I am exploring the Natchez Trace – also known as the “Old Natchez Trace” – it traces the route established by foraging bison and later Native Americans, European settlers, itinerant preachers, slave traders, explorers and soldiers as a route to important trading ports in Mississippi and Louisiana. Explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark died on the Trace and is buried on the parkway near Hohenwald, TN. Traveled on foot, on horseback and by wagon, in its heyday the trade route was dotted with trading posts – some of which still exist today. After the arrival of the steamboat goods could be more quickly transported on the Mississippi, and the Trace no longer played a pivotal role as a trade route. I think now it serves as a living history lesson. The day begins with take-out breakfast – southern biscuits – from the world famous Loveless Café, 150 yards east of the beginning of the Natchez Trace Parkway – or the terminus if we were heading north from Natchez – which we will do when Daytripping does this tour. The terrain is hilly undulating with nooks and crannies in the hills and wide open vistas and lots of curves. But, it is beautiful. I am passing massive mansions, enormous estates, impressive Tennessee Walking Horse farms, tobacco barns and tiny towns. Spend even a few hours driving the Trace, as I did, and you will understand why it is called the top scenic drive in the country. It is especially stunning today with the hardwood forests lining the roadway exploding in fall color. After crossing the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge I leave the parkway to check out historic downtown Franklin, TN – full of old charms, historic homes, an award-wining historic Main Street and Civil War history – I know Daytrippers will want to spend time shopping and dining here. As I complete my circle returning to Nashville I follow Hwy 96 through Leipers Fork – when you have been touring as long as I have you get accustomed to a certain level of small-town charm so I think I know small-town charm but today I met Leiper’s Fork – the most charming tiny town there ever was.
Tonight, I have reservations for Cheekwood Botanical Gardens Holiday Lights, over 1 million of them, paired alongside the stunning works of Dale Chihuly at night. My tour itineraries have been tip-toeing around Cheekwood Estate and Gardens for years – adding it to a tour – only to remove it in favor of something more “important” or more in keeping with the theme of the tour. Cheekwood is a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate. Once the family home of Mabel and Leslie Cheek, I am told this extraordinary 1930s Georgian mansion is one of the finest examples of an American Country Place Era estate. Tonight, I walked a mile long pathway of twinkling lights, through boxwood gardens, along a wooded stream, past fountains and stone grottos, from one stunning Chihuly art piece to the next, winding my way to the historic mansion. I skipped the indoor tour this time– but did stop for a moment to listen to the carolers performing on the veranda. I am sorry I missed the art gallery and home but look forward to seeing it, as well as the gardens by daylight, when Daytripping returns to Nashville. I did take time to meet the resident reindeer – Dolly and Jolly! Did you know they really do go “click, click, click” – it’s the small tendons in their feet moving over bones! It has been a long day and though I have seen it many times, I still couldn’t resist driving through the lights display at Opryland before calling it a day. Full speed ahead into the Christmas season…
Missing you, stay safe
Today’s stop is personal – I am atop beautiful Petit Jean Mountain in central Arkansas at the Museum of Automobiles founded by Winthrop Rockefeller in 1964.
When I inherited my father’s mint-condition 1980 DeLorean following his death in 2017, I felt it belonged in a museum. My dad admired the late Governor, so I was elated when his beloved DeLorean found a home at Governor Rockefeller’s museum alongside Rockefeller’s 1967 Cadillac featuring a sterling-silver Santa Gertrudis bull hood ornament – like the ones he raised on his ranch.
Winthrop Rockefeller was a third generation of the Rockefeller family and 37th Governor of Arkansas. He moved to Arkansas in 1953, establishing “Winrock Farms” cattle ranch on Petit Jean Mountain. Among many other pursuits, Rockefeller collected antique and classic cars. So many that, in 1964, he decided to found the Museum of Automobiles. Today this museum houses over 50 gorgeous, vintage vehicles from 1904 to 1981. The museum is also home to the only known Climber vehicles in existence. The Climber Motor Corporation was Arkansas’ first automotive manufacturing company. The company founded in 1919 prided itself in making vehicles that would climb like a tractor. By 1923 the company was gone. Other standouts in the collection include Rockefellers’ 1914 popcorn wagon, a 1904 Oldsmobile French Front, a 1913 Metz Runabout, a 1929 Marmon Coupe and now my Dad’s 1980 DeLorean.
In November of 2018, a handful of Daytrippers on our Arkansas tour joined my family here for the DeLorean’s dedication – it is a memory that will stay will me always.
