Jul 24

M’s Musings

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McKenna is just talking up a storm these days and sometimes she says the most hilarious things.  She always keeps us smiling and I thought it would be fun to share a few of her most recent musings.

Musing #1
During our recent travels out West we talked a lot about the poke poke pine trees.  She loved touching them and feeling how rough the pine needles are.  She rubbed her hand on Daddy’s (unshaven) cheek…

M: Daddy’s face a poke poke pine
Mom: Oh, Dad’s face is prickly like a pine tree
M: Yeah, and he gots fruits
Mom: He has fruit on his face?
M: His nose is fruit…. I wanna pick it!

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Musing #2
While eating breakfast at McDonalds one morning on our vacation she had a nice little conversation with Grandma.

Grandma: Oh M you are sitting up like such a big girl, are your pancakes good?
M: Yes indeed

Musing #3
Kenny had a sports page open on his computer screen and was talking on the phone with his parents.  We put it on speaker phone so they could talk to M a little.  A photo popped up on the computer of a boxer (with his shirt off) and M immediately shouts….

M: That is NAKED!  That is NAKED!!
Mom: (I felt the immediate need to explain to my in-laws that none of us were streaking through the house!!)

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General McKenna-isms

  • Strawberry= straw belly
  • Macaroni= mock e roni
  • Scissors= caesers
  • Living Room= lim muh mose

That sweet girl just makes our day, we want to remember all the fun things she says.  Hopefully it gave you a little smile too.

Jul 22

Made our Bucket List: Washington D.C.

Washington DC Jefferson Memorial Fall Made our Bucket List: Washington D.C.
At times I find it sad that I have not visited my nation’s capital.  As someone that has taught U.S. history in the public school system for the last 10 years and just the patriotic part of me really needs to see it.  Now it is more of the historic nature of the place that appeals to me not the politicians that are running it.  The memorials, national museums, zoo, government structures, and of course our founding documents should be seen at least once by those living here and, through taxes, paying for it. 

So why haven’t I been?  Well, while the East coast appeals to certain parts of me when it comes to vacations the mountains out west or a beach somewhere wins out during my decision making process.  When I eventually go to Washington D.C., I want to do it right, not during summer vacation or spring break when all the school tours are going but in late September or early October when I could enjoy it a little more and do the whole trip right. 

To view our other dream destinations click here  

Jul 21

Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum

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Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum is an aviation museum dedicated to the brave men and women who served during World War II especially those that served from the Pueblo Army Air Base.  It is a static aircraft museum with nearly 30 airplanes on display from early 20th century prop planes to jets.  The Pueblo Aircraft Museum has a wide variety of planes on display I found it interesting getting a chance to see a B-29 Superfortress which was a WWII bomber and the ½ size replica of a 1918 French biplane from WWI. 
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As a history buff I always find aviation museums especially those geared towards the military as worthwhile attractions to visit.  The few that we have been to which you can read about by clicking here are usually staffed by a great group of volunteers and the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum also had great volunteers.  The staff there was very kind and informative and was willing to answer any questions that we had.  They had a great group working there the day of our visit and we found their stories very interesting. I know I learned a few things that I will add to my teaching lessons this upcoming school year.    
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Besides the aircraft that is on display the air museum also had a variety of other artifacts.  Including 100s of personal military gear donated to the museum by the individuals themselves or the friends and families of those that served.  My wife really took to their collection of female uniforms from WWII they had on display. 
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The Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum is divided up into two hangars with some aircraft on display outside of the museum.  There is also a museum gift shop, a theater area, a library, and over 100 display cases.  I thought the admission price was right on target and we really enjoyed our visit to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum during our day long stop while driving through the area.       

