About Vagabond63

Creative, author, businesswoman, partner, dedicated to sharing knowledge and improving lives, her own and others.

On the Road Series: Northeast

IMAG0646In 1962, the small town of Centralia, Pennsylvania began to burn.   It still does to this day.  This area of Pennsylvania is known for its’ coal production, and that coal lies under the surface of the ground.  A fire lit to burn garbage, lit the coal on fire, there has been no way to extinguish it.  Some roads have crumbled, but for the most part, the government came in and bought out the residents of the town to relocate them.  Most left gladly, there are still about 10 residents who stayed.  The rest of the town is abandoned.  The homes have been razed, there is a section of highway that has been detoured, but the streets and sidewalks remain, if you hadn’t heard why the town was gone, it would look like an alien plot.

If given the chance, find the highway that has been detoured, it is covered with graffiti and has an otherworldly feel.

Shiloh Military Park

shilohShiloh, almost six square miles in Tennessee that once housed families and farms, a peach orchard, a couple of ponds, smiles and laughter, over 70 buildings of one sort or another..  One hundred and fifty years ago, the Blue and the Gray clashed in a bloody battle, over 111,000 men met in this small space; over 7,000 died, more than 30,000 others were wounded.  One of the first battles of the bloodiest war in the history of America in the War Between the States, took place in April 1862 at Shiloh.

It has become known as the Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, over 10,000 battles raged across the country – as far west as New Mexico, but concentrated in along the borders states between the Union and Confederate states.  There are many monuments to both throughout the country, this was our first all out tour of a military battlefield.  The Shiloh National Military Park is well put together, the museum holds artifacts from the time period, the movie is well worth every minute, but the battlefield is what will impress you most.

Each space is filled with markers that relate the troop movements, relate the battles won and lost, the sheer number of participants.  There is a nine mile loop that takes you through the various spaces to give you an idea of what it must have been like, but we were there with probably 100 other people, not 100,000.  I can’t even imagine the crush of people, all carrying weapons, the damages were staggering to both the North and the South.

The National Park Service does an awesome job preserving this military park.  I recommend this one at Shiloh to anyone, we also stopped at Brices Crossing, not as much to see, but still interesting.  The one in Tupelo, not so much – we made the trip because we didn’t know what to expect.  It was a city park, 1 acre square, aside from the two confederate tombstones, there wasn’t anything to see.

Temecula, CA…where good people meet

It’s Sunday, we are hunting for a place to watch the NFC championship game in Temecula.  Everything suggested to us is a chain, and I’m just not in to chains, now mind you, they have their place…but I am more in to supporting the local entrepreneur.  Driving around, we notice a brewery in old town.  The Crush and Brew, now that’s a clever little name.  They have a wine side and a beer side and only serve cold foods, it sounds interesting and for a Sunday at noon, it’s perfect for us.  We opt for the beer side, over 22 beers on tap, some as high as 12%.  Rich is an IPA drinker, so he chooses a sample platter of those, I go for a wheat beer, like usual.

At halftime, we are lamenting the slow start of the forty-niner’s, but have placed our order for the Block and Barrel, it’s an extra large cutting board full of meats and cheese, bread and various condiments.  Included is salami and deli meats, sauerkraut and olives.  Perfect for two.  They also serve a cheese platter, a bread board and lots of beautiful salads.  Add a great selection of wine and beer and you have yourselves a winner.  But that wasn’t the only thing that made the afternoon great.

We met Carol and Ernie and their daughter and son-in-law.  They are out touring the area, from Riverside, they like to spend their weekends looking for breweries and good food.  Temecula was their stop today with the help of Yelp.  I overheard a conversation about brew festivals coming up and asked them what they found.  This translated in to thirty minutes of animated conversation with some terrific people.  On top of that, they paid for our first round before they moved on to their next stop and came by for hugs to thank us for the conversation.  Wow, some people are just so nice.  So raise your glasses everyone to Carol and Ernie and all the kind people out in the world like them.  Perfect strangers can become perfect friends.

2012 Rose Parade Day One

The Rose Parade is a great experience, especially if you show up early in the week.  You can see the floats at their naked best and watch them progress from day to day.  The last day when the flowers are added just changes everything.  We are at the Rose Palace all this week, there are nine floats in residence.  Many of them so completely elaborate you have to applaud the designers.  The Lion’s Club float is an architectural wonder, it represents everything from the Sydney Opera House to the Eiffel Tower.  The Nurse’s Float (a new one this year) is beautiful with animals of all forms on it.  The mama deer is my favorite, although Haley was partial to the turtles, big surprise there.  And there is a “Love Float” that includes a wedding to happen, we can’t wait to see the dress rehearsal and how the bride gets up and down the ladder.

