Outdoorsman Living Life to the Fullest

Outdoorsman Photographer Advocate

Sam at WorkSam Soholt, 30, has lived out of duffle bags and totes since early 2014. He travels 95% of the year working as a professional photographer and videographer in the hunting and outdoor industry. His images allow clients to tell their story visually.

The only material things Sam really needs are a camera and a toothbrush- “one to make a living and the other so clients will want to talk to me.”

For a guy with no formal photography training, Sam has landed world-wide assignments and magazine covers through hard work and networking. He’s traveled across New Zealand, Patagonia, British Columbia, Central Montana, South Dakota and other places taking images and creating lifetime memories. “Every photo puts me back into a specific moment. It’s a great way to keep memories and emotions fresh.”

Becoming an Outdoorsman

A native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and current Montana resident, Sam spent the majority of his time in nature being adventurous. He grew up hunting with father and brother. “There was almost never a question I’d end up doing something in the hunting industry.”

Combining his two passions-hunting and photography-while making a living is the purest form of cultivating a life for himself.

Sam’s is well-educated and disciplined. He earned both bachelors and master’s degrees in business from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. And, he’s a high school and collegiate award-winning track and field athlete.

He’s willing to take career risks and enter new areas with a “trial by fire” approach.

Right Place. Right Time.

Sam learned the basics as a graduate school intern with an Iowa hunting show. He’s watched YouTube videos and dissected photographic images trying to understand how the photographer shot the photo.

He’s met the right people at the right time. His first big break in the industry was shooting for Coast Guard Alaska in Kodiak. “I had $56 to my name when I hopped on the plane. But, I’ve had the support and encouragement to take risks.” He also had the confidence to know he could get a “regular job” if things didn’t work out.

They do work out though. Sam met the editor of Wildfowl Magazine in an Idaho bear camp. He happened to show him a few photos of duck hunting from the previous fall. That meeting landed him a magazine cover shot-a huge deal for photographers.

Not all Bliss Being Outdoorsman

Sam fights the misperception that “life is one big dream” for him. He admits to living an exciting and adventurous lifestyle. However, there are times where he doesn’t care for the more mundane tasks. “I spend more time behind a computer and on the phone than in the field.” This is a job. It’s work.

Outdoorsman with a Cause

For the next year Sam’s living in a bus-one he bought and retrofitted for a cause. It’s his hunting cabin and means to travel to public lands where he spends time hunting, fishing and recreating while capturing and sharing what those lands have to offer.

He’s partnered with like-minded organizations Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and Outdoor Life to capture people’s attention and gain maximum exposure for his cause.

He’s been a bit surprised, however, with how long it takes while driving a bus from Point A to Point B. Yet, he’s committed to the year’s work.

Save Public Land

He’s out to educate citizens on the need to protect public lands. This land is owned by the people of the USA but managed at a state or federal level. “These lands are a free way to connect to nature and spend time in wild places.” Also, losing public lands would be losing his way of life. “I find adventure and relaxation in the wild. I don’t have to ask permission to spend time on those lands.”

Sam says he’s received overwhelming positive support for “what I am up to. People from all over the country and world have reached out in support.” His strongest supporters are sportsmen and women ages 30-60. “This group has done so much to protect wildlife and hunting heritage in the country. It’d be hard to see any of this work being thrown to the wayside.”

Predictably, the loudest opposition stems from resource extraction companies like oil, gas and electric. “These people would like to be the ones to buy up all this land and increase the amount of resources they pull from it.”

Call to Action

If you’re interested in supporting his mission, you can do so by:

  • Following along on Instagram @samsoholt
  • Purchasing a t-shirt. $5 from every sales goes to Backcountry Hunters and Anglers publictees.com.
  • Joining a conservation group like BHA, RMEF, Mule Deer Foundation, etc.

 

Sam Soholt is chasing his dreams and ambitions. He’s comfortable taking risks on things that may or may not work out. And he’s living up to the quote, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to live a life.”

ARE YOU?

SHARE Sam’s story. Tell me yours below.

©Copyright. October 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

Linda Leier Thomason is a retired CEO who  writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above.  Interested in working together?  Complete this form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Having Cancer Is a Positive Thing

Cancer is Hard & Scary. It Can Also be Amazing

Two 57-year-old female professionals meet for the first time at a sushi bar in Omaha, Nebraska. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. It’s not. Kathy and Terry quickly learned they shared triple negative breast cancer.

At a patio table in the late day’s sunshine, they tossed medical jargon around like others discuss politics or sports. They laughed while sharing baldness tales. They empathized with one another while listening to how cancer affects loved ones more than themselves.

Repeatedly, they blasted the negativity of cancer information. Neither ever found a book or article that was “positive about what an amazing journey cancer can be if one keeps the right attitude.”

Despite this, these women stayed focused on the positive aspects of cancer during and after treatment.

I marvel at their strength, frankness and sense of humor. Each will inspire you, or a loved one facing a cancer diagnosis.

If someone you know or love is facing cancer, SHARE this story with them. Even if you don’t have a cancer diagnosis, these women and their positive approach to life are inspirational.

Meet the fantastic Kathy & Terry

Kathy Bressler

Kathy and Mike, her husband of 35 years, recently moved to Omaha from the Pacific Northwest. She’s the Senior VP, Chief Operating Officer for CHI Health. Their two married sons, a daughter and four grandchildren remain there. Her general health was “amazing” before her 2015 cancer diagnosis. Today she still describes it as “awesome.”

She should know. Kathy has both a masters and a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Family History

Kathy’s mother died from her second breast cancer at age 61. Her grandmother died from the same when Kathy’s mom was just 9 years old. This strong family history had Kathy doing monthly breast self-exams at a young age and starting mammograms at age 35. In 2002 she was genetically tested and was negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, I was genetically tested again for all of the genes known, and I was negative for all of them, again.”

Hearing You Have Cancer

“I had a very hot, sharp pain in my right breast on November 29, 2015. My husband urged me to be seen. So, I had diagnostics the next day.” Kathy’s general surgeon delivered the cancer diagnosis to her. “Hearing it is a surreal out-of-body feeling. I was probably less scared than my family and friends because I had so many things I had to do.” Her surgeon didn’t give her any prognosis. Instead, they got to work and jointly planned action steps “to take care of business. I was sad and scared for my family, more than anything.”

Bilateral Mastectomy

Kathy had both breasts removed 11 days after diagnosis. The tumor was so close to the surface that the circulation in her right breast was compromised. She spent six weeks in a hyperbaric chamber. Doing this five days a week, seven hours a day healed her.

In early February 2016 she started 22 weeks of chemotherapy and ended five weeks of radiation therapy in August 2016. She had reconstructive surgery to remove spacers and insert implants in April 2017.

A month later she contracted an infection behind the right-side implant and was hospitalized for five days on IV antibiotics. She also took oral antibiotics for another six weeks.

Today, she’s infection free and feeling “awesome.” She has oncologist appointments once every quarter. “She checks labs for abnormalities and any symptoms that might indicate a recurrence. Recurrence is my greatest fear.”

Head Shaving Party

Kathy’s family, friends and caregivers surrounded her with love and comfort upon hearing her diagnosis. Each continues to check in regularly. As one would expect, when hearing the diagnosis, they had the normal emotions of sadness, thoughtfulness and support.

They drove her to appointments and offered to help in other ways. “I tried hard to stay independent. It was nice to be able to let loved ones do something.” It made them feel part of her journey.

“I’d urge family members to learn about the diagnosis, don’t baby the patient.” Rather she’d encourage them to exercise daily and stay connected socially. She did both.

She’s a hot yoga fanatic. She did it every single day throughout treatment. “The people there were with me every day. I couldn’t have asked for more love and kindness.”

Kathy hosted a head shaving party for 53 people. “It was amazing to watch the emotion in the room. I was doing great. I know it was hard for everyone. It was a very special evening. Being bald was amazing and I love that.”

Gold Star

Hopefully any cancer patient has a list of those who provided comfort through treatment. Kathy does. Husband Mike was “positive and encouraging.” Her kids were amazing. Her daughter was like a nurse to her-hopping in the shower with her mom to ensure her safety when she was weak.

Her brother and sister-in-law and girlfriend, Jennifer, were rock solid in their support.

