Bucket List Trip

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North/South Trip

 

 

 

*** BUCKET LIST TRIP ***

North/South

 

( NOTICE: CLICK TO OPEN ALL GROUPED PHOTOS )

 

Tuesday 9/23/2014

*** Charlotte NC ***

 

FSU SQUAD CAR II PACKED and READY TO GO!

 

 

The day was beautiful and we were excited about the 16 days that lay ahead. The car, packed to the brim, we set out for our trip! 

 

I was really excited about seeing cousins I had not seen in many years in Augusta GA; but the night before, the visit was cancelled when my cousin who was hosting lunch, became ill with a virus.  So we all decided that it might be better to reschedule at a later date!

We changed our route and drove straight to Charlotte, NC where we stayed at Embassy Suites. I know most have seen similar overlooks ... scenes like the one below, always take my breath away!

 

 

This was an exceptionally nice hotel!  We were especially impressed with the high quality of our evening meal!  Actually, it turned out to be one of the best hotel meals we enjoyed anywhere on the trip … having left my garden behind, I was delighted to be served a fresh garden salad with an exceptional House Dressing.  My small Filet Mignon was grilled to perfection, the baked potato was served steaming, real butter melting and topped with sour cream.  And ... our room accommodations were the best of the trip ... work table included with needed outlets for two laptops, two chairs and plenty of space  for our luggage, etc.

 

Wednesday 9/24/2014

*** NASCAR Hall of Fame ***

 

When Tommy put our itinerary together, some of the Bucket List choices were mutual ... some his and some mine.  So, NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte NC was a must see ... ALTHOUGH ... there was a time in my life I thought driving cars around in a circle, and calling it a "sport", was crazy.  But when I married Tommy Herrington in 2004, and discovered he loved and faithfully followed NASCAR ... and that a dream of his was to get in a motor home and make the NASCAR TOUR during a full season, I decided I did not want to be a NASCAR widow!  So I started to watch WITH him.  He suggested I choose a driver as a way to help me get interested and learn the sport.  For several weeks he suggested this one or that one.  Each time I would say - "No, he's not CUTE"!!! One Sunday he suggested another driver - I checked him out and said ... "Ok! I'll take him ... he's CUTE!" 

 

"Cute" was Jimmy Johnson before he started making history!!!  So a trip to the NEW NASCAR Hall of Fame was a natural pick!  So much NASCAR history presented in this place, and so realistically done!  Here you see Jimmy Johnson's #48 ... the Lowe's Car on a track made to duplicate the race track at Charlotte.  The fans in the stands even look realistic! (Don't forget to click to enlarge).

 

I could not have picked a better driver to support!  Yep – he wins … and he wins A LOT! And yep, he’s cute; but more importantly, he is a fine young man and family man – someone who has made me proud in so many areas! 

 

I did try to "drive" one of those new fangled things to test to see if I could participate in the faux NASCAR race they offered; but quickly realizing I was suffering from motion sickness, I threw my hands up after a few seconds.  Pooh … I was really good at bumper cars!  

 

Tommy did well on the test!  Pure enjoyment for him!  Here he is with his selected driver, Matt Kennseth, who drives # 20 - the Dollar General Car.  He later spoke with a special gathering of NASCAR drivers!!

 

And for a great majority of you NASCAR fans ... here's your guy ...

Dale Jr.'s #88 National Guard car!

 

It is December ... I have missed the weekly races, and am already looking forward to February! 

 

*** Visit with Ralph and Pat Calhoun ***

 

Leaving Charlotte, we drove to Winston-Salem for a visit with brother-in-law, Ralph and his wife, Pat Calhoun. We checked into Hilton Garden Inn that afternoon, had time for a short rest and freshened up for our visit and dinner.

 

As explanation, James Calhoun, Sr., Class of 1950, and I were married in 1956, and I thereby inherited the most wonderful brother-in-law ever … Ralph  Calhoun, Class of 1947!!!  We have stayed close friends across the years.  Our meal at River Birch (has river birch trees planted around the building), is one of their favorite places, and indeed it was wonderful!  And, as always, our time together was special! 

 

Ralph and Pat came down from Winston Salem and surprised me at the “Surprise Event” in Albany! That’s how special they are!

 

 

Thursday 9/25/2014

*** Visit with Susan Riffe O'Neal ***

 

Up the next morning, we panicked!  Somehow we had factored in less time than we needed to arrive at 3:00 p.m. to visit Ed and Susan Riffe O'Neal who reside in a lovely community overlooking Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach, VA. 

 

As introduction, Susan is one of those Indians whose family moved from Albany when she was in the 9th grade. She would have graduated in the AHS Class of 1954.  Her family had moved to Albany in 1938 when she was two.  She attended Mrs. Slappey's Kindergarten and her elementary days found her at Broad Street and Flint, and as her family lived right on the edge of the school zone that shifted, she entered McIntosh in the 4th grade.  Susan, like many, made forever friends while living in Albany ... and she stayed in touch with several in her class.

