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Cooperstown Adventure

I traveled to Cooperstown, NY this past week – mainly to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I discovered so much more! Cooperstown is a lovely little village on Lake Otsego in the foothills of the northern Catskill Mountains. I have never been to that area of NY state – I’ve been to the Adirondacks, but never the Catskills area. It was a real treat! The surrounding area is beautiful and the village of Cooperstown is like driving into a town that time forgot……beautifully maintained Victorian homes, a pristine lake, quaint little parks, friendly people – didn’t run into a single rude or unkind person anywhere I went, no big chain stores or restaurants, and tons of history everywhere you look. I have visited a lot of places that I really enjoyed – places that are wonderful to visit, but I wouldn’t want to actually live there! Until now, there has only been one place I’ve ever visited that I felt like “I could live here”……now, there are two: Savannah, GA and Cooperstown, NY!

My adventure was filled with “firsts” for me! I already mentioned it was the first time I visited the Catskills area of NY and, obviously, the first time I was in Cooperstown. But, there were other firsts, as well. I started out on my drive at 5:00 am on Monday morning – taking the scenic route – the first time I’ve driven so far on the beautiful Route 20 – and expected to arrive in Cooperstown by lunch time, which allowed for some sightseeing stops along the way. I arrived in Cooperstown ten hours later – the first time I’ve allowed myself to truly just take my time and soak up all the wonderful sights and places our great state has to offer! I’ve never had the luxury of no set agenda or time line expectations and the ability to just decide to stay extra days, if I wanted to – which I did, actually! :) So, the first day of my adventure was packed with mini adventures throughout the day. I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast inn – another first for me – I’ve always wanted to stay at a B&B, but never had the pleasure – until now! And, it is the first time I felt like an adventure really needed to be broken down into four blog posts to give each segment of the adventure the attention it deserved! Oh, there have been times when I broke out a piece of an adventure into a separate post so that it would stand alone, but this time was different – I felt like I didn’t have one BIG adventure, I had FOUR big adventures!!! So, you will find four blog posts covering the main segments of the trip – Bed and Breakfast, Taking the Scenic Route, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and this one – Cooperstown Adventure! I spend three short days traveling and crammed a multitude of amazing memories into them! So, scroll down or look at the “Recent Posts” list to the right to find the other three posts to read about my entire experience!

Here are just a few photos of the things I saw and did in Cooperstown – other then the National Baseball Hall of Fame (which has its own post):

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My first view of Cooperstown was this main intersection of Rt 80 and Main Street. The village was beautifully decorated with corn husks, straw bails, and fall flowers…..and the trees were a blaze with gorgeous fall colors. The couple standing on the corner made me chuckle – they were taking turns having their photo taken with the colorful tree in the background and an orange leaf in each hand! I wondered where they came from that the fall colors would be such a novelty for them.

It was a lovely day – just cool enough to be comfortable walking downtown, but warm enough to not need a jacket. I checked in at the Bed and Breakfast Inn and took a stroll down Main Street to check out the village. I wasn’t surprised to find a distinct baseball theme to the shops and restaurants downtown.

088 Shoeless Joe’s – a baseball memorabilia shop

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Right next door to Shoeless Joe’s is Mickey’s Place – baseball themed shop and restaurant

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One of several baseball themed restaurants that also demonstrates the quaint feel of the village with its brick and vintage wood façade

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Another example of the village ambiance

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The first evening, I had dinner at a restaurant that came up several times in my research - Alex & Ika Restaurant - it wasn’t anything special. But, the second night, I accidentally came up on this restaurant while driving around town. It is The Pit Under the Tunnicliff! The Colonial brick building is the Tunnicliff Hotel – The Pit, down the stairs to the basement, is a very eclectic pub with delicious food – I really enjoyed it!

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Then, there is the pristine Otsego Lake – a large crystal clear, vivid blue lake that borders the town and out along Rt 80 – breathtaking!!! This is a small park one block over from the Baseball Hall of Fame with an historic marker indicating it was an Indian Meeting Place.

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And, yes, much to my delight, there is a lighthouse!!!

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Downtown is also home of Doubleday Field – the birthplace of baseball!

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At the entrance to Doubleday Field is a sweet bronze statue called “The Sandlot Kids”

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In this large corner building is the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum — the ground floor is a baseball memorabilia shop and the second and third floors are home to more than 40 wax figures and “The Baseball Bloopers Movie Theater” – what a riot that was – I laughed and laughed!!! The following two photos are just examples of a couple of the more entertaining figures: Wade Boggs on a horse with a cop and Abbott & Costello, which was accompanied by a recording of their “Who’s on First” skit — great fun – it never gets old!!!

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The other two major museums in Cooperstown – just a mile from downtown: The Fenimore Art Museum – an elegant folk art museum sitting on the banks of the Otsego Lake and the Farmer’s Museum – a recreation of an 1800s village and working farm.

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Following are a few photos from the Fenimore, including examples from the Native American Indian exhibit called “Splendidly Dressed” and shots from the patio where I enjoyed a light lunch and glass of wine overlooking Otsego Lake.

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I particularly enjoyed the Farmer’s Museum, which is located across the street from the Fenimore — fascinating!!!

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This is the main barn and entrance to the museum. The main barn is home to an exhibit of pick up trucks (work trucks) through the years – including this one:

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The first thing you come to after leaving the main barn is the Empire State Carousel — a hand crafted carousel that highlights NY State with names of many of the small towns, points of interest, and interesting facts. The animals are not your typical carousel animals – they are all the different animals that can be found in NY State. Very cool – you know I love a carousel!!!

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The 1840s village consists of buildings that were actually in use in nearby towns in the 1800s and moved here to recreate the vintage community. There are people in many of the buildings dressed in period costume and performing typical tasks of the time – they were happy to explain what they were doing and some history around the task.

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Spinning flax into linen yarn

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Forging a specialized ax farm tool

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Removing the whey from the curds in one step of the process of making hard cheese

So, that was my adventure in Cooperstown……one I’ll never forget! It was educational, enjoyable, and so very special! So glad I made the trip!

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum……baseball’s mecca……..the history of the game and all those who made it great preserved and displayed for future generations! Walking through the front doors gives you a feeling of pride in America’s game……continuing on through the building brings a sense of awe and emotion that can’t be described……it conjures up memories of every baseball game you ever played or attended and every dream of meeting one of your heroes! Being there is an education and an affirmation of all the joy that baseball has to offer.

I admit I’m not a fanatic when it comes to baseball, but I do love the game. I remember being at bat on the field at Waterport school during gym or recess, hitting the ball as far as I could, and running the bases with all my might. I remember the feeling of accomplishment whenever I was able to make it to home plate. I remember cheering on my brother at his little league games – he played for the Carlton Clippers – and going along when the coach took the team to the Tastee Freeze for ice cream to celebrate a win. I remember sitting in the cheap seats with a dog and a beer watching the Rochester Red Wings play a double header on a warm afternoon. I remember my first major league game – it was on a business trip in Pittsburgh and I got tickets to see the Pirates play at Three River Stadium – I remember entering the stadium and thinking that this was not just any baseball game. I remember a very different feeling when I watched the Orioles play at Camden Yards in Baltimore. And, then, the absolute thrill of a lifetime when I saw the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium – the old stadium before it was closed. I don’t watch a lot of baseball on TV – I think it loses some of the excitement on TV – but, I follow the Yankees and catch their games every now and then. Yes, I’m a Yankee fan – loyal in good and bad years!

So, visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame has been a dream of mine for many years – it was on my bucket list and, when I moved back home, I put it on my “things to do and places to see” list. This week, I was able to cross it off both lists! I drove to Cooperstown, NY with the main goal of fulfilling this dream. I did it. I walked the hall looking at the exhibits, reading the stories, feeling the emotion well up inside me. One of the brochures has a quote that sums it up nicely: “[The Hall of Fame} is a place of grace and class…You arrive expecting to tour baseball’s past. What you discover is your own…It is pictures of places you’ve never been and belongings of people you’ve never met. Yet you are drawn to its scuffed baseballs and gritty photographs as if they were your own. And in a way, they are.” ~ Bill Pennington, The Record (NJ)

The museum motto is: “Preserving history. Honoring excellence. Connecting generations.” Says it all!!!

The Hall of Fame was founded in 1939 by local hotel owner, Stephen Carlton Clark to provide a permanent, safe place to preserve baseball’s history and to attract tourists to Cooperstown – a town suffering after the Great Depression. The first inductees were actually elected in 1936, but they and approximately 20 others chosen after them were formally inducted at the June 12, 1939 opening. The Hall boasts a collection of 38,000 bats, balls, uniforms, gloves, etc. 130,000 baseball cards. 2 million research files. 500,000 black and white and color photographs. 12,000 hours of recorded media. And counting….. I spent about an hour and a half on day 1 and only made it through the first of three floors. On day two, I was there for almost 3 more hours touring the second and third floors and revisiting some areas on the first floor……and, I’m sure I missed something!!!

So……on with the photos and my personal experience at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:

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The main entrance

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Looking down the street across the front of the building

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As you enter the hall on your way to the ticket counter, you see this amazing exhibit of Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente called “Character and Courage”. I was struck by the photos behind each bronze statue of the men posing with children – each one wasn’t just a photograph of him playing baseball, but doing something with a young fan – the true spirit of a baseball hero!!! This one exhibit set the tone for my entire experience!

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The plaque beside the “Character and Courage” exhibit.

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Just beyond the ticket counter is a display honoring the current year inductees – Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert, and Deacon White. Along with these three inductees, the 2013 ceremony also formally recognized 12 members who were elected to the Hall of Fame during WWII and could not attend due to travel restrictions during the war – most notably, Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby.

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John J. “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award display – in 2008, this bronze statue was dedicated and the “Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award” was created with Buck being the first honoree for his career and contributions that spanned eight decades. The award is given out not more than once every three years – the second honoree was Roland Hemond in 2011.

