Still water pool in Marengo Cave National Landmark, Indiana

Monday, September 26, 2016

Lincoln Land

Before I get to writing about the things we have seen and learned in "Lincoln Land," I wanted to put up this picture of our latest dinner. This one is for you GeorgeIn a recent post he mentioned cool weather has arrived where he is, and he has been making slow simmered soups and sauces. The weather here in central Illinois has been in the high eighties with equally high humidity! 

On Saturday we stopped at a farmer's truck stand near where we were staying and bought a bag of beautifully ripe heirloom tomatoes. The complete meal consisted of a large plate of sliced tomatoes, provolone and mozzarella cheese, a yummy caramelized onion and balsamic vinegar dressing, 
a sprinkling of fresh basil, and fresh French bread.  Perfect for a hot night!

To be honest, neither Craig nor I have really studied history beyond our required classwork in school and a few excellent programs on PBS and the History Chanel. But we have enjoyed hands on learning as we have visited many historic locations. When we were in Savannah last spring we got a small taste of what the Southerners thought of Lincoln. When we walked the battlefield and read the posters in a small museum in Gettysburg we learned more about the Civil War from the soldier's point of view, and we peeked into a replica  of Lincoln's funeral train car. 

We came to Springfield to learn more.

When looking for an RV park near Springfield Illinois, I discovered  Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site. It is a reconstruction of the former village of New Salem where Lincoln lived for several years as a young man. It is about 20 miles north of Springfield, and in addition to the wonderful village, it has an RV park. Off season, mid-week there were plenty of spaces available in the peaceful park. The $20 fee included an electric hook-up, but no water or sewer. Touring the village was free (donation optional).

There were numerous homes, barns, outbuildings, a school, shops and stores.

All were open and were furnished with items typical of the period. There were a few costumed volunteers around who were quite happy to talk about their characters' lives. 

Lincoln tried his hand at a number of different professions in New Salem, including running a general store with a partner, but none worked out for him until he became a clerk for a lawyer, started to read the law, and became a lawyer. (Law schools were rare in the 1830s, and were not required.)

We stayed there two nights. On our arrival day we went to the Visitor Center in the late afternoon, and watched the movie and read the information on display. It was too hot to walk the village. But the next morning it was quite nice. The Village opens at 9 AM and we were able to see most of it before five bus loads of school children arrived! They were on their way in as we were on our way out. 

Note for fellow RVers. If you don't want to stay at the park, there is parking for your rig in the bus lot. 1/2 day is enough time to see the village.

Friday morning we made the horribly long drive of 22 miles to the Illinois State Fair Campground. It is a parking lot, but close to the Lincoln sites, and gave us a level, full hook-up spot for $20 per night. In the afternoon we took care of necessary chores including doing the wash, a bit of grocery shopping, and a trip to Walmart to get tank-treatment chemicals.

Our first stop on Saturday was the Lincoln Home. When he bought it for $1500 it was only one story with one bedroom. Over the next twelve years it was remodeled and the second story was added. 

It certainly was a big step up from the log homes in New Salem, and showed how prosperous he became as a lawyer.

The formal parlor was the site of many political meetings.

It is said that the Lincoln boys were quite unruly and spoiled. In this depiction of his Springfield Law Office, they are making a mess while their father reads on the couch!

From the house and his Law Offices, we walked a few blocks to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Abe, Mary and three of their boys greet visitors outside the White House. The gray clad character in the background is John Wilkes Booth.

The excellent exhibits start with a full size replica of the log cabin Abe grew up in. The fire crackled and the dog snored.

In this diorama, Lincoln and Douglas debate. 

Not much has changed in American politics.  Because there were four candidates, Lincoln got only 29% of the popular vote, but it was enough.

The southern states seceded soon after his inauguration, and the Civil War began. It makes me wonder if it could happen again.

Now he is beloved, but at the time he was the brunt of vicious political cartoons. Many were on display with the equally derogatory words being spoken out loud overhead.

Some of the gowns worn by Mary Todd Lincoln and other women of status were replicated in this exhibit. She was snubbed by Washington society. 

In this scene, Lincoln is discussing a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation with his cabinet members.

Every time we have the privilege of going to a place like this, I feel I learn so much about our past and gain some small increased understanding about our present. 

I think he did the best he could.

