Footloose 2-Year Anniversary Recap, Part 1

Footloose 2-Year Anniversary Recap

Alan’s post began with more mundane details about our location, like population and elevation. So, to be consistent, I’m starting with numbers from the beginning of our adventure on October 21, 2015.  Some might make you laugh while others should earn a cringe.

24 x 365 x 2 = 17,520   NUMBER OF HOURS together, except for bathroom breaks and an occasional solitary walk or drive to the store.  This leads to one of the top questions we hear:  “How are you still getting along after spending so much time together?!”

HOW ARE WE GETTING ALONG?  FINE, JUST FINE!

36,910   NUMBER OF MILES DRIVEN.  For hours and hours.  Together……..

LOOKING BACK
MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK

Over 135   NUMBER OF DIFFERENT BEDS WE’VE SLEPT IN.

OLD FARMHOUSE “COMFORT”.  We’re pretty sure the mice stayed downstairs.

230 +++  NUMBER OF BREWERIES VISITED.  The nationwide craft beer expansion has expanded our waistlines!  We stopped counting.  That will surely help with the pants sizes, right?

Galveston Beer Scene

37 STATES VISITED, plus parts of Canada and Mexico.

1   VACATION FROM TRAVELS!  A Caribbean cruise.

10,000+++   NUMBER OR COMBINED PHOTOS. Don’t worry, they won’t all be included here!  That leads to the second most frequently asked question: “What were your favorite spots?

Some of mine include places you might expect:  Niagara Falls and Quebec,

Our beautiful State and National parks –

Boston, Gettysburg, Charleston, and New Orleans –

Boston
Charleston View of Fort Sumter
Battlefield at Gettysburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louisiana – We Still Talk About The Crawfish Boil With New Friends

And, small towns not so familiar.

Fairfield, Arkansas – very scenic!  It is a small town hidden in the hills, near a lake, and two golf courses.  Great a week for golf and exploring.

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Fairfield, Arkansas- Wonderfully scenic – but not ideal for night driving.

Lake Lure and Asheville, North Carolina.  Alan enjoyed it except for the traffic and the potential for snow.  Many breweries!

Gautier, Mississippi.  “Why?” you ask.  Well, we found a really good deal on a rental property and thought, why not!  Great food, good golf, close to Biloxi, and lots of history.

Along with the fun, our travels have many reminders of US history.

Madisonville and Abita Springs, Louisiana.  Live there? No, too much weather going on.

CO, Durango   Scenic, touristy, mountain town. It was a  good place to recover from the flu; not too many distractions.

The 3rd most asked question:  “Any regrets?”  Mine – not really, it’s been a wonderful experience.  I do miss family and friends. Fortunately, technology has advanced enough to keep us connected.

I could go on and on but “enough already”! Alan says.

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Newberg, Oregon 7/25 – 8/1

Newberg, Oregon: Population = 22,508, elevation = 175  feet, Average January low temp = 34º, Average July high temp = 79º, Average precipitation = 39.95”

We visited Portland last April and found a vibrant city with great food, culture, breweries, gardens, and parks.  We also found narrow streets with a severe lack of parking and chronic congestion.  This time around, we skipped over Portland in favor of a little town in the Willamette Valley.  Our rental was perched on a high bluff overlooking the river and the view was cool, green, and quiet.

Overlooking the Willamette River

Newberg is not a large town, but we found lots of things to do to keep us occupied.  There are, for instance, three breweries nearby that we investigated.  Lots of wine tasting shops.  There is a good selection of restaurants.

A good selection of beers, not too hoppy. Great green chili cheeseburger!
There are wine tasting rooms all over Newberg

There is not a lot of old really architecture in Newberg, but there is a house that Herbert Hoover lived in, with his aunt and uncle.  The Hoover – Minthorn House Museum preserves this bit of local history.

Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, held office from 1929 to 1933 during the Great Depression
A little stove to take the chill off on those winter nights.
The simple bed of a future president

To get our architecture on, we had to go visit Salem, the capitol of Oregon.  It was about a half hour drive through farm country.  We saw vast fields of grapes, hops, hazelnut trees, and many other crops.  Here and there we spotted dairy cattle.  At one point we stopped at the Willamette Valley Cheese company and got more cheese samples to taste than humanly possible to consume.

These guys make about 30 kinds of cheese and this lady was determined to give us a sample of each one

The Capitol was the only one we have seen that has a flat top instead of a dome as its central feature.  The interior is simple but elegant.  Walls clad in marble and wood rise up to frame large murals.  Bright new carpeting with state symbols brighten up the chambers.

The Oregon state capitol was completed in 1938
The dome is a simple but stylish work of Art Deco
The Senate Chamber is clad in black walnut. The carpet displays salmon and wheat.

The Willamette (rhymes with dammit) Valley is a huge wine-producing area; home to some of the world’s best pinot noir.  Signs pointing to wineries were everywhere and most pointed to 3 or 4 at a time.  Our hosts, Mary and Robert, are very knowledgable about wines and the local wineries.  We spent a very pleasant Sunday with them, sampling the wares at three of the vineyards and enjoying the scenery.

The Dundee Hills are where the first pinot noir grapes were planted in Oregon.

We enjoyed our stay in Newberg.  There is a small town America vibe that is very easy to get along with.  The locals seemed nice and easy to talk to.  The Valley is gorgeous, brimming with every kind of crop imaginable, trees soaring to great heights, the river sparkling in the midday sun.  We loved finding patches of wild blackberries that are bigger and better than those found in supermarkets.  It was a oood place to sip a pinot and gaze off into the summer.

Next up:  Eugene, Oregon

Olympia, Washington   7/21 – 7/25

Olympia, Washington: Population = 50,302 (Metro area = 269,536), elevation = 95  feet, Average January low temp = 33.7º, Average July high temp = 76.8º, Average snowfall = 10.8”

Getting back across the bay on the ferry takes a few hours; get parked on the pier, show passports, drive onto the ship, find a seat or wander around the ship for an hour and a half.  On the American side, I was expecting the ICE ogres with questionnaires and sniffing dogs and mirrors on a stick.  Instead, we got a kind of jolly guy who did a little banter and waved us through.  Easy.

Black Ball’s ferry Coho

Once ashore, we headed straight out of Port Angeles.  We decided that driving to Olympia would take too long, so we opted to stop at Bremerton for the night.  Heading South, the route was a little different and more scenic than the Northbound route.  Highway 3 follows a few of the bays along Puget Sound.  The trees were tall, the forest deep, the land a mix of steep rolling hills and wide muddy bays at low tide.  The traffic was a steady, unbroken stream that we floated along in, varying speeds from kind of slow to very slow.  It was a nice day for a drive.

Driving Puget sound

Bremerton is a town of about 40,000 people.  What is probably the main selling point for the town is that there is a ferry from there to Seattle.  According to a news show we saw, Seattle is very expensive to live in so lots of people live across the Sound and take the ferry to work.  I can’t tell you much about Bremerton.  We went out for dinner, spent the night in a hotel, had breakfast at The Family Pancake House (great cakes!), and then drove on into the traffic jam that is Interstate 5, under construction, near Olympia.

Our rental was not actually in Olympia.  The local AirBnB rentals are few and expensive, so we booked an Extended Stay in nearby suburban Lacey.  As long as we stayed off the freeway, it was a short drive into town.  And we have to visit the town; it is a Capitol City.  First up is the Old Capitol.  Not much info on the website, but the outside looks like a castle.  Inside is a disappointment.  It has been carved up into office space with bland cubicle walls everywhere.

