Thursday, March 20, 2014


I want to thank everyone for reading my story posts and visiting my blog site. I have upgraded to a new website. I still will be able to blog and post stories on the new website. The site is called FLY BY NIGHT TRAVELER,

I hope you continue to read and support my posts, as well as enjoy my new website.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Put Gettysburg on your "Bucket List"

History buffs and those interested in the Civil War should visit Gettysburg, Pennsylvania because of the important role it played in American history. And history is around every corner there – so embrace it.

Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center
Your first stop should be the Gettysburg Museum andVisitors Center to plan your visit, and to get an in-depth background of the battle. View the film, “A New Birth of Freedom,” narrated by Morgan Freeman. 

A small portion of the Cyclorama Painting

Then see the historic wraparound Cyclorama Painting where an audio show explains the battle of “Pickett’s Charge” in great detail.

 Gettysburg National Military Park
Travel the arena where the three-day battle and President Abraham’s famous Gettysburg Address took place. You may purchase a self-guided audio tour, or arrange for a paid guided tour at the museum. Several commercial bus companies offer tours with an onboard guide.
In 1776, the Reverend Alexander Dobbin built his new home the same year the founding fathers built a new nation. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the colonial building has been transformed into an elegant eatery that’s a consistent winner of Mobil Guide’s highest rating. There’s a bit of whimsy in the second floor dining room as some diners get to eat within a canopied bed.

The house also played an important role in 19th century America. It served as a station on the Underground Railroad. Hidden among the rafters is a secret hiding place for runaway slaves on their way to freedom. You can see it as you climb a narrow staircase to the small museum located in the attic.

Seminary Ridge Museum

Gettysburg’s newest museum is located in the former Lutheran Seminary that served as a Civil War field hospital. State-of-the-art exhibitions explore 19th century medicine, faith and race relations. The realistic life-size dioramas almost come to life as they depict the many human aspects of wartime Gettysburg.

Fairfield Inn
As one of the five oldest continuously operating inns in the US, the Fairfield Inn (constructed in 1757) has seen its share of VIP guests for over 200 years. Luminaries such as Patrick Henry, Robert E. Lee, Eddie Plank, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jean Stapleton have slept there. With only six rooms/suites, guests enjoy modern amenities alongside antique furnishings.

Twentieth century history here. This casual café is dedicated to a local sports hero, Eddie Plank, who played professional baseball during the early 1900s. Plank was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. Photos of Plank and baseball memorabilia are on display. The restaurant features lunch, dinner, carry-out service and happy hour.

This candlelit evening walking tour is both entertaining and informative as it takes you to sites around town that have reported paranormal incidents.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shreveport mixes Cowboy and Cajun


You’ll find Shreveport on “Louisiana’s Other Side.” Being very close to Texas, you’ll notice folks wearing western boots and Stetson hats. On the other hand, you’ll hear lots of Zydeco music and enjoy Shreveport’s version of Mardi Gras. And no matter where you eat, the food is delish – because it’s still Louisiana.

Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium
Music palace

The must-see attraction in the city for country music and architecture fans is the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium. The building was constructed between 1926 and 1929 as a tribute to the Americans who fought in World War I, and it’s the finest example of Art Deco architecture in the state. The legendary radio program, Louisiana Hayride, began broadcasting from there in 1940. The show helped launch the careers of Dolly Parton, Mel Tillis, Charlie Pride, June Carter, Johnny Cash and many other country superstars. Elvis Presley was 19 years old when he first performed there, and you can step into his dressing room. This is the venue they were searching for the young singer, and discovered that “Elvis has left the building!” That phrase has become a part of our popular culture.

Boiled crayfish galore
A “what” festival?

Rockin' with a Rock band
Like other Louisiana cities, Shreveport knows how to throw a party. Its annual festivities draw thousands of attendees. For 28 years, the extremely popular Mudbug Madness Festival has celebrated the tiny crawfish. In addition to a vast selection of crawfish cookery, there are eating contests for the entire family, crawfish paraphernalia and vendors selling non-crawfish items and food. Zydeco, rock, country and blues bands let the good times roll on several stages. Play stations, clowns, storytellers and other activities keep the kiddies entertained. Mudbug Madness takes place in May.


Across the Red River from Shreveport sits Bossier City. Down at the riverside lie five deluxe riverboat casinos. You’ll enjoy Vegas-style gambling with slots and table games. Casino-hop or stay at just one to partake of exciting gaming, excellent dining and first-rate entertainment.

