Thursday, November 1, 2012

OBX Before Sandy, Raleigh, and Fleeing the Storm

October 24-27, 2012

There were two glorious days in Kill Devils Hills before we realized that Hurricane Sandy was going to ruin our plans for being at the ocean.  We really didn't expect sunshine in October, but once we found it there, we wanted to linger and enjoy it!

Our beach chairs stayed in the same place, virtually, for the two days before the storm. I sat with my binoculars glued to the horizon, watching dolphins occasionally, and birds constantly. I enjoyed watching the little sandpipers running to and from the water's edge. They reminded me of women having a good time together, running and chatting and trying to all do the same things at the same time. We watched them taking morning baths in the waves, splashing in unison, then running away as a group.

There were not many people on the beach, and that made it spectacular. We read.  We made roast beef sandwiches one of those days and had a picnic lunch.  On Thursday we went to Dirty Dick's and shared a pound of steamed shrimp and a plate of calamari. On Friday we did the same thing, only I didn't share the shrimp, and Randy didn't share the calamari.
If we weren't at Dirty Dick's or Awful Arthur's, we were sitting on those chairs, looking out to sea, with books in our hands.

On Friday, a man came to the beach with a kayak.  I had just seen a very large black thing emerge from the ocean, and he asked me what I thought it was. I told him that I presumed it was a dolphin.  Then he went out into the ocean in his kayak, and I watched him as he nearly touched dolphins that arrived in a huge pod.  They seemed to be playing with him, and he with them.
When he came back to the beach, he again asked me what I had seen out in the water when he had first come to the shore.  I told him the truth:  I saw a huge thing come out of the water, and it was dark and looked like an enormous boulder.  It stayed up above the water long enough for me to wonder what in the world it could be, and then it spewed a large spray of water into the air.

The man told me that he had seen the same thing, and knew it couldn't be a dolphin.  He told me that we had both seen a whale, and that he has lived on the Outer Banks for seven years, and this was the third time he had seen one.  When I told him I didn't think they came so far south, he told me that indeed they do, on occasion, and he was certain that that's what we'd been looking at. He had seen me with the binoculars, and knew I was amazed at what I had seen.

That evening the skies got very gray and it looked like rain.  We knew from TV reports that a hurricane was coming from the Bermuda area.  We talked about staying through the storm, but wondered if the rest of our time we'd reserved would be gray and rainy.  We could get out of our reservation with 24 hours notice.

A newscaster showed up next to our motel with his panel truck and his cameras.  I actually stood before him and watched as he delivered the forecast, with the ocean churning behind him.  When he was done, I went back to my beach chair.  Randy and I began to realize that we needed to leave the Outer Banks and change our plans.  The rain began in the evening.

On Friday morning, it got colder and we decided to "speed vacation," and visit all the places we'd talked about going to while we were there.  The only difference would be that we'd do it all in one day, and then hit the road on Saturday morning.

We drove to Manteo and did a run-through of the book store, then stopped in to say hello to the young man who had sold us wonderful things back in April. I bought some more seashell jewelry from him before we left his shop. We visited the Manteo shops, bought a wonderful "market basket" made by women in Ghana in one, and then went to Poor Richards, a quaint little luncheon spot, for lunch.

Poor Richards served up the most divine North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich that we have ever had in our lives, and we've had plenty of them, trust me.  Randy had to tell me to stop moaning over the sandwich...............smokey flavored, on a squishy bun, with cole slaw served in the sandwich.

We left Manteo, and drove all the way to the other end of the Outer Banks, to Duck, to shop at Scarborough Faire, which has lots of lovely little stores and some very pleasant memories for us.  We peeked into the windows of Elizabeth's, where Randy took me for a special dinner some years ago and we bought an art print last April  (see April 2012 blogs).  As Elizabeth's was not open, we wandered around and looked at pottery, jewelry and clothing in the other shops.  We came away empty-handed, however. We didn't need one more thing in our car.

A few other favorite stores called us in as we drove back to Kill Devils Hills, and after a last visit to Dirty Dick's, we went back to the Quality Inn and packed our bags and car.  We told the desk clerk we'd be leaving for certain in the morning, and then watched the news, knowing we'd made the right decision. I told Randy, "There must be some other place we're supposed to be."

Saturday morning came, and the storm had been brewing all night.  There is a long bridge to get to the mainland, no matter which way you leave the Outer Banks. We decided to exit by way of Manteo, since we expected to head west as directly and as quickly as we could get away from the shore.  Route 64 W took us away.

