Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Lincoln Memorial

I really enjoy history and visiting historical sites. I decided for my birthday this year that I wanted to visit the Lincoln Memorial. I didn’t go to Washington DC. In fact, I didn’t even go out of the state. How is that even possible you say? Let me explain.

I had heard only recently of the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial Park. It’s south of Hodgenville and has a memorial building for Abraham Lincoln. I had planned to go there on my next trip to Lexington. We got tickets to see Kentucky play for my birthday (like we have for the past decade) so we decided we could make a slight detour and visit on the way. I’d also found out about a restaurant that had some of the best hamburgers in Kentucky that was located in Hodgenville. That sounded like the perfect combination to me so we planned to go.

We headed out on my birthday on our trip. Instead of jumping on I-65 in Elizabethtown, we just kept going and headed for Hodgenville. We found Laha’s Red Castle (located on the roundabout in Hodgenville) with no problem. The restaurant is very small only having counter service with only seven stools. We decided to just get our food and took it to the National Park to eat. They cooked the hamburgers right in front of us. They also made the fries and onion rings we ordered fresh. We got our food and headed to the car. In the middle of the roundabout was a statue of Abraham Lincoln I had to see. It looks very similar to the one in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. This statue was made in 1909 which is the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday. After we saw that, we headed for the park.

We got there and parked and ate. The food was excellent. There was not a big crowd at the park at all. There was a visitor center and the memorial itself. It was a very impressive structure built of granite and marble. It has fifty-six steps leading to it which represents the age Lincoln was when he was assassinated (I had forgotten he was that young, I’d always thought of him as being older). It is located on a knoll that is thought to be the location of the cabin Lincoln was born in. Inside the memorial is a replica of Lincoln’s birth cabin (which you cannot go inside of though). The memorial has sixteen windows and sixteen rosettes in the ceiling since Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. At the bottom of the knoll, is Sinking Spring. You can take a set of steps down to the actual spring supposedly used by the Lincolns. There is also a nature trail you can walk. Finally, there is a fifteen minute informational video available at the visitor center along with a few displays and items for sale.

After we finished our visit there, we drove several miles to the Knob Creek cabin where Lincoln lived until he was seven and moved to Indiana. There was a small cabin replica there (that you also could not enter) and the Lincoln Tavern that serviced that area in the 1930s. Both areas are free to see.

If you interested in history and especially Abraham Lincoln and you are travelling through the Elizabethtown area, I would recommend you check the park out.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Review - Frosted Chocolate Cupcake Pop Tarts

I really enjoy a sweet snack. One snack I didn’t usually eat was Pop Tarts. Kellogg’s came out with Pop Tarts in 1964 but I don’t remember us ever buying them when I was a kid. I had a fellow system admin when I worked at USEC who ate them just about every day (Skip Hancock), but I was never really tempted to try them. At some point in the last few years, I got turned onto Cookies and Cream Pop Tarts. These are fantastic. The only issue is a package of two has 380 calories. A few years ago around Valentines Day, Kellogg’s released Red Velvet Pop Tarts. These were equally fantastic. Alas, I have not seen them since. I look every year around Valentines Day and ask my friends to do the same. Despite this, Kellogg’s refuses to reissue them :-).

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Jody posted a picture of Frosted Chocolate Cupcake Pop Tarts on my Facebook page. I love Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes. I was devasted in 2012 when Hostess went bankrupt and stopped making them. Fortunately, another company started making them in 2013. Of course, I had to find some of these and try them out. I looked at several stores I frequent with no luck. Finally, I found a box at Wal-Mart. I bought some and eagerly prepared to try them.

Donna and I toasted a couple that night to try them out. They have the neat squiggly line on them just like a Hostess Cupcake.

