Carson City, Colin, and Cozy Cabin

Monday, 28 August 2017

Carson City, Nevada to Lake Tahoe, California, about 35 miles

0828 Carson City Tahoe 33

Map credit: Google Maps 2017, courtesy AAA

We awoke to a bright sunny day in Carson City and decided to have some of our French silk pie from the night before for breakfast.  My, was it good – rich and chocolatey – and we didn’t even eat the whole piece.  Our plan for the day was to go see the capitol of Nevada and explore Carson City a bit and then drive the short distance to Tahoe early enough to enjoy the lake a bit and to get there before Happy Hour!

Carson City is not a big place, so it was easy to find our way into town, and we parked in a public lot behind the State Supreme Court, which is next to the silver-domed capitol building.  In between the court and the capitol is a lovely shaded greenspace full of monuments and lined with an arcade of leafy trees.  It was so cool and attractive there, especially on a hot summer day.  We saw a statue of Abe Curry, founder of the city, and Kit Carson, for whom the city was named.  There was a memorial to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty and a statue honoring the miners from this state, which probably became a state due to the wealth of mineral deposits found and mined here.


The capitol building, completed in 1872, is a Victorian building made of sandstone quarried from a local quarry (owned by Abe Curry) using prison labor (no extra cost to the taxpayers) and whose cupola was topped by a real silver dome, back in the day.  Today’s dome only looks like it’s the real thing.  It’s not a big building, nor is it lavishly decorated.  The walls are made of Alaskan marble and there is an interesting painted border at the top of the walls that honors the many different minerals, metals, and rocks that are (or were) so plentiful in the state.  The original Supreme Courtroom here was big enough for about a dozen people to sit in.  The legislative branch is no longer housed in this building, either, but the House chamber was still set up as it had been.  The Senate chamber is now a museum about the capitol and Nevada’s history, so we spent some time in there.

While in the museum, we ran into a young man in biking clothes, so of course, we started talking to him.  Turns out he is riding his bike from Boston to San Francisco (and moving there) and we’re pretty sure he is the biker we passed on Highway 50 yesterday.  His name is Colin, and his blog is called No Edge Lines.  As I am writing this post, he is likely riding victoriously into San Francisco to the cheers of his friends and family.  Way to go, Colin!  We also met a Carson City resident and author named Don (check out his blog HERE), who told us about the city and some places to be sure to see and places we might want to eat.  Since it was getting on noontime, we decided it was time for lunch, so we walked a few blocks down to the Union, a new brewpub that Charlotte at the Hampton had recommended to us.  Good choice!

We sat outside (under shade) and started off with a shared flight of beer samples –  Peach Ale, Taco Truck Amber, Cherry Berliner Weisse, and a stout called Redheaded Stranger  – and a most satisfying heirloom tomato salad.  For lunch, Kim had a pepperoni and homemade sausage pizza, and I had a BLTA sandwich and a cup of onion lentil soup.  Our server, Heather, was so friendly and nice – we enjoyed chatting with her and with the two other tables of women out on the patio.  Since we were in no hurry, and since we were going to Scoups later for ice cream, we took time to enjoy another adult beverage.  Kim had a peach ale and I had the special of the day, a lavender lemonade (with a bit of gin).  One of the women next to us suggested that we go to the Nevada state museum, so when we were done, we headed that direction.  Sadly, it was closed on Monday, so we followed the blue line on the street per Don’s recommendation and went to see the home of Orion Clemens, former Secretary of the Nevada Territory and brother of ne’er do well Samuel, who became famous as Mark Twain after moving in with Orion to serve as his secretary and to get his act together.  Samuel went on to become a newspaper editor in nearby Virginia City, and well, you know the rest of the story!  The home is now a law firm, and was across the street from a sweet little Episcopal church which had won an award for the best stop on the Wine Walk.  My kind of church!

We were getting pretty hot and it was getting late, so we walked on down to Scoups, which is famous for its ice cream and for its soups, hence the name.  Kim splurged and had a brownie sundae with salted caramel ice cream and I just had a scoop of salted caramel with chocolate sauce.  Oh boy, did that hit the spot.  The ice cream parlor was right next to a splash pad where a mom was watching her two kids run through it in their bathing suits.  I was still so hot that I made them (and anyone else watching) laugh as I ran through the cold water, fully clothed.  Gosh, did that feel good!  And my hair looked great afterwards…

We walked back through the arcade on the capitol grounds and got ready to go to Lake Tahoe.  Laura had warned us to be sure to gas up in Nevada, so we made that stop on our way out of town, and it wasn’t long before we saw the huge blue shimmering water between the trees and mountains.  We also passed Colin going up the mountain, so we honked and waved at him.  If you have never been to Tahoe, I highly recommend it!  I had been here several times before, but it was a new experience for Kim, and it was new for me to have such a perfect place to land for a few days!  Thanks, Laura and Don!

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Our first glimpse of Lake Tahoe

Laura is one of my Facebook friends who I had gotten to know via pixels2Pages, and it just happened that she saw a post about our trip one night a couple of weeks ago.  When she heard we were headed west, she asked if we would be coming to Tahoe, and since it was a big part of our plans, I answered affirmatively.  She insisted that we stop by to meet her and talk to her about what to do, as she has been summering in Tahoe for her whole life!  The Sassy Sisters never turn down an invitation like that!  As it turned out, it took us so long to get there that we ended up being invited to stay with them in the most delightful cabin directly on the beach of the lake!!  It could not have been a more perfect place to stay! Laura is a great cook and Don is a fab grill master, and we even got to do laundry!  We slept like logs and woke up to the most spectacular sunrises over a lake that looked like glass.  We had cocktails every afternoon at five and we delighted in the ducks and dogs that frolicked nearby.  We met neighbors (lifelong friends of Laura and Don) and we had a blast sitting by the lake sharing stories and becoming ‘old’ friends.

I had read Colin’s blog to Kim as we were driving to Tahoe, and we knew his plan was to stay a day or so here, so we contacted him and invited him to join us for dinner.  Laura suggested a place called Freshies that was not far from where Colin was staying, so we left Don watching football and took off to meet Colin.  Freshies was awesome – fantastic healthy and fresh food as well as wine and beer – and Kim, Colin, and I all had tacos, and they were so tasty.  Laura, Kim, and I peppered Colin with questions about his ride, his new job, his old job, his schooling, etc. and he was a good sport and filled us in.  It was quite dark by the time dinner was over, so we offered Colin a ride home in Laura’s Santa Fe (just like Kim’s).  He took the wheels off his bike and we crammed it in the back of the car and dropped him off at his motel.

 

Back at Laura and Don’s, we gave Don his stir fry (I’m sure he was about to gnaw on his arm by then!) and we just sat and chatted and looked at photos and blogged a bit until time for bed.  What a fabulous day!

