Category Archives: Travel

Columbia River Gorge

by Jim and Melanie

During one of our days visiting Portland, OR, we drove east along the Columbia River. Over the eons, the river cut a gorge through the land as it coursed to the Pacific from central Oregon. The first scenic part of our drive was on the  Historic Columbia River Highway. We stopped at the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint.

Looking east | Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint

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Mount St. Helens | 38 Years Later

by Melanie and Jim

Geologists tell us Mt. St. Helens started its eruptive life over 37,000 years ago. It went through quiet periods between four major eruptive periods. The most recent in 1980, the modern eruptive period, was witnessed by residents nearby and by viewers the world over. Details of the eruption can be found at this link, in case you missed it. We traveled south on Interstate 5 toward Portland, OR, and took route 504 toward the visitor center at Johnston Ridge Observatory. To give a sense of scale, it is 5 miles from the Observatory (green marker in the upper right quadrant) to the crater at lower right. Click the picture to see details. 

 

Enlarge for more detail

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Staircase of the Olympic Mountains

In the late 1800s, Lieutenant Joseph P. O’Neil headed a group that explored possible routes across the Olympic mountains, in northwest Washington state. One route brought the men to the headwaters of Lake Cushman. The plan was to go upriver along the North Fork of the Skokomish River, cross the mountains, and travel downriver along the Quinault River to the Pacific Ocean. It proved very difficult. The terrain was steep and heavily forested. Pack mules had a difficult time walking in the steepest parts. A solution involved cutting small trees across the trail, filling the spaces between logs with mud and debris. The effect created a sort of staircase up the slopes that the mules could use. That area today has the name Staircase and has camping and trails into the surrounding region. We visited and enjoyed a day of hiking.

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Chicago | Always Fun to Visit

by Melanie and Jim

On our way back to Iowa from southern Ohio, we made a two-night stop in the Chicago area. Before we moved to Iowa in 1992, we lived and worked in the Chicago area. Though we’re glad we don’t live there, it’s always fun to go back, like visiting an old friend.

Chicago offers much to see and do. We had a big day ahead, with some firm plans and a lot of time for spontaneity. Under blue skies and in low 70s temperatures, we were ready to enjoy it.

To make getting around simple, we stayed in the suburb of Oak Park at the Write Inn. It was one block from the birthplace of Hemingway, three blocks from some Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, two blocks from eateries, and three blocks from the ‘L’ train station, our means of getting into the city. Oak Park is also short miles from Brookfield Zoo, where we spent the day before.

First we needed breakfast. The day before we asked a waitress at a Vietnamese restaurant where to get breakfast. She said go to George’s. That was good advice. We had breakfast, dinner, and breakfast the next day at George’s.

To use the L trains, we each bought a 24-hour pass for $10. That allowed us to leave our car parked in the garage used by the hotel. We were at the Loop on State Street within 25 minutes. After a walk of a few blocks, we crossed Michigan Ave and entered Millennium Park to enjoy the beautiful morning and do some people watching.

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National Museum of the Air Force

by Melanie and Jim 

You may have seen some of our posts about our travel to Yellowstone and back. That’s only one of the four road trips we’ve done in the past few weeks. Recently we also headed the other direction, to southern Ohio. On the way we visited the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton.

The museum has a number of galleries inside. The interior collections include the early years of flight, aircraft from World Wars One and Two, Korea and Vietnam, and current times. There are cargo planes, a variety of fighters and spy planes, intercontinental missiles, and experimental craft. Presidential and other executive transport planes, space travel, and Cold War air memorabilia are shown. Outside the huge hangars are more planes and a memorial park.

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Yellowstone | Sheepeater | Geysers | Lower Falls

by Jim and Melanie

Our second full day in Yellowstone National Park was an active one. We arrived early at the north entrance at Gardiner and waited in line behind a few other vehicles. A mother elk came down a nearby hillside followed by her calf, young, wobbly legged and slow. She took her time and allowed it to stay close. Traffic stopped as they crossed. It was a wonderful start to the day.

