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The Anti-Climax: August 29 – September 30, 2012

Our original plan was to start The Journey with a one month visit to the New England area.  But my back injury just three weeks before our departure changed our itinerary.  We high-tailed it to St. Augustine instead for two months of medical attention and recuperation before settling in Gulf Shores, Alabama for the first winter. So we tacked the New England visit on the end.

There was plenty of adventure in 2012 in our first 35 months, as earlier chapters of the travelogue attest.  But the final month was different. While we enjoyed the opportunity to see friends and family, we found ourselves entertaining daily and traveling through overly-familiar territory, both of which made it feel like it was already over. Nor were we excited about the cost for lodging for the final 24 days — it was 82% higher than the nightly average for the balance of the trip!

To summarize:  We spent Labor Day week in the northwest corner of Massachusetts (Bernardston), then we moved on to the Boston/Cape Cod areas before spending time in the Connecticut River Delta, our most “connected” spot in New England.  Finally, we parked for a week just a few miles south of Philadelphia in Clarksboro, NJ.  That last stop gave us the opportunity to have a reunion with both Dot’s mom and stepdad, Grace and Bill, who live in eastern PA, and with her brother and his partner, Stan and Ray, who live near Sandy Hook, NJ.  

And yes — we did get to get some new education!   


We started with Historic Deerfield, not far from Bernardston. It’s known today for both its historic preservation and for Deerfield Academy, a prestigious private high school. Deerfield dates back to circa 1670, when colonists to the east were issued questionable grants for this territory about 80 miles inland. The area at the time was occupied by the Algonquian speaking Pocumtuck tribe, who were soon routed by the Mohawks.  At the turn of the 18th century, during Queen Anne’s War, the French descended from Quebec and, with assistance from local Native Americans, devastated the village, killing over 50 of its citizens and marching another 112 north in something akin to a shorter Trail of Tears.  Most of the captives were eventually repatriated, and Deerfield grew quietly, along with surrounding communities, for the next century and a half — famous only for its bellicose beginning.  To this day, no one is sure why it suffered so, since there’s nothing strategic about the area.

In the Colonial Revival years of the late 19th century, an association was formed to preserve the historic roots of a portion of the community and to commemorate the military deprivation it suffered. The biggest impetus to their effort was the return to town of descendant Charlotte Baker. She sponsored one of the earliest colonial restorations in New England by revitalizing and timely furnishing of her family homestead, Frary House.  Today, there are approximately a dozen association properties open to ether self-guided or conducted tours.  In addition, there is a visitor’s center, a full-service inn, a museum, an apprentice workshop with craft exhibits, gardens, other collections and workshops — and, of course, a gift shop. The Academy sits in the middle of it all, and numerous privately owned and occupied homes are interspersed throughout.

No photography was allowed within the properties, but there was plenty of stuff to shoot in the museum.  A sampling is below.  Henry and Helen Grier, philanthropists from Greenwich, Connecticut, took a fancy to the town when they delivered their son to the Academy in 1936. They bought up many of the houses and thousands of antiquities, which today enrich the exhibit. With ever-limited museum floor space, Deerfield cleverly exhibits its warehouse behind glass. The first picture is an original volume of the seven volume epic by Rev. Cotton Mather, The Ecclesiastical History of New England, published in 1702.  The last picture includes some old Nantucket Lightship Baskets!

The next adventure took us to Shelburne Falls for a pair of fascinating exhibits. Shelburne Falls is a village linking the towns of Shelburne and Buckland, located on opposite sides of the Deerfield River.  An old iron bridge connected the two.  In 1896, the Shelburne Falls and Colrain Street Railway began service to connect the two towns and run north to Colrain on the Vermont border.  In order to travel its seven mile route, it had to cross the River, and, while the iron bridge was sufficient to handle the Railway,  Buckland selectmen refused passage.  So freight was laboriously barged across the river until 1907, when SFCSR built its own span next to it. Commuters, schoolchildren, farmers and merchants rode the rails for about 25 years, when “progress” and the automobile forced the Railway into receivership in 1927.  Its workhorse car, #10, the only one purchased new, was sold off to a farmer who used it as a chicken coop.

Sixty five years later, #10 was donated to the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum. The Museum, founded for the purpose of restoring both #10 and its “age,” is based in the old Buckland freight yard.  In 2009 the fully-restored car started a short run back and forth to Main Street with tourists and a historian aboard.  One track over, young and old alike are invited to hop aboard a pump car and make it go along a parallel route under the stern leadership of a retired schoolmarm.  Also received and restored is a wooden caboose, CV-4015, built in 1910.  Museum exhibits themselves are lagging behind rolling stock, but they are the focus of the future.

 An what of the bridge? Abandoned by the railroad, it became an eyesore but still served as an aqueduct, carrying water across the River to Buckland.  Its future was sealed by the ingenuity of one Mrs. Antoinette Burnham who, along with husband Walter, proposed that the bridge become a garden. The Fire District purchased the span, and over the next two years, the Women’s Club led the charge to raise dollars and inspire volunteers to turn it into a floral delight. Today, the Bridge of Flowers Organization maintains and enhances it yearly, despite such plagues as Hurricane Irene and early/late snowstorms!

We moved on to Littleton, Mass, where we availed ourselves of two area landmarks never before visited. (You know how you neglect stuff in your own back yard.) The first was the city of Salem, which yielded two venues: The House of the Seven Gables and The Salem Witch Museum.

Roger Conant

Roger Conant


First things first. If you enter the core of the town, at the common, you witness an imposing statue of a very strange looking man. He’s right next to the Witch Museum, so you might quickly think he’s a sinister part of that experience. But he isn’t; he’s Roger Conant, the founder of Salem.  Arriving in Plymouth around 1623, he moved north to Cape Ann within a couple of years, most likely because of the harshness and vindictiveness that had risen in the original Colony.  In 1626, he was named the first Governor of the English settlers in Salem.  



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Salem Harbor

The House of the Seven Gables is actually a historic district consisting of half a dozen buildings interspersed with beautiful strolling gardens.  It is located adjacent to Salem’s prosperous harbor.  The “House” itself was built by sea captain and merchant John Turner in 1668 and occupied by three generations of his family before being sold to Captain Samuel Ingersoll in 1782. When Ingersoll died at sea, title passed to his daughter Susanna, whose friendship with her cousin Nathaniel Hawthorne led to the author’s glorification of the property in his immensely popular novel.  Fast forwarding to 1908, philanthropist Caroline Emmerton bought the property and teamed with architect Joseph Everett Chandler to return it to original form.  At this time, three of the gables were gone!  Emmerton eventually brought five other buildings to the site for restoration, including Hawthorne’s birthplace.  They are still in various stages of completion. A docent gave us an intimate tour of the Seven Gables house itself, including a building block model that shows its de-evolution in stages and its return to birthright.

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The Salem Witch Museum


Returning to the spookier part of town, we signed on for the program in the Salem Witch Museum. Seated on benches along the sides of a large room, we experienced the story through a series of life-sized dioramas that were lit in turn as the tale unfolded. The trials, in 1692, led to the hanging of 19 presumably innocent people. One of the chief judges in the trials was Justice John Hathorne (not a typo).  He was the only one who didn’t renounce and repent for his involvement once the hysteria was over.  The great grandfather of Nathaniel, it is believed that the author inserted the “w” into his name to dissociate himself from his illustrious forebear.



Our second excursion from Littleton took us to Lowell, Massachusetts, a thriving industrial city that sits on the Merrimack River about 30 miles northwest of Boston. Born in 1820 as the Lowell Experiment, it became America’s textile center and the first factory town in the Nation. It has been referred to, in fact, as the Cradle of the American Industrial Revolution. A century later, it was devastated as its industries shrunk and relocated. While it still has an identity crisis of sorts, it has become a model for the rebirth of former manufacturing centers; it has a lot of toney features and is a suburban residential community.

Our destination involved Lowell’s artistic side.  Today, it is an enclave for the arts, and those roots go back as far as James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The famous “mother-painter” was born in Lowell in 1834, where his father, a West Point civil engineer, was Chief Engineer of the Proprietors of Locks and Dams.  James’s tenure in Lowell was brief; within three years his father became firmly implanted in the railroad industry.   Over the next few years, they lived in other New England cities, then moved to England and on to Russia in 1842, where James studied drawing at the Imperial Academy of Science.  His father became a consultant on the building of Russia’s first major railroad.   He returned to America after his father’s death, where he flunked out of West Point and pursued a career in technical drawing.  By 1855, however, he was committed to a fine arts career and returned to Europe for the rest of his life.

Adjacent to the house is a lovely park, presided over by a statue of the artist by international sculptor Mico Kaufman.  It is surrounded by a circular set of keystones that chart Whistler’s life that are enhanced with spacious grounds.

Whistler painted his best known work, Arrangement in Grey and Black, in 1872. The story goes that the original model for the work did not show up and Whistler convinced his mother to pose.  The work was originally meant to have the model standing, but Anna was too frail to stand for the whole session. Thus we have Arrangement in Grey and Black, #1: Portrait of the Artist’s Mother.  It was followed a year later by #2, a portrait of Thomas Carlyle.


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The Whistler Home/Museum

Today, Whistler’s home is the Whistler House Museum of Art. It contains no original Whistler paintings, but the second floor does display a major collection of his etchings. Dominating the parlor is an exact scale copy of the painting of his mother executed by Edith Fairfax Davenport, a cousin of the artist, in 1906.  In the Grand Hallway, Main Gallery and Portrait Gallery, there are numerous oils from the late 19th/early 20th century by New England representational artists, including a fine portrait of the artist’s father, George Washington Whistler.





Behind the house is the Parker Gallery, which houses contemporary and historical fine arts exhibitions and sponsors community and educational programs.  The exhibit in place during our visit was entitled Bernie and Bill; it highlighted the work of two local stalwarts.  


Bernie is Bernard Petruzziello, born in Boston, graduate of the MFA School, teacher, and exemplary producer of fine figure drawings and paintings. Now 76, he lost his sight in the nineties from retinosis pigmentosa, but he continues to work, though now more abstract. “Although I can no longer see, I still vividly remember colors,” he says. “My painting feels freer to me now. Before I felt like I had to adhere to the “rules” of painting. Now, with the help of other artists and my wife, I mix my own colors, measure my canvas, and think about what colors to use. My painting is much more emotional now.”

Bill is Vassilios Giavis, born in Lowell in 1929. He graduated from Mass. College of Art and is a member of the prestigious Copley Society. He illustrates and paints scenes that often develop into series, such as churches, town halls, diners or historic buildings. He once did a series on Jack Kerouac, another Lowell native son, including birthplace, high school, haunts and memorial park. Their works, interspersed, were something we became infatuated with. I was impressed enough to borrow the above two images from the gallery’s advertising card, Bernie’s Model Resting and Bill’s Lowell City Hall.

Bill Giavis has a studio in Lowell’s Brush Gallery. We didn’t get there, but we have been at similar facilities, including the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA and the Foundry Art Centre in St. Charles, MO.  Each is an artistically but minimally converted factory building holding exhibition and studio space for artists in residence.  Some artists post regular hours, but often it’s hit or miss on who you get to talk to!

Cape Cod and Connecticut Reunions

Both Cape Cod and Connecticut were people stops rather than adventure stops. It was nostalgic driving down to Woods Hole to pick up my longtime friend Mary Jean Miner, who ferried over from The Vineyard to see us.  (I made dozens of trips on that ferry — and its sister ships to Nantucket — during my years living in New England.)

