Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mummies invade Cincinnati

We left home at 6:30 am to drive to Cincinnati to see the Mummies of the World Exhibition at the Cincinnati Museum Center then on to the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo.  We arrived in Georgetown, Kentucky to pick up Ian and Emily around 9 am then drove up I-75 to Cincinnati. We were pleased to find gasoline for $3.25 in Georgetown which beats the best price around home at $3.59.
We arrived at the Museum Center around 10 and had a little time since our pre-purchased tickets for the mummy exhibit were for 10:45.  We were happy that we had purchased our tickets in advance.  Not only did we avoid standing in a line to buy tickets but we got the tickets at nearly half price using our museum membership.  Since we had some time, we visited a small but informative exhibit on the last passenger pigeon, Martha, who died at the Cincinnati Zoo one hundred years ago (1914) making the species extinct.  It was interesting to learn the factors that caused the birds, once so plentiful that flocks would black out the sky, became extinct in such a short time.
The Mummies of the World Exhibit was outstanding.  Since photos were not permitted, promotional images are linked in this blog entry.  The exhibit emphasized to visitors that the mummies on display are the remains of humans and should be treated with respect.  Most people think of Egypt when they think of mummies and the ancient Egyptians were certainly skilled in preserving the remains of their rulers and aristocracy.  However, mummies can be found in many areas of the world produced by intentional mummification processes or through natural effects of climatic conditions.  Displays at the exhibit included actual mummies from Egypt, South America, and even Germany and Hungary.  Once mummy on display was preserved in 1994 at the University of Maryland in Project MUMAB.  A collaboration of scientists used materials, tools and techniques from ancient Egypt to preserve a donated body as a modern mummy.  We also saw the mummies of a baron, baroness and their infant child from Vac, Hungary.  The bodies of the Orlovits family were placed in a family crypt in the early 1800s.  The movement of cool air through the crypt cause the bodies of the three family members to be well preserved to this day.
In a macabre way, it was fascinating to learn that mummies were so common in Egypt that they were sometimes burned as fuel in locomotives or home furnaces.  Visitors to Egypt could purchase a mummified human hand or foot as a souvenir.  Pulverized mummy bodies were sold to artists as a pigment in paint making a color called “mummy brown”.  Entire mummies were sold and used at “unwrapping parties” where the mummy was taken apart at dinner by the guests. 
Another exhibit covered shrunken heads that were made among certain South American tribes of indigenous people.  Some cultures collected and prepared the heads of enemies to wear in battle and as part of ceremonial rituals.  More recently, these Indians shrunk heads for sale to tourists using traditional techniques.
The exhibit included mummies from the mountains of South America and arctic regions of the world that were preserved by a natural freeze drying process due to the low temperatures and humidity of polar or mountainous regions. 
By noon, we were all hungry so we left the museum for nearby Findlay Market where we knew we could find something good for lunch.  The market was busy, as it is on many weekends, but just before Christmas, it was especially busy.  After a walk through the market, we settled on Aretis Gyros.  We were amazed at the size and quality of their gyro sandwiches, especially at the $5.50 price.  Since there was no place to sit at the busy market, we ate our gyros standing at an exit near the Kroeger and Sons Meats.  While we were there, we purchased 8 sausages made by Kroegers to take home.  Fortunately, we had a cooler and ice packs in the car.  On our way out we stopped at Dojo Gelato for dessert.  Ian & Emily had a split of Rum Egg Nog and Dutch Chocolate while I opted for just the Rum Egg Nog.  Mary had a ginger cookie from a nearby booth.  We all enjoyed our lunch then drove on to the Cincinnati Zoo.
Since the zoo doesn’t get busy this time of year until after dark, we had no problem finding a nearby parking spot on the street and walked a short distance to the zoo entrance where our membership got in free and half priced tickets for Ian & Emily.  We saw the five Maasai giraffes including the youngster that is now about a year old and the two toed sloth that is always napping when we are there.  Since the weather was very nice for mid-December in Cincinnati, we saw many of the animals outside.  Mary was pleased that the red pandas were actively feeding on some fresh bamboo that was placed in their enclosure.  
Sarah joined us at the zoo after she got off work and walked around through the insect, cat and nocturnal animals houses.  We sat by Swan Lake for the first 15 minutes of the light and music show that was even better than in previous years.  The light show starts at 5 pm after the sun has set enough to make the light show more visible.  We left the zoo about 5:15 and headed for dinner.  We were happy that we were leaving the zoo and not just arriving since there was a flood of visitors coming into the zoo as we were leaving.
Sarah had made reservations at the German restaurant Mecklenburg Gardens which is a short distance from the zoo.  Sarah was waiting on us when we arrived after finding a parking spot on the street.  Mecklenburg Gardens is a 150 year old Cincinnati biergarten on University Avenue that serves authentic German food and has a selection of good German beer on tap.  We enjoyed kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) and warm rye bread while we surveys the menu choices.  Ian had goulash with a Dunkel Hefeweisen, Mary had spaetzle with vegetables and grilled chicken, Emily had a weiner schnitzel with rotekraut, Sarah had a sauerbraten sandwich and I had a chicken schnitzel sandwich.  We shared a cream puff and apple strudel for dessert.  Everyone was pleased with their meal and we were impressed at the good value of our meal.  After leaving the restaurant we gave Sarah some of the grapefruit that we brought and started driving back. 
We dropped Ian and Emily off at their Georgetown home around 8:30 and arrived back home by 10:30.  Since our day started before 6 am, we were both very tired and slept well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Terracotta Warriors in Indianapolis

