As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Food thoughts: barbecue, chili, hot dogs: The three major food groups of the south

That title is an exaggeration of course. It leaves out grits, fried okra, fried pies, fried everything else*, a mess of greens (the main vegetable, with pepper vinegar if you like), and the vast network of sides, led by hush puppies and Brunswick stew. (Or, in the Mississippi Delta, tamales.) But shorthand is always somewhat necessary.

*except fried ice cream, which it took Mexico (the deeper south) to come up with.

Yesterday, Sarah said to me she could hardly wait for our vacation.

"Can we eat barbecue?"

"You bet."

"Can we eat hot dogs?"

"Sure. The south has lots of hot dog joints."

So I've been accumulating lists of hot dog and barbecue etc. joints where we're going. It got me to thinking:

The three main food groups of great cuisine are, of course, barbecue, chili, and hot dogs. You may disagree (though you would be wrong unless you argue for chocolate), but this is my blog, and I need to give the Lipitor a reason for working on my cholesterol count. Heck, if I'm paying for the Lipitor, give it something to do, right?

But then I got to thinking as I noticed my earlier postings about barbecue (still quite limited but you can also go to our barbecue pages here) and chili (especially the great Fred & Red's in Joplin), I realized that when talking about Fred & Red's and similar places, even our (commercialized) local chain Hard Times Cafe, one normally refers to a "chili parlor." No one has ever heard of a hamburger parlor, a hot dog parlor, or (may the barbecue angels forgive me) a barbecue parlor. They're joints, stands, counters, but nothing so elegant and Victorian sounding as a parlor. Why "chili parlor?" Was it originally ironic, like "gambling parlor" and "poker parlor," both of which do exist, or did they serve the chili with butlers and doilies (go ahead and try to picture it: I can't).

On that note, cheers. And just to give you something to think about, I've just learned about the West Virginia Hot Dog, since it doesn't seem to extend into West Virginia's eastern panhandle, the part of the state I know best, and it does indeed sound a lot like a Carolina slaw dog which seems to have cognates throughout the lower south from the Appalachians around Asheville to the South Carolina coast.

Sorry to any of you tofu eaters out there if this post makes your head explode. Don't eat this stuff all the time. But c'mon, we're going to be in North Carolina. I dare you not to eat a hush puppy..

.Also, I think it's time to add a "comfort foods' category here, since I seem to be writing about so many.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vacation Approaching

Vacation's coming soon! But of course, as always happens when vacation approaches, one has double the usual work to do to clear the decks. I'm very busy at work clearing a backlog, at home finishing taxes for which we'd filed an extension and a chapter on Egypt for a forthcoming reference book, etc. etc. So little time for blogging pleasures, but hopefully there'll be time for that on the trip: we're headed south, in mid-August, to the Smokies and western North Carolina, areas where I have ancestral roots and Cherokee links, where Sarah at 4 loved digging for gems (you get to cover yourself with mud), and she wants to do that again as well as try fishing. (Not my favorite sport, but I'm willing to let her try.) We're going to try going down the Blue Ridge Parkway so we're in mountains from day one: originally we were going to wend our way across Central North Carolina seeing stuff there, till we realized that stuff's a long weekend trip from here and we really need the mountains.

The other choice was Hampton Roads again; Sarah was remarkably willing to go with the mountains, even though she's a self-proclaimed city kid.

Stand by for more in a dozen days or so; meanwhile I may be too busy to post much.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Ultimate Sundae

Shown, "the Ultimate Sundae," created by Sarah today. Chocolate Chip ice cream, hot fudge sauce (invisible under all the whipped cream), much whipped cream, M&Ms, sprinkles, and a German chocolate on top.

Recorded for posterity. Not only was the ultimate Sundae achieved, but a new word. She asked me to do the basic ice cream and fudge sauce, she said, "and then I'll ultimize it."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

1958 Trip, Part 4: Final Thoughts

Bad title: these aren't final thoughts, but probably the last post during this 50th-anniversary-of-the-1958-trip sequence. I believe we probably returned to Joplin on July 19, two weeks after departure, so yesterday (I'm writing after midnight) would mark that date. If you just got here the whole sequence on the 1958 trip can be accessed by clicking on this page. I've already covered the itinerary, In this post I want to reflect on how different the travel world was, for Sarah and others of her generation (or the one in between) who never knew the pre-fast-food world.

