Sunday, September 28, 2008

Goin' to the chapel!

Recently, I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for the wedding of a relative. If a person knew me very well, they might have been surprised at how insistent I was on riding with someone else to the location, since I am used to getting around with ME behind the steering wheel! The reason I wanted to ride with someone else goes back to the last out-of-town wedding I attended. That wedding was for the daughter of long-time friends since college and was held in Texarkana at the First Methodist Church. I arrived at the church almost an hour early, wanting to have plenty of time to freshen up before alot of the other guests started arriving. After visiting the ladies' room, I took my seat in the sanctuary. In a few minutes, people started to come in, but I did not recognize anyone. Furthermore, everyone that came in had a definite Asian look, and none of them were speaking English. Then I saw an Asian woman come in with a young Asian girl dressed in a wedding gown. Since the bride I was expecting to see was born in Arkansas and had parents from Arkansas, I knew something was wrong. I got the invitation out of my purse, and took it up to someone who was preparing candles in the front of the church. I handed her the invitation, saying I was supposed to be at a wedding at the First Methodist Church in Texarkana at 2:00 PM, but none of the people here looked like who I was anticipating seeing. The candle lady studied the invitation briefly, and said, "You are at the First Methodist Church in Texarkana, Texas. This invitation is for the First Methodist Church in Texarkana, Arkansas. YIKES!!! Now what? As best she could, she told me how to get to the FMC on the Arkansas side of the town, and I raced over there as quickly as I could. Just moments before the bride walked down the aisle, I slipped into a pew in the back of the church---huffing and puffing and looking very much in disarray---not exactly the impression I wanted to leave on my old friends from college. So that is why for THIS expedition of "Goin' to the chapel", I wanted to ride with someone who knew their way around, so that I could sing "Goin' to the CORRECT chapel!" Miles of smiles! Tricia Turner (Photo disclaimer: Since I didn't have a signed model release form for the young couple in Nashville----and wasn't sure about how they would feel having their wedding photo on my website---I fuzzed out their images on purpose---one of the cool "special effects" you can do on the Picasa website!)
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High Ropes Course

Posted by PicasaEver since the first time my son put me into a climbing harness to try to make me into a rock climber, instead of just a "social ladder climber", I have been intrigued at the thought of getting a "view from the top" of whatever tall thing was in front of me. So it was with eager anticipation that I signed up for a "High Ropes and Zip Line" class when I attended Becoming an Outdoor Woman weekend earlier in the fall. The High Ropes course was under the auspices of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension program, and was held at the Ferndale 4-H Center just north of Little Rock. (That is me with the red helmet in the photo collage above). There is a very thorough session on safety before you actually proceed to the tree tops, and participants have the option to turn back at any point they think the challenge is too much for them. However, I was intent on at least doing enough of the "high in the sky" obstacle course that would get me over to the Zip Line. I had seen TV shows of people doing Zip Lines in the Costa Rican Rainforest Canopy, and longed to try it for myself. Since a trip to Costa Rico is not currently on my travel agenda, I was happy to settle for the exhilaration provided by speeding down the line that took me from an elevated hill on the high ropes course, down to the bottom of the valley. What a rush! I would recommend this for anyone seeking a controlled-risk type of thrill ride! So, if you are interested in putting some excitement into your life, see if you can "elevate" yourself to a high ropes course; better yet, check out the weekly ELEVATE! activity at First Baptist Church in Mountain Home. Miles of smiles! Tricia Turner

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Becoming an Outdoor Woman

I had the great experience last week to participate in a continent-wide program called "Becoming an Outdoor Woman", abbreviated as
"BOW". The program has been in operation for almost two decades, and consists of multi-day workshops that allow women to try their hand at a variety of outdoor activities in a controlled, non-threatening environment. I had attended these events in the past in other states (both a winter one and a summer one in Oregon; fall and spring programs in Missouri), but this was the first BOW that I had the opportunity to be a part of in Arkansas. It was held at the beautiful Ferndale 4-H Center near Little Rock, which has modern lodging and dining facilities, plus acres and acres of land suitable for a variety of outdoor activities. The half-day courses I took included stream ecology, high ropes, wild plants and their uses, plus outdoor survival. I evaluated each class as outstanding, not to mention great fun! If this sounds like something you would be interested in, just type it into your Internet search engine, and you can see the hundreds of adventures you have to choose from, in a variety of locations (almost every state has at least one annual BOW, plus many provinces in Canada offer them, including Newfoundland!). My BOW "resume" from other states includes snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, kayaking, archery, firearms, Dutch oven cooking, outdoor photography, nature crafts, outdoor journaling, bird watching, backpacking, canoeing, and hiking. So don't be trapped in your same old routine----get out there and explore God's great outdoors!!!
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tree of Life

