Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota
We saw a LOT of these guys at Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

London Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Parade

London Kentucky hosted one of the coolest events around in October. I know I mentioned it before it happened.

London had a "Welcome Home" parade for Vietnam Veterans.

I found my favorite Vietnam War veteran, my dad, and we went to catch the event. My mom went too.

Actually, the festivities lasted the whole weekend. I know there was a concert, and other events, but seeing the parade was our main goal.

We drove down to London and stopped by the grocery store parking lot where the parade was to start. There was a little check in area. Dad went up to some of the other veterans there, and one actually said, "welcome home."

We drove a bit downtown, got a parking spot, and found a nice place to watch the parade.

The parade was long and exciting. There must have been hundreds of bikers, vintage cars, military vehicles and other sites in the parade.

My dad had his Vietnam Veteran cap on that my cousin (who has served in Afghanistan himself) sent to him. Another guy walked up to my dad, then looked at his young daughter or granddaughter and said, "there is a real Vietnam veteran there."

My dad said hello to her, and she gave my dad a very cute beaded leather green and yellow key chain. Actually, I am not sure it it was meant to be a key chain, but that is what he has been using it for. My dad really appreciated this. It was very sweet seeing the 9 or so year old girl going around and giving these beads to the vets.

Another nice moment happened during the parade. My dad was standing against a wall, watching the vehicles full of other veterans go by. On one of the trucks, a veteran was pointing to other vets he saw (many also proudly wearing their veteran caps). He would point them out, get their attention, and then salute.

My dad is one of the most casual guys you will ever meet, but he changed for a few seconds. Immediately, he stood straight and saluted back.

Before my cousin went to Afghanistan, I know he talked to my dad about... going to war. I asked them both what does an old soldier say to a young guy going off to fight for our country.
They both gave similar responses. "Not much."

Anyway, London Kentucky hosted a very nice event that was appreciated by me and my

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cecil Calavan- Pearl Harbor Survivor

Cecil Calavan was only 17 years old when he served on the USS Utah. He watched a Japanese torpedo strike his ship, entering the compartment where his division lived. Had he not been in another area shaving he would have been killed.

Cecil sent me a great note.

"I hope that you will continue to learn about Pearl Harbor and World War II in general. There were many horrible battles fought by young Americana in all theaters of war."

"It makes me proud to have served, I realize that young Americans have defended this country for the past 213 years, and it continues every day."

"I stress how important it is for this nation to stay strong and alert, Pearl Harbor should never have happened and had we been strong, ready, it wouldn't have."

Thanks for the note Cecil! You were there, and you are a witness to an amazing moment in history!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Donald Stratton- Pearl Harbor Survivor

I wrote a note to Donald Stratton asking him about his heroic experiences on Dec. 7th, 1941.

He sent a very nice, informative bio. Here are some notes that stood out to me.

"Dec. 7, 1941 was a Sunday morning like any other, or so we thought. We were up and around having breakfast. I had finished eating and picked up a few extra oranges in my white hat to take to a buddy in sick-bay. His name was Harl Nelson from Rouston, Ark., he did not survive."

Later, Donald noticed some sailors pointing to planes that were bombing Ford Island.

"I looked and saw the bomb blasts and thought I saw the water tower on Ford Island topple over."

"THIS IS NO DRILL- man your battles stations" Donald heard from the General Quarters.

From his vantage point, he could see two torpedo wakes headed for his ship, the Arizona.

"Let us keep America Alert, for they say history has a way of repeating itself."

Donald was burned on 50-60% of his body, but made it to the USS Vestal where he was helped.

Donald has had an amazing life since his VERY close call at Pearl Harbor. He has a big family, and has worked all over the world.

""Our Flag, duty, honor and courage, and the people who made the supreme sacrifices for our freedom, shall always be remembered. Keep America Alert, so that something like this does not happen again, or else all those sacrifices were for naught.

Donald does mention that he likes the DVD "The Death of the Arizona."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fred Johnson- Pearl Harbor Survivor

We are coming up on the 59th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor!

I have sent notes to just about any one I can who has a connection to December 7th, 1941. Fred Johnson sent me a note to tell me about his service to this great country on that day and on the USS Maryland.

He said that he woke that morning to the sound of "All hands man your battle stations." As he headed to his station on the Admiral's Bridge he could see the Japanese Torpedo bombers headed towards the ship.

"I didn't pause for sight seeing." He also says "we lost more than 3000 men and several ships."

