My Travel Memories

We got to Los Angeles International without an incident and I had my first experience of disorientation. I swear I used to be able to find my way out of that airport back in the 1990s. I was our navigator on all four of our previous California trips, for crying out loud.

Alex and I made it to our first stop, Seal Beach, successfully. Thomas and I watched the old soap opera Sunset Beach (which is not available on DVD or even for streaming, dammit) faithfully for its entire three-year run and, so of course, on our final three visits to California, we had to visit Seal Beach, which is where many of the outdoor scenes were filmed. I took Alex to the Richards family’s first house, and to the Pier, of course, and then we looked at the buildings they used for the Waffle Shop, the Deep, and the Java Web. Then Alex went to a coffee shop (not the Java Web) to get something to eat and I hiked down to the buildings they used for Ben’s and Annie’s houses. We never got to a bunch of the buildings, because Alex was starting to drag already and we still had several stops to go.

Our next stop was the Sweet Cup in Garden Grove. I’m learning Vietnamese and would have loved to have had more time to explore Little Saigon while we were in Orange County, but we had places to go. I would have linked to Sweet Cup’s web page if they had one. But check them out if you’re in the area. And, no, I didn’t get comped or anything for this. I almost never talk about food or anything, but I’ll make an exception in this case. The viral video was pretty much spot-on.

Then we undertook an hour drive to Parkers’ Lighthouse in Long Beach. Normally, it’s about a half-hour drive, but I wanted to drive along the ocean for a while. We ended up going back into Seal Beach and soon discovered that Pacific Coast Highway goes entirely too far inland there (as we discovered to our chagrin after following it for a few miles) So we had to turn around and head back We then overshot the turn for the restaurant and had to go back around again.  So it ended up taking about an hour. We also took some pictures of the Queen Mary while we were out there.

The Queen Mary, Long Beach, 2017

The Queen Mary in Long Beach. When we were planning this trip, i suggested staying on the Queen Mary, but we ended up moving to a more traditional hotel to be closer to some friends we were hoping to meet. We never met those friends. After seeing the ship, Alex has requested that we follow through on staying on the Queen Mary next time.

Thomas and I went to Parkers’ Lighthouse when I was pregnant with Alex. We’d been whale watching with a friend and spending time on or near the water always makes me crave seafood. So when we saw Parkers’ Lighthouse, we bet they’d have seafood, and they did. I always had fond memories of our visit there, so of course I wanted to go back with Alex now that he’s old enough to build a memory of the place. I was kind of worried because we weren’t dressed up, but the people there were very gracious. And the food was just as good as I remembered.

By then, Alex was falling asleep and having a hard time navigating, so we headed to the hotel. Once we’d gotten some rest, I realized that I’d left some of my over-the-counter medication at home and we headed out to a Walmart to replace it. Then we attempted to visit Santa Monica Pier at night. That was a failure; we could *not* find anywhere to park (note to self: check out parking ahead of time next trip). So we drove back up Santa Monica Boulevard until we passed the Latter-Day Saints Temple, and then went back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Little did we know how much of an adventure our second day would end up being. . . .

In what I’m pretty sure was 1996, Thomas wrote an application all by himself that was going to be used company-wide. He worked more than 12 hours a day on it over a couple of months and the end result was something to be very proud of (I wonder if he has it on his resume?). The company was so pleased that, since the software needed to be tested in the field anyhow, that they said they would send Thomas (and me) to any field office in the continental US (they had an office or two in Europe, if I recall) for a long weekend. We’d fly out on Thursday, he’d test the software on Friday and Monday, and we could knock around in the area on Saturday and Sunday (turns out he got most of the testing he needed on Friday so we ended up with a lot of Monday as well) and then we’d fly back on Tuesday.

We looked at the map and either one or the other (or both!) of us had been to most of the places available or the places were too far off the beaten track. So with one thing and another, we ended up deciding on Los Angeles.

We flew in on Thursday afternoon, got our rental car, and headed for the hotel. Once we were checked in, we decided to explore a little. We somehow ended up on Santa Monica Boulevard and, based on the Sheryl Crow song All I Want to Do Is Have Some Fun, decided to see if there is, in fact a giant car wash out that way. We never did find the car wash, by the way (since the lyrics come from a 1987 poem by Wyn Cooper, maybe the car wash is long gone?). But it turned out that there was a lot to see on Santa Monica Boulevard, including the Los Angeles Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Thomas and I had long missed the hustle and bustle of the big city (San Antonio’s a big city, but is more suburban in its feel) and we felt a lot better about our choice of Los Angeles.

The next day, while Thomas worked, I took the rental car (fortunately his employer was willing to add me as a second driver) and explored the Pasadena region, from San Dimas to Arcadia (I wanted to visit San Dimas because, of course, of the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Oh, look! Another Amazon.com link!)). I also went lighthouse-spotting and managed to find Point Vicente Light at the very least. I don’t remember seeing Angel’s Gate or Point Fermin lights until later trips.

Picture of San Gabriel Mountains taken from San Dimas,California, 1996

The San Gabriel Mountains taken from San Dimas, California. This is not the best photo ever, but it’s one of the few I have from that 1996 trip.

And I enjoyed that drive so much I took Thomas with me the next day. We also went up into the San Gabriel Mountains and took an unfruitful trip to Forest Lawn Cemetery to look for Marilyn Monroe’s grave (my folks found her grave on their own late-90s trip out that way).

We visited other things on the trip, as well, and I’ll go into those things in future posts. I thought I might wait until I get to 1996 in my travel memories series, but since Alex and I visited a bunch of these places this year, I’ll probably go ahead and cover the 1996 trip and the 2017 trip together. Overall, though, we had a wonderful time and loved Los Angeles, much to our surprise. We even considered the possibility of moving out there for a while. We returned in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and that was my last trip until this year.

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).