She’d award a gold star to her chemo nurse Krystal. Krystal took care of her every Monday for 22 weeks. “I fell madly in love with her. She could not have provided me more positive care.” Krystal became a good friend and a great teacher.

Blessed by Cancer Lessons

Kathy is an administrator in a large healthcare system. Her personal cancer journey has changed the way she leads.

It caused her to re-think about what their patients deserve.

She’s quickly irritated hearing stories about how other women were not taken care of in the way they should’ve been. She fully understands not everyone’s journey was amazing as hers was.

Today she:

  • Asks employers of cancer patients to be sensitive and let them keep working as able.
  • Tells oncologists to stay positive and encourage their patients to do the same.
  • Urges patients to accept the love and support of family, friends and caregivers.
  • Reaches out to newly diagnosed women.
  • Participates in a California study specific to triple negative breast cancer.
  • Serves on the Susan G. Komen Advisory Board.
  • Wishes for a world without breast cancer.
  • Feels beyond blessed to have experienced breast cancer. “I know it sounds odd but this diagnosis has changed my life for the better, in so many ways.”

Terry Owens

Terry, a recently retired Disability Management Director, was in excellent health when she learned she had breast cancer. Equally annoying was the fact that there was no family history of breast cancer.

“I was showering one July 2015 morning and felt a large lump in my left breast near the armpit. I called my gynecologist and therein began my cancer journey.” Several referrals and appointments later, she learned it had already become Stage 3. It wasn’t until after Labor Day 2015 she heard it was Triple Negative Cancer.

Self-Exams & Mammograms

A native of Northeast Arkansas with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, Terry is a mother of two adult children and grandmother to a 17-month-old. Baby Lyla is expected in December 2017.

She learned to perform breast self-exams at the Baptist Health Breast Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“They have videos and sample breasts with lumps for patients to palpate.” This teaches women what a lump may feel like on her body. Terry admits she was not vigilant about performing monthly self-exams, but she did perform them every so often. She did have mammograms yearly.

Steps to Wellness

Terry’s initial screening (mammogram and ultrasound) was in Arkansas. “The technician returned to the room with a pale and sick look on her face. I knew it was cancer even though she couldn’t confirm it.” Terry was alone when the gynecologist called to share the results and initiate a plan.

She returned to Omaha where she lived and worked. Her primary care physician referred her to a breast surgeon who performed a biopsy and reported the triple negative diagnosis.

She started chemotherapy in early September and became terribly sick, losing 12 pounds along with her hair 16 days after starting. She felt extreme fatigue.

In February 2016, she had a lumpectomy and began radiation, which lasted two months. [Her lymph nodes weren’t removed. Instead her chest, breast and armpit were radiated.]

Follow Ups to Health

After completing radiation, Terry was seen every three months and had repeated mammograms.

Today she’s seen every six months by a breast surgeon, oncologist and oncology radiologist. Like Kathy, she’s also participating in a research study. Hers is for patients who choose not to remove lymph nodes.

She’s happy to report she’s clear and returning to health.

Faith & Comfort

As expected, when hearing her diagnosis, her children cried. They offered love and support throughout. “Most embraced the hope of recovery and survival.”

Terry has a deep faith in the Lord. “He provided my friends and family, as well as my church family, to minister to me and take care of me. Even though I lived alone, someone was with me every time I had chemotherapy.”

Her best friends visited, brought food and kept house. Her children came. “I had enough drugs in me from Friday treatments that I felt well enough to show friends and family around Omaha. Unfortunately, I was always sickest on Sundays-the day everyone left to go home or back to school and work.”

Simple Bit of Food Advice

In their wanting to help, many brought food Terry couldn’t eat. Unfortunately, she had to dispose of it and sometimes didn’t have a prepared meal as scheduled. For instance, she couldn’t tolerate onions and garlic. So, she’d recommend asking the patient or her caregiver about food tolerance before you drop food off for the patient. She doesn’t want someone’s thoughtful and kind gesture to go to waste.

Superstar Chemist

Terry singled out the chemist who mixed her chemo drugs as a superstar through her cancer journey. “He was fabulous in giving me all kinds of helpful tips on caring for myself and managing the nausea, constipation and fatigue.” He even put stickers on her papers and directions for her medication schedules. Simple touches go a long way.

More Information

  • Click on the green live links throughout this article.
  • Pink it Forward
  • Susan G. Komen
  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation
  • CHI Breast Cancer Support Group

7 Simple Ways to Help Someone with Cancer

  1. Treat them as normally as possible.
  2. Offer rides, meals (see above), chores, phone calling, etc.
  3. Plan an outing with flexibility in case patient doesn’t feel well.
  4. Keep your troubles to yourself. Your friend has cancer. Don’t ask her to fix your life at the moment too
  5. Stay positive. If patient is prayerful, pray with and for her.
  6. Stay in her life even if you feel like you don’t know what to do for her.
  7. Organize a scheduled support group around her. Schedule ride, food delivery, companionship, bathing support, etc.

SHARE this article. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

©Copyright. October 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a retired CEO who  writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. If you’d like her to write something for you, contact her by filling in the form below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter & Win Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventure

Red Cloud, Nebraska on November 17, 2017

WHERE? Red Cloud, Nebraska offers a glimpse into a storied American past while maintaining a progressive vision for the future. The town’s most famous citizen, author Willa Cather, introduced the world to Red Cloud and left indelible impressions in the minds of her readers.

Red Cloud  is set amidst brick-lined streets, charming homes, historic buildings and the immense beauty of the prairie.

Your off-the-beaten path adventure will let you explore a rural lifestyle while immersing yourself in performance arts, culture, history and local cuisine.

This contest is done in cooperation with the Red Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce who welcome you to their historic community known as “America’s Most Famous Small Town.”

Prize Package Includes

  • Overnight Lodging at  the  Kaley House B&B, Master Suite for the evening of November 17, 2017. Winner must reserve upon notification of winning prize. $156.80 value http://redcloudbb.com/
  • $20 certificate to Fat Fox’s Kitchen

  • $20 certificate to Lizzy’s

  • 2 free-7 building tours from the Willa Cather Foundation $50 value

  • 2 free tickets to the Mary Carrick show (must reserve in advance and make arrangements to get tickets from the Willa Cather Foundation before November 17, 2017.) $40 value

  • 2 popcorn and soft drink tickets to use at Carrick show $8.00 value

  • Wine or beer tasting at On the Brix $10-$15

  • 2 free tours of the Historic Starke Round Barn http://www.starkeroundbarn.com/ $10

  • Copy of My Antonia. Willa Cather’s book published in 1918-100 year anniversary is in 2018. $10.00

  • Red Cloud Chamber of Commerce Gift basket: $20

How to Win-Complete ALL Steps to be Eligible

  1. You must provide an email address on the home page of this website: lindaleierthomason.com.  Enter your email in the red white and blue box in the right-hand column of the home page-this page. [It will tell you if we already have it after you type in your email address.]
  2. Go to Facebook  Click Here for Facebook Page or use this link https://www.facebook.com/lleierthomason/. Like the page and comment about who’d you take on this trip with you & why. A share is also appreciated.
  3. All steps must be completed for your entry to be accepted. No exceptions.

Rules to Enter

Please read all carefully before entering.

  • Must be twenty-one (21) or older to win.
  • Contest open to legal residents of the United States of America.
  • Winner Notification: Winner will be chosen at random on Monday, October 23, 2017. Winner will be notified via email. Response must be received in 24 hours. If none, another winner will be randomly chosen.
  • Prize is non-transferable. No cash redemption or substitution will be allowed.
  • Prize package is for November 17, 2017 and only this date. Do not enter if you cannot attend the performance (7:30 PM-10:00 PM) and spend the evening at the Kaley House B&B. No more than two guests are allowed to stay in the Master Suite at the Kaley House. Winner may reserve other rooms at his/her expense.
  • Prize does not include transportation to and from Red Cloud, Nebraska.
  • Winner agrees to take photographs of his/her visit and to share a minimum of 3 images by November 20, 2017 with lindaleierthomason.com to use at their discretion. An email will be provided to you.
  • Winner assumes all responsibility and releases lindaleierthomason.com and all prize donors and sponsors from all liability.
  • If winner accepts prize and does not use, winner agrees to pay lindaleierthomason.com $300.00 on or before November 24, 2017. Payment must be in form of cashier’s check.
  • By accepting prize, winner understands and agrees to all contest rules.
  • Immediate family members (spouse/partner, children, grandchildren and parents) of prize sponsors, Red Cloud Chamber of Commerce and/or lindaleierthomason.com are not eligible to enter.

