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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Freedom Tour -- Day 26


In the middle of nowhere, along one of those two-lane highways I've been traveling lately, I saw this painted building as I was passing tiny little Lewellen, Nebraska. So I had to turn around and see what this was all about.

Ordinarily, small towns in the middle of nowhere on the Nebraska prairie are quaint looking with historic downtowns like this one (Gothenburg):



But Lewellen, population 224 and the only town within 50 miles, looked comparatively hip to me. The Most Unlikely Place, for sure.



That third building from the right above, with the white triangular roof, is what all the fuss is about.

Here it is from the front:



Housed in a former silent movie theater with an interesting history, The Most Unlikely Place has occupied the space since 2009 with a family-owned art gallery and bistro complete with live music and servers on roller skates!



What's even more unlikely is that this wonderful establishment is in a town where Main Street is the only paved street! All the other streets are dirt. Here's what I saw when I turned the corner to leave Lewellen: tidy residential neighborhoods with unpaved streets.


Lewellen even has a winery. (It's odd that the Wikipedia photo of Main Street in Lewellen is on the opposite side of the street from all the colorful interest.)

I got back on that two-laned highway and headed northwest. An hour later, way out on the prairie a few miles from Bridgeport, I passed a sign that said "Historical Marker" with an arrow, so I followed it to what I learned were two of the most important guiding landmarks for pioneers traveling westward along the Oregon TrailCourthouse and Jail Rocks.


And who knew that rocks were eligible for the National Register of Historic Places?


It's hard for many in the 21st century to imagine the hopes and hardships experienced by thousands of people in the 19th century who ventured west along the Oregon Trail in wagons. They left civilization behind to find new and better lives for themselves and their families, facing physical threats, severe weather, Indian attacks, rugged terrain and other perils all along the way.

I ended yesterday's adventure safe and sound in a hotel room in Chadron, Nebraska.

Final thoughts about yesterday:

The owners of The Most Unlikely Place, three siblings, took a big risk that paid off in a tiny town. One of the primary reasons 50 percent of small businesses fail within the first five years is that they have neither a business plan nor a marketing plan. These sibling-owners obviously have their plans and goals and visions in place and are succeeding with gusto!

When I was growing up, our parents drove my three siblings and me from San Diego up to Knott's Berry Farm a few times before it ever became a big-time amusement park. It was a wonderful place for this child of the '50s and '60s who loved history. One of my favorite attractions there was the Wagon Train Panorama, a museum with artifacts associated with pioneers coming west to California. I'll never forget the special display in a giant diorama of sorts showing what such a wagon train would have looked like on the prairie along some unnamed trail, and there was a very dramatic (to me, anyway) audio recording of what a family's conversation might have been along the way. At the end, a little girl's voice said, "Mommy, I'm thirsty" and her mother said the only water left had to be saved for the horses. That has stuck with me always.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my blog post about what I did today.

I'm loving my Freedom Tour!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Freedom Tour -- Day 25

Yesterday (Friday), after spending four make-'em-count days with family in Northwest Arkansas and Wichita, Kansas, I drove six and a half hours from Wichita to Ogallala, Nebraska. The roads were mostly two-lane highways through the Kansas plains and Nebraska prairie, with very few other cars in sight...and cornfields as far as the eye can see:

Since I haven't done a Freedom Tour blog post since last Sunday (June 19), allow me to back up a few days. After I arrived in Bella Vista, Arkansas, in the spectacular Ozark Mountains on Sunday evening to visit with my sister Charlou, brother-in-law Bill, cousin Bonnie, cousin Judy and her husband Ken, it was nice to just relax for three full days. 

While it's great to be on the road, relaxation with loved ones is a necessity from time to time.

I don't have any photos of family to share -- just Lake Avalon, where my sister's home is in Bella Vista. The top photo was shot from the upstairs deck and the bottom from the ground-level hammock (thank you, Matt).


Then on Thursday morning I drove about four hours to Wichita, Kansas, to spend the afternoon, evening and the next morning with my cousin Alice who lives in this lovely, spacious home in the historic Riverside neighborhood.



After a leisurely breakfast out, we parted ways (sob) and I hit the road again, which catches you up to yesterday!

On that long drive yesterday to Ogallala, Nebraska, the two-lane highway went through a number of tiny little towns.



At one point I filled my car up with gas next door to a John Deere dealership. 

Dear John Deere: You give farmers all the best toys! 


I saw a sign about a mile from Gothenburg, Nebraska, about a historic Pony Express station and museum so I had to veer off the beaten path and take a look. 

