Leaf Peepers

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

My husband, Roger, and I enjoy seeing natures’ beauty whenever we can. We decided to see the fall foliage in the six New England states where I heard it is magnificent.

During the first week of October a few years ago, we traveled to New York and the six New England states during one fall foliage season. People who invade these states at that time are called “leaf peepers” by the locals.

The hardwood trees in northernmost Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont start to change in early to mid-September. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island begin to change soon afterward. The peak leaf peeper season usually happens during the first two weeks of October. Our timing of this adventure was perfect. The millions of beautiful red, orange, gold, yellow, and purple leaves among the evergreen trees didn’t disappoint us.

We previously traveled to Vermont and New Hampshire together, but this time we wanted to visit these states on the same trip. What better time than during the lush fall foliage season?

We left Michigan taking the bridge into Canada and spent the night in Ontario near Thousand Islands. We had a full breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the St Lawrence River. Refreshed, we continued to our scheduled stop in Vermont where Roger has family members. We took pictures of the colorful hillsides, rustic barns, crossed one of the few remaining old-fashioned covered wood bridges, and picked fruit at an apple orchard. His sister baked a scrumptious pie for us using the fresh raspberries we picked at a raspberry farm. We also ate decadent maple syrup ice cream at Roger’s favorite Vermont ice cream stand.

Our four star-filled nights in Vermont were followed by a short stay in New Hampshire where Roger has family. We played on a beautiful leaf-covered golf course and lost a number of golf balls under piles of colorful leaves. We made several stops to take pictures of the awesome pallet of natures’ colors. After eating dinner with his family and spending the night, we headed for Maine. 

After a long drive over winding roads, past colorful hillsides, we parked at a tourist spot south of Kennebunkport, Maine. Before shopping for souvenirs, we decided to walk on the beautiful sandy beach right into the Atlantic Ocean and I immediately jumped back out. The waters off the shores of Maine were way too cold for me to take a real dip in the waters. At least I could say I got in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Our souvenir shopping included t-shirts and postcards for our grandchildren and a magnet of the state of Maine for ourselves.

Following a lunch of fresh seafood, we drove through Massachusetts enjoying the lovely foliage on our way to Providence, Rhode Island for an overnight stay. From there we stopped in Connecticut for lunch. After driving around New London, we headed up through Hartford, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts where we turned west onto I-90 which took us through Albany, New York on our way to Niagara Falls just north of Buffalo. We saw Niagara Falls from both the American and Canadian sides. Colorful lighting enhanced the American view of the awesome cascading waters. We stayed one night in Niagara Falls before heading back home by way of Canada.

Once we left Vermont, we covered the remaining New England states and New York in four days. New England is not an expansive area. This trip helped us fill our magnetic map of the United States.

How many states have you visited?

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

My husband, Roger, and I have traveled to some of our fifty states more than once. Because I’m an amateur genealogist, I wanted to use one of our trips to research the little-known paternal side of my family. While Roger golfed, I spent time in Frankfort, Kentucky researching the Kentucky Archives and Libraries for clues to my family’s records. Frankfort is second only to Salt Lake City, Utah in genealogical research opportunities.

Birth, death, and divorce records weren’t consistently maintained during the years key members of my family lived in Kentucky. In the few records I found, my father’s maternal grandmother’s name appeared only once. Using words of dedication written by my daughter, Autumn, I had a memorial brick for my great-grandmother placed on the walkway outside of the library alongside other Kentucky ancestors.

Autumn conducted online genealogy research to try to discover additional information on her and our other ancestors. She discovered that the 1920 census in Horse Cave, Kentucky, town of my father’s birth, recorded 864 residents. Years ago, my father told me that a one-block area there called Henry Town was named for his father, Henry, a popular man in his day. In 2011, Autumn decided that we should take a family trip to Horse Cave. The population there at that time was about 2,311. We were pleasantly surprised to hear a lady at city hall mention Henry Town.

Autumn, her husband Daniel, their eight-year-old daughter, and one-year-old son accompanied Roger and me on our trip. While our husbands and the children enjoyed the Louisville Zoo and the hotel swimming pool, Autumn and I went to the local colored cemetery to see if we could locate the tombstones of our relatives thought to be buried there.

The well-maintained Guthrie Street Municipal Cemetery has 200 to 300 graves. Much to our delight, we found the gravestones of many of our ancestors. Because some tombstones were situated in family groupings, we were able to find additional names for Autumn’s growing poster of our genealogy tree. We happily photographed all the family groupings as well as individual headstones we knew belonged to our ancestors.

Some graves were marked with obviously hand carved rocks rather than the more expensive headstones. The wording on these rocks has worn away over time leaving some graves unmarked. We couldn’t find my great-grandmother’s grave. Because of the estimated time of her death, we’re sure that one of the worn-away stones was hers. Tears of sadness filled our eyes at that sad thought.

Have you tried searching for your ancestral records? Were you successful? Did you have any surprises in your findings? 