Unfortunately, that is where the comparison ended. It tasted nothing like a Hostess Cupcake (or any frosted chocolate cream filled cupcake I’d ever had). The cream especially didn’t taste anything like the white cupcake filling I was used to. We decided a couple of nights later to try one untoasted. It didn’t help. In retrospect (after eating a couple more), they aren’t that bad. Have you every really looked forward to something and when it finally happened, it wasn’t nearly as good as you hoped it would be? That’s what had happened to me. So, I’ll stick to my Cookies and Creams Pop Tarts.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band

If you follow this blog, you know that my favorite group is the Beatles. I’ve been a fan since the early 80s thanks to Keith (Corky) Johnson loaning me all his Beatles albums during my first semester at the University of Kentucky. I’ve seen Paul McCartney three times in concert, most recently a couple of months ago. You probably know the only other living Beatle is Ringo Starr who is actually older than Paul (he is 79 as of this post). For some reason, it has never occurred to me to try and see Ringo in concert. I happened to get some sort of alert from Ticketmaster that he was playing in Champaign Illinois. Why would I even consider going there you might ask? I actually am somewhat familiar with Champaign. We go through it on our trips to see Josh and Shelby. If you go one mile east of the I-57/I-74 interchange, there is fabulous exit with a lot of good restaurants (Culvers, Longhorn and Einstein Bros). The Drury Inn at this exit is really good. And if you are willing to go a mile or so off the exit, there is a Krispy Kreme and a Portillos. Anyway, by the time I got in and tried to buy a ticket, the good seats were all gone. I checked around a bit and found he would playing with his All-Starr Band in Nashville. There were some good single seats left, so I went for it.

As I began to research, I found out that for years (since 1989), Ringo Starr has assembled several iterations of what is called “The All-Starr Band”. He gets other famous rock stars (usually four) and they play together. He’s had guys like Joe Walsh, Todd Rundgren, and Billy Squier. The current band is his Fourteenth iteration. The band is comprised of Steve Lukather of Toto, Colin Hay of Men at Work, Gregg Rolie of Santana, and Hannish Stuart of the Average White Band. I checked a few set lists and about half the songs are by Ringo. They either Beatles songs or his solo songs. At different points in the show, he’ll go back and play drums and the others will do about three songs each. This all sounded very intriguing. I got my hotel room in Goodlettsville (the rooms were much cheaper there) and got a Parkwhiz a block away from the Venue.
The day of the concert came and I headed for Goodlettsville (with a brief detour). I ate dinner and headed for downtown Nashville. The traffic was fine until I got to Downtown Nashville. Turns out that in addition to the All-Starr Band playing at Ryman Auditorium, John Legend was playing at Bridgestone Arena. So, downtown Nashville was a madhouse. Fortunately, I left early and was in no rush. The police were directing traffic so that did help. I finally made it to my parking garage and still got into the Ryman in plenty of time.

This was my first trip to the Ryman. It was the original home of the Grand Old Opry (before they moved it to the Opryland Megaplex). It took me a little bit of time to find the entrance (around back) but I finally made it in. It’s a beautiful facility. It used to be a church building and still has stained glass windows. You even sit in pews (with your seat number on the back to tell you where to sit). There is a main floor and a balcony. The facility seats only about 2300 people. The bathrooms were even nice. A friendly usher pointed me to my seat. I was about twelve rows from the stage. I settled in to wait for the concert to start.

Unlike his counterpart Mr. McCartney, Ringo and his band started right on time. They started with the Carl Perkins/Beatles classic Matchbox. Ringo sang his solo hit “It Don’t Come Easy”. He then did the song “What Goes On” by the Beatles. This is the only Beatles song that he shared writing credit with John Lennon and Paul McCartney with (the credit shows as Lennon/McCartney/Starkey). Then, each of the members of the All-Starr band did a song they were famous for. I especially enjoyed Rosanna by Steve Lukather and “Down Under” by Colin Hay. They brought back memories of my teen-age and college years. This process was repeated throughout the concert. Ringo actually left the stage during one set of the others playing. Steve Lukather did Africa and “Hold the Line” and Colin Hay did “Who Can It Be Now” and Overkill. Ringo did several Beatles songs (Don’t Pass Me By and Yellow Submarine) plus solo hits (You’re Sixteen and Photograph). He closed with the Buck Owens song (and a personal Beatles favorite of mine) “Act Naturally”. Finally, they closed with “A Little Help From My Friends” (with a riff of “Give Peace a Chance” mixed in). Interestingly enough, when the band came out from to take their bow, Ringo left the stage and didn’t do that with them. Also, this ended up being first concert I’ve been to (that I can remember anyway) that no encore was done. The show lasted about two hours.

