And They’re Off …


Our first stop this morning was the Civil War Battlefield of “The Battle of Franklin” at the Carnton Plantation.  When you go back and consider the tragedy that war was for our country in the amount of human life that it cost us, it’s too sad to think about.  But then again, it also made us who we are as a country today.  We won’t ever go back to the terrible injustices of treating people differently because of the color of their skin or because of the way they look.  We learned our lesson during those tragic days.

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Since it was our first time in “The South,” we wondered how a tour would be … would it be too confederate, would we feel uncomfortable?  We were a little hesitant but we figured, “we’re here, we might as well go.”  It turned out that our tour guide was amazingly un-biased and she gave us a tour of the house and the property that just told the story of the battle at Franklin, Kentucky that day.  It was one of the war’s worst battles, and the people who lived on the Carnton Farm saw it all happen right in front of their eyes.  They became an instant hospital, caring for the fallen soldiers, and burying them right then and there on their farm.  As we peered out the windows from their second story bedrooms, you could certainly feel the sadness of that day, and at the same time, give honor to all those who fought and died on both sides of the battlefield, because, after all, they were all Americans.

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This is the first “Civil War Site” that we have been to and it was very moving.  Sad and tragic and yet they did a beautiful job at honoring all those who fell during those terrible years.

As we continued our road trip, I was so curious about the stone walls along the side of roads that we kept seeing for miles and miles and miles.  I kept telling the gang, “this looks like what I imagine Ireland to look like, with the short hand-stacked stone walls.”  I’ve never been to Ireland but it really looked like all those pictures we see in movies and on postcards.

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We finally saw a “Historic Site” monument sign and we stopped to read what it said.  Well, you’re never gonna believe it!  These walls are called “The Rock Fences of Kentucky” and here’s what one blogger says about them:

Central Kentucky is world famous for Thoroughbred horses and endless miles of rock fences (dry stone walls). There are more rock fences here than any place in the USA. In Central Kentucky only 5 -10% of these 19th century dry stone walls built by Irish Immigrant stone masons still stand. These stone masons passed their craft on to black slaves that became masters of the craft of building rock walls.

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It was so picturesque to see, and then when you touched them, you felt the spirit of those who built them, proud of the work of their hands!  So, I got to see a part of Ireland in Kentucky!  Who would have guessed that??

We continued our drive along these glorious green roads til we came to … Churchill Downs — Home of the Kentucky Derby!  And WOW!  What a sight this was!!

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As soon as you pull into the parking lot and see the steeples, you can hear the trumpets playing the “song” in your mind … you know the one, “da da da da da da daaaa — and they’re off!!”  This was going to be great!!

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We had a little time before our tour to see the grounds and visit the museum.  They have an actual gate from one of the previous Derby’s for you to play in … and so we did!

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They also have lots of interactive exhibits for more playing … and so we did!

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Of course, I was the winner of the horse race because of my horse’s name.  “Little Lu” beat the girls by a whole length!  Haha!!

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They are also the only museum that has a 360° theater that shows actual footage of horse races going all the way back to Seabiscuit (he did NOT run in the Derby though) through American Pharaoh, last year’s KD winner!  It was quite exciting to experience those big races again!

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This place is full of history and fun.  On the day of the Derby last year, they sold over 170,000 tickets!!  And the cheapest ticket is “General Admission for $60.00 per person” … they are making a killing for a couple of minutes of thrills!

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We had a great time touring and visiting all the cool exhibits, the actual grandstands, and the barns where all those famous horses live.  The race track was so beautiful and green and perfect.  And all for a quick run around the track!   I think their website says it all …

A trip to the Kentucky Derby is an unforgettable experience! Watch one of the world’s top rank horse races, known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports”, while immersing yourself in iconic southern Derby traditions – sipping a mint julep, donning a beautiful hat, and joining fellow race fans in singing
“My Old Kentucky Home”.

