Monday, April 30, 2007

Mormon Tabernacle Organ Recital

What do you think of when someone mentions Salt Lake City? For us it is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Unfortunately, we didn't make it in time on Sunday to hear them, but we did get to hear an organ recital. This was a special treat, since the organ just recently underwent a restoration and this was the first recital after restoration. The first picture is the inside of the Tabernacle where the organ is located and the Choir sings. The second picture (which Joann does not like) was taken right after the recital. The color of the lighting behind the organ changed after each arrangement and the color you see is the last color used. The organist started the recital with a demonstration of the acoustics. The audience was required to sit in the back third of the Tabernacle. He talked without a microphone and was easily understood. He then ripped a newspaper into shreds and the rips were loud and clear. He then dropped pins one at a time on the lectern and again they were easily heard. Of course, there was little doubt we would be able to hear the gigantic organ. The third picture with the monument shows the outside of the Tabernacle. The last picture is more of the flowers on the grounds.

Rawlins to Salt Lake

The weather really cooperated by setting a record Sunday in Salt Lake City of 89 degrees with blue skies. We drove from Rawlins to Salt Lake City stopping in Rock Springs, WY, where Jack's nephew Chan Lowe attended elementary school. He was in a GT program and was bused about 70 miles one way each day. His class was written up in People magazine. We also stopped in Park City, UT, where some of the 2002 Winter Olympics skiing events were held. The town is nestled in a canyon with lots of upscale shops and restaurants. The drive along I-80 gave us spectacular views of the snow covered mountains glistening in the bright sun. Our first stop in Salt Lake was Temple Square, which includes the Mormon Temple, the Tabernacle, the first Mormon Temple and other administrative and tourist buildings. The highlight were the many beautiful spring flowers. There was an organ recital that I will write about later. The building with the spirals is the Temple and the building at the right corner with the rounded roof is the Tabernacle. The "gate" you see in the picture in front of the Capitol is called the "Eagle's Gate." The Capitol is being renovated, so it was hard getting a good picture. Since it was still early, we went south to Provo and toured the Brigham Young University campus. The grounds were beautiful, but the mountains surrounding the campus really highlighted the campus' beauty. After this added side trip, we were ready to call it a day and headed for a hotel. Unfortunately, there was no internet access, so we couldn't make a post yesterday. Thus, we'll do two today.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Made it to Wyoming!

It was the perfect travel day, so we made great time. While Jack filled the car, Joann befriended a Wyoming cowboy in Lusk, WY. He looks a little like The Duke, don't you think. The most amazing part of the scenery were the herds of crimson antelope grazing along the road with the cattle. We tried to take a photo of them, however, when they heard the car stopping they took off running. Fast little devils. Then we stopped at the Oregon Trail Ruts state park in Guernsey, WY. It's hard to imagine how many wagon trains would have to traverse this trail to create the ruts as deep as they are in solid stone. The gravel road getting to them was rough enough for us. We then stopped in Cheyenne and saw the downtown area where they have their annual Frontier Days festivals and the State Capitol. It has a gold dome, but not as big as Iowa's gold dome. We ended our day in Rowlins, WY. Even though the temps are in the 70's, we saw lots of snow along I-80. We were able to complete the audio book "The Memory Keeper's Daughter." There could be a sequel, since there are a lot of lose ends.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Where in the World are Joann and Jack?

Answer: Still in Rapid City, SD. It has been another gorgeous day and not as much traveling. We started the day at Mt. Rushmore. They were filming the sequel to the movie National Treasure, but we didn't see the stars. Just loads of film crew standing around in various locations and lots of signs directing people to the set. However the set was off limits to the masses. It's very impressive seeing the sculptures up close and to read about the process of creating them. We then continued driving through the Black Hills to Crazy Horse Mountain. The Indian Nation contracted with a sculptor who was working on Mt. Rushmore at the time to create a monument for them. They chose Crazy Horse to represent them. His face is the only part of the sculpture completed at this time, but it is still in process. If you look close you can see the face on the mountain in the background near the highest point. The flat service in front of his face will be his arm pointing to all his lands. Even though the sculptor is dead, his widow and 7 of his ten children are still working on it. They've created a museum dedicated to the Northern American Indians that is as good as the Smithsonian's Native American Museum. The picture with the white sculptor is a model of what the sculpture will look like when completed. Continuing on to Lead, SD, an old Gold Mining town next to Deadwood, we stopped for lunch. The picture with the houses on the hill was taken in Lead. According to my half-sister, my Step-Mother was born and raised in Lead. We then went a couple more miles to Deadwood, which is the town used in the HBO series by the same name. We discovered that gambling is what saved the town from extinction. The casinos do not rival Vegas in glamor, but there are many of them. Not being gamblers, we didn't even step inside one. We then stopped at the Motorcycle Museum in Sturgis, the site of the world's largest annual motorcycle rally. They close down main street for a week in August and it is filled with bikes and bikers. Don't think we'll come back for that. We ended our day in downtown Rapid City where the town has added life size statues of US Presidents on the corner of each block. It's interesting to stand beside them. Reagan was the tallest and Madison the shortest. George W. is not there yet, but his Father is. It was a great day and we are now resting up for our drive tomorrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fourth Night -- Rapid City, SD

