Monday, June 11, 2018

From Here to Colorado Springs - Third Day

On day three, we left Tulsa to drive to Colorado Springs.  It was a very long day but we gained another hour as we headed West so we arrived in time to have dinner with our son.  He had just finished a 12 hour work shift and we were tired too so we went for an early dinner and then back to our room for hubby and son to have a much needed drink.  I should have said earlier but we decided to stay in the same hotel that our son was staying in, a Holiday Inn.  It was a nice hotel with a lovely view of the Rocky Mountains Range.

The next morning, we met for breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Our waitress was very friendly and as we chatted, she asked where we were from.  Turns out she was from Georgia as well!  Her husband is in the Army.  They previously lived in Augusta, GA where he was stationed and had just recently been transferred to Colorado Springs.  Small world!

I suffer from life long migraines.  I was nervous about visiting Colorado because of the altitude there.  When I turned 40, we took a family and friend trip to Breckenridge, CO.  We had never been to a state that had so much snow and had never been snow skiing.  We planned to ski, ice skate, snowmobile and take a night time horse drawn sled ride.  Colorado had a record breaking amount of snow that year, 1995, so everything was amazingly beautiful.  Unfortunately, I was quite ill with what I thought was migraines but was most likely high altitude sickness.  I struggled through the ice skating, skiing and snowmobile ride but when it came time for the one thing that I truly wanted to do, the horse drawn sled ride, I was too ill to go.

I had hoped that since we drove cross country slowly going up in altitude that I would not have the same issues with altitude but unfortunately I did!  I woke up both mornings we were in Colorado with a splitting headache and sinus issues.  This time I did have meds for migraine with me so that did help.  I mention this because it did interfere with my enjoyment of the trip and what I was able to do while there.  After we got back from our trip, a friend told me that there is now medication that you can take for high altitude sickness!

The first thing we decided to do for the day way to go to the Garden of the Gods Park in Manitou Springs.  Our son had been there before so he drove us there.  We drove up a not too high mountain that was very curvy on the Southwest edge of the park to a large gift shop where we purchased a few items.  They had a wonderful deck on the outside of the shop where you could view some of the beautiful valleys.

We drove back down and went into another section of the park where we had a lovely lunch outside of another gift shop.  After lunch, we drove through the park and viewed all of the lovely red rock formations including "Balanced Rock".  I read that the mountains there are red because they are made of sedimentary beds of deep red, pink and white sandstone conglomerates and limestone.

This is my husband with the big rock above his head!  The park apparently got its name in 1859.  You can read about it at the official park website at Garden of the Gods Park.

Next on the list was Pikes Peak.  Unfortunately for me, my head was killing me as we started to ascend the mountain so when we reached Crystal Creek Reservoir we stopped  at the store there to get something to drink.  The elevation at this point was 9,230 feet.  I decided at that point that it would be best if I didn't go up the rest of the way so I stayed at the lake and the guys drove on up.  Even though I would have liked to have seen the peak, I did have an enjoyable walk around the lake area (after taking more meds!).  The scenery was gorgeous and there were walking trails that had informational signs posted describing local plants and animals.  Oh, and that is where I spotted Sasquatch!

There was a cog railroad (the world's largest) that operates from Manitou Springs to the summit but after 126 years of operation, it is currently not running!  It is 19 miles of winding and potentially treacherous driving to reach the summit of 14,115 feet.  My husband and I are both afraid of heights so he was very nervous driving up the mountain.  Our son took a video of the top portion of the drive for me to "enjoy"!  It was in the upper 60's at the lake reservoir and 39 at the summit!

Pikes Peak is named after Zebulon Pike who led the first Americans on the Pike Expedition in 1806.  At that time he failed to climb to the top because of weather conditions.

We had dinner at an excellent seafood restaurant, Bonny and Reed, in historic downtown Colorado Springs.  We were seated by the window where we could people watch.  Just outside the window we could see the entrance to another restaurant called The Rabbit Hole.  As you can see by the picture, you open a door that leads down from the street into what looks like a subway entrance.  We were quite curious so after we ate, we went over to check it out.  It was a fun looking establishment with a bar and restaurant.  Lots of people took pictures at the front entrance!

