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From Huntingdon to Huntington

17 Jul

Last week, we made a short trip Pennsylvania. My wife has family in Huntingdon, a small town in the central part of the state, and they invited us to stay at their home for a few days. We used that time to explore and a great tour of a small college. Here are the highlights.

On the first day, we drove through five states – Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It was a long drive through Appalachia, but we saw some beautiful landscapes. When we left the interstate around Altoona, we did not realize that we would not be on the interstate for a few more days. Instead, we would be taking back roads through farmland.

On the second day, we passed through some of that farmland on the way to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hersheypark was our destination. The girls rode a ton of rides while my wife and I rode a few. I must be getting old because the monorail was my favorite because it took us by part of the old Hershey factory.

One of these days, I am going to get back there and check out the history of chocolate.

Oh yeah, we had a slight surprise when we got back to Huntingdon. We went to a local restaurant for dinner, and my wife order a salad with grilled chicken. She received a salad topped with grilled chicken and french fries. She was, in a word, appalled. We later learned that french fries on salad is a central Pennsylvania thing. I guess it is like grits is a southern thing. Although, I can handle french fries on a salad better than I can handle grits.

On the third day, we got educational. Huntingdon is home to Juniata College, and the family we were visiting used to be the president and first lady of the liberal arts institution.

It is a beautiful campus with a great quad for student to gather. I think my stepdaughter liked it until she saw the dorm room. We had to explain that what she saw is pretty typical for dorm rooms.

After that, we drove a short distance to State College to the campus of Penn State. This was not an official visit. I simply wanted to see the football stadium. Of course, I had to wear the colors of my team behind enemy lines.

I was also told to go to the Creamery. It was a great suggestion. The ice cream was awesome.

On the fourth day, we headed west to two sites that my wife and I really wanted to visit. This was a day to show my stepdaughter and her friend something about our past. After a bit of a drive through the countryside, we arrived at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

On September 11, 2001, the flight was hijacked, and the passengers learned of the other hijackings through calls to their loved ones. At some point, the passengers decided to attack the terrorists. As they struggled, the plane crashed into a field.

It is a sobering place to visit. For those of us who remember, it brings back memories of that terrible day. For those of us who do not remember, it brings questions of what happened. For all of us, it provides a true example of heroism.

As I walked through the museum and over the grounds, I kept wondering what the passengers were thinking. Did they know they were going to crash somewhere and wanted to make sure it was not another building? Did they think they could take over and have a chance at landing the plane? All we know is that they prevented the plane from hitting something in Washington, D.C., which was only 20 minutes away. Investigators think the plane was heading for Capitol Hill.

After visiting the memorial, we drove through more countryside. This time we really hit some back roads and passed farm after farm. Finally, we made it to Fallingwater, the home famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. My wife and I visited another of his designs earlier in the year, but this is the iconic one that I have always wanted to see.

He designed the home for the Kaufmann family, who wanted a view of the waterfall on their land. Instead, Wright built it on the waterfall.

Amazingly, the house was built during the midst of the Great Depression.

When we left Fallingwater, we headed toward home but could not make it all the way. We stopped in Huntington, West Virginia for the night. The girls stayed at the hotel and watched Netflix while we went to dinner. We found a great place near downtown called Savannah’s and took a table on their patio. Our waitress was a local student who was majoring in History and Anthropology. Now, she has the right idea.

 

A Musical Story About Georgia

11 Jun

My wife had to go to Atlanta for business, so we drove down for an overnight stay. On the way back, I started thinking about songs with Georgia in their titles. This post is the result of the string of ideas that my mind put together. As you can tell, strange things run through my brain when I am driving.

Ray Charles called Jim Croce and said, “I’ve got Georgia on My Mind.” Jim replied, “Let’s start Walkin’ Back to Georgia.” As they walked down the road, Gladys Knight and the Pips passed on their way to the station. She yelled out of the window, “We’re taking the Midnight Train to Georgia. You guys should come with us.”

