Mission

MISSION:
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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shopping in Memphis - South Main Arts District

Back from Memphis … the home of Elvis… River City … birthplace of Rock and Roll… and it was quite a trip.  Only a weekend really, for my mom’s birthday. Had plans to see many of the sites, not really thinking that I could not get most of it done in a few days.  Well – I was not counting on the twists and turns thrown my way.  Between travel issues (weather and non-weather), the freezing temps (for someone coming from Southern Florida), the tornado warnings, time spent at some attractions, the distance to others and the fact that Memphis closes up on Sunday early… we failed to see everything that we set out to explore.  So … I have a few things to admit about my trip to Memphis :  (1) it was not at all what I was expecting.  (2) You can’t see everything in one weekend.  (3) Graceland was not as strange as I thought it would be. 

I thought I would get a good helping of New Orleans (music, art and food) with a bit of a Savannah pacing; instead, I got more of a Cleveland feel.  There was stuff to see and do, but the city itself was struggling.  So many empty store fronts - closed shops, hotels, restaurants.  Down in the West End Shopping District, there were a few buildings that popped with color and effort... industrial space condos, new boutiques, and even a few new cafes and bars.  The problem was that in between the small clusters of retail store front were large stretches of abandoned buildings.  The street, Main Street,  looked dead; yes, the Trolley rolled up and down the street, but no one got out.  While we walked (quickly) down the street, we never saw a soul outside of the shop-keepers.  They were all very sweet, and even gave us a history of the area; you had to wonder if we were the only people that they saw those days.  Some recommended other shops, some recommended restaurants, some  local sites.  Most notably, the shop "mom" at EverLeah gave us great advise on other Memphis sites and shared the scoop on other shops and local eateries (including Earnestine & Hazel's hamburgers and Arcade's breakfast).   The shop itself, had the most adorable purses and some equally adorable shirts and jackets; this store gets special mention since it was the only shop open on Sunday early evening when, surprisingly, all shops had long since closed their doors (or not opened them at all).  I only wish my opinion of the shop stayed as positive as its initial impression... alas, not!  Monday, after a quick morning visiting the Peabody ducks and riding the trolley, we jumped off in the South End to revisit a few shops we were interested in (that were closed on Sunday) and that friendly shop mom stopped us in the street to tell us that our transaction the previous evening did not work due to a glitch in the system.  We re-entered the store and showed the unhooked credit card reader.  Problem - how were we to know that it was unhooked the day before.  They had a receipt that I signed, and I had a copy...  there was nothing noted that said transaction cancelled or failed.  I am usually a trusting person, but this was ridiculous.  I promised to check my accounts and send a check if nothing hit my account...


That little stretch of  South Main kept us busy; we picked out a few things to covet, a few things to purchase and ate breakfast at the famous Arcade Cafe.   We found a great spring coat at "Muse" (a boutique that I recognized from New Orleans); in fact, there were many great treasures there - including Knut jeans.   We searched the racks at "Shop Girl New York City" and found adorable sweaters, and a perfect pair of casual pants for Mom.    We ohhed and ahhed at the interchangeable jewelry store - Charolette Memphis.   We stopped in the Blues Foundation for a short education on the group, its events and strolled around the building looking at their folk art collection; my mom's love of blue glass was answered by their interesting blue glass bottle tree and drinking-bottle collection.  And we spent hours in the National Civil Rights Museum, housed at the very hotel where Martin Luther King was shot.

The weather was so cold and the shops on South Main ran lean... but that museum can keep you busy for hours.  It begins as a very comprehensive overview of civil rights - with time lines, keypoints in history.  The true story of the museum comes later as it breaks down that infamous acts... the soda shoppe protests, the marchs, the voter registration drives, the bus boycotts, the story of the Little Rock 9...full of pictures, quotes, artifacts, sets (like a bus, a counter) and, at times, audio/visual content.  It brings you right through MLK's last acts and that final moment of his life, leaving to go to dinner - shot right outside the front door of his hotel room at the Lorraine.  And I was an idiot, not realizing how emotional my mother was getting in the museum... when I called for her to read a section about the Birmingham bus boycott, my mom reminded me that she grew up during this time and lived this... of course, mathematically that made sense, but I never really thought about it in terms that my own mother had her own learning experiences and memories... sometimes it is easy to forget the history that our own families laid witness too - my grandparents did not like talking about the Depression or WWII, extended family did not like to discuss Vietnam, and now my mom surprised me with her connection to this movement.  It seems so long ago, and yet, we all know that it really wasn't.  