The Old Capitol was once a courthouse. Now it is office space.
The entrance pay homage to Washington with a nice statue and garden

The new capitol building is a lot more impressive.  It sports an unsupported masonry dome that is the 5th highest in the world.  The light fixture dangling from the dome was made by Tiffany and weighs 10,000 pounds.  One very odd thing about the Capitol Building is that there is no artwork.  There are just big grey areas where it should go.  An artist, Michael Spafford, was hired to do a set of murals but, when he started hanging them in 1981, they were so reviled that they were all removed.

The State Capitol in Olympia
An unsupported dome is built like an igloo. Build layer after layer, each slightly smaller circles than the one before.
The Tiffany Chandelier is enormous. A VW Beetle could fit inside the middle.
The Senate chamber. Notice the grey areas high up the walls where the murals are not located.

It seemed like we were in Washington for a long time; we crossed East to West and then North to South.  It is a beautiful state with lovely flowers and trees, mountains, rivers, bays, and ocean.  It might be a great place to live, but we were uncomfortable with all of the sales taxes.  Liquor is taxed at 20.5% and bar drinks at 13.7%, everything else runs close to 10%.  No Thanks Washington, we are headed to Oregon!

A fine but overtaxed beer
South of Olympia, Mount St. Helens rears its broken peak over the forest

Next up:  Newberg OR

Victoria, British Columbia  7/7 – 7/21 (Part 2)

Victoria, British Columbia:  Fort Victoria founded in 1843, incorporated in 1862, became capitol city of British Columbia when it joined the Canadian Confederation in 1871.

Victoria is not as old and historic as some of the cities on the East Coast, but it is still a city with many classic old buildings.  The British Columbia Legislature Building looms solid and stolid over the wide expanse of lawn, harbor, and tourists.  We took a tour and, while suitably impressed with the rotunda and the many beautiful panels of stained glass, we were a little disappointed that we could see so little of the massive building.

British Columbia Legislature Buildings
The dome over the rotunda
Legislative Chamber
Stained glass panel from stairwell

Just out of the downtown, we found another classic old building.  This one actually lays claim to the title of “Castle”.  The Craigdarroch Castle was finished in 1890.  Prominent businessman and politician Robert Dunsmuir and his wife, Joan, built a lavish home for themselves, overlooking Victoria.  It may have been an ostentatious display of wealth, but to me, the home feels lavishly appointed and furnished but never garish.

Period costume and furnishing from the early 1900s
The table set for breakfast

 

The master bedroom has a unique bathtub / toilet combination
Exquisite stained glass windows are throughout the castle

 

Among the classic old buildings we like to see are the cathedrals.  Maybe it is the English influence, but these did not seem as ornate as many that we have seen in the States.  Instead, we found them simple but elegant; more handcrafted wood than gold leaf.

St. Andrews Cathedral
The altar at St. Andrews
Church of Christ Cathedral
Pulpit and arches

The Royal BC Museum is full of exhibits chronicling the development of Victoria, from the First Nations, to the pioneer days, to the gold rush, to the modern industries.  It is a bewildering maze of displays that wander and branch and climb up and down stairs.  It was fun to explore, but you might need a guide to find your way out again.

These carvings represent old legends of the gods
Military uniforms from the Colonial period

 

Coal mining was once a big part of the economy

 

With civilization comes beer

 

One thing that sets Victoria apart from many cites is that it is on an island.  The downtown harbor is a busy jumble of boats, water taxis, seaplanes, ferries, and cruise ships.  It is also the starting point for whale watching tours.  We booked a tour on a nice big, stable boat and went out to have a look.  We saw humpbacks!  They come to the surface, blow out a big spray, grab a couple of deep breaths, and then plunge down to the deep water for as long as 15 minutes before surfacing again.

Victoria Harbor is also a seaplane airport
A humpback whale diving
It is nap time for these sea lions

The rest of our time was mostly spent wandering about the town.  Victoria seems bigger than it really is.  Downtown is a constipated maze of streets with most of them going one-way in the direction I am not.  Bicycles are everywhere; both part of the congestion solution and a contributor to it.  There is no place to park ANYWHERE, unless you happen onto a lucky spot.