As I've noted several times I've recently been reading a book on the subject, but it has reinforced my own sense that in 1958 there just wasn't a national food source network, and in fact fast food as we knew it hadn't yet come into being. The only chain that was available pretty much across the western United States in those days that I can think of was Dairy Queen, and they were just an ice cream place then: none of the food they've added since in some of their outlets. Howard Johnson's apparently existed, but from the book I gather they were limited to the eastern states. I think the first Howard Johnson's I ever saw were on the Oklahoma turnpikes, and sometime later.

This meant you never knew where you were going to eat or what was going to be available. Haviing seen McDonalds everywhere from the Champs Elysee to Changsha, Hunan, to Golani Junction in Galilee, it's hard to imagine a time when McDonald's didn't saturate the United States, but we'd never heard of it in 1958. Ray Kroc may have had a couple in California by then, but nowhere else.

As a result, though as 10 year old boys Steve and I loved hot dogs, my mother had a rule: no hot dogs because you couldn't count on what kind of meat they were made from in strange places. Hamburgers were okay. But at times we were in restaurants where there was no kid's menu (not common in those days I don't think). I remember having Salisbury steak for the first time on our first day out in Kansas (Arkansas City for lunch or Dodge City for dinner, I think) because there were no hamburgers on the menu and it was the closest we could come. I'd never heard of Salisbury steak before. Hamburger steak, or just hamburger meat, for those who may have forgotten what it is/was.

I don't remember any real food adventures: no tacos even in New Mexico, though I can't swear we didn't try some: certainly when we went to Arizona two years later we had a lot of Mexican food.

I've commented earlier in this series on the fact that the Interstate Highway system was just coming into its own, and only a few stretches were finished, so mostly we drove on the old two-lane (or a few four-lane) blue highways with stoplights and towns along the road. I still prefer it: unless we're headed somewhere distant, I prefer to drive the old roads, because that's where the fun stuff is, the old Dinosaur Lands and Reptile Farms and drive-ins and diners.

I don't remember much TV in the motels. One problem was that in the pre-cable age, lots of smaller towns could barely get reception from the distant cities, and sometimes we stayed in smaller towns. Another, which Sarah will never comprehend, is the fact that there were only three channels, and that was in the BIG cities, so the choice wasn't great. It was all black and white, and lots of motels weren't even offering it automatically (phone in the room was still a big deal, as was a/c).

It's pointless of course after 50 years to talk about inflation. I had saved up my money to buy souvenirs and such on the trip. I took $34 with me, if I recall correctly (and for some reason that number still sticks in my head). I don't think I spent all of it. Don't know what I spent it on, either. A few souvenirs -- British flag from Canada, some photos I took with I think my own film -- survive.

I'm also, being used to moving three people around in a Kia Sedona van with snack packs, drinks, a portable DVD player, usually a computer in the back to log on the Internet at night, etc., trying to figure out how five people, three adults and two 10 year olds, managed to move about the country in a 1958 Oldsmobile. I guess it seemed big at the time. It wasn't a station wagon (and vans had not been invented, unless the Volkswagen Microbus was already on the road), but somehow we did it. Of course, this was normal in those days: just as we somehow lived without computers, Wi-Fi, the Internet, or even cable TV, we didn't know what we were missing.

I suspect, just as we didn't know we couldn't live without Wi-fi and E-mail, we didn't know we couldn't live without vans, Interstates, McDonald's, and chain motels.

I know that the Best Western chain existed because we stayed at several according to my scrapbook, but Best Western was more a network of affiliated independent motels, not something like Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn, Ramada, etc. that all basically follow the same pattern and the same layout. No two were exactly alike.

And you always knew where you were. Sure, the mountains or desert are still a clue, but often tonight's hotel looks so much like last night's or last week's that you have to stop and think (or look at the room info) to figure out where you are. That wasn't the case in 1958.