Shortly we came to a natural wildlife preserve that went on for miles and miles. My mind was taken off the hurricane by signs that read, "Unlawful to feed bears from highway," and "Red wolves crossing."  I looked deep into the forests but saw neither bears nor wolves.

We crossed the Scuppernong River near Columbia, NC, a lovely small town whose Welcome Center welcomed us.  After a short walk through town, we drove west, passing fields of cotton that looked ready to be picked, and cotton balls all over the side of the road from heavy winds blowing over the fields.
Roanoke River Lighthouse

In Plymouth, NC, we stopped to see the vintage 1866 Roanoke River Lighthouse, which strongly resembled the lighthouse in Manteo. Then we drove on to Rocky Mount, NC, where we stopped the car in the parking lot of The Shower of Blessings Church and hastily made sandwiches and ate lunch. The rain had followed us all day to this point, and we wanted to get out of harm's way and be far enough away to feel safe before we stopped for the night.

Manteo Marshes Lighthouse
By the time we got to Raleigh, we needed to get out of the car and SEE something.  We had outrun the rain for awhile, so we drive right downtown to the state capitol building and strolled around it. There were lots of tourists in Raleigh, and signs pointed to many sites to visit.

We ran right into the North Carolina Museum of History, just across the street from the capitol. At first I wasn't in the mood for another history museum, until I saw the sign about the Gone With the Wind exhibit.  My favorite movie of all time! I could recite Gone With the Wind if I had to, I think.  Randy was surprised to see me quickly become interested in this museum, and off I went to see GWTW while he went off to visit the ancient Indian information.

My parents were on the sidewalk outside the theatre in Atlanta on the night that Gone With the Wind premiered in 1939. They were there to see Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh enter the theatre. My friend Alexis and I wept copiously as we watched the movie at the Highland Theatre together as preteens. Over the years I've probably watched it a hundred times, or at least parts of it.  It has become part of me.  And here, on the third floor of the North Carolina History Museum, someone's collection of costumes, designers' drawings, props and other memorabilia were on display, and I had virtually tripped upon it! 

Vivien Leigh's Oscar for Best Actress and a photo of her placing it on her mantel were a huge thrill to see.  I spent wonderful time in that gallery. Flash photos were not permitted, but non-flash were OK.

Walter Plunkett was the costume designer, and these are his sketches.  A guard told me that the man who owns this collection "just happened to be in the right place at the right time," when he purchased many of these items, and I could totally relate to that!

Once Randy and I had both seen everything we could possibly absorb, we went back out into the streets of downtown Raleigh.  It was obvious that something had happened that day in the city, as porta-potties lined some streets, and confetti and fresh litter were in the some others.

We found a roof-top bar not far from the capitol building, and climbed up two flights to look out over the city while we enjoyed a drink.

Three young, green men were already up there, and I soon discovered that they had participated in a marathon that had taken place that day.  Apparently paint-balling the runners is some kind of marathon activity in Raleigh.  (???) I wish you could see how green they were...........

We enjoyed conversing with them, watched an arrest in the street, and saw our first ever "Trolley Bar," which appears to be a bar on wheels.  Young people were sitting on stools around this bar, drinking. All of a sudden they just all started pedaling, and the bar took off
                                                                                    down the street!

Driving in cities is not our favorite thing, and we still wanted to get a bit further away from the coast before nightfall. We went back to the car and wound our way out of Raleigh and soon found that there was a motel crisis in North Carolina.  Along with all of us who were leaving beaches, there was a homecoming celebration in one of the cities and a NASCAR race in another. Some athletic events filled up all the other rooms, and we got used to being told that there was no room for us.

Not to worry.  We just kept moving west until we were somewhere outside of Winston-Salem, where we found space at a Marriott  near Wake Forest University.  We had a pizza for dinner, and called it a day.

We were safe, and we had enjoyed making the most of our "escape" from Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunset on the Chesapeake Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

After leaving Chincoteague, we needed a place to sleep.  No reservations for the night!  I had tried, unsuccessfully, to book a night at a B and B that sounded lovely. It sat right on the Chesapeake Bay and promised a gorgeous sunset. We couldn't get in, and I was so disappointed that I quit looking.  We had to 'wing it."

