West Baden Springs Indiana

West Baden Springs Indiana
Inside of the AMAZING West Baden Springs Resort in Indiana.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Virginia

As we left the Charlottesville and Richmond Virginia areas, we made our way to Chincoteague Island.  I made sure that we travelled over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  I wanted to do this just so I could say that I drove under water!

This was a fascinating and fun part of our trip- here are some photos!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Leonardo's Pizza in Glen Allen Virginia

I MUST give a very sincere and appreciative thanks to an amazing pizza place we stumbled on to near Richmond Virginia.

Leonardo's Pizza in Glen Allen is perfect.  We came here from a recommendation that a local gave us, and we fell in love!

I got a bowl of leek soup that was overflowing.  It was hot and so good. 

We each had individual pizzas that we loved.  I know a lot of the pizza chains have a flavor.  I think there is a flavor that only good, independent chains ever get right- and Leonardo's nailed it.

After our meal, we did order ice cream.  A generous portion came out, smothered in whipped cream.  Our waitress told us that they use a popular local brand (I forget the specific name) that uses free range cows and all.

On their web site, Leonardo's states that they make world class food from the freshest ingredients.  I can vouch for that.  You can tell when a place uses quality stuff in their food, and Leonardo's absolutely does.

If I lived in Glen Allen Virginia, I would be at Leonardo's all the time!  They get my highest possible recommendation!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello is one of those places you have to visit in a lifetime.  As I mentioned earlier, we visited Monticello right after visiting James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland.  It is always exciting visiting a President's home, but make no mistake, Ash Lawn-Highland was a minor opening act for Thomas Jefferson's rockstar home.

A friend of mine who used to live in Charlottesville Virginia described Monticello as the "Disneyland of President's Homes."  That sounds accurate to me.  There is a lot to see and do here.

We arrived after our visit to James Monroe's home, and we ended up spending the rest of the day at Monticello.  We could have spent more time here easily.

A $25 ticket actually covers a lot.  There is much to do at the main visitor center area.  You can see a film about Jefferson.  There is a great cafĂ© on site, where food is made utilizing vegetables grown at Monticello.  AND there is a huge gift shop.

From this main visitor center, you can catch a bus for a short drive up hill to the actual home.  A hiking path is also available for those people wanting to walk.

Your ticket does have a time on it.  That is the time that you need to be at the home for your guided tour.  As you get in line for your tour, you are politely briefed by the staff about the home.  When we were there, a house tour went in every five minutes!  We heard that about 400,000 visitors come by yearly!

The Jefferson designed home is amazing.  Like at Ash Lawn-Highland, photos are not allowed inside, but they are fine just about everywhere else.  I personally get excited when I see the libraries, books, furniture and other relics used by historic figures.  The first room at Monticello had trophies from the Lewis and Clark Expedition!

After the house tour, you are free to explore the gardens and other buildings at Monticello.  It is an amazing place.  AND, you can take additional tours for free!  There is one you can take on the gardens, and one on slavery at Monticello.

After the tour, you can take the bus back to the visitor center, or walk.  On the way down, you can see the grave of Thomas Jefferson and his family members.  He is buried on site at Monticello!

Before we left, we did drop some coin at the huge gift shop.  Here, you could buy collectible coins, books, postcards and MANY other items.  We HAD to buy some seeds that came from the gardens at Monticello!

The Thomas Jefferson site is dealing with the controversy relating to Jefferson's relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.  The relationship was acknowledged in the film shown at the visitor center.  This is a fascinating part of Jefferson's life that is getting a LOT of deserved attention.  As a side note, I did read on findagrave that Sally Hemings was buried at a site that is now a Hampton Inn parking lot.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Original Law Office of James Monroe, Fredericksburg, Va.

While I am mentioning James Monroe, here is an old postcard I found relating to him!

"Original Law Office of James Monroe, Fifth President of the USA, Fredericksburg, VA."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ash Lawn-Highland- Home of James Monroe, Charlottesville, Virginia

James Monroe, President number 5, spent over 20 years living at Ash Lawn-Highland (called only Highland when he owned it).  He sold it later in life due to personal debt.

The College of William and Mary owns the home now, and they open it for tours.