 

©Copyright. September 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

Linda Leier Thomason is a retired CEO who  writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. If you’d like to conduct a joint community promotion with Linda, complete the form below.

And find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above.

 

 

 

Buffalo Round Up: Everything You Need to Know

Annual Buffalo Roundup Up: Custer, South Dakota

Is  a Buffalo Roundup on your bucket list?  It’s worth seeing the Buffalo Roundup at least once in your lifetime.

If you grew up herding cattle, this Roundup will seem familiar, only with larger animals and a super-sized crowd.

If you have never herded cattle, this Annual Roundup will be an amazing event for you.

Each year about 1300 buffalo are rounded up as part of this event.

Here’s everything you need to know for an outstanding experience. Included are suggested side trips from  Custer, South Dakota. Go Explore South Dakota and all of its great places.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Annual Buffalo Round Up and Arts Festival in Custer State Park in Custer, South Dakota, south of Mt. Rushmore. Click on bold links for additional helpful information.

 

12 Roundup Tips

  1. Parking lots open at 6:15 AM & close at 9:00 AM. A park entrance license is not required on Friday-the day of the annual Buffalo Roundup.
  2. Handicapped parking is available in both the North and South lots. These spots are closest to the viewing area. This means, last out after the Roundup. It can take an hour to get out of the parking lot. Restrooms are available near the parking lots.
  3. Roundup begins at 9:30 AM. Depending on where you sit and view, it could be between 10:30-11:00 AM before you get a glimpse of the buffalo.
  4. Arrive early; there is a lot of traffic and it moves slowly.
  5. Pack a chair or blanket, rain gear and/or sun screen and a light jacket for early morning temperatures. Bring binoculars, a camera and bug spray. If you’re not a people watcher, bring cards or games. There’s a lot of wait time. Interact with fellow viewers; many from all over the USA.
  6. Pack a cooler of light snacks and water, or non-alcoholic beverages.
  7. Respect fellow viewers. If you arrive late, don’t expect premium seating. And certainly don’t stand in front of guests who’ve been there hours ahead of you.
  8. Breakfast for a fee is served at 6:15 AM and lunch at 2 PM. Be prepared for long lines. Have cash ready.
  9. Plan your travel route in advance. The roadways are pitch black in the early morning hours. If you’d rather leave the driving to professionals, book a shuttle ride. Check with your lodging accommodations for shuttle referrals. There are many options.
  10. Pets not allowed. If you bring one, it must be kept in the vehicle.
  11. Keep it mind that while this is a public viewing, the buffalo are actually herded into the area and placed into corrals for the annual testing, branding and sorting. This activity starts at 1 PM and goes until about 3 PM. You are invited to view this.
  12. Make sure your gas tank is full. There is a lot of slow-moving traffic both in and out of the viewing areas.

Arts Festival

The Arts Festival is part of the Annual Buffalo Roundup. 2017 dates are: September 28-30.

Fine arts and crafts are on display. Entertainers perform under a big tent.

Food, including buffalo meat, is served. Have plenty of cash available.

All events and vendors are across from the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center located along US Highway 16A near the Historic State Game Lodge.

Side Trips

One can spend a week or more in the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. There’s plenty to see and do. Add these side trips to your visit. If you prefer to use a guide, contact Golden Circle Tours in Custer or Affordable Adventures in Rapid City. [I’ve used both companies with great success.]

Drive through Custer State Park & Take in:

Sylvan Lake

Hike around the lake. Kayak. Stare at it. Arrive early in the morning and watch the sunrise. It’s a must-see spot while in the area.

 

Needles Highway: South Dakota Highway 87

The Needles of the Black Hills of South Dakota are a region of eroded granite pillars, towers, and spires within Custer State Park. This National Scenic Byway was completed in 1922 and includes 14 miles of sharp turns, low tunnels and impressive granite spires. The road lies within the 73,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City.

 

The Wildlife

A herd of 1,300 bison roams freely throughout the park, often stopping traffic along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road. The herd is one of the largest publicly owned herds in the world.

Besides bison, the park is home to wildlife such as pronghorn antelope, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, wild turkeys, and a band of friendly burros.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Address for GPS:

13000 Highway 244
Building 31, Suite 1

Keystone, SD 57751

Mountain Time Hours are:

8:00AM-5:00 PM October-May. 8:00AM-10:00 PM June-mid-August. 8:00AM-9:00 PM mid-August-September.

There is NO entrance fee but parking is currently $11 per vehicle.

Spearfish Canyon

Spearfish is in the northern area of the Hills. And the Canyon on US Highway 14 A is the #1 attraction there. Bridal Veil Falls, Roughlock Falls and Spearfish Falls are must-see when driving through this wooded area.

 

Hill City

Hill City is known as the “Heart of the Black Hills.” It is found between two of the world’s largest and most famous sculptures: Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse.

Visit the wineries, art galleries, museums, restaurants, retail stores in Hill City.  A favorite is Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City.

 

 

Crazy Horse Memorial

Address for GPS:

Crazy Horse Memorial
12151 Avenue of the Chiefs
Crazy Horse, SD 57730-8900

The Mission of Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. It does not receive federal or state funding.

The Legends in Light Laser Show here is worth every penny and every minute. Plan to go early to visit the museums and gift shop. You can watch from your vehicle or from benches in an outdoor viewing area.

Additional tours are available. Details are on their website.

Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower is an astounding geologic feature that protrudes 867 feet out of the rolling prairie surrounding the Black Hills. It is considered sacred to the Northern Plains Indians and other tribes. Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest crack climbing areas in North America.

The Monument is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and every day of the year. The visitor center and the Devils Tower Natural History Association Bookstore are open daily from 8AM-7PM, with the exception of December 25th and January 1st.

The 2017 vehicle pass is $15.00.

Badlands National Park

Address for GPS:

25216 Ben Reifel Road
Interior, SD 57750

Open all year, 24 hours a day, except for weather closures.

$20 per automobile-good for 7 days.

The Lakota people were the first to call this place “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures, lack of water, and the exposed rugged terrain led to this name.

Today, the term badlands has a more geologic definition. Badlands form when soft sedimentary rock is extensively eroded in a dry climate. The park’s typical scenery of sharp spires, gullies, and ridges is a premier example of badlands topography.

Its dramatic landscapes span layered rock formations, steep canyons and towering spires. Bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs inhabit its sprawling grasslands. The Badlands Loop Road (Highway 240) winds past scenic lookouts. Several trails begin near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The Fossil Exhibit Trail is a boardwalk with displays on fossils uncovered in the park.

To fully experience most of what the Badlands has to offer, it takes two days. To drive through the park and stop at a few overlooks, it takes about two hours. Here are a few highlights you won’t want to miss & the minimum time needed. Taken from Badlands National Park website FAQs.

• Drive the Highway 240 Badlands Loop Road (60 minutes if you do not stop at any overlooks)
• Stop at a minimum of two scenic overlooks (30 minutes)
• Drive the Sage Creek Rim Road to see animals and additional views (30 to 60 minutes – depending on distance covered)
• Hike a trail or explore the back-country (variable time/distances – 30 minutes to all day)
• Attend a ranger fossil talk (30 min) or guided walk (60 minutes)
• Stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center (60 minutes)
• Go to the White River Visitor Center (45 minutes – does not include travel time to the facility)
• Take in a sunset or sunrise (20 minutes)
• Tour the South Unit of the park (45 minutes to all day)

This is just a small sample of the many sites one can see while traveling in western South Dakota. You could also visit Sturgis, home of the annual motorcycle rally. The 78th one being held August 3-12, 2018.  Or, stop in Deadwood, and Keystone, or at other landmarks in the area .

Click on the bold links.

Plan a trip.

Attend the Annual Buffalo Roundup. If not in 2017, next year.

Enjoy the many great places in South Dakota.

Linda Leier Thomason, a former South Dakotan, is a retired CEO who  writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above.

