Robert Moses State Park, Massena, New York

I am just about as far north as I can go in New York State. This is really upstate New York, and it is right on the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

I got to the park, and managed to find the office, which was in a different part of the park from the campground. I got registered and the pleasant worker gave me a map to help me find the campsite. Things were going fine, until I came to the end of a dead end road.

This was indeed puzzling. According to the paper map she gave me, I should have been heading in the right direction. I turned on Google maps and saw the turn that I missed. Now that I knew where to go, all I had to do was BACK UP A QUARTER MILE!

I took a deep breath or two and got ready to back myself out. I had to course-correct a few times, but I got back to where I should have turned. It would be nice if they had put a sign at the place were I should have turned. I can’t believe that I am the first person has had this problem.

I made the turn and got myself to the site. The person right behind me kindly offered to spot me while I maneuvered into the spot. It was a narrow road, and I was in front of him. I guess he didn’t have to help, but he couldn’t get to his site until I got out of the way.

I made use of the shower at the campground. I have to admit that I don’t have a clue as to what this sign on the women’s restroom meant.

What is this?

So, if any of you out there in the blog-o-sphere has an idea, please let me know.

The first day, I just took care of business and got settled in. In addition to the shower, I tidied up the trailer a bit and did some grocery shopping. The next day it was time for fun!

Eisenhower visitor center sign

Yes! I got to watch a ship go through the Eisenhower Lock! Oh, the things that fascinate me. I wonder if there is somewhere I can go watch paint dry?

Actually, I went by early in the day and inquired about when the next ship would be coming through. The guard told me that they had one scheduled to come through around 5:30, so I went back to the trailer for a bit. When I returned, I brought the leftover Popsicles I had bought as part of my “liquid diet” that I was to follow before the colonoscopy while I was in Kalamazoo.

popsicles

The funny thing is that I don’t much care for Popsicles. After all the years of teaching and using Popsicles as end of the year bribes uh, treats, any childhood fondness I had for them had long since disappeared.

You know I always like to read signs and plaques. This one at the park near the lock puzzled me.

War of 1812 sign

Now, I know that the War of 1812 was fought all along this area. I don’t doubt that there might have been something significant that happened here. But, why is there a sign about the Treaty of Ghent? For the geographically disadvantaged, Ghent is in the Netherlands.

I returned at the proper time. While I was waiting, and after I handed out the Popsicles, I struck up a conversation with the folks on the deck. I had one of my fellow tourists snap a shot of me pointing at Canada while wearing the tee shirt I picked up at Pancho Villa State Park in New Mexico.

Pointing at Canada

The most southern state park to the most northern state park – at least this year!

Boat 1

The ship was running a bit late, but it finally arrived at the lock.

Boat 2

It entered the lock and made its way in.

Kids watching

The children were watching in rapt attention. Well, at least until I snapped the photo.

Boat 3

The ship kept coming.

Boat 4

I can finally see the name on the bow – Tecumseh. If you’d like to know where the ship is now or where it has been, you can click here. The day I saw her, she was carrying wheat.

Boat 4 scrapes

Those poor ships take a beating when they are going through the locks.

Boat 5 all the way in

At long last, the ship is all the way in the lock. You can see the gates closed in front of it. I think that red beam must be there to let it know that this is as far as it can safely go in the lock. I don’t know if it is, but I can see no other purpose for it.

Going down 1

They start letting the water out of the lock and the ship starts to lower.

going down 2

It keeps going down…

Going down 3

until it is as far as it can go.

Opening the gates

They open the gates.

heading out 1

The ship starts to leave.

heading out 2

It steams out into the lower river.

Heading out 3

The bow is out…

heading out 5

and there goes the stern.

going 1

Do you see those two small boats to the right? They are about to enter the lock and proceed upstream.

going 2

There goes the Tecumseh and here come the boats!

gone

The small boats are getting settled in the lock and the Tecumseh continues downstream toward Montreal.

gates closed with two boats inside

The little boats are in the lock and the gates are closed. The boats are so small that you can’t see them at this point.

lock filled

The lock is filled.

two little boats getting ready to leave the lock

The little boats are getting ready to exit the lock.

two boats out 2

They open the gates

two boats out 3

The boats get ready to sail out

two boats out 4

and they are gone.

 

 

Oswego…

into the wild blue yonder!

(Kind of a play of words on the first line of the Air Force Hymn, “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder…)

Anyway, my next campsite on Lake Ontario in Selkirk Shores State Park, just east of Oswego, New York. As I was pulling into Oswego, I decided that I should visit the restroom, as well as pick up some milk.

Ontario Orchards Farm Market Oswego

The workers helped me to locate the restroom. They were friendly, but the sign in the restroom caught my eye.

If you cannot change the roll...

However, you can’t say they don’t make changing an empty roll easy. They are well-stocked!

tp supply

I made it to the campground and got registered. The friendly ranger helped me select a good site. As usual, my first criteria was that the site be easy to get into. It wasn’t a pull-through, but there was lots of room to maneuver.

Crowded campground

There were a couple loops at the park, but I think this one is the most popular as it is closest to the lake. The sites were quite close to each other. The smoke from the campfires was also pretty intense. I wish I had taken a shot of the stacks of firewood people brought in for their short stays. I’d walk around in the evening, and site after site had their own fires going.

Sunset through the trees

From the edge of the bluff, I noticed the sun setting. I jumped into my truck and headed for the beach. I love watching sunsets from water’s edge.

sunset at the beach

It did give me pause to look to the left and see the nuclear power plant lit up in the after glow.

Nuclear reactor at sunset

When I returned to my campsite, rising in the east was a full moon rising in the east.

full moon rising

One of these days, I am going to get myself a decent camera! I really was lovely.

The next day, I decided to go for a hike. (“Hike” sounds so much more outdoorsy than “stroll”.) The first thing I cam across was a most puzzling sign.

