Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fall 2013 Trip to Kansas City - West Virginia

After visiting with Mom for another day in Kansas City, I finally turned the venerable CRV to the east and began our return to Rochester.  We spent our first night in Terre Haute, which is becoming our regular way station on I-70.  Then we pulled into Morgantown WV to spend three days with Brendan, Eileen and the kids in their new hometown.
Brock and Brady as zombies!
As it turned out, we arrived in time to celebrate Halloween and got to go with the kids as they went trick or treating in a nearby neighborhood.  The neighborhood was actually a gated community is a leaky back entrance.  The residents were expecting a lot of kids and had decorated their houses in some very creative ways.

You can get an idea by looking at some photos.  Click here for the Halloween album.

The next day was Friday and all the West Virginians headed out to work or school while the two New Yorkers headed out for a day of spectacular views, a nice meal and compatible companionship.  Our first stop was Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright designed summer getaway home in the Pennsylvania mountains about 50 minutes from Morgantown.  I had been there about 20 years ago but Marilyn had never seen it.  We took one of the house tours and then ate lunch in the cafe at the visitors center.

It was a glorious fall day, cool but not cold.  Breezy but not uncomfortably windy.  The sky was a mix of brilliant blue and puffy clouds passing in and out of view.  We also stopped at Kentuck Knob, another Wright designed home in the area but decided not to go up to the house and take a tour.  We didn't want to miss our next stop.

You can view photos by clicking here.

View to the east showing Cheat River in distance.
Our final stop that day was Cooper's Rock State Forest.  These dramatic rock formations form the bluff high above the Cheat River.  Cooper's Rock got its name from a legend that an escaped prisoner successfully hid out from the law around the view point promontory.  He was a cooper by trade and plied his trade for several years providing barrels to local residents.  His first challenge would have been to stop looking at the awesome views and get back to work.  That may also account for the law not being able to find him.

You can view more photos by clicking here.

Brock directing traffic at midfield
Our last full day in Morgantown was taken up with sports:  watching Braden and Brock play soccer and then college football on television.  They played teams from Pennsyvania.  Brendan pointed out there is not a lot of level terrain for soccer fields in West Virginia.  When you do find some, it is almost certain that it was the site of strip coal mine.  On this field, in addition to that little bit of West Virginia lore, there was a field-side waste treatment plant and a railroad track on which several cola trains passed during the four hours we spent there
Braden hustling into position
watching both games.  Unlike the previous day, this one was cold, windy and often heavy rain.

See photos of Brock's game by clicking here.

See photos of Braden's game by clicking here.

The next day we had an easy drive back to Rochester and our home sweet home.  Note the sun shine and dry walks.  I was able to watch the second half of the Kansas City game and got to see the Chiefs go to 9-0!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall 2013 Trip to Kansas City - Kansas Prairie Adventure continues

An exquisite window with the fall foliage
outside the Seelye Mansion
Even though every day, we planned on leaving the Sciolaro hacienda no later than 9:00, we never seemed to make it until 11:00 or so.  Nonetheless, on our second day we headed  out to Abilene Kansas with every intention of spending the better part of the day at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.  However by the time we got there it was getting toward noon and we decided to make a quick stop at the Seelye House, grab a quick lunch and then spend the afternoon at the library.  Well, we never did make it to the library, telling ourselves that we would put that on the list for the next trip to visit Andy and Lois.  "What," you might ask, "kept you from visiting a world renown historical resource?"  The answer is twofold:  The Seelye Mansion and the Russell Stover factory store and outlet.

Killa-germ for the fastidious
The Seelye Mansion is a marvelous time capsule of early 20th Century American life for the wealthy.  As the web site explains, "the Georgian style Seelye Mansion is like a time capsule. Most of its furnishings were purchased at the 1904 St Louis World's Fair. The furnishings cost more than the $55,000 that was spent building the 11,000 square feet home. The 25 room Seelye Mansion was built in 1905 for Dr. A. B. Seelye, who made his fortune in patent medicine with the A.B. Seelye Medical Company. The Patent Medicine Museum occupies a former Seelye laboratory which has been moved to the rear of the mansion."  Even in his day, A.B.'s "medicine" had another and more pejorative name, "snake oil."  His salesmen roamed the Midwest in horse drawn wagons filled with a variety of remedies.  One of his "medicines" does live today as Mentholatum.  He didn't limit himself to medicines but branched out into any useful household chemical formulation.

Marilyn shows the
key hole cover
In 1920, Seelye had Frank Lloyd Wright redecorate the interior and it has been unchanged since.  One of the most interesting feature is that every key hole (and every door in the house - interior and exterior - had one) was covered to prevent peeping!  The current owner of the mansion - Terry Tietjens - was our tour guide.  He purchased the mansion and its contents from the Seelye sisters who lived there into their nineties and never married.  He is reluctant to let any guest get by with a quickie tour and that was the major reason why the Eisenhower Library awaits our next trip.