If you’d like to have Linda write about your community or event, contact her below:

 

©Copyright. September 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Smile Hides Russian Orphan Life

Meet Mara

Mara shares in the happiest times of her customer’s lives. She helps select engagement and wedding rings, anniversary bands and other special occasion jewelry. She’s a jewelry sales professional for Greenberg’s Jewelers  at Omaha’s Westroads Mall.

But, while she’s helping others celebrate their happy times, few know the life she’s lived. Meet the incredible Mara Alyona Palmquist.

Russian Orphanage & Kindness

Mara’s earliest years were spent in Kalyazin, Russia.

Her strongest Russian home memory is of boiling water for her brother’s bath. “It took so long to fill up the tub. I had to boil the water and then carry the pot back to the bathroom. By the time I got there, half of it was spilled. It stands out to me because he was all I had. I always looked out for him, even at that early age.”

In Russia

When she was five, the State removed Mara and her 3-year-old brother, Vanya, from her alcoholic parent’s home and placed them in a Russian orphanage. She’s never seen her parents since, but longs to return to see especially her dad, whom she’s recently learned is still alive.

Though life was tough, her fondest memory is of kindness at school, particularly from her first-grade teacher. It was not hard to identify orphans in school. They wore jean skirts and jackets. The students were asked to draw a picture of whatever they wanted. “Everyone got a pencil. The teacher gave me a pen. And, my classmate next to me gave me stickers for my picture. I’ll never forget their kindness.”

In 2001, at age 11, Mara’s life was again filled with kindness. She and Vanya came to Los Angeles, California through the Kidsave organization.

Summer Miracles®

The Summer Miracles ® program places older orphans, aged 11-14, who have little chance to be adopted in their own countries, with families in an orphan hosting program. Children, who are available for adoption, stay with host families for a 4-to-5-week summer visit. While in the USA, the kids learn about the culture, attend summer camp, and experience life in an American family. Host families work with Kidsave staff and volunteers to find the children adoptive families. [Nearly 200,000 orphans are currently growing up without families in Russian state institutions.] Visit the Kidsave website for more information and/or to host a child: https://www.kidsave.org/

Los Angeles to Branson, MO

Mara and Vanya were placed with a widow in Los Angles who wasn’t interested in adoption after the summer program ended. Instead, a Branson, Missouri family that was in California on vacation “got a random voice message on their hotel phone saying there were 2 kids about to be sent back to a Russian orphanage if not placed with a family.” The family shortened their vacation. The father remained in California with Mara and Vanya for a few days and then traveled with them to Missouri to meet the “rest of the family.”

Fitting into a Family of 11

The rest of Michelle and Andre’s family included 9 other children-7 of their own and another brother and sister adopted from a different orphanage. All of a sudden, Mara and Vanya were part of a group of 11. Adapting was difficult.

While she doesn’t want people to feel sorry for her, Mara admits being adopted is not easy. It’s difficult to be part of a new family, knowing where to fit in the family, church and culture. “I had to learn how to be a daughter, an older sister, a younger sister. Religion was hard. Fitting in overall was challenging.” She sat in front of a mirror for hours each day practicing her English accent so she wouldn’t sound “funny.”

Mara feels extremely blessed and eternally grateful that her family opened their home to them because some of the kids they knew from the orphanage got sent back to Russia for behavioral issues. “It changed my life for the better. I have so many opportunities that I’d never have had in Russia. There, at age 16, you are put on the streets. Prostitution is so high for that reason.”

Guilt & Gratitude

Mara sometimes feels guilty for the life she has in the USA. “I’m living this beautiful life with so much, knowing my Russian family is still struggling  and I can’t help them at all.”

She understands many Americans have it worse than she ever did. “I grew up going to school, having food in my belly and dressing in clean clothes. I had a roof over my head.” Mara’s inspired by these basics: she calls them gifts. “God brought me here for a reason. I want to show him it was the right place for me and I won’t waste this opportunity to better myself.”

She never takes relationships and friendships for granted and cherishes life. She seeks opportunities to do something great and make someone smile.

Jewelry Sales

Mara achieves that goal every day she’s selling at Greenberg’s Jewelers. She finds it particularly rewarding to help nervous couples select a perfect piece of jewelry. She builds rapport, especially with “lookers,” easily finding out why they entered the store and then helping them. She’s a relationship builder with excellent listening skills. “Customers will just walk in to chat when they’re in the mall shopping. I love that. I enjoy hearing their stories about how they met, their first date, etc. It makes my work day all worth it.”

Circle of Life

Making her life all worth it is her adorable six-year-old son, Brody. “He has the purest heart and was the best birthday present ever. [Born six weeks early on Mara’s 21st birthday.] “Having a child of my own makes me understand God’s unconditional love for us.”

Mara works hard every day and hopes Brody is proud of “his mommy.” She does not want the life she has had for Brody. She’d like to be able to provide him everything she never had growing up. “I’m not talking about material things.” Instead, Mara wants to shower Brody with love and affection and kisses and tell him “he’s the best kid in the whole world.”

Growing up in a Russian orphanage was not easy. But Mara learned how to survive and how to blend in. Now, as a mother, she knows what she craved and never received in her younger years. Mara now provides that to her own son. And, when the time is right, she will share her early years with him, most likely with a joint trip to Russia.

My husband, Ken, and I had the remarkable experience of working with Mara when selecting a 25th wedding anniversary band in May 2017. She made us feel like newlyweds through the entire sales process.

Other than her outstanding sales skills and techniques, we were drawn to her as a person.  Behind her charisma and smile, we sensed a deeper story to her life. I thank her for the courage it took to recall memories of her Russian life and for sharing them with all of us.

Russian Trip: Funds Needed

Mara needs to raise funds to secure the required paperwork to plan a visit to Russia. If you’d like to help, please contact me by completing the form below. Can you contribute?

 

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair

Nothing Compares to Iowa State Fair Thrills

August 10-20, 2017 Des Moines, Iowa

I enjoy fairs of all sorts and sizes: craft, pottery, art and state and county fairs. Wherever there is a group of like-minded people happily gathered showcasing their talents, I’m delighted to join.

I’ve attended the internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair twice. In 2016, I was mostly a spectator. I applauded a friend as her family was honored with a Century Farm Award presented in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion.

I then joined her at a friend’s nationally known “Thank a Farmer” magic show in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. I spent most of the afternoon watching talented Iowa youth at the Bill Riley Talent Search, including the daughter of a fellow Iowa State graduate I hadn’t seen in 30 years. We re-connected between performances and applause.

Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. It attracts more than a million people from all over the world each year. Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, I was included in the 120,833 people at the Fair. This time I walked nearly every inch of the fairgrounds, enjoying the sights, sounds and aromas of this great annual event. Both visits were distinct, but each enjoyable. I realized one can experience the Fair quite differently on each visit with a bit of pre-planning. I met some who attend multiple days each year and claim they see and experience it differently with each visit. That’s possible.

17 ways to Enjoy the Iowa State Fair

BEFORE YOU GO

  1. Define your purpose. Do you want a general overview experience? Are you going to ride the rides on the Midway? Do you want to see the livestock judging competitions? Are the entertainers your priority? Paid or unpaid performers? Will you sample fair foods most of the day? Are you looking forward to viewing the photography and art exhibits? Do you want to see the butter cow exhibit? Do you prefer commercial exhibits? What is it you want to get out of your experience? If you only have one day, visit the excellent Iowa State Fair website and pre-plan your visit. Print the map and schedule. Download the Iowa State Fair Food Finder app. It also includes the daily schedule of events.
  2. Purchase advance tickets. This will save you both time and money. Check the Iowa State Fair website for special admission pricing (Deals & Discounts) such as Fairgoers aged 60+. Until a couple of days before the Fair starts, one can even print tickets at home with no additional fee. Otherwise advance tickets are available in various grocery stores in Iowa.
  3. Pack accordingly. Bags are subject to inspection. Bring sunscreen, a camera and cash. While some vendors accept credit and debit cards, there is a preference for cash. A change of clothing may be necessary for small children. There are spray fountains to both cool and entertain kids. After the playground, hand wipes may be necessary. Restrooms and water fountains are readily available and well-marked. You may re-fill water bottles at fountains.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. This Fair has livestock. If you’re going to walk in the barns, closed toe shoes are best. Parking can be a distance from the entrance. Be prepared to walk, though there are courtesy golf cart shuttle rides available. The parking lots are not paved. Stroller rides can be bumpy.
  5. Preach patience. If you’re attending on the weekend, be prepared for large crowds. Though this is an extremely well-run operation, there is a lot of traffic and it can take a bit to get parked. [Remember where you parked.] The grounds, shows and events can get quite crowded. Keep in mind everyone wants to have an enjoyable Fair experience. Be patient. If there’s a show or event you must see, arrive early to get a seat.