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I got a big chuckle out of this cow in pinstripes with catcher’s mitts on his horns located just under the massive sweeping staircase.

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The Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery is an impressive oak and marble lined room with section after section of inductee plaques – each section is marked with the induction year and the bronze plaques of those elected to the Hall of Fame in that year. The very first induction class and the most recent classes are at the head of the gallery in the Rotunda.

I arrived late the first day and only had time to do the first floor, which included this gallery. There were only about 8 or 10 people viewing the plaques. I was such an emotional experience – there was no sound, except for the foot steps of those walking from section to section – no one spoke, except for an occasional whisper from someone who found one of their heroes. It was really quite humbling.

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The first class of inductees was in 1936 and included Christy Matthewson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson.

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Along with the many stunning bronze statues, there were also wax figures – this one is of Babe Ruth, who can be found in many different formats throughout the museum!

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Here is a testament to exactly why he is still considered the greatest in baseball history!

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This is the entrance to the Babe Ruth room – a room dedicated to his memorabilia and stories!

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In “Chasing the Dream”, another room dedicated to a specific player – Hank Aaron – you can follow his career and contributions to the game.

The following photo is his Atlanta Braves # 44 uniform.

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Adjacent to “Chasing the Dream” is “One for the Books” – a room dedicated to all the records set throughout history – here are a couple photo from this inspirational room:

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Most consecutive games played set by Lou Gehrig and beat by Cal Ripkin, Jr.

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Records were also set in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League – Sophie Kurys set the record for most stolen bases!

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And the most unbeatable record of all………The Yankees for most World Championships!!!!

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The Pride and Passion room is dedicated to the history and contributions of African American ball players with special recognition to Jackie Robinson!

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Movie clips and memorabilia from the recent movie of Jackie Robinson’s life – “42″

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There is a room honoring the women who kept the game going while the boys were off serving our country in WWII – Diamond Dreams

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Memorabilia from the Women’s Leagues

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A nod to the movie, “A League of Their Own”

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More memorabilia from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League

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And you can’t ignore the movies that glorified baseball — many, many, many movies with baseball themes over the years! There is a room dedicated to movies – displays, items from the movies, and clips – lots of clips! This display includes information on “A League of Their Own” and “Field of Dreams” – two of my personal favorites!

Aside from the specific exhibits and displays, there are rows and rows and rows of displays from each and every team in baseball history. I, of course, focused most of my photos on anything associated with the Yankees, but here are some examples of the displays that can be found throughout the hall:

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The Orioles – the second team I sometimes follow, if the Yankees aren’t involved!

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And, then there are exhibits featuring players – like the next two photos of actual lockers from Yankee Stadium with uniforms and things from Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig

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And then there were statues of the game, in general…….just outside in a small courtyard, there is a sculpture of a pitcher and catcher at regulation distance showing the action of a pitch

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This shot from behind the catcher

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And this shot from behind the pitcher

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In the same courtyard – one commemorating women in baseball

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And one winding up for a throw!

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This display is outside the “Sacred Ground” room – an exhibit dedicated to reliving the experience of going to the ball park!

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If you ever make a trip to the Hall of Fame, don’t miss seeing “The Baseball Experience” – I almost skipped it because the line was long and the wait was longer than the 13 minute film! I am so very glad I didn’t give up and leave!!! It is a short 13 minute film all about experiencing baseball – it starts out with silhouette figures of sandlot kids and their excited voices and their mother’s calling to them in the background and goes on to everything I mentioned earlier that I (and likely everyone who ever experienced baseball) remember! It tugs at the old heart strings and warms the heart! And, the session ends with the entire audience singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and cheering!!! You wouldn’t want to miss it!!!

So……that is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum…..in a nutshell!!!  There is so much more to it than I could possibly ever capture, here! All I can say in closing is that I truly enjoyed this adventure – it made me feel good!!! How amazing is it that we have such national treasures like these that touch our lives and stir up wonderful memories and personal experiences and emotions!!!??? If you ever have the chance, go…..experience…….enjoy…..feel!!! You won’t regret it!

Taking the Scenic Route

I’ve had an interest in visiting Cooperstown, NY for many years – mainly because of the Baseball Hall of Fame. I put it on the “things to do and places to see” list when I first moved back to Albion. I finally decided to do it now – before the nice weather ended and became wise to push it out to another summer, but, hopefully, late enough in the season that the leaves would be starting to turn. I new it was down south and east of here…..somewhere…….but wasn’t sure exactly where it was. So, I got on Map Quest to figure out what route to take. Map Quest really wanted me to take the NY State Thruway….boring!!! And the alternate route it provided was taking Rt 104 east and something else later on in the trip to head south to Cooperstown – that didn’t seem like a good alternative, but would be more scenic, so that’s the route I was likely going to take. Both options gave an estimated travel time of about 4 hours. Well, I was talking to a friend about the trip and told her the routes that Map Quest was recommending and her advice was to get out a map and look up Rt 20 – she was sure it would take me to Cooperstown and be a much prettier route! I looked it up and saw that 20 did, indeed, take me very close to Cooperstown – I just needed to catch either 28 or 80 south from 20 right into Main Street in Cooperstown! But, when I plugged it in a trip estimator, it was showing the trip would take 5 hours, instead of 4….however, it looked like a great route through the Finger Lakes Region! I debated the options with myself and finally decided to get up early, leave by 5:00 am, take Rt 20, and – given some time for a few photo stops along the way – arrive in Cooperstown before lunch!

So, with a plan in hand, my GPS on the dashboard, and a map in the passenger seat, I headed out…….and TEN HOURS later, I arrived in Cooperstown! There were so many wonderful things to see and do along the way and I really didn’t have any pressing need to arrive by lunch time……so, I just took my time and enjoyed my trip!!!! I am so very glad I did!

Here are just some of the great experiences I had taking the scenic route!

I must say, Gabby (my new GPS) was very helpful on this trip! But, she kept trying to get me to skip over to the Thruway and stop this longer route – she’s all for getting me there the fastest way possible! I wouldn’t give in, though! To keep her from trying so hard to get me off Rt 20, I set it up for shorter, intermediate goals that helped her think “OK, it isn’t worth heading north to catch the thruway”! The first thing she helped me with was finding a place for breakfast! I left the house at 5:00 am with nothing to eat. By about 7:00, I was starving!!! I was coming into Canandaigua, so I asked Gabby where the nearest restaurant was. The first choice was Patty’s Place – sounded quaint, so I attempted to go there. But, street construction made finding a place to park near the diner nearly impossible. So, I took the second choice – The Villager Restaurant and Diner! Good choice!!! With my belly full, I was back on the road!

The first place I stopped for a photo shoot was the Montezuma Winery! I was just tooling along and noticed this place set back a little from the road. I chuckled about the name and felt compelled to turn around and get a photo! I didn’t go in or check it out, so I have no idea why they named it “Montezuma Winery” – but, the reason I just had to stop and take a photo was because I instantly thought of “Montezuma’s Revenge” and wondered why anyone would want that thought linked to their wine!!!??? I pulled into the parking lot, snapped the photo, laughed a little, and got back on the road! That was the LAST “quick” stop I made all day!!!

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Route 20 goes right through the Finger Lakes region and in several spots skirts right along the top edge of most of the Finger Lakes, so the views were incredible. But, it was the next town I came to after the winery that really got me off track! As I started to drive through the lovely town of Seneca Falls, I began to notice signs for historic sites that I knew would be fascinating to see. The first one that I knew I had to stop for was the National Women’s Hall of Fame! I followed the signs and located the building on Fall Street - the main street in downtown. But, when I got out to go in, I discovered that they were closed on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday……today was Monday!!! UUGGHH!!! I was so disappointed!

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So, I looked around downtown and tried to go to the Visitor’s Center across the street – thinking maybe I could just pick up some information and be on my way! But, they were closed, too! It was going to be another hour before they opened and I didn’t want to wait around for that. But, I noticed a distinct theme about women throughout the town – like this store devoted to items only made by women! Unfortunately, it was too early to shop, here, too.

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So, I got back on the road, but before I could leave town, I noticed a sign for the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. I pictured a park like setting that wouldn’t need to be “open” to enjoy, so I followed the signs to find it. WHAT A TREAT!!! Yes, it was a park, but they also had a Visitor’s Center that was open and if I waited just a 1/2 hour, I could go on a park ranger guided tour of the historic church that was part of the park. So, I decided it was worth hanging around there. I wandered around the park and the Visitor’s Center and learned that this was the site of the very first Women’s Rights Convention — long before the Civil War and the Suffragettes and all the rest that I knew about from my history lessons! I had no idea that Seneca Falls played such a huge roll in the history of women’s rights (or, if I did learn it, I had long since forgotten)! In July of 1848, a group of women were having a party in a nearby town. At this party, they decided to organize the convention. Within a few days, they had a draft of what was called the “Declaration of Sentiments” and plans for the convention. They secured a location – the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Seneca Falls, which was becoming known as a congregation interested in freedom of speech for all groups – and invited friends who spread the word and invited more friends. The organizers – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann M’Clintock, and Jane Hunt – hosted the First Women’s Rights Convention ever held in the United States on July 19 and 20, 1848. In those two days, the gathering of three hundred people discussed and edited the Declaration of Sentiments and resolutions calling for equality for men and women under the law. The document was signed by all 300 attendees, including men and women and became the baseline document that all future women’s rights movements and resolutions were built from. I spent close to two hours here and found it absolutely fascinating!

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This is a monument to the “Declaration of Sentiments” – a wall with water continuously flowing over the words from the original document etched into the stone! Beautiful!

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Inside the Visitor’s Center was a gift shop, library, and several exhibits, including several groupings of statues of the pioneers of the Women’s Rights Convention!

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Once I was done with this amazing experience, I hit the road, again……

My next stop was in Auburn. I drove by a stunning church that I was drawn to. I turned around and went back for a closer look and some photos! This church is the Trinity United Methodist Church and it is incredible!