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EJG March 2016 008Well, not sure my hat makes their Top 10 List, but we’ll definitely be back here for a race or two!!  Not to mention a mint julep or two!  😉

Oh, and in case you’re interested, the Kentucky Derby is this Saturday … anyone care to make a little bet??

And we’re off … talk to you tomorrow!


I’m a Little Bit Country …

He’s definitely a little bit rock and roll!  Haha!!  Well, we decided that since the girls were ready for anything, we’d take a little road trip.  We packed up the rental car and off we went, headed south for … NASHVILLE!!  Yes, Nashville!!  We cranked up my “Garth Brooks Pandora Station” and drove Eddie crazy for the next 6 hours!

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It was a nice drive but not nearly as scenic as it is on the 6 hour drive to San Fran … just kind of plain.  No mountains, no green trees, no cows … just a lot of open fields to see for miles and miles and miles!!  The empty corn fields waiting for their time to grow again.

We stopped in Louisville, Kentucky for a quick BBQ dinner at Doc Crow’s.   We had dirty rice, baby back ribs, mac and cheese, and some other stuff that was gone by the time we remembered to take this picture!

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Needless to say, it was delicious and delightful!

By the time we arrived in Nashville, we were pretty pooped and we had a long day ahead of us.  So we hit the hay and dreamed of Garth serenading us to sleep with …

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes

Those words kind of described us for the weekend!  We were just going!!

Our first stop the next morning was the famous, the fabulous, Grand Ole Opry House!  Even if you’re not a country music fan, you absolutely have to take this tour about country music roots and history.  If you are a big country fan (like us girls!), you can go goo-goo eyed!

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(**A Little Side Note:  The little guy that is with us is named “Flat Stanley.”  You’ll hear more about him later but just in case you’re wondering who he is, that’s Stanley!) 

Our tour guide was full of music trivia and country music history so she made it both fun and funny!  We found out that the old t.v. show “Hee Haw” (does that ring a bell or what??) was filmed here in the Opry House every week in front of a live audience!!  That brought back great memories of Dad/Grampa because he was a “Hee Haw” fan of the biggest kind!  He would have loved to see the set!  The pictures aren’t great, but they may look familiar when you think about that old show!

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It’s a huge venue and they fill this up 5 nights a week with different performances ranging from 2 hours to 6 hours, depending on who “drops in” on any given night.  Any country star that is a “Member” of the Opry House can just decide that he or she wants to do a little performance that night and wa-la … you could be seeing Garth live on stage!  We weren’t able to snag tickets for the show that night but you can bet we’ll be back here again!

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They offered to let us have a go at serenading our tour group, but since I didn’t want the group to take off running, we passed!

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Here are a few of our favorites in the “Member Walk of Fame” corridor …

After we finished ooohhhing and aaahhhing, we left the Opry House on a high note!  We made our way into the downtown area to check out Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and some other country favorites on their famous “Broadway Street” — it was a little wild and crazy for me and Eddie, but the girls loved it!

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We had gotten a tip from a gal who was visiting from Australia that we should definitely go to “The Bluebird Cafe.”  This is a little dive outside of town, hidden in a strip mall.  You would think nothing of it if you happened upon it or drove by.  But she gave us the story!  This is THE PLACE for country singer/songwriters.  Many of today’s country stars began their careers right here at the Bluebird!  I know you’re going to think I’m a “Garth Fanatic,” but I’m just giving you what’s on their website:

At The Bluebird, performers include up-and-coming songwriters along with those whose music is regularly on the charts, country music as well as pop, rock and Contemporary Christian hits.  Kathy Mattea was the first star to be identified with The Bluebird and is still a friend and a regular guest performer today.  Garth Brooks played on both our Open Mic and Sunday Songwriter’s Shows before he was discovered – at The Bluebird – and signed to Capitol Records.