After packing our bags and enjoying a full breakfast, we left the Sleep Inn around 9 am.  We continued to be impressed with our lodging.  I don’t know how we could beat it at around $65 per night.  We arrived at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis about 9:30 and parked in the free spaces at the garage across the street.  Admission to the museum is $20 but we got a 10% AAA discount.  Tickets for the Terracotta Army exhibit are an additional $10.  A family membership at the museum is $155 which would be a great deal for someone living nearby.  Our tickets for the Terracotta Army were for the first group at 11:45 so we had some time to walk through the other displays.  The first thing we saw was a massive 43 foot tall glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly that ended in a glass ceiling viewable from the lower level.  This Fireworks of Glass display was quite a spectacle.
A large water clock moved blue tinted water to track the minutes and hours.  Another display was the Dinosphere which is a live sized diorama with reconstructed dinosaur skeletons and plants of the time.  The domed ceiling had projections of the sky that simulate the passing of days and seasons.  One thing in particular that we noticed was that the museum was divided up into areas that would separate noisy groups of children. We also liked the Reuben Wells steam engine which is a locomotive that could push a load of rail cars up the 5.9% grade near Madison, Indiana that is the steepest railroad incline in the United States.  We found it amusing that the steepest rail grade in the US was in one of the flattest states!
When we entered the Terracotta Army display we saw about 6 of the excavated statues from China.  This is the first time that artifacts from the Terracotta Army than have been in the US.  There were many interactive touch screen displays that described the layout of the excavation and the history of how and why the soldiers were built and placed in the underground rooms.  Illustrations of work showed how up to 700,000 workers toiled for 30 years to build the soldiers, each of which has unique faces, uniforms and postures.  There were also clay horses that were constructed with the army.  We learned that the clay soldiers were originally painted with bright colors but that over the 2000 years since, the paint has degraded and flaked off.  It is believed that over 8,000 terracotta solders, 700 horses and many weapons, chariots and other artifacts are in buried in the Shaanxi province.
After leaving the exhibit on the terracotta warriors we walked around the museum a little then headed across the skywalk to the car in the parking garage across the street.  We had a lunch of peanut butter and crackers, fruit, jerky and corn nuts then drove the short distance to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
The art museum has a huge collection of excellent art in their permanent collection that includes works by Picasso, Monet, Chagall, Matisse, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Renoir and many others.  There was a special exhibit of works by Georgia O’Keefe while we were there.  The art museum was huge and we hardly saw a small portion of it but we really wanted to see the gardens on the grounds of the huge property.  The Indianapolis Museum of Art is built on the property of the Lilly family and includes over 150 acres.  About a third of this is maintained as gardens.  
We walked around through many of the gardens and took some snapshots of some of the more interesting flowers.  We went into the greenhouse store and saw some of the plants for sale.  I would have purchased some succulents for my houseplant collections but I am not 100% certain that my problem with powdery mildew has been eliminated.
We left the garden area of the museum around 4 pm and headed toward Cincinnati.  We parked at the Gateway Garage (where we parked for Oktoberfest on Saturday) and met Sarah & Greg for dinner at Taste of Belgium in the Over the Rhine (OTR) area of Cincinnati.  We had meat croquettes as an appetizer that we all enjoyed.  Sarah had a chicken salad, Mary had a traditional crepe, Greg and I had the waffle and chicken.  I was a little apprehensive about it since the meal is roasted chicken coated in Texas Pete Hot Sauce served with a waffle covered in maple syrup.  I have to admit that it didn’t sound all that great but I trusted Greg’s recommendation and gave it a try.  It was actually very good.  The spicy chicken and the sweet waffle worked well together.
After dinner Greg needed to leave for choir practice so Sarah, Mary and I walked around OTR for a bit then stopped in a Graeter’s for ice cream which we all enjoyed.  We took Sarah home and picked up some LED light bulbs that she bought for us then headed for Georgetown, Kentucky to visit with Emily & Ian
On arriving at their Georgetown, Kentucky home, we visited with Emily & Ian for a short time before turning in for the night.  We woke around 6 am on Wednesday and set to work painting Ian’s “man cave” in Secret Meadow which is a hunter green color.  Before we could start the final green paint, we had to prime the walls to cover the claret red that the walls had been painted.  We used much of the leftover paint from the other rooms to put a good primer coat on all the walls.  The Behr paint covered well and looks good in the room.  I know Ian is anxious to get moved into the room and get it set up for his needs.  We finished painting around 6:30 and were pleased with the results.  Emily made an excellent auflauf for dinner that was a casserole of potatoes, carrots and cauliflower with a light sauce. 
Although we hated to eat and run, we needed to get started on the over two hour drive home so we headed out around 8 pm arriving home by 10:30.  We were very tired but had a great vacation and still got back in time to take care of some chores at home over the next few days of vacation.