Our drive continued south on Rt. 13, and we vowed that we wouldn't cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel until the next day, so we could see where we were going.  We thought we'd find more chain motels along the way than we did.

A side jog through the small town of Cape Charles, Virginia, had me mentally purchasing real estate and moving there.  What a quaint little place!  Their water tower looks like a huge lighthouse.  The town is full of bed and breakfasts, galleries and shops, and the Chesapeake Bay was right there at the town's edge. Without a reservation, there was no way to get into one of those B and B's, we had already found out.

When we had entered Virginia, a lovely hostess at the state's welcome center told us of an older motel right before the bridge.  We really didn't think we'd get that far without finding a place, but guess what?  That's where we ended up!

The Sunset Beach Resort has seen better days. Actually, using the word "resort" is sort of pushing it.  We could see that there had been a huge convention area,  dining rooms for business dinners, and some time ago it had been a shiny, new resort.  Sometimes ya just have to look beyond the facade, and really look at the potential, and that's what we did at the Sunset Beach Resort.

An enormous field of newly cut grass separates the motel from the Chesapeake Bay. A football team would be happy with that field. A small, private restaurant sits right on the bank of the Bay, on the other side of that grassy field. The Sunset owns the restaurant, and hosts receptions and parties there, but it was closed this night.

Our room was on the second floor overlooking that big field and we could see the Chesapeake Bay from our front window.  The room was clean and basic, but it was rented to us by "Bill," a nice guy who was happy to accept the last quart of soup from the Soup Swap from me, since we would have no refrigerator.  He also let us use the microwave in the small breakfast kitchen near the lobby, so we could heat up the next-to-last quart of soup, which we enjoyed for our dinner.

But before we unloaded our bags or ate our soup, we drove the car down to the Chesapeake Bay and watched our own private sunset.  We didn't need the pricey B and B.  We had the most gorgeous and colorful farewell to a day that we have ever seen together. Enough with the words.  I wish the photos could do it justice.

We set the camera on a table to shoot a picture, then sat and ooohed and ahhhhed over the colors of the sky.  A fisherman and his dogs came by, and a woman who runs a shell shop pulled her car into the lot and ran up and down the beach, collecting dead horseshoe crabs.  She told me that she gets a dollar each for them.  I pictured myself setting up a stand...........

We sat there until it was very dark, then went back to our room and slept like people who hadn't seen wild horses, but  had seen a fabulous sky.

In the morning, we went back to the shores of the Bay to enjoy the beach a bit more, shoot some pictures of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel from the shore, and enjoy the sunshine.  I resisted the urge to gather up a bag of dead horseshoe crabs, but did select a few choice pieces of driftwood, a few shells, and some smooth stones.  These were keepers.

Following our motel breakfast, we drove the short distance to the bridge entrance, paid the $12 toll, and drove for twenty miles across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Some of this time was spent underwater, as there were two tunnels to go through. I am talking about tunnels that go under the water. It is actually twenty-three miles, if you add the approach roads to it.

This may be one of the most amazing experiences of my driving life. Twenty-three miles is as far as from my house to my friend Jane's...........and she lives several towns away from me.  We thought the toll seemed a bit steep, at first.  We knew it was a long bridge.............but until we'd completed this amazing ride...........who knew?  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was opened in 1964.  It has been called one of the "Engineering Wonders of the Modern World."  I would vote for that.  To even imagine building a bridge-tunnel that long to connect Cape Charles, Virginia to Virginia Beach, Virginia, had to be the dream of a true visionary.

Once over the bridge, it was all "Get to the Beach" driving. The sun was shining. It was in the high seventies, and we had no need to stop at places along the way, except for lunch, which was at a Captain D's somewhere along the way............huge butterflied shrimp with fries, served with cole slaw and a full squeeze bottle of cocktail sauce. Divine hush puppies adorned the plate.

We had a reservation for a full week at an oceanfront motel in Kill Devils Hills, directly across from the Wright Brother's Memorial, which could be seen from the motel's parking lot.

We arrived, sat on the beach and read wonderful books.  Dinner was plate of calamari and drinks at Awful Arthur's, which has been a favorite of ours (and everybody else's) since we started going to the Outer Banks together. 

Randy commented several times about how "placid" the ocean was.  The waves were calm and there was hardly a breeze.

What possibly could keep this from being a perfect week at the beach?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ocean City Maryland, Chincoteague and Assateague

October 22, 2012

Having left Delaware, we headed south on Rt. 13 to find the Atlantic Ocean and some beachy places.

