Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Have you ever stopped to think what a WONDERFUL blessing it is to be able to walk? Since I worked in health care for over thirty years, I saw early in my career, numerous instances of patients unable to walk due to injuries, birth defects, illness, accidents, amputations, paralysis, and various disease states. One of these disease states is obesity. Since I am a Registered Dietitian, it was my job to try to help obese patients reduce their body weight, so that they would once again be able to walk. I tried to educate patients on how to eat in a manner that would help them lose the extra pounds they carried, and I tried to educate them on the importance of physical activity. Unless they were completely paralyzed, I usually tried to encourage them to try to increase the walking that they did. Walking is not only a way to help your physical status, it is also a great way to help your mental status. If you walk with a friend, it can even improve your emotional status! But there is a fourth component to total well-being, and that is spiritual status.

Starting Wednesday, January 5, at 6 PM, I will be leading a new session of First Place 4 Health. The study book we are using for this 13-week session will address that fourth component of total well-being, which is the spiritual component. The book is called "Walking in Grace", and is pictured in this photograph. We will meet weekly for about one and one-half hours, on Wednesday evenings, and we would love to have YOU join us! If this is something that you might be interested in, you can email me at triciaturnerfirstplace@yahoo.com, and I will try to answer any questions you have about our meetings. You can also log on to www.FirstPlace4Health.com for general information about this very successful, healthy living program, that has been helping people around the country for over 3 decades. So come, walk with us, for miles of smiles! Tricia
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Amtrak Overnight Expedition

I don't know why we always seemed to be surprised when typical winter weather interferes with our winter travel plans! But that was the case that resulted in an unanticipated overnight trip on Amtrak recently. My original plans called for my plane to land in Sacramento, California, around noon, after which I would rent a car to make the drive to my son's house in Klamath Falls, Oregon, arriving in time for supper. The plane landed in Sacramento just fine and on time. However, the weather situation north of there had turned into heavy snow, and my son advised against my renting a car. He suggested instead that I take the Amtrak train up to Klamath Falls. Since I was determined to get to his home, I decided to give his suggestion a try. I had been by myself in a snow storm, in a rental car, in northern California a few years earlier, and it was definitely not an experience I wanted to repeat! I took a SuperShuttle from the airport to the train station in downtown Sacramento, and made myself at home in the train station's historic space. Its architecture reflects the year 1925, when it first opened, as the terminal for the Southern Pacific Railroad. The interior features a mural of the celebration of the completion of the Trans-continental Railroad (upper left photo). One of the most fascinating features of the waiting room was its unique, wooden church-pew-like seats with a heating unit built between the seats (upper middle photo). The very "thoughtful" designers of these unique pieces of furniture must have realized that, with the constant opening and closing of doors going on in a train station, it would be easier to keep the people sitting at the benches warm, by putting the heating unit inside the seats, instead of a more conventional floor or ceiling heat register unit. The upper right photo shows that the train station had modern, flat-screen monitors showing which trains were arriving and departing. The lower left photo shows the "automatic ticket seller" kiosk that was available at this station, as well as many other Amtrak stations. Using this kiosk, one could get their ticket, even if there were no "human" ticket agent available to sell them a ticket. One end of the waiting room had several vending machines, offering every type of food imaginable. And there were tables and chairs beside the vending machines, suitable for "dining" , if one chose to use them. The lower right photo shows one of the vintage and lovely chandeliers that were strategically placed around the high, vaulted ceiling. These unique features are probably one of the reasons that the station has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.

I boarded the train in Sacramento at midnight, and woke up the next morning just outside Klamath Falls. Lots of people exited the train in Klamath Falls, not because that was their destination, but because the stop in Klamath Falls lasted long enough for people continuing on the train to get outside and stretch their legs. I took a photograph of one of these passengers because the man standing in the snow, shown in the photo on the left , dressed in his Russian type coat, boots, and hat reminded me of a scene out of an old Russian movie! The porter shown in the middle photo was in charge of the sleeper car, which I did not get to visit. The photo on the right shows the trackside entrance to the Klamath Falls station. It is also a historic structure, and its unique architecture, along with the building material of black, volcanic stone, made it a memorable stop for Amtrak passengers who had never seen it before.

The photo on the left gives you an idea of the size of the seats that a passenger in coach class has. Fortunately, I had two of these to stretch out in for the 7-hour ride, which enabled me to sleep like a baby! The porter passed out pillows to everyone, which I thought was a very nice amenity! The windows are large and provide a great view of the landscape you are speeding by. There are also curtains that you can pull, if desired, to made it easier for you to sleep. The photo on the right shows that the Klamath Falls station was keeping the walking area beside the train cleared of the constantly falling snow. This had not been necessary in Sacramento because the boarding area of the tracks had a roof over it. The photo on the left also shows how very long the train was, and the nature of its doubledecker superliner design. The bottom floor of my train car had restrooms, chairs and tables suitable for wheelchairs, and a small storage area for luggage. Then there was a very small, winding staircase that led up to the second level where my seat was located.

