Jun 222014

There are easier ways to travel, but families still love their three mile an hour horse power on the hoof.
Antelope Island Horse and Wagon
This covered wagon group travels through the western states each year. They converge on Antelope Island in Utah each summer during the annual Western Music Festival. The riders donate their time and covered wagons for local charity. As fellow horse lovers, we couldn’t resist the chance to go along for a ride down the dusty trail.
Antelope Island meeting wagon
They allowed me to ride shotgun with the driver, which seemed to give a very short proximity to the back side of the horse. Nell was harnessed close enough to me that she brushed the dust off my cowboy boots with her tail. I was so relieved that the horses didn’t need to add some fertilizer to the trail, or I’m sure that would have landed on my boots.
Antelope Island Covered Wagon
The driver explained what a day out on the road was like.  Although some of the group travels in motor homes, he keeps the heritage alive by camping as weather permits.  He described his morning as being awakened at dawn by the sounds of harnesses clanking and smelling coffee boiling.

The smile on his face while explaining that his average speed is three miles per hour, gave a sense of what I’m missing.  One of the tales he dispelled was the colorful phrase “circle the wagons” actually meant that the wagons served as a corral for the livestock.
Antelope Island riding shot gun
The towns along the way welcome them with organized guitar playing groups sitting around the evening campfires.  Other entertainment in the towns would include quilt and craft shows, toilet bowl races and cow pie bingo.

He admitted he’s feeling the old bones are telling him that riding on wagon trains may have to end soon.  His motto has been “as long as he is able to continue, this is an adventure that gives him a real appreciation for God, Country, and his pioneer ancestors that thrived on the western life.”

Jun 152014

Father’s Day is for letting our memories drift back to when we reached up to hold our daddy’s hand.

Traveling with Daddy, riding on a Toboggan
Traveling with Daddy on a wintry day, riding on a Toboggan

My Dad: These were times when I could share quiet walks with daddy, which was before noisy snowmobiles got us there quicker.  He was the strong, silent type that showed, rather than told me how to do things.  I earned a stern look when I did something not acceptable, which was louder than a lecture.

Dad always knew how to fix what was broken and I learned by watching. Yes, I could change a flat tire if I had too.

Daddy netting the Fish on Canadian Trip

Dad netting my record breaking 11 1/2 pound Walleyed Pike, on our family fishing trip in Canada

My Husband’s Dad:  Going fishing with dad was always a special time.  The experience of traveling to Canada for fishing Walleyes and Northern Pike was the trip of a lifetime.  Helping his son (my husband) bring in his fish was more important than catching that “big one” himself.

Our Dads knew that giving encouragement was so much better than giving criticism.

Retelling these wonderful experiences to our children, is the priceless legacy that will keep them alive forever in our memory.

This is an easy recipe that a very young chef, with some guidance, can make as a special treat for Father’s Day.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Bread Pudding
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
This bread pudding can be served warm or cold. Either Cinnamon-Raisin Bread or Cinnamon Bread can be used, depending on preference.
  • 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for baking dish
  • 8 slices (8 ounces) cinnamon or cinnamon-raisin bread
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly butter an 11x7 inch (or 9-inch square) baking dish; set aside.
  3. Toast bread (in the oven or toaster) until lightly crisped.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, chocolate, and butter; place over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate has melted, about 5 minutes.
  5. Tear bread into large pieces (about 4 or 5 per slice); scatter evenly in prepared baking dish.
  6. In a medium bowl, wisk together eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla.
  7. Wisk in warm milk mixture until combined.
  8. Pour over bread.
  9. Bake until pudding has puffed and is firm, about 25 minutes.
  10. Cool at least 10 minutes, and dust with confectioners powdered sugar just before serving.

May memories of your father’s love surround you with happiness on this Father’s Day too.

Past My Curfew is sharing his uniquely wonderful story for Father’s Day. Phoenix and his dad are celebrating a Cancer Free, second chance at enjoying each other’s company. Warning: Be sure to have a few tissues handy.