I said earlier that the Connecticut River Delta was our “most connected spot.” The explanation is a bit long, but I hope you’ll bear with me.  As a young person, growing up in the NYC area in the fifties, I sailed the New England coast many times with my family.  When Mom and Dad moved to the Hartford area, the boat’s home port became Saybrook, CT,  just inside the mouth of the Connecticut River.  One of my favorite harbors was Duck Island Roads, a tiny island nearby. 

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Duck Island Roads in Long I. Sound

I met Don Fowler, an art director from Meriden, CT, when I was living in Boston in the late 60s. We quickly became close friends.  He rented a summer place — “Kitch’s Cottage” — from an old family friend each September — at which I misspent much of my early middle age.  The cottage was on the Long Island Sound shoreline in plain view of . . . Duck Island Roads!  In 1972, he met and married a lovely woman, Marilyn Lee, and that made the good times even better!  He died too young in 1984, but I still visited Marilyn and her kids. She also kept up the tradition of renting the Cottage each September, until she passed on in 2008.

I first met Dot about the time that Don died. By sheer coincidence, she had roots in the same Connecticut area; she’d lived in Middletown, about 30 miles north.  She often traveled up there with me, and she re-kindled a relationship with her cousin Bobby Gay, giving us another compelling reason to travel more to our area of apparent destiny!  Bobby and his wife Hazel welcomed us warmly into their home; we felt like members of their already large family.  They possessed a lifetime of RVing experience, and we delighted in swapping stories about our adventures.  Bobby also has encyclopedic knowledge of the area, especially the River itself.

 This past summer, Dot wrote to Bobby and Hazel now in their 90’s, to let them know of our plans to visit. We hadn’t been in touch since before we left. Shortly before our arrival, we learned from their daughter, Linda, that physical problems had forced Bobby to move into a continuing care facility.  When we visited with him, he was totally sound of mind and delightful as ever — happy with his computer, surrounded by artwork of boats on the River, and dictating an oral history to his children and grandchildren.  Linda met us there, making the visit even more special.  

At the same time, Hazel had surgery complicated by a heart attack.  She was still in ICU when we visited but destined to have her own room in the same facility when released. She made it to her room across the hall.  The day after her arrival, they took a joint wheelchair spin through the facility. He tucked her in bed that night, but she never woke up again.  God, in his mercy, gave Bobby a special opportunity to share those final moments with his beloved Hazel.

New Jersey/Pennsylvania

Dot’s mom (Grace) wasn’t very mobile; she’d had to undergo minor back surgery shortly before our arrival. But she gamely sat through a car ride from Pottstown, PA while the boys drove south from their home on the New Jersey shore for a Dot ‘n Don cookout. A fun time was had by all, including seven – count ‘em – Schipperkes. Stan and Ray brought along Sadie, Neptune and Frederick (aka Lucifer, the demon dog) to visit with our gang. Fred and Schip-Dude spent a lot of time outdoing each other, but no one other than the demon was found repeatedly in the middle of the dining table! They are all just plain fun to watch.

Dot made several visits back over to see Grace. At just about the mid-point of that trip was Valley Forge, which neither of us had ever studied. So we gave it a day and visited the Valley Forge National Historical Park — skipping the Premium Outlets, 5-star restaurants, trendy bistros, hotels (sixty of ’em), romantic inns, and the USA’s largest retail shopping mall. Oh, if George and Company could see the place now . . .

The site is 3,500 acres, hardly a walking tour. We began at the Visitor’s Center and partook of the introductory movie, which served to debunk much of the myth surrounding the settlement.  Often viewed as a destructive, demoralizing disaster that virtually wiped out the fledgling force, the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge was actually a period of reincarnation. No one would claim that the winter of ’77-’78 was a bed of roses.  Standing in snow in bare feet with comrades around you succumbing to disease was not looked back upon as your favorite time.  But Washington had amassed a crew of devoted patriots, and they were not about to give up.  There were frequent and repeated supply convoys from the north and west, keeping up the spirits of gallant men who were fresh from somewhat successful combat.

Each company built its own accommodations, with prizes for quickest completion, and they varied greatly depending on the geography of the team.

Firmly entrenched, General Washington implemented the next step. Aware that his army could not beat the British on their terms, he enlisted the services of Baron Friederich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben, a tactical genius, to anneal his men into a proficient marching machine. Von Steuben spoke no English; he taught through example and occasional translation.  And the results quickly became evident.

Commander Howe and his British regulars fought hard to take Philadelphia that fall, and Washington’s army stationed itself close enough to observe and keep the British confined while far enough away to avoid a surprise raid.  The French duly recognized the United States and promised help in May, 1778, after which the British evacuated Philadelphia and ran into the new American force they’d never seen before. The rest, as they say, is history.

Surveying the many artifacts at the museum, we learned — among other things — the origin of “pieces of eight” and of “two bits” (last two pictures).

Driving the grounds, we stopped at numerous points of interest and then wound up at the Valley Forge Railroad Station, which contained a number of graphics highlighting Washington’s command.

It was from there that tours formed to visit the nearby Washington’s Headquarters, a stone house owned and loaned by Isaac Potts.  A docent tour was provided there, but no one could explain how it could possibly accommodate as many as 25 staff members at a time!  Being in the presence of the very place where discussions and planning preserved the birth of our Nation, however, was one more awe-inspiring experience to crown our trip.

The Park was rife with monuments and memorials to the heroes of the Revolution. The National Memorial Arch heralds  all the officers and soldiers of the Army.

The  The Pennsylvania Columns contain four plaques commemorating officers from the Keystone State. The plaque shown below, right features Brig. Generals John Armstrong and Peter Muhlenberg.

The statue is of General  Anthony Wayne (1745-1797).  A thriving tanner in Pennsylvania, he began military training in 1765 and was appointed a colonel at the start of the Revolution.  Five months later, he was promoted to Brigadier General and ordered to join Washington’s army.  He led his troops into many battles, and in June of 1779, he recorded one of the more notable victories of the war.  He was appointed Commanding General of the Legion of the United States in 1792, a force that fought in the Indian Wars.  His nickname — “Mad” Anthony Wayne — was related only to his temper.  He was abundantly competent and called upon to lead many of the toughest assignments by his Commander in Chief.


We made the short trip to Churchton on the 30th and stayed over at a campground near our house, wanting to visit before actually reclaiming it.  While the exterior had not received as much TLC as we might have hoped, the interior was spotless and ready to move back in. Ensuing time revealed a few surprises, but we could not have selected a better tenant. On Monday morning, we brought our home-on-wheels to our home-on-foundation and began re-assimilation.

My funk deepened.  It actually began back on April 30, the day we left Elko, Nevada and turned east. It took an unhealthy dip when we crossed the Mississippi, and it tanked when we entered the eastern time zone.  Truth be told, my druthers were to continue the trip perpetually.  Not so fast, says Dot, who yearns for a bit less temporal existence, at least for a while.  So we’ve gone home.  

No, wait – we’ve only gone home for 85 days, after which we’ll chug off to Florida for the winter.  

So we’re certainly not done traveling.  Stand by . . . . . . . . .

NYS Capital 2

The Adirondacks: August 24-29, 2012

Neither of us had visited New York’s capital city or its burbs.  Albany was not very prosperous from the campground standpoint, but we did find one called Arrowhead in Glenville, a part of Schenectady.  We got into the best full service site in the park; Arrowhead is on the banks of the Mohawk River and has a marina as well as a campground.  Our view was right on the waterfront. 

Near Glenville is the town of Watervliet, NY.  It has several claims to fame.  It is the location of the oldest Federal arsenal in the US, built in 1813 and still today producing artillery and tanks today.  Its most famous native is Leland Stamford, railroad baron, eighth governor of California and founder of the university that bears its name.   And its best known immigrant is Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers.

My sphere of knowledge about the sect was pretty much limited to the lovely wooden boxes and furniture designs attributed to them.  I know a bit more now.  Born in Manchester, England, and a mother who lost 8 children before the age of six,  Ann Lee joined an organization called the Wardleys and, as she rose through the ranks, preached celibacy and the equality of women. In the process, she  founded the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, or, less formally, The Shakers.  Their name was actually a contraction of Shaking Quakers.  The groups were similar in beliefs; the Quakers, too, were pacifists and communists and believed in many of the same things – except celibacy and gender equality – but they worshiped quite differently.  The Shakers would shake and shiver the Devil out of themselves  as they danced to their hymns in their Meeting House.  In fact, Ann was repeatedly arrested for dancing and blaspheming on the Sabbath.

To avoid further persecution, Ann moved to New York in 1774 at age 38 with eight followers and settled in an area of Watervliet known as Niskayuna, now a separate town.  She established her fledging community over the next five years.  Another group, the New Light Baptists of New Lebanon, NY heard her preach and adopted her philosophy, thus creating strength in numbers.  From 1781 through 1783,  she and her closest followers carried the message into New England, where they established several villages — at the expense of severe physical abuse from those afraid of her.  She died a year after her return to Watervliet; some say that the violence against her body contributed to her demise.

Our  guide, Candy Murray, Ph.D. of the Shaker Heritage Society, which formed in 1977 to preserve this site.  Her all-encompassing knowledge made her a delight to listen to, especially when she gave us the inside track.  For example, the Meeting House sanctuary is a large room, wide open for the dancing and carrying-on at their worship, with a set of bleachers at the far end where the general public can watch their services.  The front section of the building has a second floor for the elders, with small windows through which they could watch the audience for signs of euphoria or enthusiasm (possible converts) and rowdiness (troublemakers).

Senior church elders and elderesses migrated to New Lebanon after Ann’s death, and that site, known as Mount Lebanon, became the center of authority.  But it has been undergoing a restoration and the “official” Shaker Museum is currently closed.  Candy told us that reorganization has been going on ineffectively for three years so far.  The SHS that operates the original Watervliet site is independent. 

The two front rooms on the first floor of the Meeting House  were “shoe rooms,” each with its own outside door, where men on one side  and women on the other removed their street clothing and changed shoes to be more comfortable for services.  The center door was for the elders alone.  A peek into the attic showed why the long and wide roof is still straight as an arrow after all these years.

The men’s side is now a small museum, showing the tools of the trades that Shakers used to create a good standard of living for their community through trade.  In addition to a wide variety of farm products, both grown and raised, they specialized in herbs, furniture, boxes, textiles, brooms and baskets.  The women’s front parlor is now a reception room and gift shop.

We viewed other buildings in the Village as well, including the Ministry Workshop, Wash House, Brethren’s Workshop and the Trustee’s Building.  The last, which was right behind the Meeting House, held the person wielding extensive power in the community, for it was he who managed all the finances and dealt exclusively with the outside world.

The Shakers recruited singles and families, but a major source of their membership came from the adoption of orphans.  Some indigent people joined to stave off poverty and malnutrition.  At their height, the Shakers had 13 active communities:  Maine (2), New Hampshire (2), Massachusetts (4), Connecticut (1), Ohio (2) and Kentucky (2).  Their ranks thinned into the 20th century; Watervliet closed down in 1925 and New Lebanon in the 1940’s.  At their height, they numbered over 6,000 members.  Today, there are 3.  Not three thousand; three members.  They live in the Sabbathday Lake Village in Maine.   Until several years ago, there were four, but when the Boston Globe sent a reporter up to do a story on them, one fell in love with her.  Bye-bye celibacy.  Candy told us, however, that there are currently three potential new recruits.   On the way out, we visited the cemetery, two blocks away.   All of the headstones are identical, save for Ann’s, which is a bit taller and more inscribed.