Why am I being so nostalgic here? My Dad probably earned about $9000 a year at that time, if that. Segregation was still common; there were three TV channels, and many towns only had one or two. Most people couldn't afford to fly (well, OK, that's true again now with high fuel prices, but wasn't true for most of the last half century), and making a phone call from one state to another was an adventure. But to me, 1958 for all its problems, was the eve of a sea change: the last moment before fast food joints, Interstate highways, and chain motels homogeonized the world. My daughter will never know that world, just as I'll never know the pre-World War II, depression era world my parents talked about so often. They didn't miss it, mind you, but they wanted me to understand that it had existed. I feel the same way about 1958: I don't miss the downsides, the segregation and the bigotry and the poor communications and how strangely insular we all were; but I do want Sarah to understand that travel was different then, and to a ten year old boy it was a wondrous, miraculous discovery of the Rocky Mountains, the great deserts, the mysteries of alien Canada. I can never go back to that level of naivete and discovery, but I can remember what it was like.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

First Sleepover

Last night Sarah hosted her first-ever sleepover, with her friend Catherine from across the street. She was bouncing off the wall with excitement beforehand, but astonishingly, they both behaved very well. Though they didn't get to sleep till well after midnight, otherwise everything went smoothly and well. They spent most of their time in a "clubhouse" assembled from a big appliance box, a tent, and some blankets in our living room. Instead of watching DVDs on the big TV in the family room, they used the portable DVD player we have for long car trips (only a seven inch screen!) and watched inside the clubhouse. Hamburgers for everybody for dinner. Breakfast together, with strawberry smoothies made by Tam in the blender, before Catherine went home.

Far less giggling than I had feared. Both parents had emphasized that good behavior was essential to any future repetitions, and good behavior was delivered.


Monday, July 14, 2008

1958 Trip, Part 3

Happy Bastille Day. More on the 1958 trip:

From Lewiston, Idaho, we headed south through Boise and into Utah. At this remove I'm not sure if we spent the night in Salt Lake City, but I know we did spend some time there, visiting Temple Square, the Tabernacle, and a museum or something. Oddly, when I taught for a year at Utah State (in Logan) in the late 1970s, and visited Salt Lake City frequently, I don't recall ever spending much time in Temple Square again. I guess I had a been there, done that attitude. I seem to remember seeing a lot of Indian mummies in a museum there. The Pioneers' Museum? An LDS Church Museum? I'm not sure now.

Also not sure if we stayed the night in Salt Lake; I have a faint suspicion we went on to Provo for the night, though Provo is 657 miles from Lewiston according to Google maps, and the roads would have been slower in the pre-Interstate days. Perhaps we stayed somewhere else in between, in Idaho or northern Utah, and I'm blanking. Or perhaps we spent only a short time seeing Salt Lake City. Right now I'm guessing I've forgotten a stop or something, but unless I find the missing diary/daybook I don't know if I can answer the question.

From Salt Lake or Provo or wherever, we headed southeast across Utah; I believe we had lunch in Moab, which is about as middle-of-nowhere as you can get, even now. Then on down across the southwestern corner of Colorado, into New Mexico, through Shiprock and past the Shiprock itself, standing sentinel out in the desert, and into Gallup. I remember Gallup as a depressing place, unemployed Navajos hanging out on the streets, etc. I think we spent the night there.

Uncle Miles' second business meeting was in Grants, New Mexico. I think Aunt Kathy and Mama and I spent some time in Albuquerque while he was at his meetings, though a little "Distances from Albuquerque" leaflet I have in my scrapbook says its 76 miles from Grants to Albuquerque, and we had onlly one car. I'm not quite sure how that worked now. Uncle Miles' company, Landis Steel, built mining equipment and such, and Grants was in a uranium mining area, so I assume that was his reason for the meetings, but of course was oblivious to this at the time.

I believe we headed on east to Tucumcari (178 miles from Albuquerque on the old Route 66 according to "Distances from Albuquerque" in those days before Interstate 40) and stayed the night there. Tucumcari gets a lot of website space from Route 66 nostalgia buffs because it apparently still has many old restored motels and restaurants from the Route 66 heyday. My scrapbook has a postcard from the Town House Motel in Tucumcari, which must be where we stayed. That's it at the left, with the description from the back of the card below. (Tucumcari, though a fairly small town, only about 6000 today, is the biggest spot between Albuquerque and Amarillo on the old 66, and there's apparently a saying that everyone spends a night in Tucumcari at some point. I got mine out of the way 50 years ago and don't think I've been back since.)