When learning of the Albany's plan to destroy the Casino, I started trying to reach Indians who might send their memories of Radium, and Susan's email address came to me from her friend and classmate, Tommy Pattison ('54). From those memories, the Albany High Times was born!  The wonderful thing is, not only has the Times reconnected many Indians, you meet new Indians who become forever friends! As for her husband, Ed O'Neal, Tommy and Ed had been in the Georgia Tech orchestra together, though they never met.

 

We arrived an hour later than was our intention, but Susan, the perfect hostess, made us feel welcomed!  We visited in their lovely home for a while, then went down to their dining facility where palm trees bordering the waters of Chesapeake Bay served as a breath-taking backdrop.  After dinner, we visited until about 7:30 p.m. 

 

 

We said our goodbyes and left driving through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which was undergoing construction, slowing down our trip to Exemore VA.  Little did we know ... we were in for a pile more of frustration in Exemore!

Remember the photo of our luggage and the carrier????!!! Well, the Exemore Hampton Inn & Suites was a challenge, multiplied. We entered in the midst of show dogs, cages and trainers. Unfortunately, some trainers KEPT the hotel's carrier’s in their rooms, so that there were none available for us to “upload”.

The hour was LATE, and we were tired, so we decided to get a snack in their restaurant while we waited for a cart. The food service was not good, and orders brought to our table were wrong. By the time we finished it was after 11:00 p.m. ... and we were exhausted. BUT – there were still no available carriers on which to place our baggage. The front desk attendant apologized and was able to find someone to help carry our luggage up to the room.

We were half-way finished when suddenly there appeared a small CART about 1/4th the size of a regular carrier. We asked the front desk for a carrier – and they explained all they had were small carts … which had no hang up capability and would carry only very few pieces of luggage. Finally between the “helper” and the two of us, we got everything to the room. There’s more … but I’ll skip that and just say, it was the worst experience of the whole trip. We had so many complaints they were kind enough to give us a 2 complimentary $11 breakfast tickets.  Previously at other stops, breakfast had been "on the house".

 

Friday 9/26/2014

*** Cape May - Lewes Ferry ***

 

Up bright and early the next morning to drive to Lewes, DE to board the ferry to Cape May.  Breakfast was actually good; but Tommy still thought he should let the morning manager of our difficulties the previous night ... especially for a couple of seniors. Our car was packed and ready to go, and while waiting for Tommy to bring the car to the portico, a young black man (about 55) approached me saying he had noticed the FSU GA tag on our Garnet Sante Fe Spirit! He said he, too, was a “Nole” and was on his way to Raleigh NC for the FSU/North Carolina State game.

Tommy joined our conversation, and the young man shared that he was a football coach and that the man who had influenced his life as a coach most, was Bobby Bowden. He shared that Coach Bowden had said that too many coaches tried to be buddies with their players, when what they should be FIRST was a parent figure, SECOND a coach, and LASTLY a friend. He shared he had followed those instructions during his career, which by the way … I could tell had been a successful career! I left smiling, proud of the influence Coach Bowden and FSU had had on this young man ... and the influence HE was passing on to another generation!

Then we off on our trip to board the Cape May - Lewes Ferry …

 

It was a refreshing trip  ... it was crowded, but we were fortunate to share a booth with such an interesting couple!  In fact, they were so nice, we got totally involved in stimulating conversation, and we actually forgot to be attentive to the view from our ferry window! 

 

"Deboarding", it was time to leave for Battery Park NYthrough one of the tunnels. 

   

 

We were headed for the time of our lives,

... if not one of the MOST CHALLENGING TIMES of our lives ....

 

*** BATTERY PARK!!! ***

 

Battery Park is a 25-acre public park located at the Battery, the southern tip of the island of Manhattan in New York City, facing New York Harbor. The Battery is named for the artillery batteries that were positioned there in the city's early years to protect the settlement behind them.

We thought we would be parking the FSU Squad Car II for 4 days in at the Hotel, but first, we had to find the Hampton Inn on Pearl Street and check in.  Driving in Battery Park was not much different than driving in NYC. We got nervous by all the hub-bub, tall buildings, people crossing streets any which-way, and cars and cabs darting in and out of nowhere, construction everywhere you turned, and one-way streets going the wrong way for us! Even with our GPS "lady" giving us instructions, we felt she should have given her instructions BEFORE it was time for us to make a turn (smile). BUT we made it ... parking in front of the Battery Park version of a Hampton Inn!                                      

   Tommy entered with a smile, and came out looking more than frazzled.  No parking at the Hampton Inn?  WHAT??? Parking for the car 4 blocks away?  $5 a day?  Then how would we get our luggage, et al, in the Hotel?  Two polite Front Desk Attendants calmed us ... somewhat.  They suggested we put our luggage on their carrier cart and they would "keep watch over it" in the lobby while we drove the 4 blocks to park the car and then walked back.  We were not comfortable leaving our computers, and a couple of other things under their watch, so this meant we would have to carry certain items 4 blocks back to the hotel.

