Louisiana and Montana are very far apart from each other but most of what is today Montana became part of the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The point is there is a lot of space up in that part of the land. As soon as you cross from Idaho you see this almost immediately. The land is out there but it is very wide and very open. For the first three hundred miles we were in Montana I am pretty sure we saw more horses than humans.
They call Helena a city, it is a Capitol, but at a population of 36,000 it really felt more like a town. I remember pulling up to motel and Denise telling me were were on the edge of town but when I looked up I could see that capitol was only about 6 blocks away. Needless to say there was not much in the city. Besides the capitol building there were several casinos and a few supermarkets. Not many chain restaurants that I could tell, which was funny because when you go into the supermarket there are these kiosks at the registers with all of these chain restaurants which the closest was 200 miles away. Not that gift cards were ever great gifts to begin with but is someone going to really drive 200 miles to use their gift card?
It was July but the weather was little cold, in fact it rained a little bit with hail while we were there. It was a bit of a problem because we didn’t have any winter clothing but we had some old sweatshirts in the trunk so that was good enough.
We enjoyed our time walking around the state capitol. The layout of the building was a little bit different in that the Senate and Assembly chambers were both on the same side but it had all the basic elements like a dome and fake marble painted columns. The best part of the building were the stain glassed windows, which were very intricate and colorful. Admittance was free and the tour was self guided.
OK, so when I was a kid my mom loved to go on road trips. Pretty much every other weekend we drove up and down the California coast line. There was always some general destination but the one rule was you had to stop at a historical plaque. There are a lot of historical plaques in California, so needless to say we saw a lot of things.
My mom at the Neptune Pool.
One day when I was about 12 years old we were driving along the 101 highway and my mom decided to stop to see Hearst Castle in San Simeon California. I remember taking the basic tour and seeing Hearst Castle and being completely blown away by it. Just like today the tour always starts at the Neptune pool and ends at the indoor Roman Pool.
The face of the Casa Grande
Inside the Meeting Room
All the views at the castle are great.
The inside Roman pool.
Hearst Castle was known to Mr. Randolph Hearst as La Cuesta Encantada, “The Enchanted Hill.” The name is very fitting because the location is magical. There is nothing like Hearst Castle anywhere in the world. It’s style and beauty were something that until the moment was nothing I could imagine.
Stair View of the Neptune Pool
I remember very vividly the moment I saw the Neptune pool. It was what I like to describe as a mind expanding event. The Neptune pool is an amazing pool, up until the exact moment I walked up the stairs to see the pool for the first time I couldn’t imagine something like that existed. I remember being drawn to the water, it was like it called to me. The marble is so white and you are so high up the color comes out a very vivid blue. Of course as soon as I took a foot towards the pool I was immediately told to back off. It was clear, this was a place to look, not touch. Though still, it left an indelible impression on my mind that I never forgot.
The pool has haunted my mind for many years. And I have been back many times to the see the castle. I went there as part of my honeymoon to San Simeon and I remember taking my son to the castle when he was just three years old. I have seen the pool from many different angles on many different tours. Each time the tour started at the Neptune pool and each time I had to restrain myself from jumping in the pool.
Then one day I was watching this program called California’s Gold (https://vhost1.chapman.edu/watch_video.php?v=1405) that was on public television. And there was this reporter named Huell Howser. He went and interviewed several people at Hearst Castle, a very fascinating story, but then he did something crazy, he jumped in the pool! I am not a television personality but as soon as I saw that episode of California’s Gold, something snapped in me. I knew that if Huell Howser could get in the Neptune pool so could I. It was a kind of a crazy thought. I was not a television personality, I was not an employee of Hearst Castle, and I am not rich, but I am determined and so a goal was born.
The Friends of Hearst Castle is the foundation that helps fund-raise for Hearst Castle.
According to the video there were two ways to get into pool legally. One you could work for the castle or once a year you could go this fundraiser and make a bid for a pool party at Hearst Castle. Neither of those two options worked for me. I didn’t qualify for a job at Hearst Castle and I was not a member of the Friends of Hearst Castle, and even if I was, I doubt I could have won an auction.
