail ride. 

Later in the afternoon Alexis, Jason and I went to a place called Vola’s in Alexandria for drinks and appetizers.  The day was warm and the outdoor seating was lovely.  I had a Whiskey drink and it was soooo good!  It was fun just catching up with friends.

On the way home, Jason and I stopped to check out the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  It is such an impressive memorial!  Construction was started in 1922, and it was dedicated in 1932.  However, the interior was not completed until 1970!  It is designed to look like the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.

It is such a beautiful building!  We were there in the evening, so we didn’t have a chance to go inside, but maybe one day.  The interior is supposed to be pretty interesting, with murals and displays honoring George Washington.  We did get to walk up the stairs, so at least we got some exercise!  It was a nice, relaxing final day in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Goodbye 2021: Another Year in COVID

I had such high hopes for 2021 at the beginning.  Surely it had to be better than 2020, which basically delivered a whole steaming pile of death, destruction and mayhem (and some significant savings on commuting).  But in fact, 2021 has given us a crazy roller-coaster of whiplash moments that frequently left me feeling like I was a cat watching a game of ping-pong, quietly muttering to myself, “make it make sense…”

There were some silver linings in 2021 though, mixed in with some heartaches.

In May my heart broke when a long-time friend and ex-boyfriend died of a massive heart attack after spending ten days on life support.  Although we were no longer that close, there was a time when he meant the world to me and it was so hard to see him taken so soon.

I also caught Yellow in May, a stray cat who my old neighbor had been feeding, and brought him inside.  Over the last seven months, he has decided that the indoor life is really pretty good.  He sits on my lap, sleeps on the bed curled up with me and doesn’t even mind Cora.

In June, I took a vacation to parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and even a bit of Wisconsin.  The weather was hot and sunny, and good company made for a great trip.  The lakes are warm enough that you feel like you are swimming in lukewarm bathwater!  And the little sunfish come up and nibble on your legs…  

I worked almost exclusively remotely until July, when we all spent 2 months back in the office on a full-time basis.  Now, I’m back working two days a week from home, which is nice as gas prices are crazy with inflation lately.

In August a girlfriend and I got away to the Oregon Coast for a week of agate hunting, trying new restaurants and breweries, and sightseeing.  It wasn’t that warm, but it was still glorious!  We had such a good time!

I took two weekend getaways to the Washington Coast, one in May by myself and another in early December with a girlfriend.  Beach-combing and sightseeing were on the agenda, and were good for the soul.

I did several Sunday Fundays with girlfriends, weather permitting, and found new places close to home to explore.

Sadly, 2021 saw people be viciously mean to others.  A lot of people have stopped living by the Golden Rule, and somehow feel that they now have a right to judge others they don’t agree with.  Unfortunately, the internet helps with this, as people feel more comfortable sitting behind their keyboards and expelling their verbal diarrhea on others.  It has been hard to see.  In the end, we will all be judged by God and him alone, so I hope people take a step back and move back into kindness in 2022.  I have had to step back from people like that, as it just isn’t worth my sanity.

With so much time at home, I finished 11 puzzles and read 38 books! 

We are closing out the year with two big snowstorms and frigidly cold temperatures.  As I write this, the 23 degree temperature is warmer than it has been all week!  Which isn’t a big deal other places, but it is rare that we deal with the threat of frozen pipes and black ice here.  It really is pretty though when you aren’t out in it…

Given that 2021 did not indeed turn out to be the comeback year that I was hoping for, I must now cast my gaze towards 2022 and sternly notify it that it must, indeed be better.  May 2022 bring you blessings…

The Christmas Lead Up

I’m not a fan of the holidays.  There, I said the quiet part out loud. 

I would love nothing better than to just travel on Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.  But alas, as COVID drags on, and I still have to work, and the weather is terrible in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be teeing up for another one.  Whee.  Once I retire, I swear, I’ll be hitting the road for the holidays!

I can’t really explain why I don’t enjoy them.  It’s just so much pressure.  Decorating.  Baking.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Standing in line at the post office (ugh that one is overwhelming; thank God for Amazon). On top of the fact that it is one of the busiest times of the year for my work.

Shopping for a turkey or ham that is suitable for one or two people is an exercise in futility.  In my ordinary life, anytime I make food I have to eat it for the next week, but what the heck am I going to do with a 10 pound turkey?  My mom and I still have a bunch of ham in the freezer from Thanksgiving.  Maybe we’ll just pull that out.

Then you see everybody forced into the holiday cheer, and stressed, and cranky and taking it out on you.  I have a couple of exes that did that with a particular gusto.  The days of walking on eggshells.  Dealing with the drunken rants.  Not to mention that having a partner at the holidays shouldn’t mean double the work for me.

Coraline peeks from her favorite spot

One of my previous bosses enjoyed the holidays so much that she forced her management team into a performance of the Twelve Days of Christmas at the annual holiday breakfast.  That was awful.  She probably never had any inkling that some of her staff would have merrily lined up for a root canal to get out of that torture.  Did I mention that there were hats required too?  What makes people so clueless?  Especially at a holiday party that has no booze? 

I should have gotten an Oscar for my acting that morning.

So anyway, if you are like me and the holidays leave you feeling like you want to flee, and lay on a warm beach somewhere away from all the people, please know that I understand.  You are not alone.  Maybe we can share a room; bring lots of books.

