Snaps from A Road Trip: A Visit to Bison Ranch

Bison is the iconic mammal that have been living in North America for thousands of years. It becomes the symbol of U.S. Department of Interior whose missions, one of them, is to protect bison from extinction with the help of its organization, the National Park Service. Bison is a majestic animal and my son completely loves them. They have given him inspirations that he expresses towards his artworks. My son goes to a high school that emphasizes arts education and he takes visual art program. Some of his works featuring bison. One of my son’s biggest wishes is to see bison in the real life and up-close. That chance came when we visited Tennessee in July. My son found out there’s a bison ranch in the city of Cookeville situated in the Upper Cumberland Region in Tennessee. And we thought,”Wow! A bison ranch in Tennessee?!” Long ago bison lived by the millions at the Great Plains and most of North America but due to overhunting during the expansion of the settlement in America by European settlers in the 19th century, they almost extinct. Merely hundreds left before the United States Government established a program to save bison through conservation. The program has helped increasing the bison population and spreading them throughout the United States in the federal, Native American and private owned lands. By the way, the European settlers called bison as “buffalo”, although they’re not the same. If you ever known a song called “Home on the Range”, it mentions ‘oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam’ which means bison. 

The bison ranch we visited in Cookeville, Tennessee, is called the Lazy G. Ranch. The gate was opened when we arrived and walked into their driveway. Right away, we were astonished by the sights on either right and left sides of the driveway. Dozens of bison grazing freely under the blue sky. My son was beyond thrilled! He wanted to see the bison closer but he knew we had to keep our distance so not to startle the herd. We certainly didn’t want to cause a stampede especially with the warning that bison is unpredictable. From afar, we saw the bison wallowing or rolling on the ground and covering themselves with dust. They did that to take care of the insect bites, to mark a territory or simply to play. It was very interesting to see their behavior inside the herd. We couldn’t tell which bison was male (bull) or female (cow) just by their appearances because they all looked similar. Both bull and cow have thick coat of long dark hair on their massive heads, legs, necks and the front part of their bodies. They also have a pair of short, sharply pointed and hollow horns. What distinguished the cows from the bulls at the ranch were the babies that were always next or near their mothers. 

Among the bison at Lazy G. Ranch were a couple of white bisons. They were truly unique and extraordinary. We were fascinated by them having to see white bison for the first time. Native American considers white bison as sacred and very important spiritually. When a white baby bison was born, the Native American tribes will come to the ranch or park where the baby is to pray and ask for its lock of hair to keep for ritual purposes. Bison grunts to communicate to each other. We heard plenty of grunts when we were at the ranch. The owner of the Lazy G. Ranch, Eddie Gaw, wants to conserve bison because he was thinking of the future if this iconic American animal completely wiped out. We think his effort to set aside about 150 acres land to breed bison is brilliant. Beside bison, we also saw four horses who were enjoying the day. They were beautiful and looked tame. After sometime, we needed to go to different place on our journey so we bid the bison and horses goodbye. I took pictures of my son and younger daughter posing with a statue of bison that was placed in front of the Lazy G. Ranch. Our visit to the ranch was among the highlights of our trip to Tennessee. 

D. Yustisia

Bison at Lazy G. Ranch
Fascinated by the sight of bison grazing freely.
Can you spot the white bison in the herd?
Amazed by the bison.
The remarkable Lazy G. Ranch in Cookeville, Tennessee.
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At the 9/11 Memorial