The next day we decided to drive in a different direction and visit the Broadmoor Seven Falls.  It is a series of waterfalls at the end of a 1,250 foot box canyon.  We had cell phone coverage issues with our phones so using the map app was difficult.  After we got to the mountain and started up, we had a couple of false starts.  When we finally got to the spot, there was a sign posted that said buses only.  Not knowing what else to do, we started back down the mountain where we came upon the Broadmoor Hotel.  We decided to see if we could have lunch there but as we drove up it looked so amazingly posh and beautiful that we thought they would probably turn us away.  To our delight, not only did they not turn us away, they made us feel most wanted!  They complementary parked our bug invested (from the cross country drive) SUV and told us we had several choices of restaurants for lunch.  I hope that is you are ever in Colorado Springs that you can visit the Broadmoor Hotel!  It is a truly delightful place.  For one thing, it is huge!  A Forbes 5-Star and AAA Five-Diamond resort that is incredible.  It opened in 1918.  They were celebrating the 100 year anniversary.  They offer gold, a luxury pool and cabana, fine and casual dining, a spa, shops and galleries.  I made sure to visit their wonderful shop that was full of sweets - chocolates, pastries and gelato!

We chose to eat at the bar restaurant that had outdoor seating by a beautiful lake stocked with very large fish and beautiful white swans.  The day was gorgeous weather wise with low humidity and temperatures in the low 80's.  We had a leisurely lunch and then walked around the lake.  The landscaping was breathtaking!  I saw my first magpie there!  My husband and son know I love bird watching but they did not quite understand my excitement at seeing "another bird"!  My mother does though as she is a fellow bird watcher so I immediately sent her a picture of it!  Here it is for your enjoyment.

We were on our way back to our hotel to rest for a while but decided we wanted to peek into one of the cannabis stores we had seen earlier. In 2013, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing retail sales of marijuana for recreational purposes but the Colorado Springs City Council voted not to permit retail shops in the the city.  Medical marijuana outlets continue to operate and this is what the store was that we entered.

Not knowing any of that before hand, we sheepishly walked into what looked like a doctors office waiting room.  There was no one inside the waiting room but in a minute or two a gentleman popped his head out of a sliding glass window and asked if he could help us.  We answered that we were just curious because it is legal there and we were from Georgia.  He then asked if we were interested in recreational marijuana.  We said we didn't want to buy anything but just wanted to see what a shop looked like.  He said we could come back and look around at the medicinal marijuana and we said that would be great.  After we went inside he told us that we would need to sign in his book.  My husband said you mean sign something that goes to the government?  To which he replied yes but it was just a formality.  We quickly agreed that we did not want to do that and left but not before glancing around and seeing all kinds of interesting looking equipment and "medicine"!

At some point in our two day whirlwind visit, we went to Barnes and Noble Bookstore so that our son could purchase some paperback books to read in his down time at work.  He has a Kindle but no electronics are allowed in the section where he works.  While he looked for books, I went to the magazine section to look at bead magazines.  When I finished and still had time to look around I noticed the Weed World Magazine.  I bought a copy to read on our trip back across country.  Most of it was about the different types of marijuana.  I am no expert but back in my college days when pot was around I didn't even know there was more than one type!  

There was an interesting article in the magazine that was informative to me.  It was entitled,  The Divided States for America.  The article implied that the number of marijuana users both medicinal and recreational was going down in Colorado.  Supposedly, the market is flooded with lower quality weed and bureaucratic red tape is making everything more challenging for independent business people.  The article goes on to say that legal cannabis has to be of good quality and sold at a price that makes its production worthwhile.  So even though the drug has been legalized in some states, it sounds like it is going to be a long uphill road for the future.

We met our son for dinner at the hotel restaurant.  He had to get up around 4:30 a.m. to go to work the next day and we had another long day ahead of us to get to Oklahoma City.

