Wednesday, September 3, 2014

We Finally Make It to Kentucky

Monday, Sept. 1
[Note: I am having lots of problems with the wifi and uploading photos--so, no photos, they may be added later.]

Monday morning began with Joe making some biscuits for Jan (she had mentioned she loved homemade biscuits) and we had a nice breakfast with Jan and Gary. Then, with many hugs, we got into our RV and headed south toward Kentucky via Cincinnati. About 20 minutes later, we got a call from Gary, telling us that my camera was in his car. He and Jan were on their way to Cleveland for the day, so…. No wonderful zoom lens for the rest of the vacation. I will be using my phone and my small point-and-shoot camera, which is not very good.

We drove for about 2 hours, occasionally through rainstorms, until we reached the outskirts of Cincinnati. We had decided that we wanted to find a dog park for Cassie. She had spent a lot of time in the RV over the weekend, and she seemed to go a bit crazy just before we left our friends—she jumped out of the RV and careened happily through their spacious back yard, very reluctant to come back to us. Besides a dog park, we wanted to pick up a few pints of Graeter’s Ice Cream before leaving Ohio. Thanks to Google, we had located both a very large dog park, and not far away, a Graeter’s. So we left the highway for some ice cream.

After a little maneuvering in a smallish Trader Joe’s parking lot just next to the Graeter’s, we bought a couple of things in both stores, including 3 pints of ice cream. Then we headed for Otto Armleder Memorial Park, which has a 10-acre dog park. We had a fast lunch, and then took Cassie out to play. Thanks to the rain, there was a bit of mud near the gate, but the fenced area was so huge that there was plenty of grass to run and roll in. There were water fountains for the dogs, and benches for people, and trees for shade…. Altogether, a great mid-day break for all three of us. The weather had cleared up by that time, and was actually a little too hot in the sun. Luckily there were enough trees for us to stay shaded while Cassie ran about sniffing and occasionally playing with some of the other dogs.

After about 30 minutes, Cassie decided she was ready to leave—she abandoned us and headed for the gate on her own. We gave her a lot of water, and then returned to the RV. It was about 3pm by that time, and I felt we ought to do at least something in Cincinnati before crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky. So we made our way down to the Riverfront, hoping that we might get lucky in the parking department. Sure enough, after careful exploration, we found an open lot which was virtually empty—in fact, the whole area was almost empty. I don’t know where everyone was for Labor Day, but downtown Cincinnati was basically abandoned. We were very happy about that, however, since it made maneuvering the RV through the city quite easy. Fortunately, there was no baseball game—Riverside Park, the home of the Cincinnati Reds, is right on the waterfront, as is the Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Bengals. Most of the parking was in decks, however, so we really were happy to find the open parking lot.

We parked across the street from a pedestrian bridge designated the “Purple People Bridge” (its real name is the Newport-Southbank Bridge). It was, indeed, painted purple, and is an old 2-lane automobile bridge which was repaired and turned into a pedestrian crossing in about 2001. At the end of the bridge on the Ohio side were some historical displays detailing the importance of the river and the crossings for commerce as the country developed. We walked across the bridge to Newport, Kentucky. On the Kentucky side there were restaurants and other commercial establishments; we didn’t go very far, though. The bridge was resting on the levee on the Kentucky side; the Ohio side of the bridge was much lower but rose steeply to the main streets. The next bridge over (which is still in use by cars) has measurements marked off on its supports; I am sure the river rises quite significantly at times.

Besides loving the views of the city and the river from the middle of the bridge, we also noticed that along the chain-link fence lining the pedestrian walkway were many locks—combination locks and key locks. Closer inspection revealed that they were engraved (or in some cases written on with indelible pen) with names, dates, and short messages. It seems to be a tradition for lovers to place locks with their names on the bridge, and throw the key into the river. It seemed like just another way that people had taken the bridge into their affections—it was really a charming and delightful walk, lined with planters. We watched a paddlewheel boat pass under us and enjoyed the views in both directions. Cassie enjoyed the walk too, as well as the attention from passers-by.