There are thousands of tasks to do, all of a small nature, every little task adds to the bigger picture.  At the Rose Palace, there are no small tasks, just small people.  We spent the first half of our night making 2” diameter curlicues from dried corn silk.  These curlicues were then added to a giant size teddy bear to form his face.  I’ve added photos so you can see the progression.  That’s kind of how everything works around here.  You start with a simple material, and then you chop it, or trim it, or cut it or twirl it.  Then you glue it to a part of the float.  Every part of the float that is visible must be covered with a natural material.  It’s really very impressive, I can’t wait to go back today.

Hoodoo, Hoodoo you think you’re fooling?

I have had Love Me Like a Rock stuck in my head for days.  I know the song is really Who Do? not Hoodoo, but ever since I heard about hoodoos, it’s been on my mind.  Hoodoos aren’t found very many places, but there is a huge cache of them at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Hoodoos – Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is made almost entirely of limestone, it has the same colors of many of the other red rock canyons that are typically sandstone or granite, but the rocks are limestone here.  There are thousands of spires on the canyon floor that rise straight up and usually have a knob on the top.  These are called hoodoos.  No where are they more prevalent than in Bryce.

Our National Parks are a great resource for all of us to enjoy.  I find the easiest and least expensive way to enjoy them is with an Annual Pass.  For the price of $80, you can enjoy admission in to any National Park for free.  We’ve certainly gotten our monies worth, just going to Glacier, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon and Zion covered that cost.  When you add in the Petrified Forest, Arches, and Canyonlands, we’ve come out way ahead. And, if you don’t already have a pass, plan a visit over Veteran’s Day weekend where the entrance fee at all parks is FREE.

Some of the National Parks are free, but they get you with “concessions.”  Like, Mount Rushmore, you can go to the Mountain for free, but you have to pay for parking; or the St. Louis Arch, admission in to the bottom of the arch and the museum is free, to get to the top costs you.  Your annual pass won’t take care of either of those costs.  But still, well worth the money spent.

I think it’s much easier for those of us in the mountainous west to enjoy the parks system, we have so many great parks available within a days’ drive of most anywhere.  If you get the chance this year, now is the time to go, the crowds are down, the weather still good and the sights are gorgeous.  I love National Parks.

The Panhandle of Texas – from Glitz to Glamour

The Panhandle of Texas is an interesting dichotomy, you can find both cheap glitz and glamour, although the glitz is the easiet to find.  Dinner at The Big Texan is about as touristy as it gets, it reminds me of any of the surviving Route 66 travel stops, or the worst of Knott’s Berry Farm or Las Vegas in its’ darker days.  Everything at the Big Texan is designed for profit and ease.  The place is Hollywood cowboy décor from the costumes of the servers to the animal heads on the wall.  It is known for its 72 ounce steak challenge,  A one-hour challenge to eat 4 ½ lbs of beef and all the fixins’.  The record holder did it in less than 9 minutes back in 2008.  There is a table set up at the front for six people with a timer for each for anyone who wants to compete for the title.  If you manage it, the meal is free, if you falter, the price is $1 an ounce.  None of our group wanted to take the

The Big Texan

challenge.  The place is full of people passing by, I don’t think any locals frequent the place, as truly, the food isn’t that good, but man, have they made a name for themselves, the place was packed.  It was a fun stop, just to watch all the people and be able to say that we’ve been.  Next time, if there is a next time, it will be for one of us to take the challenge.

Another classic Amarillo glitz stop is the Cadillac Ranch, this isn’t like the Mustang Ranch in Nevada, not a bordello here, but rather a place where Cadillacs (that’s right, the car) are planted in the ground.  You can see it from the freeway, just to the south of I-40 on the West side of Amarillo.  The story goes, Stanley Marsh, owner of the land and patron of Art Farm allowed the Cadillacs to be planted as part of a public art installation project.  The cars are oft painted and graffitied, and this is encouraged,  Maybe one day, we’ll take some spray paint with us on the trip.

The glamour in the area is a little harder to find, it happens in a one-horse town, on the south-west corner of the blinking light, west of Amarillo called Vega, population 881.  Our first stop there was entirely by accident, this time, we made the choice.  There is a little restaurant there called the Boothill Saloon that is worth the stop every time.  The Boothill is a new place, although it’s built to resemble an old time saloon with swinging doors and a tin ceiling, a gorgeous long bar in front and classic red swag throughout the rest of the restaurant.  You can see it in any colorized Hollywood western movie.  This one has something spcial though, along the wall to the restroom, you’ll find a front cover from Bon Appetit that shows the ribs that helped make Rori Schpesi a Food Network Star.  The food

Great food at the Boothill Saloon

is incredible, the place is well-lit and shiny clean.  Since it was lunch, we all just opted for the Boothill Burger, the first on the menu prepared with much care from the chef inspired kitchen.  The Boothill is a gem among imposters, hidden away to be treasured by those who travel off the beaten path.

