We have been married for over 52 years and the focus of our long-term relationship has been the joy of traveling.

With this web site we intend to attempt to spread that joy as well as give useful travel tips and provide useful resources.

We want to encourage you to see the world, especially the U.S. of A. from behind the steering wheel of an automobile. 

The true joy of traveling comes from seeing the country and meeting people along the way. This best way to do this is the open road.

Stay tuned

Jim & Louise

July 2022

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Places we have been 2018 to 2023 according to Google Maps.

Table of Contents

Kansas Spring Tour - May 3-5, 2024

We took a little weekend road trip through the scenic Flint Hills of Kansas the first weekend in May. The first stop was the Pioneer Bluffs Ranch near Matfield Green. The farm/ranch was founded in 1859 before Kansas was a state. It remained in the same family until it became a National Historic Site. The restored house and barn are now used as a venue for weddings and other events as well as historical displays.

We were able to spend much of the afternoon on Friday with some new friends at their beautiful ranch in Chase County. After touring the ranch in John Deere Gators and visiting with their horses, we headed into Cottonwood Falls to check into our room at the historic Grand Central Hotel and for a wonderful dinner at the hotel. We then walked across the street to Prairie Past Times which hosts a twice monthly jam session. Jim joined in and did a few songs with the regulars.

On Saturday we drove to McPherson College for their annual car show. McPherson College is the only college in the United States that offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Restoration. The school had a big audacious goal of entering a car in the Pebble Peach Concours d’elegance. Pebble Beach is the premier classic car show in the world. McPherson’s student-built 1953 Mercedes Benz 300C Cabriolet not only was accepted but got second in class. This is like a small college football team playing in the Super Bowl and almost winning. There were plenty of other amazing cars at the McPherson show as well. Louise even got to spend time with a 1949 Chevrolet identical to the one she had in high school and college.

We drove to Wichita from McPherson to check into another historic hotel, The Hotel at Old Town which started life a century ago as a Keen Kutter distribution center. We walked across the street to the Mosely Street Melodrama for dinner and the show.

Sunday was church at Life Church West Wichita and then we joined the Kansas Bluegrass Association jam session at Damm Music Center before heading home.

Folk Alliance International - February 21-25, 2024

The Folk Alliance International is the world’s largest gathering of folk musicians, songwriters, and industry professionals. Two thousand people attended this year’s conference at The Crown Center in Kansas City Missouri.

“Folk” is a catchall phase that includes a wide variety of music from Blues to Bluegrass and international music from all over the world. The word “folk” means “people,” so any music of the people would qualify.

The daytime meetings are generally educational in nature with evenings being reserved for showcases and concerts of a wide variety. The talent on display is amazing, with people of all ages and ethnic groups from several countries.

I hope these photographs will give you an idea of the scope of the event.

Left – Noel Paul Stookey from the group “Peter Paul and Mary.” Right – Jim Mathis

West Coast Road Trip & Blues Cruise - October 21 -November 13, 2023

We left Kanas City Saturday morning, October 21 around 7:30 AM. We stopped in Kingman, KS for lunch at Jeri’s Kitchen on Main Street before heading on to Dalhart Texas to the Holiday Inn Express. We arrived in time for the K-State TCU football game which K-State won handily. We had dinner in the room.

It was almost exactly 50 years ago that we made our first west coast road trip in 1973. We had a brand new 1973 Saab 99LE. Our current car, a 2020 Volkswagen Arteon is remarkably better in every way.

Sunday, October 22, 2023, we drove down US 54 to hit I-40 at Tucumcari, NM where we stopped for gas. The first pit stop was at Clines Corner, where we did some shopping and Louise bought a beautiful new top.  Lunch was at The Church Street Café in Old Town Albuquerque. The restaurant is in a building thought to be the oldest structure in Albuquerque, built around 1706.

We then drove on to Gallup, NM, the Indian Capital of the world. The scenery between Albuquerque and Gallup is amazing.  We stayed at the El Rancho Hotel which is famous because of all of the movie stars that have stayed there. Gallup has been the site of dozens of old movies, especially westerns because of the scenery and landscape. We stayed in the Katherine Hepburn room. We don’t know if it was a room she stayed in, or if the rooms are just named after people who have stayed at the hotel. It is a beautiful old hotel.

We drove the beautiful windy mountain road from Flagstaff down to Sedona where we had lunch. Then on to Prescott where we stayed at another historical hotel, the Hassayampa Inn. A walk around town reminded us of why we wanted to visit Prescott in the first place with its many historic buildings, cafes, beautiful shops, and galleries. We had dinner at The Palace which is one of the oldest restaurants in Arizona. It has been restored to the way it looked in 1877.

We have now eaten at the oldest restaurant in Kansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, and probably South Carolina, New Mexico, and Arizona. We may not make it to the oldest restaurant in every state. We should have started sooner.