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
The memory verse for week one of the First Place Bible study entitled "Renewing Hope" is stated above. One component of the First Place program is scripture memorization. The most important reason to memorize scripture is because God tells us to! The Bible said to "hide His word in your heart". I find it so interesting that now the scientific studies are telling us the importance of keeping our minds in good physical health by doing mental exercises such as cross-word puzzles, complex card games, and yes---memorization! In fact, several new products have appeared on the market with the intent of giving the user a "mental work-out" with the promise of delaying the signs of aging that are evidenced by diminished mental ability. Why not use something you probably already have in your home---a Bible! ---for this same purpose?! One thing that helps me with memorization is visualization, so I try to find a photograph I have taken to go along with the memory verse. (I took the photo for this verse last spring on the shores of Lake Taneycomo, in Branson, Missouri. ) Another aid to memorization is saying the verse out loud, in combination with certain body movements. That is called "kinetic learning". Kinetic learning has the added benefit of burning a few calories! I am hoping that the process of writing about the weekly verse in my blog will also help. So don't agonize---MEMORIZE!
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Monday, September 15, 2008

The Portland Rose Festival

In 2007, The Portland Rose Festival (which takes place in Portland, Oregon each May/June) was voted "Best Festival in the Universe", or some such outstanding honor. Since I have not attended every single festival in the universe yet, I cannot say if the award is accurate . However, I did go with a group to the Rose Parade held annually in Pasadena, California, and would give it very high marks in the "beauty" category. That is the one seen nationally on television in conjunction with the Rose Bowl Football game. Likewise, there is the "Run for the Roses" (aka the Kentucky Derby) that is equally famous. Anyone who has ever been inside Churchill Downs in Kentucky can feel the history oozing out of its hallowed grounds. So although not as many people have heard of the big rose event in Oregon, it is one I can heartily recommend. The group I was with made their way to Portland via air travel, and all had no major problems in that department. Even though the group was diverse, there are so many activities associated with the Portland Rose Festival, that most anyone can find something to interest them. There is a night-time parade, with lots of floats lit up to shine in the dark, there is the big day-time parade with beautiful floats, although they are not as elaborate as the ones in Pasadena. A new dimension to the daytime parade this year was that spectators were not allowed to camp out the night before in the spot where they planned to watch the parade. I guess in the past, this had caused some heated turf battles (which they called the "Duct tape wars" because that was how spectators-to-be marked off their territory); A very nice feature of the parade was one of the methods of clean-up when it was over. This really impressed me because the year I attended the Pasadena event, it was shortly after 9/11, and all the large trash cans had been removed from the streets out of fear of terrorist bombs being secretly hidden in large trashcans. As a result, the amount of trash filling the streets at the conclusion of the Pasadena event was MASSIVE, because there was no place for the spectators to put their refuse. However, for the Portland event, volunteers went along the parade route before it started, giving spectators a white, plastic trash bag with the Rose Parade logo on it for them to bag up their trash into before they left. The result was a much tidier city than what I had seen at the Pasadena parade. Another nice feature of the Portland parade was that you could purchase tickets to watch the parade inside a big event center there. The parade came in through one end of the building and left through the other end of the building. Bleachers lined the insides of the building, keeping spectators dry. One DOES have to consider the strong possibility of rain in Portland in the spring; in fact, if you are used to using the sun to tell you which way is north, south, east, and west---I would suggest you take a compass with you to Portland, because the sun was in short supply during the time my group was there. Parades are just one part of the Portland Rose Festival; there is, of course, the big rose show, where ribbons are awarded for the outstanding rose for that year; there are foot races, costumed fun runs, art shows, special film debuts, children's activities, a carnival, a downtown "urban garden" show, and on and on. So if you go, try to spend a few days there enjoying all this lovely city has to offer!
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Autumn Jammin' in the U.P.

