Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Last Leg of the Journey on Highway 6

There are about 21 historic landmarks to stop marked on our map of the Illinois Michigan  Driving Tour from Lockport to LaSalle, Illinois.  We certainly did not have the time to see them all as our plans were to be back in St. Louis that evening.  At the last town, LaSalle, we did take time to look at a couple of interesting sites.  The first stop was at the LaSalle Canal Boat Park.  Here it is possible to take a mule-pulled boat ride down the canal.  We had done that in the past somewhere in Ohio, so we chose instead to look at the artwork in the park- which are metal statues of the various passengers who once rode the canal.  First I have a picture of the passenger boat the "Volunteer".
In front of the boat is a statue of the last river boat captain, John Connett.  Nearby I noticed there were horse stables where one mule was penned.  Fortunately I had some carrots to offer him.
Most of the metal statues in the park were of  the passengers who once rode the canal boat.  Abraham Lincoln was one of them, along with his wife Mary and their two sons Robert Todd and Edward (ages 5 and 2 respectively).  They took the canal's inaugural boat ride from Chicago to LaSalle.
In the background of the picture above is Chief Shabbona, who also once rode the canal boat.
Not everyone liked riding the canal boat.  The daughter of then Governor Joel Matteson
(nine-year-old Clara) was quoted as saying: "so crude that I cannot understand how people submitted to it".   Another woman commented that she was glad to get off and that the boat was "a low crowded place moving along at a snail's pace".  The quotes I took from interpretive signs near the artwork.  The passenger service stopped in 1853, when traveling by train was possible.
Our last stop in the town of LaSalle was at the Hegeler Carus Mansion.  Built in 1874 it was the birthplace for Open Court Publishing Company.   A tourist brochure indicated that the company was an important American center for scientific, philosophical, education and religious dialogue.  It was also home for a family of zinc manufacturers.  This 57 room mansion has many of its original architectural finishes and is undergoing restoration.  I must say that if it were at all possible we would love to repeat our trip on Highway 6 and see everything we missed!
Not sure if I will be writing from St.Louis anymore, in a week we will be heading east.  Please stay connected!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Illinois and Michigan Canal Passage Driving Tour

The canal was dug out by migrant workers between 1836 and 1848.  The 96 mile water highway opened a water passage between New York harbor and the Gulf of Mexico.  The passageway linked the Illinois River and Lake Michigan.   It closed in 1933 when the US Army Corps replaced the canal for shipping when they rebuilt the Illinois Waterway from Chicago to the Mississippi.  What has been built is a far cry from the manual labor needed in the mid 1800s to get the boats down the channel!   Pictured below is a statue of a locktender opening one of the locks which allowed boats passageway through.
 A staff member at one of the museums John toured Saturday suggested that we take highway 6 to see some of the historic landmarks along the canal.  We certainly appreciated that advice as it made for a nice trip home.  We took that highway, then, instead of interstate 55- for a portion of the trip.  True, it is a bit poky as the 75 mile route took us through small towns.   It was also necessary to take some time finding and  looking at historic landmarks along the way.   Some of the historic landmarks were a bit of a challenge to find!
One of the landmarks is an old mule barn, built in 1834.  It was first a granary, then was later used as a place for mules rest and eat.  Mules were needed to pull 150 ton boats down the canal.  They were led along the canal's towpath by mule drivers- young boys who walked an average of 10-15 miles a day.  Wild Bill Hickok was once a mule driver.  It was a hard life as mules could be stubborn, and it was a bit of a challenge to avoid tangling tow ropes when two boats passed each other.

What was nice about this road trip was that we were not driving through endless miles of flat land and corn fields.  Instead we encountered gentle rolling river hills as well as some forest land.  Pictured above is the Aux Sable aqueduct, a 136-foot-long "bridge" that carries the canal over Aux Sable Creek.
The boulder above marks the burial spot of Potawatomi Chief Shabbona, known for warning white settlers of coming attacks during the Black Hawk War of 1832.  He was shunned by his tribe and cheated out of his land by settlers.  His grave is located east of the town of Morris in Evergreen Cemetery.
What is nice about this road trip is that there are at least 3 state parks along the way.  However, for this trip we did not have the time to stop and hike in them.  We still had some beautiful natural areas to view.  At one stop, to look at a locktender's house, I happened to espy a great blue heron standing in a nearby creek.
I will write more on this interesting trip in my next posting.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Touring Illinois- Again