Here are some facts about Colorado that you might find interesting:

* The state bird is the Lark bunting
* The state animal is the Bighorn sheep
* The population of CO in 2018 is 674,000 up from 2016 when it was 465,101
* Colorado Springs first inhabited by Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Ute Indians who gathered each year at present day Garden of the Gods Park
* General William Palmer, a Civil War General, first came to the area in 1871
* Peterson AFB, US Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, US Space Command, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base are all located at or near Colorado Springs
* The economy consists of the military, high tech industry and tourism
* The climate is a semi-arid climate - the proximity to the Rocky Mountains makes the city subject to drastic day-to-day variability in weather conditions
* One of the most active lighting strike areas in the US - this natural phenomenon led Nikola Tesla to select the city as the preferred location to build his lab and study electricity in 1893
* There are 12 four year colleges within 40 miles of Colorado Springs
* Aquamarine is the official gemstone but you can also find amazonite, garnet, topaz, tourmaline, lapis lazuli, quartz crystal, smoky quartz, rose quartz, amethyst, turquoise, jasper, chalcedony, peridot, sapphire, zircon and agate in Colorado
* A few famous people from Colorado Springs are Lon Cheney, James Dobson and Bobby Unser

Watch for another post in our journey soon!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

From Here to Colorado Springs and Back - Second Day

So after spending the night in Natchez, we left bright and early the next morning for our second day of travel heading to Tulsa, OK.  We crossed the Mississippi River and entered Louisiana.  There was not a lot to see and I didn't sleep very well the night before so after a while I brought out my travel pillow and nodded off.  I awoke rather abruptly some time later when the car slowed and I heard my husband use some rather colorful language.  In one of the parishes we were driving through, the local authority pulled us over.  The officer said to my unhappy husband, "Sir, the reason I have pulled you over is that you were going 65 in a 50 zone."  We were not aware that there were still speed traps around.  I kid you not, the speed limit was 65 and went directly to 50.  There was a traffic sign not 75 feet from where we were stopped raising the speed again to 65!  The officer very calmly told us that we could call after 4 the same day and find out the amount of the fine and how to pay it.  Later in the day, we called and found out it was a hefty $l75.  Needless to say, we were happy to leave Louisiana later in the day!

As I said earlier, there was not a lot to see in the part of Louisiana that we drove through and I did sleep part of the way through the state.  However, after I woke up we did talk some about the history of Louisiana - specifically about the Louisiana Purchase.  After being out of school for so long my memory of learning about US history is dim.  So of course, I "Googled" it!  According to Wikipedia, the Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory by the US from France in 1803.  The territory included land from 15 present day states and 2 Canadian provinces.  It contained land that forms AR, MO, IA, OK, KS, NE, the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, a large portion of ND, a large portion of SD, the north east section of NM, the northern portion of TX, the area of MT, Wyoming and Colorado east of the continental divide, LA west of the Mississippi River (plus New Orleans) and small portions of land withing the present Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.  The purchase doubled the size of the US.

Louisiana has a diverse culture - two prominent ethic groups are Cajuns (descendants of a French speaking group of Acadians from Canada) and Creoles a mixture of French, Spanish, Caribbean, African and or Indian background people.

Interesting facts about Louisiana:

* The state bird is the Brown Pelican
* Gemstones found in LA - Agate is the state mineral, oyster shell is the state gemstone, "palm wood" is the state fossil - palm wood is petrified wood which is a sedimentary rock
* The Mississippi River is the border for Louisiana and Mississippi
* There are 4 military bases in the state
* Famous people - Trace Adkins, Terry Bradshaw, Ellen Degeneres, Louis Armstrong, Truman Capoti, Harry Connick Jr. and Warren Dunn to name a few!
* Population in 2018 is 4,684 million people
* Highest elevation is 535' and the lowest is 8'
* LA has a humid subtropical climate with hot humid summers and short mild winters
* New Orleans most well know city - Bourbon Street is the best known street in LA
* Economy consists of natural resource production and agriculture - oil, natural gas, commercial fishing, chemicals and agriculture are 5 vital industries
* LA is the only state that does not have counties - it has parishes
* LA is named in honor of King Louis XIV
* Metaire is home to the longest bridge over water in the world, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway which is 24 miles long