AT THE FAIR

  1. Arrive early. Parking is $10 per vehicle. The grounds open at 7am. If you’d like to see the Fairgrounds without the crowds, arrive early. Sunrise at the Fair is spectacular. Most buildings do not open until 9:00 am.
  2. Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center. This is an ideal location for young children to learn about farm animals. The building is near the North gate and has baby chickens, pigs, etc. along with educational stations where prizes are awarded for answering questions. This is a great place to see animals, if children do not have the energy to make it to the actual barns on the Fairgrounds.
  3. Variety. Butter sculpting. Yoga on the hill. Dutch oven cooking seminar. Grape stomping. Backgammon tournament. Egg rolling contest. Sheep shearing contest. The list of things to see and participate in is endless. It can be overwhelming. Pre-planning helps,  as does setting realistic expectations of what be accomplished on one visit.
  4. Accessible. ADA/Accessible parking is available, primarily in the North lot. Scooters and wheelchair rentals are also available. Keep in mind most of the parking areas are unpaved. Trams with marked stops are available once inside the grounds as are golf carts for mini-shuttle service from the parking lots to the gates. Check the Iowa State Fair website for additional services.
  5. Care Stations and ATMs. Need an aspirin or band-aid? Look for a Care Station vending machine at the Fair. Need extra cash? There are at least 30 ATM machines on location.
  6. Eat & Drink at the Fair. Outside food and beverages are not allowed. Download the Iowa State Food Finder app for a list of foods by vendor and location, including healthy foods. Beverages cups, once purchased, are re-fillable at most vendor locations for a minimal fee.
  7. From Above. Sky gliders give an overview of the fairgrounds from above. The ride is slow and easy, allowing you plenty of time to see and to take photos. There are two: east and west. Round trip is ideal.
  8. Keep it Clean. Hand sanitizer is plentiful throughout all of the animal barn areas and in all restrooms. Use it. Stop the spread of any potential disease.
  9. Talk to Them. The youth who’ve raised and are showing the animals in the barns are eager to talk about the experience. Approach them. Take an interest in their project and ask questions. Some of the most memorable conversations I had at the 2017 Fair were with a state FFA officer and an Iowa Pork Producers summer intern. These students are impressive representatives of their organizations.
  10. Check the weather. Do you need sunscreen or an umbrella? Evening Grandstand shows run late. Sometimes a light jacket or sweatshirt is necessary. Remember, to take breaks and drink plenty of water.
  11. Share. There are endless photographic moments at the Iowa State Fair. Check for hashtags and share on social media. Popular 2017 hashtags were #ISF2017 and #IowaStateFairThrills.
  12. Plan to Participate. Throughout the Iowa State Fair, you may find ways you can participate in future Fairs. Whatever your interest or hobby, find a way to work on a project and display or show at the Fair. Maybe you can’t raise a cow or pig in your neighborhood, but perhaps you can bake a Bundt cake, submit a photograph or raise a prize-winning rose or pumpkin. Be a part of one of the greatest Fairs around. Participate.

5 Favorites at 2017 Iowa State Fair: August 12th

  1. Fiddle and guitar music in Pioneer Hall
  2. West round-trip Sky glider ride
  3. Walking through the  barns early in the morning and watching youth care for their animals
  4. Horticulture gardens filled with bright, aromatic blooms
  5. Courtesy of fair goers, workers and volunteers

 

The 2018 Iowa State Fair is August 9-19, 2018 in Des Moines, Iowa. Mark your calendar. Find your 5 Favorite things to do at the 2018 Iowa State Fair.

Linda Leier Thomason is a retired CEO who now writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. She’s represented the North Dakota Pork Producers as the 1979 Pork Queen and has attended countless county and state fairs promoting the pork industry. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. She is a dual graduate of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

If you have something you’d like Linda to write, contact her below.

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

4 Affordable Things to Do in Omaha on a Sunday

Have a free Sunday and need something to do? Visit Omaha. If you are lucky enough to call Omaha your home, get out and visit, or re-visit, these sites and participate these activities.

We recently did these 4 things in 4 hours on a Sunday. Click on the bold links to find more information while planning your Omaha outing or a weekend trip to Omaha.

Omaha Farmer’s Market at Aksarben Village

9am-1pm Every Sunday May 7-October 15, 2017

Tips for a Great Outing

  • Go early for free street and garage parking.
  • Find a list of vendors on the Market’s website-link in bold green above.
  • Patience required. Be prepared to dodge dogs and strollers.
  • Bring your own bags for produce (recycled grocery store bags, etc.) and a bag to put all merchandise into.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. After shopping, walk the trails or stroll through the College of St. Mary.
  • Tip the musician(s).
  • Take dollar bills so vendors don’t run out of change.
  • Bring sanitizing hand wipes. Napkins provided, but these wipes are useful for post-restroom and after eating sticky pastries.
  • Don’t eat samples without real intent to buy.
  • Be open to trying new things, especially vegetables you’ve never tasted.

Enhanced the Market by

  • Vendors hand out recipes-how to use items being sold, especially unique vegetables.
  • More vendors preparing & selling food for consumption on-site.
  • Healthier prepared food options; heavy on pastries.
  • Cooking demonstrations-how to use kohlrabi, okra, etc.
  • Multiple entertainers throughout the market.
  • Fee based pony rides for children.
  • Petting zoo.
  • Hoola-Hoop contests, etc. to engage crowd.

Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens

Little Known Facts about 38th President of USA

  • Born July 14, 1913 at 3202 Woolworth Avenue, Omaha, NE.
  • Named Leslie King, Jr. at birth.
  • Parents divorced and mother moved to her parent’s Grand Rapids, Michigan home.
  • Renamed Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. when adopted by stepfather in 1916, at age 3.
  • Most commonly known as being from Michigan.

Property Facts

  • 3202 Woolworth Avenue was 3-stories and 14 rooms
  • 1971 home burned
  • In 1974, James M. Paxson, prominent Omaha businessman, purchased it with intent to build memorial.
  • Kiosk has 4 historical narrations available.
  • Site dedicated in 1977
  • Rose garden added in 1978
  • Maintained by Omaha Parks and Rec Department
  • Free entrance
  • A Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center sits adjacent to birthplace
  • The Gerald Ford exhibit is open to the public Monday thru Friday, by appointment only. Call 402-595-1180 or email grfcc@nebraska.gov.
  • The conservation labs are not open for public tours.
  • The Ford birth site gardens are available for rent by calling 402-444-5900
  • Hanscom Park is across the street and has a pavilion available for rent

Gene Leahy Pedestrian Mall

1302 Farnam Street, downtown Omaha

Located just to the north of the Old Market in the downtown area. The park sits between the Heartland of America Park on its eastern edge and the W. Dale Clark Library to the West. It is sandwiched between historical buildings and contemporary design, making the surroundings visually interesting.

Interesting Tidbits

  • Also known as Central Park or The Mall
  • Named after former Omaha Mayor Eugene A. Leahy
  • 6 acres
  • Open 5am-11pm
  • Free entrance
  • Playground with steel slides-bring cardboard to go faster
  • Walking paths
  • Lagoon with waterfowl
  • Sculpture art
  • Picnic areas
  • Visit during holiday season when lit up for the season
  • Homeless citizens do occupy the area

Café 110

1299 Farnam Street, Suite 110, corner of 13th and Farnam, near Gene Leahy Mall entrance

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am-2pm; Closed Saturday; Sunday: 9am-12pm

  • One of best, most affordable breakfasts in Omaha.
  • Known for coffee, tea, Espresso,  smoothies, in-house made soups, sandwiches and salads along with a salad bar, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Space is energetic and  creative. There is a loft upstairs for reading, etc.
  • Service friendly and efficient.
  • Opened in March 2012 by owner Allan Zeeck. He previously owned Benson Grind.
  • Offers off-site catering and live music.
  • Space can be rented for private parties and events, especially popular during Christmas holiday when Gene Leahy Mall is lit. Reserve early.