Danger Confined Space

Huh. It didn’t see all that confined to me.

I decided to stroll uh, hike down to the beach. Last night, I noticed that there were rocks on the beach. Time for a little more “catch-and-release rock collecting”!

Forest trail

The trail lead through what they called “old growth forest”.

Seaway trail sign?

I came across this sign. I’m not sure, but it might be for the Seaway Trail. However, I checked the website and I didn’t see the symbol. In any event, there is a lot of good information about the trail on the website, which runs from Lake Erie, along to Lake Ontario and then along the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the New York State line at Hogansburg.

Lincoln Log Buildings

There were cabins and other structures dotting the area near the beach that reminded me of the Lincoln Logs we used to play with when we were kids.

I kept walking and got all the way out to the end of the pier. I turned around and looked at the beautiful green back on shore.

Looking back at the shore

The water also reflected the green.

Rocks on the beach

Ah, yes! Time to collect a few rocks.

sticks and stones on the beach

Or maybe I should collect sticks?

No, I’ll collect rocks. I had to pick judiciously, though. I forgot to bring a bag or some other container to put them in. I had to depend on what I could stuff in my pockets. I filled my pockets and headed back to the trailer for the photo shoot.

Rocks 1 dry

Here’s the first group dry

Rocks 1 wet

And wet.

Rocks 2 dry

The second group of rocks look like they have fossils in them.

Rocks 2 wet

You can kind of make out the fossils a little differently when the rocks are wet.

Rocks 3 dry

One more group of dry rocks

Rocks 3 wet

And here they are wet.

Rocks with holes

I even managed to find a couple of rocks with holes through them. I added them to my collection. The rest of them were released back into the wild.

After dinner and getting things put away for a travel day in the morning, I headed down to catch one more sunset.

Sunset day 2 a

What a calm evening!

Sunset 2 b

And with that, it’s time to leave the Great Lakes.

My next stop will be along the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

 

 

 

 

 

Western New York – Home Again!

Living on the road is great. I get to go home all the time – all the places I call home!

This time I decided to avoid the tolls on the Thruway in New York State and drive toward Buffalo on route 5. It glides along the shore of Lake Erie and through the vineyards. I stopped at one of the wineries, Brix 21,  along the way to pick up a bottle for my sister

at the vineyard

Unfortunately, I didn’t taste the wines. I figured that it wouldn’t be wise, towing Flo and all. So, I asked for a recommendation. I have got to get better at describing what I like. I can’t imagine that anyone would have liked the bottle I got. I didn’t like it and neither did Amy. I think we both emptied our glasses on the ground. But, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Pink Elephant

The winery’s mascot is a pink elephant. Kind of ironic, I think.

Buffalo in a vineyard

On the other side of the parking lot, is one of the million painted Buffaloes that populate the region.

Last Centuries Antiques

This little store caught my eye as I went though one of the little towns along the route 5. I felt an affinity with it as I am also a last century antique.

I made my way to Darien Lakes State Park, about 25 miles from my sister’s house and got settled in. Unfortunately, they were scheduled to have some work done at the house, so I had to find another place to park this visit. This seemed like a reasonable place. It was a straight shot from the city line. In fact, it was just off Broadway, a road that runs all the way from downtown Buffalo. Sattler's

Sattler’s Department Store was famously known for being at 998 Broadway. And I was a mere 30 miles down the street!

Of course, Sattler’s has long since gone out of business. It was founded by 17-year-old John G. Sattler, who opened a one-room shoe store in his mother’s house in this block. The Sattler’s that I am familiar with was at the Boulevard Mall. According to the information I scrounged up on the internet, it sounds like they had about ten stores at their peak. Unfortunately, the chain was bought up by United Department Stores somewhere along the way and finally went out of business for good in 1982.

Thus ends our Buffalo history lesson for this trip.

I was only in Western New York for a few days. I wanted to make sure I saw people. I didn’t even do a good job of taking pictures of the people, but I did get some shots of the food.

Fish Fry at Hoak's

Kathy, Dennis and their son John took me out for a fish fry at Hoak’s on the Lake in Hamburg.

Buffalo skyline with windmills

There was a lovely view of downtown Buffalo and the windmills from the restaurant.

Beef on weck

My brother, Craig, and his mother-in-law, Marilyn, took me out for dinner. Since I was in Buffalo, I had to have a beef-on-weck.

Patricia

I also met up with Patricia, a fellow-Airstreamer. We met up in a campground in Texas last winter and we were thrilled to find that we both called Buffalo home.

Bread Hive storefront

I asked if we could go to a new restaurant – well, at least new to me. She recommended a cool place called “Bread Hive”.

Bread Hive bread rack

They had a really interesting rack for the bread they had for sale. We were there for a late lunch, so I imagine that they had a larger stock for sale earlier.

Bread Hive Sandwich

I had a beautiful sandwich on a beautiful plate. What a treat!

Patricia is now doing some Airstreaming of her own. She’s heading out west on a long, long trip.Lake Effect Laundromat

Of course, I also had the ordinary stuff to do. Laundry. I went to Matt’s Lake Effect Laundromat. I had to buy a card to work the machines. It was $1. I can’t believe all the ways people come up with to squeeze a little more money out of you. After I bought the card, I had to load it to pay for the machines. When I was done, I gave the card to the attendant and told her that she could pass it along to someone else who came in without a card.

It was a nice laundromat, though.

Framed bag from Trader Joe's

I stopped at Trader Joe’s, too. I love their Canadian White Bread, and I have only found it in the Buffalo store. Oddly enough, the Canadian White Bread is made in the U.S.A. They had one of their reusable bags framed and hung in the restroom. An Airstream! I looked through all the bags for sale in the store, but they didn’t have any. My guess is it was a bag from another year.