 

Hair Today, Lincoln Tomorrow

Wednesday, 23 August 2017
Jefferson City, MO to Lincoln NE, ~ 400 miles

0823 Jeff City to Lincoln route 400

Map credit: Google Maps 2017 courtesy AAA

Kim and I arose to almost chilly temperatures in Jefferson City and drove a couple of miles west to Binder Lake park for a short hike.  Other than lots of bugs in the parking lot there, the walk was a nice one.  It was still very dewy, so we opted to walk along the road next to the perfectly still lake.  Except for one fisherman, the lawn mowers, and the garbage man, we were the only ones around.  We didn’t see much wildlife except for one heron who had staked out a good fishing spot, and the numerous frogs we heard but didn’t see in a lily-pad covered pond.

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Binder Lake State Park

After we showered and dressed, we back-tracked into the city to have breakfast at Oscar’s Classic Diner, which we chose based on its name (in memory of my fabulous father-in-law).  As expected, Oscar did not disappoint!  We had the most delightful server and breakfast was tasty – Kim had a ham and cheese omelet and I had eggs benedict, but over tomato slices and avocado instead of bread and meat.  We both had the grilled hash browns, which were delicious!  The other great things about Oscar’s were the décor – we ate right under Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and Bogart and Bacall – and the hysterical ladies room (Beauty Salon – Miracles Performed Daily!).


Finally on the road after 11 AM (we just cannot seem to get an early start no matter what…) we hopped on US 50 and headed west.  Kim had done some ‘places we might want to stop’ research and our first stop was not too far away – a water tower painted like an 8 ball in Tipton – and we thought it would just be a fun photo op/drive by.  Until we read a note that said the parking lot of the Dutch Bakery was a good place to take the photo….of course we had to go in!  At least 30 minutes later, armed with snacks for the road, we were off.

A little later down the road, we came upon the town of Sedalia and saw a giant structure covered in white sheets.  Wondering if some humongous Civil War monument was under wraps, we veered off to investigate.  We still aren’t sure what it was – our best guess is a water tower being painted – but we loved the quaint little downtown and ended up spending another 30 or 45 minutes walking around.  We learned that Scott Joplin invented ragtime here, and we went in a wonderful old hotel that was where Harry Truman launched his political career.  There was a fabulous old theater that has been turned into an art gallery and several colorful murals painted on buildings, and we saw our second Statue of Liberty (so far).  You may be understanding now why we don’t make particularly good time on these trips…

Back on the road, we were determined not to stop again until we made it to our next planned destination, Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence.  I will tell you that since Kim had made this list, I wasn’t sure what to expect at a hair museum, but what we saw at Leila’s wasn’t it!  In my next lifetime….  It was fascinating, for sure, and very unique, as was Leila, who gave us a private tour.  Leila is 85 years old and she has been collecting hair art since 1956.  She is also a cosmetologist and she teaches hair art lessons now.  She has written three books and is working on a fourth, and she has the largest hair art collection in the world.  Possibly the only one…

So here’s the thing – hair art dates back centuries, but became mostly extinct with the advent of family photography.  Women used to ‘embroider’ with hair from different family members, thus making a unique family tree – imagine what you could learn about your family with all of that DNA!! – and these flowers/vines/nuts/etc. made from hair were put together in a way that made a pretty arrangement and then framed in boxes lined with satin (think inside of a coffin, because that’s often who made the hair art boxes).  Anyway, you’ve probably never seen anything like it!  There was more – gentlemen had watch chains made from the hair of their wives/mothers/lovers – and all sorts of things.  You have to see it all to believe it, and we were not allowed to photograph anything in two of the rooms of the museum.

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By the time we left Leila’s, we knew we would not make it to Topeka in time to tour the capitol building, but we decided to go anyway.  I have done the Kansas state capitol tour, so we thought we’d just photograph the outside and find a place to eat before continuing to Lincoln for the night.  Good call!  We got great shots of the capitol and the sculptures around it (including the Statue of Liberty) and we saw the outside of the First Presbyterian Church which is famous for its Tiffany stained glass windows.  We tried several doors….


The best thing that happened in Topeka was dinner!  We found a little restaurant called the Rowhouse that was just a few blocks from the capitol – what a gem!  It was in an old row house (surprise!) and it served a set prix fixe menu, so we didn’t even have to make decisions!  The dinner was five courses, including three small entrée servings and three desserts (!!) and it was divine!  Since it had been a long time since breakfast (no snacks, either!), it hit the spot!  And Zach, our waiter, was just great.

Sufficiently sated but not stuffed, we turned north and rolled into Lincoln well after dark.  Another day of adventure in the books!

Over the Rivers and through the Fields

Tuesday, 22 August 2017
Paducah, KY to Jefferson City, MO, ~300 miles

0822 Paducah to Jeff City 300

Map credit: Google Maps 2017, courtesy of AAA

We decided to walk down by the river this morning, so we parked near the new Holiday Inn and walked along Riverfront Park.  The Queen of the Mississippi was in port, so we got a better look at her this morning.  Once we got to the Crounse Corporation, we started walking down the street, and before we knew it, we were just walking up and down blocks and blocks of Paducah’s downtown, snapping photos and having a little stroll down memory lane, trying to remember which storefront was which, back in the day.

We walked over to Lower Town and took pictures of some of the decorated fire hydrants and looked at the houses and studios.  If you don’t know about Paducah’s Artist Relocation program and the Lower Town Arts District, please check it out HERE.  It’s one of the main reasons Paducah is a UNESCO city for creative arts.  We then made the fateful decision to have breakfast at Gold Rush.  No problem with the food – we just got ‘accosted’ by a totally crazy woman who sat down next to us and talked non-stop (to us) the entire time we were there.  And when I say crazy, I mean seriously mentally ill.  It was sad, truly, and it did put a damper on our day, at least for a little while.  As soon as we could escape gracefully, we did, and we stopped by the Visitor’s Bureau to say goodbye to Mary, then we stopped by the River Discovery Center to see if there were any eclipse t-shirts left.  No luck!

We drove back to the hotel and got cleaned up and loaded the car, and we were off, but not until after noon!!  Kim bravely decided that she could drive across the old, narrow, iron grate-bottomed, scary Irvin Cobb Bridge over to Brookport, Illinois, so off we went, with no plan and no paper map of Illinois!  We opted to cross the Mississippi at Chester instead of going all the way to St. Louis, and on the way we went through Metropolis, Vienna, Anna, and Jonesboro.  We went through a bit of a hard rain between Vienna and Anna, but it had almost stopped raining by the time we saw a sign for the site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.  It doesn’t take much for us to stop…

As we drove into Chester, we noted that it was the home of Popeye (the Sailor Man) and his assorted motley crew, so again, we were forced to stop for some photo opportunities.  Kim crossed another old bridge here, and we went from being high on a bluff to in the flatlands of Missouri.  Before long though, we were in some hilly-ish country.  As usual, we opted to stay off of interstates as much as possible, but we did have to hop on for a few miles to get up to Festus.  Shades of Gunsmoke!

