On the final leg in my quest to see all the states in the United States (and many US territories). Now, starting a new quest to explore Canada, our neighbor to the north. This blog chronicles my adventures with pictures & stories to hopefully inspire others to find the fun and explore.
To spend quality time in at least one area of every state. Quality time means exploring the area; rest stops, gas stations, airports or train stations do not count. The goal is to explore the natural and cultural environments of these regions. Each location visited has a story, pictures for my amateur hobby addiction, and maybe a piece of jewelry/art.
Cooperstown has been on my bucket list for years. I always thought it would be a cool place to take my brother. I thought it was the perfect idea. I looked into it ... a lot. But my brother was more into ice hockey than anything else, so this trip was just hanging out there. And there it sat, as a place on a list of "Weekend Trip Ideas." I revisited that list every so often and kept putting it off. It wasn't really a trip I thought I would enjoy on my own and it wasn't one for a "quick get away". Cooperstown is roughly 6 1/2 hours from DC, which meant I needed at least 4 days to do this trip and see all that there was to see. Because, once you look into it, Cooperstown is more than the Baseball Hall of Fame. Finally, this summer, the stars aligned and I was able to finally see this bit of sports history (and so much more).
Honestly though, who are you kidding, you know you are going to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame. This is the place that chronicles our national pastime. It preserves over 200 years of baseball history. I have heard great things about the museum, and like everyone else, got a glimpse of it from the best sports movie of all time, A League of Their Own (and I say that only slightly as an exaggeration - this movie is a perfect classic). I wanted to visit to see that exhibit itself. I love baseball, so I was looking forward to seeing some baseball history. I expected the museum to be filled with facts, figures and tons of baseball stats. In short, I expected it to be a gigantic baseball card. And, I could not have been more wrong.
It was a tribute "For the Love of the Game." We spent an entire day exploring, learning, laughing and playing. It is just an amazing place clearly built with love, respect and admiration of the game and for its place in our culture. There was deep baseball history, looking back to the storied baseball clubs in New York. You could learn of the evolutions of rules. You saw how baseball moved from recreation to sport and understood its place in American History. It did not shy away from the ugly; there was whole sections on the racial divide (we learned that baseball was integrated before it was segregated). Those that have transcended time had their own sections - Ruth and Aaron! The Women in Baseball section honored not just those that played in the Women's League, AAGPBL, but notes accomplishments of women breaking barriers on the field in softball and baseball, and in management (and yes, you can see a Rockford Peach and Racine Bell's uniform). And Latin America's passion for the game was celebrated in "Viva Baseball."
Mike Piazza 2016 inductee
Let's Go METS!
Throughout the museum there were interactive opportunities to keep tech-addicted fingers busy... touch screen monitors hosted quizzes and took surveys, wall-sized monitors played many baseball highlights and in one room you could sit and watch "Who's on First" in totality. There was section that spoke to kids directly, "The Sandlot", that quizzed you of the importance of exercise, commitment, ethics and staying drug free. If you needed to step back and relax, the theatre was a great place to watch movie clips, and the "Scribes and Mikemen" section celebrated the legacy of our announcers. And because baseball transcends sports, there was a fine art section showing how baseball has soaked its way into all that represents us.
Inside the museum, on the first floor are the hallowed halls of the Hall of Fame. After meandering our way through 3 floors of baseball storytelling, this was honestly a let down. After all, how much dolling up can you do to a sectioned atrium with alcoves of bronze plaques. To find the greats you wanted to see you could meander around the decades (of induction, not play time), or consult the wall charts.
This does not look like
Ken Griffey Jr!
The plaques capture the likeness of the inductee (or tried to - see poor Ken Griffey Jr) and provide a brief bio for why they were worthy. What I learned quickly is that the museum and the hall are two very distinct places. You find Pete Rose all over the museum, but he is still not in the hall of fame; likewise Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa are given rightful credit for saving baseball post-strike for their electric home run competition, but they will never be in the Hall. For all the talk baseball does of reaching across the gender divide, and for near universal recognition that Dottie Schroeder has of being one of the best, the Hall only lists one female (an executive) on its walls. Baseball has struggled with how to reconcile rule breakers and gender barriers. In my eyes, the 2 portions of the facility need to have a reckoning...