The actual home where Monroe lived is a pretty humble structure, for a President.  More was built on to it later (in the photo, the white part of the structure was he, the yellow part was added on later).

We had a nice, short tour from one of the guides, and then we were allowed to explore the grounds on our own.

James Monroe's friend Thomas Jefferson lived close by at Monticello.  Ash Lawn-Highland's closeness to Monticello is a bit of a blessing and a curse.

The home does benefit from the many visitors who visit the more popular Monticello, and also take the time to stop by and see James Monroe's former home.  I would say that many visitors (like us) spend a couple of hours at the Monroe site, and then spend the rest of a day or weekend at the Jefferson home.

However, I could see many people coming to see both, but then deciding to dedicate all of their time to the more grand Monticello.  In fact, one friend I have from the area suggested that we might want to devote all of our time in this area to Monticello only.  Also, we kind of felt that one guide at Ash Lawn-Highland made a half hearted argument that Monroe and his home were just as significant as the Thomas Jefferson site.  We admired her efforts, but the argument came across as almost apologetic.

There is a great opportunity here though to see two great President's homes in one visit.  We noticed others from our tour at James Monroe's home later at Monticello.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tamarack- West Virginia's Artisan Retail Center in Beckley West Virginia

We were able to spend the first night of our recent road trip in Beckley West Virginia.  This was our first time here, though Beckley has been on our list for some time.  Though we were on the road late, and Beckley is a long drove from our home, we made it to the Tamarack Artisan Center by 6!  Luckily, they are open from 8am until 8pm!

Tamarack calls itself "West Virginia's Artisan Retail Center".  If you have been to the Artisan Center in Berea Kentucky, this place is similar.

The Tamarack center is built like a big circle.  Art is everywhere.  Giant sculptures, carvings, and paintings are everywhere.  I saw a brilliant life sized sculpture of coon dogs treeing a raccoon that reminded me of my dad in his hunting days.

The Greenbrier Hotel had a space.  They were selling their branded items and coffee.

I was very impressed with a large section of local interest books.  I found plenty of volumes on coal mining, the civil war, and other West Virginian topics.  They had several signed books, and a local author was there the day we visited!

We enjoyed a meal at the "A Taste of West Virginia" food court.  I cannot stress how pleasant this place was.  It is cafeteria style, but very upscale.  Much of the food is made while you wait.  I had an exceptional fried green tomato BLT.  We had a table by a window and chatted with some locals.  It does seem that there are people in the area who spend a lot of time at this great place.  I sure would if I lived in Beckley.

As we walked through Tamarack, we saw a nice gallery area, a theater, and some workshop areas, where visitors can watch the artists practice their craft.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Random Thoughts on Friday

I am JUST settling down from a trip we took through West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania!  Whew!  We covered a lot of ground, and saw a lot of things!  This was my first time ever in Delaware.  That state is really a bit out of the way, and you really have to want to go there to be there.  To be honest, we just spent the night in Dover Delaware, and then moved on.  We did stay at a very nice Home 2 Suites in Dover, and we talked to a very nice lady there named Diane.
We had several goals on this trip, besides seeing Delaware for the first time. 

We wanted to spend some quality time in Gettysburg.  We were there several years ago, but we were there for only a few hours.

We wanted to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and go through the Delmarva area!  That was cool.

We also wanted to see some of the Presidents homes scattered through Pennsylvania and Virginia.  We got to tour 5!  More on that later.  We did make a last minute change on our trip- we were going to see Mt. Vernon, but we realized that we would have to deal with DC traffic.  It seemed like this might be a home to skip on this trip.  We ended up seeing ANOTHER Presidential home- the Woodrow Wilson House in the very attractive town of Staunton Virginia!  This was a good move, as we were able to do a couple of other fun things here (like seeing a replica of the Shakespeare Blackfriar's Theatre!).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Copper River Grill- Nicholasville Kentucky

I JUST found out about Copper River Grill in Nicholasville the other day!  The place has been here for a few years now, and I really wish I knew of it before....

Anyway, our waiter told us that there are 8 locations, all owned by the same person.  This is the only one in Kentucky.  Its not a franchise or anything like that.  Also, they are all built to have a feel of an Alaskan lodge!  It reminded me a little of one of my favorite coffee shop chains, Caribou Coffee!

