Some Advice

September 2018 (7)

Look around. You never know where you’ll find some good advice and great pizza. The above sign hangs on the wall at C&J’s Pizza in Wytheville, Virginia. It’s a little off the beaten path and populated mainly with locals so you know it has to be good. The walls are lined with great memorabilia including this cool vintage sign from the New Orleans Police Department.

“Beware Pickpockets and Loose Women.”

Sounds like timeless advice to me!

The food here was fantastic. I had a delicious side salad and the veggie pizza was amazing. The service here was good too despite the fact the place was packed the entire time we were there. My only regret is that there’s no photographic evidence of this tasty meal.

I try to avoid chain restaurants when traveling. I didn’t drive all the way to Wytheville to eat at Applebees and was thrilled to find this local joint was as good as internet reviewers and  locals claimed. I don’t eat meat but I hear their hamburger pizza is a local favorite and something you don’t find on a menu at a chain restaurant.

Whether it’s your own town or a vacation destination, my best advice is to head off the beaten path and pay no mind to how ugly the front door is. If the parking lot is full and it is clean inside, you’re probably in the right place.

Wherever you go – just beware those pickpockets and loose women!

Crazy Horse Memorial and Stories We Don’t Teach In School

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Of all the things we did in South Dakota, the one that moved me the most was our visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This monument has been under construction since 1948 and is nowhere near done. But it has been privately funded with absolutely no governmental help. At more than 560 feet high, this monument of the Oglala Lakota warrior is massive.

I doubt that it will be completed in my lifetime but it is a marvel to see, even in its unfinished state. There’s a viewing area from the visitors’ center pavilion or you can take a bus to the top for a closer look around.

crazy horse 2.JPGWe arrived late in the day after hiking the Badlands and visiting Mt. Rushmore. In other words, we were hot, dirty and tired. The visitors’ center has a good museum filled with artifacts and artwork related to the Lakota people. An area devoted to Polish sculptor and memorial designer Korczak Ziolkowski includes sculptures, furniture and even a massive mirror once owned by Marie Antionette. This was an odd but intriguing thing to find amidst the Native American pieces.

There’s an exhibit about the American Bison, a collection of tribal flags, ceremonial clothes, a teepee and a host of other things. Honestly, we just walked through this area and didn’t stop to study much. Along with lots of things to look at but not touch, there were some hands on exhibits for the kiddos too. Under normal circumstances, we would’ve dwelled here but we were tired. 

All of this was great and seeing the memorial was super too. But what made this visit truly special was a talk and demonstration by a Lakota family.

The talk was led by a Lakota husband and wife. The two grew up on different reservations. Both came from families that encouraged them to leave for college and to better themselves. They met at school and today they travel the world sharing the story and traditions of their people.

Crazy horse 6They told their story in a straightforward, heart warming and thought provoking manner that I found captivating. The husband sang and played a drum while the wife and two of their young daughters demonstrated traditional Lakota dance. She talked about their dresses, pow wows and what it all means.

But what stunned me was her mention of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. I paid attention in history class and minored in history at college and can honestly say that this is something I never knew about. It was passed to protect and preserve the religious rights and cultural practices of American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians.

And why was this needed?

It was needed because we long had prohibited native peoples from practicing their faith.

The dances they performed for us were illegal within my lifetime. Read that again. In the United States of America, it was long prohibited for native people to practice their faith.

As part of our government’s suppression of traditional indigenous religions, most ceremonial ways were banned for over 80 years by a series of federal laws. We actively persecuted and prosecuted these people for the practice of their faith for decades.

One thing I did know is that we forcibly removed Native American children from their families and sent them to residential schools where Native children were taught Christianity and attempts were made to mainstream these kids into white culture. This also went on through the seventies.

I never cease to be amazed at how appallingly we treat people who are different. While I was aware of the atrocities committed against native peoples, it never occurred to me that it extended to their faith and went on for so long.

Their talk was thought provoking and I loved their costumes and dances. The littlest girl was about three and was the best behaved little toddler I’ve ever seen. Her dad provided the music – a Lakota version of “Old McDonald” and they were adorable together.

Crazy Horse 4.jpgIt gave me hope and made me smile to think that she will grow up in a world where she can dance freely and worship out loud. And I hope that she follows in the footsteps of her parents, sharing proudly the stories and traditions of her people while educating tourists like me about some of the stories that we don’t teach in history class.

Of all the things we saw and did during this journey, this was the thing that has altered my worldview the most. Anyone who screams religious persecution because of the American Separation of Church and State need only to be directed to the Religious Freedom Act of 1978 to know what real persecution looks like.