Young men were hired to deliver mail between Missouri and California in the span of only 10 days, guaranteed, which was unheard of at the time. This was before the transcontinental telegraph system was completed, so the only way to communicate was via letter, and that sometimes could take weeks if not months, especially on the isolated plains and prairies. 

The only available options were mail delivery by overland stagecoaches or by steamship routes that had to go around the tip of South America. In other words, not exactly express delivery!

Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, 
not over 18, must be expert riders, 
willing to risk death daily. 
Orphans preferred.

So a relay system was developed that was nearly 2,000 miles long with 190 stations, most of them in Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. Each Pony Express rider raced about 75 miles on horseback, then handed the saddlebag with mail pouches to another waiting rider with a fresh horse. And so on and so on. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody was one of the riders. 


Pony Express only lasted from spring 1860 to autumn 1861 but it remains a legendary chapter in American history.

This historic Pony Express station on the Oregon Trail was moved 25 miles from its original site on the prairie near the Platte River to Gothenburg's Ehmen Park in 1931 after the property owner donated it to the city. Like other stations, this one included sleeping quarters, a corral, food for riders and horses, as well as someone to run the station. 


An iconic image of a Pony Express rider and his galloping horse. 


Inside, which is now a museum, there are many Pony Express artifacts. 




Click here for more info about this station as well as a video about the Pony Express.

Final thoughts about yesterday:

I remember learning about the Pony Express when I was in elementary school. Back then, history was brought to life by exciting stories relayed by great teachers that left me hankering for more. I've been a student of history ever since.

Visiting the Pony Express station was a fascinating and educational break in the day that also gave me an opportunity to stretch my legs in the fresh air by walking around the park.

There doesn't seem to be much to write home about in Ogallala, Nebraska, where I spent the night last night, with the exception of the Prairie Theater that shows first-run films, which is unusual for such a small town in the middle of nowhere (on the marquis it reads "Independence Day" and "Finding Dory"). . .


. . .and a replica of an Old West town that features a short stretch of ersatz shopfronts.


You'll have to wait for tomorrow's blog post to see what I did today.

I'm loving my Freedom Tour!


Pony Express route map courtesy of Mike Reagan.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Looking for Something to Do? Free Events June 25 to July 1

Here are events scheduled Saturday, June 25, to Friday, July 1.

All events are free, so take a look -- and don't you dare say there's nothing to do in Pasadena!
Activities for Pasadena Public Library's Read for the Win! Summer Reading Club include the following (and much more!):

  • For all ages: Read for the Win! will kick off with an old-fashioned singalong led by Theatre Americana Saturday, June 25, at 3 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library.
  • For children 12 and younger: Games Master Dave will run wacky games with unique twists that make them extra fun Thursday, June 30, at 4 p.m. at Hastings Branch Library,.
  • For teens 19 and younger: Enjoy an evening of board games, video games and pizza Thursday, June 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Central Library's Studio on 4th. Sign up by emailing jgov@cityofpasadena,net or calling 626-744-4246.
  • For adults: The documentary "Belly Dance: A History and an Art" will be shown Thursday, June 30, at 7 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library, followed by a belly dancing class!
  • Download Pasadena Public Library's newsletter for a full list of summer activities.
The Pasadena Master Chorale will perform "Listening to the Future," an original work by student composers, Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m. at Neighborhood Church. Stay for a post-concert reception and end-of-season celebration.

The South Lake Avenue Business District presents "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015, PG-13) starring Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher Saturday, June 25, at 8 p.m. on the roof of the parking structure at 55 S. Lake Ave. Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat has arisen and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop it. While the event is free, you must have a ticket. Bring a beach chair and arrive as early as 6 p.m. for DJ music. Bring a picnic or purchase dinner at the event.

Come see what remarkable athletes are made of! With more than 30 competitive events from archery to volleyball, the California Senior Games Championships are ongoing through Sunday, June 26. Go to a venue near you and cheer on these fierce competitors!

What is the human future of space? Will humans settle other worlds? Dr. Louis D. Friedman, former leader of JPL's advanced planetary studies, cofounder of The Planetary Society and advisor to Breakthrough Starshot, will discuss the future of deep space travel during a presentation titled "Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars" Monday, June 27, at 1 p.m. at the Pasadena Senior Center. You do not have to be a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to attend.

The Los Angeles Children's Chorus will present a special send-off concert Tuesday, June 28, at 7 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church before embarking on a tour of the east coast and Japan in conjunction with LACC's 30th anniversary.  

