Pacific Coastline Dreaminess

“To the shore Follow! Oh, follow! To be at rest forevermore!” (James Russell Lowell)

In our three weeks traveling south along route 1 in coastal California on the midpoint “leg”of our 2019 road trip, I’ve covered in three previous blogs the highlights of our featured beachside destinations. In the following poem I’ve composed with accompanying photographs, I now present a concluding tribute to a region that has again filled my heart and mind with lasting images of meditative goodness as a result of this unforgettable travel experience. Namaste.

In Pacific Coast landscape my heart longs for more, as there’s will to seek solace along desolate shore. As west winds flow so freely like trains from the sky, pay heed to young surfer for his wave lifting high. With eons of stones perhaps I’ll strike gold, yet just one tiny pebble can trigger my life changing mold. Let’s trod a path down cliff steeply to find pure nature’s thrill, and caress unspoiled beach in spite of dusk chill. These dizzying curves that I drive mindfully in motion, strike firm will to return, thus fullfilling my west coast emotion.

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Strong Touch Of Earth Day Spirit

“In nature, nothing exists alone.”(Rachel Carson, 1962)

It’s Earth Day again for Ruth and I on our third, extended road trip stay in close proximity to the Central California coastline. Unsurprisingly, our attendance at a Sunday Earth Day Festival on a blue sky filled, sunny afternoon at Cambria would offer strong evidence of how this region strongly respects Earth Day initiatives of enhanced environmental awareness, endangered animal protection, and the sustainable resource use on earth. Thus gathering my thoughts from this event and our most recent excursions throughout Central Coast California, the following self made video and photographic display in the ensuing paragraphs thus attempt to reveal to my readers the critical need to support such Earth Day initiatives.

At Limekiln State Park along the Pacific Coast Highway, we hiked amidst primarily second growth Redwood trees to the remnants of large kilns. The entire Redwood forest here was once cut and burned in the late 1800s in these stone ovens to make way for lime and wood exporting operations. More recently downed trees that we observed on our walk had been ravaged by climate change and uncontrolled fire.

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Thousands of elephant seals migrate to the Beach rookery near San Simeon, California. Walking along the boardwalk to gawk at these amusing creatures, we learned how humans once hunted their blubber for their oil to the brink of extinction. Now protected as a species, these endangered marine animals today face recent threats from invasive human contact and ocean affected, climate change.

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The Thursday night Farmers Market in downtown San Luis Obispo tantalized our taste buds with a large display of locally grown, fresh fruit and vegetables. With great interest, we also learned that such California produce sold here would most likely be grown pesticide free. In fact, the state of California has recently moved strongly to ban consumer sales of food products exposed to poisonous pesticide spraying. Where does your state stand here?

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Who would have thought that a local shop, “Beads By  The Bay” in Morro Bay would house a sunlit, outdoor cove in the back of the store filled with succulent organic plants, rare rock collections, and an herb shrouded fountain?  Sitting quietly amidst this treasured garden as my wife shopped for beads, I felt warmly spiritual here admiring these uplifting natural surroundings.

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Our morning outing to the Earth Day Festival at Greenspace Creekside Reserve In downtown Cambria would provide vivid evidence that Earth Day’s importance is alive and well in this environmentally activist community. As outsiders from South Florida, we enjoyed gaining a Central California perspective through informal expert discussions and acoustic guitar music about how to get involved in environmental education, advocacy, and action.

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On a personal level, I learned from this festival to become more cognizant of some simple reminders to make Earth Day an every day occurrence in my life.

Plant something to feel the healing power of nature

Let my voice be heard for environmental preservation

Volunteer/contribute donations for endangered animal protection

Buy reusable items to avoid wasteful action.

Get produce organically from a local farmer’s market

Conserve fossil fuel energy use and go solar.

Boosts of California Coastal Energy

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”(Albert Einstein)

As Ruth and I reached the midpoint of our current road trip adventure, we rejoiced in our return again to the captivating Pacific Coast shores of Central California. Beginning with a three day slowdown in “surftown” Santa Cruz, we would slowly make our way south along steep cliff-side curves of the famed “Pacific Coast Highway” to quaint Cambria for a well needed, ten day respite from the daily rigors of road road travel.

