Three road trip tips

Inside the Archway near Kearney NE. ( J Jacobs photo)
Inside the Archway near Kearney NE. ( J Jacobs photo)

Yes, the roads may be busy this summer, after all, we’re anxious to return to some sort of normal re visiting friends, families and vacation sights. But the skies aren’t very friendly, airports are jammed, flights are often canceled and you may still need a car if taking a train.

So, pack the car.

Tips:

  1. Invest in investigation Don’t worry about being hip or a techy. GPS doesn’t always take you the best way, the most scenic way or the way you might want to go if you had a map on a seat or a lap. Look online or (gasp) at an atlas (stores still sell them) or at a Mapquest directions and map that you can print to consider different routes. Ex: GPS wanted a route we knew included traffic-slowing construction. So, check the Department of Transportation in the states you go through. In Illinois it is IDOT.

 

  1. Don’t miss fun and interesting sights on the route to or from your destination. Driving straight through is hard on the back and legs and if you really consider the road trip as a well-deserved vacation then adjust the plans to fit in an extra day or two.   If you think Iowa and Nebraska are merely unending rows of grain, think again. A few miles north of I 80 west of Iowa City are the Germanic Amana Colonies to stay, shop or eat. The Archway over I 80 in Nebraska is definitely worth a rest stop. It is peopled with outstanding glimpses into “westward ho”.

 

3. Gas and rest stops may surprise you. If you live in a high gas-priced area, getting out of state is good for the budget. We found gas prices were below the $5 and $6 range once we left Chicago and Illinois. We also found that states’ highway rest stops were kept clean and had brochures on what to see along the road. So, stop to stretch, learn about the area, toss garbage and uncap the water or soda you keep in a cold bag or container. (You did pack one, right

Tau Herculids meteor shower

 

Meteor shower Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Back in the beginning of May we mentioned two meteor showers for the month: the Eta Aquarida early in May and the Tau Herculids at the end of May.

What was unknown and only a guess was how large the Tau Herculids shower would be. It wasn’t on everyone’s radar as one to watch or even  existing.

However, EarthSky suggested it could be an exciting display because it was the debris from parent comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, (SW3) which had been breaking up and would likely be seen in the Earth’s Western Hemisphere at night

Though the debris was, as predicted, not bright, and didn’t fill the sky with hundreds of meteors at a time, the Tau Herculids did put on a reasonable display with as many as 25 to 35 meteors seen around midnight CT May 30 p.m. to May 31 a.m.

Noticed by astronomers in 1930, it is now on more sky watch lists. A good site to see reports of the meteor shower is at EarthSky.

Memorial week escapes one day drive away

Door county, WI is all about wate. (J Jacobs photos)
Door county, WI is all about wate. (J Jacobs photos)

Memorial Day signals summer even if just for the long weekend or for a whole week if school is already out. But that vacation should be in the planning stage now to get the accommodations and restaurants wanted. (Note: If going before Memorial Day check hours. Some shops, galleries, restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday)

With gas prices looking more and more like highway robbery a one-day drive there may better budget cents.  (Note: If going before Memorial Day check hours. Some shops, galleries, restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday)

Here are three destinations, each within a different state, that are an easy day’s drive from Chicago. They all have historic roots. First is a Wisconsin peninsula that is basically an island with several small villages. Second is a Michigan town paired with two good neighbors. Third is a historic Illinois town near the Mississippi River.

Door County, WI

A finger separating the calmer waters of Green Bay from the often more turbulent waves of Lake Michigan, the Wisconsin peninsula home to Door County draws vacationers looking for relaxing seascapes, fine art and pottery galleries, delicious food, trails to bike and hike and lighthouses.

Visit a lighthouse in Door County (Phot by Jodie Jacobs
Visit a lighthouse in Door County (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

Although The Door, as it is often called, begins halfway up the peninsula south of Brussels for drivers taking Hwy 57, the tourist destination starts further north across a bridge at Sturgeon Bay that is about a four-hour, fifteen-minute drive from Chicago.

Stop before crossing the bridge to get a map, dining and gallery brochures and expert information at the Visitor Center, 1015 Green Bay Road, Sturgeon Bay.

Best plan is to make accommodation reservations before leaving home. Destination Door County/Stay lists inns, B and Bs, cabins, guest houses, motels, resorts and condos.

You might want a place near the center of The Door in Ephraim such as the Eagle Harbor Inn or a place with water views such as Harbor House in Fish Creek or the Yacht Club in Sister Bay or a place known for its good breakfast such as the Church Hill Inn.

