Category Archives: Museums

Project LiveWire

Project LiveWire

Project LiveWire launches at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee on June 19th

Since early this year, Mike’s been working on a top-secret project for Harley. He couldn’t even tell me about it. Project LiveWire is an electric motorcycle, Harley’s first. Mike’s unique blend of old-school mechanic skills and an affiinity for the latest technology made him ideal for this project. He’s the lead mechanic touring the West Coast to show off these handcrafted, limited edition electric bikes. We spent several weeks in Milwaukee as Mike, along with the East Coast lead mechanic, helped the engineers build bikes, tested them, ordered parts, and learned everything about the roadshow.

The project was announced on June 19th, and the West Coast tour kicked off at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee on bike night. I got to see the bike and sit on it and meet the crew that we’re touring with. It  was a great evening. I was – and still am – so proud of Mike!

The bike is very sleek and weighs just 464 pounds. There’s no back seat, unfortunately, so I haven’t gotten to experience it. But Mike says is the most fun bike he’s ever ridden. It goes about 50 miles on a charge, but it can’t be plugged into a standard outlet. The truck we’re following in the RV contains the specialized chargers and holds 11 LiveWires as well as two Streets. Our tour is taking us down Route 66 to California. Then we’re veering north to Denver, Bellevue and Portland before heading back to California and wrapping up in Texas in December.

Right now, Harley execs are part of the caravan, riding the bikes for a few miles down Route 66 during the day and staying in hotels at night. There’ve also been a couple of meet-n-greets at dealerships. It’s been stressful because Mike’s working long hours – getting the bikes ready, swapping them out and waiting for people and supplies to arrive – and driving the RV, although I help out with the driving as much as he’ll let me. We’re in a different city every day, so there’s almost no time to go sightseeing. In a couple of weeks, though, we’ll be lingering in one city for a few days, which’ll be really nice.

The tour has its challenges, but it’s amazing to be part of history in the making.

Videocast: Sun-n-Fun and NASA with a little mud thrown in

Videocast: Sun-n-Fun and NASA with a little mud thrown in

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind few weeks! Mike’s visited his daughter in Savannah. I’ve been to Spain and done a mud run. We’ve volunteered at the Sun-n-Fun fly-in and toured NASA. It’s taken us a while, but we’re finally getting caught up on our videos and blogging.

Thanks for continuing to be patient with us on the video stuff. We’re getting better at the audio, but there’s still lots of room for improvement. We bought new microphones, which has helped, but this time, the mic is too far away from Mike, and he’s hard to hear. We will get it right soon. Promise!

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the latest installment!

Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We only stayed in Cedar Key, Florida, for a week, but we packed it full of fun stuff. One of our favorite things was kayaking out to Atsena Otie (which means cedar island in a tribal language). Mike and I shared a kayak and accompanied guide Mandy Davis and three of her friends on an awesome daylong adventure.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

Mandy is an accomplished, seasoned naturalist and guide who’s recently set up shop in Cedar Key. She runs Hidden Coast Outdoors, and the Atsena Otie adventure is one of many tours she offers. Not only did Mandy show us how to kayak, but she also educated us on the history of Cedar Key. We learned that the city of Cedar Key was located on Atsena Otie Island. Cedar Key was an important port. Two mills on the island produced ‘cedar’ slats for shipment to northern pencil factories. Economic decline began when Henry Plant’s railroad to Tampa began service in 1886, and a devastating Atlantic hurricane in 1896 was the final blow.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We made the short hike to the now-closed pier and the cemetery. Mandy brought along paper and crayons so we could take headstone rubbings. I chose a grave marker with my name (except with a Z instead of an S). What a unique souvenir! We then kayaked further east for lunch. Mandy prepared a homemade, gourmet Mexican meal for us, and we ate on the beach near eaglets and other water birds.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

It was a glorious experience, so much fun and a wonderful workout.  $90 (per person) VERY well spent!!

Bite a legend

Bite a legend

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Minutes from the Gold Brook Campground is the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where the legendary cider donuts are made fresh daily, year round.  These are old-fashioned donuts: cakey and 1950s size, delicately sweet and flavored with cinnamon and cider.   Even after they’ve cooled, they’re delicious or so Mike told me when he finally  had a chance to eat his at the end of the workday.

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You can make these babies at home.  Cold Hollow sells a mix and a cutter and has a tutorial on their website.  Or, if you simply must have the real thing, they will ship two dozen anywhere in the country.

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But there’s much more to Cold Hollow than the donuts.  This is an active mill, and you can wander into the back and see cider being pressed.  You’ll learn the difference between apple cider and apple juice.  You can also see the mill’s bees making honey that’s used in the products they sell.

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Besides that, there are all kinds of Vermont-made foods and other products available for sale.  Only in Vermont would you find a maple walnut peanut butter!  Not sure what to buy?  Don’t fret; there’re plenty of samples to try.