In the chaos that is downtown Victoria, bicyclists have their own lanes and lights

We enjoyed our time in Victoria.  The scenery was wonderful: brilliantly colored flowers; deep, dark ocean; tall verdant forests; oddly attired urbanites.  We met with new friends and fellow travelers, Diana and Larry, for dinner and a nice sightseeing drive around the island.  We enjoyed caesars with our gracious and cordial host, Gary.  Great people, nice city.

Next up: Olympia, WA

Crossing the Prairie 6/5 – 6/11

Crossing the Prairie  6/5 – 6/11

All too soon, our visit to MInnesota, to family and friends comes to an end.  It is time to pack up and roll on down the road.  But where to now?  The West Coast is calling to me again.  After all of our travels, I think the Eugene, Oregon area is still my favorite.  Marylu is not so sure yet.  So there are more cites left for us to see and even some to revisit.

Eugene, OR is lush green, blanketed in tall trees and fields of flowers. Just beyond the distant mountains, Mother Pacific rolls her pretty waves.

From Minneapolis, we take Interstate 94 North and West, heading for North Dakota.  We know from previous experience that North Dakota is, shall we say, “scenery challenged”, so our plan is a series of short stays in hotels as we hop across the state.

On the way to Fargo

Our first stop is Fargo.  Fargo is a busy, industrious city, with a population of over 120,000.  There are lots of great places to eat and drink.  This is also a city with a sense of humor about itself.  At the top of the list of weird things to do in Fargo is to go see the Wood Chipper.  You know the one… from the movie.  (Thanks to Rita and Dagan for a nice visit and some great tourist info!)

 

The Wurst Bier Hall offers a world of sausages and beers
A fine beer and a handsome logo
The world’s most famous wood chipper. Love the sock!

From Fargo, it is a short hop to Bismarck.  This is the capitol of the state, and the capitol building is unusual.  Most capitols have two wings and a dome in the middle.  This one has a round wing, divided into two halves, where the House and Senate meet.  Attached to the round wing is an 18 story office building where most of the state functionaries are located.  No dome but a nice observation deck on the top floor.

Early photo of the North Dakota capitol building shows the two wings
The House chamber features innovative lighting and fine woodwork.

Bismarck is also a great town for food and drink.  We found some very nice breweries who are cooking up some fine beers.  Our favorite place to eat was Sickie’s Garage, who are famous for their burgers.  In between beers and burgers, we visited the State Historical Society Museum and learned a few things.  North Dakota used to be covered by an inland sea and, apparently, dinosaurs came here to die in the mud and be preserved.

Tater Tot Hotdish Burger: tots, corn, green beans, cream of mushroom soup, hamburger. Genius!
Bisons were much larger, with bigger horns, way back when. This guy is fighting two saber tooth tigers.
This monster fish could easily swallow a fisherman whole.  And I would not mess with that turtle behind it either.

Still headed West, the prairie starts to get more interesting.  We start seeing rolling hills.  Those turn into peaks and wide valleys.  At Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the landscape descends into the chaos that is the Painted Canyon.

Ruler straight lines of power cross the prairie grasses
The Painted Canyon shows off a palette of limestone, sandstone, trees, and grasses

At Glendive, Montana, we are, I hope, getting close to the end of the prairie.  The horizon is closer and lumpier.  Not a lot going on in Glendive, but they do have a new brewery.

good luck with the new brewery. So far. so good!

The road to Billings has even more prairie for us; miles and miles of flat grassy lands, broken occasionally by ridges and canyons of pale sandstone.  We are steadily gaining elevation as we cross the vast plateau.  Just as we start to see the signs and buildings and refineries of Billings we spot, far off in the distance, the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains.  We are at the end of the Great Prairie.

