Monday, April 30, 2012

MARINE WEEK EXPEDITION

 I had the good fortune to be at the right place, at the right time, to get to attend Marine Week/St. Louis, on my last visit to that city.  Even though I knew nothing about Marine Week, I read that it was taking place under the nearby Gateway Arch, so I decided to check it out. 
 What I found was an amazing array of military equipment displays, with marines on site to explain them to you.  I was particularly impressed with this inflatable craft, because of my past experience with an inflatable boat, while scuba diving on Lake Norfork.  Unlike the inflatable we owned, however, this one would probably not be punctured whenever a big buck, with a big antler rack, was thrown aboard!  (The antler mishap is a whole "nuther" story, suitable for a separate blog post!)
 I had never seen any vehicle quite like this before, and fortunately, for military "newbies" like myself, there were signs beside each display telling the name of the "asset", as well as U.S. Marines available to answer questions and make sure the "asset" is not mistreated.
 Climbing into this big truck with a "sun roof" was very popular for spectators.  The photo also shows the wide diversity of ages that an event such as this attracts.
 Seeing one of our nation's military aircraft, with the cross of a church steeple in the background, reminded me of the part of the Pledge of Allegiance that declares "One nation, under God". 
 Various types of military weapons were on display, along with signs and soldiers, to explain their use. 
 The setting of Marine Week, on the banks of the scenic Mississippi River, made attendance at Marine Week beyond expectations.  Visit http://www.explorestlouis.com/ to find out about the AV-8B/MV-22 scheduled to be on display there on July 4.
 Getting to actually step on board one of these multi-million dollar aircraft, is an unforgettable experience!
 That is one reason, folks did not mind standing in a line, to get their chance to go inside.  There were SO MANY aircraft and vehicles on display that if one line seemed longer than you wanted to wait, you could just move to a different display.
 This little girl got to try her hand at "driving" a medical vehicle, with a make-believe soldier, on a stretcher in the back.
 The tents shown in this photograph contained some of the various types of equipment that the military uses, that has sensitive electronics involved.  The marine in the photo is telling the spectators about solar energy panels that can be set up in the field to power necessary equipment. 
 Visitors could actually sit down and get a demonstration on some of the high tech equipment in use today in modern warfare.
 This little guy seems to be enjoying looking through these super-duper binoculars!
Since some females LOVE to try on clothes, that need can also be addressed at the tent where a visitor could put on this very expensive "designer" vest that contains all the electronics a girl could ever need!
 To me, the best part of Marine Week, was assembling on the steps under the Arch to see the airshow and amphibious assault demonstration.
 While we waited, we were able to enjoy the lively sounds of the colorful Marine Band that was entertaining the crowds.
 The Master of Ceremonies (in fatigues with a microphone) also entertained the waiting crowd by getting volunteers from the audience to challenge him in various physical exercise skills.
 When the actual air show started, we were so close to the action that we could feel the water spray of the helicopter, as it hovered over the Mississippi River.
 On the street in front of us, Marines demonstrated their assault formations, as they surveyed the area in all directions with their weapons, to protect the Marine in the center, who was communicating with headquarters.  (I saw big-horn sheep in a circle just like this at Custer State Park, and was told, it was their way of staying aware of approaching predators, so this is an example of humans learning by observing animal behaviour!)
 This photo shows Marines approaching the riverbank, via an amphibious vehicle, that will also drive on land, as well as in the water.  (We call them "Ducks" in the travel industry, when they have been converted to carry tourists, instead of military personnel).  This is a good time to encourage you---whether by land or sea or air---to put attending a Marine Week on your travel calendar.  There is one scheduled for Cleveland, Ohio, June 11 - 17, 2012.  By visiting www.marines.mil/community/marineweekcleveland  you can find out the event schedule, as well as marine activities around the U.S.; you can even fill out a form on line to request a demonstration of Marine military equipment at YOUR special event!   If you decide to attend the Cleveland event, check out http://www.positivelycleveland.com/  for information on lodging, etc.;  If you are a taxpayer, you are helping pay for this equipment, and for the salaries of our military personnel.  So take advantage of these opportunities to see where your money is going!  It will also give you an opportunity to say THANK YOU to the Marines that are helping to protect our nation, which will give them---and you---miles of smiles!  Tricia
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 23, 2012

