My Travel Memories

Upon digging through my subconscious, I remembered a high school trip to Pella, Iowa, and, several years before that, a trip to one of the Amish settlements in Iowa. I don’t have pictures from either, which is why I didn’t remember them. And to make things worse, I’m not entirely sure where in Iowa the Amish settlement was. I’m almost certain that the actual place we were visiting was a Girl Scout camp in the Rock Island/Moline/Davenport/Bettendorf area.

Actually, looking at the map, I think we were in Iowa City, which means that the Amish community was probably Kalona? And Kalona does have guided tours of the Amish community, which sounds like what we did.

Now, is there a Girl Scout camp in Iowa City? I don’t see one, but we’re talking about, oh, dear God, how long ago was that? 1979? 1978? I dropped out of Girl Scouts before the 1980/1981 school year, so no later than early 1980. A lot of things may have changed in the Iowa City area in 37 years.

The only thing I really remember about the camp was inside of the cabin we slept in. I guess I’m going to spend some time looking at photos of Girl Scout camps in Iowa. If I can ever figure out where in Iowa we were, I’ll be able to tell you which Amish community it was. And if I can’t, I guess I’ll just make a post “Amish Community, somewhere in Iowa” someday.

I am really conflicted about this one. Stone Mountain is really a lovely park, and the monumental sculpture on the face of the stone is very impressive, but the entire park (at least the two times I’ve been there) really does glorify the Confederacy, and the Confederacy is sort of the exact opposite of my political leanings.

The centerpiece of Stone Mountain is the stone itself, a quartz monadnock and is a natural landmark. And some of the sculpture on the face is the work of the same man who created Mount Rushmore. It is also the location where the current Ku Klux Klan was formed, back in 1915. But I didn’t know about this part when I developed my fondness for the park.

Okay, now I’m having a memory of something that happened on my now-ex’s and my 1992 Florida trip and I’m pretty sure it was at Stone Mountain. There was a bobcat in an enclosure of some sort and it was looking at something very intently. My now-ex and I followed the cat’s line of sight and saw a frog. The frog seemed to be twitching strangely and as we were puzzling it out, one of the workers there came by and pointed out that the frog’s leg was inside the mouth (and, of course, the, you know, esophagus and probably stomach) of a garter snake. The employee said that no one was going to win this one, the frog leg was too big for the snake to actually eat, and so he put his hand on the back of the snake’s head somehow, making it let go of the frog, which hopped off. Then the employee picked up the snake and handed it to my ex. We took turns holding it for a while and watched people reacting to us holding it. The best one was a family with a little girl and the girl wanted to stop to pet the snake. Her parents were horrified. If you’re still out there, little girl (you’d probably be in your mid-30s right now), you made a fantastic impression on us. You rock, as it were.

We did the laser light show at dusk both times I went to Stone Mountain and it was very “the South shall rise again,” and all, but I was very impressed with the way that they made the carvings on the mountain seem to actually move.

After the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, there was quite a bit of discussion of whether the South Carolina flag should still have the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on it and whether that flag, or any other sign of pride in the Confederacy should be displayed on government property. And while I agree that they should be removed from governmental buildings where people have to go to do business (courthouses, the DMV, and so on), I get hung up on things like Stone Mountain, because it has actual artistic value. Aside from being the largest sculpture of its kind in the world (a title that it may someday lose), the initial carvings were done by Gutzon Borglum, who is famous for being the man who made the monument on Mount Rushmore. Those carvings were later erased, I guess, though I swear that I read something about how some of his carving is still there. I’ll publish this now, but come back and edit it later if I can ever find that reference.

As a result, I expanded my idea so that areas that have Confederate memorabilia that has genuine artistic and/or historical value can move them to a park or parks where those who want to see them can, but those who don’t want to see them can avoid them.

Sorry about the delay in posting. I’ve been opening that post on Stone Mountain and staring at it on a fairly regular basis, but I’m still not quite sure what to say. I think I’ll probably end up winging it.

In other news, my mouth finally doesn’t hurt (I had a little discomfort on the other side the other night and was all, “Oh, no. Not again!” but I have felt fine since then). I’m still waiting to see what, if anything, my insurance will pay for.

