Monday, August 31, 2009

Erie Canal and Niagra Falls


I visited with Kevin and Laura Robbins (and their lovely daughter Anna) on Sunday night. We all went to Davidson and went through the teacher training program together. Kevin and I were also soccer teammates, and he likes to tell folks that he and I "slept together" (we would share a bed at away games). Kevin is the king of the puns, and he did not fail me.

Kevin is pastor of the Lockport Alliance Church in Lockport, New York, outside Buffalo (a lovely municipality, I must say). I thank him now for nourishing me with more than food last night. I look forward to reading One Month to Live (Kerry and Chris Shook) as I travel in the next month.

Laura took me out to the famous Erie Canal. I had no trouble picturing barges being pulled by horses up and down it; an amazing engineering feat. It is now a great place to walk and has many parks and picnic areas along it. Here are a bunch of Canadian Geese, which seems appropriate as we were so close to Canada.

Laura made me laugh when we passed a gift shop, where she declared "they had a lot of TaT, but some nice things too." Ah, the influence of blogging!

It was a short jaunt to Niagra Falls. Wow, what a marvel of nature: so powerful! I got out on the U.S. side, which supposedly is not as beautiful, but I was mighty impressed! This photo is actually only a few feet from the bank.

I stopped at a casino on the Canadian side. The money is a different color, but the rules are the same. I managed to win a bit, even with the exchange rate. So now I am an international gambler. I took this photo of a Hummer in the casino parking lot; as it was in Canada, I used the international salute.

Now I am back with Aunt Sue; we went to the boat club for dinner with the Peter Jones family (two doors down the beach). The kids played bingo. So much like the Hunting Creek Country Club of my youth.

Tonight's beer was my favorite to date: "Burgee Red," a great name for a beer at a boat club. Turns out the boat club changed the name; the bartender told me afterward it is actually St. Ambroise by Canada's top microbrewery, Montreal's McAuslen Brewery.

Here, btw, is the view from Aunt Sue and Bobby's house. Family, look like anything similar?

Tomorrow Bobby and I go into Buffalo and see our dads' old house, and Nichols School. Then I am off to see my cousin Curtis Mills in Gloversville, New York.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cousins Round I (International Version)

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Saturday brought me over the border at Buffalo to Ontario, where a number of my cousins and my Aunt Sue have homes in the summer community of Ridgeway. This area is remarkably similar to the Cape Cod community where I spent many of my youthful summers, Menauhant in East Falmouth, Massachusets (I will get there by Labor Day).

I started the day in Cleveland, and visited the large and well-maintained Cleveland MetroParks Zoo. While much of the zoo is a bit institutionalized, they have an impressive indoor Tropical Rainforest built in the mid-90s, similar to the Tropical Rainforest exhibit we have in Seattle, only larger. I liked the use of mist throuhgout. The animals were behind glass so it wasn't horribly realistic, but they had great interpretive signage.

On grounds I met a Cleveland docent, Rachel, working a cart at the rhinocerous exhibit. She said she had never met a docent from another zoo before.

It was fun swapping stories with her. My favorite was about their colobus monkeys, some of which had painted tails. She said their line was it was because they were getting special training, and the paint was to easily distinguish them, but in fact a couple were troublemakers and they needed to be able to tell instantly which ones. I love getting (and giving) inside scoops like that!

In Erie, Pennsylvania, I saw this sign for Big Woodie's. Something about pepperspray, stunguns,and sugar free fudge struck my funny bone.

On to Buffalo, over the Peace Bridge into Canada. I had a fabulous evening with my Aunt Sue (on the left) and her three boys Peter, Bobby, and Ian, and their wives Debra, Julie, and Monica, plus assorted first cousins once removed -- this photo has Kendra and Leann, Peter's twins. The others were at a big end-of-season bash at the boat club.

These are all cousins I have not seen in eons, and the consensus is that we cannot let this continue. So we are talking a Jones family reunion, probably here in Ridgeway, as soon as next summer.

Today's beer: Molson, of course. I am in Canada, eh?

I will stay here a couple of days. Bobby and I are going to Buffalo Tuesday morning to see the house where our dads grew up, and Nichols, Dad's old school.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ernest Angley Makes Me Sick

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Sorry my adventures for Friday, August 28 are a bit late. Last night I called in to Seattle to join the annual draft for my Fantasy Football League. Three hour difference made for a late night. I do believe I have a decent team for once. Good luck, fellow KeMuLu Leaguers!