I did run into one issue when leaving. I had parked in a multi tiered parking garage. I should have learned my lesson from attending Cardinal ballgames but I didn’t (at least I’d forgotten). It took about thirty minutes to wind out of the parking garage. At least, we dodged the crowd leaving the John Legend show. It actually took less time to get from Nashville to Goodlettsville then to exit the garage. But that was a very minor annoyance. I really enjoyed the concert, especially in the venue of the Ryman. If you have the opportunity to see the All-Starr band, I’d recommend you go especially if you are Beatles fan or a fan of one the groups represented.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Jefferson Davis State Park

If you know anything about me, I love history. I love to visit historic sites and the more obscure the better. Donna doesn’t enjoy this in the least. So, I will often travel to a site on my own which works out fine for both of us.

On a trip to Nashville I made recently, I was able to get on the road sooner than I expected. I had been telling myself for years that I wanted to visit the Jefferson Davis State Park in Fairview Kentucky. It’s about thirty minutes off of I-24 East. You get off at Exit 65 (the Cadiz exit) and go about thirty minutes until you get to the tiny town of Fairview. I’d been there with Donna and the boys years ago when we were vacationing at the Pennyrile State Park. I wanted to go up in the monument that is there and see the view but upon arriving, I found out the elevator was broken. I decided I’d make another visit and check it out.

Instead of having to follow a map, I was able to get there easily via Google Maps. You travel US-68 for most of the way. It is pretty countryside. It is an odd sight when you get a few miles from the State park and see this huge obelisk seemingly sticking up in the middle of the country. I got to the State Park and got out to walk the grounds. It is a pretty and well-manicured park with several concrete paths to stroll, picnic shelters, and even a playground. The main attraction though is the monument itself. It’s 351 feet tall and the fifth tallest monument in the United States. It is the tallest unreinforced concrete structure in the word, there is no steel reinforcement at all. It was built starting in the early 1900s and finished in the 1920s. It’s about 2/3 the size of the Washington Monument (both of these being obelisks).

After walking around outside for a bit, I decided to head to the visitor center. I went in to pay my money for the museum and to go on the monument elevator. To my amazement (and disappointment), the elevator was “down for maintenance”. I decided to take in the museum (It cost me 5.50, I found out later I had been given the Senior Discount (even though I wasn’t old enough to have gotten it). I will tell you there isn’t a lot to it. There are a few items that belonged to Davis and his wife. There were several displays that outlined events in his life. He was born there in Fairview but soon moved to Mississippi. He went to West Point and served in the Black Hawk War. He first married Zachary Taylor’s daughter. She died of malaria soon afterwards so a few years later, he married again. He fought in the Mexican American War and served as Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War. He was also a member of House of Representatives and the Senate before being chosen at president of the Confederacy. Davis and Abraham Lincoln were actually born within a hundred miles of each other and moved in their youth to other states. After seeing the museum and briefly perusing the gift shop, I got in my car and headed for Nashville. I followed directions by taking KY 115 South and getting back on I-24 East at exit 89.

Is it worth the trip? If you’ve got an hour or so to spare and you are headed to Tennessee on I-24 East and you love history, I’d do it. I did find out I could have checked their website and seen the monument elevator was down for maintenance. I would certainly do that and perhaps even call ahead before I would go there

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Nashville Zoo

Earlier this month, we decided to take a mini-vacation trip to Nashville. We had not had a chance to see our nieces and nephews in quite some time so we wanted to take Lucy to see them. We planned to see them, spend the night, and then go to the Nashville Zoo the next day. I was able to get two rooms at the Townplace Suites in Goodlettsville with points so we were ready to go.

We got to my sister Melissa’s home and Charlotte and Catherine had gotten out their tea set. Lucy had a lot of fun playing that with them. Then, they played with their pretend grocery store and other toys they had. Needless to say, she had a lot of fun. Jonathan and I got in a game of Chutes and Ladders and a couple of games of Uno with Brody and Amelia. I ducked out to grab a couple of pizzas from Domino's using their 5.95 deal. Then, the girls enjoyed some Cookies and Cream ice cream for dessert. We had hated to leave because Lucy (and we) had such a wonderful time.

