Tag Archive | adventure

Circus Trip 2018: Birthday Lobster

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Beal’s Lobster Pier, SW Harbor, Maine

When you are alone, holidays can be hard…  So I wasn’t sure what to expect from my road trip birthday.  Did I want to mark it in any way, or just let it slide by unnoticed?

Being in Maine at my birthday was fortuitous.  I had always wanted to try whole lobster, and what better place to experience it for the first time than Maine, where I could have fresh whole Maine lobster right at the source!

I asked around that morning and learned that Beal’s Lobster Pier was recommended as the place to be for Maine lobster.  It was near Acadia National Park, so when I finished my days’ touristing, I headed over to check it out.  I arrived fairly early; if I remember correctly it was just before 5, and it wasn’t too busy yet.  I let the man at the counter know I had never had whole Maine lobster, and he set to work picking out a good one for me.  And the sides, you can’t forget the sides…  Coleslaw, corn on the cob, and cornbread…

After I paid, I wandered out to find a table with my glass of Vinho Verde, and had the most incredible view of the harbor from my seat.  It was a warm evening, and I felt so at peace on the water, seeing the occasional boat come in.

My lobster came with instructions on how to crack and eat it, and I was so grateful!  I made sure to take a photo so I could have it in case one day I needed them.

My meal was amazing!  So fresh, and so simple, and easily one of the best meals I have ever had.  It was delicious, and I felt like it was a birthday dinner done right!

Note: For those of you in the know, this was the day before my actual birthday.  It still counts!

Circus Trip 2018: Acadia NP, Day 1

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

I was so excited to have two days in the park!

I drove in that morning and stopped first at the Visitor’s Center to get the lay of the land.  I watched the movie about the park, got some postcards and of course got my passport stamped!

I decided to spend the day checking out the Park Loop Road, which runs for 27 miles through the park.  I drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the east coast of North America.  It is also known as the place that is first in the United States to see the sunrise, although that is only true from October 7 to March 6 of each year.  That makes me feel better about the fact that I did not drag my butt up there in time for the sunrise, but I was there in early September!

Cadillac Mountain was still amazing, even during mid-morning when I was there.  The views are incredible and you can see in so many directions!  The barrier islands are beautiful!  The day that I was there they were doing a raptor count, although the gentle breeze was going in the wrong direction so most of the birds weren’t flying.  It was still interesting to hear them talk about their migration patterns and other raptor statistics!  It was neat to see the Cadillac Mountain granite, formed approximately 420 million years ago.  These are some very old stones!

The Park Loop Road is definitely a must do drive in the park; it takes you through the woodlands, by ponds, wildlife and the coast!  I enjoyed driving the scenic drive and not rushing it.  I stopped at a pond alongside the route and found a cute frog among the lily pads!

 

I found Sand Beach, which is, you guessed it!, a Sand Beach!  Being from Washington, where most beaches are rocky, I can appreciate the novelty of a sand beach.  I spent some time exploring it and wandering by the water.  There were several interesting jellyfish washed up, and some beautiful views!

I also stopped by Thunder Hole, but it wasn’t thundering.  It is a hole in the coastline, where the surf rushes in and apparently provides quite a show as it sprays high in the air!  You have to see it at high tide though, and it wasn’t high tide when I was there.  I was entertained by the two young men at the gift shop making the predictable inappropriate comments about Thunder Hole, but you could tell the cashier was not amused!

There is a trail that goes along the coastline for a while, and I enjoyed checking out the views of the water along the trail.  Even with the crowds, there is something peaceful about being close to the water.

My last official stop was at the Jordan Pond and to see the Jordan Pond House and The Bubbles.  The Bubbles are hills that someone, sometime in history, obviously thought looked like bubbles.  I wasn’t convinced, but it is probably as good a name as any.  When I get back to Acadia I want to hike to the tops of The Bubbles, which have some gorgeous views. That’s the trouble with these beautiful parks; there just isn’t enough time to do everything!  The Jordan Pond House is a restaurant that is famed for its popovers, another spot I will have to check out on a future trip!