Ray and Jim jumped into the car with Gladys and the Pips. Before boarding the train, Gladys got a text from Brook Benton saying that it was a Rainy Night in Georgia. Despite the news, they still wanted to go. However, things would get worse.

When they disembarked, the station was totally dark. People were scrambling. Then, they ran into Vicki Lawrence who told them the bad news. This was The Night That the Lights Went Out in Georgia. Nobody knew what happened. The lights just went out. It was almost supernatural.

Suddenly, a bell sounded throughout the station. Someone spoke through a megaphone. The voice sounded familiar.

Ladies and gentlemen, please do not be alarmed. We are working on the lights, and we have discovered the problem. The Devil Went Down to Georgia and blew out all of the transformers.

They looked up and saw Charlie Daniels assuring people that everything would be alright.

With nothing else to do, Ray, Jim, Gladys and the Pips sat on benches, and someone finally asked Ray an important question. Why did you want to come to Georgia? He simply answered that he wanted to meet up with Sweet Georgia Brown.

“Travel America” and Me

20 Feb

The other day, we were flying to Arizona, and I picked up a magazine to read on the plane. Travel America lists over 250 places to visit in the United States. As I skimmed through the pages, I began to count all of the ones that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to travel to all 50 states and have seen some great stuff. This is a list of places that Travel America and I have in common.

Wait, here is a picture that I took on the trip to get you in the mood. It is in the Superstition Mountains.img_2279

Massachusetts

Paul Revere House

Old North Church

USS Constitution

New York

Central Park

Madison Avenue

Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

Broadway

Niagara Falls

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

National Constitution Center

Rhode Island

The Breakers

Florida

Walt Disney World

Kennedy Space Center

Everglades National Park

Miami Beach

South Beach

Georgia

River Street

Buckhead

Georgia Aquarium

World of Coca-Cola Museum

Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Louisiana

Garden District

Lafayette Cemetery

French Quarter

Louisiana State University

Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club

Delta Blues Museum

Natchez Trace

North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Biltmore

South Carolina

Harbour Town Golf Links

Tennessee

Beale Street

B.B. King’s Blues Club

Graceland

Ryman Auditorium

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Hermitage

Union Station Hotel

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Alum Cave Trail

Cade’s Cove

Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

Old Town Alexandria

Mount Vernon

Illinois

Michigan Avenue

Indiana

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Michigan

University of Michigan

Missouri

Gateway Arch

North Dakota

Badlands

Fort Mandan

Ohio

Progressive Field

Warehouse District

Oklahoma

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Cattleman’s Steakhouse

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

Wall Drug

Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer State Park

Saloon #10

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Arizona

Tombstone

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post

Sedona

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Montana

Billings

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield Indian Memorial

Beartooth Highway

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Nevada

Death Valley National Park

Luxor

Excalibur

Venetian

New Mexico 

Carlsbad Cavern

Palace of the Governors

Inn of the Anasazi

White Sands National Monument

Texas

Sixth Floor Museum

South Congress Avenue

Sixth Street

River Walk

The Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon

Temple Square

Wyoming

Snake River

Grand Tetons National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone Lake

Old Faithful

Lower Falls

Yellowstone River

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park

Denali National Park

California

Universal Studios

HOLLYWOOD sign

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Walk of Fame

Rodeo Drive

Golden Gate Bridge

Chinatown

Redwood National Park

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

Pacific Coast Highway

Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial

Lanikai Beach

Volcanoes National Park

Waimea Canyon

Oregon

Haystack Rock

Columbia River Gorge

Mt. Hood

Historic Columbia River Highway

Crater Lake

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

The Lair of the White Worm and the Night Stalkers

24 Nov

It is a time to write. Alas, what is there to write about? I only know that it feels like a time to write. In other words, it feels right to write.

Last night, I was reminded that there is an awesome movie called The Lair of the White Worm. It came out in 1989 and was a big hit with my running crew. It starred Hugh Grant and Amanda Donohoe. She was a lot better at her role than he was at his. We watched it a lot of times, but I just found out that it is based on a work of Bram Stoker. I am sure he would be proud of what they did with it.