From looking at the map, it looked like we could make it to Jefferson City for the evening, and it also looked like our best chance for a meal before then was in St. Clair, a little town on Route 66.  We had eaten at the Lewis Cafe there for breakfast back on our second Route 66 venture back in 2007, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the restaurant was still open!  Since they butcher their own meat, we opted for burgers and shared a plate of homemade onion rings.  And since they had pie….

Once done with dinner, we made our way to Missouri’s capital city, arriving at our hotel before 8 PM!  Since we had toured the capitol building on our 2010 road trip, we did not need to redo that, even though the capitol is one of my favorites – and it is massive!  We spent our evening looking through photos and blogging, and wondering where the next day would find us!

 

To the Outer Banks!

Graham to Corolla, NC

Today we got to spend more time with Elliot – mornings are so fun when you don’t have to rush! Of course, not rushing meant we had to forego some Dana time….. We got to Durham about an hour after we had planned, so we popped in on the Mah Jongg game to say hello before heading to Monuts for breakfast.

If you haven’t made it to Monuts (where Magnolia Grill used to be on 9th St) yet, do yourself a favor and get over there! See photos and drool.

Since we had to go to Raleigh anyway, we decided to go to the Capitol. It will win no awards in our book, other than being the only ‘Capitol’ we’ve been to that didn’t appear to really be the Capitol. It was a museum where very little legislating or adjudicating takes place. Hopefully some governing does….

Our next stop was Manteo, but we arrived there the same time a thunderstorm did, so we crossed the bridge for the Outer Banks and turned left. We ate an early dinner (no lunch or snacks) at The Blue Point in Duck.  We were lucky to find a room at the Hampton in Corolla, and it was right on the beach.

After dinner, we walked on the beach until well after dark. Oh, it’s good to be on the Carolina coast again!

Raleigh

NC State Capitol, Raleigh 2015

It’s Been a Little Crazy Around Here!

I’ve been on the road again, and it’s gotten a little bit crazy, even for me!  Hop in, fasten your seat belt, and I’ll take you on a quick whirlwind trip…

It all started at the end of September.  I got in my little blue Prius and took off for Atlanta, where I was going to be doing a pixels2Pages LIVE event for some of friends who had hired me to represent pixels2Pages at their fall digital retreat, and I was so excited!  Armed with the audio book version of Winter of the World (second in Ken Follett’s newest trilogy – excellent series!), I was off!  Sadly, as usual, my 10 AM ‘want to leave by” passed my 12 Noon “hope to leave by” but I was pleased to get away at 1 PM before my “HAVE to be on the road by” 2 PM.  That meant I rolled into Montgomery, AL just a tad bit after midnight.  I was on the road early Friday (well, it was before 8 AM!) and made it to lunch with the gang before the food got to the table.

What a fun weekend we had!  Almost fifty digital croppers spent the weekend learning and practicing what they learned.  There were even a couple of women from Florida and two from South Carolina in attendance!  I did my best to help people learn their way around the brand new website.  And boy, was I ever glad the site had FINALLY gone live a few days before!

Before I knew it, the weekend retreat was drawing to an end.  I had such a good time visiting my old friends, meeting new ones, and sharing my love for pixels2Pages.  Thanks, friends, for having me!  Sunday afternoon I set off for Memphis, where my sister lives.  I finished the audio book just a few miles before her house – perfect timing!  I loved driving through north Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi on roads I hadn’t been on in years.  It was a relaxing drive through pretty country.

Kim and I were taking a road trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan, at the invitation of p2P fan Kathleen.  We were so excited – we had never been there before!  Kim was supposed to play in a golf tournament on Monday, but it rained, so we decided to head up the road to our hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, that afternoon.  As luck would have it, our friends saw from our Facebook posts that we were headed that way, and before we got there, we had dinner plans with the girls and a place to stay!  We met our friends Judy, Mary, Mary, and Jan at Doe’s Eat Place where we wolfed down good eats and shared the famous Chocolate Cobbler.  Oh my, it is so good!  Judy got us tucked in and then out the next morning (after homemade blueberry waffles!) and our northern adventure began.  Did I mention it was in the 90’s when I left Tiki Island?

Our route took us up through western Kentucky and across the Ohio River at Owensboro.  We stopped in at Santa Claus, Indiana, in hopes of finding some Frozen Hot Chocolate at Candyland, but it was closed.  Sad face.  On we went to Indianapolis, where we would be staying with Pixie Carolyn.  First, a detour to Nordstrom for Kim to try on her mother-of-the-groom dress and for me to buy some appropriate clothing – warm PJ’s, a pair of Uggs (I had flip flops!), and some socks.  We met Carolyn for dinner and then spent a lovely evening chatting at her house.

The next morning, once we finally woke up (!), we had breakfast and headed for northern Michigan.  We quickly realized that we would not make the last ferry of the day, so the pressure was off.  We were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage, and we stopped in Lansing to visit the Capitol and we even made a side trip there to visit an old high school friend.  We stopped in Grayling at Dawson & Stephens Diner and Coke Museum (what a treat!) and it was o’dark thirty when we rolled into Mackinaw City.  But bright and early the next morning, we were on the ferry and meeting Kathleen on beautiful (but foggy) Mackinac Island.

We spent a lovely day exploring the island by foot (no cars allowed – bikes, feet, or horses are accepted modes of transportation) and the sun came out and the temperature was pleasant tee shirt weather.  We met Janice, Katrina, and Connie, and we were loving the slower pace that Mackinac offers.  Carolyn and Tameka arrived after the cold front the next afternoon.  By the time they got there, I had bought a warm windbreaker, a couple of long-sleeved shirts, a scarf, and a hat!  Good thing I wasn’t flying!  I’ll share the rest of the Mackinac adventures on my pages – at this rate, we won’t get far!  Suffice it to say that Kathleen’s hospitality is boundless and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay!  Thanks, Kathleen, from the Sassy Sisters!

By the time we left the island on Sunday, it was still cold but the trees were GLORIOUS!  We took Highway 119, aptly named the Tunnel of Trees, and ate delicious pot pies at the Good Hart General Store.  We parted ways with Carolyn and Meka and made it to Kankakee, IL, in time for my weekly p2P call.  We made it back to Memphis the next day, after detours to the Corvette place in Effingham, a hike in the woods at Fern Clyffe, ice cream at Parker’s Drive In in Paducah, and a stop at mom’s house (wish she were still there….)

The next day was all business for me, as I needed to be back on Tiki before Rex got home (about an 11 hour trip!)  I made it with 15 minutes to spare, and then we turned around and drove into Houston for dinner with some of his college friends.  At least I had time to change clothes and freshen up!  You’ve probably lost count, but it was now Tuesday evening, 9 October, and I had four high school friends (from Paducah!) coming in for the weekend on Thursday!  Needless to say, I did laundry, went to the grocery, cleaned house, cooked, got a haircut, and checked in on mom.  And I was ready when they flew in Thursday afternoon!