Jun 082014

Villa Vizcaya was built in Miami with a view of Biscayne Bay, although if appears to belong on the Mediterranean coast.
Vizcaya Gardens and Villa Vizcaya's Pool 21 Ornate Door - Copy Vizcaya Archway with family Vizcaya's GardensVizcaya BreakwaterView of Vizcaya from Breakwater Since America didn’t have castles built for kings and queens, the nation’s wealthy industrialists became America’s royalty and built their own lavish homes.

How better to flaunt their newly earned riches, than through extravagant displays of conspicuous lifestyles and mansions.

The early 1900’s gave optimism for becoming rich, whether by discovering gold, building bridges or inventing farm machinery.

James Deering, vice-president of International Harvestor Tractor Company, had a vision.

He desired a winter home that resembled a centuries-old Italian Renaissance villa.

The purchase of 180 acres of rural and unspoiled land in Miami, required his estate to be self-sufficient with a working farm.

Deering’s tractors thus contributed greatly to Florida’s agricultural farming success.

The workers were an international mix of nationalities, but learned quickly how to deal with mosquitos, crocs and snakes.

Since running to the local garden center wasn’t an option, they developed a new approach to horticulture in this hot and humid climate.

Local gardeners, familiar with the climate, knew how to incorporate native sub-tropical plants, as well as area rock, coral and limestone, in building the gardens.

James Deering was used to having his own way, so he chose an “up and coming” architect that would let him have the fun of designing his dream home.

Together they traveled to Pompeii, Italy, as well as other European countries to purchase 15th through 19th century furnishings and art.

The villa took two years to complete, but work continued on the gardens from 1910 until 1923.

The many fountains, statuary, pool and themed gardens were modeled after Italian and French designs.

The golden age of splendor was coming to a close when Deering died in 1925 at the age of 65.

Hurricane damage and the “Great Depression” made the home a white elephant for his heirs.

The breakwater was carved out of Florida limestone to create the fantasy of a Venetian barge with decorative sculpture and numerous live plants.

Of the 180 acres, only 50 acres of gardens and the main estate were kept intact.  They were generously donated to the Miami-Dade County as a condition that Vizcaya would be used as a public museum.  The heirs also donated the entire 15th through 19th century furnishings and art.

I wish we would have been allowed to take photos inside the villa, to show you the lavishly decorated rooms.  Fortunately Vizcaya’s website can guide you through this beautiful villa.

Visiting Vizcaya gave us the chance to imagine what it was like to live in this gilded era.  We walked through his many rooms, filled with ancient artifacts, instead of viewing them in some stuffy, gallery type museum.

What name would you bestow on your dream home?

May 312014

There are no trees, except for one, standing tall as a colorful sentinel in this vast expanse of white salt.  Karl Momen, an artist now living in Sweden, envisioned and created the Tree of Life.  He donated the 87 foot tall sculpture to our state and thus became The Tree of Utah.
Tree of Utah
Photo by randomfactor

Why would an artist from Europe donate a million dollar sculpture to Utah?  Let’s go back to when he was a 15 year old painter, living in Iran.  He was commissioned to paint a six foot high official portrait of Stalin.  Some years later when Communism was denounced and the Shah of Iran was returned to power, Momen watched as his portrait of Stalin was trampled underfoot.  Ironically, he was commissioned to paint a 12 foot high portrait of the Shah of Iran.  When the Shah was denounced, Momen watched on television as troop carriers rolled over this portrait in the street.

As a renegade in the art world, I believe he needed his own memorial that would withstand the test of time. When he stopped his car on the Bonneville Salt Flats to add a pinch of salt to his lunch of tomatoes, he saw what seemed like an alien panorama. That night he dreamt about “adding a focus of color in this endless expanse of featureless terrain.”
The Tree of Life
Photo by F. Tronchin

The concrete sculpture’s tree trunk holds up six spheres, coated with natural rock and minerals that were mined and cut in southern Utah.  Near the base are several hollow sphere segments that symbolize the changing of the seasons.

