NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

No Flies on You

A quick word about the cabins at Tippecanoe River State Park.  While a they are a bargain at $35 night the unheated cabin was difficult to heat with just one space heater the first night and it turned out that the mattresses were a little moldy under the plastic fitted sheet they put on.  If mold is an issue, best check with the individual park and see how new their mattresses are.

icy morning warmed up fast

Also, the shower building is closed and there is no water on so I was brushing my teeth on the side of the road with a jug of water and by the time I left this morning I was feeling a little ripe after not having showered since Thanksgiving night.  Things to remember to check in to before winter camping!

Yesterday I chose the hiking trail that makes its way to the Tippecanoe River, after all, that's what they named the park.  Must be worth seeing, right?

necessity is the mother of invention

I finally figured out how to "holster" my camera while hiking so I can reach it quickly and so it's not swinging around or putting extra weight on my neck.   Aren't I clever?  So easy to unclip the backpack strap and I'm all ready to shoot!

pine needles make nice trail padding

The morning warmed up quickly and before long I was hiking without my gloves and enjoying the sunny day.  There were even a few fungi still out and about.

Hiking with my camera is the perfect activity for me.  The exercise is good for the body and releases those endorphins which spurs the creativity needed for the photography.  And I exercise my brain too as my head fills with all kinds of scientific questions.  What kind of tree is that?  Why is this river wide but runs so slow?

No need to ask if there were ever any beaver in the area.  Did I tell you about the show I watched on Nature about the beavers?  It was really good.  Sometimes changing the landscape through animal activity is a good thing.  Beavers can help increase water in areas that desperately need it if they are reintroduced.

Maybe some one can tell me what kind of bird leaves behind a feather like this one I found.

The nice thing about the leaves being off the trees is I kept catching views of the river I might otherwise not have seen through all the vegetation.  Some nice reflections and a thin coat of ice kept the view from being boring.

This morning I drove from Winamac to the cabin Sharon and I rented in the Red River Gorge area.
I stopped at Trader Joe's in Lexington to get some supplies and now can't wait to explore that city on my way back home.  One last look at the river first.

Even though it's been 3 days since I've had a shower Sharon hasn't complained that I'm stinky since I arrived a few hours ago.  However when I commented on the little flies hanging around me as I sit here typing (it was almost 70F here today!) she did say maybe it's because I haven't bathed since there aren't any hanging around her.  Hmmm, maybe it's time I took a bath.

sneak peek at Hillbilly Heaven

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thoughts on Justice and Social Reform in Winamac

I got in to Tippecanoe River State Park a little after 9:30 last night and after driving around in the dark for half an hour finally found my cabin.

Luckily I brought an electric heater because while they do have electric in the cabins they are not heated.  However, they are a real bargain at $35.00 night + tax.  The reserve america IN DNR website for reservations doesn't even charge a reservation fee like WI DNR does.  Score!  I climbed in to my winter sleeping bag and re-read "Divergent" for a couple of hours.  The second movie in the series was previewed at the theater the other day when Katrina and I went to see "Mockingjay - Part 1" so I figured it was probably time I read the whole series.  By the way, both series I just mentioned have strong messages on justice and social reform in a fun to read fiction format with strong heroines...just saying.

In the morning I got an opportunity to see what the park looked like as I drove out in search of a McDonalds (free wi-fi or $1.10 for a bagel and a cup of hot water) and a post office in the town of Winamac.  The squirrels might be suicidal since at least 6 of them jumped out in front of my car in the 10 minutes it took me to get back to the park entrance.  Watch out for those rascals.

Winamac comes from the Potawatomi word for catfish and the town was named after a Potawatomi Chief who lived in the area, appropriate since the town is on the Tippecanoe River.  Everywhere I went in town nice gentlemen smiled and held the door open for me.  Gotta love a good small town!

Vurpillat on right
The Vurpillat Building was built in 1882 and is currently undergoing interior renovation.  Historically the first two floors contained local businesses and offices and the third floor was an opera house.  The building is rented for parties and the stage again serves as a venue for local talent.

Pulaski County Courthouse

I was surprised to discover that Winamac has been the Pulaski county seat since 1839 and it has the architecture to prove it.  The Pulaski County Courthouse was built in 1895 and is the local place to go for some justice.

Speaking of "local justice", I'm sitting in McDonald's listening to the idiots on Fox News go on and on about how education is the problem in Ferguson, Missouri.  The education system is failing to produce citizens there who can "show up at work" and "follow direction" and "are capable of learning".  Are you kidding me?  A little discrimination against the poor and people of color maybe?  It's this kind of attitude that is part of the problem.  How about this quote from President Obama instead?

