Tag: day trips

Z is for Zzzzz

At last we have come to the final post for the month of April. I want to thank all of you for reading, liking, and commenting on this blog. Your willingness to share my work with friends and family through email, word of mouth and social media is, and has been, greatly appreciated. 8551d4cc-c1de-4c57-9029-e4ed24580817_0367

I have especially enjoyed getting to know you through your own blogs and websites – many of which I never would have found without your visits. Thank you for inspiring me and for sharing your creativity and struggles and humor.

Although the 2016 Blogging A to Z Challenge is almost finished, today is really just the beginning for this, and my other two blogs (Creatzart.com and SinclaireMonroe.com). The coming year is already bursting with day trips, mini-excursions, and a few week-long adventures.

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I am looking forward to long days of research, late nights of photo editing, and happy hours spent interviewing county historians, public document recorders, and local people  – all of whom have the longest memories and the best stories!

Please continue to travel with me from the misty Appalachian Mountains to the expansive Western Plains. There remains so much to see and learn and celebrate – and to share.

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Y is for Yellow Springs

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Yellow Springs is located in Greene County, Ohio. It’s a small town bursting with events, history, activities and something new around every turn.

Grab some maps, a lot of information and a couple of post cards when you stop by the former Yellow Springs Depot, then spend at least a weekend exploring the area.

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The Glen Helen Raptor Center offers unusual opportunities to see birds of prey up close; to hear a variety of birds’ voices, and to feel the air move as an owl uses his powerful wings to fly.

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It’s a good idea to lace up some comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots when you visit the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful – something special. Photographs simply cannot capture the peace of the place. There is an unexpected joy and a tranquil wisdom that permeates the rock walls and rushing streams.

When the day winds down, the town of Yellow Springs offers an abundance of restaurants so varied as to meet the gastronomical needs of everyone from vegans to beef aficionados.. As far as lodging, there are historic inns, chain hotels, and bed and breakfasts each waiting for your tuckered feet and sleepy head.

X is for Triple XXX Family Restaurant

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On a hill in West Lafayette, Indiana is an 85+ year old tradition – the Triple XXX Family Restaurant. With burgers actually ground from fresh sirloin onsite, to real, homemade-from-scratch potato salad, every delicious, succulent bite demands a plethora of napkins and results in the the occasional, ‘mmmm’ and ‘ooohhhh’ and plenty of  ‘Oooohhh …schoo gwood …mmmmm.’

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The root beer is an integral part of the history and continued success of the place – the distinct flavor compliments everything on the menu. OK, even being a root beer fan, I might have to exclude some of the breakfast items. But it’s still one of the best bottled root beers I’ve ever tasted.

W is for Wagner’s

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Wagner’s Family Restaurant in Oldenburg, Indiana is a casual, comfortable local place where the piping hot fried chicken is served up with dish towels instead of napkins, and the sweet tea is fresh and cold.

Waitress and daytime bartender Betsy McCray grew up in Oldenburg. She knows most of the diners by name, and rarely has to offer a menu even to the newcomers since most folks come in for the Family Style Chicken Dinner.

The fragrance of the chicken frying in cast iron pans makes diners grow impatient with hunger, but when the generous portions arrive, it’s obviously worth the wait. Brian Larimore and his father Robert drive up from Lawrenceburg to enjoy the delicious food, and enthusiastically recommend the freshly fried chicken dinner.

Ray Jordan has been cooking that crispy, moist, amazing chicken, and all of the other menu choices, for a year. He deftly moves through the kitchen, loading plates with the sizzling delicacy. Betsy fills trays with bowls of tempting side items, soon making her way to eager tables.

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Creamy and just a little sweet, the coleslaw marries well with the peppery gravy made onsite from any extra fried chicken. The dinner rolls are the store-bought, in-a-plastic-bag kind – and are perfect with a generous spread of butter, or swished around a gravy-drenched plate.

The green beans come to the table with a dollop of butter and plenty of salt, while the mashed potatoes are a quiet backdrop to the flavorful chicken and bright gravy.

According to Betsy, there are desserts available, as well. Fruit cobblers, a variety of cheesecakes … it all sounds so good, but impossible to manage on this visit.