Movie night with Craig

Craig also had me over for a movie night. We saw Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next.” If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, I highly recommend it. It is a hopeful movie.

Amy and me

I got to hang with my sister, Amy. It was good to see her!

Sarah and Katie

I got to see my nieces, Sarah and Katie. Katie was in the middle of a softball tournament, and I went to a game. She looked good to me, even if the team didn’t win the game I saw.

Me and Sarah

Sarah is an artist and was getting some crafts ready for a sale. She offered to make me a bracelet and asked me what I wanted it to say.

Livin the dream bracelet

Well, what else could I say? I am truly livin’ the dream!

What’s Round on the Ends and High in the Middle?

OHIO!

(Get it? The first and last letters are round and in the middle…oh, you get it? Just not funny…okay…)

Anyway, I had noticed some things on Flo the Airstream that needed attention. There were some things the service center that took care of the hole I made in her side hadn’t done quite right. Luckily, I convinced the manager at the service department at the Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio, to work me in, even though they were tremendously busy.

The mothership

Here’s a shot of the back lot with Airstreams awaiting service at the Mothership. I spent the night at the Terraport, which is their complementary parking for people waiting for service or after they pick up their Airstreams.

I checked in when I got to town and reminded Chris, the service manager, of what we had discussed via email. He told me to come back in the morning. Early in the morning – well, early for me – 8:00. He set me up with Artie who looked at what I needed done. He got his tools and supplies and had me fixed up in about 20 minutes. He told me to check in with the office around 10:00 for the bill. When I went back in, Chris told me that there would be no charge.

NO CHARGE?!

Wow! Airstream is certainly a classy organization!

I headed toward Lake Erie, using paper maps. I couldn’t get a signal to save me. Luckily, I have loads of maps! I skittered across the state on a variety of two-lane highways.  My usual route to Buffalo was on I-90, which would have taken me right through downtown Cleveland. With the Republican National Convention getting ready to launch a few days later, I did not want to take any chances on having roads blocked or getting caught in the middle of some sort of demonstration.

I managed to get to I-90 somewhere east of Cleveland. I ended up spending two nights at Evergreen Lake Park in Ohio at the Conneaut exit. I was kind of tired after about ten hours of driving in two days.

One thing I found out was how to pronounce Conneaut. The first part seemed pretty straight-forward, but the last part was just too many vowels. From what I’ve been told, it should be pronounced “Con-ee-OT” with the emphasis on the last part. I was thinking it would have been something like “con-OIT”.

I went looking for something to do while I was in town, and I saw that they had a park right on the lake. Lake Erie – my lake! I set out to go enjoy it.

Lake Erie sign

After growing up in the Buffalo, NY area and visiting family on the Canadian side of the lake, I guess you could say I’m just a Lake Erie sort of gal!

Boardwalk to the beach

In the information about the park, it mentioned the boardwalk. I had in mind a boardwalk like in Atlantic City. I wondered how there could be that sort of development here with no advertising. It turns out that there is a boardwalk running from the parking area out to the beach.

Boardwalk down to the beach

When the boardwalk gets close to the water’s edge, it meets up with a boardwalk running the width of the park’s beach.

Boardwalk rock

The plaque on the boulder at the beginning of the boardwalk lets us know that it was a 1994 project of the Conneaut Rotary Club, along with funding from the Conneaut Township Park and the Civic Development Corporation. We all do better when we work together.

Umbrella by the shore

It was a lovely day, with all sorts of people enjoying the sand, sun and water.

Log in the water

I was captivated by this log being rolled about by the waves. It is estimated that there have been at least 8,000 shipwrecks in Lake Erie. Lake Erie is known for its seiches, which are enormous waves that occur especially when the wind blows from the southwest to the northeast, which is to say along the length of the lake. Who knows? Maybe this log is actually part of the mast of one of those 8,000 ships that have gone down in the storms.

shoes by the shore

I enjoyed myself collecting rocks along the shore. These red sneakers seemed to be left so carefully. I hope the owner remembered to come back for them.

Of course, with my “catch and release” rock collecting, I had to document what I had found.

Red and green dry

This was my red and green collection. After I arranged them and took the photo, I had to see if water enhanced the colors.

Red and green wet

The greens really pop! Let’s see another collection.

Brownish rocks dry

Here are the dry brownish rocks.

Brownish rocks wet

And here they are doused with water.

Layered rocks dry

Here are the dry layered rocks.

Layered rocks wet

And here they are wet. Okay, one more group of rocks…

Assorted rocks dry

Assort dry rocks.

Assorted rocks wet

And assorted wet rocks.

Okay, I’d had my fun – and I imagine I provided amusement for the people passing me on the boardwalk. How many 60 year old women collect rocks, and then take pictures of them dry and wet? Well, as I said, I’d had my fun. It was time to release them.

Rocks released

There they are – back in their natural habitat!

I did find one rock that I kept.

rock with hole

It was the most perfect smooth small rock with a lovely hole in it. It just may become a piece of jewelry some day!

FOOD sign

I went off to find dinner. Who can resist a sign proclaiming “FOOD”? Well, at least it didn’t say “Eat here and get gas.”

Eat here and get gas

Photo borrowed from the Internet somewhere…

I stopped back at the trailer for a bit. There was a quiet tapping at my door. I opened it up and was greeted by the smiling face of a man I had met briefly while I was in Kalamazoo. His name was Francis and he was from Australia. I wish I had asked him how he got here and if he was returning, but I didn’t think to ask. I guess I didn’t want to be nosy. Also, it was time to head back to the beach for sunset!

skipping stones

The clouds were rolling in, but the sun kept peeking through. I enjoyed watching this young men skipping stones. There was a campfire with some people playing guitar and singing. You’ll just have to take my word for that, though, as I couldn’t get a decent photo.

sunset

The sun came out for one last peek. I snapped a photo and decided to call it a night.

Next stop: Western New York!

