Friday, July 18, 2014

The Furman clock tower

Just five miles north of downtown Greenville is the campus of Furman University, which has been in that location since 1956. Previously it was located in Greenville; I wrote here how the West End sprung up around the university. The liberal arts college is SC’s oldest private university, and the very heart of the Furman campus is the clock tower, which is located on a small peninsula that juts out into 40-acre Swan Lake.

The original bell tower was built in 1854 on the old men’s campus, the bells ringing to signal the start of classes and to celebrate victories for the athletic teams. During the Civil War Furman was closed, but the bell in the "Old Main" tower rang after Confederate victories.

Photo credit: Lisa Sharpe

Once the university moved to its present location a new bell tower was built to the same specifications as the old tower, the sixty bells in the carillon cast in Holland to exactly match the original. To this day the tower's image appears on the school’s seal and official publications.

Photo credit: Lisa Sharpe

A month ago we visited the clock tower to snap some pictures of the boys for father’s day. As I’ve been informed by that the baby is now about the size of a head of romaine lettuce, I'm glad I also took the opportunity to get evidence of the bump, as I feel as if I should be documenting this pregnancy (although it's my third). Yes, I’m sure it’s not twins, no, I’m not “going to pop any day now.”

Photo credit: Lisa Sharpe

* According to the school's mythology, if you kiss your significant other at the tower you are destined to marry them – hence the phrase “bell tower serious.” Guess the tower can chalk up another one to its legend...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Roadside on I-75

On our way home from Michigan we stopped at what might be a familiar sight for those of you who have headed up I-75, the giant dinosaur. Originally a mascot for Thunder Mountain Fireworks, this hand-built green dinosaur has looked out over the highway from Caryville TN since the 1980’s.

Sadly, in May 2011 the fireworks store caught fire, and the site is now occupied by a Dollar Store. Rumor has it, the dinosaur is for sale…

Caryville doesn’t seem to have good luck with fireworks stores. You might recognize another site from the interstate, just minutes north of the dinosaur.


We made an overnight stop outside of Lexington in order to break up the trip, had we not we would have witnessed the fireworks… That’s right, the store caught fire that evening, and firefighters had the dangerous task of preventing the neighboring buildings, and even cars on the highway from catching on fire. I-75 was shut down in both directions, it must have been quite a sight.

Source: USA Today

It isn’t just the fireworks laying waste to I-75 roadside attractions on the north-south highway. Some of you might recognize this 62 foot tall giant Jesus from the roadside just north of Cincinnati.

Source: here

Nicknamed “touchdown Jesus,” it was struck by lightning and destroyed in 2010. The church has rebuilt, and the new statue (nickname “Hug me Jesus”) was dedicated in 2012. Named Lux Mundi ("Light of the World" in Latin), the 52 foot statue was designed by Tom Tsuchiya.

Source: wikipedia

What is your favorite roadside attraction on I-75?

Directions to giant dinosaur:

Take exit 134 and head east on US Hwy 25W/Hwy 63. Make a right (south) onto Hwy 116/John McGhee Blvd. and after 0.5 miles turn into the Dollar Store parking lot. The dragon is located behind the store on the highway side. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

A fourth of July in Garezers

We kicked off our fourth of July celebrations this year with a little bit of World Cup viewing and a parade. Of course the parade was more of the family-down-the-street-with-a-tractor-and-a-wagon type than the Dziesmu Svētku variety. Actually, the XIV Latvian Song Festival was taking place on these warm summer days (in Hamilton, Ontario), we just didn’t make it up to Canada and instead were celebrating America’s birthday on the shores of Gaŗezers.

What is the fourth without a barbecue? Master griller Alnis manned the burgers, with a little bit of supervision.

We sat down to a table decked out in red, white and blue.

After taking a break to digest we hit the cheesecake. Yes, there really are 50 blueberries and seven stripes of raspberries. And yes, it was delicious, if I can say so myself.

That evening was the camp bonfire, but afterward we had some fireworks of our own down on the beach.

It was the next night, Saturday, that we headed to Atbalsis, the resort and campground adjacent to Gaŗezers on neighboring Clear Lake. Mikus wasn’t the biggest fan of the late bedtime nor the noisy/bright celebration, and fell asleep halfway into the celebration with his head tucked into my armpit. But the rest of us enjoyed the show, filing this fourth of July away in our memory banks another good one. Now if Atbalsis would just cut down that one tree...

Friday, July 4, 2014

Oh 'merica

Happy fourth of July! Not only does the US celebrate its 238th birthday, but this summer is the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner. It was during the battle over the port of Baltimore that Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that would become our national anthem over one hundred years later on March 3rd, 1931. The 25-hour battle over Fort McHenry ended with the American flag being raised in the early hours of September 14th, 1814.

Defence of Fort M'Henry – Francis Scott Key

O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

As you celebrate the fourth this year, please remember to follow the flag code and proper etiquette on the display and handling of the flag. Happy fourth of July!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Oh Canada!

Happy Canada Day! (yesterday) Fête du Canada is the national day of Canada celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North America Act. Originally called Dominion Day, it united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. We celebrated with our relatives from Canada, grilling šašliki on the barbecue and later on s’mores on a fire down by the beach. Original plans included actually Canadian things like nanaimo bars, the dessert consisting of a crumb-based layer topped by a layer of vanilla butter icing and covered with melted chocolate which is named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. However, the dream was disrupted by....

Building a Canada day bonfire

... a derecho. Derived from the Spanish word for straight, this storm is a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. They can cause hurricane force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods and are mostly a summertime phenomenon. The lightning didn’t stop for about an hour keeping the house bright as daylight from 2 until 3 in the morning, and winds downed trees and power lines from Illinois to Michigan. Luckily our power remained on; neighbors weren’t as lucky and downtown Three Rivers was in gridlock from intersections without traffic lights. Although my dessert plans weren’t realized, Lauris still made it to his second day of...

Trees were hanging off of power lines into late afternoon

... bizbizbērni. Last year’s hesitancy at leaving mom in the mornings has completely disappeared, and in the afternoons we are regaled with tales of hikes, new friends and swim lessons. It might be that Lauris wouldn’t want to leave it weren’t for the...

First day of "school"!

... fishing. With a little help from his Kalamazoo grandmother and cousin, our little fisherman has caught a surplus of fish, including two thirteen inch bass. More than his mother has ever caught from that same pier, but he’s got his eye set on “the big one.” Which is also what comes to mind when thinking about yesterday’s…

… game against Belgium. Did you know US goalkeeper Tim Howard made 16 saves, the most on record in a World Cup match? Sad that the US has reached the end of their World Cup journey, although now we can turn our attention to…

A daily show - the sun setting over the lake

… the Tour de France. Starting on July 5th, this will be the first year women will compete in the traditionally all-male cycling race that criss-crosses France over the course of three weeks. 120 women in 20 teams will ride on the last leg la Course, which will take them 13 laps around the Champs-Élysées for a purse of over $30,000. This month officially marks our two-year return date from France, which occurred soon after catching le Tour outside of Rocamadour. How time flies…

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