 

At the parking garage, we were met with fast talking attendants wanting us to hurry - but we are not at an age to hurry ... and as much as we tried to remember everything we needed to remove from the car and carry back, Tommy left his reading glasses ... both pair.  Luckily I had an extra pair.  So, loaded up, we walked the 4 blocks back to Hampton Inn, checked in and took our carrier, filled to the brim, to our room.

 

 

We opened the door and our mouths flew open ... this room was about 1/4th the size of any of our other rooms.  We previously had 2 Queen beds along the way, where we put our luggage on one, and slept on the other; and now we had something akin to one double bed.  WHERE were we going to put our luggage?  WHERE were we going to put two computers?  WHERE were we going to put US?

 

BUT ... we worked it out!  We would be staying 4 nights there, so we used the drawers, closed the suitcases, and stacked them against the wall.  One even went against a wall in the bathroom.  We just made do.  Would we get claustrophobic I wondered? Well, no, we didn't!  We were so tired when returning to our room, that little bed looked and felt like heaven!

 

We called downstairs and asked for suggestions for eating establishments somewhere nearby, and were directed to an area about 3 blocks away where we could get a hamburger OR a variety of food types.  They kept saying we should try Burger Burger, so we did. 

 

Oh dear ... it was not a regular restaurant ... it was a stand up and order from a gargantuan list of burgers on a menu board. After placing our order, they pointed to a tables outside, and we went and sat down, waiting quite a while for our order. But the waiting time was not wasted ... it was eye-opening!

Just the side of Burger-Burger were restaurants lining both sides of what looked like an old brick street.  Placed on that street, were lines of picnic tables, umbrellas and LOTS OF YOUNG PEOPLE talking laughing and enjoying themselves!!! None of them at Burger Burger!  I wondered how many were struggling actors (and yes, actresses - which I prefer to call the gals!). Finally the hamburgers came out ... THEY WERE HUGE, not to mention a HUGE order of REAL French Fries. I ordered a mushroom/Swiss Cheese Burger and it was divine!

 

  

So we got a bargain - a great meal and an interesting view of "Lifestyles in NY"!!! There were left-overs, but with no little fridge back in our little room, though it pained me ... leftovers went in the outside garbage container.

We returned to our "itty-bitty room" ... grateful that we were not far from much needed sleep.

Saturday 9/27/2014

*** The Huckabee Show ***

 

We woke the next morning, planning to arrive at Studio D at Fox News Network for a taping of the Huckabee Show at 11:00 a.m. The previous morning, while driving toward Battery Park, we had been surprised to receive a call from a gal on the Huckabee Staff making sure we had received the notice for a change in the gathering time.  Nice touch, we thought!  We had a free ticket, but we knew before we left Lawrenceville, that they gave out more tickets than seats in order to ensure a full house. We planned to go early - fingers crossed we would make the cut - I love to be on TV (smile)!

I had shared with Tommy that I'd be willing to walk, take the sub or bus to everything else, BUT the Huckabee Show ... I simply did not want my hair to get mussed IN CASE we got on TV!!!  Ah vanity!!! All is vanity!!!  So the hotel ordered a taxi to pick us up. It was an unmarked black taxi, and I wondered how much THAT would cost? We were no more settled than the driver announced ... "The president is in town for the United Nations meetings, so there is no way I can take you to the door ... you will have to walk about 5 blocks. Oh dear - MY HAIR ... it was windy! But you do what you have to do!

It seemed it was taking forever to get to Studio D ... but the driver was playing some lovely classical music selections. He was pleased when I complimented his choice of music! Several times, he would weave in and out, and then would come upon a CLOSED STREET. It seemed this went on and on. NYC is still building after the terrible damage from Hurricane Sandy. I wondered if we would ever get through the maze!

 

 

 

But we did!  WHEW!   Though my hair was destroyed, we arrived in plenty of time!  Five couples were ahead of us!  And again,  we happened to meet a really nice couple!  She was a teacher.  He was tall ... VERY TALL.  I didn't think about it then, but it seems like my seat is always in back of the tallest person in the room.  My luck did not change!

They opened the doors at the appointed time and we went through a serious search and scan.  We were given a ticket with a seat number and directed downstairs, where they had snacks (hogeys, veggies, drinks) available! It was nice to sit and just chat with people eager to see what it was like to be in a TV production!  I was interested because I have directed many things during my life, and I was interested to see how they put the TV show together.  I was surprised!

