A place where the light changes everything.

Archive for the ‘U.S.A. 2017’ Category

36 – North Conway to Saint John

I just dont want to ever forget the last day driving home.

Clear antique-blue-glass skies brought us all the way across the White Mountain range of New Hampshire, passing majestic Mt. Washington with its snow cap, through pretty bridges over sparkling rivers and several small towns on the beautiful Route 2 to Bangor. Sound too good to be true? It was all true. Absolutely unreal beautiful so close to home. The final stretch from St. Stephen to Saint John was, in a way, the prettiest of all.

It was the road trip of a lifetime. We drove 10,500 kms and saw many amazing things… some planned and some surprises. It was wonderful to be away and wonderful to come home. Thanks for reading and following along.

Now the fun of sorting through all the glass I bought. Imagination is off and running in the Nellyglass Derby.

Final photos of the journey on day 36 – North Conway to Saint John

35 – Through the Green Mountains to North Conway

We were up and out the door by 7:00 am and into town for breakfast at the South Street Cafe (excellent breakfast sandwiches). Before leaving Bennington, we made a quick stop to see the windows of Sacred Heart Francis de Sales church. A congregation was just gathering for mass and one member told us this is one of the largest churches without internal pillars. It is simply beautiful. Gothic by design but warm and welcoming inside. For all photos, see Gallery/World Windows.

Then off we went on the roller coaster ride up and down and around the lush hills of Vermont’s Green Mountains toward North Conway, NH. The road in many places followed steep and fast flowing mountain streams. We saw three or four covered bridges along the way in quaint towns all with majestic mountain backdrops. This is a place we can definitely see ourselves returning someday perhaps in the fall.

Finally we arrived in North Conway and found our hotel, the Old Red Inn. We stayed here once 27 years ago when Ryan was 3 and Sarah was 1 on a trip home from visiting Monica’s sister Marg and husband Gary in Toronto. It is still just as we remembered… homey little cottages with 60’s decor, propane fireplace, floral wall paper, pine wanescotting… absolutely perfect for our final night of this journey.

After some outlet mall shopping, we had a delicious Mexican dinner at Fiesta Jalisco and then retired to our cottage for a glass or wine and some blogging. As I write this, we’ve got the windows open for the fresh mountain air, the sun is dappling through the trees and the birds are singing all around the Inn. Peaceful and happy, both of us are just a little sad that tomorrow we head for home but are also anxious to return to family and friends. On the positive side, now that we are leaving the States the Canadian dollar should start to climb for the rest of you.

Here are the photo highlights of day 35 – Through the Green Mountains to North Conway NH

34 – Auburn NY to Bennington VT

The temps today crept up to 36 celsius so there must be a thunderstorm brewing.

I was up early and let Monica sleep while I went for a city walk to get some shots. At 7:00 am, it was quiet and the sun was already fierce. I saw the war veterans monument and several churches, all closed at this hour but I would get to visit three of them later in the morning, and the home of Harriet Tubman who served the “Underground Railroad” after the Civil War (1865) by smuggling 300 blacks out of the United States and into Canada.

  • St. Marys church – purples and blues predominate… lovely mural of the Assumption.. simple but beautiful windows
  • Westminster Presbyterian – I ran in myself while Monica waited in the car… there is only one significant window here… a stunning Tiffany Rainbow.
  • Willard Memorial Chapel – the interior completely designed by Tiffany. We were toured through the chapel by the very knowledgeable “Ed” who gave us the full history of the Case family (1850’s fortune made in corn starch and a descendent son credited for inventing sound for cinema films). The Chapel is dark, solemn and very different from most churches…. almost gaudy and signifies Tiffany’s journey into the abstract. The main window scene with Jesus and Peter on the water is stunning.

Leaving Auburn, we headed east through Skaneteles, a beautiful town on the lake of same name. Here we quickly saw St. Jame’s Episcopal church. Then eastward we zipped past Syracuse, Albany, straight through Troy at rush hour and finally to Bennington Vermont. A really lovely town in the foothills of the Green Mountain range.

Here we saw the grave site of Robert Frost in the cemetery of the Old First Church (oldest church in Vermont) plus the 306 foot megalithic monument to the Battle of Bennington in 1777 (John Stark was the victor). However, temps and humidity were too high for any more serious sightseeing, so we called it a day early and enjoyed some Finger Lakes wine in our hotel.