There is more to Cooperstown and the surrounding area than just the Hall of Fame. If you can force yourself to leave the building, you can walk 2 blocks to one of the most pristine lakes in the entire country, Lake Otsego. A glacial lake, it is surrounded my mountains and dense, thick forest. There are only a few public access points for the lake, but you need to find one and get out there. You can take the Glimmerglass Queen out on the water for a 1 hour easy ride out to about the middle of the lake; stay outside, because not only are the views simply spectacular and the air fresh, but the boat is not air-conditioned. You can also take some kayaks (our choice), canoes, or paddle boards out, giving you a more personal connection to the water. Here you can look at the water at eye level, catch some fish jumping out of the water at random moments (no carp in this lake), or some birds soaring around. We were only out on the kayaks for an hour, I could have done that for much longer...
sadly we were only able to get on the water for a short while because mother nature continues her vacation torture plan - such extreme storms settled over the area for our trip, its a wonder we got on the water at all. While on the Glimmerglass Queen, we were soaked as a storm barreling down the lake overtook us on the return (and we walked blocks to our car in it); driving around we were constantly rerouted for downed/lightening struck trees. It was unfortunate since we both wanted me water time... alas, we promise another time. Maybe I can bribe Mother Nature?!?!?
The National Park Service has turned 100 years old. America's best idea has had a centennial. They have inspired countless millions, as well as the entire world, showing why its important to preserve open space, and history and heritage for generations to come. Today, the park service is over 413 pieces large; there are 59 parks (the biggest units), and hundreds of monuments, historic sites, memorials, lake/seashores, battlefields, wild/scenic rivers, trailways, etc.
As I explore the country, one of my priorities on my stops have always been seeking out and exploring our national heritage. Some of my trips are planned specifically around some of the biggest parks, and other times, it is just a stop along the journey. But no matter what, I know that I will walk away more aware for having visited. It is always worth it.
My love of natural parks began before I even knew what they were. I remember my Nana and Pop-pop taking my sister and I to Sandy Hook to go crabbing. We would swim out with the nets to help them bring the catch in, and then throw all the fish back before they died while they gathered a few crabs. I did not know we were in Gateway National Recreation Area... I just thought of it as the place we went swimming with our grandparents. Likewise, growing up in Northern New Jersey, I lived just off the Delaware River... we used to swim in a tributary, and close by was a place with lots of amazing waterfalls and where the river cut through the mountains (Delaware Water Gap) ... we loved going there to enjoy the views. And of course, to our east was the Statue of Liberty where we climbed into the crown before it was eventually closed many times... I was spoiled living so close to the city and pure nature.
And that spoilage stays with me... I still want it all. I find beauty in the city and in the country. And when I travel, I like to find both. National Parks are one way I do that. They are everywhere - did you know there is at least one in everystate (as well as most territories).
I didn't start tracking my park visits via passport until recently. Instead, I have my work cabinets
This is only one!
covered in magnets from parks I have been through since I started my "adult" life. And my cameras have been very busy documents the beauty and splendor of the everything I have seen. On this blog, I try keep my recent park visits listed... But I can't say I write about every one.
Of course my "pie in the sky" goal is to visit all the units. I just don't have the means to quit my job and do a cross country expedition like a few are documenting on Instagram, Twitter, and in the news. Instead, I am doing what I can in pieces... and making progress. According to my Passport app, I have been to 144 units thus far. Not bad....if I do say so myself.
This year, I promised myself to make a dent in the list of "new". And I started out strong - in January getting to the Outer Banks in NC to see the Wright Brothers and Fort Raleigh; there my boyfriend stayed in the visitor's center as I took to the trail in a pounding rain storm to see the art deco memorial, and once I returned soaked, we drove to the flight bronze sculpture. I warmed my bones in February by returning to Southern Arizona to visit Saguaro National Park for sunset (I finally got to visit when I wasn't cooking my head); hiked to the southern border in Coronado National Memorial, and drove to the nearby historical mission Tumacacori. Then I a cliff dwelling in Montezuma Castle and learned about endemic species at the Well. Throughout the spring, I did a lot of local roadtrips to visit area parks - including Hopewell Furnace (once a thriving iron casting town) and Valley Forge in central Pennsylvania, Steamtown in Scranton PA marking the immense historical impact Steam engines had on shaping our country, discovered the Monocacy Battlefield and River in Maryland, tried to catch Kenilworth Gardens at peak bloom (missed it) and took some time for myself (and showing others around) the national mall!
