Thursday, April 21, 2011

SD Sculpture Expedition

The first time I ever had the opportunity to see the famous sculptures carved out of the side of Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota, was during a trip to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of that event. Consequently, there were SO MANY motorcyclists also visiting on that same day, it was not possible to get fully acquainted with all this fabulous attraction has to offer. However, on a more recent trip (during a less crowded time of the year), I had the opportunity to go on a hike around the base of the mountain, that was led by a park ranger, who gave lots of interesting background information about the monument. In this photo, he is shown telling our group exactly WHO these guys were that were so prominently displayed above our heads. Although it might seem obvious to us folks from the USA, some in our group were from the tiny country of Suriname in South America, and were interested to learn that the faces represented four presidents of the USA---George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Besides some scenic hiking and walking trails around the mountain (many of which are handicap accessible), there is also a museum, a movie about the making of Mt. Rushmore, food service facilities, gigantic gift shop, picnic tables, clean restrooms, and the famous Avenue of Flags plaza adjacent to the massive visitor's center. You can make the best of your visit to Mt. Rushmore by studying their website, www.nps.gov/moru where you can get exact times for their night-time lighting ceremony of the faces, as well as dates for some spectacular fireworks, that are made all the more spectacular by using the face of the country's first president, George Washington, (and his buddies), as the backdrop for the pyrotechnic extravaganza.



Just seventeen miles from Mt. Rushmore National Park is the Crazy Horse Memorial (www.crazyhorsememorial.org). This photo shows the face of Chief Crazy Horse (completed in the 1990's), and the "chalked -in" drawings of what will be his outstretched hand, and his horse, whenever the monument is completed. Unlike Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial is not a national park, and receives no federal or state funding. It was commissioned by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, and started by a sculptor (Ziolkowski) who had also helped with the sculpting of Mt. Rushmore. The Lakota Chief stated he wanted visitors to know that , just as the "white men" had their heroes in history, so the "red men" had their heroes. And one of these heroes was Chief Crazy Horse. However, the official website for the memorial states that although the sculpture is the focal point, their true mission is educating visitors about American Indians and their culture. Besides the carving, the attraction includes an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Center, a school that is affiliated with the University of South Dakota, and an awesome restaurant, with one whole side of the restaurant being a glass wall that looks out upon the mountain sculpture and surrounding landscape. From these photos, it is hard to tell the scale of either Mt. Rushmore or the Crazy Horse Memorial, so here are the actual measurements: The head of Crazy Horse is 87 feet high, whereas the heads on Mt. Rushmore are "only" 60 feet high. Although the Crazy Horse Memorial was started in 1948, there is not a "scheduled date of completion". The family of the now deceased original sculptor continues the project, with the help of on-going fundraising efforts from the private sector.



As you would assume, the plans for blasting out sections of the mountain are intricately spelled out days in advance (along with press releases of upcoming blasting dates/times), so these periodic blasting events are attended by thousands from all over. I felt very fortunate to be visiting on such a day. Although I had not read in advance of the blasting, my first clue was the numerous video cameras, TV crews, and super duper Nikon lenses all poised and ready on the observation deck, obviously waiting for something to happen. By asking around, I found out that a blast was scheduled to be held within the next few minutes!



Although some had waited for hours, I only had to wait a few minutes to see the spectacle of a huge number of near-simultaneous detonations, and a great tumbling of rocks and dust down the mountain. I tried to capture this in the smoke and dust you can see in front of the mountain, in this photograph. The rocks I saw blasted out, could then be added to the more than 8 million tons of rock that have been removed from the mountain so far!! The reason I started thinking about my experience at the Crazy Horse Memorial was a verse I came across in The Message paraphrase of Psalm 139. As you may recall, that psalm describes how God created us in our mother's womb. However, it was a particular word that The Message used, that made my mind "leap frog" to South Dakota. It said "You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was SCULPTED from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;". Sooooooo, just as the Ziolkowski family keeps dynamiting, chiseling, and scraping, to make their masterpiece, so God kept working to form me in my mother's womb. And, just as the Crazy Horse Memorial is a work in progress, so am I, a "work in progress". The fact that all of us are subject to on-going transformations, makes it more important than ever to enjoy the "process" in our journey of life, as much as possible. One way to add enjoyment to the process is to visit some of the beautiful places that are out there beckoning to us. If YOU would like to find out more about a great place to do this, just log on to www.travelSD.com for some great travel itineraries. Miles of SD smiles! Tricia