Omaha offers a lot of variety for residents. Find your favorite things to do.

LIKE & SHARE this post, making an Omaha outing or Omaha visit easy to plan.

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

 

 

 

3 Generations Thrilled with Nebraska Adventure

Brenda Thomason, affectionately known as “Granny” in our family, enjoys traveling. In honor of her 75th birthday we planned a trip around two of her favorites: Neil Diamond and travel.

It was a bit of a challenge. She’s not a fan of large concert arenas or crowds. That meant it wasn’t as easy as purchasing tickets for Neil’s Omaha, Nebraska performance.  Alas, a Neil Diamond Legend Show was scheduled in southwest Nebraska, simplifying the task.

The greater challenge became building side-trips along the route to and from Red Cloud, Nebraska. Joining the adventure were two twenty-somethings and his parents: 3 generations, each with its own preferences and tastes.

The result was a remarkable trip celebrating Granny’s milestone birthday,  re-connecting while listening to Neil Diamond CD’s on the journey over Nebraska highways.

Are you and your family seeking a Nebraska adventure?

Try this travel plan. Click on links for more information. See additional photographs on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Let me know what else you discovered along the way. Share photos of your trip. They may appear here.

Departure

Our first stop after leaving Omaha shortly after 9:30 am on a Friday was in

Beatrice, Nebraska

  • Located about 96 miles from Omaha, approximately 90 minutes.
  • 37 miles directly south of Lincoln on four-lane US-Highway 77.
  • Nearly 13,000 residents live here.
  • Click here for list of “Things to Do in Beatrice.”

Lunch

Back Alley Eatery

  • 124 23rd Street Beatrice, NE

We were the first diners when the restaurant opened at 11 am. Everything from the brisket platter to the pulled pork sandwich was flavorful and plentiful. The service was quick, efficient and friendly. Favorite sides included baked beans, green beans and corn muffins. The homemade coconut cream pie topped with meringue was a family favorite.

Side-Trip

Homestead National Monument of America

  • 8523 West State Highway 4
  • Located 11 minutes (6.9 miles) from Back Alley Eatery
  • Includes Heritage Center, Education Center and Freeman School

This site commemorates the lives and accomplishments of all pioneers and the changes brought about by the Homestead Act. It is staffed by well-trained  rangers. The area includes exhibits, a bookstore/gift shop, a 20-minute video, a barbed wire outdoor exhibit, a cabin and 100 acres of restored tall-grass prairie. There is plenty of information on the Homestead Act and its far-reaching effect on the development of the west. Guests can even narrate and record their own family history with the Homestead Act.

The monument salutes the Homestead Act of 1862 by preserving the 160-acres of the Act’s first claimant, Daniel Freeman. For over a century the Act allowed men and women, many immigrants, to claim and develop 160 acres of free land.

There is no park entrance fee. One can often find artists-in-residence at the Education Center. During our visit Susan Lenz, a full time, professional studio artist from Columbia, South Carolina, was present. That afternoon, she was working alongside two volunteers on a quilting project.

Destination

Red Cloud, Nebraska

  • Located 105 miles, or about an hour and 48 minutes, southwest of Beatrice (Highway 136).
  • Hometown of author Willa Cather.
  • The town also hosts a number of cultural events at the Red Cloud Opera House and The National Willa Cather Center, attracting over 10,000 visitors annually.
  • Population of 1020 residents.
  • County seat of Webster County.
  • Red Cloud is home to the largest memorial of an American author; even larger than Mark Twain’s in Hannibal, Missouri.

National Willa Cather Center was completed and dedicated in June 2017 in a ceremony where former first lady Laura Bush was the keynote speaker. Mrs. Bush also cut the ribbon to officially open the $7 million Center.

In addition to being the headquarters of the Willa Cather Foundation, the building features a climate-controlled archive, a bookstore, a museum, and conference rooms. Tours of various locations, lengths and prices are offered.

Visit the town’s website to see a number of travel packages.

Pick up a “Town Tour” brochure at the Foundation Welcome Desk. It includes 26 notable locations worth walking to or driving by.

Lodging

Cather Second Home Guest House

Willa Cather’s parents purchased this home in 1903, leaving behind their little rented home at Third and Cedar Streets where Willa Cather had spent her formative years. Over the years, the home had several private owners and also served as a hospital, nursing facility, and bed and breakfast. It was acquired by the Willa Cather Foundation in 2011 through the generosity of a Cather family descendant.

Guests may rent the Frankfort room that was Cather’s, or the rooms of her parents-Sweet Water-Virginia Cather and Moonstone -Charles Cather; or her brother Douglass’s room-Haverford. The family maid’s room Hanover, has two twin beds. The Blackhawk room is on the main floor and has an ADA entrance. It is the former family kitchen.

The entire home may also be rented for family retreats, meetings, and special occasions.

10 Tips about Staying at the Guest House

  1. Hairdryers, toiletries and bathrobes are provided, as are slippers; shoes must be removed.
  2. No pets or smoking are allowed.
  3. Continental breakfast is provided.
  4. Most rooms do not have closets; clothing hooks and luggage racks are available.
  5. The house is unattended; no innkeeper lives here.
  6. Juices, tea and coffee are available as are homemade granola and oatmeal.
  7. The kitchen is fully furnished (flatware, kettles, plates, etc.) for guest use.
  8. The home has 2.5. shared bathrooms.
  9. A washer and dryer are on the second floor.
  10. A gold plate on the back of each door locks the room from inside.

Dinner

Fat Fox’s Restaurant

Granny chose Fat Fox’s for her birthday trip celebration dinner. Their specialty is pizza; they also have daily specials. Pork chops were featured during our visit. We chose a supreme pizza that had an outstanding crust and plenty of toppings.

The restaurant was at full-capacity.

 

Notes about Fat Fox’s

  • Gluten free pizza is available.
  • Save room for homemade desserts.
  • Roasted in-shell peanuts are on each table.
  • Beer and wine are not served here. You may order pizza at The Brix-a wine tasting room down the street. It will be delivered.
  • A salad bar is offered.
  • Specials are noted on a chalkboard
  • Celebrate a special occasion here. Communicate through Facebook Messenger. The owner is responsive and does a great job helping you plan. He’s not a bad singer either.

Entertainment

Red Cloud Opera House

Our trip was planned around the Neil Diamond Tribute Show.

Keith Allynn is an award-winning entertainer. His career began in stand-up comedy at age 14, warming up for Chris Rock, Tim Allen and Robin Williams. His musical talents were discovered at age 21. In 2004 Graceland voted him one of the world’s top 10 Elvis Tribute Artists.

More recently he’s headlined the Neil Diamond Tribute Show in Branson, Missouri. There, he’s been awarded the Tribute Artist and Tribute Show of the Year and multiple Trip Advisor certificates.

His 2.5 hour show at the Red Cloud, Nebraska Opera House was sold out to an appreciative audience of 300. Keith’s voice and stage presence are top-notch. He provides fascinating history behind the songs and interacts well with the audience. Keith encourages participation, roaming the aisles, shaking hands while singing, especially pleasing to female attendees.

He will be leaving the Branson stage in 2017, making him more available for corporate events and independent shows throughout the world.

You can find Keith Allynn on Facebook. Check out his upcoming show schedule.

Notes about the Opera House

  • Beer, wine and premium mixed drinks are available for purchase.
  • Popcorn is sold.
  • Tables for 8 can be reserved.
  • Doors open 30 minutes prior to show time.
  • Bathrooms  are on both the main floor and second floor-where stage is.
  • Come early and browse exhibits on main floor.
  • Chairs are movable and do not have arm rests.
  • Ask staff prior to taking photos during performances.

Day 2

Side-Trip #1

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie

  • Located 5 miles south of Red Cloud, Nebraska on the west side of Highway 281.
  • Roughly 612 acres of native prairie in southern Webster County.
  • Hiking trails are open.
  • The horizon is unbroken.
  • Purchased by the Foundation in 2006. They are working to restore the Prairie to its pre-1900’s condition.