Some loved ones left flowers and some left miniature flags. People flock, read the names that were carved on the long dark bronze blocks and pay their respect. But no matter how many people visit and congregate around the twin giant pools that used to be where World Trade Center buildings or twin towers were, it always feel somber and subdued there. The first time I came to the site of Ground Zero was 6 years after the 9/11 tragedy happened. My parents were visiting from Indonesia and we took them there. There’s still nothing interesting to see but covered wire fences. There were a lot of works happening behind them. The sound from the heavy machineries, the banging of metals and the buzzing from the construction workers all mixed as proof that life still goes on. I felt humble being at the Ground Zero, because a couple years before 2001 I was there staring at the two towers with astonishment of the tallest buildings in the country. My husband and I passed by the area where World Trade Center was for several times when we headed towards Brooklyn. I would open the car window and look at WTC buildings enthusiastically while we passed the lower Manhattan. Who would’ve known that one day those magnificent buildings would be gone.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up on our bed with our oldest daughter who was 2 years old and our baby girl who was 4 months old. They were still asleep soundly and peacefully without any care in the world. I turned on the TV and watched the morning show on NBC, the Today Show. It was sometime after 8AM suddenly Katie Couric, one of the presenters on the show, announced a distressing news: an airplane has crashed into one of the twin towers. I was stunned. But I thought maybe it was an accident until I saw from the live feed another plane flew directly towards the other tower. What has happened? Then, in minutes everything crumbled and fell. Katie Couric was heard crying on air and I had trouble believing what I had saw. My eyes welled up, tears ran down because I imagined the chaos that ensued. I held my daughters closer and I could feel something in the atmosphere was brewing, fear. 

It has been 18 years since the most despicable tragedy I’ve ever witnessed, happened. I can still feel the uneasy feeling when September 11th is approaching. The site where Ground Zero was, now a sprawling park with memorial for the fallen and a museum to commemorate the lost. In November 2017, I took a group of high school students from Indonesia and their teacher to the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. It was the first time I visited the place and I became rather emotional especially when I read the names of the people who perished during the tragedy. My fingers sometime ran through the carved letters on the bronze blocks while I listened to the sound of the man-made waterfall, said to be the greatest in United States. In April this year, I visited the plaza again and that time I was escorting an old friend and his colleagues who were curious about the 9/11 Memorial. They were astounded and again, I somehow lost with emotion when I read a name, a woman’s, with additional statement “and her unborn child”. 

(To all who perished and the first responders, may you rest in peace).

Snaps from A Road Trip: Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering

I was looking outside my window two days ago and saw the moon that looked so round and bright. There were colored rings surrounding the full moon. As I was amazed by the view, it reminded me that we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing which happened on July 20th, 1969. Three of the main people who went to the moon were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. On July 21st, Neil Armstrong became the first man who stepped on the moon. He studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and graduated with Bachelor of Science in 1955. Two years ago while we were doing college visit to several colleges in the Midwest, we visited Purdue. One of the building that we encountered was the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, The building is the center of many engineering programs at Purdue, such as the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, School of Materials Engineering, the Minority Engineering Program, Women in Engineering Program etc.

In front of this magnificent building is the bronze statue of young Neil Armstrong when he studied at Purdue sitting on a stone podium looking thoughtful. Not far from the statue is Armstrong’s famous quote when he landed on the moon etched on the concrete floor:

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

There are several boot prints placed on the lawn copying the steps that Neil Armstrong made on the moon. My son had some fun time leaping from one boot print to another making those “giant leap for mankind” at Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Indiana. Those boot prints are really, really big.

When I went inside Neil Armstrong Engineering Hall, I was in awe. At the further part of its spacious lobby hanged the replica of Apollo 1, the command module. Apollo 1 was the first manned mission of United States Apollo Program that destined to send the first men to the moon. An electrical fire consumed the space module and killed all the three crews inside: Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Robert B. Chaffee and Ed White. Both Grissom and Chaffee graduated from Purdue University, like Armstrong.

For a mere man or woman like me, the moon is an inspiration, an object to be amazed of and a destination to send our wishes or hang our hopes. But to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the moon was a place they could visit making the dream that for a long time has been a man’s biggest idea came true. There’s some pride in me having visited Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering and learned more about this wonderful earth hero, the first man on the moon.

Travel Journal: Spring at Smith College Botanic Garden

There’s one botanic garden that I’ve been meaning to visit for sometime. Smith College Botanic Garden is part of Smith College, a liberal arts college for women located in Northampton in Western Massachusetts. Now that spring is here, visiting this garden seems to be the perfect way to enjoy the season. The botanic garden is situated inside Smith College campus. This college was founded in 1871 through the endowment from Sophia Smith who wanted to use her inheritance to give better education for women and that of equal to what men receive. Smith College Botanic Garden was established in 1895 to provide teaching, public education, scientific research and also the beauty of the place. There are glass houses in the garden built in 1895 and they’re fascinating and I will talk about them in another post specifically. These glass houses is what attracted me to visit the garden.

