Category Archives: Travel

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?

Dew Boys

That’s Dubois, Wyoming, pronounced as “Dew Boys,” emphasis on the dew.

Born in the 1960s, I was a little too young to enjoy the era of television westerns. The 1950s and 60s were thick with them, but the only one I watched was Bonanza. Oh, those handsome Cartwrights, riding and fighting and oh so unlucky in love. And The Big Valley, with the equally handsome Barkleys, and the strong, tough Victoria Barkley, as played by Barbara Stanwyck. It was a pretty limiting look at the old west. My family never traveled much father west than the Mississippi River, so my view of the modern west was non-existent, too.

As I write this, Jim and I are in Dubois, Wyoming. Dew Boys. It’s a convenient stop on our route back to Iowa, after several days in and around Yellowstone National Park. (Yellowstone is breath-taking, and so postcard-perfect that parts almost look fake.) Dubois shows a slice of the west that is both unique and typical of this hard-living part of the country.

Surrounded by national forest, national parks, and national wilderness, the town represents some of the small portion of Wyoming that is owned privately rather than by the government. It serves and survives on the summer tourist trade as they move into and out of the parks. Several establishments provide lodging, while others dish up food, alcohol, or art.

Our hotel motel is long and low, settled on the highway for decades, across the street from the Wells Fargo bank. Guarding the driveway is a giant black bear, at least twelve feet from snout to tail. The owner’s son told us the bear has always been there, at least since his grandparents owned the place. It’s a remnant of other days, along with the jackalope, the giant steer skull, and a huge trout hanging at the other end of town.

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Grand Teton National Park

This has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The sun and blue sky set the scene perfectly.

 

We weren’t the only ones who thought so. This group of young people caught our attention and gave us a few chuckles as they posed for their group selfie. Afterward, I showed them my photo. They gave me an email so I could send the photo to them. The white sign to their right is a strict warning about bears nearby.

Père Marquette | Missionary & Explorer

by Jim and Melanie

We grew up, and continue to live, in the upper midwest not far from the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. We have seen many references around the region of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa to the travels of Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet. They are well-known as the first white men to explore the upper part of the Mississippi River in 1673. They were commissioned by Louis, comte de Frontenac, governor of New France, to find the direction and the mouth of the Mississippi.

The two set out from St. Ignace with five men and two canoes. They traveled the upper part of Lake Michigan and entered Green Bay, where they paddled up the Fox River nearly to its headwaters. A short portage of only about two miles put them into the Wisconsin River. The city of Portage, WI is now at that site. The Wisconsin River carried them to the Mississippi at what is now the town of Prairie du Chien. We have visited that town a couple of times.

The Mississippi River carried them south just past the mouth of the Arkansas River, where they decided to stop. They were warned of white men with guns farther south. They were Spanish, and the Marquette-Jolliet party feared a conflict. The explorers headed back up the Mississippi. North of St. Louis they took a shorter alternate route along the Illinois River. They portaged over the land in what is now the Chicago region to get back onto Lake Michigan. They split up near Green Bay, where Marquette stayed to rest. Jolliet continued back to Canada to report of their discoveries. This map illustrates their long journey.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. | Click to embiggen

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