I know most people have heard of the famous Mardi Gras celebration that takes place every year in New Orleans.  Mardi Gras is also known as Fat Tuesday.  Fat Tuesday refers to events of the carnival celebrations beginning on or after the Christian Feasts of Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday.  Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.  Fat Tuesday reflects the last night of eating richer fatty foods before the ritual of the Lenten season.

The event arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition with the Le Moyne brothers in the late 17 century when King Louis XIV sent the pair to defend Frances' claim on the territory of LA.  The first organized Mardi Gras celebrations was in 1703.  The first Mardi Gras parade held in New Orleans took place in 1837.

Here is something you may or may not have heard about - The Orphan Train Movement.  From 1854 to 1929, almost 200,000 orphaned, abandoned or homeless children from eastern cities such as NYC were relocated to other parts of the country.  Opelonsas was a destination for at least 3 of the orphan trains.  Families there took in over 2,000 children, mostly Catholic, to live in rural farming communities.

The first time I had heard of this was a couple a years ago when my book club read the book, The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline.  A great read but so sad in many cases.

We crossed the border into Texas and had an uneventful drive.  While driving through TX my husband started listening to an audible book by Steven Pinker called, How the Mind Works.  Some very interesting and insightful information but some times so repetitive in explaining his point that I again dosed off!

We didn't stop too many times each day for pit stops but when we did, we always looked for exits that had Love's Travel Stops.  While traveling in the past, I had noticed that the Love's locations were always nice but didn't think to much more about them.  Since I had so much time of my hands during this trip, I decided to research them.  They are a family owned company that was founded in 1964 by Tom and Judy Love.   They have over 450 locations in 41 states and are based in Oklahoma City.

As we drove along the highway I began to notice signs that said Texas Plains Trail.  That made me curious so I looked it up.  In checking on it, I found out that this is a 52 county region of over 50,000 square miles of short grass prairie and spectacular canyon vistas.  The TX Heritage Trails Program is the TX Historical Commissions tourism initiative - an economic development initiative that encourages communities and the state to partner and promote Texas' historic and cultural resources.  See for more info.

The scenery was definitely gorgeous except for the oil wells!  They are not pretty but I did find myself mesmerized by the number of them and where they were placed, which was pretty much anywhere!  I found myself nodding my head up and down as they pumped away.  They kind of reminded me of the old wooden rocking horses we had as children for some reason.

The US has oil wells in 10 states that produce approximately 90% of the US oil production.  Texas accounts for about 1/3 of this oil production.

It wasn't too long after seeing the first oil wells that we also began to see wind turbines.  I had never seen one except on television so it was quite exciting to see how massive they are and how many we have working in the country.  In 2017, electric power generated from wind provided 8% or more of the power in 12 states - CO, ID, IA, KS, ME, MN, ND, OK, OR, SD, VT and TX.

Interesting facts about TX

* There are 5 main rivers in TX - the Rio Grande, the Colorado River, the San Antonio River (which runs through the city of San Antonio), the Guadalupe River and Devils River
* The elevation varies in TX from Galveston at 3' above sea level to Guadalupe Peak in West Texas the highest point at 8,751 feet
* There are too many military bases in TX to list here! The same can be said about famous people and 4 year colleges.
* The official gemstone of TX is the Texas Topaz but you can also find gold, silver, agate, gypsum, smoky quartz, onyx, pyrite, feldspar, mica, garnet, fluorite, hematite, tourmaline, opal and over 100 minerals
* Major industries included, petroleum, natural gas, farming, steel, banking and tourism
* The climate varies widely for the state from arid west to the humid east - central Texas is semi-arid - southern TX is mostly within the tropical classification
* Animals native to TX are many but the state animal is the armadillo (1927) and the Mexican free-tailed bat (1955) - the longhorn became the large mammal symbol of  TX in 1995
* The state bird is the Northern Mockingbird
* The Alamo is perhaps the most famous site in TX and is located in San Antonio
* Texas is popularly known as the Lone Star State
* The King Ranch is bigger than the state of Rhode Island
* More wool comes from TX than any other state
* Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885 (there is no period after the r in Dr)
* The word Texas comes from the Hasinal Indian word meaning friends or allies
* The worst natural disaster in the state was caused by a hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 when about 8,000 lives were lost - A great book about this was written by Erik Larson - Issac's Storm