We again drove over to the Joliet area this past weekend.  I had a Walther Memorial School of Nursing reunion to attend in Plainfield, which is outside of Joliet.  But before I write on that, I want to share with you more news about Lenny.  Our lizard stayed with us last week after we had taken our home in for a variety of routine maintenance issues.  That evening, after we had returned, Lenny again popped his head out of the exhaust pipe as if to reassure us that he was still around.  And he greeted me again this morning, in the same spot.  It intrigues me that, out of the many motor homes surrounding ours, he still stays with us!
On our drive north through Illinois last Friday John and I saw signs directing us to the Mother Jones Monument.  We have seen that sign so often on our trips through Illinois, and never fail to ask each other: "who is Mother Jones?".   Friday we decided to find out, driving off the highway into the town of Mount Olive.   If we had not been so determined to find her we may have given up!  Once we drove off the highway there were very few signs directing us to the national monument.  GPS helped us, of course.  We soon found ourselves outside of a Union Miners Cemetery, and inside that area a large monument.
The monument is for the "Martrys of the Progressive Miners of American".  On one of the markers below the monument there is a mention of a massacre which happened in Verdin, Illinois in 1898.  We deduced that there must of been some coal mine strike back then, but what did it all have to do with Mary "Mother" Jones?  More research was needed once we got back home.  What we then discovered later was that a riot did happen in 1898, when 7 striking coal miners, 4 security guards and more than 30 strikers were wounded.  The Chicago Verdin Coal Company had brought in African-American strike breakers, and when they arrived in town a riot ensued.  Many of the strikebreakers were also wounded, some never even getting off the train they had arrived on.  Mother Jones helped coordinate many other strikes and worked for "clean unionism" in America.
John elected not to join us at the reunion on Saturday, and instead opted to do some sight seeing in Joliet.  He had read about the Old Joliet Prison from some tourist brochures.  On Sunday, after the reunion, he drove me around Joliet to show the sights that he had found which included the prison.

 As you can see from the picture above, the prison is quite an imposing medieval structure.  On the fence is a double row of concertina wires ( razor wire formed in large coils).  To also prevent prisoners from escaping there is a 25 foot limestone wall surrounding the prison on three sides, as well as turret-style guardhouses.  It was built in the 1840s, and by 1850 a Joliet resident initiated improvements on the building because of over-crowding and other horribly poor conditions.  In the 1940s and 50s it was further modernized with plumbing and larger windows.  Over the years, and into the 20th century, this prison saw riots and burning of some of the buildings, wonderful 4th of July celebrations, as well as tragedy with the murder of  a warden's wife by her trusty.  In 1990 the prison was closed but the building remained open for other purposes by the Illinois Department of Corrections.  Permanently closed in 2002.  I hope it will be eventually opened for tours!  It has been used for about 7 movies, and is featured in the opening scenes of the 1980 classic movie The Blues Brothers.
On our return home we drove on the Illinois and Michigan Channel passage road, more on that in the next posting.  Pictured below is Lock Number One of that channel in Joliet.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lenny Our Lizard

Yes, it is a slow news day here in St.Charles.  However, I do have one fantastic story to tell and it is about one lizard whom we think rode with us up from Florida.  A day before we left that state John was working outside around the back of our home getting the hoses ready for travel.  He complained to me that he had trouble getting rid of a lizard who kept climbing into the electric generator exhaust pipe.  He thought that eventually he had shooed it away.  Fast forward to several days after we arrived here in St.Charles when I saw a lizard scurrying around our front tires.  A week or so later he peeked at us from inside the front exhaust pipe.  About a week ago after a rain shower he was on top of our picnic table lapping up water.  Of course I am making the assumption it is the same lizard.
There are lizards in Missouri, according to what I researched, there are thirteen types- however none with the strip down its back which our Lenny has.  So not sure if he did ride with us up from Florida.  I have seen no other lizards in the area where we are presently staying, just this one who seems to like our place!  Then I did not see him for what seemed like a long time, and was worried that maybe he left for a cooler/wetter area.  Turns out that maybe he went for a bike ride with me this morning.
As John was collapsing my bike to put it away the lizard hopped out from somewhere inside it.  We have had the bikes parked outside next to our rig, possibly he had crawled inside one of them!  What is funny is that I have been thinking a lot about him lately and wondering where he has been or if he had met his demise.  Here along he was closer to me than I could ever have imagined!
As I wrote earlier, I have done some research on lizards.  And some do like warm metal, which may explain why Lenny continues to hang around us.  There is a possibility that he just joined us here in Missouri, but I like to believe that he traveled up here with us.  Course how he managed that only he knows, and it is something we will never know.  I am just pleased that he continues to bless us with his presence.  There are a lot worse creatures we could be dealing with like snakes, mice, or roaches!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Blueberries and Bees