By the time we got back to Cincinnati from Newport, it was late afternoon. So we turned on our GPS and let it guide us out of Ohio. We officially crossed over into Kentucky and drove for another hour or so until we reached Lexington and the Kentucky Horse Park Campground. We are happy to be able to add the Kentucky sticker to our travel map at long last—only there’s one problem. We can’t find our stickers. We are both positive that they are someplace in this RV…. But we are unable to find them. So no photo yet of our updated map.

The campground is absolutely packed with dogs!! There was a dog show today over at the Horse Park, and apparently everyone is staying at the adjacent campground. We are surrounded by RVs containing dog kennels, and there are dog pens set up outside a lot of vehicles too. The people across from us seem to have about a dozen of Manchester terriers, or maybe they are Miniature Pinschers—we can’t tell the difference. But they YIP a lot!! Fortunately, with our windows closed and our air conditioner on (it’s very hot and muggy), we can’t hear them too well. But it’s fascinating to see so many dogs. Of course, ours is prettier than any of them!

Tomorrow we have a full day planned at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hello Columbus

Sunday, August 31, 2014
Butterfly on Chihuly Glass Flower
Today was one of those very full and very wonderful days—very little was planned in advance, but it all worked out so perfectly. The one thing that *was* planned for today was brunch—Gary and Jan’s daughter Julie, her husband Paul, and their adorable 4-1/2 year old son Kyle joined us so that Joey and I could see Julie again and meet her family. Joey had especially bought some magic tricks to entertain Kyle. In addition, while I was shopping for gifts in Marshall, I’d found a place which sold our very favorite Folkmanis Puppets, which Joey collects in his “kids room” in his office. We found the Horned Owl (swiveling head and blinking eyes) which Joe has been searching for for several years, plus a grizzly bear and a large ostrich. So when the kids all arrived at Gary and Jan’s house, the puppets broke the ice, and then Joey did a few tricks to entertain all of us.

Brunch included a yummy breakfast casserole and Gary’s Belgian waffles, and we were all pretty stuffed by the time Kyle was ready for a nap. Gary, Jan, Joe and I decided to take Cassie for a walk so we could see their neighborhood. It reminded me a lot of our part of Highland Park, but even more charming, I think. There were so many houses from the turn of the (last) century, and each one was distinctive and different. Delaware is the home of the Little Brown Jug, one of the races in the "Triple Crown for harness racing, which takes place at the Delaware County Fairgrounds every September, and it would be great to be back next weekend, when Jan tells me there is a parade of horses down the streets which we just walked through. We chatted as we walked, and although it had been raining very hard in the morning while we had brunch, it had cleared up to be a lovely day.

After our walk, we said goodbye to the “kids” (Kyle was still napping at the house), and went into Columbus to visit the Franklin Park Conservatory ( ) and Botanical Gardens. I should say that we have never been to Columbus, and being the fact that it is the home of the dreaded Ohio State Buckeyes, we felt a little ambivalent about it. Gary and Jan, however, are devoted Buckeye fans (and Gary has been diligently influencing Kyle, who is now a little Buckeye also, much to the chagrin of Paul, a Michigan fan!) So we agreed to a d├ętente on the subject of football, and I embraced the opportunity to see what Columbus was like.

The Conservatory was absolutely wonderful, and a perfect place to go on an overcast afternoon. Once inside, we started out in the butterfly observatory—we were fascinated by the vivid blues and reds on some of the wings. After that, we wandered through the conservatory, admiring all the plants in the Palm Room, the Desert Room, the Rainforest, the Bonzai room, and all the other micro-environments which were created inside the classic 1895 conservatory. The entire building was enhanced by glass flowers and embellishments by Dale Chihuly. In the end, they had to throw us out because they were closing up the building.