Yesterday I did a bit of blue highwaying through Ohio, leaving Cincinnati and ending up in Cleveland. First stop was the Chateau LaRoche, or Loveland Castle, in Loveland, Ohio, right on the Little Miami River. This place is cool, especially if you enjoy castles as I do. Harry Andrews built this imposing European-style castle pretty much by himself. Harry also enjoyed the company of young men. Starting as a scout troop, he called his group the Knights of the Golden Trail and vowed to build them a castle. That was in 1929. Harry was still building it when those boys were grandfathers, when he died 52 years later at age 91.

This photo is of Larry, who gave me a few insights on a slow day (though when I took this photo he was with other visitors). He is a volunteer ("I have no life") and his passion is for this castle as a member of the Knights of the Golden Trail, who continue to maintain the place. There were several men working the grounds yesterday. Larry further proved that you are happiest when you do what you love.

A lovely country drive along the Little Miami River brought me to Freedom Worship Baptist Church in Blanchester, Ohio. and the World's Largest Horseshoe Crab. Might seem a bit odd that a creationist church has a horshoe crab, but apparently they believe the horseshoe crab never evolved, so creationism is maintained. They also have a dinosaur out back in a play area. Whatever gets them in the door.

After a delay near Columbus due to thunderstorms (we were going 20 on I-71), I arrived at Biblewalk in Mansfield, Ohio. It consists of wax figures in religious scenes, all built by the congregates of the adjacent nondenominational Diamond Hill Cathedral. I asked if the dummies were modeled after congregates, but I was told they were purchased cheap from a defunct wax museum. Now that I think about it, I recall repurposed celebrities in the crowd scenes, like maybe Clark Gable or Elizabeth Taylor.

I did "Flip a Hummer" in the parking lot at Biblewalk (which seems sacreligious in a variety of ways).

Final stop was at Earnest Angley's Cathedral Buffet and Life of Christ Display (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio). This is part of Earnest Angley's Televagalism complex -- I am told that viewers are sometimes asked to press slices of bread on their screens for a blessing. I wondered if the bread in this institutional buffet was holy (or the salad bar for that matter).

I went primarily to compare their similar Life of Christ Display to Biblewalk, but alas, the Display closed at 4:30. I did dine, however, surrounded by folks that looked like they came from a Jim Stafford concert (see earlier entry for Branson). I can assure you the food is not blessed, as proven late last night. In the spirit of the place, see Proverbs 23:8.

After a night in Cleveland (I had hoped to see niece Eleanor at Case Western Reserve, but she was in Louisville after competing in the finals of the World's Championship horse show), I am off to the Buffalo area to see cousins on my father's side that I have not seen in eons.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted's Pail

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Today I stayed on blue highways from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. There were a few oddities to see along the way.

First stop was at Long's Furniture World in Franklin, Indiana, to see "Big John," the World's Largest Rocking Chair. This fact is debatable as there are lots of claims to the title, but Big John is darn big!

On a country road in Franklin is this grave in the middle of the road, expertly described by Murray in the comments. I do wonder if the traffic sign (I inset it in the picture) is a one-of-a-kind. I would think so!

Kids Commons in downtown Columbus, Indiana, is a place for kids to play and is also an interactive museum. It is home to the World's Largest Toilet, part of a giant house display. You can get into the toilet and climb down to the bottom, as I am doing here. Again no one around to take my photo so I improvished.

I travelled through Indiana corn fields to Greensburg, Indiana to see the Decatur County Courthouse. Apparently since 1870 an aspen tree has grown from the roof (not always the same one) with no visible means of nourishment. The joke is that it is fed "from the springs in the clock" (truly groan-worthy).

A high school friend, Gary Steier (and his wife Martha) put up with me in their home outside Cincinnatti. Gary and I have not seen each other since his undergraduate days at Vanderbilt, but recently became "friends" via Facebook. He insisted I come visit once learning of Ted's Great Adventure. And Martha was high school friends with a college friend of mine, John Willingham, in Columbus, Georgia. I continue to marvel at how small the world is, and in the power of friendship.

We had the world renowned ribs at the Mongomery Inn, which has been frequented by celebrities the world over like Bob Hope and George W. I know my ex-Cincy friends the DeGarmos are jealous, but not to worry, Mom D, I am bringing some sauce.

The beer is Ted's Pail Ale, the house speciality, the obvious choice for the occasion (and not bad!). And yes, it is spelled "Pail." It is named not for me or even Ted's Excellent Adventure, but rather for Ted Gregory, the Inn's owner since the 50s.

My animal encounter was with the Steier's adorable beagle, Peanut. I declare Peanut the second best beagle around, after my beagle Isabelle. Thanks for the puppy fix, Peanut!