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-jig!

After my stop in Ottumwa, I was getting anxious to get to Kalamazoo. I had a jam-packed stay planned, full of taking care of business as well as seeing friends.

I left Ottumwa as early as I could and drove until I couldn’t drive no more, which took me to Ottawa, Illinois. I found a listing for a State Park, Ilini State Park. I entered, and the campground host told me that they did have a few sites left. I went to check them out, but decided that they were too small and too muddy. I decided that I needed to find something else.

I looked for other options. One place I called didn’t answer their phone, so I went with the second place I called, which did answer the phone. I have to say that it was an unusual park. I think it was one of those places that makes the majority of its money off long-term seasonal rentals. They have trailers tucked into the trees, and they are rigged up so that they will never move again. They take the V out of RV. They may be recreational, but they’re not vehicles anymore.

I was met at the gate by the woman I spoke to on the phone. Since I told her that I was less than five minutes away, she was waiting for me. She opened the security gate and told me to follow her. The first thing that gave me pause was the bridge over the creek. It was a slab of reinforced concrete that looked like it needed some shoring up.

The next thing that made me wonder if I had made a wise choice was when I had to shift into 4 wheel drive to get up the hill to the campsites. I was scattering gravel as BART struggled to get Flo up the hill. But, by the time I had gotten that far, it would have been harder to back out than to go forward, so, go forward I did.

I drove through the permanent sites and then through a very well-mowed field to a power station along the edge of the field. I wonder when they would ever fill up that enormous field. Maybe they rent it out for large gatherings. I did notice a gate to another road at the top of the hill.

Anyway, I paid the woman the $35 for the site. She told me that there would be some people arriving around 1:00 AM, after a concert. Wow! I couldn’t imagine navigating that route in the dark!

Before dark, I decided to head out and gas up for the last part of my trip to Kalamazoo. The route out and then in again wasn’t any less spooky. But, the campground had electricity, which was a necessity given the heat. The trailer cooled down nicely while I was gone. I rested up and was ready to hit the road early.

State Seal

I left Illinois, drove through Indiana and stopped for a bathroom break at the rest stop just across the straight line. You know, I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me about this picture until I was preparing it for the blog. The seal of the State of Michigan is crooked! Really, guys…I think you can do better!

My reservation didn’t start at Markin Glen until the next day, so I spent one night at Cold Brook County Park.

Cold Brook County Park

I had a lovely, shaded campsite. It’s a little more rustic than Markin Glen, but they have electricity and water at the sites – although you might need a long hose – and they only charge $22 a night. If you have to make a reservation, they charge an additional $5. But, when I called the park and they told me that they had loads of sites and they encouraged me to hold on to the $5. I appreciated the advice.

The next day, I had two big tasks to accomplish: I needed to move to Markin Glen and I had a dentist appointment. I knew that I could park in a church parking lot near the office, but I thought I’d see if I could get into my site early. I gave them a call, and they told me to come on it – the site was empty. I was happy to be able to set up camp before I went to the dentist.

Cora at Markin Glen

I think Cora was happy to be settled in for a while, too. I wonder if she recognized the campground? This is where I was when she joined me last year.

I had the maximum number of days booked at Markin Glen, which is fourteen. It’s not the least expensive public park I’ve stayed at. It’s $26 per night, and I had to pay the $5 booking fee. But, the sites include a concrete parking pad and full hook ups. It also has a small lake with an area for fishing and a decent bathhouse.

Markin Glen Park

It’s also centrally located, if doing things in Kalamazoo is why you are staying there. In fact, if you bring a bike or are really into walking, you can easily make it to downtown from the park on the Kalamazoo Valley River Trail.

I had a few priorities on my list. Number one was medical appointments, for me and for Cora. Between doctor appointments and labs and such, I had seven “events” and Cora had two. When we left Kalamazoo, we had clean bills of health.

The other priority was having fun with friends. I have to admit that I didn’t do a very good job of documenting  the people I saw. I did get some shots of the food, though.

Lunch at Diane's

Here is the elegant lunch I had at Diane’s house. She also invited me over for an Independence Day cookout.

Food Dance Lunch with Linda

I met Linda at Food Dance in downtown Kalamazoo for lunch one day. It was good to catch up with her. I’m glad she was home when I passed through. This woman travels almost as much as I do – and she doesn’t have a trailer!

I also met up with a former co-worker, Narda, and her husband, Brian, and a friend, Cynthia. I forgot to take a picture of the food, but Brian snapped one of Narda and me before we got into our cars at the end of the meal.

Narda and me

I didn’t snap any photos of the delicious meals that I was invited to share with Ruth and Stu and LaRue and Paul in their homes. Nothing like a bit of home cooking with dear friends.

Incredible Journey photo

While we were LaRue and I were waiting for Paul to come home, we took the puppy for a walk, and the kitties came along. It reminded me of the Disney Movie, The Incredible Journey.

The INcredible Journey

I also joined LaRue and Paul for a picnic dinner on the lawn at Kindleberger Park in Parchment while we waited to watch Brigadoon.

Brigadoon at Kindleberger

And then there was the Independence Day celebration at Gun Lake. What a great time I had at Amy and Tim’s cottage. First there was the community pot luck dinner. I brought cookies to add to the dessert table. Living in an Airstream has done nothing to improve my cooking skills, but I am great at shopping!

After dinner, we set out on the boat to get into place for the fireworks.

Me, LaRue and Amy

Here’s the crew in the bow.

Party in the back

And the stern folks.

Sunset 2

There was a glorious sunset.

Sunset 3

It just kept getting more beautiful as night deepened.

Lighting the Chinese lantern

While we were waiting for the fireworks show to start, they tried to launch a Chinese lantern. The breeze was a little much at that time, though, and the lantern got blown back down into the lake.

Finally, it was time for the big show!