As always, we had a fantastic time and the weekend came to an end all too soon.  Last Monday morning, when I took the girls to the airport, my flight left before theirs (only 15 minutes!).  What flight, you ask?  Well, I was headed to Tucson, Arizona, with my dear NC friend, Jenny, for a meeting of women entrepreneurs called ‘The Secret Energy of Money”.  I arrived at the Phoenix airport about an hour before she did, then we picked up a car, stopped at Z Tejas for lunch, and hightailed it to Tucson.

We had a fantastic week, learned lots, ate lots of Mexican food, and even got to spend a lovely evening with p2P Peep Martha!  She saw my Facebook post and came to our hotel for a drink and a bite to eat!  Thanks, Martha, for making the effort!  On our last day in Tucson, we took a walk up to a really cool waterfall on the hotel property and wished we had an extra day or so just to enjoy the Southwest scenery.  But no, we drove back to Phoenix Thursday night so that we could make our before 7 AM flight on Friday!

To view the photo gallery, click HERE.

You Can Go Home Again

I love to travel, especially by car.  I’ve been to all fifty states, most of them more than once.  In fact, I think Alaska is the only state I’ve only been to one time.  I’ve been to a lot of state capitols –  gone through security (for the few that have them!), signed their guest registers, taken tours, taken tons of photos, and marveled at the grandeur of some and the simplicity of others.

I’ve lived in four states – Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas.  A couple of years ago, my sister and I, who grew up in Kentucky, went inside the Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort for the first time ever.  Care to guess three other state capitols I have NOT been inside?  Bingo – Tennessee, North Carolina, and Texas! Why do we do that?  Why is it that we make it a point to see the unfamiliar while we ignore what’s in our own backyard?

I’m on the road again, with my sister, and we spent the past day or so touring eastern Kentucky, traveling on roads through counties we’d only heard of (our whole lives!) but had NEVER been near.  We sat through a traffic jam (due to a bad wreck) in Hazard (yes, that same Dukes of Hazzard Hazard!), stopped at farmers’ market in Corbin (home of the Colonel Sanders Cafe and Museum), sat down and listened to Loretta Lynn in Butcher Holler, gazed at the strip mines and the stuff that came out of them, passed through towns like Eighty-eight, Rowdy, Sassafras, Seventy-six, and Dice, and we started our day the best way – admiring a spectacular rainbow caused by Cumberland Falls.

We traveled on US highways, state highways, county roads, roads with four numbers that are barely over two lanes wide and are very curvy, parkways, scenic byways, and even a few miles (less than twenty!) on interstates.  We dodged critters – deer, dogs, cats, and raccoons – and saw (and smelled) plenty of evidence of those that didn’t get out of the way fast enough.  We delighted in the thousands of lightning bugs we saw last night, and we noticed that even the smallest of towns in eastern Kentucky seemed to have Dollar General Stores, Arby’s, McDonald’s, Subway, Long John Silvers, KFC, and of course, Wal-Mart.  A dismal commentary, in my mind!

We traversed the Daniel Boone National Forest, much of which probably hasn’t changed since Daniel Boone passed through, and we rode up the Country Music Highway.  We have a new appreciation for the other end of our home state, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we come back some day.  So what’s in your backyard that you haven’t explored?  What is it you don’t appreciate or that you just take for granted?  I’ll bet that if you made it a point to treat your home town or state as an exotic location, you’d find jewels just like we have!

SS KY state capitol

Kentucky State Capitol, Frankfort, 2009

20 States, 31 Days, 8453 Miles

I love road trips!  I mean, I really, really love them!  I just rolled in from my most recent one about 10:30 last night after being on the road for a month. and I already miss the feeling of waking up and not knowing what the day will hold for me and anticipating new and different sights, activities, weather, and foods.  I miss driving just to drive and seeing what there is to see; I miss the grandeur of US Capitol Buildings and the ordinariness of small town squares.  I miss wide open spaces, purple mountains majesty, amber waves of grain, and fruited plains.  I miss hearing the robotic, yet lyrical, electronic voice of Lee, our Australian Garmin guy and I miss the laughs my sister and I shared.  And I really miss the cool weather!

For the past five years, my sister Kim and I have taken a road trip, and this year’s was one of the best.  Of course, they’ve all been great fun!  This year’s was a little bit different for me, as I tacked on a couple of other trips on the front and back end.  First, I drove my cute little red Prius, Scarlett, from my home in North Carolina through Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin on the way to Showcase in Minneapolis with Pixie Anne riding shotgun.  Along the way, we stopped off and spent the night at Pixie Carolyn’s house in Indianapolis – it was so nice of her to have us, especially since she had never even met us!!  She even went out and got some super yummy desserts for us and put up with our late arrival and early departure.  Since Anne and I had a destination in mind and a timeline, we had to drive on the interstates and not make too many random stops, but we still managed to have a few adventures, share some wonderful road food meals, and get in plenty of laughs.

After Showcase, my sister flew to Minneapolis so that we could begin our long-awaited Pacific Northwest road trip.  Every year we have a route in mind, but not really a ‘destination’.  We have places we want to see and sort of an idea how we’d like to get there, but we’re very flexible.  We also try to have some sort of theme for the trip, and this year was no different, as we decided to visit as many state Capitols as we could along the way, hence the name of this year’s trip: “It’s a Capitol Idea!”  We also wanted to make sure we got to Washington and Oregon, as those were the only two states (of the lower 48) that Kim had not visited.

To make a long story short, Kim and I headed west through Minnesota, drove across North Dakota, dipped into South Dakota, peeked at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, spent a few days in the Big Sky country of Montana, lost our hearts to the beauty of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, crossed Washington, criss-crossed Oregon, crossed the southern part of Idaho, relaxed in the Tetons and saw the rest of Wyoming, traversed Nebraska, barely touched Iowa, went north to south and west to east in Missouri, and caught a corner of Arkansas before I dropped Kim off in Memphis.  We toured Capitols in St. Paul, Bismarck, Olympia, Boise, Cheyenne, and Jefferson City; we stopped at (but didn’t get to tour) the capitols in Salem and Lincoln; and I drove through the capitol cities of Charleston (saw the dome!) Indianapolis, and Madison, and we had already toured the ones in Helena, Pierre, and Nashville.  I even got my daughter Kim to tour the Arkansas state capitol in Little Rock on our way home from Texas!

Along the way we got to visit with several CM friends and benefit from their wonderful hospitality (major shout outs to Melode, Pam, and Nancy for their incredible hospitality!!) and we met lots of wonderful people who shared their love of their towns and states with us.  We tend to avoid interstates, so we get lots of chances to see the things that most of you tend to drive right past without even knowing they are there.  We went on hikes, saw waterfalls, learned all kinds of trivia in all kinds of museums, gawked in renovated hotels,  floated down a river, hiked up a mountain, had a close encounter with a rattlesnake, petted alpacas, spotted bald eagles, saw giant animals sculpted out of junk, panned for sapphires, watched a laser light show on the face of a dam,  toured abandoned underground cities, bordellos, and prisons, walked across and over an interstate, were awed by incredible sunsets, and ate way too much delicious food.  In short, we had a BLAST!