The other Amtrak trips I had taken had just been a two or three hours in length, and I had never had big luggage on those other trips. However, on this trip, I had a giant rolling duffel bag, because I was carrying some Christmas presents for family. I was very reluctant to "check" my luggage, because I did not have any experience with doing so on a train. However, another traveler I met in the Sacramento station, who had been on several cross country train trips, said she always checked her luggage, and had never had it lost. So I handed over my big bag at the Sacramento station, and I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted it on the luggage cart that was loaded down with bags at the Klamath Falls station. It was covered in snow, but at least it was not lost!! It was interesting to me that the cart hauling the luggage out of the train and to the station at Klamath Falls was so similar to a cart that I had seen at an "antique" or vintage train ride in Eureka Springs. I guess some things never change! Speaking of baggage, sometimes there is lots of emotional baggage that goes along with visiting old friends and family. All that emotional baggage can keep one from enjoying the blessing of being reunited with loved ones. But just liked I checked my baggage at the train station so I wouldn't have to deal with it during my trip, so I need to "check" my emotional baggage so I don't have to deal with it during my visit. There are some words of wisdom in Ephesians 4:3 that say "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace". That is my prayer for you during this holiday season---may you have miles of PEACEFUL smiles! Tricia
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Parcs Quebec" Expedition

There is a Canadian National Park that is just minutes from downtown Quebec City, and it is called "Parc de la Chute Montmorency". The top photo of this collage shows the cable cars that go to the elegant dining facility at the top of the falls. The lower left photo shows the Montmorency Falls, which are 272 feet high (100 feet higher than Niagara), with the pedestrian bridge showing in front of the falls. It is part of the historic site that encircles the park, along with an interpretation center and restaurant. In addition, the falls are lit up on some occasions at night, which makes them even more spectacular to look at. The large white "polar bear" likeness on the lower right photo, is in the Interpretive Center, and serves as a useful visual aid, whenever school children come for a visit.

Just 30 minutes, by car, north of Quebec City is the "Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier" (top photo). As you may recall from your history books, Jacques Cartier was an early explorer in Canada. The Jacques Cartier National Park is a vast mountainous plateau, measuring 258 square miles with deep gorges, at the bottom of which are rivers whose steady flow is interrupted by the occasional rapids. One of the mountain ranges is called the Laurentian Mountains, and offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities. In the lower left photo a park ranger is using the large map in the Visitor's Center to explain to our group the geography that lies within the park. She explained that we were in a glacial valley with the Jacques Cartier River running through it. In some places that river is calm, and in other places, it is turbulent.

Because river activities are so popular, and because the park is so close to a major urban center, they keep a huge inventory of both kayaks (upper right photo) and canoes (lower photos) on hand. The park also provides shuttle service for river runners, as evidenced by their van in the upper left photo. But the park does not shut down in the winter! You can explore the snowy wilderness as you go backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking. The main website for all of Canada's parks (including Montmorency shown in the first photo collage) is www.sepaq.com The specific website to check on activities at Jacque Cartier Park is www.sepaq.com/jacquescartier and you can click on which language you want the site to appear in.

Besides traditional tent camping and cabins, the park also offers "yurt" camping. The advantages of yurt camping is that they are fully equipped with cooking utensils, beds, cook stove, table, and chairs. The park ranger in the lower left photo showed our group what they looked like on the inside. In addition, each yurt campsite is equipped with a picnic table, outdoor grill, and wooden porch. A centrally-located bathhouse provides showers and toilets for a group of about four yurts. The pretty blond in the upper left photo, ponting to the French sign for the yurts, is a new friend I made on the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her speak in perfect English, even though she grew up in Germany. What I found fascinating about her story, is that she grew up in East Germany, during the time when it was still under Communist rule. She lived through the experience of seeing the Berlin wall come down. She could tell me about her life before the wall came down, and after the wall came down. She was so kind and congenial and helpful, not only to me, but to each person in our group, that she made quite an impression on me. Romans 8:35 says "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?.......No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." This beautiful German lady, is indeed, more than a conqueror! Meeting people like her when one travels, and getting to see the majesty of God's creation in a place like Jacques Cartier National Park, makes me even more of a believer in the quote by St. Augustine that says "Not to travel, is like reading only one page of a book". So get out there and enjoy some more miles of smiles!! TriciaPosted by Picasa

"Okwari Aventures" in Seguenay, Quebec

If you would like a Canadian "north woods" experience, but would like it to be in a somewhat "controlled" environment, then Okwari Aventures is just the ticket! (Okwari means "bear" in the native language.) Located not far from the city, yet on the border of a magnificent forest, it is an exceptional site for observing the black bear and other wildlife. Observation of the bears takes place in its natural habitat with qualified guides. Spectators are within an area with electrified fences (to keep the bears away from the spectators), and they can stay cozy inside heated shelters with large windows that look out onto bear habitat. There is even a "portable john" adjacent to the shelter for those inconvenient times "when nature calls"! During the hours preceding the bear observation time, visitors to Okwari Aventures have a variety of options available to them, some of which are pictured in this collage. The upper left photo shows the nature trail you can take with an experienced naturalist as they point out unusual plants (lower left) and ponds created by beavers, with their signature "beaver dam" engineering (lower right photo). The red maple leaves in the middle right photo show why it is very appropriate that the Canadian flag be emblazoned with a red maple leaf. The day I was at Okwari Aventures, the forest floor was completely carpeted in the beautiful red maple leaves!

