Archive for the ‘ Travel/Roadtrips ’ Category

Marjorie’s Place…

There has been much in the news lately about a little place in Palm Beach called Mar A Lago.

We’ll talk about all the news, but first some background on the “cottage” by the sea in South Florida.

Marjorie Merriweather Post built the place starting in 1924, three years later, it was completed and she and her husband de jour moved in.

Well, not so much as moved in as came and went.

It was a second third fourth who knows home to the couple and their tribe.

Marjorie was born the daughter of C. W. Post and his wife Ella Merriweather and at the age of 27 became the owner of Postum Cereal Company, and was at the time the wealthiest woman in America. Her net worth was roughly $250 million – then.

She built Mar A Lago with her second husband – she would eventually have four – EF Hutton.  You know, the one every one listens to.

She had three children, the most famous being actress Dina Merrill, who married money as well, as in the Colgate Palmolive money.

Honestly, the family that banks together, stays together.

Well, maybe not.

D I V O R C E.

Back to Marge.

Upon her death following a long illness in 1973, Post willed Mar A Lago to the US Government as a “resort for Presidents and foreign dignitaries.”

The US Government didn’t want it, Nixon had his Florida White House in Key Biscayne, Carter could have cared less about Florida, and eventually, after much wrangling, drama, and subterfuge, the place was sold to private citizen Donald Trump.

Funny how that all worked out!

The place was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth and the interior was created by Joseph Urban. It sits on 17 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida Inter-coastal Waterway, and Lake Worth,  hence the name Mar A Lago, or Sea to Lake.

In the early 1990s, Trump faced financial troubles, and while making a “believe me, it’s gonna be the best deal ever” deal with bankers mentioned he was going to cut the place with a 128 room mansion sitting on it UP into smaller properties.

Palm Beachians nearly rent their sweater sets in angst!

The city council rejected his plan, so he turned the place into a private club and opened it UP to Blacks and Jews, further freaking out Palm Beach.

Seems the Bath and Tennis Club and Everglades Club didn’t cotton to the likes of Blacks, Jews, and “people who call attention to themselves…”

Oh vey!

The Donald hosted concerts with Celine Dion, Billy Joel, welcomed – gasp – beauty pageant contestants as guests, and violated local noise ordinances.

And to top it off, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley spent their honeymoon at Mar A Lago.

Trust me – that union is a whole ‘nother Ricky Lake show!

Now, and I’m sure Marjorie would be thrilled; Mar A Logo is “The Winter White House.”

Many are not.

Many are upset with the cost of the President’s trips to the estate.

FDR – Hyde Park

JFK – Hyannis Port

RMN – San Clemente and Key Biscayne

…but I’ll stop.

While it’s the WWH, it’s also the Mar A Lago Club.  Membership initiation fee is $200,000.  It was $200,000 until 2012 when many Palm Beachians lost serious cash in the Bernie Madoff scandal.  It was dropped to $100,000, but the price went UP when The Donald became The POTUS.

Annual dues are $14,000, and an overnight stay is $2,000 if you’re interested.

There are 500 members and about 40 new ones are admitted each year.

I’m not on the list.

Hey, I’m sure you were curious.

Marjorie Merriweather Post spent over 40 winters in Palm Beach.  Mar A Lago was one of her favorite places – it was her Neverland and she was proud of it.

The place was one of the most elegant and ornate palaces in America and just for kicks, she’d hide behind a screen in the dining room just to hear people gasp aloud at the opulent beauty as they entered.

Hey, a girl’s gotta have a hobby!

One of these days I’m gonna’ go to the beach.

Seems like I’ve spent the last 38 years taking vacation for graduations, wedding, funerals, birthday parties, and the like.

Oh sure, we stopped along the way at an historic home or two, and my kids can point out Civil War battlefields on a map,  but in the end, it was family that made us hit the road.

We never just went to the beach, New York City, or the Grand Canyon; we went to see someone, not something.

It seems a tad unfair in the long run, but I’ll have to admit, we always had a good time.

Of course, I did it again just this week.

My Aunt reached her 100th birthday, and a big celebration was held in Goshen, Virginia.

Now, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, Aunt Diddie is something special, and so is turning 100.

It was a quick trip.  I headed UP to North Carolina on Thursday and spent the evening with the “Baldwin Sisters” and their dog, who is older than Aunt Diddie, in Yadkinville.

