Gatlinburg TN

Gatlinburg TN
I've been on a HUGE Gatlinburg area kick lately..... Here is a recent picture!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Henry Ford Museum, Detroit MI.

We recently drove through the Detroit area as we travelled through the mitten shaped state. We have been through Detroit several times over the last decade or so. I have to admit, it is generally not my 1st choice when it comes to vacations. I have had a lot of fun in the city, but it is rough too, and I make that statement not just from what I have heard, but also from first hand experience. With that being said, it is still a lively town oozing with history and character.

A good friend who lives in the area offered to show us around recently. We drove around down town, walked around near the GM building, hit some malls and restaurants, and had a very nice time.

One thing I wanted to do on this trip that I meant to do on previous trips but never got around to was go to the Henry Ford Museum. I had heard the legends, but just never made it there. The Henry Ford Museum was a priority on this trip.

There are all sorts of ticket packages for the museum. I should say upfront that was decided to skip the whole Greenfield Village thing. I wanted to see it too, but time restrictions on this trip prevented it. A factory tour was also offered, but it sounded like a lot of video was used, plus the factory stuff was shut down while we visited. No real production type stuff was going on.

We spent the entire day here. The museum seems endless. I hate to talk about the stuff you always hear about, but I must. It is one thing to hear about certain exhibits at the Henry Ford, but it is something else to actually stand next to them.

When we first walked in we noticed the Presidential Limousines. Yes, there were more than the Kennedy and Reagan limos, but these are the two that stand out.

I remember being in elementary school and hearing that Reagan had been shot. It didn't really click with me what was going on, but I remember. We have all seen the video too.

JFK was before my time. Like Reagan we have all seen the video, we have heard what happened.

Anyway, both limos associated with the failed attempt to end Reagan's life and the Kennedy assassination are there. We were able to stand next to each one without a crowd around. It is really moving standing next to these cars.

The chair Lincoln was setting in at Ford's Theater when Booth shot him is on display too. It is in a glass case, but it is right there! You can feel the hair on your neck stand up as you look at it!

The bus Rosa Parks was on when she refused to give up her seat is on display. You can go in and sit in it! There is a cool book available in the gift shop about how that specific bus was found after decades of being forgotten. A guy was using it to store lumber on his property. The museum bought and restored it after tracking it down.

As a fan of road trips, I especially liked how the museum had some recreations of older hotel chain rooms. I love getting in the car and going. I love day trips, weekend trips, etc. I love hearing about (and seeing) relics related to road trip travelers when road tripping really took off.

There is an actual (non-functioning) diner too. Lamy's Diner, which was functioning at one time, is on display. You can walk through it.

The round, UFO looking Dymaxion House is here. It was a proposed mass produced type house at one time that never took off. It reminded me of a round trailer. Like many pieces on display at this museum, you can talk a walk through the house and check it out. The kind of "hands on" access here is unusual and appreciated!

I believe the oldest existing Wienermobile is also at the museum.

The Henry Ford has something I haven't seen anywhere else, but I would love to see this catch on - Mold-A-Rama. Throughout the museum, there are vending machines that make toys while you wait. Each plastic toy is associated with a display in the area. The toys are simple, one piece plastic injection molded. For $2 you can actually watch your Wienermobile, Abe Lincoln Bust, or another souvenir being made!!! I loved this, and brought back several cool plastic toys. They kind of remind me of the old Marx toys. I love elongated penny machines, and I am glad many places I visit have them. I would love to see "Mold-A-Rama" next to penny machines at every tourist stop!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rosie's Diner, Rockford Michigan

I know, Michigan does not even touch Kentucky. We visited Jenn's family in the Grand Rapids area recently, and they told us about this. I am talking about THE Rosie's Diner.

When Jenn's uncle mentioned going to Rosie's Diner, a little memory from my past triggered something. At first, I thought the Bounty/Rosie's Diner commercials were made in the 70's. I just checked Wikipedia though and it looks like they ran from 1976-1990. Anyway, this is the same diner where those commercials were filmed. It was moved from New Jersey after those commercials to this location.

That's reason enough to make sure you hit this location on a trip through Michigan. That has to be one of the most well known commercials ever. When I heard that the actual diner where those commercials were filmed was near by, I had to see it.

