Saturday, June 22, 2013

Back in Da Burgh

We arrived in WashPA for a couple of months to enjoy the summer while taking care of our annual personal maintenance.  It is also a chance to get caught up with friends and family, many of whom we only see on our yearly visits. 
Our stay got off with a real bang when I split my head open on the edge of a slide while setting up.  As you can see there was much blood and a trip to the local ER was required.  They used a staple gun and had me all sewn up in no time at all.  It looks much worse than it was and as I write this the staples are out and I am healed.
We did a trip "dahn tahn."  Western Pennsylvania is very hilly so when you are driving in from the west you don't see any of the skyscrapers until you drive out of the tunnel and into the city.  For those who have never been to The Burgh here is a short video of that fantastic entrance into the city.  Above are PNC Park, Carnegie Science Center and Heinz Field looking from the Point across the river.  
We went to the Three Rivers Arts Festival for a day of checking out the art and a bit of people watching.  We were happy to see Toby Fraley, a former student, who had a booth at the festival.  Here is a link to his web site so you can see more of his very interesting work.
The festival also has a few music venues in Point State Park.
The Fort Pitt Blockhouse was built in 1764 as part of Fort Pitt and is the oldest pre revolutionary structure west of the Allegheny Mountains.  The fort was to protect the three rivers during the French and Indian War.  It has been renovated for its 250th anniversary next year.
There is always a lot of activity on the rivers.  Everything from big tow boats to small runabouts.
The fountain at the point has been repaired and it was just turned back on this week.  It is like a crown on the city.
Fountain, rainbows and skyline.
Another look at the fountain.
Here is a look at the Point from Mt. Washington in 2010 when the fountain was under repair.
We love getting together with friends and the weekly teacher's out to lunch group is always a fun time.  Left are Carol, Kathy, Becky, Patrice, Lisa and Gail.  Right are Nanc, Dave, Anne Marie, John and Jim.  The place we went to this week will remain unnamed as the service was terrible.  We waited an hour to get our drinks and longer to get our food.  The place is unnamed because they made it right by not charging us for anything.  We all had a fun time getting caught up so the time flew by and of course none of us are working so time is something we all have.    We love coming back to the Burgh!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Marietta with Family

We moved on to Marietta, Ohio, a neat little town at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers.  We have been here before and did some exploring on earlier visits.  This time we were here to spend some time with Nanc's sister Judy, her niece Betsy and their family. We also picked up a few things we had stored with Judy and Bill when we went on the road six years ago. 
Here are Lou, Betsy, Emma, Jackie, Judy and Morgan.  We had a great time getting caught up with what had been going on in all their lives during the last year.  Morgan just finished her first year at Ohio U.
Emma with her pet lizard Lizzy.  She loves anything to do with nature.
We had a surprise when our nephew Scott came down with his wife Bobbie Jo and daughter Jayna.  We were planning on seeing them later this summer at a family reunion.  It was great to get to spend some time together.
A family softball game broke out.  Jackie taking a few swings.
Jayna was up to bat next.
Emma gets a hit.  It sure is nice seeing kids playing outdoors and not just playing video games.
Judy and Bill.  Now that we are retired and they are snowbirds we do get to see them more often when we spend time in Florida.  Another advantage of our fulltime lifestyle.
Wow, we have not seen this wedding dress for over 43 years.  We stored it with Judy and the girls wanted to see it.  It went back in the box, but it sure would be neat if one of them decided to wear it for their wedding someday.  We also picked up a few boxes of pottery as Nanc has decided, that since we have no plans to stop fulltiming any time soon, we are going to use it in the RV.  Our goal when we get back in WashPA is to get rid of a lot of stuff we have been carrying around and not using.
One thing we always do in Marietta is stop at Rossi Pasta for some of their wonderful homemade pasta.  The have every flavor and type you can imagine.  If you love food and visit Marietta, Rossi's is a must do.
We had a great few days visiting and sharing family stories.  We are now in WashPA for a couple of months for doctor and dentist appointments and visits with friends and family.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bardstown, Bernheim and Bourbon