This is my first time back – it is a glorious fall day in an absolutely beautiful setting and I feel deeply feel the peace of this place. I thankful for this quiet commune with nature and the memory of my father – I expected to be overwhelmed by my feelings of loss but instead am filled with gratitude for his life.
Even with all the chaos and challenges of this year, there is still so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I cannot be more grateful for you and the support you have shown Daytripping each and every step of the way. Happy Thanksgiving.
Missing you, stay safe
The Queen City –
I can’t remember how many times I have driven through Cincinnati and formed my impression of the city by my view from the interchange. On a presidential library trip years ago our tour ventured off the freeway just long enough to visit the William Howard Taft House. After years of driving by at 65 miles an hour I decided it was time to see what I was missing. And now that I have toured the “Queen City”, I can say, without hesitation, that Cincinnati is very cool. First, this city boasts a 21C Museum Hotel – a sure badge of coolness – and the art collection is extensive as it is unique. I climbed to the top of Mount Adams to take a picture with Jim Dine’s 12 foot tall bronze sculpture of Pinocchio – the patron saint of tour guides – standing outside the Cincinnati Art Museum. Huge disappointment, access to the statue was blocked due to construction. It’s the first “to do” next time.
There is far too much to tell you about in this note but a few can’t-miss-must-see highlights:
The 1867 Roebling Suspension Bridge was the longest bridge of its kind in the world, until it was surpassed by Roebling’s more famous creation, New York’s Brooklyn Bridge – you will recognize it’s unmistakable resemblance – in 1976 to honor the Bicentennial the bridge was painted blue and it is striking. The Great American Ball Park – home of the Cincinnati Reds, perched on the riverfront in downtown, the Bengals impressive football stadium – forty amazing murals, whimsical outdoor art, stunning public water fountains and home to 5 US presidents: William Howard Taft, Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison AND George Clooney and … well you will see it all when we return on tour.
Today, my mission is to see the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center located right on the banks of the Ohio River where many crossed the mighty Ohio on their way to freedom. The river was the dividing line between slave states, Kentucky on the south, and free states, Ohio to the north. The museum is dedicated to celebrating the heroes who fight for freedom throughout the history of slavery. There are 3 floors of exhibits, a video narrated by Oprah Winfrey telling the story of what slaves went through to cross the Ohio, an authentic 1830 slave pen, abolitionist histories, a choose your path interactive escape experience and an eternal flame. It was compelling – not just the history of slavery but also a look at how slavery effects our world today. At the museum I learned the home of influential antislavery author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, is also located in Cincinnati. I headed straight there and found the house in the process of a much needed renovated. While it is obvious that they are hard at work it is in a very sad state. But the story is still as grand as the house once was – and no doubt will be again. Stowe came from a line of abolitionists; she and her siblings were greatly influenced by her Pastor father. When President Lincoln met Stowe he stated, “you are the lady that helped get the war started.” This was the Stowe family home for twenty years and Harriet lived here from 1833 – 1836. Not to be confused with the National Historic Landmark house in Hartford, CT which we have toured.
I am not sure why I never knew Cincinnati was such a cool place but I am convinced that Cincinnati is trying to keep it’s coolness a secret.
Missing you, stay safe
I feel I should be behind the wheel of Model T as I drive to the historic Ford Estate in Dearborn, MI. Fair Lane was Henry and Clara Ford’s final home which they moved into in December 1915, after the booming success of the Model T, the assembly line and Ford’s $5 workday policy. This was coming home for them, both were born and raised in Dearborn. Most of the original structures still stand today. I am intrigued by the powerhouse – so that is what I am going to share with you. Henry Ford had long been interested in alternative energy. When he built Fair Lane, he harnessed the power of the Rouge River to run the estate entirely on hydroelectric power. The dam was important to him because it was non-polluting. Ford cared deeply about the natural world and made efforts throughout his life to conserve it. As for the grand home, I was only able to walk the grounds, However, I am told “it is one of the first historic sites to be designated a National Historic Landmark, has an eclectic mix of English castle and prairie style, mixing European grandeur and Midwestern charm”.
Following Fords’ iconic tire tracks takes me to Greenfield Village where you can time travel without a machine. The Village came about as Henry Ford’s wish to showcase his vast collection of Americana and show how Americans through the years worked and played. When opened in 1929 structures included in his collection were the birthplaces, homes or workplaces of Ford, Edison, Luther Burbank and Wilbur and Orville Wright – many of them men whom Ford admired and/or knew as personal friends. Today, the village showcases 300 years of American perseverance and serves as a reminder that anything is possible.