From there, we went to a part of the city known as German Village. This very old part of Columbus has brick houses, brick streets and sidewalks, and charming homes, businesses and restaurants. Our first stop there was the Book Loft(, a fabulous independent bookstore with 32 rooms of books—they had to give us a map to find our way around, because all the rooms were like a small maze covering two floors and four wings. Somehow, Gary and Jan got out without finding anything they couldn’t live without, but when we all met up at the door, I had bought two books (one was a gift, though), and Joey had bought no fewer than three new cookbooks!

From the Book Loft, we walked to the Old Mohawk, a German Village neighborhood pub which began as a Prohibition-era speakeasy, according to the menu. My quesadilla was fantastic, and the others’ food looked great too. Lots of atmosphere and a great way to finish up our day, as we reminisced about restaurants we used to eat at in Chapel Hill about 35 (gulp!) years ago.

As we wandered back to our car (we needed a GPS to find our way through the streets of German Village), I suddenly thought of asking about Graeter’s. I have heard raves about Graeter’s ice cream for years, from everyone (i.e. Rabbis I Have Known) who spent any time in Cincinnati, or Ohio for that matter. It turned out that there was a Graeter’s on the way back to Delaware, so that was where we stopped for dessert. Gary explained that they are famous for their “chip” ice cream—that their chocolate chips are something special. I held on to my Michigan State hat firmly as I ordered the “Buckeye Blitz”—chocolate ice cream with peanut butter balls and chocolate chips. TOUCHDOWN! It was simply fabulous ice cream, and worth every calorie (although of course, when you are visiting friends after many years, there ARE no calories!) After that, stuffed and exhausted, we drove back home and said goodnight very quickly—we were all looking forward to bed after a very full, and very special, day.

Now… for those wondering, where are the photos of the gorgeous butterflies and flowers and glass sculptures…. It seems I left my camera in Gary’s car when we got home that night. So my photos will have to be added after I get home (that's why I added a link). I had none on my phone camera, because the battery kept dying, I had forgotten to recharge it the night before. Sooooo…. No photos for the blog, and from now on, all photos will come from either my back-up point-and-shoot camera, or my phone. The latter is really quite good, but I anticipate missing my zoom lens before this trip is over. But the bottom line is, no photos today!

A Magic Day

Saturday, August 30, 2014
We woke up this morning to an overcast sky, but we didn’t much care, since most of our day was going to be driving or indoors. We started out with a shopping trip at our host’s place. Now yeah, THIS is what I’m talking about—a Spartans Tailgating display set up right inside the door, with everything a crazy MSU fan could want. This is my kind of Walmart :)   Joey browsed with me for a few minutes, then left me to fool around while he started our grocery shopping.

One hour, $100+, and some more Spartan swag later, we put the groceries away and hit the road, heading toward our first stop, the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan. Marshall turned out to be an absolutely delightful small town with fabulous old houses—so many that there is a walking tour of the historic homes. We parked just off the main street through town, and the Museum of Magic was just one block away. The museum contains a huge collection of magic equipment, vintage posters, and a lot of other magic-related paraphernalia, some of which was quite rare or unusual. There was a significant collection of items owned by Houdini, among other famous magicians. We spent about an hour there, browsing through the collection on two floors of a building which itself was kind of a classic.

Just as we were ready to leave, it started to pour rain, so we made a run for the RV. We decided to have lunch while the rain was coming down, and it let up just about the time we finished eating. This was fortunate, because I wanted to just go look at some of the shops along the main street. In the two blocks we saw, there were probably a dozen antique stores, as well as several gift stores and a really great old-fashioned hardware store, the kind which has a little bit of everything. I was just browsing along the street, enjoying the architecture and thinking what a great little town it is—there was hardly any traffic, but every store I went into had other customers. I am just not sure where they came from! In the end, I found far more to spend money on than I’d anticipated, and we did our part to boost the economy of the town. I would have loved to have more time to leave the immediate downtown area and check out more of the historic homes.

