Category Archives: United States

The Museums of Winter Park Florida

We are presently staying in St. James Plantation, NC house sitting for friends while they enjoy a trip in Scandinavia. It is a forty five minute drive from there to Wilmington so a blog about our life here would be all about visiting Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and similar venues in preparation for our move on 2/Aug. I feel that would be of limited interest, but we did visit two nice museums in Winter Park, Florida before heading north a little less than two weeks ago.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art houses the largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the world. Tiffany housed many of his best works at Laurelton Hall, his 65 room mansion on Long Island. After his death, the home fell into disrepair and eventually burned in 1957. After the fire, Tiffany’s daughter contacted Hugh and Jeanette Genius (I love the name) McKean to salvage as much of the art as possible. Hugh had studied at Laurelton Hall in 1930. To make a long story short, they recovered all the art they could from Laurelton, Jeanette founded the museum and named it after her grandfather, and Hugh served as director for 53 years. If you like Tiffany, you will love this museum!The museum has a collection of Tiffany lamps, windows, jewelry, paintings, blown glass, leaded glass, and mosaics.A sample of the stained glass windows on exhibit.Perhaps most amazing of all, the museum houses the chapel that Tiffany created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After the exposition it was moved to Laurelton and ultimately recovered by the McKeans. The bottom picture is the chandler in the chapel.

The second museum we liked was the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. Polasek was a Czech American sculpture who created 400 works in wood, stone, or metal in his lifetime. Half of them are on display at this museum and garden which was once his home. He served as the head of the sculpture department of The Art Institute of Chicago for thirty years. When he retired at age 70 to Winter Park, he soon suffered a stroke and was paralyzed on his left side. Despite this impediment, he created 18 major works using only his right hand! For some he would hold the chisel and an assistant would hit it with the hammer. The docent who led our private tour was very excited when she learned that we were familiar with Brookgreen Gardens (our former home was ten minutes away and we are members). She claimed we were the first she had met. Two of Polasek’s works are displayed there so we have to get back to see them before our membership expires.One of his most famous works, Man Carving His Own Destiny, was also one of his first from 1907.One of my favorites was this fountain where the water creates the strings of the harp.

We leave in a little over a week to visit our daughter Carrie and her family in Colorado and then go to St Paul, MN to visit our friends Ron and Jean. Carrie’s home has been the subject of several of my most popular posts, so we will see if anything is new there. We return to Wilmington just in time to close on our new home one day later. There is no rest for the weary!

The Space Coast

After a hectic and stressful 24 days at our Pawleys Island home, our boxes and bags were packed, the sale of our home was complete, and our new home was several months from being finished. What to do? We had all the boxes and furniture moved to a storage unit near our new home in Wilmington, NC, and we and our bags headed south to the Space Coast of Florida. Our first stop was in Wilmington to check on our new home.

This is the way it looked on May 30. It may look like it is being built on a beach or a desert, but it is really located in the city of Wilmington. We were there for our pre drywall inspection.

We then made a circuitous route through Charlotte, Columbia, and Charleston to see our children and grandchildren before heading south to St. Augustine, Florida. Perhaps we are jaded from so much more exotic foreign travel, but we were somewhat disappointed in St. Augustine despite it being the oldest city in the US. While there were some nice buildings in the old town, the ubiquitous souvenir shops detracted greatly from our enjoyment. One thing we did enjoy was the guided tour of Flagler College.

One of the campus buildings is the former Ponce de Leon Hotel built by millionaire developer and Standard Oil cofounder, Henry Flagler, in 1888. Flagler made his fortune first in grains, then in railroads, and finally in oil. He was fortunate to have two very good friends who helped build the hotel: one was named Tiffany and the other was named Edison. This meant the hotel had some very nice chandeliers and was one of the first fully electric buildings in the world. In fact, electricity was so new that that customers were afraid to flip the switches; so Flagler had to hire people to do this for them!