Half an hour away is Grosse Pointe, MI where on the shores of Lake St. Clair at a place locally known as Gaukler Point stands beautiful Ford House. The impressive but unpretentious home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford and their four children. The walk from the grand gatehouse seemed to be about a quarter mile through sprawling grounds, formal rose garden past a cascading swimming pool with a waterfall that flows into a lagoon. At the main house I see a bride and groom posing for wedding photos so I circled around the back of the property and spend far longer than intended roaming the shore, taking in the splendid lakefront setting where in the distance I see white sails of the one boat brave enough to still be on the water this late in the season. The curator tells me a new visitor center is under construction to be opened in 2021. She also described the estate as “an American treasure and a monument to wealth and good taste”… I agree.
A short trip along Lakeshore Drive with fabulous homes and water views the whole way I find the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, situated on the grounds of the historic Alger Estate – the Moorings – a spacious Italian Renaissance-style home built in 1910 for Russell Alger and his family. In 1949 it was dedicated to serve as a perpetual memorial to those served and died in World War II, It’s mission to promote the ideals of democracy – the ideals valued within a perfect Union. When you read this it will Veterans Day – a day dedicated to honor our nation’s patriots and be grateful. This will be the first Veteran’s Day in 30 years that I have not spent on the bus with Daytrippers.
Missing you, stay safe
PS. I learned Russell Alger helped the Wright Brothers by investing in the Wright Co. and even bringing a plane to Grosse Pointe to give rides to potential investors. He allowed his daughter Josephine – age 12 at the time – to fly in a Wright Brothers biplane. Josephine was the inspiration for the song “Come, Josephine, in My Flying Machine”
Today, in search of world famous Joseph Decuis Restaurant (I was just going to check out size, suitability and group accommodations – I wasn’t going to sample the Wagu ribeye without you – I promise) I took the wrong exit off the highway and stumbled upon …. Drum Roll … the Dan Quayle Museum! Located in Quayle’s hometown of Huntington, Indiana. Not at joke – a museum for Dan Quayle – that is what the sign read. Turns out, and I know this will shock you – it did me – seems as if not that many people were interested in a museum devoted to Dan Quayle so it evolved to become the Dan Quayle Learning Center and Museum of Vice Presidents. Presidents are celebrated with monuments, flaming tombs and Presidential Libraries, but much less celebrates the Vice President – no candy bars are named after their daughters. Yet, here in a northeast corner of Indiana lies a museum entirely devoted to the nation’s second-highest office; the only in the country – where on a ramble down vice president history lane you learn just how ignored the vice presidency has been for most of its history. The museum’s slogan “Second to One” sums it up far better than I ever could.
After this bumpy start the days drive took me through the heart of Ohio’s aviation roots – where I visited the Wright Brothers hometown of Dayton. I have been numerous times to Kitty Hawk, many of you have been with me and the Wright Brothers history there is awe inspiring and amazing – but today I touched the spot where the dream began – in the original Wright Brothers Cycle Company! Here, the brothers made a discovery that would forever change the history of the world. I had seen the old black and white photos – we all have – but I didn’t realize it still exists. Next door stands the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, chronicling the lives of the Wright Brothers and another Dayton native, friend/business partner of the Wright Brothers, Paul Laurence Dunbar; the first influential Black poet in American literature. Across town, the Wright Brothers Museum at Carillion Historic Park houses the 1905 Wright Flyer lll! Orville died before Carillon Park was opened in 1950 but before his death, he had a hand in designing Wright Hall.
My day wraps up in Wapakoneta, Indiana, hometown of the first man to walk on the moon – Neil Armstrong and a visit to Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum, which celebrates the sights and sounds of man’s first steps on the moon. The F5D Sky Lancer and the Gemini VIII spacecraft are on display live here as well as a truly impressive exhibit – ‘Infinity Room full of stars’, a moon rock and other Apollo 11 artifacts. I learned Armstrong’s first step on the moon was with his left foot at exactly 10:46:15pm and the moon’s surface vibrated for 55 minutes after the Apollo impact. When Armstrong headed to the moon he carried with him remnants of fabric and a piece of wood from the propeller of the Wright Flyer.
In one single day, I drove from man’s first flight to the moon – my thought as I go to sleep is that today I gained a greater appreciation of the power of dreams – dreams that change the world.
