Illinois Trip – October 2022

This past week I made a trip out to Illinois to see my parents. I haven’t been there since the summer of 2019, when the three of us drove there to spend time with them as well as do some sightseeing in Chicago. After that very long drive both ways, I signed up for a credit card with mileage rewards, and I was able to use some of the miles I had earned for my ticket to fly there. I was so happy I had made that decision three years ago because the trip was so much nicer – and shorter – than driving!

The main reason I made the trip now is that my mom had broken her leg a few weeks ago. After a few days in the hospital and three weeks in rehab, she is now recovering at home. My youngest brother lives in the area and has been helping out with car rides anywhere she needs to go as well as some household chores. I wanted to check on her and also give him a little bit of a break for a few days.

Here are pictures of Mom and her cat Brandy:

The week went very well. Mom is doing great getting around in a wheelchair and is working on using a walker with the PT who is coming to the house twice a week. We also met with a social worker who helped get her signed up for Meals on Wheels and helped her fill out a healthcare power of attorney form. Her blood pressure has been pretty low, so the doctor reduced some of her meds and had her get a blood pressure cuff and start daily readings. We also did a financial power of attorney and I got her computer and printer working better.

My dad and his wife Carolyn live in the next town over, so I went over to their house on Wednesday evening and visited with them for a couple of hours. They are both doing well. My dad had a heart attack just before the pandemic started in early 2020, but he is feeling pretty good right now. Here’s a picture of them:

It was so nice having a week off work and away from my daily responsibilities. And I was glad to be able to help out my mom at least a little bit. I’m not sure when we have the chance to make another family trip there, so I am really happy that I was able to make this trip work out.

Western Pennsylvania Trip – July 2022

This year Joe and I took a weekend trip to Western Pennsylvania in lieu of a longer vacation. He gets a day off for his birthday, so we planned it for that weekend. We left Friday and came back Sunday.

On Friday, we started out by visiting Old Bedford Village in Bedford, PA. It is an open-air museum with various old houses and other buildings that were moved to this location around 1975. Some of the buildings had reenactors in them performing various tasks such as blacksmithing or candlemaking or just sharing information about the building and how it was used. It was interesting to see the different buildings and talk to the reenactors.

On Saturday, we visited two houses designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Both of the houses were fascinating, and the tour guides were excellent. I had been to Fallingwater once before, but never Kentuck Knob. Years ago, I also did a walking tour of Wright houses in Oak Park, Illinois, which was very cool.

Here are a couple of shots of Fallingwater:

And here are a couple of Kentuck Knob:

Overall, the trip was very nice. I enjoyed the places we visited, and we also had some good food while we were there. The hotel was not very nice, and I am thinking I need to go up a level the next time I choose accommodations for a trip.

This was our first time putting Baxter in a kennel, and he did very well. The place where we take him for daycare also has boarding, so he got to go to daycare on Friday and then just stayed there until Sunday afternoon. I was worried that he would hesitate the next time I took him to daycare, but he went happily when the time came.

We are thinking we will just do a weekend trip again next year, although I’m not sure where we are going to go. I’ll have to do some research to see what would be a good option for us.

Wellsboro Trip – June 2021

I just realized I never posted about our trip to Wellsboro last year. The last travel post I have is from our trip to Illinois in 2019. In 2020, we had been planning to go to Williamsburg, VA, but canceled that trip due to COVID. In 2021, we wanted to go somewhere but decided to make it a shorter weekend trip.

Wellsboro, PA was on my list of places I wanted to see. It isn’t too far away and seemed appropriate for a weekend trip, so we chose to go there.

The big attraction near Wellsboro is the Pine Creek Gorge, which is commonly known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. It is a beautiful location with amazing views from both the eastern and western rims of the gorge. Here are a couple of shots I took from the different lookouts:

The day after we explored Wellsboro and the Grand Canyon, we decided to drive up to Corning, NY to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. It was a nice drive, and we both really enjoyed the museum. They have a wide variety of glass sculptures and other creations. While we were there, we attended a glass blowing demonstration, which was very cool.

Here are a few of the exhibits we saw:

This was our first trip since getting our dog Baxter. One of my good friends who is a dog lover offered to take care of Baxter for us, and we decided to board our cat Peanut Butter to avoid any problems with the two of them being left alone in the house together. It turned out that Baxter was a little overwhelming for her, so for 2022 we will be switching things around and boarding Baxter while my friend comes over each day to check on Peanut Butter.