The ridges are getting higher, the road is getting steeper

Next up:  Billings, Montana

Springfield, Illinois  4/21 – 4/28

Springfield, Illinois:  Population =  117,006 (metropolitan area= 211,700), elevation = 558 feet, Average January low temp = 18.7º, Average July high temp = 86.2º, annual precipitation = 37.43”, annual snowfall = 20.9”

As state capitol buffs, Springfield, Illinois is practically a required stop.  There are two capitols here, the newer, working one, and the old historic one.  Due to the VERY limited periods of time when state lawmakers are actually in session, we have been able to see a great many state capitols that were almost deserted.  We happened by the new Illinois capitol during a March For Women outside, and a big lobbying effort by Realtors on the inside.  Though it is a beautiful building, we had to squeeze our way through crowds and sneak into the Senate gallery.

At the State Capitol in Springfield, it is a march for Women’s Rights
The dome atop the Capitol is framed by wrought iron and statuary
The State Senate Chamber (in session)

 

Protesters and lobbyists vie for attention

The old State Capitol is a much smaller building and even, in its own way, kind of homey.  The rooms are more human sized, the desks plainer, the decor simpler.  There are pot-bellied stoves that supplied the heat during the long winters.  If you look closely at the House of Representatives photo, there is a stove pipe hat on the left end of front desk, next to the candle.  That is where Abraham Lincoln sat when he was a State Rep.

The Historic old State Capitol
The old Senate chamber
The old House of Representatives chamber

And speaking of Lincoln, this is the capitol of the Land of Lincoln.  Our first Lincoln stop was the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  The displays show Lincoln growing up, moving into Springfield to practice law, getting married, getting elected to the State House and then the White House.  Many of the artifacts on display were his own personal possessions.  The films about the Civil War do a great job of explaining the ebb and flow of the politics and battles.

A recreation of the legendary log cabin where Abe grew up
Lincoln’s war time cabinet discussing strategy
A life mask of Lincoln, just months before the assassination
One of Mary Todd Lincoln’s formal gowns

Our next Lincoln stop was just across the street, in the old Union Station.  Inside there is a display from the movie “Lincoln”.  The have costumes and sets from the movie, as well as scenes from the movie playing on monitors.

Items worn by Sally Field in “Lincoln”
Costume worn by Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln”

Just a couple of blocks away is Mr. Lincoln’s Neighborhood.  The house he and Mary and the kids lived in is still there, as well as many other beautifully maintained houses of the era.  After his assassination, his household goods were packed up and shipped back here.  Mary did not  return.  Caretakers have watched over the house since.  The furnishings, carpets, and wallpaper are mostly what was there when the Lincolns lived in the house, with the exception of a few repaired and refurbished pieces.

Guests in the Lincoln home would be seated in the parlor
The living room was more for family
The chair with removable lid is Mary Todd Lincoln’s actual commode.
Mary learned to cook on this iron stove

Finally, we visited the Lincoln Monument.  Abraham, Mary, and the 3 youngest of the four children lie entombed here.  Nobel statues of Lincoln line the hallways of the Monument.  A massive tombstone marks the President’s final resting place.

The Monument to President Lincoln

There are a lot of other great things to see in Springfield too.  We listened to a concert at the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon, one of the largest and finest carillons in the world.  We witnessed the spring flowers bursting forth at the Botanical Garden.  We sampled fine beers in the breweries.

The carillon is 132 feet tall and contains 67 bells that the operator plays, much like an organ
Spring!
A very nice APA

Springfield is a great city to visit.  Besides all the Lincoln stuff, there is a lot going on for a town of this size.  Big enough to have everything, small enough to not be crowded.