View Larger Map

Monday, September 22, 2014

Eiteljorg Museum and Indianapolis Zoo

We awoke at the Sleep Inn around 6 am after sleeping well.  We watched the morning news and went down to the lobby for a nice breakfast.  After a shower and answering some email, we left for the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art which is next to the Indiana State Museum and along the canal.  We saw paintings and sculptures by western artists like Fredric Remington, C. M. Russell, Georgia O’Keefe and many others.  A room featured work by many contemporary western artists as well.  Upstairs we saw art by native people from antiquity as well as items produced by modern native artists.  There were several items from Maria and Julian Martinez of the San Ildefonso Pueblo near Santa Fe.  
I also saw several pots in the Mesa Verde patterns that I liked a lot.  Both of us saw a number of items that we liked and spent about three hours there.  We were also pleased that we received a AAA discount that took the $12 admission down to $10.  They also validated our parking pass which was worth $12 so our visit there was quite a bargain. 
After leaving the museum we went to the car in the underground parking garage below the museum and had a snack lunch of peanut butter and crackers that we had packed from home.  After our snack, we walked the short distance across the canal to the Indianapolis Zoo
When we checked in at the zoo we were told that our Cincinnati Zoo membership would get us a discount but the admission we were charged didn’t seem to reflect a discount.  Since the money was going to the zoo we didn’t protest.  We walked around the zoo for over three hours and really enjoyed the displays.  Although the zoo isn’t large, the animals are very well displayed.  Perhaps the Indianapolis Zoo’s feature animals are the orangutans.  They had six orangutans on display of all ages.  They seemed to enjoy their enclosure and entertained the human visitors.
The rhino’s exhibit was also very nice with three adult white rhinos.  While we were there two of the rhinos had an altercation and butted heads right in front of us.  The giraffe exhibit had three adult giraffes that were easy to see.  They had a polar bear, brown bears, a red panda and a number of African plains animals.  We stayed in the zoo until nearly 4:30 before walked the short distance to the White River Gardens and Hilbert Conservatory.  Although much of the growing season is over, there were many plants still in the gardens and conservatory.  We wished that more of the plants had identification labels but the gardens were very worth visiting and the admission is included in the zoo admission.
By 5 pm, we were very tired and ready to rest a bit before looking for a dinner spot so we walked back to the parking garage under the museums and made our way back to the Sleep Inn.  We expected traffic to be really heavy since we were leaving the museums at the height of rush hour.  However, we had little trouble making our way back the short distance to the motel.
After a short rest, we decided on a local drive-in, Mug-n-Bun, that has been in Indianapolis since 1960 serving the local favorite pork tenderloin sandwiches as well as other diner food choices.  We first heard about Mug-n-Bun from the Roadfood segment on NPR’s Splendid Table.  You can eat in your car or at a table under a shelter there so we got a table and ordered pork tenderloin sandwiches and onion rings with homemade root beer to drink.  Neither of us could finish our meals although they were very good. 
After leaving Mug-n-Bun we drove past the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the way back to the motel.  It was a very good day.  We are tired since we were on our feet all day but we enjoyed everything we saw and did today.

View Larger Map

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Indianapolis Canals

We were able to sleep in a little at our motel.  The bed was comfortable and the room was very quiet.  We went to breakfast at 8:30 and we were pleased that the breakfast included scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, waffles, hash browns and fresh fruit.  It was much more than we expected from a motel in this price range.  We left the Sleep Inn after showering and drove around the city some.  We parked at the White River State Park and walked around the canal area and to the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument where we walked through a small but informative museum inside the monument.  
We had planned to go up in the monument tower but it was closed for maintenance.  We walked around the canal area of the city a little more past the gondoliers and paddle boat rentals.  The canal here is a restoration of one of Indiana’s many canals that were operating in the area in the 1830s to transport passengers and freight from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River.  
I was impressed by the steam powered clock by the museum.  Since much of Indianapolis is heated by steam, a clock was designed that is powered by steam.  At the quarter hour, the clock sends steam to pipes that play the Indiana state song.  It was quite a thing to see.  We grabbed a sandwich from Subway for lunch then walked to the Indiana State Museum which was near our car at White River State Park.
We were pleased that our membership card from the Cincinnati Museum Center got free admission for us at the Indiana State Museum saving us $26.  We did pay an extra $3 each to visit the exhibit on Prohibition.  The museum was large and very well displayed.  The Prohibition exhibit has only been open for a few days and included displays on the social and political background leading up to the 18th Amendment then went into the growth of organized crime that characterized the period from 1920-1932.  There was a replica speakeasy and an instructional display on how to dance the Charleston.  
The cultural history section of the museum has many displays of the influence of Indianans on science, culture, commerce, politics and other fields.  Many manufacturers have operations in Indiana and have displays at the museum.  One of the better displays was on the canals of the state that included working models and sections of old canals that have been preserved and reconstructed for the museum.  The natural history area focuses on the geologic history of Indiana.  There were large interpretative displays of Indiana’s native rocks and fossils.  Maps show how Indiana changed over geologic time with the movement of continents.  We found this museum to be one of the better museums we have visited.