Not only can you go and look at the diner, you can stop by for a meal! I had a turkey Reuben and Jenn and I shared a mild shake. Portions were generous and delicious. I swear, this may have been one of my best meals ever. I have had some good Reubens. In fact, I can't think of a time I have had a bad one. This was one of the best ever. The milk shake was the best ever. I'm not kidding. I challenge you to go to Rosie's Diner, get a milk shake, and tell me its not the best. Do it! NOW! You can't get something like this at a fast food place.

Rosie's is, like any diner, boxy. It is tight, and I did feel like I was going to slide off of my bench. That's my only criticism of the place. I would hate for them to fix that problem though, because then it would be a modern restaurant, and not a diner.

I didn't see anyone talking on a cell phone. Yep, if you tried to forget about modern conveniences you could fool yourself in to believing you were at Rosie's Diner 20 or 30 years ago. I love places like this. I tip my ball cap to the owners and management of Rosie's Diner for their sense of preservation... and good food.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

It has been a little while since posting, but I was away for a little over a week! We recently went on a road trip circling through Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

Our first stop was in a city that is probably my new #1 favorite stop outside of Kentucky- Indianapolis! I love this town. It has always had a nice, cozy feel to it.

On our recent trip, we stayed downtown. I love the fact that you can walk from your hotel room to the central mall area without going outside. I love being outside, but the whole being inside thing is really nice if there is bad weather or if it is cold. I would compare downtown Indy to Lexington in the way that many hotels, malls and shops are connected. Indianapolis has a better system though. The walkways are clean, have good lighting, and they are easy to navigate.

We did have to drive out of the downtown to get to the Children's Museum. It was easy to find using basic directions given by hotel staff. There are signs too.

They are doing some construction at the museum, and this does interfere with parking, and going from the parking lot to the museum. Parking is free and easy in the next door garage, and staff were there directing traffic and pedestrians. Even with the construction parking and walking across the street to the actual museum are effortless tasks.

The museum was crowded and a ticket line was forming but several ticket windows were open and moving. Even with a crowd, it only took a couple of minutes to get tickets. The museum does have a planetarium show and a theater. Showings are free, but you do have to get the free tickets at another counter in the level under the main entrance area.

Counting the lower level, there are 5 stories here. You can take the elevator, or use the squared spiraling stairs. The stairs have a glass sculpture going from the main floor to the top level. On the lower level, there is a glass exhibit and you can look up at the bottom of the giant art piece. A round, rotating reclining bench allows you to look up at the bottom of the sculpture and take it all in. It is truly amazing, and writing about it cannot do justice to it.

The outside of the museum has a very nice, detailed set of dinosaur statues that appear to be busting out of the museum. The statues look very lively and realistic.

The museum's main floor has the ticket area, a huge gift shop and a cafeteria. The gift shop is huge and well stocked with items relating to the museum, and general museum gifts. As they currently have a Star Wars and a Lego exhibit, they had plenty of related toys and gifts. I bought my usual postcards and a patch.

We did have lunch in their cafeteria. We opted for the quick, easy and tasty burger baskets. For a museum lunch site, it was very affordable and the food was good. I would not go out of my way to eat here, but I would look forward to a lunch here on another visit for sure!

There is a really cool water clock designed by Bernard Gitton. You have to look at it for some time to figure it out. Like the glass sculpture, pictures don't show you how amazing it is. I am glad I picked up a postcard showing it, but standing next to it and looking up at it really gives you an appreciation for merging science and art.

The lower level (actually, any level here) would top many museums I have seen on its own. Their Dinosaur display area was worth the price of admission alone. At the main entrance to their "Dinosphere" is a reproduction of "Super Croc." There are several other cool dino skeletons and displays. There is a great balcony window a couple of floors up for photo opportunities of the area too. There is a mastodon skeleton, originally found in Indiana, there too.

Continuing on the lower level floor, there is a train that you can walk through, and some fun train lay outs.

At the moment, there is a cool Star Wars exhibit there. Loads of concept art, some costumes, and Jango Fett's helmet! Predictably (and unfortunately) an actual NASA space suit worn by Indianapolis' own David Wolf was mostly ignored by visitors.