We needed happier and more light-hearted fare... so we headed back to our hotel and caught the shuttle to Sun Studios....

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Mad Journey of a Postcard

When I go on trips, especially to new locations, I like to send friends and family postcards.  I do this because I think everyone deserves some "happy" mail every once and a while.  And, I like to think that I help to keep the post office in business.  There is a real difference between getting an email from the Top of the World and getting a postcard!

But how long does it take for mail to make it from Barrow to the East Coast... well, today I can report that it takes A WHOLE MONTH to mail a postcard from the small town of Barrow to Freehold, NJ; New Orleans, LA, Boca Raton, FL...   a whole month.

I had given up on my mail.  My friends thought that I did not really send them out.  I did, and they arrived today!  Crazy right?  For perspective, I mailed my holiday cards from Anchorage, and they arrived to their respective locations in less than a week.  So, why did it take so long?  Yes, it is remote.  Yes, it is winter.  And yes, it was the holidays.  And no, postcards don't fly priority - but really, a whole month!?!?!?

So, to my friends, you all have heard the stories already.  You have seen the pictures, and I hope you read the blog story.... now you have your card with the Barrow postmark.  (I am sure the Memphis postcards will not take 30 days).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ready to Visit Beale St

I am planning a short weekend away for with my mom to celebrate her birthday... neither of us has ever visited Memphis, so away we go.  I don't know why, but I always thought that she wanted to visit Graceland.  It just made sense; and honestly, I am not against the idea either.  I am curious about the Graceland experience.  I really don't have expectations, but imagine I am in for a tour that is a cross between a historical mansion tour (like you get in Newport Rhode Island) and the White House.

Of course, you can't make an entire weekend about just Graceland... and there seems to be plenty to do that will occupy a few days.  A little over a year ago, I took a date to see the musical "Million Dollar Quartet."  It was the last night at Sun Records Studio.... before my time, but that doesn't mean that I don't love that music... and you can go on a tour of Sun Records while in Memphis.  Add that to my list!!!

Of course we will be heading to Beale Street.  I think that is a Memphis requirement.  One of the most famous streets in the US, Beale is full of music and BBQ.   Have been to many famous strips - Vegas's Strip/Las Vegas Blvd, NOLA's Bourbon, Key West's Duval, Chicago's Miracle Mile, NYC's 5th Ave & Broadway, Philly's South St, LA's Mulholland Dr & Sunset Blvd, Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas, Miami's Ocean Dr.... I could go on.  So, you have to wonder, do most cities have a strip, a street where it is "the" place to see?  Just from this small list, I can tell you that not all famous streets are the same.  Some have music, some theatre, some shopping, some entertainment, scenery, business/office space... Famous streets are iconic for those cities and tend to represent what those cities have to offer.  I imagine that Beale's character is similar to Bourbon's in that it is filled with bars, music and food; mixed with a bit of  tourist shopping that you might find on Denver's 16th Street Mall.  If that street ramble made you curious about other famous streets, you can test this neat quiz I found.  (I missed 3!)


We will try to visit many of the city's sites in the few days we have there.  Unfortunately, there are no shows or festivals , shows or concerts that weekend.  I imagine that there will be plenty of music all around.  and I did find that a local folk rock group is playing at the a folkart center.  I listened to Star & Micey enough to possibly go to this show... I just have to see if my mom would be interested.  The have an upbeat folk rock feel - they kinda remind me of a mello CarbonLeaf.

Looks like we should head to the Memphis Zoo (since the zoo and aquarium are co-located).  The art museum (with a special exhibit on their McCall Purchase scandal), civil rights history museum, the pyramid in the middle of the city... looks like we have a full weekend ahead of us.