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Edifying Edifice Expedition

This is a photo I took last week of "The Jewel Box" located on a 17-acre site in Forest Park, that was built by the city of St. Louis in 1936. Its original cost was $117,000, with 45% of the funds coming from WPA (Public Works Administration). It is considered to be an Art-Deco-style structure, and at the time was "the latest word in display greenhouses". It was unconventional for a greenhouse, in that it was built of cantilevered vertical glass walls, rising 50 feet high, in a pattern called "clerestories". (Defined as an outside wall of a building, carried above an adjoining roof, and pierced with windows.) One of the reasons for this design was to prevent damage from frequent hail storms that occur regularly in this part of the country. This was achieved by constructing only the walls of glass (to admit the greatest amount of light), while all of the horizontal surfaces are metal. Rolled awnings regulate the amount of light that can come through the windows.
The photo below shows a portion of the eight fixed arches that help support the building. It is interesting that the arches of the Jewel Box were in place decades before another arch---"The Gateway Arch" became a symbol recognized around the world, as the identifier for the city of St. Louis. The arch theme is further carried out in the constant stream of the fountains (seen coming out of the floor of the building) that provide a pleasing sound, as well as reflective pools and moisture for the greenery. This photo was taken from the rear of the building, looking towards the main entrance doors. A second floor balcony is above the entryway, and is accessible by two spiral staircases on each side. As you might imagine, a setting such as this is popular for weddings and other celebrations, and such arrangements can be made on the official website of the city of St. Louis. It only costs one dollar to go in and visit the Jewel Chest, but even that small fee is waived on Mondays and Tuesdays between the hours of 9 am and noon. when you can visit for free. The price seems VERY reasonable, considering the Jewel Box just underwent a 3.5 million dollar renovation. Since it is listed on the National Historic Register, this recent investment in its restoration will ensure that "The Jewel Box" will be a "St. Louis Jewel" for future generations. The website for The Jewel Box says the edifice obtained that name because visitors frequently commented that the glass and floral patterns reminded them of a glass box used to keep jewelry in. When their website used the word "edifice" to describe the building, it reminded me of a verse in the Bible that also refers to the root meaning of edifice, meaning "to build up or establish". Ephesians 4:29 says "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." I paraphrase that to mean that my words to others should be like "little jewel boxes" that build them up and minister to them. Thanks to my recent visit to the Jewel Box in St. Louis, I now have a pleasant mental picture to store away with that wise advise from the Bible.

The age-old use of a sun dial on the grounds in front of the Jewel Box, are a reminder that ANY time of day is good for a visit to this lovely site. Even if the interior is not open, just strolling the adjacent gardens and admiring the design from the outside is a worthwhile endeavor! If you would like to learn about the dozens of other attractions in St. Louis, Missouri, that will build up and edify YOUR spirits, just log on to www.explorestlouis.com You'll be glad you did! Miles of smiles! Tricia

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Girlfriend Getaway" Expeditions

