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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Frederick, Maryland

Black Hog BBQ
Sometimes as we barrel down the freeways, we pass through a town that beckons. On a trip from Baltimore to Pittsburgh, we decided to stop for a late lunch in Frederick, Maryland. Checking online, we found many favorable reviews for the Black Hog BBQ (

It only took a taste for the three of us to agree with the reviewers. The food is excellent and the restaurant offers various BBQ styles.  I had the Carolina smoked pork sandwich. I admit I doused it in Kansas City sauce but the meat was incredibly lean and tender. The restaurant offers a variety of styles to satisfy every taste.

After stuffing our faces, we drove through the historic downtown. The Civil War era buildings present a picture of a long-ago time.

We didn’t have time to stop but it made us want to return. If you’re traveling that route, check it out.  Its proximity to Gettysburg and Baltimore makes it an ideal place to visit. If the insides of the shops are as picturesque as the outside, you’ll be glad you did.

According to the website, “museums meet martini bars…scenic landscapes.” The website offers enough temptation to explore Frederick on a return trip.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Battlefield Bed and Breakfast at Gettysburg

Joyce Faulkner shares her comments about the Battlefield B&B. If you visit Gettysburg, this is a great place. Thanks, Joyce, for painting a picture of a delightful vacation stay.


The Battlefield Bed and Breakfast in Gettysburg is more than a place
to take a shower and sleep off a long day of sight seeing. It’s a
portal to a style of living long gone for most of us. Living on a farm
situated on South Cavalry field in July 1863, the Houghtelin family
watched thousands of their fellow Americans come together in a frenzy
of violence, each side hoping that their view of civilization would

What the Houghtelins saw has been preserved and honored in the modern version of their home. Visitors can learn about the past while
comfortably ensconced in one of the rooms or suites that make up this
Sunrise off the deck

Every morning before a lovely traditional breakfast, historians
recapture what it was like for real folks when hell came to visit. The
grounds are well-groomed and beautiful -- perfect for meditation or
reading. The coffee is rich and ever present whether you are an
Maggie Abbott presentation
about Civil War fashio
early-rising jogger or a slower-moving history buff reclining on the
wrap-around deck. Plates of fresh cookies and pitchers of lemonade
fuel long walks and power naps.

Florence and her staff see to your comfort and safety while providing
you with the materials for a fun and relaxing educational vacation.

B&B grounds

Contact her at or at for reservations.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sunsets over Gettysburg

Blood was spilled and bodies littered the once serene countryside in the early July heat. That 1863 scene forever changed the course of Gettysburg and American history.

Until July 1, 1863, the small town awoke each morning to scenes of peaceful farmlands and the large boulders dotting the surrounding hillsides. Residents went about their daily lives, working and raising their families. Then during the first three days in July, the battle ravaged the armies, the land and the people of the town.

More than 150 years later, the fields flourish, flowers bloom and trees shade a land that still haunts the million-plus visitors each year.

Whether you tour the battlefield by car, bus, bicycle or Segway, a visitor cannot escape the pain of a war where friends and former comrades-in-arms fought as enemies.

The natural beauty belies the horrors of the past but the knowledge that the world goes on and mankind's actions have little effect on nature seeps slowly through the stories. It is the spirit that haunts us, that forces us to face the consequences of war and the importance of individual lives while recognizing that we are but a single thread in the earth's tapestry.

Does that lessen the pain and the horror?

No. Rather it causes one to ponder the concept of war and the foolishness of mankind as well as the deadly sins of greed and hate. There are many different ways to view Gettysburg - the military strategies, the causes the North and South defended, the innocent townspeople caught up in the midst of ferocious battles, the life of the soldiers, the role of medical care in the 1860s, the folly of the human race and many more.

Chris starting his Picketts Charge journey

I had Confederate ancestors who fought here and Union ancestors who fought west of the Mississippi. I suspect many of today's Americans are descendants from both sides of the war.

Chris reaching the top of Cemetery Ridge
At the end of a Gettysburg writer's retreat this week, I waited with my camera in hand while my son, Chris, walked Pickett's charge. I knew his thoughts turned to five of our ancestors who made the fateful march that day as part of Kemper's Brigade. As he walked the nearly mile-long fields on a hot day, he would imagine the 12,000 Confederate soldiers who started shoulder-to-shoulder and the more than 6,000 who died. I'm sure he could almost hear the cannons and rifles, and smell the gunpowder.

As his imagination took him back in history, I found myself fascinated by the beauty of a sunset over the green fields - the same sun that set over the broken bodies and lost souls for three long days in July of 1863.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine that in spite of human pain and suffering, the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening.

It is fitting that life does go on but memories should never die.

