Chicago – December 2018 – The Field Museum

Our major museum visit this trip was to the Field Museum of Natural History. It is known as one of the premier natural history museums in the world, and attracts millions of visitors per year.





We were here to learn about natural history.





As we entered the lobby we stopped by a small kiosk with a display of bugs.





Our first hall major exhibit we toured was the Hall of Ancient Americas. This wing covered both North and South America.

Each region featured pottery, sculptures, jewelry and more, and started with South and Central America cultures such as the Aztec and Inca (and many more)

The final section included the Northern Cultures. While similar to the southern cultures, these featured more large scale sculptures like the totem poles.

The second level featured Griffin Hall – a large dinosaur exhibit.

The most famous is Sue – the most complete T Rex ever discovered. For some reason there was unusual lighting on Sue when we were there.

One the main display the head is a cast of the original, which is in the next room in a display so you can inspect it closer.

We paid a brief visit to the cultures of the Pacific

Our final stop was an Egyptian display, including mummies.

Loudonville, OH – July 2017 – Mohican Native American Pow Wow

Twice a year a campground near the town of Loudonville hosts a Native American Pow Wow, which is a celebration featuring Native Music/Chants, Dancers, Crafts and skills.

First up was a fire starter – who was able to lite a fire with a bow, wood and (I believe) flint in about 30 seconds with some dry grass.

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There were numerous craft booths featuring Native items.

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Some made onsite

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The hoop dance was excellent, as the dancer was able to pick up and feature 9 hoops with grace and ease. It is not a traditional dance, most recently added in the 1930s.

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The opening ceremony featured all the dancers arriving in an ‘inter-tribal’ dance.

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Interestingly there was an amazing amount of patriotism displayed.

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The costumes were very ornate.

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There were 3 drum circles who provided the singing/chanting and drums for the dancers. The drummers were very impressive.

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It was a great day of watching a celebration of traditional Native American culture.

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Miamisburg, OH – February 2016 – Wright B Flyer & Fort Ancient Native Site

Located at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg is a small airplane hanger with a very special craft, a replica ‘Wright B Flyer‘. This plane, designated 0001, was built by volunteers and in the summer months is flown for public events or for donations

We arrived at the hanger mid morning, walking into a small display area that serves as their lobby. Immediately greeted by friendly volunteers, most of whom are retired pilots or aerospace engineers who are very proud of their craft.

Our guide was no different. After showing us around the lobby a bit we went into the hanger to the stunning view of a 1909 airplane, albeit one that has had a few modern safety features added to gain FAA approval for flight. He was very thorough in his explanation of the difference in the build of their aircraft, as well as the challenges in flying that the Wright Brothers, and their pilots have in this craft.

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Also present in the hanger is a Ford Model T car and a non flying smaller 1/2 scale replica 1911 Wright B Valentine Flyer complete with two stuffed mannequins of Wilbur taking his 81 year old father for a flight.

From here we moved on to the nearby Fort Ancient, a collection of Native earthworks in Warren County. It iincludes the largest prehistoric hillstop enclosure in the United States. Built by the Hopewell somewhere between 100 BC and 500 AD it sits high on a hill overlooking the Little Miami River. Also at this location is a museum celebrating 1500 years of Native culture in the Ohio Valley. The museum, housing hundreds of artifacts from Native sites around Ohio, is very well done.

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Mesa Verde – National Parks Road Trip – Day 16

Just east of Cortez, Colorado is Mesa Verde National Park. With the brief drive, we ended up arriving before the Visitor Center opened so we drove to Park Point, the highest point at 8,572 ft in the park. From the observation tower you could see for miles to the distant mountains.

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Returning to the visitor center promptly at 9 am we bought tickets at the Visitor’s Center for the 10:30 am ranger tour of the Balcony House, the only tour available that day. It is a 24 mile, 45 minute drive back to the Balcony House so we set out directly for our tour. Since we did arrive with some time to spare we spent a bit of time at the overlooks for the other houses in the cliff faces of the canyons.