A travel market niche, known as "Girlfriend Getaways", has been growing in the last few years, and I recently had some first-hand experience in getting to plan and participate in a "Girlfriend Getaway", so I will be sharing my experiences with a few photographs and comments. With the proliferation of information available on the Internet, it is not surprising that there is a website, devoted entirely to the subject, with the address of www.GirlGetaways.com. Likewise, Lisa Kasanicky has written a book on the subject, called The Complete Idiot's Guide to Girlfriend Getaways. In it, she discussed the dynamics of why women travel together, and gives some step by step instructions for planning such an event.
Frequently, a particular theme or group activity is the "centerpiece" of an all-girl trip. The photo above gives a clue as to what my most recent trip involved---a professional hockey game---in a large performance venue. In our case, we had tickets for the "club level" of the match between the St. Louis Blues vs. The Colorado Avalanche, in the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. "Club level" seats mean that the price includes all the food and beverage you would like, plus a "waitress" comes to your seat to take your order and delivers the food to you as well. The photo shows the four "girls" on our trip (Tricia, Anna, Lila, and Eva) as well as the vivacious young woman who assisted us with our food and beverage orders. The advantage of "club level tickets" for our group, was that it meant you did not have to wonder about how much your meal would cost, or how much your snacks during the game would cost, because it was all covered in the price of admission. A couple of years ago, I attended a different kind of event in this same Scottrade Center, which was equally enjoyable. That event was a "Women of Faith" conference, which is an example of another type of group activity that can serve as a "centerpiece" for a Girfriend Getaway. There are numerous faith-based ministries and non-profit organizations that offer weekend or week-long events that cater to women, so check their websites for upcoming events.
When choosing a location for your all-girl travel experience, consider concurrent visitor attractions that can be combined with the "centerpiece" or theme of the trip. In the photo above, the gals are shown in the magnificent hotel lobby of the St. Louis Union Station, which is nearby the Scottrade Center. One can not only experience shopping and dining at Union Station, but also it might be considered as one gigantic museum, because it has so many exhibits relating to its historic past. That is yet another reason that it is a frequent choice for school groups on tour.
Assuming your Girlfriend Getaway is going to include an overnight stay, you will want to consider activities that can be enjoyed on the second day of your trip. It would be helpful if you had both a "Plan A" for nice weather and a "Plan B" for less suitable weather. Such decisions are easily accommodated by visiting a location such as Forest Park in St. Louis. There are so many museums in the park, that one could escape any rain deluges, if necessary. Likewise, there are such numerous activities suitable for great weather outside, that the choices are endless. Plus, the great thing about Forest Park, and St. Louis in general, is that it boasts more free attractions than any other city of its size in the country. This is a definite bonus for people who still want to travel, but are limited in the amount that can be spent on entry fees for attractions at their destination. The photo above shows the St. Louis Art Museum (a FANTASTIC attraction at any time, but especially if the weather is bad outside!) presiding over the Emerson Grand Basin, a delightful area for outdoor strolling, when weather is suitable for such activities. The reading I did preparing to write this particular blog post, often referred to the "reasons" females like to travel together, and how travel providers can cater to those reasons when getting out publicity about their particular activity. I was reminded of a Bible verse that addresses this issue, and did so centuries before it became a topic of public relations professionals. The passages in verses 9 - 12 of the fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament have this sage advice: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. . . . Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." That sounds like a good reason to plan another "Girlfriend Getaway" in the very near future! If YOU would like some ideas to get you started on planning, I can think of no better place to begin, than by visiting www.explorestlouis.com for some terrific ideas on making your trip both fun, educational, and full of good memories! Miles of smiles! Tricia

Saturday, April 2, 2011

"Blossom Trail" Expedition

I have had the opportunity to visit several areas in northern and central California during the spring time of the year, and been very impressed with the beauty of the landscapes, as various types of fruit trees put out their splendor of color that precedes the production of mature fruit. It turns out that I am not the only one that enjoys viewing these glorious visual displays, and a large marketing promotion has developed to promote one of the most famous and extensive growing regions---loosely referred to as California's central valley. It is called the "Blossom Trail" and you can learn all about it at their website, www.gofresnocounty.com. There you can download a map, and see "live camera" shots of the orchards so that you can judge for yourself if it is prime viewing time. Many people use the blooms as a reason to take a motorcycle or bicycle trip through the area, as the scenery at this time is spectacular! The maps show where lodging and food service is available along the trail, for the convenience of those spending extended time there.
At the website, there is an explanation that explains what the various colors of the bloom signify, in terms of the fruit or nut the tree produces. According to their key, the pink in these blossoms would indicate a peach tree. The orchards shown in these photographs are actually in Boone County, Arkansas, along a "shortcut" road that connects Hwy 62 West to Hwy 7 North. It is called the Zinc-Harmon cutoff road, and runs along the top of the mountain ridges of the area. It is a beautiful drive at any time of the year, but especially when the orchards along the route are in bloom.
How blessed we are to not only be able to SEE this beauty, but also to benefit from the delicious food that these blossoms will produce! It is yet another reminder of God's creative gifts to the world: "Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food'." Genesis 1:29 . Chances are that there are some blossoms along the routes you are traveling this week, so use them as a reminder to give thanks to God for the bounty He has provided! Miles of blossom smiles!!! Tricia