And for me, the fun wasn’t over when I dropped Kim off in Memphis – I drove on to Little Rock and caught a flight to Houston, where I got to spend a few days with my husband at what will soon be my new home near Galveston.  After that, I flew back (with my daughter) to Little Rock and then we drove back here to North Carolina.  As I write this, the car has been unloaded but the suitcases are not unpacked, the mail hasn’t been touched, and the fridge is still empty.  But…just over 3000 digital images have been sorted, ranked, and edited in Memory Manager, and many of them have been shared on facebook.  The hardest part of the job has been done!!

ND Enchanted Highway

Buffalo, Bismarck, Big Bugs, and Bears

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Jamestown ND to Medora ND ~365 miles

Bugs!

After a fantastic night’s sleep at the Jamestown Quality Inn (which was packed – where did all of these people come from??) we repacked our bug-spattered car (ick!) and headed out in search of breakfast.  We tried a place across the street which didn’t open until eleven, but some of the women working there pointed us in the direction of the Depot Cafe downtown.  After a bit of searching we found it, in the “mall”.  It was a happening place, although we were the youngest patrons in there by about 20 years.  But they knew how to make a good breakfast!  The place was full of railroad memorabilia and all of the menu items had train names.  Kim and I both had “The Fireman”, a ham and cheese omelet with hash browns and toast.  Good way to start the day!

Breakfast at The Depot Cafe

After a short ride through downtown, we arrived at Frontier Village and the National Buffalo Museum – what a great time we had! Frontier Village was great – an old West street lined with museum quality shops and services – a newspaper office, post office, saloon, blacksmith, dentist’s office, barber shop, church, school, law office, bank, general store, etc.  Writer Louis L’Amour grew up in Jamestown, so there is a Writer’s Shack that honors him and his books. There was a stagecoach, so we paid our $5 fee and hopped aboard.  What a ride! We were practically hysterical!  It was fun for ten minutes, but we determined that we would have been whiny pioneers!  We rode out of the village and past a few buffalo grazing, then returned back to the stagecoach station.  From there we walked down to see the World’s Biggest Buffalo, which is one of Hampton Inn’s Landmarks.  We first discovered these mostly restored pieces of Americana on Route 66, and now we are on the lookout for them.  It was a big buffalo, all right – 60 tons!!  We walked through and looked at most of the exhibits, then drove down to the buffalo museum to try to see White Cloud, an the only female albino buffalo in North America.  It was a hot day (for North Dakota) so she was down in the shade of the trees, pretty far away, but we got a few photos of her.  It was almost noon and we had not gotten on the road, so we opted to skip the museum and get going.

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown ND

Our goal today was to get to Medora, in extreme western North Dakota.  We had been duly warned about the boringness of North Dakota, so we had searched high and low for places of interest so that the drive wouldn’t just be interstate all the way.  Our first detour took us south of Jamestown to pick up a section of “A Very Long Straight Road” which goes from Hickson to Streeter, North Dakota.  They were not exaggerating!  What we didn’t expect along this straight road through the prairie was lots of water!  And it came right up to the road, in lots of places!  It appeared that some of the water had appeared unexpectedly and had flooded out areas.  There were even seagulls!  What was really odd was that it wasn’t clear from where the water came – no rivers, just seemingly random ponds and lakes.  We enjoyed the drive out in the country and on our own. Shortly after the town of Gackle (spelled out in red, white, and blue tires) we turned back north and rejoined the interstate, headed for Bismarck and another state capitol.  Best things about the interstates out here – no traffic (NONE!) and 75 mph speed limits!

A Long, Straight Road

On the way to Bismarck, we passed the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane in the town of Steele.  It was behind the Lone Steer Motel/Cafe/Lounge and there was a pretty little memorial garden there.  It was a nice little diversion…

World's Largest Sandhill Crane

The North Dakota state capitol in Bismarck is one of only four capitol buildings in the US that are skyscrapers (you may remember the Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge from last year’s trip, and Florida and Nebraska are the other ones).  We didn’t think the building was very pretty from the outside, but we loved the art deco interior.  Again, symbolism abounded inside.  We had a wonderful tour guide, Taryn, who shared some of the fun facts about the capitol.  Here are a few things we learned: The sculptures in the huge Memorial Hall represent farming and mining, the two largest industries in ND; the chandeliers represent heads of wheat, weigh 1000 pounds each, and contain 109 light bulbs each; the lighting in the House chamber represents the stars and moon at night, while that in the Senate chamber represents sunrise and sunset; the bronze doors of the elevators depict the pioneer experience; and there’s a really cool room that serves no particular purpose (it’s a back entrance to the Secretary of State’s office) that is lined in “monkey wood” – you can see the faces of different animals in it.  We enjoyed the views from the 18th floor, especially of the mall with “North Dakota” spelled out in flowers.  Across the way from the capitol was the state historical museum and a statue with Sacajawea and her papoose.

North Dakota State Capitol

From Bismarck, we went south to see Fort Abraham Lincoln, but when we got there, we learned that the park had just closed (at five PM), so we turned around and visited the ND Veterans’ Cemetery next door, then continued west, bound for the Enchanted Highway.  But first, we saw the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, “Salem Sue”, a statue of a cow so big (38 feet high and 50 feet long!) that we could easily see her from the interstate.  We just took pictures from the road and chose not to stop for this one.  Erected in 1974, Sue honors and advertises the dairymen of the area, their superior herds, and the production of high quality milk.

Salem Sue, World's Largest Holstein Cow

The Enchanted Highway runs from Regent, ND, to the interstate due north, and it is lined with some of the World’s Largest (are you spotting a theme here?) Metal Sculptures.  It was easy to see where to get off the highway, as “Geese in Flight” holds the Guinness World Record as the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.  It was erected in 2001 and is built of used oil well pipe and oil tanks.  Other sculptures along the way were The Deer Family (2002), “Grasshoppers in the Field” (1999), “Fisherman’s Dream” (2006), “Pheasants on the Prairie” (1996), “Teddy Rides Again” (1993), and “Tin Family” (1991).  Which one is your favorite?

"Geese in Flight" World's Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture

On the Enchanted Highway, we saw lots of pheasants by the road.  They hang out right along the sides of the road (something we had noticed on our Roadside Giant Tour in 2007) and this year I even got some good photos of them!  We also saw beautiful fields full of sunflowers in full bloom (second largest cash crop in ND) and we enjoyed the rolling green hills dotted with big rolled bales of hay.  By the time we got to Dickenson, we were pretty hungry, so we stopped at the first place we found, El Sombrero, and wolfed down some pretty good Mexican food.  It was dark by the time we pulled into Medora, so we found our hotel and lugged in our stuff.  We loved having our own little Teddy bear to greet us!