Our first stop was Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, where we took a short walk on the boardwalk, visited a few shops, ate a wonderful ice cream cone, and then got back on the road.  We had a reservation at a hotel on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland.

We're beach people.  We're sort of convinced that a beach is a beach, and as long as we have a sturdy chair and a good book, it's pretty hard to not like where we are.  We'd enjoyed our short stop at Rehoboth, and our overnight visit to Ocean City wasn't disappointing, either. The ocean was right where it was supposed to be, and a beach was in front of it. The sun didn't let us down.

Ocean City, however, seems to have the ocean bordered by high rise buildings.  No small houses painted bright yellow and purple, just very tall buildings and lots of traffic.  I can imagine this place during the summer, and the words "ant hill" come to mind.  I suppose other beach people might like it.

Our hotel reservation was at the Comfort Inn on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. We had a wonderful room with a kitchenette that included a microwave, stove-top, a refrigerator and a cupboard complete with dishes and silverware. This was nice for us, as we had soup from the soup swap with us. We were delighted with the hotel.  Dinner followed a long walk up the boardwalk.

Off-season means that many places are closed or closing.  We noticed that Rehoboth Beach had sales in most of their stores, readying to close at the end of October.  Most of the shops on the boardwalk in Ocean City were already closed, but we did manage to read a few lewd tee-shirts and hide from paintings on velvet.  I was looking for a good book store, but did not find one.

In the morning we continued our slow trek south on Rt. 13, with the intent of taking our time and seeing the east coast of Maryland and Virginia. The main target was Chincoteague Island and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.  The best way I can show you where this is seems to be by the photo I shot of "Thelma" (our GPS unit) once we had arrived there.  Remember, the little car on the map is "us."

When we first crossed onto the island, we toured the little town of Chincoteague. It has small motels and B and B's and looks inviting. Galleries and shops made us wish we could stay.  We drove out to see the Pony Center, but found it closed, so we continued driving until we saw the Assateague Lighthouse peeking over some treetops. In order to get into this National Wildlife Refuge, we showed our "old folk pass," and saved eight dollars.  We climbed a hill on a path through some very thick forestation to find the lighthouse.

A Nature Center had wonderful displays showing all of the birds and animals that are living in this area. Bald eagles nest in the park, but visitors cannot go to the areas where they nest so that they are not frightened away. We saw many herons, white and blue, and some Canadian geese which made us feel right at home.  There is a three-mile "loop" which people can walk during the day or drive around after 3 PM. 

To kill a quarter of an hour before 3 PM, we drove to the southernmost point of Assateague Island to Tom's Cove, which seems to be a fine camping place.  All we noticed was the beautiful beach, and we managed to enjoy it until it was time to drive "the loop."

Chincoteague and Assateague are famous for its wild horses that roam the island. We heard that the horses could be descended from horses set free by English settlers or from shipwrecks of Spanish sailors who were bringing horses to the New World.  Either may be true, or there may even be another explanation, but nevertheless, the ponies are there. Marguerite Henry's famous book, Misty of Chincoteague made the horses famous. (Unfortunately, the shop at the nature center was out of copies of this book, which would have made a wonderful souvenir.)

The island has marsh areas where we heard that the horses could be seen, but were not, at least by us.  The marshes, however, were beautiful in themselves, ponies or not. The drive on the 3 mile loop was beautiful.  A few photos here will save several thousand words.

You don't see any ponies or horses in these scenes, and neither did we. Some locals told us to come back at dusk, but that was not in the plan.  We looked at the ponies at a website, and you can, too.  I confess that during the entire time we were on Assateague and Chincoteague we did not know if we were in Maryland or in Virginia. Thelma didn't seem to know where we were, either............but it was all beautiful.

To learn more about Chincoteague and Assateague, you can go to these websites:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shanksville, Pennsylvania: Flight 93 National Memorial

October 18, 2012

We're on the road again, this time headed east.  Our first stop was Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to revisit the site of the crash of Flight 93, the plane that did not fulfill terrorists' plans on 9/11/2001.

Unlike two planes that were crashed into the World Trade Center that morning, this plane's destination was  changed by a revolt of the passengers and crew.  Although the plane crashed, and the 44 people on board were killed, the actions of the 33 passengers and 7 crew members prevented this plane from crashing into the U.S. Capitol building or the White House. The crash site is only 18 minutes flying time from Washington D.C., so the actions of these heroic people saved hundreds of lives and chaos in Washington.

