Abe Lincoln’s roots are in rural Kentucky

A bronze statue of Lincoln sits in the middle of downtown Hodgenville, Ky., and is older than the national Lincoln momument in Washington D.C.

Bronze statue shows Lincoln as a boy sitting on a log reading. A model depicts what the exterior of the Lincoln family cabin looked like at Knob Creek. A bronze statue of baby Abraham Lincoln in his mother’s arms along with his father and sister is in the visitors center at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

The first Lincoln Memorial sits in the rolling green hills of rural Kentucky in the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

In the Lincoln Museum in downtown Hodgenville, Ky., the upper floor displays artwork and paintings of the Lincoln era, including this quilt.

This nearly life-size diorama of the Lincoln-Douglas debates is in the Lincoln Museum in downtown Hodgenville.

A diorama of Lincoln being sworn in for his second presidential term in 1865 is in the Lincoln Museum.

Illinois isn’t the only state claiming 16th president as favorite son
Growing up in the Chicago area, I attended Lincoln Junior High, went on my high school’s traditional trip to tour Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Ill., and every day saw Illinois license plates reading “Land of Lincoln.”
 So I was surprised to learn on a recent trip to Louisville that America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was born in Kentucky and that state also claims him as a favorite son.


In the Shadows of the Blue Ridge Parkway

A bluegrass quartet performs in the parlor of the Homeplace_Restaurant. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

The Mabry Mill, south of Roanoke, started life as a blacksmith’s shop in 1905; later, water from the river powered gristmill and sawmill operations. Now, the mill draws tourists and photographers year-round, and in peak seasons the National Park Service hosts crafting and food-preservation demonstrations.

Not only does Center in the Square house historical and cultural exhibits, it offers a state-of-the-art science museum with collections from all over the world -- and beyond. We were fortunate enough to visit during the government shutdown, when Roanoke’s Butterfly House was caring for the Smithsonian’s collection, including this swallowtail.

As the largest Virginia city along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Roanoke is the gateway to the sights along the way as well has being a good destination on its own merits.
Whatever direction you go from Roanoke, you can find beautiful mountain views, woods, wineries, outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and camping, historic sites, and in Roanoke, interesting museums and good food.


Horses, bourbon and historic neighborhoods featured in Louisville

The historic Belle of Louisville still takes visitors from downtown Louisville up the Ohio River. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

Mint juleps are served at the Brown Hotel.

This 30-foot-tall gold statue of Michelangelo’s David stands in front of the 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville.

Elizabeth Kizito sells her popular cookies as well as a variety of African gifts.

Samples of handmade chocolate truffle bourbon balls were served at Art Edibles.

Glasses of bourbon mixed with champagne are lined up on the bar at the Seelbach Hotel.

This model of the famous Secretariat, 1973 Triple Crown champion, sits in the Kentucky Derby Museum.

Every May when I listen to the familiar strains of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses line up for the world-famous Kentucky Derby and see the women in the stands wearing wide-brimmed hats, I’m intrigued.
So soon after the Derby, I went to Louisville, home of the famous Churchill Downs, a National Historic Landmark where 1,200 horses are stabled, for a tour and a few races, which were fun even without the huge crowds. Visitors can eat, drink a traditional mint julep, make bets, cheer from the stands, walk around the well-groomed grounds for a close-up view of the sleek thoroughbreds and diminutive jockeys, and visit the Kentucky Derby Museum. Additional races are held in the late spring/early summer and in the fall.


Should you rent a vacation home or stay in a hotel?

re you planning a trip in the coming months? If so, you’re among the 59 percent of Americans who expect to go on a summer vacation, according to an American Express survey.
But your time away won’t come cheap: The survey found people expect to spend just less than $1,200 per person for their holidays.
One of the highest costs you’ll pay will likely be for your hotel room. There are other options available, according to the Minnesota Society of CPAs, but be aware of the pitfalls associated with some of them.


Galena: ‘A town frozen in time’

Chestnut Mountain Resort outside Galena overlooks the Mississippi River. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

Red brick buildings from the 1880s line Main Street in Galena, Ill.

Eagle Ridge Resort in the Galena area serves a colorful luncheon.

Statues in the Rock Island Arsenal Park copy figures in French painter Georges Seurat’s famous “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

Council Hill Station, an old railroad stop popular in the 1880s, has re-opened the general store for visitors.

At Rocky Waters Vineyards and Winery, owner Jared Spahn pours a sample of wine.

President Ulysses S. Grant’s office is one room on the tour of his home in Galena.

John Deere farm equipment on is on display at the world headquarters in Moline.