It looks like the Witte Museum is finally done. Alex and I went there today and I took lots of pictures. Expect an updated post on that soon-ish.

And I’ve passed the $100 mark on paying myself to study my foreign languages. I’ve actually passed the $125 mark and am heading for $130. It’s not enough to consider myself rich, yet, but I’ll get there. Eventually. Maybe.

Well, back to staring at that post some more . . . .

I have very little hipster cred, so I’m going take the opportunity to do the hipster thing here and say that I knew about the Bell Witch before it was cool. In 1989, my folks and I were driving from Chicago to visit our family in Florida (remember them?). As we passed into Tennessee, we passed a sign that said, “See the Bell Witch Cave” or words to that effect. My folks were always up for a cave (and for a good supernatural story). So, long before An American Haunting, or Bell Witch: The Movie, we heard the story from the current owners of the cave.

I was looking through the photo album of this trip and saw pictures of a cave. “I wonder if that was the Bell Witch Cave. It would be about the right timing for that.” So I searched for ‘Bell Witch Cave’ on Google Images and saw a (considerably less overexposed) shot of this same location on someone else’s website. So I can say with about 90% certainty that this is, in fact, a picture of the Bell Witch Cave.

According to the legend, in the early 19th century, the family of a farmer named John Bell began to experience something that was generally thought of as supernatural. He, his family, and visitors to his home, heard voices. Sometimes it was the voice of a woman, at other times it was the voices of other people. It was reported that the voices, at one point, began repeating the words of two church services taking place simultaneously in two different churches miles from the Bell home.

The entity claimed to be “Kate Batts’s witch.” Kate Batts was a neighbor that the Bells had had problems with over some kind of economic transaction, either the purchase of land or of slaves. Given the time period that this story took place in, my money’s on the latter. At any rate, the apparition was given the name “Kate” and would apparently respond to that name.

In the end, “Kate,” presumably the spirit and not the neighbor (though in my memory, it seemed that the man telling the story was unclear on this point), fled to the cave.  There are several legends of her interacting with people in the cave.

Do I believe in the Bell Witch? I try to keep an open mind about things like ghosts, because I have seen some things that seem unexplainable (and on several occasions I was by myself, so they couldn’t have been practical jokes or anything of that nature). But I do wonder if the Bell Witch was real or was an attempt to slander a neighbor who had a grievance.

Next up: Stone Mountain, Atlanta. I may have to see if there are any public domain photos of the park because I don’t have a single one in my collection.

I’m nearly certain that our 1988 trip to Baltimore was the second time I’d been there. The first time would have been our 1980 trip, when we visited Washington, DC, I think, and we stayed overnight in Baltimore at a Holiday Inn that was off the beaten path and I think we went to Fort McHenry, but don’t quote me on that.

This trip, we stayed at a hotel closer to the Inner Harbor. I remember taking the Skywalk (which they are apparently demolishing, much to my dismay) from our hotel to the Inner Harbor. We spent a lot of time exploring the Harborplace mall. When I was 11, we moved from our small house to a larger one in the town next door. The people who bought our old house wanted us out immediately and the people who owned our new house didn’t want to move until early July. Fortunately, the people who (31 years later) became my ex-in-laws offered to let us stay in their house for a few weeks of that, beginning around the middle of June. That still left us several weeks without a home. We ended up staying in one of those motels that had those little cottages during this time. Watching the four walls of our cottage drove my folks crazy and so we started visiting shopping malls just to get out of the house. We called this activity “malling” and we would occasionally “mall” in travel destinations. So when we found a new (not just new-to-us, but it seemed to be recently constructed as well) mall in Baltimore, of course we malled there. Why wouldn’t we?

One of the oddest things about the Inner Harbor is the World Trade Center building. The Inner Harbor area is paved with these large red sort of cement flagstones, and suddenly, in the middle of this big open area, there’s the World Trade Center. I don’t even recall the building being labeled. It took me years (until after I got the Internet) to figure out what that building had been. I wondered briefly if it was an apartment building of some sort, but it was locked up really well, which seemed like it might be a danger to the residents if there were a fire. There’s an observation deck at the top, but I don’t think I’ve ever been there when it was open. Maybe on a future visit I’ll get a chance to go up there.