 

First, let me say that we wanted, not only to be early in line so we would be assured of a seat; but also I assumed we would be seated down front for our efforts.  That was not to be (smile)!  The numbers on our tickets seated us UP on the next to top row, NEXT to the wall to wall MIRROR.  Studio D is small, and is the same studio in which they film THE FIVE.  And the mirror is there to give the effect that the room is larger, therefore tricking the eye to imagine a larger audience than what was actually there.  Audience numbers/attendance were important in practically everything I've done in my life ... church attendance, plays, sports, and for productions of all kinds, so the mirror trick brought a smile to my face!  Tommy sat next to the mirror, I to his left, and Mr. TALL MAN in front of me!  BUT the chairs were placed in such a way, that most of the time I was able to see.

 

A guy warmed up the audience and gave us instructions to start clapping and smiling.  They filmed about 5 minutes of us doing that.  This is because most of the time the camera was placed at the end side of the audience (we were down at the opposite end), and if they had not done that, none of those sitting around us would have been seen ... however there were fleeting glimpses of us a few times ... blink and we were gone.  But after all that worrying to get there early, etc., it was fun to be seen!  And the program was not a disappointment. 

 

Here we are, to the left, to the back, behind the TALL MAN!

 

 

Then out came Huckabee ... he talked with us for a while, telling us that the last segment (usually music) would be filmed first, and that the group performing would be BIG and RICH ... a country duo I love!!!  True to form - they were wonderful!  They performed "Baby When I Look at You!"  AH!  What a love song!  We each received a copy of their album, "Gravity"!  

 

          

 

After that ... they filmed the rest of the show ... a couple of segments were shot elsewhere ... we'd see it when we saw the full show.  So we were not disappointed!  It was fun, it was interesting and it was informative.  We took the train back to Hampton Inn ... took a nice long and needed nap, and watched the 8:00 p.m. Huckabee Show!   Like finely placed pieces of a puzzle, I was impressed with the outcome! 

 

Later, while Tommy slept, I watched the re-run ... I am a night owl!  He is not!  Checked my email, and then lights out ... we had an appointment with Lady Liberty the next morning!

 

Sunday 9/28/2014

*** THE STATUE OF LIBERTY ***

I have always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty ... up close and personal ... as in "outside of a picture".  We had planned to go one year, but she was closed to the public at the time for much needed work.  I hoped to have another chance, and here she was!!! 

 

We took advantage of the free breakfast downstairs, and walked to and through Battery Park to the Ferry that would take us to the statue and to Ellis Island.  By our standards we were there early, but not early enough ... the line waiting for the ferry was already long ... so by the time we got on, there were no good seats left downstairs or up. We decided to go upstairs, and squeezed in at the rails and soon we were close enough to take nice full pictures!  We were surprised to notice that most on the boat were people speaking another language.

 

I loved seeing our Lady from different sides.  When we left the ferry, we decided to rent ear phones - I was immediately grateful we did when I heard, "Turn to your right, and see Lady Liberty".  Not only could I see her ... I felt I could reach out and touch her ... and the tears came ... it was a holy moment for me!  I will never forget that moment.

 

 

We have limits as to how many steps we can climb ... the truth is ... not very many, and so we did what we could, and then occasionally would find an elevator!  We enjoyed the level that you could look up, try to shoot a picture from the bottom of her base.  I took several and thought I had captured from the base to the flame ... but in not one picture did that happen.  Here is the best I have ...

 

 

NOTE:  These and Ellis Island sections are UNDER CONSTRUCTION - but you can still view.

 

Here are a few more pictures ...

 

 

and Ellis Island ...

 

It had been a great day for loving and appreciating America!

 

Monday 9/29/2014

*** The 911 Memorial ***

 

 

 

Driving up I-85 toward Duluth, GA on the morning Tuesday, November 11, 2001, it was like any morning driving to work.  It was NOT any morning ...

 

I thought when I heard that a 911 Memorial was being created, I had mixed emotions; I wondered if I could ever visit such a place.  But as we planned this trip, we decided this might be the last time we would be in NYC, and so Tommy made the arrangements.

 

I will tell you, almost any emotion I have ever experienced ... was experienced during our time in the 911 Memorial ... and almost anywhere you stand in New York ... this building is visible to your eyes and heart..

 

 

We took pictures, but wish I had a recording of our docent, who was phenomenal!  At the end, I asked him where I could voice my appreciation.  He sent us to the Visitor's Desk where he said I could ask for a card on which to make my comments.  And I did.  When I have a complaint, I give it!  Likewise, when someone has done his/her job in an exceptional way, I make that known, too.  What was special about this young man was that he was emotionally moved himself as he spoke.  At times, as I felt tears in my eyes ... I saw tears in his eyes.  He seemed driven to help us learn, understand; yet he was unashamed to share his emotion.  He accomplished that and more!