Z and J at the plaza 2

On Friday morning we loaded UP their car, re-packed mine, plugged the dog’s life-support into the cigarette lighter and headed UP Interstate 77 where we picked UP Interstate 81.

Four hours later, we were in Lexington, VA, the place of my nativity.

Lexington VA

I headed off to Buena Vista to spend the weekend with my brother and his wife while Zola and Judy headed on to Goshen some 30 miles further as they had reservations at the Historic Hummingbird Inn, a B and B.

Hummingbird Inn

I don’t do B and Bs.

Getting to my brother’s place is no easy task.  You go UP the mountain,

60 UP the mountian to the Blue Ridge

under the Blue Ridge Parkway,

Up the mountain to the Blue Ridge

and take the first right off the paved road.

Panther Falls Road

Then it’s down a winding mountain goat path gravel road consisting of eight or ten “kiss the back of your neck” turns.

Panther Falls Road 2

Once you’re at the bottom, you start the twisty trip UP another mountain by taking every right you can.

Finally, you’re at their home and it is a straight shot UP the side of the mountain on what can almost be called a drive way.

Charlie and Diane's Drive way


Sort of.

You might remember I faced near death on said drive way a few years back when I got stuck and nearly tumbled off the side of the mountain.

This time, well, let’s just say I’ve learned more about mountain driving over time.  But if you’d like to read about it, well here’s the link.

Mountain Top Mishap…Mountain Top Madness!

But, once you get there, well, you’ve got this…

Charlie and Diane's Front Porch

…and this…

Deer in yard

…and this…

View from Charlie's

June, usually pleasant in the Virginia mountains was hot hot hot!

It was 97 degrees, a near record!

Friday evening we met the sisters and our first cousin, Margie and her daughter Tammi at Ruby Tuesday’s.

It was great catching UP with them, and we all talked excitedly about the big doings going on the next day over in Goshen.

The tiny town of Goshen, VA decided to honor my Aunt on her 100th birthday, and along with her Church and children and grand-children, they put on a bash at the Goshen Boy Scout Camp. (BTW, it was 100 years ago today that President Woodrow Wilson granted the Boy Scouts a Federal Charter.  They are the only youth organization to have one.  The Boy Scouts celebrated their 100th birthday a few years back as they were founded prior to the charter from President Wilson.)

Boy Scout Camp Lake Boy Scout Camp Monument

She was given a key to the town, June 11 was proclaimed Willie Ward Day in perpetuity, and she was showered with gifts and much, much love.

Aunt Diddie at party

I was able to see cousins galore from as far away as Michigan and Maryland, all of whom I’d not seen in years.

Part of the crowd

Yes, that is my finger in the picture, so I’m not Ansel Adams. #getoverit

Aunt Diddie was surprised by the event – and I’ll have to admit, I didn’t think it too good an idea to surprise a 100 year old person, but she weathered the storm, rode to the park in the parade with sirens blaring and lights flashing.

Key to the town

It was an event.

It made the 11 PM news! ( )

It was worth the trip.

Like I said, one of these days, I’ll go to the beach, but I’m so glad I didn’t go this time.

Cake 4


One Of Those Places…

Soooo, one of the houses in the book I mentioned last week is Ashland, the home of Henry Clay.

Ashland Estate

Ashland is in Lexington, Kentucky, and one time at band camp on vacation, we stopped on our way home to check it out.

The kids were thrilled.

Yup, it was right UP there with the Civil War Battlefield we’d stopped at on the way UP.

First of all, today is the 239th anniversary of Henry Clay’s birth, so that’s why the topic is on my mind. Secondly, Henry Clay, for those of you who may have slept through that day in history class was a statesman from the Bluegrass State for decades including the Era of Good Feeling.  He was known as the Great Compromiser and the Great Pacifier, and may possibly have delayed the Civil War by 20 years.

He served in Congress, was the Speaker of the House, was a Senator, and was Secretary of State during the administration of John Quincy Adams.

He was a member of the now defunct Whig party, and was quite the mover and shaker in a time when things were really shaking.  He was a War Hawk and favored war with Britain in 1812.