We also visited Westminster Hall and the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was originally buried at the back of the graveyard, near his grandfather, but the grave grew neglected and a schoolteacher, Sara Sigourney Rice, spearheaded the effort to buy a new headstone for the grave. They didn’t just put up a new headstone, though. They exhumed and moved his entire body. So today Poe is buried near the front of the graveyard under a large four-sided monument with a bronze medallion of his face on one side.

Constellation in Baltimore 1988

The USS Constellation with the World Trade Center behind it, 1988

Our purpose for being in Baltimore was to visit the USS Constellation, the last sail ship built by the United States Navy, and the place where my paternal grandfather trained when he joined the Navy. How did my grandfather train on a ship that had been used in the Civil War? Well, the Constellation had been in service for nearly 100 years when it was finally retired in 1954. However, my paternal grandfather was also born a long time ago. As you can probably surmise from some of the things I’ve said, I’m no spring chicken, and my father was, not old, but not in the first blush of youth when I was born. My grandfather was almost the age that I am now when my dad was born. So, yeah. He trained for the Navy on a sail-powered ship that had been used in the Civil War.

The tour of the Constellation was very interesting, but it made me glad that I didn’t have to travel like that. I would like a yacht someday, so that I can travel to other countries with my critters, but that’s a yacht and not a Civil-War-era battleship. The Constellation seemed kind of claustrophobic and it didn’t seem like there would be a lot of air circulation in there (windows weren’t a high priority in the 1850s, apparently).  In 1994, they declared the Constellation to be dangerous and took it completely apart to repair it. They put it back together looking better than it had when we were there. The inside is now brighter than I recall it being, but it still has that pesky lack of windows that make it not someplace I would like to spend an entire ocean voyage.

I’m done with my big 2016 trips, so back to 1988.

I am kind of embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t really into history at this point in my life, so the thing that is causing me to stop and research rather than writing didn’t even register to me back then. Christ Church is the church that a number of prominent Philadelphians, including Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, George Washington (once he was president), John Adams (likewise), and William Penn all worshiped here.

One problem, though. Ross and Penn were Quakers.

So here I am, trying to figure out why a bunch of Quakers were worshiping in an Anglican church. So far, I’ve been able to determine that Betsy Ross’s husband, John, was Anglican, and so she got expelled from the Quakers for marrying a non-Quaker. During the American Revolution, the Quaker meeting in Philadelphia splintered into two groups, one that believed that sticking to their pacifism was important, and one that believed that the revolution was a just war and that they had a duty to support it. Betsy was able to join this second group of Quakers, who dubbed themselves the Free Quakers.

William Penn is the real poser, though. He founded Pennsylvania because he was a Quaker. Quakers were outlawed in England and so he found Pennsylvania to be a place where Quakers would be free to practice their religion. So then he moved here and promptly started attending an Anglican church? It just doesn’t add up. Maybe the Quakers met at Christ Church (the Arch Street Friends meetinghouse wasn’t built until 1804)? I have a coworker who’s from Pennsylvania. Maybe she knows. I’ll try to remember to ask her.

So I did ask my coworker and she didn’t know that William Penn had attended an Anglican church, so that’s a dead end. I guess we’ll just have to leave that as a head-scratcher. If I ever do find an answer, I’ll let y’all know.

After we left the church, we wandered around in the Burial Ground for a while. The website for the church says that there are currently 1,400 markers and that over 5,000 have disappeared. So this little burial ground, just two acres in area, contains over 6,000 graves.

Next up: Fairmount Park, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and the realization that I need to dig out that photo album and rescan the final five pictures.

I started writing this, thinking that Independence Hall would have been our first stop once we got our bearings, but apparently we went to Christ Church first.  I considered bumping this back and running Christ Church first, but that puts this post as launching after we get back from Utah/Montana/Wyoming/Colorado, and I really need to queue up the posts for when we’re gone first. By the way, assuming that our flight out goes as planned, as you read this, Alex and I are in a rental car driving from our hotel in Montana to Dinosaur National Monument.