Next I am off to Cleveland, with some more blue highways and oddities enroute.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Be True To Your School

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I used the Beach Boys tune as the title of this entry as I have spent several days in Louisville, the scene of my adolescence and consequently my high school days at Ballard High School. I have had the distinct pleasure of seeing several of my high school friends who are still in the area. I add a life philosophy to my journey: Be true to your friends and family. That is what is important to me.

It seems that they carry a bit of the life philosophy I had already picked up along Ted's Excellent Adventure: do what you love. That can either be in your work or in your passion. Sometimes work just supports your passion.

I am sorry I did not get pics of everyone; I located these on the internet.

Denny Cornett is somehow keeping younguns healthy in his pediatric practice, and has a passion for vintage motorcycles and race cars (and the garages to prove it!).

Walter Tunis works in a hospital by day to support his "real" job; he has been writing freelance music reviews since 1980 for the Lexington Tribune, and has a column and a blog: The Musical Box.

Sloane Graff is making the world a better place, particularily through Habitat for Humanity.

Christy Kayse Farrier is just out of a cast for ankle ligament damage and is an avid University of Kentucky fan (and is loving the Pitinio incident).

The pic I did get is of my BFF Bill Harting. I think we are twin sons of different mothers, to borrow the Dan Fogelberg album title. In fact I called his mother "Other Mother." While his work is unfulfilling, he has found a passion in photograhy/videography and has started doin weddings. Bill lives in Greenwood, Indiana; I travelled up there today from Louisville.

Two additions: first is a pic of Watterson Elementary School in Louisville, where my officemate Angela's sister works. I am sure the crossing guard thought I was some kind of creepy interstate stalker taking photos.

Finally a beer: I had another Odell Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO) offering: an IPA. Again nothing special.

Next I will blue highway across Indiana and Ohio, spending the night with another high school buddy near Cincy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kentucky State Fair

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Today Ellen and I went to the World's Championship Horse Show (is that grammatically correct?) at the Kentucky State Fair, where my niece Eleanor was competing. She finished third in her class, qualifying her for the finals on Thursday. This pic shows her after ripping the ribbon out of the presenter's hand. Needless to say she was pissed (she later told me she was "disappointed"). Also needless to say she missed today's first day of classes at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, where she is a freshman.

Ellen and I trooped around the Fair a bit, taking in the sights, the sounds, and the smells (definately the smells)! We truly saw all walks of life (and no, family, we did not find another "Georgie"). I do believe that the Kentucky State Fair has something every Kentuckian can sink his tooth into... (now that's groan-worthy!)

Here Ellen and I stand with Freddy the Farmer, who greets all the visitors (they use a hidden camera). We asked how big his pants were. He said they have a 96 inch waist.

We also enjoyed that unique State Fair delicacy, the Elephant Ear. It is fried dough; all sugary goodness.

Here is my first "Flip Off a Hummer" (with my CRV in the next space). It is at the Horseshoe Casino in Southern Indiana near Louisville.

Oh, yeah, beer. I have been twice to the Bluegrass Brewing Company. I enjoyed a sampler and found the Nut Brown Ale and Dark Star Porter good, but I loved the Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale. Aged in bourbon barrels, it takes on the bourbon smell and mellow taste.

I will likely go see the giant baseball bat at the Louisville Slugger facory tomorrow.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Into Kentucky

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Sorry, a bit late with this one. Last night was a late one, especially crossing into Eastern Time.

I am now in Louisville, the land of my adolescence. My sister Ellen lives here, along with numerous friends, so I will stay a few days. But I am sure you are all interested in my journey across Missouri and Kentucky to get here.

I decided to "blue highway" it, meaning to avoid interstates and use the backroads that appear blue on maps.

My goal was a meal at famous Lambert's in Sikeston, Missouri. Lambert's is well known for its home cookin' and especially their "thrown rolls," which are literally thrown to you across the restaurant. Nets are optional (seriously). I saw this place on the Travel Channel or Cooking Channel and could not resist.

I arrived at 3:30 on Saturday. There was an hour wait. Sorry, Lambert's, I had to experience you visually only.

Quick stop in Charleston, Missouri at Henry's Barber Shop. Supposedly he has the World's Biggest Hairball. Unfortunately, Henry's was closed Saturday. Too bad, I needed a trim. I did like the birdhouses.

I crossed the Mississippi over this narrow two lane bridge, touched down for a few hundred yards in Illinois, then another narrow bridge over the Ohio into Kentucky. That was a lot more intersting than an interstate crossing!