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Would you like to feel suddenly calmer and more contented now? Notice then the positive energy emanating in the following photographs as we immersed ourselves into the stunning natural beauty of our coastal shore visit. Feel the cool bark of my spontaneous hug of an ancient Redwood tree that so proudly lives on for centuries in a densely primeval forest. Savor the smooth textures of a colorfully interesting rock that we patiently examine on a secluded beach. Walk daringly with us along a steep, roadside cliff for a better view of the mountainside plunge to the aqua blue ocean below. Feel the rush of cool air as we stand silently amidst a beautiful cascade of rushing waterfalls.

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In beach touristy Santa Cruz, a three day stay at a cozy cottage close by our longtime friends Bobbi and John would first spark carefree visions of adolescent freedom and innocent play” in the late 1960s. A touristic jaunt around town, however, would spark more serious interest in the town’s illustrious historical past.

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We first entered the Pacific Coast Highway from the north as the nightly fog invitingly began to lift in mid morning. Stopping frequently at bridge turnoffs, we savored for over twenty miles the stunning views of cliffside coves along the sea on our right.

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At the midpoint of our PCH drive near mile marker twenty five, we stopped at the “Redwood” shrouded town of Big Sur for lunch at the Ripplewood Resort Cafe. A curious bit of rock hunting and bird watching here then would captivate our attention here.

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Two miles south of Big Sur, we entered Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Here we were greeted by a wild turkey as we began an easy, two mile hike along the River Gorge Trail. Notably making our way alongside this gentle stream, we passed an old Homestead Cabin. Reaching the Trail terminus at the base of the gorge, I admired the attraction of fluttering butterflies amidst this bubbling calmness.

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Passing the oasis rest stops of Lucia and Gorda, the forty nine mile drive to Ragged Point became more noticeably steep and winding. Spring flowers blooming prolifically along this road stretch above the aqua blue sea thus revealed endless photo opportunities.

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While immensely enjoying the challenging drive of the PCH today, the late afternoon arrival at our Air B&B lodging in Cambria brought us a welcoming calmness.

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“Here & Now” Welcome By The Bay

DThe Bay Area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I’m here.” —(Billy Graham)

“Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every house a poem, every dweller within immortal. This is the whole truth.” (William Saroyan)

It’s easy to feel lost in the cool fogginess of the San Francisco Bay Area. Compounding one’s confusion, the gridlocked traffic entering and leaving along bridges and mountainside towns can further discourage one’s touristic enjoyment. In spite of these uncontrollable obstacles, the natural beauties , historical landmarks, and cultural vitalities of this region would unmistakably serve for Ruth and I as a captivating series of now moment “highs” during days 30-36 of our spring road trip. With seemingly little time to write on each action-filled day, I resigned to take a break from blogging for one week to allot more time to capture S.F. sensory stimulations enhanced by way of photography. Enjoy the following presentation as expressed in various categories of personal interest.

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OPENING WEEKEND BASEBALL SERIES – ORACLE PARK

While the current San Francisco Giants presently are not performing well on the field, we relished the opportunity to purchase two affordable tickets behind home plate on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon. In fact, this slow moving pitching duel on the field seemed somewhat secondary to the historic designs of the ballpark as well as the beautiful panorama of the surrounding bay and downtown skyline from our seats.

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MAKING TIME FOR S.F. COMPANIONSHIP

We enjoyed a relaxing day with our close friend Dan, who lives quietly with his two dogs at his “artsy” downtown apartment along a steep hill. Stepping curiously into his patio, I witnessed fantastic views of the distant bay and surrounding downtown skyline. We then accompanied Dan for a relaxing lunch at the popular indoor mall at the historic Ferry Building nearby Embarcadero Plaza. Strolling further along this Eastern waterfront shoreline, I gained a historically authentic sense of S.F. “then and now”.

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A HISTORIC ENIGMA OF DIVERSITY AT ANGEL ISLAND

Opting to skip popular Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay on this vacation, we instead hopped a short ferry ride from Tiburon harbor to remote Angel Island. From the State Park Visitor Center a rigorous uphill walk led us to the old U.S. Immigration Station. Functioning as a west coast version of N.Y.’s Ellis Island, thousands of immigrants entered the United States here from 1910-1940. Our brief tour of this facility, would offer an authentic look at the harsh treatment of Chinese families in particular, who were detained here indefinitely in cold and cramped barracks then. A closer look at walls inscribed with detainee poems of desperation provided further evidence of of this sadly racist era in America history.

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CULINARY DELIGHTS FILL THE SHORELINE AIR

The open air atmosphere of food offerings along Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 41 provided a tantalizing opportunity to satisfy our sensory induced appetite to our heart’s content.