We made it to San Diego Tuesday afternoon after a leisurely 4-day drive. We drove mostly 2-lane roads, not because I like 2 lanes, but because some of the places we wanted to see are not on the Interstate.

The impression is that this is a huge and mostly uninhabited country. We saw sand dunes, vineyards, mountains, streams, and lots of cactus. We had to stop twice while road crews cleared falling rocks from the road. Lots of cool stuff if you ger off the main highways.

Wednesday, we visited the San Diego Maritime Museum. It is considered the largest maritime museum in the world with a number of ships from the 18th to the 20th century. The harbor tour on the 1914 boat “The Pilot” was very enjoyable. Lunch was at the Portside Pier.

Thursday evening we drove to Coronado Island to watch the sunset over the Pacific and walk around the Del Coronado Hotel. It was a wonderful walk with some great views of the beach.

The main point of the trip was the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. This was the second Blues Cruise we had taken and as expected, it was seven days of all blues all of the time. A great time.

We took a day trip to Puerto Vallarta.

The main stop was a Tequila factory where we saw a traditional Mexican Fiest of dancers, rope tricks and an amazing dancing horse. The dancers were the highlight.

After lunch we went downtown where the city was celebrating Dia de los Muertos – The day of the dead. This is sort of like Memorial Day and Halloween combined. The streets were lined with displays honoring the dead and reminding all of us that someday we will join them. There is a whole culture artform reminding people that our time is short and to make the most of it.

Interestingly, there are more Americans immigrating to Mexico than Mexicans to the U.S. Possibly because of the weather and lower cost of living.

The final destination of this trip was the International Western Music Association Convention in Albuquerque, NM. It was four days of cowboy culture and music. We met a lot of interesting people and made some new friends.

This was the longest trip we have taken so far – 24 days on the road. This is a beautiful country full of wonderful people. My best advice is to turn off the TV and get in the car and drive. You will never regret it.

And enjoy some good coffee and great food along the way. This is N’Cahoots Coffee in Pratt, Kansas – a must stop.

Cottonwood Falls, Kansas - October 6-7, 2023

On Friday & Saturday, October 6 & 7, 2023, we made the short 117-mile drive down I-35 to heart of the Flint Hills to Cottonwood Falls, Kansas to help the county celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Chase County Court House. It was completed in 1873 and is the oldest continuously operated courthouse in Kansas. It is a gorgeous building that is always referred to as feminine, as in “she is a grand old lady.”

I heard about the celebration through my association with the Kansas Western Music Association. One of the members, Annie Wilson, is on the Cottonwood Falls committee. With just a little investigation we found the Grand Central Hotel, a historic hotel in the middle of town which also houses the only fine dining restaurant in the county and possible for several counties. We made reservations for two nights and two dinners.

After dinner we walked across the street to an antique mall that hosts a regular jam session. I took my Dobro and set in, not knowing what to expect. About half a dozen of us played for two and a half hours with an audience of about 40-50 people. It was great fun. The next day at least a half dozen people stopped me on the street and said how much they enjoyed my playing and singing. That has never happened before. I am beginning to like Chase County.

Saturday morning, we had a tour of the courthouse and visited some shops and a had coffee at HeBrews Coffee, which is part of a church, H20 Church.tv, right on the main street. The afternoon was filled with music supplied by local bands, The Jess Dean Band, Kim Coslett, Tallgrass Express, and Weba Skirts, all of which were great. Annie Wilson’s band, The Tallgrass Express, did primarily original songs about Kansas and the prairie. We loved it.

The headline artist was Michael Martin Murphy. We have seen Murphy at least three times spanning the different phases of his career, starting fifty years ago in 1973. He has gone from folk singer to country, and then to western and cowboy songs which he was doing at WestFest in Colorado where we saw him several years in the early 1990’s. That was probably his prime time. He did a few songs from each of these phases of his career.

Walnut Valley Festival - Winfield, Kansas - September 14-17, 2023

On September 14-17, 2023 we headed down I-35 for our trek to the 51st Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. The Winfield festival is generally thought of as a Bluegrass festival, but it actually honors all types of acoustic music. In addition to Bluegrass there are plenty of singer/songwriters, Celtic music, western/cowboy groups and blues. We heard songs written by Bo Diddley and Stevie Ray Vaughn, as well songs from a wide variety of songwriters. Roots music or Americana are better catch-all descriptions of this gathering

Bluegrass is a subset genre of country music, but since that day in December 1945 when Bill Monroe exploded on the scene, Country and Bluegrass have gone their separate ways. Monroe showed up at the Grand Ole Opry with a new band doing high energy versions of traditional songs at high speed and in higher than traditional keys and a new genre was born. He got six ovations that first night. Nobody had heard anything like it before.

It was at the Walnut Valley Festival in 1976 that I bought my Dobro. I’ve been carrying it around, playing every chance I get since then. Because of that one of my favorite entertainers was Rob Ickes. Rob has been named the Dobro player of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association of the year 15 times. I was mesmerized as he played with his music partner Trey Hensley. Trey is considered one of the greatest guitar players on the planet. Rob and Trey may actually be from another planet altogether.