And that’s the most controversial statement you’ll ever hear me make on this blog.

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The Crazy Horse campus includes a restaurant and one of the nicest gift shops I’ve ever seen at at a tourist attraction. I bought a handmade Lakota doll for my travel tree but there’s a great mix of traditional gift shop t-shirt kind of stuff along with some fine pieces of art and jewelry.

I can’t promise that your experience at Crazy Horse will be as rewarding as mine but I certainly hope so. You can read books and view things in museums but there’s no substitute for listening to a person tell their own story.

Whether you’re planning a trip or just an armchair traveler, the Crazy Horse Memorial website is great so go check it out!

 

Honoring the Memphis Belle

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Dad and I with the Memphis Belle. Notice that I’m wearing my Rosie the Riveter shirt? Yes, I am a nerd!

As a student of history, I was over the moon last year when the Memphis Belle was installed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton. They had a big weekend that included World War II reenactors, big band music and all sorts of other things.

My dad is a history buff too – he’s actually where I caught the bug from – so I dragged him along for a little father-daughter quality time. This was sort of a big deal because we don’t often get to do things on our own. Growing up, it was always me with my mother or all of us as a family but never dad and I alone.

Turns out the weather was horrible and rainy, ruining most of the outdoor fun but we had a nice time anyway.

If you’ve never been to this museum, it’s a great way to pass a day and it’s free. It’s packed full of planes and stories that you won’t read in most history books.

a crew.jpgThe Memphis Belle exhibit does a nice job telling the story of this plane and crew. The B-17 was vital to the war effort, having flown in every combat zone during World War II. The Memphis Belle was important because it completed 25 missions over Europe, a dangerous proposition and unheard of when it happened in 1942 and 1943.

The crew became symbols of the war effort, personifying all the young men who were doing their part to fight evil overseas. They ranged in age from 19 to 26 and came from across this nation. These were very young men, likely with little life experience, who were sent to hell and back 25 times.

I can’t imagine the terror they faced. I mean, can you imagine climbing into a plane time after time, knowing that you likely wouldn’t live through the day? And it wasn’t just the Memphis Belle crew – these guys beat very long odds to survive – but sixteen million Americans served in this war, asked every day to face the unthinkable.

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Many of these planes were lost to time following the war. But the Memphis Belle dodged that bullet, so to speak. It was sent to Memphis where it sat out in the elements for decades. Damaged by weather, vandals and looters, it was in pretty bad shape. But it was acquired by the museum and sent to Dayton for restoration several years ago. We were lucky to be there for the festivities when the plane was installed in Dayton in time for the 75th anniversary of the planes’ 25th mission.

Displays feature each of the crew members and there are some artifacts on display in addition to the plane itself. I especially loved this stained glass window.

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Want to visit the Memphis Belle at the Air Force Museum? Click here. I’ll write more about the museum another day.

 

 

 

 

Coney Island Diner

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It’s been a Mansfield tradition since 1936 and I can see why. The Coney Island Diner in the heart of downtown Mansfield was a highlight of my visit to the city.

It’s traditional American diner fare. That means burgers and fries, ice cream and comfort food. They do breakfast all day so I had a veggie omlette with home fries and toast for just a few bucks. It was a large portion and tasted like something my grandma would have cooked.

The atmosphere is great with dinette tables, booths, a counter and stuff on the walls. And you can tell that it’s a good place because they have regulars. An elderly woman who sat near me waited patiently for the waitress to stop by and confirm she wanted her regular order. And did she want hash browns or home fries today?

Another woman had two children in tow, clearly grandkids, who were having fun sipping milkshakes at the counter. Two men in electric company uniforms kidded with the waitress about her tip over their large platters of food.

My service was great, the food was good and it was delivered lickety split – all requirements of a good diner. If you’re in town for the prison, the carousel park or the host of other fun things to do in the area, be sure to stop by for lunch or maybe just an ice cream treat!

Coney Island Diner is located at 98 N. Main Street and they’re open every day except Sunday. Go check ’em out and let me know what you think!

 

Beauty: Broadening the Definition

Writing about Mansfield this week caused me to revisit pictures of the Ohio State Reformatory where the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed. I already shared some pictures and the story of this visit but have tons of photos from this day.

I have a broad definition of what is beautiful. Frequent flyers of this blog will see pretty sunrise pictures and images of flowers, buildings and trails that have a traditional appeal to most people. But they also know that I tend to see beauty in things that others would consider common eyesores. I love an old truck in a field. The chipped paint of a tractor or a church that’s seen better days  are common subject matter as well.