SIGHT & SOUND EXPEDITION

 I first heard of the Sight and Sound Theater when visiting Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the theater there has been in business several years.  So I was delighted when a second location was established in Branson, Missouri, which is closer to where I live.  I took this photo of the exterior when I visited there last week. 
 This domed building is adjacent to the entry driveway.  The bronze sculpture in the round-about is just one of several art sculptures on the grounds.
 This "lion and lamb" sculpture is situated atop a fountain, and is a favorite spot for visitors to stand in front of, who want to have their photo taken at the theater.
 Passenger unloading from motor coaches, or cars, is on a level surface, and easily accessible, even for wheelchairs.
 The theater sits on top of one of the highest HILLLS in Branson, and since many of the dramas depicted in the theater are about SHEPHERDS, it is only fitting that the street they are located on is called "Shepherd of the Hills" Expressway!  The park benches, fountains, and the beautiful view of the surrounding Ozark mountains, make spending time outside the theater a refreshing experience! 
 I even spotted a picnic table on the porch alongside the main entry, so one could dine "al fresco", if desired!
 The ticket counter inside the theater is well-staffed by  gracious and efficient employees.
 There is a large gift shop that has gift items of all types, including clothing, books, cards, and toys.  And delicious-smelling aromas greet you as soon as you enter the lobby, reminding visitors that there is a concession stand with a wide variety of food and beverage choices.
 The ceiling of the dome in the lobby is painted to look like the sky, and the draping banners hanging from the chandelier, hint at the colorful banners and costumes the visitor will seeing during the theatrical production.
 This photo shows a model of how the stage surrounded the audience for the production of a previous show there, called "Noah".  I saw that show more than once, and was fascinated with the details of the inside of Noah's Ark, that were brought to life on the wrap-around stage.  The 300-foot stage wraps around three sides of the audience, and has elaborate sets up to 40 feet high.  There is also an amazing variety of live animals!
 The interior of the theater is designed to look ancient, although it is the most "high-tech" theater I have ever been in!  The auditorium can seat up to 2,000 people.  Since this is a one of a kind, FAMILY experience, remember to ask for booster seats for your little ones, if needed.  In addition, there is a "cry room" for parents to take infants (or others!) that are making noises not conducive to the stage experience.  Folks in the "cry room" can still have full view and hearing of the production in progress.
 When I saw this little boy looking up at the the giant statue in the lobby, the vision of "David and Goliath" instantly came to mind.
 The little boy went to get another child to show the statue, and together they read the synopsis of the story on the easel.  Seeing children being fascinated by these well-done dramas of Bible stories, is one of the reasons I am thankful the Sight and Sound Theater is in Branson!
 From the main lobby, visitors can either take the stairs or the elevator to the second floor of the theater.
 It is on the second floor where you will find the scale model of the Noah stage production.
 One can also get a "bird's eye view" of the  dome above, and lobby below, from the second floor balcony.
 The production I saw last week was opening for its first season in Branson, and is called "Joseph!"   Although I was quite familiar with the story, I read it again just before I went to the show, to refresh my memory.  You can find it in chapters 37 - 50, in the book of Genesis. 
 What many people associate with Joseph is the "Coat of Many Colors", that was given to him by his father.  This gift shop was devoted completely to various interpretations of gift items from the Joseph story. 
 I liked this tee shirt, because Joe was my father's name, and he was "not your average joe"!   But neither was the "joe" in this show!  The Sight and Sound Theater brochure states "The many exciting twists and turns, places and people woven into this 4,000 year old story are as colorful as Joseph's famous coat.  With these rich qualities, it's easy to see why so many in the entertainment industry have chosen to adapt this story to stage and screen."
Hopefully, these photos and words have set you to dreaming about how YOU could make such an expedition, so to plan your visit to this FANTASTIC production, just log on to http://www.sight-sound.com/  .    Seeing God's Word come to life in such a visually-stimulating way, will bring you miles of smiles!  Tricia
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 16, 2012

