New Year’s Eve 2020 - Covid-19 isn't even a thing
New Year’s Eve 2021 - It's been Covid-19 24/7 for 10 out of 12 months
These photos say it all
New Year’s Eve Parking Spot 2020, Downtown Saint Petersburg
New Year’s Eve Parking Spot 2021, Acadiana Park Campground, Lafayette, LA
New Year’s Eve Festivities 2020, Saint Petersburg First Night
"Alter Kakker" Tribute Band
New Year’s Eve Festivities 2021 Acadiana Nature Park
Currently in Natchez Mississippi, but we were in Iowa in November.
Crystal Lake Cave was discovered in 1868 by miners looking for lead, who then secretly blasted out a passage to allow for comfortable passage. Our private (covid safety) tour was led by second generation owner Julie, who told us how she used to crawl through small passages as a child when she was small enough to do so. There was no crawling through small passages on this tour though.
Mines of Spain Iowa Recreation Area and National Historic Landmark used to be a lead (galena) mine.
Pikes Peak State Park is in northeast Iowa, on a bluff above the Mississippi River, about 45 miles south of Wisconsin. It is not as famous as the Pike’s Peak in Colorado, although it is named after the same guy, Zebulon Pike. He was here in 1805, exploring the new Louisiana Purchase territory along the Mississippi River. (He was in Colorado in 1806.)
Fun Fact 1. Pikes Peak Colorado is over 14,000 feet tall and Pikes Peak Iowa is a 500 foot bluff.
Fun Fact 2. Zebulon Pike was born in NJ, in Lamington, Bedminster.
Maquoketa Cave State Park
It looks like I’ve been designated by Lill to be the “Jewish Blogger” for this trip. Although we expect there to be Jewish communities in large cities, we weren’t looking for anything Jewish in the small, mostly declining towns in Arkansas along the Mississippi River. But, sometimes we just stumble upon them.
Helena is a once thriving steamboat port on the Mississippi River (also, “the blues capital of the Delta”) with a few beautifully restored homes and mostly crumbling buildings.
The State of Arkansas is investing heavily in the Delta Cultural Center (DCC) to bring tourism to the town. We had just taken some pictures of the Pillow Thompson House (not a shul)
and were on our way to “the historic downtown” when we saw a building on the corner that was clearly a shul: The mogen dovid and the name “Temple Beth El” were dead giveaways.
We learned from a dial-in audio tour
that the building was built in 1916 and donated to the DCC in 2006 to be renovated for use as a non-sectarian performing arts center. Later at the DCC museum, I asked if we could see the inside of the Temple, and a DCC employee, Richard Spilman, said yes. We followed him to the former Temple and he gave us a personal tour.
History: Jews first settled in Helena in the early 1840’s and Congregation Beth El was formed in 1867. In 1875 they joined the Reform movement, and in 1880 they dedicated a building. Beth El did not have a rabbi until 1879, and before then a local Methodist minister sometimes conducted funerals or weddings. Like other small, rural communities they had trouble finding and keeping rabbis who left for bigger cities and salaries. Between 1879 and 1960, they had 21 rabbis. In 1916, they dedicated a new building, the one we saw, with a $4,000 organ, which was retained and upgraded by the DCC.
Although Beth El attracted Jews from smaller towns in the area, as Helena began to decline economically, Beth El’s membership shrank as well. In 1967, they still had 68 families, but by 2006, they decided to donate the building to the state. Many of the religious artifacts were given to other congregations in the south.
We stopped in McGehee to visit the World War II Japanese American Internment Museum, but it was closed because of Covid. But there was a map of the town outside with points of interest, including churches. Lill thought that Meir Chayim Temple was an odd name for a church, so we drove the few blocks to check it out (the town wasn’t much bigger). Although the building still had the Meir Chayim Temple name over the door, the Ten Commandments with Hebrew lettering above it and a cornerstone in Hebrew from 1947, there was a sign out front that indicated it is now the New Life Ministries Christian Center.
The southeastern region of Arkansas saw a Jewish influx in the early 1900s and after World War I. In 1927, Jews from McGehee, Dermott, and other nearby towns started having informal services in churches and other buildings in McGehee. In 1946, they formed the Beth Chayim Congregation. The name was changed to Meir Chayim Temple in honor of a fallen Arkansas City World War II sergeant. The building was designed by members and due to materials shortages during the war, lumber was made from trees on members’ properties. The building, with a 150-seat sanctuary, Sunday school rooms, a recreation hall, and a kitchen was dedicated in 1947.
Although the temple had more than 100 families at one time, they held their final service on June 17, 2016, because as one 72-year-old member said: “the older people have died and the younger ones moved to the city and it's just three or four of us that are left." I could not find out when they sold the building to the church.
Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen State Park, and Apple River Canyon
Starved Rock State Park is 12 miles of shoreline on the Ohio river with 18 or so canyons eroded into 200 to 300 hundred foot sandstone bluffs. There are trails into the canyons, along the top of the bluffs, and along the shoreline, with endless stairs connecting them all. Great views of the Ohio River from viewpoints on top and along the shore.
We were there for almost a week in November during which time we also visited nearby Matthiessen State Park, a 1-mile canyon similar to the Starved Rock State Park canyons.
We also camped a night at Apple River Canyon. A small park along the Apple River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. More limestone bluffs and a trail along the river.