We crashed at the room for a bit after the museum just to rest our feet.  Mary did some searching for places to have dinner while we rested.  When we travel we try to avoid chain restaurants or at least chains that have locations in our area.  We like to find places that serve items that are popular in the area we are visiting.  Mary usually consults TripAdvisor for recommendations and we consider restaurants that are highly rated and have mostly positive comments.  We settled on the Rathskeller Biergarten in the Athenaeum Building near the historic Lockerbie Square area.  The menu was mostly German but had a nice selection of sandwiches and bar food as well.  They had a wide selection of German and domestic beers on tap.  The bread basket before our dinner had multigrain rolls and a great hot pretzel.  There was also a cup of hot mustard on the side.  There was so much horseradish in the mustard that it even made me take notice.  Mary had the rouladen which is thinly sliced beef wrapped around a pickle spear and covered in a light sauce. She had a house salad and red kraut on the side.  I had a pork tenderloin sandwich with a potato pancake on the side.  The tenderloin was basically a schnitzel on a bun.  The pork was pounded to an oval shape that is over ten inches long by 5 inches wide.  These tenderloin sandwiches are very popular in the Midwest from Indiana through Iowa.  Mary had a draft hard cider and I had a Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen draft with dinner. We both enjoyed our dinner and our drink.  We returned to the Sleep Inn and planned Monday’s visits to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the Indianapolis Zoo.  

View Larger Map

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Zinzinnati Oktoberfest 2014

We always look forward to the third weekend in September because that means that we go to Oktoberfest in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Zinzinnati Oktoberfest is the world’s second largest with only Munich’s being larger.  Oktoberfest started in Munich in 1810 as a wedding celebration for the popular Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese.  Although starting in September, the original two week long party lasted into October 1810.  Even today’s Oktoberfest celebrations begin 16 days prior to the first Sunday in October.
Cincinnati’s Oktoberfest is only one weekend but is no less festive.  There are tons of bands from Germany, the US and other countries.  Dancers, street performers and other acts line five blocks of East Fifth Street as well as out Vine, Walnut, Main, Sycamore and Broadway.  The streets are closed to all but foot traffic.
We met our friends, Rex and Natalie Dillinger, at 9 am to drive down the AA Highway to Cincinnati.  Since we were planning to drive on to Indianapolis, we needed to take a separate car from Dillingers.  We took a break from the three hour drive in Cold Spring, Kentucky at a Gold Star Chili which we all enjoyed.  When traveling to Cincinnati, a bowl of Cincinnati Chili can really hit the spot.  We continued on to the Cincinnati Museum Center to see the Cincinnati Under the Sea exhibit.  Although not a large exhibit, the informative displays illustrated what the area of current Cincinnati was like during the late Ordovician Period (450 Million Years Ago).  
We moved to the Cincinnati History Museum where we saw a model of the city as it looks in the early 1900s through the 1940s.  A large display showed the role of Cincinnati in World War II.  In the replica of the Cincinnati waterfront there was a full sized replica of a riverboat of the late 1800s and many historical interpreters to explain the significance of the items.  We finished up at an exhibit of black and white photographs of the Cincinnati area.  We all enjoyed our visit to the museum especially considering that we had seen only about one third of the exhibit area.
At three o’clock we drove to the Over the Rhine area and, on Greg’s recommendation, we found parking easily at the Gateway Parking Garage.  Although this parking area was further from Oktoberfest than other parking areas we have used, it was very easy to get in and out.  As we were parking we saw J. K., Deanna, Ian and Emily outside the parking garage.  It was great to see them there.  We walked several blocks over to Fifth Street and we were very surprised at the size of the crowd.  In other years we typically came earlier in the day and had much smaller crowds but at 3:30 the streets were packed.  Lines for beer and food were very long.  There were bands on the stage at Fountain Square as well as sponsored tents on each of the streets intersecting Fifth.  Lots of guests were in lederhosen, dirndl, and chicken hats.  There were living statues and even a “naked cowboy” on the street.  We ate goetta balls, goetta reubens, sauerkraut balls, potato pancakes from Izzy’s, Kaiser Schloss, Mecklenburg Gardens, Laslo’s Iron Skillet and other street vendors.
Of course we took part in the "world's largest chicken dance" led by Drew and Nick Lachey (formerly of the band, 98 Degrees) with just under 50,000 people participating.
I was pleased to meet up with my former student Andy Adkins.  Andy was a classmate of Sarah’s and was a star member of our school’s Quiz Bowl team.  It was great seeing Andy and we hope to meet up with him again soon since he is living in Cincinnati. He told me that his brother, Tim, had lived in Cincinnati but is now living in Arizona.
At five o’clock, Greg was part of the Young Professional’s Choral Collective that performed several German songs on the main stage at Fountain Square.  We enjoyed the performance and our visit with Greg afterward.  We left Oktoberfest and said our goodbyes to everyone and drove west to Indianapolis where we had reserved a room at the Sleep Inn near the convention Center.

We were very impressed with the Sleep Inn here.  The lobby borders on luxurious and our room has a king sized bed, microwave, refrigerator and tasteful décor.  With our AAA discount, this motel is quite a find.  We watched a little of Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts on PBS then turned in for the night.

View Larger Map

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 3 - Summer 2014 weekend in Laneville

We were up a little after six am when the sun came up.  The rooster in the pen across the cabin announced the morning while we had our yogurt and muesli for breakfast.  We cleaned up after ourselves and did some straightening and packing.  I tightened the turnbuckle on the screen door, cleaned the faucet in the bathroom sink, and checked to see if the roof leaked during the rain.  Mary cleaned the bathroom and kitchen then swept the porch again.  Before we locked up and left we turned off all the power and drained the water lines.
The hour long drive from Laneville to Beverly was in a light rain.  Beverly Heritage Days didn’t appear to draw a large crowd, probably because of the rain.  We parked in front of the Beverly Heritage Center and walked through the museums and historical buildings that were open for the weekend.  The Stalnaker log cabin from the 1700s was remarkably well preserved.  Moved from about a mile south of town into Beverly, the home of square hewn logs made a comfortable dwelling for the family.  We walked through the Blackman-Bosworth Store which is now a museum.  At the 1841 jail, local men in Civil War uniforms of Union soldiers issued passes for the day.  There was a pie sale at the David Goff House and camps set up in the town’s public square.  We enjoyed our visit then left town around noon.

