K is for Kentucky – #atozchallenge

One word: Staycation

My family moved to Kentucky with in 1993. We moved from the western United States and had not lived in a humid, green environment since our time in Japan in the late 1980s.

Kentucky the Beautiful
Kentucky Backroads

Like many others, when we heard the word Kentucky, we thought about the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kentucky bourbon. There was not much else to really understand or know about Kentucky.

Honestly, looking back I can say that our move to Kentucky was one of the best things we ever did. Kentucky is a beautiful and diverse state. Living in Lexington, which is the Horse Capital of the World, we are surrounded by beautiful horse farms. In fact, I can leave my driveway and be driving through horse farm country within five minutes. The black plank fences, the nicely mown fields, immaculately expensive barns and the horses out grazing in the field… always uplift our souls.

Kentucky Capitol Building in Frankfort
Black Plank Fences are all over Kentucky…this is Horse Country
Lebanon, KY

There are so many things to see and do in Kentucky. The worlds largest cave, Mammoth Cave is here. Beautiful waterfalls, streams, rivers and lakes. The hills of eastern Kentucky are lovely.

The drive across the state takes about six hours if you’re driving east to west from the furthest points. The diversity that you will see on a drive like that is amazing.

Mail Pouch Barn in Central Kentucky
Rabbit Hash General Store in Kentucky
Louisville, KY as seen from across the Ohio River in Indiana
Lexington at Sunset
Wisdom, Kentucky
Mare and foal jaunt
Oddville, Kentucky
Sumoflam at Cumberland Falls
Flippin, Kentucky Post Office
Ice Storms leave lovely art

Kentucky is one of those states that has true four seasons. The wintertime typically has snow and sometimes we even get some pretty impressive ice storms.  Not fun in and of themselves, the ice storms leave beauty hanging around.

After winter comes springtime and the abundance of colorful flowers and flowering trees. One of Lexington’s favorite places for visiting and viewing flowering trees is the Lexington Cemetery. It is a lovely place when everything is in bloom.

Cherry Blossoms in Lexington Cemetery
Yes, it can snow in the spring and cover the flowers.
Kentucky is famous for its lovely Redbud Trees
Thoroughbred Park

April is the start of the horse racing season in Kentucky. Keeneland Race Track is one of the premier race tracks in the United States and then after the Kingman meet horses move onto Louisville and Churchill Downs and eventually the Kentucky Derby. In the past I’ve had the opportunity to attend those events and they are a lot of fun.

But there are many other horse activities in Kentucky such as show jumping and even Polocrosse — a mix between polo and lacrosse done on horses.

 

Polocrosse at the Kentucky Horse Park
Show Jumping at Kentucky Horse Park
Horses frolic
A horse relaxes against a tree in late winter
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

Throughout the year, I make my way to a local reservoir/lake on the outskirts of Lexington. It is called Jacobson Lake and is part of the huge Jacobson Park. It is a beautiful place to come early in the morning and watch a sunrise or come in the evening and catch a sunset. I also thoroughly enjoy spending time at the lake and listening to the birds and watching and photographing birds. There are a variety of them from the great blue heron in the beautiful bald eagle and Osprey, to many smaller birds such a seagulls, Killdeer, blackbirds and bluebirds and Cardinals.

Blue Heron taking flight at Jacobson Lake
We call this Bald Eagle “Jake”. The local eagle at Jacobson Lake
Sunset at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY
Blue Heron grabbing some breakfast
Fall at Jacobson Park

Summer in Kentucky is generally mild but can be warm and sometimes very hot and humid. Those are the times to stay indoors or to go to the lake and sit out on the lake. The family has made a few visits to Cave Run Lake in eastern Kentucky to enjoy the nice environment.

Sanders Cafe in Corbin, KY. Birthplace of the KFC Special Recipe
Wigwam Cafe in Ravenna, KY

Also, during the summer I often take back road drives around Kentucky. There are so many lovely little two lane back roads that one can take and see the landscape, lifestyle and many other unique things. On these trips I’ve discovered old churches, beautiful old farm houses and buildings. I’ve come across fields of sunflowers. I even came across “Kentucky Stonehenge.”

