Wednesday, October 14, 2020


Famous Sips, Bites and Sights!

 A few years ago, a good friend of mine, Timothy Miller, wanting to explore the possibility of starting his own tour company, took me and another friend on what Tim would eventually call his “Land of Lincoln” tour. Without a doubt, it was one of the best tours I have ever taken! Basically, I was treated to a private tour by one of the best tour guides in the business. Not only did we laugh nonstop, and eat all the pie we could get our hands on, but I was emotionally moved by the experience of exploring Lincoln’s life from birth to death.

We all met up in Louisville, eager to take in this iconic city noted for the Kentucky Derby, baseball and Bourbon!  Tim had arranged for us to take a sightseeing tour of the city, but not just any tour but one that I rave about to this day!  Little did I know we were going to spend the next few hours having the time of our lives! The bus, hosted by two hilarious ladies, was decorated like grandma’s parlor with lights, bunting, tablecloths and an array of bourbon bottles that would make a hillbilly cry.

Advertising themselves as having “…a completely wacky 3 ½ hour historical tour of Louisville…full of music, commentary and laughs” proved above and beyond true! We sampled local foods like pecan pie and all manner of southern tasty treats in between stops and we stopped often! We toured a bourbon shop, a chocolate shop, historic downtown, several streets of Louisville’s Victorian mansions and finally ending up at Churchill Downs—all the while sampling every whiskey Kentucky ever made! At the end of the tour we were feeling no pain and our insides were exhausted from laughing! Honestly, if you have the remotest chance of being anywhere in Louisville’s vicinity, book this tour. You will never regret it! 

Candy is Dandy!

First stop on the tour was for candy! This confectionary store
 has been in business continuously since 1891!

A Sweet Business!
Schimpff's Confectionary, Jeffersonville, Indiana

Back on the bus for another sample of boubon...!
Tim and his favorite fire water!

Boubon shop…more whiskey…more food dipped in whiskey…

And, that's a Big A** bottle of booze!!

On to the Chocolatier...and more bourbon...and pie!

Louisville's Victorian mansions

Some of the GORGEOUS Victorian homes in historic Louisville! Lucky for us we got to walk around to fully experience this lovely street and park while enjoying the cool, fall air. It was a rainy and overcast day, but we didn't mind a bit!

These are just some of the many lovely homes on this idyllic street!

Downtown Louisville 

A real treat is visiting the Louisville Slugger Museum and its GIGANTIC bat!
(photo courtesy of the Museum)

Many of Louisville's original buildings have been lovingly restored! Scrolled ironwork is a signature Victorian ornamentation on the buildings.

Preserving the beautiful historic facades of Louisville!

Churchill Downs 

"Race? What race, was there a race…?" Our last stop of the day was Churchill Downs and needless to say we were feeling no pain! It had gotten quite rainy, but we could have cared less especially when we learned we were just in time to see a real horse race! I knew that this would be a once in a lifetime experience for me and I was on cloud 9! What a fantastic day!

He didn't win but hey! the track was wet!

The Three Amigos!
Timothy, Thomas and me, always searching for a decent cup of coffee and another
slice of pie!!

Next time:  On to the Land of Lincoln!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020



The house still has many of Beatrix Potter's furnishings.


The Lake District is where London born Beatrix Potter (author of classic children’s books like “Peter Rabbit”) considered home.  Beatrix and her family started vacationing in the area when she was sixteen and fell in love with it.  Over her lifetime, this breathtaking landscape became not only her home but her passion.  She used the proceeds from her books to eventually buy fifteen farms and over 4,000 acres of land that she willed to the National Trust to be preserved for all time. Beatrix understood the importance of preserving the culture as well as the natural beauty. And my tour group and I were going to have lunch at one of her farms.

Gently tucked into grassy hills and framed by stack stone fences sits the 330 year old farm house and barn of Yew Tree Farms.  Used in the movie “Miss Potter” starring Renee Zellweger as her actual home in Hill Top, it is both a working sheep farm and heritage site. Shortly after we arrived, we were welcomed by Caroline and Jon Watson, the current owners, and ushered into the intimate dining room made cozy by the low timbered ceiling and a blazing fire in the fireplace.  No sooner had we sat down when great platters of hearty peasant bread were passed from hand to hand followed by steaming tureens of homemade squash soup. Toasting my backside by the fire, having second and third helpings of the best food I can remember eating and watching the rain fall on a landscape that looked like a painting in the National Museum, I could have stayed there forever.  However, there was another treat for us in store outside.