The two towers of the hotel were originally used as water storage tanks so the hotel could have running water.The building was one of the first in the country to be made of pored concrete. The trim on the doors, towers, and windows is terra-cotta.This picture shows four unique features in the former ballroom of the hotel: the clock was made by Edison (you can tell because he uses IIII as the Roman numeral four instead of the more traditional IV), it is a Tiffany chandelier, the stone in which the clock is mounted is one of the largest pieces of that stone type (Sorry, I forgot the stone type), and the ceiling color around the chandelier is the first use of Tiffany blue.The dining room features Tiffany stained glass windows. These windows are some of the first he made so they don’t reflect the more colorful style for which he became famous. Still, how many college dining rooms feature Tiffany windows?We also enjoyed the Lightner Museum, which is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built by Flagler across the street from The Ponce. At the time it housed the world’s largest indoor swimming pool.

After an overnight in St. Augustine, we drove to our destination, the home of our world cruise friends, Dave and Donna. They are in their Pittsburgh home while we are staying at their second home in an RV and golf resort on the Space Coast of Florida. Their community is unique to me as all homes must include an RV garage or carport capable of housing a motor home.Since most people here have a motor home, one or two cars, and a golf cart, the garage designs are a major feature of the home.

This is the typical morning view out our back window. The late afternoon view is quite different with ominous black clouds, the rumble of thunder, and flashes of lightening. We have been in Florida for fourteen days and there have been heavy thunderstorms in the late afternoon on thirteen of those days. There was hail on two of those days. It makes it difficult to plan any early evening activities as the weather can make travel difficult. The area is also somewhat of a wildlife reserve. There have been deer in the back yard, alligators in the lake, and a bobcat running in the road. Herons, egrets, and other shore birds frequent the lake. We have seen an eagle on the roof of the largest house across the lake.

Our stay here is very relaxing. There is a beautiful national seashore about a half hour away. We also spend a lot of time at the neighborhood pool. We are both reading a lot of books. The neighborhood is even more friendly and outgoing than the Carolinas. Every person you see when you are walking, whether they are walking, driving a car, driving a golf cart, or working in the yard, waves and says “hi” to you. The people at the pool also want to talk to you and invite you to neighborhood events. We notice that the space program is a common topic of conversation here. I don’t recall anyone talking about it in the Carolinas. It is clearly an important part of their economy.

On the way home from the beach last week, we stopped at the manatee observation deck in a national wildlife refuge.There must have been more than thirty manatees hanging out around the deck. It was the first time I had ever seen a manatee.

Mary Anne and Steve, more friends from our world cruise, have invited us to their house several times and taken us on tours of the area by car and by boat. They are docents at the lighthouse on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station so they have gate passes and free access to the station. Most of our space launches have taken off from this station from one of the more than thirty launch pads located there. It appears that every new space program requires a new launch pad as only three are presently active and the others are abandoned. The active ones all belong to private companies.This is one of the active launch sites. The two tall metal towers are glorified lightening rods. Before launch, the rocket is moved within the center structure to prepare it. This one is unique in that at launch the structure moves out of the way. In most launch pads, the rocket moves away from the structure before launching. The odd shaped thing on the right was used to divert flames from the rocket at one of the abandoned launch pads. That launch pad where I am standing was the site of the Apollo One disaster where three astronauts were killed during a training exercise.After our tour, we enjoyed lunch in Port Canaveral. We have one more week in Florida before we head to North Carolina.

The Finished House

You may recall a previous post where I described the house Carrie and Joseph built in western Colorado.  At the time the house was livable but the walls and floors were not finished.  This year they moved out of the house for three months while they and some friends plastered the walls and installed floors.  They are very proud that no toxic materials were used in the building of the house.  

The walls were finished by applying a home made plaster directly to the rough cobb walls.  The plastering was  done in three layers with a mix of sand, clay, and straw.  The clay was dug from their own property.  The straw was chopped with a mulching lawn mower.  The sand came from a local gravel pit.  For the first layer, the materials were sifted to one quarter inch and the second layer was sifted to one eighth inch.  The plaster mix is applied with a trowel.  

Only natural pigments were used in the finish coats.  In the bedrooms, the finish coat was a premix of colored clay and sand which had to be trowled on.  For the living room and kitchen they used an alis (or aliz) mixture of white sand, white clay, mica dust and wheat paste which could be brushed on and then sponged.  Two coats of the alis mixture were required.

