Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vacation Blog Contest Winner!

It's time to announce the winner of my Vacation Blog Contest! But first, my thanks to all of you who stopped in and followed me on my travels. I'm, for the most, recovered, although I feel way behind on everything now. But it was so worth it! I hope you enjoyed traveling with me as much as I enjoyed having you along! It was fun to share my adventures.

Now for the winner!

Congratulations to Estella! Estella had posted nine times giving her nine chances to win. And it paid off. My son picked one of your numbers from the hat. Woo-Hoo!

Estella, please e-mail me privately at sherryjames@hamilton.net with your name and address and I'll get your T-shirt out to you.

Again, my thanks to all of you who visited, and posted comments. Keep on stopping by my blog, you never know what I'll be doing next!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Match the Silks with the Horse! Earn extra Chance!

Here's a little trivia for you. Match the following silks with the correct horse and I'll put your name in for an extra chance for the Sherry James T-Shirt! And even if you don't get all the answers right, I'll still put your name in an extra time just for trying.

All three of these horses not only won the Kentucky Derby, but went on to win the coveted Triple Crown, a feat that hasn't been accomplished for 31 years. They also helped to make the 1970's a Decade of Champions in the horseracing world. So, test your horseracing I.Q., and you could come out a winner! I'll announce the winner of my Vacation Blog Contest on Monday! Good Luck, and thanks for taking the time to follow my vacation and to post!

A. Secretariat B. Affirmed C. Seattle Slew




Vacation Blog Contest Day 7--Churchill Downs Cont.

Friday found us back at Churchill Downs to finish the tour of the museum that we didn’t get to the day before. There is so much to see and read there that it takes a while to get through it all. If you are a horse lover a visit to the Kentucky Derby museum is a must. You’ll be in heaven! I was. The museum is two levels of exhibits, many of which are interactive where you can watch the actual Kentucky Derby from about every year, test your Kentucky Derby/horseracing knowledge, and see what it’s like to ride a race as a jockey. There are genuine racing silks worn by the jockeys of such greats as Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat! I again watched the film “The Greatest Race”, this time from the second floor where you can look down into the theatre. It’s shaped in an oval like a race track! Again, the film moved me to tears. It is an awesome piece of work. I wish they’d put it on DVD so I could watch again and again.

We then enjoyed an awesome lunch at the Kentucky Derby Café, and visited at length with the handler of the resident museum Thoroughbred, Prefect Drift. I shopped the Museum store where I could have made a huge dent in their inventory! But I refrained from going nuts. I purchased only one T-shirt, much to the appreciation of my credit card! We then simply hung around enjoying the atmosphere while we waited for the races to start at 6:00 PM.

And wow! What a crush. Since this was a historic night for Churchill, racing under the lights for the first time in the track’s history, they were going all out. The red carpet was rolled out and they were interviewing people, gave away a chance to win a $1,000 wager, and had live music all over the place. There were a ton of people there and it gave me a good taste of what attending the Kentucky Derby would be like. All I have to say is buy your drinks early, and keep your fingers crossed you never need to go to the restroom! The betting lines even got so long that after about three races I gave up betting and just sat and watched all of the excitement. The races themselves were very exciting. It was cool to watch them run on the turf as well as the dirt. I've seen live racing on the dirt practically all my life, but this was the first time I've seen them run live on the turf. It was fun to watch the track maintenance guys work the turf track after a race fixing all the divots left by those thundering hooves. What a job!

And that was my dream vacation! It was awesome and wonderful! I know I’d love to go back to Nashville and Churchill Downs again. I loved Graceland, wouldn’t mind going there again, too. What about you? What would be your dream vacation?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Churchill Downs Pix

So Awesome!