View from the dining room

Driveway into the Yew Tree Farms

We had to brave a rather serious downpour as Jon, in his role as sheep herder, and his dogs demonstrated how they worked together to herd his flock of Herdwick sheep.  It was such a beautiful setting that I wished it could have been a nicer day, but Jon and the sheep didn’t seem to mind, just taking the cold wet weather in stride.  I think it was Brenda, one of the more observant in our group, who wondered why it was that wool shrunk so drastically when washed when you’d think it would have already been preshrunk on a sheep’s back.  Yes, Brenda.  Why is that?

Jon Watson and his sheep dogs in front of the barn

It was very hard to leave Yew Tree Farms.  I could have so easily unpacked my bags, ordered tea and settled in for a long, long time.  But, reluctantly we boarded the bus and Davie, our driver, very carefully maneuvered our massive coach through tiny country lanes back to the main road and drove on to our hotel in Shap.   On the way, we passed the town of “Giggleswick” and I wondered if it had been named by the same guy who named “Birdlip” in southern England!

One of my favorite movies is "Miss Potter" with Renee Zellweger. Many 
outdoor scenes were shot in front of Miss Potter's door!

(Originally posted in 2012)
by Barbara Champlin

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Remembering Robert E. Moran (1939-1966) Adventurer, Explorer, Physicist, Educator, Film Maker


Memories of Bob Moran

Bob Moran was my kind of guy—a fearless adventurer and explorer who traveled the globe making films about a world less known. He was a scientist and an educator, and above all, a consummate dare devil taking risks most of us would have nightmares about. Until one day, he pushed fate too far…

With all Bob's accomplishments, nothing compared to the passion he had for adventure and exploration. A risk taker to the extreme, he had lived with head hunters in Borneo and gone river rafting on dangerous rapids on an unexplored portion of river in Guatemala. He rode elephants in Africa and Arabian stallions in Syria. He was quoted as saying, “I borrowed a horse from a Bedouin sheikh and visited Bedouin villages and tents camps. I traveled by horse, camel and foot, both alone and with Bedouin tribesmen. Every time I met a sheikh, I was given an Arab head gear. Offers of other gifts and hospitality were overwhelming.” He filmed his adventures having many broadcast on national TV.

His day job was as Curator of the Atmospherium- Planetarium on the campus of the University of Nevada in Reno. However, he was well on his way establishing a new career making adventure films. He made several that were shown on Bing Crosby's show, "Across the Seven Seas". One was entitled "Solo Safari" about his safari and Syrian trip. Another of his films featured his trip with several anthropologists and other scientists to search for ancient Mayan Culture. Entitled, "The Run of the Rio Grijalva". 


My first memories of him was as Stephen Douglas in “The Rivalry”, a two man play about the Lincoln/Douglas debates performed at the University of Nevada, Reno theater. Ruggedly handsome he commanded the stage, however his star power with me lay in the fact that acting was just a pastime; science was his occupation. As Curator of UNR’s Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium, he lectured about the wonders of the universe at the spectacular new facility built on the University campus. And when he gave lectures about his adventures, showing his films, I attended them all. To me, Bob had all the charisma of a movie star.

He asked me out a few times but I was so starstruck I can’t remember anything we said to each other. I just remember a quiet yet kind man more intent on listening than talking.  I was 21 and a Senior in college, and he was a 34 year old man of the world. His interest in me was puzzling to say the least. In retrospect I guess as a man who liked to live on the edge, his choice of women shouldn’t have been a surprise. They were certifiable beauties; he chalked up beauty queens like trophies. Me, I had been a beauty queen of sorts; I was runner-up one year in the Miss Nevada contest and had a reputation as a skilled actress and director winning accolades in the Theater Department. Most likely my appeal was that whenever I saw him, I lit up like a New England lighthouse on a dark night. 

Bob was frequently out of town and my life went on. I met a man in the later part of my Senior year, he proposed, I accepted and then Bob came knocking at my apartment door. He looked like he just stepped out of the jungle, tanned, sweaty and (I think) still wearing his bush hat! My fiancé was there and introducing them was the hardest thing I have ever done. I desperately wanted to give back my new ring and call off the wedding. But, I didn’t.  It was too late. What I will never forget is the look of disappointment and confusion on Bob's face. It was almost as if he had expected and wanted me to wait for him. At that moment, I wish I had.

Two years later, Bob was dead.