Flutist Ruth Kasckow will perform Wednesday, June 29, from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. for the popular Music at Noon recital series at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. 

"Sister Kenny" (1946, PG-13) starring Rosalind Russell and Dean Jagger will be shown Wednesday, June 29, at 1 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library. A nurse in the Australian bush discovers an effective treatment for polio but can't get official recognition or sanction and is ridiculed for her techniques and theories. Based on a true story.

Tim and the Space Cadets will perform music for children and families Thursday, June 30, at 7 p.m. at the Levitt Pavilion. Bring a picnic or purchase dinner at the park. A pre-concert festival will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Admission to the Pasadena Museum of California Art is free the first Friday (and third Thursday) of every month. On Friday, July 1, from noon to 5 p.m. see the current exhibitions and everything else the museum has to offer.

"45 Years" (2015, R) starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay will be shown Friday, July 1, at 1 p.m. in the Scott Pavilion at the Pasadena Senior Center. A couple planning their wedding anniversary receives shattering news that promises to change the course of their lives forever. You do not have to be a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to attend.

Free Admission Night at the Norton Simon Museum is the first Friday of every month, On Friday, July 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. enjoy the current exhibitions and everything else the museum has to offer.

Jai Uttal will perform world fusion music Friday, July 1, at 8 p.m. at the Levitt Pavilion. Bring a picnic or purchase dinner at the park. A pre-concert festival will begin at 6:30 p.m.

SAVE THE DATE!

Old Pasadena Summer Cinema will present films from July 8 to 30 at indoor and outdoor locations throughout the district.



Photo credits: iStock, Pasadena Master Chorale, Lucasfilm, Pasadena Senior Center, NASA, Los Angeles Children's Chorus, Ruth Kasckow, RKO Radio Pictures, Tim Kubart, Pasadena Museum o California Art, BFI Film Fund, Norton Simon Museum, Jai Uttal.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Freedom Tour -- Day 15


Greetings from St. Louis, Missouri! Today is actually Day 20 of my Freedom Tour, but I fell behind on my blog posts.

This post is about a wonderful and emotional discovery five days ago on Day 15 (Tuesday).

About half an hour outside of Lexington, Kentucky, down a lush little road that winds past many a grand thoroughbred horse farm, there is a historical marker indicating the nearby site of a frontier fort called Bryan's Station, an important fortified settlement in this area during the last days of the American Revolution

I have known about Bryan's Station ever since it popped up when I doing some family genealogy research on the maternal line of my family tree a few years ago. The history of Bryan's Station is very important to me and I was thrilled to be able to seek it out.

I am a direct descendant of 12 people on various branches of my family tree who were personally involved in the American Revolution (yes, I am a proud member of DAR). 



This list includes one woman, which is very unusual!

Before I get to her role, here's a little historical context.


My fifth great-grandparents, Edward Nelson (1738-1805), a frontiersman, and Harriet Morgan Nelson (1752-1822) were born in the British colony of Virginia and, with their two sons, were among the first settlers at Daniel Boone's Fort Boonesborough in 1775, the first year of the American Revolution, in what is now Kentucky.  

This is a historic depiction of Fort Boonesborough I found online with no source credited.



At the time, this region was called Transylvania, was not one of 13 British colonies and was bordered to the north by Canadian territory. Battles in this region before, during and shortly after the American Revolution were fought primarily between white settlers, Canadian Rangers and British-aided natives who were paid to attack and kill settlers.

In 1778 Edward and Harriet Nelson and their brood of now five children settled at Bryan's Station, a fortified settlement that had just been built with about 40 cabins and corner blockhouses on a ridge near North Elkhorn Creek. The American Revolution was well underway and Edward was among about four dozen militiaman keeping a vigilant eye at the fortress. 

This depiction of Bryan's Station is courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society.



Although British General Charles Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, on Oct. 19, 1781, ending the Revolutionary War in the colonies, it wasn't over yet in what is now Kentucky.

A few months later a British officer ordered all settlements south of the Ohio River destroyed. 

For three days in August 1782 a force of some 50 Canadian Rangers and 300 allied natives from several tribes crossed the Ohio River into what is now Kentucky with the intention of destroying the settlement at Bryan's Station and killing the settlers, which included 95 women and children. The 40 men held them off until a Patriot militia force under the command of Col. John Todd and Daniel Boone came to the rescue.

And here is where Harriet Morgan Nelson comes in as an American Revolution heroine. 