So then I found out about another way to swim in the Neptune Pool. Basically if you became a volunteer at the castle for 50 hrs. you could go to an annual volunteer Neptune Pool party. This was going to be the route for me but for an unknown reason a few years ago they stopped the program. Then to make matters worse a report came out that after 80 years of continual use there was some cracks in the concrete. So they ended up draining all the water out of the Neptune pool. It looked like my dream of swimming in the Neptune Pool was going down the drain.
Those that are from California know that California has a strange magic to it’s place. In California you may be down but you are never really out as long as you have a bit of hope, it is the gas that keeps fueling the California Dream. It turns out that even though the California State Park system did have to drain the Neptune Pool, it was decided to completely restore the pool, right back to it’s original condition. The restoration took four years and $10 million dollars to complete. An article came out in the LA Times (https://www.latimes.com/travel/la-tr-travel-hearst-castle-pools-open-for-swims-20190613-story.html) that to celebrate the restoration and do some fundraising, the Friends of Hearst Castle decided to host some special pool parties. It wasn’t a cheap ticket, but I was fortunate to have some extra money saved up and it wasn’t something I had to spend a lot of time trying to decide. Which was good because there was only 40 tickets for each of the 5 dates, and the tickets went fast.
In order to get a ticket I had to become a member of the Friends of Hearst Castle. This group is dedicated to the preservation of Hearst Castle and also creates local education programs for Hearst Castle. As part of my membership I got three regular tours to the castle. I used them for my family and we all went out on a Grand Rooms tour. This tour was just like the one I was on when I was twelve. It starts at the Neptune Pool and then goes along the first floor rooms of Casa Grande (the Big House). After the tour was over we had time to go to the visitor center that had a little museum, a theater, a bookstore, and even a place where you could go and buy Hearst Castle Ranch Beef.
After the tour was over Denise and AJ went to the hotel and I stayed until 6:30 p.m. when we took a special bus back up to the top of the mountain. Along the way I was able to see Hearst castle and some Hearst zebras. Which was kind of premonition for the entire night that seemed surreal.
At the top of the mountain we briefly met with the Director of the Foundation. He was a nice guy that had this big Super Bowl ring. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about it, but it was really big. He explained to us that part of the money being raised was going to local education programs. It was kind of nice to think that maybe one day some other kid might be inspired.
The entrance to the Mens Dressing Room.
Selfie in the Neptune Pool.
Some of the fancy food that was served.
Julia Morgan knew her Roman architecture. You can see ionic, doric, and corinthian columns at the Neptune temple.
Swiming in front of the Neptune Temple.
The bartender was very popular for the event.
To change into our swimsuits we were allowed to use the Hearst Castle changing rooms. The changing rooms are not on any regular tour so they are seldom seen. They have this nice green and gold motif. It is amazing to me how even in the changing rooms there was an attention to detail.
After finding a chair in which to put my stuff it was time to jump in. Most people jumped in, took a picture, and then got right back out. I am not sure why. The water was not cold, it was actually very refreshing, they told us it came from a mountain stream, no chlorine. Another reason I think people didn’t stay too long in the pool was that there was an open bar and lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres. But I wasn’t there for the food. I was there for the pool.
The evening was spectacular. The sunset from atop the mountain seemed endless and remember seeing the most beautiful purple sunset I have ever seen. I did eventually come out of the pool, my hands were very pruny but I was as happy as could be.
That night we stayed at the nearby Morgan hotel. It was named after the architect Julia Morgan who designed Hearst Castle. It was kind of expensive for us (we usually go to Motel 6) but it was cozy with an in-room fireplace. The decor was nice because the hallways had design sketches for Hearst castle.
The Morgan Hotel was a nice coastal hotel.
AJ having breakfast at the Morgan Hotel.
After all those many years dreaming about this pool it was truly an experience of a lifetime. It almost seams like it was nothing but a surreal dream but I have the pictures and memories for a lifetime to prove that it actually happened.
Austin Blair was known as the Civil War Governor and was a firm opponent to slavery.
Michigan got it’s start on July 13th, 1787, when the Second Continental Congress created the Northwest Territory. Almost instantly there were lots of land disputes and in 1803 Ohio was formed and in 1805 Michigan became it’s own territory. Michigan immediately wanted to become a state but the land disputes prevented it from the application.
