Luray Caverns in Virginia

Luray Caverns in Virginia
Luray Caverns in Virginia

Monday, June 30, 2014

White Squirrels in Olney Illinois







A few days ago I drove through the very cool town of Olney Illinois to check out their famous WHITE SQUIRRELS!

We dropped in and went first to the Chamber of Commerce, located at 216 East Main Street (they have recently moved and several web sites have to old address).

The area takes a lot of pride in its unique critter population, and they sell postcards, stickers patches, shirts, hats, etc. celebrating their squirrels.  Yes, I made several purchases!

The very cool lady running the Chamber gave me a map and made suggestions about places to go to see the squirrels.


We took her advice and we were able to see several!  In fact, by the lake I think we could have watched them all day.  I was really happy about this, because, to be honest, I had my doubts.  I thought that maybe one or two squirrels were around town, and I assumed the odds of seeing one were exceptionally low.  Again, I was wrong!

They are albino, and they have those beautiful pink eyes.  In some ways they reminded me of the classic lab rat.  I have a buddy that used to have some of those rats as pets, and I swear they were some very sweet, affectionate pets that get a bad reputation.  These squirrels looked like them but with big bushy tails.

They seemed to be very used to people taking photos of them.  One climbed a tree and set on a branch as I photographed him, and I swear he was posing, the little ham.  I probably took a hundred photos.

I know I have been singing the praises of southern Illinois a lot lately, and this town is another great one.  We walked through their classic old feeling main street area, and we stopped at a beautiful Coffee shop Roll With It Bakery.  This was the perfect stop for a nice light lunch, candy, and coffee.  We wrote some notes to our friends on the back of the white squirrel postcards I bought at the Chamber of Commerce as we enjoyed coffee in their roomy café.

We really enjoyed our day in this friendly, attractive town.  If you are within a day trip drive to here, you should check it out!








Friday, June 27, 2014

Random Thoughts On Friday

I have been thinking a lot about music lately!

I was on a St. Vincent kick for a while.  I freakin' love Digital Witness, but I kept playing it on my ipod, and after some time, it got stuck in my head, and I couldn't get it out!  It was like the 90s, when you would play Tetris, and then you would dream about it.

I read an article recently that HINTED that The Sundays might be thinking about doing something again.  I would love to see that happen.  I have a friend who once ALMOST went to see them live, and that is worth some cred.

The Sundays put out 3 albums that are all great.  They were most known for the great song and video "Here's Where the Story Ends" but all of their songs were good.

Check out the interview here:

https://hub.aa.com/en/aw/alternative-rock-music

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Owensboro Downtown by the Ohio River







I was able to swing through Owensboro recently!

My trips to the town where I originated have become scarce lately.  Not because I don't want to go there, but just because other things come up.

I feel so proud of the town each time I go back these days.  AND that hasn't always been the case.

I was heart broken when Owensboro missed out on an opportunity to bring a Frontier League baseball team in several years ago.  It looked like they wanted it, but other towns obviously wanted it more.  I won't even bring up the couple of low level pro-sports teams that have not been able to make it in the area.

I could go on with other issues I have had with Owensboro, but I won't.  I feel in my heart that the area is trying hard right now to make downtown special again.

I walked around on a Thursday night, and there was a very nice, family friendly vibe going on.  I saw a lot of moms, dads, and children playing in the spectacular new park.  I personally enjoyed coffee at my favorite coffee shop, The Crème before making a couple of laps around the area.  I noticed some well maintained working fountains, lots of light, and live music!

Yes, live music on a Thursday night, right by the Ohio River!  An unbelievable young duo was playing.  When I first heard them, I thought I was hearing a recording as the music was so perfect and polished.  If you have read my blog for a while (hi mom!), you know that I am a music snob.  Well, this music got my attention and I found out later that one of the teenagers was the daughter of an old school pal of mine.  Though I felt VERY old at that moment, I was happy to see QUALITY music being performed here!

This was my first time seeing the new hotel and convention center that have pretty much replaced the old Executive Inn.  Man, I have some great memories of the Big E and nothing can replace it (which, honestly, is probably a very good thing).

A friend in Lexington told me that he used to have to stay at the Executive Inn for work, and it was like staying at the hotel in "The Shining".  It was huge and very vacant.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that, when the E went down, it was very dated.

So, the new hotel looks more inviting to me.  Sure, it is a chain hotel, but it looked cozy, and appropriate for downtown Owensboro.  I noticed guests mingling out front, and enjoying the walk downtown.  It had a very friendly Western Kentucky feel.