To see our reviews of other Colorado attractions we have visited click here http://plainadventure.com/tag/colorado/

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Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum
Located at 31001 Magnuson Ave. Pueblo
Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Cost as of this Posting: Ages 10 and older $7.00
For more information visit their website at

Jul 19

Pueblo Riverwalk: A great place for a Family Stroll

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Pueblo Riverwalk was a great escape for us during our day long visit to Pueblo while in southeastern Colorado.  It was a hot summer day with the temperature spiking close to 100 and we had already visited their zoo in the morning and airplane museum around noon.  When we thought a stroll along the Riverwalk would be a good way to cap our visit to Pueblo.  The Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo is a 32 acre urban park area with paved walking area, canal boat rides, artwork, a few restaurants, and community events. For more information about the Pueblo Riverwalk visit their website at http://puebloriverwalk.org/farmers-market-information/
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While we did not get the full experience of the Riverwalk because we had to head out because we were staying the night in a different city, but we did get to walk down a ways and enjoyed water, art, and just walking around near the fountains and statues.  While not as developed as the other riverwalk areas that we have been to, personally I enjoyed the one in Pueblo just as much as San Antonio or Oklahoma City.  I like wide open spaces and crowded streets, shopping, and fine dining is not my favorite things to do list so I really enjoyed the Pueblo Riverwalk.  However, if you are expecting a San Antonio Riverwalk experience you will be disappointed. 
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On our particular visit it was not crowded, a few people here and there walking around, some children on the paddle boats, one group of people taking the canal boat ride the despite the heat we enjoyed our lovely little stroll.  We found the area very clean and parking was easy to get in and out of which is always a plus for us.  Our 2 year daughter enjoyed watching the fountains and walking by the flower beds.   She also has a thing for tunnels and loved going under the bridges and hearing the live music that was playing.
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My family enjoyed it and as a whole we thought the Pueblo Riverwalk just seemed cleaner and more family friendly than the others we have been to.  All-in-all the Pueblo Riverwalk was a great place for us to take our 2 year old daughter out for a walk.   

To see our reviews of other Colorado attractions we have visited click here http://plainadventure.com/tag/colorado/


Jul 13

Zapata Falls: Short Hike to a Hidden Waterfall

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Zapata Falls near the Great Sand Dunes National Park is a small 25 foot waterfall that requires a short hike up a mountain creek to see.  It is the perfect way to cool down during a summer visit to the sand dunes.  Or if you are visiting during the winter months you would be in for a treat as the falls freeze up where the water turns a vibrant blue just underneath the ice. 
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To get to Zapata Falls from Highway 160 just take Highway 150 North and turn right at the Zapata Falls Recreational Area.  It is about a 4 mile drive up a dirt road that is not that well maintained but a standard car can make it.  After reaching the parking area it is just a half mile hike up to the falls.  The trail is wide and well maintained, but it is a little steep.  If you are not used the altitude take advantage of the sporadically placed benches along the trail to take a break and catch your breath.   
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Once you reach the creek area of Zapata Falls you will hear the falls well before you can see them.  Just follow the creek to your right and after some careful stepping over the slippery rocks you reach a rocky crevasse that you will enter to see the falls.  When Zapata Falls was made they didn’t have photographers in mind.  The slippery creek is not great for photography equipment so unless you are very sure footed you might want to leave any expensive equipment behind.  Even then a trip up the creek to see the falls is a risk. 
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Just know that if you are going to see Zapata Falls you are going to get your feet wet.  So you might want to bring some water shoes.  Also a hiking stick might be helpful in scrambling up the creek.  Like anytime you go for a hike just know what your limitations are so you can stay safe and enjoy your time out in nature.   Zapata Falls is a unique waterfall to see and if you are in that area of Colorado it is worth the effort and time to stop and see it. 

To see reviews of all the waterfalls we have visited click here

Zapata Falls Hike
Distance 1 Mile roundtrip
Trail Difficulty: Moderate    

Jul 12

Photography Tip:Taking Pictures of Fireworks

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A great opportunity to take some interesting pictures is at your local 4th of July fireworks display, and with a little experimenting and some typical photography equipment a person can come up with some pretty good shots.  Taking pictures of fireworks is rather straight forward but having the right equipment and a little knowhow will go a long way towards getting good results.   

Over the last two years during our Independence Day celebrations I have taken my camera, tripod, and remote shutter release and have experimented getting some pictures of the big fireworks display.  The first year I went out it was just a series of trying out different settings, and then this year we went to a different venue and once again it was just about trying to frame up the best shot that I could get.  Hopefully next year we will be able to go someplace with a lake because I think some reflecting shots would be nice.  For me,  having a hobby like photography can be so much fun because each time it is going to be a little bit different and a little more challenging because each time you go out to take pictures the lighting, foreground, background, subject….everything is going to be different. 