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A CREATIVE IMPULSE TO FEEL JAZZ GROOVE

On the other side of the Bay at refurbished Jack London Square in Oakland, Yoshi’s provides a classy scene of live jazz. Hearing the Tommy Igoe Big Band perform brilliantly the classic hits of legendary drummer, Buddy Rich would thus provide an excitably memorable moment in our Bay Area visit.

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A FITTING TIME TO FEEL SENTIMENTAL IN S.F.

My wife and I celebrated our newly joined marriage in December, 1974 at the Hyatt Regency, San Francisco on Embarcadero Square. A brief revisit to this honeymoon hotel with our friend Dan would provide vivid memories to share with him of those loving times.

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The Art Of Road Tripping

“I’d been to California once or twice, been all over the East Coast, but I didn’t really know the country in between. So, my goal was to really see America. And that was the frame for the journey. It was the first great journey of my life and it was the most important experience of my life in terms of shaping who I am.” (Josh Foer, Atlas Obscura, 4/3/19)

No matter what age you are, the experience of embarking on an American road trip can significantly help you embrace living life to its fullest . In our country today, busy people receive their daily fix of news from either television or the internet. Why not sample authentic America from different regions of our country for yourself this year? As I embrace the bright awakenings of springtime with my wife on our present nationwide road trip, consider the following personal questions.

(1) To what extent are Americans so divided as politicians say they are?

(2) Am I so different from those who are portrayed as opposed to my point of views?

(3) Does the immigration issue really call for building more walls in this country?

(4) What new friends made on social media can you meet face to face on road trip visits?

(5) How will your exposure to the stillness of wide open spaces in the American West impact your present state of mind?

(6) If you realized you had only a short time to live, how might a cross country road trip impact your end of life, spiritual understandings?

Perhaps the road trip artistry expressed in a 2003 poem by the late Kurt Brown might inspire you to “move the needle” for seeing for yourself, your own version of the American dream.

“The new road runs along the old road. I can see it
still imprinted on the earth, not twenty feet away
as I drive west past silos and farmsteads, fruit stands and hogs.”

“Once in Kansas, I stood in a field and watched
the stars on the horizon revolve around my ankles.
People are always moving, even those standing still
because the world keeps changing around them, changing them.”

“When will the cities meet? When will they spread until
there is a single city—avenue to avenue, coast to coast?
What we call “the country” is an undeveloped area
by the side of the road. There is no “country,” there is no “road.”

“It’s one big National Park, no longer the wilderness it was.But the old world exists under the present world
the way an original painting exists under a newer one.
The animals know: their ancient, invisible trails cross
and re-cross our own like scars that have healed long ago.Their country is not our country but another place altogether.”

“Anything of importance there comes out of the sky.
In Amarillo the wind tries to erase everything, even the future. It swoops down to scrape the desert clean as a scapula.”

Other Reference:

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/road-trip

Endless Detention In Hell

OLD IDAHO PENITENTIARY OVERVIEW

“Between 1872 and 1973, this infamous prison would house over 13,000 “most wanted” inmates behind these Boise sandstone walls. Constructed in large part by inmate labor, it stood as a chilling reminder of Idaho’s “Wild West” past. The sandstone that formed its walls was a plentiful and inexpensive building material, but it also intensified the temperatures inside the cells. In the hot Boise summers, the sandstone retained the heat, creating a stifling oven effect; in winter, the walls held the bitter cold, chilling the prisoners for months.” (Travel Channel)

MY TOURIST IMPRESSIONS

Prisons typically present a relatively pleasant presence for me. I have sailed the picturesque cruise route from San Francisco Wharf and been captivated by spell-bounding stories of prisoners residing in the cold iron cells of Alcatraz Island. I’ve enjoyed hillside camping strangely abutting the heavily walled Men’s Penal Colony in San Luis Obispo, California. On our present road trip, I will soon leisurely slow my vehicle to admire the castle- like prominence of San Quentin Penitentiary overlooking beautiful San Francisco Bay.

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Thus it seems apparent that I would be equally contented to complete a self guided tour of the “Old Idaho Penitentiary” in Boise, Idaho on day 27 of our road trip. Notably however, my two hour visit here would surprisingly become more than a routine tourist visit as it provided a repulsing wake up call against the arguable inhumanity of prisoner mistreatment that occurred here in the past. The photographs below thus depict an authentic look at this nightmarish legacy of “Old Idaho Penitentiary” history.