Vacation Blog Contest Day 6--Churchill Downs

It’s Thursday--day six of our trip. We woke to major thunderstorms. And I mean major! It rained so hard here at the hotel that we couldn’t even see the parking lot from our seventh floor window for a short time. Needless to say that delayed us leaving the hotel and making our way to Churchill Downs. Once we did get to the racetrack we quickly discovered they were without power due to the severe storms. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been waiting most of my life for this chance! I mean, I’ve been dying to come to Kentucky and see Churchill Downs since . . . well, I’m not going to give you an exact year for risk of dating myself. ;-) But I’ll give you a hint. If you know anything about horseracing you’ll know what year Affirmed won not only the Kentucky Derby, but also the Triple Crown. If you know what year that was, you’ll know how long I’ve been waiting for this chance. You know the old saying, Good Things Come to Those Who Wait? Well, that was certainly true in this case. And for me, it was worth the wait---power outage and all! I was in absolute Heaven!

While waiting for the power to be restored, we meandered around outside the Kentucky Derby museum for a little bit. We then took a trackside tour and got to see Calvin Borel, two-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey, mount up for the first race. We then took a tour of the backside. Awesome! Our guide for the backside portion of the tour was Terri, a spunky, fun gal who made the tour worth every penny. We not only got to stand within a few feet of the starting gate and see the horses break from the gate, but we got to see 2009 Kentucky Derby Winner, Mine That Bird, munching on his morning allotment of hay in his stall! Talk about a thrill. Bird’s bodyguard was on duty keeping watch with a smile on his face as Terri took pictures for all of us on the tour.

After a great lunch, we were on our way back to the museum when I saw Chip Woolley, Mine That Bird’s trainer, sitting on a bench just relaxing with a beer. I shoved aside my shyness, went up and said hello, got his autograph and a picture. He was super nice, very humble, and truly amazed at all that has transpired for him during the last few months. A true cowboy!

We then continued on with our tour of the Derby Museum. There they have a 360 degree film that you can watch of the Derby and its history, how it all starts with the birth of a foal, and the insurmountable odds of not only making it to the Derby, but winning it. It was fantastic and put me on the verge of tears. The afternoon went way too fast and due to the late start we didn’t get through everything. There are tons of exhibits to view and enjoy. Good news, we’re going back tomorrow to finish what we started! And Friday is a historic day for Churchill. It will be the first time in the track’s history that they are going to race at night and under the lights. I can’t wait to be a part of it. I’m afraid my credit card is going to be groaning by the time I get done in the museum gift shop!

Have you ever watched the Kentucky Derby on TV or live at the track? A racing fan or not, you can’t deny it’s the most exciting two minutes in sports history! Let me hear from you and get your name in the hat for that amazing Sherry James T-shirt!!!

More Ryman Pix to Enjoy

Vacation Blog Contest Day 5--More Nashville

Well, we made it to Louisville, KY! We got here late afternoon on Wednesday. My apologies for not posting this sooner. I was feeling pretty wiped out and then we had to go through yet another thunderstorm here so that has delayed my getting online. Seems like everywhere we go the storms go with us. Wednesday afternoon, while traveling on I-65, we got caught in a downpour and a little bit of hail. Needless to say, we got off at the nearest exit.

But before all that we had a great time touring the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. If you’re a Country Music fan you’ll know that the Ryman is called the Mother Church of Country Music and was home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 – 1974. The Ryman is truly an amazing place steeped in history. The acoustics are out of this world, but just knowing who all has performed on that stage is truly mind blowing. The list of names is endless---Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Steve Wariner, Chet Atkins, Sheryl Crow, James Brown, Keith Urban and on, and on. Even Rudolf Valentino and Mae West performed on that historic stage.

Because they were getting ready for a performance we weren’t able to walk on stage, so I did the next best thing. I placed my hand on those well-worn boards and snapped a picture! Ain’t I silly?!

They had some really cool exhibits and it was fun to see Minnie Pearl’s hat with her trademark $1.98 price tag dangling off the brim. I also saw a pair of Johnny Cash’s tall black boots. Johnny was one big man!

