Saturday, December 17, 2016

The 10 things I learned on my trip to South Dakota

What a trip… 4144 miles! 

The perfect trip for me always has nature, parks, zoos, animals, genealogy, natural history, science, geology, and some really good sweetie time! 

1. The Minnesota NorthStar Genealogy Conference was GREAT! I did three presentations. We stayed by the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wisconsin. We saw the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River, too. They were gorgeous. When in Hudson, Wisconsin, make sure to go to the best German restaurant, Winzer Stube. AND we found gluten-free pancake house... 

2. Minneapolis and St. Paul have a tic-tac-toe freeway system that was confusing with double-direction roads. I’m usually a map girl, but GPS was a godsend.
3. You can google “huge church St. Paul” and find it. It’s St. Paul’s Catholic Cathedral, and it’s amazing.
South Dakota was pretty interesting. Lots to see and do. 

The Missouri River (in the middle of South Dakota)

4. I can’t imagine how the Ingall’s family survived that first winter on the prairie of DeSmet, South Dakota. I want to read the books again. And I want to read the books to my grandchildren. There was a cabin with photos and book excerpts from their many homesteads.

5. South Dakota has one theme from the freeway—cows and hay bales. I could live here, but not in a tiny house. We were in a tiny cabin, just one room. It was really cute, but right now, my tiny house love will be vicarious through the television shows.

cabin (this was all of it)

Our porch

wild turkeys

In our first outing from the tiny cabin, this happened... oops.... That little culvert wasn't so little. I could have stood underneath the van (but I didn't)... #lastselfie

6. Hipsters should shop in South Dakota. Denim jeans and flannel shirts are everywhere!

7. I’m still celebrating 100 years of the National Parks. I added a few to my list: Badlands, Black Hills, Mt Rushmore, Buffalo Gap, Minute Man Site. And we stopped at Deadwood, Spearfish Canyon, Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Mammoth Site. If you go to Mount Rushmore, go at sunrise. It's spectacular. Everywhere we went... prairie dogs, bison, elk, and more!
Spearfish Canyon was magical...

The Mammoth Site was pretty awesome... It's an active dig site.

And I loved the little signs we found in diners...

8. Wyoming and Devil’s Tower was beautiful, but you can keep your deer. One thing that I have nightmares about 12 years later is that a second deer accident will orphan my children. We only had a little front-end damage to our van (and had our cardiac testing for the year). 

9. Having no wi-fi and disconnecting is amazing and a little bit frustrating, but mostly amazing. And 10 days of no work is a gift!

10. 80 mph speed limits made 4144 miles seem super easy. And it wouldn't be a trip out west without stopping at the St Louis Zoo to see hippos and then stopping to see our favorite little (not so little) walrus at the Indianapolis Zoo on our way home.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unconventional Thanksgiving in Connecticut

Just so you know... if you leave on Tuesday and head to the East Coast thinking you will avoid traffic for Thanksgiving.... WRONG! 10 hour drive + rest stops does not equal 17 hours.

When a hotel tells me that they have a mini-kitchenette, I expect a little refrigerator, a microwave, and a sink. When they tell me that they have plates and silverware, I didn't expect one paper plate and 2 sets of plasticware. --->

We spent some time with family on Wednesday after Tuesday's grueling drive through traffic jams and construction zones. And the Mass-hole drivers were particularly bad during this trip.

We were staying in Mystic, north of Chris' mom and dad's old house. The ocean was beautiful. We thought about going to the aquarium, but didn't get there this time. We did visit Stonington Beach in Connecticut and found a lighthouse.

We looked for more light houses that day. We went to Fenwick Beach to see if we could get to the Old Saybrook Lighthouse. Can you see it? Just kidding...

We visited a few of the places in Old Saybrook that Chris remembered as a child. There was a great pizza place full of moving trains (at the current Amtrak station). There was a miniature Dock & Dine. He worked there as a teenager.

 We visited Chris' father's grave and cleaned up the headstone a bit. We need to have it reset and add his mom's name to it. She died and was cremated in 2006.

 We woke up Thanksgiving Day with no family plans, but we did make plans to see the final Hunger Games film at 10 am. We bought our tickets ahead. Apparently there was no need to do so... empty theater. SCORE! That doesn't happen in OH-IO. But we were so happy about it. No annoying other people...

We went to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. Who knew they were open for Thanksgiving? And, again, no one else was there. I'm not sure if the entire state of Connecticut was elsewhere, but we were enjoying the quiet. 

We took a driving trip to Rhode Island in search of another lighthouse. This time it was Watch Hill Lighthouse. The walking path took us through some beautiful houses. I have never really thought about living near the ocean... until I saw THIS! I can't imagine having a lighthouse view outside of my back window. Unbelievable!

 Then to top off the Christopher-memories-of-childhood tour, we went to Rocky Neck Beach and State Park in Connecticut. A train track runs right through it. Chris remembers many childhood days here.

I stood on this piece of rock for a long time. I watched the birds drop the shells and scoop out the goodies.
And, of course, I love the old WPA buildings.

Friday was our trip to Paterson, New Jersey, to meet my genealogy client. Before we met her, we wanted to see if we could find the family home of the Kinnanes. William Kinnane, Chris' great grandfather, came to America from Ireland in the 1870s and settled in Paterson, working in the textile mills.

We found the house on Liberty where Chris' grandfather, Richard Kinnane was born. Richard grew up here and worked in the textile mills also.

We went a few blocks down the road and found...


The Paterson Great Falls National Park.
I can't believe that his family lived so close to this magnificent location. We saw the old power plant that produced enough energy for the industry of the time.

 Chris walked across the bridge. (See the red dot?) I was afraid to do it.

 And then we went a block away and found the textile section of town.

Our final stop was in Chris' birthplace, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. We have been looking for his grandparents' burial place for years.

When it comes to genealogy and family lore, you can't assume anything. Chris' mom told both of us for years that her father (Richard Kinnane) was buried in a Catholic Cemetery in Paterson, NJ. And she told us that he was buried on the perimeter of the cemetery-- outside the fence-- because he was such a lapsed Catholic and an S.O.B. that the church refused to bury him in the actual cemetery. So, of course, Chris and I have traipsed through about a dozen Catholic cemeteries in Paterson, NJ, in search of a headstone. She also told us that her father died of a massive coronary when she was 16 years old, so we had his death at 1941.

While in Stroudsburg, we were looking for Chris' grandmother, Elizabeth Kinnane, who later married George Lee. Chris has very fond memories of Pop Pop Lee arriving on the train from PA to Hartford and spending time with him when he was a boy. In finding Pop Pop Lee and his grandmother's graves in Pennsylvania, look what else we discovered...

There is Richard Kinnane!
Not a Catholic Cemetery.
Not the perimeter.
Not buried outside the fence.
And not dead in 1941.
It just goes to show... sometimes you can't even believe your own momma!