The two sights we wanted to see in Albany were the State Capitol  and the State Museum.  They were near each other in a major complex called Empire State Plaza, a 95 acre urban renewal project that was championed by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.  The first building of nearly a dozen opened in 1961 but wasn’t fully operational until 1976.  We drove around to the State Capitol and found a parking spot at the top of its block-long  park.  Across the street was the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building, the second tallest in the city, built in 1930.  The tallest is the Erastus Corning Building; the first building opened in the Plaza.  It is named for Albany’s mayor who worked closely with Rocky to make the project possible.  Across the street to the north is the State Education Building, opened in 1912.  Its 36 Corinthian columns are the longest colonnade in the U.S.

The front and rear sides of the State Capitol are pretty much a mirror images, except for the endless staircase up from the street.  Since the front was blemished by repair scaffolding, you’re looking at the back side below.  The Capitol took 32 years to become a reality.  Many years ago, A. Whitney Griswold, then president of Yale University, asked,  “Could Hamlet have been created from a committee . . . certain ideas spring from individuals.”  Such was not the case with the Capitol building.  The first floor was designed by Thomas Fuller.  He was fired in 1875 by Gov. William Dorsheimer, who hired Leopold Eidlitz and Henry Hobson Richardson; they created the second and third floors.  In 1883, Gov. Grover Cleveland dismissed Messrs. Eidlitz and Richardson and brought in Isaac Perry to complete the project.  Richardson, however, is credited with the greatest influence on the final result.  Richardson’s best known work is the magnificent Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Square, where a cousin of mine, Theodore Parker Ferris, was rector from 1942 – 1972.

We entered on the north side, through security that was very stringent.  The last two Capitols we visited – Oregon and Idaho — had no security whatever.   Their next tour was later than we wanted to wait for, so we found our way to the Great Western Staircase that runs from top to bottom in the center of the building.  Each level held legislative offices and chambers, off limits to us because we weren’t on tour.  On Level 2, we found a poster series that told the story of the Great Fire of 1911.  There were three significant casualties, two of which could not be replaced.  First was the extensive damage to the building itself.  Second was the only demise, an elderly night watchman named Samuel Abbot who perished and haunts the building to this day.  Third was the half million historical records contained in the libraries that were beyond recovery.  

Continuing to the Senate and Assembly levels, we eventually arrived at the fourth floor, where  the ingenious lighting system was revealed.  Above us was a two part system to illuminate the entire shaft:  a laylight and a series of skylights.  The laylight was a domed affair that consists of 2,600 square feet of layered, diffusing glass that filters the light passing through the skylight(s) above.  The central has 200 panes of clear glass.  Together, they create the appropriate aura for the flights below.  By hiking a fire stair, we were able to view the elements closer at hand.

Mobile Off-Track Betting

Mobile Off-Track Betting

Back to the Culture Building, we checked in at the NYS Museum’s front desk.  The exhibit ran in a U-shape around the utilitarian center, and you could approach if from either direction.  And if you had the time,  you’d give it a full day’s worth of attention.  It was very New York – nothing trivial, nothing simple, just one set after another.  We began with prehistoric formation and wilderness, then moved on to a full-blown presentation on the Adirondacks.   Pix below show wildlife, early surveying, logging, and an old steam engine.  The last shows the Rondack chair/bed, designed for just settin’ out on your porch and having a snooze when you wanted to.

The group of pictures below portray early settlers.

Next, two ancient occupants who left their calling cards, a mastodon and a right whale.

Next, a feature on Seneca Ray Stoddard (1844-1917), a painter and photographer who documented the Adirondack area on film.  There were several dozen examples of his fine work, and it induced a flood of tourism.

Coming around to the other side, we begin to view downstate.  The first three pix display early transportation.  The boat is a Sandbagger, very popular as a racing craft in the mid nineteenth century on Long Island Sound.  Shifting the sandbags from one side to the other allowed it to carry more sail area and (usually) kept it from capsizing. They were built on City Island, a part of the Bronx at the west end of the Sound.

The next group below bear witness to the city’s waterfront trade along South Street.

Then we looked at the growth of New York City, from early construction and development of neighborhoods rich and otherwise.

There was a focused exhibit on Harlem and some of its champions, and a study of the garment industry sweatshops and the worker’s salvation by the ILGWU (Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union).

9/11 was neither neglected nor emphasized.  The first two images below picture a trailer that was on-site after the tragedy for the comfort of victims’ families and volunteers.  The next two are a steel girder collapsed by the heat and a fire engine that never made it home.  Next is the story of the naval ship, USS New York, that was built from steel recovered from the site.

Behind this display was one featuring half a dozen old NY fire engines.

That was a too-quick trip through the first floor.  But we also found an attic on the fourth floor with a few more exhibits, including a working carousel (yes, I rode it), a Hansom Cab, a “newer” hack, FDR’s 1932 Packard that he bought as governor and brought with him to Washington, the first state plane, a model of the Coney Island Parachute Jump and a section of the early Stock Exchange.  Finally . . . out of the 4th floor windows, looking back into the Plaza, I managed to get a good picture of The Egg. It’s a performance center for the city, with two amphitheaters; one seats 450 and the other 982. Some of you will recognize the memorial name of the larger: The Kitty Carlisle Hart Theater.

Finished with New York, we headed across the border to Massachusetts.  We had three choices of route:  the Turnpike, the Mohawk Trail and the Molly Stark Trail through lower Vermont.  Molly’s route looked a little tricky, until we realized that there was probably nothing these little hills could throw at us that matched the Rockies, Tetons, Bitterroots, Cascades. . . . . .   

Corning, NY and the Finger Lakes: August 17-24, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

From Chautauqua, we opted for a route due east rather than following the Lake Erie/Ontario coast. Next stop was the town of Addison, about ten miles south of Corning, NY. It was a hilly, grassy, rustic campground with mostly seasonals — people who leave their units there from May 15 – Oct. 15 and either stay with them or, more likely, commute back and forth from their homes and businesses. It had one of the largest and most beautiful outdoor pools we’ve encountered – and reasonable prices.

We had two adventures of interest. The first was a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass. Corning is a company town; you can’t go down many roads in the area without seeing one or more of their plants. The Museum is an ultra-modern structure in a modular format.

The Hot Glass Exhibition features half-hour demonstrations of glass shaping in two studios.

A series of Galleries with over 40,000 glass creations, from simply artistic to very practical, and from today back as far as the Romans.

The Innovations section explores the voluminous uses of glass and includes three demonstration stages, including fiber optics.

Multiple Workshops teaching visitors how to make their own creations to take home (for a fee).

A dedicated exhibit highlights the work of Frederick Carder, co-founder of Steuben Glass. Carder worked with Peter Fabergé in his early career in England, and he came to America at the beginning of the 19th century. He established Steuben in 1903, and after it was purchased by Corning Glass Works in 1918, Carder continued to work at Corning until retiring in 1959. He died in 1963 at the age of 100. The infamous Steuben Gallery in Manhattan closed in 2011.

Historical Snippets, including a photograph of an old glass etching factory, where many grindstones are belt-driven from a continuous driveshaft, and a model of a glass blowing factory, where each creator has his own work area around a large furnace. A Tiffany church window is there in all its glory. The biggest artifact in the place was a Palomar telescope mirror, 200 inches in diameter, that was miscast and useless. A teaser question asks how the gigantic failure was moved into the museum building. Answer: the building was built around it!

Our other adventure found us about 20 miles north of Corning in Watkins Glen. The village anchors the south end of Seneca Lake, the largest of eleven that make up the Finger Lakes. Seneca, Canandaigua and Keuka are dominant and have tourist attractions. All have cruises, but Seneca presents two Capt. Bill’s motorized excursions — the dinner boat Seneca Legacy and the hour-long tour boat Stroller IV — plus sailing excursions on the 54 foot schooner True Love. Originally Malabar VII, the full-rigged vessel is one of a series of John Alden racing schooners. She won the Bermuda Race in 1926, the year she was commissioned, and she also appeared in the 1956 Crosby-Kelly-Sinatra movie, High Society.

We toured around the village, clearly a vacation destination, and lunched at Capt. Bill’s shoreside restaurant, Seneca Harbor Station (yum yum). Along Main Street, we found four sidewalk plaques three of which are shown below. You should recognize all the names.

Watkins Glen’s heritage includes its position as one of the premiere racing circuits in the United States. It all started in 1948, when a local man organized the first post-WW II sports car race over a six mile street course right through the heart of town. The downtown Grand Prix became an annual affair until 1952, when a spectator was killed. A new course, outside of town but still on existing roads, was created and used until 1956, when the first permanent course was established. Over the years, Watkins Glen International has had highs and lows and has been redesigned many times. Today, it boasts two courses , a Grand Prix course that’s 3.4 miles long with 11 turns, and a 2.45 mile short course with 8 turns — with about 7 huge grandstands. It’s in frequent use by cars of every description from Indy cars through NASCAR; the latter ran its 2012 Sprint Cup race at the track over the weekend prior to our visit. Sports cars dominate, of course, with race days of all types, including vintage races and club races. The day we were there, Audi was racing, with BMW scheduled for the next day. The only time you could tour the facility was at 5:30 each day, when, I understand, you actually circle the track in your own car. But we couldn’t stay; the dogs were already crossing their legs back home and waiting for dinner.

One other fun fact: The track was the site of the 1973 Summer Jam concert, featuring the Allman Brothers, The Band and the Grateful Dead. Attended by 600,000 of their closest fans, it was far and away bigger than Woodstock and is the Guinness record holder. Were you there????

Between lunch and the track, we took in the village’s singular sensation: Watkins Glen State Park. History-in-a-minute: The whole area was first purchased in 1794 by John Watkins and a partner, but it was John and his brother Charles who built the original town, then called Big Gully. The brothers Watkins abandoned the area, but younger brother Sam took interest and continued significant progress. His wife, Cynthia – half his age – married George Freer after his death and when Cynthia died, George teamed up with newspaper man Morvalden Ells to open the gorge to tourists. It was eventually sold to the State of NY, and the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society continued it as a tourist attraction. The Great Flood of 1935 wreaked terrible havoc, but the CCC was brought in and made it better than ever. The end.

So for the uninitiated, here’s what it is. The fissure in the sandstone and shale that dominates the region had been worked and reworked for millions of years. Passage through the gorge is about two miles long and 400 feet top-to-bottom; some views are 200 feet up/down. There are three trails; the primary one, Gorge Trail, descends (or rises) via comfortable man-made paths and bridges — and over 800 steps. Fortunately for us oldies, a bus will take you to the top for a nominal fee and permit descent. (We passed no one our age heading up!). Below are fewer than 20% of the pictures I shot of its pools, crags, tunnels and 19 waterfalls, two of which you walk behind. I hope you’ll open a lot of them.

So that was a week’s worth of exploration. You may be noticing a trend toward fewer adventures as we continue to roll toward the end of this journey. You may also notice that I’m completing chapters in shorter order. There’s a reason for all this, and I promise an eventual explanation. It’s certainly not that there’s less out there to see!

Lake Chautauqua, New York: August 9-17, 2012

Our campground was in Westfield,  right on Lake Erie.  It was primarily a seasonal-only facility, but they found space for us for a week, and while the hookups were a long way away, everything worked just fine.  We had a view of the Lake out of our dining room window and a view of a lovely pond out the back.  Down the road, less than a mile, was Westfield Harbor.

This trip to the Chautauqua region was, in part, a reunion for me.  Eight miles south of Westfield was the town of Mayville; it anchored the northern end of Lake Chautauqua.  Uncle Frank Ferris, my father’s elder brother, had a summer home in Mayville,  which later became his and Aunt Minna’s retirement home.  He was a Presbyterian minister, an author and an academic.  I have clear memories of visiting the house, cutting up a giant tree with him, and viewing the Lake down the hill.  I was 8 or 9 at the time.

In addition to the pleasure  of both Lakes Erie and Chautauqua, there were several venues of interest.   One, of course, was the Chautauqua Institution.  You may be well aware of this social and religious source of tolerant education and comfort, but for those who aren’t, here’s a brief history.