Here is a funny story. I was dating a young lady and asked if she wanted to watch The Lair of the White Worm. She thought I said Larry the White Worm and assumed it was a porn movie. That was a disastrous moment.

We went to Jamaica a few weeks ago. There is a post about it running through my mind, but I do not have it completely worked out in my mind. I need to write it before it goes stale. Anyway, I mention it because it is a good excuse to use this photograph. img_2134

Last week, I was fortunate enough to tour Fort Campbell, the military base that sits on the Tennessee and Kentucky border. It is home to the 101st Airborne, the unit from which Jimi Hendrix washed out. It is also home to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the Night Stalkers. I made a video of their water training facility. Unfortunately, I cannot upload that video. However, I can offer this photograph.img_2144

Hey, that it two photographs of swimming pools. One is for fun. The other one is definitely not for fun.

The room is turned into a small hurricane, and that mock helicopter is dropped into the water. The people inside have to get out. It was an intense thing to watch.

Oh yeah, Fort Campbell is named for William Bowen Campbell who lived in our little town of Lebanon.

Who was William Bowen Campbell? He was the 14th governor of Tennessee and was the state’s last governor from the Whig Party. He is buried in Lebanon’s Cedar Grove Cemetery.

I need to write more, but I fingers have stopped. My mind is at a roadblock created by more serious musings. When I am ready to bring those to the screen, I will let everyone know.

I Wrote This Instead of Writing Something Interesting

18 Oct

I had a detailed post in mind, but it involves a lot of writing, and I would rather not get into that tonight. Instead, I could write about Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize in Literature. I have seen him in concert a couple of times. He may be a great writer, but I could not understand a word that he said.

I could write about the World Series of Poker. I am watching an episode on ESPN. This is the first time that I have not kept up with the results. I was watching poker back in the days when Stu Ungar and Johnny Chan were winning. However, my interest crashed when the poker fad crashed. I reckon that I lost interest when everybody started watching and playing.

I could write about Dolly Parton. My wife just turned the channel to 9 to 5. However, I have already written about the time we saw Dolly in concert.interesting

I could write about Jamaica. We are going there in a few weeks for my wife’s cousin’s wedding. Was that confusing. There is a waterfall in Ocho Rios where they take all of the tourists. Years ago, a bunch of us climbed it. My friend fell on a rock and broke his tailbone. Is tailbone a medically correct term?

I could also write about the presidential race. No, I do not think I will.

I could write about the weather. That is what people usually talk about when they cannot think of anything else. It is still hot in mid-October. We no longer have four seasons. We have two.

Here is something that I can write about. Today, I learned that Howlin’ Wolf, the great bluesman, once lived in our town. This is something that I had never heard. Being the city historian, this disappoints me. Now, I am going to dig around and find out all I can about his time here.

That is all I have for this evening. Soon, I will write that post that involves a lot of writing.

 

Four Corners – Into the Valley of Fire

6 Sep

This day started with two people doing something special and two people doing something ordinary. My wife and my stepdaughter’s friend got up before daylight to see the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. My stepdaughter and I stayed in bed.

When they returned to the room, they talked about the spiritual experience, but they also talked about the crazy tourists who climbed over the fencing and walked to the edge of the canyon. They went to pray for the beauty that God created and ended up praying that these people did not fall to their deaths.image-53

Once their nerves were in order, we loaded the car and headed toward Phoenix. This meant doing something that we had not done in over a week – drive on an interstate. This was Interstate 40, which goes through our hometown. I asked if they wanted to drive home, but that suggestion was not well received.

Eventually, we turned south, and I noticed something on the thermometer. For the entire trip, we had comfortable temperatures that rarely climbed out of the 80s. As we got closer to Phoenix, the thermometer kept easing higher. It would eventually reach 112 degrees.