Your day at Okwari Aventures can also include a visit to a serene lake (top photo) with a Scandinavian type log cabin built on its shores (middle right photo). There you can warm up by the wood stove (as I am doing in the middle left photo) before you enjoy a feast on a meal of foods typical of the region. The lower photo shows another activity you can engage in---a Rabaska canoe ride. Different from canoes one sees on the Buffalo River in Arkansas, a Rabaska canoe is an 8 meter long boat that seats about ten people. It is the method used by yesteryear's "coureurs-des-bois", or pioneers, on Quebec's lakes and rivers.

Another extremely enjoyable and educational option at Okwari Aventures is visiting an aboriginal site. There you will meet a French Canadian "mountain man" with his native American wife (upper left photo). They will give you an in-depth explanation of not only the clothing they are wearing, but also the various tools they use to survive in the wilderness (upper right photo). The lower left photo shows their fire pit, where they prepared herbal teas for us to sample, along with various medicinal herbs they were in the habit of using. The photo on the right shows the shelter they built of available native materials that was used as their home during the long, cold winters.
Okwari Aventures is located along a river the French Canadians call "Riviere a Mars". This photo collage shows the suspension bridge we were able to cross above the river, to the observation deck on the other side. It is easy to see (and hear!) the power created by the rushing water, and it illustrates why "the power of flowing water" has a long history of being useful in Quebec. This location beside the river is another reason for the success of Okwari Aventures as a natural habit for moose, bear, beavers, and deer. It reminded me of the verse in Psalms 42:1 that says "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my heart pants for you, O God". Perhaps it is a lesson to us human beings that just as the animals need to be near a water source, so we need to stay near the source of our sustenance---a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you would like to learn more about Okwari Aventures, you may visit their website at http://www.okwariaventures.com/ Since it is in the area of Quebec known as Saguenay, you can also visit http://www.ville.seguenay.qc.ca/ to learn about other nearby attractions. I can assure you that you will experience miles of smiles on the highways and byways of Seguenay! Tricia
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Quebec City Expedition

Quebec City is in the province of Quebec, in Canada. It is situated on the St. Lawrence River (upper left photo), and has been a strategic location for that country for centuries. Quebec City is considered the "cradle" of French civilisation in North America, and French, is in fact, the official language of the province of Quebec. Most travel brochures of the area will use the "signature image" of the famous Chateau Frontenac (a Fairmont hotel property) to identify to the viewer that they are looking at Quebec City. Because the hotel's history is so tied in with the history of Quebec City, I would recommend visiting Chateau Frontenac, even if you are not using that property as your lodging. I was extremely thankful to be able to participate in one of the guided tours of the Chateau. It is such a popular activity, that the tours are offered on the hour, with a duration of 50 minutes. However, even with so many departures offered, reservations are still recommended. Check their website for details on this and other services offered: http://www.tourschateau.ca/

The historic district of Quebec (referred to as "Old Quebec) is renowned for a unique European charm and its beautiful, and well preserved, architecture. In fact, Place Royale (lower left photo) was the site where a, supposedly European street scene, from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie-- Catch Me If You Can--- was ACTUALLY filmed! Quebec is also known for its fine cuisine, and some statistics show it to have the highest number of restaurants per person of any city in the world! Many of these fine culinary establishments are located in Old Quebec.

A short distance from Old Quebec, the city's growth to the north is highlighted by the Parliament Buildings (top & lower right photos). Since Quebec City is the capitol of the Canadian province of Quebec, one might think of this Parliament building as you would think of the capitol of one of the states in the USA, (e.g. like Little Rock is the capitol of Arkansas.) The fountain on the left of the photo collage was a gift to the city in more recent years from one of the province's largest retailers, and makes a beautiful addition to the stately Parliament Buildings.

The upper left photo in this collage shows the entrance to the City Hall of Quebec City. It was adorned with beautiful autumn decorations when I made my visit there back in November. The upper right photo shows "The Plains of Abraham" which was Canada's first national historic park. It was the site of the confrontation between the French and the British Empires, including the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and the 1760 Battle of Sainte-Foy. The middle photo shows one of the "gates" of the original fortifying wall, that is still in use on the street entering into Old Quebec. The lower left photo shows the unique sculpture that designates Old Quebec as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the reasons it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is because of the wall (fortification) that forms a 4.6 kilometer-long defensive belt around the old city, and the fact that it is the last fortified city remaining north of Mexico City. On top of the wall is a sentry path (lined with interpretation signposts) that runs atop the ramparts and gates, allowing the visitor to understand the evolution of the defensive wall system. One can also get a historical perspective about the importance of a wall around a city, by reading the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. The story is about a people who worked diligently to rebuild a wall that had been destroyed by attacks of their enemies. They were so intent on getting the repairs done, that they rebuilt it in record time because, as Nehemiah 4:6 states: "So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart." Likewise, the tourism officials of Quebec City work "with all their heart" to make your experience in their beloved city a most memorable and enjoyable one. Read how to get the most out of your trip to Quebec City by visiting http://www.quebecregion.com/ and as they say in their part of the world "BIENVENUE QUEBEC"!! Miles of smiles! Tricia
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quebec Canyon St. Anne Expedition

It is hard to believe that such a short distance from the bustling streets of Quebec City, there could be such a magnificent natural wonder as Canyon Saint-Anne. The canyon is grooved by an imposing 74 meter waterfall, and the photo on the lower right shows the rainbow above it, that was the treat for the visitors to the canyon on the day that I was there.