During the war of 1812, Detroit, which was the territorial seat got occupied by British forces, but the militia fought back and soon regained the territory. After the war the idea of statehood intensified. In 1835 Michigan formed a state government in Detroit without Congressional approval. Part of the problem was land disputes with Michigan’s neighbor Ohio. The land disputes came to a head when the two state militias took up arms against each other in what was known as the Toledo War. At the heart of the matter was the city of Toledo. Ohio won the fight, and as condition for entering the Union, Michigan was forced to cede Toledo, but did get a strip of and that was won in the war in 1812, and so Michigan became a state of two land masses.
Another concession given was that the capitol of Michigan had to move. Congress did not want the state capitol getting run over again by the British so they mandated that Michigan move their capitol to a safer location. Detroit of course protested but eventually relented and the first construction of a state capitol building began in 1847 in Lansing.
The current capitol building was built in 1872. It was a bit of a scandal because the architect, Elijah E. Myers was from Springfield, Illinois, and everyone thought that it must be a kickback having a out of state architect. The thing about it was that he actually built the building within budget and thinking of what happened to some buildings during the Civil War, it became one of the first fireproofed buildings in the nation by using fire resistant materials such as glass, steel, and stone.
Visited: July 5, 2018
The Coamerica building is one of the oldest buildings in Lansing.
Up in the dome of the capitol.
There are tours of the capitol or you can do what I did and do a self-guided tour.
Govenor’s ceremonial office.
The battle flag room with a steel and glass floor.
Ohio achieved statehood and like any new state had to make a lot of decisions. One of course being where to put their new capitol. Like all state legislatures Ohio couldn’t decide on where it should go. There was a lot of back and forth but in the end they decided to compromise somewhere in the middle, literately in the middle, and thus Columbus became the capitol of Ohio.
We spent a lot of time on our road trip in Ohio, but Columbus was kind of a stopover to other things so we didn’t have much time to really stay in the capitol. It was Tuesday, July 10, 2018 that we visited Columbus, Ohio. It was early in the morning and our schedule had us going to a theme park that same day so we weren’t able to go inside, we did however see some interesting things on the outside.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Ohio State Capitol is the lack of a dome. The building is Greek revival (like many state capitols) and has a tube cylinder shape in the middle but then it just stops. The locals I saw told me they call it the “Chinese hat” because that is kind of what it looks like.
Oregon’s capital has always been in Salem but the current building is not the first capitol. It makes sense with all the trees in Oregon that the capitol would be made out of wood, but as history has proven that is not always a wise move as fires has twice burned down the capitol building. The latest version was finished in the 1938. A more modern building the white marble building will hopefully last longer than it’s predecessors. We didn’t have much time to visit the Oregon State Capitol and it wasn’t open when we went. We did have a chance to walk around the area and found the neighborhood to be very nice. One one side is a little park with whimsical statues dedicated to music and on another side is Willamette college.
When California was part of Mexico, the capital of what was known as Alta California was in Monterey. In 1849 California declared itself a free and independent nation. At that time Sacramento drafted it’s first city charter. In 1850, when California became part of the United States, Sacramento was incorporated as the first city of the State of California.
Sacramento became the Capitol of California in 1854. There was a major flood in 1861 that forced the California legislative session to move to San Francisco for one session but that was temporary for the year. Things are always in flux in California. For a long time the governor lived in the Governor’s Palace and then he didn’t, and now he does again. Not to mention the fact that the Sacramento capitol has been the background of many historic moments such as the Black Panthers, the grape strike lead by Cesar Chavez, and the assassination attempt on President Ford.
Today the history of Sacramento continues. There are many things to do in Sacramento and see. Some of our favorite things to do is to visit the Railroad Museum and this last time we were at the capitol we just walked around the grounds to see all the many shops.
Merida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, is the largest of the three cities in the world that share the same name. The original Merida is in Spain and there is another Merida in the Philippines. The Mexican city was founded in 1542 by three Spanish soldiers named Francisco de Montejo, which conquered the existing Mayan village of T’ho. Considering that the area was populated for at least 2,000 years before the Spanish arrival some say that Merida is the oldest continually inhabited city in the Americas. The city was used as a hub for conquering the entire Yucatan peninsula and is still the economic hub for the region today.
