Saturday, October 23, 2010


There are many areas in Ohio that Amish country. I always thought their settlements were clustered in the northeast portion of the state, but on our way driving southwest from Newark to an archaeological site known as “Mound City,” near Chilicothe, I noticed one of those classic black buggies parked beside the road. Nearby, a folding table had been set up under a canopy. A middle-aged woman and a little girl, dressed in typical Amish attire complete with bonnets, sat on folding chairs. Unlike the Mormon polygamist wives we saw in Arizona, their clothes were drab neutral colors (see earlier entry). The table was strewn with all sorts of homemade goodies: cookies, candies, pies, cakes…you name it!

I really didn’t want to buy anything (honest), but I was dying to have Rick take some photos. It would have been too rude to simply cruise by, roll down the car window, and snap their pictures (drive-by style). So, I casually sauntered over to their table, while Rick surreptitiously took a few shots of me talking to the Amish woman.

She was very nice and seemingly “normal,” except for her clothing. The woman actually invited us to “the ranch,” in Circleville, ( named after Native American mound circles found there ), where they not only had more types of candies for sale, but furniture, quilts, and other items their community had produced. Okay, now I felt guilty about only looking at the yummy stuff she and the other Amish had made. I knew this was their main means of support. Besides, the little girl was really, really cute. So, I scooped up several little plastic containers filled with a variety of candy. “The pies were fresh baked this morning,” she said with a pleasant smile. “They’re really good.” So…long story short, I bought a peach pie, our favorite.

Continuing on our way to Mound City, the smell of the pie (which was still slightly warm) wafted through the car. In a word, it smelled wonderful. If we had forks with us, we might have dug in right then and there. No, we promised ourselves we would wait to have a piece after dinner that night.

Mound City wasn’t nearly as interesting as the Newark Earthworks. It’s believed by many historians and archaeologists that there’s a direct link between the two sites (which are about 70 miles apart and were once connected by a walled pathway). So, we walked around and took some photos.

That night, I cooked a light dinner in the beast (soup and salad), in an effort to save space in our stomachs for a piece of that much-anticipated, delicious-smelling pie. We warmed up a couple of pieces, plopped on a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and got ready to devour it.

“Oh, no. This is terrible!” I said. Had the Amish forgotten to include sugar? It was so sour! And the crust was absolutely awful. Rick sprinkled some sugar on his piece and managed to choke it down, but I wound up throwing the entire pie in the trash! Store-bought pies were better than this one. I don’t know about you, but I figured that the Amish had been at pie baking for generations, and that they would have perfected it by now. What in the heck happened?

Oh well. Calories saved for the Fliedners, who certainly need to watch their weight and get more exercise! The candy was good, though most of that wound up in the trash as well. Too many calories!! But at least we got our pictures!!

Friday, October 22, 2010


The Newark Earthworks are the reason we went to central Ohio, and we weren’t disappointed. If you’re like me, you don’t know much about this massive archaeological site. Heck, I even took archaeology, Native American, and U. S. history courses in college. Although I read something brief about the ancient “Mound Builders” in America, I had never read about the Newark Earthworks! And it’s such a major thing! Go figure.

Last summer I learned that the site and that it has been nominated for World Heritage status. When I was told that little-to-nothing had been written about the site in magazines, Rick and I thought it would be worth making the trip to check it out personally. The museum’s director and head of the CVB also mentioned that they needed a book written about the Earthworks. Too tempting…we had to go!!!

So, the museum director set me up with Dr. Dick Shiels, the official historian for the site, who gave us a guided tour of the massive site. Newark Earthworks spreads for more than 4 acres of what looks more like a park than an archaeological site. The area is fairly flat, except for the circular rise completely encompassing the historic grounds. Known as the “Great Circle,” the native people who built it 2,000 years used baskets and primitive tools to dig out dirt. They piled it high, (about 8 feet in places) creating a perfect mound-like wall that surrounds what was once a sacred center. Not only have archaeologists and historians studied the site to find out its purpose, but mathematicians and astronomers have been part of the scientific team studying the site. While much still remains a mystery, these experts have determined that the Earthworks, which are actually made up of several geometric circles, squares and octagons, have a connection to the moon’s cycle. Yet, there are many unanswered questions, including who the people were that built the mounds, circles, and other geometric mounds.