During the three-day siege and before the arrival of reinforcements, natives were shooting fiery arrows at Bryan's Station. Some of the women, including Harriet, prevented the fortress's destruction by going to the creek, in full view of the natives and Canadian forces, and carrying bucket after bucket after bucket of water from a spring near the creek to put out the fires and provide hydration for the others at the fortress. The women barely stopped to rest over the three-day period. It is not known why the attackers did not kill the women.

This is an 1851 lithograph, courtesy of the Library of Congress, depicting the women of Bryan's Station gathering water 



After the arrival of the reinforcements, the Canadian forces and the natives skedaddled. All of the livestock, crops and structures outside the fortress had been destroyed, four settlers had been killed and several had been injured.

But that's not the end of the story!

The other day, my adventure was just beginning!

On Aug. 18, 1896, the Lexington chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated a monument to the 28 women who risked their lives drawing water from the spring as well as the male settlers who defended Bryan's Station during the siege.

I knew of this monument and was hoping to see it, but once I got to Lexington I learned it is on private property -- one of the thoroughbred horse farms. 

I made an assumption that the property was the one with the old stone wall just behind the road marker.



So I figured it doesn't hurt to ask.

I entered the driveway and pressed the button on the intercom in front of the gate.



A woman's voice asked the nature of my business and I explained briefly that I am a direct descendant of settlers who protected Bryan's Station during the siege.

"Come on up," she said.

I drove up the pretty road toward the stately home and was met by a worker who led me down a path to the DAR monument. 



There are panels on the monument, one of which lists the names of the women of Bryan's Station who helped save the day. 

The top line on this panel reads "The women who carried the water." Harriet's is in the column on the right, second from the bottom. 



The top two lines here read "The men who defended the fort." Edward's name is listed first.


This was one of the moments that made my several-days' stay in Kentucky so worth it!

Final thoughts on Tuesday:

I am honored to be a descendant of Edward and Harriet and so many other Revolutionary War ancestors.

As was the case at the Perryville Battlefield four days earlier that I blogged about here, it was an awesome experience to stand on the exact spot where my fifth great-grandparents served so courageously. They exemplify everything that is beautiful about our American spirit.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures.

I'm loving my Freedom Tour!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Looking for Something to Do? Free Events June 18 to 24

Here are events scheduled Saturday, June 18, to Friday, June 24.

All events are free, so take a look -- and don't you dare say there's nothing to do in Pasadena!

The Pasadena Chalk Festival Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Paseo Colorado will feature hundreds of muralists using chalk as their medium and pavement as their canvas to create classical, whimsical and message-themed masterpieces, plus there will be live music, an area where children can create their own chalk art, Pasadena Police Department's classic car show and much more!

Activities for Pasadena Public Library's Read for the Win! Summer Reading Club include the following (and much more!):
Join the International Olympic Day Celebration Tuesday, June 21, at 6 p.m. in the Crawford Family Forum at Southern California Public Radio with Olympic champions John Naber, Shirley Babashoff, Dwight Stones, Connie Paraksevin and Paul Weiskopf. While the event, including a special reception, is free, RSVPs are required

Jazz guitarist Riner Scivally and pianist Ed Czach will perform Wednesday, June 22, from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. for the popular Music at Noon recital series at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. 

"Dark Victory" (1939, PG-13) starring Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart will be shown Wednesday, June 22, at 1 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library. A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and must decide whether she'll meet her final days with dignity.

Joan Rita Pounds was a successful photographer in New York before she became disabled more than 20 years ago and her ability to walk, talk and perform fine motor skills became limited. She reinvented herself as an artist and her works are included in a new book titled What Happens Next? She will discuss her art during a wine and cheese reception Thursday, June 23, at 5 p.m. at the Pasadena Senior Center, where her work is currently showcased in the Fireplace Lounge. You do not have to be a senior citizen or a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to attend.

Come see what remarkable athletes are made of! With more than 30 competitive events from archery to volleyball, the California Senior Games Championships are ongoing through June 26. Go to a venue near you and cheer on these fierce competitors!

SAVE THE DATE!
Rooftop Cinema on South Lake Avenue presents "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015, PG-13) starring Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher Saturday, June 25, at 8 p.m. on the roof of the parking structure at 55 S. Lake Ave. Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop it. While the event is free, you must have a ticket. Bring a beach chair and arrive as early as 6 p.m. for DJ music. Bring a picnic dinner or purchase dinner at the event.



Photo credits: Urban Growth, Pivot Blog, Occidental College, Warner Bros., Joan Rita Pounds.