AND, think about this....  especially if you travel a lot- how many times have you stayed at a hotel where the coolest think within walking distance is a Waffle House or Burger King?  Well, at the new hotel in Owensboro, you can walk around the great park by the river.  In maybe 5 minutes you can walk to a couple of museums, a great coffee shop and MANY nice local restaurants.

I don't want to jump the gun or anything in my excitement, but if the area keeps going in a nice, positive direction, I could see this becoming another Chattanooga.  OK, maybe a mini-Chattanooga.

I know, I know, Owensboro would need some world class museums, an aquarium, and a lot more history to compete with a Chattanooga.  But, if someone started a riverboat dinner cruise, and added a few other nice additions....  maybe.

I did talk to some friends who have been around longer than I have, and they talked about how downtown is kind of getting to be like it once was.  I don't want to comment much on that concept, but...... as a community, why do we let nice things- like a beautiful, hopping downtown area- slip away like that?  Talk amongst yourselves.

I felt different this time when I was in my hometown.  I felt really happy about everything I saw.  I felt like the town was trying again, and it was trying hard to be better.











Tuesday, June 17, 2014

RJ Corman Lexington Dinner Train

You know, I would really like to do more trips involving trains.  When I stop at visitor centers, I always grab the brochures about tourism relating to trains.... but often the details are vague.  Does anyone know of a good, clear web site about train related tourism?

Anyway, I was very pleased to find out about the very easy to understand RJ Corman Lexington Dinner Train web site!

Literally here in my back yard, you can take a very nice train ride past various horse farms in the area, while enjoying a GREAT meal!

You get on the train at their office pretty much right next to Rupp Arena (it would be maybe a 5 minute slow walk from there), behind the Mary Todd Lincoln House.

We got there a little before 11 for our 11:30 lunch departure and there was really no wait.  Once on the train, there were several pleasant and professional staff people around to help with making the trip fun.

The dining cars are cozy while maintaining an old feel.  A rose was on each table, and nice curtains framed the windows looking out.  Tables were clean with new looking linen.  These guys care about the details and comfort!

As a fan of history, I was VERY impressed to learn that one of the cars was used in President Eisenhower's funeral.  From the RJ Corman web site about the train- "The RJC-011 car is also historically significant, having served as the funeral train for President Dwight Eisenhower's journey to Abilene, Kansas for burial."

The atmosphere on the 2 hour trip was very casual.  You are free to walk around and check things out.  There is a nice open area you can walk to for a better view of the farms.  We asked if we could walk through the Eisenhower car, and also stick our head in the kitchen.  We were encouraged to do both!  The kitchen was small, but, like the rest of the train, very clean and professionally staffed.  I can honestly say that after seeing the kitchen, I felt very comfortable enjoying my meal.

Speaking of the meal......  The food was amazing.  RJ Corman is not trying to get away with serving average food.  Just like with the trains general appearance, they are going for perfection.  The food was flawless.

In our party, we had the beef vegetable soup, and the tomato bisque.  For our Entrees, we tried the Hot Brown and the Prime Rib sandwich.  The soups tasted homemade and fresh.  On their web site, they do mention that they use local tomatoes and vegetables.  Again, RJ Corman is not taking any shortcuts on their menu and you can taste the quality!

Check out the photos!  That Hot Brown is as good as it looks!  In fact, the photos don't do the food justice!

AND....  check out the chocolate choo-choo!  That is a dessert for two, but the two of us couldn't finish it at this point, as much as we tried.

We took the lunch train, which was cheaper than the evening trip (it was about $70 each for lunch) but it was definitely worth it.  I would go back again for the food alone.

Check out their site and let me know what you think!

http://www.lexingtondinnertrain.com/













Friday, June 13, 2014

Random Thoughts on Friday

Sorry for the lack of local travel type entries right now.  We have had to cancel some travel plans for the summer.  Not to get too personal but we have a very sweet small animal that is sick, and we are doing what we can to take care of him.

I've been to the movies a little lately.  Did you see Mr. Peabody and Sherman?  That was my favorite cartoon as a kid.  I was so happy to see that a movie was made about it!  I love time machines, and I love the thought of going back in time to watch history.  I really liked this film!

On the opposite end of the spectrum.....  I saw the horror film Oculus!  I liked this movie too, for different reasons.  This is a great ghost story.  Very well done- well written, and intense.  Usually, the supernatural type movies don't give me a good scare like a thrasher film, but this one did!

I have been watching some old TV shows recently too, since I am not getting out of the house as much.  I mentioned before that we have been on a huge frontier life kick after our trip to South Dakota.  Frontier living, Native Americans, and the few decades right after the Civil War are some of our favorite topics right now.