 

That evening I had my early birthday dinner – that deserves its own post!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Shelburne Museum

Day 48 & 49, Saturday & Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2018
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

September brought a new state under my belt – Vermont!  I had crossed the border the evening before, and booked a few nights at the Lake Bomoseen KOA for the Labor Day Weekend.  It was a great place to stay, with large wooded campsites, a lake to fish in, a little movie theater, game room and store.

 

The next morning it was time to visit a museum that I was super-excited about – The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.  The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, a wealthy collector of American folk art.  In addition to collecting art pieces, she also undertook to collect 18th and 19th century buildings to house the collection, including houses, barns, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and even a 220 foot long steamboat!

I wandered from building to building checking everything out, and thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw.  The steamboat Ticonderoga was incredible; moved here after plying the waters of Lake Champlain.  I would have loved to be a passenger on that ship! The lighthouse was cool, the unusual two lane covered bridge was fun to see, and the round barn was fascinating.

The collection currently contains over 150,000 paintings, folk art, textiles, quilts, furniture and other types of art not commonly seen in museums.  There are entire rooms of duck decoys, farm implements, dioramas, automatons, and other interesting folk art!

The museum is huge, with over 39 buildings total to explore.  The $25 admission is admittedly a bit steep, but they do give you a two day entry for that price, and if you have the time, there would absolutely be enough to keep you busy for two days!

The next day, I had a quiet day at the campground.  I blogged, read, took a walk and even watched a movie.  I also met Bill and Jean, a kind retired couple who were raising their three grandchildren.  They invited me over for dinner and conversation.

Enjoy the photos!

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Niagara

Day 44, Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fort Niagara State Historic Park, Youngstown, New York

Fort Niagara has a history of white colonial settlement that spans over 300 years.

The first fort on this site was established by the French in 1679; they named it Fort Conti, and it wasn’t occupied for long.  The French returned again to establish Fort Denonville between 1687 and 1688.  It wasn’t until 1726 that the first permanent structure was built; a stone building known as the French Castle that still stands on site today!  Additional structures were built between 1756 and 1758.  In 1759 the British gained control of the fort during the French and Indian War, and it was British until the Revolutionary War was won, and the Americans were the proud new owners of Fort Niagara.

Of course, the British weren’t known for giving up so easily and they briefly reconquered Fort Niagara between 1813 and 1815, during the perhaps not-so-aptly named War of 1812.  The Americans got it back at the end of the War of 1812, and Fort Niagara never saw combat again.

 

The Fort did continue operating as a peaceful border post, and American troops were stationed here during the Civil War.  It was common during the early years of the Civil War to parole enemy troops, with the condition that they not return to fighting for a year.  The parolees at Fort Niagara were put to work building stuff.  Troops were trained here during both World Wars as well, and the last troops were finally withdrawn in 1963.  Since then, the Coast Guard is the only military branch that is on site.

 

Of course, Native Americans from the Seneca tribe were in the area long before the Europeans came along.  The Seneca was using the area around Fort Niagara as a seasonal hunting and fishing camp through the 1600s.

While I was there, I got to explore the buildings, and I also got to see both a cannon firing and a musket firing demonstration!  Apparently they used to lob tennis balls into the water when they did the cannon firing demonstrations, but the Canadian government asked them to stop, so now the demonstration does not include a projectile.  That’s better for the environment!

 

This was such a cool place to visit!

 

Westport Weekend: June 2019

June 21 – 23, 2019

Last year I went to the beach at Westport, Washington on the weekend of the summer solstice!  We wanted to ring in the beginning of summer in style!  Now mind you, the coast in Washington in the summer is not guaranteed to be warm, and may be downright freezing, so don’t be expecting any photos of shorts and people lounging in the sand.  We still had a great time!