Here are the photo highlights of day 34 – Auburn NY to Bennington VT

33 – Waterfalls and Wineries

This was a stellar day in many ways. Beautiful bright blue skies and warm… no, no… hot! The temps soared to 34 degrees by afternoon but we were comfortable most of the day in the air conditioning of our car except when we got out briefly to see something amazing.

Today we saw several examples of both God’s and man’s handiwork… seven spectacular waterfalls, five award winning wineries and a church with windows that knocked me out.

It is late in the day as I write this and we are tired, so I won’t add the text details of the day. Suffice it to say that the New York Finger Lakes district did not disappoint us. We loved it here once before and we love it even more now. If you get the chance to visit, you will discover for yourself the tranquil splendor of the area.

Here are the photo highlights of day 33 – Waterfalls and Wineries

 

32 – Rochester to Watkins Glen

We are in the beautiful Finger Lakes district of upstate New York. Monica and I were here five years ago and fell in love with the area. It’s very nostalgic to be back again.

We started the day with a quick zip into the downtown of Rochester to see three outstanding churches all within a few blocks of each other; Downtown Presbyterian (Tiffany windows), First Universalist (a ceiling rose window) and Christ Church Episcopal (Tiffany windows). I was extremely lucky to get into all three as they were not open to the public that early in the morning. However, the receptionists all complied with my mournful begging. Spectacular windows… only a sampling posted here. For all photos go to Gallery/World Windows.

By 10:00, we were cruising over the lush green hills toward Keuka Lake (west in the district and the one shaped like a sling shot). It was so nice to be off a four-lane highway and down to 70 km per hour instead of 120. Quite by chance we happened along a secluded little church at the foot of the long peninsula of Keuka Lake called the Garrett Memorial Chapel. It was open (to our delight) and filled with beautiful stained glass windows. Coincidentally, these windows were designed by Frederick Wilson who worked for Tiffany Studios and who also designed the windows of Reid Memorial Church in Richmond, Indiana (we were there about 1 week ago).

From there we visited two wineries that we had seen before, Dr. Konstantin Frank and Heron Hill, both on Keuka Lake… I had accidentally deleted the photos from my camera 5 years ago so I had to return the get and secure the photos this time… plus we bought really good wine which is better than what we remembered. (They have improved). Monica tasted while I had grape juice (I’m the designated driver).

Next we visited the Watkins Glen State Park to hike the gorge trail and get some incredible photos of the magnificent water falls (there are 19 falls within a 1.5 km trail). The weather was perfect… 18 degrees C and no wind. Even better, no masses of tourists as would be the case later in the summer. All the senses are fully engaged here including getting a bit wet from the waterfall spray… it is outstandingly beautiful. Bonus, I saw a snake!!!! Loved that.

By 5pm, we found our hotel… rested and blogged with a nice glass of wine, and at 7pm walked two minutes from our hotel to the lake shore for some evening photos and then next door to a great restaurant called The Wild Flower Cafe and Crooked Rooster Pub. Awesome food… deep fried brussel sprouts, salmon and jambalaya.

Here are the photo highlights of day 32 – Rochester to Watkins Glen

 

31 – Cleveland OH to Rochester NY

This was an 8.5 hr travel day that took us across three states (Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) and into three remarkable churches.

First stop was downtown Cleveland to visit two churches. Monica skillfully navigated me through morning traffic and onto a parking spot on Euclid Ave. From there we walked 2 miles along Euclid to Public Square. Along the way we passed through Playhouse Square with its fantastic and world’s largest crystal chandelier which hangs over the street. The morning sun was in the perfect sky for a light spectrum show as we walked past it. A million shrads of every-colored light sparkled in our eyes. The camera cannot show the brillance but it was amazing!

At Public Square, we visited Old Stone Church, Cleveland’s oldest building dating to 1820 when Cleveland was nothing more than a village of a couple hundred people. Here we saw four Tiffany windows, a John Lafarge window and several other windows. Spectacular!

On the walk back to the car, we visited Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Dark and brooding in comparrison. The windows in the nave are all single windows while the transept and apse windows are giant composition windows. There are many windows in this cathedral and I posted only a few here. For all photos go to Gallery/World Windows.