So off we went to find this place and … stand in line!  Since we didn’t have reservations, we had the option of standing in line for a very slim chance of getting in to see the evening’s show.  When we arrived, we counted about 20 people in front of us.  The place only holds 90 people so each night after the tables with reservations are filled, they come out to the line and say, “Ok, most of you will not be able to get in to the show, but approximately __ will be able to.”  That night it was “approximately 25” … we were numbers 23, 24, and 25 in line!!  OMG, we were so stressed out!!  What if we didn’t get in?  We’d been in line for 2 hours and we still had another half-hour to wait!!  And then, every time someone walked up to join another party in line ahead of us, we just knew our chances were getting slimmer and slimmer.  OMG!!  This is terrible!!  Finally, when the guy comes out to begin letting some of our line in, he’s counting … 1, 2, 3 … 13, 14, 15 … it was so dreadful!!  But lo and behold and hallelujah, he gets to us … 23, 24, 25, you can come in now!  Well we about knocked him down to get inside the joint!  We were so excited at that point and just wanted to take our seats to make sure he couldn’t change his mind!

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It’s a very intimate musical circle and we had a blast.  We heard songs that we knew and that we had been singing with the radio for years!  But let me tell you … songwriters have a hard gig.  They write a song, they sing it in front of venues like this to have “someone” hear it and then offer to record it on their label.  If it does great, then the songwriter is paid for their work and they can cash in.  But if it doesn’t, all their hard work is for naught.  I’m not sure too many of us could take that kind of rejection,  waiting for the “BIG ONE” to hit the charts.  I know I couldn’t.  But, you gotta give it to them!  They are troopers and it was a wonderful evening listening to their music in their own voice, sharing their stories of writing and waiting with us.  I highly recommend this as a stop on your own Nashville trip to be sure!

This was a day filled with music and the magic that goes along with it.  Each place we visited was truly a “note to be remembered.”  The singer/songwriter Edwin McCain nails it when he sings…

And these are the moments I thank God that I’m alive.
And these are the moments I’ll remember all my life.
I’ve got all I’ve waited for and I could not ask for more.

We all know we were blessed that day … we couldn’t have asked for more!!

Talk to you tomorrow!






Finally … Caught Up and Happy New Year!!

Well gang, believe it or not, I’m finally caught up … a little out of order sometimes, but I have officially recorded all of our visitors and visits, from June to December here in Chicago.  This experience has been amazing and Eddie and I feel blessed to be able to do this.  If you haven’t been here for a visit yet, get it on your calendar (and ours!) for 2016!  It’s a great city and there’s so much more for us to explore … hopefully with you!

We want to do a little re-cap here with some pictures that didn’t make it on a post.  We hope you enjoy our 2015 “Wrap Up” …

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We hope you enjoyed those!  We started with my flight in and then my first official day in Chicago, which happened to be the day the city was having a giant party for the Blackhawks, celebrating their Stanley Cup Championship, and ending with our Christmas weekend, taking in the new Star Wars movie on Saturday.  2016 promises lots more pictures!!

I found this prayer and wanted to share it with you for the New Year!

Yes Amen.:

May this year, 2016 (can you believe it’s 2016?!?!), bring you and yours peace, love, reconciliations if needed, and many happy memories!  We will keep you in our prayers every day until we see you face to face (either here in Chicago or home in La Verne!).

We love you!  HAPPY NEW YEAR GANG!!  

I’ll talk to you next year!  😉




Our First Road Trip … Illinois Style!

Ok everyone, let’s see how this goes!  We have loaded up the (rental) car and we are setting off for our first Illinois road trip.  We have decided that we are heading in the direction of Starved Rock State Park.  This is Illinois’ most visited park and the pictures we saw were really pretty.  There’s also river rafting on the Vermillion River, taking you through 9 miles of whitewater (well, they call it whitewater but it’s really Class 1’s and 2’s and sometimes 3’s after a heavy rainfall) rafting.  In any event, we’re game!