While the other two planes were crashing into the World Trade Center, Flight 93, which was to leave from Newark, New Jersey and fly to San Francisco, was delayed nearly 25 minutes. This late take-off helped to keep the terrorists' plan for Flight 93 from success.

Thirteen people on board the plane made 37 calls to family members and friends after the terrorists took over the plane. During those calls, they found out what had happened in New York City and realized that the plane they were on was part of a terrorist act.

In 2003, Randy and I stopped in Shanksville for the first time. Then the site consisted of a fence covered with personal notes and mementos attached to the fence or placed on the ground near a United States flag.  The crash area was fenced off and could be seen in the far distance.

Now it is a national memorial, taken care of by The National Park Service.  A competition was held to choose a design for the memorial, and it has been partially built. Groves of newly-planted trees will line the drive into the memorial.  They were actually being planted as we drove into the area.

It was a chilly fall day today, and the autumn leaves were at the season's peak.  With the surrounding mountains and a little mist in the air, it was almost eerie.

Visitors are quiet at the memorial, appropriately.

 Signs tell the story and show the people.

All 40 people who were killed in this terrorist act are pictured on one large sign, and their names are etched into a wall near the actual crash site.  A rock marks that location, and by the wall of names is a wooden gate or door through which the rock can be viewed.  The crash site is only open to family members.

A walkway leads visitors out towards the site. Visitors have left small tributes or gifts of honor in some indentations in this black concrete wall.

Forty-four humans died here that day.  The four terrorists who led this particular attack are not honored, but they are part of the count. No photos or names honor them, and that is very fitting.

There are future plans for a visitor center, a tower to contain 40 wind chimes, and a "Field of Honor." I suppose we will have to go back again some day to see the progress.

Some photos I've taken show the sign with photos of the 40 heroes and the map that explains what happened that morning.  My other pictures, I hope, will convey the beauty of this location in the heart of Pennsylvania farming country.  I wish I could give you the peaceful quiet that is there.  I know you would feel the awe that I feel for these terrified passengers and crew members as they fought for their lives, and ultimately for their country, in the brief time they had to realize the horror that was occurring that morning.  We cannot help but leave this place solemnly and grateful for their collective act.

You can learn more about the National Park at

You can learn about donating to the memorial at

Donations can be sent to:

Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign
c/o National Park Foundation
1201 Eye Street, NW Ste. 550B
Washington D.C. 20005

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hannibal, Missouri, and The Lincoln Museum, Springfield, Illinois

September 19, 2012

Hannibal, Missouri seems as if we were backtracking, doesn't it? We did cross back over the Mississippi River to get there, granted, but the bridge wasn't that long...............and we did go west, but just a teensy bit.  This is our third visit to Hannibal together, I confess.

OK, we went backwards a tad. Not ready to go home just yet.

I have to tell you that last night my husband drove into Hannibal with the help of Thelma*, and without any more aid from me or Thelma*, drove straight to the nearest whorehouse.

It's called Lula Belle's, and now it's a Bed and Breakfast and restaurant.  It's run by Mike Ginsberg and his wife.

Angel of Delight
We've stayed here before, in 2007.   Lula Belle's was an up and running brothel until the 1960's and didn't try to hide what was going on there, either. When the houses of ill-repute were forced to shut down then, it sat awhile until it was changed to its current use. Not your ordinary B and B.

Both times we've stayed here, we've been in a room called "The Angel of Delight." The other rooms are named "The Farmer's Daughter, Gypsy Rose............."  You get the picture.

Downstairs is a very elegant restaurant, and we shared a full slab of ribs for dinner . The place was full of local and tourist patrons. Lula Belle's is well-known for its fine food.

There's a certain amount of thrill staying in a brothel. Call it sleazy, if you must, but it's spicy, nonetheless. Bars of soap with signatures of former tenants rest on the tops of the window frames, the mirrors, and any place else that will hold them. Notes to the owners, thanking them for a fun night, stick out of the mirror frame. Some of the rooms have Jacuzzis, and all rooms have private baths. There is also WiFi, and it's clean and neat. It's actually one of the best deals in town.