Family Vacation

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

Roger and I recently completed our bucket list of traveling to all 50 U. S. states together. A recurring question is which state we like best. We’ve had good things to say about so many that the answer changes often. One of our state trips was special for several reasons. Our daughter and son-in-law invited us to travel with them and their young daughter to Hawaii.

One of my friends, who is childless, couldn’t understand why we took an eighteen-and-a-half-month-old child on a long overseas trip. She said that our granddaughter, Mia, wouldn’t remember the experience. Perplexed, I responded that her parents wouldn’t leave her with just anyone and they wouldn’t “board” her like a pet. Besides, they knew that Mia was a good traveler because she was used to us taking her on short field trips. This was to be her first long trip, and we hoped for the best. We got it!

The flight was indeed long. However, our daughter made sure that Mia was kept busy with books, toys, and snacks on the long flights.

On our arrival at the Honolulu Airport, on the Island of Oahu, we were greeted by warm sunshine, gorgeous scenery, and friendly people putting beautiful purple and white leis around our necks. The aroma of the flowers was also welcoming. Hawaii is known for its colorful and fragrant flowers such as the bright yellow hibiscus (the state flower), the fragrant pink plumeria, the bird of paradise, and the bright red anthurium.

When we arrived at the Marriot resort, we stopped to admire the outdoor fishpond full of large gold koi. Mia headed for the pond. “Quick, grab her,” I told my husband. “She loves water, and she wants to get in.”

My husband grabbed her just as she raised her foot to climb over the barrier. “Honey, you can’t get in there. The fish don’t need the company.”

As we walked further admiring the beautiful Hawaiian flowers, Mia saw a small insect on the walkway and stopped to watch it. “Ooh, look.” She taught us to notice everything large or small. The hotel was beautiful, comfortable, and spacious. The décor matched the Hawaiian scenery.

Outside the hotel, we enjoyed the sandy beach. While my husband and son-in-law went swimming, our daughter and I tried to let Mia enjoy the water. However, the tides were a little too strong to let her go all the way into the strong surf. My daughter and I had to hold her tightly to prevent her from being swept away. We eventually found a less intimidating area to allow her to enjoy getting into the water.

The next day we visited a pineapple plantation on the north side of Oahu. We toured the plantation and learned how they harvested the fruit. The fresh pineapples were delicious.

We returned to the resort for dinner. I can’t say enough great things about the delicious meals we enjoyed at the hotel and at various restaurants we visited during our stay. At one meal, our daughter was making a taco, putting cheese, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and meat onto a soft taco shell. Mia watched her mother intensely and grabbed a shell, put shredded cheese on it, rolled the shell the way she saw it done, and took a bite. Then she smiled knowing she did a good job.

The next day, we flew from Honolulu to Hawaii, called the Big Island, to explore Mauna Loa, the famous volcano. Before our flight took off, Mia wanted to see the steward giving safety instructions. She stood on the seat and listened quietly. She applauded him when he spoke bringing a smile to his face. Apparently, she thought he was giving a performance, and she wanted to applaud his effort.

Mauna Loa, considered the largest volcano on Earth, is one of the five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii. It last erupted in 1984. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory monitors that volcano. While we were there, one of the park rangers told us that some of the volcanic lava had migrated some distance the week before we got there.

While my husband, daughter, and son-in-law walked over some of the volcanic lava, Mia and I stood a distance away for safety reasons. After touring the area, we flew back to Oahu to enjoy dinner and relax.

The next day, we arrived at the Polynesian Cultural Center to visit the six Pacific Island villages and exhibits featuring an authentic luau followed by an award-winning show. At one of the villages, Mia easily learned to do the hula.

At the luau, we were introduced to a variety of Hawaiian meat, vegetarian, and salad dishes including several made with fresh pineapples. This was our second taste of this delicious fresh Hawaiian grown fruit. We sent some home to family members who said they enjoyed the taste so much better than canned pineapples.

The award-winning show followed the luau. Because the show would last past our granddaughter’s bedtime, we were prepared to take her back to the resort where we stayed. Mia enjoyed the hula dancing, singing, and the men twirling fire sticks. She laughed, clapped, danced and stayed awake during the entire show much to our surprise. Her father picked her up at the end of the show, and she fell asleep immediately. We spent a few more days enjoying the sights, smells, and beauty in that heavenly paradise.

Hawaii, our 50th state, is a beautiful place to visit. We plan to return in a couple of years with Mia, who is now a teenager, and her younger brother, Logan.

Is a visit to Hawaii on your bucket list or have you enjoyed that vacation in the past?

Travels

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

Last summer my husband, Roger, and I completed our goal of visiting all 50 states together in the nearly 30 years of our marriage. An acquaintance asked which states I liked best and which I considered the worst. Because the last two states we visited were South Dakota and Wyoming, I talked about the wonderful sights of those states first. I then mentioned the attributes of some of the other states. I never said which states I consider the worst. I believe there is something good about each of our 50 states.