No DC summer is complete without Wolf Trap - the only National Park for the Performing Arts. This is my favorite place in the summer. As the Park Service asks us to #FindYourPark , I have taken that seriously. I love going to our area gem Great Falls and hiking the river trail. I love going on roadtrips and finding a new place to discover (its ridiculous that I still have not been to Prince William Forest Park yet). And I love planning other excursions across the country to some huge gems. But, if I was looking for THE PLACE to call my park, it just might be Wolf Trap! It combines my love of the outdoors with my passion for the arts. Where else could I see the National Symphony Orchestra one week, listen to the legend Tony Bennett another, soak in Kristen Chenoweth and her Broadway style belting, dance until my feet were tired with Ricky Martin and reminisce with Bryan Adams? (and that is just who I saw this year) And the best part, Great Fall is right next door. So, if forced to pick, this might be it... but ask me again in a bit after I visit another park.
I have my wish list lined up. I have a few trips booked - a September long weekend at Mammoth Caves (and other areas sites) in Kentucky, a quick trip to Denver where I hope to make some time for a visit to Rocky Mountain (its been years since I was there), and Arkansas's Hot Springs in November. My "very soon" list includes Lassen NP in California, Dry Tortugas NP in Florida (I still don't know how I keep missing that one), Patterson Falls - the new one in my home state of New Jersey, and of course, the parks in my last state, Hawaii (I will make it to Volcanoes very soon, I swear). I have a few others, but my wallet is worried already...
Our National Parks are unique treasures. And they are ours! Get out there and explore. Trust me, there is something for everyone. You just need to find it! If you need any recommendations, just ask!
After our quick tour of Ottawa, the Canadian Capital, we headed to Kingston, the first Capital of Canada (named so in 1841). It's a small, quaint city on the water, and the water remains important to the city's identity - it is the gateway to 1000 Isles National Park.
One of the first things you notice about Kingston once you get into its heart is that City Hall looks like a state house. There is good reason for that. Due to a fire that burnt the city to the ground in the mid-1800's, city leaders called for the city to be reconstructed using non-flammable materials - namely, limestone. City Hall's design was a large completion for a stately look. Canada moved it's capital to Ottawa before the new building could ever be used as the state house (until the fire on Parliament Hill resulted in a temporary move back to Kingston).
Today, City Hall is one of finest 19th century buildings in Canada and a nationally designated heritage site. Kingston, itself, is nicknamed "Limestone City" since the rebuild resulted in a central business district filled with grand heritage limestone architecture.
There were plenty of grand buildings to take in since Kingston is also named the Education City; home to 3 major universities, including the first diploma granting University, Queens University and the Royal Military College. We took several loops around town in the Hop On/Hop Off trolley, as we toured, giving us good looks at the schools, the city and its notable architecture. We even got off at Queens to tour the Geology Museum and its impressive collection of minerals located in the halls of one of the campus buildings, and the student art museum. I think I drove my friend crazy talking about the connection between my alma mater and this school, but I just could not help it... Rutgers University was originally Queens College, and was one of the first colleges in the colonies. It is older than the country itself. And here we were, walking around Queens University, that boosted a similar story of being founded before Canada itself. I did leave with one question about the campus though... what did the clocktower's clock have no hands? No one could tell us!
On our tour of Kingston, we stopped by Bellevue House, National Historic Site, the home of Canada's first Prime Minister (and Kingston's famous son) Sir John Alexander MacDonald. Here we watched a historical introduction and then were granted access to the visitor center, the gardens and the home. We learned that Sir John moved here thinking the air would be good for his very sick wife, whom on many occasions could not gather energy to leave her bed on the first floor (she had consumption). And then we learned that they had had children in the home. Hmmmm.... that raised our brows. We had more fun with the costumed guides were scattered throughout all shaking their butter containers - apparently that is easier then churning it and it only takes several thousand rattles of cream to whip it into a spread... these girls were sure to have amazing shoulders and bi/triceps at the end of the summer. They let us try some home whipped butter on a cracker in the kitchen. Yum. Thanks ladies. And if that was not old school enough, we tried our hands at hand dipping candles in the basement. I have not tested this skill since I visited Waterloo Village in NJ, and I must be rusty because our candles came out looking phallic and pathetic. This was a time consuming procedure - dip in wax and then then in water using twine. I don't remember that in Waterloo... maybe NJ knew a trick. We left the dipping to the kids and continued on our Kingston tour.