Fireworks 2

It’s a little hard to get good fireworks photos with the camera on a phone, but take my word for it, it was a good show.

Fireworks 1

And viewing it from a boat in the middle of a lake was a wonderful experience!

gift from Henry

I also got together with a few other folks. Nancy, Glen and their son Henry came out to the park to see my trailer. Henry made me a little gift. I must have been out of the classroom too long, because I had forgotten all about these little slips we used to give out to recognize positive behavior! After a tour of the trailer and a little conversation, we headed out for ice cream at Plainwell Ice Cream. What a treat!

Sadie and Kezia

A former student, Sadie, wanted to get together while I was in town, and I was thrilled to see her again. She was in my class almost (almost, but not quite) 30 years ago! I hadn’t seen here since her high school graduation celebration, so we had a bit to get caught up with. I was happy to meet her daughter, too.

Leigh

Leigh and I also got together for burgers and brew. After that, we went over to JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts to touch the fabric. Leigh bought some more cloth and I just looked.

I got together with Debora, a teacher-friend who is still in the trenches. I had some things that I picked up for her when I was in Neosho. I think she is an even bigger fan of Dr. George Washington Carver than I am!

The one bit of historical tourism I did while I was in the area was to drive by the home of Dr. Nathan Thomas, who was the first physician in Kalamazoo County. The house was built in 1835, which means that it is a very old house – more than 170 years old. That alone would make it remarkable in this part of the world. The reason I wanted to visit was because this was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Nathan Thomas House

In 1843, Dr. Thomas was asked to help escaping slaves reach Canada. Mrs. Thomas would feed than and arrange sleeping areas on the floor of the doctor’s office. If they thought that bounty hunters were in the area, they would have the fugitives hide up under the eaves of the house. The would travel on to Battle Creek after dark, and then continue on to Canada. Dr. Thomas estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 fugitives came though their house on their way to freedom.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t tour the house. You see, it seems that you need to arrange visits ahead of time. I just did a quick drive-by after dropping Cora off for her dental work. Luckily, they have a detailed sign in front  of the house. If your travels take you to the area and you’re interested in arranging a tour, the contact information is at the bottom of this link.

This brings me to the end of my adventures in Kalamazoo. Next stop: Jackson Center, Ohio. On to the Mother Ship!

 

 

Ottumwa, Iowa

After a few hours on the road, I made it to Ottumwa, Iowa, the City of Bridges. The municipal park is on a large island in the Des Moines River, and the bridges are necessary to cross back and forth between north and south halves of the town.

Ottumwa City Park view from my door

Here’s the view from my site. The campground is nestled beneath the towering cottonwoods. Actually, this view was amazingly empty of campers. the campground was packed as there was a fair going on. But, it was easy enough to get slid in between the trees, especially with the help of the camp host.

Once unhooked from the truck and hooked up to the electricity, I set about trying to find something I could do with the few hours I was going to have in Ottumwa.

Speed checked by Radar

Of course, the main reason I wanted to visit Ottumwa was to see if I could find Radar O’Reilly. Since I never speed, I didn’t have occasion to see him.

I checked in with my History Here app, and found that the American Gothic House was just a few miles away, in Eldon Iowa. I jumped in the truck and arrived just as the visitor center was closing. But, I still managed to enjoy myself.

American Gothic is one of the most recognized and imitated paintings in the world.

The Painting

I was too late to go into the visitor center, but the person who was just locking up was happy to take my picture with the statues in front of the building.

Me with the statues big view

After that fortuitous photo op, I turned my attention to the house.

In front of the house is a circular area with informational plaques about the house, the artist and the models. They also have a marker to show you where to stand to take your own “American Gothic” portrait.

Window in the pavement

According to the information, the Visitor Center (when it is open) has costumes and props available for people to use to create interesting photos.

House 1

And here is the house. The original section of the house that contains the two gothic windows was built in the early 1880s by Catherine and Charles Dibble. Since they were the original owners, it is known in the National Register of Historic Places as the Dibble House.

Grant Wood was in town for an art exhibit at the Eldon Art Center. On a drive around the town, he saw the house and had the driver pull over so he could make a sketch. According to the information on the website, the only paper he had on hand was an envelope, so he made his sketch on the back of it. Envelopes sure have been handy. What do we do now that we do all our communication via email?

Wood took his sketch back to his studio in Cedar Rapids, where he combined the study with models. His sister and dentist were the models, and Wood only convinced his dentist that he would make sure that he wasn’t identifiable.

The Painting the models photo

Here are the original models posing with the painting many years after the fact. Apparently, he wasn’t satisfied that Wood had protected his identity sufficiently and there was bad blood between them – especially when the painting became so well-known.

I walked around the house, just to see if there were any surprises to be found.

Plaques by the door

These are the plaques next to the front door.

I walked around to the back. You can see how the rear design echoes the front.

Back view of the house

As I was heading back to the car, I turned to take one last look.

Three-quarter view

After that, it was time to continue with my examination of the town squares of the midwest. Next stop: downtown Ottumwa.

Downtown Ottumwa banner

There was a lovely park, with the city hall on one side and the library on the other.

City hall

Here’s the city hall. I looked around, but I didn’t see a corner stone or plaque giving the date.

Library

And here is the library. I didn’t see a date on this building, but there was a plaque.

Library Plaque

What a wonderful gift to the community!

Memorabilia Repository

I did find a “memorabilia repository” buried flat in the ground. This is also a classier and more under-stated bicentennial memorial than Bicentennial Fire Hydrant.

Bicentennial fire hydrant

On the other side of the park, there is a memorial to the Civil War veterans. I couldn’t find a date as to the when it was put up. Judging by the style, it kind of made me think of the 1920s or ’30s.

Civil War Memorial

The bas relief panels around the base were quite striking and tell the story of the soldiers and their families.

To Heroic Sons

Here they are, sending their son off to war.