 

Here are photos I selected from the many we took ... the first is of a couple of unknown buildings to me, but the plane in the sky gave me shivers.  It was also eerie how the displayed pieces, gathered from the wreckage, reminded me of displayed pieces of modern artwork I have seen through the years.  Another photo of a huge section of (perhaps) part of one of the plane's engine.  Also you will see a couple of sets of stairs that, when you view, you can only partially imagine the people who made their way out of the building on those stairs, AND the ones who did not make it on those stairs. Also three pictures of the No. 3 Fire Engine.  I chose to display sides of the truck with the least amount of damage, and one of its fireman's hat. Also are the moving shots of the "cross" that was discovered amongst the rubble, which caused some to demand it be removed from the 911 Memorial ... thankfully they did not succumb to those demands. 

 

 

I wanted to take this next picture of a uniform because I knew it was a very brave man who wore this uniform on May 11, 2011. The operation took down a man who had been sought since America was attacked ... Osama bin Laden.  Bin Laden formed the al-Qaeda network which planned and carried out global strikes against Western interests, culminating in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and which included the plane that crashed on it's way to hit either our Capitol or the White House.


The posted explanation under the picture did not name the brave man;  at the time he had not been revealed ... but recently I learned that after meeting many of the relatives of the victims of bin Laden's atrocity at the Memorial to the September 11 terror attacks in New York, the young man, donated his SEAL team uniform to the museum.

It was at this event, after speaking to the relatives, Robert O'Neill, made a decision to tell the wider public that he was 'The Shooter' who killed bin Laden.  I am so glad I took the picture ... now that I know the "rest of the story"!

 

     

 

So this is to say ... I'm glad I did not go with my original impulse ... thinking I could not bear to go through the 911 Memorial ... and I hope if you have not done so, you will take the opportunity to visit this incredible memorial to our country and our people.  I was moved in so many ways ... I hope you will be as well.

 

*** The Sidewalks of New York ***

                      

 

Cross the street? Take a bike? Hail a taxi? ... How about a service truck???? Hmmmmmm!!!!  Where's the train?  What to do?

 

 

 

Tuesday 9/30/2014

*** The Northern Most Point & A Tale ***

 

Leaving NY, we drove toward Portland ME and the Hilton Garden Inn! This is as far north as I have ever been in our country.  For years I had dreamed of eating a divine Maine lobster, sopping in warmed butter, flavored with a bit of lemon juice! 

The hotel was very nice, and we could see the bay out of our window, about a block away. Surely there was a lobster lurking out there!

 

 

We asked the young ladies at the front desk where we could find a great Maine lobster. They recommended a couple of places that had great Lobster Rolls! I explained to them ... I wanted nothing but pure chunks of unadulterated LOBSTER, real butter and a squeeze of lemon! So, she recommended two places: one a bit fancy - and another not so fancy.  We chose the latter, since we were tired and did not want to change.

 

So here is my story and I'm sticking to it!

 

A LOBSTER TALE @ THE Portland ME Lobster Company

 

 

My mouth dropped when we drove up to a little shanty ... but I thought, "sometimes little 'out of the way' places like this are absolute 'FINDS'!!!" The tables (picnic style) were set up on a long dock over the water, surrounded by lobster boats, with a tent-like cover and heaters ... which were wonderful since it was a bit chilly in there (see pictures below).

 

We each ordered a 1 1/2 lb. lobster, steamed. Tommy picked up our order when the little plastic lobster on our table lit up and started rocking and rolling!  He brought our orders back to the table on a large tray.  It looked beautiful ... I was salivating ... two bright red lobsters, baked potatoes, perfectly cooked corn on the cob, plus a serving of tasty slaw. Of course we were provided with metal shell crackers, a little red plastic "digger", and plastic-ware.  Ah! Plastic-ware vs. a lobster!!!

 

Tommy, wasn't sure where to start, so I advised him to twist off the claw, crack it and get the meat out with the little red digger. Then I cracked my first claw, shocked by hot water gushing onto my plate ... not a little, but a major part of the ocean - I quickly held it over the tray, and let it continue to gush there, instead of in my plate. Out of that claw I retrieved practically nothing ... same for the other claw and joints, which were also close to empty.

 

But I thought, one more opportunity for a taste of REAL MAINE LOBSTER ... I opened the tail, and pulled out a very small piece, which together with the "meat" from the claws, etc, rendered just enough lobster to fill my little 1 inch round container of butter ... and THAT my friends, was my chance at a Maine Lobster!!!  It was as if there was an undeveloped baby lobster in the big shell (must have been a heavy shell ... could not possibly have weighed 1 1/2 lbs)!!!

 

You ask, "Why didn't you take it back"? All I can say is - we were too tired for words, and just wanted to go rest our heads!!!

 

NEXT morning as we were leaving ... a manager type asked us how we enjoyed the evening ... we praised his hotel, but told of our experience at the lobster shack!!!