Bluegrass is unusual in that it crosses all generations, not only on the stage but in the audience. Bluegrass musicians come in all ages and all shapes and sizes. The same is true of the fans.

The Walnut Valley Festival is unusual in that there are four main stages that each has music 15 hours of a day during the festival. Plus there are another half dozen or so smaller stages that run pretty much around the clock on the fairground and in the campgrounds.

If you have never been to The Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield the third weekend of September, it needs to be in your travel plans.

Here are some photographs that will give you an idea of what the excitement is all about and why so many families make it one of their most memorable traditions.

Nashville, May 28 - June 4, 2023

We left Kansas City at 7:45 Sunday morning, May 28. After lunch at a Burger King in Wentzville MO, we arrived in Goodlettsville, TN around 6:00 PM, tired and ready for dinner. After checking into the Holiday Inn Express, we walked across the street to The Cracker Barrel for some grilled chicken nuggets. This is the fourth time this year that we have stayed at this same Holiday Inn. We decided that 571 miles was about far enough to drive for one day.

Monday, May 29, Memorial Day.

We have been to Nashville a few dozen times, but there is always something new to do. The main thing for today was the Country Music Hall of Fame. We always enjoy the exhibits, especially the instruments and memorabilia from the country stars of the past. There are also special exhibits going on. The big one this time was “The Western Edge,” which is a two year long exhibit about Los Angeles country music and the Bakersfield – west coast influence on country music. This includes everything from The Maddox Brothers and Rose to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard to the Eagles. Since I have been listening to “The Bakersfield Beat” on Sirius XM radio for a few years, I was very aware of this music and its influence.

After the Hall of Fame we toured the RCA Studio B. This is a recording studio built in the 1950’s and is famous for all of the recording stars that recorded here. It is mostly associated with Elvis Presley. We got back to the Country Music Hall of Fame in time to do some shopping in the gift store and head out to Centennial Park to visit the only actual size replica of the Parthenon. It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee centennial and house and art museum.

From there we went to 3rd and Lindsey. This is both the name and address of a club that has good food and live music. For the past twenty years, The Time Jumpers have played there most Monday nights. The Time Jumpers are an all-star band made up with session players and Hall of Fame Musicians, the best of the best. Needless to say, they have to be one of the best bands ever. They were amazing. The reason you may not have heard of them is that they do not record under that name nor do they ever tour as a group.

Tuesday, May 30

The first stop Tuesday was to visit and pay tribute to Johnny & June. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash are in Hendersonville Memory Gardens along with Mother Maybelle Carter, Anita Carter, Joe and Rose Lee Maphis and a large number of other singers, musicians, and songwriters. It was a beautiful morning for a cemetery visit.

We then drove downtown to hit a few music stores, but first we stopped at Sky Blue Café on the east side. After our usual morning lattes, we found Fanny’s House of Music in an old house converted to a music store. Lots of new and vintage instruments of kinds were throughout a number of small rooms.  Sky Blue Café and Fanny’s are in a lovely older, funky part of town with lots of cool older homes.

By then it was time for some hot chicken at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken on 8th Avenue South. Nashville is famous for a number of things and the extra spicy chicken is one. Louise had the mild and Jim had medium hot, and they were both plenty spicy.

The next stop was just up the street to Gruhn’s Guitars, further up 8th Avenue to Carter’s Vintage Guitars, and a final stop at The Gibson Garage which is a Gibson retail outlet, showing virtual everything Gibson makes. We were there last year and don’t remember the beautiful collection of antique instruments including several highly ornamented guitars made by Orville Gibson in the 19th century.

Wednesday, May 31

We drove to the historic town of Franklin, TN south of Nashville. We enjoyed walking around and shopping on the town square and having coffee at Onyx & Alabaster, which is a combination design studio, home décor, and coffee house. We then drove about eight miles west to Leifer’s Fork for lunch at the Fox and Locke.

Leifer’s Fork is a very small town that is the home to many celebrities. The most famous resident is Justin Timberlake, but Chris Stapleton, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and Brad Paisley also own farms in the area.

After lunch we drove the other direction from Franklin to Arrington to visit Kix Brooks’ vineyard and winery, The Arrington Vineyards. It is a beautiful place that has live music on the weekends and plenty of outdoor picnic spaces.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The first stop was the Poindexter Coffee Shop at the Graduate Hotel on 20th Avenue. We discovered this wonderful place the last time we were on Nashville when it showed up on a list of the 10 most beautiful coffee houses in the world.

After our lattes it was time to go to the Frist Art Museum to see the exhibit, “Storied Strings – The Guitar in American Art.” It was wonderful as expected.