When I first heard someone say the initials "U.P." , I thought they were just mispronouncing the word "yuppie". But the more I listened to them, the more I determined they were talking about a type of place, and not a type of people. (As I have noted in previous posts, I did not get to complete my seventh-grade geography class because the school closed early due to a bad flood. This catastropic  event, I am sure, accounts for my inadequate mastery of geographic locations decades later.) Finally, I had to ask the person just exactly where was "U.P"? The person was surprised at my ignorance, and told me that U.P. stood for Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Oh yeah, I remembered---that must be the part of the USA that borders northern Wisconsin. Years earlier, when I had been on a car trip to Wisconsin with my son, I had noticed that the land area above Wisconsin was a different color on the map, which I incorrectly assumed must be Canada. I thought it would be nice to drive the few extra miles to get there with my son, so he could say he had been to Canada. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was just another state! Not only that, it wasn't even connected by land to the state whose name it carried---weird, I thought. Anyway, when I recently had the opportunity to tour the entire area known as the "U.P.", I jumped at the opportunity!   I was with a group led by Fred Huffman, who is a dedicated promoter of Upper Peninsula Travel.  (For additional information on all this area has to offer, click on . The photographs I took (shown in the collage above) show that the leaves were just beginning to turn, and the temperatures were perfect. Because of my interest in culinary tourism, as well as faith-based travel, I was especially delighted to get to visit a tiny little retail store called "The Jam Pot Bakery" ( ), in a rural area of the Keweenaw region of the U.P. It is operated by a group of monks that belong to The Society of St. John.  Some people may refer to the bread they bake as "heavenly bread", since it is made by Christian monks.  Therefore, I am using my recollections of this quaint little place, as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses.  The verse is John 6:33 and says, "For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."  The tiny building has become somewhat of a "required" tourist stop for folks traveling along M-26 highway, not only for the delicious products it sells, but also because it is adjacent to a scenic waterfall very close to the road, known as "Jacob's Falls". The jam that the little food factory is most famous for is that made from thimble berries. Thimble berries are the "gold card" of berry pickers, because of their value, scarcity, and seasonal availability. Naturally, this makes the jam produced from these berries quite pricey. So even though the building is tiny, the prices are not! However, the money goes to a good cause (supporting the ministry of the monks), and the products the Jam Pot sells taste delicious.
 So if you have the good fortune to be traveling in that gorgeous U.P. area of Michigan, surrounded by the gorgeous Lake Superior, try out the "heavenly bread" and thimble-berry-jam at The Jam Pot Bakery. Happy jammin'! Tricia
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Balloons in the sky!

For several years, I have had an interest in those giant, often colorful, gas-filled contraptions that take people high in the sky without the help of a propeller or motor. It all started by a comment that a magazine editor made about me in regard to the first photographs and text I ever had published in a major magazine. It was a story I wrote about hot air ballooning, with photographs to go along with the article. The editor referred to me as a "photojournalist"! WOW! I like being called a photojournalist, and never forgot the comment or the article. So anytime I see passenger balloons in the sky---regardless of the type of gas lifting them up---I get warm and fuzzy feelings inside. I have had the opportunity to ride in several hot air balloons---twice at the big Hot Air Balloon Fiesta held annually in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One of the times, I had the good fortune to be in the Mickey Mouse balloon. The best part of that was the uncomplicated landing we made in a residential neighborhood, where all the little children were ecstatic to have Mickey land on their street! It was the biggest welcoming party I had ever experienced! The pilot of the Mickey balloon gave me a Mickey Mouse hot air balloon pin as a memento of the trip. The second year I rode at the annual Balloon Fiesta, my husband was with me in the balloon. I don't think the pilot of that balloon was as experienced as the Mickey pilot because that landing was not so un-complicated. The first touch-down, we came in too fast to the ground, and couldn't stop, so we went back up again. The second landing, was also too fast, so that we tipped over, dragged along the ground a while, and generally looked very un-graceful. We weren't injured, but my husband's Nikon camera was damaged in the incident, which was unfortunate, but repairable. A few years after that, I rode a helium-filled balloon similar to the one in the photo above, that used to be a tourist attraction in Branson, Missouri. (Both the balloon above, as well as the one at Branson, were tethered so that the occupants did not drift off into never-never land.) I didn't sign up for the ride at Niagara, as I wanted to spend my time next to and below the falls, as opposed to hundreds of feet above it. I had flown over Niagara Falls once where the pilot pointed it out below, but this time, I wanted to experience the falls up close and personal. And that I did---complete with the mandatory plastic raincoat that officials give you when you opt to walk along the stairs adjacent to the roaring water tumbling over the side of the cliff. It was a something I had been wanting to do for a long time, and an experience I would recommend for one and all!
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Rock & Roll Hall of Fame /Museum