We got to our hotel and checked in. They had a nice indoor pool and Lucy really enjoyed playing in that. For dinner, I got us food from Krystal. I thought Lucy might enjoy the food that was more her size. She really enjoyed the “little bitty hot dog” I brought her. We ended up having a lot of fun having her ride around on a ottoman with wheels that we pushed around our room. We all went to bed early so we’d be rested for our trip to the Zoo the next day. We got up and had breakfast at the hotel and headed out to get there when the zoo opened. Surprisingly, we had little trouble with traffic given the time of the morning it was, and we got there several minutes before it opened (9:00am).

I had been to the Nashville Zoo several times before. Our family went to the Zoo when it originally opened. It was then located of the West Side of Nashville (in Cheatham County). From where we live, you didn’t even have to go to the actual city of Nashville to go to it. I remember it being several miles off of I-24. The zoo was then moved in the late nineties to the Southeastern part of Nashville. I had gone again when Jonathan’s Academic Team took a trip there. So, it’d been something like fifteen years since I’d been so I was interested to see how it was now.
First, it costs seven dollars to park. They do have ample parking there. Then, the cost is eighteen dollars for adults and thirteen dollars for ages 2-12. It’s a dollar less on Monday through Thursday and a dollar more on Saturday. They did offer a special deal on Fridays during the summer where if you are Kroger Plus member, you buy one adult ticket and get another for free. We were able to take advantage of that. There are also several things in the zoo that require an additional cost to do (train, carousel, several interactive exhibits). These tickets are two dollars apiece. However, when you buy ten, you get four tickets free. You can also bring food and drink in (with certain restrictions). So, keep all that in mind if you go to in order to save some money.

Our first stop was at the “Critter Encounter” exhibit. This is a shaded gated area with several different animals (goats and pigs) running around. Lucy loved this. She got to pet several and they even had brushes available to brush the goats. She really liked that too. We finally had to almost drag her away from that to see the other animals. It was a hot day, but fortunately much of the zoo is shaded. We kept her away from the huge play area they have because we knew she’d get really hot doing that. They have a large array of animals there. Lucy especially liked the pink flamingos, monkeys, and the tigers. They have an area just opened where you can walk around and see kangaroos. You can even get close enough to pet them. At the end, we went to ride the train. It is not the type of zoo train I was used to. It reminds me of the one at the Kentucky Oaks Mall. There are several small cars you can get into. The four of us were barely able to fit in one. Keep in mind the train does not go around the whole park. It goes in a path near to the Zoo’s safari area. It takes one ticket to ride per person. However, if the rider requires an adult to be with them (like in Lucy’s case), one ticket covers both rider and adult. We then went to the Carousel. We rode that three times with Lucy wanting to ride a different animal each time. The same rules applies to tickets to ride that. FYI, there are also machines near anything requiring a ticket that allows purchase of tickets as well. By this time, Lucy was pretty tired. However, there was a large spray station on our way out that blew a cool mist of water on you. Lucy loved that so much that we did that several times. After that, we left.

My thoughts on the zoo? It’s a good sized zoo. We were there three hours and still didn’t see it all. I am a bit spoiled by the zoo in Madison (where our son Josh lives) that is free and that is free to park at it. Look on the zoo’s web site to find discount days and also go during the week when it’s the cheapest (and least crowded). There aren’t a lot of hotels close to it but I would guess most people that go there either live in Nashville or are close enough to make it a day trip. Lucy certainly enjoyed it and that was what was the best thing about it for me.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Pat Benatar

Several months ago, I got one of my regular emails from the Carson Center in Paducah. Pat Benatar would be there (with husband Neil Giraldo) for their fortieth anniversary tour. Given that I like Pat Benatar and it was close, I jumped on their website and grabbed up two tickets. Donna had no interest in going, but Jonathan did.