We finished the day with a visit to the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery. 

What would Lincoln say about our country today?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Marengo Cave Indiana, and achieving a goal

One place on our "must go to" list was Springfield Illinois, to see the Lincoln Museum and other Lincoln attractions. The distance between Lexington and Springfield (over 400 miles) was more than we wanted to travel in a day. So we planned to drive as far as comfortable, and find a park to stop at. Knowing we had some time to spare, we looked for something to see along the way. Craig found information about Marengo Cave National Landmark, which is in Southern Indiana, and a phone call verified we could park the Alfa in their lot while touring the cave.

After the cave we drove on and camped in Illinois, South of Springfield
*correction, it is Marengo Cave, not Morengo Cave

The cave was a comfortable 52°.

One of the things I enjoyed about this cave was the soft white light. Some caves use colored lights which are pretty, but unnecessary in my mind. 

Every formation is different. 

This must have been a very leaky crack at one time. 

The lower half of this image is a reflection in a still water pool, of the wall and ceiling above it. The pool looks like it is very deep, but it is actually only a few inches deep. 

After our cave tour, we continued on our way and made it well into Illinois before stopping for the night at Eldon Hazlet SRA. We were able to get a drive-through spot so we were spared the work of unhooking the Jeep, and were able to just drive on out, the next morning. (After unplugging the power cord!) 

The rest of our drive up to Lincoln's New Salem Historic Site, north of Springfield, only took a few hours.

When we started this adventure, our daughter gave us a USA sticker map to put on the outside of the Alfa.  It seemed rather daunting to think we could ever go to all 48 contiguous states, but we have. 

Illinois was our last one.

Craig had the honor of sticking it on.

Next year we hope to go to Alaska. We may visit Hawaii sometime, but without the Alfa. 
So many wonderful memories.  
So many more to make.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Many interesting places

A big part of this adventure has been to go to many interesting venues we might have not chosen as vacation destinations. We seem to be attracted to one-subject museums and parks. A coal mine museum, a potato museum, a fisheries museum, and, more recently, the Baseball Hall of Fame have all captured our attention. Some, like the Museum of Clean,  we went to because they were near where we were camped, while others like the Ford center in Detroit were the reason we were camped where we were. Our current stop, the Kentucky Horse Park, was one of these.

Located in Lexington Kentucky, it is a very large park dedicated to horses and all things about them. Opened in 1978, it was founded to  preserve the land and life style of horse country. In addition to museums, there are facilities for equestrian events and competitions.  In a day and a half, we saw polo being played, hunter/jumper competitions, an all breeds show, and a horse show that reminded us of a classic dog show with small speciality groups competing for ribbons and ranking that may have later led to a "best of show" competition.

Note: Something seems to be wrong with my camera, almost all of the pictures I took were fuzzy and out of focus. These are a few that were acceptable enough to post so someday I can look back on what we saw and did.

I got up early on our first morning there and walked over to watch a jumper competition. The sky was still pink with dawn light. 

I also watched some hunter-jumpers in another ring. The hunter riders are dressed more formally and their presentation is judged on style as well as time and successful jumps.

On our second day, one of the things we saw was a show of  several different breeds of horses at the "All Breeds" barn and show ring. Each presentation was accompanied by an announcer that told us about the breed and the individual mount.

After the show, the horses were brought to the rail for some "meet and greet" time. This horse was an English Shire. Bred as a large war horse his breed was also used as a draft animal. His breed is relatively rare today.

The exhibits in the Horse Museum were both colourful and informative. Not being "horse people" we learned a lot and enjoyed our time. One of my favourite exhibits was about the Arabian breed that is the foundation for our thoroughbreds. 

On Monday I went on a horse farm tour. Craig stayed with the Alfa because he had an appointment to have it washed.

The first stop on the tour was at a yearling thoroughbred auction. The sale prices for the horses we saw ranged from $5000 to $275,000. In the sales data sheet for the day before, the highest price listed was for over $500,000. These are untrained, untested, one year old horses! But their blood lines are all well documented. We were told the buyers could make careful examinations of the horses, their health records, and X-rays of their legs before the auction began.

Our bus driver and guide was a little hard to understand, and I don't remember all of the details he gave us.

We stopped at one very large farm where everything was unbelievably perfect. We were told a crew of 50 men did nothing but cut grass!

