Wednesday, August 29, 2007
This likely is our last blog as we roll out of Chicago, Illinois, and toward McLean, Virginia, to get back into the school and work routine.
But there is lots to say about Chicago and the little miracles and blessings along the way. We continued to have great weather. The wind and rain that had caused such destruction in the Chicago area had blown out and we woke to a magnificent sunrise over Lake Michigan. And we did see the sun rise as the family was interviewed on NBC5 Chicago during the 6am morning show. We always enjoy the opportunity to get the word out about how Americans can thank military families with the gift of education.
Our next stop was the fascinating McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum located on North Michigan Avenue next to the Chicago Tribune. There we met with the museum's Executive Director, David Anderson, and learned more about the museum and about the McCormick Foundation's involvement in efforts to support the military. Thank you Lisa and Jeff from the USO for arranging the visit. For those of you with school-age children visiting Chicago, you should make the time to stop by the museum as the interactive exhibits make learning about American history and, in particular, issues related to the First Amendment, fun.
Speaking of the First Amendment, we were also delighted to wake up and see a ThanksUSA op ed penned by Bob appear in the Wall Street Journal. You can find a link to it on our homepage.
We also had serendipity. Walking down crowded Michigan Avenue (in the section known as "The Miraculous Mile"), we spotted our long-time friends from Arlington -- The Katz Family. We had no idea we were all in Chicago, so we took advantage of the chance encounter and had a nice lunch together. We also got to congratulate Bev Katz on completing the Chicago Triathlon -- her first! She was part of a Team N Training raising money to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Way to go, Bev!
We ended our day with a trip to the Navy Pier. We thought it appropriate that the last photo of our treasure hunt loving daughters is with some pirates!
Tomorrow, we turn the car for home, having enjoyed seeing more of America and meeting so many wonderful people along the way.
Thanks to all who read the blog and who supported scholarships with donations. We apologize to those who tried to leave comments unsuccessfully. We were never able to fix the technical glitch that was blocking the incoming comments.
Had to add one more entry for South Dakota to tell you about the wonderful Clark family. We caught up with the Clarks over coffee in Rapid City, South Dakota. Karline Clark was a 2006 ThanksUSA scholarship recipient. Her husband, Mike, is active duty Air Force. We met two of their children, Acadia, just starting 3rd grade, and Zachary, just starting 5th grade.
Karline used her scholarship to go back to school to obtain her teaching degree as part of a program in South Dakota to train and recruit highly qualified individuals to teach. In a fifteen minute conversation, you know she is going to be an excellent teacher, both in how she related to her own children and to Rachel and Kelsi.
All the Clarks were interested in our trip and they related how they have used trips to help history come alive for their own children. We encouraged them to play the ThanksUSA American History Treasure Hunt game to test their knowledge.
Before leaving South Dakota we stopped at the Wild Horse Sanctuary outside Hot Springs. This 11,000 acre sanctuary has more than 550 wild horses. The sanctuary also has a rich past, and we enjoyed not only seeing the beautiful horses with many healthy foals at their side, but also learning more about the history of the Sioux Indians as well as the homesteaders who lived in a still existing cave while they built their cabins. We also saw the site of the Sioux Sundance Ceremony that takes place each year. (This land was also the set for the movie, "Crazy Horse" and for scenes from the movie, "Hidalgo.")
Next, we start heading east through Nebraska and Iowa en route to Chicago. It looks like all the storms have blown out ahead of us although we can see water along the side of the roads and in the fields.
Friday, August 24, 2007
We drove from Wyoming to South Dakota via Yellowstone Park. What an adventure! We had close up and personal encounters with buffalo, elk, and a momma Grizzly Bear and her two cubs. A visit to Cody, Wyoming and the Buffalo Bill Museum capped off an awesome day that reminded us how wonderful all our national parks are and that we have the privilege in this country to tour them freely.....
Next stop was the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is an enormous undertaking (all private, no government support spanning more than a half century) to create a vast monument to North America's Indians. The girls are standing beside one of the small models for the giant monument. Twenty miles down the road we toured Mount Rushmore and stood there for a long moment totally in awe of the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. We think we should add more facts about all of these great presidents in Treasure Hunt III.
At the end of the day we met with two South Dakota scholars. The first one was Nadine Taylor (and her mom, Sandra) who successfully completed her academic work last year with a 4.0 gpa. She received a ThanksUSA scholarship this year, as well. Second, was a hometown friend of Nadine's named Autmn Stocking. Her dad is an active duty Air Force officer. She is studying to be a special education teacher. What two delightful young ladies who are already making a big difference in their own communities and beyond.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Our western swing from Utah to Wyoming signals our initial turn back towards home. Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a taste of the old, wild west. The wagon trains crossed the Plains over Teton Pass into Jackson Hole. We rode in a covered wagon, witnessed a good 'ol frontier gun battle right on main street in Jackson Hole, all followed by a hearty chuck wagon dinner. Our covered wagon taking us to dinner came under attack from Indians on horseback though we all survived. In the center of Jackson's town center is the antler arch and the veterans' war memorial.
We all are looking forward to seeing Mount Rushmore up close and personal.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The drive from Las Vegas to the majesty of Utah's Zion and Bryce National Parks dropped our temperature by 40 degrees. Just the day before we were incredulous about how Las Vegas emerged from the Nevada desert decades ago, but we were even more amazed by the natural rock formations in Utah's national parks. We slept, hiked and ate among the buffalo, deer, antelope, hawks and rock formations, which have stood as sentries....for many centuries.
A visit further north in Utah to Park City with GE's Tom Cooper and his lovely wife Helen included a hike around Mirror Lake, an out of this world hamburger and shake at Dick's in Camus, and a visit to the trout filled streams below the dam. Then a brief hello to early on ThanksUSA supporter, Sen Orrin Hatch, the senior Senator from Utah. The Coopers prepared a lovely dinner with friends and neighbors and we had a chance to spread the ThanksUSA mission to others who want to help thank the troops.
Next stop, a taste of the wild west in Jackson Hole, Wyoming....
Monday, August 20, 2007
Finally had a chance to download the photos of the impressive Mobile USO Center we visited in Las Vegas, Nevada. This mobile center, with its enthusiastic director, Pam Fairbanks, takes the services of the USO directly to the troops and their families in the western states.
Thanks for letting us take a tour and for the bumper sticker which we proudly display on our car.
When we stop in Chicago next week, senior executive Lynly Boor of USO's worldwide office in Washington, DC, has arranged for us to visit the Chicago USO Center. We are excited to share the ThanksUSA story in the great state of Illinois.
August 13th: We left Truth or Consequences via a lovely blue highway that took us by several sites not seen from the interstate:
The Very Large Array (VLA) -- one of the world's premier radio observatories. As the girls observed, it looks like a scene from Star Wars to see these Very Large satellite dishes popping out of the landscape.
Pie Town -- A very small town, but great pie and hospitality greets all travelers. They encourage you to write in their log, which has been kept for 20 years.
Route 66 -- You travel along a small portion of the classic highway, including passing by a site the girls recognized from the movie, "Cars" -- the wigwam motel.
Then it was the scenic drive down Oak Creek Canyon that opens up to the magical red rocks of Sedona.
We hiked on two beautiful trails just moments from Grandma's condo in Sedona. Another highlight was going to Slide Rock, in Oak Creek Canyon, where you go down natural "slides" in the creek. There are also fun places to cliff jump into the refreshing creek.
Then it was time to pack our bags again and head toward Las Vegas. We stopped to marvel at the Hoover Dam, but not for long as the temperature was 111 degrees!