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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