We headed south on Route 219 past the Armstrong flooring plant where Bruce Hardwood Flooring is produced, through Dailey to the town of Mill Creek where we took Adolph-Helvetia Road toward the tiny Swiss town of Helvetia.  The drive was only about 20 miles but took over an hour on the curvy road through the mountains.  We had lunch at the Hutte Swiss Restaurant which is always good.  Since the day was cool and rainy, Mary had a pot of hot tea which came in a pot with a cozy.  I had iced tea.  The server brought a plate of Helvetia cheese and homemade breads while we waited on our lunch.  Mary’s Morgan Henle (roast chicken) was good as was my Swiss sausage.  We both had potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer), green beans, sour kraut and hot applesauce on the side.  Although the desserts at the Hutte are always good, neither of us had room so we bid our goodbyes and headed for home.

On most days we would like to walk through the town and do some sightseeing, however, the rain was light but steady.  There was also a funeral at the church in town so there were a lot of people in the town.  We decided to take a different route back and went through Holly River State Park to Flatwoods.  Once again, we were on a small gravel covered narrow mountain road with many curves.  We saw a ruffed grouse on the edge of the road that didn’t appeared to be bothered by our passing. 
There was still steady rain when we got to Flatwoods but we were able to park near the entrance to the Flatwoods Factory Outlet Stores.  We browsed the Fiesta outlet and found the small canister called a jam jar that Emily needed to complete her set for the kitchen.  We also cruised through the seconds room and found some of the bowls in white that Sarah uses.  After getting the canister, we walked to the Amish market and bought dried bananas, sesame sticks, thin chocolate cookies for making ice cream sandwiches and a ham bone for Cody. 
We arrived back home around 6 pm and started unpacking.  We always enjoy our weekend trips.  Getting away for a couple of days is always invigorating.  We will need to spend the day on Sunday mowing, doing laundry, and preparing for the week ahead.

View Larger Map

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 2 - Summer 2014 weekend in Laneville

After a great night sleep, we woke a little after 7 am.  It isn't often that we sleep beyond 5:30, but the sound of Red Creek was very relaxing and we were tired.  The neighbor’s rooster crowing didn’t even disturb us.  We had yogurt and muesli for breakfast as well as tea made from bottled water that we brought with us.  We left the cabin around 8 am and drove to the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center where we took a quick look and decided to come back in the afternoon when the rocks weren't backlit by the sun. 

We drove east toward some places than we had never visited.  When we picked up a cell signal, we had to put out some fires at work.  I needed to finalize a submission to IRB for a grant proposal we are preparing, and Mary needed to make some work calls.  We parked at the McDonald's in Petersburg and used their WiFi to take care of some small tasks for work.  We drove on through Grant County and into Hardy County through Moorefield.  We saw a flier earlier for Trout Pond Recreation Area near Wardensville which is considered the only natural lake in the state.  The park was very nice and had a beach area in the small two acre pond.  There were picnic areas and walking paths.  We didn't stay long but just drove through and moved on.

Our next stop was to Lost River State Park where the headwaters of the Lost River are located.  Lost River eventually goes underground in a sink near Baker, WV, and travels underground for two to three miles before emerging near Wardensville, WV as the Cacapon River.  The facilities at Lost River State Park were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) from 1934 to 1937. There are 26 cabins than can be rented, a swimming pool and many well marked trails with CCC bridges and rails.  Within the park was a house owned by “Stonewall” Jackson’s father Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee.  The house was built in 1800 as a summer home for the Lee family.  The Lee Sulphur Springs house has been restored by the CCC in the 1930s and was in very good shape.

A sulfur spring was nearby that was considered very healthy in generations past.  The Lee summer home was likely built in this location because of the cool summer weather and the presence of the spring.  The water in the spring had the strong rotten egg odor that is so characteristic of sulfur springs.  We both smelled the water but neither of us was tempted to have a taste.  We had a nice lunch of peanut butter, crackers, carrots and grapes while sitting at a picnic table in front of the Lee cabin. 

We left Lost River State Park and drove the 90 minutes back to Seneca Rocks to take a GigaPan photo of the rocks, hopefully while climbers are visible on the rock face.  We set up the GigaPan and took a panorama of the rocks that should stitch up to a GigaPanimage that is over a gigabyte in size.  There were several groups climbing Seneca Rocks, making their way up the Tuscarora Quartzite rock face on the many routes to the summit.  There was also a group visible on the observation platform along the walking path near the top of the rock outcropping.

We drove up to one of our favorite places, the Bear Rocks Nature Preserve at Dolly Sods.  This area, owned by the Nature Conservancy, is well used by a number of tourists and provides a great view from the Appalachian Plateau into the valley below.  The sky in the area typically holds a great deal of mist and softens the view of the valley and surrounding countryside,  The air is always cool and refreshing at that altitude, and we enjoy just sitting on the lichen covered rocks and watching the clouds roll by.