Easily the highlight of the trip to Kingston was the sunset boat tour through 1000 Islands National Park. This was an incredibly fun and beautiful evening with my friend as we wined and dined aboard this vessel sailing up the Lawrence river from it's mouth in Lake Ontario. The food was a pleasant surprise - they make it on the boat. I was ready for rubbery steak and chicken, but we were instead greeted with a menu of choices including seafood, pork, steak, chicken and a veggie dish. And because we know how to maximize our experiences - we ordered 2 different meals and shared tastes. Likewise with the desserts... that carrot cake cheesecake needed to be tested afterall!
The boat ride included entertainment, as in a crazy musician that "morphed" into any artist he needed to be. Armed with outfits, wigs and dolls, he kept us laughing. And because I don't shy away from zaniness, he picked on me, as the only one on the boat from the United States. It had become a theme of "what is up with Trump"... and you have to laugh because there is no other way around it. The night only grew more grand as golden hour hit and we were treated to stunning views inside and outside the boat. The crew gave us time between courses to top side and soak it all in. My friend and I marveled at the homes built on the tiny islands; the only way in and out would be a boat. Now, my non-Canadian butt might enjoy this in the summer months, but I know what happens a few months from now... it gets COLD. And not just DC cold... nope, Canadian cold. And living on the water, in a home, surrounded by ice just does not sound that amazing. So, sure, you could make that a summer retreat... where you have to travel by boat to get to your home island... but me, I like the looks of the area without the homes. Just the small islands dotting the landscape. To limit the numbers of homes taking over the islands not protected by park status (only 40:1750), there are requirements for the island - including at least one tree. So, a tree needs to live on it so you can cut it down to build a home? I didn't get it... but I did appreciate the scenery. And if you have Canadian anti-freeze in your blood, it makes plenty of sense to want to live there. It was beautiful!
Before we left the beauty of Kingston, we did one more round on the trolley and headed past the Royal Military College to Fort Henry National Historic Site. Here we got to experience 1860's British military life at the fort and take in the sweeping views of the city. Our tour guide walked us through the structure, showcases the dichotomy between officers and the enlisted lower ranks. From dining experiences, to housing, family accommodations to responsibilities, these guides, in full dress and in character talked of life at the fort. While it was never used in battle, it was fully operational. They needed to protect themselves from those pesky colonists to the south. In fact, I heard a lot about the war of 1812, and how they beat back the invaders... I learned more Canadian history in my one week trip through its capital cities then I ever have before. It was educational. It was beautiful. AND I am going to do it again. It's a big country and someone has to see it!
No surprises here, I have fallen behind. I have a few posts pending, and some great pictures to share. I have been taking a lots of long weekend trips, making it a very fun and busy summer. I need to get caught up because I have a few great park trips lined up for the fall.
Coming soon, you can expect the final post on my Canadian Adventure in Ontario and lots of amazing pictures (if I do say so myself). Here is a glimpse of the beauty on 1000 Isles National Park near Kingston. To see this river park, my friend and I did a dinner sunset cruise... and it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Over 1700 small islands were scattered over the southern St Lawrence river creating a hopscotch pattern as you looked over the waters. Simply stunning.
I also want to write up my New Kids on the Block weekend in early August, where I met a friend in New York for a show in Coney Island and then turned around and met other friends in Hershey for a party and concert. I have not been to Coney Island since high school - so seeing it cleaned up was wonderful... and in Hershey, I took time to visit the Botanical Gardens before I headed home and collapsed from exhaustion. Whirlwind!
In fact, I need to find a way to capture all the amazing concerts I saw this summer. It has been a summer of music. I keep track of all my Broadway shows through Playbill Database; I wish there was a way to track my concerts. I saw some legends... Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Billy Joel, Hall and Oates, Kristen Chenoweth...