The Institution was created in 1874 by Lewis Miller, an inventor/philanthropist,  and Reverend John Vincent, a Methodist Episcopal minister.  Both were devoted to the development of religious teaching and devised the Institution as a summer learning experience for Sunday School teachers.  It quickly expanded, however, to reach out to all who were interested and to advance its four pillars:  arts, education, religion and recreation.  It created the Literary and Scientific Circle, a four year correspondence course directed to those who couldn’t afford advanced education, so successful that Circuit Chautauquas in revival-like settings cropped up all over the country, supplementing book learning with in-person lectures.

Its 782 acres boast a collection of organizational headquarters, religious institutions, lecture halls, classrooms, private homes,  guest accommodations, community facilities and businesses.  It is governed by a board of 24, much the same as a university.   A 5,000 seat Amphitheatre, built in 1893, is at the core of the arts, with nearly another 5,000 seats in other venues in the community.   Concerts by the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and groups from every genre – rock ‘n roll included — are joined by a sprawling theater arts workshop with a dozen individual rehearsal buildings that offers several major productions each season.  A studio of dance provides performances that include their own ballet company.

Accommodations are anchored by the 184 room Athenaeum Hotel, built in 1881.  Homes, apartments, rooms and condos throughout the community can be secured.  Every conceivable recreation is available, including a waterfront to die for, tennis courts and an 18 hole golf course.  Children are provided with headquarters and learning experiences in all disciplines by age groups.

While something goes on all year, the Chautauqua Season is nine summer weeks, with a promise to provide higher education quality than you achieve during the rest of the year!  We took a tour of the community via bus with a well-informed Chautauquan.  It lasted over an hour and, more than pointing out this or that building, our guide gave us a full historic perspective.  Along the waterfront, there’s a park featuring a model of the city of Palestine, which students traverse while learning the biblical significance.  If you wondered if there would be enough to do, each summer week’s schedule of activities and events is a handout printed on both sides of a newspaper-sized sheet of paper.

All presidents from Ulysses Grant to Bill Clinton have given speeches there;  how that started is a part of another story below.  A smattering of the lecturers’ names you’ll recognize are  Jane Addams, Alexander Graham Bell, Amelia Earhart, Henry Ford, Helen Keller, Sandra Day O’Connor, Eleanor Roosevelt, Tim Russert and Elie Wiesel.  You can learn much more at www.ciweb.org.

Next, a Bacchus Story.  There’s a strip of land extending along the Lake Erie shoreline, roughly five miles wide, that provides the perfect growing conditions for grapes.  Over 20,00 acres of vineyards in Chautauqua Valley make it the country’s largest growing county outside of California.  A combination of weather and soil enrich the area,  and an interesting phenomenon enhances the environment.  The land rises quickly from the Erie lakefront and the lake-effect weather, rich with moisture, holds much of it until the land rises.  The annual snowfall on Chautauqua, just ten miles or so inland, about eight times what it is near the coast.

The grape growing belt — about 50 miles long with Westfield approximately in the middle — has been fertile ground for unfermented juice as well.  In 1849, after planting 22,000 seedlings, Ephraim Wales Bull of Concord, Massachusetts developed his ideal grape and named it Concord for his farm’s location. Twenty years later, dentist Thomas Bramwell Welch reaped 40 pounds of the fruit from Bull’s cuttings in his Vineland, N.J. yard.   Cooking them briefly and pressing them, he sealed the juice in bottles and pasteurized  it to prevent fermentation.  Thus he became the Father of Processed Fruit Juice.  A staunch temperance supporter, he found a market among church leaders.  His son Charles Welch gave up his own dental profession to pursue the grape, and in 1896, he started the Welch Company in Watkins Glen, NY and moved it 20 miles south to Westfield the following year.  Headquarters of the Growers Cooperative is in Westfield, as are Welch processing plants and two original buildings with Welch’s logos etched in their concrete facades.

Of the more than two dozen wineries in the area, we chose Noble Winery, primarily because it offered a magnificent view of Lake Erie.  It was a working farm; they exported more grapes than they processed.  And they had a unique tasting system.  After a few samples, we settled on a delicious bottle of their driest white and took it out to the porch, where we savored the promised view.

While Westfield offered a tour of two dozen historic spots, we settled for the McClurg Museum.  In the heart of town is a square, including Moore Park, the McClurg Mansion, and two towering churches.  The property was originally all James McClurg’s estate, but he subsequently donated lots to the west and the southeast for the construction of the churches (below), and his grandson, Dr. William Moore, (1852-1938) willed the parkland and home to the town upon his death in 1938.

James McClurg came to Westfield from Pittsburgh in 1810, bought land and established several businesses.  When the War of 1812 broke out, he returned to the family foundry to produce cannon for his fledgling country.  After that, he returned to Westfield for the rest of his life. He was an energetic businessman and built the earliest frame house in the area.  But his crowning glory was the McClurg Mansion, built in 1818 and modeled after his father’s estate in Pennsylvania.  It stuck out like a sore thumb, of course, in this frontier environment, but it remained the family homestead until 1938.  William Seward, Lincoln’s and Johnson’s Secretary of State, lived in the mansion in the 1830’s, using the room behind the entrance (second pic below) as his office when he ran the Holland Land Company.  Incidentally, Seward survived an assassination attempt on his own life on Lincoln’s fatal evening.

The home has almost no original family artifacts, but it has been furnished historically and is peppered with exhibits of Westfield happenings, focusing on the 19th century and heavily on the Civil War.  One favorite story is that of twelve year old Grace Bedell of Westfield, who wrote to candidate Lincoln just before his 1860 election urging him to grow a beard.  He returned her letter with no promises but was sporting his iconic growth a month later and eventually showed it off to her in Westfield.  Another Museum treasure is the archives of Eliel Todd Foote. Born in 1796, he was a physician, legislator and banker.  More importantly, he was a historian who devoted a significant amount of his life collecting and compiling the history of the Chautauqua region until his death in 1877.  Another feature story illuminates Albion Tourgee, one of the earliest voices against segregation.  He was seriously injured at Bull Run but recuperated and reenlisted to fight later at Chattanooga and Chickamauga.   Moving to North Carolina after the war, he became a superior court judge, where he faced frequent death threats from the KKK.  He left NC in 1880 and moved to Mayville, where he lived for the balance of his life.  His judicial efforts shared prominence with his authorship; he wrote an autobiography,  A Fool’s Errand in 1879, and it sold over a million copies both in the US and abroad.    Subsequent literary and legal efforts provided ups and downs; the most prominent of his late exploits was serving as chief counsel for Homer Plessy in his attempt to remove the separate but equal concept in Louisiana.  He lost Plessy v. Fergusen, but he originated the concept that justice should be color-blind.  The story of the reversal of that case is mentioned in another story below.

My pictures are scant, because I abided a sign prohibiting them but later learned from our guide, Jack Horst, that I could snap away.


The lower end of Lake Chautauqua is anchored by Jamestown.  We spent enough time there to absorb three historical elements.   The first was the city’s most beloved citizen:  Lucille Ball.  A Jamestown native whose career needs no review, she has been honored repeatedly in her home town.  In addition to tribute shows, there are two museums in the heart of town, one that traces her youth and career and one that gives the visitor a behind-the-scenes look at her sensational productions.  We opted for the latter and entered even though the “On Air” light was lit.  Confronted first by a diorama of the early Luci-Desi radio shows, we moved on quickly to her television dynamics.  There were authentically reproduced sets of the living room, kitchen and bedroom of the Arnaz apartment, along with the hotel suite that served as a regular set.  Backdrops featured many of the costumes that helped Lucy create her many caricatures along with props, awards, musical accomplishments, and  a case full of Lucy-dolls.  The Mertzes were duly honored.  One other artifact was a special three-reel Movieola (editing machine).  It was designed out of necessity by Dann Cahn, Lucy and Desi’s film editor for life, who needed it to process the miles of raw takes and compile the final reel.


Our second adventure was the magnificent Roger Tory Peterson Institute.  The building itself is worth the trip, but the interior is a treasure for casual observers and diehard naturalists alike.  As the former, we were impressed by the multimedia talents of the institute’s namesake and the history of his life.  The trophies weren’t shabby, either.  Upon entry, you’re confronted by a short faced bear.  We were just mildly blasé, having seen a specimen when we visited the history museum in Eely, Nevada.  Further into the main floor, one is confronted by the monstrous jaw of a Columbia Mammoth.  We stifled a ho-hum, based on our foray into the unearthed Mammoth pit we visited in Waco, Texas that revealed an entire herd.  Next, the jaw of a forerunner of the great white shark; again, not an original for us but as dramatic as any.  The next exhibit, however, was a warm surprise:  an Emperor Penguin with her young.  Peterson’s comments about this find were so profound that I’ve shown them below after the picture  of the beauties.


Peterson was born in 1908.  By 1920, he was drawing birds and soon after, butterflies and moths.   He bought his first plate camera in 1922.  Over the next decade, he receives accolades and education from every side. In 1934, he published his first Field Guide to the Birds.  He had created a unique concept where similar birds are positioned together on a page and the shades of difference highlighted.  From then until his death in 1998, he was the leading light in the challenge of animal identification, in every country and on every continent.  His format led to the production of Peterson’s Guides to every known species, researched by others but formatted to his model.  He was equally capable as a writer, painter, graphic illustrator, and still or movie photographer.  The third picture below shows his first movie camera.  Peterson claimed that he had seen more than half of all the bird species in the world before he left his teens, and he traveled to every continent in the world.  The final pic below is indicative of the building’s architecture; note the combination of finished and natural ballusters above and below.


The Institute, opened in 1984, has had a series of harrowing times but appears now to be endowed and supported enough to reasonably insure its future.  In the words of its website:  Like a windstorm blowing through an old forest, the shock of the recent economic crisis “knocked down” many businesses, foundations, nonprofits and public agencies, including RTPI.  Fortunately, with the help of committed friends and donors, we believe our soil remains healthy enough to nourish our recovery.

Our last visit exposed us to the life of Robert H. Jackson.  But before I share him with you, here’s a bit of history about the building that holds the Robert H. Jackson Center.  An ambitious Alonzo Kent came to Jamestown in 1832.  Starting from nothing, he built an empire including merchandising, real estate, farming and banking.   By 1858, he was able to build his Italianate, spare-no-expense mansion, the first brick building in Jamestown.  After the death of Alonzo and his wife, the home was bought by his nephew,  Alba Kent, who occupied it with his wealthy wife, Rose, for 24 years.  She was the mother of Charles Wetmore, a prominent New York architect who remodeled the home for his mother and stepfather.  In 1917, the home was purchased by the  Scottish Rite Masonic Bodies.  The  Masons made many additional alterations; they connected the main house and carriage house and converted the carriage house into an auditorium.   As a 33rd degree Mason, Robert Jackson visited the building many times.  And in 2001, it was deeded to the Robert H. Jackson Center.


Born in 1892, Robert Jackson attended the Albany Law School for a year after high school and, after passing the New York State Bar, he became a prominent lawyer in Jamestown.  In 1934, FDR appointed him general counsel for the IRS.  Seven years later, after serving as both Solicitor General and Attorney General, be became an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  From 1945-46, he served as Chief Counsel for the United States at the first Nuremberg Trial. Returning to the Court, he served until his death in 1954, participating shortly before  in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that overthrew Plessy v. Fergusen.  Every Justice of the Supreme Court came to Jamestown for his funeral.