Besides it’s initial founding Merida grew in riches due to the production of henniquin, a strong fiber that once used in ship sails. One Calle Montejo, the street named after then founders, you can see mansion after mansion. These were primarily built in the late 18th and 19th century, when Merida had grown rich. The mansions are covered with a white lime based mortar which has given Merida the nickname of the “white city.” At one point it had the most millionaires in the world. This stopped in the early 1900s when synthetic materials were discovered. Today Calle Montejo is a great place to see some of the restored mansions, which many are now restaurants.
Speaking of food the Yucatan peninsula has its own very unique cuisine. Despite it’s unique food I did notice two prolific foreign invaders: Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Considering we have both of those readily available at home we skipped them in Merida. The first day we were in Merida we went to a place called La Chaya Maya. Some locals told is that it was too touristy and that we should not go (they wanted us to go to their uncle’s place), but we went anyway. We were glad that we went. The place was crowded but after only a five minute wait we got a seat. It was there that tried Chaya Juice, which is a drink made with a green leaf. Overall we found the local food to be varied and steeped in Mayan influence. Here are some of the things we tried:
Salbutes – Soft fried tortillas topped with turkey, avocados, and beans.
Panuchos – Like a soft mini tostada, where the tortilla is soft and filled with refried beans.
Papadazul – Mayan egg and cheese enchilladas topped with a pumpkin seed sauce.
Sopa de Limon – Lime Soup, usually has a chicken broth with lime and onions. Often served with tortilla chips.
Rellengo Negro (also known as Chilmole) – Turkey or chicken stew cooked in black paste sauce.
Queso Relleno – Ground Pork inside of a edam cheese ball served in a tomatillo sauce.
Poc Chuc – A Mayan version of boiled then grilled pork.
Breakfast was a very popular meal in Merida, more so than lunch, which is typically the biggest meal in the rest of Mexico. As such eggs and fresh fruit (which is considered dessert) was always available throughout the day.
Eating a good breakfast in Merida is important because Merida is a good jumping off point for many adventures. Besides visiting Merida itself which has a very impressive plaza, many museums (the Mayan Museum is world class), and shopping areas. There is several places of cultural interest within a one or two hour drive. While we were there we visited two Pueblo Magicos (Izamal and Valladolid), as well as we visited a cenote (underground pool) called Xcajum, and three archeological sites (Uxmal, Chichen Itza, and Kinich Kak Moo).
Getting there was easy. The airport is medium size and only about three miles from the downtown area. We like to travel from the Tijuana airport because the national airline rates are so much cheaper. Currently my favorite airline is Interjet (Volaris is cheaper but has less leg room). Taxis are cheap but we found Uber cheaper, although one thing you can do with a taxi easier than Uber is hire your own driver for the day. There is also public buses, but we didn’t use them because we were only there for a few days and didn’t have time to learn the schedules.
The hotel we stayed at was called the Hotel La Mision de Fray Diego. It was a very nice hotel, that used to be a convent. It had a beautiful mission decor with a little pool, nice bathroom, and a continental (fruit and bread) breakfast every day. The normal rate was $90 per night but we had a Groupon and paid $50 a night (pro tip: look for groupons before you go somewhere, even in Mexico).
Idaho became a state on July 3rd, 1890. Idaho has peculiar history on how it became a state and even more so on how Boise became it’s capitol. US history in Idaho starts with Lewis and Clark passing through the territory now known as Idaho in 1805. There was a bit of controversy with the ownership of the territory as both the United States and the United Kingdom both had claims on the area, though in 1846 the dispute was officially ended with the Oregon treaty, which made Idaho part of Oregon. But then, in 1848 Washington, Montana, and Wyoming got in a land battle with Oregon and started to declare Idaho as their own. This went on until 1853 when apparently Washington won and Idaho became part of Washington. Then gold was discovered in 1860 and Idaho was like “yeah right Washington, as if we are going to share with you!” Washington did not agree but Idaho means “land of many waters” and since Washington gets too much rain anyhow they let Idaho become it’s own territory in 1863 with Lewiston as it’s capitol. It is said that Abraham Lincoln had to personally intervene to make this happen, not sure if it is true but they have a lot of Lincoln stuff in the Idaho Capitol basement, and let’s face it, who doesn’t like Lincoln?!