Teddy!

Thinking North Dakota was a lot more fun to cross than Kansas,

Jan

Day 2 Jamestown to Medora ND

Far to Go, Getting to Fargo

This year, I’m not adding as many photos to the blog, but clicking on each photo will either lead you to a hyperlink about the topic or to an album of related images on facebook.  Enjoy!

Monday, 2 August 2010

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After enjoying one of the best and most memorable Creative Memories Showcases of my 16 year career, it was hard to say goodbye to some of my dearest “old” CM friends and also to my new Pixie friends, but it was time for the next adventure to begin.  Kim flew into MSP from Tennessee and she, Anne, and I shared a room out near the airport on Sunday night.  None of us slept all that great, so we were up EARLY (read before 7 AM!!).  More goodbyes, and Anne headed off to the airport while Kim and I caught up on emails, briefly planned our day’s itinerary, and got ready to go.  You would think that we could have gotten away in a reasonable amount of time, but if you know us, you know that wasn’t happening…

Packed Prius!

Eventually, the car was packed (I am not using the term loosely!) and Kim and I left the comfort of our Hampton Inn with breakfast at Mickey’s Dining Car in St. Paul on our minds.  However, we put “Mickey’s Diner” in the Garmin, and so we ended up being not where I thought we were going… but, all things happen for a reason!  We were right in front of a US Post Office, and I had t-shirts to mail to Australia, so in we went.  Wow, what an amazing experience it was for both of us.  First, there was not a line – only one person there ahead of us – and then, without us saying a word, a postal employee started asking us questions and HELPING us!!  Before we left, he knew all about the Sassy Sisters and our trip, and we knew about his teenaged daughter’s driving lessons.  But back to breakfast!  We opted to just hang at this Mickey’s (I’d eaten at the other one before) and we were not disappointed.

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Minnesota State Capitol

Once fortified, our first stop of the day was to visit the state capitol of Minnesota.  In the 14 summers that I’ve found myself in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, I’ve never once been to the capitol, so it was time!  The capitol building is beautiful!  Although there was a good bit of scaffolding up, it was still a treat to see a HUGE gold structure high above the entrance to the building.  The Minnesota State Capitol was built starting in 1896 and it opened in 1905, and was designed by Cass Gilbert, the architect who designed the Woolworth Building and the US Customs House in NYC, the US Supreme Court, and several other state capitol buildings.  The building is a traditional dome, and the paintings and detail work found on the ceilings was incredible!  One of the things I find so interesting about capitol buildings is all of the symbolism and thought that went into their design and construction.  Minnesota’s ceilings had a lot of blue, and the letter ‘M” was prominently featured throughout, as well as ‘l’etoile du nord’ (the North Star). The legislative chambers were gorgeous – one chamber had the preamble to the Declaration of Independence in an arch over figures representing early settlers of the state, and famous explorers were represented in each corner of the ceiling.  The Supreme Court room was not as elaborate, but it was still full of symbolism.  The highlight of the tour was getting to go up a spiral staircase that led to a sort of balcony that surrounded the dome.  The door opened out onto lots of scaffolding and a party of three workmen on break, but we were able to get close-up views of the fabulous gold statue called the “Quadriga”, which was designed by Daniel Chester French, who designed the Lincoln Memorial.  The statue is really covered in 23 carat gold!  From here, we had spectacular views of the mall, the cathedral, and Summit Avenue, which has the largest collection of original Victorian architecture in the US.

Cathedral of Saint Paul

Our next stop sort of had to involve a drive down Summit Avenue and a tour of the Cathedral of Saint Paul.  The cathedral was amazing!  Very reminiscent of St. Peter’s in Rome, although much smaller, it had stunning stained glass windows and a couple of small chapels in addition to the main altar.  The biggest surprise, though, was a copy of Michelangelo’s “La Pieta” that was one of four made from a cast of the original sculpture.  It was magnificent! I didn’t realize that it was the only one of his works that was signed, so I had to stay long enough to find and photograph his name.

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From Summit, we went down the hill into downtown St. Paul in search of my favorite store, Candyland, and one of my favorite treats, chocolate covered potato chips!!  On the way there, we passed Mickey’s Dining Car, so Kim knew I wasn’t making it up!  She loved Candyland, too, but she has been on a major exercise/weight loss kick since May (and she looks great!!!) so she exercised great restraint and only got two turtles. But just being surrounded by all that yummy candy and popcorn was enough!  And of course, we loved the statues of Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and Woodstock that were outside the door.  St. Paul is Charles Schultz’s hometown, and for several summers Anne and I had fun finding the brightly painted statues of Peanuts characters that were all over town.  It was after noon by the time we left St. Paul, bound for Fargo, North Dakota, and points between and beyond!

Flats at CM World Headquarters

Once I realized that our route would take us through St. Cloud, Minnesota, home of Creative Memories, I knew we would have to stop and let the “Flats” say hello.  In case you are clueless about the “Flats”, I’ll try to explain.  I work with a group of twelve other Creative Memories Consultants on a website called pixels2pages.net, and they are from all over the world – Australia, Canada, and the US – and the ones that were not able to attend our Showcase sent a flat version of themselves for photo opportunities.  Since I had them with me, it seemed only fitting to get their photos at World Headquarters!  Since I’d just seen my Home Office friends in Minneapolis, we didn’t stay and bug them – just took a quick look around the lobby and continued on our way west.

World's Largest Otter, Fergus Falls, MN

It had not taken long for us to tire of the interstate, so after St. Cloud, we looked for alternate routes to get us to North Dakota.  We enjoyed riding through small towns like Ashby and Fergus Falls.  We even made a brief stop in Fergus Falls to let Peppy see the World’s Largest Otter (Fergus Falls is in Otter Tail county) in a small little park that had a pretty lake full of ducks and other pretty birds.  Back on the road, I can’t tell you much, because I let Kim drive and I promptly fell asleep until we were about to cross into North Dakota.

The Pixie Flats Visit Fargo!

I’m not sure what I expected of Fargo, but in the summertime, it didn’t seem like a bad place to be!  It seemed pretty spread out with lots of malls and big box stores – a version of suburbia on the Plains.  We found our way to the tourist information center, which looked like a grain elevator.  We met a nice lady there (Fran) who gave us loads of maps and brochures – enough for not only ND, but also South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana!  She also gave us dinner recommendations, which was good, because we were starting to get hungry!  While here, we got some shots of the Fargo Walk of Fame and the painted buffalo out on the lawn.  We are so easily amused!

