Mt. Rushmore

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There are certain landmarks in this country that everyone should see at least once. One of those is Mt. Rushmore, a destination of my western adventure.

Mt. Rushmore is an easy drive from Rapid City, South Dakota where we stayed. There are several fun and interesting things to do in Rapid City and the vicinity including Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial to name a few.

Mt. Rushmore is sort of a mess right now as a portion of the property has been torn up and is behind a chain link construction fence. You can only admire this magnificent monument from afar.

Mt rushmore constructionHonestly, it’s a bit smaller than I expected but impressive nonetheless. It’s incredible when you consider what can be accomplished with dynamite, jackhammers and chisels.

It took fourteen years for a few hundred miners, sculptors and rock climbers to create this granite masterpiece that features Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,  Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

Mt rushmore ice creamPortions of the monument can be seen from the road below but it’s worth the $10 parking fee to get out of the car and look around. There’s a great visitors’ center with a gift shop and ice cream shop where you can taste Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream recipe.

So many of the employees are clearly immigrants and it’s great fun to hear all the accents working at and visiting this monument to some of our nation’s great presidents. For this country girl from Appalachian Ohio, the exposure to different languages, accents and people of nationalities across the world is a treat.

If you go, know that your National Parks Pass will not help you here as that pass only covers park admissions. Mt. Rushmore is free but there is a fee for parking not covered by the pass. Never heard of the National Parks Pass? My pal Johnna, who I was traveling with, has one (it’s actually called the America the Beautiful Pass) and it’s a great deal if you plan to make many park visits in a year. Click here to learn more.

Want to know more about visiting Mt. Rushmore? You’ll find everything you need at the National Parks website! 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Mac-O-Chee Castle

The recent announcement that Mac-O-Chee Castle would be sold at auction this fall sent me on a quick trip north to visit both of the Piatt Castles last weekend. I’ve wanted to see them for years but just never made it a priority.

So I hit the road early Saturday morning to be at Mac-O-Chee when they opened, hoping to beat the crowd. It worked like a charm as I was the only person in the building for a while, giving me the quiet to take pictures and contemplate what this incredible building was like a hundred years ago.

Both castles are beautiful in their own way and both have a rich history that is really too much to cover here. So I’m just going to focus on my overall impressions of Mac-O-Chee Castle with the hopes that you’ll go visit before it’s too late or at least use the trusty internet to learn more on your own.

 Of the two castles, I loved Mac-O-Chee the best. It has amazing character, craftsmanship and attention to detail that you simply don’t find often. The obvious charm comes from stunningly beautiful woodwork and gorgeous ceiling murals throughout the house.

However, the things I liked best were the details – hand painted tile around the fireplaces, the intricate designs of door hinges and the surprisingly beautiful design of a third floor skylight. I loved the natural light that brightens the first floor library and the built-in file drawers found in the wall of this room.

That skylight I mentioned was designed to shine down through a window near the floor so that it can illuminate a stairwell. A small chapel in one tower room also enjoys soft morning light that lends this room a kind of spirituality that I’ve experienced in no church.

The grounds here are peaceful despite proximity to the highway. I can see why the Piatts chose this place.

Unfortunately, the Piatts who built this castle didn’t live in it for very long and the home changed hands several times over the years before being regained by the family. Original furnishings are long gone and upkeep wasn’t the best for some time.

I think that it has become something of a liability for the owners as deterioration is accelerating with each passing year. Everything here needs attention from the roof to the foundation. It literally leaks and floods and would need tons of expensive work.

It would make an amazing bed and breakfast but the electric needs updated and there are no bathrooms with plumbing here. Construction finished in 1879 and the wash closets, while innovative for the time, are not appropriate for modern usage.

My friends, I must confess that the imagination runs wild in this place while the realist in me says this castle would bankrupt a millionaire.

The house will sell at auction in October and there’s no telling what the future holds but my guess is that it will no longer be available to the public. This makes me sad for all of us who love history and great old structures.

In summary- Mac-O-Chee Castle is amazing and you better find yourself there quickly if you want a glimpse inside. Want to learn more? I really hope you’ll visit!

Click here to visit their website for history and tour information!

Athena And The Parthenon

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Just a couple of miles from the hubbub of downtown Nashville you’ll find Centennial Park. Originally farmland, it was developed as the site of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exhibition in 1897. When the Centennial celebration ended, many of the temporary expo buildings were dismantled but a life size replica of the Parthenon was left.

A few years later, the grounds were transformed into a city park and that temporary replica of the Parthenon was eventually rebuilt using permanent materials.

Today, the Parthenon remains a major attraction and the park is used by both tourists and locals alike, It’s well over a hundred acres with a rec center, walking paths, beautiful landscaping, outdoor recreational activities, a band shell and a beautiful pond.

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A quick stroll around the park revealed all sorts of interesting things – people playing Pokemon, high school kids having prom pictures taken, little kids learning to ride their bikes – I even witnessed a wedding. That’s without mentioning the hordes gathered to take selfies in front of the Parthenon.

Venture inside and you’ll find a very nice art museum as well as something quite unexpected – an enormous statue of the goddess Athena. When I say enormous, I really mean ginormous. It took years to fund and to create and was originally plain white clay. In 2002, part of the statue was gilded while details were also added in paint,

Friends, the word gaudy was created to describe this statue but I had an absolute ball studying and photographing it.

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Want to visit the Parthenon? You can walk around the outside and explore the park for free. If you wish to go inside to tour the gallery or to see the Athena, it’ll cost you $6. Learn more at their website.

My Brand Of Nashville Fun

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I told you yesterday that I took my mother to Nashville for the weekend to visit her twin brother and his wife. We drove down Friday morning and came home Sunday afternoon. All told, we had about two days to see the sights.

Almost everyone I know goes to Nashville for the bars and the partying. This is not my scene. In fact, I have a friend who never misses an opportunity to remind me that I’m a nerd. It’s not much of an insult since I wave that nerd flag proudly. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I spent more time in museums than in bars.

My first piece of advice is that if you’re like me and aren’t a fan of crowds and parties, don’t go on a weekend. I was there a few years ago and had an amazing experience mid to late week. This weekend was really busy.

On Saturday my mother went sightseeing with her family while I headed out for my own brand of nerd fun. I was wandering down Broadway just after 8 a.m. There were only a handful of cars on the street and even fewer pedestrians.

 

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It was amazing. 

I passed the morning at the Country Music Hall of Fame and touring RCA Studio B. The Hall of Fame is a fun place to visit on a rainy day. Depending on your interest in country music, you can literally spend as much or as little time here as you like. I’ve been before so I didn’t feel compelled to dwell here too long but there are some interesting artifacts, pictures and stories to keep you occupied.

Right now there is a fascinating exhibition about Emmylou Harris that I thoroughly enjoyed. Her presence is felt all over this town and it was helpful to get an overview of her life and career before venturing through the city. One place you’ll learn a lot about her is the Ryman Auditorium which she is credited with saving from ruin. I’ll tell you that story another day.

I’ll leave you with a few Hall of Fame pictures.

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Interested? You can learn more at the Country Music Hall of Fame website.