It has been hot here in Missouri, and summer has not even started!  We also found out, to our chagrin, that in Florida where our daughter and her family has been residing it has been about ten degrees cooler.  It does seem that quite frequently John and I have traveled to the wrong place at the wrong time.  Fortunately Missouri has benefited from some good spring rains, and the hot sun has not scorched and burned everything.  We drove to Farmington this past weekend where there is a good crop of blueberries at Liberty Farms.  Our niece Miriam and I picked about a total of 12 pounds of blueberries.  The day after we picked I returned to the farms accompanied by John and his sister Carolyn for the Liberty Farm's Blueberry Festival.  A blueberry dessert contest was held for the festivities and an impressive array of those goodies were on display.
There were blueberry cakes, doughnuts, muffins, cobblers and  turnovers which had been baked for the competition.  A bundt cake won first prize. We were at the farm about mid- morning when the sun was as yet not too intense.  A cool breeze was blowing over the nearby hills and we enjoyed a concert of bluegrass music played by a local band before leaving the farm.
That afternoon we visited Miriam and Kraig at their home outside of Farmington.  John had the wonderful opportunity of assisting Kraig with his bee hives.  Of course, he had to first gear up.
In the picture above John is holding a bee smoker.  That is necessary to have on hand when disturbing the hive.  Kraig informed us, however, that it needs to be used very sparingly.  Too much smoke may agitate the bees more and cause them not to eat.  Speaking of eating, the bees need to have all the honey they make for themselves during the first year that they they are building up the supply.  And to assist them in that endeavor Kraig has to supply them with sugar water ( which he places in mason jars outside of the hives).  One reason he needed to open one hive on Friday was to replace a queen bee.  He had not been able to find her in one of his two hives (she is marked with a large white dot), and so it was necessary to purchase another one.  The queen came in a small plastic container accompanied be one helper (a worker bee).  They can escape out of the container once they eat their way out of the exit door (the door is blocked by a piece of sugar).
In the picture above Kraig and John are searching the frames of the hives for the queen cells.  Worker bees feed the cells with royal jelly, which is a nutritional food for the larvae.  If a queen bee is needed, worker bees place small larvae in a specially constructed cell and feed that cell copious amount of royal jelly to produce a female bee which has fully developed reproductive organs.  Kraig wants to remove some of those queen cells because he does not needto have that many queens. He had saved one cell, it is pictured below.
There is so much to be learned about the small honey bee. a very industrious little creature.  During the 6 weeks it lives the bee travels about 500 miles gathering nectar, pollen and water.  It also works inside the hive cleaning the queen, feeding the larvae, and making beeswax to build all the hive's cells.  One article I read noted that she literally dies from exhaustion.  Drones are male bees which impregnate the queen.  They die after that feat, those that do not die are killed by the worker bees.  The queen gets impregnated once, sperm stays inside her for her lifetime.  What I have written here is just a small part of everything there is to learn regarding how a hive produces honey.  In the past I certainly never gave much thought about what is involved in making the honey which I so readily consume!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Weekend in Chicago

As I wrote in my previous posting, we were in Chicago for the graduation of our nephew from the University of Chicago.  As that campus is literally across the street from the Lutheran School of Theology, we choose to use housing at that school for our stay in Chicago.
This is one seminary which we had not as yet visited, and it is a school of our church the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Actually it was the first seminary to form when our church broke from the Missouri Synod in the mid 1970s.  My brother Marcus was a student in the exiled seminary (called Christ Seminary-Seminex).  That school joined a seminary of various Lutheran churches outside of the Missouri Synod in 1983.  The building was dedicated by them in 1967. 
After meeting up with members of our family at LSTC, John and I rode with them over to Grant Park for a Blues Festival.  Driving through the park we saw strange headless and armless sculptures.  While researching this later I learned that the art work is called Agora, and the bodies made from iron were created to commemorate the holocaust of Jews during WW11.  They are on permanent loan from the Polish Ministry of Culture.  Chicago has a large Polish community.
Even though it was a warm evening, we had a great picnic in Grant Park while listening to the various musical groups of the festival.  It was so good to be back in Chicago, and to see the downtown along Lake Michigan.  Below is a part of the city skyline as seen from Grant Park.
Saturday, after the graduation, Marcus wanted his graduation celebration to be at a certain Cuban restaurant.  He had spent his last summer in Cuba and enjoyed the cuisine of that country.
We had a good meal at the 90 Miles Cuban Cafe.  Of course everyone knows that Cuba is 90 miles from the Keys of Florida, right?  To be honest, I had forgotten, and I just spent the winter in Florida!
Sunday morning we left Chicago early so that we could attend church services in Joliet (Bekki, the wife of young Marcus, is a pastor at Faith Lutheran in Joilet).
That was pretty much our weekend in Chicago.  It went too fast and the weather became cooler by the time we left.  Once we arrived within the St.Louis area we again felt the 90 degrees plus heat.  Guess that we have about another week of this weather, our air conditioning is now running 24 hours a day and just can not seem to keep up except during the night hours.