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Then, I came upon Skaneateles and Skaneateles Lake. I had heard of this town many times – pronounced like Skinny-atlas, but have never been there. I think it was one of the towns we rode through or near on the train ride to NY City when I was fresh out of high school, but don’t really remember! As I drove into town, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful lake and lovely look of the town. I stopped by the lake to walk around and then walked downtown a little. I spent quite a while there just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. The park by the lake was so elegant and the lake was so crystal clear and clean that I really was tempted to get a bottle and scoop some up to take with me to drink!!! It was a great place to visit and walk around for a while, but looked just a little too rich for my blood – not a place I’d likely afford to stay for long, if you know what I mean!

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So, back on the road, again……

I was driving along and came up upon Cazanovia Lake. It was interesting because the road went right along the shore line – literally! There was a small parking area that you could get off the road for a scenic overlook – which might imply the need to look down on something, but it was actually right at the edge of the water – and an historic marker. If it weren’t for the row of boulders, I could have driven right into the lake without the least bit of a bumpy ride!!! When I got back in the car, I noticed my GPS actually looked like it thought I already DID drive into the lake! hahahaha

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Just past Cazanovia, I saw signs for Chittenango Falls – a place Mom had mentioned that she thought it might be worth taking a side trip for. So, I took Route 13N – a long, narrow, winding mountain (big hill? not sure which) road. I came up on the Chittenango Falls State Park and parked the car. I then walked a trail to the falls……..OMG……..it was definitely worth it!!! There was a rushing creek (not sure if it was considered a river or not) and a series of waterfalls – a smaller one, a couple of ledges, and then the big one that actually fell over several ledges that made it jog a little on the way down! It was so tall……down to the continuation of the creek/river in the gorge below! How beautiful! I stood there just gazing at it for the longest time! A lady walking her dog came by and we chatted for a while – she lived nearby and said that people around there don’t realize what a treasure they have, here! I was in total awe of it! I took a bunch of photos – none of which do it justice, but you get the idea!

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A sweet ten hours after I left the house, I arrived at my intended destination – Cooperstown, NY! I had a wonderful day of discovery and adventure! For the first time ever, I do believe, I had the luxury of not having any real set time line I had to meet and no specific time of arrival requirement! I also had the luxury of deciding to spend another night in Cooperstown to compensate for not getting there early enough to get a good start on my planned activities while there – if I wanted to – which I did!!!! I could just take my time and enjoy the beauty our great state has to offer, learn some new things, gaze at some breathtaking views, and just get there when I get there!!! How amazing is that?

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And, then, on the drive home, I gave in and took the Thruway to get home as quick as I could to see my girls!!! The scenery was really quite different! I have no idea where these were taken – could have been anywhere – the scenery was the same the entire way! At least the sky was gorgeous!!! :)

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Bed and Breakfast

One thing I have always wanted to do is stay at a Bed and Breakfast Inn. I’ve never really had a chance to…until now! As I was planning an adventure to Cooperstown, NY, I thought I might check out the local B&B Inns as an option for accommodations. I discovered that this was the perfect trip to consider this option because the town is loaded with them and well suited to this type of experience! I took my time and researched them all – quickly eliminating any that were not within walking distance of the downtown/Main Street area. Once narrowed down to those close to downtown, I researched each one extensively – checked out their web sites, sent emails to ones that I needed more info about, and read the reviews on Trip Advisor. (BTW – I’ve never used Trip Advisor, before, either – if you haven’t utilized this site to help plan your trip, I highly recommend it – great info can be found there!) So, after all the research, one Inn stood out as the one I wanted to book for my very first B&B experience!!!

Main Street Bed and Breakfast on, you guessed it, Main Street in Cooperstown was my choice. And, I have to say, it was the PERFECT choice! The photos on their web site and Trip Advisor won me over, immediately! Oh, the other inns had photos that piqued my interest, as well, but the photos of this one just seemed to speak to me. I was so hoping that they weren’t building me up for a disappointment – you know how sometimes you see photos in a brochure or web site that look amazing and then, when you get there, all you can think is “how many centuries ago were the photos taken and were they even taken of the same place?”. But, I can tell you with all honesty that the photos that drew me to choose this inn pale in comparison – they don’t begin to do it justice! I was not at all disappointed! The other deciding factor was the reviews on Trip Advisor – it was the only one of the ones that I narrowed my decision down to that didn’t have ANY customer ratings under a “Very Good – 4″ and the 4s were a small percentage of the whole! I was impressed! Not that I actually decided against any of the others because of low customer ratings — NONE of the inns I researched had an overall bad rating and I quickly discounted the bad comments as coming from people who wouldn’t have been happy if they stayed at the Ritz located on Main Street in Heaven – you know the type! I will say that, from what I read, you couldn’t go wrong with any of the inns in Cooperstown. But, I am so very glad I chose this one! The final decision was due to the lovely comments from past customers that just seemed to have an edge over the others and, especially, because of the photos!

Main Street B&B is owned by Ron and Susan Streek, who are the sweetest people I’ve met in a long time. One thing I was concerned about staying at a B&B was how I would feel staying in a stranger’s home – that’s what you’re doing when you choose a B&B – you’re literally choosing to stay at someone’s home – someone you don’t know! I wondered if it would feel awkward. But, there was nothing to worry about, here! When I arrived, Susan met me at the door and I immediately felt like I was visiting an old friend. Susie showed me around the common areas and my room. It was such a lovely, comfortable home. Right away, it was the subtle details that grabbed me – like Susie greeting me like an old friend and finding out quickly that I preferred tea to coffee and that I would likely be ready to crash after my long drive and desire to head out to start my sightseeing. When I came back after a walk downtown, a little sightseeing, and dinner, I put my things in my room and came down stairs to read for a little while in the sitting room. Susie came in to see if I would like a cup of tea and find out if I needed anything to make my evening comfortable. The next morning, she was concerned that I might be chilly and brought me a shawl and a hot cup of tea while waiting for breakfast.  The bed was extremely comfortable (none of that stiff feeling I usually get from sleeping in a different bed) and the house was very quiet (no unfamiliar sounds to wake me in the night). I would quickly recommend this as THE choice in Cooperstown to anyone I know planning a trip there. My first stay at a B&B was so enjoyable, I would definitely consider another B&B over a hotel when traveling, again…….however…….this first experience set the bar so high, that others may have a hard time meeting my new expectations! :) My original plan was to stay one night and drive back home the next evening, but, I decided it was better to stay a second night and drive back after a good night’s sleep…….and, my experience the first day/night with Ron and Susie helped make that decision an easy one!

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The house is a quaint Victorian home built in the late 1800s. I didn’t take a photo of the front porch, but can tell you that it is very inviting with chairs and a hammock to relax and enjoy the quiet neighborhood. Since I was gone during the warmer hours of the day, I didn’t take advantage of the front porch, but could easily imagine how wonderful it would be to sit our there and read, if the evenings had been warmer.

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To the left of the entrance, there is a comfortable, impeccably decorated sitting room. I enjoyed that room for reading and morning tea!

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The entry hall and stairway to the second floor welcome you with a warmth that is immediately felt!

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A full country breakfast is served in this delightful dining room. On the first morning, breakfast was a plate of fresh fruit (super ripe and bursting with flavor) and coffee cake, peach upside down French toast (to die for), and sausage with orange juice and tea! On the second morning, I realized I totally forgot to mention that I was allergic to cheese! When Suzie mentioned she was making baked eggs, I asked if it had cheese in it! I felt horrible when she said yes! But, despite my insistence that she not go to any extra trouble (the fruit and juice were plenty to eat), she whipped up a plain omelet, bacon, and an English muffin with some amazing homemade blueberry jam – a quickly put together breakfast fit for a queen!

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There are three rooms to choose from. I chose the Queen Anne room with a large four poster bed and Queen Anne style furnishings – a lovely room! The bed was a dream to sleep on – plush and high (the top of the mattress came just about waist high on my short body, so I had to get creative to get in, but it was sooooo worth it)! The room had air conditioning (which I didn’t need this time of year) and a TV with cable (which I was too tired to watch more than a few minutes). After my long days of sight seeing, I was happy to crawl into this bed, wrap up in the warm covers, and fall sound asleep before 8:30 each night….and slept like a baby all night long!

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There was a full bath in the room – I was happy to read that when researching it – not all B&Bs have in-room bathrooms!

I was so happy to have met Ron and Susie and be able to stay with them while in Cooperstown! It was a lovely experience and really was the icing on the cake for my adventure! Thank you, both, for your gracious hospitality!

Olive Oil…FYI

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 While on vacation in Arizona a few weeks ago, my friends and I visited the Queen Creek Olive Mill in Queen Creek, near the Apache Junction / Mesa area. What a great place and unique experience! Queen Creek Olive Mill is a family owned business with olive orchards, pressing mill, bistro, and store. The owner is also the master-blender. They grow and press olives into handcrafted extra virgin olive oil from “blossom to bottle” and it is the only olive oil producer in Arizona. Their products are of high quality, as they ONLY produce Extra Virgin grade olive oils. They offer tours, which includes a class called “Olive Oil 101″, that we really enjoyed. I never gave olive oil much thought – it is just a more healthy oil, right? I mean, I like and use it and knew it was made from olives, but other than that, it wasn’t something I ever wondered about. But, I have to say, I learned a lot and went away with a new view of olive oil!