Lelani and I left work early on Friday and drove down; we were camping and wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to get set up and get dinner made.  Other friends were joining us too!  She headed down to my work to pick me up and we stopped off for lunch at Kona Kitchen, a great Hawaiian place near my work!  We soon found out that we might have been better off eating on the road…

As usual, traffic in Seattle on a Friday afternoon was terrible, but at least we were entertained by tracking our progress against “the head”…

We camped at one of the Loge Resorts (yes, my spelling is correct); if you haven’t been to one, they have been converting old motels into new hipster-chic facilities.  The one we stayed at had camping (both tent and small RV sites), hotel rooms, and a hostel dormitory.  There was a stage with music on weekends, fire pits, and communal BBQ’s.  It was a fun place to stay, and the tent site was covered; that came in handy because it rained!  Drawbacks were the fact that you were approximately 4 feet from your neighbor in the next tent site over.  My neighbor snored, so the earplugs I always carry when I travel came in handy.

Saturday we checked out the harbor, where we watched people crabbing and fishing, and listened to the seabirds overhead.  We went to the beach too, and enjoyed some time spent searching for sand dollars and walking the beach.  You don’t have to spend too much time searching for sand dollars there; you really just have to wander around picking them up, as the beach is covered with them!  If you go though, make sure to only collect the dead ones, which are already white or a faded tan color; the live ones are a purplish black color.

That afternoon we visited the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse – you can climb to the top and see the view, and the third-order Fresnel lens.  The lighthouse was completed in March 1898, and stands 107 feet tall with 135 steps to get to the top.  It is worth it though – that view!  Originally, the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse sat about 400 feet from the waterline, in the last 120 years, the beach has experienced significant accretion, so it is now about 4,000 feet from the water!  I always enjoy seeing lighthouses when I travel and I especially appreciate when I can climb to the top.

We also visited the Westport Winery; they have an extensive tasting list consisting of a few whites, lots of reds and several fruit wines.  They had a sparkling wine that I really liked, and I purchased a couple of bottles to take home.  That evening we made a delicious dinner of steak shish-ka-bobs and corn on the cob, and ate our dinner while watching a guitarist perform on the outdoor stage.  It was fun to see!

Then, before dark, we headed out to the beach to watch the sunset and have a campfire on the beach.  See all those clouds in the photo below?  That made for a pretty much non-existent sunset, but oh well!  It was still pretty, but it was soooo cold and windy that night!  I really had to bundle up!  Are you sure this is summer?

The next morning Lelani and I went for an early morning walk on the beach before we packed up our gear to head home.  We found a little restaurant downtown, where I had hashbrowns, eggs, and fried oysters; it was so delicious!  About noon, we got on the road for another long, trafficky drive home…  What a great weekend though!

 

Astoria Weekend: A Fort and a Column

Day 3, Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday morning of our Astoria trip, we found a little breakfast place called Arnie’s Cafe, just south of Astoria (in Warrenton) and stopped for a bite. The food was delicious, and there was no wait! We must have gotten there at just the right time though because it got busy after we were seated!

After breakfast we headed to Fort Stevens State Park to explore. I have blogged about Fort Stevens before, home of the Peter Iredale shipwreck, and a historic battery dating from before World War I. We checked out the beach first, and of course explored the shipwreck! The kids had fun writing their names in the sand and looking for shells and interesting rocks. Unfortunately, this stretch of the beach, on the open ocean, isn’t known for having many intact shells.

The kids took off their shoes and waded in the water, despite the fact that it was a pretty cool day! That’s par for the course in the Pacific Northwest I suppose, having your hood up and tightly cinched around your head, while wading barefoot in the ocean. It was windy!

After we had our fill of the beach, and needed to warm up, we headed over to the battery. The Fort Stevens battery was built between 1863 and 1864, an earthwork battery meant to stand as a sentry to the threat of invasion by sea, and to stand guard over the mouth of the Columbia River.  They were more concerned about invasion by the British though, as there were long standing territorial disputes in the region. The fort was expanded and the current concrete batteries were constructed in 1897.

Thankfully, invasions never came, but the battery was shelled by a Japanese submarine on June 21, 1942.  The shells fell harmlessly away from the fort, and no damage was done; the Fort Commander did not allow his men to even return fire.  The battery was decommissioned after World War II and the guns were removed by 1947; it became part of Fort Stevens State Park. It is open to the public, and young and the young at heart can climb up on its walls and explore its rooms and stairways.