This part of the country is rich with history. Plus, it’s pretty as the dickens. Not sure if I’ll write a book about the Newark Earthworks, but will definitely put together a few magazine pitches.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Not far from the RV park is Granville, one of the most charming little towns you’ll find anywhere. It’s like one of those Norman Rockwell paintings: historical, New England style houses; tree-covered hillsides interrupted by the occasional church steeple; inns; a few boutique shops, and small restaurants with sidewalk dining.

We ate lunch at the Buxton Inn, Ohio’s oldest continuously operating inn. The historic building opened in 1812 as a way-station and stagecoach stop. Reputed to be one of the most haunted inns in the area, we didn't have any sightings during our stay. I was sure I had died and gone to heaven. Here we were, enjoying a really excellent lunch in an amazing inn located in quaint town…with brilliant yellow and orange leaves wafting down from the huge old trees that line the property. Ahhh….this is the life.

After visiting the historical society’s museum, we learned that it wasn’t always so peaceful in Granville. It was here that anti-slavery citizens (abolitionists) had a nasty conflict before the Civil War with locals who supported slavery. Ohio was a Union state, and most people didn’t like slavery. And yet, some folks didn’t like the idea of interfering with what was going on in the South.

Granville eventually became an important stop on the Underground Railroad, so I’ll likely include it in my book about where to go to see towns, houses, and sites that were part of the route used by escaped slaves who were making their way north to Canada. Darned to luck…we’ll HAVE to go back to Granville next year. Oh, and for anyone who attended U. C. Berkeley, the world-famous historian and publisher, Hubert H. Bancroft for whom the Bancroft Library at Berkeley was named, was born in Granville. I located a particularly interesting story about his family’s involvement assisting slaves with their northern journey, something else I’ll need to follow up on during our next trip here.

The weather changed in the afternoon, and it began to rain. We spent the rest of the day snuggled inside the RV with hot cocoa, some goodies, and a nice dinner. I’m finally getting the knack of cooking in a postage stamp size kitchen and simply adore the combination microwave and convection oven. I haven’t cooked anything fancy, mind you, but I may attempt to bake something next week.

Tomorrow, Rick and I will meet with Dr. Dick Shiels, the university and Newark Earthworks historian, who will take us on a tour of the Great Circle. Rick took lots of photos, which will be on the next Blog entry. Hope you’ll stay with us!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ohio - Bucolic ~ Pastoral ~ Rockwellian ... Beautiful !


The definition of bucolic is rustic, countrified, rural, pastoral. That’s exactly how I would describe Central Ohio. Round a corner and poof, there’s a beautiful bucolic scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Acres of fields, gold and dry now after the corn has been harvested and cut, bordered by maples and pines. Many of the Victorian-style farm houses are situated near small ponds, where their children likely spend much of their summers swimming.

When we arrived, the leaves had already begun their annual color change. Hopefully, some of those amazing shades of orange, crimson, yellow, and chartreuse will come through in the photos. But as you all know, seeing photos isn’t nearly as good as being there.

The air has been cool, dipping into the high 30s at night. The campground is beautiful and relatively empty. Rain is expected tonight, and we love hearing it pattering on the roof.

Tomorrow, Rick and I will meet with Dr. Dick Shiels, the historian in charge of the Newark Earthworks. Newark is the terminus of our trip and the reason we came to Ohio. I’ll be writing a magazine article or two about the Newark Earthworks, which is the world’s largest geometric group of mounds created by native people about 2,000 years ago. I was invited here by Susan Fryer, director of the Newark Earthworks Museum and head of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. I’m also thinking about writing a children’s book about the mounds for the Ohio schools, though I’m not sure I want to make that commitment right now.

Rick is sharing some of the bucolic photos we took in the area. Enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Blue ? or Gray ?


A Confederate or Union supporter?

When visiting the Frankfort Museum (Kentucky’s State Capitol), I was intrigued by one of the displays about Mary Todd, who was born in Lexington, Kentucky. Most of her family members supported the South during the Civil War; in fact, a couple of her brothers fought for the Confederacy. And yet, members of the Todd family who were Confederate sympathizers were hosted by Mary and Abraham Lincoln in the White House while the war was raging on.

As you can imagine, the press had a field day with the topic of allowing “Confederate spies” in the Nation’s capitol. Although Mary Todd Lincoln publically denounced slavery, the rumors continued and the newspapers spread suspicion.