To Heroic Sons 2

They fought.

To Heroic Sons 3

They died.

To Heroic sons 4

And the families had to take up the slack and fill in the holes left by the men who died.

County courthouse

Across the street from the park was the Wapello County Courthouse. The county appears to be named after Chief Wapello. Born in 1787, he was originally from the part of the country that is now Wisconsin. In 1829, he lead his tribe to the Muscatine Slough on the west bank of the Mississippi River and later settled in Iowa. He died while on a hunting trip near Ottumwa, Iowa on March 15, 1842.

I imagine that the statue on the top of the building is Chief Wapello.

Chief Wapello

I think that is a lightning rod sticking up out of his back.

Library bulldog

Just as I was about to leave the park and head back to the campground, I noticed this bulldog statue decorated with pictures from children’s books. As a reformed elementary school teacher, I thought this was adorable.

Back at the park I decided to go check things out at the carnival. I had a hot dog for dinner and strolled around to see what was going on.

Hogs for Dawgs

I passed the line up of motorcycles that belonged to the group “Hawgs for Dawgs.” People seemed to be enjoying looking at the bikes. I gave them a glance and went into the carnival.

Win big prizes

There were games of chance.

Balloon Race

And games of relative skill.

Bear Affair 1

The rides were kind of fun to look at. This one was called “Bear Affair”.

Bear Affair 2

They went around the circle and spun around in circles.

Bear Affair 3

It was fun to look at.

Reckless 2

Then there’s the ride called “Reckless”, for people looking for a little more excitement that spinning bears.
Reckless

It swung back and forth and spun around.

Round up ride

And then there was the Round Up ride. I wonder if that is a particularly popular ride here in the corn belt?

Roundup 2

The next day, before heading out, I made sure to add Iowa to the map on Flo.

Iowa on the map

I’ll be rolling on, but there will be no new states added to the map for a while.

 

Marshall, Missouri

After four days at the camping “resort” in Branson, I was more than ready to head north. I had booked a night at Van Meter State Park, and was I glad I did. Rather than looking at the side of the RV next to me, this was my view. What an improvement!

View out my door Van Meter State Park

Lush and green and well-tended. The restrooms were gorgeous! I almost got my camera and went back to take a photo after I took my shower, but I figured that would be a little much.

After I got set up, I went back into town to fill up my gas tank for the next day’s drive. The nearest town was Marshall.

Welcome to Marshall

Marshall was founded in 1839, after sixty-five acres of land was donated by Jeremiah O’Dell. It was named for the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice, who had died in 1835. Marshall is the county seat of Saline County.

Saline County Courthouse Marshall ,MO

In the center of town is the Saline County Courthouse. This building was constructed in 1882, after two previous courthouses were lost to fire. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and renovated in 2010. The building looks marvelous!

I parked my truck and got out to see what the people of Marshall chose to commemorate. The first monument that caught my eye was something that I wasn’t expecting.

Santa Fe Trail marker

I wouldn’t have thought that the Santa Fe Trail ran through here, but you learn something new every day. I find it interesting that they decided to commemorate it 37 years after the fact. I wonder if there is an average length of time it takes people to decide that they need to create a permanent memorial to something.

WW I Statue

This action-filled bronze commemorates the soldiers of World War 1.

WW I memorial plaque

This time, it only took them 11 years to create the memorial.

Memorial Bricks

The walk leading up to the courthouse door is paved with the names of people who served in the wars starting with World War I. As the bricks look so new and the lettering is so crisp, I imagine that this was part of the renovations they did in 2010.

Brick close up

As I continued around the courthouse, I noticed the lush landscaping. They had the trees labeled, which I thought was a particularly lovely thing to do. I am always wondering what I am looking at. This is not to say that I am going to remember the names, but I appreciated their effort.

Snowdrift Crabapple

This is a snowdrift crabapple. The tree below is an ash.

Ash

As I got around to the other side of the courthouse, I noticed a statue. It was Chief Justice John Marshall.

Chief Justice Marshall statute

From the plaque on the base, you can see that this sculpture was part of the memorials created during the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.

Chief Justice Marshall Plaque

That is a more permanent – and classier – way to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial than the formerly ubiquitous Bicentennial Fire Hydrant.

bicentennial fire hydrant

I got around to the far corner of the courthouse square and came upon the more memorials.

POW MIA memorial

There was one for the POW/MIA. On the back are all the names that they are memorializing. The sun created glare, so I don’t have a photo of that side.

War Memorial

This memorial is dedicated to the wars and conflicts since World War I. While I am pleased that they are remembering the past, it saddens me that they have left a blank square for the next war.

With this thought hanging on my heart, I headed back to the truck. On the way, a large mural caught my eye.

Jim the wonderdog mural

Jim the Wonder Dog?! This I had to check out!

Marshall Welcome Center

The mural is on the side of a truly multi-purpose building. Marshall Welcome Center, Jim the Wonder Dog Museum AND Back from the Past Bicycles. Of course, it was closed, but I did look through the windows.

Jim the wonder Dog items for sale

If it had been open, I could have bought a Jim the Wonder Dog tee shirt and a Jim the Wonder Dog Bandana.

New Jim Shirt available

They even had a new Jim shirt available!

Since the museum was closed, I had to resort to the Internet to learn more about Jim and find out what made him a Wonder Dog.

Jim was a Llewellin Setter that lived from 1925-1937. He reportedly predicted the sex of unborn babies, the winner of the Kentucky Derby seven year in a row, as well as the Yankee victory in 1936. He also could follow orders given to him in many differs languages, even though his owner only spoke English. So amazing were his talents that a joint session of the Missouri Legislature was called in order to witness Jim’s talents.

If you want to learn more about Jim the Wonder Dog, you can always make a visit to Marshall and see the museum. It might be open. After my experience with the Roger Miller Museum in Erick, Oklahoma, it might be worth a call to check before you head over. You could also check out the Jim the Wonder Dog website.