Before the trip, my wife and I decided that we would stop at two places on this day. The first was Montezuma’s Castle, an ancient Native American cliff dwelling. We had visited the site with my parents and thought the girls should see it. Surprisingly, we did not encounter much history on this trip, and we needed to see some.image-55

There is one thing I must say about Montezuma’s Castle. It was named after stupid Europeans who thought the Native Americans in this area could not have built such a thing. It must have been built by the Aztec because everyone knew that they had built a magnificent city. Now, the place is stuck with an inappropriate name.

Our next stop was another place introduced to us by our parents. We had to eat at the Rock Springs Cafe.image-54

This place is known for its pies. They have every imaginable kind, and they are all good. I was going to get something made of berries but ended up getting pecan. It is hard to beat pecan pie.

From there, we drove to our hotel in Scottsdale. It was hot. Really hot. It was dry heat, but it was extreme heat. I love Scottsdale in the winter, but I do not see how people live there in the summer. To beat the heat, we spent the day in the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. It was an expensive jaunt into the air conditioning, but the cool air was worth it.

We ended the day by eating at Barrio Queen Restaurante y Tequileria. The food was good, and the bathrooms were confusing. However, that is a political issue, and I do not want to get into that.

The next day, we flew home to Tennessee, but we all agreed that it was a fun trip. The people who followed us on Facebook and Twitter have said that it looked awesome. They were not wrong. It was an awesome trip, and I am ready to go back.

 

Four Corners – The Grand Canyon

28 Aug

Wow, a lot has happened since the last post about our Four Corners adventure. School started. I had to get a root canal. It has been an eventful series of days, but it is not time to write about our day at the Grand Canyon.

The day began at the hotel’s continental breakfast, but this was like no other continental breakfast. First, it was packed with people. Second, most of those people did not live on this continent. From the time that we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we noticed that people were speaking a myriad of languages. I tried to keep track with how many but lost count. All I know is that people were from all over the world.

This brings me to another point. I have always said that the Grand Canyon is something that everyone should see if they get the chance, and we were surrounded by people who traveled from around the world to see it. However, there are people in the United States who will not go. I understand that not everyone can afford it. I am writing about the people who do not go because they are too focused on going to the beach and eating shrimp cocktail while drinking a margarita. This is a great country with a lot of great places to visit, but people keep going to the same old places. A ton of people followed our trip on Facebook and talked about how fun it looked. They talked about how they would love to do something like that. Well, you cannot see the Grand Canyon in the panhandle of Florida.

Alright, my rant is over. Now, it is time to get on with the fun. On this morning, we had plans to do something that I had always wanted to do. We flew in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. I think everyone was nervous, but it could not have been a better experience. As we flew to the canyon, music played in our headphones. We had a feeling that we were close when they starting playing the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know, the same music that Elvis used to come on stage with. Then, the land under us disappeared.

We got some great pictures.

Like this one.image-45

And this one.image-46

And this one.image-47

However, this is my favorite.image-44

After the helicopter ride, we went to the National Geographic Visitors Center and watched an IMAX movie about the history of the Grand Canyon. Then, we drove to the edge of the canyon to buy souvenirs and take more selfies.

Then, we went back to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner. Not much happened in the afternoon, but I had an interesting experience in the hotel lobby.

I made myself ready for dinner and left the room to let the ladies get ready. I went to the lobby to read the newspaper and play on my phone. It was not as rushed as it was during breakfast, but there were people arriving to claim their rooms for the evening. There were two people, an African American man and an African American woman, working the desk.

Suddenly, a Japanese woman walked in and asked if they had a room available. Both desk clerks immediately said no. The lady left. A few minutes later, a tired and haggard white guy walked in. With his American accent, he said something like, “I guess you guys don’t have a room.” The lady said that she would look. She got on the computer and found a room for him.

Our nation is filled with racism. If we think that it is no longer a problem, then we can turn on the television for a reminder. In that lobby, I learned that racism can come in different forms. We, as Americans, can be racist in situations that I never realized. The Japanese woman was sent away without a thought. The white American was taken care of.

After that bit of enlightenment, we went to dinner at El Tovar, one of the Grand Canyon lodges.image-48

It was a great meal and a great way to end our day at the Grand Canyon.