This building is actually a barn for stallions

The stalls were very roomy and extremely clean. This guy was taking a nap when we came into the barn. Each stallion has a three acre pasture where he spends much of his time when not working in the breeding shed.

We were told not to try to pet the stallions because they bite!

But we were able to pet some mares on our next stop.

Look at the beautiful wood this barn is made of. No expense is spared to house these beautiful, multi-million dollar ladies.

They all knew our driver and were very happy to see us coming into the barn, because he had given each of us a handful of peppermint candies to feed to the mares.


No nipped fingers! Their lips were as soft as velvet.
Sometimes I wish I had another whole lifetime to live. I feel like we just don't have enough time left in this one to do and see all the things we want to do and see. I am happy we got to spend a few days here in Kentucky, but I would also love to be able to be here in spring to see all the foals. I want to go back to the Maritime Provinces so we can go to Labrador in June to see the icebergs, and back to New England in the fall to view the autumn foliage. We may get to do these things, but if not, I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to take our RV across this beautiful country of ours. 

I guess if you live in a tower and have a gold plated commode, you would look down on the regular American people and think their lives are hopelessly desolate. I don't see our great country that way.

I think America is pretty great already and always has been. 
I do not want to go back to the way things were in the past. 

My life is good.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Last Atlantic Beach and the next few stops on our journey

We needed to visit Rhode Island and Connecticut to fill out the East Coast of our RV "states" map, leaving only four more to go to complete the 48 contiguous United States. So we spent Labor Day weekend at Worden Pond campground in Rhode Island. It was an odd stay, since we were aware that Hurricane Hermine was working its way up the Atlantic coast, and we were wondering if it would affect us at all. 

On Saturday we went over to Newport Beach. It was our last visit to the Atlantic Ocean for this trip. The weather was fine. The skies were partially cloudy and there was only a slight breeze.

We walked along the Cliff Walk, which is a paved public path that goes along the rocky shore edge behind some of the big mansions of Newport Beach.

The one on the right is Gloria Vanderbilt's, and will be Anderson Cooper's some day
These are just two of the "summer homes" that we passed. 

The hurricane never did cause us any problems. We had one night of heavy rain, but we have experienced much worse. Our drive across Connecticut to our next stop went smoothly after a slightly wet start.

The next stop was Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

[From Craig]  This is the actual Hall of Fame, containing a plaque for each former player who has been admitted, from 1936 to the present.  As I worked my way around, I found that I remembered many of them and had even seen quite a few play.  Reading their plaques was a wonderful experience in recalling the 62 seasons that I have followed.

I was surprised to find that the San Diego Chicken had been admitted to the Hall of Fame.  This pic is for our Padres fans...

Craig enjoyed reading all the script in the display cases. After one floor I went out and read a book on a park bench.

The colors of autumn are starting to appear on some of the high branches of the trees. We will be long gone from this area before the high color season is in full swing, but I can imagine how spectacular it will be. I always enjoyed the fall color when we lived in Wisconsin. I guess this is a good reason to head back this way sometime in the future. 

Our next stop was a two day stop at a park  in Eastern Pennsylvania  that was half way to the next attraction we wanted to see: Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.

We are in no hurry, and find that a drive of about two hundred miles is quite comfortable. Three hundred is our preferred limit, but we have driven farther on occasion. For example, in October, when we are driving across Texas, our mile limit will be based on endurance, not attractions.

We were escorted to our site by this delightful golf cart. What fun! I want one.

There are so many different kinds of RV parks. From the big open parking lot "luxury" parks in Arizona, where there are hundreds of paved or gravel spaces and a club area with a pool and office, to more park-like locations such as this one.  On our arrival evening we took a walk around the pond. Although it was quite warm, we were glad there were no mosquitos. 

We spent two nights there, and Craig took advantage of our lay-over day to do a full reconditioning of our Blue Ox tow bar. It is something you are supposed to do once a year. Last year he took it to a dealer, but they didn't have the correct replacement washers for the job. This year he ordered the parts in advance from the factory. 

He couldn't have had a much worse day to do it. The temps were in the 90s and the humidity was very high. But he persevered, and got the job done so we could move on the next day. Good work Craig! 