In addition to being able to cross the canyon on the highest pedestrian bridges in Quebec (55 meters high), the more adventuresome traveler can go across on the ever-popular "zip line" and/or cable bridges. The photos on the left and upper right show one of the zip line technicians with the tools of his trade, which of course includes a helmet for him and any of the customers that choose to try their various adventure offerings.

These photos show the "vias ferratas" operated by the same company as runs the giant zip line and cable bridges. The "vias ferratas" are a type of climbing whereby the climber is hooked onto a cable that is secured to the side of the rock being ascended or descended. They are currently more common in Europe than in North America.

The upper left photo shows one of the 3 suspension bridges that cross the canyon, while the photo on the right shows the mighty "Sainte-Anne-du-Nord" River that flows through the gorge. The river was used extensively by loggers at the turn of the century, and it was a former logger who, in 1965, told Jean-Marie McNicoll how to reach the Saint-Anne River falls. At the time, there was no road to the river, but later with the help of his brother, Laurent, they leased the immediate shores of the river from Hydro-Quebec and purchased the wooded lots between Route 138 and the leased riverbanks. Over time, an access road was built , and the first visitors were welcomed to the area in the summer of 1973. That first summer, tourists could reach the river on a 1.5 kilometer road through the woods. Since then, the walkways have been extended, while other lookouts and the three bridges were built. In the lower photo, I am standing on one of the sturdy, and strategically placed, observation platforms above the falls. Today, more than 100,000 people from around the world visit Canyon Sainte-Anne each year! The day that I visited, I had the privilege of walking with one of the original family members involved in developing the canyon, Helene McNicoll. She taught me a new word as we made the circuit around the canyon. The word is "vertiginous". The word has a meaning besides its reference to "having vertigo". It also means "very high or steep". It is a very appropriate word to describe the incredible Canyon Sainte-Anne. But don't let the word scare off someone who may not think of themselves as the outdoor type, or think they are too old to be hiking around in the Canadian woods. And, you don't have to be a young thing to try your hand at a zip line or cable bridge. I am a grandmother, and I have been on one (and even lived to tell about it on a blog post!)! In fact, Canyon Sainte-Anne is named after a grandmother----- Sainte-Anne, according to Christian traditions, is the grandmother of Jesus! (The Canyon is only 5 minutes from the famous Basilica of St. Anne). For additional information on visiting the canyon, visit their website at http://www.canyonsa.qc.ca/ and for information on the zipline or climbing experiences in the canyon, go to http://www.aventurex.net/ When you have studied these, and visited the canyon for yourself, you will see why it was a national winner of "Attraction Canada", and the site of the filming for a John Travolta movie. So get out there and you will have miles of canyon smiles (or kilometers, if you speak in their vernacular!) Tricia
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Egyptian Pyramid Expedition

Did you know you do not have to go all the way to Egypt to experience the wonder and mystery of an Egyptian pyramid? As a matter of fact, there is one you can tour in northern Illinois near the town of Wadsworth, Illinois, in Lake County. The gold pyramid house was built in 1977 by Jim and Linda Onan, and they have used it as the home where they raised their children, as well as, periodically opening it up to the (very curious) public for tours. They were inspired to build the pyramid home after reading a University of Wisconsin study, suggesting that pyramids generate energy. In addition, Mr. Onan had a long-standing interest in all things Egyptology, such that when combined with his skills as a builder, and access to capitol, he is said to have built the largest 24 karat gold plated object in the world! This photo collage shows that water forms a moat that encircles the entire structure. The moat is 20 feet deep and spring-lake fed. Therefore, the pyramid could be said to be on an island, and you have to pass over a causeway to get into the home. The middle photos of the collage show the 80 stone sphinxes that line the driveway, as well as the "three-pyramid" garage (right center photo). Since Mr. Onan is said to have made his "fortune" by building garages, it is not surprising that HIS garage was built to hold FOUR automobiles. The collage also shows the 64 foot-tall and 200-ton statue of Ramesses II, near the entrance to the property. There is a tall, security fence, with large gates, that surrounds the property. So even if it is not open for tours on the day that you drive by, one can still take photos of the pyramid through that bars of the security fence.

In this photo collage, Linda Onan is showing our group, their family photos of the the children that were raised in the pyramid house. Don't you know that was a hoot for those kids, when explaining to their friends where they lived??!! Jim Onan is shown in these photos as he walks about the property, visits with guests, and unlocks the door to the recreated burial tomb of King Tutankhamen that is on the property. I was able to tour the simulated tomb, with someone who had actually been to REAL burial tombs in Egypt, and she said this recreation was as authentic-looking as the real thing.