Have you been to the Ryman? Do you have a favorite Country star?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vacation Blog Contest Day 4 Cont.--Nashville

Okay, I can't resist putting up one more post tonight. As some of you might know, I'm a huge Country music fan, so a trip to Nashville wouldn't be complete without checking out the music this town is so famous for. Our hotel is on Broadway, where a lot of music action happens in Nashville, so we walked four blocks down the street to where the CMT Music Video Awards were being held. We decided to check things out and found a crowd of people standing and waiting to catch a glimpse of the stars. We got there in time to catch two! Naomi Judd was beautiful---as usual---in her blue dress. Then, we got a real treat when Keith Urban came strolling along. Keith stopped and greated fans and signed autographs! Although I didn't get an autograph, I got some great pix! How cool.

After the awards show, it was neat to see all the long, black limos lined up along the street ready to whisk their famous passengers off into the night! I love Nashville!

How about you? Ever been to Nashville? Or do you have a favorite Country star? I was hoping to see my buddy Dierks Bentley, but no such luck. Maybe next time!

Belle Meade Plantation Photos

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vaction Blog Contest Day 4--Plantations

Day four found us down the road and headed toward Nashville. But, we decided to take in some more history and visit a couple of plantations along the way. Our first stop was the historic Carnton Plantation, home of the New York bestseller, The Widow of the South, which is in my TBR pile! That was one of several reasons I wanted to visit Carnton. Again, like Shiloh, this place is steeped in history, and the magnitude of what happened here is unbelievable. In the intense heat and Tennessee humidity we learned that Carnton was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Franklin in late November 1864. Here, five hours of one of the bloodiest battles of the war was fought in complete darkness. Blood still stains the wooden floor boards on the second floor of the mansion from the 300 wounded and dying soldiers who occupied the house during and after the battle. We visited with a guy who used to live in the Franklin area and he said, one time he’d made a late night visit to the Confederate cemetery located on the property. He swore he saw the ghosts of many Confederates there! Oh, so many stories to write, so little time!

We then found our way to Belle Meade plantation just a few miles from the excitement of Nashville. This house is huge, and oh, so beautiful! And so is the carriage house. This plantation was known for its race horses and about 80% of all Thoroughbreds today are descended from the famous sires who once stood there---including two horses I own. Fortunately, Nashville and Belle Meade didn’t come under fire during the years of the Civil War, so they were spared the devastation.

A few years ago I visited Oak Alley plantation in Louisiana. All three of these historic sites are immaculately preserved and if you love history, a must-see! They are so beautiful that it is easy to imagine the ladies of the era strolling the large porches in their hoop skirts and flowing gowns.

Have you read The Widow of the South by chance? When I get home, it’s moving up in my TBR pile!

Vaction Blog Contest--Extra Pix from Shiloh

Vaction Blog Contest Day 3--Memphis & Shiloh

It was a full day today! After checking out of the Heartbreak Hotel, we headed for downtown Memphis to see Mud Island and Beale St. Unfortunately, Mud Island is closed on Mondays so we took a quick look at the riverboats before we headed down to Beale St. Beale was neat, and of course, full of history. It’s kind of amazing to think of all the famous people who have walked those sidewalks! Including Casey and Alex from Studs for Hire: Woman in Charge! Alex and Casey might not be famous, but they were there and experienced the night life of Memphis. We discovered that on Monday mornings Beale is rather quiet. If you’d like the chance to really explore the street and take your time, go on a hot, sultry Monday morning in June! After a great lunch at B.B. King’s, where we had fried dill pickles—which were awesome btw—we took off for Shiloh Battlefield.

We arrived at Shiloh at about 5 PM. Although we were too late to take in the bookstore and visitor’s center, going late in the day was an awesome experience. The temperatures had cooled, making walking the grounds much more pleasant. In spite of the tragedy of the Civil War unfolding here, this place is absolutely beautiful. The grounds are meticulously kept, and the abundance of trees make you feel very isolated. Again, there were very few people there, and at times we found ourselves totally alone walking the hallowed grounds where over 22,000 men fought 147 years ago.

