Brodhead Wisconsin Highlights

Travel

Brodhead, Wisconsin is a small town located in the southern part of Wisconsin. If daytripping in the area, be sure to head to Brodhead to take in a few of the must-sees. Among these are the Kelch Aviation Museum, the Brodhead Historical Society Museum/Depot, and of course what trip to Wisconsin would be complete without sampling some local cheese. A great place to sample cheese being the award winning Decatur Cheese Dairy.

A recent trip to Wisconsin brought us to the Kelch Aviation Museum in Brodhead, Wisconsin. This was a spur of the moment stop on our way to find cheese and one of the highlights of our trip. The museum is small but mighty.

After walking in the door, we were greeted by a friendly docent who gave us the history of the museum and some interesting facts about the planes and pilots who flew the crafts. I was especially interested in the mail planes and their pilots’ facinating history. The museum focuses on planes of the 20’s and 30’s. Double wingers everywhere. The museum also showcased a few cars and a firetruck from the town. The docent teased that they did not have to worry about fires as the fire department would be sure to get there quickly as they were displaying one of their antique trucks.

The back doors of the museum were opened so that we could look out onto the grass landing strip of the airport. While no planes were coming in, it was nice to feel the fresh air and have a chance to see the area outside the museum. The docent told us that if we came back the next morning, they would be having a pancake breakfast. Planes were scheduled to be coming in for the event. However tempting that sounded, it did not fit into our trip agenda. Maybe next time.

The museum is not open every day, so be sure to check the website for current hours. The Kelch Aviation Museum is free and they even have postcards that they will mail, all for free (a little publicity for the museum—smart). My husband did add a nice stash into the donation box. It was well worth it. For more information: https://www.kelchmuseum.org/

After leaving the museum, a stop at the Decatur Cheese Dairy is an absolute must. While they no longer give tours of the dairy, they have a wonderful little store that sells cheese, cheese curds (in all flavors), and the best grilled cheese sandwhiches in a variety of cheese options with a special sauce. I had never heard of special sauce on a grilled cheese sandwhich before. The nice woman offered to put mine on the side. It was delicious. While I didn’t get the full recipe of the secret sauce, I did manage to find out that it contains mayo and mustard.

Be patient if going to the Decatur Cheese Dairy. The lines were out the door for service, but it was well worth the wait and the lines moved swiftly. There are tables outside to enjoy your purchases. For more information: https://decaturdairy.com/

While we did not make it to the Brodhead Historical Society Museum on this trip, we have been there before. The museum is located in the old Milwaukee Road Depot. Inside the museum are many interesting historical photographs and items showcasing the history of the area. Two of my favorite exhibits included vintage broom making equipment and cheese making displays. Just outside the museum is a locomotive and caboose that is partially opened to peak inside. For more information: http://www.brodheadhistory.org/depot-museum/

Brodhead also boasts of hiking, outdoor activities, parks, and a covered bridge. A very enjoyable day can be spent in Brodhead, Wisconsin. As always, Happy Travels!

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Traveling to Death Valley

Travel

Death Valley. The name does not sound like a welcoming place. I imagine it is not very welcoming in the summer, with temperatures well above one hundred degrees. However, Death Valley is quite welcoming in the winter.

The destination of our family trip was Death Valley, Nevada. This was not going to be a glam trip. I figured that out with a little research. It would not exactly be roughing it either. Here is the thing, we would be staying in Beatty, Nevada, just a little outside Death Valley National Park. A convienient drive to the park. Staying inside the park was not an option. Not only were they sold out, the rooms were over $300 a night, which was beyond our budget. It ended up that our hotel was just fine. Recently remodeled rooms and nice thick walls (so we could not hear our neighbors). The main problem, the reason I say it was going to be a bit hard, was that we would have to bring food for our trip. Yes, that is correct, be sure to bring lots of food to Death Valley.

Beatty only has a hand full of restaurants. Our oppinion was that they were not even close to being somewhere we would recommend. We tried the VFW, as it got good reviews. None of us thought much of the food there. I ordered the shrimp scampi. While the shrimp was delicious, the noodles were very greasy and had enough garlic to ward of vampires. They also did not give me the bread that was to come with the meal. Our adult kids, who normally like French dip sandwhiches, did not have anything good to say about these. We tried another local establishment. As soon as we walked in, we were told that they had to close but would reopen in a half hour. Something sketchy about that. We ate at Denny’s. Not a five star restaurant, but the burgers and fries were better than anything else in town. The last night we took a different way out of the park and found a Mom and Pop style Mexican restaurant. Everyone liked that meal except my husband, who said it was just ok. I might add that we took all our meals to go and ate them at the hotel or in the car.