After lunch at “The Lost Paddy,” an Irish pub, we went down the street to the Lane Motor Museum. This is amazing collection of unique and wonderful cars, mainly from Europe but also a few one off automobiles made by American individuals with their own take on what a car should be. Lane’s has about 150 cars and trucks and quite a few motorcycles, all are very rare and highly unusual. This certainly is one of the most unique motor museums anywhere, and we have seen most of the automobile museums in the U.S. and Europe.

Thursday through Sunday was the Nashville Dobro Camp. This was a great opportunity to learn and increase my musical skills, especially on the Dobro. It was a great time.

McPherson College, 23rd Annual Motoring Festival - May 6, 2023

McPherson College offers the only four-year bachelor’s degree in Automotive Restoration in The U.S. with five different areas of specialization. The college has a beautiful series of shops for bodywork, metal work, upholstery, and engine work.

The college sponsors an annual auto show featuring a wide variety of cars and trucks from rat-rods to Ferraris and one-off concept cars.

The 23rd Annual Motoring Festival, May 6, 2023 featured an amazing array of cars.

Southeast Road Trip - Charleston - Savannah - Amelia Island - February 24 to March 8, 2023

Saturday, Feb 25, 2023

We arrived in Charleston, South Carolina Saturday evening, February 25, after a 1100 mile two-day drive from Kansas City. The first stop was the Mill Street Tavern and Grill in Mt Pleasant near our hotel for the first of several wonderful fresh seafood meals.

Sunday, Feb 26, we drove to downtown Charleston and spent some time at the Charleston City Market and walked around the historic district. Charleston is 300-year-old town which made its wealth from the slave trade in colonial days. It is sometimes called The Holy City, because of the large number of churches. One of the most famous is Emmanuel AME, sometimes called Mother Emmanuel. Founded in 1817, Emanuel AME is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States. This, the first independent black denomination in the United States, was founded in 1816 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

We had lunch at Hyman’s Seafood. It is often considered the best seafood restaurant in the US and has been in the same location for 121 years. It is one of the best and certainly the oldest one that we have eaten at.

After lunch we drove out to Boone Hall Plantation. We took the farm tour, the house tour, and listened to a wonderful presentation about the Gullah culture. This is the black culture that has developed along the east coast low country and includes food, music, and even its own language and dialect.

At Boone Hall we learned a lot about slavery conditions and life on plantations and after slavery ended as well. After emancipation, about a third of the slaves remained on the farms working as paid laborers. The Civil War brought the end to legalized slavery, but only marginally improved living conditions for black people, because after the 1870’s, southern states enacted laws that forced black people into continued subservient conditions.

The civil rights legislation of 1965 brought significant legal improvements, but there is still a minority of people who want to continually keep people of color down.

Monday, Feb 27.

We took the ferry from Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter was built after the War of 1812 to protect the Charleston Harbor from foreign invasion. Little did they know that the attacks would come from the other side, from Charleston itself. As soon as President Lincoln was elected President of the United States with a campaign promising to eliminate slavery, South Carolina seceded from the Union, the first state to do so. Within a few months, the South Carolina Militia attacked Ft Sumter forcing its evacuation and officially beginning The Civil War. The lowering of the US flag at Ft Sumter in 1861 and the raising it again in 1865 marked the beginning and ending of the US Civil War.

After returning to Charleston, we drove out to Isle of Palms, SC for another great lunch of seafood, this time at a beach café called Coconut Joe’s Beach Grill, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There is something about spending most of our time on the edge of the prairie that makes eating Mahi Mahi while overlooking the ocean seem particularly exotic. Whether it is at Paradise Cove in Malibu California or Coconut Joe’s in Isle of Palms South Carolina, it is still pretty cool.

Tuesday, Feb 28

The first stop was the famous Pineapple Fountain on the Charleston waterfront. We then drove to Savannah, Georgia by way of Beaufort, SC. Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina after Charleston. It was founded in 1711. Like Charleston the city became wealthy in colonial times through the cotton trade built on the backs of slaves. As expected, the possibility of slavery being abolished in the period leading up to the Civil War was a serious threat to a long-term way of life and wealth. The fact that owning people and forcing them to work long hours, under difficult conditions, without pay, was immoral was hard for them to accept. The residual effects are still around. We have been listening closely to determine the current attitudes. Most people accept slavery as a sad part of the ancient history of the area. Only a few people refuse to accept that it was part of the history or perhaps that it was even all that bad.

Today Beaufort relies on tourists, retirees, and the nearby military bases including the Marine Training Center on Parris Island.

We had a nice lunch at a waterfront café named Plums. We could sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

We drove to downtown Savannah and headed for the waterfront. We had lattes at Vic’s Coffee Bar and some amazing Green Fried Tomatoes and Crabmeat Beignets at Vic’s Grill. Vic’s is in one of a line of four-story buildings where both the first floor and the fourth floor are ground floors. The top floor faces Bay Street at the top of ridge and the bottom floor faces River Street at the bottom of the cliff. After lunch, we got on the Georgia Queen Riverboat for a river cruise. After a history lesson of Savannah’s river and waterfront which dates from early colonial days, we walked to the Owens-Thomas Historical House.