Sumoflam at Kentucky Stonehenge
An old bourbon plant in Woodford County
Turkey Vultures guard their meal near McKee, KY
Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville
Sandhill Cranes

Traveling south of Louisville I took a back road during the spring in hopes of catching the migration of the beautiful Sandhill Cranes. And I was fortunate enough to be there when they were there in the small little town of Cecelia, Kentucky.

 

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky

On other trips we have visited Cave City, a kind of National Park resort town that supports Mammoth Cave. Cave City offers one of only three remaining historic Wigwam Motel complexes, the other two being in Arizona and California. Further south on the same interstate or taking a back road, is the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. This is the only factory in the world that builds the Corvette. Kentucky is also home to the largest Toyota plant in the United States, a huge Ford production facility in Louisville that makes F150 pick up trucks.

Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Wigwam Motel in Cave City, KY
Giant T-Rex statue in Cave City, KY
Old Corvette on pedestal at Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Lincoln by Eduardo Kobra, part of the 2013 PRHBTN Festival in Lexington, Kentucky

 

Both Lexington and Louisville feature amazing murals and wall art.  Lexington even has an organization called PRHBTN that invites famed street artists from all over the world to come to Lexington and paint on buildings around the city.  There are some amazing pieces.

 

Louis Armstrong Mural by Sergio Odeith from Portugal, for PRHBTN 2015
Another large mural on the side of an old warehouse in Lexington’s Distillery District

I love Kentucky. I am so glad that we had the blessing to move here to this beautiful state. If you have not visited Kentucky, you need to add it as a “must see” to your list.

Ranada Riley, owner of the Lexington Diner in Lexington has been on television Food Network Competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen
One of many horse barns
Sunrise in Eastern Kentucky as we approached West Virginia
Mist covered farmland as seen from Kentucky Highway 79
Paducah, Kentucky
Mural Tribute to Kentucky Bourbon by Esteban Camacho Steffensen
Jac’s Coffee Shop – Harlan, Kentucky
Past Time Cafe storefront – Crab Orchard, Kentucky
Visiting Kentucky’s Red River Gorge in November
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

And, if you live in Kentucky…go take a “staycation” and see this great state.

 

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Washington State: Point Defiance Zoo

All packed in and ready to head for the zoo.
All packed in and ready to head for the zoo.

On Day 4 of our visit to Washington we packed up the kids and a couple of cars and made our way south to Tacoma to visit the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.   Though not as huge as some of the zoos we have been to (such as San Diego, Louisville, Cincinnati), it is still a nice zoo with some great opportunities to see some good wildlife.  The thing I like about most zoos is that they not only have a lot of animals, but they also have an abundance of flowers and foliage that is always pleasant.  So, this trip on this day was about grandkidz, animals and flowers.

Point Defiance Zoo
Point Defiance Zoo entrance

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is apparently the only combined facility in the Pacific Northwest.  It is a 29 acre park and a major tourist attraction in the Tacoma area.

I was actually pleased with it as it was much smaller, quite clean and seemed like you could get a bit more “intimate” with the animals, though there was less of a variety of them.

A tiger at the Point Defiance Zoo
A tiger at the Point Defiance Zoo

Following are a few photos of the animals that I took.  They had four or five tigers in a couple of places, an elephant and a few other critters.  They had a goodly amount of birds, including penguins and puffins.  I always enjoy photographing the animals.

An Asian Elephant playing in the dirt
An Asian Elephant playing in the dirt
A Tiger Cub
A Tiger Cub
A puffin on watch
A puffin on watch
Puffin in a nest
Puffin in a nest
A Polar Bear tries to stay cool in the water.
A Polar Bear tries to stay cool in the water.
A playful otter does the backstroke
A playful otter does the backstroke
A tiger relaxes
A tiger relaxes
The small penguins stand majestically at feeding time
The small penguins stand majestically at feeding time
A sealion underwater
A sealion underwater
A blue budgie
A blue budgie

The Budgie exhibit was lots of fun, especially since the grandkidz were there and could actually feed the colorful birds. The real name for a budgie is “Budgerigar” and these cute little guys are native to Australia and New Zealand.  This parrot species is very social and it was very apparent, just being in the exhibit with them.  They were not afraid of hanging around people.