Alex and I didn’t get to Independence Hall in 2015. After the debacle of getting to Rome in 2014 caused us to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 (you’ll hear the whole story later, but for now, bad weather caused us to miss our connection out of Atlanta, which put us into Rome 10 hours late.  Unfortunately, I’d only booked the train tickets about six hours after our plane was due to land, so we missed the train (with nonrefundable tickets) by four hours), I hesitated to book too much in advance on the 2015 trip. Even buying the train tickets to Philadelphia made me nervous, and that part of the trip was planned for the Saturday of a trip that started on a Tuesday. Long story short, we walked around Independence Hall and I gave Alex the $0.05 lecture on the significance of the building, but we never actually got inside.

Fortunately, I have gotten into Independence Hall. I cannot remember if we got our tickets ahead of time or not, but I suspect we didn’t. This was the days before everyone had Web access in their homes. I do remember that we bought our Statue of Liberty tickets the morning of the trip out to Liberty Island, so we probably picked up the Independence Hall tickets the same day as that tour, as well.

For those not in the United States (or for those in the United States who have forgotten their United States history), Independence Hall stands in Independence National Historical Park, which also includes (but is not limited to) other sites such as the Liberty Bell Center, the First and Second United States Banks, and the President’s House, the archaeological site of the presidential mansion from the final years of the presidency of George Washington and the early years of the presidency of John Adams. The President’s House, which was excavated in the early 21st Century (and thus we may have walked right over it without knowing it in 1988), is also a monument to the African-Americans who lived in enslaved conditions in colonial days. Particular focus is put on Oney Judge, who had been “on loan” to George Washington and who escaped from the President’s House on May 21, 1796.

Independence Hall was the first capitol building of the United States of America. It served as the meeting place for the Continental Congress.  The building is probably most famous for being the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed, though it is also where the Constitutional Convention was held.  Originally, the founders passed something called the Articles of Confederation, which lasted for about eight years.  When their first attempt turned out to be a big failure, Congress reconvened and passed a whole new set of laws providing for a whole new arrangement for the government, and that is the constitution that the United States of America has today.

Independence Hall has changed much over the intervening centuries.  They added a clock to the side of the building, then removed the clock, then put the clock back up.  They apparently completely gutted the building at one point. The interior that we have today is relatively recent — the National Park Service did a major renovation on the building when they took it over. The project took from 1951 until 1973. I’m looking for pictures of what the building looked like prior to the renovation. I have a horrible thought that it might have had one of those drop ceilings with the foam acoustic tiles, but perhaps since the renovation started in 1951, the building was spared that indignity, at least.

Independence Hall, 1988

Independence Hall, 1988. You can’t see it, but the Centennial Bell (in the steeple) was ringing as I took this picture).

We stayed in a hotel close to Independence Hall while we were in Philadelphia, and so I got used to hearing the Centennial Bell ringing. Knowing that it would be the last time I’d hear that sound for quite a while (it ended up being, what? 27 years?), I took the above picture as it rang on our last day there.

On the tour, they talked about the history of the building, including the renovations.  It’s still neat, though, to stand in the building where such important stuff happened. And sure, you’re not standing in exactly the same place as the founders stood when they did their founding, but at least you’re looking out the same windows?

Philadelphia is home to a lot of firsts for the United States.  It was the location of the first brick house built in North America, it was the first home for the Quaker and Presbyterian denominations, it was the site of the first public library (which was founded by Benjamin Franklin), it was where the first American flag was made, and it was, of course, the first capital of the United States.

Philadelphia was also home to the first commodities exchange in the United States. A commodities exchange is kind of like a stock exchange, except instead of ownership in companies, commodities exchanges are a place where you buy and sell things. These things have traditionally been agricultural in nature, coffee, pork bellies, and so forth, but they can also be industrial, such as oil and metal. As an aside, Chicago has a famous commodities exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade building is just lovely. Remind me to get some pictures while I’m in Chicago in August.

But I digress. The first commodities exchange in the United States, which, as I said before, was in Philadelphia, was known as the Bourse. The Bourse was founded in 1891 and the building (the first steel-framed building ever constructed) was finished in 1895. After the exchange went out of business in the 1960s, the building was converted into office space, and then the first floors were turned into a shopping mall.