We were in Bardstown for a week with the goal of completing the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  The seven distilleries shown below make up the trail. Three are located near Bardstown and four near Lexington. If you visit them all you get a "free" t-shirt.  Free as in being charged a small fee at most stops but they all included a tasting of their fine finished products which makes it worthwhile.  A heads up, there is no way you can do them all in one day.  It took us four.  Historically, the whole bourbon making business would be in Western Pennsylvania if the corn farmers had not fled to the Kentucky wilderness to avoid the tax placed on their corn whiskey.  This was the first test of the new government as they moved in to collect the tax.  When President Washington lead the army into Pennsylvania to enforce the law many of the farmers fled to Kentucky.  It is known as the Whiskey Rebellion. 
The tours range from huge operations like Jim Beam, the country's largest bourbon producer, to the newest, Town Branch, that has a bottling line that only fills six at a time.  While making bourbon is the same, as prescribed by law, each distillery offers a little different look at the whole process. 
Starting on the top left is the photos show the steps used to make bourbon.  All bourbon must have at least 51% corn, but most distillers use more.  They also use barley malt and rye (except Maker's Mark which uses wheat).  Next, the grain is ground and cooked to make a mash.  They then add yeast and ferment the grain for three days to produce alcohol.  The alcohol is then distilled into a high proof (alcohol content).  This can be done more than once to increase the alcohol content.  That finished alcohol is then placed in oak barrels (Nanc pounding the bung in) and stored for a minimum of two years.  The longer it is aged the better it gets.  Finally, the aged bourbon is bottled. 
A common site in bourbon country is the hundreds of rickhouses that each hold thousands of barrels.  The aging in the charred barrels is what gives bourbon its taste and color.  The bourbon ages differently depending on how high in the rickhouse they are stored.  The higher the better because of the big difference in temperature from summer to winter.  There are more barrels of bourbon aging in Kentucky than the are people.
A few pictures from the rickhouses.  This is a real hands on business as barrels are rolled into place.  Bottom middle is a plum bob that makes sure the ricks stay plum under all the weight.  Most are stacked from seven to nine stories high.  By law each barrel can only be used for bourbon one time.  The barrels are made of oak that must be fire charred.  Used barrels are sent to Ireland and Scotland to be used in their whiskey making and also to Tabasco to age their peppers.  As the bourbon ages a bit of it evaporates each year.  This is known as the angels' share and its aroma fills the air around the rickhouses. Each barrel holds 53 gallons for which the distiller pays a tax of $6.51 per gallon, per year.  This tax is charged every year based on 53 gallons regardless of how much evaporation has taken place.  Bottom right is a barrel at Wild Turkey that has be aging for over 25 years at a tax rate of almost $350.00 a year even though it will only yield about 12 gallons of very expensive bourbon.  The angels must of loved that barrel.    
Each distillery's tour has something different to offer, at Maker's Mark they actually encouraged you to put your finger in the fermenting vats and taste it.
If you buy a bottle at Maker's Mark you get to do the final step of dipping it into the hot wax to seal the top.  We also enjoyed a few of their neat ads.  Touring Maker's Mark brought back memories of a wonderful Marker's Mark evening I had with our friend Jack on one of our visits to Florida. 
Woodford Reserve is a smaller distillery located in old, historical limestone buildings.  The new operation has only been open a few years and they even have the company cat, Elijah, that refused to leave when they moved in.  I like the old still and the barrel horse, another use for used barrels.
Jim Beam is the largest distillery and has a new tour center (bottom left).  The new tour includes an area where the entire process, from making mash, to distilling, to putting the final product in barrels, is done on a small scale just for the tour.  That is where Nanc got to pound the bung into the barrel.  The statue is Booker Noe, Jim Beam's grandson, who ran the distillery for forty years. 
Beam had an interesting collection of their famous specialty decanters and the many labels their bourbon has been sold under over the years.  Top right are the control bottles they take out of each batch and store for two years.  They are then given to employees.  Nice perk! 
The tour of Heaven Hill includes the Bourbon Heritage Center that has a very good historical presentation going back to the Whiskey Rebellion and the farmers moving to Kentucky.  They tell the story of how Elijah Craig, a minister, accidentally figured out how putting the alcohol into charred barrels changed the taste and created bourbon.  They also had a display of the 1996 fire that destroyed several rickhouses during a storm with 70 mph winds.  When all that alcohol caught fire all they could do is watch and try to keep it from spreading. 
Four Roses is a brand that had fallen out of favor but has recently been revitalized by new owners.  There distilling is done in this historical building.  Bottom right is the inside of a still.  If you see one of these Four Roses trucks with placard 3065, it is full of alcohol.  They distill their alcohol in one location and then transport it 70 miles to be barreled, aged and bottled.
Here we are at Wild Turkey.  They have a brand new distilling operation, but they were closed down for the summer, as many do because the mash does not ferment very well as the temperature goes up.  They are building a new bottling plant and tour center that will be open next year.  The tour was ok but all we saw were empty fermenting vats, the control room and grain bins.
Our final stop on the Bourbon Trail was Town Branch, the newest distillery in Kentucky.  They are a small operation with only two vats, one small still and a bottling line that only fills six bottles at a time.  A unique feature of this stop is that they also brew beer at the same facility.  The barrels show the whole process for both beer and bourbon.  Their Kentucky Bourbon Barrel beer, aged in bourbon barrels as the name implies, was so smooth that even Nanc liked it. 
Of course, one can not do a bourbon tour without doing a tasting at each.  Another reason you need to spread your visits over several days.  The tasting included a description of each of the products. Some allowed you to choose what you wanted to try while others had the glasses poured and waiting for you in the tasting room.  At Four Roses the hostess poured three different bourbons, while at Jim Beam they have automatic dispensers that required a card to get your two choices.  If you go with a friend you can share four selections. When we drink liquor, bourbon is our drink of choice so we did make a couple of purchases.  We had a fun time on the Bourbon Trail and recommend it is a stop if you are in the area.  Each distillery gives you a little different look at the whole bourbon industry.
And in Bardstown if you misbehave on the tour you are subject to public ridicule.
We decided to take a hike at another interesting stop in the area, the Bernheim Arboretum in nearby Clermont near Jim Beam.  The Bernheim Forest is on 12,000 acres of worn out and logged land that was purchased by Isaac Bernheim in 1929.  The land was allowed to return to a more natural state and today includes gardens, art, trails and an education center.  The prairie was being burned to kill invasive species.
At one spot on the hike they have a Canopy Tree Walk (upper left) that goes out over the top of the trees so you are looking down into the forest.  Real Cool!  I also found a geocache along the trail and we saw a couple of neat insects.  This was a pleasant ending to our time spent in bourbon country.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Tidballs and Lincoln