Foam ear plugs in little sacks awaited us on the bedside table. They were labeled "Lula Belle's Train Mufflers."  Actually, we heard that train in the middle of the night, but both of us had childhood memories of railroad sirens as we slept, and neither of us did more than acknowledge the sound and go back to sleep.
This morning we awoke, went downstairs for our breakfast (included) prepared especially for us by Mrs. Ginsberg and served by Mike himself. Nobody else got breakfast, as we were the sole occupants of the brothel last night. We had eggs and toast, French toast and sausage, and lots of coffee and good conversation from our host, who obviously loves what he does.

We took a morning walk through Hannibal. We had done that last night, but since everything had closed up at 5 PM, we hadn't been able to get inside a single shop.

Hannibal is a memorial and tribute to the great American writer, Mark Twain, as this is his boyhood home. It is also a place to honor his most famous characters, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

We have, in other years, ridden on the Mark Twain Riverboat dinner cruise on the Mississippi River and attended a Mark Twain impersonator program. Both of these were wonderful experiences, and we'd highly recommend them.

We were saddened to find that the Becky Thatcher Book Store, which had been housed in the Becky Thatcher House, was no longer there. Becky, you remember, is the pretty girl that Tom Sawyer fell in love with in school. The house is still there, just no books.......This is where, in 1959, my dad bought me my first copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and in 1988 I bought the same book for my three children. Alas. "Progress." I found the previous bookseller in the drug store she now runs.  She sells books in the back of it, but somehow I think there ought to be a Becky Thatcher Book Store in Hannibal.

Tom and Huck
There is a statue of Tom and Huck at the end of Main Street, and a lighthouse is high above, on Cardiff Hill, which you can hike. A lovely park is on the riverfront. There is a statue of Mark Twain as a riverboat pilot, which he was, before he changed his name from Samuel Clemons to “Mark Twain.”  His Mark Twain name means to mark the depth of the water, a riverboat term.  On top of the highest hill, a statue of Mark Twain stands, looking forever over his beloved Mississippi River and the island that Tom and Huck explored, in his books.

Hannibal was also the hometown of the "Unsinkable Molly Brown," and you can visit her little birthplace and home  a few blocks from the riverfront. We did that years ago, and marveled at the difference between this little home and the house she lived in when she married her beloved Johnny Brown and lived in Denver.

There is much to do in Hannibal You can “paint” the fence that Tom Sawyer conned his friends into painting, visit the Mark Twain childhood home, walk the streets, shop, eat, or drink, as we did last night at the Main Street Wine Stop, where we sat outside enjoying the last few days of summer weather, with our drinks and other patrons.

We left Hannibal around noon, sadly.   It's in the heartland of our country, brought forth one of our most loved writers and humorists, and seems to be in my path whenever I go west or come back to the east. If you haven't been to Hannibal, GO!

Our audio book  reached the climax, and we held our breath as we drove east to Springfield, Illinois, the capital of that state, listening.

We've also been here before, and today we chose to revisit the fairly new Abraham Lincoln Museum. We saw it in 2007, but once was not enough.
The Lincolns Plus 2
We received a nice senior citizen discount, and such a deal! For the next two hours, we roamed again through Lincoln's boyhood, his life in the White House, saw his treasures, and watched two wonderfully-done short movies that told us the main events of his life. Life-size figures showed us how things looked. This is not your ordinary museum.

We saw Mary Lincoln dressed for a ball. We saw Lincoln lead a Cabinet meeting. We saw Abe and Mary sitting in their seats at the Ford Theatre. We walked by his casket, decked with white flowers.

This museum puts you INTO the event you are learning about, and lets you FEEL it as well as see it. We confess that there were tears in our eyes at the funeral bier.
I meet Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglas
One of our favorite things was “The Civil War in Four Minutes,” which is a video presentation of a map of the United States which shows you in four minutes the Union and Confederate lines and how they moved, the battles, the death toll, and the finish of the Civil War. We watched it twice, then bought the DVD in the gift shop.  Amazingly simple explanation of the whole thing.

Springfield, Illinois, is also the place where you can see Lincoln's Home and his tomb. It can take you all day to see many of these places.................which is why we've been here at least three times together, .................lots to see. It seems to keep getting better each visit.

We settled into our motel on Frontier Drive, and met up with Randy's college roommate, Ed Doornbos and his wife, Marilyn. They treated us to dinner at D'arcy's Pint, a restaurant that seems to be quite popular. We had a nice visit over some local food called a “Horseshoe Sandwich,” which I enjoyed watching them eat. ( Google a picture of The Horseshoe Sandwich. It is enormous!)