In the interest of full disclosure, I had a pretty big crush on Pat Benatar in high school (along with Debbie Harry and Patty Smyth). I ended up with someone much better of course. Donna also does a much better rendition of “Fire and Ice” when we used to play the Rock Band video game. I saw Pat Benatar in concert when I was in college at the University of Kentucky. I was actually able to find out that she was there in February of 1983. I could even see the setlist she did plus I found out her opening act was some band named “Preview”. I didn’t even remember that at all. My efforts to find out anything about the band Preview proved fruitless. I did find out that I paid 10.50 for a lower level ticket in Rupp Arena. I paid a bit more than that for the Carson Center tickets.

The date of the concert came and we headed for downtown Paducah. I strategically parked in a parking lot so we could easily pull out into a side street and get out quickly. We were allowed to go in, but had to wait in the lobby until thirty minutes before the concert to enter. Jonathan’s comment (of course) was “Everybody here is old!”. He was pretty much right. We spent the time talking with our friends Greg and Sheri Sanderson. We finally got to go in. Our seats were excellent. We saw next to a lady we know from church. My old friend (and lawyer) Chuck Walter came up and we talked. Finally, the lights went down and the concert began.

The concert started exactly on time (7:30pm). I had noticed a large banner on the stage background reading “Benatar-Giraldo XL”. I couldn’t get the reference to “Extra Large” until (duh) I finally realized that it was the Roman Number representation of forty. Pat Benatar’s voice is just as good and strong as it was all those years ago (she actually had started to train as an opera singer in her youth). Neil Giraldo still does a great job on guitar. She sang most of her well-known songs. Jonathan even recognized some of them that he had not realized til then that she sang. She also sang a few of her “deep tracks” and even a couple that I didn’t remember. She also talked about her initial days and how her life had changed. She even brought up the fact that she was now a grandparent and how much she loved that (which I can certainly identify with). It made me chuckle to myself thinking of a young child at a Grandparent’s Day introducing their grandmother Pat Benatar.

She played for about one and half hours. Her encore was “Heartbreaker”. In the middle of that song, she started a rendition of the Johnny Cash song “Ring of Fire” which I’d never heard her do. Then, she went back into the end of “Heartbreaker”. It was an excellent concert especially considering the fact that I was back home in less than thirty minutes (as opposed to much longer drives from other venues). The only song that she didn’t do that I would have liked to hear? “Fire and Ice” – although it would have been disappointing compared to Donna’s rendition.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Freshen Up

If you know anything about me, my favorite group is the Beatles. My dream of seeing them in concert died in 1980 when John Lennon was murdered. I held out hope of a reunion with John’s son Julian in his place. That dream ended when George Harrison died of cancer in 2001. Since Paul McCartney was my favorite Beatle, I put seeing him on my “bucket list”. I finally got to see him in Louisville in 2014. I never thought he’d tour again given his age, but he did his Out There tour in 2016. He played at Busch Stadium and Jonathan and I went to see him there. I never thought I’d see him in concert again. He was seventy four at the time. I couldn’t imagine he’d tour again. Then, I got an email saying he would be touring again in 2019 with his “Freshen Up” tour. I looked at the dates and very happily noticed he’d be playing in Madison Wisconsin. Since my son Josh lives there, I could get tickets and we could see him there. I got on the Ticketmaster web site the moment tickets went on sale. However, all the good tickets sold out immediately. I was totally dejected and set myself to buying tickets on the secondary market later (this was in September of 2018 and the concert wasn’t til June of 2019).

Over the next few months, I continued to get emails about tour dates being added. I finally got one saying a date had been added at Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin. With that venue being much larger, I hoped to be able to get tickets this time. Green Bay is about a two hour drive from where Josh is so we could easily go. The day came for the tickets to go on sale. I again got in as fast as I could. This time I managed to get Silver VIP tickets which put us on the field itself!

The date finally rolled around for the concert. We left for the concert. We grabbed dinner on the way. I had gotten parking via ParkWhiz about half a mile away. My hope is with that we could dodge most of the traffic afterwards. We found our way with no problem and got in with no issues. We got our wristbands for the field seats and headed down. The seats were great! Since I’d made us leave early (as I always do) we had time to kill so we walked around. I was a bit surprised as to how new things looked there. I later found out the stadium had been recently renovated.