And then it was time to head back to camp. I had another day of driving ahead of me in the morning.

Branson, MO, or In Which I Find Out What a Time Share Is

You know how they say that there is no such thing as a free lunch? (I’ve already established that there is no such thing as a free cat.) For some reason, I thought I had won a stay at a campground in Branson. Well, I didn’t have to pay for it, but I did have to sit through a 90 minute sales pitch. I guess it was worth the hectoring I experienced for four free nights in Branson. I also received $100 in gift certificates for Camping World. And, I have more nights of free camping at the locations in their chain, if I care to use them.

If I get in the neighborhood of one of their facilities, I might take advantage of the offer. I mean, I did sit through the sales pitch. And free is my favorite price.

This seems to be a membership camping club. The saleswoman made a point of telling me several times that it wasn’t a timeshare. I didn’t exactly know what a timeshare was, but I found out while I was in Branson!

After I got into the campground and got the trailer situated, I went to the grocery store. As I was checking out, I noticed that there was a booth selling tickets to the shows in Branson. I figured that I should probably try to catch a show – after all, that is what Branson is famous for.

The salesman told me that all the tickets were $15. That sounded good, so I picked out a couple of shows. Then, he did a bunch of figuring and then turned the paper around and asked me if I’d like to see them for free.

Again, that siren call…free!

He told me that if I went to an informational meeting at the timeshare, I could have the tickets for free and I’d get a $50 gift card, too.

Well, why not?

The meeting would be in the next day. I got my groceries home and went to see the first show – SIX.

Six

It was an excellent show. If you ever find yourself in Branson, I’d recommend it. SIX refers to six brothers who perform a cappella. They have been doing the show in Branson for ten years. The music quality was consistent, they had a nice variety of pieces and the production values were high.

The next day, I went to the timeshare meeting. I really didn’t know much about what a timeshare was or how it worked. What I did find out was that they are very good at salesmanship and that I am not in the market for what they are selling.

The barrage of selling was orchestrated much like a fireworks display.

fireworks21

They had peaks and valleys of pressure and engagement. The very end was wild. It was like the closing display. I think there were three – maybe four – salesmen at my table within three minutes. I just kept saying no-no-no. Finally they let me leave. They gave me my gift card and the voucher for the other ticket.

There was one last attempt to pry money out of me. When I was leaving, they gave me a coupon for an extra gift. I turned it in, and it was a deck of cards. I don’t think they were playing cards, because the fellow at the desk told me that they were for discounts in Branson. I smiled and thanked him and handed the deck back.

That night, I got to see the second show. It was Million Dollar Quartet.

Million Dollar Quartet

Now, it may have been a very good show. The audience was enjoying it. The thing  is, I was never too into that era of music. I mean, I wasn’t even one year old when the event it is based on took place. But, I saw a show, it was well done, and it was FREE!

Now, I know, strictly speaking, the shows weren’t free. I paid for them with my time in the sales meeting. But, I count it as a win. I saw two shows, filled up my tank and bought some groceries and I found out that I am not interested in timeshares.

It’s not all about shows and timeshares in Branson. There are many other ways to spend money. Since I’m all about not spending money unless it is something I really want, I satisfied myself with looking.

Titanic Museum

Yes, that is a model of the Titanic sitting right there in the middle of the Ozarks. I am not sure why it is there, but there it is.

Titanic Exit and gift shop

As always, you exit through the gift shop.

Would I go back to Branson? Well, probably not. For one thing, it’s not really on the way to anyplace I plan to go. Also, I hate the roads! Narrow, hilly, curvy and NO SHOULDERS! The driving was a nightmare. Also, I’ve been there – I get the picture, and there are so many more places I’d rather schedule a second visit.

And that’s all I have to say about Branson.

 

No Such Thing as a Free Cat (2016)

Cora

My previous method of handling my money was to just keep an eye on my bank balances. I think this macro approach is more suited to my way of handling things. For instance, while my balances look fine, the amount of out-go during July has been a little scary. On the other hand, I spent less in July than I did in June or May.

But, I said I’d track my expenses for a year, and so I will persevere.

I suppose it is a bit unfair to blame the month’s high totals on poor Cora. When we got back to Kalamazoo, I took her to the vet for her shots and a checkup. It turned out that she had a tooth that needed to be removed, along with needing to have her teeth and ears cleaned. Cha-ching!

Other expenses                                        $1085.94
Campsites                                                      895.15
Gas                                                                  388.99
Groceries and such                                      314.61
Tourism                                                          100.00
Truck expenses                                               81.55
Restaurants/Eating out                                  67.59
RV Maintenance                                              59.85
Food and Drink on the Go                             17.17
Laundry                                                            14.50
Tolls                                                                     0.75
Clothing                                                              0.00

                         TOTAL                                  3026.10

I drove 1,946 miles. I stayed in three states – Michigan, Ohio and New York – and I drove through Pennsylvania along Lake Erie. Seven campgrounds were my home for at least one night.

I don’t think I have any big expenses coming up this month. I have my fingers crossed on that!

 

The Golden Door of Freedom

As a youngster, I read and re-read the books in the biography section in the children’s room in the basement of the Kenmore Public Library. That is where I first became acquainted with George Washington Carver. His life story really captivated my imagination. So, when HistoriCorps made available the opportunity to help preserve his first school, I couldn’t resist.

The school was started in 1872, and George Washington Carver referred to school as “the Golden Door of Freedom.” When Missouri was directed to provide for education of the former enslaved people, they bought a building that had been  built on speculation. It was a two-room building built in the style called “hall and parlor“.  It was intended to be a house, but it had not yet been lived in when the city bought it. It was used as a dwelling after it was no longer used as a school. HistoriCorps‘ task during the three weeks it scheduled to work  was to take off the additions and stabilize it for future preservation.