Grandson Benson enjoys handling a budgie
Grandson Benson enjoys handling a budgie
Charles watches as he carefully feeds a budgie
Charles watches as he carefully feeds a budgie
A pair of budgies
A pair of budgies
No...he is only acting like a budgie.
No…he is only acting like a budgie.
White budgie
White budgie
Bald eagle
Bald eagle

We brought our lunch and enjoyed it while watching a stage which featured a number of animals from the zoo.  I was most enthralled with the bald eagle.

It was as close as I have ever been to these amazing (and quite large birds).   I saw a couple of them on our road trips in Washington, but could never capture any on camera until the zoo.

Winspan
Wingspan
Grandkidz
Grandkidz

Of course, watching the kids was also fun.  They had a variety of facial expressions at the various exhibits.  Here are some “grandkidz” shots from the zoo.

Their curiosity is always a joy to experience.  Going to the zoo with young children is fascinatingly fun!

Livvy points at the elephant
Livvy points at the elephant
Charles is bored?
Charles is bored?
Kade watches
Kade watches
Charles shows some excitement
Charles shows some excitement
Livvy flirts
Livvy flirts
Hanging with my sweetheart at Point Defiance Zoo
Hanging with my sweetheart at Point Defiance Zoo

DSC_5699Part of the joy at a zoo is the variety of plants and flowers.  I enjoyed a few closeup shots of these, including some varieties I have never seen before.

Following are a few of my shots:

A bee grabs a snack
A bee grabs a snack

DSC_5676DSC_5589

Amazing Lily 1
Amazing Lily 1
Julianne with bamboo
Julianne with bamboo
Amazing Lily 2
Amazing Lily 2

DSC_5674DSC_5778And finally, I have to say that the view of Mt. Rainier from the zoo was spectacular.  Could not have asked for a more beautiful day and beautiful views!

Mt. Rainier as seen from the Point Defiance Zoo
Mt. Rainier as seen from the Point Defiance Zoo
Mt. rainier as seen from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Mt. rainier as seen from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge

After the zoo we headed back home, dropped the kids off, changed clothes and all of the adults headed for Seattle to go to the Mormon Temple there.  We took a ferry across the Sound.

Ferries are a way of life in the Seattle area.  Many live on one side of the Puget Sound and

On the Ferry to Seattle
On the Ferry to Seattle – Mt. Rainier in the background

work on the other side, including my son in law Aaron. The give you a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of the city job.  I really enjoyed sitting on the deck and taking in the views, smelling the fresh air and have the wind blow through my hair.

This particular ferry ride offered some amazing views of Mt. Rainier as well as some nice views of Seattle on the approach in. They were different views from those of a couple of days earlier.

View of Seattle from the Ferry
View of Seattle from the Ferry
A ferry passes by us in the sound with Mt. Rainier in the backround
A ferry passes by us in the sound with Mt. Rainier in the background
A shot of the Seattle skyline
A shot of the Seattle skyline
Another Seattle shot
Another Seattle shot
Thai food at Tangerine Thai
Thai food at Tangerine Thai

Once we crossed the Sound, it was back in the car and heading towards the lovely Seattle Temple. We stopped along the way to have some great Thai Food. Tangerine Thai was a classy little place with some amazing cuisine that I hadn’t seen (or tasted) before.

Grilled Eggplant at Tangerine Thai
Grilled Eggplant at Tangerine Thai
Grilled Salmon Curry at Tangerine
Grilled Salmon Curry at Tangerine

After dinner it was off to the temple.  Nice to visit another temple!

At Seattle Temple
At Seattle Temple
A symbol of LDS Temples - the Angel Moroni
A symbol of LDS Temples – the Angel Moroni
Sunset over Tacoma Narrows bridge
Sunset over Tacoma Narrows bridge

After doing some baptisms for the dead, we headed back to Port Orchard with the sunset.  It was a wonderful day with family!!

 

 

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