That was all cool but the first territorial Governor, William Wallace took too to long to get to the capitol (Lewiston) and so another guy name named Caleb Lyon was named in his place. He was smarter than Wallace and he was like “forget going to Lewiston, I am from Boise, so the capitol is now in Boise.” The citizen’s of Idaho were like “Wait, what did you just say?!” and Lyon left the state so that he didn’t have to go to court on the matter. So that left Idaho with a guy named Clinton DeWhitt Smith who was appointed, but the stress of the job got to him and in seven months he literally killed himself by drinking on the job. So a guy named H.C. Gibson came along and revived the government long enough to “loan” himself the enter territorial treasury of $41,062. Meanwhile, Caleb Lyon, who previously left showed up again and said that he was still Governor and then walked away again, but this time he took with him $46,418.40 in Indian Affairs money that was allocated to the the Indian territories (and then he complained when said Indians tried to kill him). It was about this time a group of Idahoans were like “Enough!” so they went to California, used the printing presses in San Francisco, published a constitution and voted them all out by becoming a state (except the dead guy, he remained dead).
Today Idaho has a lot less controversy. Known as the “Gem State,” there are many mining operations in the state, but it is also known as the “Potato Capitol” due to the fact that 1/3 of all the potatoes consumed in the United States are grown within the state. Less known is that Idaho is also the “Lentil Capitol of the World” due to having the largest hops farms in the world.
The state is very big and there are a lot of open spaces where you will probably see more sheep, cows, and horses, than humans. While there we literally went to a town called the Middle of Nowhere. We saw only one human running a very small gas stop. The only other natives appeared to be horses, donkeys, llamas, and a very aggressive bird named the Snaggle Grouse (man was that a pain getting him out from under my car seat).
The state of Idaho values women’s rights. In addition to being one of the first states to give women the vote, the state seal was designed by a women in 1891. Be very careful however how you treat women in the state. Also be warned that there is a state law on the books that says it is a misdemeanor to give any women less than 50 pounds of sweets in the state of Idaho. You’d think that every male in the state would be in prison by now but they make it very easy to stay within the law with all the manifestations of sweet treats available such as chocolate bars, stroopwaffles, huckleberry, and Idaho Spuds that I found at the capitol.
In conclusion Idaho is definitely a unique place unto itself. Some say it is even “out of this world”, but that is a topic for a different blog post.
We collect National Park cancellation stamps when we travel within the USA. On the way out from Springfield, Ilinois Denise asked if I could get a quick stamp from the old railway station in Springfield.
I went to the railroad station and the door was closed but the hours on the door said they were open and so was the door so I let myself in. Once inside the historic depot I noticed no one was there so I walked briefly around the depot looking for the stamp and found it at the ticket booth. It was while I was getting the stamp ready I hear this voice…
“Hello”, said the voice.
“Hello,” I replied. Must be a park ranger I thought.
“How are you doing?”
“Good, I just came to get a stamp and then I will be on my way”
“I am going to miss you dearly.”
Wow, this place must not get many visitors.
“I am now on my way to Washington DC.”
What is this guy talking about?! I went to the next room from where I heard the voice. It was at that point that I came face to face with a video projection of an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln, giving Springfield a farewell speech from the station (sadly he never came back). And that is my story on how I had a conversation with Lincoln. I am happy to say Lincoln was a kind host and I was able to get my stamp and continue on my way.
Abraham Lincoln is an interesting character in history because he is so well loved that he is claimed by so many places. He was born in Hodgenville, KY in a simple log cabin, but as an adult he clearly made Springfield, Illinois his hometown.
In 1839, Springfield had become the new capital of Illinois. In 1842 Springfield was a growing city and was a perfect setting for Lincoln to set up a law practice. Him and Mary were not poor but they did not have a lot of money either. The story goes that when Lincoln arrived he asked the local shopkeeper how much bed sheets were and when he was told they were $17 he had to buy them on credit from his profits as lawyer.