"The frustrations that we've seen are not just about a particular incident," he said. "They have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly. That may not be true everywhere and it's certainly not true for the vast majority of law enforcement officials, but that's an impression that folks have and it's not just made up -- it's rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time."

Obama echoed Attorney General Eric Holder, who said Tuesday afternoon that peaceful and non-violent protests have a history of forcing change in the United States, and called it "heartening" that some leaders of the protests tried to stop the violence that broke out Monday night.

"The Teacher"  honors native tribes who fished the Tippecanoe River

This issue goes much deeper than the single incident in Ferguson.  Last night 15 of the 16 protesters arrested were not even from Missouri.  It's incredibly unfortunate that initially the verdict resulted in looting and rioting, but the protests that have followed are providing examples of how to handle this situation and hopefully will produce some results and eventually some change in racial relations in some communities.

The NAACP is beginning a 120 mile march from Ferguson to the State Capitol today to draw attention to problems in our justice system.  I wish them a safe journey and much success in furthering their agenda and Justice For All!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Things to Be Thankful For - Touring Milwaukee City Hall At Last

Today it was all about family and bellies full of turkey, but one thing I'm thankful for is that Wayne and I recently got to tour City Hall.

view of City Hall from our hotel window

Milwaukee's City Hall is a masterpiece and tours are available.  Go to their web site and send Bill an email if you want to schedule one, he replies quickly and is very flexible!

City Hall was designed by Milwaukee architect Henry Koch and the building was completed in 1896 at a cost of $945,311, actually quite a modest sum at the time for buildings of this sort. The basement and the foundation of City Hall are constructed of granite and the first and second floors are constructed of sandstone. The remaining six floors consist of pressed brick and terra cotta.

I've talked about this magnificent building before, so I'll keep it brief, but I did find a cool link to an  awesome photo of a 1930's labor demonstration in front of City Hall here.  Of course we had labor demonstrations of a different sort in Madison here a few years ago, so some things don't change, right?

The interior was a big surprise, I didn't expect it to look so long and narrow.  The building looks so massive from the outside that it was a little confusing to me spatially.

We met Bill outside of the Council Chamber which is kept locked when not in use unless you are on a guided tour.  The first thing you see is two magnificent stained glass windows, created as a WPA project in the 1930s, They were restored and installed in the Council Chamber in 1978.

One window incorporates an image of City Hall and the City Seal, while the other portrays the Great Seal of the State of Wisconsin. These windows were acquired through the cooperation of the boards of trustees of the Milwaukee Public Library and the Milwaukee Museum where they languished in storage previously.

The Council Chamber is the largest city council meeting room in the United States, but the symbols painted on the walls and ceiling were all I could look at.  The were added as part of a renovation in the 1930's by artist and Alderman Carl Minkley.  He came to this country from Berlin at the age of 26  in 1892 and was appointed to fill a vacancy by the Mayor of Milwaukee in 1910.  He arrived in Milwaukee in 1893 so would have been familiar with City Hall from its start.  In addition to symbols about wisdom and justice the 12 signs of the zodiac were included in the work.

There used to be wrought iron balcony railings and a viewing gallery between the pillars pictured above, but now the area is used for storage. I didn't get a picture of the dais, but it's made from Wisconsin oak, pretty fitting considering all the oak I saw on my recent Kettle Moraine hikes.

Beautiful things can be found in the Council Anteroom as well, including one of the unique doorknobs emblazoned with the city's name.  Apparently some have ended up on ebay due to remodeling efforts in the 1950's and 1960's when many were replaced.  Can you imagine tossing out such a beautiful and original item?  That period of time was notorious for its disregard for our architectural history and much restoration work is done now in our time in an effort to repair the damage done in the name of "progress" or "fashion".

So much to look at and admire, but the ironwork in the building was definitely top notch. I thought it deserved a little black and white treatment.

There was also a display on the third floor showcasing a collection of historic postcards featuring the building through the years.  It looks so massive in earlier days, but of course now there are many neighboring buildings just as large.

That's it for our tour. I'm also thankful that my packing for my trip to Kentucky is done, it's kind of crazy the amount of stuff I'm dragging along. I leave tomorrow after work and will get as far as Indiana where I'm going to check out their state park cabins.  Even though it will be chilly there I'm taking a full day to check out Tippecanoe River State Park before heading on to meet Sharon near Red River Gorge for some hiking on Sunday. I'm also thankful the cold snap will be done just in time for our arrival!  Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Milwaukee Art Museum Surprises

We got to Milwaukee a little bit before we could check in to the hotel so we stopped at the Milwaukee Art Museum to see what was going on.

Situated on Lake Michigan's shoreline there are things to walk around and see outside, or you can see them from the inside thanks to the unique architectural design of the building.