COVID Diaries: Day 634

Well, after three atmospheric rivers, and a lot of flooding all over the county, the weather systems are calmed down for a little while.  One man died, many farmers lost a lot of their livestock, and thousands of homes and businesses will need to be gutted and rebuilt.  The county is dotted with sinkholes and roads that are eroded away from the rushing water.  

The flooding finally made it to my hillside street, in the form of a blocked culvert that started overflowing into the street, and sending a lot of gravel out of the neighbors’ parking areas and into the street.  Fortunately, it didn’t erode underneath the street.  Really, since that is all that happened near me, I have nothing to complain about.

Then we moved onto snow.  I woke up Monday morning to a dusting of the white stuff, but it didn’t create any issues for my morning commute.  It snowed again a little on Thursday morning, but not enough to even stick.  Friday night brought a new storm of wind and rain, and plenty of snow in the mountains.  It made a mess of my yard, bringing down a couple of big branches that I’ll need to cut up and get rid of.  The yard work never ends this time of year!

I really get tired of the constant battering of wind and rain on the coast this time of year.  But given the tornadoes in the Midwest, I probably still have nothing to complain about here. 

Last weekend my friend Shelley and I took a long weekend and went to the coast.  We rented a room in a little motel, then got upgraded to a two bedroom suite with a full kitchen because the TV wasn’t working.  We beach combed,  and checked out the sights along the coast.  It was a nice getaway, despite the rain and cold.  We bundled up and managed to do ok. 

I’m not ready for Christmas, but I did manage to get my ornaments made for my family’s homemade ornament exchange; for me, who has no crafting skills whatsoever, this is a big accomplishment each year!  I’ll try to remember to share them all once I receive the ones from my aunt and my cousin. 
 
2021 has been a brutal year.  Our insurance broker at work always says that you are bound to have one or two bad years out of every five.  I’m hoping I can apply that to life as well.  I hope you all are hanging in there; there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  Just a few more weeks; 2022 is bound to bring something better! 
 
I hope you are all well. 

Circus Trip 2018: The Soldier’s Home

Day 62, Saturday, September 15, 2018
President Lincoln and Soldier’s Home National Monument, Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home has been a dream of mine for years.  The cottage first came to my attention when I read Lincoln’s Sanctuary, a book by Matthew Pinsker, in 2012. The book documents Lincoln’s use of the home during the summers and early falls of 1862-1864.

Lincoln was bereft after the death of his beloved son Willie in February 1862, of typhoid fever.  So that summer, he and Mary moved to a cottage on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home, a retirement home for aged and infirm war veterans.  Little did they know, it would be a respite for three summers, and would be where he undertook some of the most important decisions of his Presidency, including firing McClellan and drafting the now famous Emancipation Proclamation in the summer of 1862.

Lincoln’s cottage was only declared a National Monument on July 7, 2000, and opened to the public in 2008.  It is still on an active military installation, known today as the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Washington.  As a result of its fairly recent designation, many people, even Lincoln enthusiasts, have not heard of this important Presidential site.  Interestingly, Presidents Buchanan, Hayes, and Arthur also used the home as a summer retreat during their Presidencies.

The home was built between 1842 and 1843, by George Washington Riggs, who later went on to found the Riggs National Bank.  He sold the home and 251 acre property to the government in 1851, when they were looking to establish a home for veterans.  Lincoln and his family fell in love with the relaxed atmosphere of the home.  It was only three miles from the White House, and afforded the President a relatively easy commute on horseback.  Tad made friends with the soldiers who lived there, and was accepted as their mascot of sorts.

Poet Walt Whitman lived along the route of Lincoln’s daily commute, and the two took to greeting each other with a bow each day as Lincoln rode by.  And in a sad ending to his time at the home, the President and Mary were actually there before they took their last carriage ride to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

As the cottage is on an active military installation, you have to go through a check point and show ID to get there.  While you are onsite, you can only visit the cottage and its Visitor’s Center.  There you can purchase tickets and view exhibits, mostly related to the drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Outside, there is a statue of Lincoln and his horse.  Perfect for selfies!

But the cottage is the real star.  Cottage is a bit misleading of a term, since it is actually a fairly large home.  It is built in the Gothic Revival style, with ornate gingerbread and gables everywhere.  So pretty!

The tour was fascinating, with the docent sharing stories of Lincoln entertaining people in the sitting room, late at night, in his pajamas and slippers.  Or writing at the desk; the desk here is a replica of the desk that sits in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.  The cottage is unfurnished, but you can imagine what it would have been like in Lincoln’s day.  I am always in awe when I get to walk in the footsteps of such a great leader.  My visit here was nothing short of incredible, and truly a bucket list item fulfilled.

Circus Trip 2018: More of DC

Day 61, Friday, September 14, 2018
The White House and The Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Wow, I was just seeing how long it has been since I posted a travel post.  Time to try to break through this writer’s block!

On one of my days of sightseeing in Washington, D.C., I wandered over to check out both the US Capitol and the White House.  They are such impressive symbols of our nation and democracy! 

The city also has some amazing architecuture, and you can see I clearly like horse statues.  I mean Ulysses S. Grant did win the Civil War, and General Pulaski represents my Polish heritage as one of the most important figures of the Revolutionary War!

Enjoy the photos and I’ll try to get back on track with my trip posts!