And finally, I want to do Cooperstown justice. I recently spent a long weekend in this small village with my boyfriend... yes, doing the baseball thing, but also soaking up the gorgeous scenery. We smushed so much into that weekend, he is still tired. Baseball, classic cars, the lake, it would have been a perfect weekend without the killer, endless, thunderstorms... .but then again, it was my trip, so of course it rained/poured.
And if my hands don't completely cramp up, I need to write more on my trip to the Dominican Republic. I had high hopes after that trip of sharing, and I did post many pictures on Instagram, but writing was tiring, and I am convinced I was sick for over a month with aftereffects of Zika... you can't tell me I didn't get it - I was so tired and achy - way too much for a 4 day trip! I don't have that excuse anymore, and I need to write about Santo Domingo and the Ecological Preserve!
And if I am calling back to earlier in the summer, I also need to write up my birthday trip to Charleston, SC. I avoided writing about it since I was so unimpressed with so much. I found too many tour providers to quick to make comments denigrating "northerns" and some interesting rewriting of history. With some time and space, I can admit that the city was pretty, but the people, not so much. I, honestly, do not get all the love travel magazines have been showing the city recently. But I wanted to see it... I did.
I don't know how many people out there have been frustrated by the Titan Arum... this flower is one finicky rarity. And for the many years I have lived in this area, the specimens that the National Botanic Garden raise seem to bloom when I am out of town. In 2013, when the last opportunity arose, it again opened while I was on travel; and while, I was able to make it home before it collapsed, I missed the flower in all its glory.
They don't call this the Corpse Flower for nothing
... who wants to smell a flower that smells like a garbage bin in the summer, or like road-kill that has been cooking on the road for days... well, apparently plenty of people because we stood in line at the Botanic Garden. And that has never happened for anything else there. For a moment there, I thought I was going to miss this one too. We were on DC bloom watch for a week and I had a trip coming up in days... ACK! I dragged by boyfriend to see the flower and got to see spadix (the spike) still wrapped in the spathe (one huge petal).And two days later, it finally opened. A friend and I went, during lunch, to see it/smell it! Finally! I guess it is a check off the flower bucket list (I am just not sure I have one of those, yet).
The Titan is
the "rock star" of the plant world - (1) it rarely makes an
appearance, (2) it is HUGE, (3) it is iconic (4) it builds suspense and
(5) it is picky. When I say rare, I mean it - it takes a lot of energy to
grow over 7 feet tall. It is the largest unsupported flower in the world. Because of that, titan can take anywhere
between a few years and a few decades to bloom. I have seen the average
listed between 7 - 10 years, BUT that is only an average. The one in
New York took 70 years to open before it bloomed in July 2016. The
titan arum emerges from, and stores energy in its corm, a huge underground
stem. It's pickiness makes botanical gardens a good place to support it; it requires
very special conditions, including warm day and night temperatures and high
humidity. And due to its unique nature, this is a threatened flower.
The botanic garden lines were sizable. People we posing for selfies in front of it. There was a web cam (which I used to constantly check the status). Did you know you only have 1-2 days to see this thing once it opens? And some were wondering why it wasn't more stinky ... yep, people wanted more stench. What they did not know was that the back of the flower was cut open so botanists could get to the male and female plant parts, collect pollen and blow some pollen from another corpse flower onto the female parts. This giant flower is NOT self pollinating. It relies on flies and beetles... or humans with straws. It takes a lot of work to see this natural wonder. So check you local city gardens... go see the stinky flower when you have the chance!
Mid-July I finally made the trip to the Canadian Capital - Ottawa. Really, this trip was one of the first stops on my new travel goal - to see Canada. Until recently, I have not seen much of our neighbor to the north. Until last year, I had really only seen the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and visited Reversing Falls in St John. Mom swears I was in Montreal as baby, but we don't have pictures of that, so my trip last year is all I have as memories. And then, last winter my best friend and I did an incredibly wet and fun trip to Vancouver. So, this trip through South Ontario was going to be the longest stretch of time I had ever spent in Canada.