 The plan was to take the tour and then have lunch in the Bistro. But, we arrived just a tad too late to join the tour that was about to start, so we switched gears and did lunch first. It was not easy to decide what to eat…..there was a large selection and everything sounded absolutely wonderful!!! But, I finally settled on the Lucca sandwich - Herb roasted turkey breast, brie (of course, I asked that they leave the cheese off because of my allergy), sliced apple, seasonal greens, and caramelized red onion and fig tapenade (their own product) on a multi-grain ciabatta roll. Oh…My…God, it was so amazing!!! I enjoyed the caramelized red onion and fig tapenade so much, I bought two jars to include in what I had shipped home! The sandwich came with chips and olives. Now, I have to include here that I am not an olive fan…..never liked the taste of them at all. But, I decided that I really should try the ones that were on my plate because I may never have a chance to try some that were grown and processed so close to when I ate them! So, try them, I did…….and………I still don’t like olives – but, no one can say, “but you’d really like them if….”! HAHA! But, the sandwich was incredible! The bistro not only had sandwiches, but they also served made-from-scratch soups, pizzas, fresh-baked desserts, wines, and gelato and sorbetto! I didn’t have anything other than the sandwich, but Ronald tried the gelato and said it was very good!

After we ate, we still had a few minutes to browse through the store before our tour started. I decided I wanted to take some things home with me, but my suitcase was already stretched to the max and I knew the liquids wouldn’t be allowed in my carry-on! So, I asked if they would ship my purchases to me and the girl I spoke with was very excited to tell me that they absolutely would! :)  So, I got an idea of what I wanted and then, after the tour, we went back in the store and I picked out several items and arranged for them to be shipped. When the box came, I was so happy to see my purchases — a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a bottle of roasted garlic flavored EVOO, a bottle of Mexican lime flavored EVOO, a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar, a bottle of balsamic and fig flavored vinegar, two jars of caramelized red onion and fig tapenade, a copy of their family cook book, a jar of lavender-scented body cream made from EVOO, and a couple pour corks for the bottles. Yeah, I went a little crazy, but it was all so fresh and so good and after the tour I had an increased awareness and respect for EVOO, so I couldn’t help myself! :)

The tour was really cool…….it started outside at an olive tree where we learned all about how olives grow and are harvested and some history of olives and olive oil. We, then, moved into the pressing room where we learned how the olives are processed into olive oil and the differences between the various grades of olive oil. It was very informative and absolutely fascinating!!! I’ll go into some of what I learned, but I want to leave this paragraph with the bottom line piece of info I left the tour with…..I always bought “extra light” olive oil because I just assumed it was better for you and had a lighter taste when used on salads……after learning what I learned, I will NEVER buy anything other than Extra Virgin Olive Oil again……ever!!!

OK, so what did I learn?

  • The Queen Creek, Arizona olive grove is located in an area that has ideal conditions for growing olive trees – long sunny days, cool nights, very fertile soil, and located in a flood plain. Also, by growing the trees in the dessert, there is no risk of their natural predators – the olive fly and olive tree molds – so there is no need to use any kind of pesticide or mold inhibitors!
  • Olives are harvested in Arizona in the months of September thru December.
  • Olive oil is made from a carefully timed blend of both green and purple olives (color denotes degree of ripeness), as well as oil pressed from the pits, so the whole olive is used.
  • It takes 50 pounds of olives to make one gallon of olive oil…….no wonder it is so expensive!!!
  • Extra Virgin is the highest quality grade of olive oil. In order to be graded Extra Virgin, the olives MUST be cold pressed and not undergo any treatment other than washing, grinding, mixing, gentle separation, and filtering. It also must have a free acidity level of less than or equal to 0.8% – this measures the degree of freshness of the olives at the time of pressing. To get a grade of Extra Virgin, the oil must be pure and not be refined in any way – any use of heat pressing or chemicals to extract the oils results in a lower grade olive oil. “Virgin” (without the “Extra” designation) is processed the same way, but will have a free acidity level of more than 0.8%, but no more than 2%.
  • Queen Creek Olive Mill’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil typically has a free acidity level of 0.3% – pretty high quality, if you ask me! This shows their level of dedication to processing the olives as close to harvest as possible so that the oil is as fresh as it can possibly be.
  • During the cold pressing process, the freshly harvested olives – pit and all – are milled into a coarse paste, which is blended very slowly in a large mixer prior to going through a centrifuge to separate the oils from the solids. Extra Virgin is the grade of oil that is extracted during this process. The fresh oil is decanted and transferred to an oxygen-free stainless steel storage decanter with a conical bottom where the oil and any remaining water can naturally separate. The oil is then blended to achieve the best taste – grassy, peppery, fruity, bitter, or buttery are all positive flavor attributes of a good batch of EVOO and blending batches with these different flavor attributes makes the perfect tasting bottle! The blended oils are stored in stainless steel tanks and kept fresh until it is bottled. They blend every 6 weeks and bottle every 3 weeks to ensure the freshest oil at the time of bottling.
  • Shelf life – as long as the oil is fresh at the time of bottling, it will remain fresh for one year – opened or unopened!
  • Do not refrigerate olive oil, as it will solidify. The oils I had shipped to me must have gotten very cold during shipment, because they were solid in the bottles when they arrived. But, I didn’t panic, because I remembered learning that if they do get cold enough to solidify, that you can just set them out and let them re-liquefy – that it won’t harm the oil in any way! And, sure enough, I actually watched them gradually liquefy over about an hour! Cool!!!
  • Don’t let the terms “Pure”, “Light”, “Extra Light” or any other descriptor other than “Extra Virgin” or “Virgin” fool you…….they sound like high quality grades – especially the term “Pure”, but they are NOT! All grades other than Extra Virgin or Virgin have free acidity levels higher than 2% and are heat and chemically pressed. Remember the centrifuge step I mentioned above? Well, the “good” oil is procured from the front of the press and the solids and water are captured out the back of the press as “waste”. Well, the waste product does still contain extractable oils, but you can’t extract it further without heat and chemicals — so, any oil extracted through those methods are considered “refined” and can no longer be graded as any form of “virgin” oil.
  • Remember my comment about always purchasing “Extra Light” olive oil? Well, that is the absolute lowest, bottom of the totem pole, grade of olive oil – the farthest end of the spectrum from “Extra Virgin”!  eeeewwww…….yeah, I’m never buying it, again! In fact, I have a full, large bottle that will now be used to moisturizer my skin……or maybe I’ll just toss it out!!!!

So, that is what I learned about Olive Oil……now, we also learned a little about olives, in general! They do not process olives for sale as olives, there, but some of their grove does get processed by another partner company not far from there. Here is what I learned about olives…..which, as I stated earlier, I don’t particularly care for! :)

  • Don’t eat an olive off the tree – it will be very bitter and must be cured before it can be eaten!
  • The color of the olive is a reflection of ripeness – green olives are less ripe than the very ripe dark purple olives.
  • Olive trees are harvested when the percentage of green and purple olives reach a ratio best for whatever purpose they are being harvested for – oils or olives.
  • There is no such thing as a BLACK olive — black olives are the riper purple ones that have been chemically colored to give them the black appearance. They are sweeter than the green ones because they are riper.
  • Olives are not naturally salty – they obtain that salty taste from the brines they are cured in.
  • It takes 3-5 months to naturally cure olives in the brines. The best tasting and highest quality olives are naturally cured. The olives that were included with the sandwiches in the Bistro were naturally cured – which is why I thought maybe, just maybe, I’d like them better than store-bought ones I’ve tried in the past……..oh well, I tried them!!!
  • Most store brand olives are more rapidly mass cured over 3-5 days using food grade lye and other chemicals.

So, there you have it……..everything you ever wanted to know about olive oil and olives, but were afraid to ask…….in a nutshell!!! If you ever get to the Phoenix/Mesa/Apache Junction or surrounding area, be sure to put the Queen Creek Olive Mill on your tour plans — it really is a unique experience and one I’m sure you’ll enjoy as much as I did!

** Info in this post came from my memory of what we learned in the tour, as well as from the brochures I took home with me and their website. You can click HERE to visit their website for more info or to shop online for their products! Check it out!!!!

Photos we took at the mill:

The press and centrifuge assembly

The press room is very small with just this one press and a few stainless steel tanks

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Ronald and me  /  Ronald and Lisa

photos taken after the tour in the courtyard outside the store and bistro

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Arizona Vacation

arizonaWhat do you do when you have friends who live in a state that has a lot of neat things to see and do? Well, I don’t know about you, but I plan a vacation to go visit them! And that’s just what I did March 4th – 11th – I went to Arizona and had an amazing time!!! I do believe I saw more of the state of Arizona in one week than most people see in a lifetime – and there are still a whole bunch of things I didn’t get to see and we put on the list for my next visit!

DAY 1 – March 4th

Not much to say about day 1 – I had an early morning dentist appointment, I dropped the girls off at the boarding place, and I flew non-stop from Buffalo to Phoenix! The flight was long, but uneventful. I stayed with Ron and Lisa in Apache Junction in the Phoenix/Mesa area – they have a beautiful home at the foot of the Superstition Mountain with gorgeous views from every angle!

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My morning view outside the glass sliding doors of my bedroom – I could get used to this!

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And I didn’t even have to go outside to enjoy the views!

This is the view from sitting on the couch in the living room, looking out onto the pool area – with the Superstition Mountain in the background!

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One of Ron and Lisa’s babies – Chico (AKA, PeePee) – checking out the brochures and suggesting things for us to do!

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Me – soaking up some sun by the pool – fitting right in with my cowgirl hat and shades!

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This amazed me — I brought this photo home and showed it to my girls and told them that this cabana is how their spoiled AZ cousins shade themselves on the patio! They are so jealous!

DAY 2 – March 5th

This was my “Bonnie” day. A dear old friend that I’ve known from kindergarten also lives right there in Mesa, so we planned to spend a whole day together – just the two of us! What a treat! On the long drive to Tucson, we talked and talked and laughed and laughed – we caught up on everything and everyone! Then, we spend a few hours at Old Tucson – a theme park with old movie and TV sets and memorabilia. We had such a good time! Then, when we got back at the end of the day, we went to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill for dinner and had a delicious steak! Here are some photos from our fabulous day together:

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We had to start the day with a photo — this is me and Bonnie on the patio at Ron and Lisa’s with the Superstition Mountain in the background.