And if you are like me, you can step off a step, suddenly discover you stepped wrong, twist your ankle, fall down, and skin your knee. Yep. Not often, but sometimes, I’m a real klutz. Oops. It really hurt! Of course, it also hurt my pride as the flash of pain left me unable to get up for a few minutes, and the nice man down below watched me hit the concrete and called up to ask if I was ok? Yeah… I will need to sit here on my butt in the middle of the path for a minute though! I was undeterred in my adventure seeking, and not willing to give up on our day, so I soon powered through the pain and walked it off. OUCH!

Our next stop for the day was the Astoria Column. Built in 1926 as a way to showcase the history of the area and its discovery in 1811, the column is 125 feet tall and has an internal staircase rising 164 steps to the top. You can buy balsa wood airplanes for $1 at the Visitor’s Center; the kids enjoyed climbing to the top of the tower to launch them off the top. What fun and the views are spectacular!

That evening, we endured a long wait at Buoy Beer Company, but the kids were entertained by the plexiglass in the floor that allowed them to watch a huge male sea lion lounging on the dock below. The adults were entertained by the ability to enjoy a beer anywhere in the brewery, so we could relax with a cold one while we waited for a table. The food was amazing – I loved my fish and chips! The Champagne IPA was delicious!

Our last adventure of the day was to catch the sun lowering in the sky, and to drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Washington. The bridge was opened in 1966 and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America at 4.067 miles long. The sunset was beautiful, and a nice end to a great long weekend, as the next morning it was time to head home and back to real life.  What a wonderful getaway!

Mammoth Cave NP History

Mammoth Cave National Park is located in central Kentucky.  It is named for its huge size; it is the largest cave system known in the world, at over 400 miles of explored passageways.  Cave exploration continues today, and new passages are found and mapped each year, so it really is anyone’s guess who large the cave system really is.  The whole area has many caves, so it is likely that some of these other caves are really just part of this one giant cave system!  The park was created on July 1, 1941 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the cave at that point had close to 150 years of exploration and commercial exploitation by then.

Mammoth Cave was first discovered by white settlers in 1797; the owners of the land discovered this and several other caves nearby.  It has been known to Native Americans for thousands of years; they were known to enter the cave to extract the gypsum deposits here.  Native Americans also buried some of their dead in the cave, the cool, dry conditions of certain areas in the cave were perfect for mummification; several Native American mummies were discovered in the cave during the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the mummified remains of a man who was crushed by a boulder while mining in the cave.

Mammoth Cave first became a commercial venture during the War of 1812, when British supplies of saltpeter were unavailable; saltpeter is a component in the manufacture of gunpowder – pretty important when we were at war with the British!  Slaves were brought in to mine the saltpeter deposits, but after the war, the demand dried up.  Enterprising owners decided to try their hand at the tourist trade and Mammoth Cave was opened up to tours by the 1830s.  Slaves guided many of the tours, and even after the Civil War, African American guides played an important role in the tourism industry and the exploration of the cave.

In the early 1900s, interest began mounting for the creation of a National Park; however, like many of the parks in the East, the land here was already long settled with thriving communities.  The process of buying these settlers out of their land and seizing other parcels through eminent domain created lots of bitter feelings that lasted years after the park’s creation.  As a result, Mammoth Cave still has the remnants of these communities, including old churches and cemeteries.

The cave system is a limestone cave, with many different features; parts of the cave are very dry – so dry in fact that one of the commercial ventures that was attempted in the 1800s was a tuberculosis sanitarium (it was short lived).  Other sections are wet areas, and the Green River even runs through a portion of the cave.  The cave is home to several species of bats (which are struggling with white nose syndrome, a fungal infection), eyeless fish, and a cave specific species of eyeless shrimp.  I know you are wondering, and no, there have been no woolly mammoths discovered in mammoth cave; it really is named for its giant size.  Caves are so interesting!

Mammoth Cave has several types of tours, from the Historic tour where you can see the original entrance to the cave and see the old evidence of saltpeter mining, to lantern tours and caving tours.  There is also camping and hiking on the surface as well!

