It’s been a week… My first week back in the office and it has been a week with a huge amount of change. I’m exhausted, and the week is only half over!
I’m definitely dreaming of vacation… Warm weather and sun please!
Day 3 & 4, Saturday & Sunday, March 16 & 17, 2019
After Mom and I left Chiracahua National Monument, we still had some hours in the day left, so why waste them in a hotel room? I wanted to try some local wines, so we found the Arizona Wine Collective in Tucson. It is a wine bar that features and serves an assortment of Arizona wines.
I chose to taste through a flight of five and told my server what I typically like; crisp, dry whites and lighter, less oakey reds. She explained what she would recommend based on my palate and I went with her recommendations. I enjoyed four of the five wines she selected for me, so I feel like she did pretty well! Sadly, I didn’t end up recording the wines I had, so I’ll just have to go back again! I do wish they had bottles to take with you, but unfortunately, they did not. I see an Arizona wine tour in my future. It has been a while…
The Arizona Wine Collective doesn’t serve food, but there are a couple of restaurants in the complex where they are located and you can get takeout delivered without charge. Mom and I split a delicious order of nachos from the restaurant next door and it was more than enough for dinner for two.
The next morning it was time to head home… We drove over to the Tucson airport and deposited our hamster car (Kia Soul) back at the rental place. Then we sat outside for a while soaking up the Arizona sunshine before it was time to make our way through security. I can never get enough of feeling the warm sun on my face! Especially since as I am writing this I’m looking outside at an inch of snow, a temperature of 19 degrees and a windchill of 6, with a high temperature today of 26 degrees. I need some warm sun!
Until my next escape!
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 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.
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 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.
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!
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!
Day 29, Monday, August 13, 2018
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.
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!
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!
Day 2, Friday, March 15, 2019
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.
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!
Day 28, Sunday, August 12, 2018
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!
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!