We left Marshall and headed for Colon, which is about 45 minutes drive away. More magic was our destination—the town of Colon is billed as The Magic Capital of the World, because of the number of magicians, including Blackstone, who spent time there and are buried there. In fact, there is an annual gathering of magicians in Colon every year. We were not that interested in the cemetery and its famous denizens, but Joey did want to visit Abbott’s Magic, a very well known store to magicians everywhere. We got there at about 3pm, and no one was there except the man who ran the place. He was really nice, and when he heard that Joey was a magician also and that he was restocking some of his long-since worn out paraphernalia, he could not have been more helpful. He even offered to close the store a little bit early (it was about 3:45 when we finished) and take us to the local cemetery for a personally guided visit. Unfortunately, we couldn’t really spare the time, since we wanted to get to our final stop before it was too terribly late. That was kind of too bad, though—I thought he was really nice, not just because he is also a Spartan fan who had been at the game last night!

It was, however, only 10 minutes before 4, and we rushed around the corner to yet another magic store, Fab Magic, to see if they had any balloons to tie into animals (Abbott’s was out of them.) Unfortunately, Fab Magic was also out, but we spent another 15 minutes or so there chatting with the owner. It wasn’t until we were leaving that he admitted to being a Michigan fan (we were wearing our Spartan hats, which was one reason the subject came up everywhere we went during the day.) Fab Magic happened to be right next to an ice cream store, and I checked the menu very quickly and found it had no-sugar-added Peanut Butter Fudge ice cream, so of course we had to stop and get ice cream. And then we hit the road for the last destination of the day, Delaware, Ohio.

Delaware is about 20 minutes or so north of Columbus, and is the home of our friends Gary and Jan. Gary and Joe did their Family Practice residencies together in Chapel Hill, and then Gary and Jan moved to Delaware, where he went into practice and she worked with him as a nurse practitioner. We have kept in touch on and off during the past 30 years, but it’s been ages since we’d seen them. However, they were right on our route between Michigan and Kentucky, and we decided that it was time to stop and visit, especially since it was a long weekend! We arrived at their house at about 8:15 p.m. and joined them for a very belated dinner. Their next-door neighbor had very considerately gone away for the week, making it very easy to park the RV in his driveway. So we were off the road and it was the ideal “mooch-docking” spot for the next two nights. We all went to bed feeling very happy to be spending some time with old friends.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Michigan State 45, Jacksonville State 7

August 29, 2014

What a great way to celebrate our anniversary! After I wrote the last blog, we had a very quick dinner and then caught a shuttle bus from our parking lot to Spartan Stadium. As we got closer, the crowds were getting bigger, and it became clear that we were on the very fringes of the tailgate celebrations. The area around the stadium was just PACKED with people and tailgating set-ups, as well as students coming from the dorms and others getting off the parking lot shuttles from other lots. So much energy, it was just electric.

It has been a long time since we’ve been in Spartan Stadium, and it has changed so much. The electronic scoreboard is only two years old, and it’s the biggest in the state of Michigan—5,300 square feet. Completely massive. We asked someone to take our photo with the scoreboard in the background before we crossed the street and joined the throngs heading into the stadium. I was afraid it would take a while to get in, but they instituted a “no bags” policy a few years ago—meaning no pocketbooks or any other kind of bag. As a result, everyone moved in smoothly… but also, my only camera was my phone. All these photos were taken with my phone, but it died before the game got going, so I have no action shots.

Once inside, we encountered a Spartan Spirit store which was packed with green clothing and people who were buying it as if there were no tomorrow. I squished into the store and discovered they had the kind of decals we wanted for the RV, but the lines were simply not moving at all, and I wanted to go up to our seats. In fact, we really should have left about 30 minutes earlier, because I forgot about the pre-game show with the band. We got there just in time to hear them play the MSU Fight Song, and then they waited in formation for the team to come out and take the field.