Leaving Cleveland, we travelled east into the beautiful rolling hills of northern Pennsylvania to the town of Franklin. Here we visited St. John’s Episcopal church and saw truly the most beautiful church yet on our travels. I had researched these Tiffany windows and knew what to expect but was not prepared for the magnificence inside. Eight triptych windows in the nave, Jesus and the four Evangelists in the apse and a huge rose window in the west. Absolutely gorgeous and (hands down) my favorite church to date.

Then the final drive to Rochester, New York where we will cool the jets for a couple of days and enjoy the Finger Lakes wine district.

Here are the photo highlights of day 31 – Cleveland OH to Rochester NY

30 – Cleveland Ohio

It was a six hour drive from Justice Illinois to Cleveland Ohis with no stops except for fuel. Monica navigated us straight downtown and into the parking garage on the waterfront where we spent the next three hours thoroughly enjoying the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.  What a blast! We had so much fun… it was extremely nostalgic for both of us hearing songs from the past and seeing famous costumes, music instruments and other rock celeb memorabilia. Throughout the museum, we watched three movies; Past and Present Inductees, Dick Clark clips from his years on American Bandstand and a 3-D U2 concert (wow). I took dozens of photos and really struggled to narrow it down to my favorites.

After the museum, we strolled to Public Square in the heart of the downtown. Being Sunday afternoon, it was very quiet with hardly any traffic. Downtown Cleveland is absolutely beautiful as my pics will show. Shiny, clean, attractive. We saw the Cleveland Browns football stadium, the Science and Nature Museum, several city sculptures and fountains and the lovely architecture of the buildings.

Then away we went to find our hotel in the west end of the city and dinner right next door at Bob Evans restaurant. Simple wholesome dining and lots of it… we were stuffed. Tomorrow morning before we head east, we are returning to the downtown briefly to see a church that was closed today. Hopefully traffic won’t be a nightmare.

Here are the photo highlights of day 30 – Cleveland Ohio

29 – Justice Illinois

It was a 5.5 hours drive from Winterset, Iowa to Justice, Illinois… very flat farming country all the way. We had one fuel stop in West Branch, Iowa which also happens to be the birth place, burial place and location of the presidential museum of president Herbert Hoover (1929-1933… during the Great Depression). We took a photo but did not stop to visit.

The destination for the day was Justice, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). Here one finds a special cemetary called Resurrection Cemetery. It opened in 1969 to serve the Polish Catholic community but today serves all Catholics.  On the premises is a large Mausoleum which boasts the world’s largest stained glass window. So you can understand why I drove so hard to get here. Monica is such a trooper to tolerate my obsession.

We arrived at 2:00 pm and toured all three floor; the basement floor contains individual windows whereas the walls of the top 2 floors are completely covered in stained glass. (!!!!!!!!!) I was breathless when we entered.

The glass panels tell the story of Christianity from the book of Genesis to Revelations. The glass is very thick (at least 1″) and is set in grout as opposed to lead and solder. The colors are brilliant and flood the entire Mausoleum with light. I took dozens of photos (one of every panel) but will post only a few here in my blog. If you look closely, there is a photo with me standing beside one of the panels and a couple of shots with Monica. This will give you an idea of size. For all photos, see Gallery/World Windows.

The Mausoleum is sometimes lit up at night and Monica and I took a drive to the cemetery at 9:00 pm in hopes to see it. Sadly, it was not lit up this night but I am still grateful to have seen it in the day time. I copied a photo from the Internet of a night shot just to show you how impressive it is. Famous for many years as the world’s largest stained glass window, there is actually a new world leader in a church in Leewood, Kansas… but this one is still so incredible it will always be the largest for me.

Here are the photo highlights of day 29 – Justice Illinois

28 – The Bridges of Madison County

The weather forecast for today was “clear skies and 25 degrees”… the perfect day to find the six bridges of Madison County plus whatever else we happened along. We were up at 4:30 am (yes, I know) so why not try to see the sun coming up on one of the bridges. We pulled on our sweats and off we went.

All the side roads around the main town center are dirt… which really lends to the “country” atmosphere. Within 10 minutes, we had found Holliwell Bridge just 3 miles from our hotel. As we waited for the sun to rise, we heard wild turkeys, wild coyotes and watched rabbits hop around our car. It was a gorgeous sunrise. A multitude of birds’ chorus included red-winged blackbirds, meadow larks, Baltimore orioles, cardinals, robins, song sparrows… and those were just the ones I could identify. With photos taken, it was back to the hotel for breakfast and then off again in search of more bridges.