Plans for tomorrow are not plans............................just that tomorrow will come.

Thursday, September 20 and Friday, September 21:

It's a long drive from Springfield, Illinois, especially if you're tired of riding in the car, and it is beginning to look as if a hoarder lives in it.

Thursday's drive involved the eastern half of Illinois. We enjoyed yet another Walmart fried chicken lunch at a little park in Brownville, Illinois, then got back on the road. (We began clucking shortly after that.) 

Indiana arrived, and nearly as soon as we'd crossed the state line, we developed Tired o' Sitting Disease, and pulled over in Richardson, Indiana at a great Comfort Inn. The highlight of the evening was shopping at a Menard's Store across the street, where we chose from a plethora of TV-dinner style meals, and then cooked them in the lobby of our motel. Cheap date, but fun! We sat in the hot tub for the previously mentioned “disease.”

Man Leaving Lula Belle's
Friday was more of the same, with almost no stopping. Now we wanted to go on home and BE THERE. Arrival was about 5 PM, and dinner at Applebee's to celebrate a fun trip.

Follow along on our next adventure!

*Thelma is our GPS unit, and Louise is my Rendezvous.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

American Gothic in Eldon, Iowa, and Nauvoo, Illinois

Monday, September 17, 2012  and Tuesday, September 18, 2012
(Published 2 and 3 days later.....)

Tuesday, September 17:

Sioux City to Fairfield, Iowa

(Sorry!  Not a single photo to go along with today, but there are some in the second half.)

We continued our trek east, driving south on Rt. 29, passing the Loess Hills. Don't ask me what they are, as the information I got was so vague that we were not sure what to look for or where to look for it. They looked like hills with heavy forestation. We did see some wonderful swarms of birds swooping over the fields while we looked for the hills, though.

The rain started just about then, and continued ALL DAY LONG. I mean pouring, gushing rain. Windshield wipers on high type rain. ALL DAY. Nerve-wracking rain. We switched drivers a few times so we wouldn't yell at each other as the semis passed us, leaving the passenger near hysteria. (OK........that was primarily moi.) Not good for road traveling but I do have my back-seat license..............

We passed some interesting signs: One to go see John Wayne's Birthplace, and one to get a map to find The Bridges of Madison County. With the heavy rain, it was hard to convince the other half that these were necessary things to visit, especially since they were a fairly long distance off the highway. Next time. A nice diversion from the rain was our Subway lunch.

We went east on 80E through Des Moines in the hideous rain, but got get a glimpse of the Iowa State Capitol. The dome on that building is magnificent and gleaming. It was rainy, but I don't think I exaggerate.

We have a point we aimed at, but time and rain altered that, so we decided to stay in Ottumwa, Iowa. Ottumwa is not a huge city, but seems spread out. There are four major chain motels where we entered town, and every one of them was booked solid. Why?

Joe Biden, our US Vice President, will be speaking there tomorrow morning, and people are coming in to see him or the hotels are booked for people needed for his security. One nice host at the Fairfield Inn gave us directions to, oddly enough, another city named Fairfield, where he knew there would be rooms.

We drove east  Rt 34 to Fairfield the 22 miles, we kept seeing highway patrol and police cars with their lights blinking. They were racing in pairs up the highway, one pair after another, and then we saw a very long chain of cars with more highway patrol cars lit up mixed in between the cars. It was, obviously, Joe Biden and his entourage approaching Ottumwa, Iowa ! We watched him on the news after we were settled into our lovely Best Western in Fairfield, Iowa.

I have a cousin who grew up in Ottumwa, Iowa. I thought of him this afternoon as we drove around the city looking at the bridges, the stores, and the high school. We pulled over at a Wallgreens so I could buy him a postcard with a picture of Ottumwa on the front, and send it to him in Wisconsin. I let him know I finally got there.

