Welcome to our BLOG. We are on our second trip west. We hope that you enjoy following us on our journey.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 61: Home

Thursday, October 28, 2010 Cloudy and 57 degrees

We were at Strong Memorial Hospital about 8 a.m. this morning. Sumana was very chirper, but Mom and Dad looked whipped. She had another CT scan to check that the new shunt was working, and everything looked great. Cheryl called earlier this evening, and Sumana is having significant pain tonight. The nurses are trying different methods to relieve it.

We were home by midafternoon. Phil tackled getting the water system operational while I began unloading the car. We were more methodical this time. We brought in one bag at a time and unpacked it before we brought in another. Much less confusion and mess. Tomorrow there'll be more unpacking and laundry, and then we'll have to wade through the box of mail. That's always the worst.

We had a wonderful time on this trip, and we felt blessed to experience so much of this amazingly diverse country. We'd been talking about a Rhine-Danube River cruise, but there's still so much more to see here that we may change our minds.

TODAY'S ROUTE: I 390S to CR 252 to CR 64 to US 5&20 and home


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 60: On the Road

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 Foggy with gradual clearing through the morning; then sunny and 67 degrees

We left the motel later than usual this morning because we waited for the fog to lift. Then it was a long haul, stopping only for gas and lunch until about 3:30 when we stopped at the Prime Outlets in Grove City, PA, to stretch our legs. Our plan was to spend the night in Erie, PA, and go on home tomorrow. However, we got a phone call from Cheryl about 5 p.m. Sumana is having shunt replacement surgery tonight. We plowed on through and are now in Henrietta, NY, tonight so we can be at the hospital early in the morning. Cheryl just called again, and Sumana is out of surgery and in recovery. Everything looks good at this point. Thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Grayson, KY, I 64E to I 79N to I 90E and Exit 46

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 59: Buffalo Trace Distillery; Toyota Motors Manufacturing Kentucky

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Cloudy in the morning; then heavy rain with high winds, and nearby tornado warnings; 77 degrees dropping to 55 degrees

Since wineries are such a presence at home, we wanted to see how distilleries compared. We drove through the countryside to Buffalo Trace Distillery near Frankfort, KY. The name comes from the path the buffalo took as they moved from the mountains to the plains for the winter. This trace was later used by explorers like Daniel Boone and by pioneers moving "west" across the Appalachian Mountains. Buffalo Trace has been operating continuously since 1797, operating during Prohibition for medicinal purposes.

The process of making Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon Whiskey begins with Kentucky and Indiana corn (now we know why we saw so many cornfields), selected rye and barley malt, fresh limestone water, and several phases of cooking, fermenting, and distilling. It is stored in oak barrels that have been charred on the inside to enhance the flavor. Then the whiskey is aged in century-old brick warehouses, and the airflow through the windows is used to control the heating, cooling, and humidity during the aging process. The whiskey is aged from 2- 23 years in the same barrel, and much is lost from evaporation through the wood as the years pass, concentrating the color and the alcohol content.

Our guide led us through the warehouses and then into the distillery where we saw the the alternating heating, cooling, and filtering processes, smelling the bourbon at each stage. We learned the proof must be adjusted to distillery standards, if necessary, during quality control and before bottling. We also watched as workers hand-bottled, capped, sealed, labeled, and boxed Blanton's Special Reserve for shipment to France. We were given rejected caps, which portray eight different positions of the jockey and horse during the Kentucky Derby, as souvenirs. The tour ended in tasting room. Straight up bourbon is mighty powerful.

This afternoon we took a tour of the Toyota Manufacturing plant in Georgetown, KY. We rode a tram through the facility as our guide gave non-stop commentary. Within 20 hours, rolls of steel and plastic resins are transformed into completed automobiles ready for a test drive on the test track. Only four hours of inventory are kept at the plant so up to 150 tractor-trailers bring in more components and raw materials every day. The cars and parts are placed on the line in the same sequence as the orders were placed by the dealers. This means a red six-cylinder Camry hybrid may be followed by a green Avalon, next to a white Venza, next to a black four-cylinder Camry, and so on. Imagine keeping all those components in order through out its entire assembly.