We did not see options in the park for food, although the hotels were supposed to have restaurants. I HIGHLY recommend bringing a cooler full of food. We did this and were thankful of it. We brought food for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Our hotel had a microwave and refrigerator. I made a simple pasta salad for dinner the first night and packed it on ice. We ate the rest of the dinners out from restaurants the rest of the trip, but were not overly joyed at the quality of the food to choose from. Beatty does not have a grocery store, the nearest was over an hour away, we were told. They only have a Family Dollar, which has a few food items.

Getting over the food obsticles, the park was beautiful. Winter is the perfect time to go, as the temperatures are perfect for hiking in a desert. It was a bit cooler than I had orignally thought it might be. I was glad I researched the weather and packed accordingly. December in Death Valley was cold for a So Cal gal. I wore a light winter jacket, every day, over a hooded sweatshirt and was glad for it. Dressing in layers is always a good idea. A hat or earband would also be highly recommended as would gloves for the early morning chill. We even saw a few snow flakes while in the park. Some areas of the park are warmer than others due to terrain and altitude differences.

Every day of the trip we saw wild burro wondering about. They are running around Beatty and some can be spotted close to the park entrances. There are mixed reviews as to whether or not they are friendly. Some say they can be petted, others say to keep your distance. We also saw coyote.

The dunes were vast and beautiful. The mountains were colorful and majestic. The hiking was plentiful. The desert was grand.

Here are some lovely views of the park…

Wild Burro looking into our vehicle
Dunes
Stove Pipe Wells
Natural Bridge
Crater
Devil’s Golf Course
Charcoal Kilns

As always, Happy Travels!

Palm Springs California

Travel

Late fall through winter is the perfect time for a desert getaway. Summer in the desert is too hot to be enjoyable, unless planning to spend the whole time in the pool. However, Palm Springs is warm enough to use the pool year round.

Palm Springs offers a variety of things to see and do. Downtown offers shopping and dining galore. We enjoyed a wonderful meal at Thai House. Enough food to share and that is what we did. Speaking of food, dates are a regional delight. We picked-up some of the sweet fruit in the form of dates rolled in almonds and the ever-famous date milkshake.

Like Hollywood, Palm Springs has its own walk of fame with stars lining the sidewalks. It is fun to stop and see whose names are engraved. Of course, Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy have stars in Palm Springs.

Hiking is abundant in Palm Springs. The scenery is beautiful. Trails vary in difficulty. Be sure to bring plenty of water, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Unlike hiking in the mountains, there is little shade on these trails and, even in the fall, it doesn’t take long to work-up a thirst.

The Palm Springs Museum of Art is a wonderful museum. The architecture of the museum itself is very interesting. It has multiple stories that look down upon each other. There is also the Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center. Something for everyone.

I was lucky enough to see a roadrunner crossing the road while we were driving. I found out that according to early Native Americans, having a roadrunner cross your path is good-luck. Oh boy!

As always, Happy Traveling!

My Take on Rules for Visiting

Book Reviews

My latest read was a book I asked for and received for Christmas, Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane. Rules for Visiting was an easy read. This book will make one think of the way in which they live their life and the role friendship plays.

The novel is about May, a botanist, and how she decides to catch up with old friends, and perhaps find herself, during bonus time off from her work. May is a gardener at the local university. Being granted a months vacation from her job, May decides to take four seperate vacations to visit friends from her childhood through her college days. While May does have friends of her own, she is often intrigued by other peoples relationships with their frineds. Why does her life seem lacking? Will she find what she is looking for?

Kane’s novel is a wonderful read. A book about life that could easily be made into a movie. It also has plant and tree facts sprinkled throughout the book. This helps define the character and may also teach the reader a thing or two about plants. As always, Happy Reading!

International Cottages at Balboa Park

Travel

Whether it is learning about one’s ancestors or learning to appreciate other cultures, the International Cottages of the House of Pacific Relations has it all. The cottages are located in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The goal of the HPR is to “further the pursuit of ‘pacific’ or peaceful relations among nations”.