Cleveland, Ohio (located on the banks of Lake Erie) is the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame/Museum. Those of you who have been to France (or perhaps have a special interest in architecture) may notice a similarity between the glass edifice I photographed above, and the glass pyramid that now is situated in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Both are by the world-renown architect I.M. Pei. His design in Cleveland is a magnificent structure. The many different levels and angles it has, might be said to be representative of the many different levels and angles that the music genre Rock and Roll has had. It is full of colorful and soundful permanent exhibits, as well as a constantly updated list of special, temporary exhibits. One could probably go there every day for a year, and still not see everything, or listen to all the available recordings; therefore, I recommend that you plan your visit in advance. Make a list of the artists you are most interested in and find out where their history or hall of fame award is located in the museum. Then use any remaining time to see areas that you have not covered. And here's a tip: Don't plan for a quick "in and out" with a purchase from the museum gift shop. The gift shop sells the usual souvenirs related to their theme, but since the theme is music, there is a huge selection of audio recordings to purchase as well. Add to this the fact that the gift shop is open to the public without a paid ticket to see the museum, and you begin to get the message--there were VERY long lines at the checkout counters. In fact, it was the longest lines I had seen at a shop like this since attending the Olympics in Atlanta back in the last century. Needless to say, I used my camera as my "souvenir-making machine" and skipped the long lines. After all, it was not time to Que up in a line---it was time to ROCK & ROLL!
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Grandparent/Grandchild Excursions

For the multitudes of grandparents who live a good distance from their grandchildren, developing a relationship with them--- beyond an hour around a holiday meal once a year or so---is going to take planning and preparation on the part of the grandparent. It means looking at the calendar in advance and blocking off a time frame that is devoted to grandparent/grandchild relationship building. Naturally, it will need to start small and be age appropriate for the youngster. With the passage of time which includes periodic experiences together, a bond and trust can develop between the generations that will benefit both. Some examples of small beginnings might include a picnic in a nearby park, miniature golf, a short hike on the nature trail at a city park, a climbing wall for the kids to try, or a child-friendly museum. Then the pair can try overnight trips----perhaps using one of the overnight activities arranged by organizations such as Wonders of the Outdoor World, Zoo overnights like "Roar & Snore" in the San Diego Wild Animal Park, state park-sponsored kayaking or camping trips, short church mission trips, museum overnights, etc.; if you want more ideas, just type in "grandparent/grandchild activities" in your Internet search engine, and you would be amazed at all the suggestions! I know of one grandmother who worked toward the goal of taking each of her grandchildren on a week long travel adventure together, as each grandchild graduated from high school. And seeing how those grandchildren that she traveled with have developed into outstanding individuals gave me the motivation to work harder at a similar goal. I need to insert that I have a personal bias, after years of working in the health care field, toward activities that will promote an active lifestyle for the youth, as opposed to limiting your interactions to sedentary things such as movies or TV watching. Likewise, the health habits that the grandchild observes in the grandparent should be ones worth emulating. Since I grew up in the same town as my grandparents, the subject of grandparent/grandchild excursions was no big deal; rather, they were a regular, almost daily occurrence. Likewise, it was for my son, who grew up in the same town where both sets of grandparents lived. But that is not always the case, and the suggestions today try to give you some ideas of how to get to know the adults of tomorrow. So as the old rock and roll song used to say "Go, Granny, Go!!!
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Adirondacks