I do note that the 1958 postcard says "Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Robert Barnard, Owners." Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Robert Barnard? Did New Mexico beat Massachusetts and California to the punch 50 years ago and no one noticed, or why does Mrs. Barnard seem to be named Robert?

From Gallup onward as far as Oklahoma City we were on the old Route 66. I grew up near Route 66 in Joplin, itself famous enough to be in the song ("It goes down through St. Louie, Joplin Missouri; Oklahoma City is mighty pretty...) Oklahoma City to Joplin, the two Oklahoma Turnpikes were already replacing 66 (they're now part of Interstate 44).

So anyway, from Tucumcari the next day we continued on across the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma to Oklahoma City. That was my cousin Steve's home, and we stopped to drop him off. We may well have spent the night there, in fact I think we did, since we'd been driving from Tucumcari. I think that was my first visit to Oklahoma City, seeing the oil wells on the capitol grounds and other stuff, though I'm not sure about that. The next day we would have gone home up the Turner and Will Rogers turnpikes to Joplin.

One of the landmarks along the Will Rogers turnpike in those days was the then-new Glass House restaurant which spanned the turnpike and you ate looking down on the highway. Sadly it is now a McDonald's, with a debate over whether it is really the world's largest or not raging on the Internet.

That was the basic itinerary. I'll be posting more thoughts this week, though, about general impressions of the trip, travel then and now, and so on.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

1958 Trip Part 2: Yellowstone and Beyond

On to Yellowstone! If you can't read my scrawled note in the scrapbook under the picture at left, it says: "Lots of bears in Yellowstone. These are some. One bear snapped at Uncle Mile's [sic] cigar!" (Sorry, as an editor I couldn't resist the "sic".) We should have spent July 10 in Yellowstone as near as I can recover it, though the date doesn't appear in the scrapbook. (As always, clicking on the picture should enlarge it.)

A closeup of the bear photo appears below the scrapbook shot.

I find from my recent reading in Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations, already cited in this post, that this photo has a lot of don't-even-think-0f-trying-this elements, mostly the fact that the car ahead of us has someone (a kid?) outside the car. [ADDED LATER: and obviously, whoever took the picture (probably me) was outside the car as well.] According to the book, bear inuuries to tourists rose from 40 in 1952 to 70 in 1955, to 109 in 1956. No numbers for 1958 when I was there, but obviously it was a major problem. Thirty people bitten by bears acknowledged that they had approached the bear. This is dumb. This isn't Yogi Bear's Jellystone; Yogi didn't get his own show until 1961 anyway, according to Wikipedia. The book also describes injuries and a few tragic deaths of kids who fell into hot springs and geyser pools, which are beautiful but boiling hot. Unaware of the lethality of the place, we enjoyed Yellowstone. My scrapbook notes that we saw Old Faithful erupt three times, though of course in those days you couldn't watch it on a live webcam. I know we also saw Yellowstone falls and a lot of other geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs, etc. As far as I can reconstruct we spent only one day in Yellowstone, staying that night at a motel in West Yellowstone, Montana, just outside the west gate of the park. But Yellowstone is still very much with me, though I haven't been there since.

I still remember Yellowstone as a great, wild, amazing place. I've still never seen geysers anywhere else, though I know Iceland and a few other places have them. The whole geothermal thing at Yellowstone is amazing, and still so to me.

As for the bears, well, we now have bears proliferating again in the east -- black bears, not the bigger brown bears and even grizzlies of the west -- but I still plan to respect them. And not feed them.

From West Yellowstone, Montana, we crossed western Montana, stopping for a while in Virginia City. Though not as well known as its Nevada namesake, it was quite happy to sell the Old West atmosphere to tourists, and the attached photo was taken there. My chronology slides a bit here because I am not sure whether we stayed in Lewiston, Idaho en route to Canada or on the way back. At the moment I'm opting for the way back and saying that we stayed in Butte, Montana on the night of July 11, then drove across the thin neck of Idaho and northeast Washington, near Spokane, into British Columbia on the 12th. I know we went to Mass in Nelson, BC on the 13th.

