Friday, May 6, 2016

Fuzzy Goes to Atlanta

Hi Kids,
     This is me with Miss Elaine and her grandson Calvin in Atlanta, Georgia, the capital of the state. Calvin was going to college in Atlanta and Miss Elaine wanted to visit him -- and she took me along. We did lots of fun things.
     The first thing we did was take a Segway tour. I had to ride in the pouch on the front of the Segway.
Segways have two wheels and a motor. Before we could go, we had to take lessons. This is Calvin with our teacher Laura.
          The trickiest part is getting on and off! We had to wear helmets. Thank goodness no one fell down!  After our two-hour ride, we were hungry. You're not going to believe what we ate! This is called a Sublime Burger at a restaurant named Cypress Street Grill. It is a big burger topped with Cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and applewood-smoked bacon and, instead of a bun, it is served between two doughnuts! We shared it. The hardest thing was getting into our mouths!
     One of the most interesting places to go in Atlanta is the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Jimmy Carter was President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. Some of your parents were babies back then -- or maybe not even born yet.  Before he went into politics, President Carter was in the Navy and helped develop the nuclear submarine program. Calvin and I are in front of a replica of the inside of a nuclear submarine in the museum.
     President Carter has always worked hard to solve big problems through peaceful means. Because of his efforts to make peace between Egypt and Israel he was given the Noble Peace Prize -- one of the most important awards in the world.
     In the museum is a copy of the Oval Office in the U.S. Capitol as it looked when President Carter was president. We couldn't go into it but they had a big picture you could use for taking photos.  I pretended I was president.
     Another cool place we visited was the Fox Theater. It was built in the 1920s and opened as a movie theater in 1929. In those days, going to the movies was a big deal and theaters were often so beautifully decorated that they were known as movie palaces. Today the theater is used more for live shows and concerts but you can take tours, too. Have you ever seen a movie theater this fancy?  I hadn't!
     Here's one place that everyone who goes to Atlanta should visit -- the Georgia Aquarium. It's really big and has some really big fish! That's a whale shark in the picture below. You can actually swim in the tank with them -- they don't eat people. They aren't whales, which are mammals, but are the world's largest fish.

     My favorite animals were the beluga whales -- this one seemed to be putting on a show for us.
     I have enjoyed writing to you this year. I hope you enjoyed my stories and my pictures. Have a great summer -- I hope you get to do some traveling.

Your friend,

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bear in the Bluebonnets

Hi Kids,
This is me on my trip to the Texas Hill Country. These are bluebonnets -- the Texas state flower. They're wild and bloom all over this time of year. They are very pretty and everybody loves to see the fields of beautiful blue flowers.

Miss Elaine and I stayed at a nice place on Lake Buchanan (Buck-anan). It is very rustic -- you can see the local limestone used around the pool. It was too cool for swimming but we didn't have time anyway. Can you find me in the picture? Look for my white tee shirt!
There are lots of things to do here. One night we took a wagon ride to a big dark field where there is an observatory with two giant telescopes. We could see the stars and planets up close! We also got to hear a talk about snakes and lizards. This is a crevice spiny lizard which lives in this part of Texas. When you turn him on his back, he kind of goes to sleep. If you turn him back over, you have to make sure you are holding him or he will run away very quickly! He has a pretty blue tummy -- it matches Miss Elaine's purse.

One day we took a cruise up the Texas Colorado River which runs into Lake Buchanan. Captain Shawn let me sit in the pilot house to get our picture taken.
This waterfall was my favorite spot on the river. We also saw a bald eagle, some pelicans, some great blue herons and a wild pig.
Another day we visited the Fort Croghan Museum. Two of the buildings were over 150 years old! There were people there dressed in clothes like they wore in the early days of the fort. This man was dressed like a trapper. In olden times, he would have trapped beaver, coyotes, deer and bobcats and sold the furs to make money.
Another day we went to Longhorn Caverns. This is one of only three river-formed show caves (open to the public) in the United States. One of the others is Alabaster Caverns in Oklahoma. Have you been there? I haven't been there yet but I would like to go. We had to go down a lot of steps to get to the cave entrance.
Most of the cave walls are very smooth but this is a section that has calcite crystals. You can see several of them sparkling. Crystals a solid minerals which are usually clear and have very regular sides and edges. In another room we saw crystals much larger than these.
In this picture you can see the crystals much better. See how different they look from the rock around them.
Here you can see smooth walls. The lines were originally layers of sediment -- dirt that settled to the bottom of an ancient ocean and became squashed so hard and long that it turned into rock.
I think the cave was my favorite place. Most caves have stalactites and stalagmites caused by dripping water. This river-formed cave only had a couple of tiny ones. But it was cool to see how water carved this cave into smooth shapes. I hope you get to visit it someday.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fuzzy Goes to Las Vegas