The trip began rough, with the most inexcusable mess my United that I have seen in many years. From DC, it would take me about 9 to 9 1/2 hours to drive to Ottawa... well, flying made the trip an exhausting 11 1/2 hours. No, you did not read that wrong. It took longer to fly. We were delayed. We sat on the tarmac. We ran out of fuel on the tarmac. We boarded just to sit. It was "fun". My the time I finally made it to Ottawa, I had missed a whole day of touring. Why do I bother to book the first flights of the morning anymore? It doesn't make a difference. I seriously will consider driving next time.
By the time I was picked up at the airport it was dinner time. My Blockhead Canadian friend picked me up and we headed into the city, checked in for the night and headed to dinner on Sparks Street. It's worth noting that Sparks Street in Ottawa is not in recognition of Nicholas Sparks the romance author, but for Nicholas Sparks - one of the City Fathers of Ottawa who cut a path through the
woods that would eventually become Sparks Street. That makes more sense.
After a casual meal at a pub, we headed to the first "ohh/ahh" moment of the trip when the rain stopped for Ottawa's Lights program. Projected on Parliament Hill,
Canadian History 101 was presented live in technicolor. Transitions between story segments lit the building up like something out of Disney's "Small World." It was grand. And the crowd was filled with Canadian pride. So at the conclusion, when the large crowd sang "Oh Canada" to the Hill lit up like the flag, all I could sing was the first line. For the life of me, I can't remember the lines... I must learn a few of them if I am going to keep visiting.
The following day, we squeezed
a few key sites on my "must see list" in before the storms were to (again) hit. We walked through the Parliament Hill complex looking at the accessible statues (construction had taken over - something a DC person understands well). We did not have enough time to tour the Peace Tower or the legislative building, but I know what is on my list for the return. Instead, we soaked up the sun, the views and compared the roofs - shined cooper vs oxidized cooper. (We both agreed that the green looked much better). We were excited to quickly find the famed statue of the Famous Five - Bronze statues of the Famous Five (women) wonderfully titled Women are Persons! The night before, I was curious about our hotel room with a photo of a tea cup; my crack-detective friend quickly uncovered its origin in this statue, which happened to be on my list anyway. Of course we were going to find it... and it didn't take long, just look for the crowds. Not only is this formation the most famous on the grounds, but with so much of the area closed for construction, the traffic through the Five was constant - they are indeed a popular stop. (Pictured on the left - a suffragist reminding everyone that Women are People)
We left the Hill and headed towards the Art Museum. You could see it from the Hill, its glass Atrium gleaming in the Sun as you looked over the river. So we walked... and it was a good thing we did, otherwise I would have missed our perfectly timed pass with the locks doing their thing. And can we just say how insanely gothic and beautiful the Fairmont Chateau Laurier is? Wow, that hotel was something else - it fit perfectly into the Parliament Hill area. I would have just stared at details of the hotel if it were not for the action at the locks... they are manually operated. The whole thing takes the cooperation of the boaters whom must constantly push their boats away from the walls, and the people hand cranking the gates open after each area fills up. This is not a short process. Do not be in a rush if you plan to take a boat through or even watch.
Once the boats were through, we walked along the Chateau and straight towards the giant spider... Moman is one of the most iconic sites in the city. She stands guard over the art museum. And its collection needs protecting because this is one grand museum. Not only is the building beautiful, but the inside sight lines are a visual wonder. The glass atrium give you beautiful views of the river and the Hill; it gives you a feeling of being outside while being cool in the summer (thank you!!!) and warm in the winter. We were lucky to get there for a special exhibit on a portrait master that is too often overlooked by history due in no small part to her gender - You might recognize her for the work she did with Marie Antoinette, but you had no idea who painted it... well, in my opinion, this most notable painting was nothing compared to some of her other portraits. She painted women in non traditional ways - in odd poses, with books, sheet music - rarely was the person just posing; the pictures told you something about them. AND to add a bit of flavor to the exhibit, they had a wardrobe where some people could try on these clothes themselves. It was one of the most unique ways I have seen classical art become interactive!
And I am off to visit my friend and spend a few days touring Southern Ontario Canada. I have been very vocal that my next travel mission would be our neighbor to the North. I started early. I know I have not finished the US and its territories (but I am soooo close)... but let's be honest, I don't want to head to Ontario in the winter. Summer is calling and I am ready to see Ottawa, Perth and Kingston.