Monday, June 13, 2016

JuneTravails as Well as Travels

As a rule I do not comment on national or international happenings.  However, last Sunday morning's shootings in Orlando has prompted me to speak up.  Let me first back-up before that horrific day and focus on a political advertisement which ABC has been showing in the past couple weeks. In that ad  a GOP gubernatorial candidate, Eric Greitens, fires an assault rifle and says: "I'll take dead aim at politics as usual".  When I first saw this I shuddered and thought: how insensitive; what about the many victims shot by guns and the families who are grieving the loss of their lives?  I am sure that they are not happy seeing a gun being fired on their television screen, hearing the noise, and seeing the explosion in the background at the end of the advertisement.   Enough already of guns in America!  And how can someone be barred from getting on a plane if he is on the government's watch list, yet still purchase a assault rifle in America?  Sadly the USA continues fails to act,  and 49 people have been killed in Orlando by a gun.
Now on to a much happier note.  Two weeks ago John and I drove to Dayton, Ohio to celebrate the graduation of our niece Bethany from high school.  In the above picture she is posing in front of the quilt her grandmother Mary Jo made for her.  It is quite an awesome work of art incorporating symbols of all the pieces of her life up until the present time.  Her Dad Mike served in the military until recently and his blue military shirts serve well for the background of the quilt.  Bethany has been active in track at school so the back of the quilt has a display of running shoes.  The rest of the details of the quilt escape me, but there are many of them.!
And this past weekend John and decided to take another trip, and that was to Chicago.  Our nephew Marcus graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master in Divinity.  He is pictured above with his wife Bekki.   It was the first time for John and I to see the University of Chicago where President Obama taught.  Over the 126 years  that it has been in existence it has kept the Gothic-style buildings characteristic of the campus. 
 Despite it been a very warm weekend, it was a good one what with visiting family as well as seeing new and old sights of the city.  More on our visit there in my next posting.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Day In Forest Park

Most of our day Wednesday was spent at the History Museum, which if some of you are not aware, is located in Forest Park.  And this time by the word "we" I am meaning my sister Julia instead of my husband John.  I have had a wonderful week with my sister instead of John, as he has been quite busy setting up our new computer - which has proven to be a  rather challenging and frustrating task for him.  Now I am giving it a go, what with writing my first posting on the new device, and it has proven to also be quite a mountain for me to climb.  I am sure that with time I will look back at my first days with this computer and simply laugh.

Our reason for visiting the History Museum was to learn the history of the little black dress.  That is one of the special exhibits currently at the museum, and probably something only the female gender would appreciate- I am sure that John was glad we spared him!   For my sister and I, it proved to be quite interesting.  Black use to be the color for mourning only.  In 1861 Queen Victoria wore it to grieve the death of Prince Albert,  and all classes of people followed suit.  Rules were then developed, including the color of dress, fabric and length of time to mourn.  Accessories were also important.  For jewelry acorns worn as necklaces indicated one was morning someone who  had a long life,  grape leaves indicated the Christian faith.
On display is the bonnet Mary Todd Lincoln wore at the time of her husband's death, also the black ribbon people wore which had his picture on it.
The one pictured above was made in 1965, maker unknown.  It seemed that the whole section in this exhibit on mourning seemed to digress from the topic of the little black dress, but it was still fascinating.
But on to the little black dress, which became a fashion statement, other than for mourning, at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Women started wearing dresses of that color in industrial cities to hide the dirt and grime.  Dresses also became shorter to save fabric and to help the war effort.  In 1922 Emily Post wrote: "Nothing really can compare to the utility and smartness of black".  In 1926 Coco Chanel gained fame for her little black dresses.  By the 1960s the younger generation had taken over the style, and thought nothing of wearing black as a suit or a dress; to wear it for an evening out or for a day in the office.
Black is also considered chic for a wedding dress.  The mermaid-style dress pictured above was created in 2014 by designer Enzoani.  What  I enjoyed about this exhibit was seeing all the different styles of black dresses, mainly through the 20th century.  After our tour of this exhibit we were quite anxious to get outside and do some walking.  The zoo in Forest Park is where we went next.
 I wrote about this polar bear cub several years ago.  Baby Kali is now a three and a half year-old and weights a whopping thousand pounds.  Her keeper had hidden lettuce and carrots in her pool, so she was quite actively swimming about sticking her head and arms into small rock cavities searching for  the goodies.  What a beautiful bear!  And I did not realize until now that I have moved from black to white subjects, totally coincidental!