We drove about 60 miles through Arkansas before entering Oklahoma.  One big thing we noticed about driving through the mid west is that you see fewer of what we call "leftist" - you know those people who insist on driving in the left lane.  Come on people!  The left lane is supposed to be for passing and for those people who are driving at speeds that do not slow the people behind you.  We live in the Atlanta area which has become quite a large city since were were born her in the 50's.  The traffic has become a nightmare so we were delighted to see road signs that said Do Not Impede the Left Lane and people actually obeyed them!

But, back to Tulsa!  We arrived in the evening and checked in to the Mayo Hotel.  The Mayo is in a historic building in downtown Tulsa.  The Chicago School building was built in 1925.  It originally had 600 rooms, ceiling fans in each room and Tulsa's first running ice water.  Many famous people frequented the hotel including President John F. Kennedy, Bob Hope, Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West and Elvis Presley.  The hotel was abandoned for 30 years after it closed.  The Snyder family purchased the building in 2001 for $250,000 and began renovations.  The lower floors were restored first and many events were held in the beautiful lobby area.  A project to convert the 7 upper floors into 70 lofts began in 2008.

The hotel opened in 2009 for it first guest - Britney Spears.  She booked 80 rooms for her tour stop in Tulsa.  Many more famous guests have stayed there since then - Lady Gaga, Bob Seger, Josh Groban and One Republic to name a few.

Tulsa is a city on the Arkansas River.  It is 722' above sea level.  The population is approximately 394,500.  For most of the 20th century, the city held the nickname "Oil Capital of the World".  The economy now is more diversified and includes sectors of finance, aviation, telecommunications and technology.

The city was first settled around 1836 by Trail of Tears survivors from the Lochapoka and Creek Indians.  The area around Tulsa was also settled by members of the Five Civilized Tribes.  Most of modern Tulsa is located in the Creek Nation with parts located in the Cherokee Nation and Osage Nation.

Tulsa has a temperate climate of the humid subtropical variety.  The city is subject to severe thunderstorms.

I will cover more on the the state of Oklahoma in our return trip home at a later date.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

From Here to Colorado Springs and Back

Recently my husband and I decided to drive across the United States to visit our son who is working temporarily in Colorado Springs.  We gave ourselves 3 days to drive there, 2 days to visit and 3 days to drive back.  Our drive took us from Stone Mountain, Georgia through Alabama and Mississippi to our first stop of Natchez, MS.  My husband had talked about wanting to visit the town for several years and this was a great opportunity to do so. 

We arrived in Natchez on a late Sunday afternoon.  Just as we were checking into our hotel a summer afternoon storm popped up.  We dashed into our room and stood at the window that overlooked the great Mississippi River.  Low clouds rolled over the river which obscured our view of just how big the river is.  A little while later the storm blew over and we were able to see to the other side of the majestic water.  Long river barges meandered up and down the expanse of water.  A tug boat at one end of the row of containers pushed what seemed to be a too long row to navigate the tricky river.  It was fascinating to watch!

The storm passed us by and we were able to go to dinner at the Magnolia Grill, one of the only restaurants open on Sunday on the river.  After dinner, we drove around the town site seeing.  We didn’t have much time to see anything as it was getting dark but I was able to snap a few photos of the river.  The picture below is looking north up the Mississippi.