My cousin Walter paid me the nicest compliment a while back. He sent me a picture on Facebook of an old barn and it said “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” I love that he noticed and that he sees it too.

An old prison isn’t a traditional place to find beauty but here are some pictures that I find appealing and hope you will too.

Sometimes it’s just the light or the lack of light that I find appealing.

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Sometimes it’s the color and texture. Look at those layers of paint, now chipping from the walls, and creating a unique kind of art work. Of course, it’s undoubtedly lead paint so try not to touch it!

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Sometimes you can’t put your finger on the quality you like best. It’s just haunting and you know in your soul that it’s good for your eye to see.

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Are you able to see beauty in the flawed or would you prefer to look the other way? There’s no correct answer to this question –  I won’t be offended if you don’t like this type of thing! It’s not for everyone and that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be.

Richland Carousel Park

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Nothing says childhood like a carousel. So I practically squealed like a little girl at the sight of the Richland Carousel Park in downtown Mansfield.

Housed in an enormous pavilion, this carousel was opened in 1991 and is officially the first carousel park to open in the United States since the 1930’s. There are 52 figures that were carved in early twentieth century designs. More than half are horses but there are also cats, rabbits, bears, ostriches, a giraffe and more. Some are even handicap accessible, a detail that I loved.

A Stinson Band Organ provides peppy music for the ride which goes a little more than 3.5 miles per hour. Panels at the top of the carousel depict local history scenes.

It’s only a dollar to ride, or you can buy six rides for $5. They’re open seven days a week, year round, except for major holidays. They welcome groups, parties and even weddings. Imagine getting married here – the pictures would be amazing.

And yes, the animals are big enough for adults to enjoy too!

Want to learn more? Visit the Richland Carousel Park online and then go visit them in real life! Mansfield has worked hard to revitalize their downtown and there are other things to do here so plan to spend a little time exploring the town after you take your ride.

Shawshank and the People Who Enriched the Experience

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I spent a pleasant day in Mansfield last month. The purpose of the visit was to tour the Ohio State Reformatory, a former prison where the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed. About halfway through the day, I began to wish this were an overnight trip to allow time for more exploration.

It’s clear that a return visit is necessary.

Expect to read a little more about Mansfield this week but I wanted to mention something that we haven’t talked about here but that enhances the quality of your adventure, especially when traveling alone.

First of all, never be shy about asking someone to take your photo. I own a selfie stick but rarely carry it because asking a stranger for a favor is a terrific conversation starter. They are typically happy to help and sometimes ask you to reciprocate.  On this particular day, I met some wonderful people who all added something special to my day, all because they took my photo.

On a related note, never be afraid to talk to strangers when you’re out touring an attraction like this. Chances are, you are going to encounter the same people repeatedly during your tour and you may as well be friendly. You never know who you might meet!

IMG_9061First, there was the brother and sister – about my age – who were visiting the prison for the first time. It was an important day for them because their grandpa was once a prison guard here. They grew up hearing his stories and even had with them an old photo of their grandpa with a prison sports team. Football, I think? They shared a few stories, took my picture (and I took theirs) and giggled at my sign. Our paths crossed a few times and I enjoyed eavesdropping on their joking, reminiscing and discoveries.

There were also two ladies, sisters-in-law (Hi, Gilda!), who were an absolute hoot. We joked about the bathroom arrangements and agreed that none of us would do well in prison. I ran into them again in downtown that afternoon, having lunch at a local diner, and they offered some tips for fun things to do. Being local, they had some great ideas, and they’re part of the reason that a return trip to the area is necessary. In fact, we have them to thank for the top photo which I took while exploring downtown on foot after I encountered them at the Coney Island Diner.

I also loved chatting with a woman who was traveling alone. A retiree, she had driven from Indiana to New York for a bus trip of some kind. But when the tour was over, she didn’t want to go home. Thanks to direct deposit and online bill pay, she said it didn’t matter if she was home or out globetrotting. Consequently, she was taking the scenic route home, didn’t know where she was going next or when her family could count on seeing her again.

She got a kick out of my sign and said that her eighty-something year old father still treats her like a child, despite the fact she is a grown woman with grandchildren. I chuckled and felt a little better about my own overprotective parents.

I also admired her sense of independence and adventure, saying a silent prayer that I will be so brave at her age.

While I advocate that you be friendly, I’m no fool. Take steps to protect yourself and your valuables. Never make it easy for a pickpocket to take your wallet or phone and always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. If someone seems suspicious or maybe a little too friendly, listen to your gut. You can never be too safe.

My visit to Mansfield was a lot of fun partly because of the things I did and partly because the people I met enriched the experience in some ways. Stay tuned for more about this day.