The floors were made from sand, clay, straw, and horse manure.  The floor mix contained a much higher percentage of sand.  The base for the floor was gravel.  The first layer of the floor was about three inches thick and consisted of the floor mix plus coarse gravel.  The consistency of the floor mix was much thicker than the wall plaster.  They used scree boards to make it level and had to push it down to make it solid.  The second layer was about 1.5 inches thick and the finish coat was 0.75 inches thick.  Only the finish layer was sifted.  Next, the dried floor was finished with three coats of oil.  The oil was a blend of raw linseed oil (containing no petrochemicals), tung oil, and citrus oil from oranges.  Once the oil coats were dry, the final coat was a mix of bees wax and citrus oil – once more oil from oranges.  The bees wax came from their own bee hives.  It took about a month for all four finish coats to dry.

Wow!  It sounds like a lot of hard work!  Thanks to Carrie and Joseph for providing the information for this blog.  However, they did not have a chance to read it to make sure I got it all right.  Any errors here are mine.

Two views of the living room.  You may wonder how you get books down from the bookcase.  The easiest way is to ask Moss to scramble up there and get it for you.  If Moss is not around, a ladder is your best bet.

The kitchen.

This shows you how well the finished floors (the dark surfaces) match up with the natural rock features.  I think the finished house looks great and really shows off the windows and the wood and rock features. 

I want to share with you what I saw from the plane window as we were approaching Salt Lake City.  My camera wasn’t accessible, so I downloaded the following image from the Internet.

There is a railroad causeway across the Great Salt Lake.  The salt content is higher on the bottom side of the causeway causing a red algae to thrive there.  The red color of the water combined with the white of the salt on the shore was breathtaking!

Delta’s computers being willing, we fly home to Pawleys Island on Sunday.  As always, thank you so much for following along with us.  We always enjoy hearing from you.  Next up is a trip to Eastern Europe and a transatlantic crossing home in the fall.  We hope you will join us.

Colorado

As I have said previously, flight days are my least favorite days of any trip.  Monday was a good example of the reasons why.  As you likely remember, that is the day Delta had their computer problems with numerous flight delays and cancellations. Of course, we were flying Delta.  I awoke to numerous notifications on my iPad of Delta’s problems and notifications from Tripit that our flight out of Vancouver was late, our flight out of Seattle was on time, and we were going to have to hustle to make our connection.  By the time we reached the airport, our Vancouver flight was even later and we were going to miss our connection.  Fortunately, we were able to get on another flight through Salt Lake City which arrived three hours later.  After an aborted landing in SLC (only the second time that has happened to me) and a very hard landing in Denver, we arrived safely in Denver.  Under the circumstances, we thought we were very lucky to get there on the same day.

Wednesday we went to the beach on the reservoir in Crawford State Park.  The reservoir is used to water the fields, so we weren’t swimming in anyone’s drinking water.  The water was a little cold for the South Carolineans in the group, so we were limited to wading.

Moss demonstrating his skill of throwing nuts high in the air and catching them in his mouth.

A picnic and relaxing on the beach.

Thursday we went on a raft trip through a canyon on the Gunnison River.   The scenery was better than our raft trip in Glacier Park.

Joseph was our pilot with a little help from Alder.

Carrie and Susan and I were able to sit on the raft and enjoy the scenery.

Moss followed us in his own shredder.  It was a mellow float with a few class one rapids.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch along the way.

We also visited an archeological site along the river with ancient petroglyphs.  It was a beautiful day and we all had a great time.

The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth

We left Glacier a day earlier than planned since we weren’t too happy with our accommodations and we thought it would be fun to attend The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, or as it is better known, the Calgary Stampede.  We didn’t have much trouble finding a room and we really lucked out with our motel selection.  We could walk out the back parking lot of the hotel to the light rail station and ride two stations to the Stampede Gate.  And what is the Calgary Stampede?  I thought it was a rodeo, but it is much more than that.  I would liken it to a massive state fair.  There are plenty of carnival games and rides, various shows included in the price of admission, livestock exhibits, a daily rodeo in the afternoon, and an evening show with chuck wagon races and a show similar to the Super Bowl halftime show.  The show runs for ten days with an attendance of over a million people.  