After about an hour’s drive on the freeway, you get into very open spaces.  Everything you see is green.  Everything.  There’s green out of every window.  There are no mountains and very small hills so you can see for miles and miles.  And for miles and miles, everything is green.  Hmmm … what in the world are they growing?  And then … it hits us.  As we get off the freeway and onto a 2 lane road, we can see that the green that is everywhere is CORN!  Corn stalks galore!  I’ve never seen so much corn.  I thought I had, being that I have family in the Central Valley and they have the best corn on the planet.  But this?  This was incredible.  It’s almost surreal when all you can see forever is corn.  Weird … and, the best part?  We’re eating all that corn (well except for the rows marked “Used for Bio-fuels”)!  Just ask Janice’s son, Jeffrey, to give you a little lesson on how we’re addicted to corn as a nation.  Now I know why!

Corn fields for miles and miles!

Corn fields for miles and miles!

We arrived at the park just about noon and after looking at all that corn, we were hungry (again?) so we decided to have the picnic that we brought along with us.  We set it all up as we were enjoying the sights and sounds … sounds??  What’s that sound?  Bzzzzz Bzzzzz!!  OMG, we’re being attacked by giant mosquitos!!  Holy Moley, and we didn’t bring any “Off” … are we crazy?  Well we ate as fast as we could with our arms flapping around like a bunch of crazies and then set out to find a pharmacy, grocery store, or any place that would sell us any type of bug repellent.  And, I’m not kidding when I say giant … they could have carried me off they were so big!!  I’m serious!

We eventually ran across a little sign that said, “Jack’s Country Store” with an arrow pointing in the direction that we were supposed to go.  Now picture this because I didn’t take a picture of it … when I say “sign” that’s a very liberal description of a piece of cardboard nailed to a tree with painted red letters.  Can you picture it?  Yep, pretty funny.  After a few mis-turns, we finally found Jack’s and jumped from the car to hunt down some repellent, in the country “store” which is really Jack’s garage …. attached to his house!  HAHA!!  And Jack, who is over 80 as it turns out, should really have been named “Cathy” … as in “Chatty Cathy!”  He was a delight and shared stories with Jason and me about the last time it ever rained so much here in the state (apparently the crazy weather really is crazy!) … “back in 1934, it was raining just like this and we had so much rain no one knew what to do.”  We just thought it was Illinois normal to rain like this.  Another lesson learned!

Jack's Camp Store Garage!

Jack’s Camp Store Garage!

So after a few stories and about 15 minutes later, we got our prized can of “Off” and kept on going.  Now, I should mention that one of Jack’s stories also turned into a comparison of the two state parks … Starved Rock (which we were planning on visiting) and Matthiessen State Park, which was down the road from Starved Rock.  In Jack’s humble opinion, Matthiessen was the hands-down winner if you wanted to see the prettiest park, rather than the most popular park.  Well, since we know nothing, we took Jack’s advice.  And as you can see, it was definitely a winner.  The parks here are so different from ours.  First off, they’re quiet!  We literally passed about 3 other families hiking the same trails.  Secondly, they are like jungles!  The plant life is overflowing because of the many, many rivers flowing from everywhere.  And thirdly, their lakes are green!  It’s the weirdest thing … I’ve never seen anything like it.

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The GREEN lake!

The GREEN lake!

Eddie was very curious to know why and what makes the lakes green.  So I went to my friend, Google, and found this:  Blue-green algae (also known as cyanobacteria) are microscopic organisms that naturally occur in Illinois lakes and streams. Blue-green algae can reproduce very quickly in warm, shallow, undisturbed-surface water that receives a lot of sunlight. This rapid growth of algae is referred to as a “bloom.” Algal blooms can discolor the water or produce floating scums on the surface of the water, especially along shorelines.

Chooch trying to figure out exactly what this is.

Chooch trying to figure out exactly what this is.

The algae on a stick!

The algae on a stick!

Anyway, it was a great afternoon of exploring and seeing the beauty of this state.  We were pooped and so headed off to find another recommended stop in the town of Oglesby.  And look what we found!

Homemade Rootbeer!

Homemade Rootbeer!

Just what we needed after that long hike and almost being carried off … put me right again with the world!

Next stop … the Mighty Mississippi!  Talk to you tomorrow!