We left the Bear Rocks area and started down the mountain through Laneville toward Davis.  As we drove the bumpy gravel road at around 4000 feet we saw something move in the road.  Turns out it was a timber rattlesnake.  She was a gravid female that was just under a meter in length but was swollen in diameter because of the babies she was carrying.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about her was her color.  She was almost entirely black.  Except for the part of her body where the bulk of offspring in her stretched her skin, she was coal black.  Most of the rattlesnakes that I have seen in the mountains have been dark, probably an adaptation to the lower temperatures.  However, this snake was unusually dark even when compared to others in the area. She was stretched out in the road in a sunny spot.  
We were concerned that she would be hit by a car, perhaps intentionally, so I got a stick from the side of the road and moved her into the wooded area a few yards from the gravel road.  She wasn't very happy about having to move from her sunny spot but hopefully she will survive to deliver her young.

After coming down the mountain and arriving at Davis, we had another wildlife encounter.  Near some of the homes on Laneville Road toward Canaan Valley, we saw what we thought was a black cat playing near the road.  We were already driving slowly on the bumpy, narrow, winding road, but we slowed more to avoid hitting the “cat” in the road.  Turns out, it was a young skunk!  We moved by very slowly to not get a spraying before our dinner.  The skunk ambled away, and we drove on to Sirianni’s Café in Davis for our dinner.  Mary had the Rosa’s special which is spaghetti with grilled chicken, mushrooms and broccoli covered in a clear wine sauce.  I had angel hair pasta with marinara sauce and Italian sausage.  Both of us enjoyed our meals.

We drove back to the cabin after dinner and read while until I fell asleep in my book around 9:30 so I decided to just go to bed.  A slow rain started that night and tapped on the roof as we slept.


View Larger Map

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 1 - Summer 2014 weekend in Laneville

As soon as I got home from work on Wednesday, July 16, I started grouting the tile in the girls’ bathroom upstairs.  The job went pretty quickly and I was able to get the tile grouted and rinsed several times.  I allowed it to dry then buffed it with a dry towel.  I was pleased with the way it looked.  After eating a bite, I left to meet Mary in Morgantown around 7 pm.  I knew she had a dinner meeting that would last until after nine pm so I didn’t want to get there too early and I was happy to have the time to work on the tile.  The drive up to Morgantown was uneventful other than spotting a bald eagle along I-79 in Braxton County.  I really had to do a double take to make sure of what I was seeing but it was a bald eagle without a doubt.  I met Mary and some of her tech pals in the lobby of the Waterfront Place a little after 10 pm.  They had eaten a good meal at Oliverio’s.  Since we both had a long day and were tired, we went sleep right away.

While Mary went to morning meetings at the conference, I walked around Morgantown.  I went to breakfast at Taziki’s in the Mountainlair (WVU student center).  I had a bacon, egg and cheese wrap which was very good.  The manager felt bad because it took longer than he hoped to make the wrap so he gave me the breakfast for free.  I promised to come back for lunch the next time I am in the area. 

By the time I got back to the hotel, Mary had finished up her morning meetings so we packed up and headed out.  I had called the three distilleries in the Morgantown/Fairmont area to set up tours.  The very pleasant contact at West Virginia Distilling Company in Morgantown told me that he would be happy to give us a tour but they do not distill in the hot summer months.  However, he said that if we return in fall or winter, he would be happy to show us around.  The lady at Forks of Cheat invited us to come any time as long as the weather permits a short walk from the visitor center to the distilling shed.  The lady at Heston Farms/Pinchgut Distillery invited us to come any time for a tour. 

We drove the short distance from the Waterfront place to the Forks of Cheat and browsed the visitor center until a guide and her daughter took us through the attractive gardens to the compact but efficient distillery.  The people at Forks of Cheat grow about 95% of the fruits that go into their wines and distilled spirits.  About the only fruit they use that isn’t grown on the property are the pomegranates.  Much of the property on which the grapes and other fruit are grown is reclaimed surface mine property.  In addition to a number of wines, Forks of Cheat makes apple Jack, rum, grappa and several fruit liqueurs.

We enjoyed a tasting back at the visitor center and tried several of the wines then tried some of the spirits.  Neither of us liked the grappa.  It is a neutral spirit made from grapes.  There was no discernable flavor just pure ethanol.  We bought a bottle of pear liqueur and blackberry liqueur to bring back.  Mary has had the pear before and really liked and we are sure than the blackberry will be good as well.