In Dunbar’s words,
“What dreams we have and how they fly
Like rosy clouds across the sky;
The fame that for a moment gleams,
Then flies forever, — dreams, ah — dreams!”
-Paul Laurence Dunbar
Missing you, stay safe.
Cave City, Arkansas
This road adventure I am on while Daytripping is shuttered came about because I am required to attend a monthly Board of Directors meeting in Cave City, AR So, this week I thought I would introduce you to Cave City. My mother, Margie Street Pettersen’s, home town and the place my parent’s spent their retirement. For years my mother made the monthly trip from Napa to Cave City to attend the board meeting – now I follow in her footsteps. The Bank of Cave City was founded in 1906. In 1919 my great grandfather Roe Street became president of the bank and and the bank has been controlled by my family for a century. Today, my cousin, John Beller is bank president and is a bright star – not only in our bank but in the community.
The Crystal River Cave – across Main Street from my mother’s house – gave birth to Cave City and was one of the first caverns in Arkansas opened to tourists. In the 1930’s the land surrounding mouth of the cave was purchased with the goal of making a tourist attraction – The Cave Courts. The exterior walls of the six existing structures used to make up the tourist court were covered with elaborate stone exteriors, constructed mostly of local Ozark fieldstone embedded with geodes, petrified wood, crystals, and Native American relics such as arrowheads and bone chips – an excellent example of 1930s folk architecture. The Cave Courts was a source of pride for the community until it closed in the 1950’s. In June of 1991, what is known as the Crystal River Tourist Camp Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and described as “quirky, unusual, puzzling and fantastic”. Currently the tourist court and cave are closed, the property is privately owned and in sad disrepair. Several years ago my mother was able to convince the cave’s owner to take a small group of Daytrippers on a tour down into the caverns – a rare treat as almost no one in Cave City has ever been inside the cave. It is a shame for this treasure to be allowed to deteriorate – it should be restored and opened to the public.
Just down the street is the modern stone-and-glass building that houses the Bank of Cave City. Built in 2013, it serves as an anchor for Cave’s City small downtown. The walls of the community room at the bank are covered with old photos and framed newspaper stories. There’s a framed campaign ad from when my grandfather, Eagle Street, ran for the state Senate – a seat he held for two terms. Most of the photos concern the area’s history of growing watermelons. The bank’s former home, just on the other side of a parking lot is now the city library.
Today, Cave City is best known for the “World’s Sweetest Watermelons” celebrated at the annual Watermelon Festival – celebrating it’s 40th year!
Now that my parents are gone I take great pride in carrying on the family legacy by serving on the Board of the Bank of Cave City and having this opportunity to make my mother proud. I know she is watching from Heaven.
Missing you, stay safe.
This is one of those rare postcard-perfect drives we always hope for on tour and I so wish you were here with me. I pass a couple driving a sporty convertible with one of those Go-Cams mounted on the top of the windshield and wish I had thought of that so you could see for yourselves.
Lighthouses, epic views, water stretching for miles and the yellows, oranges, reds of fall leaves brighten my path. After years of traipsing about the east coast in search of the perfect “leaf peeping” tour imagine my surprise to stumble upon the best fall color I have ever seen – in Michigan. I am oohing, aahing and literally hear myself say “this is stunning” every few minutes. I feel a tinge of anticipation for what I will see around the next bend. My first stop is beautiful Harbor Springs – a hidden gem, it sparkles on the edge of Lake Michigan within a harbor on a bay. It is a ridiculously charming town where time catches it breath but at the same time has that sophisticated Hampton vibe. Obviously well loved by those lucky enough to call it home. Leaving Harbor Springs behind the highway grows graceful and curves into country roads. Past gentle slopes with horses grazing and forests that stretch for days I come to the Tunnel of Trees – a roughly 30-mile ramble down one of Americas most beautiful drives. The narrow M119 road meanders alongside Lake Michigan, but since the leaves are so dense, I only get peeps of the blue water from a select few overlooks. After passing through remote Cross Village – with a giant white cross on the bluff overlooking the lake, home of the quirky Leg’s Inn, a kitschy, rustic stone structure like something you might see in fairy tale, I arrive in the tiny hamlet of Good Hart. Seriously it is tiny. The downtown only has three businesses. The Good Hart General Store has been a gathering spot for the people of Good Hart since the 1930’s and is totally authentic. It’s the town’s grocery store, bakery, real estate office and post office plus is famous for Chicken Pot pies – I leave with two for my freezer. The day ends in Mackinaw City, just a ferry ride from Mackinac Island, one of my most favorite places of all time.