While driving through the Adirondacks in upstate New York the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, the thing that struck me the most was the lack of other travelers! Wasn't I just a few hours away from our nation's largest metropolitan area? Wasn't it a holiday weekend? Wasn't the weather absolutely gorgeous? So where is everybody? I concluded that many people like to have the mental picture of a weekend in the Adirondacks in the great outdoors, but they don't really want to deal with the real thing---the long drive to a secluded spot, the fear of no cell-phone coverage, no cable television, no wireless Internet, and YIKES---bugs and snakes and the likes! So we settle for an Adirondack-themed amusement park instead of the actual experience of being in the Adirondacks---it's just too cozy to stay in our old comfort zone. And according to statistics, a smaller percentage of our population is visiting national and state parks each year. And about those famous Adirondack-style chairs shown above in the photos I took. It wasn't until I was outside the boundaries of the park that I ever saw any of them! The houses along the particular highway I traveled through the park, had front porches with lawn chairs made of the familiar aluminum tubing and cloth webbing; or perhaps the molded plastic chairs so prevalent everywhere. Not a single house I saw within the park had an Adirondack chair on the front porch! (perhaps it is just as well; I doubt that the Yankees living in those houses would take too kindly to a hillbilly photographer from one of those states below the Mason-Dixon line, approaching their front porch for a quick shot with her camera!) But if you use visualization for a relaxation technique, and you like to visualize yourself relaxing beside a wooded lake, stretched out in your Adirondack chair, soaking up the great outdoors---go right ahead; and don't worry about being interrupted by other human beings---they are all inside watching "Last of the Mohicans" on television. Miles of smiles! Tricia
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When I was doing some reading on the life of Ernest Hemingway (more on his Arkansas connection in a future blog), I found out that one of his long-time friends was a man named Evan Shipman. Since I have friends and relatives with that name, I was intrigued. So with the help of the ever-present Google search engine, I learned a lot about Evan Shipman, including the fact that he wrote a literary piece entitled "Mazeppa". The only other experience I had with the word "Mazeppa" was back in the last century while I was in college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, when us twenty-somethings used to watch a week-end, late-night television show out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, that we referred to as "Mazeppa". So I continued my "wild goose (translate Google) chase" for more on this word "Mazeppa". That led me to this quote by John Wooley of the Tulsa World that said "If you were of a certain age in the early "70s, and you were living in or around Tulsa, Oklahoma, the name "Mazeppa" symbolized something almost magical, a shared experience of a place and time..." Wow---he hit the nail on the head! Continuing on my hunting expedition, I found out that LOTS of people identify with that "shared experience", so much so, that there has been a movement to keep the memory alive by reproducing copies of Mazeppa's old shows, and selling them through the wonders of---you guessed it---the Internet. Go to on-line store if you want to know more. Let's see, where would I like to go "wild goose chasing" next? Let me rephrase that for any animal rights readers who do not believe in hunting down wild animals: Where will my next surfing expedition take me??????
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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

San Francisco Bay

There are many ways to experience a city, but I have always been partial to the water route. And if you share that desire, there are many modes of water transportation that will give you an overview of that great city on the bay---San Francisco. For large groups, the Blue and Yellow Tour Boats have been operating for years, and even offer magic "translator" ear phones for non-English-speaking customers. Groups can also use the official Alcatraz Island Tour Boats for a cruise that includes a stop on the famous island for the "bad boys" of the past. There are also charter sail boats and kayaking and jet skis available for rent. And of course, for those who want to make headlines, there is always the swimming route. However, unless you have the skill and stamina of Michael Phelps, I would not recommend the latter. On the day after Thanksgiving when my group was there, it was an absolutely gorgeous, clear fall day. Notice in the photo above that even the sea gull could not pass up the opportunity to hitch a ride on our lovely cruiser! Even though we often see pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in a bank of deep fog (which makes a great photograph), if you are actually out on the water going underneath the famous landmark, I would take a clear day for sure! So don't let the end of the warm days of summer keep you off the water---it's a great way "float your boat" to a memorable experience!
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Student Groups

If you work with a group of students in the study of performance arts, you know the value of public recitals for the development of their skills, talents, and team behavior. Instead of having these recitals in the same familiar locations, why not consider an unusual venue they could travel to---such as the capitol building of your state? The trip could be combined with a civics and government learning activity where they were able to tour the legislative chambers of your state's governing body, plus learn to appreciate the history of your particular state. Likewise, their performance could be a pleasant diversion for the government workers, other tourists, and yes, even their parents, who benefit from learning about their group! The group pictured above is the Childbloom Christmas Guitar Choir performing in the rotunda of the Texas State Capitol building.
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Culinary Tourism

Long before the term "Culinary Tourism" had been coined, the folks at Boudin Bakery recognized that curious consumers wanted to see the birthplace (aka "bakery") where their famous product, known as San Francisco Sourdough bread, had originated. Most of us have seen the bread in numerous airport terminals across the U.S., where it was flown in on a daily basis, for travelers who had come to associate the brand with San Francisco. In keeping with the Boudin foresight, they were a mover and shaker in selling their product in this way around the globe, years before we all became familiar with the term "global economy". So it is not surprising that they have developed a great tourist attraction at Fisherman's Wharf that includes exhibits about the history of SF sourdough bread, a glassed-in observation area over the food-production equipment, and yes, free samples at the conclusion of the tour! It is delicious, baked dough samples for no dough on your part! Of course, after you sample it, you will want to purchase more of it for the ride home, so rest assured, you are able to do that. There is also a well-stocked gift shop with plenty of souvenir items displaying the Boudin logo, as well as other culinary-related gadgets and cookbooks. And even if you were not hungry when you got there, by the time you have completed the tour, perused the gift shop, and smelled those wonderful aromas for an hour, you will be ready to have a meal at the adjacent cafe they run. I had the chowder in the Boudin bread bowl, and it was memorable! The old song may say "I left my heart in San Francisco", but there were certainly no leftovers from lunch that day! Miles of smiles!