We both find buildings and their architecture quite interesting. Our next stop was in Champion, Pennsylvania which is near Fallingwater. We arrived on Saturday, but our tickets were for Monday, so we looked for something else to do on Sunday. The Ohiopyle State park was near by, so we decided to take a walk there.

Cucumber Falls was featured on the park web site.

At the parking lot, there was a short path and several flights of stairs down to a viewing area that was about half way to the falls pool level.

Getting down to, and back up from the pool was a bit of a rock scramble. I find I am not as nimble as I once was, but this time I was up to the challenge. 

Next we drove over to the Visitor Center area and enjoyed a short walk along the river to see the rapids and the Ohiopyle Falls.

Kayakers and rafters have to portage around this section of the river. 

On Monday we went to see Fallingwater

It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright just before the depression, as a "summer cabin" for the wealthy owner of the Kaufmann department stores (now Macy's). Photography is not allowed inside the home, so this is the only one we took. The design is timeless, and surrounds a natural waterfall. Considering it was built eighty years ago, it is still structurally sound and has been maintained by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy as a national treasure.

[From Craig] Fallingwater is the most visually impressive home that I've seen.  If I was only allowed one word to describe it, it would be horizontal.  It includes several repeated motifs, chief among which is many thin layers of limestone.

We are so lucky to be able to visit places like this. 

RV Life is Good!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hammond Castle and Salem Witch Museum

In 1969 Craig and I spent a summer in Boston. 
He was on a short term project, and our two year old daughter and I came along. While there, one of my friends and I took a "tourist" day trip to Gloucester to see the Hammond Castle. While not an actual castle, it looks and feels like one, and has many elements that were once parts of European castles.

It was built by John H. Hammond (not of the Hammond Organ family) in the 1920's both as his home and as a museum to showcase his collections of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artifacts.

When I realized our travel route would take us near, I booked a few days in Gloucester so that Craig could visit it with me.

Our timing was just right, in that we arrived just a few minutes before a guided tour started. 

The front door is indeed accessed by going across a drawbridge, but there is no moat.

The great hall is huge and medieval, but has several modern amenities, such as a heating system, hidden behind the curtained  and stucco walls. Still it is quite a "living room"!

The pipes for this organ are also hidden in the walls and above in the ceiling space. It is no longer functioning, but when it was the entire room was part of the organ.  It must have been amazing. 

There were fascinating details all around, both inside and out. Mr. and Mrs. Hammond were quite a pair, at a time when rich characters built huge private homes. We are glad they still exist, and have had many enjoyable tours all around the country.

Hammond Castle, image from the web

We left the castle about 1:30 PM, and decided we still had plenty of time for a second "tourist" stop.  Salem, the location of the 17th century witch trials and executions, is only about sixteen miles away from Gloucester. I had picked up a promotional flyer for the Salem Witch Museum, and although we knew the history, and thought it might be hokey, we couldn't pass it up.

No photography was allowed inside, so the above is my only picture. The museum is does not have self guided, walk through exhibits. Instead it has two presentations.  For the first, your group were led into a darkened room with seating on both sides, and benches in the middle area. We were told by the guide that the presentation will move around the entire room, and we should feel free to change our seats as it progressed. Then the guide left, and a recording took over telling the story of the Witch Trials as life-size dioramas were illuminated one by one. It brought to mind a static Disneyland ride, or a series of wax museum displays.

The second presentation was in another room and differed in that the descriptions were given by a live guide, followed by a soundtrack for each diorama.

[From Craig] The second presentation divided events related to witchcraft into a "Western timeline" and a "Pagan timeline".  Lots of events were classified strangely, like building the Egyptian pyramids was western. Pronouncements by four Popes were on the pagan timeline, while in the same general time frame, John Calvin was on the western timeline.  I know Massachusetts was settled by Puritans and remains fairly Protestant, but classifying Popes as pagan is a bit much!  :-)

I think it was all reasonably well done, and the modest entry fee of $9.50 for seniors was just about right. The amazing thing was the town parking garage only cost $1.50 for 2 hours. When was the last time you saw a paid parking building with that rate?

We drive again on Friday.  One of the things you really must do if you are a full time RVer is have plans and reservations for holiday weekends. In June I started looking for a reservation on Cape Cod for the Labor Day weekend.  No luck, so we booked a few days at a park in Rhode Island.  It is one of the last states on the East Coast that we have not yet visited.