Marilyn, Andy and Lois
However, someone did mention that the Russell Stover manufacturing plant had a retail store which one could buy factory seconds, not up to their retail standards for appearance but just as tasty.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fall 2013 Trip to Kansas City - Kansas Prairie Adventure

Panoramic view from Coronado Heights
I am writing this blog in Terre Haute Indiana where we stopped for the night on our way back East.  We are headed to Morgantown WV where we will spend Halloween and a couple more days with Brendan, Eileen and the kids.  The highlight of our trip so far was the three days we spent in cousins Andy and Lois Sciolaro.  They live in Maize KS, just outside Wichita.

We spent Sunday touring around the prairie.  Our first stop was Coronado Heights, a hill where it i said that Coronado made his furthest trek East before returning to Mexico.  There are structures that were added by the WPA in the thirties.  It is a favorite picnic spot with great views and, at least on the day we were there, pretty high winds.  This is the prairie so the wind is a constant.

Marilyn, Andy and Lois in Linsborg
We then went to Linsborg where we had lunch in restaurant on Main street.  As the name suggest, the town was founded by Swedish immigrants.  We also visited several shops which contained the work of local artists, all very nice.

On our way to Coronado Heights we spotted a very interesting structure which we eventually named The Little House on the Prairie.  We promised our selves that we would return to it on the way home when the late afternoon sunlight would be perfect for picture taking.

Andy and Lois under a prairie mushroom.
But first we visited Mushroom Park.  I know it seems somewhat strange that there are mushrooms on the prairie but there they were!  These strange rock formations in the middle of nowhere are the setting for a small park which was being visited by a dozen people on that Sunday afternoon.

You can view more photos of that day on the prairie by clicking here.

Little House on the Prairie
The unexpected discovery of our day, however, was the aforementioned "Little House on the Prairie."  It was situated about 200 yards off the highway.  An old driveway, mostly overgrown, gave us access.  We parked just off he highway and walked up to the house.  It is surrounded by blue stem grass, the natural vegetation of the prairie.  In the afternoon sunlight it was golden and warm which belied its abandoned nature.  When you looked inside, multiple narratives of the lives that had unfolded there leaped into consciousness.  We had no idea how old it was.  A quick Google search didn't turn up anything.  It is a spectacular subject for photography and would be worthy of multiple visits at different times of the year, in different weather conditions, and time of day.  The house is made all the interesting by the lone tree close to it which is now dead and with no bark.  It is situated on the west side the house and must have been designed to provide relief from the blistering afternoon sun during prairie summers.

Interior of the house with prairie blue stem grass outside
We didn't enter the house since the floor was pretty much missing.  From natural disintegration or vandalism or salvage?  Who knows?  It must have been a moderately affluent family since it had a full basement and second floor with three or four bedrooms.  But again, who knows?

You can click here to see more photos.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall 2013 Trip to Kansas City - The First Few Days

I arrived on Monday and today is Friday.  Marilyn flies in around noon and we will spend a couple of days here in Kansas City before we head down to Wichita area to visit our cousins, Andy and Lois Sciolaro.  My sister Anola and her husband, Peter, left Tuesday for China.  We missed connections on a Skype call last night but she sent a video message which I will show Mom when she gets up.  I know she will be relieved to see that they got there just fine.

Mom with Diane
I have had chance to meet the young ladies who come every morning and evening to make sure she is taking her pills:  the right ones on the right day.  They are both lovely and caring.  Diane, shown here with Mom, is completing her nursing degree and is both cheerful and very competent.  Mom enjoys their visits even though she continues to insist that she can take the pills on her own without them.  I just tell her to humor us.

Nadine is one of the people who sits at Mom's table for dinner.  She is a lovely person.  She shared something last night and broke me up.  "You know, I sleep on one side of my bed for a week and then switch to the other side for a week.  That way, I only have to wash the sheets every two weeks."  I like it!

I spent around an hour on the Country Club Plaza a couple of nights ago seeing what photos might be there.  While I had seen the Nelson-Atkins Museum including the new addition many times, I had never seen it at night.  It is stunning.  Even though I didn't have time to get the tripod set up and had to hand hold the camera, I couldn't resist getting some shots of the museum and the Four Rivers Fountain.  There are some other locations down there for night photography and I plan on returning tonight and getting even better shots.

Mom and I have been scanning several of her photo albums including her memories book from St. Vincent's Academy where she went to high school.  I will be making a selection of those and posting them on line.

Click here to view the Plaza Night Photos Album.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall 2013 Trip to Kansas City - The Journey West

This is my third trip to Kansas City this year.  Normally I try to make it after Thanksgiving so I can enjoy the lights on the Country Club Plaza but this year Marilyn and I will be spending some time with our cousins Andy and Lois Sciolaro on a tour of the prairie.  They live just outside Wichita Kansas and it seemed a better chance for good weather now rather than early December.  As often happens, Marilyn is flying in on Friday and then the two of us will drive back together, visiting friends and family along the way.