Workers are assigned to one of the two eight-hour shifts. They are on teams with one team leader and one team supervisor. Each person works in four different assembly areas every day. This cross-training curtails boredom and repetitive-motion injuries. When a problem occurs in one section of the assembly line, if the problem is not resolved within 54-59 seconds, the whole line is shut down until the problem is resolved. Each line has a daily quota that must be met so workers do not leave until that quota has been filled. Four hundred fifty-four cars was the quota for line two today. Approximately 1,900 cars are produced every day at this plant.

It was amazing to watch the workers putting the cars together one piece at a time---doors, engines, fenders, brakes and struts, headliners, the dash, gas tanks, seats, HVAC, hybrid batteries, rocker panels, windows, etc. (Obviously, not in that order.) We also learned that all of the exterior steel gets four coats of primer, seven coats of paint, and four coats of clear-coat; sanding and cleaning occur between every coat, and the whole process takes just nine hours.

The information came so fast, and the tram moved so quickly it was hard to absorb it all. But I know I'll never look at another Toyota without remembering how quickly and flawlessly they are assembled.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Georgetown, KY, US 460W to Frankfort, KY, and returning to Georgetown via the same route. Then from Georgetown, I 75S to I 64E to Exit 172, Grayson, KY

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 58: Churchill Downs

Monday, October 25, 2010 Cloudy with sprinkles in the morning; then partly sunny and 74 degrees

As we drove to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, we were stunned to find it located in a residential area, completely surrounded with homes. What a zoo during Derby Week! We had lost an hour changing time zones so we barely arrived in time for a tour of the grounds. As we headed out for the tour our guide showed us the "shingles" with the horse's name and year that he/she won the Kentucky Derby that are on the walls around the entire stadium just above the entrances, all 138 of them. Those who won the Triple Crown have their names printed in gold. Secretariat still holds the record time for the Kentucky Derby. When he died an autopsy revealed that his heart weighed 22 pounds; Sham, the horse who came in second to him, had a heart weighing 18 pounds; the average thoroughbred's heart weighs 8 pounds. Thus the explanation of Secretariat's amazing stamina.

We learned that only three-year-old horses run the Kentucky Derby. (Interestingly every horse's birthday is January 1st regardless of when they were actually born.) Of those only the twenty nominated horses, who have grossed the most winnings prior to the derby, are allowed to participate and then only after their owners have paid $50,000 in the two step nomination process.

As we walked past the old wagering windows, we learned about the types of betting and how they were placed. During the early 1900's when betting was illegal, the law was circumvented when parimutuel betting was introduced.

Next we walked toward the paddock on tiles made of recycled tires that are used to cushion the horses hooves. In the paddock we heard that the horses are paraded around a small track so they may be viewed by the crowd before trainers saddle them for the derby. Meanwhile the jockeys are being weighed to ensure that the all of the horses are carrying 126 pounds (121 pounds if the horse is a filly) during the race. Weights are added, if necessary, to equalize the loads. Once the jockeys reach the paddock and the trainers help them mount, the horses are paraded again and then led out to the track. Each derby entrant has another horse and rider with them as they head toward the gates to keep them calm. The race begins as soon as all of the horses have entered the gates, and the gates are closed.

Our last stop was the grandstand. Boxes have six seats and the entire box must be purchased at $600 for each seat. The owners boxes are just above them. To the left is 'Millionaire's Row" where stars and celebrities are seated. A five year commitment of $6,000 per year is required to retain a seat there. Meanwhile general admission to the grandstand is $70, and $40 gets a person a place to stand in the grass oval within the track. As we learned about the track itself---75% sand, 23% silt, and 2% clay---the vice-president and general manager of Churchill Downs was grading the track. Such is his commitment to racing.

The Kentucky Derby Museum tells anything and everything about horse racing. The introductory film portrayed Derby Day from 5:30 a.m. until the race is over: the lengthy preparations of the trainer, the groom, the jockey, the owner, and the horse. The various rooms display the owners' silks and owners' dresses and hats; jockey's clothing, boots, and crop; trophies and horseshoes. Videos show derby races, owners discussing their horses, and offer trivia questions. Kiosks gave information about the more famous horses, their breeding, the wins, and some times their losses.

The upper floor is all about the horses. The choice of stud and broodmare is dependent on their racing successes and physical characteristics. As soon as the foal can stand after birth, he is fitted with a halter. From then on he goes through an imprinting process so he is used to being handled by people. The roles groom, the trainer, the "hot-walker," the veterinarian, the jockey, and the owner are given in detail. Next May when we watch the Kentucky Derby at home, we'll have a new appreciation of all the has preceded the race.