Today, we curious get to take two tours, one of the ground floor of the mansion, now the administrative, research and education center, and the other of the historical section, housed in the bridge building and the Carriage House, the site of many functions.   Our guide, a retired (after 34 years) high school teacher in neighboring Frewsburg, where Jackson grew up, delineated the features of the mansion’s key rooms and then became impassioned when we moved on the Jackson history.  A series of ten storyboards convey his life story, though not as eloquently as our host.  Two are shown below.  The lovely woman sitting in front of the first is a lifetime local who was on the tour with us.  She’s 88 years old, and she lost her 90 year old husband in February. The two had repeatedly planned to visit the Jackson Center and never did.  He was at D-Day and was an Army pilot who flew diversionary missions.  Lacking half a credit when the fighting ended, her husband was part of the German Occupying Force for a year.  The tales she told us were fascinating, as were those of our guide.  Here’s a sampling of the Amos/Jackson trivia:

  • In 1941, Jackson and his wife moved into Hickory Hill in McLean, which they later sold to JFK who then sold it to RFK when he became president.  Robert and Ethel nearly doubled its size to hold their 12 children.  (Lower left corner of 3rd picture below)
  • Ray D’Addario was an Army photographer assigned to the Nuremburg trials.  His work was black & white, with a minor exception.  His mother sent him a roll of a brand new film called Kodacolor.  Below is a famous shot he took with this film.  Keep in mind that no flash could be used inside the trials, for fear of spooking people.  Also keep in mind that this early version had a film speed of ASA 10, which meant it required either a tremendous amount of daylight or an extremely steady hand and no movement.   The amazing thing about this picture is that Jackson, making his initial presentation, is in good focus.  As expected, those closer and further away are soft.  There is a major exhibit of D’Addario’s work at the Center.  (4th pic below)
  • As hinted above, Ulysses Grant was the first president to speak at Chautauqua.  After its first season, the co-founders of the Institution were searching for notoriety.  Reverend Vincent knew President Grant; he was pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Galena, Illinois, where Grant worshipped, and they corresponded during the War.  Vincent prevailed upon  Rev. Theodore Flood, pastor of the First M.E. Church of Jamestown to travel to Grant’s summer home in New Jersey to invite the President, and despite  loathing to perform public oratory, he accepted the invitation.  Prior to his speech, he was served a sumptuous lunch in  Alonzo Kent’s dining room – which now bears his name.
  • Alba Kent’s wife, Rose was a devout Christian Scientist.  She funded their church diagonally across the street and had a tunnel to it from her home.
  • In 2010, two copies of Gale Jarrow’s biography of Justice Jackson were sent to each of the nine Justices then sitting, as well as the two most recently retired.   They were asked to keep one copy and return the other, autographed, to the Center.  A perfect score of 11 resulted, with many including a testament along with the signature.  (Last 2 pics below)



So how’s that for an ending?  Amazing persons, amazing institutions and oh so many people dedicated to preventing their messages and history from disappearing.  We have to  chalk this up as another of our magnificent adventures.  But . . . there’s always another to come.

Northern Indiana: July 31 – August 9, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

There was an understory at Bardstown, our previous stop — a series of calamities that extended into this stop. Our Bardstown site was on a hill, and during the challenge to level our unit, the landing gear got jammed and quit. I thought the trailer’s 12 volt battery contributed to the issue and bought a replacement. I installed it backward (I have a legitimate excuse!), which zapped parts of the trailer’s system. During a few days of bedlam, I got lots but not everything resolved, so we decided to blow off an interim stop and go straight to Goshen. Goshen is next door to Elkhart, and between the two of them, they monopolize the RV manufacturing industry.

A little north of Indianapolis, in Anderson, IN, we pulled off for fuel and managed to snap the cord that connects truck and trailer, leaving us with no trailer brakes. We found a local campground and booked overnight. Fortunately, a well-stocked RV dealer in town had a replacement, which I purchased and installed. The campground was one of the nicest on our entire three year trip, which lifted our spirits – enough, in fact, to dope out and repair the remaining electrical problem before we left the next day. So we rolled into the Elkhart County 4H Fairgrounds intact. The place is rife with campsites of all types, from defined spaces to open fields with and without utilities. We snagged a site and settled in – but only temporarily.

Each time we stop at a campground, setting up is a multi-step process that is at best a nuisance, often taking 30 minutes or more — even before you hook up the utilities. Bardstown was a worst example. Now it’s no longer a problem. We came to Goshen to have the company that manufactured our units’s frame install a new Level-Up system that automates the process. Push a button and the system makes the unit perfectly level before your eyes. Five minutes, tops. And fewer backaches.

Then we took a week to relax, unwind and take in a few of the many attractions in the area. The region is clearly one of — if not the — largest concentration of Amish folk in the U.S. Even the local Walmart has a stable in back for customers’ horses and wagons. Amish Acres is a showplace farm in Napanee. This year was the 50th anniversary of its Arts and Crafts Fair. We got there early on Saturday and first raided the food building for yummy cinnamon buns and other goodies. Inside the fairgrounds, we spent the entire morning perusing 250 merchant booths. Many displayed lovely Amish crafts and foods, while others were interlopers from other areas, some selling commercially produced merchandise. There were lots of opportunities to pack on calories, many of which involved pre-packaged hearty soups and meals. Free samples were everywhere. The fair surrounded the farm’s large pond, on which children and parents were pedaling around in swan boats. We were entertained by two musical groups and a backup of cloggers (how do you like that collective noun I just made up?).

We ventured to the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. Elk statues are found all over the city, painted many crazy ways by their hosts. The neat thing about the one outside of the RV Museum was the fact that it had wheels! It was a blast going through the nostalgia room, showing on-the road living from its earliest inventions through massive innovation throughout the twentieth century. Numerous pictures are shown below. The display stopped in the eighties; nothing was shown about all the modernization since then. And the wonderful Volkswagen Westphalia camper bus, a 1971 edition of which was my first venture into RVing, was nowhere in sight. My bus couldn’t go up a 2% grade unless downshifted into second, but it gave me an insatiable taste for adventure.

The first two pictures below are from the balcony overlooking the exhibit. The third pic in row 1 is a verey detailed diorama of the interior of a modent fifth-wheel assembly plant, beginning with the pre-manufactured frame to the final QC tests. And he second row shows a special unit: the traveling home for Mae West. It had a back porch and was elegantly outfitted — for its day!

The upper floor hosted the Hall of Fame. Apparently one person is selected annually in each of ten categories. You wander the hall, read each plaque with name, year and category, and you wonder who the heck you’re looking at. The names are simply not recognizable. An then you finally get to the one you know, Joe and Kay Peterson, and they’re designated “campground owner.” They’re the couple who founded Escapees, an organization with 100,000+ members that singlehandedly revolutionized the world for full time RVers. Campground owners indeed.

Our trip was followed the next day by a visit to South Bend, which is just west of Elkhart. We’d been here several years ago and took in Our Mother’s University, but we now had a different adventure in mind. There was a Studebaker Museum that beckoned our exploration. I am acutely aware of the legend, because in 1957, during my first advertising agency tenure, our client, Curtis-Wright, for whom Studebaker had manufactured military aircraft engines, invested in Studebaker and controlled their advertising. This was the era of the Hawks – gold and silver.

The museum was part of a complex known as the Museums at Washington and Chapin, which combined Studebaker with the Center for History.

In 1857, Henry and Clem Studebaker accepted an order for 100 Army wagons. They were cash-strapped to fulfill it, but brother J.M. rode back into town from California, where he’d made a fortune selling wheelbarrows to gold prospectors. His investment in the wagon works made the difference. The fourth brother, Peter, joined the firm in 1863; by that time the Civil War provided all the orders they could produce.

Powered vehicles emerged from the firm beginning in 1902. For the first decade, they were electric powered. Thomas Edison bought the second one they built, and why not? – he made the batteries! Electric autos were discontinued in 1912. Gasoline vehicle production began in 1904, blossomed in 1911 via acquisition, and moved to South Bend in 1919. The following year, wagon production was discontinued.

The company was forced into receivership in 1933, at which time long time executives Harold S. Vance and Paul G. Hoffman were appointed CEO and President. They led the company out of bankruptcy, and in 1939, they hired Raymond Lowey and his prestigious design firm to revitalize the line. Lowey supervised every Studebaker product, and his dynamism led to the creation of an endless supply of radical designs.

During WW II, Studebaker made significant contributions to the war effort — more deail below. They were the first auto company to get back into production after the war, and Life Magazine heralded this exploit with a ten-page spread.

The bullet nose was introduced in 1950 — the biggest production year in Studebaker history. The Hawks followed in 1956. The Lark was added in 1959 — all Lowey creations, of course. But the next decade was less kind. U.S. production ceased in 1963. when the 1964 Daytona (last pic) came off the line.

The Lowey-designed Avanti was introduced in 1965 to save the company, but the final vehicle rolled off the Ontario production line a year later. There is more history, including continued production of Avantis, but we’ll leave it here.

The Avanti had held a catbird spot at the museum, in a turntabled rotunda. But that spot had recently been taken over, at least temporarily, by a 1947 Studebaker Champion Station Wagon – the Woody — that was never released to production. Few were made; issue #1 was kept at the factory, eventually stripped of its wood, and used as a utility vehicle. That did not daunt the Studebaker Drivers Club, who inherited the remains in 1994 and re-created it over a 18 year period. The shining exhibit is dedicated to Phil Brown, who chaired the project from its inception but died two years too early to see the final coronation.

Upstairs, we were exposed to many more classics. As we entered, we met an exhibit of tiny cars, from the front-loading BMW Isetta to the Nash Metro to numerous Fiats and other contraptions.

Along the left wall was the Museum’s answer to overstock; instead of burying them in a warehouse, they displayed as many models as they could on two story racks. In the back was a heyday exhibit, a tableau of the brand’s Roaring Fifties including the 1953 Starliner (left). Finally a WW II military section completed the tour, with the Hummer, all terain Weasel and award-winning aircraft engine that excelled and earned creds from pilot after pilot.

This eventful day was barely half over. Returning to the entrance rotunda, we were directed to a theater to view the history of the dominant family of the Center for History. The scion was James Oliver, a Scotsman whose family emigrated to the New World in 1835 when he was 11. (Picture courtesy of the Indiana Heritage site.) In nearby Mishawaka, he learned the art of casting iron. He bought an interest in his foundry in 1855, and was involved in the manufacturing of everything from building components to bases for Singer Sewing Machines to runners for Studebaker sleds to columns for the main building at Notre Dame. But this was just the beginning. He invented and patented Chilled Plow, made from cast iron, stronger, lighter and smoother than a steel plow, resulting in quantum leaps in company sales and bringing the company to a level where it was producing 500 plows a day.

James had two children; the younger, J.D. Oliver joined the firm in 1868 and continue to grow and enrich it as president from 1908, when his father died, until 1932, a year before his own death. In February, 1895, work was begun on a 38 room, 10 bedroom, 9 bathroom, 14 fireplace, three story (plus attic and basement) grand mansion, designed by Charles Alonzo Rich of NYC. Called Copshaholm, after the location of his father’s birth, J.D. and Anna and family moved in on New Year’s Day, 1897.

Now for the bad news. Interior photography was forbidden. This has happened a number of times during our travel, and we’ve learned why. Often the reason given is that flash fades artifacts or that copyrights are violated. The main concern, however, is this: would-be thieves case the joint by touring and taking pictures. Security here was the tightest we’ve seen since the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, and it’s impossible to find any pictures of the interior on the internet, save for three rather vapid ones on the Center for History website. But here’s the odd thing. I purchased a 32 page book filled with rich full-color interior shots, along with b&w’s and history of the family.