The concert was supposed to start at eight. It ended up not starting til about 8:20. The concert started with “A Hard Day’s Night”. Paul McCartney played a lot of the Beatles songs that he primarily wrote (Can’t Buy Me Love, Got To Get You Into My Life, I’ve Seen A Face plus a lot of others). He also played a lot of songs from his Wings days (Let ‘Em In, Band On The Run, Live and Let Die and a lot of others). He also played some of his more recent solo songs as well. He even laughingly said that he could tell when he played his newer songs because he wouldn’t see the lights of people filming them (he said it was like seeing a “black hole”).

Josh genuinely seemed to enjoy himself. He said this was as close as he’d ever sat for a concert and he’d known more of these songs than he had at any other concert. Turned out he knew a lot of the songs because the head of his company plays them at meetings where he works. I even found out his favorite Beatle song is “Eleanor Rigby” (which Paul played at the concert). The concert went for almost three hours. It’s still hard for me to see how an almost seventy seven year old man can play and sing for that long. Just like like the previous two times, the concert was fabulous. I knew that for his encore he’d play the closing song medley at the end of the Abbey Road album. We worked our towards the stairs as he ended the concert. We then literally ran back to where the car was parked and beat the crowd (and traffic) out. I slept most of the way back and we got back to his apartment about 1:45am.

Finally as part of the VIP package, we got special souvenir gifts. They were shipped to my address and I didn’t get the package til I got back to our home the following week. We both got a really nice “Freshen Up” duffel bag and beach towel.

Paul McCartney always ends his concerts with “We’ll see you next time!”. Based on his intervals of touring, he’ll be almost eighty. I’ll be SIXTY. Will I go see him again? Absolutely!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Jeanne Robertson

One thing I’ve tried to foster over the years is a sense of humor and especially to learn to laugh at myself. If you know me, I certainly do some very funny things. Someone recently asked me for advice for Donna and I staying married for so long (33 years). One of the things I mentioned was having a sense of humor about things and being able to laugh even at the goofy things we sometimes do.

The comedians I grew up with are still to me some of the funniest. When I was a teenager, I bought several albums that Steve Martin recorded. Who else could have a hit song based on an Egyptian King? I stayed up late to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus on KET. A new show debuted as I started high school called Saturday Night Live with guys like Chevy Chase, Dan Akroyd and John Belushi. I have added a new favorite over the past couple of years. It is a lady named Jeanne Robertson.

She is not your classic comedian. She will even tell you she is not a comedian but a humorist who just tells funny stories about her life. I don’t remember precisely when I first heard of her. I think it was from some ladies at church who had gone to see her at the Carson Center a few years ago. She will tell you that she really became popular when she started posting clips to YouTube. The first one I remember is “Don’t Send A Man to the Grocery Store”. I’ve had some interesting adventures when Donna sends me to the grocery store, so I could identify. I listened to more of her clips on YouTube and even subscribed to her channel on Pandora. She is so funny telling stories of her life and family. For example, she calls her husband LB for Left Brain. Left brained people are analytical types. She will also tell you her husband is cheap. Do those two characteristics remind you of anyone you know 😊?

Anyway, I found out several months that she would doing another show at the Carson Center here in Paducah. I managed to get in on the presale and got great seats in the front row. I convinced Donna to come to the show with me. We went last Sunday afternoon. She calls this her “Rocking Chair” tour. Jeanne broke her femur a couple of years ago so now she does her show sitting in a rocking chair. She told all sorts of stories (several which I’d heard before) but they were all hilarious. She reminds me of somebody’s mom or granny just telling stories about their life. The best thing about her is all of her stores are clean with not even the hint of vulgarly or innuendo. They are all family friendly. Donna even enjoyed the show.

I love the advice Jeanne regularly gives – ”Look for the humor in stressful situations”. She also ends just about any interview I’ve heard with her with “Keep smiling!”. I think a lot of us would be better off if we just took that advice. Proverbs 17:22 - A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. I certainly need to take that advice to heart.

I’d certainly recommend that you take a look at some of her clips on YouTube and if you have the opportunity to see her live, do so. Her shows are very reasonably priced and I think you’ll really enjoy yourself.