I recall the beautiful lake and mountain country around Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and various sites where I first learned about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. We crossed into Canada north of Spokane en route to Nelson, BC, where Uncle Miles had business. It's in beautiful country along Kootenay Lake (here's the town's current website) but to me, the main excitement was that this was the first time I'd ever been in a foreign country! There was a different flag (the old red ensign then: no maple leaf yet) and you even still saw the Union Jack occasionally. The jail was spelled "gaol". The fountain drinks tended not to have ice in them. I think BC then was one of the most British parts of Canada, but it was all British enough to me.

I bought a British flag, and for years had a copy of Macleans Magazine, Canada's longstanding national weekly. That issue of Macleans was in my scrapbook for decades, but has since disappeared. That British Columbia seemed exotic to me seems odd after my years of Middle East meanderings, but it was my first venture outside the U S of A.

From Nelson we headed south again, through northeast Washington and Idaho. We tried to visit Hell's Canyon on the Snake River on the Idaho-Oregon border, but despite crossing the Snake several times never actually got there. I remember seeing wild parts of the river, but we never got to the canyon. I can honestly say that to this very day I am not sure whether I have ever set foot in the state of Oregon. If I did, it was looking for Hell's Canyon that day (July 13? or 14? 1958). We spent the night in Lewiston, Idaho. I remember having dived over my head in the swimming pool and having to be pulled out at our motel, named for Sacajawea. It may have been this one, shown in a vintage postcard and apparently still there, but at this distance I'm not sure. I'm sure if one Sacajawea inn closed, another would open soon; she's a big name in those parts. Even before she was on the dollar.

That brings me at least up to the current date so I'll stop again for now.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Joints and Greasy Spoons

I'll resume my narrative of the 1958 trip soon; as usual, the work week was too hectic to blog, so I have to wait for the weekend.

I do want to take a moment to record one of the highlights of our trip to Winchester, VA and Berkeley Springs, WV last weekend. We'd been sightseeing in Winchester and Sarah was acting up, throwing a bit of a tantrum (not like a four year old or anything, but a bit stubborn about doing things others wanted to do), so I wouldn't let her do a kid's museum she wanted to do and we said we'd go directly to lunch. We looked at several chi-chi places in Winchester's downtown, pedestrian mall, which is the old Loudon Street of earlier days. Several places looked a bit pricey or a bit slow, and then I discovered to my pleasure that the Snow White Grill, usually closed when we are on Loudon Street, was open! The Snow White Grill is the sort of place that appears to have been serving lunch since about 1934 with little change. (A web review tells me 1949, but to me it looks earlier.) (It doesn't have its own website; the link above was what I found first, but there's a fuller review here.) A dozen or slightly more stools along a single counter inside a narrow space with the grill behind the counter and a window open to the street for carryout. I've previously blogged about Fred and Red's in Joplin, which was founded in 1923 and has been in its present digs since about 1942. This is that kind of place: a burgers and hot dogs place, out of another era, but with a loyal following. Sarah loved it; she declared their chili dogs the best she'd ever had. The burgers, which Tam tried, are little teeny things of the White Castle tradition, or the late, lamented Little Taverns of Washington DC and Baltimore. You probably need several to make a meal or, as Little Tavern used to put it, "Buy 'em By the Bag!" (And, only linking to the Wikipedia article, did I learn that the very last Little Tavern on the planet closed on April 29, 2008, just a couple of months ago. An era passes, though all but a handful of them vanished 20 years or so ago.)

A true greasy spoon, except, as the name "Snow White Grill" is supposed to convey, I presume, nice and clean. And an additional stop to add as a de rigeur stop (if that's not too French for a chili dog joint) when in Winchester.

I concur with Sarah that the chili dogs are world class. Tam will have to comment on the burgers. They make them up in large batches, and they're square if I remember right (like White Castle). The countermen and women were the usual colorful sort, and apparently they get folks who come back whenever they're in this part of the country, just as I do at Fred & Red's in Joplin.