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As with most theme parks, they had a photo shop where you put on period clothing and take a fun commemorative photo! We couldn’t resist! Here we are ready to take on any cowboy that comes along! The girl taking the photo asked if we wanted a gun or other props she had to offer – Bonnie took a rifle, but I said, “nope, I’ll just take this bottle of Jack Daniels!”! She still gave me a pistol to hold, but I was happy with the bottle of Jack! hehehe

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We posted the WANTED poster on Facebook and asked friends to send bail money………no one did!!!!

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I love this picture of Bonnie – she is in a chapel looking out at the dessert and mountains – it came out dark, but that is just as it should be……..

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All of Old Tucson looks like you just walked onto the set of an old Western movie – cause, you DID!

We saw a gun fight, cowboys, a sheriff, and saloon girls – we even sat in on a Saloon show, complete with a can-can dance:

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DAY 3 – March 6

On Wednesday, we made the rounds of some local attractions right in and near Apache Junction. We went to the Superstition Mountain Museum – I had to go there because the web site said they had an Elvis Chapel – the chapel used in the filming of Elvis’ western movie, Charro!   What self-respecting Elvis Presley fan wouldn’t take advantage of that? We also went to Saguaro Lake – so beautiful – the water was like the bluest glass I’ve ever seen! Then, we went to Fountain Hills – a town with a gorgeous lake and a huge fountain.

Here are a sampling of photos from Day 3:

First up are pics from the Superstition Mountain Museum – again, there are actual movie and TV sets on display. It is the home of Apache Land Studios and a lot of big stars shot scenes right there where we were!

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This is Ron and Lisa looking at a small section of a wall of portraits of all the stars who were there at one time or another – lots of famous faces.

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Hard to see him, but this is Ron in the stage-coach.

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And, THIS, is the Elvis Chapel! What a thrill to step foot into a building where Elvis actually walked!

I half expected to see this walk through the door or be sitting in a pew, just waiting for me to arrive! (be still my heart!)

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Instead, this was the display I found inside the chapel……….

……….a cheesy metal stand-up that was a badly painted rendition of “Las Vegas Elvis”!

What a disappointment! But, heck, it was still Elvis, so I had my picture taken beside it! HA!

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Next, we went to Saguaro Lake – the first picture is me and Lisa and the second is of Ron and Lisa:

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After Saguaro Lake, we went to Fountain Hills – very pretty and peaceful place! We had fantastic dinner at a place there called “The Saddle Bronc Grill” – very nice place!

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Ron and Lisa at the fountain.

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There were many, many ducks all around the lake – this couple had a bag of bread and were feeding them! They started to leave and a whole line of ducks followed them all the way around the edge of the lake, across the yard, and on until they were out of sight! It was so funny!!!

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This is the Saddle Bronc Grill – cool looking outside and very nicely decorated inside, including (as you can see in the next two photos) the lady’s room…..

……it wasn’t just the food that was YUMMY!

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DAY 4 – March 7

On Thursday, Lisa and I went shopping during the day. We also stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce and picked up some brochures and information for the rest of the trip. The Chamber building was a great representation of the area – a real eye catcher and typical southwestern design.

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Then Ron joined us later in the day to go to Tortilla Flat and take a cruise on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake — what a fabulous choice! First stop was Tortilla Flat, which is a very small (population: 6) town – actually, just a strip of buildings at the end of a very long, winding, scary road up the mountain. Now, I need to mention here that I’m not a fan of heights and panic a little (OK, a lot) when I don’t feel safe from falling! There were parts of this road where I had to just close my eyes and hold my breath to keep from losing it – like, you know those mountain roads that are so close to the edge of the mountain that you really think if you sneeze, you’ll slide off the face of the earth!!!??? That’s this road! But, when we got there, it was all worth it…….there was a mercantile, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a post office – that’s it, well, and a live band playing some awesome music! It was so cool and was jammed with people – THE place to be! The intent was to have our dinner there, but we ended up not having enough time to eat and get to the cruise on time, so we just shopped and snapped some photos.004 (2)

The left side of the road at Tortilla Flat – across the street was were all the action was!

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What fun – lots of people hanging out and enjoying life!

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The band was really awesome!

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Wish I knew what this guy’s story is!!!

Then, the ultimate adventure happened — the Dolly Steamboat Cruise on Canyon Lake! If you are ever in this area of Arizona, I highly recommend this cruise – words can not describe how amazing it was! And emotional…….I was in tears and had to remind myself to breathe at several points along the hour and a half cruise! Canyon Lake snakes through the canyon and the steamboat takes you through the most gorgeous views and experience. The water was so blue and crystal clear – like a mirror reflecting the rocky ledges along the way. Amidst all that beauty, we also saw big horn sheep, bald eagles, a bald eagle nest, and other wildlife native to the canyon.  Photos can not come close to portraying the majestic beauty we witnessed, but these examples do a good job of trying:

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I chose to include this photo to show the incredible massiveness of the canyon – that little boat looks like a toy in the water!

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There were points in the cruise where the boat sailed so close to the wall of the canyon that you could reach out and touch it!

This is a shot of Ron (the one with the cowboy hat) taking a close up photo of some petrified logs embedded in the rock!

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The two narrow stacks of rock are called the “guardians of the canyon” – on top of the tallest of the two is a bald eagle nest!

And now……some shots of God’s gift of beauty:

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DAY 5 – March 8

Friday was our “take a breath” day! We needed to chill a little and rest up for the weekend trip to the Grand Canyon. So, we went to see a movie in the afternoon – Oz, The Great and Powerful at the IMAX theater – awesome movie! (When you get done reading this post, scroll to the next one down and read my review of the movie!) Then, in the evening, I went to watch Ron bowl with his team – some other friends that I haven’t seen in a long time that now live in AZ, too!

DAY 6 – March 9

We got up early Saturday morning to make the three and a half hour drive to Williams, AZ to catch the two-hour train ride to the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. About the time we were near Flagstaff, it started to snow and it was pretty messy when we made it to Williams. We had breakfast in Williams and then got on the train, which was a really cool experience! There was incredible scenery all the way, musicians singing for us, and lots of wild life to see – including, herds of mule deer, elk, antelope, coyote, and lots and lots of cattle! And, on the way back, we even got stopped by some train robbers, who boarded the train with scarfs over their faces and guns to rob us – boy, the ladies were screaming and everyone was shaking in our boots!!!

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Arriving in Williams, AZ – Gateway to the Grand Canyon!

THE TRAIN RIDE:

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There was a photographer onboard who took souvenir photos – our’s came out so good! LOVE IT!!!

And, the package included this photo of the train robbers on their horses, too – we absolutely had to buy the package:

Outlaws on Grand Canyon Train

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THE GRAND CANYON:

Whatever you’ve heard about the beauty of the Grand Canyon, multiply it by 1000……you still won’t come close!!! It was so cold and snowing while we were there – I wish the weather was better so we could have spent more time just sitting there staring at it in total awe! It was hazy with fog and snow, so we couldn’t see across the canyon as well as they say you usually can, but what we did see was so awe-inspiring – just breathtaking! Again, the photos can never capture the majesty that we experienced in person, but here are some examples that give you a little bit of an idea:

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Dang – this would have been a great picture, if the wind and snow wasn’t blowing so hard in my face!!!

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Hopi House

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Me shopping inside the Hopi House

Some cool things about our day at the Grand Canyon – besides just the obvious cool thing – getting to see the Grand Canyon:  The guides on the train told us to drink lots of water because of the high altitude we were at (over 7000 feet elevation) and the fact that the snow there is a “dry” snow! I snickered when I heard that – you know, they are always saying it doesn’t feel as hot out there cause it is a “dry heat”, but if it is 120 degrees, that is still HOT, regardless of whether or not there is humidity factored in! Well, I thought it was odd that they were saying the snow was actually dryer than what we’re used to in the eastern states. So, when I got there, I had to touch the snow to see if it was really dryer! And, I think it actually was! It felt “odd” – it packed really tight, like a good wet snow, but it also felt powdery, like the fluffier kind that doesn’t pack as well and it took quite a bit to make it melt in my hand and when it did, it wasn’t as watery! Really strange feeling snow! HAHA! Also, they sold recyclable water bottles that we filled at stations around the area – super icy cold water that was filtered straight from the mountain springs — the best water I think I’ve ever tasted!!!

We spent the night at the Grand Canyon Inn that was out in the middle of nowhere about 1/2 way between Williams and the Grand Canyon – really nice place and fantastic food in their restaurant! But, it was so funny – we were driving along for quite a way with nothing but ranch land on either side and then, all of a sudden, there was this little inn, a gas station, a small airport with a museum, and right across the street from the inn was “Bedrock City” – a theme park devoted to the Flintstones!!! And, then, it looked like miles of more “nothing” beyond that!

We got up the next morning and went back to Williams for breakfast at the same place we ate the morning before and to explore a little.

DAY 7 – March 10

Sunday was the return drive back to Apache Junction. We spent some time in Williams and then took the long way home and went through Jerome and Sedona!

Williams, AZ is a small historic town established in 1881, but it really looked more like it was stuck in the 50s! Historic Route 66 goes right through the middle of Williams and they really capitalize on that history and the popularity of it during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.

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This is a really cool cafe in Williams – we didn’t eat there, but couldn’t resist the photo-op!

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Here is Ron in front of a 50s style gas station

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A corner shot in Williams

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I thought taking my pic with this dude would be cool, but what made me like it even more is that you can see Ron’s reflection in the window as he is taking the photo! :)

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Of course, we had to get our picture by one of the US 66 route signs!

Lisa and I really did “get our kicks on Route 66″ – in the form of shopping – see all the bags full of goodies in our hands???  :)

After we left Williams, we headed toward Sedona to see the beautiful red rock that the town is famous for. On the way, we drove through Jerome, which is a very small historic town built right on the side of a mountain at over 5000 foot elevation - it literally looks like there is little keeping it from falling off the edge! Located on Cleopatra Hill in the Black Hills, Jerome used to be a booming mining town in its heyday! Now, the population is barely over 400 people.