The top left photo of this collage shows the "theater" where Onan greets entering tour groups. This area was originally meant to house a swimming pool, until water table problems interfered with that idea. Although there were signs posted inside saying "No Photography", Mr. Onan gave our group permission to take photographs of their living area. It was furnished much as any nice home might be, with the addition of NUMEROUS accessories/designs that would be called "Egyptian". The walls are hand-painted with hieroglyphs, as was the large window looking out towards the moat (upper right photo).

The property also contains a gift shop (middle right photo shows the interior, and the lower photo shows the exterior of the gift shop). When I was looking at the sarcophagus inside the recreated tomb of King Tut, I was reminded of the significance of the EMPTY tomb of Jesus Christ in Israel. The Bible verse in the gospels (Luke 24:34), relays the good news for Christ-followers, that "He is risen---He is risen, indeed!" If you would like to learn more about the Gold Pyramid House, and perhaps plan to go there for a tour, visit their website at http://www.goldpyramid.com/. For additional activities in the surrounding area, visit http://www.lakecounty.org/ You will be surprised to see how many treasures (Egyptian and otherwise) this scenic county has to offer! It is there you will find----miles of smiles! Tricia
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Take A Farm Expedition This Fall!

Autumn is a wonderful time to make a visit to a farm, to see and taste the bountiful harvest they have produced. Although past generations may have found this easy to do, just by visiting a relative's farm, this has become less and less common, as family farms have mostly gone the way of vinyl records and 8-track tapes. But fortunately for us, "agri-tourism" has taken up the slack, and some families who want to keep their farm, have started the practice of opening their fields up to the public, for tours and field trips. That was just the case for a farm I visited recently in northern Illinois, called "The Royal Oak Farm & Fruit Orchard." This photo collage shows some of their harvest of pumpkins, gourds, and apples.

As interest in agri-tourism has grown, so have the facilities that this farm family has added, to serve their many visitors. They have a huge pavilion, that is not only covered, but screened in, and full of picnic tables and a beautiful wood interior. They made a teepee-shaped building for the sole purpose of giving school children on field trips, an orientation to farm life. They have an extensive "U-Pick" program, plus a restaurant, carousel, playground, train, bonfire pits, petting zoo, and bakery. There are also many locations throughout the farm that have the scare crows all dressed up in their best autumn decorations, to get visitors in the spirit of the season.

Since the farm is quite large, it is fortunate that they offer a wagon ride (pulled by a family member on his John Deere tractor) that takes you by their herd of "oreo" cows, their all-important bee houses (lower left photo), their berry and pumpkin patches, as well as their orchards. The driver explained to us that the owners put a yellow flag by the row of orchard trees that is currently ready and suitable for picking by the "U-Pickers" (top right photo). If you would like information on additional attractions surrounding the Royal Oak Farm, check out this great website, www.visitmchenrycounty.com, for some very interesting suggestions.

In the produce stand area, they have containers of all the different kinds of apples they sell, chopped up for customers to taste, so you can decide which variety you want to purchase (upper left photo). They also have a well-stocked gift shop, with all kinds of gift items, or culinary items you might need for your own kitchen. When I am writing a blog post, I usually am trying to think of an appropriate Bible verse, to go along with the photos and the topic of the blog. The owners of the Royal Oak Farm & Fruit Orchard (http://www.royaloakfarmorchard.com/) made that really easy this time. The very top line on their brochure has this quote printed "He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit." John 15:5a. Likewise, the entrance of their apple barn has a large cross above the door, and they put in their brochure that the farm was established in 1992 FOR GOD'S GLORY. The entire operation serves as their testimony to God's goodness, and it has definitely been successful at "bearing fruit"! If you are interested in visiting a farm this fall, but you are not going to be able to make it to Illinois, you may be able to find one closer to your home. You can find out more about a farm in north central Arkansas by visiting the website of http://www.mountainhomeberryfarm.com/ or in the Fayetteville area by visiting http://www.ozarkcornmaze.com/ or phoning Vanzant Fruit and Produce in Lowell, Arkansas, at 479-756-3152. So, repeating the invitation on the Royal Oak Farm brochure, I will end with this invitation: COME.....TASTE.....SEE..... It will give you miles of smiles! Tricia
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Door County Autumn Expedition

I have been wanting to visit Door County, Wisconsin, for several years, ever since a photography instructor I had decades ago told me about the place. If you are as "geographically challenged" as I was, it may not instantly come to mind exactly where Door County is located. Maybe that is why the Wisconsin Highway Department puts the outline of the state of Wisconsin on their highway signs (upper left photo). Door County is represented by the tiny "thumb" of the mitten-shaped state, that sticks out into Lake Michigan, on the east side of the county, and the body of water called "Green Bay" on the west side of the county. I had read that the colors were pretty there in the fall and found that was indeed true, as shown by some of the remaining photos in this collage.

