First Railroad

I was re – reading the book “The Little Engine That Could” and wondered when and where the first railroad was built. It turns out to be in Wales, in 1804. Trains originally ran on steam, which required coal or wood to heat large tanks of water. Today, many railroads run on electricity, including the high speed rail lines across Japan, China and Europe, and the light rail commuter lines in the big cities of the United States. The railroad was a new industry with a language all its own. “We are on the ground” means the train derailed, and “highball it out of here” was slang for traveling at the maximum allowable speed. I found another fun fact – the Chesapeake and Ohio railway used a kitten as a mascot for their advertising, and called him Chessie. A book of his adventures was written about Chessie and his friend Peake. I wish someone would write about me! Purrs, Gulliver

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Old Palace, Seoul, Korea

After going to the mud festival in Boryeong, South Korea, I scampered over to the capital, Seoul to visit some tourist sites.  There are not one, but 5 palaces in the capital city. The oldest is Gyeongbokgung Palace (Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven) which has 7, 700 rooms in over 500 buildings.  So a palace is not just a large home for royalty, but a place that has government offices, meeting halls, and even museums.  I could not see the whole place, but I was very impressed with the folk museum which shows how people dressed and worked many years ago.  One thing that has not changed is the national dish, kimchi, though there are many recipes. Vegetables and spices which have been fermented for months, it is spicy and sour tasting!   Purrs, Gulliver

Gyeongbokgung Palace

China

Most historians think the name China comes from “Qin”, which sounds like “Chin” Qin Shi Huang made himself the “First Emperor” and standardized the Chinese language, measurements, and currency. Emperor Qin ruled only fifteen years. During that time the Emperor had clay (terracotta) sculptures made of his army to protect the Emperor after he died. These figures were not found until 2000 years after they were buried. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Historians estimate there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, all individually made. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found including officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians. Purrs, Gulliver

Scan816 xian horse and rider

You Have Served Us Well: The Pony Express

Another great trip back into time.

Map of Time | A Trip Into the Past

Old photo of Waddell, Majors and Russell, foun... Waddell, Majors and Russell, founders of the Pony Express Courtesy Wikipedia

“The mail must go through!” That was their motto and for the most part that’s the way things were. Pony Express riders and station managers braved not only tough weather, but also unfriendly Indians and bandits. So how did the Pony Express come about? Why was it so short lived, having only lasted a year and a half? And even better yet…What was the Pony Express?!

In 1848 the discovery of gold in California brought thousands to the West Coast. People flocked from all over the world, eager to make their fortune. But postal service was primitive. One could send a letter via stagecoach, ship or by stranger (with the latter you would cross your fingers and hope the letter got to its destination). By coach the letter would usually take about a month to get the receiver. Coaches…

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Achoo

Achoo! I caught a cold while traveling, and now my nose is all stuffed up. Did you know sneezes travel about 100 miles an hour and can send 10,000 germs into the air? Sneezes protect your body by clearing the nose of bacteria and viruses Old beliefs about sneezing are that if a person sneezes, company is coming over, but if a cat sneezes it is going to rain.

Never try to stop a sneeze, because it can hurt your body. It is rare but injuries can include broken blood vessels in the eyes or broken ear drums. Your teacher or another adult can tell you the best way to sneeze if you don’t have a tissue ready. Purrs, Gulliver

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An Irish Birthday

Would you like a cuppa? A cuppa what? Why a cup of tea, of course! The Irish drink an average of 1,184 cups per person per year. Tea in the morning, noon and night, for any reason or none at all. And always black tea, never green or herbal. A good thing I like tea. My host family speak both English and Irish (Gaelic), and it is fun to listen to them sing Irish songs together accompanied by a Celtic harp. They are celebrating my friend Shelagh’s birthday – she just turned 10. Her father treated her to an old custom by turning her upside down, and holding her by the ankles, gently bumped her head on the floor 11 times for good luck. They then told me of another old custom. Farmers would often have the family pig live in the house like a pet. The pig was called “the gentleman who pays rent” because at the end of his stay he became sausage, bacon and pork chops which were sold at market! Purrs, Gulliver

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Morro Bay

 

 LAND HO! We were sailing off the coast of California when we spotted this rock sitting in water near the shore. We landed on a sandy beach nearby, and found out that we were looking at the “Gibraltar of the Pacific”, (Gibraltar is another famous rock off the southern coast of Spain). Morro Rock is the plug or lump of rock in the neck of a volcano- long extinct, thank goodness. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo named the rock “El Morro” in 1543. In Spanish “Morro” means crown shaped hill. Morro Rock is the last peak of the Nine Sisters rocks in the area- volcanoes that exploded 20 million years ago. Purrs, Gulliver.

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Up, Up and Away!

Up, up and away! I went to the Albuquerque, New Mexico balloon festival and to ride in a balloon! Not the kind you buy at the store, but a giant kind that can hold 4-6 people in the basket. The balloon part is called an envelope, and the basket beneath it is called a gondola. Hot air fills the envelope, and before long we were drifting through the quiet air, looking at the people and scenery below. Most balloons launch in the early morning, when there is little wind so landing is not as bumpy. A chase crew follows the balloon and picks up the people and equipment when the balloon lands. After my ride, there was a balloon fiesta where 600 balloons went sailing through the air at the same time, creating a rainbow of colors in the blue sky. Purrs, Gulliver

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Ghost towns

“Are there really ghosts in ghost towns?” My friend Scamp was worried as we prowled around the abandoned buildings.  No silly, it just means the town has been abandoned. It happens when a natural disaster happens such as drought or floods.  A war could drive people from an area, or maybe the main business of the town like a mine or manufacturing plant closes.  Sometimes a train will stop providing service or a freeway will change the traffic flow and leave a town isolated.  The term was popularized when the California Gold Rush of 1849 ended, but there are ghost towns all over the world.  Some have been preserved and have become tourist attractions or movie sets. Others have slowly drawn people back to live and work in the area.  No need to be a “fraidy cat”, Scamp, we won’t be ghost hunting today.     Purrs, Gulliver

Mt. Ghost town

Idaho

After our tour of the State House, there was time for questions.  One of the first things I learned was the building is heated by underground hot springs which come from deep in the earth. Idaho is an interesting state with lots of mountains and rivers. We found out that if all the mountains were flattened out, Idaho could be the size of Texas.  Idaho is famous for its potatoes, it grows about 20 percent of the nation’s crop, and about 50 percent of McDonald’s french-fries come from Idaho potatoes.

Everyone wanted to know what the word Idaho means.  It is actually a made up word! People in Colorado tried the name out first for their territory, but didn’t like it.  Then it was used by miners looking for gold in the territory and it stuck.  Idaho became a territory in 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the bill, then a it became a state in 1890. In 27 years the Idaho Territory had 16 governors, four who never set foot in Idaho!  Maybe that was why so many silly laws were passed, because no one was there to say no to the voters.   Purrs, Gulliver

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