In South Dakota we photographed Mt. Rushmore where we saw the carved faces of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. We visited the museum which displayed pictorial information about the construction of that phenomenal monument. Fascinating! We were also in South Dakota just in time to see the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which lasted about 10 days. Last year an estimated half a million bikers attended the annual rally. The noises of the many motorcycles drove the bison toward the hills making us miss seeing the animals.

We drove from there to Jackson, Wyoming, the last state on our list. Jackson is a small city in the Jackson Hole Valley of Teton County. One of the best restaurants in Jackson is The Bunnery Bakery & Restaurant which serves traditional American breakfasts, sandwiches, and delicious baked goods and desserts. While Roger and I were discussing the successful completion of our state visits, several of the customers overheard us. We were congratulated by several of the them. One man sent a large cinnamon roll, The Bunnery’s specialty, to our table as a gift for our accomplishment.

During a walking tour of the city, we saw an impressively huge arch made of shed elk antlers collected by local children. We walked the boardwalk to a local museum which detailed how people in the past lived. While we were there, we saw one woman demonstrate the loom to weave yarn. We also took a short ride in a horse drawn stage coach to see the rest of the city.

In Yellowstone Park we saw Old Faithful, one of the most famous geysers in the world. This area has more geysers than any geyser field anywhere. We also saw elk, moose, and some friendly donkeys being fed by tourists which was forbidden. Just before exiting the park, we finally saw herds of bison in the fields. Some of the bison stopped on the two-lane road blocking the traffic for some time. It is illegal, and dangerous, to try to move the bison. Of course, there were some impatient people who tried or got too close to those huge, wild animals. Foolish! I’ll write more about some of our statewide trips in future blogs. Have you traveled to many of the 50 states? What did you find interesting about them?

In Yellowstone Park we saw Old Faithful, one of the most famous geysers in the world. This area has more geysers than any geyser field anywhere. We also saw elk, moose, and some friendly donkeys being fed by tourists which was forbidden. Just before exiting the park, we finally saw herds of bison in the fields. Some of the bison stopped on the two-lane road blocking the traffic for some time. It is illegal, and dangerous, to try to move the bison. Of course, there were some impatient people who tried or got too close to those huge, wild animals. Foolish!

I’ll write more about some of our statewide trips in future blogs. Have you traveled to many of the 50 states? What did you find interesting about them?

Our Book (Part 3 of 3)

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

On Thursday at sea, Roger and I filled our day with socializing, playing games, and learning the basics of Spanish in a class. Our team won the morning Catchphrase Challenge. I participated in the line dance class even though the ocean was rough. It was hilarious dancing while trying to maintain my balance.

Our Friday bus tour of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico included a visit to a tequila factory. The tour guide showed us how they used to make tequila and how the process has been modernized. We were given generous samples of about five different flavors of tequila. I opted out of the tasting experience. Roger enjoyed it. Some of the tourists purchased bottles of tequila to take home, but Roger just purchased a bottle of a special hot sauce.

During our island themed lunch, we were treated to a performance of Mexican dancers and a rider on a prancing horse. When they asked for audience participation, I happily volunteered to dance with one of the performers.

In the evening, Roger and I sat in on the Music Trivia Game Show with “Barry from Boston,” a piano bar entertainer whom we enjoyed listening to several evenings on the cruise. This night Roger and I tied another player in the game. Barry asked one of us to play against Cliff for the grand prize. Roger insisted I play for the team. Cliff and I played Name That Song. Barry gave us clues to a song he selected but didn’t play. I started by saying, “I can name that song in 12 notes.” Cliff countered with 11 notes. We continued until I got to 4 notes and said, “Name that song.” Cliff not only named that song, he sang it. I had no idea what that song was. Cliff won the grand prize of a Panama Canal lapel pen. Cute!

Saturday was spent at sea. Each evening on the Holland America Cruise ships, the room stewards would leave towels folded in the shape of an animal on the bed along with two chocolate candies. The passengers enjoyed that so much they requested a zoo of towel animals. Before breakfast, we were treated to the sight of over a hundred towel animals – monkeys, snakes, octopi, turtles, walruses, swans, rabbits, orangutans and many other animals – on the lido deck in the deck chairs, around the pool, and hanging from the ceiling. Even large elephants, each made with a blanket and towels, were on display. I was so impressed with their exhibit that I purchased the towel animal book for my granddaughter who likes origami. The book illustrates step by step directions on how to make the animals.

It was surprisingly cold on Saturday, and the ocean was too shaky to join the cha-cha dancing. We spent the time socializing, playing games, and eating the delicious food. After dinner, we joined Barry from Boston in his show tune sing-alongs.

Our fun-filled Panama cruise ended on Sunday when we disembarked in San Diego, California. While there, we could see nearby the Midway, which is a retired aircraft carrier. We took a direct flight home crossing back through three time zones. Exhausted, but happy, we went to sleep early knowing we experienced a marvelous chapter in our book of travels.