Sunset from Cemetery Ridge

5 Places to Get Your Culture on in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Paramount Theater
It's easy to get your culture fix in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With a history of diverse venues, the city established a cultural reputation many years ago. In 2008, a flood devastated the downtown, including many of those places. Now renovated, they have kept the original flavor with new and exciting touches.

Theater is alive and well. The beautiful Paramount Theater, on the National Register of Historic Places, opened in 1928 and then, as now, offered a full event schedule.  Check out their Facebook page ( or their website ( for this year's scheduled performance.

Theatre Cedar Rapids

Theatre Cedar Rapids is a downtown community performance venue for locally produced shows. Like the Paramount, it opened in 1928 and has recently been renovated and enlarged. Check out their schedule at ( or (
National Czech and Slovak Museum

Museum of Art
The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library ( is gearing up for a major Warhol exhibition this summer. Whether or not you have a Czech or Slovak heritage, the display on stories of freedom should touch you.The museum opened in 1978 and has grown from a three-room house into the beautiful 6-story building. Today it is an art and history museum as well as a cultural library. Check out their Facebook page (

Grant Wood painting
The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art ( is featuring a Grant Wood display this year in honor of the 125th year of his birth. Wood, a prolific artist, captured the flavor of Iowa in his paintings. Regular museum displays include art from ancient to modern times. Another display features the famous Argentinian printmaker, Mauricio Lasansky. Whether you like Roman or modern art, you'll find it at the museum.
Grant Wood window in
Veterans Memorial Bldg

The Veterans Memorial Building ( features the only stained glass window designed by artist  Grant Wood. The massive work is twenty-four feet tall and 20 feet wide. The museum honors wars from the Spanish-American through Vietnam. An eternal flame sets atop the building.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Food and Lodging in the Amana Colonies

Rose's Place B&B
Where did I start my visit? Every adventure has a beginning and for the Amana Colonies, it's the movie at the Amana Heritage Center in downtown Amana. To fully appreciate the communities, it's important to understand the culture and heritage of this unique American experience. Check out my previous post at

I visited the old woolen mill and was amazed that equipment and designs from the 1800s are still used in the weaving process. Today the mill manufactures both wool and cotton products. Originally they only made wool products from the sheep they raised on their farms. I also visited the old general store in High Amana and loved that trip to yesteryear. I brought home some canned goods and we are still sampling them. I tasted the horseradish jelly, and had to buy some. It didn't sound good but I really like the combination of horseradish and sweet.

My room
I spent only one night but it whetted my appetite for a return visit. I stayed at a charming B&B, Rose's Place (, in Middle Amana. Owner Monys Hagen is as delightful as her accommodations. A retired history professor, she moved to Amana after several visits to do research for a book.

The four rooms of the B&B are on the second floor of this former schoolhouse. The inn is filled with antique furniture and books, including a German bible from the 1870s. (Be sure and ask Monys about baseball in the Amana Colonies.)

To enter, you walk past Monys' vegetable and flower garden. By the time I reached the door, I'd already succumbed to the property's charm. Monys was outside watering and her warm greeting made me feel welcome. She showed me to my room and I lagged behind glancing at all the antiques. She kept up a running commentary about the house and its furnishings. Each room is unique in its furniture and decorations.
Ox Yoke Inn

I left for a delicious dinner at the Ox Yoke Inn ( The experience met my every expectation. The meal, served family style, included dishes like my mother fixed. I ordered the fried chicken and enjoyed a moist breast along with corn, green beans, fried potatoes and several other delicious offerings. Of course, no meal can be complete without dessert and when our server brought out the dessert tray, I gave in to the chocolate pie. I met Bill Leichsenring Jr,, the owner, and discovered he is carrying on the family tradition, running the restaurant his parents opened in 1940.
Dessert Tray

When I returned to Rose's Place, Monys offered me a evening cordial, from an Amana winery. After a good night's sleep in a cozy bed, I was more than ready for the scrumptious Huevos Rancheros that Monys served. Over breakfast, she shared her story and her love of her new home. Time slipped away as I enjoyed the conversation and I found myself sorry to leave. I knew I wanted to return and learn more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What are the Amana Colonies?

The woolen mill in Amana
The Amana Colonies are not Amish communities. You won't find horse and buggies on the streets. What will you find? Seven villages set in 26,000 acres of rolling hills in the middle of Iowa, comprising the Amana Colonies.

General Store in High Amana
In the mid 1800's, German immigrants of the Community of True Inspiration, settled first near Buffalo, NY and then in Iowa. In Germany in the 1700s, the group had broken away from the Lutheran church and formed a faith-based community steeped in austere religious devotion. Unfortunately, the new church drew criticism and its followers were persecuted. When they decided to settle in America, the group acknowledged the need to pool the members' resources and formed a communal society.