Addendum:  I am using these memories of the famous San Francisco sour dough bread , as my visual aid for a First Place 4 Health memory verse ( ) from John 6:35 that says, Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."     Having Jesus as the "Bread of Life" gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!     Tricia
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Texas State Capitol

Texas has numerous attractions worthy of a visit, either by groups or individuals. But with all the media talk about the "economic crunch" many folks are experiencing, how about learning of one that is rated as a AAA "Gem" attraction, and is absolutely free! The Texas State Capitol building in Austin is famous for its exterior, made of "sunset red" granite that is assembled together in an architectural style known as Renaissance Revival. The upper levels of its beautiful rotunda dome are open to the public and accessible by either stairs or elevators (Cowboy hats are not required for entry, but helpful to capture the spirit of the occasion!) In a separate building, known as the Capitol Visitors Center, you can take advantage of interactive exhibits, theaters, and literature containing visitor information. Phone 512-463-0063 to confirm that you will get that big Texas "Howdy" at the time you want to be there. Happy Trails!
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Hood to Coast Relay Race

I had the privilege of assisting a group with the Hood to Coast Relay Race----billed as the world's largest relay race and held each August. It begins near the historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood in western Oregon and ends in the lovely village of Seaside, Oregon, on the Pacific coast. A single runner from each team starts at timed intervals on Saturday, and runs a measured distance, where he (or "she"---the race rules require a certain number of females on each team) passes on the baton to the next runner. This continues all through the night along the designated route leading west (team members take their turn sleeping during the night in the group's "sag wagon", or on the ground at the baton-passing stations.) If you watched the Olympics in Beijing last month, you know that the act of "passing the baton" in a relay race is not a "done deal"! Imagine trying to complete this task successfully in the middle of the night, when you are half asleep, exhausted from miles of running, and surrounded by darkness! In spite of the difficulties, most of the teams make it through to the finish line on the beach at Seaside on Sunday. And that is when the fun can begin for not only the race relay teams, but also the spectators and fans! There are tents sets up along the beach selling everything one could need after hours of exercise---food, beverages, Hood to Coast apparel, photos of your team, etc.; likewise, there are plenty of "freebies" from sports/health related companies/organizations that want you to sample their products or be aware of their services. Later on Saturday evening, there are live bands playing for any and all that still have the energy to stay awake for that long! Another fun part of the event is seeing all the costumes that some of the teams come up with, and how they decorate their official support vehicle (aka "sag wagon"). Naturally, there is a prize for these categories. Besides there being official race photographers stationed throughout the course of the race, a simulated "finish line" is set up on the beach during the award ceremonies where the team can all run through it together for a photo opportunity. The race photos are available for purchase after the race via the official website of the event on the Internet. If all this sounds interesting to you, but you are not a runner---alas, you are in luck!!! There is also a similar event for walkers, and even a scaled-down version for youngsters. Because the Hood to Coast Relay has grown into such a massive success, there are more teams that want to participate than the event can accommodate. Therefore, a lottery system has emerged, so that team entries are picked at random, until the cut-off number is reached. This system assures that the event will not become unmanageable. So if you like beautiful scenery, health-promoting activities, and have a spirit of adventure---this event is for you!
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Monday, September 8, 2008


One of the many fun activities for the Rose Festival Week in Portland, Oregon, is the opportunity at the big Rose Showcase to vote on which flower you think SMELLS the best! You go up and down rows of numbered, lovely roses in bud vases, putting your nose close to each bloom, inhaling the fragrance, and then casting your vote for best aroma, by dropping its number in the ballot box provided. Although many folks may have attended big flower shows in the past, everyone in my group gave a "thumbs up" to the distinction Portland Rose Festival had last year as being "Best Festival of the Year!"
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Berkshire-Hathaway Stockholders Meeting