"AH!", he said ... "you got a soft shell lobster"! I responded that I had never heard of such a thing, and that the shells weren't soft. Then he explained that when a lobster molts, he has to grow INTO his new shell - a soft shell lobster is when the lobster has NOT grown into the shell. So in a round about way - I had figured out the problem ... but not the reason why!!!  Next time, I will know to ask for a "hard shell lobster"!! 

 

It was a long drive from Georgia to Maine to eat an undeveloped Lobster! 

 

Here is a "pic-taste" of this quaint little place ... we arrived during daylight, but left in the darkness ... the best we could say was "Thanks for the visuals"!!!

 

 

Wednesday 10/1/2014

*** Ft. Washington ***

 

The drive to Ft. Washington made for many miles and a long day, with nothing planned once we arrived.  We had been told we would see the Fall colors on our trip; but this was a strange year for most of our country.  Spring was late and so was Fall ... which meant that the fall colors were not out for the most part of our trip ... except when we pulled into a gas station .... I have no idea what this is ... but the colors took my breath away!  OH YES!!!  IT MADE MY DAY!  I had no idea whether these were fall colors, or how the shrub was colored.

 

 

Thursday 10/2/2014

*** Ft. McHenry ***

 

We left at 8:00 a.m. for Ft. McHenry located in Ft. Washington MO.  I could not have been more excited about this visit!  I have, for years, dreamed of finding a way to cause my country to sing its National Anthem as other countries sing theirs ... WITH GUSTO!  I have written pieces, I have talked when and where anyone would listen, and for most of my 55 years in church music ministry, I always selected The Star Spangled Banner to be sung on those Sundays closest to patriotic celebrations.  I would play our Anthem, with gusto, in the Key of A-flat, which is the best key for non-professionals to sing it ... and given the opportunity, they would raise the rafters!!!  People love to sing their anthem in this comfortable key. 

 

Now I'm in the autumn of my life and it is obvious those who plan the music at events and meetings will pledge to our American Flag; but seldom sing our Anthem ... OR they pay for someone to annihilate our Anthem (and you know what I mean).  So at Ft. McHenry ... I was on sacred ground.  I shed many tears.

 

On September 12, 2014, America celebrated the 200th Anniversary of The Star Spangled Banner!!!  So this was a very special year for me to be there ... where history was made.

 

Entering the building, we were directed to a little open room where a movie would be shown explaining how Francis Scott Key came to pen the words of our Anthem.

 

   It was an excellent presentation.  I noticed that a group of young elementary students were watching intently.  Tears of joy came!  After the presentation, I walked over to the teacher and thanked her for her willingness to teach these children such an important part of our American history. 

 

Afterwards, there were a couple of men at the desk and I walked up and asked them in my best sweet Southern accent if they knew why so many other nations sang out their anthem with pride ... and America did not?  They stammered and all they could think of was ... "It's too hard to sing."  And I responded, "Well, that's just the thing ... if it is sung in the correct key, it is easy to sing.  You just have to have the music in their key. Clearly they had NO INTEREST in my opinion ... their eyes glazed over.  I thanked them, and turned to walk away ... again with tears in my eyes toward the door that opened to the sidewalks that would take us to Ft. McHenry.

 

The day was overcast and windy.  I had recently learned that there was an added element to the defeat of the British.  I'll share later, but first here is a synopsis of the battle ... taken from "The Battle for Baltimore":

 

"Fort McHenry, the star-shaped fort that protected the water approach to Baltimore, was seen as the cornerstone of the American defense. 

 

  On September 12, Americans observed in terror as the British fleet approached Baltimore at North Point near the mouth of the Patapsco River. About 4,500 British troops landed and began their 11-mile march to Baltimore. As the troops marched, the British warships moved up the Patapsco River toward Fort McHenry and the other defenses around the harbor. The ships opened a bombardment of the fort, but failed to force its commander, Major George Armistead, and the other defenders to surrender.

 

Now here's a part of the story you may not have heard:  There came a perfect storm that night ... and part of the problem was ... the British were unable at times to keep Ft. McHenry in their sights.

 

The British guns had a range of 2 miles (3 km), and the British rockets had a 1.75-mile (2.8 km) range, but neither guns nor rockets were accurate. The British ships were unable to pass Fort McHenry and penetrate Baltimore Harbor because of its defenses, including a chain of 22 sunken ships, and the American cannons. They were, however, able to come close enough at maximum range to fire rockets and mortars at the fort. Due to the poor accuracy of the British weapons at maximum range, and the limited range of the American guns, very little damage was done on either side before the British, having depleted their ammunition, ceased their attack on the morning of 14 September.  So with the resolve of the Americans, plus a gift from heaven, the battle was won!