Side-Trip #2, Unplanned Find

Geographic Center of the United States of America

  • About 14 miles south of the Prairie is the geographic center of the United States.
  • Watch for the sign to your right, traveling south on Highway 281.
  • The gravel road (K-191) will dead end into the location that includes a very small chapel.
  • It is a free attraction and open all the time.
  • Lebanon, Kansas is located 2 miles southeast of this location.
  • A small Visitor Center is in Lebanon.

Lunch

Odyssey Restaurant, Hastings, Nebraska 

The biggest surprise on the trip was the food quality at this restaurant in Hastings, Nebraska, the birthplace of Kool-Aid.

We left our meal proclaiming Odyssey as our family’s “newest food crush.”

  • Located in historic downtown Hastings at 521 West Second Street off Highway 281 North, traveling from Red Cloud, Nebraska.
  • Across from Rivoli Theatre.
  • Odyssey occupies two buildings united into one.
  • There is an outdoor patio; dogs welcome.
  • Casual, modern and innovative cuisine, including grilled Caesar salad and chocolate crème brulee.
  • The atmosphere is as appetizing as the food; get up and look at the historic maps on the walls.
  • Here’s one place you’ll like getting the check. Won’t ruin surprise.

Side-Trip #3

Holy Family Shrine

A Catholic Chapel on the highway is a place for I-80 travelers to rest, be at peace, pray and be comforted.

  • 23132 Pflug Road, PO Box 507, Gretna, NE  68028
  • Between Omaha and Lincoln off I-80, exit 432 and go south on Hwy 31 (1.3 miles), then turn west onto Pflug Road (1 mile). DETOUR July 2017 due to construction.
  • Open 10am-5pm Monday through Saturday and 12pm-5pm on Sunday.
  • Averages 20,000 visitors a year.
  • Catholic Mass Saturday mornings at 10am.
  • Open to travelers of all faiths.
  • Gift shop in visitor center.
  • Free entrance. Goodwill offering/donations accepted and needed. Not supported by Archdiocese.
  • Outside life-size walking Stations of the Cross are currently under construction.
  • Does not host any weddings, funerals, baptisms, renewal of wedding vows, proposals, or anything connected with wedding parties.

Return

Our party of 5 returned to Omaha at 4:30 PM Saturday. We’d seen and experienced so much. We are committed to doing it again. Are you?

Go Explore

Explore Nebraska. Support economic development in small, rural towns. Try something new and different. Take an overnight trip. Renew your spirit. Support the arts.

Like & SHARE this story with Willa Cather fans, backroad travelers & those who enjoy Midwest adventures.

Contact me. Did you travel this route? Share your story and photos.

©Copyright. July 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antigua: Everything You Need to Know for a Memorable Trip

I’m an island woman at heart. And, I’ve been fortunate to visit many. But, none makes me long for as quick of a return as the country of Antigua does. While the country and the resorts are stunning, the people are what I am most fond of. They are peaceful and joyful not only with guests but also with one another.

We recently spent 7 nights there, celebrating two special occasions. Here is what you need to know about the country and the culture before going.

Read on to learn about Galley Bay Resort-one of the island’s finest-and where we stay. Check out the website before booking your vacation.

Ask your questions on the form below. Share your trip experiences with me upon return. I’d like to hear about it.

Location

Antigua, the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, is roughly 17 degrees north of the equator. To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe, and to the north and west are Nevis, Saint Kitts, Saint Barts, and St. Martin. Antigua whose twin country is Barbuda, is 108 square miles and has 365 white sand beaches, all open to the public. Its capital city is St. John’s where the majority of the country’s permanent population of 81,800 (2015) live. Notable island residents include Giorgio Armani, Richard Branson, Robin Leach and Eric Clapton.

Government

Antigua and Barbuda became independent states within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 1, 1981. It is a member of the British Commonwealth under a Parliamentary system with a Prime Minister as its head. Elizabeth II is the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda and its first Prime Minister was Vere Cornwall Bird, Sr. The airport, located in the northeast corner of Antigua, is named after him. The currency is the East Caribbean dollar; however, most prices are shown in US dollars.

Climate

There is little seasonal temperature variation in Antigua. Temperatures range from the mid-70’s to the upper-80’s, making it always feel like summer. The country’s low humidity makes it one of the most temperate climates in the world. Surprisingly, the country often experiences drought and has no waterfalls.

Economy

Tourism leads Antigua’s economy. It is its main source of both income and employment. The island is promoted as a luxury Caribbean vacation and has many resorts on the coastline. Investment banking and financial services contribute to the economy as does the growing medical school: American University of Antigua-Caribbean Medical School.

Recreation

The major sport in Antigua is cricket. Sir Vivian (“Viv”) Richards is one of the most famous Antiguans who captained the West Indies team. (Antiguans play for the Leeward Island team in domestic matches and the West Indies team internationally.) Rugby, Association Football (Soccer) and basketball are becoming popular; many follow the NBA. There are several golf courses in Antigua.

Sailing has been one of the most popular sports for years with Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta being two of the region’s most reputable sailing competitions. Hundreds of yachts from around the world compete around Antigua each year.

The island is a must-see destination for scuba divers and snorkelers, who come from around the globe to explore the breathtaking nearly unbroken wall of coral reef that surrounds the island.

Tourist Favorites

The Antiguan Carnival, billed as the Caribbean’s greatest summer festival, was traditionally celebrated during the Christmas season. It switched in August 1957 to a summer festival. Antiguans and visitors celebrate the emancipation of slavery annually from the end of July to the first Tuesday in August.  Music (Calypso, steel drums and soca) and dance are key elements of the celebration.

Shirley Heights located at the southern tip of Antigua is a restored military lookout (490 ft) and gun battery. It provides a spectacular view over English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour.

The buildings now serve as a restaurant and bar and host the ever-popular Sunday evening party (4-10 pm) complete with Caribbean music played on steel drums. The area provides some of the best sunset views around.

Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, Antigua is part of the Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, which also includes Clarence House and Shirley Heights. It is a cultural heritage site and marina, including shops, hotels and marina businesses. Nelson’s Dockyard hosts many sailing and yachting events and is naturally well-suited to protect ships and cargo from hurricanes because of its deeply indented shoreline.

Devil’s Bridge is a natural rock area (geologic formation) on the Atlantic coast in eastern Antigua. Legend has it that slaves went here to commit suicide. It has the most dramatic coastal scenery on the island. Care must be taken while walking the uneven, slippery area.

Clothing

Swimwear is frowned upon in public places. Shorts are generally not accepted attire for evening dining anywhere on the island. Military-type camouflage clothing is strictly prohibited by law and anyone caught wearing it can be arrested.

Driving & Shopping

Driving is on the left in Antigua. Most vehicles have the steering wheel on the right. You must get a temporary license to drive in the country. You may obtain one from the Transport Board, car rental agencies and police stations. The island-wide speed limit is 40 mph and 20 mph in urban areas.

Duty-free shopping is abundant in Antigua. Take your resort confirmation or flight information and a photo ID to qualify. Passports work just fine.

Sheer Rocks Dining

Sheer Rocks Restaurant

Many dine at Sheer Rocks- a popular Antiguan restaurant known as much for the dining experience as the food,  provided by local farmers, fishermen and artisan food producers. One can lounge on a day bed while eating next to the plunge pool. Every table offers sensational views from the tiered wood decks carved into a sheer cliff side.

First-Class Resort

Galley Bay Resort an all-inclusive, adults only beachfront resort on the Caribbean coast 10 minutes west (sunset side) of the capital city of St. John’s-is the perfect location for those seeking a quiet, restful vacation.

Galley Bay has 98 guest rooms, including the Gauguin Suites, with private plunge pools, nestled among the well-manicured gardens along the bird sanctuary lagoon.