Although it is probably not sound economic policy to base your investment portfolio on the quality of the annual stockholders meeting of the company stock you are purchasing, perhaps it is a consideration for some. I had my first experience with attending a corporate stockholders meeting by going to the one for WalMart, since it is so close to where I live. The fact that it was held in the same huge arena as where I had attended many Razorback basketball games perhaps added to my excitement of being in the audience, but the geographical excitement was soon overwhelmed by the excitement of the numerous celebrities (both athletes and entertainers) that were part of the program. I determined to return the following year, and since then, have had the opportunity to see and hear several big-name personalities, as well as the opportunity to ask questions to the actual president of WalMart. So when I heard on MSNBC that the Berkshire-Hathaway stockholders meeting was quite the event, and was held annually in Omaha, Nebraska, I put it on my list of things to do. Of course, it did require my being a stockholder, so I purchased the minimum amount that will make a person a stockholder. I attended the 2008 Annual Meeting last May, and here is my report: It too is held in a huge arena, and is a bit more drawn out than the WalMart event. It included activities for stockholders the day before, the day of, and the day after. One of my favorite parts was going to the "Net-Jets Reception" at the Omaha airport where we were able to tour several different styles of private jets, have snacks to munch on while we visited with other attendees, AND a big-screen tv to watch the Kentucky Derby which was going on the same day. And I cannot omit the excitement I felt getting to be in the crowd of photographers following Bill Gates as he strolled through the exhibits that go along with the meeting. I have a greater appreciation for those photographers who can get a clear, crisp, in-focus shot of someone like that, because every photo I took of the man showed that one of us was shaking badly (and I don't think it was him!) One of my cousins has recently gone to work for a large corporation that is a leading chocolate supplier for the entire world, and their annual meeting is held in Switzerland. Let's see---could my portfolio use a little sprinkling of cocoa?
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Viking Culinary School

Back in the last century, when I was completing my bachelor's and master's degrees in foods and nutrition, I enjoyed the college classes I took in food preparation, but I saw them more as something to check off the "required to graduate" list----a "means to the end", rather than an "end" in themselves. But fast forward to this century, the food network, the dozens of magazines dedicated to nothing but cooking, the proliferation of cookbooks, the internet, celebrity chefs, etc., and we see that there are cooking classes people pay good money to be in because they WANT to, not because they have to. It is for that reason that I planned a trip for a group of ladies to attend a "Super Foods" culinary class at the Viking Cooking School in Memphis, Tennessee. (There are numerous Viking Cooking Schools across the country---probably one in an area close to you!). Granted, it was not an easy sell-job. One of my friends commented, she just didn't see how a cooking class was going to help her do a better job on the dry cereal and milk that she and her husband had for supper every night. But having participated recently in culinary classes at Balboa Park in San Diego, the New York Wine and Culinary Center, the Vermont Culinary Resort called The Inn at Essex, as well as one as the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, I knew that such events were not only helpful, they were fun! In fact, there is a niche market called "culinary tourism" that is addressing this very subject. Many organizations offer culinary tours of foreign countries for regular folks, not just professional chefs, to partake of. So next time you are bored with your normal kitchen routine, check out all the exciting ways you can add some excitement to your meal planning by taking a group cooking class! Cheers!
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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pittock Mansion

I had read in the tourist information brochure that a great way to get your "bearings" in the city of Portland, Oregon, was to visit the Pittock Mansion, because it is situated on a steep hill high above the city. My group took this advise and took the twisty road that led to this mountaintop beauty. It is not a road a giant RV or 18-wheeler could navigate, but most passenger cars will fit the road just fine. We stopped on one of the main streets leading to the mansion access road to pick up carry-out meals from Subway, so we could have a picnic on the grounds, since it was a beautiful SUNNY window of opportunity in this frequently-overcast city. The views were magnificent, and it was clear enough to get a glimpse of The Cascades in the distance. Plus, the city of Portland was spread out before us, allowing us to find our hotel, the river, and other landmarks. This outing could be an entry for "Budget Travel Tips" because there is free parking, free bathrooms, free water fountain, free strolling of the grounds, free picnic table/benches, and free scenic views. If one is determined to spend money, however, there is the ever-present gift shop with lots of pretty trinkets, as well as an inside tour of the home that is available for a fee.
So if you find yourself in Portland, get out of your pit at the Pittock! (If you are not in Portland, but still feeling "in the pits", read Beth Moore's book "Get out of that Pit!")
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Philbrook Museum

The grounds and gardens of the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are just as impressive as the exhibits the museum displays. If you are going to visit there, give yourself the treat of a stroll on the beautifully landscaped acres surrounding the "Villa Philbrook", as it was originally called. A nice way to break up your experience, is to relax with a delicious lunch in their restaurant that looks out over the water features, between your time on the inside and time on the outside. Since the estate was originally a residence, it remains surrounded by a neighborhood of private homes (quite nice ones, of course), so don't expect a lot of big flashing neon signs or billboards pointing out the location to the museum. When I say it is a "hidden treasure", that is not an exaggeration. But it is definitely a treasure hunt worth the effort!
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Friday, September 5, 2008