But Oldenburg is just a scenic drive away any day of the week …

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Simon and Garfunkel Had It All Figured Out

OK – did I just date myself?

I have to admit that I was one of those kids who knew all of the lyrics to “Richard Corey”, “Scarborough Fair”, and “Mrs. Robinson”. Saturday afternoons were filled with records being played on the Zenith while everyone sang and pitched-in to clean the house.

Hmmm, come to think of it, my siblings and I had some pretty impressive dance moves up there on the couch and footstool – brooms and dust cloths in hand.

Anyway, singing “It’s All Happening at the Zoo” at top of my lungs may or may not have had an impact upon my penchant for zoos, since I’ve always felt a deep connection to animals, the beautiful, and the vulnerable.

While some kids wanted to live in castles or on islands, or with their favorite grandmother, I just wanted to live in the Philadelphia Museum of Art or at the Philadelphia Zoo. Both, preferably.

That hasn’t happened – not yet, anyway –  so I console myself by re-reading “The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”; by lingering in galleries and museums until the doors are being locked; by adopting an oh-so-needy and way-too-adorable homeless cat … or two … or more (four being the limit set by my more pragmatic half), and by visiting aquariums and zoos.

My most recent trip was to the Cincinnati Zoo. While its urban setting might restrict  expansion beyond the original 65 acres (off-site locations notwithstanding), this is a zoo that is vibrant and dynamic and always evolving, as you can see on my photo-blog, Creatzart.com .

This level of excitement is due in no small part to Thane Maynard. Yes, that Thane Maynard of the 90-Second Naturalist. This guy is passionate, driven and brilliant. As the director of this historic zoo, Maynard has brought it into the 21st century with the installation of solar panels over the parking area; continually updated animal environments to allow a more natural feel and room for the animals to move, and under his watch, the launch of a very Green restaurant.

The conservation efforts of the Cincinnati Zoo have been tremendous and have resulted in substantial savings of water, gas, and electricity. The monies saved by these often simple measures have been reinvested into the husbandry of the animals, as well as into educational programs, special events and behind-the-scenes tutorials for enthusiastic visitors.

Certainly this ethical and responsible zoo is all about balance. Since opening the doors in 1875, the Zoo has protected wildlife and worked to secure their futures, while providing we non-safari folks with a peek into the breath-taking worlds of majestic animals and delicate flowers, normally found far beyond our own front doors.

An engaging conversation with a Hyacinth Macaw, or a restorative walk past the waterfall inside the lovely conservatory, or a study of the wildly diverse botanical garden, blend beautifully with the hard-core science taking place at C.R.E.W. (The Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife)  as experts in many fields pull their respective experiences, knowledge and genius together to stay the very real threat of extinction of many endangered animals and plants.

This is important work that impacts the long-term future not only of polar bears, African Violets and Sumatran rhinos, but also of humans, and ultimately the earth. As scientists and the general public learn more about the animals in captivity, that information can be utilized to save more and more animals in the wild.

Although my preference is for every animal to be free – to swim gracefully through ice-capped water, or to lounge beneath 110 degree sunshine – that isn’t reality. Human expansion and human exploitation have decimated vital resources including water, food,and available real estate.

Certainly horrendous “zoos” filled with miserable, forever-pacing, dull-eyed captives are still in existence, and that is repulsive. People who have no business owning an ant farm –  much less a big cat or a bear – charge five bucks for tourists to pet a tiger cub or have their picture taken with a black bear.  These animals are wild and were never meant to be severely confined and often ill-treated, existing only as props in a photo shoot.

Zoos like the Cincinnati Zoo are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Before visiting or supporting any zoo, look for this accreditation that demands each of its 218 member organizations retain professional staff, operate only under a strict code of ethics, and actively demonstrate a deep knowledge of and respect for animals.

Fortunately it’s possible to have an entertaining day at the zoo watching the otters glide underwater, or hearing the unexpectedly thunderous roar of a lion, or experiencing the breathtaking speed of a cheetah – all while supporting education, preservation and research.

As the summer cools into autumn, a trip to an AZA zoo or aquarium is a great choice for singles, families and couples. There is a lot going on for a reasonable price.

Since 1967, Mr. Simon and Mr. Garfunkel have known that everything happens at the zoo.

And I do believe it … I do believe it’s true.