As a jewelry designer, I am always interested in gemstones and where they are found.  Unfortunately, Mississippi is not really known for gemstones but you can find fossils, petrified wood and fulgurites.  Fulgurites are a type of quartz that forms when lightning strikes the Earth and causes sand at a confined area to melt and form a unique variety of quartz.  Alas, I did not have time to find any of these items!

The town got its name from a group of Native American people who lived in the Natchez Bluffs area of Mississippi.  The Natchez Trace begins in the town and runs approximately 444 miles through 3 states to end near Nashville, TN.  It was first traveled by the American Indians, European settlers, slave traders and soldiers.  It is now a historical National Parkway.

Natchez is a small town of a little more than 15,500 people.  The demographic is about 58% black/African American and 39% Caucasian.  They enjoy a mild climate with January being the coldest month (58/38) and August being the warmest (91/71).  The elevation is 217’ above sea level.  The state bird is the mockingbird and the state mammal is the white-tailed deer.  The main economy for the area is mining, quarrying, oil, gas extraction, utilities, accommodation and food services.

Some interesting tidbits about Natchez and Mississippi are listed here for your information:

·         * 17 four year colleges in Mississippi

·        *  Famous person from Natchez – Mickey Gilley, country music singer who was a cousin to Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart

·         * Keesler AFB – Biloxi, MS – Largest base in MS 

·         * Fort Rosalie built in 1716 was the first permanent white settlement on the Mississippi River built by the French and later renamed Natchez

·         * The first prep school in the Mississippi territory was established in 1802 – Jefferson College

·         * The doorway of the Linden Mansion, (now a bed and breakfast) built in 1785 may have been the inspiration for the doorway of Tara in the movie, Gone With the Wind

·        *   Texada is believed to be the oldest capitol building in the state

·        *   The first African American singer of classical music to gain recognition in both Europe and the US was Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, born 1809 in Natchez

·         * St. Mary Basilica was built in 1842 and is the oldest Catholic building still in use in Mississippi – it is a prime example of Gothic-Revival architecture

·        *  Longwood Mansion is the largest remaining octagonal house in the country – it was built in 1860 for Haller and Julia Nutt – only the first floor of the interior was finished due to Civil War tensions

·         * The Mississippi River is the largest river system in the US at 2,300 miles long – it is the 4th longest and 10th most powerful river in the world – it was a vital factor in the physical and economic growth of the US

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our first leg of the journey across America.  Look for more posts to follow soon.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Week #9 of the Mother's Day Countdown event is here for your pleasure!

Mother’s Day Countdown 2018 Week 9

The Countdown to Mother’s Day has begun!
Shop now for handmade and unique gifts for mom.

Mother's Day Gift Ideas
Whether you sell on Artfire, Etsy, Zibbet or have your own stand alone website, we want to see your gift ideas! There will be a new collection started midday Friday from now until maybe the first weekend in May.
Invite your friends!!
Please limit the items you post to those in the spirit of Etsy, Artfire and Zibbet, and please keep it G-Rated. There is a 3 item limit for each shop or studio. No multiple shops for this promotion please and thanks. The ability to post will stay open from Friday until sometime Sunday night, which should provide a lot of time to add items.
There is ONE RULE - You must promote the collection either before or after the posting closes. If you have a blog, please hop this blog, and promote each item to one social network, preferably Pinterest or Wanelo where we can see the item. Twitter and Facebook are fine, they just do not show the item.
This collection will provide a lot of backlinks to your products and get your higher in searches on the search engines.
Midweek, I once again am planning an extra post for additional promotions. These extra posts are for further promotion if you wish to participate. I will be snooping around your shops and picking items that fit our weekly post. When I feature you in this additional post, I will send you a little email notice.
Happy Sales!
Julie and Blu
 PS - hashtag #bmecountdown for RTs if you are tweeting.
 *********** Having Trouble or Questions? ************
Blu and I are here to help :)

If you are having any trouble or need upload instructions, I have written a quick tutorial on the tutorial page. Here is the link