There are exterior pictures below, four of the house and one (the last) of the carriage house. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe the place, but our guide, Ken Cencelewski, did. It is a woodwork marvel, adorned with oak, mahogany and cherry in every room – ornate walls and ceilings, carved fireplaces, staircases, railings built-in bookcases and cabinets, columns . . . what did I miss? The front door is a solid five inches thick and the inner door is four. It was one of the first homes in the area with electricity. The Reception Room was removed to increase the openness of the Main Hall with its two matching staircases. The view through the Main Hall is to a semicircular room (in Picture 4, it’s below the maroon band). Originally an outdoor terrace, the Olivers enclosed it as a Music Room. A plaster frieze encircles the room, a copy of the original based on the 150th psalm in a Florence cathedral. Above it, off the landing, is a glass-enclosed Sitting Room. J.D.’s Office is on the rear corner; it has the largest fireplace in the dwelling. The walls are covered with photographs of some of his close friends and associates, including Henry and Edsel Ford, Thomas Edison, Andrew Mellon and John D. Rockefeller. The kitchen has an eight burner, three oven stove. The call box over the door indicates from which room a servant call was made.

Family facts. J.D. and Anna had four children. Both sons, James II and Joseph Jr. held leadership positions in the firm. In 1929, J.D. engineered a four company merger to create the Oliver Farm Equipment Company, producing a full line of gear and machinery. Both sons remained on the board but non-family managed the day-to-day after that. Joe Jr. was the last family member involved; he retired in 1960 when the firm was purchased by the White Farm Equipment Company.

Junior married Elinor McMillan, daughter of Tennessee’s governor. She was thrown from a horse a year later and, while she lingered for months, the accident was fatal. From then on, he lived in a suite on the third floor, never re-marrying but continuing to stable horses. James II married Louise Yarrington. The elder daughter, Gertrude, married Charles Frederick Cunningham in the most extravagant wedding ever held in Copshaholm, which put the third floor ballroom to good use. She and Charles lived just two blocks away. Catherine, the younger daughter, was affianced to a well-known golfer, Chick Evans, but her father prevailed upon her to break the engagement and she never married.

Now for the climax.

  • Copshaholm was never owned by anyone but the Oliver family. After her mother’s death, Catherine became mistress of the house, and it was delivered to the Center for History upon her death.
  • Everything in the house belonged to the Oliver family. All of the belongings were transferred to the Center with the deed.

Ken regaled us with stories galore; if this chapter were not already so long, I’d share more. Here’s an example, however: Junior’s suite includes his seven shaving brushes (Sun.-Sat.) in its original-fixtured bathroom, and his 52 (weekly) pipes on a rack in his bedroom.

The gardens were the pride of every generation and are maintained, including the vine-covered pergola. The Center also exhibits other buildings, including an immigrant worker’s home (which we toured), and it has both changing and permanent galleries. We’d already spent about four hours at the site, and after a further cursory look, we headed back for Goshen.

This tour of Northern Indiana measures up with our other adventures. Like all of the other states, we’ve left much still to see. But that’s for the next adventure. Now it’s on to New York State.

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Bardstown, KY: July 23-30, 2012

A bit of a change of pace here . . . Bardstown is the Bourbon Capital of the World!

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Nelson County Courthouse, Bardstown, KY

Our next stop after Oak Ridge was scheduled to be Louisville, KY. Then we changed it to Lexington and finally settled on Bardstown. Don’t ask what went into the process. But just a few weeks earlier, Rand-McNally’s Best of the Road contest designated Bardstown the Most Beautiful Small Town in America. Your approach to the town keynotes its charm; the traffic roundabout smack dab in the middle of the main intersection features the building at left – the old 1892 Nelson County Courthouse, now the Visitors’ Center. Because of our rather late decision to go there, we didn’t know what else was available besides the bourbon industry. But a quick visit downtown unveiled a whole lot more.

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The 3 millionth barrel!

Let’s kick off with the booze stuff. Jack Daniel’s is the best-selling whiskey in the world. Like Kentucky bourbons, it is made from more than 50% corn and under the same conditions and restraints. But it disavows the appellation, choosing to simply call itself Tennessee Whisky. Kentucky, on the other hand, wears the name and title proudly. There are three distilleries very close to town: Heaven Hill, Barton and Jim Beam. Maker’s Mark is about fifteen miles away, and others dot the area. They are easy to spot, because they all have one or more tall, square buildings called either rick houses or rack houses, depending on who’s doing the telling. They are seven stories tall and hold ricks (racks) of 53 gallon charred white oak barrels of aging spirits. Windows at the bottom and top are opened for air circulation; the others just provide light. Houses from both Heaven Hill and Barton are shown in the first two pix below. Note the ugly black stains around the first – it’s mold, and it’s the reason why Barton’s are painted black! Barrels are stored seven to a rack and three racks high on each floor. I don’t remember the volume of whisky stored in each house, but the number astronomical comes to mind. The structure is exceptionally sturdy, to be sure, but there are four plumb-bobs hanging down from the top floor to the bottom, and the first sign of leaning in any direction is corrected with re-distribution. Because of the captured heat, the whisky on the top floor is ultimately the best. The barrels lay undisturbed for a minimum of two years, and some are left for over a decade. They lose an average of 4% a year through evaporation, so you can imagine the concentration of the remainder in a 12 year vintage. The barrels must be in the rack with bung up, so the rickmen develop a formula to determine what position each must start in to end up correctly as it rolls to its final position. Guess they know about π (pi)!  All of the barrels are coded, almost down to the minute they were created – Heaven Hill’s are computerized, while a hand-recording system is still used at Barton.

Heaven Hill is a showplace. It’s fronted by a glam Heritage Center, with exhibits, a store and an exquisite tasting room. They charge a small amount for a tour that include a movie and the tasting room. The tour is only to the nearest rick house, and our guide gave us fact after fact as we explored it. She told us about the five Shapira brothers who founded the company in 1934 and have grown it to the largest privately owned distillery in the country. She explained that one of the most critical elements in the success of the spirits industry in this area stems from the purity of the limestone-filtered water that’s available.  They bottle not only for their dozens of own brands – every type of hooch you could come up with — as well as providing that service to other beverage companies.  She told us that the company shells out between $3 and $5 million dollars for government taxes each week.

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A VERY brief 300 year history

The Center includes many exhibits chronicling both the history and the complexity of the industry , including a smell-station where you could get a whiff of bourbons aged and blended differently.  Evan Williams is reputed to be the first bourbon distiller, while Elijah Craig, a minister, discovered the technique of using charred barrels.  Three factoids:  William Heavenhill (one word), a turn of the 19th century distiller, owned the land on which the Heaven Hill Distillery was built. All of the Master Distillers at Heaven Hill have been members of the Beam family; today’s masters, Parker and his son Craig, are descended from Jim Beam’s brother Park.  And single barrel output or multiple barrel blends measure 135-160 proof – up to 80% pure alcohol.  They are diluted to drinking strength, anywhere from 80 proof to the low 100s. The circular, domed tasting room provided a warm atmosphere for us to sample two different yields, one each bottled under the Elijah Craig and the Evan Williams labels.

The experience at Barton was less showy but much more informative. Our tour guide, Jill Sutherland, started us off in the rack houses, but the tour continued into the bottling plant and through the steps that take place prior to the aging process.  There was a seasonal issue, however; the stainless steel fermentation tanks are outdoors, and the current heat spell was not conducive to proper conversion.  Thus, the stills inside that we viewed were also shut down for maintenance, and we could see its inside workings.  The tour ended, of course, at the tasting bar, where Jill served up the statutory limit of one ounce each of their two leading brands.  She was also the person that taught us about backset, the non-alcoholic residue in the bottom of the tank that is added to the next batch — much as in the ongoing creation of sour dough bread.

While we didn’t visit Jim Bean, we did have a third look at the industry.  Spaulding Hall, an 1826 building originally housing St Joseph College, now devotes its first floor to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History.  Getz was one of two men who purchased the Tom Moore Distillery after prohibition, then changed its name to Barton.  An avid collector of business artifacts, he opened a small museum at the distillery until his death, at which time his widow turned the collection over to the town of Bardstown.  The result is room after room of nostalgia, which covers not only the history of the industry but also of America’s drinking habits — and attempts to alter them!

An adjacent set of rooms displays the history of the building itself.  In addition to housing St. Joe’s College and Seminary, it was an orphanage, a hospital for both sides during the Civil War and the home of St. Joseph’s Prep from 1911-68.  One of the most remarkable items in the collection is a hat which belonged to Jesse James. The generations of scholarly occupants were also chronicled.

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Statue of Stephen Foster, dedicated in 1994

Thus endeth the Bourbon Tour. Our next adventure engaged America’s best loved homespun songwriter, Stephen Foster. Of his hundreds of compositions, My Old Kentucky Home, now the official state song, looms larger than others. The town was plastered with his name, and a musical of his life is performed multiple times each week. In our usual naiveté, we went looking to find his birthplace, his home, his grave and whatever else was the town’s monument to him. Well, we found My Old Kentucky Home, all right, but it was simply a place visited by Stephen, a Pennsylvanian who died impoverished in New York’s Bellevue Hospital at age 37.  It was his inspiration for just one of the true airs of Americana that he created in his short lifetime.


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“My Old Kentucky Home”

The home was built and owned by Judge John Rowan, a scion of Bardstown who was Stephen Foster’s cousin. Essentially Greek Revival in design, it originated in 1795 but was modified and supplemented over the next 20 years. It was surrounded by Rowan’s 245 acre gentleman’s plantation, and it remained in the family for three generations until it was sold to the Old Kentucky Home Commission in 1920 for $65,000. The Commission gave it to the state in 1922, and today it is s state park, including campground, golf course and other community benefits. The house is shown only by tour by costumed docents, and no pictures are allowed inside. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable about the history; a separate person does each of the two floors. At the rear are three auxiliary structures, including a rare connected smokehouse. A wood building downslope from the front was Rowan’s law office – an opportunity to get away from the confusion of a child-filled household. The Visitors’ Center building is lovely; it is designed to accent the mansion and also provide a space for receptions and other events. It features a documentary on Foster’s life.

Museum Row in town was our third theme. Four museums line the left side of First Street like a strip center: Civil War Museum, War Memorial of Mid-America, Women’s Civil War Museum, and Wildlife Museum. Down in a ravine below the last is Old Bardstown Village, a reproduction – using real historic buildings — of Bardstown as it was in 1790.

The Civil War Museum is the headquarters. We paid a fee that included all four buildings and the Village.  We’ve never seen a more comprehensive gallery exhibit of the War.  We first witnessed a series of posters that defined each step.

Every other type of exhibit imaginable – except dioramas – was employed, including photos, paintings, weapons, featured battles, naval and artifacts.  What you’re seeing is just a tiny part of the whole.



Right next door, in a small building, was the Wildlife Museum. It was a far cry from several major exhibits of kind that we’ve encountered during our journey, and it seemed out of place in this story.


Up top, we made our way through the Women’s Exhibit. It featured many levels, ranging from the wives and mothers who manned to home front to the women who disguised themselves as men to join up. In between were the all-too-busy nursing corps, many of them sisters of one or another convent, to the wives of the presidents, to the ladies who made a difference, like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Julia Ward Howe and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The War Memorial offers a collection from each of the American wars, from the Revolution to Desert Storm.  It does it both with collections and artwork, focusing on each war and interspersing with features, like the story of Alvin York, and the air battles of WW I.  One of its most prized artifacts is a flag that was found, undamaged and un-motheaten, in the false bottom of a trunk, hidden so it didn’t have to be surrendered to Federal victors.


The Goliad Massacre Memorial


A solemn memorial stands nearby. In 1836, 35 Kentuckians from the First Volunteer Regiment, led by Captain Burr Duval of Bardstown, headed south to Texas to help win the war against Santa Ana. They were captured and were among the hundreds summarily executed by the Mexican butcher in what is known as the Goliad Massacre.