The Bourse, Philadelphia

The Bourse, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1988

I’m not even sure why we went in, but it was a nice place to sit down and get our bearings. I think we got something to eat there, but cannot be sure. They were having a display of costumes from that year’s Mummer’s Parade (the oldest folk festival in the United States), and my mom took some pictures of the interior, but they all turned out really dark and I don’t have the time or energy to make them look professional, so above is a picture showing more or less what the front of the building looks like.

I also didn’t remember, until my 2015 visit, that the Bourse was right there on Independence Mall, down the street from Independence Hall (it’s almost like poetry!) and across from where the Liberty Bell Center is now (more-or-less kitty-corner from where the Liberty Bell Pavilion was back in 1988).

We’re going to frame my trip to the American Museum of Natural History as a flashback.  Our story opens with a movie called The Relic, released in 1997. The Relic was filmed, in part, in Chicago, most notably at the Field Museum of Natural History. I’ve always loved the museum, and I got my now-ex to kinda like it, too, during our relationship. So, although I’m not a big fan of horror films, we went to see it.

The Relic featured a cargo ship in Lake Michigan, kind of by the Shedd Aquarium, if memory serves (bear in mind that this was 19 years ago now and I have never felt motivated to see the movie again). I don’t think the water is deep enough for a ship that large and according to Wikipedia the ship was originally headed for Chicago from Brazil — up the Illinois River? That doesn’t even work.  I mean, the Illinois doesn’t go that far, and the ship would have to have gone through the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi first.  And then from the Illinois River to the Sanitary and Ship Canal which, despite the word “ship” in the name, was probably not really intended to carry cargo ships from Brazil.  In real life, by the way, a cargo ship from Brazil would dock at the Illinois International Port, which is on 95th Street at the place where Lake Michigan meets the Calumet River, so it likely would have gone up the Atlantic Ocean to the St. Lawrence and then through Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron to Lake Michigan.

The crew is all dead when the ship arrives, but if they made it that far, obviously they can’t all have been dead that long.  You know? If they’d died in the Illinois River, they probably wouldn’t have made it past Lockport because, well, there’s a lock in Lockport.  While having Joliet menaced by a monster would be an interesting movie (Ooh! And we could have a ragtag team of prisoners from the penitentiary be the heroes! That would be fun!), that’s not the movie that they have here.

I kind of wandered off the topic there. Sorry.

Anyway, so the film uses the outside of the museum Stanley Field Hall, which, if I recall correctly, still had at least one of its old fountains that are now long gone.  It was very nice for a more or less perennially homesick Chicagoan.

Then we venture farther into the museum (to sets on a sound stage, probably in California) and suddenly it stops being the Field Museum. With no warning whatsoever, the Field Museum turns into the American Museum of Natural History.

This was, as I’m sure you can understand, kind of disorienting. It also totally spoiled my suspension of disbelief. I spent the rest of the movie thinking, “But that’s the American Museum in New York.” And when I told the now-ex of this experience, he was actually kind of confused at how certain I was that it was the American Museum, so I looked it up. Yay for our first years of Internet access at home!

And sure enough, the novel that the movie was based on was set in the American Museum of Natural History.  The American Museum refused to let them film inside the museum, so they shopped around for other museums. The people in charge of the Field Museum liked the script (and probably the visibility for our city in general and the museum in particular) and so they gave permission to film there.

I remember the museum as being a very nice one, though not “home,” like the Field Museum is.  Now I’m wondering, though, if we got to the whole thing.  Now, granted, my folks never spent much time at the “peoples of wherever” exhibits in the Field Museum, so it’s not surprising that I don’t remember it.  I suspect we might not have seen it.  However, there’s a planetarium in the museum as well, and that has been my folks’ idea of a good time, but I don’t remember it at all.

Megalodon jaw, AMNH, New York

Megalodon jaw, American Museum of Natural History, New York City

I do remember the prehistoric creatures areas at the museum.  In fact, the only photos we took in the museum were my pictures of the Megalodon jaw (see above — I wasn’t sure which side I liked better, so I’m including them both).  I’m unclear on whether the jaw on display is a new one, or if it is the original jaw being seen from a different angle. It does appear to no longer be displayed in the doorway of a room with mood lighting.