By the way, Churchill Downs was named by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Upon purchasing the grounds he named it after his two uncles whose last name was Churchill.

Later we went in search of a distillery. Instead we found Woodford Thoroughbreds, Pin Oak Stud, and Summer Winds Farms. Miles of wooden fences delineate the pastures around the horse farms where the horses were grazing. The farms have multiple stables, exercise tracks, and practice gates. We went from reading about thoroughbred horse racing to the reality of where it all begins. An interesting day.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Evansville, IN, I 64E to Louisville, KY, I 264E to Exit 9 at Churchill Downs; then I 264E to I 64E Exit 69; finally US 62N to Georgetown, KY

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day 57: Searching for Camp DuBois and Lewis and Clark

Sunday, October 24, 2010 Partly sunny until midafternoon, then cloudy, 77 degrees

Our plans for the past two days centered around the Wood River Museum's days and hours of operation: Wednesday through Sunday, 9-4:30. Imagine our surprise/disappointment/dismay when we made a mad dash for Wood River, IL, today and found it closed. Fortunately we met a bus driver who was on his way to work. He gave us information for three other sites that were related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The first stop was a fort constructed by local people who enjoy reenacting history. They had built a replica of Camp DuBois, Lewis and Clark's first winter camp. Today they were holding a "rendezvous." They spent the night sleeping in the cabins and tents and cooked their meals over campfires or in the fireplaces. When we arrived, however, the participants were dressed in Revolutionary era garb, filming a commercial for Patriot beer. Not quite what we were looking for. We made a quick tour of the grounds and left. Strike one.

Still looking for an authentic L&C experience, we stopped at the Confluence of the Rivers Tower. It is what its name states. Although L&C are portrayed on the entry walls, it is a tower from which the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi, Wood, and other rivers can be seen. Strike two. But we did get directions to the Lewis and Clark State Park. Home run.

We watched the requisite film about Camp DuBois. Between December 12, 1803 and May 14, 1804 preparations were made at this camp for the Corps of Discovery's Expedition into the Louisiana Purchase. Much of this time Lewis was actually in Cahokia, Kaskaskia, and St. Louis acquiring the provisions the Corps would need for their lengthy trip: food, tools, clothing, bedding, medicines, scientific equipment, boats, weapons and ammunition, gifts for the Indians, tenting material, whiskey, tobacco, etc. He studied known plants and animals so he would be able to identify new species. He also studied the use of transits, compasses, etc., to aid the surveying of the new territory.

Meanwhile Clark was training the men who had been recruited for the Corps. Some were soldiers, but others were frontiersmen. He spent those months forming them into a a disciplined, cohesive unit, and training them in military protocol and procedures. They also built pirogues to carry their supplies upriver. Finally on May, 14, 1804, the expedition began their two and a half year journey into the unknown.

Much of the information in the museum is from the logs of both Lewis and Clark. They fulfilled the assignments given them by President Thomas Jefferson. They identified many new plants and animals; surveyed and mapped new territory, its mountains and rivers; identified and made contact with 50+ Indian tribes. They were unable, however, to find a waterway to connect the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. Their findings opened the new territory to fur trappers who developed commerce through trading. This in turn led to pioneers moving west for new farming opportunities, religious freedom, and to seek riches during the Gold Rush.

On this trip we visited all three of the winter camps of the Corps of Discovery: Camp DuBois, Fort Mandan, and Fort Clapsot. We gained a new appreciation of the importance of their expedition. We learned a lot, but at the park today we found out that there are 53 Lewis and Clark related sites across the west. Looks like we've only scratched the surface.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Concordia, MO, I 70E to Exit 3 in IL; then IL 3N to Wood River; next IL 255S to I 70E; finally I 64E to Exit 25 north of Evansville, IN

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 56: National Trails Museum

Saturday, October 23, 2010 Rain and fog early morning; then partly sunny and windy, 77 degrees

We drove through the cornfields of Nebraska this morning and sympathized with the pioneers who trudged through it at 15 miles per day. It really would have been tedious. When there was no corn, there were extremely large livestock pens and feeding lots. Those we could smell before we could see them. We also saw large trucks hauling sugar beets and corn, of course.

We left for Independence, MO, early this morning to get to the National Trails Museum before it closed. With good weather and relatively light traffic we were there by 1:30.