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The road to Jerome — just beyond the guard rail (that is inches from the edge of the road – another route where I needed to close my eyes and remind myself to breathe a lot), you can see the part of the road that we just came from – so twisty, turny and constantly getting higher and higher!

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Fabulous scenery on this road, but a little too close to the edge of the earth for my taste!

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Jerome…….we didn’t stop – just drove through it!

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Coming up on Sedona – see the red rock hills?

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Downtown Sedona — beautiful — different from any other mountains/hills that I saw anywhere else we went!

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This mountain really fascinated me!!! Hard to see the detail in this photo, but it looks just like someone carved a statue of an elephant lying down on the top of it!

In person, you can clearly see the body, floppy ears, head, and that big ole trunk curled up out front of it!

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Gorgeous mountain rock and buttes! The red color is striking!!!

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We stopped for lunch in Sedona and on the way out of town, Ronald and I played tag with the camera to get lots of shots of the beautiful red rock – that was fun – I’d have the camera taking a photo out the front window and he’d rush me to give it to him to get a shot he didn’t want to miss out the side window and I’d say “hurry, hurry, I got a great shot ahead!” and back and forth we went with it! Afterwards, I realized I had my other camera right in my purse and we could have BOTH had a camera to get shots…….but, that wouldn’t have been as much fun!  :)

When we got back to Apache Junction, we were so exhausted from the exciting weekend, that we all crashed with a nap!

DAY 8 – March 11

Last day of the trip….but, we had one more thing to squeeze in before I left! We went to the Queen Creek Olive Mill – a family owned olive orchard and olive oil mill! We had lunch at their cafe and looked around the store/gift shop. Then, we went on the tour and I learned so much about olive oil and how it is made! I won’t go into it here cause I’d like to devote a whole post on what I learned — watch for a post on “Everything you ever wanted to know about olive oil, but were afraid to ask!” – coming soon! After the tour, we shopped and I had a bunch of stuff shipped to me so that I wouldn’t have to take it on the plane — flavored extra virgin olive oils made fresh right there, flavored vinegars, a cook book of owner’s family recipes, a jar of a delicious tapenade that was on the sandwich I had for lunch (caramelized red onion and fig tapenade – YUMMO – so sweet and rich in flavor), and some body butter made with olive oil, shea butter, and lavender essential oils that they make right there, as well. The box came last week and I’ve already had a couple of big salads made with the roasted garlic flavored olive oil and aged balsamic and fig flavored vinegar and relaxed with the lavender-scented body butter – nice to rub on my arms at bed time to soften my skin and give me that wonderful aroma to fall asleep with!!!!

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Ron and me in the courtyard outside the cafe at the Queen Creek Olive Mill

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And, Ron and Lisa in the courtyard with some olive oil they purchased!

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And, this is the press they use to manually cold press the olive oil – fascinating!

And that, my friends, is my trip to Arizona! The week went by so fast, but we crammed a LOT into it! And then, I was on a plane headed home…..leaving the beautiful views and warm, sunny weather (except for the days we were in Williams and the Grand Canyon – it was actually colder there than back home)……….leaving my dear friends………..and returning to the real world!!! It was amazing — so wonderful to spend time with Ron and Lisa and Bonnie! And the sight-seeing was icing on the cake! It was a vacation I’ll never forget and we’re already making a list of things to see next time I can make the trip out there!

Flying on 09/11/11

I took my last four vacation days during the Labor Day week and used the time to go to my home town and visit my family.  I originally booked the flight to leave late the afternoon on Friday, the 2nd and return the following Saturday.  But, those plans had to change when my car ended up in the shop and had to be picked up late on Friday.  So, I just shifted the whole vacation one day – leave here on Saturday AM and return the following Sunday.  I paid no mind to the dates – just the days.  It wasn’t until I got up to Mom’s and she said “do you realize you are flying on 9/11?” and I said, “oh, yeah, I guess I am…….and it is the 10th anniversary, too!”

I wasn’t all that concerned about any potential dangers……although, it was a rather eerie thought!  I was concerned, though, about additional security, hassles, long lines, and delays!  I figured it was likely going to be a frustrating trip!

Quite the contrary, it turns out!

I got to Buffalo airport about an hour and a half early, was able to walk right up to a kiosk without having to wait, sailed right through security (they did look through my purse, but it only took an extra minute or two – no big deal), and found a nearly empty terminal!  The plane was only a little over 1/2 full and left and arrived on time!  So far, so good!

Baltimore/Washington was a little more populated, but not as crowded as usual.  I had an hour layover, so I wasn’t too surprised to find only a handful of people at the gate.  That didn’t change much, though!  The plane coming in was about 10 minutes late, but they said they would still be able to get us out on time.  There did end up being a delay, but it had nothing to do with security — the walk-way thingy that connects the gate to the plane for boarding wasn’t working right, so they couldn’t let the passengers off.  They determined about 20 minutes into trying to fix it that the plane should go ahead and change gates.  So, we all walked from B14 to B8.  Once we got to B8 and got all lined up, they announced that they got the thingy fixed, after all, so we needed to return to B14!!!   So, we were late leaving.  That plane had even fewer people on it than the one from Buffalo — it was just barely 1/2 full!

When we landed in Raleigh, I noticed that there were no planes at any of the gates as we taxied to our destination gate.  Where we pulled up to the gate, there was one other plane there.  As I got off the plane and walked through the terminal, it almost looked like it was closed — gate after gate with no one around and only the passengers getting off the two planes that just arrived walking through the terminal.  AND – the flight attendant announced that there were NO through passengers on to the next destination and there were only a handful seated at the gate waiting to board.

So – no added security hassles and no crowds and it seems that there weren’t many who thought flying on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was a good idea!  Other than all the TV monitors in all three airports televising the ceremonies and replays of 9/11 (which was a little unsettling to watch, seeing as I was in airports, going to be flying, and that my layover was in such close proximity to Washington DC), it was actually one of the more pleasant experiences from a security and crowd standpoint of any flight I’ve ever been on……..

Go figure!

The Beauty of Savannah

This past week I was able to experience the beautiful, historic Savannah, GA.  What a treat, in deed!  One of my best friends and I took the pony on a “girl trip” where we stayed three nights on Hilton Head Island and spent two days discovering Savannah.   I had visited Savannah and Hilton Head one other time, several years ago, but was not able to truly enjoy it.  I traveled there with a co-worker for a seminar on Hilton Head.  We arrived a day early so that we could see Savannah, but it was raining and cold.  Although we didn’t get to see much, what I did see was beautiful and I vowed to return someday when I could spend more time and see all there is to see!  I finally fulfilled that promise to myself and it was even more wonderful than I imagined it to be.  This time the weather was gorgeous and there was nothing to hinder our experience!

We started out Monday morning with the drive to Hilton Head Island.  The accommodations part of the trip was my Christmas gift from Ron and Lisa.  Lisa and I took the week and headed to the coast!  We stayed at a nice little resort in a good location.  We checked in and headed out for a late lunch and the chance to explore the island.

Our first stop was South Beach in the Sea Pines area.  It is a lovely spot on the water with lots of shops and places to eat.  We chose the Salty Dog Cafe for our late lunch.  We both started out with some Shrimp Gumbo that was out of this world and some amazing hush puppies.  Then, Lisa had a delicious looking salad and I had a basket of peel and eat shrimp.  My first goal was satisfied – to enjoy some fresh seafood as quickly and as often as possible.  Because, after all, when you go to a coastal island setting, you don’t eat spaghetti!!!  (Inside joke – Mom is reading this and laughing at me.)  We were so full that we didn’t even want to think about dinner!   We had a perfect table overlooking the water and we watched a Heron walking along the docks looking for food and watching some guys painting the pier railings.  I also saw what must have been a dolphin arch up out of the water for a split second and I saw it’s fin glide through the water for just a second before it went under water and disappeared.  It was gone before I could express my surprise and get Lisa to turn around to look!  After we ate, we wandered along the docks and checked out some of the gift shops.

NOTE:  Any photos that you want a better look at can be enlarged by clicking on them to open them up – then click your back arrow on your browser to return to the blog post!

 

Then, we headed across the island to feed my love of lighthouses.  I knew there was one to be found in Harbour Town, so that is where we went next.  The lighthouse was pretty, but the rest of the area around it was the real treat.  It is a peaceful spot on the harbour with several areas with rows and rows of rocking chairs to site and watch the yachts, read, or just enjoy the beautiful day.  I could have sat there for hours!!!  The shops were closed, but we sat for a little bit and just drank in the glorious weather and relaxing atmosphere.

That was the perfect end to a long day of driving and exploring.  We headed back to our room and settled in for the night.  Tomorrow would begin our adventure in Savannah and we wanted to get an early start.  So, a good night’s sleep was a necessary element to a successful day.

We got up early on Day 2 and stopped for breakfast at a really nice little diner — The Hilton Head Diner!  Breakfast was really good and the diner was a very pleasant place to have a relaxing meal.

We drove to Savannah with plans to put our name in at Paula Deen’s restaurant (Lady and Sons) and then just wander around and see what we could find.  It was a nice drive to Savannah with one exception!  Anyone who knows me very well knows that I do NOT like heights and it makes me extremely nervous to be in a situation where I’m at a high elevation and don’t feel in control.  This includes very tall bridges that I have not had a chance to get used to.  Well – there is an enormous bridge just as you cross over into GA at Savannah (I think it is highway 17).  We came up on it with no notice and no chance for me to pull over and prepare myself or switch to let Lisa drive.  It was just there and I was committed to cross it whether I was ready to or not!  The approach from SC to GA is pretty menacing looking, too – all twisty and scary.  Going back, it was just like being on any other road that happens to have a bridge on it.  But, headed toward Savannah – which was the first time I saw the bridge right smack dab in front of me – it is pretty darn intimidating!