The food was great, and prices were reasonable.  We had a BBQ chicken pizza, some nachos with cheese dip, and some wings.  They got everything right.  I would go back just for the pizza or just for the wings.

The vibe was very relaxed too.  I would recommend going here when you have a couple of hours.  This is a place to sit, relax, and enjoy a nice meal!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Camp Nelson- Nicholasville Kentucky

Here is some info on ANOTHER of the many great Civil War sites close to Lexington- Camp Nelson.

The very brief story of this site- in 1863, this camp was established as a depot for the Union.  It served as a recruiting spot for escaped slaves, and soldiers from Tennessee.  It was named after Major Bull Nelson who had recently been murdered in Louisville (his name pops up frequently concerning the Battle of Richmond Kentucky too).

ANOTHER name that figures in to the history of Camp Nelson is John G. Fee (see also Berea College)!

The Camp lasted for only a few years.  Today, the land is still preserved as the Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park.  It occupies over 500 acres.

We stopped by recently and spent most of the day here, which still left us with many things to do on our next visit.

We walked in to the visitor center and were welcomed by friendly staff.  We were encouraged to watch the 20 minute or so film on the camp.  After that, we were allowed to explore the museum.

The film was very well done and the museum was great too.  They had some great dioramas set up depicting life at the camp.

There were plenty of relics on display too.  More on that later.

After the film and museum, we grabbed a map and started walking through the camp.  What was neat was you could walk in a general trail area and see a flag.  You could check your map to see what part of the camp used to be where the flag now stood.  Thorough interpretive signs told more information about each spot.

We walked for some time, and covered a lot of area, but we realized there was still a lot to see.  If you take away the Civil War history from the camp, it seems a lot like exploring your grandpas farming land.  This is a great area to walk for exercise and fun, even if you are not a Civil War fan.

One thing that was cool about the walk through the fields- we noticed that there were flags marking other spots on the farm next door.  Though this is now private property, the property owners have allowed the flags up.

As we ended our hike and made our way back towards the visitor center, we noticed some good people digging!  They were very friendly, and let us watch them and ask questions!  This was VERY exciting and I hope that we did not bug them too much.

The excavators let us know that they were digging around an old campfire!  They had found nails, probably from shipping boards used to send things to the camp which still had the nails in them.  An excavator explained about how, since the nails were burned, the chemical process helped keep them from rusting!  I HOPE I explained that right.

Before we arrived, they had found bottle pieces and a label from a wine bottle!

As we talked to the team, they found more nails AND a pants button!  We thought it was so amazing that, as we stood there, these small yet informative relics were brought back from the past!

We are looking forward to seeing more of the park and the cemetery.

Monday, September 14, 2015

J's Place in Nicholasville Kentucky

I want to tip my hat to J's Place in Nicholasville!

Do you remember FOUR AND A HALF YEARS AGO, when I mentioned the great old coffee shop in Nicholasville, Main and Maple?  I was pretty bummed when that place closed!  it was so nice!  AND, Nicholasville is such a great, cozy town for a coffee shop like this.

Well, the great guys at J's place have put a NEW coffee shop in the same location!

I was able to finally make it there on a recent Saturday, and I was very impressed.  The place looks similar, but there are some noticeable differences.  The old booths have been removed, and I recall a large condiment station that is out too.  It has a more open feel.

There is less art up too, but I could see that changing.  I thought I recognized at least once piece from the old location.

They have an old window from Main and Maple (with that shops logo on it) displayed too.  I thought that was pretty cool.  They had some affordable J's place items too.

They have old photos from the area up too.  Check out the black and white photo with the carriages and horses!  YEP!  That is the same spot decades earlier!

This is a great coffee shop, and I am so glad it is here!  The only thing preventing me from more trips is the hours.  They do close at an early 5pm on weeknights right now.  I hope they consider later hours in the future (me and a buddy were going to Main and Maple about once a week for coffee and wraps back when).  Still, I will have to make it down any Saturday that I can!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Nicholasville Confederate Monument- Nicholasville, Kentucky

Her is another Civil War monument.....  In front of the courthouse in Nicholasville is this guy!