The game was wonderful, even though it was not exactly full of tension. The Spartans scored in 4 plays on their first possession, and they scored in two plays on their second possession. By halftime the score was 38-0. We just relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful evening—although it had been overcast, there was no rain, a nice breeze was blowing, and we just loved the entire experience. When the game was over, we found that the Spartan Spirit store was still open, with almost no one there anymore, and we bought a bunch of decals and magnets for our RV (yes of COURSE we did!). We caught one of the last shuttles back to the parking lot (there were still a few RVs there), and went to the Walmart in Okemos to spend the night. All in all, it was so much fun and we loved the whole experience. I just keep thinking we should go back for a whole weekend sometime, because there is so much new stuff to see on the campus since we went to school there. We will have to find some time.

Meanwhile: GO GREEN!!!! Next week against the Oregon Ducks will be a very different game…. Details to follow.

Meet-Up With Spartan Nation

August 29, 2014

Happy 43rd Anniversary to us! We are off on our annual RV adventure, and have had a lot of fun already. We left Highland Park a little before noon yesterday with our first destination East Lansing, MI, and the Spartans’ football season opening game against Jacksonville (Alabama) State tonight. The weather was just glorious and we made great time on I-80 through Pennsylvania. We didn’t stop too much, but we did make one stop in the late afternoon and spent a little bit of time enjoying the fresh air and thick lawn.  Cassie was so happy, she was rolling in the grass, and Joe decided to join her. 

We stopped at about 8:00 at a Flying J to fill up our gas tank and make a quick dinner of hot dogs and broccoli, before continuing on. As usual when heading west, we like to get to Ohio before stopping for the night, and we made it to the first rest stop on the Ohio Turnpike at about 11:15 pm. We hooked up in their special RV parking area and went right to sleep—we’d been on the road for 12 hours.

This morning we woke up and didn’t rush, because we were only 4 hours from East Lansing. The parking lots for game parking did not open until 3:30, so we figured if we were early, we’d go browsing for MSU “stuff” in town. But as it happened, we made one quick stop soon after crossing into Michigan—we saw a sign for the Beef Jerkey Warehouse, and we could not resist THAT (Joe has a special love for beef jerky.) The place was wonderful, with several dozen kinds of beef jerky, plus pork, venison, and a few other types I don’t even remember. They gave us a taste of anything we were interested in, and we walked out with over a pound of beef jerky at about ½ the price it usually costs in those small packages you find in gas station convenience stores (they sell it by the pound.)

We got to East Lansing at 2:30. Sure enough, they would not let us into the parking lot, so we used the hour to fill up the gas tank (the gas was $.30/gallon more in Michigan than in Pennsylvania—ouch!) and have some late lunch. Then we came back to the parking lot. It is a wonderful tailgating experience, I have to say, except we feel very “left out” because we don’t have any MSU decals, flags, lawn chairs, blow-up Sparty figures, tablecloths, or bean-bag gameswith green and white Spartan insignia on them. One guy across from us has a huge flat-screen TV set up under his canopy; I wonder if he’s going to the game at all! Anyway, now that we can expect to tailgate at an MSU game at least once/year (vs. Maryland or vs. Rutgers), we have got some serious shopping to do, LOL!  Seriously, there is an old RV at least 25 years old near us; the lady who owns it says it is basically a “rolling potty” and they only use it for tailgating—it is white with green stripes, decals everywhere, and “SpartyMobile” painted on the front overhang. I don’t think we want to go THAT far, but I appreciate the sentiment.

 The football game starts at 7:30, so we still have more than 2 hours to hang out. Joe is napping while I blog; then we’ll through a steak on our grill and have some dinner. There is a shuttle bus which stops right outside our parking lot to take us to the stadium, which is a good thing, because we are at least a mile away. The campus has gotten even larger since we left here 41 (!) years ago. The amount of suburban spread makes us remember how the area all around us used to be countryside with farm houses; now it’s filled with super-ugly apartments and the usual fast food restaurants. Joey points out that the population of the world has more than doubled in the time since we graduated. Really, it’s a little bit scary.

I am happy to discover that there is a campus-wide wifi system. I told them I am an “affiliated” guest—I figured that for a $40 parking lot, I have just affiliated! I hope it works for my blog upload. Meanwhile—GO SPARTANS!!!!!!