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From the outside, the sturdy exterior of the prison compound seems relatively calm. It’s pastoral hillside location seemed more reminiscent of a park than a prison. As teenagers flocked innocently to the entrance, I wondered how well they would emotionally cope with the brutality of prison exposure  during their visit.

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Horse thieves, moonshiners, bank robbers, and assassins alike all called this penitentiary home. For the prisoners below, death row and public execution here became their ultimate fate.

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Walking silently through double tiered, cell house rows, I cringed at the daily reality of oppressive rules and inmate living conditions inside these prison walls. For those fortunate inmates who obediently behaved, I observed a strictly scheduled, daily routine included work duties, mealtimes, and limited free time privileges.

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The solitary confinement building known unfortunately as “Siberia” punished those for months  who broke prison rules. Stepping hesitantly into one of these dark cells, I felt nervously entombed in this cramped and dirty chamber.

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Heading toward the gallows room, where public hangings once took place, I noted the cold, mechanical efficiency of this trap door apparatus. How odd that prisoner executions also took place in the pleasant atmosphere of the prison rose garden.

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The normalized presence of contraband weapons and freakish inmate tattoos provided an eerie atmosphere for “love of violence”that pervaded throughout my visit to this prison.

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Magnificent Mesa Moments

“Capitol Reef is filled with geology that takes shape, color, and dimension to a level beyond comprehension.” (Stefanie Payne, A Year in the National Parks: The Greatest American Road Trip)

Upon leaving snowy Steamboat Springs as week three of our roadtrip began, Ruth and I veered southwest into the barren canyon lands of Southern Utah. While the village of Moab would have made an ideal location off the Interstate Highway to plan suitable hikes in popular Arches- Canyonlands National Park, we instead opted for a high desert path along smaller roads for a two day stay in tiny Torrey, the gateway town for Capitol Reef National Park- Goblin Valley State Park further west. Amidst this visually captivating land of towering cliffs, massive domes/arches and twisting canyons, an amazing showcase of photographic images would soon unfold from our motel location and on day hike adventures.

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Stepping out into the frigid, 27 degrees air, to begin our 1st day explorations, a massive line of red rock mesas gained my immediate attention. Crossing the street for breakfast, a pair of wooly llamas invited me closer for a friendly pet on the neck.

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Entering the west entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, the aptly named attractions of Chimney/Cathedral Rocks soon caught our attention.

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At the Castle landmark, Ruth and I climbed a steep hill for a panoramic view of our rugged surrounding. At the top, we posed proudly by a lonely tree stump.

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Entering the long abandoned village of Fruita, restored remnants of an 1880s Mormon Community living there along the Fremont River remained at the one room schoolhouse and Gifford House store.

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Further east, intricate petroglyph carvings of ancient Indian settlements along steep canyon walls caught our attention. Opposite these cliffs, a herd of mule deer grazed cautiously nearby our human presence.

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In the 1st day afternoon, an eight mile scenic drive offered a breathtaking backcountry view of the park. Alongside this well appreciated paved road, multilayered walls surrounding us drew eerily closer. At Capitol Gorge, we then envisioned how the original pioneers in the late 1800s crossed through these narrows under more austere conditions.

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On day two of our southern Utah visit, Goblin Valley State Park   provided a strange encounter with mushroom gnome, rock formations providing visions of a childish playground in this harsh desert environment.

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Having fun here would not happen easily here,however, as we hiked the Carmel Canyon Trail, a steeply narrow maze of directional confusion for our east coast, “life of ease” mindset.

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Savoring Steamboat Silence

“ The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” (Ram Dass)

The experience of inner silence can be a difficult concept to grasp when you live a continually busy life in South Florida as we do. Fortunately, Ruth and I have long found remote Steamboat Springs, Colorado, nestled quietly amidst the Rocky Mountains, to be an ideal vacation respite for calming our most active minds. On our late March visit to Steamboat on days 17-20 of our road trip, we particularly savored a much needed slowdown here from our challengingly long days of driving. Being inspired at first by the the utter stillness of winter here outside our motel window, we proceeded to find additional opportunities on this visit to “zone in” quietly. In observing the following photographs, you thus might imagine the meditative silence we experienced on this visit.

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After settling in at our favorite motel, Steamboat Mountain Lodge, our room offered stunning views of a mountainside, winter wonderland. Opening the window, a meditating calmness of steadily dripping icicles and crackling snow dampened our urge to turn on the television then. Additional calmness settled in as we listened to the shrill whistle of approaching trains and the frantic calls of migrating Sandhill Cranes.