We quickly found Cedar Bridge which, unfortunately, was victim to an arson attack just three weeks prior. Such a shame… it has a lovely picnic park around it with BBQ pits and tables, etc. The locals are already collecting donations to rebuild it. FYI, the arsonist was caught and is awaiting trial.

We carried on to find the farm house where scenes from The Bridges of Madison County with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood were filmed 20 years ago. This old house also fell victim to arson and although still standing, is now closed to the public. We learned later that several other landmarks in the area were destroyed or damaged by arson. Tsk tsk.

Moving on, we drifted over the rolling hills and dirt roads of Madison County and by mid morning we had found and photographed Hogback Bridge, the Old Gristmill at Pammel State Park (the car ford across the river was closed due to high water), Roseman Bridge, Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, the Winterset Tower, and visited the John Wayne Museum and his birthplace in town. John Wayne lived here until he was 3 years old when his family moved a few miles north. Winterset has capitalized on his name and fame to draw tourists… and they’ve done a great job of the museum. Still almost 40 years after his death, hundreds of people come here each year to celebrate his birthday at the end of May.

Lunch was left over pizza from last night in our hotel room with a nice cold glass of Francesca’s Folly blush wine we got at the grocery store yesterday. It was made locally at the Covered Bridges Winery and was so good, we decided to visit the winery ourselves. So, after a brief rest, off we went again. This was the winery we tried to visit yesterday but was closed. Turns out we were at the old site… the new site is just up the road from our hotel.

On the way to the winery we found the sixth and final bridge, the Imes Bridge, in the town of St. Charles. All six bridges have a similar look with their red paint (except Cedar which is burnt black and shows only the skeletal remains) and all of them are pedestrian only.

Touring done for the day, it was back into town for dinner at the Northside Cafe where scenes from the movie were also filmed. It is right out of the 50s with its swivel bar stools, worn wooden booths and floors, ancient milkshake maker and tin ceiling. The burgers were awesome!

This is as far west as we go on our travels… tomorrow we move east toward home with some highly anticipated stops along the way.

Here are the photo highlights of day 28 – The Bridges of Madison County

27 – Arriving Winterset

Before leaving Independence, we visited the downtown core to see the birthplace, home, church and museum of President Harry S. Trueman. It was early in the day, hardly any traffic, and we had it all to ourselves. This is his town and everything here is “Harry”. The biggest surprise of the visit was the First Presbyterian Church where Harry met his future wife, Bess, in Sunday School when they were just children. The church was actually closed this morning but we rang the intercom buzzer and the receptionist let us in for a quick photo tour and history lesson. We were thrilled, needless to say.

Then off we went to the north, crossing the Missouri/Iowa state line by early afternoon. En route, we happened across a fantastic antique mall called ” The Enchanted Frog”. Miles of aisles of treasures… I found some lovely glass that might be useful in future projects (happy face).

We passed through the town of St. Charles with its quaint visitor’s welcome center and antique shop. The building is a repurposed Presbyterian Church build in 1916. All original including the stained glass. Very nice!

Finally we came to Winterset, Iowa. Monica has dreamed of being here ever since the movie “Bridges of Madison County” came out in 1995. This is wide open farm land and all roads are laid out in perfect grid formation. We found a local winery (Covered Bridges Winery) but it was closed so we went to the grocery store and bought one for later, made a quick pass around the town square to get our bearings and then found our hotel for then next two days (Covered Bridge Inn).

There is a freshness in the air tonight and the sun is setting on the cornfields across the road from our hotel. As I finish this, we are getting ready to walk next door to a pizza restaurant before calling it a day. Tomorrow will be a day of exploration and maybe a picnic under a bridge.

Here are the photo highlights of day 27 – Arriving Winterset

 

26 – Kansas City

It took the morning to drive clear across the state of Missouri from St. Louis to Kansas City. With Monica’s excellent navigation skills, we drove straight to the Country Club Plaza in the south end of the city… a 3 block square consisting of 150 high-end shops, beautiful Spanish influenced architecture, multiple sculptures and fountains throughout and lots of public green spaces along the canal. It is really lovely. However, temps were pushing 30 degrees with high humidity as an afternoon thunderstorm approached so we got our photos and didn’t linger too long in the heat.