Not being very artistic, I keep seeing a pole with tennis balls stuck on top. What do you see? Recently, an ugly metal fence was reportedly added to protect people from falling leaves (aka corroding cement). I think it was meant to stop the graffiti artists from marring Karl Momen’s dream.
Coming up on Metaphor sculpturePhoto by c_nilsen

Parking on the shoulder of the Interstate is technically illegal, since there isn’t an exit ramp by the Tree of Utah. A visitor’s center was proposed by Karl Momen, but is waiting for donations to cover construction costs. Should you decide to stop, you probably won’t get a ticket. I wouldn’t know, since my law abiding husband refuses to take that chance every time we drive by.

Have you had any dreams about a creating something you would be proud of, no matter the cost?

May 232014

One of the weirdest, yet unique houses in America is near the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin.  The House on the Rock has the world’s largest indoor carousel, as part of its bizarre themed collections.
View of House on the Rock
On top of a 60-foot tall column of sheer rock, Alex Jordan Jr. finished the house begun as one-upmanship by his architect father.  The house was purposely built near the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal residence, Taliesin.

As the story goes, Alex Jordan Sr. was Frank Lloyd Wright’s biggest fan and hoped to get his idol’s approval for a building he had designed.  Wright told Jordan he “wouldn’t hire him to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop.”  While driving home in a huff from the fateful meeting, he planned this house that has become shrouded in myth and legend.

The Infinity Room contains thousands of windows and a glass panel in the floor, where visitors can look directly down into the valley.  It hangs out 218 feet from the house without supports underneath.
House on the Rock automated instruments
Some of these instruments actually play, but the string and woodwind sounds are produced by organ pipes.  The mechanically moving instruments create an illusion designed to fool and entertain visitors.
Angels and Carousel
Obviously his perceived masterpiece was never meant to become a museum.  Alex Jordan Jr. filled the home with oddities purchased or built, that reflected an eccentric and reclusive lifestyle.  This carousel features 269 animals, 182 chandeliers, 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels hanging from the ceiling.
house on the rock mikado photo by Joseph Kranak
The Mikado is one of the animated, off-key musical machines with an oriental façade that Jordan designed.  I agree with a description that reads – “the House on the Rock is a manic mishmash of mechanical musty mayhem and sensory overload.”  We saw collections of ivory carvings, model sailing ships, dolls, knight’s armor, cars, British crown jewels, silverware, toy circuses, guns, cash registers, stained glass and lots more stuff.
house on the rock percussion 1
The House on the Rock left me overwhelmed and confused, after spending over five hours walking the winding pathways.  I found a book on Alex Jordan’s life, to better understand his passion for living with so many fakes that he passed off as real.

He was described as a combination of Howard Hughes and P.T. Barnum, rolled up into one masterful collector and architect.  As a child, he learned how to do magic tricks.  Growing up, he would sit in a corner and laugh about the way he fooled everyone.  His home became a masterpiece of illusion and imagination about places he never visited.

Although most people throughout the world have heard of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Jordan had the last laugh.  The House on the Rock is said to draw more visitors every year than any other spot in Wisconsin, including the nearby F. L. Wright’s Taliesin.

What’s the weirdest place you remember visiting?

May 172014

Come along and enjoy our ride on what’s left of the “The Impossible Railroad.”  Our tour begins on the San Diego & Arizona vintage train in Campo, California.

The designing engineers originally dubbed it “The Impossible Railroad” because of the mountainous terrain.  After 13 years and almost 19 million dollars, this became a monument to the challenges and determination of the last of the great railroad builders.

In 1907, John D. Spreckels, a sugar heir, developer and entrepreneur, ceremoniously broke ground in San Diego for the railway. The route went south across the Mexican border to Tijuana, east to Tecate, then back to the United States. It then traveled north through Carrizo Gorge, and east to a connection with Southern Pacific near Plaster City at El Centro, California. San Diego & Arizona railway map
The builders experienced delays in the ruggedly beautiful, but difficult, terrain of Carrizo Gorge from cave-ins, fires, floods, and hard rock. Other delays came from a scarcity of labor during harvest seasons.