Hi Kids,
Miss Elaine, Mr. Jack and I went to Las Vegas, Nevada. Once it was just a dry spot in the desert then some people decided it would make a great resort. They built some hotels and put up fancy signs. Some had glass tube lights called neon lighting. It took a lot of skill to bend the glass into different shapes. See all the tubing on the duck sign? At night it would be really bright and pretty.
Now a lot of the old signs have been retired and collected in an outdoor museum. The neon signs were very expensive and difficult to make so pretty soon people decided to just use lots of light bulbs instead.
The museum is like an old attic with all sorts of signs stacked up. The big silver lamp came from the Aladdin Hotel. Do you know the story about Aladdin and his magic lamp? The pointy shapes came from the Stardust Hotel. I really liked seeing the old signs. Some of the old signs are displayed around town. They are very pretty at night.

We stayed in the old part of Las Vegas. There are a lot more hotels and things to do in other parts of the town but we wanted to see where the city started. Fremont Street was the main street. Now it has been turned into a pedestrian mall. Pedestrian means for walkers instead of cars. There are lots of bright lights here.
Several blocks of the street have a sort of roof over them. You can see videos on the ceiling. We were there at Halloween so they had scary pictures up there!
The ceiling is really high and there are zip lines so people can slide from one end to the other. Can you see the people zipping overhead?
There are lots of things for grown-ups to do in Las Vegas but we found some cool things for kids, too. This giant bug is outside of a shopping/entertainment area called Container Park.
In the park the shops are all made out of stacked shipping containers. My favorite part was the playground in the middle.
I really laughed at the giant bug -- kind of like a praying mantis. There was a man inside and when someone would walk down the sidewalk the man would turn on the antennas. They made a loud roar. Everybody jumped then laughed at the surprise.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fuzzy Visits the Presidents

Hi Kids,

You just had a school holiday! It was called Presidents Day. Did you know that it was originally celebrated every February 22. That was George Washington's Birthday. The observance began in 1800, the year after President Washington died. It was because he was so important to our country and everybody wanted to honor him. Years later, Congress decided it would be nice if workers had more three-day weekends so they moved several national holidays to Mondays. George Washington's Day was one of them. Since it wasn't on his birthday anymore, they changed the name to Presidents Day.
In the 1920s, the South Dakota State Historian, Doane Robinson, decided it would be nice to have a giant monument to heroes of the West. He contacted sculptor Gutzon Borglum who said he would do it but suggested national heroes instead of figures from a smaller area.

Borglum chose four Presidents -- George Washington, because he fought for American independence and was our first president; Thomas Jefferson, because he wrote the Declaration of Independence and he expanded American territory through the Louisiana Purchase; Abraham Lincoln, because he freed the slaves and saved the Union and Theodore Roosevelt, because of his leadership in business and conservation and in building the Panama Canal. President Roosevelt is my favorite because Teddy bears are named after him!
It took 400 workers 14 years to finish. And it took a lot of dynamite to create the figures on Mount Rushmore. These heads are REALLY big. Each of George Washington's eyes is 11 feet wide. His nose is 21 feet long. He mouth is 18 feet wide. Could you measure how big these features were in your classroom?
This was really cool. There were wild mountain goats feeding close to the monument. Some of them had babies. Did you know baby goats are called kids? But I'm not calling you goats when I say, "Hi Kids!"
This is another cool thing we found at Mount Rushmore. This ice cream is made from a recipe used by President Jefferson. The recipe is over 200 years old!
Mr. Jack offered me some but I was afraid I would get my fur sticky! So Mr. Jack ate it all.
Your friend,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Grandest of Them All

Hi Kids,
I told you in one of my earlier letters that 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We had national parks before then but they weren't properly cared for so the National Park Service was created to make sure all America's most special places were protected. Mr. Jack, Miss Elaine and I are trying to visit as many of these parks as we can. It's a big job -- there are over 400 nationally recognized parks, memorials, monuments, rivers, trails, seashores and historic sites. It's hard to pick a favorite but for many people -- and me, too -- it's the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon was carved 5 or 6 million years ago by the Colorado River. The running water simply wore away the soil and rocks and created this amazing canyon. Of course, it got some help from wind and rain, but the river did most of the work. The river flows 277 miles through the canyon -- that's more miles than from here to Dallas. At its greatest depth it is a mile deep.