There are several ways you can do your exploration of Door County. As for me, I flew out of the new Branson, Missouri, airport via Frontier Airlines into Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There I rented a car---the Nissan "Cube" shown in upper left corner of this collage, which served my purposes just fine. The Rustic Roads system around the county provide great places for bicyclists (middle upper photo), as well as motorcyclists (middle lower photo) to tour the area. There are also numerous hiking trails, waterfront walkways, snowmobile trails, and horseback trails. I even saw a group doing a "Segway" tour (their red van is shown in collage). Since the county is surrounded by water, it is not surprising that kayaking and canoeing are popular, as well as water sports involving power boats and sail boats. The lower left photo shows another way to visit the islands of Door County---passenger and car ferries. In the photo, I am on the ferry that was taking folks across Lake Michigan to Washington Island. I did not take my car across on the ferry. Rather, when I arrived on Washington Island, I took the popular "Cherry Train Tour", that included the highlights of what the island has to offer.

If you are a photographer, there is never a question of "what to do" in Door County. No matter where you point your camera, there is something scenic and interesting to photograph. There are fish boils, Norwegian-style houses with grass growing on their roofs (and goats up there eating the grass!), rocky shorelines, scenic sunsets, working boats, and lots of light houses! Door County has the most lighthouses, in addition to state parks, than any other county in the United States. I had signed up to take the "Fire Boat" cruise at Sturgeon Bay for the Sunday afternoon of October 2. The captain said he had to have eight customers for the boat to go out, and an hour before the start time, I was the only one signed up. As we chatted, waiting to see if anyone else was going to show up, he told me about a place to visit, in case the cruise did not go out. He said just "up the road a piece" was Cave Point County Park. He told me it was a rocky shoreline, with many interesting cave-like formations along the trails beside it. Well, it came time for the cruise to go, and I was still the only one signed up---even though it was an absolutely GORGEOUS day. HOWEVER, it was also an afternoon when their beloved Green Bay Packers football team had a home game, just a few hours south of there. So, I suppose anyone who was mobile, had gone to that game, causing the fire boat cruise to be canceled that afternoon. I teased the Captain of the boat, saying he didn't look too disappointed that he was not going to have to take the boat out, and instead could enjoy the Green Bay game in its entirety (the Packers won, by the way). But, thanks to his tip about visiting Cave Point County Park, the afternoon was not at all wasted. In fact, the time I spent at Cave Point was the highlight of my visit to Door County! That is because, I had such an enjoyable time hiking the trail beside the water, and photographing the numerous scenic locations there. So I am very grateful to that Fire Boat Captain for telling me about Cave Point County Park, and get this---it was completely free! There was no entry or parking fee! Plus it had clean rest rooms and picnic tables and nice parking spaces!

Since I was in Door County, it seemed appropriate to get some photographs of doors of the area, and this photo collage shows some of those doors. The pretty Victorian-style door in the upper left, was taken at the waterfront resort where I spent one night, in Ellison Bay. The greenery-framed door in the lower right leads to the famous Al Johnson Restaurant, where you can see goats grazing on the green grass growing on the roof of the building. That is the place where I had a combination platter I had never ordered before---Swedish pancakes with Lindon berry sauce, plus Swedish meatballs. It was all quite delicious! The name "Door County" also brings to mind the familiar verse in the Bible about doors, Revelation 3:20, that says "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any many hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Making that decision to open the door of my heart to Jesus, was the best decision I ever made. It has led to countless blessings---one of those blessings was being able to visit Door County, Wisconsin! You can learn more about the area at http://www.doorcounty.com/, where you will see that touring their lovely location will provide you MILES OF SMILES! So get out there and open the door! Tricia
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nashville Flood Recovery Expedition

I have a great deal of empathy for anyone who experiences a flood, mainly because of being a resident of a town that flooded in the 1960's. The raging waters that rushed through our community in the middle of the night, destroyed my parents' business, as well as the homes and businesses of countless other folks. I remember how much my parents appreciated the help of their customers and suppliers in making allowances for lost inventory and lost orders. I remember how much I looked forward each morning to the Red Cross truck coming by my parents' business after the flood, to serve us coffee and donuts, as we washed what seemed like endless piles of merchandise that was covered in mud. I remember the amazing attitude my parents had about the whole thing---never cursing their fate , or their God, but rather, determined to get through the ordeal even stronger than they had been before the flood. I remember the flood cleanup because it was the first time I had ever seen a dead body at a location other than a funeral home. (That is because one of the fatalities of the flood lived in a house across the street from my parents' business; I was nearby when the rescue workers pulled his body from the rubble, and loaded it into an open jeep vehicle to be taken to the morgue. His feet were sticking out from under the tarp that covered his lifeless body, and as it drove past me, I was stunned at the sad reality of what I saw.) I remember missing the last month of school that year because of flood damage to the area, and the need for every available student to be helping full time with flood clean-up. All these things I remembered about the flood I experienced, made me keenly aware of the heart-felt appeal from the mayor of Nashville, via a television show reporting on the flood, when he said one of the best ways the average TV viewer could help Nashville recover, was to come visit them in the near future as a tourist. I decided that was the least I could do for my neighbors to the east. Plus, it would probably be fun!! So, I signed up to take a trip with fifty other folks, who would travel via motor coach, to see the sights, and hear the sounds, of "Music City--USA". In the first photo collage, the top two pictures show the famous replica of the Greek Parthenon, that is in Nashville's beautiful Centennial Park. The bottom three photos show scenes from the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Both parks are great places to not only learn lots of history, but also great spaces for getting in your 10,000 steps for your pedometer!