It wasn’t long after we were there that thunder clouds started to build and darkened the area. The distant rumble of thunder created an eeriness and I imagined that rumble as cannon fire echoing through the dense trees of April 6 & 7th of 1862. It’s incredible they were able to fight a battle here and accomplish a thing because of the massive denseness of the trees. As we drove the van and toured the long trail around the battlefield, we at times, felt very disoriented due to no sun and the thickness of the trees. There are stone and metal markers all over the place marking the locations of all the regiments, headquarters, and events of the battle. Cannons lined up and ready for battle can be seen throughout the grounds—some pointing directly into the trees.

Soon we were driving through a downpour. At times I almost felt a sense of panic, wondering if we were going to be able to find our way out of the park. We were getting close to the end of trail when a critter ran out in front of us! And by golly that critter was a live Armadillo! Finally, after years of traveling through Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas and only seeing Armadillos as road kill on the roadsides, I finally got to see a live one. It seems kind of ironic that I see a live one at a place that saw so much death.

Shiloh was truly an amazing place. I didn’t see any ghosts, but I certainly did imagine the thousands of soldiers filling this place. Although those soldiers might not physically be there, you can feel a strong presence, and the magnitude of what transpired here blows you away. So much so that right now I’m at a loss for words to describe my feelings.

Have you ever visited a Civil War battlefield? If so, what feelings did you walk away with?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vacation Blog Contest Day 2--Graceland

Wow! What a great day we had. We arrived at Graceland at about 9:30 this AM with rainy skies hanging over us, but it turned out to be a beautiful, although a bit sultry, day, and a great day to take pix outside. I splurged on the VIP Entourage tour and I’m so glad I did. It was sooo worth it. It gave us access to almost everything and it was nice to tour the mansion a second time. The first time through felt kind of rushed and crowded, so going back later in the afternoon gave us a chance to see the things we missed the first round, plus do it at a leisurely pace.

I have to admit when I wrote Studs for Hire: Woman in Charge, I hadn’t ever toured Graceland. I wanted to come, but my dad’s illness, and a super tight deadline, didn’t allow me the pleasure. So, to get all the details right for Alex and Casey’s trip here, I had to do a lot of research. Thank goodness for the internet, books, and DVD’s! And thanks to my good friends Kathy and Noelle who shared with me their personal photos and experiences.

Well, after touring today, I’m happy to say I got it right. And it was fun to think of Alex and Casey and the various scenes where they see the lions at the front of the house for the first time, or when Casey looks up at Elvis’ bedroom window with a feeling that maybe Elvis is watching. I feel I did a good job of nailing their reactions and thoughts about Elvis and Graceland while they took the VIP tour. The mansion is really cool, the grounds are beautiful, and the meditation garden very peaceful and soulful. And the staff was super nice and very personable.

One of my big highlights of the day was meeting Elvis impersonator Mark Eskew. We just happened to run into him in the car museum. He was very nice, but it took me a while to work up the courage to ask for a photo. He graciously obliged and I just love it! Thanks, Mark! Then later we even ran into Mark at Walgreens and said howdy again!

I loved the famous musical gates, although they seem much smaller than I expected, and I even signed the wall! I took a total of 183 pix and went through three sets of batteries. I wasn’t leaving anything to chance! We felt like we walked 10 miles by the time we headed back to our hotel. And guess which hotel? If you read Woman in Charge you’ll remember that Alex and Casey stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel. Yep, that’s where we are! Once again I splurged by getting a suite for us. Not one of the themed suites mind you, but a nice suite where I’m lounging on the couch as I write this. I did have an Elvis movie on the TV, but hubby switched the channel after Double Trouble was over, apparently he needed a break from Elvis after being emerged in the King for eight hours. What’s up with that?