Settle in, check the map you now have to see all the towns and crossroads from bay side to lake side and figure what kind of food you want that first night, casual, pizza, fine dining or one of The Door’s noted “fish boil.” experience.

More than one restaurant does an excellent fish boil. The historic White Gull Inn in Fish Creek is among the most popular. Fish boils are fun to watch but you have to like white fish to eat the dish and not worry about bones (for most of them).

When in the mood for home-made root beer, a hamburger and a picture-worthy sundae, stop at historic Wilson’s, a local ice cream parlor in Ephraim.

Door County is fruit country, particularly cherries, so be sure to pick up a cherry pie, chocolate covered cherries and a selection of preserves while there or before you leave. Couple of suggestions: Schartner’s Farm Market on Hwy42 south of Egg Harbor and Seaquist Orchards, north on Hwy 42 past Sister Bay have yummy products.

Other items to bring back are a painting and pottery. Door County is home to several artists and artisans. Also, indulge your inner artist at Hands On Art Studio on Peninsula Players Road in Fish Creek. A complex of small buildings, Hands On has the tools, materials and experts to help with ceramics or create a glass, clay, mosaic or jewelry item.

Or stop in any way to see what is there and then go up Peninsula Players Road to Edgewood Orchard Galleries to walk its sculpture trail.

BTW, bringing back food and art is part of a driving trip vacation.

 

Dune climbing is part of the Saugatuck, MI experience ( J jacobs photo)
Dune climbing is part of the Saugatuck, MI experience ( J Jacobs photo)

Saugatuck/Douglas MI

At about 139 miles from Chicago, Saugatuck, its twin town of Douglas and neighboring town of Fennville are an easy two-hour, 14-minute drive north on Interstate 196.

Saugatuck is on the north side of the Kalamazoo River with Douglas across the way on the river’s south side.. Fenville is south and slightly east of Douglas. They all have attractive stops when on a driving trip to what is known as Michigan’s Art Coast.

Gallery hopping is as much an attraction and pursuit as climbing the area’s dunes and dune riding. A popular art stop is the J. Petter Galleries on the Blue coast Hwy in Douglas just before crossing the bridge and turning into Saugatuck.

Artists have been coming here for at least 100 years when the Art Institute of Chicago opened Ox-Bow School. The school still has workshops and classes and the Art Barn in Fennville has drop-in times for anyone interested in creating something.

Cross the Kalamazoo River on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (J Jacobs photo)
Cross the Kalamazoo River on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (J Jacobs photo)

Inns and B and B’s on the lake, across from the river and near downtown  Saugatuck offer comfortable rooms, friendly hosts and in many cases, breakfasts.

Walk along the river in Saugatuck but for something different take the Saugatuck Chain Ferry across the river then climb Mt. Baldy dune’s 302 steps for great views of the surrounding area.

For a back-in-time break stop in the Saugatuck Drug Store & Soda Fountain for a root beer float.

When not checking out the shops downtown Saugatuck, fit in a visit to the Saugatuck Brewery and browse the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion, both on the Blue Star Hwy in Douglas.

Slightly further out in Fennville take refreshing breaks at the Fenn Valley Vineyards and Virtue Cider, both a few minutes away in Fennville.

Both have products you take home to enjoy while looking over and emailing photos of the Saugatuck area.

 

Kandy Kitchen and other fun Main Street shops and historic structures draw vacationers to Galena. (J Jacobs photo)
Kandy Kitchen and other fun Main Street shops and historic structures draw vacationers to Galena. (J Jacobs photo)

Galena, IL

Galena, IL a 19th century former lead mining town and once popular 1850s  political stop for both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, the town rises on hills above the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois.

The area’s fall color is enough to make Galena a seasonal destination but many vacationers come in winter to ski or summer for fun shopping in a historic town. About 800 buildings, comprising 85 percent of the downtown and surrounding area, make up a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Among them is the home of Ulysses S. Grant where he was living when he heard he was elected the 18th President of the United States, and the Desota House Hotel where Lincoln spoke in 1856 for John Fremont’s bid for the presidency.

Along with Desota House, there are several B and B’s. If looking for luxury consider the Select Registry inns of Goldmoor and Jail Hill  (really). For hiking, biking, golf and spa look just outside of Galena’s downtown at Eagle Ridge.