We did attend a planetarium show about planets from the Star Wars films, and how similar planets may actually exist somewhere. This was fun, but I will probably try to catch a more traditional show next time.

I won't go floor by floor on the upper 3 levels, but an entire book could be written about this museum. Current temporary exhibits including a comic book/super hero display, with every super hero toy that I can remember on display. There was a nice lay out here too. Like everything in this museum, the flow of this display was very well done. One of the Bat-Man movie used cars was on display here too.

They had a great Lego Castle room. Legos are pure joy. Small Lego castles and a life size dragon and suit of armor were here, among many other Lego creations.

Other cool areas included a doll house display, a carousel, and a fun house area. There is a dinosaur art area.

The Power of Children area was well done too. There is an entire section about Anne Frank which is always touching. There was a section on Ryan White too, along with Rudy Bridges. This was the only area of the museum that did not go along with the generally fun theme. Using this area for such a display is bold, and the Children's Museum deserves a lot of credit for including these displays.

We spent several hours at the museum, and we were exhausted! I am really looking forward to getting back there soon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Memphis, TN

We recently drove down to Memphis for the weekend. This was our second trip to the are in the last year.

Memphis is a very active town. It has a lot of attitude too. There is a ton of history in the area.

We went down mostly to see the Memphis Redbirds AAA baseball team (I wrote about that on my baseball blog). We ended up doing a lot more.

After work on Thursday, we made the drive down towards Nashville. Bad weather reports should have discouraged our making this trip, but we really wanted to get going. The weather reports were accurate though, and we had rain and rough winds to deal with the entire trip down.

We did make a stop at Loretta Lynn's Kitchen and gift shop. That was cool, they had your usual postcard and t-shirt type things. The place reminded me of a truck stop/gift shop. It was novel.

Downtown Memphis is a fun area. We have enjoyed walking around the ball park and the Peabody Hotel over our last 2 visits. We went there again this time.

A lot was going on in the area on this date. Pro baseball and basketball players were both at the hotel. Several St. Louis Cardinals players were there for the game, and so were the NBA Mavericks. The hotel was hoppin'. It was very busy and active.

I can't say enough about the Peabody Ducks. Kids and adults both will appreciate them. Every morning at 9am, they ride the elevator down from their rooftop house, then they walk a red carpet to the fountain. At 5, the process goes in reverse. It is something to see, and the ducks are very sweet. The roof to the Peabody is opened up and it is a great place for skyline photo ops.

Peabody Place is a great place to set and relax in downtown Memphis. The place is a "Dead Mall" though. I love places like this, but I feel sad that they are not more active. Peabody Place is a very nice layered mall. There is a ton of opportunity here for a business. It seems that most major businesses have moved out, and now there are just a few kiosks. This is a beautiful mall with rocking chairs around a fountain. We enjoyed a cup of Starbucks while sitting in rocking chairs listening to the fountain. If this mall was in my hometown, I would be there every day!

The Memphis Redbirds play at one of the most aesthetically perfect parks around. The giant baseball slugger over their front entrance is one of the coolest monuments in all of baseball. The park is simply perfect. It isn't that old, but it does have an old, traditional feel to it.

I was very sad to learn that Friday Night Fights was going on at the same time our ball game was happening right down the street! The good city of Memphis had it in an open out door venue. No ticket needed! Luckily, I always DVR this show.

Our next day in Memphis was spent mostly at the Memphis Zoo. Like most big zoos, this one was exhausting. You name it, they had it. Panda's seemed to be the big attraction.

In our recent travels, especially in the state right under Kentucky, I have developed a real appreciation for the Hyatt Place chain. These guys have perfected the hotel. They are always clean, nice and cozy. I love the big screen TVs that can tilt and be seen just about anywhere in your room. I just realized they have an IPod docking station too! We love the one in Memphis, which feels really homey to us. They have a very comfortable eating/front desk area. Leslie at the front desk remembered us from our last visit and added to the familiar feel here.

On the way back north, we stopped in Nashville. Everyone from Nashville likes to make a point in telling me that there is more to the town than Opry Mills mall. I know, but man is this a cool mall! Its just fun making a lap around it though. The kiosks are getting a bit out of control, but otherwise this place is perfect. I do need to get to Nashville to do some more local stuff.