House of Finland

Each house represented in the International Cottages displays cultural information and items relevant to their country. It is a great way to get a taste of a culture. On Saturdays and Sundays, the cottages are open from 11am to 4 pm. Visitors can view the cottages and on Sundays can enjoy refreshments from the culture (donations are welcome). Some cottages also provide refreshments on Saturdays as well.

Music inside the House of Ireland

Houses also put on performances at the stage. This may include music, dancing, singing, etc… Annual special events include an Ethnic Food Fair, and the International Christmas Festival celebrated at the Park’s December Nights. During these annual events, all the cottages are opened and ethnic food is available for purchase.

Display cabinet inside the House of Ukraine

The HPR is a non-profit organization. Anyone can become a member to one of the houses. Many people who grew up in a country and then moved to the United States will join to stay connected to their culture and share it with others. A membership application/fee is required as well as volunteering at the house of choice. This is a great way to use a language with (in many cases) native speakers of the country. Each house has their own functions. In some, there a choirs to join or language courses. Some get together for coffee and to talk. Holidays are also celebrated with special functions just for members.

The HPR also has a Queens Organization. This is for young members of the houses. A Queen and Princesses can serve from each house. The Queens act as ambassadors for their house and preform cultural dances and do charitable work throughout the community. “The HPR Queens Organization fosters a spirit of understanding, tolerance and goodwill between all races and nationalities, and prepares its members to be adult members of their Houses.”

Visiting Balboa Park’s International Cottages is a great way to spend an afternoon and learn about different cultures. An excellent way to introduce young children to many different cultures at once. For more information visit: http://www.sdhpr.org/aboutus.html

As always, Happy Travels!

A Day at the San Diego Zoo

Travel

The world famous San Diego Zoo is a big place. Be prepared to spend a full day here (and take a nap after leaving) or a couple of shorter days to spread it out. The zoo has made many changes over the years. So, if it’s been a while, now might be a good time to visit the zoo.

The newest change is the additon of the exhibit Africa Rocks. This is now one of my favorite parts of the zoo. Among the highlights in Africa rocks are the African Penguins, Lemurs, Hamadryas Baboons, Meerkats, Black-Headed Weavers, and Bee-Eaters. I really enjoyed being able to go into the aviary and take photos of the beautiful, colorful birds on exhibit.

African Penguins
Aviary – Africa Rocks

There seems always to be informative persons stationed at the orangutan and gorilla exhibits that give interesting facts about the animals and answer any questions guests may have. This makes the viewing of the animals a bit more meaningful and educational. I highly recommend staying a while at these two exhibits in particular to observe the animals for a while.

We were fortunate to visit the Koalas right after they ate and before they were to drift off to sleep. Quite a bonus for us as the Koalas are usually sleeping when we arrive. It was wonderful to see them active for a little while.

Koala

The food at the zoo is EXPENSIVE, however, outside food and drinks can be brought in. I highly recommend packing a lunch and bringing water to drink. There are plenty of places to sit down and enjoy lunch.

If walking gets to be too much, bus tours of the zoo are also available. Shows and animal ambassador talks are also available to see each day. The schedules can be picked up at the entry as they change daily.

For more information on the San Diego Zoo go to there website: https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/visit

FREE FLIGHT EXOTIC BIRD SANCTUARY

Travel

Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary located in Del Mar, California is a fun place to go to interact with exotic birds. The purpose of this non-profit is to provide a sanctuary for birds and allow them to interact with the public. Some of these birds have out-lived their owners while others have been removed from a less than desirable home environment. Some birds are not adoptable, while others can be adopted to a good home.

The birds are in an outdoor area with a koi pond. Some are on perches, some are in cages. Most can be held and fed. Some of the birds are not as friendly and are not allowed to be held. I was told that most all of the birds can talk to some extent. One says full sentences, one mimics two different rings of a telephone, and my favorite said “hello, pretty bird” and gave a hearty laugh. A couple of the birds were quite old. One was 71 years old.

The volunteers at the sanctuary were very knowledgeable about the birds and I learned some interesting facts about the birds. Not only were the volunteers knowledgeable, some of the other visitors were as well. One woman we talked with goes to Free Flight twice a week and was very familiar with the birds and what they could say.