This is the SC to GA approach to the Talmadge Memorial Bridge – I didn’t take this photo – I found it on the internet, but it shows how scary it looked to me as I came up on it!!!

This is me with the bridge in the background along the river front in Savannah.

Of course, I survived driving over the bridge, but the trip had me all broke out in a cold sweat and my heart pounding like a race horse!  After I got on ground level and caught my breath, we headed to Paula Deen’s.  Her restaurant is Lady and Sons and is located on the corner of Congress and Whitaker Streets.  It is in a rustic old building and includes her restaurant and a store to purchase her many products.  It is quite a place!  They don’t take reservations for less than 10 people, but they do have a hostess outside the restaurant starting at 9:00 am so people can put their names in for preferred seating.  During the height of the tourist seasons, it is the only way to get in!  We got there right at 9:00 and there was only one person ahead of us to sign in.  We chose a 1:00 lunch time.  When we returned at 12:45, we were seated immediately and browsed the menu.  We decided to eat from the buffet – a delicious assortment of fried chicken, baked chicken, baked spaghetti, Italian sausage, and several side dishes.  It also came with our choice of banana pudding, gooey butter cake, or peach cobbler – we both chose the peach cobbler.  I understand the buffet choices change daily.  It was all so good!!!  Just as you would expect!

This is me with the life-sized cutout of Paula Deen - looks so real, I could probably get away with saying it was really her!  Oh, um, strike that — This is me when I met the sweet lady herself, Paula Deen!

Before and after lunch at Paula Deen’s, we just walked around.  We went to the Visitor’s Center and gathered a bunch of brochures and just walked and walked.  We covered the entire lower portion of the historic district.  The entire historic district consists of a well laid out pattern of squares in four main sections – Along the Waterfront, The First Squares, Squares of Luxury, and The Booming Westside.  On day one, we covered Along the Waterfront and The Booming Westside.  We paid for a total of 5 hours of metered parking (3 hours parked near Paula Deen’s restaurant and 2 hours parked along the waterfront), so we were pretty much on our feet hoofing it around Savannah for much of 5 hours.  And it was very enjoyable! 

Just to show you how much I actually learned while I was there…….Savannah was established in the mid 1700s with the intent to provide a buffer zone between the Spanish pushing northward from Florida and the English colony of South Carolina.  The original charter prohibited slavery, lawyers, Catholics, and hard liquor – all of which were eventually permitted in.  The squares were uniquely designed to give Savannah a strong military advantage and are now lovely parks and memorials to the rich history.  James Edward Oglethorpe started the colony with 4 squares and by 1851 it grew to 24 squares – 22 remain today. 

Here are some of the sights we enjoyed on our walk through the lower half of Savannah on Tuesday:

The city is full of huge, gorgeous trees – I believe this is a Live Oak, which is the most common tree in Savannah.

 

City Market is a lovely courtyard area full of all kinds of shops and places to grab a bite to eat. 

Horse and Carriage in City Market waiting to take some folks on a tour.

Me in City Market

One shop in City Market that I didn’t get a photo of was the candy store!  I was turned on to fresh, warm pralines the day I spent in Savannah several years ago and knew I had to turn Lisa on to them, too!  So, we went in to get a free sample.  As she put that warm nugget in her mouth and let it melt, I watched her face and knew that I succeeded in making her a believer!  We bought some to ship out to friends and family and a couple for ourselves.  I’ve always loved praline anything – ice cream, cake, crumbles, etc….but there is nothing like a warm, freshly made  one to send you straight to heaven!!!  OMG — YUMMO!!!!  I wish I took a photo of the huge taffy puller working away at making fresh salt water taffy, too! 

Me sitting in Ellis Square, just down from Paula Deen’s restaurant.  We sat there for a little bit to rest and wait for our lunch reservation (we were just a little early).

Corleone’s Trattoria — The Godfather is alive and well in Savannah!!!  (See our reflections in the doorway as I took the picture?  LOL)

Savannah Bee Company — a shop full of wonderful specialty honey and soaps!  Smelled amazing in there!

The Cotton Exchange – a busy place back in the day!  In the late 1800s, Savannah and Liverpool, England were the only two places in the world where the price of cotton was quoted!

Factor’s Row – known as the Wall Street of Savannah at the height of the cotton exchange.

Aside from the fabulous mansions, my very favorite part of Savannah is the River Front area.  The wonderful old buildings with amazing architecture, River Road made entirely of cobblestone left by ships that used it to weigh down the cargo holds until they arrived to pick up loads of cotton or other exports, and the beautiful river.  Here are some shots of the River Front:

Of course, with any historical city, there are monuments and statues…..Savannah definitely has its fair share:

Lisa with Johnny Mercer, Savannah native and famed composer – some of the songs he wrote include:  “Moon River”, “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby”, “Jeepers Creepers”, and more.  He also had an affair with 19-year-old Judy Garland.

The Haitian Monument – honors a group of 700 men of color from the Island of Haiti who fought alongside American and French soldiers during the Seige of Savannah in 1779.

Washington’s Guns – (known as George and Martha) – were captured from the British at the Battle of Yorktown and presented to the Chatham Artillery by George Washington during his visit to Savannah

John Wesley – the founder of the Methodist religion.

The African-American Monument on the River Front – depicts an African-American family with broken shackles at their feet and has a beautiful inscription written by poet, Maya Angelou

Me with The Waving Girl — this statue honors Florence Martus who waved a handkerchief by day and a lantern by night at all ships entering and leaving the port of Savannah from the porch of her home on Elba Island.  It is said that she never missed waving at a single ship between 1887 and 1931.

A better shot of The Waving Girl with her dog, Wolf, a collie.

The Waving Girl waving at a tug boat passing by on the river.

The Gordon Monument in Wright Square – honoring William Washington Gordon, one of Savannah’s early mayors and founder of the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia.

On Wednesday, we started out, again, with breakfast at the Hilton Head Diner (find a good breakfast place, stick with it).  Then, we went to Savannah and took an all day trolley tour.  We got an “on and off” pass so that we could hop off and see things of interest and then get back on another trolley to continue the tour.  We rode one trolley all the way around and planned out where we wanted to hop off.  When the second trolley was about to start off, we got a surprise visitor:

Forrest Gump ran up to the trolley and hopped on and introduced himself with “Hi, I’m Forrest, Forrest Gump”.  He was looking for where he was supposed to meet Lt. Dan.  He waved at all of us and told the driver that he was out of breath because he just ran in from Alabama and was supposed to meet Lt. Dan at the Visitor’s Center.  The driver told him he was at the Welcome Center, not the Visitor’s Center!

So, she showed him where he had to go.  He said goodbye and apologized for not having any chocolates to offer us, but he ate them all!!!  He then said he was late and Lt. Dan told him not to do anything stupid, so he had to hurry to meet him!  He ran off with his arms a flailing.  What a treat to get to meet Mr. Forrest Gump!

It was on the trolley tour that we saw all the wonderful mansions, beautiful homes, and quirky places that Savannah has to offer:

This is Mercer House — remember the statue of Johnny Mercer?  Well, this was built by his Great Grandfather, Confederate General Hugh Mercer during the Civil War.  The Mercers never actually occupied the house.  However, it later became famous after Jim Williams, a Savannah preservationist, bought and restored it and allegedly murdered Danny Hansford in the study after a Christmas party.  His story was the focus of the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”.  Mercer House sits on an entire city block.

 

Owens-Thomas House – built in 1819 for a wealthy cotton broker, who lost it due to financial problems only 3 years after it was completed.  George Owens purchased the home in 1830 and it remained in his family until his granddaughter willed it to the Telfair Museum of Art in 1951.  The Marquis de Lafayette stayed at the Owens home during his visit during the Revolutionary War

 

Owens-Thomas House – south balcony facing President Street — location of a famous address by The Marquis de Lafayette where he spoke for 2 hours.  America was a young, poor country at the time and Lafayette predicted in his speech that one day America would be a great nation and save the world!  When American soldiers arrived in France during WWI and WWII, they honored that prediction by shouting “Lafayette, we are here!”

In the movie, Something To Talk About, Julia Roberts’ character goes out looking for her husband, played by Dennis Quaid, and finds him with another woman in this restaurant — they have a very robust argument in the street in front of the restaurant.

Hamilton-Turner House – This was the first home in Savannah to have electric lights.  The tour guide told us that people from all over Savannah would gather in Lafayette Square across from the house just to watch the lights come on at dusk!  It is now an inn and there are claims that the original owner, Mr. Hamilton, and his children still make frequent visits.

Kehoe House – built in 1892 for William Kehoe, a poor Irish immigrant who went from an iron foundry apprentice to one of Savannah’s most successful businessmen.  Mr. and Mrs. Kehoe lived here with their 10 children and it remained in their family until 1930.  It has since been a boarding house and a funeral parlor and is now an inn.  Rumors say the inn is haunted by two Kehoe twins who died while playing in one of the chimneys.

One of many row houses along a tree-lined street

The story here, per our tour guide, is that a man had two daughters who fought over everything and were completely jealous of whatever the other had.  So, he built them identical side-by-side houses so the wouldn’t have anything to fight about.  But, rumor has it that they stood out on the front steps arguing about who would have which side of the house!!! 

The Pirate’s House – originally a tavern frequented by pirates and sailors, now a restaurant – we ate a very nice lunch there!  Supposedly, the book Treasure Island was inspired by events that happened at the Pirate’s House.

The Herb House – located right next door to the Pirate’s House – is said to be the oldest surviving home in all of Georgia.  It originally served as the Trustee’s Garden’s gardener’s house.