Finally, the Village. It includes ten buildings and a mill with a long wooden sluice – already. It is a work in progress. Buildings include cabins, a tavern, broom and candle shop, log cabin church and school, and the Neal Spaulding Indian Museum. Most came from within several blocks of their final resting place, and all provided their own historical perspective on their times.

Stay with us, folks; there’s just one more adventure to come.

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Pioneers Tom and Nancy Lincoln, with Abe and Sarah




About thirty miles south of Bardstown lies Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace, in Hardin County just below today’s Hodgenville.  Next to an underground passage that gives the site its name, Sinking Spring, fifty six steps lead up to a granite monument – one that would look more in place in Washington, DC – that houses the birthplace.  New York businessman A.W. Dennett purchased the 300 acre Sinking Spring Farm in 1894, and it was subsequently purchased in 1905 by Robert Collier, founder of Collier’s Weekly magazine.  He and others, including Mark Twain, William Jennings Bryan and Samuel Gompers, raised the funds to build the memorial, which was dedicated in 1916.  The Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Park is now under the auspices of the National Park Service.

From the start, it has been acknowledged that the house is not the original Lincoln family cabin, but rather a symbolic representation — a very old, typical cabin of the area and the times.  We duly climbed the steps – one for each year of Abe’s life – and visited the humble dwelling.

Of more dramatic interest, however, was the museum in the Visitors’ Center.

In addition to typical storyboards and artifacts, it featured a dozen authenticated life-size tableaux chronicling key events in the Great Emancipator’s life.  They are sponsored by groups from local service clubs to banks to a Coke bottler.  Six are shown below.

On the way back to Bardstown, we stopped at the site’s extension, the Knob Creek Boyhood Home. With the title in question in Sunken Spring, Thomas Lincoln moved his family here in 1911, when Abe was two years old. The 230 acre plot was a tenth the size but more fertile, and the boy had growing chores of his own.  Abe’s brother Tom was born here but died shortly thereafter.  He and his sister attended school, taught by Caleb Hazel, a strong believer in emancipation (as was Abe’s father), who moved membership from their church to a separatist Baptist congregation.  In 1815, the family moved again, this time out of Kentucky to the free state of Indiana. Years later, President Lincoln penned to the editor of the Frankfort, KY Commonwealth: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not think so, or feel.”   The Lincolns’ actual cabin was destroyed, and the one on exhibit belonged to neighbor Austin Gollaher.  Legends claim that Gollaher saved Lincoln from drowning by  rescuing him from the Creek with an extended branch!

In 1928, Hattie and Chester Howard purchased the Knob Creek Farm.  They built a hand-hewn tavern building adjacent to the Lincoln’s home to preserve the land and tell Lincoln’s boyhood story to the many visitors stopping there.  The building is closed, but the N.P.S. is hoping to restore and reopen it as today’s tourist focus for the site.

Wow! What a busy and fruitful week. This is one of the longest and most picture-laden chapters in the entire travelogue.  I haven’t told you the end of the story yet, but since it’s continued, I’ll mercifully save it for the next chapter.

Lenoir City and Oak Ridge, TN: July 16-2, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

With music still ringing in our ears, we pointed the truck toward the eastern end of Tennessee. We’re on the western side of the Smokies, with Pigeon Forge and Dollywood beckoning. But that wasn’t what we came for. We settled at an isolated but friendly campground in Lenoir City and had two important destinations . . . and a third loomed large.

Nearby Kingston is the home of two very special people, Mike and Tina Williford. and their four Schips, Abie, Walker, Razzy and Zeva. We have known Tina through national Schipperke shows since 2005, and we paid our first visit to their spread and met Mike in the fall of 2007. Both of them are local Roane County folk. Mike’s been a part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for decades, and Tina retired a couple of years ago. On our last visit, when we were towing a much smaller trailer, we parked it next to their barn. But we decided to park the current monster in a campground.

Besides the Willifords, our other critical focus was Oak Ridge itself. In 2010, as part of our Lewis & Clark adventure, we went to the Tri-Cities of southeastern Washington state to visit the Sacagawea Museum in Pasco. We didn’t realize until we got there that all three cities held treasures of their own. Kennewick offered up Kennewick Man, a complete skeleton of one of our ancestors from 5,000 to 9,000 years ago and now the victim of endless ancestral battles between Native and Later Americans. Richland (Hanford), in turn, exposed us to one of the tentacles of The Manhattan Project. Taken over by the government in 1943, it produced the plutonium that was used both in the Trinity Test and the Nagasaki bomb. The Manhattan Project became a new trail for us, which led us to White Sands and Los Alamos this past spring, where the devices were built and tested. Now we were about to visit the nerve center of uranium production.

Like Hanford and Los Alamos, the government commandeered a remote piece of landscape in the early 1940s to create Oak Ridge. Enrico Fermi had produced the first nuclear chain reaction under the soccer field at the U. of Chicago, and the director of The Manhattan Project, Lt. Gen. Leslie (Dick) Groves, located and orchestrated the development of this facility, as he did the other two. It became a city of 75,000 at its height, requiring a full infrastructure of housing, schools, recreation as well as functioning factories. There were four operations. Three of them, Y-12, K-25 and S-50, were dedicated to the extraction of the Uranium 235 isotope (the rare but explosive variety) while the fourth, X-10, a prototype of the graphite reactors installed in Hanford, produced plutonium. Physicists take note: Y-12 used electromagnetic separation using Calutrons (cyclotrons invented at California University); K-25 used gaseous diffusion to enrich uranium; and S-50 used a less efficient process called liquid thermal diffusion that pre-processed the ores going in to Y-12 and K25. Gee, I actually understand a little of that, since our tour guide was a nuclear physicist. The bottom line is that Oak Ridge produced the material used in Little Boy, the Hiroshima bomb.

We visited twice. On the first day, we explored the core site (pun intended), the American Museum of Science and Energy. The lower floor dealt with the Manhattan Project years; General Groves rates an exhibit of his own. We knew a lot about him already, but I was mesmerized by a memo he wrote to the Secretary of War after the Trinity Test. I implored the staff to help me take home a copy of it; that failed but Google didn’t let me down. I can now share this remarkable document with you.

The first row of pictures below shows shows life in the Secret City. First picture second row shows operators who precisely clicked a buton over and over again to control reactions. The final b&w shot pictures James Westcott, the photographer commissioned to officially document the period. And the last shot along the mezzanine is a panorama of the installation.

The upper floor displays subsequent realities, including ongoing scientific work at the site. The shot with the blue sofa is a view of a tpical U.S. home during the Cold War. Ongoing efforts have involved both military and peceful uses. One fascinating story upstairs focused on the development of deuterium (last picture); a form of hydrogen contained in water, if it could be extracted, a pint of water could replace 25 gallons of gasoline.

Behind the building was one of the hosing units built for the thousand of families. This layout was a B house; it was pre-fabbed in two 12×24 foot halves and brought to the site. It featured two bedrooms and built-in furniture. This particular house was bought at auction from the government and, with a pitched roof added, served as a vacation home for over 30 years. Brought back to the museum, it is being completely restored.

On the second day, we took a three hour bus tour of the entire complex. The length was primarily a function of driving distance; we only had three stops where we were allowed to get off. But we did get to each of the original centers, all nestled in their own separate valleys within the 37,000 acre compound. And, as mentioned above, we had a very knowledgeable guide doing tour duty in retirement after an extensive career there. There are two active components. One is the new Y-12, operated cooperatively by Babcock & Wilcox and Bechtel to serve the National Nuclear Security Agency, a function of DOE. Its efforts are concerned with nuclear defense, non-proliferation, and safety. One interesting development on exhibit was boxes to hold and protect specimens brought back from the moon. The second is Oak Ridge National Laboratory, under the management of UT-Battelle, a joint venture by the University of Tennessee and the Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest non-profit R&D organization.

One of ORNL’s dozens of research facilities is SNS, the Spallation Neutron Source. They deliver neutrons to multiple experiment stations using a quarter-mile long device that I couldn’t begin to describe, but I thought of it as a lateral Hadron Collider. The site has a large guest house to put up scientists from all over the world who brought their projects to the resource. I guess they can’t UPS or FedEx the neutrons elsewhere!

A poignant stop was a tiny Bethel Baptist Church and Graveyard, built in 1851 and abandoned in 1942 because of the government influx. We oversaw from afar the last stages of the demolition of K-25. And we got an inside look at the X-10 graphite reactor, a bit anticlimactic for us since we’d been to the Hanford B-Reactor, a much larger offspring. There was an exhibit in an adjoining room that portrayed the chronology of its history.

After Oak Ridge, we spent a day with the Willifords. Mike and I took off in the afternoon to explore Roane County; he’s lived in all three of its towns. Our primary destination was Fort Southwest Point, built in 1797 at the junction of the Tennessee and Clinch Rivers to provide escort service through Cherokee territory. Peter Avery had been dispatched from North Carolina, of which this area was once a part, to blaze the trail that runs from Knoxville to Nashville and today bears his name (The Avery Trace). The soldiers, who numbered as many as 625, served as peacemakers and were involved in the purchase of Cherokee land. Unfortunately, purchase later evolved to usurpation.

The city of Kingston, stewards of the project, has been able to construct buildings on two of the 13 foundations, and the archeological digs have unearthed a trove of artifacts, many of which are on display in the Visitor’s Center. But the docent on duty – another Don — was for me the biggest treasure. I mentioned our exploration of the L&C trail, and he told me (reminded me) that four of the men on the expedition came from Fort Southwest Point. In fact, the four were chosen from eight candidates recruited by George Drouillard and brought to Fort Massac in Illinois for consideration: Hugh Hall, Thomas P. Howard, John Potts, and Richard Warfington. Don and I engaged in half an hour of animated conversation at the end of which he gave me a copy of a prized document: the fate of every member of the expedition after it ended. He was delighted that we were also visiting Fort Loudoun.

Fort Loudoun was about twenty miles south of our campsite. The French & Indian War occurred just prior to the U.S. Revolution (1756-60). The British Colony of South Carolina feared that the Cherokee could turn against them, so they sent a force to create the Fort Loudoun garrison in their territory. For several years, it cemented the relationship. But the honeymoon soured, and in 1760, The Cherokee surrounded the fort and forced surrender. The Cherokee promised safe passage, but within a day, 24 Englishmen lay dead – the same number of Cherokee prisoners earlier hanged by the British.

The Tellico Blockhouse, built across the Little Tennessee River within sight of the fort, was more successful. Built in 1794 at the request of the Cherokee, it aimed to quell ongoing fights between Indians and settlers, and several treaties were negotiated there. The sight is mapped, but not yet reconstructed. But it is an omen of things to come; the next thirty years were the precursor of the atrocity known as the Trail of Tears. As harsh as the extermination of the bison to starve out the western Native Americans, I can’t look with pride at this phase of our nation building.

Less than half a mile down the road is the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. He was born about 1776 of a liaison between the daughter of a Cherokee chief and a Virginia fur trader. He totally embraced his Cherokee heritage and never spoke English. He married several times (polygamy was legal) and sired seven children. He served in the U.S. forces during the War of 1812 against both British and Creek forces. He engaged in several occupations, including silversmithing and painting. Tiring of creating pictures, and aware that writing was a powerful tool of the Euro-Americans, he set upon the creation of a pictoric language for his own people. Working with extremes from full phrases to individual letters, he found a middle ground: a syllabary that converts the speech of his people to 85 representative characters. He thus became the only person ever to single-handedly create a written language. Introduced in 1821, it created almost instant literacy, and, with the establishment of a printed newspaper in New Echota, Georgia, as well as the printing of thousands of documents, including the Bible, in the new language, it spread like wildfire. Sequoyah went to Washington and was involved in the creation of additional treaties. To no avail; Manifest Destiny overran him. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, leading to confiscation of land and expulsion of its owners, was supplemented by destruction of the press and the actual type characters that portended liberation. Sequoyah headed west to Arkansas and beyond before the expulsion, carrying the written word. History speculated that he died somewhere around 1843-45 in Mexico while trying to repatriate members of the Cherokee family.