The National Trails Museum details the major trails of the Westward Expansion: Oregon, California, Santa Fe, and Mormon Trails. Regardless of the trail taken or what the reason for traveling it, the details of the hardships faced were the same: disease, injuries, death, starvation, lack of water, difficulties fording rivers and climbing mountains, bad weather, injured or dying draft animals, and wagon mishaps to name a few. Although the maps, illustrations, artifacts, and narratives were very informative, the words of the pioneers themselves as recorded in their diaries or letters were the most poignant. Early in the migration they wrote of the excitement of the journey and what they hoped to realize when they reached the trail's end. But by the time they were into the mountain ranges, they were writing of the hardships they were facing. As they wrote, they'd met the "elephant," and they wished they could return home.

As usual we watched the introductory film, but an especially helpful docent gave us several books and maps to read at our leisure. In the bookstore is a series of books which holds diary entries by the year that I'm hoping to read.

We had hoped to reach Columbia, MO, tonight, but there is a big football game between undefeated OK and MO teams. Everything is booked for miles around. Tomorrow we plan to be in Wood River, IL, the jumping off point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. We've been to the end; now we'll finally get to the beginning.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from North Platte, NE, I 80E to NE 2S at Lincoln, NE, and on to I 29S into IA and to I 435E in Kansas City, MO. Finally, I 70E to Concordia, MO

Total mileage to date 11,544

Day 55: Pursuing the Oregon Trail

Friday, October 22, 2010 Sunny in the morning, 54 degrees; then intermittent rain Central Time Zone

Because we couldn't find our cut-off road WY 160, we stumbled upon some gems of the Oregon Trail in Guernsey, WY. Just off US 26 we found the grave of Lucindy Rollins. Many of the 500,000 pioneers who headed west never made it, most dying of cholera, errant gun shots, or wagon accidents. Thousands were buried along the way. Lucindy was one of them.

Next we walked a path to three lengthy trail ruts. The wagon wheels cut into the sandstone creating ruts as deep as five feet. Walking along those uneven, lopsided ruts, it was hard to imagine how the wagons ever made it through, and yet thousands did. Then we visited Register Rock. As in Capitol Reef, pioneers carved their names, home towns, and the dates into the side of the bluff, some go as far back as 1850. Many are hard to locate because "modern graffiti pioneers" have also carved their names into the rock. Fortunately, the originals are written in distinctive script and print. Interestingly, although many left their names in the rock, no one recorded doing so in their diaries.

Our last stop in Wyoming was at Fort Laramie. A film told us that the government bought the former fur-trading post and converted it into an army fort. The purpose of the fort was to guarantee the safety of those heading out on the Westward Expansion. The Pony Express and three trails shared this part of their routes: those on the Oregon Trail, heading for their homesteads in the Willamette Valley, those on the Mormon Trail heading to the Great Salt Lake to escape persecution in the East, and those following the California Trail in the pursuit of gold. The soldiers were to promote peace between the pioneers and the Indians and also between the various Indian tribes. Once the transcontinental railroad was completed the trails became obsolete, and the fort closed. Several of the buildings are standing and can be toured. For example the enlisted men's barracks is furnished as when it was in use. Cots line the walls of the second floor with their gear, clothing, and rifles near at hand. The first floor was the mess, and it, too, is set with dishes as if ready for the soldiers to sit down and eat. Ruins are all that remain of some of the other buildings.

In Nebraska, we visited both Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock. At the Visitor Centers we watched short films. By the time pioneers approached these two landmarks, they had traveled 500 miles, eight to fifteen miles a day, over the boring, rolling prairie. Seeing these two rock formations reinvigorated them both physically and mentally. They knew that they were approaching the Rocky Mountains and that their hopes and dreams laid beyond them. This afternoon Scotts Bluff was hidden in fog, but Chimney Rock stood as a sentinel guarding the trails and pointing skyward as if offering a prayer for safety.

Tomorrow we continue our pursuit of the Oregon Trail, looking for its origin in Independence, MO. We have a big problem, though. It is 420 miles and about seven hours away, and the interpretive center closes at 4:30. It'll be quite a sprint in order to make it.

TODAY'S ROUTE: from Cheyenne, WY, 1 25N to US 26E to Guernsey and Fort Laramie, WY, and Scotts Bluff, NE; then NE 92 to Bayard; finally US 385S to I 80E and Exit 177 at North Platte, NE