Lincoln’s practice went well and he was soon able to pay off his debit and in 1843 for $1,500 he was able buy a house and a small plot of land. Lincoln’s home started out modest and as his prestidge grew so did the house. Mary Todd Lincoln employed help but she really liked to cook so she had a very nice stove (even though the kitchen itself was small). The highlight of the house was seeing Lincoln’s desk. I can only imagine all the idea he had there.
Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln never made it back to Springfield alive. After being assassinated, there was a very solemn funeral train back to Springfield in which Lincoln was laid in state at the capitol building and then at the Oak Ridge cemetery in a huge memorial tomb.
The Lincoln tomb is an impressive structure that features on the outside scenes from the civil war and on the inside impressive amounts of granite and marble. In the first room you will find the model sculpture that is featured at the Lincoln Monument in Washington DC. The dome in the first room is made of palladium which is supposedly one of the more durable metals on the planet. In the burial chamber you will find a big tombstone, which 10 ft. under is buried Abraham Lincoln. They had to bury Abraham Lincoln under 10 ft. of concrete to prevent grave robbers. Also in the burial chambers is the crypts of Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of Lincoln’s four sons, Edward, Willie, and Tad. There is a memorial to the eldest, Robert Todd Lincoln, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is interesting because if you look close they made a mistake on his birth year and had to correct it (he was born in 1843). If the tomb looks bigger than it should be it is. It was meant to be a tomb big enough for all of the Lincoln family, but most of the Lincoln family chose to be buried elsewhere so they wouldn’t be overshadowed by President Lincoln’s memory.
As a kid growing up in Southern California I was no stranger entertainment. We are indeed the Entertainment Capital of the World. Radio, television, music, and film making, as well as the abundance of tourist and amusement attractions in the region, undoubtedly makes us the #1 entertainment place in the world, except for one thing, the stage.
To find the best musicals, the greatest musicals, there is only one place to go, and that is Broadway, New York City. They know, we know it, and if you ever go to a show on Broadway your pocketbook will know it.
Shows on Broadway are expensive. There are ways to try to mitigate. You can do what we did and try to find a show like Groundhog’s Day that is previews and rush it. That is when you go to the theater the day of the show you want to go to and see if there are any discounted tickets. There is a cost to that, in our case it cost us $119 dollars when we walked out during intermission when we discovered how much bad language can be crammed into a 4 minute song (it is a lot). It also means that you can you can find yourself 3 rows behind comedian Caroline Rhea. You just never know what is going to happen when you follow your dreams and perhaps that is why Broadway is so magical, because it is a not only a place of dreams, but it comes with a soundtrack.
Today (4/23/17), Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is opening on Broadway. It is amazing show. It brings in that magical mystical musical adventure that is Broadway. A mix of new and old songs, it brings new twist to the Roald Dahl classic. It is very different than both the 1971 Gene Wilder and 2005 Johnny Depp version.
It has the “Pure Imagination” song, it has some definite dark moments (when the oompa lumpas start singing you know something bad is going to go down), but it is unique, and they are my favorite part in the musical. How they do them is something you have to see for yourself.
As magical as seeing a show on Broadway was it was kind of eye opening. First of all the theaters are very close to each other, which is good because they are all in walking distance. The second was that they are all very small, or at least smaller than their Los Angeles counterparts. The term Broadway show does not necessarily mean that the show plays on Broadway, which is a street in New York, it more refers to how many seats the theater holds. If the theater has over 500 seats it is considered a Broadway show. The largest is the Gershwin Theater (currently playing Wicked) at 1,935 seats and the smallest is the Helen Hayes Theater (currently under renovation) at 597 seats. Compare that to the 2,703 seats at the Pantages and you notice the difference. The third thing was parking. At $38.01 an hour, you are not parking on Broadway. You are going to take public transportation in, which is fine because the streets.
I am very happy to have been able to have finished this experience for the list. Saying that however I am OK watching the new musicals preview at the Macy’s Thankgiving Day parade and waiting for the good ones to come out to Los Angeles.