 

As the British fleet withdrew down the Patapsco River, the garrison flag, now known as the Star- Spangled Banner, was raised over Fort McHenry, replacing the smaller storm flag that flew during the bombardment." ... from "The Battle for Baltimore

 

For the story of Francis Scott Key as he witnessed the battle, the storm the emergence of the flag through the smoke, and then set about writing the 4 verses of our National Anthem.  Please click below ...

 

http://albanyhightimes.com/history_of_anthem.htm

***

 

The story of Ft. McHenry brought us not only the words for our National Anthem, it offered a successful defense of Baltimore and aided in restoring American pride after the British burning of Washington DC." 

 

Tommy and I walked toward the Fort with clouds hanging overhead!

 

 

As the rendering at the top showed ... Ft. McHenry was a 5-starred fort.  Below are sections taken from the outside.

Tommy and I were amazed at the inside of the fort ... and the living quarters!

Artillery, storage, cannons and cannon balls ...

 

I was fascinated by the waters of the Patapsco River ... where the British ships were positioned just beyond North Point and the mouth of the river ...  looking out at the Patapsco was a moving experience for me ... the British ships had been there On September 11, 1814 ... and so had Francis Scott Key, who when he returned, left the boat with 4 verses written about his experience, from his heart.

 

 

And we left Ft. McHenry, full of emotion and full of pride ... the skies were blue ... the clouds were beautifully white ...

 

 

NOTE: The Star-Spangled Banner flies high over Fort McHenry 24 hours a day by special order of the White House.  It continues to evoke a special, patriotic feeling. When a star is added or if there is a new design for the flag, Fort McHenry is the first location to fly the new flag.

 

*** The Price Palace ***

 

Next stop in Parkersburg WV!  We were looking forward to our first visit at the "Price Palace", where we were to dine and spend the night with Tommy's daughter, Kitty, husband Randal Price, and their two precious doggies ... Boo and Sully!   It was the 2nd of October, and they were ready for Halloween!! 

 

When I grew up, we did not decorate for Halloween ... costumes yes ... but yards and houses? ... well that had yet to get started.  But their home was so cleverly decorated and quite an experience to behold!  And their dinner was delicious  ... yummy chicken grilled by Randal, and side salad and a tasty dish of sweet potatoes prepared by Kitty!  We had such a great visit with them! 

 

 

Friday 10/3/2014

*** Winchester KY ***

 

Afternoon off!  AH!  Time for a needed nap!!!

 

*** NASHVILLE - 4 Nights ***

We drove to Nashville.  I thought we would never arrive ... when you want to get somewhere, time grows large!  We pulled up at the Courtyard at Opryland and were more than ready for a night at the GrandOle Opry! 

 

Country music was taught in the School of Music at FSU.  If you sang through your nose, you were quickly corrected and taught the proper way to shape your sound.  So country turned me off in my younger days.  But something happened to my ears and my heart and several years ago ... I embraced country music with my heart and soul!!!

When Tommy and I went to Grand OleOpry for the first time, I was like a child Christmas morning.  So many old favorites like Little Jimmy Dickens who is always there, and some up and coming stars.  It was a wonderful evening ...

 

But the second time ... we hit the jackpot!  They were filming that note for an upcoming show ... so they had the old and the new standing in that special circle of wood from the Ryman Theatre.  Best of all ... an unknown group from Georgia (certainly we had never heard of them) ... they called themsevles ... THE ZACH BROWN BAND!  They sang a song, for Pete's sake, called "Chicken Fried"!!!!  When they concluded ... the audience went wild ... you seldom get a standing ovation at the Opry ... it has to be REALLY SPECIAL!  The folks wanted an encore ... THE SAME SONG!  But that was not to be - they explained that time was limited and each performer or group could only perform one song, as compared to a "set of 2 or 3" during regular nights at the Opry.  I'll never forget that night.

 

But we had tickets for 2 nights at the Opry this time!!!!

 

*** GRAND OLE OPRY ***

10/4/2014

 

The "star" on Saturday night was Kellie Pickler, and I was delighted!  She was a contestant of the Fifth Season of American Idol and finished 6th.  She was good back then, but she is wonderful now!  She also won the trophy ball during a recent season of Dancing With the Stars ... and she is just a down-home, nice gal!

Reading the program, I only recognized Mel Tillis, and Riders in the Sky ... but many of them, once they started singing, I did remember their songs and voices.  AND we loved the evening!

 

*** Tommy and Linda Plummer Mansfield ***

10/5/2014

 

We were so happy to visit in the beautiful home of Tommy ('53) and Linda Plummer ('56) Mansfield. Tommy had recently had surgery and it was great to see him looking so good!  And Linda looked great too!  It had been a while since we had seen them.

We were delighted to meet some of their children and grandchildren!!!  And I was especially glad to meet a long-time email friend in person, their daughter Gina Teri Mansfield!  She took this picture for us!

I think we could have talked memories forever ... but we had to drive back to Nashville, and said goodbye to a very special family!!!