The house and slave quarters were built in 1819 as the city home of a family that owned several plantations and many enslaved people. One of the owners was George Owens who was an attorney and politician. As a member of the U.S. Congress, he sponsored many pieces of legislation that perpetuated slavery as well as the Indian Removal Act that forced the Cherokee off of their land and led to the tragedy known as The Trail of Tears. He wanted the land to expand his plantations.

After another history lesson we stopped at a 124-year-old ice cream shop called Leopold’s for a few scoops of caramel swirl.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

We drove east from Savannah about 15 miles to Tybee Island. This is an older beach community with a long beautiful beach facing the Atlantic. This has to be one of the nicest under-developed beaches anywhere. The north end of the beach is anchored by the early 19th century Tybee Lighthouse. The south beach is the commercial area with many souvenir stores, bars, and restaurants. We had lunch at Fannie’s On the Beach for another great lunch of seafood. Afterward we did some shopping and walked out onto the long fishing pier to see some fishermen snag a stingray that then got away.

Friday, March 3

We spent the morning driving down the east coast of Georgia to Amelia Island Florida. We had another ocean side lunch at The Sand Bar & Kitchen in Fernandina Beach before driving to the Ritz Carlton to check out the venue and then on to Jacksonville where we were staying.

After dinner we attended a documentary movie at the Ritz Carlton about the 1960 24 Hours of LeMans. In 1960 Briggs Cunningham sponsored three Corvettes. There was also a fourth Corvette in the race. After the race all four disappeared. Fifty years later it became the passion of several people to find the cars and take one back to LeMans for the 50th Anniversary in 2010. The three known cars were on display in the ballroom. It was also special because we had visited Briggs Cunningham’s personal collection in Costa Mesa, California about 40 years ago.

Saturday, March 4

This was the first day of the Concours. There were actually three cars shows plus three auctions on Saturday. One show was the Concours d’Lemons. This is a fun event where people exhibit the worse cars they can find. Awards are given for the worse car and other tongue-in-cheek categories such as “Soul-sucking Japanese Appliances,” “Rust Belt American Junk,” and “Not Technically a Dumpster Fire.”

Due to a rainy morning, we spent much of the day at the Broad Arrow Auction. The principal auctioneer was Lydia Fenet who was amazing and very enjoyable. Out of the 210 cars in the auction, there were a number of million dollar cars with the average selling price around $500,000. By far the most common make at the auction and the show was Porsche. Mercedes Benz and Ferraris were also out in number.

We are used to going to car shows dominated by American muscle cars and vintage pickups, so this was a refreshing change.

If you would like to see the results of the entire auction – CLICK HERE

Sunday, March 5

This was the big day at Amelia Island. The star show was the Amelia Concours d’Elegance. Hundreds of the finest cars ever made were on display on the golf course. The cars are displayed by classes with class names such as “Pre-war Race Cars,” “1950’s Customs,” “European Coachbuilt – 1930-1948” and so forth. There was clearly something for everyone interested in anything related to automobiles. We saw cars we hold only heard about, and others that we had never heard of. One car that was of particular interest was the Matford. In the 1930’s a distant relative named Emil Mathis built Fords in France under a franchise from the Ford Motor Company. They were called Matfords. He also built sports cars under his own name – Mathis. I had read about the history of the Mathis sports cars and the Matford but had never seen a Matford before this week at Amelia Island. We had seen a Mathis sports car at an auto museum in France in 1986.

Several manufacturers had displays of new cars as well including Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Porsche, Volkswagen, Shelby, and Cadillac.

What we had not expected was the tens of thousands of people. From any distance away, one cannot see any cars, just masses of people. By mid-afternoon the crowds were thinning which is when we left as well. The entire Friday through Sunday show was an amazing experience.

Monday was a drive day, but the highlight of Tuesday, March 7, was the tour of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Muscle Shoals calls itself the Hit Recording Capital of the World with 18 recording studios in the small town. More hit records have been recorded at Muscle Shoals Studio than any other studio beside Motown in Detroit. Music as diverse as The Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar” to Willie Nelson’s “Whiskey River” have been recorded there. The long list includes hundreds of well-known songs recorded in the small concrete block building at 3614 Jackson Highway. After the studio tour we had lunch at “The Swampers” a restaurant named after the house band at Muscle Shoals Studio filled with music memorabilia.

Northeast Road Trip - October 11-27, 2022

October 12, 2022

The first stop was Indianapolis. We have been to the Indy 500 twice, the first time was in 1980 and the second was in 1993. We had visited the Speedway Museum on one of those trips, so it obviously had been a long time.

Automotive legend, Roger Penske, bought the track in 2020 and is doing a lot of upgrades. The museum is well worth the visit, even if a person isn’t a race fan. We got to take a trip around the track in a bus and stand on the “Yard of Bricks” that mark the start/finish line.

