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Circus Trip 2018: Hovenweep National Monument

Day 83, Saturday, October 6, 2018
Hovenweep National Monument, Montezuma Creek, Utah

Hovenweep is one of the most amazing places I have ever been in my entire life.  I know people say things like this a lot, but it is truly incredible.  When people ask me what my favorite place on this trip was, Hovenweep always comes up at the top of the list.  It is a hidden gem for sure!  It is also remote; I drove for miles down farm roads and gravel roads, even wondering if I was going the right way, but I was.

Hovenweep was first discovered by white men in 1854, when William Huntington came across the ruins while on a missionary trip for Brigham Young.  It was designated as a National Monument on March 2, 1923, President Warren Harding after years of concerns about the artifacts being stolen and destroyed by explorers, ranchers and others.  Despite a long history of protection, archaeological studies really weren’t done here until the 1970s. Visitation now is still very low, 39,970 people visited in 2017.

When I was there, camping was first come, first served; there are 31 campsites and there is a length limit for campers.  That said, it is soooo worth it to camp there!  It has flush toilets but no showers, and when I was there it was only $15 a night.  I got there about 3:30 in the afternoon and my first stop was at the Visitor’s Center to get some postcards and my National Parks Passport stamp. 

Then I did the loop hike of the Tower Group – it was 2.5 miles and went along the edge of Little Ruin Canyon and past several dwellings, tower and other structures built by the Puebloan people.  It was sunny and warm!  I was so fascinated by the dwellings, which provide a peek into a different style of Puebloan building.  These structures were not built into alcoves of the canyon, like the ones at Mesa Verde.  They were also not pit houses, although they were mostly built on the mesa top.  A few structures were built in the canyon itself, and many were built over the seeps and springs that are in the area. 

These people were certainly expert builders; they didn’t level the ground to build their structures, instead they shaped their construction to work with the topography.  They often built on top of large stones and outcroppings that already existed at the site.  Historians believe that the people who built these structures lived here around 1300 A.D, although there is evidence of human habitation in this area as far back as 8000 B.C.  These towers and stone houses are very well preserved.

As you walk the rim of the canyon, you pass by multiple towers and stone houses; I was in awe of these beautiful structures and once again found myself wondering what the lives of these people were like.  When you hike out here, there is almost no external noise.  I was completely alone for most of the hike and it was so quiet, save for a few birds.

I saw lots of lizards because of the warm temperatures too – I loved seeing them! 

At the end of the hike, there is a section where you climb down about 80 feet to the canyon floor and cross over to the other side to climb back out.  It wasn’t too tough though; 80 feet is nothing! 

I made dinner and sadly missed most of the sunset, and then I got a text from Carol saying she had changed her plans and had arrived at Hovenweep!  We ended up sharing my campsite that night, a bottle of Michigan Marquette wine from 12 Corners Winery.  It was a bottle I had purchased when I spent the day with my cousin back in Michigan; it was delicious!

Carol and I sat at the picnic table talking, and watching the most incredible dark skies.  You could see the Milky Way spread out across the dark sky and it was huge.  I have never seen the Milky Way pop the way that it did that night; it completely filled the sky with bright stars.  I can’t even describe how beautiful it was.  I need to get back into timed exposures with my camera and night photography!

Having a bottle of wine with a friend while watching the Milky Way that night was truly one of my favorite life experiences.  Simply incredible! 

 

 

 

 

Circus Road Trip 2018: Oz Museum and Wamego, Kansas

Day 76, Saturday, September 29, 2018
Wamego, Kansas

Have you ever heard of Wamego, Kansas?  What? No?!?  I hadn’t either…  But there is a small town in Kansas called Wamego, and it is home to the Oz Museum.  As in the Wizard of Oz.  Why Wamego?  Was it Dorothy’s hometown?  Nope.  Apparently somebody felt that there needed to be an Oz Museum in Kansas and they created one!  There was a guy who loaned his Oz collection to the museum and it opened in 2003.