We continued into the heart of the city and found the Hallmark corporate headquarters and toured the visitor’s center. It was so nostalgic to see the history of Hallmark dating back to the early 1900s, the people associated (Winston Churchill, Grandma Moses, Norman Rockwell), the time line of cards and other memorabilia, the Christmas ornaments (of which we have a couple at home). We also got to meet and chat with one of the Hallmark artists. Bonus, they give you complimentary cards when you leave… all with free admission!

Then the heavens opened as a lightning storm dumped on the city. We pulled into the Union Station parking lot to wait for it to let up. It was terrible, tremendous and thrilling. Since sightseeing was temporarily cancelled and we were hungry, Monica Googled a nearby sushi restaurant (The Drunken Fish) and we had a great meal as the storm passed.

Last stop of the day was at the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral to see the most amazing Tiffany window… a woodland scene with waterfall and deer. It is THE most beautiful Tiffany window I have seen yet. There are many windows in the church but only two Tiffanys. In addition to stained glass, they also have one of only 300 copies in the world of the original “fully illuminated” St.  John’s Bible. That’s special and  I was so happy to visit this small but spectacular church.

We left Kansas City in rush hour traffic and made it to Independence (10 miles outside the city) for the night. Blogging completed, a late evening snack craving was satisfied right next door to our hotel at Sheridan’s Ice Cream parlor.

Here are the highlights of day 26 – Kansas City

25 – Historic Saint Charles

Today was 28 degrees and felt like 32 with clear blue skies. A good day to take it easy and not walk as hard as yesterday. Monica and I spent the morning and afternoon exploring the history of Saint Charles  (once the state capital of Missouri) and the many quaint shops along Main Street … just a couple of kilometers from our hotel. This is a city although it has more of a town feel and is the place where Lewis and Clark set off up the Missouri River in 1804 to explore the west. When they returned two years later, they made this their home. This was also the home of Daniel Boone (also a pioneer and explorer) and the home of sister Rose Philippine who was beatified (made a saint) as one of only a few Americans to receive sainthood.

We took our time getting around and didn’t arrive on Main Street until 9:30. Even so, the shops where still not open until 10. So the first thing was to visit St. Charles Borromeo church to get some pics of the windows. Blues predominate the colors and all windows have a very similar structure and composition. The church is bright and airy and the rose window in the south is remarkable.

Next we visited the Shrine of Saint Philippine Duchesne… born in France in 1769 and came to America as a young nun in the Order of the Sacred Heart to work with the Indians. She started several schools in the area and died in Saint Charles in 1852, was buried on this site, beatified in 1940 and canonized in 1988 by Pope John Paul II. The Shrine to her life and work is understated as she would have wanted. We walked in an were greeted by the most gracious Jeanine who is a retired teacher at this school. When she learned of my passion for glass, she gave us a personal tour into the school library to see the stained glass windows that commemorate Saint Philippine’s life. We were so honored…not everyone gets this privilege.

Then we shopped and saw the sites. Most buildings along Main Street are original. Although they now house craft shops, restaurants and other modern businesses, each building has a historical plaque on the outside explaining what sort of business it was originally. Around the town are several sculptures and historic landmarks. A note of interest is just how dramatic the recent flooding of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers must have been. We saw tons and tons of uprooted trees and other debris that were deposited along the banks. Even some streets were covered in silt. The poor locals. River levels are now receding quickly and work crews were out cleaning up the mess.

Lunch was at Bradden’s for delicious salads and cold drinks… perfect on a hot day. Then back to the hotel before 4:00 for a dip in the pool.

Here are the photo highlights of day 25 – Historic Saint Charles

 

 

23 – Arriving St. Louis

Clear blue skies today and a long driving day with touch-downs in 5 states; Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

We left our hotel in Florence, Kentucky at 8:00 and drove 15 minutes to the city of Covington, Kentucky (just across the Ohio River and state border from Cincinnati, Ohio) for a quick stop to see the absolutely breathtaking Cathedral Bascilica of the Assumption. This cathedral is 360 degrees of stained glass windows (no Tiffanys) and is right up there as one of my favorite churches to date. The sun was so bright in the east this morning, it made the windows almost unbearably bright… the camera could not even take a reasonable photo in the apse over the alter. Nevertheless, the most remarkable thing about this church is the north window… a 67 foot window which holds the claim as the world’s largest hand-made stained glass window. It depicts the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431AD that proclaimed Mary as the Mother of God. Jaw-dropping! (see Gallery/World Windows for all photos)