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Dinner was next – Santa Lucia Greek restaurant was the place that Fran had suggested, and she didn’t steer us wrong!  From the cold, sweet Peach Bellinis to Kim’s gyro platter and my European style seared pork tenderloin, it was the perfect road food for us!  Breakfast was starting to seem a long time ago!  After dinner, we went just across the street to the mall to see the Roger Maris Museum.  For those of you who didn’t know us when, Kim and I were HUGE baseball fans, especially St. Louis Cardinal fans.  You probably know that Roger Maris played for the Yankees and in 1961 he hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth’s single season record, but you may not know that he played his last two years of baseball (67 and 68) in St. Louis. leading them to win the World Series against Boston in 1967 and taking Detroit to seven games in 1968.  Kim and I sat, enthralled, in seats from Yankee Stadium, and watched a video about Roger’s career.  We were heartened to learn that he loved his time in St. Louis!  They had lots of great memorabilia, including real crowns for the Sultan of Swat – who knew?

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We took a short cruise through downtown Fargo – lots of great neon and a real “step back in time” feel – and then enjoyed a gorgeous sunset as we headed west for Jamestown.  We really wanted to stop and see the ‘world’s largest collection of empty oilcans” in  Casselton, but it was too dark…

We still had a FAR way to GO!!

Jan

Day 1 St. Paul to Jamestown

Closed, on Mondays…

Lafayette to St. Francisville, Louisiana

It was another slow-starting morning!  We had lots of catching up to do, both on sleep and on blogging and facebooking and photos after our weekend in New Orleans.  We didn’t really have too much on our agenda today – we planned to learn a bit about Acadian culture, eat some good Cajun food, and visit our childhood friend Merrill in the capital city of Baton Rouge.  So it was after ten when we finally found ourselves at Dwyer’s Café (http://www.lafayettetravel.com/foodtour/acadianamornings/?id=26) in downtown Lafayette, ordering our sweet potato pancakes with sugar cane syrup and some eggs.  We sat outside on the patio, right on the main drag, where we could admire a beautiful mural painted on the side of a building across a parking lot from us.  A local couple joined us outside and we chatted with them throughout our meal.  That’s one of the most fun things about this kind of travel – we’ve met some really interesting and nice folks along the way!  We had read about this restaurant in several of our books, and it did not disappoint!  The pancakes were especially tasty – and healthy, too, right?  Oh, and just as we were leaving, Elvis, in the flesh, came walking in the door.  I couldn’t get a photo – sorry!

After breakfast, we drove downtown, looking for the Borden Dairy store where we planned to have a frappe’ later on.  We heard at breakfast that it was being renovated by its new owner, but that it was now open for business – good thing!  Sure enough, when we went by, the parking lot was full of workmen.  At least we knew where to find it when we were ready for ice cream!  Our next stop was at the Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center, which is home to a museum about the exile and relocation of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia and areas around there.  We’d also heard they had a very informative movie about the exile, too.  Turns out we got there in mid-cycle of the movie, and even though it appeared we were the only ones there, we would have to wait for the next show.  So, we took our time in the museum section, which was really well done.

In case you don’t know, this area of Louisiana has quite a storied history.  The Acadians were French immigrants who settled in and around the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.  When the French and Indian war began, the British expelled these people, who sailed around the east coast of America, only to be repulsed and denied safe harbor in any of the colonies.  They continued looking for a home, and eventually settled in the area that is now present-day Lafayette, Louisiana, and includes 22 parishes, which are now known as Acadiana.  The word ‘Cajun’ is a derivative of the word ‘Acadian’ and descendants of these people still speak a dialect of French and observe many of the traditions of their ancestors.  Many other peoples settled in this untamed, mostly unclaimed area of the Louisiana Purchase – native Americans were already here, and they were joined by Spaniards, Africans, Germans, English, and West Indians.  Many of these other cultures refer to themselves as Creole, but there has been a lot of blending of cultures over time.  All I know is the food is fantastic, the music unusual but fun to listen to and impossible not to move to, the language is like music to the ears, and the people are friendly.  What’s not to love?

The movie started eventually – a private showing for Kim and me – and even though it was very well done and quite moving, I found myself nodding off at times.  Kim said the movie was sad and she wondered why she was sitting there watching it while I slept!  But I didn’t miss it all!  You may be familiar with the Longfellow poem “Evangeline”, which is the story of two lovers separated by the exile of the Acadians.  Lots of roads down here (and other things, like businesses) are named Evangeline, which now we understand.  After the movie was over, we finished looking at the museum, and then we were off to explore Breaux Bridge and find some of the good restaurants we’d heard about there.  But first – we went back to town to get our frappe’, only to be direly disappointed – CLOSED on MONDAYS!!  Sadly, we were about to learn that this would be the theme for the day….

We soon found ourselves in Breaux Bridge, parking on the street, right in front of  Café des Amis.  That should have been our first clue…and indeed there on the door was the dreaded “Closed on Mondays” sign.  See what we missed at www.cafedesamis.com and you’ll know how bummed we were!  Okay, on to our next place, which was Champagne’s Breaux Bridge Bakery, allegedly serving breakfast and lunch and not to be missed.  Hmmm…maybe something has changed since the Road Food people rolled through, but I doubt it.  Didn’t look like much had changed in thirty or forty years, but believe it or not, there is a website!  Try http://www.champagnesbakery.com.  One room, no tables, no drinks, no parking, no menu, lots of cookies, and a handful of meat pies.  So we bought a dozen cookies for the road – two each of: the specialty of the house, a pink filled sandwich cookie, a similar looking chocolate crème filled cookie, some cookies that looked like Kim’s favorite, the Mexican wedding cookie, chocolate crinkles, macaroons, and brownies.  We crossed back over the bridge (yes, there really is one, built in 1950, crossing the Bayou Teche and topped by a giant crawfish) and went to the Visitor Information Center, rather than heading down a rural highway to get the best cracklin’s in the state (according to our breakfast friends) in a place that MIGHT just be closed on Mondays.

The nice lady there thought we should go back to Mulate’s, which we had seen on the way into town, for some good Cajun food, so we did.  Since it was about two thirty, the place was deserted, until we got there.  As is often the case, almost immediately the place filled up – four tables came in!  You’d be surprised how often that happens to us.  Anyway, we weren’t really hungry, but we had no idea where we were going that night or when we might eat again, and you’ve probably noticed that if we go too long without a meal, we might require medical assistance.  We split a catfish po’boy and that was just right!  The restaurant was dark and cool inside, and you could see there was plenty of room for dancing in front of the stage that, sadly, was empty this afternoon.  Looks like lots of famous area musical acts have played here, and we were sorry to miss that fun!  Get a shot of ear and eye candy at www.mulates.com and you’ll almost feel like you were there!

We called our friend Merrill in Baton Rouge, and it turned out she was waiting for us (sorry, Merrill!!) so we hopped on I-10 and skedaddled across the Atchafalaya Swamp, arriving in Baton Rouge in front of the Old State Capitol at about four.  We found Merrill, who we haven’t seen since Jr. High School (gotta love Facebook!) and went inside. I loved this old building!  It looked like a big castle, and on the inside, it had the most beautiful stained glass windows and dome!  We walked around a bit, noting what a pretty place it would be for a reception or party, and we didn’t find the missing statue of George Washington, either.  Want more info about it?  Go to http://www.nps.gov/history/NR/travel/louisiana/ocap.htm to learn more.  Even though it was warmish outside, we opted to walk down to the ‘new’ capitol building, which was built in about 1935.