"If we learn anything from the encounter it should be to maintain a strong defence- our military should be upscale and out front. It should be first in training, first in technology, and first in the face of our enemies- future generations need to keep people in office who will work for this."

Fred also suggests that "Tora! Tora! Tora!" is the most authentic movie about the attack, giving viewpoints from both the American and Japanese sides.

Fred sent along this photo of him taken on his 95th birthday!

Fred, thank you for getting back to me, and thank you for your time in the military!

Book: The Spirit of Lost River

Hey, I picked up this nice little book for $5 at the Lost River Cave gift shop! It gives a nice easy to understand history of the cave, its uses, etc. There are some great pictures, and it is written in a way that a 5th grader or an adult can understand.

Great old photos in here too!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lost River Cave- Bowling Green KY

Just a couple of miles down the road from the mall in Bowling Green is Lost River Cave!

I really liked this cave because the actual cave tour pretty much happens while you are on a boat!

You do have to walk a little bit from the main gift shop/visitor center to the cave but that's it. In my opinion, that makes this a good cave tour for anyone who might have trouble with their knees or with walking for a longer period of time.

The day we were there, they were setting up for a wedding! How cool is that? I took a couple of pictures. I did buy the book in the gift shop about the history of Lost River Cave, and it looks like the wedding area is the area where they used to have bands and dancing.

I really like the thought of music and events being held inside of show caves. I know many caves used to have such events. I guess now though, caves just don't seem like the appropriate venues.

The cave does claim that Jesse James hid out here for some time. This is a pretty cool story and it might have a little more legitimacy than some other claims. Then again, it seems that just about every historical place I go to claims that Jesse James hid there, shot a person there, etc.

The grounds around the cave are very nice and calm. There are short hiking trails. They have a butterfly garden too which is a bonus.

Lost River Cave has some "Blue Holes". Even after taking the tour and reading the book, I am a bit fuzzy on what these are exactly. I know there is one in a small pond on the grounds that was believed to be much deeper (several hundred feet deep), until they figured out that one of these blue holes was distorting the measuring technique.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book: Return To Point Pleasant

I picked up the graphic novel "Return to Point Pleasant" at the Mothman Festival from the books author who had a booth.

The cover alone is worth the price.

The stories are very out there too. The Men In Black, who are a big part of the mothman lore are explained as time travelers dropping in on the key events in the timeline of the spooky legend.

If you are a comic fan, if you enjoy reading strange and thoughtful stories, or if you are interested in the mothman, pick this one up!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Random Thoughts On Friday

I was told recently that Joseph-Beth Booksellers had filed for bankruptcy. I felt a little shocked, as Joseph-Beth has been such a great place to pick up books and magazines for me- in Lexington- and during my stay in Cleveland.

I did some searching and found out that the Lexington store will stay open. Great! Sadly, one of the stores that will be closing is the one at Legacy Village near Cleveland.

See my other entry on Joseph-Beth from July 6th, 2010. I have spent a lot of time at both locations.

I know that a lot has been said about online sellers contributing to the downfall of specialty stores, especially independent ones, and smaller chains. That sounds accurate to me.

I love going in a store and browsing. I especially enjoy browsing for books.

I must admit though, I order online a lot. Plus, I buy a lot at discount book stores. When I travel, if I pass a Half Price Book store I stop- and I spend money. If I do buy books at a bigger store, it is mostly from their discount section.

It kind of comes back to economics and convenience. If I want a book, I know that I don't have to pay full price for it. Half Price Books will have it most likely.

I know some stores are trying to retool some. I went to a chain store recently that has a huge section at the front devoted to promoting their new digital book devises. Maybe its just me, but I don't like these. I like holding a book. Pretty much made and used the same was for several centuries.

Sure, a new book might come out, and I might want it the day it comes out. Getting it at the store might be a fun thing to do, but there are really no books that I must have instantly. I have a stack of books I am still trying to find time to read.

I don't mind buying a book at full price if it is signed and I am buying it directly from the author. I love baseball, and I have bought many books written (and published) by a former player. I really like that very personal, AND very independent form of buying a book.

I do enjoy going to small book stores, and supporting them. It makes me very sad to think that the beautiful Joseph-Beth store at Legacy Village will not be there in 2011.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Postcard: Interior of St. Louis Cathedral

"The St. Louis Cathedral, still in use, was built in 1794 on the site of Louisiana's first church, by Don Andre Almonaster y Roxas. Among its many interesting features are the beautiful murals added in 1892. It is situated opposite historic Jackson Square."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Postcard: The New Downtown St. Louis

Check out this great St. Louis postcard! I believe it is postmarked 1964. There is a great and long description of the new downtown area of St. Louis for that time.