We couldn’t stay in Covington too long as we were heading north for a 1.5 hour drive to make the 10:00 church service at the Reid Memorial Presbyterian church in Richmond, Indiana. We got there at 10:15 and slipped into the back pew in time to catch a remarkable sermon from Rev. Joseph Fields… the message was about the last will and testament of Jesus, “Love One Another”. Monica and I shared communion with the congregation and really enjoyed the closing hymn “Dance in the Morning” which you would recognize as John Allen Cameron’s “Lord of the Dance”. After the service, Rev. Fields gave us a private tour and history lesson on this 185 year old church with its 63 signed Tiffany windows. (!!!) As with the cathedral in Covington earlier this morning, the sun was so bright, I could not get great photos. Nevertheless, what a thrill it was to be there and see these windows.

Then we drove west, past Indianapolis, across southern Illinois which is as flat as a pancake… farm lands and skies as far as you can see, and finally arriving in St. Louis, Missouri where we will stay for a couple of days. They have had terrible rains here lately and the Mississippi River is swollen to dangerous levels. We are hopeful the nice weather now will help speed up the receding water levels.

Here are the photo highlights of day 23 – Arriving St. Louis

22 – Saturday at the Kentucky Derby

What a day, what a day. It rained, it poured, then the sun shone bright on my old Kentucky home.

We weren’t in any rush to head over to Churchill Downs today because of the wet weather. We waited until 3:00pm and then got dressed to go. Monica donned her new hat and I my new Darth Vader bow tie!!! Funny story… I didn’t have a tie until a couple of days ago when Monica and I visited a nearby shopping mall… she was looking for a red accent flower for her ivory hat. We wandered into a novelty store that was playing loud music for the 20 something crowd. At that moment we walked in, the British jazz-rap group, Us3, was playing “Dark Side” (actually quite a melodious tune). Monica spotted the bow tie as if it was calling my name.

We spent the morning studying the horses and by noon, Monica had her picks and I had mine…. “Always Dreaming”. I knew nothing about the horse or his history…. I just connected with his name. It suited me.

At 3:00, off we went on foot for the 20 minute walk to Churchill Downs. The crowd today was 150,000 strong and we had to push our way through to the wager wickets as soon as we arrived. My bet was $6 on #5 Always Dreaming ‘across the board’ (cost me $18 total). Bets placed, we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon watching both the people and the horse races.

At 6:50 pm, Harry Connick Jr. sang the National Anthem and it was time for the 143rd run for the roses. Just then the sun came out in full force and the crowd exploded in the grandstand as the horses exploded from the gates. Guess who won? Always Dreaming came in first and I made $61 on my $18 bet. What a great experience… definitely something you’d have to be there for to really understand.

After the race, we packed up and drove out of Louisville and headed north toward Cincinnati… chatting and reliving the day’s moments all the way to our hotel for the night. Tomorrow is Sunday and we are going to church… a very special church. I can hardly wait.

Here are the highlights of day 22 – Saturday at the Kentucky Derby

21 – Friday at The Oaks

Woo hoo, let it rain! Surprisingly, we slept pretty good in our little tent last night. However, the dash to the showers this morning was a good soaking as was the dash back to the car. We sat there for a couple of hours to dry out and waited for the breakfast pavilion to open at 8:00 where we were first in line for all-you-can-eat-breakfast and then spent the next four hours (dry) watching live TV coverage of the Kentucky Oaks preliminary show on the sports network.

Today (the Oaks) is all about the fillies. Tomorrow (the Derby) will be for the colts. Monica spent the morning studying the horses and how to place the bets. What a complex system it is; win, place, show, trifecta, boxed-trifeca, superfecta… Oy-Vay! I left all that to her and was just happy to take the photos.

At 1:30 we caught the shuttle over to Churchill Downs (5 minutes from our campground) to watch the afternoon races and prepare for the main event at 6:15. That’s when the three-year old females run. Monica placed her bets early for the main event and then we strolled around the grounds enjoying the immense and colorful crowd. Lots of beautiful and bizarre costumes and hats. It rained all day and the temp never got above 10 degrees. Some poor girls were so scantily dressed it was obvious they were freezing and very uncomfortable. However, despite the weather, the mood was light and the air filled with excitement. One distasteful note is the many cigars that were being sold and smoked all around us… gag and gross!