There was just one issue.  You see, the collection was only available for five years.  Fortunately for the museum, they were contacted by a second collector before the five years was up, and he happened to have an even larger collection of Oz memorabilia than the first one. 

There are memorabilia items from Oz’s entire history, from first editions of the Oz books to a reproduction pair of ruby slippers, made for the 50th anniversary of the movie.  There are displays featuring the characters from the movie, life-sized and perfect for selfies, and even some characters from the book series that didn’t make it into the movie.  You know that Oz was a book series long before it became a movie, right? 

The displays and items include more recent memorabilia too, even featuring Michael Jackson’s The Wiz version of the movie.  All in all, it’s a small museum that will please Wizard of Oz fans, and takes about an hour to see (unless you stay to watch the movie, which plays on an endless loop). 

Next door was the Oz Winery, and I stopped in to do a tasting of their wines, and found a couple that I liked.  I bought a bottle of the Emerald City Lights and they had all sorts of Oz themed items for sale, so I got a friend a t-shirt that she loves! 

Before I left Wamego, I wandered around a little bit to see a few of the Toto statues that are placed around town; each one is painted differently and they were fun to see.  There was even a Yellow Brick Road!

On the way out, I saw a sign for the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church.  Of course, I had to check this out.  What the heck is a Rifle Church?!?  As it turns out, the town of Wabaunsee, Kansas, where the church is located, was founded in 1855 by emigrants from New Haven, Connecticut who established the Connecticut Kansas Colony.  The colony then became known as the Beecher Rifle Colony, due to the following history. These abolitionist settlers heard a sermon by abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s brother) and he also helped supply rifles for the men to defend themselves.  Remember, at this time, there was a heated debate about whether Kansas Territory would become a free state or a slave state and tempers were high. As legend goes, the rifles were smuggled through pro-slavery areas in crates marked “Beecher’s Bibles,” and later the guns themselves were called Beecher’s Bibles. Wabaunsee became part of the Underground Railroad in late 1856 and helped Lawrence, Kansas after Quantrill’s Raid.  How’s that for some pre-Civil War history?  Of course, none of this history was explained at the church so I had to look it up later on the internet. 

I also learned that the church was finished in 1862, made of local limestone with stone accents, and built by church member Robert Banks.  It is built in a style known as Plains Vernacular and the church has designated men’s and women’s sides.  How interesting!  The church was closed, so I took a photo outside and continued on my way. 

It was time to continue on the road west.  I drove for a few hours and then stayed the night at the Ellis City Campground, in Ellis Kansas, just off I-70.  It was a small campground on the shore of the Ellis City Lake, and a quiet place, even on the weekend.  And for $15, it was a steal!  It was cold and windy that evening, so after my dinner of leftover BBQ ribs, I nestled early into my car cocoon.  One of the perks of having the bed in my car, rather than having to sleep in the tent!

Circus Trip 2018: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Day 72, Tuesday, September 25, 2018
In and around Kalamazoo, Michigan

After more than two months on the road, my car was a bit of a mess.  Staying at my Aunt and Uncle’s place gave me a great opportunity for reorganizing!  You get a few weird looks anywhere when you are laying all of your possessions out on the driveway, but at least this way I could put it out on the concrete and not on campground dirt.

Mom and Dad had 16 jars of cherry preserves that they wanted me to fit in the car, since they had flown out to Michigan on that trip.  Cherry preserves are tough to find out here in Washington – it is apparently a regional flavor!  So I spent a few hours retucking, consolidating, folding and rounding up strays that morning – soon enough I had a neat, controlled environment in the camping car again!  Then it was time for an afternoon of fun with my cousin!

Megan and I headed over first to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts to see some of their exhibits.  Some of the art was very sexually risque, with an entire exhibit of contemporary art of naked men with erections.  Not really my thing, but I guess art offers something for everyone.  There was plenty of other art that was more to my taste, with elaborate blown glass, Western art, and some interesting sculpture.  At any rate, it was a good visit to an art museum I hadn’t seen before.