The brainchild and pet project of then-Governor Huey P. Long (yes, of bridge fame!), it is the tallest state capitol building in the US at 34 stories!  The interior of the lobby and first floors is very ornate and looks like a capitol building that is out to impress – lots of naked women on murals on the ceiling and some pretty Art Deco features – but the tower was closed for maintenance so we didn’t get to see the view from the top.  As it turns out, Governor Long, aka the Kingfish, ran for US Senate and won, so he never occupied this building as governor of the state.  Even sadder, it was here in the back hall of this building that he was gunned down and killed by a mild-mannered-looking doctor when he was only 42 years old.  Long was a much loved and evidently much hated figure in Louisiana politics, and pretty much of a legend around here.  Anyway, you’ll want to see the capitol, so go to http://www.nps.gov/history/nR/travel/louisiana/cap.htm

I neglected to mention the outside of the capitol – it sits on a bit of a hill, looking out over a mall of sorts, complete with a huge statue of – you guessed it – Huey P. Long.  The front doors of the capitol are HUGE, and there’s lots of great statuary out front.  There are a lot of wide steps leading up to the doors – thirteen on the first section, each one labeled with the name of one of the thirteen original states and the date of its entrance into the Union.  After a landing, more stairs of the other states, in order of statehood, ending with Arizona, which I guess was the last state at the time the building was completed.  All in all, it was a lovely capitol and one more to add to our collection of capitol buildings we have seen and/or visited.  This trip has been kind of fun in that we’ve been through the capitals of each state we visited – Nashville, Tennessee; Frankfort, Kentucky; Jackson, Mississippi; and now Baton Rouge.  Technically, we were in Alabama for a few miles on the Natchez Trace, but we’ve both been to Montgomery before anyway.

As we walked back through downtown Baton Rouge, Merrill showed us some of the other great buildings there and told us how, like many other places, the downtown is finally being revitalized and people are starting to come back to their city again.  We are glad to see that happening all over the country and regret that the 70’s and 80’s had the influence on city centers that they did.  We still reminisce, as we did that day with Merrill, about our bus trips to bustling downtown Paducah when we were kids, getting dressed up, window shopping with our friends, and spending our allowances at the counters of Kresge or the booths of Walgreen’s.  Remember that strawberry pie, y’all??  Good times!  Speaking of – we sure were glad to find one coffee shop (Community Coffee – a local business) still open (just before 5, downtown!) so we could get that refreshing glass of iced tea – we were all HOT, HOT, HOT!!

We parted company with Merrill back at the Old Capitol, across the street from what used to be the Yazoo and Mississippi Railroad Depot and is now a museum, and we decided to go a little farther north since it was still pretty early.  We set our sights on St. Francisville, the second oldest town in Louisiana, and we took the Great River Road to get there.  This part of the GRR is often called Plantation Alley for all the lovely antebellum homes that used to line the land behind the levees of the Mississippi here in the Delta.  Of course, it first took us past the “Chemical Corridor” of Baton Rouge – evidence of the oil industry that still thrives here – we get to see all the sights!  Soon we were in rural Louisiana, passing fields of sugar cane that made me feel like I was back in Queensland for a minute!  Somewhere along the way we ended up on the west side of the river, and since St. Francisville was on the east side, we weren’t exactly sure how we would be getting over there.  Guess the navigator should have looked ahead!

Turns out a ferry boat ride was in order, and it looked like we might have just missed the one that supposedly ran on the hour and the half hour, which was not a good thing, since we were both feeling the effects of our two glasses of tea.  But we were in luck!  The guidebooks were misguided, and the ferry actually runs at a quarter past and a quarter to the hour!  Saved!!  Kim bravely steered us on board the ferry, following the directions of the boatman that no one else seemed to need.  I reckon most of the folks on this late afternoon ferry are on it twice a day, every day.  So it goes without saying that they all had a big laugh when the horn sounded and we about jumped out of the sunroof!  We ate some of our cookies to take our minds off the fact that there were no facilities on board, and that worked pretty well, in case you ever need a good remedy.  The ride was short and uneventful, the best kind, and soon we were leaving the ferry in a cloud of dust and making our way into St. Francisville.

You’ve likely guessed that St. Francisville was named for none other than THE St. Francis, he of the friend to birds and other animals.  The town grew up around one of the French Catholic monasteries that dotted this area of Louisiana, and it is home to many well-preserved homes and antebellum manors.  We had plans to see a few of these in the light of day, which was fading fast, but we had no plans for dinner or lodging.  We had called a few places on our way into town, but had not found a place to sleep yet.  No worries!  We pulled into a gas station to see what our options were, and when I looked up, it was to see a sign that said “St. Francisville Inn and Wine Parlor”, and we were right next door to it!  So, guess where we stayed?  See our digs at http://www.stfrancisvilleinn.com/

The proprietor, Laurie Walsh, couldn’t have been nicer, and soon we had a key to our B&B room with two beds, which is not an easy thing to find!  She also gave us a map of a walking tour and told us which restaurants were still serving (after all, it was 7:30!!!) and so around the corner we went, to George’s Feliciana.  Even though it was our only choice, it was a GREAT one!!  I thought I’d have a light supper of a shrimp remoulade salad and some corn and shrimp soup, and Kim opted for a shrimp po’boy.  Then we threw in an order of sweet potato fries, just because.  Well, when our order was ready, there was enough food on our tray to feed the whole restaurant!  I have to tell you, my soup was really yummy, but my salad, which was FULL of lemony shrimp and lined with huge chunks of avocado and tomatoes, was to die for!!  I ate every last bite!  Kim couldn’t begin to eat all of her sandwich, which must have had about a pound of fried shrimp on it and around it.  Needless to say, the BUCKET of sweet potato fries went largely untouched, which was too bad, because the ones we did eat were perfect.  We were not even tempted to even think about ordering pie, which looked yummy, too.  See what I’m talking about – http://www.georgesbr.com/FELICIANA/

I forgot to say that we had attempted to eat at a little place across the street at the V3 Motor Lodge, but the Baldwin Sisters were playing and they stopped serving soup and sandwiches at 7:30.  Got lucky, I guess!  Sometimes it pays to be slow.  We shuffled our over-stuffed selves back to our room to watch the rest of MNF (Go Colts!) and do a little blogging, even though we had no internet.  Can’t have everything, but now you know how easy it is for me to get behind on these trips!

I was sound asleep before Peyton was able to work his weekly miracle, but Kim saw the demise of the Dolphins and then could rest easy.  It was time to head north in earnest, but we sure have enjoyed our time in Cajun country!

Dem dere shrimps and crawdads, dey be so good!

Jan