The religion rewarded piety and a simple utilitarian lifestyle. Everyone worked for the common good, ate the same food, received the same medical care, lived in the same style of homes, and worshiped in the same church. No one received wages for work as there was no need for money. Individual communities formed for practical purposes. It made sense to live closer to farms and work. Since everyone ate in communal kitchens, it was convenient for residents to eat near their homes.

Winery in South Amana
The society flourished. It existed in communal form until 1932, when the Great Depression, a falling farm market and the need for jobs drove young people to the cities. The residents wanted to preserve their communities and made a group decision to re-form so

Store in Amana
Store in Amana
individuals could achieve their own goals. They formed the Amana Society to manage the land and businesses. Every resident received an equal share. Today the society preserves the lifestyle and the church is still intact.

Why should you visit? The residents have a loyal and fierce pride in their heritage. They have preserved their architecture and serene lifestyle in an often hectic world. The mill still operates, the residents still hone their crafts, and the farmers still work the land. The buildings - simple and beautiful in their wood, stone and brick construction - are a study in eye-appeal.

Residents love their vegetable and flower gardens. Many of the communal kitchens became private homes or bed & breakfast inns. The Amanas - Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana and Homestead - offer historical sites that educate visitors. They have been designated as a National Historical Landmark.

Plan at least a couple of days. Visit the candy stores, the old mill, the old general store, the blacksmith shop and the art galleries. Stay in a bed and breakfast, eat at the local restaurants, sample the lifestyle and leave feeling relaxed and happy.

Oh, and if you have a camera in hand, you can take a piece of their uniqueness home with you.

I plan to return!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Time for more Route 66

Galena, Kansas

I just read that the effort continues to save the old Route 66 bridge across the Meramec River in Route 66 State Park (see Jo Schaper's article at /

Devil's Elbow, Missouri
It's always been on my bucket list to travel the entire highway but I have only done little pieces at a time. For example, the road only covers 13 miles through the southeastern corner of Kansas but it is full of history and fun (see

Another time we visited Route 66 sites in Lebanon, MO (see

Pulaski County, Missouri, our latest visit, is home to Elbow's Inn, one of the top BBQ restaurants in Missouri. See

Okay, now I'm ready for another Route 66 fix!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

25 reasons to visit Cedar Rapids this summer

American Gothic statues (Overalls Project)

One-hundred-twenty-five years ago in 1891, Iowa saw the birth of Grant Wood, who became a famous American artist. As a young man, he studied in Europe and started his art career painting in the impressionist style of the era. By the age of thirty-nine, he had created his own style and produced American Gothic, a work that gained him international fame.

This year, Cedar Rapids leads the celebration of his birth and his art. Last week I visited his studio, saw several of his famous paintings, and ended my trip with a visit to a warehouse, where twenty-five American Gothic statues (each six-foot tall) stood waiting to make their home around the city this summer.

Now in place, each unique piece celebrates Grant Wood's work and Iowa culture. Be sure to walk around the statues and check out the back as well as the front. The designs range from beautiful to whimsical. I loved them all, but yes, I had favorites.

Plan to visit this spring or summer, tour the city to find them and pick out your favorites. Oh, and check out some of Grant Wood's paintings while you're in town. More information will follow in a later post.

Check out Go Cedar Rapids ( and ( to access a printable map showing the location and sponsor of each statue. The statues will remain on display through the NewBo Art Festival in September.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A week in Iowa

John Wayne's Birthplace
Winterset Courthouse
I've spent much of my life in Missouri and have to admit I know next to nothing about our neighbor to the north. I'm spending the week in Iowa to discover its natural beauty, learn about its history and people and admire its scenery and architecture.

I suppose I'm like many people when my knowledge of the state comes from a movie. The Music Man was one of my mother's favorites and I watched it with her more times than I can count. I never even knew if River City was real or fictional.

St Charles Bridge
I drove in the rain all the way from Kansas City to Pella, Iowa, and arrived with temperatures in the 40s - too cold for the last day of April. However, I had an awesome day, found some of Madison County's covered bridges, visited the John Wayne Museum in his hometown of Winterset, and arrived in Pella where the poor tulips need coats to survive until the Tulip Festival this weekend.

Holliwell Bridge
The countryside is beautiful in the spring and was washed clean by the rain, resulting in intense greens in the fields and the trees. I found three covered bridges - the St. Charles Bridge, Holliwell Bridge and Cedar Bridge - each unique. The Cedar Bridge was the only one I could drive through.

By the time I arrived in Pella, the rain had stopped and my Around Me app said 43. After a bowl of soup and a sandwich at Applebee's, I'm tucked in a warm hotel room. The tulips and I are hoping for a warmer tomorrow.

Cedar Bridge

Inside Cedar Bridge