We have not been to North Carolina since I started blogging, so you have not yet had the benefit of our barbecue criticism, though quite a bit can be found from this out of date and incomplete, but still useful, homepage. Enjoy.

Oh. Since I'm pontificating about food: The best catfish in the universe (or at least the local arm of the galaxy) is at Mildred's, on a blue highway in northern Alabama not near any major town. Hush puppies are great. I'm just sayin'.

More on the 1958 trip coming.

Monday, July 7, 2008

1958 Trip Part 1: The first days

Okay, you can click on 1958 Trip at any point to get the background and context of what I'll be posting from time to time over the next two weeks. But I plan to use the blog to record and perhaps recover memories of the trip west that I took 50 years ago this week and next. I've already commented on the picture at left in an earlier post
but it marks the beginning: 10 am, according to my scrapbook, in front of the garage of my Uncle Miles and Aunt Kathy's house on east 4th street in Baxter Springs, Kansas, on July 5, 1958, which like July 5, 2008, was a Saturday. The 1958 Oldsmobile which would carry us for two weeks is behind us.

I know that on day one we headed west along route 166. We ate lunch in Arkansas City, Kansas, which is pronounced, as I wonderingly learned then, ar-KAN-sas, being on what Kansans call the ar-KAN-sas river. Same river in Oklahoma and Arkansas is pronounced AR-kan-SAW, of course, but in Kansas it's ar-KAN-sas. For some reason I think I had Salisbury steak at lunch and that it may have been my first introduction to Salisbury steak. Why I know this now I cannot say.

On that first day we went on to Dodge City and I believe spent the night there. I remember going to the reconstructed Front Street, Boot Hill, and other stuff. Gunsmoke was getting big about then, and Wyatt Earp and so on, this being the era of the Western dominance of television, so Dodge City was exciting for a 10-year-old-boy. (Let me add that I'll be adding to this post over several days, till I catch up with the calendar, and that not everything here is being posted on July 7.)

I don't remember that much of Dodge City: vague memories of the Long Branch sa\loon, Boot Hill, etc. And I think we spent the night in motel somewhere in Dodge, but no clear memories. My scrapbook contains a church bulletin from the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, so on Sunday, July 6, 1958, we went to church in Dodge City. I had forgotten that it was a dicoesan see. An interesting sidelight that says a lot about a changing America: the cathedral in Dodge City is no longer called Sacred Heart: It's now Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The next day we headed west to Colorado. I'm not sure where we ate lunch or things like that, but I know that a high point was when the Rockies first became visible. Those of you who know eastern Colorado know it's as flat as Kansas, but at a certain point the mountains become visible. Even so, you drive for a very long time before you reach them.

We headed west to Pueblo and then north to Colorado Springs. I have fairly vivid memories of Colorado Springs, reinforced by the fact that, since my father-in-law lives there now, I've also come to know it well in adulthood. But in 1958 it was a wondrous place, the mountains of the Front Range dominating your views, and me -- to whom mountains had up to now meant the gentle rolling Ozarks -- overwhelmed by it all.

I know in Colorado Springs we visited a number of key tourist sites: the Garden of the Gods; a souvenir joint that I think was the ancestor of the Garden of the Gods trading post that is still a landmark; the "cliff dwellings", a "reconstruction" (read: Fake) but one that we loved and that Sarah loved when she was smaller and we visited her grandpa in the Springs; I think several other sites. We stayed in an old 50's style motel along Colorado Avenue somewhere out towards, but not all the way to, Manitou Springs. One of the photos from our motel shows what looks to me like an old-style Safeway in the distance. Now, there's still a Safeway along W. Colorado Ave (see the link) and I wonder if it was built where this one stood in the 50s. There are still a few old 50s motels to be found in the area, but not the one we stayed at so far as I can tell. The second picture on the left is of the front of our motel, very blurry and taken with a rather poor camera, but with Aunt Kathy (left) and my Mom sitting outside the room. Again, the '58 Olds that carried us gets to make a cameo as well.