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Taking pictures of fireworks is relatively easy if you have the right equipment first off you will need a tripod for those long exposures, 2nd a remote shutter release so you can control it manually makes it easier to start and stop, and if you have a digital just take as many pictures as you want because you can always delete them later. 

I like to set the ISO as low as possible so the image looks sharp and does not have a lot of noise (grayness to the picture) also keep in mind the lower the ISO the longer the exposure needs to be.  I put the F stop around 10. If I am trying to capture multiple burst I like to leave the shutter open around 8 to 10 seconds or if I am looking for a single firework burst then 2 to 3 seconds usually does the trick. That is why a remote can come in so handy instead of using the camera’s timer.

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Keys to taking Pictures of Fireworks 

  • Tripod
  • Camera Remote
  • Low ISO
  • Leave Shutter open for at least 2 seconds
  • Practice

To read our other beginner photography tips click here

Jul 09

Top 10 Civil War Battlefields

A visit to a Civil War Battlefield is a great place to take history out of a book and make it come alive.  As a history teacher I find it exhilarating to actually see the places I teach about, but I am in to history.  Most people might find a visit to a historic place to be somewhat “boring” but I would argue that a visit to a Civil War Battlefield is a great chance to listen, see, and hear exciting stories from the past.  Most people know about Lincoln, Grant, Lee, and Davis, but there are millions of personal stories about those that lived, loved, fought, and died during the Civil War that are also worth hearing about.  A visit to a Civil War Battlefield will give you a chance to hear some of those great stories.  Hope you enjoy are list of the Top 10 Civil War Battlefields and like always we wish you Happy Travels!!!

Top 10 Civil War Battlefields

10. Fort Sumter, South Carolina

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Fort Sumter, the site where it all started, when Southern forces opened fire on the federal fort on April 12, 1861, which catapulted the nation into its bloodiest war and the end of slavery.  A ferry out to the historic site for a tour of the fort is a great way to learn about that fateful event.  For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm

9. Appomattox Court House National Park, Virginia

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Appomattox Court House the site where the Civil War ended and Lee gave his formal surrender.  This National Historical Park has many original and reconstructed buildings of site where the Civil War came to a close. For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/apco/index.htm


8. Shiloh National Military Park, Tennessee

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Shiloh was one of the first Civil War battlefields saved in the late 1800s and has relatively remained unchanged since the war.  The military park has close to 13 miles of tour roads with over 20 tour stops of famous places from the battle.  It also has two state of the art films about the battle as well as exhibit areas with artifacts from the Civil War era. For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/shil/index.htm

7. Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia

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The first and second battle of Bull Run took place nearly a year apart the former being the first time both the North and South armies would meet in combat and the latter resulting the height of the Confederate power.   Manassas National Battlefield Park has 20 miles of a self-guided driving tour, 10 miles of hiking trails, a visitor center museum complete with a fiber-optic battle map, and a 45 minute orientation film.  For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/mana/index.htm

6. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Virginia

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The area of Virginia around the 2 capitols saw some of the biggest bloodiest battles of the war.  The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is home to four major Civil War Battlefields the two mentioned along with Chancellorsville and Wilderness.  This is a large site with two visitor centers, historic buildings, self-guided walking and auto trails. For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/frsp/index.htm

5. Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

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Antietam is the site of America’s bloodiest one day battle in history.  Over 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in just 12 hours of fighting.  Antietam was General Lee’s first invasion of the North and aftermath of the battle led to Lincoln making his Emancipation Proclamation.  Antietam has a 8.5 mile driving tour, a 26 minute video, and several short hiking trails. For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/anti/index.htm

4. Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines in Mobile Bay, Alabama

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Fort Morgan and Fort Gains sit on opposite sides of Mobile Bay the last major port the South had access to.  Fort Gaines is a historic fort on Dauphin Island and has original canons, a blacksmith shop, kitchens, and a museum.  Fort Morgan is a well preserved fort with a museum with a  self-guided tour giving you the chance to walk the batteries.   For more information on Fort Morgan visit http://fortmorgan.org/ for Fort Gaines visit http://dauphinisland.org/fort-gaines/

3. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia and Tennessee

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Chickamauga and Chattanooga is the place where Union and Confederate forces fought over the gateway to Atlanta and the Deep South.  Chickamauga has dozens of miles of hiking trails as well as a 7 mile self-guiding auto tour.  Its visitor center is impressive with the Fuller Gun Collection with over 300 military rifles and a great video on the life and death difference between a muzzle-loaded gun and a repeating rifle.  Lookout Mountain is also a part of the National Military Park with its own visitor center, hiking trails, and monuments. For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/chch/index.htm


2. Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

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Gettysburg the most famous battle of the Civil War as well as being the bloodiest battle it was the inspiration behind one of Lincoln’s greatest speeches.  Gettysburg has a museum, hiking trails, a self-guided auto tour, and the Soldier’s National Cemetery. For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/gett/index.htm

1. Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi

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Besides Gettysburg, Vicksburg was the other turning point in the American Civil War. With the fall of Vicksburg the South was cut in two and the North had control of the Mississippi River.  Vicksburg has 1 16 mile self-guided tour road, miles of hiking trails, a visitor center museum with orientation film, and the incredible USS Cairo Museum and Gunboat a USS ironclad that was salvaged from its Mississippi River resting place. For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/vick/index.htm


We hope you enjoyed our list of the Top 10 Civil War Battlefields in the United States.  Like any top 10 list they are subject to opinion so please give us yours and let us know what you think of our list, is there anything that you think we should not have put on our list and what would you replace it with by leaving a comment.  We are always looking for a new place to visit so let us know about any experiences you have visiting such historic places.

To see all our top 10 attractions lists like the Top 10 National Wildlife Refuges click here


Jul 06

Great Sand Dunes National Park: Dunes at Sunrise

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I had never been to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and was excited at the possibility of photographing such a unique place.  Probably not too many places in the world where there are towering mountains, large sand dunes, and a creek.  Knowing it was late June I figured the most enjoyable time to photograph was sunrise before the dunes had a chance to heat up.  Now it was not enjoyable to wake up and head out the hotel door around 4:00 in the morning in Alamosa to get to the dunes an hour before sun up so I could climb to the top. 
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The Great Sand Dunes National Park is beautiful in its own way and getting to see the rise on top of the dunes was something I will take with me for the rest of my life.  I will also remember the long slough up to the top of the dunes also.  There is no marked trail in the dunes so looking for others footprints tends to help or stick to the crests, but even that can be a rough go.  It is amazing the difference between compacted sand and soft sand, soft sand was like having a workout and a half and going through the compacted sand was like a breeze.  The only problem for me when I was there was I never knew what I was going to get.  Every dozen or so yards it would change on me. 
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I did get a chuckle out of walking towards the dunes around 4:30 in the morning without another soul in sight.  I pictured somebody watching me carrying my tripod towards the dunes like I was creating some sort of SurvivorMan television show.   It was a great experience and I highly recommend it to anybody that is physically able to do it.  If you do decide to walk the dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park make sure you bring plenty of water, take the proper precautions because of the high altitude, and use common sense. 

For more information on the Great Sand Dunes National Park go to their website at  http://www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm or to see our of adventures at the America’s National Parks click here

Jul 05

We’re Back!

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We’re Back!!!-Karen, M, and I just got back from an exciting two week vacation to Colorado and New Mexico.  We headed that way to escape the heat of the Plains and celebrate with Karen’s side of the family a momentous occasion, her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.  It was a great vacation because for once it was a little bit more of a relaxing vacation for us.  We got to hang out with family, see some beautiful mountain scenery and for a few moments forget about life for a while. 

After two weeks of traveling it is a amazing how good the idea of “home” starts to become, and then once we walk in the doors get a good night’s rest in our own beds reality starts to hit home and we only have 5 more months until our next bundle of joy arrives, 1 more month until I go back to teaching, and 0 days until we need to start working on the house again.  At that moment we start to ponder our next vacation so we can leave our worries behind. 

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So thank you for sticking with us and sorry that we took a two week hiatus from Plain Adventure, but we are excited to show our readers what we have been up to, plans for the future, and our dream destinations.  Like always we thank you and wish you Happy Travels!!!   

Jul 04

4th of July

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