Galley Bay has:

  • 3 open-air restaurants
  • 3 lounges
  • A near-perfect spa
  • Nightly live entertainment
  • Private beachfront dining options
  • A turtle nesting site
  • A well-stocked library and coffee/tea shop with pastry offerings
  • A well-appointed gift shop
  • Sea grapes, figs (bananas), mangoes growing on site. Staff pick flowers/greenery daily to adorn tables
  • Covered outdoor table tennis (ping-pong) and pool tables
  • A well-maintained tennis court
  • A free-form pool with plentiful shaded seating and always-available towels
  • Croquet lawn
  • Golf clubs and fishing poles available for use
  • A jogging and biking trail with complimentary bicycles and helmets
  • Complimentary water-sports and lessons with friendly staff
  • A fully equipped air-conditioned fitness center with towels, a shower and water station
  • Stocked mini-refrigerators in guest rooms
  • A Rum Shack
  • Hammocks
  • Golf cart transportation from room to dining, if needed
  • An office area near Guest Services that has Internet access
  • Bed notes placed on pillows daily
  • A Weekly Activity Sheet detailing daily tours, entertainment, restaurant hours, etc. Don’t miss the Tuesday Garden Tour.
  • A Manager’s Cocktail Party where the management team actually interacts with guests
  • A Caribbean Barbeque Buffet night with a relaxed dinner dress code
  • The most gracious, hospitable, well-trained staff
Library & Coffee Shop

What Galley Bay is not is a destination for those with American Spring Break mindsets. There’s no swim-up bar and raucous music. It is a reserved setting where travelers go to unplug and unwind. It provides a natural, relaxing setting on ¾ mile of white sandy beach front. A well-advertised dress code is strictly followed for meal services and a guest orientation on the day after arrival informs guests of available excursions and onsite offerings.

Dining at Galley Bay is an event.

Plan on 90-120 minutes to complete the five-course gourmet-style meals. There is also a Barefoot Grill for those wanting a quick bite at lunchtime. Intimate dining on the beach with private wait service is available at Ismay’s-the only restaurant not included in the all-inclusive rate.

Garden Tour by Curtis

The grounds of Galley Bay are noteworthy.

They are well-manicured. Register for the Tuesday Garden Tour to learn more about the “Master Plan” and about what it takes to maintain the immaculate landscaping.

Guest service at Galley Bay is superior, top to bottom. Arriving, one is greeted and then presented with a cloth to cool off and handed a refreshing beverage before checking in. After, you are driven by golf cart to your accommodations. All dining and lounge staff are friendly without being intrusive. Everything is done to please guests and to encourage them to have a memorable, pleasant stay. Need something. Ask.

The Resort is a special occasion destination for many.

Anniversary and birthday guests receive a complimentary bottle of chilled champagne, as do returning guests. Resort staff seem encouraged to remember guest names and one frequently sees interactions between staff and guests that looks more familial than business. It’s a warm, welcoming site. Many guests arrive as strangers and leave as friends, it’s that kind of setting.

Helpful Tips while planning for your stay at Galley Bay Resort

  1. The resort does not accept American Express.
  2. Take insect repellent for evening walks and activities. They spray the resort but repellent is helpful.
  3. You are not required to tip. The service is so good, you will want to. Have cash. If you run out, you can get some at the front desk and will be charged a service fee.
  4. Pack your patience, meal service is long, but worth the experience.
  5. If you stay in a cottage, bring the lounge cushions in overnight to keep them humidity and rain free.
  6. Leave the umbrella and books at home. Plenty are available at the resort.

3 notable locals who added to our remarkable visit:

  1. St. James Travel & Tours Jason Mannix reached at Jason.mannix@stjamesgroup.com was assigned as our Delta Vacations “on the ground” guide. His service was simply outstanding.
  1. Gloade’s Limousine & Transportation Service Gregson, Owner, (268)720-5727 chauffeured our all-day, all-island culture and photography tour. He provided a safe, well-appointed vehicle and took us to locations we’d never have discovered on our own. A former high school teacher, Gregson is one you should meet and spend  a day with exploring Antigua.
  1. Joe from Photogenesis Imaging

We documented our 25th Wedding Anniversary by hiring Joe from Photogenesis Imaging. He made  us feel comfortable in front of the camera and was very familiar with Galley Bay Resort. He took photographs to cherish for a lifetime. We were even able to create a canvas from his photographic work.

SHARE with those planning a honeymoon or other special occasion AND those in need of unplugging and re-charging. Let Galley Bay Resort know I referred you. [I am not paid for endorsements and receive no commission for the referral.]

More information can be found by clicking Best Antigua.

What questions do you have before booking a vacation to Antigua? Ask me.

 

 

Fashion art products created from photographic images taken in Antigua can be found at the “Linda’s Store” tab above under #1 Vida Design Studio. Thank you for your support of my small business shop.

©Copyright. July 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need for Life Adventure Led to Renowned Spine Center

This is a story about a Bismarck, North Dakota collegiate soccer player seeking an adventure in life and finding his way to the largest specialized care hospital in the United States. The Shepherd Center is a private, not-for-profit hospital located in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center specializes in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain and other neuromuscular conditions. Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. Josh Zottnick is the Lead Exercise Specialist in the Center’s Beyond Therapy® program.

Education is Key

Josh, the second oldest of accountant Doug (deceased) and nurse Barb’s four children, was anxious to see more of the world after graduating from Bismarck’s University of Mary with a BS in Athletic Training & Sports Medicine. A chat with a childhood friend introduced him to the Exercise Physiology program at the University of Georgia (Athens) where he earned his Masters of Education in Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2003.

Car Wreck

A friend’s car wreck, that resulted in his traumatic brain injury, drew Josh to the Shepherd Center away from his cardiac rehab work. “After my first visit with him, I was working at the Center three months later.” July 2017 marks Josh’s 12th year there. “I visited my friend several times over the first couple of weeks and saw his dramatic improvement. He was one of the lucky ones; he made a full recovery.” Seeing his friend’s traumatic ordeal inspired Josh to want to do more.

Inspire & Trust

Every day his spinal cord and traumatic brain injury outpatients inspire him. He conducts intricate strength training regimens in the weight room, cardio sessions on apparatus, assisted locomotor training on body weight supported treadmills and functional training sessions. Each of these is intended for clients to process through their activities of daily living in a more efficient manner.

Not all rehab clients are equal. The most challenging type is one who is negative and lacks hope. “A negative attitude confounds the rehab situation.”

Josh works to build rapport and develop trusting professional relationships. “When clients trust you, they see the world from a different point of view. They trust where you are taking them is the right place.

Josh is a working example of the Shepherd Center’s Mission: Helping people with a temporary or permanent disability caused by injury or disease, rebuild their lives with hope, independence and dignity. “The worst and best part of my job is seeing someone struggle and then overcome those struggles. Helping clients unlock their potential keeps me going.”

Team USA

Josh’s commitment to his profession isn’t limited to an 8-5 workday. He recently returned from Australia. Here he supported Team USA at the Adaptive Waterski World Championships.  The team won the silver medal and seven members won individual medals. Australia won gold; Italy the bronze.

Afterwards he and his wife of nearly six years, Reagan, toured Australia-yet another life adventure.

Lawncare, Mutts + Pearl Jam

Josh, 38, isn’t all work. In addition to soccer, he still plays basketball and wakeboards. “I even try to incorporate these into some client sessions.” He met Reagan playing flag football in Atlanta. “She blew me away with how she had her life together. She’s beautiful, smart, kind, fun and independent.”

When not working or participating in a sporting event, Josh “loves to do lawn care.” He’s also somewhat of a Pearl Jam fanatic, seeing them 28 times. “Their lyrics are introspective and informative. They are saying something in their songs. The music affects me on so many levels. Seeing them live is amazing.”

He and Reagan also support a friend’s animal rescue nonprofit, Mostly Mutts. They volunteer time for fundraisers and foster dogs until adoption.

Magic Wand

Josh’s hopes and dreams for the future, which he thinks someone might already be working on, include invention of an implant that will bridge across the injured area of the spinal cord. This would help people regain all of the function they had before injury and allow them to walk again.

If he could wave a magic wand for the next 20 years of his life, he’d be retired and traveling to see his kids on their college campuses for Parent’s Weekend. And, the ultimate would be taking in a UGA Bulldogs football game with them.

That’s not much to ask for a guy from North Dakota giving his time and talent to restore quality of life to 100’s of clients of the Shepherd Spine Center. Is it?

 

Please Like and Share.

One never knows whose life can be improved by working with Josh and the Shepherd Center.

 

Copyright. June 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.