The museum is undergoing some remodeling and when we got there we were told the visiting exhibit of Italian painters was the only gallery open besides some sculptures out in the lobby area.  We took the free tour of the lobby and saved $14 each.

Wayne likes real women, not skinny supermodels

I loved the sculpture Standing Woman by Gaston Lachaise on display.  She exudes such power yet seems so peaceful at the same time.  He was born in France but married an American who influenced his work and his depiction of women in his sculpture.  When I looked him up it said he was trying to portray the women as vigorous yet serene so I guess either I know something about art after all...or maybe he's just that good at getting his message across because I read it loud and clear.

If that wasn't enough, imagine my surprise when we came around a corner and saw a large Chihuly piece!

Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier II , 2000

Love, love, love Chihuly!  In my opinion this piece needed to be placed somewhere where the light could play with it some more.  When I viewed the pieces on display in OshKosh last year they were perfectly lit and I can still see them if I close my eyes.  The ones in St. Louis at the botanical gardens had such depth too, even on a cold and cloudy day.

The bigger surprise was that the UW Eau Claire Singing Statemen were performing!  Katrina has friends in the ensemble, she couldn't believe we ran across them so randomly.  We have the best luck with that kind of stuff when we're traveling.  

We paid $5 to park in their heated garage and the rest was free.  Not bad for a short but cool city experience.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Not the Hotel Metro After All

When we checked in to our "Pure" room at the Hotel Metro I was immediately overwhelmed with the strong aroma of tea tree oil that is used in the air purifier in the room, which did not happen when I took my "preview tour".  We went down to the desk immediately to see about changing rooms but their regular rooms smelled strongly enough of cleaning products that I wanted to check out the Intercontinental before committing to staying.  After all, even if there were some cleaning scents to deal with, it was $100 night less to stay there.

lobby of the Intercontinental already decorated for the holidays

The Intercontinental's only flaw was what I can only guess is a scented product they are using to clean their carpets as we smelled it more strongly every morning in the hallway after maid service came through.  As we walked around our room the smell would get stirred up as well, and the windows didn't open to air the room out.  Overall I tolerated it fairly well, though after two nights my system was feeling pretty stressed and I was ready to leave.

Milwaukee Center rotunda view

The Intercontinental is connected to the Milwaukee Center Office Tower and the Pabst Theater which gave us a couple of exit options whenever we left the hotel.

City Hall bell tower at night

The Intercontinental's location and reasonable price is what sold it for me, and their staff was really friendly too.  Oh, and you can't beat the view of City Hall right from your room!

If you don't want a view of City Hall you can get a view of the Milwaukee River, though I can't imagine why you wouldn't want a view of City Hall.  The clock tower bell rang on the hour and the half hour and it wasn't loud enough to be disturbing, the tones were very soothing and I loved hearing them!

Kilawat's table decoration

We also ate at their restaurant three times, once for breakfast and twice for dinner.  All I can say is it was convenient due to the extreme temperatures we would have had to face if leaving the hotel on foot, or the tips for the valet if leaving by car.   The food was good...but very overpriced and not a lot of menu choices.

Milwaukee River

Even though the wind chill hovered around 0 (yes, that is a zero) we did venture out on foot more times than you would think.  We were wearing long johns under our jeans and hats and scarves and gloves, but the downtown views were just too tempting, especially at dusk.  The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts provided a great light show with lit walls that subtly changed color when you weren't looking and we enjoyed it both on our walks and from the Kilawat restaurant's windows.

The Kilbourn Street bridge and bridge house were built in 1929

Milwaukee's Riverwalk features some great public art.  The sculptures pictured here were steps from our hotel entrance on the Kilbourn Street bridge. The above spherical sculpture was made from repurposed propane tank end caps, and the red one below is meant to be a comment on uniting to rise above situations and propel ourselves upward.  There is a link to the art along the Riverwalk here.

"You Rise Above the World" Richard Taylor, 1999

Pere Marquette park was all lit up for the holidays, but we were more interested in the patterns freezing into the ice in the river than the lights.

Still, we put our backs to the wind and walked over to have a peek.  I was delighted to see the interior of the Historical Society all lit up and we stepped inside for a minute to gawk at the glowing ceiling.  But since it was closing in 15 minutes we stepped back out into the cold and saved it for another day.

We did get a chance to tour some other buildings, and on another night we even accidentally figured out how to traverse some of the skywalks and avoid the bitter cold. Every time Wayne looked out our hotel room window he commented on how weird it was to be in the city.  Country kids like us just aren't used to seeing all that hustle and bustle at all hours.  It ended up being a great idea to do something different for our 25th anniversary this year.  More to come!