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Harley-Davidson Museum

Harley-Davidson Museum
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The bronze Hill Climber statue in front of the museum weighs 5,000 pounds and stands 16 feet tall.

Once a month, from October through March, Mike teaches at Harley-Davidson‘s service school in Milwaukee, and the class always includes an outing to the H-D Museum.  I got to go this time, and so did Russ, Mike’s friend and new contract employee.  (Mike has more dealerships wanting training than he can accommodate, so he’s brought Russ on to handle the overflow.  Russ has a lot of experience as well as his own business with flexible hours.  So he’s an ideal person to help out.)

The Harley-Davidson museum is, to understate it, very cool.  There’s a lot of interactive stuff, like a build-your-own-bike station.   We got to visit the archives on our tour and see the restoration section where bikes are prepped for posterity.    The museum is packed with more than 450 motorcycles and artifacts, dating back to Serial Number One, the oldest known Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

My favorite part was the screen displaying a digital exploded engine diagram.  Mike liked posing by the WXA side-hack prototype.  With so much to check out, you’ll definitely want to devote several hours.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

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Um, stamp out walking? Funny how times change!

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This made me want to bling out the motorhome!

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Evil Knievel’s bike

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Falls Park

Falls Park

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Native Americans were the first visitors the falls of the Big Sioux River.  The Lakota and Dakota were nomadic bison hunters, and they used the falls as a place to rendezvous with French fur trappers.  As the land around the falls was claimed by European settlers, a 1,200-acre village sprung up.  Sioux Falls became an official city in 1883.  Railroads really put the city on the map, with a population spike from 2,164 in 1880 to 10,167 at the end of the decade.  Economic ups and downs over the years mirrored the nation at large, but through it all, the falls have been central to the city’s industry and recreation.

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In pioneer days, the falls were used for water power to run the Queen Bee Mill.  When it was built, the mill could process 1,500 bushels of wheat and was considered one of the most advanced facilities in America.  Unfortunately, weak water power and a lack of wheat forced it to close in 1883, just six years after it was built.  A few companies attempted to  make the mill a going concern over the years, but nothing worked.  After a fire in 1956 compromised the structure, upper walls were knocked down until only two of the original seven stories of the mill remain.

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Remains of the seven-story Queen Bee Mill

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Millrace and dam

Today, Falls Park covers 123 acres with an average of 7,400 gallons of water dropping 100 feet each second.  With paved walking and biking paths, picnic tables scattered charmingly on the grassy spots, and a cafe in the old Light and Power Company building, the park is captivating place to spend an afternoon with family and friends.

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Cannonsburgh Village

Cannonsburgh Village

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If you have ever been curious about what it was like to live in Tennessee in pioneering days, a walk through Cannonsburgh Village in Murfreesboro will scratch that itch.  The charming village encapsulates southern life from the 1830s to the 1930s.  A free self-guided tour of the six-acre area takes you by a gristmill, a school house, telephone operator’s house, the University House, the Leeman House, a museum, a caboose, the wedding chapel, a doctor’s office, a general store, a blacksmith’s shop, a well, and more.

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We were there after-hours, so we couldn’t go inside the buildings.  Just wandering among the rustic structures was entertaining.  And I bet the interiors are even cooler than the exteriors!

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Mike’s favorite part of the village was the tractor shed in back.  It showcases tractors used in Middle Tennessee between 1920 and 1950.  Mike was surprised to discover that one of the tractors was a Porsche.  Come to find out, Porsche’s first diesel model was the tractor.  There’s even a whole website devoted to these vintage farm vehicles!

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Cannonsburgh Village is a nifty stop any time, but I imagine that it’d really come alive during Pioneer Days in April, when there’s storytelling, hayrides, cloggers and dancing, bluegrass music, an antique auto show, blacksmith demos, a craft fair and food vendors.  

Hazen’s Brigade Monument

Hazen’s Brigade Monument

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The timing of our stop in D.C. was fortuitous.  We were there right before the government shutdown, so everything was open.  We weren’t so lucky when Stevi took us to Murfreesboro to check out some Civil War sites.  But we didn’t let that deter us, and we drove around until we found places we could still visit.  One of them was Hazen’s Brigade Monument.

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Hazen’s Brigade Monument is a large stone structure built from thick limestone blocks that stands on the grounds of the Stones River Battlefield National Cemetery.  It was completed in May, 1863, four months after the Battle of Stones River. The monument is the oldest intact Civil War Memorial and was dedicated to the memory of the soldiers who perished during the battle.

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The downside of the visitor center being shuttered (because of the shutdown) was that we missed the opportunity to check out the “time capsule” objects.  They were found in 1985 when the monument was being repaired.   Nine battle-related items were found, including symbolically arranged artillery shells and musket barrels.

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There are two graves that lie outside the walls of the Hazen’s Brigade Monument.  William Holland and his grandson William Harlan were both U.S. military veterans.  William Holland lived long enough – 70 years – to go from being a slave, basically a piece of property, at the beginning of his life, to ending his life as a property owner and an American citizen.