There were several races throughout the afternoon. We watched in the paddock area where the horses and jockeys come parading in for the cameras. As a lark during one of the preliminary races, Monica placed a bet on a silver-bay fillie that caught her eye, Dream Dancing, and won $11… woo-hoo! However, she lost her shirt on the main event… sad face. The irony of it was that the three horses she chosen for a trifecta were all in the lead coming around the last turn… Mon was so excited… then they fell back and we’re passed in the home stretch. All in all, a fun and thrilling experience which gave us a better idea on how to go about it tomorrow at the Derby.

Back at the campground we met our tenting neighbours, nice fellows from Mississauga, had hot dogs and nachos for supper (only because we were starving and the other option was dried out pizza) and popped in for a minute to see the girl fights at the campground pavilion. That’s right, girl fights! The most disturbing thing about that was just how “into it” some of the crowd was. I share this with you just to illustrate how red-neck central this place is. After 10 minutes of that we went to bed (10:00 pm) but the music and hootin’ and hollerin’ went on until well after midnight.

It’s 4am now as I finish this, the sky has cleared (finally) but the temp has fallen to 7 degrees and Mon and I have come to the car to get warm. That’s it for the tent! It was a good idea at the time but just got too wet in all the rain. Tomorrow night after the Derby, we will pull out of here early and find something more comfortable.

Here are the photo highlights of day 21 – Friday at the Oaks

 

 

20 – Cemetaries, Antiques and Museums

This is Thurby, the Thursday before the Derby. Normally there would be lots of social activities going on at Churchill Downs but it’s been raining hard all day so the crowd is somewhat subdued.

To pass the time today, we explored around Louisville a bit in our car. First we visited the Cavehill Cemetary (the rain held off perfectly as we coasted around this beautiful cemetary finding such notables gravesites as Muhammed Ali and Colonel Sanders. Some of the statues and monuments are very elaborate and some have stained glass. There is also a Comfederate/Union soldier section here as well.

Next we found an amazing Antique Mall with two floors and endless little rooms filled with treasures. What a great time. You could go around the place 20 times and find something different each time.

In the afternoon, we drove to Churchill Downs and visited the Derby Museum. Your visit starts in a theater with a huge 360 degree screen on which they give you an excellent 15 minute history of horse racing highlighting some of the famous winners of the past. Let me tell you, it is extremely emotional even for someone like me who is not a horse lover. I could tell Monica was floating on air.

Finally we drove out of the city to a nearby shopping mall where Mon found a colorful accent for her new hat and I found the most amazing bow tie. Can’t wait to show that off on Saturday.

Supper was at Applebee’S Restaurant for chicken and steak and then back to the Derby Camp ground to see if our tent had floated away. Happy to say our little $15 K-Mart tent is holding up so far but tonight we are blogging from the car and enjoying the country and rock and roll music mix from the camp ground disc jockey. Would you believe we are actually having fun. As I finish writing this, Pink Floyd is blaring over the loud speakers “Wish You Were Here”.

Here are the photo highlights of day 20 – Cemetaries, Antiques and Museums

19 – Arriving Louisville

Beautiful morning to drive over the spectacular Great Smokey Mountains National Park from Cherokee to Pigeon Forge. The views are breathtaking and the distance hills really do have a blue tinge to them… aptly named the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lots of turkeys.

We drove past Dolly World for the shots and carried on to Louisville and found our campground… the Derby Park Five Expo… and set up our tent. This place is red-neck central. Loud country music till 10:30pm, and real live entertainment this weekend…might get Mon up for a karaoke! Plus a flea market on site and all you can eat breakfast. Lots of RVs here but we are the only tent so far.

We are right at the end of the Louisville airport runway. Plus, the main thoroughfare into the city is 20 feet away.., you can really feel the Harley Davidsons when they roar past. Great fun!

We found a nice taxi driver, Paul, who took us downtown and picked us up later. Lovely city… especially at dark. There is a pedestrian only foot bridge over the Ohio River. It changes color continuously.  We strolled out on to it for some shots before home to bed in our tiny tent. The rain started at midnight.