With a name like Tidball you do not met many people with the same name who are not near relatives.  The only Tidball I had ever met was a guy in Montana in 1964.   A couple of years ago in North Dakota we met a woman whose vet's name was Dr. Tidball.  Even though I never had a real interest in genealogy, I googled the name and found not only the vet's name, but a biography on John C. Tidball, a Civil War officer who was the first to order Taps played at a military funeral and who also wrote the army manual for field artillery.  While reading the book I found a reference to a genealogy that John Tidball did in the late 1890's.  It is the same family tree that was given to me by my grandmother who died 40 years ago.  It turns out John was a relative.  On our travels last fall we went to Antietam to see the new Tidball Trail on the battlefield where John's unit was assigned during that battle.  Here is a link to that blog post. 
During that same google search listing I found a bar located in Bowling Green named Tidball's.  Last summer we stopped in Bowling Green, Ohio so we could check it out only to discover that it is located in Bowling Green, KY.  Duh!  I then made Tidball's a friend on Facebook to make sure we would be in the right place this year as we traveled north.  This time we were in the right city and found Tidball's.   
Tidball's is a neat little music bar that has become the main music scene in Bowling Green.  They have performances five nights a week with a variety of musical genres.  Their slogan also describes our lifestyle "NO BALL, NO FUN".
It is a simple no frills place that is only open from 9:00PM to 2:00AM six days a week.  No food and no wine (Nanc drank Jack) just beer, booze and music.
Here I am with the owner, John Tidball.  He has to be a distant relative from somewhere on the tree as all Tidballs in this country are traceable to Thomas Tidball who arrived in Philadelphia in 1714.  John's father is from Ohio, but they now live in Tennessee  It does not seem we are near relatives.  We had a great evening talking to John.  We were the first Tidballs who have ever been to his place.
The evening we were there was open mike night and several different people played.  It was a fun evening sharing stories with John and listening to great music.  If you love music and neat little bars make sure you stop at Tidball's.  Tell John you read about his place on our blog.
From Bowling Green we moved on to Bardstown, KY to explore a couple of Abraham Lincoln park service sights and do the Bourbon Trail (next post entry).
Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, KY in 1809.  The cornerstone of this memorial was laid in 1909, the 100 anniversary of Abe's birth.  The site became a national park in 1919 and was designated the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in 1959.  Like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC that opened in 1922, this monument has 56 steps representing each year of his life.
A statue of young Abe, his father Thomas, his mother Nancy and older sister Sarah.
When we were here in 1976 they were still saying this was the actual cabin where Lincoln was born.  It has since been discovered that the logs are too new to have been the real birthplace, but it is very typical of frontier homes of the period.
The statues of young Lincoln and the president are located in the Hodgenville town square.  The Lincoln family bible is on display at the historical site.
 Located ten miles from Lincoln's birthplace in Knob Creek is the Lincoln Boyhood Home.  This is where Lincoln said he had his first memories of his childhood.  This cabin is also a reproduction that was built by a local family as a tourist attraction.  This property became a national park site in 2001. 
This portrait of Lincoln was done by Iraqi War Wounded Warrior, Arthur Jones, while he was recovering at nearby Fort Knox.  It has 846 pennies including two from 1909, a Canadian penny, and a 1943 steel penny that represents the assassin's bullet.  It is a very interesting tribute to the president who ended slavery and saved the Union.  Although the buildings are not original, the stops are worthwhile as they give great insight into Lincoln's life as a young boy.   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tennessee - Friends, Food and Music