After checking in or dropping off overnight bags, start the visit at the Galena Country Visitor Center. Located in a former train depot near the Grant house, it is on the south side of the Galena River across old rail tracks at 101 Bouthiller St.

Historic Galena nestles into hillsides above the Mississippi River. J Jacobs photo)
Historic Galena nestles into hillsides above the Mississippi River. J Jacobs photo)

Ask for a map of the downtown and area and get ready to shop and explore..\

Galena has lots of restaurants but the one that needs a reservation more than others is Fried Green Tomatoes. So, make you dining reservation before you arrive in town.

Vising Galena is about walking tits historic downtown and popping into clever, yummy and interesting shops such as Kandy Kitchen, Chocolat ,  Bread & Vine, a patisserie with good macarons, desserts and yummy sandwiches and American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, the shop many folks crowd into first.

But don’t forget to cross the street and head up towards the highway and beginning of the shopping area for a true treasure store called Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn .  Indulge in your inner farmyard, antique shopping persona. After all, driving here means room in the car for collectibles.

One more tip: check the department of transportation website whichever state and trip you choose to find out about construction.

Happy and safe travels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very different full moon transforms the May sky

Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)

You won’t need special eye gear to watch an eclipse when Sunday, May 15, 2022 becomes Monday, May 16.

If following the names of full moons each month, you know they reflect the season and nature whether in Native Indian, European or religious context. So, you won’t be surprised that May’s full moon is also called the Flower Moon. Other names of the May full moon are Corn Moon and Milk Moon.

But, the full moon for May 2022 is also called the Blood Moon.

Watch the May Moon start out as a large, silvery somewhat yellowish (depending on where you are and your atmosphere), full-sized globe when it appears on your horizon.

It will seem larger than usual even though it hasn’t changed shape. The full moon is close to being a Supermoon because its orbit brings it so close to earth.

Keep watching to experience a lunar eclipse.

As it rises, it will move into Earth’s shadow. Remember at the height of a full eclipse you’ll have the Sun, Earth and Moon in a direct line.

It starts out in the penumbral, somewhat less noticeable phase, because the full May Moon is in the lighter part of the Earth’s shadow. It moves into our planet’s partial shadow at 9:32 p.m. EDT.

Watch as it looks as if a bite is being taken out of the Moon as it is in partial eclipse stage. The Moon will then move into the Earth’s full shadow for more than an hour: 11:29 p.m. on Sunday night until 12:54 a.m. Monday morning. The eclipse reaches its peak at 12:11 a.m. At the back end, the partial eclipse ends at May 16 at 1:55 a.m. EDT.

Its reddish, brownish color happens as the Earth’s atmosphere refracts some light from the sunrise and sunset conditions around our planet.

To find the sunrise and sunset times in your area visit the  Old Farmer’s Almanac which has a site calculator. Your time zone matters if watching the eclipse.

Another watch choice is at Time and Date which has a YouTube live stream connection.

For more May Moon information visit NASA . For the area covered by the eclipse see EarthSky. For information on how the lunar eclipse fits with April’s recent  partial solar eclipse visit Space.

 

 

 

 

May meteor watch now and end of month

 

May is continuing to be a month to watch the night skies.

The Eta Aquarid Meteor shower from 1P/Halley that started in April is peaking May 4-6. Between 30 to 50 meteors per hour are expected in the pre-dawn hours. Although they are more visible in the southern hemisphere because their radiant is the southern constellation AquariusTime and Date suggests watching for them about 3 a.m. CDT.

Late in the month, May 30-31, watch for a somewhat more recently-known meteor shower, the Tau Herculids. EarthSky suggests it may be an exciting display this year.

Coming from the parent comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, (SW3), it was noticed by astronomers  in 1930. Although not bright, it keeps breaking up and has a large amount of debris.

If the weather doesn’t co-operate or you miss either meteor shower and want to know when others are still coming in 2022 visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac Meteor Calendar. It has good-to-know dates and information.

(Meteor photo courtesy of NASA)

 

 

Sky Watch: Partial solar followed by full lunar eclipse and meteorites

Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Lunar and solar eclipse (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly the southern part of South America, the afternoon of April 30 you won’t be seeing a partial solar eclipse live. But you can watch online and you will be getting updates from news channels.

According to Space.com, you can see this solar event on the YouTube channel of the India-based  Gyaan ki gareebi Live .  It will begin broadcasting the eclipse at  1:45 p.m. EDT (1745 GMT).