Most of the attendees were dressed in cowboy hats, blue jeans, and cowboy boots.  My convertible pants and baseball hat were definitely not in fashion.

One of the many performance venues was Nashville North.  It amounted to a huge bar with a good country band and many two step dancers on the floor.  We also saw the Peking Acrobats in another venue.

We were attending on day nine of the event.  This cow is being groomed with an electric razor (the same razor a barber would use) for the grand finale the next day.

Have you ever held hooves with a cow?  It seems to result in a contented cow.

We were able to get tickets for the evening event with the chuck wagon races.  Each race involves four chuck wagons.  There are two out-riders associated with each chuck wagon.  The race begins with one out-rider in the rear of the wagon and another in front of the team of horses.  When the horn sounds, the out-rider in the rear tosses a block on the rear of the wagon (to simulate tossing the stove in the wagon if you have to leave quickly) and the one in the front starts the horses winding around two barrels to begin the race.  The out-riders must leap on their horses and follow the chuck wagons around the track.  The race is one lap around the track. The race is won by best time adjusted for penalties related to touching barrels and getting onto the horses in time.  As you can see from the picture it was a muddy track.  While I can’t say we have been converted into chuck wagon racing fans, it was certainly an interesting event.

We saw numerous canola (as in canola oil) fields in Montana and Alberta.  They have nothing to do with the Stampede, but I think they are quite pretty.

East Glacier

We arrived in East Glacier after spending the day crossing the park on the Going to the Sun highway.  It was an auspicious day as it was our ninth wedding anniversary.  We had our celebratory dinner in the dining room of the Many Glacier Hotel.

This is the view out of the dining room window from out table.  The meal wasn’t that great, but the view was fantastic.

The morning of the next day we hiked to Grinnel Lake.

In the afternoon, we drove down to the Two Medicine area of the park where we did a short hike and took a boat ride on the lake.  From the blue skies in the two pictures it looks like a perfect day.  The beginning and end were perfect but on the drive to Two Medicine we went through a heavy hail storm.  The weather changes rapidly here.

I am not much for selfies, but I am including this one from our anniversary celebration.   Next we head back to Canada for an unplanned event.

Going to the Sun

The highlight of Glacier Park is the road across the park called the Going to the Sun Road.  After three nights on the west side of the park where we had more clouds than sun, we drove to the east side of the park in perfect blue sky weather.  Construction of the 50 mile long road began in 1921 and was completed in 1932. Amazingly, there is only one switchback on the road. The high point of the road is 6646 feet at Logan Pass where up to 80 feet of snow can fall.  The road requires about ten weeks to plow each spring and there have been years when it isn’t open until mid July.

McDonald Creek at the lower elevations of the road.

Another look at McDonald Creek

This shows some views at overlooks.

If you look closely in the foreground of the first overlook picture above, you will see there is a lot of this bear grass blooming.

Glacier Park has been discovered and parking is generally inadequate.  We were unable to get into the Logan Pass parking lot, so we stopped at an overlook after the pass for a picnic lunch.  This is looking back at the pass with a long waterfall on the left and a shorter one on the right.

Glacier Park has suffered a lot of forest fires.  Much of the road on the east side of the park was in a burned area.  While this resulted in a lot of dead trees, it has opened up some views and has led to large patches of wildflowers.


This motorcycle had an unusual passenger.

And there were mountain views behind grassy plains and lakes.

I am looking for mountain goats at Logans Pass, but no luck.  If you see anything after this, it is an error I can’t erase.