On my way toward the garden, to my delight, I saw several saucer magnolia trees in bloom. The sound of trickling fountain from a nearby pond with a beautiful female bronze statue was heard mixing with the sound of the birds. On the side of the pathway toward the glass houses lay a beautiful rock garden. This first rock garden in North America was established in 1897 copying the rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in London. I stayed there for the longest time admiring the lay out of the garden that resembles the environments of high altitude area and the tundra. Some of the plants have small and succulent leaves to conserve water, rather large flowers to attract pollinators, or roots that go deeper into the underground stream. Some have short life cycle adapting to the drought season. It is a remarkable beauty to see some of the plants nestled between the rocks. It’s sort of beauty and the beast inspired.

Being in any garden, for that matter in Smith College Botanic Garden was a wonderful experience for me. Not only because I needed to take a break from the busy sometime mundane days, but also to learn about the garden. I always love learning about botany, you see. After admiring the Rock Garden, I went to the glass houses and astonished by the collections of plants being cared there. A lot of them are tropical plants and they thrive beautifully. I know some of the tropical plants having seen and planted them in my mother’s yard. She would’ve loved to come to the glass houses and probably would be amused seeing her plants are growing in a four-season country. When one of the gardener informed me that the garden would be closed at 4PM, I then headed to the garden office. I met a nice lady there who told me about another garden on the other side of campus and I’d love to visit it in June when the roses are in bloom because they have rose arches there. I ended my visit with sitting on a bench near the perennial border just relaxing even though the wind became pretty strong and chilly, waiting until the time for me to go to meet my daughter to see her orchestra concert in nextdoor city. 

The saucer magnolia trees in bloom.
The glass houses at Smith College Botanic Garden.
Smith College Botanic Garden was set up in 1895.
The statue with writing: In Memory of A Beautiful Life, was dedicated in 1911 to remember Mary Tomelson Lanning. It is the work of Jean Gautherin.
The Lyman Conservatory at Smith College Botanic Garden.
Spiraea Thunbergii – Spirea flowers.
Smith College Botanic Garden arboretum has magnificent tree collection.
Fritillaria Meleagris – Checkered Lily flower.
The Rock Garden at Smith College Botanical Garden is copying the one at the Royal Botanic Garden in London.
The Rock Garden was created in 1897 and is one of the oldest in United States.
Creeping Phlox
The Rock Garden at Smith College Botanic Garden.
Penstemon Hirsutus – the beard-tongue flowers.
Smith College Botanic Garden consists of the Rock Garden and Lyman Conservatory.

Travel Journal: Historic Old Salem, North Carolina

Old and historic places are my favorite kind of places to visit. It is one among many interesting places that I’d love to see up close. During our short visit in North Carolina in February , we stopped by a wonderful historic place called OLD SALEM. The historic town of Salem was established in 1766 by Moravians – one among the oldest Protestant denominations – who originated from the Czech Republic. Old Salem boasted a remarkable architecture and attention to details that are still exist today. Three-quarters of the buildings in the old town are the original constructions. Salem used to be the center of the administrative, professional, craft, trader and spiritual activities which in present day is immaculate and simply wonderful. Rows of old houses and shops line up the main street. Several houses are available to rent. Can you imagine living in an old and historic house like the one on the 1st photo? That house is called the Fourth House which is the oldest home that still stands in Salem. The German style house was built in 1768 using timber and bricks and has 3 rooms which is known as the “Flurk├╝chenhaus” plan. The first tenants who lived in the Fourth House were a saddle maker and his wife who rented it from the church.