Then World War I threatened to halt completion of the rail. John D. Spreckels successfully argued that the line would benefit the war effort, because of San Diego’s military installations.
San Diego & Arizona RR Mexico border
Finally in 1919, the golden spike was driven to open the first modern line between San Diego and the East.San Diego & Airzona RR international border
As the train moved along past the international border fencing, we asked the guide about the border patrol station at Campo. He sadly shook his head and said the border is an ongoing dangerous problem and drug trafficking is a major concern for the town. Self-appointed Border Militiamen protect their ranches along the border.

Also, the guide explained that Border Angel volunteers constantly re-stock plastic containers with water at stations. They are marked with wooden crosses to offer relief to the desert crossers. He said many don’t realize how harsh and dangerous the climate and terrain becomes when attempting to cross the border areas.
San Diego & Arizona RR Trestle at Border
As long as we stayed on the train, we didn’t need passports to enter Mexico. The volunteer guides are certified to unlock and open the gate, so the train can cross the border. We only went far enough into the tunnel to say we crossed the border and then started the journey back to Campo.

In the Carrizo Gorge, the railroad crosses 14 trestles and goes through 21 tunnels in only 11 miles.  The final passenger run on the San Diego and Arizona Eastern was in 1951. A brush fire burned two trestles in 1983 and, coupled with diminished freight traffic, terminated freight runs to El Centro.
Carrizo Gorge Trestle
There is hope for a joint continuation of the route into Mexico one day again.  It depends on Mexico’s meeting some agreements and refurbishing a section of track.
Golden State Limited
The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo has many trains and locomotives outside in various stages of restoration.  Several restored trains with their bells and horns of yesteryear are stored in a large building to comfortably walk through as well.

This train ride can now be crossed off our bucket list. What train ride is on your bucket list?

May 022014

This amphibious boat/car promised to revolutionize drowning.  Actually, it’s an Amphicar that we enjoyed following on Wisconsin’s Lake Noquebay in our boat.
My beautiful picture This Amphicar was the peacetime descendant of the German Schwimmwagen.  They were known as the “Model 770” and only 4,000 were built between 1961 and 1965.  The “770” referred to the fact that it could do 7 knots (about 8 mph) in the water and 70 miles per hour on land.  It’s considered the fastest boat on land and the fastest car on the water.

I imagine you can’t wait to buy one.  A rust-free “swimmer” might cost anywhere from $10,000 to as much as $50,000, depending on its condition.  The car is made of steel and naturally prone to rust, so upkeep with paint and lots of wax is mandatory.
My beautiful picture
While waterborne, the front wheels serve as rudders, so turning the steering wheel right will take you to “starboard” and turning left will allow you to drive to “port”.  The one thing that doesn’t work is the brakes.  Halting a floating Amphicar works the same way you stop any other boat: you throw the props into reverse.
Amphicar with LBJ
Former President Lyndon B. Johnson enjoyed playing practical jokes.  While driving his amphicar on his Texas ranch, he took visitors for what became the scariest ride of their life.  He would shout “The brakes don’t work!  The brakes won’t hold!  We’re going in!  We’re going under!” while driving them downhill into his lake.

The Japan-based Fomm Company feels these cars could be useful in flood-prone areas.  They have developed an electric, waterproof car that could theoretically keep people mobile during natural disasters.  Would you feel safer during a Tsunami in one of these cars?

Apr 242014

Join us for a travel back in time to Michigan’s Mackinaw City and the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  How far back?
Mackinac-park 1 Mackinac-Bridge-sign Mackinac-Ferry-To-Island Mackinac-Island-Grand-Hotel-
Mackinac Bridge These cars and my hairstyle should help with your guess (stop snickering).

As you can see, I’m walking past some 1950’s cars in the Mackinaw City Park.

I’m sure you’re wondering, like I was, about the different spellings for the same island and city name.

First of all, the shape of the island resembles a Great Turtle and the Indians gave it the name Michilimackinac.

Around the 1820’s it was shortened to Mackinac, but pronounced Mackinaw.

The founders of Mackinaw City changed the spelling to reflect the phonetic “aw” sound.  They felt the postal carriers would be less likely to confuse Mackinac Island with Mackinaw City, if they weren’t spelled the same.