Check out the ballpark!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dayton Ohio National Museum of the US Air Force

One of my all time favorite places to visit in the Ohio/Kentucky area is easily the Museum at the Wright-Patterson Air Force base.

If you have never been to this amazing museum, make some plans. I know I use the phrase "overwhelming" excessively, but this place truly is.

In fact, I can't even really give an idea of just how overwhelming it is. The areas where the aircraft are displayed, in the hangers, are huge. Think of your high school gym, then multiply that by a lot. Then, visualize a bunch of aircraft filling the rooms.

There are several of these rooms devoted to the major wars. In fact, on my last visit, I had to skip WWII simply because of time. You can easily spend days at this museum. Even those people casually interested in flight or the Air Force can easily spend a full day here.

Some of my favorite's here are the stealth, the space exploration exhibit, and the IMax theater. Speaking of space travel, I know the museum is hoping to be a winner in the upcoming competition to get one of the retired space shuttles! This is very exciting.

I know I have written about this place before, and I will again. It is simply that amazing. Another benefit that don't think the average road tripper gets is that this place is affordable. VERY affordable. Admission is free. The price for the I-Max movie is comparable to others. I think they have a very nice cafeteria, with below average prices.

The gift shop is great too. Sure, there are some high end items, but there are some great, cheap items. Postcards, which I love, are ten cents each!

Anyway, I am sure I will have more pictures up soon. I find myself here a time or two a year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Karen's Book Barn LaGrange Kentucky

I know LaGrange is a little out of the way. It is close enough to Louisville though. And it is a very attractive little area. Nice old buildings, AND an active train track goes right downtown!

I made the detour through the area just for the heck of it a few weeks ago, and I am glad I did.

I didn't have a lot of time, but I wisely picked Karen's Book Barn for a stop.

Two of my favorite activities on a nice, casual day are drinking coffee and looking for obscure books making Karen's the perfect stop for me.

The store isn't the biggest book store, but it did have a fun selection. I actually did find one fairly hard to find local interest book that I had been hoping to find- and I found it for half off cover price! I was very happy to also find some back issues of Kentucky Explorer magazine.

For those of us always looking for several specific old books, or some books relating to a certain topic, this place is just perfect.

PLUS, they have good coffee. I personally like plain coffee, nothing fancy for me. I do usually doctor my drink up a little myself. I thought it was very kind that the staff at Karen's asked me what I wanted in my coffee and they took the time to make it exactly right. This place has a very nice, friendly staff.

I took a couple of pictures out the window of Karen's. They have a few tables by the window, so I was able to spend some moments drinking coffee and reading my Kentucky Explorer magazines after looking the place over.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Postcards: Mammoth Cave

The Crystal Lake postcard on the back reads-

As seen from the bridge 60 feet above the water, this green pool lying at the bottom of a stone garden decorated with crystal clear stalactites is one of the most captivating sights remembered by the visitor. Of unusual interest is September Morn, a white stalactite formed in the shape of a bathing beauty. The statue is 35 inches long and about 5 inches in diameter. By a unique arrangement of the lights, this statue may make a quick change from robe to bathing costume. Crystal Lake is 270 feet beneath the surface.

The other postcard, "Ruins of Karnak in Mammoth Cave, Ky." has no info on the back. Both cards are undated.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Tour

Last Christmas, my aunt made bourbon balls. I had two and I was unable to drive home. Seriously.

I am not a fan of alcohol in general.

Still, there is a lot of bourbon around the area. I took the Woodford Reserve tour not long ago.

The process for making it, and the effort put into making sure the quality of the finished product is admirable and impressive. They really go to a lot of trouble making sure that the bourbon is right.

The building where they store the barrels of bourbon was really cool. I liked the fact that the process is so primitive still. Barrels stacked up in a barn. Very traditional.

This is a classy place, and it is really cool that they let you see how things are done. The grounds are beautiful, and the drive out is great too.

Random Thoughts On Friday

Yesterday was Veterans Day! I would like to thank my dad, my cousin Dwight, and my buddy Adam for their service. Because of them and others who have spent time in our military, I can enjoy the freedom and democracy available in this great country.

Thursday, November 11, 2010