Columbia Café serves Cajun cuisine
Café cuisine

The walls can talk at Strawn’s Eat Shop where murals display famous locals, historic figures and former city events. Strawn’s knows it all because it has been preparing scrumptious Southern cooking since 1944. They’re known for their pies that are served all day, including breakfast. Ask to see Elvis’ favorite booth where they say he ordered his peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches. Strawn's was named by Southern Living Magazine as one of the five best diners in the South.

You’ll find a few favorite Cajun dishes at Columbia Café, like Softshell Po-Boys and Roast Beef with Gruyere sandwiches. But you can’t get more “Cowboy” than their Black Angus Steak.

There’s also culture, history and great shopping to be checked out while in Shreveport and nearby Bossier City.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Go north by northwest for wine in South Dakota

The American wine craze has spread north by northwest, too. In 1997, the South Dakota legislature approved winemaking in the state, and the vintners immediately began producing fine wines. I visited two great wineries within 15 minute’s drive from Sioux Falls.
Jeff Wilde, who was born in South Dakota, was already ahead of the wine game because he grew up in California. After moving back to the Mount Rushmore State, he grew alfalfa on his farm. He quickly switched, and now grows four red grapes and two whites. His Prairie Red is made from his Valient grape and Sweet Red from his Frontenac. With his fruit wines, he uses only produce from South Dakota. His wife, Victoria, won a bronze medal at the International Women’s Winemakers for the fruit wine, Rhuberry (made from rhubarb and raspberries).
Don South has gone “green” with compressed straw bales that insulate his winery, thus reducing energy needs. He specializes in producing fruit wines, in addition to the grape varieties, because… “it opens up connects with people and opens up conversations.” He says that the fruit wines remind them of their past when family members made wine, like his Grandpa Pete’s Strawberry Rhubarb Wine. My friends and I had a picnic supper on Strawbale’s expansive lawn, and if you’d like to eat there, contact them in advance.

If you like good wine, you should go in any and all directions.

Photos by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eating and drinking in Tuscaloosa

Lots of folks visit Tuscaloosa this time of year to cheer on the University of Alabama’s championship football team, the Crimson Tide. Others find themselves in town on an Alabama food tour or traveling a music trail. So where are some of the most popular places to eat and drink?

The original Dreamland BBQ has been serving slabs of pork ribs since 1958. Many Alabamans know the name, but John and Lily Bishop opened their first café in Tuscaloosa as a rib and juke joint. The Bishops’ kids, Jeanette and John, Jr., still operate the restaurant as their parents did. Nothing much has changed, although today’s menu has an addition of sides: potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. You can still see ribs being grilled over a wood fire where your order will be freshly-made because, according to Jeanette, “…the ribs take four minutes in the pit.” But be prepared to wait for a table, because the word has spread beyond 1958’s neighborhood clientele to where Dreamland has become a Tuscaloosa food institution.

Locals drive out to rural Tuscaloosa to Nick’s in the Sticks, a.k.a. Nick’s Filet House, for great steaks at hamburger prices, like the tender small filet for $9.50! Make sure you don’t pass by because there’s no sign anymore. Owner Lloyd Hegenbarth says it blew away in Hurricane Ivan. But the winds didn’t touch the rustic décor inside. Dozens of signed dollar bills are still stapled to the ceiling, Crimson Tide posters still hang on the walls and the well-worn furnishings are still in place. Steaks, shrimp, chicken, salads, wings, burgers and other “just plain eatin’s” adorn the menu. But their signature drink, the invigorating Famous Nicodemus, is far from plain.

Downtown Tuscaloosa heats up at night. The clubs along Greensboro Avenue, University Boulevard, Fourth Street and 23rd Avenue offer a variety of entertainment. Brown’s Corner Dueling Piano Bar and Grill allows its patrons to eat good food while they listen to and interact with the pianists. The Gray Lady Bar is a sports (uh, football) bar that features the championship years of the Crimson Tide in a wood inlay floor. Don’t miss their two dollar beers and the green drink, Sex with an Alligator. Enjoy cool jazz with a young hip crowd at Little Willie’s.

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Photos by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fonthill Castle -- Doylestown's Shadowy Showplace

On Halloween, my best buds, Val and Joan, and I traveled the 45-minute drive from Philadelphia to Doylestown, PA. Our main destination was to the Grace Kelly (a Philly girl, too) exhibition at the James Michener Art Museum. The exhibit displays her clothing, the Oscar for her performance in the film, The Country Girl, personal letters from the British royal family and other famous folks, videos and home movies, other memorabilia and more.