Overall, I think I’d like to return and see what, if anything, looks familiar from the intervening nearly 30 years.  I would also like to make sure that I get to that planetarium.

Alex and my trip to New York City covered pretty much everything we did in New York City in 1988, with two exceptions.  1.  the United Nations, and 2. The American Museum of Natural History. We fit a lot of things that we didn’t do in 1988 into our 2015 trip, though, and you can see them all under my 2015 Vacation category.

So, today we’ll focus on the United Nations.

At least in the United States, we tend to glorify World War II. At least in Europe, the United States was clearly on the side of the good guys. The Nazis were killing their own citizens by the millions.  It’s really hard not to be on the side of the angels when your enemies are that bad.

During the war, the “Allies” as they are commonly known (the countries that were fighting against Germany, Italy, and Japan) decided that they needed to find a way to avoid wars like this in the future. They began in 1941 with the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, and then about four and a half months later, 26 countries signed the Declaration of the United Nations. By the end of the war, the United Nations included 50 countries who signed the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Of course, eventually Germany (then the nations of East Germany and West Germany), Italy, and Japan did join the United Nations.

The stated goal of the United Nations was to avoid a conflict like World War II from ever happening again. As an attempt to avoid all wars, it has been a pretty spectacular failure. The United States, in particular, has taken up arms in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, at the very least, in the years since 1945.  Other countries have had their own conflicts, as well.

Has it avoided World War III? Perhaps the situation hasn’t arisen that would have ended up being World War III, but I like to think that just maybe it has. Unless, of course, future historians decide that the conflict in the Middle East that began in 2001 and involves something like 40 different countries, has been World War III, which I don’t think is an impossible development.

My own interest in the United Nations started in the 1970s, when Diana Prince (civilian alter ego of Wonder Woman) worked there. When I ended up being pretty good with foreign languages (a trait I inherited from my maternal great-grandmother, who spoke five), I thought about majoring in a foreign language and becoming a translator and perhaps I would have been good enough to get work at the United Nations.  We’ll probably never know. As I told you in my previous post on our 1988 trip, I was beginning to date the man who is now my ex-husband at that point.  I opted not to major in a foreign language because I knew that I was already only going to be able to see him every few weeks. I didn’t want to have to live in a foreign country for a semester (or more!) and miss seeing him for 16 or 32 weeks.

Delegates' Entrance to the United Nations, 1988

The old Delegates’ Entrance to the United Nations. This sign, at least, was gone when we were there in 2015. I think that the delegates now enter with everyone else.

When we visited the United Nations in 1988, we walked from our midtown hotel to the UN building. We walked down 45th street, so close to Grand Central Terminal that we could practically touch it.  Grand Central was on my list of places that I wanted to see in person, but we were on a schedule, so my folks and I kept walking. We made up for that in 2015.

The original hope for the United Nations was that they would find someplace unclaimed by any nation to hold their headquarters. That ended up being impracticable, so they decided on New York City as the location.  John D. Rockefeller bought an 18-acre parcel of land that used to hold a slaughterhouse and donated it to the United Nations. The United States ceded the land to the United Nations, so the headquarters is no longer part of the United States, though all of the laws that apply in New York City are enforced at the United Nations. The United Nations headquarters uses the US dollar as its currency, but it has its own stamps.

When we visited, none of the various organs of the United Nations were in session. This was bad because we didn’t get to see any of the activities of the United Nations, but it was also a good thing because our tour guide was able to talk about the General Assembly and the Security Council and things in the chambers themselves, which made it more interesting.

One of the most memorable parts of the tour, though, was the disarmament room.  This room has various artifacts in it, most notably coins and a statue that were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the nuclear blasts there. Our tour guide told us that the delegates had to walk through that room to get to the General Assembly chamber.  I don’t know if that was true then, and I am less certain of that now that the delegates apparently have to go through security with everyone else.

Alex and I are planning a return trip to New York City as part of our 2017 trip to Canada (which I’ve already saved up for).  The United Nations is going to be the top of our list of things to see if/when we do make that return trip.