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On our second morning we took a leisurely walk along the Yampa River Core Trail. Following a winding trail lined with towering snowpacks, our senses embraced nature’s slowdown in the dead silence of winter. Taking a closer look for subtle signs of springtime awakening, steady river flows and occasional bird sightings would further relax our mind.

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Looking for a suitable excursion, the next day we would drive a lonely county road north to Steamboat Lake Park. Along the way, we noted the welcoming appearance of snow whitened farm houses/adjacent pastures, and slow oozing brooks reminiscent of a seasonal Hallmark Holiday card. Even the cows hovering contentedly in the fields seemed unaffected by the perpetual cold.

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At Steamboat Park, we then found snowshoeing to be a relaxing way to spend our second morning. By observing my breath rise and fall as I walked slowly alongside my wife on the snow packed path, such meditative calmness helped me to more confidently keep my balance as needed. For a fittingly serene encore, we then enjoyed stunning panoramas of the mountains over lunch from rocking chairs at the park visitor center.

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As an isolated western town, Steamboat Springs seems surprisingly cosmopolitan in cultural awareness. Thus the Steamboat Library’s weekly film showing, “Mantra: Sounds Into Silence “ on day three of our visit would offer us an engaging look at Buddhistic chanting as a new way to find “inner peace and enhance our yoga practice meditation in the future.

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Great Plains Obstacle Therapy

“Then I discovered the prairie, and a slow healing began.”(Stephen R. Jones, The Last Prairie , 2000)

As we crossed the Great Plains of Nebraska and N.E. Colorado on days 13-15 of our road trip, I envisioned those hardships faced by west seeking pioneers crossing the Oregon Trail by foot and wagon during the mid 19th century. The seemingly endless void of grassy flatlands here seemingly offered little relief from the boredom experienced by the monotonous dust filled paths ahead. Extreme winter chills, hostile Indian raids and treacherous river crossings further dampened their spirits then. Yet clearly they must have enjoyed a strong sense of adventure in traversing the Great Plains environs. These wide open spaces no doubt “cleansed the soul” as well for many at times as they pondered life’s unknowns under such hazardous conditions.

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Ruth and I too sought ways to pass the time positively along this vast prairie on these long days of travel. Yet our late March visit happened as winter’s snow thaw brought serious flooding adjacent to the North Platte River. Resultant interstate highway closures and mud filled side roads required finding alternatives routes to reach our intended destinations while far and fewer rest stops meant gauging our driving times more mindfully. Feeling thus much like that modern day pioneer in such times of crisis, the Great Plains provided a similar incentive to seek self enlightening therapy in this region to fill our inner souls.

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Birdwatching brought captivating moments on our spring visit as flying sandhill cranes and other avian species flocked to watersheds in Central Nebraska then.

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A college baseball game slowed our busy minds on a frigid night as we conversed happily with close friends.

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An interesting exhibit, “Prairies To Peaks”, at the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska exhilarated our emotions as we observed colorful landscape paintings of a local artist in residence, Erin Jones Graf.

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As our arduous path of the prairie ended at Fort Collins, Colorado, we experienced a new sense of adventure at a first sighting of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

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“ Great War” On Full Display

“We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led
It seems to to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies”
(Moina Michael – 1915 Poem – Response To “In Flanders Field” )

As a former history teacher, I am always eager to restudy the past firsthand in my travels. Clearly, the National World War I Museum and Memorial would thus satisfy my “authentic history” standard on an afternoon visit to Kansas City, Missouri on day twelve of our road trip. For my two hour tour of its west and east galleries would well document the destructive horrors this 1914- 1919 conflict in a personalized manner. An audio tour headset proved practical on this visit as well as I listened intently to each numbered exhibit along the way. Other gems of this museum included Memory Hall and a panoramic look at greater Kansas City along the outdoor patio walls. Take a look at my favorite photos below.

The architecture of the museum and surrounding grounds provided an impressive visual display.

Amassing support for a wartime effort required powerful propaganda efforts.

Millions of lives were lost in the stalemate of trench warfare along the Western European battle line.

New weapons of modern warfare brought mass casualties on the battlefield.

Here are some memorable quotes about the nightmares of war that filled the galleries.

Notice the map/mural studded walls of war torn Europe along Memory Hall.

Our captivating view of Kansas City from the patio balcony on this frigid afternoon.

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After our museum visit, my wife and I enjoyed a birthday feast at nearby Jack Stacks Barbecue – Freight House.