After a quick and tasty lunch at Hickory Kitchens, we scurried over to the four o’clock (and final) daily tour of Fonthill Castle. It was built between 1908 and 1912 by Henry Chapman Mercer, a brilliant, but eccentric, entrepreneur as a shrine to his interests and business. As a proponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he established the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, a factory that still produces tiles, and offers public tours, too. The factory can be found on the 70-acre estate that also houses the castle.

I received a hint of what was to come when I entered. The first thing I saw was a stuffed raven (a la Poe and Hitchcock). We were ushered into a nearby sunroom to view an episode of the TV show, America’s Castles that featured Fonthill. Soon our guided tour began. (No photography allowed.)

Mercer designed his home with the forethought of it becoming a museum after his death. I can’t say much for his architectural skill, but he built an undoubtedly unique structure entirely of concrete. That material was chosen as a deterrent to fire which would have destroyed his treasures. Now when I say treasures, I don’t mean the typical rich man’s treasures of gold and precious gems. Although very wealthy, Mercer’s treasures consist of artwork, antiques, books (over 6,000, documented and housed in concrete bookcases) and an extensive collection of historic foreign tiles bought on his travels, that include Mesopotamian cuneiforms dating back four thousand years and a section of Chinese roof tiles. He also showcased his own handcrafted tiles. They are all embedded in concrete walls, pillars and ceiling ribs.

I didn’t see one room out of the 44 in the standard rectangular or square shape. The 200 windows did little to wash away the gloom, and the old-fashioned unshaded bulbs with exposed filigree wires did little to help. The 32 staircases popped up suddenly in unexpected spaces as we trekked through room after room. In spite of his peculiarities, Mercer was a modern man of his day, and far ahead of many builders. He included 10 bathrooms, fitted with tubs, sinks and flushing toilets, electricity, an intercom system and, alongside 18 fireplaces, central heating. The docent insisted that the home was more cheerful than it appears today with colorful draperies, Oriental carpets and painted walls.

But for me, maybe because I had the creepy Halloween spirit, I sensed that there were other spirits lurking in Fonthill. Others may feel it, too, as they follow the docent around during the darkening four o’clock tour during Standard Time. (If she leads with a candle, then it’s all Poe.) The venue is open all year, and I highly recommend it for people looking for something different (and, maybe, a little macabre).

Photos by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Trees and green at Lied Lodge in Nebraska City

When I travel, I look forward to staying in unique hotels, etc. and not the “same-old, same-old.” The Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City fit my bill. The structure and outbuildings sit on 260 acres of wooded and cultivated land. Vineyards and orchards encircle the enormous lodge that consists of 144 guestrooms, meeting spaces, a restaurant, an indoor pool, an exercise room, a spa and many other amenities.

The lush forest is the brilliant result of the obsession of J. Sterling Morton and his wife, Caroline. As a young married couple, the Mortons relocated to the Nebraska Territory in 1854 to claim 160 acres of unsurveyed federal land. In order to comply with the rules, they built a simple dwelling (which, over the years, has grown into a magnificent mansion). Coming from the East, they were appalled by the lack of trees on the vast grassy prairie.

J. Sterling became the editor of the Nebraska City News, and then developed a political career that led all the way to becoming US Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland. But his passion was planting trees. In the beginning, he lobbied the state of Nebraska to set aside a day each year to plant trees. In 1874, the Nebraska Legislature proclaimed April 22 (Morton’s birthday) to be an annual event – the first Arbor Day. According to J. Sterling, 25 billion trees had been planted across the nation the first 30 years of Arbor Days.

So Lied Lodge is all about trees. Even in my guestroom, a log served as a column. Although apple trees are the primary crop, hazelnut and peach trees are grown, too, and soon there will be cherry trees.

While at Lied Lodge, be sure to visit Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure pavilion to enjoy the exhibits and interactive displays. When there, don’t miss the film, “Trees in the Movies” that features the trees’ role in dozens of films. Experience the outdoors by hiking the trails or perch in one of many tree houses. Explore Arbor Day Farm on the Discovery Ride through the Vineyard Tour, the Twilight Tour, the Preservation Orchard Tour and other excursions. Walking tours include a stop at a fuel wood biomass heating and cooling system and a windbreak arboretum, where you can exit with a gift of a tree. Grab a light bite, taste wine and purchase scrumptious apple pies and other fresh products at the Apple House and Pie Garden Café.

I grew up appreciating trees. As a schoolchild, I had to memorize the poem, “Trees,” written by Joyce Kilmer, and I spent my young years climbing and swinging from trees. But, after my recent years of gathering up (and cursing) fallen leaves, it was good to be reintroduced to The Tree. That was the joy of staying at Lied Lodge.