Of course you know a solar eclipse happens when the moon’s orbit sends the sphere between the sun and earth. You can become more informed on this particular eclipse at Time and Date and at Time and Date’s Partial Solar eclipse coverage.

The partial solar eclipse is also the forerunner of a lunar eclipse happening May 15-16 in both hemispheres. Time and Date has a good map and timetable of the area covered.

In the Chicago area watch the lunar eclipse on May 15th from its very early onset at 8:32 p.m. through May 16 at 12:55 a.m. Chicago’s Adler Planetarium has a good description of what to expect.

For full moon observers, this is the Flower Moon. and yes, it coincides with the lunar eclipse. For more information visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

If that isn’t enough, May also hosts the peak of the Eta Aquarids. The meteorites peak with up to 50 meteorites per hour May 5-6 in 2022 although they have already started. They are named for their radiant (where they seem to emerge) at the constellation Aquarius.

Happy sky watching!

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Eyes up for the Lyrids

NASA photo of a meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)
NASA photo of a meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Now that April’s full moon is starting to wane moonlight will hopefully not interfere with April’s meteor shower: the Lyrids.

Known for how bright they are and fast they fly across the sky leaving glowing trails of dust, they already began on April 16, but they peak between April 21-23 with between 15 to 20 meteors per hour.

The Lyrids, called that because they seem to come from the constellation Lyra, were first recorded by the Chinese in 687 BC, making them the oldest known meteor shower.

What observers see is debris from the C/1861 G1 Thatcher comet in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres as the comet’s orbit crosses those skies in mid-late April.

Best time to watch is predawn when the moon has set and the sky is still dark. If watching for them, give your eyes a chance to adjust to the night sky and find a spot away from street and highway lights and businesses.

For more information visit NASA at SolarSystem.nasa.gov and EarthSky at Meteor Shower Guide.

 

April full moon Pink in name only

April's Full Moon is the Pink Moon ( J Jacobs photo)
April’s Full Moon is the Pink Moon ( J Jacobs photo)

Start seeing what looks like a full moon on Friday. Full moons tend to look full just before their date and the day afterwards.

In 2022, April’s full moon reaches total illumination at 1:55 p.m. EDT on Saturday the 16th and will continue to appear full on Sunday. It is not a SuperMoon. The moon will appear to be larger the morning of April 19 when it will be at its perigee (closest to Earth) at 11:14 EDT.

Known as the Pink Moon, the April full moon derives its name from the season when pink creeping (moss) phlox bloom and not from an atmospheric moon color.

As with other full moon names, it echoes what is happening in nature so other names range from Breaking Ice Moon to Awakening Moon.

March’s full moon, which fell before the Spring Equinox was called the Worm Moon when worms emerge in early Spring.

But the March and April Full Moons can be the Paschal Moon depending on when the full moon falls: before or after the Spring Equinox.

The Paschal Moon is often used to determine the Easter date. So, the moon in March or April can be called the Paschal Moon. Visit the Old Farmer’s Almanac for more information on the Spring Equinox and April Full Moon. Also see Time and Date on How Easter is Determined.

The April full moon is also the Pesach Moon for the Jewish feast of Passover which begins at sundown April 15 and is celebrated with Seders on the first two evenings. Paschal is a Latinized word for Pesach.

For more Full Moon info visit NASA Solar System Exploration.

Movie backdrops fill Boca Raton Museum

 

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Singing in the Rain backdrop scene. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Musuem)
Singing in the Rain backdrop scene. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Musuem)

Imagine taking a selfie against the scenery in “American in Paris,” Singing in the Rain,” “North by Northwest” or “Sound of Music.”

The Boca Raton Museum of Art is making these movie moments possible with its new exhibit, Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Second in a travel series that makes art destinations the reason to go, the Boca Raton exhibit is an amazing, immersive experience.

Opening April 20, 2022 and continuing through Jan. 23, 2023, Art of the Hollywood Backdrop brings 22 large-scale scenic backdrops made for the movies between 1938 and 1967 to South Florida so what has pretty-much become a lost art can be enjoyed and their artists, appreciated.

After attempting a selfie, visitors will see and understand that backdrops were created for the camera view of a scene.

To achieve an immersive ambiance that recaptures the classic scenes for the show, interactive videos have been done by digital designers and sound engineers. (Watch two videos at youtu.be/8Z1bi3P1Luc and  youtu.be/qvVc2i4euQY.