Every place our group went, the business owners thanked us profusely for visiting their town. The poster in the upper left corner of this collage is just one of many I saw with a similar message. Our hotel also had a large, framed poster in the lobby, from the mayor of Nashville, thanking us for visiting their city after the flood, and for bringing business to the hotels and restaurants there. The top right photo is a reminder that Nashville is also the state capitol of Tennessee, and their state capitol building sits on a tall hill overlooking the Bicentennial Park Mall. It is a very impressive sight. The flood did not change the skyline of Nashville, with the AT&T (aka, the "Batman Building") still dominating the scene (middle right photo). The distinctive architecture of Ryman Auditorium (lower right photo) is almost covered up by the buildings that surround it, yet it is instantly recognizable, as the birthplace of the original Grand Ole Opry.

A few years back, I had the great pleasure of going to a Grand Ole Opry performance when Harrison, Arkansas, native, Brian McComas, was performing. I was helping Brian's wife and mom look after their kiddies, as we sat near the main stage, and beamed with pride to see Brian perform. What was so astounding to me regarding that event, was seeing Brian off-state after his performance. Expecting that his first question to all of us might be "How did I do? What did you think of my performance?"; rather, his first question to me was "Did my kids behave?" I was impressed that he was more concerned about his success at being a father, than at his success at being a country music star. That performance I attended to see Brian was in the "new" location of the Grand Ole Opry, located in the Opryland Complex of Music Valley. However, the Opryland venue was flooded, hence the Grand Ole Opry performances were moved BACK to Ryman Auditorium after the floods, until repairs can be made to the new and larger Opryland Theater. Personally, I was glad to get to go to a show in Ryman Auditorium, as I have heard about it all my life, but had never visited it until last week. In this photo collage, there is a shot of the Diamond Rio group performing. Notice the Church-like windows and church pew seats of the Ryman. That is because it was originally built as a tabernacle to worship God, and only years later, was it converted for secular use. Of course, they pay tribute each night to the well-known "Minnie Pearl" character, with a simulated Minnie Pearl posing for photos and greeting the crowd. (top right photo)

The Country Music Hall of Fame was another place that I am "99.9% sure, I've never been here before"---to quote the chart-topping recording Brian McComas made famous. My favorite feature of the architecture of the building was the way the front was designed to look like a piano keyboard. Once inside, I was fascinated with the exhibits, and the variety of country music sounds one could listen to. Since I have put an old pair of Brian's shoes from his childhood in a glass-covered wooden box (for future inclusion in a museum exhibit somewhere!), I took photos of many of the shoes of famous country music stars that were on display in the Nashville Hall of Fame. My favorite was the pair of duct-tape covered cowboy boots that belonged to Hank Williams, III (lower left photo). All in all, it was a great trip, and I am glad that I had this opportunity to be a tourist in Nashville. There is a verse in the Bible (Roman 5:3) that says "suffering produces perseverance", so perhaps this suffering that Nashville has endured from their floods of last spring, will produce perseverance in their character as a city. There is also a different kind of verse the suffering may produce----verses to a hit country music song! Since we all know that country music songs love to tell a sad story of suffering, maybe someone on the famous "Music Row" will be inspired to come up with the next big award-winning song we hear on the radio, that is based on the 2010 spring floods in Nashville, Tennessee. If you would like to help the Nashville area recover from the floods, or perhaps have a suggestion for a flood-related country song, just log onto their official website http://www.visitmusiccity.com/ for help in planning your trip. Wishing you miles of musical smiles! Tricia
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Saturday, September 4, 2010

World Expedition---Without a Passport!!

There was a new marketing campaign in Branson this year, with the theme that you could "See the world in Branson---no passport required!." If you have done any traveling outside the United States, or even applied for one of the new, higher priced passports recently, you can more fully appreciate the opportunity to sample various cultures outside our borders, WITHOUT having to go through the hassles of Customs Bureau Interrogations! Even though the slogan was new in 2010, the Silver Dollar City International Festival has been occurring every spring in Branson for over a decade. I was delighted to get to attend this year, as well as many past years, coming away amazed at the talent, artistry, and costuming that these performers from other countries bring with them during their short visit to the Ozarks each spring. Often I have stayed until closing time at Silver Dollar City, just to be able to participate in the closing ceremony for the International Festival each year. During that time, the park attendees and the foreign performers make a huge circle in the main street area of Silver Dollar City---it is done, so that the foreign performers are interspersed among the park attendees---and then an appropriate song is voiced by all present. It is a great feeling to be physically bonded with people from all over the world---sort of like the Coke TV commercial of the last century that showed people from all around the world holding hands! So get ready to launch your boat for the first bit of the journey!! My launch, on the ever-popular "Ride the Ducks" attraction charted a different course than previous Duck excursions I had been on which took the passengers out into Table Rock Lake. This time our "Duck" drove past Branson Landing, and directly into the chilly waters of Lake Taneycomo. This enabled me to see Branson Landing from its "waterfront" side, rather than its "street front" side. This ride would be especially scenic after dark, when the "Bellagio-style" fiery fountains of Branson landing, are doing their hourly shows.