The first day of the project, we met at the school and posed for our team portrait.

IMG_1742

You know, after counting the people in this photo, I think some folks are missing from the picture. It was a busy job site – someone was always working!

The our first project-related task was to walk around and check out the building and identify what we would be doing. Our job was to remove the additions that had been made to the back, as well as all the non-original siding. The porch would be removed by a later team.

School day one

Standing on the porch, which is one of the additions that needed to be removed, is a ranger from the George Washington Carver National Monument. The rangers came by often – sometimes as part of their workday and sometimes after hours in their civilian clothes.

school back day one

This is the view of the back of the building, most of which we would be removing. Mature trees lent much appreciated shade in the steamy Missouri weather.

Putting up the time lapse camera

There was a lot of interest in our project. Here, you can see a photographer installing a time-lapse camera. It was set up to take a photo once every five minutes to document the changes taking place.

Setting up the drone

The photographer, whose name was Jim (I think) even captured our work with a drone.

getting the drone up

And here it is – up in the air. I hope the show ends up being made – and that I get a chance to see it!

We were finally issued our hard hats and set to work. First job, remove the siding on the additions in the back.

sidinf coming off the back

We made good progress. By the time we broke for lunch, the back was pretty much stripped.

back down to the studs

After lunch, we had the additions cleared off, right down to the studs.

filling up the dumpster day 1

We were getting that dumpster filled up!

Looking through the back addition

Talk about a room with a view! No walls – all windows!

The boys on the scaffolding

The two young men from New Jersey made short work of the siding on the ends of the buildings. They got down to the original siding quickly.

Getting ready to pull the additions down

Our last task on day one was to collapse the additions. Here you can see the photographer documenting the job. The first thing we tried was pulling it down with ropes. Half of us got on a rope on the left side and the other half of us were  on the right side. On the count of three, we pulled and we pulled. Nothing happened.

We repositioned the ropes and tried again. Nothing budged.

Kim Mailes, the Neosho local who had been spearheading this project for years, got his truck and pulled. One upright at a time was removed. That roof just did not want to come down. Eventually, however, gravity triumphed and the roof slowly sank to the floor.

It's finally down

The building was really cobbled together, but I guess if you double up enough substandard material, it gains structural integrity.

John and Angie checking things out

We made so much progress the first day, that John, the project leader, and Angie, the architect, had to get together and reorder the job list.

Bob working on a window

The building was covered with layer upon layer of materials, all of which needed to be removed.

Arvest Bank had acquired the property through foreclosure about twelve years ago and they offered it to the Carver Birthplace Association (CBA). It was known that this was the site of the Neosho Colored School, but no one knew for sure if this was the original building. In fact, most people thought that the original building had been torn down long ago. The CBA thought that they might tear the building down and create a memorial park, but they commissioned a study of the building to make sure that the original school wasn’t still there.

Angie, the architect, did the study. She estimated that the building was about 70% there.

So, with every piece of siding that was removed, we got closer to the original structure.

Planning the next steps

We kept picking away at the additions on the back.

The roof is just about gone

The roof is just about gone. We filled up one dumpster and almost filled up another.

Filling the dumpster - Rick and one of the boys

Finally, all the addition walls and the rear roof was gone.

Man, it's hot!

Man, it was hot work! The heat and humidity were off the charts, and the hard hats we had to wear while we were working didn’t help keep us cool.

Additions removed - waiting for a new dumpster

Next step, remove the foundation and floors of the addition.

Floors are gone

We found all sorts of “artifacts” under the additions.

things from under the additions

An archeologist was on site most days. I don’t think we found anything that was particularly significant, but you never know.

Repository for historical finds

We even had a “Repository for Historic Finds” hanging in a shrub back where we took out breaks.

It wasn’t all hot, sweaty work. After the work ended for the day, we were free to cool down however we saw fit. One evening, I decided to explore Hickory Creek, which ran through our campground. I indulged in a little “catch and release” rock collecting.

Fossil 1

I found some interesting fossils. (Interesting to me, that it!)

Fossil 2

You could still see the shells sandwiched in with the other fossils in this piece. I saw a crack, so I snapped it apart.

Fossil 4

These are fossils unlike any I’ve ever found.

Fossil 3

It was fun looking.

Rocks with holes

In addition to the fossils, I found some rocks with natural holes. I decided to hold on to these. Maybe I’ll string them together with other things some day.

The people of the town were very gracious. A group of anonymous donors had one meal a week catered for the project, and a church invited us to a dinner where they served up a mess of crappie along with an eye-popping array of pot luck dishes. Incidentally, “crappie” is pronounced more like “CRAW-pee”, not the way the spelling would lead you to believe. And, it was pretty good. Kim also had us out to his lovely home for dinner one night. We were well taken care of!

planning to shore up the foundation

After we had the rear additions removed, they started planning for the next steps. Unfortunately, some of the projects for the coming weeks included replacing the rotted and termite-riddled sills and shoring up the foundations. Fortunately, this was not a project for our group.

char being interviewd KSNF

There was a lot of media interest in the project. It seems like there was either a newspaper article or TV segment each day of the week I was there. Some days, I think there might have been both!

If you are interested in the media coverage or the project as a whole, I suggest that you take the time to check out the blog that Kim Mailes kept.

How it looked at the end of my week

The last day of the first session finally came, and here is the progress we made.

Me by the school

Here I am, posing in my hard hat.

group shot

And the gang, just before we all headed our separate ways.

There were two more work sessions after us, and they made great progress. This is how the school looked after three weeks of work.

Last day single shot

That’s pretty remarkable, by itself, but compare Dr. Carver’s sketch of how he remembered the school some fifty years after he attended it with how it was left at the end of the project.

side-by-side

Of all the things I’ve done on my travels, I think this is the most impressive.