Next up we did a quick stop at Henderson Castle, a Bed and Breakfast in Kalamazoo.  It is a ten bedroom, seven bathroom castle that was built in 1895 for Frank Henderson and his wife Mary.  Frank’s company made uniforms and regalia for secret societies, fraternal organizations and the military.  It is a beautiful home and it would be fun to stay there!

We ended our afternoon with a couple of stops at wineries in Paw Paw.  We went to St. Julian; the wines were good, but sadly our server was very disengaged.  It was unfortunate, because I always like hearing about the wines and talking with the server.  I did buy a couple of their wines to take home; their sparkling Brut was delicious and I wish I had some now!

Last but not least we went to Lawton Ridge, which was a winery I have visited before in Paw Paw.  We shared our flights so we could try more wines, and enjoyed several.  I ended up buying a bottle and a cute wine t-shirt.  It was a fun visit!

After our day out, we went home to my Aunt and Uncle’s house and had burgers with pickles and olives, and corn on the cob.  Yum!  We watched TV for a bit, but then I went to bed early in order to do some route planning, so I could resume my travels the next morning.  After a week with family, I would be hitting the road again!

 

Circus Trip 2018: South Haven, Michigan

Day 71, Monday, September 24, 2018
South Haven, Michigan

Monday, my cousin had the day off, so we had the opportunity to take a little day trip over to South Haven, Michigan.  We were ready to have a little cousins relaxing time!

Our first stop was at the South Haven Brewpub for lunch.  I had the Philly Cheesesteak and the Sunset Amber Ale; it was a great lunch!  The sun was warm; by the end our lunch, Megan was already getting sunburned!

After lunch, we headed over to Warner Vineyards for a little wine tasting.  There were lots of options, so Megan and I split our tastings.  Megan and I have different palates for wine; Megan likes the sweeter wines and I like the drier ones.

After wine-tasting, we did a little poking around in shops in South Haven.  I got a Michigan zipper hoodie.  It was fun seeing all the cute items.  

We did one more wine tasting that afternoon, at 12 Corners.  I got a couple of bottles there, including their Aromella, which was really good!  

We wrapped up our day with a walk out to the South Haven Light.  It is a beautiful lighthouse, bright red at the end of the pier!  It was a beautiful, sunny day, but it was so windy!  We had a good time getting selfies with the lighthouse and taking photos of the lighthouse too.  

We ended our day with dinner with my parents, and my aunt and uncle at the Chinese buffet.  It was a good day to a fun day!  

Circus Trip 2018: Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, VA

Day 59, Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Gadby’s Tavern, Alexandria, Virginia

After I left the Boston area, I had plans to visit a friend of mine who lives in Alexandria, Virginia.  I was going to spend a few days there, and use that as my jumping off point for visiting Washington, D.C.  I had left Quincy, Massachusetts, and embarked on a long drive through multiple states to get to Alexandria.  I split it over two days, as it is a total of about eight hours driving, through a lot of traffic.  Heading from Massachusetts to Alexandria meant I had to skip some great locations, but you can’t possibly see everything on a trip, I suppose.  It was tough to drive through so many great places and just pass them by!  Connecticut, New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, and more!  I so very much want to go back and see all these places!

All that said, I rolled into Alexandria about 4 in the afternoon, and headed to Jason’s house.  He had planned a surprise for my visit! He knows how much I love history, so he made reservations at Gadsby’s Tavern!

Gadsby’s Tavern was originally built in 1785 by Marylander John Wise, and opened the building next door as the Federal City Tavern in 1792.  There was another tavern on the site before the current building though, which reportedly was in business from around 1770.  An Englishman named Gadsby leased the tavern in 1796; the current name is a nod to him. 

Back in the late 1700s, several notable guests frequented the tavern, including Founding Fathers and Presidents!  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette were all known visitors to the taverns here.  A banquet was even held in Washington’s honor here in 1801; how cool to be in the same place where these men talked politics. 