It was a beautiful day--lots of sun, blue skies and warm temps. We started by visiting the Sioux Falls, which give the city its name. The city has created an inviting park along the falls with lots of walk ways and overlooks. We then headed down the road stopping at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. 100 acres are dedicated to growing 12 varieties of corn to use in the redecorating each year. Artists submit designs based on a given theme. In May, a design is selected, all the corn and architectural from the current year is removed and the new design is created. Then corn is nailed on to complete the new design. All the corn is natural and none is painted or varnished. Some refer to the Palace as the largest bird feeder in the world. We then continued on down I-90 with a side trip to Pierre. The Capitol building is beautiful, but the town is pretty depressing. It's one of two state capitols without an Interstate running through it. The other is Jefferson City, MO. Our next stop was Wall, SD, to see the well advertised Wall Drug store. Their signs were reminiscent of the "South of the Border" signs on I-95 or "The Thing" signs on I-10 in Arizona. It turned out that "Wall Drug" was virtually all the stores in the town of Wall. We then ended our day in Rapid City relaxing in the jacuzzi and taking a swim. We have dubbed South Dakota the Angus State or the Billboard State. Lots of both. To make the time seem to go quicker, we have listened to half of the audio book "The Memory Keeper's Daughter." Not as many laughs as "Marley and Me," but very engrossing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Third Night -- Sioux Falls, SD

Although it rained most of the day, it did not slow us down. We started the day with a drive-by tour of Des Moines and the Capitol building with its 23 K gold dome. From there we detoured south to Madison County and renewed our romance while seeing the Bridges of Madison County. Of course to get to the Bridges, you have to drive down rough dirt roads and remember at the beginning I said it has been raining. That means mud roads and our car would love to have a bath about now. We had breakfast in the Northside Cafe, which was used in the movie. Also, Oprah ate there. We drove past John Wayne's birthplace, but it was too early and the house was not open. I don't think it would take more then 5 minutes to tour it, since it appears he came from very meager means. We continued on to Omaha and had a relaxing, educational stop at the Jocelyn Art Museum in downtown Omaha. They had many American artists on display and most of the famous European artists. As would be expected, a portion of the museum was dedicated to American Indian art including beaded suitcases, dresses, moccasins, pottery and carvings. We discovered that Omaha's Central High School sits on a cliff overlooking downtown and the building looks like the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Very impressive! We then drove on to Sioux Falls passing Boys Town and two Indian reservations--the Omaha and the Winnebago. They had very nondescript casinos, so I don't think they are striking it rich. So far we have been fortunate finding hotels with wireless internet, so we are updating more then we planned.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Second Day--Iowa City

Today was a good travel day and we did more then we had originally planned. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we hit the road. While we drove past miles and miles of farms with farmers disking on their tractor's with 8 airplane sized tires and while reading "Burma Shave" like signs promoting the use of ethanol and bio-diesel fuel as well as gun rights, we listened to the rest of the audio book, Marley and Me. Even though we had tears in our eyes at the end, we agreed that it is a fun book and that we would highly recommend it. We stopped in Moline, IL, and visited the John Deere Pavilion in the downtown. The Pavilion included a museum with lots of antique machinery including the last "johnny popper" tractor. We then crossed the Mississippi into Davenport, IA. We visited the Village of East Davenport, which reminded us of St. Charles, MO. Since it was early, we continued on to Iowa City and the Amana Colonies. The beautiful Iowa University campus is divided by the Iowa River and includes the Old Iowa state capitol and legislative buildings. At the Amana Colonies, we felt we had gone back into the 18th century. The local winery specializes in fruit and dandelion wines, so we had a change from the usual Virginia wineries. Very sweet wines.

Monday, April 23, 2007

First Night--Indianapolis

We left home around 4:30 am and arrived in Indy at 5:30 pm. The highlight was our stop in Columbus. We had a wonderful lunch at the Schmidt Sausage Haus and Restaurant in the Victorian German Village section of Columbus. We ate at the buffet which contained delicious sausages, sauerkraut, corn beef and cabbage, hot German potato salad, cooked red cabbage and lots of other specialty German foods that couldn't possibly be on anyone's diet. We then drove past the nondescript Ohio State Capitol and around Ohio State University. What a huge University. Although we are tired, it was a very pleasant drive and we listened to part of the very entertaining audio book Marley and Me.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Packed and Ready to Go

The time has almost arrived. Everything is packed (we hope) and we are ready to roll. Someone in the family is very organized. I'll let you guess who.