Next goal was the Pine Knob Theater, near Caneyville, Kentucky, an outdoor theater that has been around 23 seasons. I am not sure how. The show was Daddy Took The T-Bird Away, a vehicle to perform 50s songs. It was awful. I have seen many high school shows that were better. It was bizarrely slow, the singing was mostly off, and the actors were either too young or too old for their parts. I think one cheerleader actually went to high school in the 50s. The star athlete, in leather jacket, had a bald spot going, and could neither sing nor dance. Much of the rest of the cast was girls, looking either junior high age or their mothers. I did, however, like the vintage cars they used!

At intermission most of the cast was in the lobby chatting with folks who obviously knew them. I did not know them. I left.

I am in Louisville the next few days, so the blog will be spotty.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Looking to Make a Placesetting

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I decided I had enough of Branson. Maybe I am lactose intolerent, because Branson is so cheesy that I got bloated.

I headed back up to Springfield, Missouri, and visited Dickerson Park Zoo. It is a nice, well maintained zoo, though dominated by fences. I loved their cheetahs, but it looked like they were in a well manicured back yard in suburbia. The Missouri Animals exhibit was amazingly realistic though! :-)

I got the biggest kick out of their elephants. About 10 years ago, one of Woodland Park Zoo's female elephants, Chai, travelled to the Dickerson Park Zoo to become pregnant. When she came back she had this new habit of shifting her weight on her front feet, which many of us call the "Chai Dance." Lo and behold all four of the female Asian elephants I saw at Dickerson Park were doing the identical "Chai Dance!" Looks like it is a behavior they learn from each other.

Today's "World's Largest...": the World's Biggest Fork (in Springfield). It is outside an office building, no sign or anything!

I also passed the Solo Paper Cup plant, where the entrance is a giant paper cup. So, along with the Giant Purple Wooden Spoon near Glacier, I am now short a knife and plate.

Tonight I am in Lebanon, Missouri; sorry, the restaurant I chose, Dowd's Catfish House, did not have beer. But I did have their sampler of fried catfish, chicken, and shrimp, and a side of fried okra. Good southern eatin! Everything fried; I did avoid the fried pickles, however.

Tomorrow I head for Louisville, by way of an outdoor theatre in Pine Knob, Kentucky. Not sure what the show is. Finally do some laundry.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Branson: City of TaT

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Through the Ozarks today, from Joplin, Missouri to Branson, Missouri.

I passed through Carthage, Missouri, and stopped at the city park to see this statue of Marlin Perkins, of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom fame. Once again no one was around, so I improvised. My family spent every Sunday evening with Marlin and the Colonel (KFC). The statue of Marlin's assistant, Jim, if it were there, would show him fending off a wild Ozark Mongoose or something. I am on the right, btw.

Went through a Rotary in Carthage. My family will appreciate the humor there.

Then on to Branson, Missouri. Known as the "Live Music Show Capital of the World," Branson is also the TaT capital of the world, in my opinion. Miles and miles of Trash and Trinkets, and literally over a hundred shows and attractions. You see every walk of life. Well, maybe not the upper end of the spectrum.

I selected the 3 PM performance of The Jim Stafford Show. I vaguely remember Jim Stafford as a country comedian/performer in my youth; he had a TV show in the mid-70s. I was given a second row seat, almost too close!

Seemed like it was required that everyone in the audience have white, gray, blue, or no hair. Oxygen tanks, support hose, and walkers were optional but encouraged.

The show was hokie, but I had some good laughs. Jim wore a tux in the show, but with black Merrells.

Stafford read some jokes supplied by the audience, including mine! (I heard it while in South Dakota). "The National Park Service advises you wear bells and carry pepper spray to deter bears. It is also a good idea to be able to recognize bear droppings. They smell like pepper and are full of bells."

A place like Branson had to have a "World's Largest...". I was not disappointed. The World's Largest Banjo, known as the Ozark's "Eiffel Tower," is located in the Grand Country Square. The neck sticks out of the building.

My choice for an evening show was The Hamner Barber Show, a variety show featuring Dave (and Denise) Hamner (illusionist) and Jim Barber (ventriloquist). I enjoyed this one a lot; I can't explain why I like these two types of entertainment.

Barber was particularly good, and hilarious. His primary dummy is Seville (Barber and Seville, get it?). Hamner used exotic birds in his act and I felt a couple flap by when flying low just above me as they returned to the stage (as Barber said, "Better check your popcorn.") So that was my animal close encounter today.

I am going back up to Springfield tomorrow to check out Dickerson Park Zoo (it was still a little stormy this morning). Then I would like to hit the road if I can cancel my motel in Branson. I am TaTed out. The three shows I really would like to see are not offered at this time: Noah, a mega-musical, Six, a fabulous acappella group, and Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby (can she really still pull that off?).