At the Boca Raton Museum, Karen L. Maness works on repairing the scenic backdrop from the 1959 MGM film North by Northwest. (Photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum)
At the Boca Raton Museum, Karen L. Maness works on repairing the scenic backdrop from the 1959 MGM film North by Northwest. (Photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum)

The exhibit is co-curated by two people who were instrumental in salvaging the backdrops from the studios: Assistant Professor of (Art) Practice at the University of Texas at Austin Karen L. Maness who co-author The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop and is Director of the Texas Performing Arts Hollywood Backdrop Collection and multi-award winning  production designer Thomas A. Walsh.

The backstory is that Lynne Coakley, head of J.C. Backings Corporation picked up more than 2,000 backdrops from MGM storage in the 1970s. Coakley then partnered on backdrop protection and education with the Art Directors Guild Archives in 2012 directed by Walsh, then the Guild’s president.

“This show is about the joy of re-living something you grew up with, that you always thought was real. It’s about getting as close to that magical moment in time as you can,” said Walsh in a statement about the show.

He thought visitors will be astonished by the backdrops’ sizes.  “Being in the same space with that giant, familiar scene. It is difficult for people to get their minds around the awesome size of these magical spaces, until they see them in person. People are often shocked and surprised by the scale and visual impact of these massive creations,” he said.

American in Paris backdrop. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Art Musuem)
American in Paris backdrop. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Art Musuem)

With the aim of preserving the backdrops and making them available for study, Coakley and Walsh launched the Backdrop Recovery Project partnership with J.C. Backings.  A major recipient was the University of Texas’ art department and Maness. About 20 of the backdrops in the exhibit are from the UT collection.

Referring to the North by Northwest backdrop, Maness said, “This is the grandaddy, the Babe Ruth of all Hollywood backdrops…Especially because it was such a key player in the telling of this story.”

According to Maness, just as important as the stories the backdrops tell, is that the exhibit honors the artists who created them. Visitors will be able to see their brush strokes. “This has become my passion project, to tell their stories. I will be their champion in this lifetime” she said.

Warner Brothers scenic artists (ca. 1930). (L-to- R) Verne Strang, Bill McConnell, Frankie Cohen, Charley Wallace, Jack Brooks, James McCann, Emmett Alexander (Ed Strang Collection, from the book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, by Karen L. Maness and Richard Isackes. (IPhoto courtesy of Maness)
Warner Brothers scenic artists (ca. 1930). (L-to- R) Verne Strang, Bill McConnell, Frankie Cohen, Charley Wallace, Jack Brooks, James McCann, Emmett Alexander (Ed Strang Collection, from the book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, by Karen L. Maness and Richard Isackes. (IPhoto courtesy of Maness)

Maness who had conducted extensive interviews with the last surviving artists and their families, said in a statement about the exhibit’s importance, “It was essential to capture these artist’s stories before they disappeared.”

In addition to the UT backdrops, “Singin’ in the Rain” and the 1938 tapestry backdrop for “Marie Antoinette” are loaned by the Motion Picture Academy in Los Angeles.

The exhibit will have an educational component and presentations. For more information visit at bocamuseum.org/visit/events.

Worm Moon by any other name still means Spring

March full moon designates Spring (J Jacobs photo)
March full moon designates Spring (J Jacobs photo)

Spring is in the air so earthworms are making their way through formerly frozen ground. Thus the March full moon is called the Worm Moon, right?

Appearing bright above the horizon on March 18 and having reached full illumination at 3:20 a.m. EDT, that day, it is the last of the winter season’s full moons.

Don’t worry if you missed snapping a photo. The moon will seem full for three days. However, if putting the photo on social media. you might want to know there is a backstory to the “worm” name.

But what may be the worm’s story behind the name?

The Old Farmer’s Almanac says the earthworm idea sounds good but that when Captain Jonathan Carver was visiting Native American tribes in the 1760s, he learned from them that Worm Moon actually referred to the beetle larvae type “worm” that emerged from winter homes such as tree bark during the spring thaw.

Worm isn’t the only name. References also list other creatures such as eagle and crow plus natural phenomenon such as sap and sugar.

Timing is also important. When the Spring or Vernal Equinox falls determines if  the March full moon is called the Lenten Moon which comes before the equinox or the Paschal Moon if after it.

In 2022, the Spring Equinox is March 20. Time and Date references the Astronomical beginning of Spring and other popular names.

If you follow meteorlogical seasons, you know Spring started March 1 and goes to May 31.