October 13, 2022

The second major destination was the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Again, we had visited the Hall of Fame before, but it has been expanded since our first visit more 20 years ago. We were fortunate to be there during the special Beatles exhibit, “Let it Be.” We spent the entire day there and we are likely to return when we have a chance. The whole thing was sensory overload and it took hours for the permanent smile began to finally diminish a little from our faces.

October 14

We stopped at Niagara Falls on the way to Rochester, NY. We crossed into Canada on the Peace Bridge and drove the 10 miles or so to the falls through Ontario. There is no way to describe the magnificence of the falls, especially from the Canadian side. If you are not moved by God’s creation at Niagara Falls, you have no soul. We crossed the Rainbow Bridge back to New York.

October 15, 2022

We were in Rochester at The George Eastman House to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Kodachrome in 1986. George Eastman invented roll film and founded the Eastman Kodak Company which dominated the photography business for the entire 20th century, roughly 1888 through 2000. Since the first time we were here, the mansion has been meticulously restored and a large museum built on the back that includes a photographic art gallery as well as part of the collection of antique and special interest cameras. Many of the cameras are example of cameras that we have owned or are very familiar with during our 50 years in the photography business, so it was very enjoyable.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

We drove through Letchworth State Park enjoying the fall colors, waterfalls, beautiful scenery.

After lunch at Nickel’s BBQ in Corning we spent a few hours at the Corning Glass Museum. It is a very large and gorgeous collection of glass of all kinds made over the past 3500 years. Many of the pieces were magnificent.

Monday, October 17

We visited the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. This museum and performance center is located on the site of the Woodstock Music and Art Festival held in August 1969. Woodstock was a miracle on several counts. First the organizers were planning for 50,000 people but 450,000 showed up and a million more were stuck on the highway and never made it. Then it rained all weekend making the experience miserable from a comfort point of view. Food ran out by Saturday morning and it could have been chaos. But it wasn’t. Everybody helped each other, townspeople donated food and dry clothes, and what could have been a disaster resulted in a major life-changing experience for everyone involved. I could not help but think of the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitudes.

More than 50 years later, people are still trying to figure out how they could have so many people in such a small place without any violence or major conflicts of any kind. One obvious answer is that we reap what we sow. They changed the name of the police to “Please Officers,” had them wear jeans and red T-shirts, and prevented them from carrying guns, billy clubs, or weapons of any kind. With that appearance and attitude you get a completely different result than if the police show up with flack vests and carrying multiple weapons. This should be obvious, but we still don’t get it. We reap what we sow and get what we expect.

Also, I wonder if this could have been such a peaceful, loving event if it had been held any place else. People came from all over the United States, but most were from large eastern cities where people are used to being close together and helping one another. Further west, people tend to be more protective of their personal space and tend to be more confrontational when their comfort is challenged.

Whatever the reasons, Woodstock was a one-time event that will probably never be repeated.

October 18 Tuesday

We stopped in Nazareth PA to tour the C F Martin Guitar Factory and museum. It was extremely fascinating. Martin, along with Gibson and Fender make up the big 3 in U.S. guitar manufacturers. These three are known as the best in the world. In acoustic guitars, many people consider Martins as the best. The instruments are made with a combination of advanced machinery, robots, and much hand fitting and finishing. Martins have been made since 1833 and in Nazareth since 1835 when C.F. Martin moved his shop from New York to the rural Pennsylvania area.

Wednesday, Oct 19

Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell, and Philadelphia Old City are all within walking distance of each other. We had a great time learning about the birth of the nation, The Declaration of Independence, and the writing of the Constitution, all happened within a few blocks. We came away with a better understanding of the founding fathers intentions and thinking.

Some of the major ideas were that no one is above the law, the balance of power between the three branches of government, and working toward more perfect justice. Justice means that bad deeds are punished and good deeds are rewarded. Obviously, this is not an easy task, but the arc of history is moving toward justice, though it is not a straight line.

The Liberty Bell is a sacred relic of the nation and deserves its place of honor.

Also close are The Betsy Ross House, Elfreth’s Alley, and Reading Terminal Market.

On Thursday, October 20, we visited Valley Forge. This is where The Continental Army under the leadership of General George Washington encamped for the winter of 1777-78. The army was trained and organized from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778. They entered the summer of 1778 on the offensive and renewed confidence after receiving equipment and assistance from the French. In many ways, this marked the turning point of the war. The British surrendered in 1781.

Friday, October 21

We drove to Gettysburg by way of Hershey. Hershey is known for two things, chocolate and antique automobiles. Out first stop was the AACA Museum. (Antique Automobile Club of America) It is beautiful museum with a wide variety of cars, trucks, and buses. There are also cool exhibits on the history of headlights and various repair shops from times past.