The other point of interest in Old Salem that we visited was the Winkler Bakery. It wasn’t hard to entice anyone to come to the shop where the aroma of fresh baked goods wafting in the air. Visitors were greeted by the pieces of sugar cake that were waiting on a table at the dining area. A lady who wore an 1800’s-styled clothing, served the cake while a man who also wore similar clothing style prepared another batch from the wood-fired oven that’s part of the bakery. The aroma was so heavenly! My kids and I couldn’t stop getting one more piece of the cake and there was no rule of how many you were allowed to get. So it’s all fair. There were several choices of breads and other baked goods sold at the bakery including the sugar cake. Although the flavor of the bread they sold wasn’t as good as the one they baked in the 200-year-old wooden-fired oven. The charred part of the top part of the bread was a distinct flavor and gave the uniqueness. It’s true, the modern oven can’t beat that of an antique one. 

We opted to merely walked about this old town and not going on specific tour visiting each of the main historical interest. The town is a live museum where to get into several buildings you need a ticket for it. But we didn’t buy any ticket due to the time constraint and the vast area of the town that we thought it would need an all day to spend. Visitors are free to roam around the peaceful neighborhood, though would be unable to go inside the ticketed buildings. My kids and I also went to the souvenir shops there that were among the small shops that lined up the main street. The weather wasn’t the prettiest and it’s still winter. It was pretty bleak that day. We thought of coming back here again maybe during summer or fall to be able to enjoy the garden and the outdoor activities set up there for the visitors. It must be lovely when the flowers are blooming and the gardens are thriving. There are lots of places that I would love to see in Old Salem. I hope one day I get to visit this fascinating place again for longer time.

D. Justisia

THE FOURTH HOUSE – built in 1768, the oldest building in Salem.
EDWARD BELO HOUSE – built in 1849, owned by a cabinetmaker, Edward Belo, in Greek Revival style. The building was Belo’s house, shop and place to do other businesses.
HISTORIC OLD SALEM – Main street
Statues of a lion and two dogs in front of Edward Belo’s house.
Enjoying some sugar cake at the C. WINKLER BAKERY, that was built in 1800 and altered in 1818.
The lady who served some sugar cakes to the visitors.
The dining area at C. Winkler Bakery.
Sugar cake from C. Winkler Bakery is made by following the original more than 200-year-old recipe. The burnt part on the cake was the best part as a result of having baked in a wood-fired oven.
The Doctor’s House – 1802, includes the doctor’s home, clinic and apothecary shop.
Miksch Garden and House – 1771
The Boys School
Market-Fire Engine House – 1803 on Salem Square.
Coffee Pot, made in 1858, becomes the icon of Historic Old Salem. It was made to promote the Mickey Brothers’ tinsmithing business.

Travel Journal: Emily Dickinson’s Home Sweet Home

On the main street in the town of Amherst in the western Massachusetts, there’s a house painted in ocher ( deep yellow to somewhat light brown) with a lovely big yard. The house with number 280 known as the Homestead, was Emily Dickinson’s home sweet home. Emily spent her adult life here writing poem upon poem  and between 1858 – 1865 were her productive years. She is my favorite female poet and who inspired me plenty through her works. The Dickinson family has been an important member of Amherst community for a long time. Emily’s paternal grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson, had an advanced way of thinking regarding the education equality for men and women during that era. He was among the founder of Amherst College that was opened in 1821. Emily was born on December 10, 1830, at the Homestead. She had an older brother, Austin, and younger sister, Lavinia.

The Homestead was one of the main interest I wanted to visit in Amherst. I had that chance when I accompanied my daughter who had her first campus orientation as a freshman at UMass Amherst. It was my solo adventure and I loved it. The weather was perfect with blue sky and abundant sunshines. The visitors who visit Emily Dickinson’s Homestead have to come from the part of the house that used to be a kitchen. The old stove and chimney are still visible there. In the room that also function as the gift shop were poem books, books about Amherst history and its famous people, some postcards etc. In the room next to it was where they displayed several things used to belong to Austin Dickinson and his wife, Lavinia Dickinson and their close family friends. I looked around at the things being displayed while we waited for our tour to start.

Our tour guide was a pretty young lady who was an English major student at Amherst College. Her specialty was Emily Dickinson’s poems and her life. The visitors weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the home, so as we were guided from room to room, I tried to remember the lay-out of the rooms and their senses. The first room we entered was the spacious parlor. There were paintings of the Dickinson’s children when they were younger, a beautiful fireplace and some furnitures. Then we were lead to Edward Dickinson’s study which had a more subdued and serious ambiance than the parlor that was painted in a cheery yellow. The study had tall book shelves with some books shown relating to Edward’s profession who was a prominent lawyer in Amherst. After that, we went up to the 2nd floor where the bedrooms are located.