Speaking of old cars, a summer cottager decided to bring his Locomobile to Mackinac Island.

While driving in Mackinac Island State Park, he frightened and hurt several horses and wrecked some carriages.

This prompted the State Park Commission in 1900, to outlaw automobiles.  Travel on Mackinac Island has been by foot, bicycle, or horse and carriage ever since.

I’d love wearing those sunglasses again, but wouldn’t want to lug a camera around with a roll of film and flash bulbs.

The scenic ferry trip is the only way to travel to the island, other than by plane.

The Grand Hotel opened in 1887 and has had five U.S. Presidents as guests.

We walked on the 600 foot front porch and enjoyed its namesake of “flirtation walk,” since we weren’t married yet.

The five mile “Big Mac” is the longest suspension bridge in the Americas.
On my bucket list, is being one of the lucky people allowed each year to climb up the bridge’s 552 foot tower.

There’s an elevator most of the way and then cubby holes and a ladder to finally reach the top of the south tower, as shown in this article.
What’s on your bucket list?

Mar 292014

One of our favorite destinations in Utah is this 170 million year old Jurassic playground, the Goblin Valley State Park.  Families, hikers and tourists can walk and climb among the hoodoos that resemble goblins or mushrooms. Goblin Valley Panorama
Unfortunately, some Boy Scout leaders became part of the 9,000 cases of park vandalism documented since 2009.  They decided “in a spirit of public safety, they had some fun and maybe saved a life” by toppling a goblin rock off its delicate perch.
Goblin Valley Park HooDoo
Instead of becoming heroes for showing their video that quickly went viral, they began receiving death threats and hate mail.  The embarrassing publicity reflected on the Boy Scouts of America, forced the removal of their Scout Leader titles.
goblin_valley_state_park-As part of their legal agreement, they each paid a $925 court-mandated plea in abeyance fee.  This means that during their one year probation, they must behave like normal people.  How difficult this may be for them remains to be seen.

The state is still determining how much they will need to pay for adding signs around the park.  Apparently park visitors need to see in writing, that becoming famous for causing destruction and then paying an expensive fine isn’t very smart.

Do you think the Goblin Topplers should have spent time in prison for their destruction?  Must the state park build fences, to save historical sites from future vandalism?

The Boy Scouts of America teach the “Leave No Trace” principle of leaving areas as you found them. The Goblin Valley Topplers want to be reinstated as Scout Leaders.  Please share your thoughts.

Feb 202014

Is this winter cold enough for Hell and Niagara Falls to freeze over? Sky Falls

Niagara Horse Shoe Falls Niagara Falls Death Barrel Niagara Cable Car Niagara Falls underneath the falls Niagara Falls Floral ClockHopefully I’ll never find out about that other place, but Niagara Falls will never completely freeze.

Water still flows underneath the ice bridge formed most winters by mist and freezing water.

This is what Niagara Falls and the cars looked like 52 years ago.  We carried on a tradition, that started when Napoleon’s brother brought his American bride here on their honeymoon in 1804.

Yes, that’s my handsome young husband showing off his new wedding ring.

What do hand holding, kissy-face newlyweds take pictures of? Morbid death barrels and other containers that people stupid enough to try going over the falls crawled into.

The good news is, a few did survive.

A cable car built in 1916, took us over the Niagara whirlpool.

This Aero Car was upgraded the year we rode on it. I’m not sure if that was before or after we rode on this rickety looking contraption. Recent pictures show that the only changes to the Aero Car has been adding a metal roof.

To hear the roar of the waterfall, we went through a series of tunnels to an observation deck.

Luckily waterproof cameras were invented 52 years ago.

Now there is a barricade that keeps people farther back from the edge of the falls.

The international boundary was placed somewhere over the Horseshoe Falls.

Erosion has caused a dispute over the boundary line, so no need to carry your passport if your boat is going over the falls.

This Flora Clock has been changing it’s face every year since 1950.

Although I’m always wondering where the time went, my mirror shows the changes added to my own face since our honeymoon.

Oh, well- – our life has been a fun trip of memories, with more to come.

How have your favorite vacation places changed over the years?

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