Most monuments are built 30 years or more after the event by contractors.  Hazen’s Brigade Monument is unique in that it was built by comrades of the men buried there, mere months after they’d died.  How extraordinary that our modern fingers can touch those very same stones that Civil War soldiers assembled in loving tribute to their fallen brothers in arms!

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A final goodbye at Arlington

A final goodbye at Arlington

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Evelyn, Mike’s mum, passed away in early 2012.  She was in her 80s and had suffered from dementia for the entire six years I’d known her.

Despite her memory issues, she was a lovely, vibrant woman.  She had silvery hair, large, expressive eyes, and an easy, hearty laugh.  I occasionally caught glimpses of the woman she was before the disease gained its foothold.  She’d be feisty and funny, and I could picture her overseeing a household of boys and one adopted girl as well as the assorted cousins that would come over for Sunday dinner.

When I first started dating Mike, on the weekends, I would bring a big suitcase over to the house he shared with his mum and his brother Patrick.  Along with clothes and toiletries, I always packed several Z Bars for me and Evelyn.  She loved the chocolaty, kid-friendly nutrition bars as much as I did.  Maybe because we were both kids at heart.  I’d make us each a cup of tea and perch on the arm of her easy chair while we sipped and munched and shared stories.  I’d rub her back, and sometimes, if I’d had a bad day, she’d rub mine and tell me it’d be okay.

When Evelyn couldn’t be left alone anymore, Mike and Patrick were faced with how to watch her 24/7 when they both worked.  Unfortunately, she made too much money for assistance but too little to pay for the type of nursing home facility that can take care of dementia patients.  A godsend came in the form of one their cousins who lived in California.  Collette, a stay-at-home grandma, and her family were able to take Evelyn in, and they were close enough that we could still easily visit.  I would send Evelyn homemade cards with photos and news from our crazy life.  When Mike and I got married in 2009, one of Collette’s granddaughters brought Evelyn to Vegas so she could be there to celebrate with us.  One of my most treasured photos is of Evelyn with her own three granddaughters.  She’s in purple; the girls are wearing satin sheaths in varying jewel tones, and they’re all beautiful.

Once Mike got his pilot’s license, we would fly from Vegas to California, pick Evelyn up and take her to the bookstore.  She loved Danielle Steel, so we’d buy her the author’s latest installment.  It didn’t matter if she’d already read it.  She wouldn’t remember, so it’d be new to her regardless.  After that, we’d take her to dinner and have those heartbreaking conversations where the same questions were asked over and over again.  When we would leave her to return home, she’d cry and beg to be taken home to be with her boys.  We would explain, but no words could take away the sadness in her eyes.  I felt so badly for Mike at those times.  It was crushing for him to see her like that and to have to leave her behind.

After Evelyn passed, we went through her things.  I found all the cards I’d sent her, all the gifts I’d given her like the picket fence picture frame and the box with the bold flower print that once contained lemony tea bags.  She had saved it all.  I bawled like a baby, and  I still do when I think about it.

Mike’s dad, for whom he’s named, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 2003, and it was Evelyn’s wish that we reunite her with her husband of over 50 years.  It took more than a year for Mike’s, Patrick’s and their older brother Raymond’s schedules to sync up, so we didn’t make it to Arlington until late September 2013.  Before the ceremony, we toured the cemetery.  We talked and walked and marveled at the history of the place.  The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns was particularly moving.

Finally, the moment came for us to bid Evelyn a final goodbye.  The chaplain’s ceremony was short and as heartfelt as he could make it for someone he didn’t know.  Raymond had brought along a picture and a small elephant to be buried with her.  Elephants were another thing Evelyn and I had in common.   She collected them, and I still do, although I’ve yet to find a place for all of them in the RV.

Before we left Evelyn for the last time, I touched both the photo and the trinket at the gravesite.  I am so grateful to have known this amazing, beautiful woman and so honored that she allowed me the privilege of loving her son.  Rest in peace, Evelyn.  You will always be in our hearts.

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Air and Space

Air and Space

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Our next stop after hanging out with Grant and Barbie was Washington, D.C.  We were in town to inter Mike’s mum with his dad, who was buried in Arlington in 2003.  Evelyn passed away in early 2012, but it took a while for all of our schedules to sync up so we could reunite her with her husband of over 50 years.

Although the reason for the visit was bittersweet, we managed to fit in some fun.  With Mike’s passion for all things flying-related, a trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., was a “must do”.   Luckily, we were in D.C. right before the shutdown, so all the museums were open.

Of course, Mike was in aviation ecstasy the moment he stepped inside the Air and Space doors.  🙂  I was pretty excited, too, especially about the Wright Brothers exhibit – coming so close on the heels of our visit to First Flight.  While were at Air and Space, we saw two movies in the IMAX theatre: Air Racers (which was in 3D) and To Fly!  Both were good and gave our feet a nice rest after all the walking.

(The Instagram photos were taken by me.  The others were taken by Mike.)

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