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Yellowstone | Northeast Entrance

by Jim and Melanie

Highlights of day 4 of our journey to Yellowstone NP. We stayed overnight after day 3 in Thermopolis, Wyoming. The hot springs there were an attraction to the native residents for centuries. Today they are a tourist attraction. We soaked for a while in the free state park pool. Others cavorted in the commercial facility next door. The flow rate of the springs is much less than in the past.

We headed north to Cody after breakfast. From Cody, Yellowstone visitors usually drive west to enter the park. We chose to drive northwest and enter the park at the Northeast Entrance near Cooke City, Montana at the top center of this map. Later that evening we checked into a B&B north of the park. Click to embiggen for detail.

Google Maps

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Nebraska | Northwest Corner

by Jim and Melanie

We stopped in Chadron, Nebraska, for advice about what to see and do. The young woman at the information office suggested Chadron State Park 10 miles to the south. We drove to the highest point in the park and hiked a short distance to a scenic overlook to the northwest. The views were very nice, unlike those from interstate highways. The last part of the video zooms to barely see the Black Hills of South Dakota in the distance.

Click to embiggen.

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Valentines | Old Time Cowboys

by Melanie and Jim

Nebraska is a long state, about 430 miles from east to west. We stayed overnight in Sioux City, Iowa, and got an early start on U.S. 20. It would be several hours before we reached our goal for the day, somewhere in western Nebraska. In the past we only crossed the state on Interstate 80. The elevation changes on I-80, across the southern half of the state, are tiny. It follows the North Platte River most of the way. U.S. 20, Bridges to Buttes Byway, took us across the northern counties, different rivers, the Sandhills country, and showed us some beautiful sights.

We had lunch in Valentine, Nebraska. The Niobrara River is a great rafting, canoeing, and kayaking destination. The post office participates annually in the Valentine’s Day postmarking of tens of thousands of cards and letters to loved ones. And this according to Wikipedia:

As late as 1967, Valentine was split between two time zones. As described in one news report, “The mountain and central time zones meet at the center of Main Street, so an hour separates the two curb lines.” According to the report, when clocks were required to be set back one hour for daylight saving time, Valentine’s post office (which was in the central zone) split the difference and turned back its clock by only half an hour.

By mid-afternoon we reached the town of Gordon and were ready for another break. A sign advertised the Old Time Cowboys Museum. We stopped to ask some guys who were fixing a pothole where it was. We didn’t expect much as we turned the next corner.

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Historical Marker Ahead

by Melanie and Jim

We recently completed a 3000 mile road trip. Along the way, we saw signs several times a day which denoted an Historical Marker by the roadside. We usually drove on by and wondered what it said. Sometimes we got a glimpse of a few words in the title but nothing else. If we did stop to read, it was when we changed drivers.

We started a paper list of things to look up at a later time. The list included some of those historical sites that seemed interesting. The list also included word origins, reminders, funny things to remember, ideas for a blog post, etc.

When we got home from the trip, we checked off the items on the list, including some of the historical markers we passed. We checked to see if there was a database available online. It seemed like there should be one since these things are so prevalent.

Well, guess what. There is such a database. It is called the Historical Marker Database. Clever title. It is full of information for the traveler and the curious student of history.

When you enter the database, you are welcomed by a page loaded with several types of information such as the marker of the week, recently added markers, a tour of the site, most viewed this week, email signup, and much more. The About Us link describes the criteria for markers included or excluded, the names of those volunteering to keep the database up to date, and helpful notes for users who want to submit their own marker finds and information. The whole thing is a volunteer-run operation, which started in 2006.

Menus choices across the top look like this. The blue Near You button is very useful. It will give you several options to find markers in your vicinity. They are presented on a Google Map for you to click. Clicks on the red markers in the map yield links to more specific information and location. The Geographic Lists is also very helpful. It lists markers in the U.S. and in many countries.

Here is an example of what can be seen using the Near You button. The Amana Colonies are a few miles from our home. Detailed information and an image of the actual marker is included.

Take a look a the site. What historical markers are near you? Have you seen them in person?