I recall that Steve and I kept up a campaign to go to the top of Pike's Peak but Uncle Miles kept saying it was too long a drive, the road was too poor, and we wouldn't have time to do it. After I think two nights in Colorado Springs (the 6th and 7th) we left early for the next leg of our trip on July 8, and as he passed the turnoff for Pike's Peak, we didn't immediately notice him turn up the road to ascend the peak, until we hit the unpaved part. We got to go to Pike's Peak after all.

I remember that as we headed northward, we passed the new Air Force Academy, still under construction, north of town. I believe the famous chapel was already visible from the road. We proceeded on up through Denver into Wyoming, spending the night in Cheyenne. I have a napkin from "The Trail," presumably a restaurant (sounds like a bar) in Cheyenne, probably where we ate dinner, in the scrapbook. It doesn't google up today so I guess it's gone. My scrapbook notes we "almost lost Wyo. because of heavy rain," which may mean we were on the wrong road but I don't know now, and it also notes that this was the only day we "saw two capitals in one day" (Denver and Cheyenne). So there.

The next day, which would have been the 9th of July, we headed on up via Laramie and up across Wyoming towards the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. The Grand Tetons, I know, awed me, and I still have lots of postcards bought of them. Now that is what mountains are supposed to look like. We stayed that night at the Flagg Ranch, a resort/ranch located between the two national parks, and still operating, as you can see by following the link.

No one actually told me at the time, or for some years thereafter, what "Grand Tetons" meant in French. (Go ahead, look it up.) Awesome as the mountains are, I suspect early French explorers must have spent way, way, way too much time in the woods without seeing a woman.

And this brings us to the eve of Yellowstone National Park. Geysers! Bears! Waterfalls! Bears! More Geysers! More Bears! I'll continue from there in a bit.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fifty Years On

Today marks the 50th anniversary of my departure on the 1958 trip I've blogged about. I'll record more later or tomorrow.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Happy fourth of July. Let me start by reiterating what I said last year, and reminding everyone that July 2 marked our anniversary with Sarah. We're in Winchester for the three-day weekend, and I'll post more later or tomorrow. In honor of tomorrow's anninversary of my big 1958 trip (see previous post), we went to a truly 50s tourist trap today, Dinosaur Land, which is as bad as you might gather from the website.

Call it overcompensation. My Dad never liked to stop at schlocky, tacky, tourist trap places. I always wanted to, of course, since all kids do. I remember one time coming back, I believe, from Jefferson City, MO; we kept seeing signs for a reptile farm that was adertising its Gila Monster. I'd never seen a Gila Monster except in books so I poured on the pressure. We stopped. The Gila Monster had died long ago; there was a snapping turtle and some uninspiring lizards and snakes in dirty, smelly cages and terrariums. My Dad felt he'd made his point: Big ripoff; no Gila Monster, tourist trap. So why do I still remember the place more than 40 years later?

So we went to Dinosaur Land. Sarah liked it when she was about three. Now she concedes that it's "tacky," but she still had me take her picture in the shark's mouth, in King Kong's hand (yes, "Dinosaur" is loosely interpreted here) and elsewhere. I'll post them to Flickr.

And in passing, heading to Dinosaur Land (which is at Double Tollgate in the Shenandoah Valley) I took her by White Post, where there is still, as there has been since the 18th century, a White Post to show the way to Greenway Court, Lord Fairfax's estate (now gone). I'd introduced her to Lord Fairfax through other means, telling her how he once owned half of Virginia, reading her a ghost story of his grave in Winchester, etc. I asked if she remembered who Lord Fairfax was. "Yes. He's the guy who never allowed women into his house."

Well, yes, that too. And you will often read that Lord Fairfax, when he learned of the surrender at Yorktown, took to his bed, turned to the wall, said "It is all over," and never got up again. Now his biographer says that's untrue because he'd already been bedridden and actually died at Winchester, not Greenway Court. It turns out, in fact, that the Yorktown story comes from that inimitable biographer, Parson Mason Weems, who gave us George Washington and the cherry tree, George throwing the dollar across the river, and other such gems. Parson Weems' stories are vividly remembered even though he relied on the old 19th century historical method known as making it up.

Parson Weems is himself memorialized in a little local museum in Dumfries, Virginia, known as the Weems-Botts museum. I forget who Botts was, but the Weems was Parson Weems.