Looking to get some hands-on experience with birds? Check-out Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary. https://www.freeflightbirds.org

A Taste of the Islands

life

When we went to Maui a few years back, we decided to try Hawaiian Shave Ice. We stopped by Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice for our first tasting experience. (https://www.ululanishawaiianshaveice.com) Having never eaten it before, we found it interesting and fun. It was indeed delicious!

In Hawaii, Hawaiian Shave Ice is served in a cute little plastic cup that resembles a flower. The shave ice is served on top of ice cream (I chose macadamia nut.) and flavored syrup is poured into the ice. Indeed a cool, refreshing treat.

At Ululani’s, the syrup comes in so many flavors it is hard to choose. The syrup also comes in sugar-free flavors for those wanting to cut down on their sugar intake. There is macadamia nut ice cream and toppings to add to the final creation as well. Plan to go back another day to try more flavors.

When we got home we looked for a Shave Ice place. We found one! Now when we want a little taste of the islands, we can head on over for a little Shave Ice and dream of being back in paradise. No, it is not Hawaii, but it does bring back the memories. Aloha!

Our version of Ululani’s
Bringing back the memories….
Ice cream and flavored shave ice in one bite. Yum!

Visiting Joshua Tree

Travel

Somehow, when picturing Joshua Tree National Park, I always thought of one lone Joshua tree. After all, if there were a lot of trees the tree would be plural, right? Oh how wrong I was. Joshua Tree National Park has more than one tree and is a vast desert.

One thing that overtook me about Joshua Tree (roughly 45 miles from Palm Springs, California) was how large it was. It seemed the desert could go on forever. It is actually made up of two deserts coming together to form the park. Below 3000 feet makes up the Colorado Desert or Eastern part of the park. The higher elevation makes up the Mojave Desert where the Joshua trees can be seen.

Skull Rock

When planning a trip to Joshua Tree, keep in mind the temperatures. We took our trip in December, which was a perfect time to go for pleasant hiking. Temperatures are in the 60’s Fahrenheit in December, dipping down cooler at night to somewhere in the 30’s. Spring is the most popular time of year at Joshua Tree due to the desert flowers in bloom. Summer would be the least desirable time to visit as it is a desert and the temperatures can get to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a bit warm to be hiking.

Joshua Tree has a lot of hiking trails and is a beautiful place to visit. At night the stars are plainly visible without any light pollution. If you want to see the stars at night pack a jacket, as it does get cold at night. There is nowhere to purchase food in the park, so pack a picnic and plenty of water. Be sure to pack a camera to capture this remarkable park. Happy Traveling!

The Beautiful Rotary Botanical Gardens

Travel

The Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wisconsin is one of the most beautiful gardens I have visited. Full of interesting plants, colorful flowers, and fun sculptures, it is well worth the trip. Let me give you a tour…

kaleidoscope to view flowers – so cool!

The Rotary Botanical Gardens is developed into 26 garden spaces on over 20 acres of land. Some of my favorite garden spaces are the French Formal Rose Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Shade Garden, and the Japanese Garden. I also was delighted by the interactive kaleidoscope sculpture that allows you to look at flower petals through a kaleidoscope.

A view of the Japanese Garden

I went in the summer, however, the Gardens would be wonderful to see in other seasons as well. The plants are changed out for different seasons so there is always something new to see. Along with different seasons come different hours of operation. Be sure to check the hours and days they are open before making your trip.

The Gardens are a photographer’s dream. Tons of beautiful flowers, interesting backdrops, sculptures, and insects make it well worth the trip. Charge your batteries before going and be sure to allow time to take in the gardens. There are plenty of benches throughout the garden to sit and enjoy nature or to take a break.

The admission to The Rotary Botanical Gardens is reasonable and they have events and classes throughout the year , so be sure to check-out their calendar. One can also have meetings or weddings held at the Gardens. How nice that would be! On the way out, do not forget to stop in the gift shop. A nice selection of garden merchandise is available for purchase.

So, if you like gardens and find yourself in Wisconsin, be sure to stop by Janesville and enjoy an afternoon at the Rotary Botanical Gardens. You can bring a lunch and have an enjoyable meal on their terrace. Remember to stop and smell the roses.