Back in August, I was able to add some countries to my "passport", when I visited three venues that represented Great Britain. The first was the Titanic Museum. At this interactive museum you are given the boarding pass for someone who was really a passenger on the ill-fated Titanic voyage. You do not know until you get completely through the museum if the passenger you represent, lived or died the night the Titanic sank. One of the Titanic passengers had the same family name as my relatives---Parrish. So, of course, I was especially relieved when I found out that "Passenger Parrish did not perish", and in fact, went on to live a long and productive life following her rescue from the sinking ship. And who can think of the music of England, and not have that famous group, "The Beatles" come to mind? The sister of Beatles member, George Harrison, lives in Missouri, and developed a tribute show to the music of the Beatles, called "Louise Harrison's Liverpool Legends". It is a great romp through the history of their music, from their start in a Liverpool, England cellar, through their world tours, and later years. There are extensive video clips, costume and set changes by the four Beatles "look alikes", and plenty of opportunities to twist and shout, if you felt like it! The night I was there, Louise Harrison, actually came out on stage during intermission, and took questions from the audience, regarding her brother, and any other Beatle trivia that someone wanted to ask. I doubt that she is there every show, however, because she told the audience she was scheduled for a hip replacement the following week. One thing I found very interesting, since just this summer, I met a member of the Lambert family, after whom the St. Louis airport, Lambert Field, is named. One of the video clips tells that George Harrison actually came to the USA, years before the Beatles ever appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The news reel says he flew into "Lambert Field" in St. Louis, to visit his sister, Louise, who lived near there! The third attraction, representative of Great Britain that I got to see, was the new exhibition of personal items and artifacts associated with Princess Diana. The exhibition takes you from her child hood home, her courtship, her royal wedding, and marriage. Several of her actual formal gowns are on display, along with the stories about when and where they were worn. I found the entire exhibition fascinating!
Moving eastward from Great Britain, my next stop was China. I had seen the Acrobats of China in Branson in previous years, so this time I wanted to see the "new kid in town" which is the show called "The Legend of Kung Fu". I have several friends and family members involved in martial arts, so I was intrigued by what the show would be like. Their advertisements said some of the performers had actually been part of that incredible opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, which I thought was totally awesome! In fact, the martial arts moves showcased in "The Legend of Kung Fu" were stunning, as was the artistry of the aerial performers. But be forewarned: There is a LIBERAL amount of Buddhist philosophy throughout the narrative parts of the show. It was quite the contrast to the respectful references to Jesus Christ, given during the The Baldknobbers show, that I had enjoyed the night before. You do not have to be concerned that one no longer can enjoy "American" music in Branson. In fact, it goes back to the native Americans, with the addition of "Brule", which is billed as a "native American rock opera", complete with authentic costumes, native American dances and drumming. My all-time favorite (non-floating) USA-style dinner show in Branson is the Dixie Stampeed. It goes through several eras of American history---much of it done on horseback in the big center arena---in such an entertaining way, you may forget that you are even getting a history lesson. I was especially interested in their portrayal of the Civil War, since there is a big promotion going on in my state for the Civil War Sesquicentennial, which will be 2011-2015 (http://www.arkansascivilwar150.com/). Of course, my favorite FLOATING dinner show is the Showboat Branson Belle, with its performers singing their hearts out telling about riverboat history of the 1800's. Another example of a non-USA country that I got to visit was the Butterfly Palace and Tropical Rainforest. There is even a coconut tree there for one to climb, if they felt so inclined to do so! Another representative of Europe, is the Stonehill Winery. The tasting rooms there are designed to look like German wine cellars, and the company, was indeed, started by German immigrants.

After attending the Moscow Circus performance, I can now say that it is my favorite (non-floating) "FOREIGN COUNTRY" dinner show. It was so much FUN!! Here's another warning, however: Watch out for flying beach balls overhead that start as the size of a cantaloupe, and progress to the size of a Volkswagen!! I had heard that they served a "boxed dinner", and I was having lots of trouble envisioning how that was going to be of much entertainment value---boy, was I wrong!! When it was meal time, the theater went totally black, then it went to "black light", so that some of your clothing glowed. Then these glow-in-the-dark, costumed GIANTS came down the aisles, pushing carts, with boxes on them that were also glowing in the dark. One color box was for grown-ups, and another color box for children. When you received your box, and opened it up, it was filled with individually packaged Russian-style foods, plus glow-in-the-dark eating utensils. It was really quite clever, the way it was done! The next day after the "glow in the dark" experience at the Moscow Circus, the Bible verse for my First Place 4 Health (http://www.firstplace4health.com/) lesson was from Isaiah 58:10. The Message paraphrase of the verse says that if we lived as God wanted us to live "Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness." I now have an image of that verse in my mind that I will never forget, thanks to the Moscow Circus!
Soooo, if you are ready to explore the world, you need go no further than Branson, Missouri!! Either of these websites will point you to everything you need to know for YOUR expedition: http://www.explorebranson.com/ or http://www.seetheworldinbranson.com/ Bon voyage, and miles of smiles!! TriciaPosted by Picasa