One of the most amazing things about the canyon is that we can look back into the history of the earth by looking at the layers of rock in the canyon. The top layer is the youngest -- about 270,000 years old. The bottom layer of rocks is about 2 billion years old. That's 2,000,000,000 -- I can't count that high!

The park has two parts. One is the North Rim of the canyon, the other the South Rim. Most people just go to the South Rim -- it's easier to get to. It's only about 10 miles from one side of the canyon to the other -- but there's no bridge. It's about a five hour drive to get from the south side to the north. I've been to both sides and I love them both. I hope you like the pictures.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fuzzy in Caceres

Hi Kids,

This is me sitting outside the wall of historic Caceres in western Spain. Caceres is really a city in a city. The historic part is centuries old -- parts of some of the buildings go back to Roman times. It's such a wonderful place, it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In olden times, many cities built walls for protection and Caceres is one of them. Once there was no more room inside the wall, more of the city built up outside. Today Caceres is a large city with modern skyscrapers -- but the heart of the city is very old. That's where Miss Elaine and I stayed. Here's part of what we saw the first day there.

As you can see, the buildings don't look like downtown Edmond! These buildings are 400 to 500 years old.
The streets are very narrow and the town is hilly. Early builders liked to build their towns on top of hills so they could see if an enemy was coming!
There are a number of plazas in the town -- public squares where people gather to visit or to eat. Spanish shops close for several hours every afternoon so everyone can go home and take a siesta (nap). When they get up -- you can tell this is late afternoon by the shadows -- they like to have a small snack. Spanish people eat dinner much later than we do. Many restaurants don't open until 8 or 8:30. I'll tell you more about that in another post.
This is a statue of San Pedro -- we'd call him Saint Peter -- in front of the main cathedral. People think it will bring them good luck if they rub the statue's toes. If they want to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, they kiss the toes. You can see how shiny the toes are from all that rubbing! Miss Elaine and I rubbed the toes, too. But we knew we were already lucky -- we were in beautiful Spain!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Big Cheese

Hi Kids,
Have you ever been to a cheese museum?  This building is over a hundred years old and it used to be a house where shepherds lived. They kept their sheep out in the hills and would watch them every day. And they milked them, just like people milk cows. And they made cheese from the milk.   
These are Merino sheep -- the kind that make the milk that my new favorite cheese is made from.  The tree is an olive tree.  Did you know olives grow on trees?  I thought they came out of jars!
This is what the kitchen looked like when the shepherds lived here. The big pot is the stove -- they would build a fire under it. This doesn't look like our kitchens today, does it? The lady at the museum let me sit in the child's chair. The mother would have sat in the other chair and stirred the pot.
After we visited the cheese museum house, we went to a modern factory where they make the cheese today.
Everybody had to wear hairnets and aprons and shoe covers and gloves so everything would stay very clean. They didn't have any my size, so I had to wait outside while Miss Elaine went in. When she came back, there was a nice surprise.
We got to sample several kinds of cheeses that they make here.  Yum!
This is Ricardo Vivas. He is holding a torta del Casar (cah-SAHR) -- that kind of means "cake from Casar" -- because it is round and flat like a cake. But it's not cake -- it's cheese. The outside is called the rind -- you don't eat that part -- but when you slice the top off.......
Inside is wonderful, creamy cheese! It's the consistency of pudding but it's not sweet. It's cheesy -- a little salty, a little stinky--in a good way-- and it's wonderful. It is only made in a tiny area in Spain and only eight family businesses make this cheese so it's very hard to get in the United States. I hope Miss Elaine will take me back to Spain some day so I can have some more torta del Casar!

We had lots of good food on this trip but I liked this cheese -- and all the desserts -- best!