My son wasn’t interested in the activities we would be doing on this trip, so he went and stayed with his dad for the weekend. He will do that this year, as well. Maybe next year we can plan a trip all three of us will enjoy. I am open to suggestions!

Illinois Trip, Part 2

We arrived in Chicago and got settled into our next Airbnb. This time we had a room with two beds and shared the bathroom, kitchen, and living and dining rooms with the other guests. Not as nice as our first rental, but it worked out well in the end.

Wednesday we took the L (metro) and a bus to the Shedd Aquarium. We especially liked the show that had Beluga whales, dolphins, and a sea lion. The displays on the Amazon rainforest were pretty cool as well.

After that, we walked down to the Adler Planetarium. Our admission included two shows, so we saw one that covered the stars in the Chicago night sky and another one about the search for a new ninth planet. Joe liked the first show better, and Michael looked the second. I thought they were equally good in different ways.

Next we walked down to the Field Museum. We only had about 90 minutes left before they closed, but we wanted to see it while we were there. My favorite section is the hall of gemstones so we made sure to go there. We also saw a special exhibit on wildlife photography that was really good.

One bus and a train later, we made it back to our room. Just in time for a thunderstorm to roll in actually!

Thursday morning we headed back into the city to the Museum of Science and Industry. The special exhibit Wired to Wear was pretty neat – it was all about different wearable technology. Lots of cool stuff! Joe also took a special tour inside a WWII submarine.

I attempted to splurge on an overpriced sweatshirt but their network was down and I couldn’t use my credit card. Instead we splurged on a taxi ride to our next location instead of taking two different buses to get there. It was so worth it and only half the cost!

Our second stop was Skydeck, which is the top floor of the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. Although I am not fond of heights, I didn’t mind being up there. I did not, however, take a turn out on the ledge.

Having used up our CityPass, we took the train back to our room and just chilled the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Friday we drove from Chicago home to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was a long day as we stopped for meals and other breaks, but we wanted to get home and have the weekend still to enjoy.

We are thinking next time we go to the Quad-Cities that we will make our side trip be St. Louis. Neither Joe nor Michael has ever been there, and it seems like there are lots of neat things to see and do. But that’s probably going to be another four years, so we’ve got lots of time to think about it!

What fun places are you visiting this year?

Illinois Trip, Part 1

It’s been four years since we made the trip out to Illinois, where both of my parents live. The last time we came Joe and I were engaged and Michael was only 13 and certainly didn’t have facial hair! So it was high time to make the trip.

We decided to leave on a Friday and take two days for the drive. We also decided to take the stick shift, which meant I had to brush up on my driving skills. I’m pretty sure it had been 15 years since I had driven a manual transmission. (It did come back to me for the most part, although I’m still not great at pulling out in first gear.)

The drive itself wasn’t too bad except for a few construction slowdowns and a fair amount of congestion around the Chicago area. It was long enough to make us start thinking of adding a budget category to save up for plane tickets for next time though!

We arrived in the Quad-Cities on Saturday and checked into our Airbnb. It was a cute upstairs apartment in an old house near the Mississippi River. The only problem was it had very few electrical outlets and we kept tripping the circuit in the living room. But it was nice to have a bedroom for me & Joe as well as a kitchen.

Saturday night we met my mom for dinner at the Iowa Machine Shed. Then Sunday we met my dad and his wife for lunch at the Village Inn. It was good to see everyone. I hadn’t seen my mom since that last trip in 2015. My dad and his wife had visited us in Pennsylvania in 2016 for our wedding reception, but that was still a while ago.

My Mom Kathy

My Dad Dean and his wife Carolyn

Sunday we also went to see Godzilla: King of the Monsters and then got ice cream at Whitey’s. The movie was better than I thought it would be, and the chocolate marshmallow malt was just as good as I remember it.

Monday we took a trip to the Amana Colonies and enjoyed walking around to the various shops they have there. We got treats at the chocolate shop as well as gifts for both our parents. I also got a new candle to burn while I’m working.

Monday night we saw my mom again and then we stopped by my dad’s Tuesday morning before leaving for the Chicago area. All in all, a good first leg.

Stay tuned for Part 2, the Chicago leg of the trip!

Boston Trip Wrap-Up

As much as we enjoyed the historical sites we visited in Boston, we also enjoyed some other aspects of our trip.