Rollin' on the River

Just like Tina Turner sings in her famous song, I was rollin' on the river! Having followed the Mississippi Flyway used by migrating birds for hundreds of years, I started at Memphis on the Mississippi River, and now I was at the "Quad Cities" on the Mississippi River. (Of course, there was that tiny little detour over to the Atlanta, Georgia airport---probably the migrating birds do not have to deal with "airline hubs" like us homo sapiens do) Anyway, it was a beautiful night to be out on the river on a big excursion boat called The Celebration. This is one of the riverboats that goes downriver every three years to participate in the festival known as "Tall Stacks". The last Tall Stacks I attended was in Cincinnatti, Ohio two years ago. Any excursion boat on the Mississippi or one of its tributaries that is "worth its salt" makes the pilgrimmage to this great event to celebrate everything good, as well as everything historic, about our country's riverboat heritage. Advance ticketholders (via Ticketmaster, of course) can have breakfast on one boat, lunch on another, and an evening dinnershow on yet another! The big boats raft together along the city's docks, in the order that they will be launching, and it is one big, fun party! If you like water, and boats, and history, and good music, and good food---this one's for you! Ahoy there---I'll see you on the river!
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Delta Air

The term "Delta Air" took on new meaning for me last week at 4 in the morning, as I entered the Delta Airlines Ticket counter area in the Memphis airport, and saw that it was full of Delta AIR MATTRESSES! I have heard of a hospital being so full that patients are put on beds in the hallways, but this was a first for me---to see an airline terminal full of airmattresses, with each one having a green blanket over it, covering some sort of big, lumpy thing underneath. I determined the big, lumpy things under the green blankets must be sleeping humans, as every mattress had a pair of humanbeing shoes setting beside it. I strolled down to the other airline counters and they were empty of airmattresses, green blankets, and sleeping humans. Upon inquiring to a Security Guard, I found out that Delta airlines was the only airline there that throws a big "bunkin' party" for guests stranded in the middle of the night due to a flight delay of some sort. I guess with the other airlines, you slump over in one of those waiting room chairs if you have the misfortune of getting stuck in an airport at night. I don't know the whole story of the incident, but all in all, I thougth it was a really good demonstration of Southern hospitality in the "delta" of the Mississippi. Sweet dreams!
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Dragon Boat Races

While on the Battle Sail, we were able to observe practices for the Dragon Boat Races held during the week of the annual Rose Festival in Portland, Oregon
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Pirates of the Willamette

During our week in Portland, Oregon, the Tall Sailing Ships---Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftan--were moored at the river port, and for a fee, the crew would take guests our for a sunset "Battle Sail". Having no idea what a "Battle Sail" was, but always eager to take advantage of any opportunity to be out on the water, my group and I boarded the ships, (having signed all the forms with the tiny print saying that if you die or get injured, it is not their fault, and it is useless to sue them). My group had the distinction of getting to be on the ship that had actually had an appearance on the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. After everyone on the ship had listened to the mandatory safety talk, we set sail down the river. Although it should have been a clue when the safety lecture repeatedly talked about covering one's ears when the cannons started, I was still a bit surprised at how LOUD it was. The sound was magnified by the echoes that occured off the steep banks or tall buildings that surround the river. (It turns out a Battle Sail is when two old sailing ships actually shoot their cannons---that are loaded with "blanks"----at each other, and do various maneuvers with their sails and rudders to keep from being hit by the cannons of their opponent. And since the Willamette is not the widest river in the world, our evasive maneuvers were severely limited!) I had as much fun watching some of the young guests on the ship as watching the actual crewmembers. One of the young guests had gone to great effort to come in the attire of a pirate, although he might more appropriately be called a "piratito" because of his small size. But he was SOOOooooo cute, and he enjoyed having his photograph taken, so he is the "visual aid" for my blog about the Battle Sail. I also enjoyed photographing all the other water venue activities that being in the middle of the river enabled us to see---Dragon Boat races, some of the US Naval Fleet, a Canadian Coast Guard ship, sailboat races, the submarine that was in the movie Red October, a multi-deck excursion paddleboat, and the waterside carnival at Wamu Village. So, matey, here is my recommendation if you ever are invited to go on a Battle Sail-----ALL ABOARD, AND ANCHORS AWAY!
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