I left early Sunday morning and made good progress even through some heavy downpours and strong winds between Buffalo and Erie.  This confirmed my decision to make this trip now rather than early December when those heavy downpours would have been WHITE!  Originally I had thought about stopping in Morgantown to visit Brendan and company for a day.  It is not exactly on the way but it does break the drive into two doable segments.  As it turned out, they were not going to be home that weekend but rather at a soccer tournament in Dayton Ohio where Braden and Brock were playing.  I thought perhaps we might pass each other on I-70 and thus there was a possibility of lunch together in Columbus.  As it turned out, however, both of them were playing in championship games with Braden's starting at 1:45 just as I would be passing by about 15 north on I-70.  As a result I took a two hour break and got to see them and see Braden's team win their championship game.  Click here to see some photos of her game.

I got back on the road and was able to listen to the Kansas City Chiefs game against Houston on ESPN radio.  I got to my stopping point in Terre Haute in time to watch the fourth quarter and see them win a close one to become, as it turned out, the only undefeated NFL team at the end of week seven.  I watched most of the Denver game and look forward to four weeks from now when the Chiefs go to Denver for their first of two games.

I left Terre Haute early the next morning and with the time change and good weather got to Kansas City before noon.  Mom looks wonderful and, as always, it was great to see her and get settled in.  That evening we had dinner with Anola who was leaving the next day for a three week trip to Hong Kong and the a tour of China.  Anola and Peter's son Gerry and his wife Kara live there due to Gerry's job as an editor with the New York Times International Edition, formerly the International Herald Tribune.

As soon as I arrived, Mom told me that she had lost her purse but eventually found in her apartment.  I was quite surprised at her answer when i asked her where it had been found.  "The dish washer," she said calmly.  Since Mom has, to my knowledge, never used her dishwasher...fortunately in this case, I asked her how it how come to be there.  She had no idea but since she uses it to store other items, it must have just hopped in by herself when she wasn't looking.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Trip to Charlotte - Fourth and Final Day

Sunday was a busy day.  Marcie had to work and left for the hospital around 7:30.  She got caught up in some involved cases and didn't get through before I had to leave.  The night before, Liam and Marcie went to some friends for dinner and a bonfire, something of a tradition.  I was given an out and so stayed home, rested after that busy day and got to bed early.

As soon as Aidan was up and after Liam ran out to Dick's to get a place kicking tee and a couple of regulation footballs, the three of us went up to the middle school field so Aidan could practice his kicking.  I took a lot of pictures so Liam could coach him.  Here are two sequences that I put into video format.  The first part is a field goal attempt and the second an extra point.

We had to hustle home and collect Marin to get her to her soccer match, about 45 minutes north of home but close to the airport where I had to catch 3:50 flight back home.  We also had Eibhlin and her little friend along.  I was glad I got to see her play while I was here.  She had a match on Saturday but I was in Pinehurst watching Liam play football.

Another fast Pickett on the soccer field!
Her team and Marin played a great game in what could only be described as a hot, summer day.  The temp was 90 degrees.  They played an undefeated team to a 2-2 tie.  Marin played center back and made a number of fine plays.  She played every minute of the match!

You can see more photos of Marin playing soccer in the Charlotte Soccer Album in Google+ Photos.  Make sure you navigate toward the last part of the album to see her.

Liam got me to the airport right on time and my flights were all on time or a little early.  I got home a little before 9:00 just after Marilyn pulled in from her day in Buffalo.  Good to be home.  We relaxed with some popcorn and watched the season opener of "the Good Wife," one of our favorite shows.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Trip to Charlotte - Day Three

Shoe flotsam
The Carolina Picketts generally do not wear shoes inside the house.  Even though Liam has built a set of shelves just to the right of this door from the garage into the house, shoes seem to collect as flotsam does after a receding tide.  By the time we got back from our day of football and soccer, this had all been cleaned up and shoes put away on the shelves.  I discovered this was due to Marcie's tripping as she tried to exit the house!

Aidan taking a free kick
My day began with Liam at Aidan's soccer match which his team won 5-0.  It has been a year since I had seen him play and he is a presence on the field as a team leader.  His play has improved and he has grown into a really good looking young man!  I won't see him till Sunday morning.  A friend of his from middle school--a young lady whom he claims is "just a friend"--invited him to join her and her family in their box seats for the South Carolina football game Saturday night.  You can see more photos in the soccer album by clicking here.

As the soccer match was ending, Liam and I took off for Pinehurst NC where Liam was playing his second football game of the week.  His team--Hammer Down--was playing the Sand Hill Patriots team which had won their last fifty games.  Hammer Down played very tough but lost 14-0.  If a
Liam's big block
couple of plays had gone the other way, they would have won; it was that close a game.  Liam had a nice pass reception.  He was exhausted after the game having played every down:  defense outside left linebacker and and offense tight end.  He plays with his head up and is always looking for a play.  This picture shows a block he made on a busted play that resulted in an additional nine yards.  You can see more photos in the updated football album by clicking here.