Drive to Lynchburg TN

*** Tour @ Jack Daniel's Distillery ***

Monday 10/6/2014

 

Several years ago, we were in Nashville, and Tommy wanted to drive down and visit Jack Daniel's Distillery ... fine with me, but really not that interested.  We went to buy our ticket, but it was closed at the time.  So we decided to get lunch and come back.  Someone suggested Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House, the house where Jack Daniel's was born and lived ... and where they served a delicious home style meal around a long table in several rooms in the house.  Now THAT excited me. 

 

So off we went to lunch.  We were so fortunate that we were assigned to one of the original parts of the home ... the family room where meals were cooked in the fireplace!  A docent sat at the head of the table and she was wonderful ... she was gracious as she passed the bowls and platters which filled our desire for lunch with a delightful meal; and filled our hunger for knowledge with wonderful tales of history.  I left filled!

 

Alas ... back at the Distillery ... they either had only opened for a couple of hours or they had never reopened ... Tommy was not happy.  I felt awful.

 

 

So this trip was payback time for my love!!!  It was open this time, and he bought tickets; however, something WAS CLOSED! The production line was closed for the annual maintenence.  No samples (smile)! 

 

 

Still, we had a great tour guide (center above).  He looked more like Santa in overalls, and had a great big booming voice!  In our group picture, he told the men to stand in back and the women in front.  I'm in the white shirt with the Looney Tunes characters!

 

 

Afterwards, a drive back to Nashville, a bite to eat ... and nitey night!

 

*** Grand Old Opry ***

Tuesday 10/7/2014

 

The second night, there was no one on the bill I knew ... but it turned out to be a great show ... especially the last two acts!!!  Jimmy Wayne moved everyone's heart with a personal story and song ... another standing O ... and he deserved it!  But the last act, I thought ... good grief ... what will this be?  Well sit back and hold on tight!  It was the Old Crow Medicine Show ... and such fiddlin' you've never heard!!!  How do you keep still for music like that ... YOU DON'T.

 

Here's what Tommy said: These guys were the main act of the second show. I will admit that I had not heard of them, and since they were a group, I figured that they would do a couple of songs and move on. I was wrong. They put on one heck of a show, and the lead singer/fiddle player is as good as any you will ever find. He used up three fiddles during their segment, and that place rocked.  Here's one of their quieter offerings for your listening pleasure ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7-t2JsasU8

 

*** HOME SWEET HOME! ***

Wednesday 10/8/2014

 

We drove back and headed straight to the Pet Hotel to pick up our precious little Ashley Dahlyn.  She is the sunshine of our lives, and we had missed her so much.  She was not interested in hearing about our trip!!!  She just was just glad that her family was together again!  So were we! 

Here is Ashley taken today and ALL dressed up for Christmas ...

Even our wedding tree was in bloom for us ... it is an Autumnalis Cherry Tree and it blooms in the Spring and Autumn.

 

 

So to all you kind AHS Indians who made this wonderful trip possible ... we love you, and we thank you more than you will ever know for your generosity.  It was a one of a kind adventure ... and the BUCKET WAS EMPTY by the time we reached home!

~ Beverly Smith Herrington ('55)

 

 

*** If you have made it this far ... one more thing ... I will be carrying out something I have wanted to do for many, many years.  You all will be a part of this gift to my little brother.

I looked up to Luke "Lukie" Simmons, who was a senior ('52) when I was a freshman. In October of 1953, when my mother and daddy (Morry and Luell Smith) had a son after 3 girls, they named him Luell Lucas Smith, Jr.  Thinking of a nickname for him, I thought of Lukie Simmons, and suggested they nickname him "Lukie". Sadly, a 7 month baby, he did not survive. Yet, we have always remembered this little child we never knew as "Lukie".

After Mother's funeral, we could not find Lukie's marker at Crown Hill ... it was gone. Apparently the placement of the gravesite marker was not passed on to Kimbrell Stern in the sale of Crown Hill, other than an entry in the office which stated he was buried in "Babyland". "Someday", I thought, "we'll make sure Lukie is remembered," I share this with you because I want you to know the "rest of the story".

On November 14, 2014, I went to Crown Hill to discuss placing a child's marker just below Mother and Daddy's headstone. I wanted his name and short life span known, and indeed plans were made for that to happen soon.  With me, were my son, Chuck Lucas Calhoun, my grand daughter, Brooke Nicole, and her son, Brayden Lucas Calhoun visiting from Colorado Springs CO.  Great-grandson Brayden is the 5th generation carrying Daddy's middle name, Lucas, so it was special for them to be with me that day.

The next day, November 15th, I received an email from B.B. Rhodes ('52) ... Luke Simmons had died that morning at 4:00 a.m. ... one day after I had completed plans for my little brother who carries his nickname!

 

 

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