We drove from Morgantown to Fairmont in hopes of touring the Heston Winery that also houses the Pinchgut Distillery.  We were impressed with the development at the farm.  It is obvious that some serious money has been put into making the winery a destination.  There is a restaurant, gardens, picnic and play areas for families and children.  We liked a lot of the primitives and variety of plantings on the grounds.  We were very disappointed that we were unable to tour the distillery despite having called earlier to make certain that tours were available that day.  We were told that the person who leads the tours would be in meetings all day and that no tours would be taken.  Although we were disappointed, we sampled several of the wines and spirits.  
Mary liked the Siggy Riesling because it was not too sweet but still had the pleasant flavor of a Riesling wine.  We tried the corn moonshine and found it to be rather flat.  It didn’t have a lot of flavor other than the alcohol.  We also tried the buckwheat moonshine and, neither of us found it to be at all pleasant.  There was a very strong flavor that was like a raw rye whiskey in some ways.  It was very hot and had no finish beyond the alcohol burn.  Pinchgut makes an aged version of their buckwheat whiskey called Copperhead.  Since we didn’t like the unaged buckwheat whiskey, it shouldn’t be surprising that we didn’t care for the Copperhead aged buckwheat whiskey.  In contrast, we did like the Mason-Dixon Corn Whiskey, which is their 100% corn whiskey that has been barrel aged for four years.  It isn’t a Bourbon but is a good corn whiskey that is like an Irish whiskey in some ways.  We stayed away from the novelty spirits like the apple, ramp, peach and rhubarb flavored moonshines at the tasting.  We purchased the Mason-Dixon Corn Whiskey and the Siggy Riesling before continuing south on I-79 and on to Elkins.

We picked up some groceries and provisions at the Elkins Kroger then drove to the Elkins Rail Depot.  While we were there, the Tygart Flier returned to the depot after a day trip of sightseeing to the High Falls of the Cheat.  The train looks like a lot of fun, and we will make a point to book a ride on the train soon.  We picked up a number of brochures in the nice visitor center at the Elkins depot then drove the short distance to have dinner at the Venezuelan restaurant, El Gran Sabor.  

My friends, Harold and Carrie-Megan Blanco, told us that the food at El Gran Sabor was very good so we were anxious to try it.  We had an appetizer of tostones, which are fried plantains.  We both ordered combination plates that included one arepa and one empanada with Mary ordering the chicken and I got the pork.  We traded halves and liked everything.  We also had black beans and rice on the side which was very good.  The meals were large, and despite being very hungry when we arrived, neither of us could finish our meals.

The hour drive from Elkins to Laneville was nice, and the cool weather was welcome in mid July.  We got to the Minor Cabin well before dark so we could clean and straighten while there was light.  We also walked over to Red Creek and saw that not only was the water level low, but the split in the creek that came nearest the cabin had nearly no water with the main channel carrying all of the flow.  We walked along on stones in the creek and saw several small brook trout, noticeable by the distinctive white stripe along the pelvic and pectoral fins.

On the drive into Laneville, we noticed that the bridge near the cabin was badly damaged and that there was a sign posted warning that the bridge will not support heavy loads.  As dusk approached, a two of the full time Laneville residents came by for a visit.  We were impressed that they live in the remote community all year even though the area gets some exceptionally harsh winter weather.  To take care of the bridge and other common areas, they are trying to raise money from everyone who has property in the area.  The road and bridge are not on state property and are not maintained by the state.  A local resident has offered to do the repairs if he can get the materials paid.

After our visitors left, we did more cleaning.  No one has been at the cabin for a while and there was a lot of evidence of rodents.  In addition, there was a lot of general dust and dirt that had collected.  One of the neighbors had removed a branch that had fallen in front of the cabin, and there is a good bit of work that needs to be done to get the place in good order.  After cleaning and straightening, we read for a while then turned in.  It was so nice to be there were there was no television, no Internet, no cell signal or other distractions.  We could just enjoy being there.  The cool mountain air made for great sleeping and the warm sleeping bags felt pretty good.

View Larger Map

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Old Pogue and New Riff Distilleries