Our tour took us into the pueblo cliff dwellings within the canyon. The one-hour Balcony House tour is one of the most intimate yet adventurous tours at Mesa Verde. A visit to Balcony House will challenge your fear of ladders, heights, and small spaces, and will give you the opportunity to explore the common areas of a mid-sized, 40-room dwelling.

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The Balcony House tour requires visitors to descend a 100 foot staircase into the canyon; climb a 32 foot ladder; crawl through a 12 foot, 18 inches wide tunnel; and clamber up an additional 60 feet on ladders and stone steps. About 50 people hiked the path, down  and climbed the two-person wooden ladder as part of the journey to get into the dwelling.

As noted we also squeezed through crevices and crawled through tunnels to get to the ruins. We learned that the ancient cliff dwellers lived on top of the mesa for 700 years then moved to the cliffs of the canyon for another 100 years. It is thought that the cliff dwellers lived in these homes nested on the cliffs to give them an advantage from their enemies. No one knows what happened to these people but many artifacts and some graves were found at Cliff Palace.

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The tour guide led the group to a kiva in excellent condition that was used for socializing for the Puebloans. Some of the dwellings had multiple stories with the wood and stone materials still visibly solid. An archeology group from the 1920’s set steel supports in some of the dwellings to preserve the structures while others buildings were left untouched. We moved along a ledge of the structure and climbed a very steep ladder to stone steps cut into the cliff. A chain railing along the steps helped us pull ourselves up to the next ladder to reach the top of the mesa again. I am not fond of heights but made it through the whole tour.

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We drove the loop around the mesa to view the Cliff Palace from the overlook at the opposite side of the canyon. We could see the Cliff Palace with more rooms and kivas tucked into caves and hidden along the cliff. This site is very special, it sparks a thought to how these people survived and thrived for so many years by being so resourceful.

Lunch was at the park service’s Far View Cafe, with the company of two bus loads of French tourists. Later we drove to Step House where we walked downhill to see dwellings in a shady canyon. This cliff dwelling had upper and lower rooms and a kiva. Primitive steps made by the Puebloans rose out of the far side of the canyon but were not open to the public for use since these steps were not restored and dangerous.

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Our next stop was the Spruce Tree pueblo, with a downhill on a path to ruins of 115 rooms and 8 kivas. There were rooms deeper into the cliff but we did not have access to go deep inside. The ancient Puebloans farmed small patches of corn and squash. We saw three flat stones with hand sized round stones set at the front of the dwelling as the ranger explained that these stones were used to grind grain such as corn. Juniper, a native tree, along with sandstone were used to build the dwellings. It was evident that the dwellings at this site still had original juniper wood and stone held together with their mud mix. The tall two-story construction had small square windows and small square doors. Spruce Tree dwelling also had a lower level where we climbed down a narrow ladder to a round stone room. The opening from above was so small that when a person stood at the opening he blocked all light into the room below. The ceiling was about eight feet high and about 20 people could stand inside.

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By late afternoon we were ready for 1 more hike, so we went back to a trail near the Balcony House Overlook at Soda Canyon. We walked the trail to the edge of the canyon to see the Balcony House from across the canyon. This view showed exactly how high up on the cliff face the dwelling that we toured was, and from afar we could see the entire dwelling from one viewpoint. In addition we saw the ladders anchored against the cliff that we scaled down and up again. This view made the tour seem even more spectacular seeing the location of the dwelling and its height on the canyon wall, and made me glad I went on the tour before seeing this view.

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We made our way off the mesa down the hill through switchbacks and a tunnel toward Durango, Colorado. As we neared Durango a rock hit the windshield and put a crack into the lower left side. A truck with a trailer carrying an ATV was ahead of us but we did not see how anything could discharge from the truck on a paved highway. We were only passing through Durango, a ski town, to get to Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

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It was about 6 pm when we arrived at the High Country Inn on the outskirts of Pagosa Springs. High Country Inn did not have our reservation so we opted to find lodging in the town of Pagosa Springs closer to restaurants. We had trouble finding a place to stay the night but ended up at the Pagosa Springs Inn. We followed a bus of elderly tourist who were hassling the desk manager about their luggage and wake up calls. Those elderly patrons caused such a fuss that the desk manager threw up his hands to say he had no more rooms to avoid dealing with them anymore. The hotel was also bus due to a Corvette convention held as part of a town festival. As usual, I found that being polite helps, as I politely asked for a room for us and the manager obliged. Given the entire town was busy, we opted to walk next door to eat dinner at Pizza Hut.

