Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fuzzy Visits Nebraska

Hi Kids,
Let me introduce myself. My name is Fuzzy and I am a Traveling Teddy -- part of the geography education program of the Society of American Travel Writers. My bear mom, Miss Elaine, writes stories for magazines and newspapers about places people might want to visit.

She brought me on a trip to Nebraska and we met your teacher, Mr England. He told us you might be interested in our adventures. If you want to be a traveler, too, you can. You can start right in your own hometown. I'm going to show you some of the things we saw when we visited Ogallala. I bet you've seen a lot of these things.

The first place we stopped was Boot Hill. That's where we met Mr. England. He told us about the cowboys who drove cattle up from Texas to Ogallala. And he told us about a lot of the people who were buried in this old cemetery. I really liked this cowboy sculpture but Miss Elaine was too short to put me up in the saddle so I had to sit on the cowboy's boot!

Our next stop was at the Petrified Wood and Art Gallery downtown. There were many beautiful paintings and sculptures there but I liked the rocks and wood best. The owners, Mr. Howard and Mr. Harvey Kenfield spent many hours shaping these rocks into spheres (a fancy word for "ball") and polishing them. Aren't they pretty?

Next we visited the Mansion on the Hill. This house is over 100 years old! It has been decorated inside so that it looks like it would have looked a hundred years ago. This is the children's bedroom.

If you had lived back then, you wouldn't have television or Nintendo or cell phones. But children back then had books, just like you do. I love to read. I hope you enjoy it, too

After lunch, we took a hike up Windlass Hill to see where pioneers going west on the Oregon Trail traveled. Miss Elaine carried me up the steep hill. She needed someone to carry her, too! Her legs were really tired by the time we got to the top!

Our guide explained how thousands of wagons traveled on this trail. No, not the little walking path we were on, but the area around it. Where the wagon wheels traveled, they packed down the dirt and kicked up a lot of dust. A particular kind of brown grass grows well in this kind of soil. If you look at the colors of the grass, you can see where those wagons passed over 150 years ago. Travel was hard and slow. It probably took them a day to get from where your school is now to Windlass Hill. We traveled that distance by car in about half an hour.

Look at the picture below and see if you can tell which way the wagons went.

If you enjoyed reading about my adventure, please let me know. I would love to write you about other places I travel. You can also look at some of my earlier adventures when I was writing to a 3rd grade class here in Oklahoma. I would like to be your friend this year.


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.