In completing the Kentucky Craft Spirits Trail, we left home at 7:30 am headed for Old Pogue in Maysville, KY and New Riff in Newport, KY.
The drive to Maysville along the AA Highway was nice, there was a little patchy fog along the Ohio River but otherwise easy driving.  We got to Maysville a little early and enjoyed the drive through the historic old town.  There are some beautiful old homes on the Kentucky hill facing the Ohio River.  Many of these old homes are still occupied and appeared to be in good repair.  Some large buildings nearer the river appeared to have been boarding houses or hotels in Maysville’s boom days.  We especially liked the old row houses along the Mary Ingles Highway (W. 2nd Street) that looked to need some work but may well be still structurally sound.
It was a good thing that we got to Maysville early since the GPS took is to the exit for the distillery.  We were able to make a quick U turn then go up Germantown Road to get to the entrance to Old Pogue Distillery.  We drove down the steep and winding driveway to the small gravel visitor parking area.  As soon as we opened the car door we were greeted with the unmistakable sweet smell of a distillery.  We were struck by the beauty of the Pogue home nearby that overlooked the original Pogue Distillery that was located below on the Ohio River. 
When we entered the small distillery building we were met by John Pogue, the six generation of master distillers.  The two of us were the only ones for the 10 am tour and John met us warmly and shared the history of Maysville, how Bourbon helped to shape Maysville’s growth and his family’s role in that growth.  The Pogue Distillery dates back to 1876 and was able to sell remaining Bourbon for medicinal purposes during Prohibition.  However before the 18th Amendment’s repeal by the 21st Amendment in 1935, the Old Pogue folded in 1926 when the last barrel of bourbon in storage was sold.  
Members of the Pogue family worked as distillers and consultants for other companies, bringing the Bourbon expertise to other brands.  The recent revival of interest in quality Bourbon caused members of the Pogue family to tap stored family documents and recipes and begin making quality Kentucky Bourbon.  Members of the Pogue family had backgrounds not only in distilling but in business, law and, in the case of John, geology, came together to recreate family traditions of fine Bourbon.
The Pogue family buys rye, malted barley and locally grown corn that are ground for distillation in the small distillery.  After fermentation, the “beer” is piped a few feet to the fermentation tanks for a few days to allow the yeast to convert the grain sugars to about 10% alcohol when it is piped to the copper still a few feet away.  After distillation, the barrels of white whiskey are shipped to rented rickhouse space in Bardstown, Kentucky, a few hours drive away. 
At this time, Old Pogue makes only 50 barrels of Bourbon per year.  In addition to Old Pogue Bourbon, they make Five Fathers Pure Rye Malt Whisky that has a mashbill of 100% rye and Limestone Landing Single Malt Rye Whisky.  The huge demand for super premium Bourbon has caused a shortage of Old Pogue and has driven the price to $80 per bottle.  The distillery may be the only place remaining with bottles of Old Pogue to sell and they limit purchases to one bottle per visit. 
As we were leaving the distillery, another group of six visitors came and John took us through the old brick Pogue house next to the current distillery.  
The home has been beautifully restored with hardwood floors, photos of the original distillery and vintage Bourbon and rye bottles.  We walked out on the veranda to look down on the river and to appreciate the sunny summer day.  After touring the house, we returned to the distillery to sample Old Pogue Bourbon.  Mary bought a couple of very good Bourbon ball candies before we said our goodbyes and left for Newport on the AA Highway.
After about an hour drive, we arrived at Joe’s Crab Shack in Newport, across the highway from the Party Source and New Riff Distillery.  We were pleased that Sarah and Greg could meet us for the afternoon.  Joe’s Crab Shack has a good seafood selection and is generally well prepared.  While we waited on our lunch we had the appetizer sampler which included crab dip, spicy crab balls and calamari. For our meals, Mary had a shrimp platter and Greg had the East Coast platter, Sarah had mahi tacos and had crawfish half and half which was fried crawfish and crawfish etouffee.  We all enjoyed our meals.
Since our tour at New Riff wasn’t until 2 pm, we had about 30 minutes to spend at the nearby Party Source.  I had a shopping list of my favorite Bourbons but was surprised that there is a shortage of Eagle Rare, Blanton’s Reserve, Willett and W. L. Weller.  Although we were disappointed that these spirits were unavailable, we bought a bottle of ready to drink Mojito for Mary and Bulleit Bourbon, Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon and Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey.  We hope that production of Bourbon catches up with demand and our favorite brands become more available.
The New Riff Distillery is a beautiful structure with a towering column still that is located in a glass area making the glowing copper visible from the Party Source parking lot.  Silos outside the distillery store corn and rye to be ground for the mash to be turned into Bourbon or rye whiskey.  They also grind small quantities of malted barley to include in about 5% of the Bourbon mashbill.  Although they consider themselves a Kentucky Bourbon distillery, they also make rye whiskey.  The Bourbon mashbill is 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley.  To keep the distillery operating in the four years until the Bourbon ages in a nearby rickhouse, New Riff bottles and sells O.K.I. Bourbon that is named for Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana where parts of the Bourbon making process took place.
The ground grain is piped to one of the large stainless fermentation tanks where yeast strains convert grain sugars to ethanol.  The Vendome copper column stills and pot still distill the fermented mash to clear white whiskey.  Distillers assess the flavor, smell and alcohol concentration of the distillate at each step of the process to assure quality.
The distilled rye and Bourbon whiskeys are sent to large stainless steel cisterns where new white oak barrels are filled.  Unlike many Kentucky distillers, New Riff doesn’t get barrels from Independent Stave Company but rather from Kelvin Cooperage near Louisville.  
New Riff also does not chill filter their spirits prior to casking.  While the chill filtration makes the Bourbon less cloudy and removes oils and fats from the grain that may lend off or unpleasant flavors, the filtration also removes substances that contribute to complexity and unique flavors to the whiskey.  We also noticed that New Riff shrink wraps their barrels to reduce the volume that evaporates from the barrels as the “Angel’s Share”. 
After our interesting and informative tour, our guide took us around the building. In addition to the distilling operations, there are two beautiful party spaces in the distillery building.  Once of the spaces on the second floor even has a nice outdoor area that overlooks the river.  Both social spaces have a great view of the copper column still.
We finished our tour back near the distillery entrance where we did a tasting of the O.K.I. Bourbon.  It needed a splash of water to open the flavors up.  It was a little higher rye (35%) than we prefer but was a very drinkable Bourbon.  The guide told us about the Ranger program at New Riff in which a $60 Membership in the distillery gets a special bottle of New Riff Bourbon as soon as the four year aging is complete.  In addition, Rangers get first opportunities to purchase new or limited products that come to the distillery.  I was glad that I had taken advantage of the opportunity to join on the first day the program became available in May 2014.
After we left New Riff, we drove to Cincinnati for a short visit with Greg and Sarah.  We checked on their gardens and chatted about what is new with us.  Sarah gave Mary some knitting tips until we left for home at 5 pm.

We came back part of the way on US 52 along the Ohio River.  The drive wasn’t bad once we got out of traffic around Great American Ballpark where the Cincinnati Reds would be playing the Pittsburgh Pirates later that evening.  We crossed back into Kentucky at Maysville, had a fast dinner at Taco Bell, filled up with gasoline ($3.49/gallon) before driving on back on the AA Highway arriving home by 9 pm.

View Larger Map