Hershey’s Chocolate World is just what it sounds like. The world’s largest candy store pretty much sums it up.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

This was Gettysburg day. We spent most of the day at the Gettysburg National Military Park. The park commemorates the Civil War battle in July, 1863 that marked the turning point of the Civil War. This is the furthest north the Confederate Army made and were turned back the Union Army after three days of deadly battles.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

This was monuments day. It was very moving to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, The Dr Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, The WW II Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and finally the Washington National Cathedral.

The Tatte Bakery and Cafe is a required stop whether you are hungry or not. There are five locations in the D.C. area.

Monday, October 24

We visited the newly reopened Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Museum of American History. The Air and Space Museum was the most amazing. The Wright Brothers Flyer was clearly the star of the show, but space craft including lunar landers and command capsules are extremely interesting.

The History Museum included interesting exhibits about the Presidents and First Ladies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

We stopped at Fallingwater south of Pittsburgh. This is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous designs. It was built in 1938 as the weekend home for a wealthy Pittsburgh family. The home and furnishings are completely original from the original owners.

50th Walnut Valley Festival - Winfield, Kansas September 15-18, 2022

We went to the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield Kansas just a few weeks after the Earl Scruggs Festival in North Carolina so it was hard not to draw a comparison between the two. This was the 50th Walnut Valley Festival but only the first Earl Scruggs Festival, so many of the differences have to do with tradition and long-term experience.

First, the music at Winfield was every bit as good as North Carolina. Both line-ups were wonderful. There about 5 or 6 times as many people at Winfield, probably because of a 50 year history. Winfield has more stages, more performers, and better food, or at least more variety. Coupled with the fact that it is 700 miles closer to us, we are more grateful than ever to have such a wonderful event nearby.

At both events we noticed a wide variety of ages with many multi-generational families, with toddlers to grandparents enjoying the same music. We saw a lot more 10 year olds carrying banjo cases in North Carolina than in Kansas. This is largely because of J.A.M. – Junior Appalachian Musicians. This is an after-school program for students 4th through 8th grade in hundreds of school districts throughout the Appalachian Region. Students learn to play traditional instruments such as fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, Dobro, and bass plus traditional songs and harmony singing. In our area, 12 year olds are about 100 times more likely to pick up a soccer ball than they are a banjo. The opposite is true in Shelby, North Carolina or any number of other places with deep music roots or folk arts and culture.

The audience in Winfield tends to skew more toward “Old Hippie.” I don’t think this reflects the demographics of the area as much as it does the type of people in the Heartland that like traditional music. It seems that in Appalachian states like the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, traditional music is more main-stream, and attracts a more general audience.

Most people agree that Bluegrass is about the hardest genre of music there is to play. This is not only because of the technical skill required and the precision that most bluegrass bands play, but because of the feel and tone that has to come up from your toes. That is why the best Bluegrass musicians started playing when they were about eight years old. That gave them plenty of time to soak up all of the soul. After school music programs that teach traditional music assures that those skills will be passed on.

Kansas has developed a reputation as an “Arts Desert” but many people in Winfield, Wichita, Salina and other place are working hard to change that. Let’s support them all we can.

Earl Scruggs Music Festival
September 2-4, 2022 Mill Spring, North Carolina

Earl Scruggs Music Festival

When we heard that the first Earl Scruggs Music Festival was going to take place on Labor Day weekend in 2022, we looked into who was going to be performing and realized that this was something we wanted to do if we could work it out.

We reserved a hotel room at the closest hotel, the Days Inn in Columbus, North Carolina and bought the VIP Patron tickets. The step up from General Admission offered some good upgrades like nice restrooms verses Porta-potties and covered grandstand seating. Even more important was the five meals that were included and served in air-conditioned comfort. This made for a fairly luxurious experience as music festivals go.

The International Tryon Equestrian Center was an outstanding venue for this festival with its multiple stages and arenas in which to hold the event.  Restaurants on site and beautiful shops featuring horse tack and souvenirs gave the festival a very “upscale” feel.

The festival was to honor Earl Scruggs of the musical group “Flatt & Scruggs.” Earl Scruggs died in 2012, so this was a good time to remind people of his contribution to American music. His hometown is Shelby, NC just a few miles down the road. The Earl Scruggs Center has become the catalyst for a cultural and economic boom in this community and will continue to be making a great difference to the entire area.

We made the 900-mile drive from Kansas City in two easy days arriving Thursday afternoon before the Friday start day.

The music was as good as we expected. The whole weekend was a wonderful experience.

Tommy Castro & the Painkillers

Memphis - May 4-6, 2022

We were recently in Memphis to attend the Blues Music Awards Show. Memphis is an old river town, not unlike Kansas City. Also like KC, it is a very diverse city with a long history of good music and good food. We took in our share of both.