Southeastern Utah – National Parks Road Trip – Day 15 – Natural Bridges, Hovenweep & Four Corners

The Spanish Valley is south of Moab, and our initial scenery leaving in the morning.  As we made our way down US 191 we passed a natural bridge arch before coming to a giant rock with ‘Hole In the Rock‘ painted in 30’ letters on the side of it. Apparently it is a 5000 square foot house someone carved into this giant rock, but we were too early in the day for them to be open, so we continued on our way.

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South of Blanding we reached Utah 95, a narrow state highway  that runs out through the desert up and down small hills. As I turned onto this road a dirty old 4 wheel drive pickup passed me, which of course I took as a challenge to keep up with. It is 38 miles from Blanding to Natural Bridge National Park, and according to the GPS should’ve taken us 45 minutes to make the drive, but following Deliverance Boy I did it in 30 minutes.

Once we did land at the park headquarters we received instructions from the ranger on the best option for a couple of hours of time that we had. As with many parks they have a auto tour loop that we took, providing views of three natural bridges and as well as a view of Native American ruins. The trails were steep and strenuous so we skipped the longer hikes and soaked in the view from the overlook. The first natural bridge named Sipapu was large and had a lot of rock above it with trees and a river below it.

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Our next stop was at the Horsecollar Ruin overlook. Here pottery was once found that dates these ruins between 1 AD and 13 AD. The ruins were well preserved but accessed was denied to them. These ruins are considered to be the best preserved ancient Puebloan ruins ,mostly due to their isolation. Horsecollar Ruin earned its name because the doorways to two structures resemble horsecollars, the site was abandoned more than 700 years ago.

We moved on to see the Kachina Bridge where the White Canyon and Armstrong Canyon meet. Kachina Bridge, known as the middle bridge which spans the canyon equally from both Owachomo and Sipapu bridges, is named for the petroglyphs of dancing figures resembling Kachina dolls. Kachina Bridge is larger than Owachomo but smaller than Sipapu. Owachomo Bridge is a natural bridge 180 feet high and spans 106 feet across thin stone and is older than any other bridge. Erosion through the years has thinned the span of the bridge. It was beautiful and we were happy to see it since it will not last forever.

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Leaving Natural Bridges we continued south on Utah 261 another nondescript highway across the desert – for about 30 miles – then you come to the Moki Dugway, a dangerous road to drive made of dirt and gravel carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of 3 miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11% grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor near Valley of the Gods. A nerve racking but really cool drive down the mountain side.

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Just beyond Moki Dugway we arrived in the Navajo Nation to the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, where we stopped for lunch at the Olde Bridge Grille. The town is named after a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill. The village itself is small, home to fewer than 100 people We had a burger and vegetarian taco on Navajo bread. The Navajo bread was delicious.

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Just south of Mexican Hat is the Monument Valley, a place of mammoth rocks in the desert with beautiful thin spires on the Arizona border. The rock formation resembled a city from a distance and it is also the site where Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie of the same name, which of course I needed to recreate, much to the amusement of the European tourists parked along the road. Returning back through Mexican Hat we had gone just a few miles before we were stopped by the Sherriff’s Department while a Toyota commercial was being filmed on the road ahead.

By mid afternoon we arrrived at the Hovenweep National Monument. There are Pueblo ruins of a culture there that thrived from 1 AD to late 1200 AD. A variety of structures, including multistory towers are perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. We hiked the Little Run Trail to tour the ruins at Little Ruin Canyon which is made up of Square Tower, Tower Point, and Twin Towers. Towers at Hovenweep were built in a variety of shapes- D-shapes, squares, ovals and circles.

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These towers had different purposes, including tool and grinding work areas, kivas (for ritual/social functions), living rooms and storage. We started at the overlook to see the stronghold house which is the upper story of a large structure with well-shaped stones. Then we climbed down the trail for a close-up view of more buildings. The Holly group is at the head of Keeley Canyon. The five buildings at the site are known for a rock art panel that has been interpreted as a summer solstice marker.