Autumn sweeps through Michigan landscapes in color you must see for yourself – it is the perfect place for us to visit on a fall tour.
Missing you, stay safe.
Seeing The Light!
A closed-for-the-season ferry brought me to this weeks unexpected and previously unexplored destination…usually heading to Mackinac Island, I cross Lake Michigan from Manatowoc on the SS Badger Ferry to Ludington, MI. Many of you have taken this ferry with me on our tours over the years. But, this being the year that it is, the ferry stopped its service early.
And this is how I ended up discovering Scenic Hwy 2 – a shore-hugging drive winding it’s way past quaint lakeside towns with picture-perfect views. Today, with autumn leaves approaching peak color the drive could not be more delightful. Along this route I stumbled on Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan’s most famous natural spring, Oscada, the true birthplace of Paul Bunyan, Hiawatha National Forest – and read Longfellow’s poem for the first time.
Along the way I heard of a must-see lighthouse in Menominee, MI. It turns out to be a most impressive city as well. Making my way through town to the lakeshore I drove historic Main Street and discovered it’s unique architectural heritage with Spies Public Library, which on first glance I thought was a Carnegie, Grand 1902 Opera House, Victorian style railroad depot and charming homes. Menominee has been gentrified. It looks like a fine place to live. But, I was eager to see the “Crown Jewel” of Menominee – the North Pier Lighthouse. The first light was built in 1877. The current tower was built in 1927 and has been shifted and changed over the years. It is a blustery day, the waves spreading across the jetty as I walk the pier give the impression of walking on water! There are several markers on the pier that say where the lighthouse used to sit… it’s been moved/extended three times! From the base of the lighthouse the view is extraordinary – I could see Door County, WI – the view is also hypnotic and I would have stayed far longer if it hadn’t been so cold. But, cold it was – too cold even to linger hunting for the sea glass treasure they claim is hidden along the shore – next time, we will all look for it together.
Missing you, stay safe.
My heart is with you as our beloved Sonoma County is in danger from fire, again. I hope and pray that all of you are far from harm’s way. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to say you are safe. I debated whether you would want to follow my travels this week but I decided some thoughts of future trips would be welcome. Please take care of yourselves until we meet again.
And now… Guess What Day It Is!
Get the hell out of Dodge!
Fifty years ago when I last visited Dodge City it was on a road trip from Napa to Cave City, Arkansas with my Grandpa. I was beyond eager to see it again.
Sadly, the rowdy, “wild west” Dodge City of my seven year old memory has been rounded up, corralled inside the Boot Hill Museum and tamed…. Today, almost nothing of this rip-roaring, reckless “Hell on the Plains” famous for its gunfights – despite marshals like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp keeping order and planting bad guys in the Boot Hill Cemetery – survives. Outside the Boot Hill Museum, what you see in Dodge City mostly dates from the 1920s and is by and large a cattle-ranching community with extensive stockyards surrounding the small downtown area.
But, once inside the walls of the fake but fun Boot Hill Museum, on its recreated Front Street, gunfights, medicine shows and Miss Kitty with her Can-Can girls are just as I remembered. Now might be a good time to mention that Boot Hill got its name from the days when gunfighters were buried with their boots on in graves so shallow that the tips of their boots were said to stick up above the earth – a bit morbid yes but things were different in those days…
Missing you, stay safe.
I am writing this from Telluride, CO.
As Daytripping remains shuttered until 2021, I have decided to take make good use of the time and preview tours for when we are back on the bus. I will be out searching for unforgettable adventures to enhance our future tours.
I am finding it odd to be on the road without 40 or so of you in the seats behind me sharing the journey. So, I thought I would share as best I can along the way by sending weekly updates each Wednesday, I hope you will watch for it and travel along with me.
I begin in Colorado with an eye to changing up our ‘Trains Around Colorado’ tour. This is my first visit to Telluride and I am so sorry this gem has not been on our itinerary before now. This remote ski town tucked away in a box canyon still maintains its Old West charm. Once a mining town, and where Butch Cassidy started his bank-robbing career back in the 1890s, modern-day Telluride is unfussy and charming – with its historic Folk Victorian homes – just plain folk could afford them – yet gives no hint of it’s rough and tumble history.
Fun fact: One version of the town’s history claims that the name comes from the fact that Telluride used to be so remote, stagecoach drivers complained “to hell you ride.”
Stay safe in these topsy-turvy times. I miss you.