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. I could easily go on, and on, and on, but I won’t bore you. So, have you ever been to Graceland? What was your favorite part? And if you read Woman in Charge, do you have a favorite scene? Remember, every time you post this week, your name goes into the drawing for a Sherry James T-Shirt!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vacation Blog Contest Day 1--On The Road!

Okay, this is going to be a short post to kick off my blog contest. I'm exhausted! I got to bed way too late last night, was up way too early this AM, and during the 4 1/2 hours I was in bed, I slept maybe two. Figures. It seems it never fails that just before a trip I can't get to bed at a decent hour. Guess the house was just too quiet with the kids and dogs shipped off to the grandparents and my brother's! Well, and then I had to finish picking up around the house and vacuuming! Sorry, I can't help it. I don't like leaving a dirty house when I go out of town. It’s kind of like the wearing clean underwear thing.

But it was a great day for traveling. We left Nebraska and headed down the road for Memphis just shortly after 7 AM. We slipped through the SW corner of Iowa and then spent the majority of the day driving through scenic and beautiful Missouri and Arkansas. We made it to West Memphis at nine something this evening. Yea! My backside fell asleep numerous times, and I was stiff, but it was nothing that making a periodic pit stop didn’t cure. ;-)

I really enjoyed driving through MO & AK. Both are just gorgeous this time of year with all the trees fully leafed out and an abundance of wildflowers blooming along the roadsides. Flowers, however, weren't the only things in abundance along the Interstates and Highways! Roadkill was everywhere. We saw more deer, coyotes, armadillos, coons, skunks and opossums littering the scenic byways than I could begin to count. I told my hubby that instead of noting licenses plates along the way, we should have been counting the number of roadkill! I think the deer won for the most who’d met their demise while the armadillo was coming in a close second.

Do you play travel games when you’re taking a long road trip? If so, what? Hopefully not roadkill! :-)

Remember, each time you post, your name gets put into the hat for a T-shirt!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vacation Blog Contest Coming!

I'm taking a vacation! Woo-hoo! My hubby and I are taking a trip!!! Yes, just the two of us. We're celebrating our anniversary a little early this year due to the fact it's in October and the kids' school schedules make it tough to sneak away then.

For years we've been wanting to travel down to Tennessee and Kentucky. After all these years we're taking the plunge and just going. Can't wait! If you follow my blog or web site at all you know I'm a big Country Music fan, a horse lover, and love to explore and do research.

So, travel along with me as we visit Memphis--Graceland, Shiloh Battlefield, Nashville, Louisville--Churchill Downs, and any horse farm that will let me set foot on its coveted grounds! I'm sure we'll find some other fun and interesting sites along the way, too.

Each day, starting Sunday, June 14th and running through Friday, June 19th, I'll be posting about our adventures for the day. If you post a comment on my blog I'll put your name in the hat for a Sherry James T-Shirt. That's right, an authentic, rare, first-run Sherry James T-shirt! Heck! I'll even autograph it! Post all six days and you'll get your name in the drawing six times. The more you post, the more you increase your chances of winning!

So, join me on vaction! I hope to see you down the road!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Finishing a book!

Hey, just a quick note as the the next couple of days will be super busy. I'm getting close to finishing my latest book. It's another novella with the working title of The Cowboy and the Hellcat! This time I ventured back to my first love, historical romance. It's a western set in the Nebraska territory during the winter of 1860. Keep your fingers crossed it gets accepted. I'll keep you posted.

BTW, next weekend the hubby and I are leaving on vaction for Memphis, Nashville, and Lousiville, KY. I can't wait. It's a solo trip for us two. The kids are staying with grandparents! I'm sooo looking forward to having some down time and seeing new places. I hope to blog along the way and post some pix for your enjoyment.

Time to get the kiddies to bed.