A haunted drug store on the most haunted street in Savannah

One of many brick streets

A Sears and Roebuck house — for about $2000, this and similar houses could be purchased through the mail order catalog.  The “kit” would arrive and the new owners would assemble the house per the instructions.  The gentleman who purchased this home must not have done a good job of reading the instructions — the windows are all put in upside down (the straight sills are on top and the scalloped toppers are on the bottom)!!!

On one of our hop offs, we visited Colonial Park Cemetery.  I was disappointed that the engraving on the stones was badly worn and most are no longer readable.  There are only about 600 burial markers, but it is estimated that there are approximately 9000 people buried there – the graves even extend out into what is now the paved street.  During the Union occupation during the Civil War, Union troops desecrated many of the graves, looting them and removing bodies to use the graves for their own soldiers.  They even changed the dates on some of the stones in an attempt to be funny — some state that they actually died before they were born!!!  There is a duelist grave site where many who died in duels are buried and a section where hundreds of victims of the Yellow Fever outbreak are buried.

Lisa at the entrance of the cemetery

Duelist Grave

An eerie shot, sure to give you the shivers!!!

Many of the damaged head stones have been cemented along the wall at the end of the cemetery

Another site on this same hop-off was The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.  We wanted to go inside, but there were worship services going on, so it was closed to tourists.  So, we just admired it from the outside.  The colonial charter for Savannah prohibited Catholics from settling in Savannah because the English feared Catholics would be more loyal to the Spanish in Florida than the English.  Once the prohibition faded after the Revolutionary War, this Catholic Cathedral was constructed.  It is a massive and ornate building with two tall spires extending into the sky.

 

The spires seen from the Colonial Park Cemetery

At the end of our day tour, we returned to Hilton Head and had dinner at Marley’s Island Grill – a great Caribbean grill restaurant!  Lisa had a HUGE salad with grilled tuna and tons of veggies!  I had Sugar Cane Scallops — big sea scallops fire grilled on skewers and drizzled with pina colada and kahlua sauce with a delicious veggie medley!  YUM!!!  Then, we went back to the room and packed up to leave the next morning.  We headed out about 8:00 or so and drove most of the way home with the top down on the pony!  It was a very pleasant drive home!

What a wonderful trip!!!!  One we’re sure to remember for years to come!  This all is actually just a teaser taste — we saw and did so much more — but, if I told it all here, what would there be left for you all to go see for yourselves????

Airports can be entertaining

I traveled to my Mom’s for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I flew up on Weds – the busiest travel day of the year – and back on Monday.  I had a wonderful time.   Just a month ago today, Mom had her second hip replacement surgery (the first was two and a half years ago).  She got home from rehab on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so she had only been home a few days when I arrived.  She had a rough time with the surgery and rehab, which followed many months of agonizing pain – she’s had a tough year!!!  But, she was doing remarkably well – still slow and unable to do most of her normal routine without assistance or taking longer than usual, but she is getting around with a walker and doing a LOT better than I anticipated!  We had a great visit!  I am so glad I went up for the holiday!

The traveling part was rather event free – no long lines (even on Weds morning), no flight delays, no rough weather, no drama, and no one touched my junk!  It would have been very boring…..if it weren’t for the people in the airport!  I love to people watch – especially in airports – I’m always amazed at how people act when traveling and wonder if they act that way all the time or if there is something about traveling that brings the bazaar tendencies out of them!

A few worthy of mentioning from this trip:

  • This actually happens most trips – not sure why I always seem to get behind someone like this in the security line!  The requirements at airports are well publicized and the brunt of many jokes, cartoons, late night talk show banter, etc….so, why is it that there is almost always someone who comes totally unprepared for what they will encounter?  Case in point – this trip wasn’t the first time I’ve been behind someone who chooses to wear something on their feet that is extremely difficult to take off and put back on – holding up the line while they struggle!  This time it was a young woman who wore THIGH high leather boots – yes, thigh high – they were skin-tight and went all the way up to just inches from her – well, you can guess how high they were!  She struggled with the zipper, then couldn’t get them off and needed her travel companion to help her pull them off, and then after passing through the metal detectors - instead of grabbing them and moving on to one of the benches at the end of the conveyor belts – she stood there struggling to put them back on and getting herself all situated – holding up everyone’s bins from getting through the scanners behind her!  Come on!  I wear the easiest shoes to slip off and on and I STILL grab my stuff and move out of everyone’s way before I put them back on and get all the stuff I had to take off and out of bags back where it all belongs! 
  • While on my lengthy layover in Baltimore – after I stopped in at the great little seafood restaurant that specializes in Maryland crab cakes and had a delicious dinner of crab and shrimp – I watched a big guy standing out in the main aisle way doing the “I’m so important, I have to be on the phone every second” dance.  He had a bluetooth or something else that made him hands-free with no sign of where the phone was!   So, he was pacing back and forth, talking loudly, laughing with great animation, waving his arms around for dramatic impact, and basically just making sure everyone in the airport knew he was there and what he was doing!  Since his phone was hidden, it made me think that not all that long ago, if someone was acting the way he was acting in public, people would have stared and laughed or avoided eye contact or went out of their way to not get too close to him — all because he would have looked like someone who needed help from some guys in little white coats!!!  hahaha  But, everyone just passed him by like he wasn’t even there — I’m sure that was much to his disappointment, since it appeared like he really wanted the attention drawn to him! 
  • There was also this woman who was waiting for the same flight I was waiting for who ALSO wanted to be sure everyone knew she was there – and that she left her pizza in Chicago!  She constantly paced around the entire waiting area or stood wherever she could easily be seen by everyone.  Whenever someone from Southwest passed her and said the polite “how are you?”, she would say very loudly and disgustedly, “Not good at all – I left my pizza in Chicago and I’m not too happy about it!”  Apparently, it was some special deep dish pizza from a famous place.  If someone accidentally made eye contact with her (and we all soon learned to try hard to not let that happen) she would say, “Can you believe I left that pizza in Chicago?  I’m so upset!”  And then she got on the phone and loudly told someone all about it!  I got on the plane pretty quickly and sat in one of the front row seats.  When she got on, the flight attendant greeted her and she told him all about it and then I heard her telling another attendant further back all about it!  For pity sake – please get that woman a pizza!!!!

Those are the ones that stood out the most for me this trip……but there are always some that give me reason to chuckle to myself, just as I’m sure someone is chuckling over something I do while I’m sitting there, as well!

If any of you are traveling over the upcoming holidays or for other reasons, I hope you find joy in the free entertainment that is provided by all your fellow travelers!

Happy Holidays!

Quickie Trip….so worth it!!!

Going home is always a treat.  No doubt or argument there.  I give a lot of thought to the pros and cons of going for 1-2 extended trips or multiple shorter trips each year.  Both definitely have distinct benefits and downfalls.  In past years, I have tended to go for the longer, but less frequent trips.  But this year, I seem to have opted for the multiple shorter trips.  I just popped up for a long weekend visit last week and was so very glad I did!

The reason was a spur of the moment trip up for Mom’s birthday.  The ulterior motive was that she has been having some problem with pain and has been laid up for several months.  It was upsetting to be so far away and not able to help or do anything!  It worked out that I could have a nice visit with her, help her out a little, and be able to take her to the doctor for an appointment.  It was really nice and well worth it!  We had a good time just spending time with each other!

I also managed to cram a few other things in this trip, too!

First — my first great-nephew was born in January and I haven’t been able to meet him, yet.  I was up over Memorial Day weekend, but they were out-of-town, so I missed getting to see him!   We finally connected this trip!  We had a little family gathering for Mom’s birthday and Nolen was there.  He is absolutely PERFECT!  At six months old, he is 22 pounds, 6 ounces and 28 inches tall!  Big boy!  But, beautiful!  Here is my precious great-nephew, Nolen – totally fascinated with my watch!  I dare you to try to tell me he isn’t the most adorable big boy in the world!

Of course, I also popped in at the Mount Albion Cemetery to visit Poppie, Grandma, Grandpa, and other relatives that are no longer with us.

A while back, a friend posted an article about an open house at a Bed & Breakfast in an old school in our town.  I found the information interesting and thought that I would have to check it out some day, but didn’t make note of the date because I didn’t have any plans to go up at that time.  I don’t know what made me think of it when I was packing for the trip, but I decided to see if by some freak chance it might be happening that weekend - I thought there was no way the dates lined up!  But, they DID!  So, I had to go to town to pick up some groceries for Mom and run a couple other errands for her, so I popped in to check it out!  WOW — what a treat!  The historic building was the old St. Mary’s Assumption School and someone bought it and turned it into a B&B.  They kept the antique feel and the Catholic school theme for the decor throughout.  It is amazing!  If you ever find yourself in Albion, NY and need a place to stay, check out the Erie Canal Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast – here is their web site for more info about it.

Part of the open house was a display of handmade miniature carnival rides that was incredible and also a wonderful tribute to Charlie Howard – the real Santa Claus!  I was so excited to see it all.  I have so many wonderful memories of Charlie Howard’s Santa Claus School and Christmas Park that was a major attraction in my home town when I was a child.  I wrote a special post about him and his legacy (click here to read it).  The following photo shows some of the signs that came from Christmas Park – the one in front put a huge smile on my face because I used to LOVE to put my quarter in the clothes pin at the end of a fishing pole string and dangle it over the wall to “fish” for a special surprise gift!  What fun for a child!

Another day when I went to town to get some things for Mom, I made a side trip to Point Breeze to check out the progress on the new lighthouse they are building there.  (check out my post about the lighthouse so you, too, can see the progress)  They still have some work to do and the brick walkways and seating areas they have planned aren’t started, yet, but it looks pretty good!

And, of course, I can’t go to Point Breeze without spending a little time enjoying the water and watching the boats making their way up Oak Orchard River out to Lake Ontario for a day on the lake.  I love Point Breeze and being on or near the lake! 

So – it was a very FULL trip, but mostly spent just being with Mom, which was GREAT!  The only regret is that I didn’t have a chance to contact some of my friends and arrange a lunch or get together of some kind — next trip, for sure!