It's just too bad that he's not there now, too.
Wednesday, September 18, 2012
 We were out of Fairfield, Iowa as soon as we were done with breakfast. We had plans for today, unusual for us. Eldon, Iowa was waiting.
Eldon is the place where Grant Woods first saw the house with a church window in the upper story of a small farmhouse. It caught his eye, and he decided to use it as the background for his famous painting, American Gothic. If you are not seeing this in your mind, picture the two very stoic-looking farmer-type man and woman in front of a farmhouse, one of them holding a pitchfork between them. You got it.
Grant Wood got his sister and his dentist to pose for his initial drawing for the painting. He promised them that they would be unrecognizable in the actual finished product. His sister came out differently, but the dentist looked like himself in the end result, and he was not a happy guy with a pitchfork. Their friendship suffered, it is said. Perhaps he became more famous for his appearance in the painting than for his dentistry in the long run, however. He surely looked the part......................
We drove to Eldon. Remember the mess-up driving we did on Sunday? Well, we did it again on Monday.  Yesterday we'd already driven 22 miles out of our way due to Joe Biden, and now we were out in some corn fields with only Thelma to help us get around. The roads had changed a bit, and just as the commercial says, we had "not updated" Thelma. We apparently flew through space to get to Eldon. The screen was  white, except for the picture of our little car floating across it.
We got there, and for a few minutes we were alone in Iowa with the house. There was a parking lot and us. We could see that there was a welcome center, but before anybody else got there, we just needed the picture. We needed to stand in front of that house looking staid and farmerish, and take a picture of ourselves. 
A woman appeared and told us that we could get the pitchfork at the welcome center. We did. They came in sizes...........!
We set up the tripod, fiddled with the arrangement of the window of the house in the background, and kept shooting.
Then, we volunteered to take photos of every other person who'd suddenly appeared in the parking lot. Some of them actually needed persuasion to allow us to shoot them................... but we weren't letting anybody leave without the photo that we knew they had also come to take. Even the lady with the dog, who at first refused, three times, to let me use her camera to take a picture of her and the pup, finally decided to let me shoot them. (Get with the program, already.........)


A trip through the welcome center followed. More photos. Some postcards purchased. Then we asked to put on the clothes and get our REAL photos taken in front of the house..............After we saw that Bill and Hillary had been there and put on the clothes, we had to do it, too.
We laughed over photos of others taken there, posted on a bulletin board. We will have to send a copy of ours for that bulletin board, too...............
Leaving Eldon, we drove east across Iowa, under a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds, and eventually crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois. We drove along the river for quite awhile until we came to the town of Nauvoo, Illinois.
We had read a bit about Nauvoo on our way west,but weren't near it then. We purposely aimed for Nauvoo on the way back.
The Mormons settled  Nauvoo in the 1840's. There are about forty historic buildings in the town, most of them marked with historical markers that tell their story. Joseph Smith lived there. He and his brother were shot as they were going west, and Brigham Young then led most of the Mormons from Nauvoo west and on to Utah. The Mormons had not been well-received in Illinois, apparently, and needed to move on. The small community is now taken care of by a group called The Community of Christ.
We stopped at an old store and found they were selling glass vases that were made practically in our back yard, in Bath, Ohio at the Hale Homestead! They also had typical toys from that era, jams, candles, and linens. A very nice lady told us the history of that building.
It felt a little Williamsburg-ish, with fences and well-groomed grassy areas. Not as large was Williamsburg, and the religious aspect made it different, too.
The main reason we chose to go to Nauvoo was to see the Mormon Temple there. Our book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, in the United States and Canada, (or something like that) mentioned Nauvoo in the section about Illinois. When Randy and I are gone, you will be able to see all the places we've checked off in this book,...............until then, we're still using it.
We've been to Salt Lake City and walked around the temple there. (We're not allowed in, since we're not Mormons.) Today we walked around the Temple at Nauvoo. The grass was like a golf course, and beautifully manicured. The gardens were amazing with begonias and other summer flowers still hanging on. There were nice seating places for us to rest and look at this enormous building proclaiming the glory of God. It might have been nice to see the inside, as we have done at Catholic Basilicas and other places of worship..................but, oh, well.......................We were impressed with their building.
There was a discussion in the car about what to do next. The options were either to head east towards home or head south for one more visit to Hannibal, Missouri, hometown of Mark Twain, which wasn't far.  It is also the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn's antics.
The discussion didn't last too long, but it did have a few go-rounds, before we decided to go to Hannibal.
It will be my 6th visit to Hannibal. It is dear to me.
Nearly every family member I hold inside my heart closely has been in Hannibal with me at some time or other.  It must have something special about it, then, do you think?
More on that tomorrow, but here I add one of our American Gothic shots.   I am saving the best one for another time.  Suffice it to say that it was very sunny, which is why the old lady is squinting.