My husband and I lived in Las Vegas by then. I worked as a full time model for Cleopatra’s Dress shop in Caesar’s Palace and my job was to stroll through the coffee shops and lounges modeling clothing from the shop. I started chatting with a couple I met and when I found out were from Reno I asked them if they knew Bob Moran. I was stunned when they told me he had been murdered on his second expedition into the heart of Guatemala. Guatemala had been in a violent civil war for several years and Bob had gone into the very center of the fighting. Why?? Why had he risked his life like that? Was it because two years earlier he and his expedition had had no problems when they had been in the same general area? He clearly died doing what he loved, what he lived for, but too young...too young.

His memory haunts me still. Perhaps it is because there were dreams that were never finished, hopes that didn’t dare, things unsaid, undone. He wanted to write the story of his life but died too soon. He still wants to be known. He wants to be remembered and he wants me to tell what I know.

I’ve done my best, Bob. You will never be forgotten.


Who he was and who he aspired to be…

Robert Ernest Moran was a true Renaissance man. Trained as a physicist, he was also an explorer, an adventurer, an educator and a filmmaker. A natural leader, he commanded any room with his quiet confidence. But, it was his kind spirit that was most appreciated by those who knew him.

He was born in Jamestown, N.Y. on September 21, 1939 to Jocelyn (aka Jeane) and Robert E. Moran. His only sibling was Michael J. Moran. It is unknown when Bob came to Reno, Nevada. Records show he attended the University of Nevada at Reno, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science. He was a member of the fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa, and frequently acted in plays both as an undergraduate and as a graduate, receiving good reviews. He continued his education at UNR and earned a Masters Degree in Physics. He then served as Curator of the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium at the newly built facility on the UNR campus until 1964 when he left to continue a new career as an adventure filmmaker. He was also elected President of the Reno chapter of the Astronomical Society. His military experience was as a Lieutenant in the US Naval Reserve.

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His passion for adventure and film making, always pushing fate to the edge, sadly cost him his life. His second expedition into the depths of Guatemala in 1966 resulted in his death. From 1960 through to 1966, there had raged a violent and bloody civil war killing over 200,000 men, women and children.  Bob had been lucky with his first trip into this dangerous place two years earlier. Why would he chance going back into that area again will never be known. Perhaps he thought his good luck would hold, but it didn’t. He was brutally murdered around September 19, 1966 in Rio Hondo, Zacapa—the very center of the conflict. He was just a few days away from his 38th birthday.

His body was sent to his mother who buried him in Reno, a place he had called home. His gravestone reads simply:  Lt. USNR/ A New Land to Explore.

Saturday, April 18, 2020


The biggest collection of hot air balloons in the world congregates in Albuquerque, New Mexico! In October over 500 hot air balloons compete to be the best, the wildest and the most amusing shapes imaginable. It is a must see!

One of the best times I've had recently was attending the International Balloon Fiesta last October. My best friends and travel buddies, Kay and Tom, who live in Albuquerque, invited my family and I to stay with them for a few days during the festival. Now, I can't stress just how big of a deal this was! Hotel rooms for this event are booked months in advance as well as airline tickets etc., and the cost of going can get very prohibitive.  So, this was a dream experience for us especially for my daughter-in-law, Pam, a passionate balloon enthusiast, who thought she would never be able to afford to go. True angels, Kay and Tom provided not only first class accommodations (they have a lovely home) rides and meals, but the pleasure of their company so that we could enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

The festival takes place in Balloon Fiesta Park, located in the north side of Albuquerque with hundreds of thousands of people attending so just getting everyone there is a logistical feat of huge proportions! But, the city of Albuquerque has it down to a science, with hundreds of volunteers working together like pros transporting people to and from the event. Every day Kay drove us to a central pickup area in a nearby shopping center. From there we caught one of the hundreds of buses continually going back and forth to Fiesta Park. We bought our tickets in advance on line, which was a huge time saver, but be prepared for the extra time it takes to get there.

The first evening, we walked for miles through hundreds of balloons watching the process of them being unfolded, to the burners slowly filling them with hot air and slowly rising to an upright position where they were kept tightly tethered. The wind was too high to release them that night.

The bees are three separate balloons linked together. They were my favorites!

The activities of the Fesitval include a fun event each day and/or evening and as you might imagine it is all a photographers dream! Pam took at least 1,000 pictures and I stopped counting mine. As night falls and the gas flames light them from within, it becomes magical!

As we walked through them, it felt like Christmas; the beauty and cleverness of each balloon was delightful. What a wonderful gift this was to have this experience!

The next morning, we were there to see them lift off!

The view from Kay and Tom's back yard!

The Balloon Museum is nearby and is well worth seeing!

On September 19, 1783 Pilarte De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called "Aerostat Reveillon". The passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground.

Daughters Audrey and Pam
Thank you, Pam, for the use of many of your photos!