If anyone has recommendations, please let me know!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011 - Year in Review

Looking back on 2011 I can honestly say that it has been a busy travel year.  I went on at least one trip every month - some for work, some for fun, some to visit friends and some as social calls... no matter how I look at it, it simply was an exhausting year.  All told, I visited 20 states and almost as many major cities.  In fact, I went on at least 2 trips each month* (I can't keep that pace up).   I hiked in several "new to me" national parks; meandered through art museums; took in several Broadway shows; cheered at  sporting events; danced, sang and shopped at several festivals, and learned about sea life at several "new" aquariums.  It was a year of unique experiences, beautiful vistas, new learnings ... and yes, a few new states.
  • New States - I finished the "O" States by visiting Cleveland, Ohio and several places in Oklahoma (and I revisited Oregon this year too).
  • New Cities - Fairbanks Alaska (the 2nd biggest city in Alaska, yet the smallest I will list); Tulsa and Oklahoma City; Cleveland; Pittsburgh
    • Art Towns - NONE =-(  but I did get to quite a few arts festivals- West Palm Beach, Boulder, Alexandria
  • New Aquariums - Pacific Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon offered me (and a friend) the most incredible one on one octopus experience; Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois was so big that I spent over 6 hours exploring its nooks; Oklahoma Aquarium in Tulsa offered fishing tips!
  • New Parks - Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon - South Rim (finally), Cedar Breaks NM, Chickasaw NRA, Cuyahoga Valley; Valley of Fire (Nevada State Park)
  • Funky Features - Whalebone Arch in Barrow; the official Arctic Circle line; Oklahoma Rt 66 Sites (POPS, Red Round Barn, Braums Ice Cream sign); Santa Claus's House in North Pole, AK; the Christmas Story House and Free Stamp in Ohio; Lincoln's Head looking south of I-80 in WY
  • Iconic Structures - Grand Canyon, The Vegas Strip was visited several times in 2011, NYC Times Square and Yankee Stadium for the holidays; Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; Oklahoma City Memorial; Disney; Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower); Mount St Helens
Even some of my old favorites offered me new experiences.  I took my mom to New Orleans for her first visit and we danced and shopped our way through the French Quarter Festival.  I have always heard great things French Quarter Fest and I can tell you that they are all true.  It brings all the fun of the larger parties, but the ease of it being all in once location... there is endless music, art, parades, hundreds of booths of local food.  The streets are filled, the shops are open, and city pride is out in full force.

My sister got married in NYC this year - in Central Park.  Now, I have been there plenty of times, but never for a wedding.  In a city where you see everything and anything - groups walking around all dressed up in the park while people are sunbathing in bathing suits was quite the sight.  And contrary to popular belief, everyone was perfectly nice when asked to shift out of pictures.

Monday, January 2, 2012

RU Rah Rah!!!

Back from my trip home and into the City for the Pinstripe Bowl... in case you have not heard, Rutgers won!!!


This was my first bowl game, and what a game it was.  A dominating win by Rutgers, some truly spectacular plays by our our defense, special teams and even our offense, awesome crowd of almost 40,000 and a great section of fans (go section 123). Sadly, there were no pom-poms given out or for purchase; instead the school have out large signs that could be folded into noise makers.  Ingenious actually. Sadly, it did not save my voice.  I am still hoarse after a few days.

Loved seeing the band, and must admit my jealousy of the new Colorguard uniforms... when I was in school we wore quite a few throw together outfits, a temporary uniform and even something purchased at Mandees.... nothing as sleek as the squad was wearing on Friday.  Nice!!!  They looked solid (with much more complicated work then the ISU squad).

Before the game, we went to Legends for a pre-game gathering of fans.  It was beyond packed.  They actually had to control the crowd - 3 floors all filled with Scarlet clad fans.  I never thought I would see that.  And in that sea of red, I found an old friend - I was hoping to see someone I knew, but it was a gamble.  I knew a lot of people at RU, but it is a huge university and many decades of alumni decended on Legends... it was great to catch up with an old friend.

Seas of red - at the bar, on the streets of NYC, in the subway, and filling Yankee Stadium.  I never thought I would see that.  Rutgers grads out and proud, of their football team.   GO RU!!!


On the banks of the ole Raritan, my friends
where old Rutgers ever more shall stand
for has she not stood
since the time of the flood
on the banks of the ole Raritan.