In our years on the road we have found that meeting and spending time with people is one of the best things about this lifestyle.  We have met many new friends through Escapees but by far we have made more friends with the folks we have met at Betty's than any other place.  This past spring Charles and Sandy Lee arrived at Betty's for a two day stay and ended up being there for three weeks.  Wow, talk about getting caught in Betty's web.  That web seems to extend beyond Betty's as we are the third couple to take them up on their offer to spend a few days at their place in Tennessee.
They live on a small farm and offered us a spot with water and electric where we had a great view of the surrounding hills, the birds and even a few cows.

Sandy, Nanc, Jim and Charles enjoying another Betty's tradition, happy hour.
Nanc and I did a day trip to nearby Lynchburg to tour our favorite distillery, Jack Daniels.  Here we are with a larger than life Jack.  He was 5'2" and the statue is 5'7' tall.  So the legend grows.  Center is the office where Jack worked.  The safe lead to his death when he kicked it and ended up getting an infection that killed him.  Right is where they make the charcoal that they use to filter their famous whiskey.  If you buy a full barrel (for $9,000 to $12,000) you get to write your name on the charcoal house wall, along with a few other benefits.
Top is a display of the whole whiskey making process and the three grains, corn, wheat and barley, used in the recipe.  The background is the spring where they get their famous water and middle is a tree blackened by the distilling process.  The revenuers look for these trees that are darkened by a harmless mold when looking for moonshiners.
Even though Lynchburg is in a "dry" county if you go on a tour it is considered a private party so they can let you have a taste.  Nanc even played checkers with one of the locals.
One of the great meals and pleasant evenings of conversation we shared. 
Charles and Sandy have several birdhouses and many of them had moms on eggs or chicks.  Left are young bluebirds waiting to eat.  We were not sure what the middle one was but she was not happy that we were looking in on her so we called her Angry Bird.  Right is a tree swallow.
Their dog, Bella, is in charge of keeping the cows in line.
We did a day trip to Nashville and Nanc and I toured the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.  While we are not big country music fans it was great seeing the stories of all the old timers we grew up listening to.  Left are clothes worn by June Carter and Johnny Cash.  Right are those of Porter Wagner and Dolly Parton.  We are with Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff.  It was really neat seeing the stories of the old stars and this old building that was originally built as a church.
And if it is Nashville it has to be music.  This is Tooties at 3:00 in the afternoon on a typical Friday.  The place was packed and rockin.
We also hit Legends (where the walls are covered with old album sleeves) and then had dinner at the Listening Room.  As you can tell by the smiles a grand time was had by all.
At dinner we were joined by Charles' and Sandy's daughter, Mackenzie and her fiancee, Chris. It was great getting to meet them and we wish them the very best. There is nothing like having locals as guides when you are exploring a new area.
On Saturday we had breakfast at Marcy Jo's Mealhouse & Bakery.  This is a place we probably would not have stopped at if they had not taken us.
And just look at what we would have missed.  That cinnamon roll was shared by all.
On Saturday evening we went to Arrington Vineyards for more friends, food and Jazz.  The vineyard is owned by Kix Brooks of the group Brooks and Dunn. 
We had a wonderful week with the Lees.  They were great tour guides and host and we so enjoyed their little piece of paradise out in the country.  Spending time sharing stories about our travels and relaxing at our little happy hours was fantastic.  We are looking forward to seeing Charles and Sandy down the road.