Next up:  Ottawa, IL

Indianapolis, Indiana 4/14 – 4/21

Indianapolis, Indiana:  Population =  853,173 (metropolitan area= 2,336,237), elevation = 715 feet, Average January low temp = 20.5º (4.7 days below 0º), Average July high temp = 85º (18 days over 90º), annual snowfall = 25.9”, annual rainfall = 42.4”

From the rolling hills of Kentucky, to the flat plains of Indiana, we keep tending North for the summer.  Indianapolis is a very large, sprawling city, surrounded by a ring of freeways.  Our next rental is just off the freeway on the Northeast corner of the loop: Castleton.  The distinguishing thing about Castleton seems to be the malls.  The Castleton Mall is a huge enclosed mall, surrounded by strip malls.  You can travel for miles on 86th street and never run out of malls.  Every American franchise is probably represented here.  All the restaurants too.  Good food! You have seen lots of malls so you don’t need photos.

Leaving the Bourbon Trail behind, we find ourselves back on the Craft Beer Trail.  That trail runs most everyplace these days, and Indy is well represented.  There are a great many well stocked breweries and taprooms all around the city.  IPAs are very popular, but there is a great selection of fine Belgians that we enjoyed too.

Whenever we enter a new state, we ask around to find out what the local favorite foods are.  Lobster rolls in Maine, po’boys in Louisiana, hot browns in Kentucky, BBQ in Tennessee.  In Indy it is pork tenderloin sandwiches and sugar cream pie.  We tried one of the reputedly best pork tenderloins in town at Squealers and it was awesome.  The tenderloin was the size of a hubcap, juicy, tender, and flavorful.  The regular sized bun it was served on was comic in comparison.  For the sugar cream pie, we went to kind of a handcraft-y sort of place: Locally Grown Gardens.  Yes, creamy and sugary, with a hint of cinnamon, on a great crust.  Nice!

Giant pork tenderloin with all the fixings and chips.
Sugar cream pie

The most famous site in Indianapolis has to be the Motor Speedway.  This is the 2 1/2 mile long oval that hosts the Indy 500 race.  We visited the museum and were awed by the collection of racers.  They have the first 500 winner, the Marmon Wasp, which won in 1911.  They have racers of every style since then, including some very rare exotics.  From the Museum, you can only see a little of the track.  We were a little disappointed until we realized that that is because the track is so huge.  To see it all, you would need a helicopter.

The Marmon Wasp blistered the track with an average speed of 74.6 mph
The main grandstand is just visible over buildings in the infield. The museum lies within the oval. To get to it, you drive through a tunnel under the track.

Indianapolis is the capitol city of Indiana.  The Capitol building is classic and beautifully decorated.  The dome and the hallways are elegantly decorated in simple classic patterns with tastefully applied colors.  The House and Senate were in session when we visited, but we did manage a peek into the chambers and they appeared to be utilitarian and business-like.

The dome over the rotunda
Hallway to the Senate chambers

Our 23rd president of the USA was Benjamin Harrison.  His Indy home has been nicely preserved and hold many of his actual possessions.  When his term was over, everything was boxed up and delivered here, where it has been carefully stored and maintained.

The home of Benjamin Harrison.
The parlor contains Harrison’s actual possessions
The bed where the president died in his sleep

Probably our biggest surprise in Indy was the Scottish Rite Cathedral.  This is an amazing building built by and for Masons.  I expected the usual cathedral setup: nave, transept, apse, and so on.  This enormous castle of a building has ballrooms, lounges, a cafeteria, and a huge auditorium.  The carved woodwork and marble are beautiful, but it is the glass that really stands out.  Much of the glass here is German art glass.  To make these windows, colored glass is finely ground and painted onto clear glass.  The whole piece is then baked so the glass and colors fuse.  Look closely and you can see the brush strokes, feel the textures.  The rest of the glass is “ordinary” stained glass, but it is also wonderfully realized.

The main entry into the building is dazzling with its cast concrete ceiling decor, its elaborate marble flooring, and the crystal chandelier
Looking up from the floor of the auditorium

The Indianapolis area is a huge metropolitan area.  We spent most of our time out in the suburbs, taking care of tasks that build up while on the road.  Our forays into the city were relatively painless, even considering construction, haphazard one-way streets, and massive numbers of aggressive commuters.  Whatever you are looking for in a big city, they have it.

Next up: Springfield, IL