Tugboats push river barges through Lock and Dam No. 15 on the Mississippi River at Davenport, Iowa.

Statues in the Rock Island Arsenal Park copy figures in French painter Georges Seurat’s famous “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

White-columned antebellum mansions, President Ulysses S. Grant’s home, a historic hotel, unique shops and history lessons as well as plenty of outdoor activities along the river are popular in Galena, Ill.
The old red brick buildings that line both sides of Main Street are frozen in the mid-1800s in this former riverboat city and steamboat capital of the Upper Midwest.
Back then, great numbers of steamboats came up the Mississippi River and its tributary, the Galena River, with a variety of goods and returned with lead from the mines.
Wealthy steamboat captains built mansions on the hills overlooking the river. Many are now B&Bs. Visitors can take trolley or walking tours past many of these historic homes and churches.


Explore your options for travel insurance

The summer travel season is in full swing and countless Minnesotans will be traveling across the country and around the world in the next few months.  
Some consumers will be debating about whether to purchase travel insurance for their summer vacations. The Minnesota Department of Commerce wants consumers to know that travel insurance is not required to travel; however, it may benefit some consumers but not all.


Make summer vacation happy with simple safety tips

Summer is officially underway and if you’re planning on traveling in the next few weeks, you’ll have a lot of company. The Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Statistics reports that in recent years, Americans have taken around 650 million long distance summer trips between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. And the average summer long-distance trip is 284 miles one-way.


Raise a pint to Grand Rapids’ lesser-known culture: HOPS

Founders Brewing Company serves a variety of its beers in this family-friendly (until 9 p.m.) tap room. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

Founders serves up a rich, creamy oatmeal stout plus a lighter beer along with a bowl of beer cheese dip and chips.

Brewery Vivant is housed in an old funeral home -- hence the tongue-in-cheek “Vivant” or “Life” name -- with the bar where the former nave would have been.

This red door from the old Grand Rapids Brewery is now on display in the new brewery.

The Grand Rapids Brewery serves Silver Foam beer, which was popular in the early 1900s and recently brought back.

Named tops in the nation, breweries in Grand Rapids, Mich. celebrate with Beer Week.

I wonder if my grandparents are rolling over in their graves since their hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., was recently named “Beer City U.S.A.” and one of the “Top 10 Vacation Cities for Beer Lovers.”

The city recently celebrated with “Cool Brews/Hot Eats,” a 13-day festival of food and beer tastings.


Bison, Badlands and ‘weird-looking buttes’

The setting sun puts a glow on the buttes and plains in Teddy Roosevelt National Park. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

Joe Wiegand performed as Teddy Roosevelt in in Medora’s Old Town Hall Theater last summer.

A bear rug adorns the floor of the Chateau de Mores in Medora, ND.

This drill rig is used for putting pipes in the ground to search for oil.

Teddy Roosevelt wrote at this desk while grieving over the deaths of his wife and mother.

This photo of Teddy Roosevelt was on a poster in Medora, ND.

This family-friendly performance of the Medora Musical pays tribute to Teddy Roosevelt and the Old West.

Bison meander on and off the road through Teddy Roosevelt National Park in ND.

At Pitchfork Steak Fondue in the hills of Medora, chefs cook ribeye steaks on pitchforks.

After immersing ourselves in President Theodore Roosevelt’s early life at the Old Town Hall in Medora, a friend and I drove a few miles to the entrance of the 70,416-acre national park named after him in western North Dakota. Visitors there can enjoy miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, campsites, abundant wildlife and buttes, tablelands, valleys and unusual rock formations leftover from glaciers, wind and rain.


Pamplona, Spain and Hemingway

This life-size bronze statue of the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, shows the tension between the bulls and the men who jump in front to try to outrun them during the festival of Sanfermines each July. While many people are injured, only 15 have been killed in the last 100 years. (photos by Pamela O’Meara/Review)

The zampanzares jiggle their hips to jangle the giant brass bells on their backs during the festival of San Fermin Txikito in Pamplona.

Ernest Hemingway is featured in an old Paris magazine on display at the Museo del Encierro.

Balconies at the Gran Hotel La Perla in Pamplona, Spain, overlook the narrow street where the bulls run each July.

An ancient breed of black-headed sheep graze near old Roman burial circles in the Pyrenees northeast of Pamplona.

My balcony at the Gran Hotel La Perla in Pamplona, Spain, overlooked a narrow street lined with 18th century yellow, blue, tan and pink buildings along the route of the running of the bulls during the July festival of Sanfermines. The run was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s book “The Sun Also Rises.”