Memphis has played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement is the general term that is used to describe the hundreds of years of effort to treat all humans with dignity. As such, Memphis is great location for the National Civil Rights Museum which is built around the old Lorraine Motel. It was at the Lorraine Motel, on the balcony outside room 306, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

We were able to spend most of a day at the museum, though to really take in everything available in the city, it would take four or five days to view it well. The museum starts with the history of Africans being sold into slavery in the Americas, the horrors of 250 years and many generations of slavery and takes visitors on the long slow trip to today. The dramatic end of the tour is the motel room Dr. King was staying in when he stepped out onto the balcony where he was killed in 1968.  He had been called to Memphis to support workers in their attempt to improve working conditions.

Along the way we hear about vigilante terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan that were organized to enforce Jim Crow laws with fear and violence after the Civil War. The Jim Crow laws were a series of laws and regulations that, in effect, extended slavery from the time the federal government officially outlawed slavery in 1865 until the Civil Rights Act of 1965 forced the states to end cruel and discriminatory practices.

Those of us who grew up in the North led sheltered lives and had little idea of the types of things that were taking place just a few hundred miles to the south. We met a couple in the museum who had grown up in South Carolina during the same years we did and their story was dramatically different than ours. To a rural kid in Kansas in the 1950’s, Mississippi could have been on the moon. It was television news that kicked the civil rights movement into high gear when the whole country was able to see for themselves what was happening. We are seeing the same thing now with amateur videos bringing   brutality to our eyes in real time, sparking renewed interest and demands to treat all people with the dignity that each person needs and deserves.

This history is a vital part of who we are as a country, and we must take the next step in the right direction. We were very encouraged to see so many groups of school children in the museum.  Every American should go there to experience this story firsthand. 

We know that credit for some of the advances in civil rights must go to the songwriters, musicians and record producers in places like Sun and Stax in Memphis, Motown in Detroit, and Chess in Chicago that brought together black and white artists.  They provided an environment for creating music that made people realize that they did not care which of their favorite singers were black, white, Latino, or native. It was all just good music.

We know that progress has been made, but we look forward with hope to what is yet to come.

 

Texas- March 2022

Ft Worth Stockyards

The purpose of the trip was the Texas Steel Guitar Jamboree at the Sheraton at DFW. We have been a members of the Texas Steel Guitar Association for a few years and this is the biggest steel guitar festival in the country.

We went down a few days early for some sightseeing and barbeque. The first stop was the Ft Worth Stockyards which is a whole lot bigger deal than we expected. There are blocks of shops and restaurants and thousands of people in all kinds of getups on the street. Louise resisted getting her picture taken on top of one of the live longhorn steers standing on the sidewalk. There were also longhorns on the grills of Cadillacs and all of the other Cowtown stereotypes.

We then drove to Austin, one of our favorite towns. We are still amazed at the Western Swing dancers at the Continental Club on South Congress. We always hit the Continental Club when we go to Austin. We made a few side trips to Fredericksburg, Luckenbach, San Antonio, and the wonderful little town of Gruene and the world famous Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas. We also spent an afternoon at Magnolia in Waco, the shopping mecca created by Chip and Joanna Gaines. 

The main thing we do in Texas is listen to music and eat. Texans have the music down, but they haven’t learned to put sauce on their ribs or beans in their chili. Oh well, learning things like that is why we think it’s fun to always eat and drink local wherever we are.

West Coast Road Trip
December 2021 to January 2022

Paradise Cove, Malibu, CA

To celebrate Louise’s retirement from the insurance business and to wrap up celebrating our Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary, we decided to make an extended road trip to the West Coast.

The ultimate destination was the Pasadena Rose Parade on January 1, 2022. We decided to join the Road Scholar program which included helping to build a float, Bandfest, Floatfest, and other related educational activities. We met up with our Road Scholar group on December 28. The Rose Parade Festival was wonderful as expected.

But first was the drive to Pasadena. We stopped at the Painted Dessert and Petrified Forest National Parks, stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona in honor of the Eagles hit record, before making it to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. By staying there two days we were more likely to catch some good light, which we did.

After spending Christmas Day in Las Vegas, we drove across the dessert to Santa Barbara for a few days before driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, a steep canyon road, and having lunch on Malibu.

After the Rose Parade, we then drove to Orange County for a few days of ocean time, ferrying to Catalina, and spending a day on Balboa Island.

The road home included Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, California and the Rock and Mineral Show in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Twenty-two days on the road and 4,200 miles was a long trip. It might be called an expedition, but it was worth every dollar, and every minute.

Great Lakes Road Trip - August 14-27, 2021

Mackinac Island, MI

We left Kansas City heading north on I-35 for the start of our long-awaited Great Lakes Tour. The first half was in Wisconsin which we called “Brats and Boats” and the second half was in Michigan which we called the “Guitars and Cadillacs” section. Both names were appropriate, though we saw more Corvettes than Cadillacs in Michigan.

2700 miles of beautiful scenery, great food, and wonderful things to see.

Southwest Tour June 15-30, 2019

The plan was to go to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colorado. The first stop was the Smokey Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas. Then on to Denver, Colorado Springs, and then to Ouray and Telluride.

We came back though Alburquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. This made for a wonderful two-week loop tour.