In 1824, he ran for president but lost in an election that was just about as jacked UP as the one we are being subjected to today.  The Democratic-Republican Party had run all the other parties from the field and four major candidates emerged to seek office.  Clay was one of them.  None secured enough electoral votes to clinch victory, so the 12th Amendment was invoked and the election went to the House of Representatives who, with Clay’s steering as he had been eliminated for finishing fourth, elected JQA.

His consolation prize was the gig as the Secretary of State.

See, this crap’s been going on forever!

His machinations totally pissed Andrew Jackson off, and started a bitter rivalry between Clay and Old Hickory, who denounced Clay and Adams as part of a “corrupt bargain.”

More on that at a later time.

Issue wise, Clay was all over the map.  He opposed Manifest Destiny, opposed the annexation of Texas, opposed the Mexican War, and brokered agreements during the Nullification Crisis and supported/justified slavery.   He was part of the Great Triumvirate which included Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, and was instrumental in the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850.

Lincoln called him “my ideal of a great man,” and supported his economic programs.

But, back to Ashland.

Ashland in the day.

Clay came to Lexington, KY from Virginia in 1797 at the age of 22.  He started buying land for a plantation; yes, he was a slave holder – which he called Ashland Farm because of the Ash forest surrounding it.  At its heyday, it consisted of 600 acres and 60 slaves.

He raised hemp and tobacco as cash crops.  Clay also bred Merino sheep and several other European livestock breeds.

Living on Ashland were Aaron and Charlotte Dupuy, slaves whom Clay took to DC where they served him for 20 years.  In 1829, Charlotte sued Henry Clay for the freedom of herself and her two children in a Washington DC circuit court.  Charlotte was ordered to stay in DC while the case worked its way through the courts and as the Clays moved back to Ashland, her husband and children went with them.

She worked for the new Secretary of State, Martin Van Buren.

She lost the case, refused to return to Ashland, and was arrested by Clay’s agent, shipped to New Orleans and “…placed in the service of Clay’s daughter and son-in-law, where she was enslaved for another 10 years…”  In 1840, Clay suddenly freed her and her daughter.  Four years later, he freed her son, Charles.

Clay’s will divided the Ashland estate among his three sons.  James owned and occupied the house and 325 acres.  He lived there until his death in 1864.

Henry Clay began the Federal style house in 1806, and added two wings sometime between 1811 and 1814.

Porous brick was used and resulted in a structure that would eventually crumble if left on its own.  With no alternative, James rebuilt the house hoping for a fitting tribute to dear old dad.  He had the house razed and completely rebuilt between 1854 and 1857.  The floor plan of the original house was preserved and the foundation was used, but the new architect updated the place as Victorian Italianate was all the rage.

The mansion we toured and with which the children were soooo enthralled is a mix of Federal and Italianate styles.

Two years after James’ death, his widow sold the place to Kentucky University.  The founder and regent lived in the mansion and the Agricultural and Mechanical College worked the farm.

In 1882, Kentucky University split into Transylvania University and UK, and Ashland was sold.

Henry Clay’s granddaughter, Anne Clay McDowell and her husband bought the estate and moved in in 1883.  Their daughter Nannette lived there until 1948.  She founded and funded the Henry Clay Memorial Foundation and the place opened to the public in 1950.

Ashland Estate is located at 120 Sycamore Rd, Lexington, KY 40502. More information about the estate can be found at its website

It’s right off Interstate 75, and if you’re headed that way, it’s worth the time.

It’s National What Week?

This is national Read a Road Map Week.

Seriously, are we that desperate for celebrations?

But, alas, it might not be a bad thing.

I know, I know, you’re thinking GPS, right?

Well, even with Tom-Tom, Garmin, On-Star, and other built in nav systems, it’s probably a good idea for every kid to learn to read a map.

A woman asking for directions.  How do we know?  A man never would!

A woman asking for directions. How do we know? A man never would!

Frankly, I’ve always been rather enamored with maps. But, and I’m sure this will come as no surprise, minutia and trivia are sacred to me!

When the kids were little in the pre GPS days, we’d get a Trip-Tik from AAA.

The kids loved them and had fun finding places to stop, seeing just how far it was to the next restroom, and trying to hide the historic homes and Civil War battle fields from me!

It’s a good memory.

Road Map

So, the next time you need to find some place new, drag out the trusty old map, plan the trip, and have the kids help you along the way.  It’ll do them good.

Yes, yes, you can plug the Garmin in, just put it on mute!