So-we are almost finished watching the entire run of Little House on the Prairie!  Alison Arngrim, Victor French, Matthew Laborteaux... and really all of the others are just great on that show.  The stories are good and well written, and the characters are likable.  Some of them are very dark and almost have a horror feel to them too!  I know it gets a lot of attention for being a good show the family can watch, but it has a real grit to it too.  It is dusty and desperate... and shows deal with substance abuse, robbery, death and murder too.

WE have also started watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman too.  That show came around a good time after Little House.  It does have a much more polished feel to it (I have a tough time believing that the perfectly made up Jane Seymour and Joe Lando could exist in that rough of a time, and still look so flawless).

AND, I know this has been said before but I am not big on placing modern values on the people of the 1870s and 1880s.  Those were different times and it is very easy for people now (or even people in the 90s) to pass judgment on those characters.

THEN AGAIN- there are some folks in Jane Seymour's world that would have never shown up in Walnut Grove.  Dr. Quinn's main rival is the town pimp (played by the very believable William Shockley who kicks major backside as Hank)!  I can't see Hank and his girls setting up shop next to Oleson's Mercantile (surely there is some fan fiction out there where the these two worlds have mingled).

Oh, we have also watched some old Bonanza episodes too, which has added to some strange conversations-

During an episode of Bonanza-
Me:  Hey, haven't we watched this episode before?
My wife:  No, you are thinking about Little House.  Or maybe it was Dr. Quinn.
Me:  I can't remember. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Largest Convention Hall and Theatre in the World, Atlantic City, NJ.

This old postcard is undated on the back.

On the front it says- Largest Convention Hall and Theatre in the World, Atlantic City, N.J.

The back notes-

All of Atlantic City's population, 66,000, could be seated in this building at one time in the auditorium. The largest home run Babe Ruth ever hit would stay inside the walls. Football is played on a full sized field indoors, and the building is indeed the Convention Capitol of the world.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Books


I do like to mention books that I like here, on the blog.  If I read one that I don't care about, I just won't bring it up at all.

I read one recently though that I love and that I don't care for at the same time.  Let me explain.

The book is about one of my favorite travel spots.  It is a town that I have mentioned here many times, and there are many books written about it.

The book itself looked very interesting, and it was a bit obscure too.

The book is actually very well researched.  There is an intro by a well known person associated with the topic, and the author scored MANY fascinating interviews.  In general, the book is amazing.

My problem is that the book suffers from TERRIBLE editing.  I mean it is bad (misspellings, large sections duplicated, sentences missing verbs, their/there confusion etc).

I am more than OK with a few errors in books.  I love the print on demand and DIY type books that are readily available these days, and I can look past a few issues here and there.  I understand.  I have read and reviewed many rare self published books here and on my baseball blog that have many errors.....  and these are among the most prized and loved books in my collection.  Their amateur feel is part of their charm.

AND, I catch errors here, on my blog all the time.  I try to correct them when I see them, but again, this is a VERY amateur blog.  I don't have an editor.  Lets be honest...  I don't have that many readers!

BUT this book has errors everywhere; I have noticed a massive mistake very literally on every single page.  I sincerely wish that the author had sent me a copy before it went to print.  It is embarrassing.

In fact, it looks like the author disappeared after the book came out.  He has a website mentioned in the book, and it no longer exists.  I have googled him and can't find any mention of him over the last several years.

The author thanks his editor in the front of the book, but I am not sure if anyone really looked over it.

Obviously I won't mention the book's title here, but I just don't know how to feel about it.  A lot of work went in to the book and I admire and appreciate that- but I can't endorse it here because of the problems.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Halls on the River in Winchester

Hall's on the River is QUICKLY becoming one of my favorite restaurants around.  It is a short, scenic drive from Lexington and Richmond and they have some of the best beer cheese anywhere!

Plus, there is some history connected to their location.  Actually, a lot of history.

In 1776, Daniel Boone's daughter was in a canoe with Elizabeth and Fanny Callaway.  They were captured by a Cherokee-Shawnee group.  A few days later the girls were rescued. 

One of the rescuers, John Holder, married one of the Callaway sisters.  Later (in 1783), Holder opened a Tavern on the spot where Hall's is at now.

More recent history in the restaurant involves the River itself.  There is a display inside of  Hall's UNDER the river during flooding!

I had some of their beer cheese soup the other day.  It had a nice kick to it, and it was filling.  In fact, I had to take some of it home.

On another recent visit, I had their beer cheese burger.  They were generous with the cheese, and the burger was huge.  A fried banana pepper on it really put this one over the top.  And, like the soup, I had to take half of it home for a meal later... it was huge!

http://www.hallsontheriver.com/