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The Hackberry group was a medium sized Pueblo III village in the east fork of Bridge Canyon. The Horseshoe House is a D-shaped structure containing three rooms surrounding a possible central kiva. The architectural style suggests ceremonial or public use

As we hiked the loop we saw Rim Rock House that had peepholes built into the walls; the purpose of these peepholes is unknown. We continued down the trail to Hovenweep House which is one of the largest structures in the community. Next we saw Hovenweep Castle in the Square Tower Group. The Cajon Group is at the head of Allen Canyon, is primarily a remains of a tower, estimated to house 80–100 people, that was constructed on a boulder that sits below the rim of the canyon

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Cutthroat Castle group is in an offshoot of Hovenweep Canyon. Cutthroat Castle, the largest of the remains, is on the north side of the stream. Cutthroat is unique among the units due to the lack of a spring, the numerous kivas and the fact that much of the architecture sits below the rim.

Goodman Point group contains small and large clusters of pueblo buildings built partially underground.

Finally the Square Tower group, with the largest collection of pueblo buildings at Hovenweep. These towers still have lintels showing that these were some of the most carefully built structures in the southwest

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Leaving Hovenweep we passed Palomino horses roaming freely on our drive to the Four Corners. We arrived at the entrance to the Navajo Nation being required to pay the $5 entry fee per person to enter their tribal lands to get to the Four Corners monument. Prior to the trip I had read that with modern survey techniques the actual marker is really not at the point of the four corners, the original surveyor, using 19th century tools, missed where the spot should have been by about 1800 feet. The marker was placed in its current position and accepted by the U.S. Congress. From that time forward, the marker has been the legal divider among the four states.

We took turns standing on the spot of the Four Corners at the center where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah meet, contorting ourselves to place a body part in each quadrant of the circle. After our Twister exercise we strolled the booths of vendors with their souvenirs that surrounded the monument. There was no food available here so we went to headed back onto the road to Cortez, Colorado, where we came upon the Sky Ute Casino on a suggestion that someone had given us. The large casino had a restaurant but it was an hour wait before we could eat so we drove on to Cortez to spend the night.

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Checking into our hotel we found a nice casual restaurant called Destination Grill next door. We sat on the deck in the cool evening and enjoyed a very good dinner.

Newark, Ohio – May 2015 – Native Mounds and Quarries

For Saturday May 2nd, we headed east of Columbus. Our first stop was in Westerville at Inniswood Metro Gardens. The garden contains more than 2,000 plant species, including collections of conifers, daffodils, daylillies, hostas and theme gardens.

The day started out at Inniswood Gardens in Westerville. The garden contains more than 2000 plant species including collections of conifers, daffodils, daylillies and hostas. There are also themed gardens such as a biblical, herbal, medicinal, rose and woodland rock garden.

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There is also a nice children’s area built to resemble a farm house and surroundings. The gardens were nice but they are located too close to the Outerbelt and any serenity is constantly broken by the hum of 8 lanes of freeway traffic.

Our firsts stop in Newark were the Great Circle Earthworks. This 1,054-foot wide circle is one of the largest circular earthwork in America, at least in construction effort. The 8 feet high walls surround a 5 feet deep moat, except at the entrance where the dimensions are even greater and more impressive.

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Researchers have analyzed the placements, alignments, dimensions, and site-to-site interrelationships of the earthworks. This research has revealed that the Native cultures in the area had advanced scientific understanding as the basis of their complex construction.

Another nearby earthworks was converted into a golf course in the early 1900s, and it remains in that use today. An impressive sight, it gives one a great deal of sadness at the complete disrespect the developers of this country have had for the Native cultures that were found here.

East of Newark we visited the Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, a 4-mile-long sandstone formation through which the Licking River flows

Over the years canal boats, railroads, interurbans and eventually automobiles travelled through the gorge. It is named for the black hand petroglyph that was found on the cliff face by the first settlers to the area.