CRYSTAL BRIDGES TRAILS

My first visit to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ( www.CrystalBridges.org ) in Bentonville, Arkansas, was last winter, so I stayed inside the galleries, admiring the vast collection of priceless art they contained. However, my visit to Crystal Bridges last week was on one of those spring days in the Ozarks when you are reminded of why you love living in this part of the United States. Therefore, I decided to spend all my time exploring the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum campus. Seeing this scene in the north lawn made me think of a new definition for "white line fever". In the past, that is what I called the wanderlust I feel, when it has been too long between highway road trips. Now, I will think of that term, when I start yearning to return to the green, green grounds of Crystal Bridges!
Exploring the area surrounding the galleries gives you numerous views of the architectural masterpiece that Boston architect Moshe Safdie has designed. With every step I took, I saw some new angle that I wanted to photograph. So I apologize for putting so many views of the exterior into this collage. In Psalm 23, David said he had so many blessings, his cup "runneth over". Well, likewise, there were so many incredible views of the museum exterior, that my "collage runneth over"!
Being outside along the trails, one also gets to see some art installations that the indoor visitors will miss. This photo shows the work of Pat Musick and Jerry Carr, entitled "A Place Where They Cried". It is a tribute to thousands of Native Americans who perished during the forced migration of Indian Removal on the so-called "Trail of Tears" (1837 - 1839). The artists organized a processional formation of human-scale monoliths of native stone, that appear to travel the terrain with stoic quietude.
Unlike the previous outdoor art installation, this sculpture can be seen from the interior of the gallery bridge, as well as from the Museum's North Lawn. It is called "Lowell's Ocean" and was created by renowned Abstract Expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero.
In another example of "my collage runneth over", I was wanting readers to see that there is excellent signage throughout the grounds that not only tells you where you are, but in some cases, also tells the name of the plants you are seeing, as in the case of the sign labeling the hepatica plantings. The photograph in the lower right hand corner is a reminder to mention that there are signs with the designation "EMERGENCY" where a visitor could access a phone to Museum security personnel, if so needed. Likewise, the flashing blue light on top of the Emergency post could be an indication to people out on the trails to be "heads up" for weather-related issues. In addition to all the signs, free maps of the trails are available at all of the entry/exit doors, as well as on line through the website.
This photo shows a section of the Rock Ledge Trail. It takes its name from the rock bluffs once carved into the hills to make way for a nineteenth century railroad that was never completed.
The Dogwood Trail features over 500 dogwood trees that flower with white blossoms during the spring (right photo) . The photo on the left, shows that many of the white dogwood flower petals ha fallen onto the trail, as though a little wedding "flower girl" had flung them from her basket!
One can easily walk to the lower south entrance of the Museum from downtown Bentonville via the Art Trail, shown here as the paved trail in the background.
Another way to enter the museum is at the passenger drop-off area on the upper level. This is where motorcoaches, automobiles---both modern and antique---let their passengers out before parking (upper left photo). One can also arrive by bicycle, or via the Orchard Trail that connects from Orchards Park and NE J Street. My high school science teacher often told her classes about being raised on her family's orchard farm in Bentonville. She probably never imagined the Bentonville orchards would become famous as the pathway to the USA's newest and best, museum of American art!
Since the museum IS in the Ozarks, it should be no surprise that there are hills that must be ascended and "hollers" that must be descended. This is accomplished in a variety of ways, both functional and decorative. Out on the trails, there are magnificent stacks of native stone, forming steps and ledges. Near the building, there are both concrete and metal stairs that get the job done.
All the walking and climbing outside can make a hiker tired, so there are benches strategically placed throughout the grounds for resting or meditating. Some are native stone, others are the more functional metal design. The Museum Gift Shop brags that it is different from most museum gift shops because it has a separate entrance, so that a visitor can choose whether or not to visit it. But that is not the only thing that makes it different. How many museum gift shops can say they gave a decorative garden on their roof? This photo shows a gardener diligently working on the shrubs that have been artfully planted on the gift shop roof.
This collage shows the trail to the actual Crystal Spring that the area was named for. The three steps in the lower right allow you to actually walk to the very spot where the spring comes forth out of the rock ledge (bottom photo). Water coming out of the spring cascades down the side of the hill (top right photo).
The water that has collected beneath the Crystal Spring has a different tint from the other reflecting pools on the property. The brochure describing the grounds emphasizes that the outdoor experience of Crystal Bridges is as important as the art inside, further stating that "art and nature are both vital to the human spirit, and should be accessible to all."
It was nice to see parents outdoors with their kids on the day I visited. The photo on the left shows a mother watching her son play in the rocks along the creek bank, while the photo on the right shows a father watching his son play video games (well, at least the father/son duo were doing the video games outside, although it would have been nice to see them looking at the panoramic scenery surrounding them, rather than a two inch LED screen!)
The creek that flows under the bridges has been beautifully landscaped with native stone and decorative grasses.
The art installations outdoors have numbers that correspond to numbers on the official map, describing the work.
This is an example of a hard-surface trail, such as the Orchard Trail, that is suitable for biking or walking. There are more than three miles of trails on the campus.
This azalea was in bloom on the day of my visit. Various plants will be in bloom throughout the growing season, similar to how they would be, in any Ozark climate zone. The grounds and trails will change character with each season, and they are open year round.
These glass doors are announcing the museum's first visiting exhibit, "The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision." I am already marking my calendar to be sure to make a return visit some time between May 5 and September 3! Because I save money by shopping at WalMart, I know I will be able to scrape up the meager five dollar fee that will be charged for admission to the special exhibit! However, there is NO charge to visit the museum, or the grounds of the magnificent complex!!! That is because WalMart gave $10 million to cover the cost of free admission for the public for five years! Even more amazing is the $1.2 billion given to the museum from the Walton Family Foundation!! Thanks to the generous philanthropy of Bentonville, Arkansas' Sam Walton and his family, visitors to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art can have FREE miles of FREE smiles for years to come! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!! Tricia
Posted by Picasa