It’s All About the Huckleberries

As we approached Glacier Park, there were signs everywhere for fresh huckleberries and various huckleberry products.  We had heard of huckleberries, but we’re not really familiar with them and neither of us can recall eating them previously.  That has now changed.  Huckleberries are in the same family as blueberries and the term covers a variety of similar berries colored either red, blue, or black.   So far we have had huckleberry salad dressing, huckleberry pie and cobbler, an elk burger with goat cheese and a huckleberry compote (I bet you can’t get that at your neighborhood burger joint), huckleberry salmon, and a huckleberry smash (this won out over the huckleberry margarita – it was a tough choice).  We still need to try the huckleberry jam, syrup, and barbecue sauce.  They tend to be a little on the tart side, but we have liked everything we have tried.  I know I have a problem and promise to seek out the first HA (Huckleberries Anonymous) meeting as soon as I get home.

A huckleberry smash.

We took a scenic raft trip in the park.

Rafting in the canyon of the Flathead River.

We had two young boys in our raft and they each took a turn at the oars.

Following the raft trip we hiked along the shores of Lake McDonald.

I have fallen behind in my blog due to the very poor wifi at our last lodge.  We are now in Calgary on our way to Banff Park.  I still have the best parts of Glacier Park to cover.  More to come.

Glacier National Park

Glacier Park had 150 glaciers in 1850.  Today the number of glaciers has dwindled to 25 and it is estimated that all the glaciers will be gone by 2030 – that’s fourteen years from now!  A glacier must meet three criteria to be called a glacier: it must move under its own weight, the ice must be compressed to glacial ice (which is much denser than normal ice), and it must occupy an area of 25 acres or more.  Generally, a glacier that is smaller than 25 acres is unable to meet the other criteria.  To remain a glacier, it must receive adequate snowfall in the winter; and the summers must be cool enough that the new snow doesn’t all melt.  The glaciers in the park are receiving sufficient snow in the winter to survive, but the summers are too warm.  And why is the survival of the glaciers important?  Melting snow supplies much of our fresh water in early and mid summer.  But after the snow pack is melted, it is the melting glaciers that supply our freshwater in the late summer.  Thus, they are an important source of fresh water for us during a brief period of the year.  We learned all this and more in a park ranger program tonight.

Today, we made a five mile hike to Avalanche Lake.  The park is very crowded this time of year and parking spots are hard to find.  We tried to use the park shuttle to reach the start of our hike, but there was over an hour wait.  We decided to take our chances on finding a parking spot and lucked out with a spot on our second pass by the parking area.  

The bottom of Avalanche Creek.

Most of the walk was through a forest with a moss carpeted floor.

Avalanche Lake was beautiful with five waterfalls cascading down the walls of the cirque and into the lake.

A closer look at one of the waterfalls.



The two tired but happy hikers.

Legos and Rakugo

Who says there is nothing to do in the Myrtle Beach area other than go to the beach and play miniature golf?  Well, I might have said something like that; but yesterday proved me wrong!  In the afternoon we went to a temporary exhibit of Lego sculptures in the zoo area of Brookgreen Gardens.  The Legos are glued together and then shellacked to preserve their color. The largest sculptures have more than 80,000 Legos.  I think the pictures will inspire all you Lego craftspeople out there to kick it up a notch. 

    
    
 

In the evening we went to a performance of rakugo at a small theater in Myrtle Beach.  Rakugo is a very popular form of entertainment in Japan.  The main feature is comedic storytelling in between acts of magic, juggling, and lion dancing.  The storyteller was a Japanese – American woman living in Hawaii.  The juggler was an American from Myrtle Beach and the magician was a Japanese man living in Florida. The storyteller sits on a cushion on a platform in a kneeling position sitting back on her heels.  She uses only a fan and cloth napkin as props to tell the story.  She simulates standing by rising to her knees and walking by bouncing up and down.  She speaks for all the characters including the narrator using different facial expressions, voices, and the direction her head is facing to indicate the character speaking.  The stories always ended with a comic punch line.  All of these are elements that define Rakugo.

The storyteller had a wonderfully expressive face and voice.  The stories were brief ranging from a couple minutes (basically jokes) to maybe ten minutes and were pretty funny.  I had a big smile on my face just watching her face.  It was unlike anything we had seen before.  Oh, and in between we went to our favorite sushi restaurant to get ourselves in the proper mood for Rakugo.  To see an example of Rakugo by another performer, click here.