Gadsby operated the tavern until 1815, and then passed through various hands and it was various businesses, until it fell into disrepair and abandonment.  In 1917, in this sad state, some of the ballroom woodwork was sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, where it apparently remains today.  However, this was the catalyst for the historic preservation.  Gadsby’s Tavern was restored to the period of the late 1700s, and reopened as a restaurant in 1976.

There is a fine dining atmosphere, with delicious food and ambiance.  I had the herb encrusted grill salmon, finished with a balsamic glaze, and served with jasmine rice and sauteed spinach, and a glass of white wine.  To add to its charm, period actors make their way around the room, reciting the words of our Founding Fathers and engaging restaurant patrons in discussions on the governance of our young, budding country!

It was so much fun getting to see Jason and watch the actors engage with people!  An amazing experience for a history nerd like me!  

After dinner we wandered around Alexandria and got ice cream nearby, just chatting and catching up.  I certainly want to go back and see more of this fascinating and historic city!

 

COVID Diaries: Day 374

The weekend has arrived again!  I had to work yesterday on my day off, as one of my employees had a family emergency, so it was nice when the workday was finally over! 

I had a friends dinner date on Thursday night at a new pho restaurant in town.  So simple and so delicious!  It’s so nice to be able to eat in a restaurant again.  We followed it up with a walk to the University, since it is now light out later in the evening. 

Friday night I took a long walk in the Arboretum, and then back down through the University.  It’s so nice to have this wooded park just a few blocks from my front door. Afterwards, I tried a new Raspberry Lemonade canned wine.  It was ok; not great, not terrible.

Today I had to do the unpleasant task of buying a new washer.  Why are these things so expensive and why oh why can they not make quality things the way they used to?  In my first house, the dishwasher was 42 years old and still worked fine.  You are lucky if you get 7 years out of an appliance these days.  But I am now the proud owner of a brand new Speed Queen top loading washing machine with exactly no bells and whistles, which is exactly how I think it ought to be.  Hopefully it will last… 

To reward myself for getting this chore done, I went to the Lost Giants cidery and got a 6-pack of their new Passionfruit Guava cider.  It is soooo good! 

I hope you are all having a fantastic weekend!

 

Oh What Fun!, Day 9

Day 9 in the Wine Advent Calendar was a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.  Chile was where I learned to love wine, sampling the local selections when I lived there so long ago.

This Sauvignon Blanc was made from grapes from Chile’s Valle Central (Central Valley) and was crisp and acidic, with flavors of pineapple and nectarine.  It had 12.5% ABV and was a very nice, dry white.  One of my favorites!

Cheers!

Oh What Fun!, Day 8

My wine for Day 8 was a Merlot from Chile’s Valle Central region.  This is the only international wine region I’ve been to, so I knew I was in for a treat.  Chile was where I learned to love wine, and they have so many good ones for affordable prices!

I don’t drink much Merlot, and I thought this one was relatively soft and fruit forward, despite the bottle description saying it was full bodied.  I tasted black cherry and ripe raspberry, with medium tannins.  It had 13% ABV, and it was delicious!

 

Oh What Fun!, Day 7

I love Rose – I was excited to see a rose included in my wine advent calendar!

Unfortunately, this was not the dry rose I have come to love.  This California rose was more reminiscent of the syrupy, overly sweet White Zinfandels that were a staple of the 1980s. Honestly, I drank this one very slowly, and had a hard time finishing it.

The description on the bottle was of strawberry and juicy watermelon, which seemed accurate, but it was like drinking a runny, strawberry syrup.

You can’t win them all – it still looked pretty in it’s picture!

Oh What Fun!, Day 6

Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t my favorite grape.  Or maybe the grape is fine, but it’s what most winemakers do with the grape.  I’ve found that so many Cabernet Sauvignons are aged in heavy oak, and the wine leaves you feeling like you just chewed on a 2×4…

So I wasn’t that excited to find this little bottle, but I was pleasantly surprised!  This Cabernet wasn’t over-oaked, and had nice flavors of black cherry and tobacco.

At 13% ABV it was a fairly light Cab, and one I would certainly drink again.