Emily Dickinson’s bedroom was neat and immaculate. It was after 10 AM when we entered her room and the sun was shining through the windows making the room lighted up with such energy. I could imagine Emily sat on her writing desk and wrote the letters she sent to her sister in law and closest friends. Her many poems must have written in that room too. The house surrounding was an ideal place for a poet like Emily with its wonderful yard with small garden and so many trees, it was a marvel to enjoy. However, I wouldn’t sure if what I saw during my visit to the Homestead was what Emily saw, for the big trees standing now must have been young ones back then and not as big and grand. But I saw several robins like the one she mentioned on her poem:

The robin is the one

That interrupts the morn

With hurried, few, express reports

When March is scarcely on

After the Homestead, we visited the Evergreens which was the home of Austin and Susan Dickinson. Emily’s brother, sister in law and their three children lived just next door reflected the closeness of the Dickinson’s. The house exuded high class and the family’s important status in Amherst. Inside, there were beautiful paintings and other artworks, a grand piano, and many things that showed how preserved and intact the Evergreens is. After I finished my visit to the Homestead, I walked several blocks away to pay respect to Emily and her family. Their graves located close to Amherst Center or the downtown area. Emily’s family used to live in another house on Pleasant Street which located next to the graveyard. Little Emily has witnessed so many funerals because of it that impacted her in her works. When I visited the graveyard, it was very quiet and peaceful, even though less than 1/4 miles from it is Amherst’s main street that’s always busy. People left souvenirs on Emily’s headstone to honor her. A lot of them were pens to memorialize her as a poet whose words are still loved and enjoy until today.

The Homestead
The Homestead
The yard of the Homestead
Emily Dickinson’s Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts
The Homestead yard and garden
People left souvenirs on Emily Dickinson’s headstone.
Emily Dickinson’s headstone
The Evergreens
The gate to the Evergreens.

Snaps from A Road Trip: Northampton

    I get to know Northampton, a small city in western Massachusetts, as my daughter started her college last year. She goes to University of Massachusetts (UMass) in Amherst, a neighboring city of Northampton and we always pass by Northampton before reaching Amherst by car or train. My first encounter of Noho, the city’s nickname, was an eye-opening. The city is so charming with rows of 19th century buildings along its main streets. The downtown area especially, oozes that charm. For someone who has never come here, let alone heard about Northampton, I was in awe and felt dumbfounded. Every time we come to Amherst either dropping-off or picking-up our daughter from her dorm , or me having a solo trip to attend UMass Symphony Orchestra concerts (our daughter plays violin with them), I’d make sure I’ll visit Northampton and strolling down its beautiful downtown area. My love for old buildings, history and architecture find its way in this city. Thomas Cole, my favorite landscape painter who established the Hudson River School, painted the Oxbow in 1836 depicting a romantic panorama of Connecticut River Valley after the thunderstorm as viewed from Mount Holyoke in Northampton. It showed how he loved Northampton and its environment. 

    The city was called “Norwottuck” or “Nonotuck” by the native inhabitants of the area which was the Pocumtuc. The name means “the midst of the river” and Northampton is situated by Connecticut River. Its splendid surrounding has attracted many, including the “Swedish Nightingale” – Jenny Lind, a famous opera singer, who thought Northampton as “Paradise of America”. That’s how this city’s other nickname is the Paradise City. Noho is known as the city with cultural, arts, educational and historical background where Christian revival, slave abolitionist, artists and people with eclectic lifestyle thrive. Clarke School for Hearings and Speech was established here in 1867 which was United State’s first oral school for the deaf. Alexander Graham Bell was one of their school leaders. Other educational establishment founded in Northampton is Smith College, a private liberal art college for women, founded in 1871. Their famous alumni are Julia Child, Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan – both were US first ladies, and also American poet and writer, Sylvia Plath.