On Wednesday, we went to the New England Aquarium and then went on a whale watching cruise.  We arrived at the aquarium just as it was opening and got to watch the feeding of the penguins.  They also had fur seals and sea lions as well as a variety of other exhibits.  It wasn’t a large place but it was interesting and I got some good pictures.

20180627_132950The whale watching cruise was pretty neat.  We went about 90 minutes away from Boston, out to a plateau where the whales like to feed.  I wish we had gone up to the deck a little bit earlier to get a better spot, as it was kind of hard to see for a lot of the time.  Later on, some people moved around and we were able to get to the front, although a lot of the activity was still off to one side of the boat so we didn’t see as much as we would have liked.  We did have several sightings of a mom and her calf as they surfaced several times.  I’m sharing the best picture we got; it’s just of a tail unfortunately.

20180628_172535On Thursday afternoon, we went to a chocolate factory in Somerville, the town where we were staying.  It was called Taza Chocolate, and they produce stone ground chocolate.  They have a tour which includes a video and a peek into the factory where they make the chocolate, as well as all the samples you could want.  Their original product is a Mexican style chocolate disc which has a somewhat gritty texture due to the way the sugar is ground, but they also make chocolate bars which are ground more finely and are closer to what we are used to.  We enjoyed visiting the factory and sampling the various chocolates.

The other fun part of our trip was the food.  We went to two pubs, as well as a seafood restaurant and an Italian restaurant.  I had seafood at one of the the pubs and a burger at the other; both were good.  The seafood restaurant had good fish but the lobster topping was very chewy – either it was badly prepared or I just don’t like lobster, I’m not sure which!  The Italian restaurant was my favorite; it was also in Somerville and was called Vinny’s. Perhaps I was just really hungry after walking around in the rain all morning, but I quite enjoyed my pasta and meatball, and they had excellent bread.

All in all, our trip to Boston was a really good one and I’m glad we went there.  I’m looking forward to our next adventure, wherever that will be!

Boston Trip Historical Sites

Our main purpose in going to Boston was to experience as much of the history of the town as we could.  We started out on Tuesday by taking guided tours of the Freedom Trail, which is a collection of various American Revolutionary historical sites.  We did the first part in the morning and the North End in the afternoon.  The guides were costumed in period clothes and were both quite good.  I enjoyed the afternoon tour a little more because that guide talked a lot about the daily life of people around the time of the Revolution – what they wore and what they ate, stuff like that.

Our favorite part of the morning tour was the Granary Burying Ground.  It was a peaceful spot in the midst of a busy city.  The highlights of the North End tour were the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House.  Both of these sites were also available to tour inside.  By the time we finished the North End tour, I needed a little break so I rested while Joe toured the Old North Church.  Then we walked back to the Paul Revere House and toured that.  I found it interesting that they chose to restore the Paul Revere House to the original condition rather than the way it was while Paul Revere’s family lived there, given that he was the one who made it famous.

We weren’t planning to visit any historical sites on Wednesday, but the people we met on the whale watching tour recommended the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.  We had time after the cruise, so we headed over there and went through the tour.  I had two thoughts during the experience – cheesy and hokey.  It was the most expensive historical thing we did and it was seriously overrated.  Definitely not recommended!

On Thursday, we headed over to the Charlestown area and visited the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill.  The USS Constitution has a nice little museum and then you can walk around the ship itself.  It was raining so we mainly saw the area below decks.  Bunker Hill also had a small museum as well as the monument that you could climb up inside.  It was almost 300 steps so I let Joe do it while I waited in the museum.

I would highly recommend Boston as a good destination for history lovers.  It was very walkable and offered a lot of interesting sites to see.  As I mentioned in my first Boston post, it was also easy to get around using the subway and buses, which is good because no one I talked to recommended driving or trying to find parking in the city.

Orchard HouseBefore we headed home on Friday, we decided to make our way over to Concord to visit Orchard House.  This is where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women.  It was a fascinating tour.  We saw a short video about Louisa and then walked through the house and saw how it was set up while their family lived there.  All of the paintings in the house except for the portraits were done by her sister May (Amy in the book) so we got to see a lot of her work as well as seeing the Civil War era furnishings and decorations.

If you’re interested in this time period or in Louisa May Alcott, there are several other sites in the Concord area to see.  We needed to get on the road, so we just went to the Orchard House and then headed home.

We did a few other things in Boston that were not historical, so I plan to write another post about those places.  Look for that in a couple of days!