So when we were in Lexington and had the opportunity to tour the house where Mary and her family lived before she met Abe Lincoln in Illinois, we grabbed the opportunity.

Lexington is in the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass country. Sprawling ranches with enormous houses are surrounded by the thick natural grass that gives the area its name. I was told that the grass takes on the bluish dark green because of the underground limestone formations that leach into the ground water. It’s beautiful there, and the town is very cosmopolitan—and by that, I mean that people from various parts of the world have moved here to go to the local university, open businesses, or to raise horses. There are abundant places to eat -- we found some of the best Middle Eastern food imaginable at a place called Oasis Restaurant!  We'll be going back next time we are in Lexington !

The docents at Todd house (see the photos) wouldn’t allow indoor pictures, so you’ll need to visit the house and have a look for yourself! The volunteers did a wonderful job of restoring the house back to its original state – the house had been used for various purposes for over 150 years and was rescued from the wrecker’s ball by a group of concerned citizens (thank heavens). There are many of Mary’s personal possessions inside the house, including samples of things like the china dinnerware she selected for the Lincolns’ years in the White House.

Mary Todd Lincoln house in Lexington, KY

But the big question mark about Mary will always be her mental health. Was she as nutty as she has been portrayed? A lot of people believe she was manic-depressive, and by all indications, she was! And there are still many questions about her loyalty to the North during the Civil War. I would LOVE to write a historical novel about her and do a bunch of research! While the subject of her sanity is common knowledge, not many of us know about her big family division over the slavery issue.

Back of Mary Todd Lincoln house.
For pictures of Mary Todd Lincoln & family, just Google her name in Images ... you will see thousands of pictures of her.

Tomorrow, we head to Ohio, so we need to clean up Shamu, do more laundry, and get ready for an early start.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Ghosts and Bourbon

Ghost Hunting

For years, Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Louisville, Kentucky has been reported to be one of the most haunted places in the country. The Ghost Hunters t.v. show has done a couple of shows investigating Waverly, capturing specters on camera and disembodied spirit voices on their tape recorders. We were determined to take one of Waverly Hills’ paranormal tours, a perfect experience considering that Halloween is quickly approaching.

Well, we weren’t the only ones thinking that wandering around in the huge, creepy edifice would be neat. Turns out that Waverly tours have been sold out for nearly a year! We’ll need to book tickets next month and come back to Kentucky next fall (darn the luck!!).

Very haunted mansion in Louisville
Our daughter-in-law, Marcella, and I were really, disappointed, though Gary and Rick didn’t really care. So, Marcella found a ghost walk tour in downtown Louisville, and we were back in “ghostly” business. After a lovely dinner at a downtown bistro, we met our tour guide and wandered the streets hearing tales of apparitions, like the Lady in Blue (a bride who was either pushed or jumped down an elevator shaft in an old hotel), a ghostly dog, and other spine chilling stories. Interesting, but we didn’t see a darned spooky thing.

One of the haunted places were visited was an Italian Renaissance style house built in the early 1800s. We’re posting a couple of photos of this very haunted mansion. The history of the place is very strange: It was owned by a family who never left! When one would die, the remaining siblings would simply close their bedroom door and leave their personal items in place. None of them ever married, so there were no descendents to care for the aging remaining family members. According to our tour guide, even though their physical bodies lie in the family plot at the local cemetery, their spirits continue to live in the beautiful old house. The city now owns the property, and the personal items remain intact. Hopefully, it will be preserved and opened for tours in the future.

Same ol' haunted mansion in Louisville

Bourbon Tasting

Kentucky is known for its delicious bourbon, and you can actually spend a couple of days driving along the “Bourbon Trail” visiting many of the distilleries in the region. Like wineries, there are tasting rooms where you can enjoy a shot of the amber liquid. On the other hand, the alcohol content in bourbon is much higher than wine, so you would be very wise to have a designated driver. Rick was ours. On the other hand, the bourbon at Buffalo Trace Distillery is so strong, it practically curls your toenails! Marcella, Rick and I all had a tiny sip, turned brilliant red, and gagged! That was the end of the Bourbon Trail for us!

Where burboun begins .... Corn !

Gary reaching into the huge fermenting tanks

Fillin' the barrels and hammering the bung.


Another barrel off to the aging warehouse.