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The hiking trail that traverses the gorge is a result of a rails to trails effort, and it an excellent way to enjoy the gorge. Well paved, it provides viewpoints with signs that explain the highlights. Overall this park is a nice place for a short hike.

Continuing south we stopped at Flint Ridge State Memorial, a Native America flint quarry located in southeastern Licking County. Old quarry pits are visible, and a museum is on the site. The museum has a pit in the middle of it.

Flint Ridge contains quarry pits where all of the ancient people of Ohio came to get flint for both tools and weapons.

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Just south of Flint Ridge you can pick up the National Road, which we did, and enjoy the slower route. Just east of Jacktown there is an interesting monument to the National Road called Eagles Nest, a large rock with a carving of an old car, conestoga wagon and other transportation related items.

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Once we arrived in Jacktown we had lunch at a small crossroad restaurant/bar called appropriately The Crossroads. It was interesting crowd of good old boys watching golf!

The Dawes Arboretum is a non-profit arboretum a few miles south of Newark. As one of the premier public gardens in North America, The Dawes Arboretum has over 1,800 acres of plant collections, gardens and natural areas. Eight miles of hiking trails and a four-mile auto tour allow guests to explore the arboretum’s natural beauty.

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Among the features; The Japanese Garden features a meditation house, pond and rock garden; an outlook tower located on the south side of The Arboretum allows visitors to view of The Arboretum’s hedge letters; a bonsai collection is located in the courtyard adjacent to the Visitors Center;

The Arboretum features plants tolerant of central Ohio’s climate representing 5,701 individual plant names. Overall this arboretum is nice, but not nearly as well landscaped and appealing as the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio.

Springfield, Ohio – March 2015 – Roadside America Attractions of Springfield

Sunday the 22nd turned out to be another sunny day, so we set off out the National Road west of Columbus, destination Springfield.

Rather than go out I-70 again, I chose to take US Route 40, the Old National Road, getting on where it intersects with I-270 on the west side of Columbus. The first 10 miles of this road go through tacky looking 1980s suburbs before you finally reach countryside.

Our first stop was in the village of Lafayette, where there is an inn called the Red Brick Tavern. Built in the early 1800s, it has been an inn on the National Road every since. They claim 6 presidents have visited. As usual I picked somewhere that was closed, so we couldn’t go inside, and despite trying a couple of times since then, still haven’t managed to be there when it was open.

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The inn did have one of the original National Road Mile Markers in the front yard though, and just being able to explore the outside of the building made the stop worthwhile.

We continued west on the National Road until we reached Springfield, our primary destination for the day. On the near west side of Springfield, in a run down neighborhood is the Pennsylvania House, which was…closed.

The Pennsylvania House is a historic inn and tavern built in 1822. This three-story brick Federal style building is situated on the original National Road. Over the years many famous guests were hosted, including Henry Clay, Charles Dickens, Andrews Jackson and James K Polk.

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George Rogers Clark was a revolutionary war leader from Kentucky who lead a number of battles against the British. During these battles he fought British and Native Americans.

One of these battles occurred at a Shawnee village called Peckuwe, located just west of what is now Springfield. The battlefield, and a restored Native village is located in the George Rogers Clark Park.

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The village has a number of teepees and other buildings that look nearly authentic, except the cable ties holding the bracing together.

After a fast food lunch we went to Southwest Springfield to the Hartman’s Rock Garden. In 1932, and an unemployed Springfield man, Ben Hartman, decided to create a do-it-yourself WPA project. The results of his labor still stand, open to the public to visit and photograph.

He scavenged stone from a nearby construction site, broke it with his hammer, added bits of mirror and pottery — and began building little stone houses, cathedrals, and parapets with religious statuary in the side and back yards of his wood-frame home. He kept building for seven years. He had the corner lot, so his work was easy to see.

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Ben built a replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, a White House, a Mount Vernon, a large castle with a drawbridge and moat is composed of 14,000 stones; a “Tree of Life” that has over 20,000. Although Ben died in 1944, the Hartman family has maintained the property ever since.

This was one of the best Roadside America attractions we have seen. We highly recommend a stop to see Ben’s backyard!