One of the best parts of our daily travel is the food we get to eat, the restaurants we stop at and the meals we share with others.  We’ve got favorites all over, and I would bet we will stop at all of them over the next 350 days – where would you recommend we stop?

All is not lost, and I’m not either

So the season – racing season that is, has been so busy, that to find time to visit places and write about them too seemed a little daunting.  We did trip to some great places over the last few months and I hope to catch up and talk about them soon.  In the meantime, you can find me on my birthday blog at www.FiftyIn365.com  I will be writing there daily as a celebration of my 50th year.  Be sure to read the What’s It All About part and to follow that blog too.  Thanks everyone, I’m having a great year and would love for you to come along on the journey.

The Squares of Texas

Our current parking spot is Bridgeport, Texas, a small town marked by white trucks and blue collar workers.  A few excellent restaurants, most of which close early, they only need to accommodate the lunch crowd.  My recommendations are Rock City, Casilla’s and Brandee’s Country Kitchen.

Another thing I like about Texas, and truly most places in the South, is that most small towns are built around the square.  Almost every town has one, a central square that is surrounded by shops and cool buildings.  In Decatur and Jacksboro, there is a court house in the central square, in Chico – not much of anything anymore, but the concept is still there.  The square is the center of the city.  Decatur has a beautiful square, the courthouse for Wise County is there, and the buildings all around the square are historic with their histories shared for all to see.  One of my favorite steakhouses is on the southeast corner, Sweetie Pie’s Ribeyes – fantastic chicken fried steak there.  Continuing on the Southeast side were three antique stores and a music store.  Another turn to the west and along the north side was a gift store and a thrift store; going south and then back east were dotted with clothing and furniture stores, but the main theme was food.  Half a dozen restaurants filled in the square.  The best part – no empty buildings.  I love shopping local, too bad, I really don’t need stuff, there was plenty to be had.

I intend to keep exploring the little towns of Texas, I haven’t found my favorite yet, but there are several on the list.

Books books and more books

I am a big fan of reading, whether it’s the cereal box on the table, a billboard or a book, if it has words on it, I will read it repeatedly until I can find something else to do.

Each year I set a goal to read 52 books, for the last six years I’ve even written down every book and every author I’ve read to see if I make my goal.  Each year I’ve fallen short, not by much, but still, I have failed.  Today marked the half way point of this great year, the first year of my “retirement”, and I’m pleased to announced I’ve read 35 books already.

Some were new authors I haven’t read before, others were authors given to me or books picked up secondhand.  Some of those even from a laundrymat in Arizona.  All have been worth reading, but I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

The Long Way Home by Karen McQuestion has been my favorite, a novel along the lines of Sarah Addison Allen, highly recommended.  The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan was a pleasant surprise, a must read for anyone who has been touched by cancer.  I laughed out loud with Marian Keyes The Other Side of the Story  and cried with Kris Radish Tuesday Night Miracles. 

There are obviously more on the list, I caught up with some of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde, Steve Martin, and Charlaine Harris, and met new ones, Harlan Coben and C.J. Box.  I am looking forward to another six months of great reading, if you have anything to recommend, send it my way.

Remember the Alamo!

Not very original, I know, but that is the overwhelming message that comes out of visiting the Alamo in San Antonio,Texas.  I spent my formative years in San Antonio, my dad was career Air Force and was often stationed at Kelly Air Force base before it’s closure.  So from age, less than a year, to age five, I lived on Seacomber street.  When we returned again when I was in fifth grade, we moved to Connie Mack.  The streets of San Antone have changed a lot since then, but my favorite part of the city remains.

The Riverwalk and the Alamo are still as I remember from each of my many visits.  The Alamo is a shrine dedicated to the heroes of Texas and preserved and maintained by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  It is sacred ground for all Texans and to read the inscriptions you would believe that Texas would not exist without the Battle having been fought.  It is well documented that the heroes of the Alamo fought against impossible odds.  Facing thousands in the Mexican Army of Santa Anna, the less than 200 soldiers fought hard and held off the army for 13 days. James Bowie and Davy Crockett are two of the many that died by the morning of March 6, 1836, those names live on in history.

One of the things I love about the Alamo is all the quotes that are said to have stemmed from the battle and siege leading up to the battle.  We remember Davy Crockett saying to his former peers in Congress, “You may all go to Hell, but for me, I shall go toTexas!”

It is a shrine to be sure, a pleasure to spend time in a place so well preserved.

Across from the Alamo is the famed Riverwalk,  the Paseo del Rio, designed by famed architect Robert Hugman to preserve the flavor of the economic and commercial section to be solidified and preserved in it’s current form back in 1929.  It’s full of restaurants and tourist shops, but is worth the trip every time.

I love San Antone and am thankful to have dropped by one more time, and hopefully not for the last.