Here are the photo highlights of day 19 – Arriving Louisville

18 – Charleston to Cherokee

A wondrous thunder storm rumbled through the night bringing clear blue skies and cooler temps in the morning as we left Charlestown and headed west toward the Great Smokey Mountains. It was a long driving day with two stops along the way;

1. The city of Ashville, North Carolina where we planned to see the Biltmore mansion built by George Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt of Newport fame. This mansion claims the title of America’s largest house. However, the entry tour price of $60 per person changed our minds. Instead we headed downtown to stroll through the shops of the renowned Grove Arcade. Monica bought some real cotton seed pods for a future wreath. While she shopped, I stepped next door to photograph the magnificent circular Bacilica of St. Lawrence, with its spectacular stained glass windows. (see Gallery/World Windows for all the photos).

2. Hendersonville, North Carolina known for its antique shops. What a lovely town. We started the visit with a refreshing cold one and shared an order of potato skins (they give you the entire potato…delicious). Then we shopped. The find of the day was much to Monica’s delight… Wedgewood “Silver Ermine” china… enough to finish the set that we got as wedding presents and then some. It is a discontinued pattern and she has been searching for it for years. She walked out of the store with $650 US worth of china for $100. Can’t beat that with a stick.

Finally we came to the town of Cherokee and found our hotel.  We are actually in a Cherokee Reservation and the town is fully equipped with casino, bingo hall and many authentic craft shops. Very touristy and very lovely nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tomorrow will go over these mountains.

Here are the photo highlights of day 18 – Charleston to Cherokee

17 – Charleston

Despite the forecast of a possible thunderstorm, we had sunny 28 degree weather all day with a strong easterly breeze that helped to blow off the stink.

We caught the bus downtown at 9:00 and spent the next 7 hours exploring the historic 350 year old streets of the city. What interesting history and fantastic architecture. The highlights of the day included:

  • Strolling past the Medical University of South Carolina and then through the campus of the College of Charleston…beautiful with its ancient moss-covered oak trees
  • The small and exquisite (plus air conditioned) Saint Mary of the Annunciation church – surprisingly beautiful windows
  • The huge and extremely exquisite Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist
  • (my favorite) Saint Michael’s Episcopal Church (1750, oldest church in Charleston) – Tiffany windows. George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshiped here.
  • Strolling past the stately mansions along the waterfront
  • The Slave Market Museum – absolutely gut wrenching how the slaves were treated
  • The French Protestant Huguenot Church – oldest Huguenot church in America. Several US presidents are Huguenot descendents
  • The Dock Street Theater (1736) – rebuilt in the 1930s for $20 million and in use today
  • St. Philip’s Church (Anglican) – only one stained glass window. Almost as old as St. Michael’s
  • Charleston City Market – 3 blocks of artisans selling local crafts… the Gullah (southern Black) sweet grass baskets started at $100 … we decided not to get one. However, someone did get a nice hat for the Derby.
  • Dinner at Poogan’s Smokehouse – pulled pork with mac ‘n cheese for Mon and southern fried chicken with collard greens for Nelly. Really good!

Sounds like a busy day but everything is really close in Charleston and all within easy walking distance. Nevertheless, the heat had us tuckered out by 4:00 so it was home to relax at the hotel and take a refreshing dip in the pool. Tomorrow we head for the hills.

Here are the photo highlights of day 17 – Charleston

16 – Arriving Charleston

We were on the road at 5am for the eight hour drive to Charleston with just one 10 minute stop at Rodanthe Pier to enjoy the dawn on the Atlantic.

Many miles… nothing much to report except an interesting note that instead of raccoons and skunks, the road kill down south is possums and armadillos.

At 1:30pm we arrived just outside Charleston to tour the Boone Hall Plantation, dating to the late 1600s when English born Captain Patey arrived in North America and was granted the 735 acre lot by King Charles. His daughter married a Boone and Cpt. Patety gave the land to them as a wedding gift. Thus began the legacy of several generations of Boones and the wealthiest plantation in North America in its day (pecan orchards and brick production), built on the backs of the slaves brought directly from Africa. The site today is still privately owned and we were only allowed to tour the downstairs of the mansion, the gardens and the slave quarters. It is very beautiful and very interesting, especially the story of the slaves.

By late afternoon, we headed toward Charleston, found our hotel and took a quick dip in the pool to cool off. Then we caught the bus into town and found supper at the Charleston Crab House. Appetizers of fried green tomatoes and crab bisque then mains of shrimp ‘n grits and seafood trio  (scallops, shrimp and grouper). Wonderful food … very filling.

We strolled a bit of the waterfront to settle supper before catching a cab back to the hotel for the night.

Here are the photo highlights of day 16 – Arriving Charleston