Despite its easily accessible location, Mammoth Cave only receives about a half million visitors each year (approximately 533,000 in 2018).  I’m not sure why, but it was busy the day that I was there.  I will tell you about my visit in an upcoming post!

 

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

 

 

 

Arizona Getaway 2019: Tombstone and The O.K. Corral

Day 2, Friday, March 15, 2019

Tombstone, Arizona

Our second day, we went to Tombstone.  I had long ago heard about it, had never been there and thought it would be interesting. I wanted to spend the day there!  Mom was game, as it had been a long time since she visited as well.

For those of you who are light on your Tombstone history, Tombstone is a mining town in Southern Arizona, and it is the infamous site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  The “good” guys, the Earp brothers and their buddy Doc Holliday, got into a gunfight with the bad guys, the Clantons and McLaurys.  That’s the sanitized version anyway.  The truth is a bit tougher to pin down.  The truth is that Tombstone was a lawless place, with violence and murders occurring regularly.  It wasn’t that difficult to get appointed as a lawman there; you just had to know the right somebody.  And once you were a lawman, you could deputize your friends and family!  And that’s what Wyatt Earp did.

The Earps didn’t have spotless records.  They had some honest dealings and some shady ones, including being pimps, card dealers and horse thieves.  Several of them also either solicited prostitutes or lived with them.  Doc Holliday made his living as a gambler and sometime dentist and his girlfriend was a prostitute too.  The Clantons and McLaurys didn’t have their noses clean either.  They were suspected of stealing horses, and according to the historical record, they were probably guilty.  But their offense that day in Tombstone?  Not checking in their weapons when they came into town. Which most other men probably didn’t do either.

There had been a lot of threats back and forth for months before the shootout.  After a lot of lead up and posturing, things were ripe for a confrontation, and it happened on October 26, 1881 at the O.K. Corral.  Except it wasn’t actually at the corral; it was more a small vacant lot between two buildings, one of which was C.S. Fly’s Photography Studio.  But that doesn’t sound as good.  The shootout at the Photography Studio?

In the end, after 30 seconds of shooting among nine men, three men were dead and three were wounded.  The three dead men were Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton.  Virgil and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday were wounded in varying degrees of severity.  The ensuing attempts at revenge continued into the next year; Morgan Earp was shot and killed in March 1882.  Did anything really get settled?

Mom and I stopped first at the historic Boothill Cemetery, where the three men who died at the O.K. Corral are buried, but there are many others there as well.  Tombstone was a rough place, and many of the markers explained that the grave’s inhabitant died at the hands of another.  Of course, others died in the usual fashion – like getting trampled by horses!  Or being pulled out of the jail and lynched.  Or opium overdoses.  Hardly anybody, it seems, lived a long life in Tombstone.

Mom and I ventured next to the O.K. Corral, where we enjoyed watching the shootout reenactment.  Admittedly, it is a bit cheesy, with the actors encouraging spectators to boo and cheer for the bad guys and the good guys.  It does help you realize that even with all the lead up, when you know it is coming and are actively trying to watch so you can see exactly what happens, 30 shots fired by six potential participants within the span of 30 seconds, with smoke and people moving, makes it difficult to figure out what truly happened.  No wonder they were never really able to figure out what went down.

We checked out the exhibits on Tombstone’s history, both before and after the O.K. Corral.  We toured C.S. Fly’s Boarding House and Photography Studio, where Doc Holliday’s girlfriend Big Nose Kate watched the gunfight unfold (gotta love history; I wonder what my nickname would be?).  Several cowboys who fled the gunfight did so through the door of Fly’s Boarding House, including Ike Clanton.

A hearse display

Be sure to check out the Historama presentation while you are at the O.K. Corral; it is dated, but still fascinating, and not just for its historical value.  How often do you see a revolving model of Tombstone, complete with a train, animals, mine shafts and other attributes of the town?  Did I mention it was narrated by Vincent Price?  Down the street you can tour the museum of Tombstone’s oldest newspaper, the Epitaph.  Your admission ticket to the O.K. Corral even gets you a free copy of a historic edition of the newspaper.

It was good to see the reenactment, but we did more on our visit that day!