The “talking stick,” picture #2 below, is carved with all the characters of the Sequoyah Syllabary. You can view the entire set by clicking on picture #3.

Sad lessons. But it’s new insight into what made the Nation we were born into but never really understood from book-learning. It’s just another of the countless wow-factors we’ve experienced on this adventure. Stand by – we’re not finished!

Nashville TN – via Paducah, KY: July 7-16, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

Nashville was a bit farther than we wanted to take Thomas on his first ride, so we booked a brief stopover in Paducah, KY. As it turned out we were in the same campground six years ago, on the way from E. St. Louis to Florida after taking Serena to her big show at the Greater St. Louis Specialty. We didn’t stay here very long either time, and the continued three digit temps kept us from wandering too far from our A/C.

So it was quickly on to Nashville – our second visit there, too. But this time our plans were different. We’d done extensive touring on our 2010 visit, both downtown and throughout the area, so this time the focus was on music . . . music . . . music. First goal was to snag tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. In 2010, we’d driven out to the Gaylord complex and seen The Opry, the hotel and the monster shopping center, but our view was all external. One week after our visit, the Cumberland River flooded large parts of the city and put the stage under almost four feet of water. Both Gaylord and the Members rallied; the show played every week at earlier venues, and The Opry building reopened in five months.

Everything good was gone for the early part of our visit, but there were some close-in, off to the side tickets for Friday night. We grabbed ‘em. Meanwhile, I spotted an event at the Ryman downtown, the fourth in a series of six weekly bluegrass concerts. Reticent to leave the dogs for extra-long periods two nights in a row, Dot opted not to go. But the headliner was Rhonda Vincent, and the draw of the Mother Church of Country Music was too much to miss.

I headed downtown very early, not knowing what to expect in traffic and parking. As it turns out, each was a breeze. It started to rain as I strolled down to the theater, so I ducked into the Nashville Convention Center next door for a look-around but quickly got kicked out because a members-only convention was going on. I hadn’t brought my camera; they never allow photography during performances. So I pulled out my phone, at which I’m a total novice, and snapped a few pix of the building. It was then that I noticed a commotion at the other end of the alley alongside it – lots of people standing around under umbrellas – and headed for it. They were Rhonda fans, waiting for her exit from her Martha White Touring Bus, and when she did, they all burst out in a chorus of Happy Birthday. She was all smiles under the bright photo lights, and even more so when her family presented her with a new Chrysler retractable hard top convertible. The rain had eased to a drizzle, so Rhonda hopped in and the staff worked the roof. Tons of pix and another chorus later, she went back in the bus and we all headed for the entrance.

I knew less than I thought I did. I knew that the Ryman, formerly a religious meeting house, was the home of The Opry for 31 years until Gaylord Entertainment built a new larger home for it in their center about 12 miles outside of downtown. I knew that a six foot circle of the old Ryman stage had been embedded dead center in the new stage, so the circle would not be broken. Actually, The Opry returns to the Ryman for performances in the winter.

What I didn’t know was how casual everything was. A pre-show band, the Howling Brothers, was playing in the lobby as people took full advantage of the snack bars and liquor bars. Both concessions were repeated on the second floor, and there was no issue taking food, drink – or cameras – into the theater. The seats are pews, and cushions are on sale. The family in front of me, subscribers to the series, had blow-up stadium cushions that they pulled out of pouches that looked like Totes umbrellas. I succumbed to a tub of caramel corn and a water and took my place with empty seats on either side.

What I’ve said above about the atmosphere is the same as the spirit at The Opry itself. And so is the following. Eddie Stubbs, long-time evening show host for WSM680 AM Radio in Nashville and official announcer for The Opry since 1995, hosted this evening at the Ryman. The place was full of ads and commercials read in old-time radio style by Eddie. As you may know, Opry performances are actually on the air while you’re sitting in the audience watching them, so Eddie not only introduces hosts and acts but also conveys sponsor messages –and announces awards for raffle drawings and other promos.

The sponsor for the bluegrass concerts is Springer Mountain Farms, whose chickens are antibiotic, by product, hormone and growth stimulant free. They also boast that they are the only farm certified by the American Humane Association. The president was there with his own product giveaway. Also hyped is Martha White Baking Products. The company started sponsoring The Opry in 1948 and continues its close association with country music. Previous spokespeople include Tennessee Ernie Ford and Flatt & Struggs, and currently it’s . . . Rhonda Vincent! Rhonda’s bus is decorated on both sides with MW messages, and you can see the back above.

The opening act was Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers. The fact that I’d never heard of them was not the result of their quality – just a hole in my knowledge. Joe plays banjo and is joined, as one would expect, by a guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass. The band is based in Ohio, where Joe owns three country/bluegrass radio stations. He put the band together in 2006 to promote ithe stations, but demand has led to a lot more dates. In fact, they had another Ryman gig nine days later. Rhonda came out and sang one song with them, dressed in the same outfit as she wore in the back lot. But she changed for her own performance. Side note: the Ramblers’ bus ain’t anywhere as fancy as Rhonda’s!

Rhonda was absolutely terrific. The New Queen of Bluegrass, she was born in Kirksville, Missouri and still lives there surrounded by a giant family, commuting to Nashville. She played drums at the age of five in the family band, The Sally Mountain Show, and the show reprises itself annually. She plays mandolin – and sometime guitar or fiddle – and she writes songs from bluegrass instrumentals to heart-wrenching ballads. She has won the International Bluegrass Music Association award for Female Vocalist of the Year seven times, and she’s backed by her fabulous touring band, The Rage, whose newest member is 23 year old dobro ace Brent Burke. Brent got his B.A. from East Tennessee State last fall — the first student to earn a degree in bluegrass, old time and country music studies.

On Friday, we wer just as early to The Opry, arriving a full 90 minutes before showtime. It was long before the doors opened, so we wandered and people-watched. Among the people to watch was a real live up-to-date Minnie Pearl and a Roy Acuff, posing for pictures with fans. Once inside, we found the routine the same – plenty of snacks and drinks to be had and no problem taking eats — or cameras — to the seats, even though these pews were cushioned. In fact, every time a new celebrity would come onstage during the show, anywhere from a few to a few dozen fans would run down to the lip of the stage to take close-ups.

Our seats were seventh row and just outside the proscenium. No curtain was used. A jumbotron hung downstage, and smaller flat screens were right and left. They alternately showed Opry fun facts and ads for the evening’s sponsors. The four segments for the two-plus hour show were sponsored by Humana, Cracker Barrel, Johnny Walker Tours and Dollar General. Eddie Stubbs, of course, was the announcer.

Minnie came out in front about 20 minutes before the show and, starting us off with a Howdeeeeeee, told some stories, pitched some events and kept us entertained until Eddie took over. He had a lot more to do because he was on-air; in addition to thank-yous and contests, he had a slew of announcements of birthdays, anniversaries and the like. But then we got underway. Here’s a review of the talent; since this hasn’t been our lifetime #1 genre, some were unknown to us.

Segment #1: Host: Jeannie Seely. A Grammy winner in 1966 with numerous hits through the 60s and 70s, she’s been hosting at The Opry since 1985. Jeannie opened and closed her segment with songs of her own, and at 72, she still has it! Jimmy C. Newman, 84, has been singing since his teens and was invited to join The Opry in 1956, after his recording success had earned him a regular spot on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. After becoming an established artist, he returned to Louisiana to integrate his Cajun heritage into his repertoire.

Segment #2: Host: Little Jimmy Dickens. Jimmy is still standing tall at 4’ 11” at 91. He’s the longest standing Opry member with 63 years of tenure. He’s also the only member whose mailbox backstage is out of alphabetical order, simply because he otherwise couldn’t reach it. His voice and guitar didn’t betray his age. George Hamilton IV broke into the business as a pop singer with the solid gold hit A Rose and a Baby Ruth. He agreed to record it only if he could put a song of his own on the B-side; it was If You Don’t Know I Ain’t Gonna Tell You, which defined his country reputation. He was hired by Chet Atkins at RCA Records in 1960 and officially joined The Opry the same year. In 1963, he struck it large with Abilene. After that, he went international and is considered the world ambassador of country music. His son, George V, a star in his own right, was on stage with his dad this evening.

Our favorite: Jimmy Wayne, a 40 year old talent from N.C., had a disastrous youth, living much of the time on the streets or in foster homes with his sister. He was taken in by an elderly couple at age 16 and his life turned around; he finished high school, earned an Associate’s degree in criminal justice and worked as a corrections officer. Two years ago, he created the Meet Me Halfway campaign, hiking half way across the country (1,660 miles) alone to raise awareness about homeless youth and more specifically children aging out of the foster system. After singing two numbers, he explained his young life in detail and debuted the new song he’s written about it, to be released in August. It had us in tears and brought the audience to its feet.

Segment #3: Host: John Conlee. A member of The Opry since 1981, he started his music career late, working first as a mortician and then as a disc jockey. He charted 11 studio albums and 32 singles between 1978 and 2004; seven singles went to number one. Sarah Darling is a beautifully-voiced 30 year old from Iowa. In 2003, she was a top-3 finalist on Wayne Newton’s reality show, The Entertainer. Newton took her aside, told her she was his favorite, but she wouldn’t win because she wasn’t right for Vegas – she was right for Nashville. She took his advice and paid her dues for five years until she was discovered by producer Jimmy Nichols who heard her song Stop the Bleeding on her MySpace music page and signed her as the first artist on his new label. Now she’s writing and recording and appearing for real. Will Hoge, 40, grew up just south of Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. He worked toward a teaching degree at W. Kentucky U. until he realized he wanted a career in music . His early efforts were not strong, and his first album for a major label in 2003 was poorly promoted. But with a legion of fans and his band behind him, he persevered; he’s had resident dates and tours, and he’s released his seventh album. Vince Gill, a big fan, invited him to join The Opry.

Segment #4: Host: Riders in the Sky. The Riders are nationally known for their classic Cowboy and Western songs and their comedy routines. Over thirty-five years, they’ve had (more-or-less) 6200 live performances, 300 national TV appearances, 200 public radio shows, 700 Grand Ole Opry appearances, 3 television series and 30 albums. They’ve been the voice of the Yella Wood lumber campaign for the past few years. Singer-songwriter Ray Pillow, 75, formed his first band, The Stardusters, after earning a business degree from Lynchburg (VA) College. He and his wife sold everything in 1963 to move to Nashville, where he got his first break on Martha White radio and TV shows. In 1964, Capital Records signed him, and he was invited to join The Opry in 1966, his banner year filled with top-10 hits and national awards. As a music publisher and A&R representative, he’s helped developed the professional careers of other top artists, including Lee Greenwood of God Bless the USA fame.

Randy Travis closed the show. He had numerous run-ins with the law as a kid. But a relationship with Elizabeth Hatcher — much too complex for this blog — got him a contract with Warner Brothers, and since 1985, he’s sold over 25 million records and has his share of platinum and multi-platinum albums. Among dozens of awards, one that lauds his acting career is a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His musical career waned in the late 1990s; in 1997 he moved from Warner Bros. to Dream Works Records and refreshed it by changing his focus to gospel. He is credited with major innovation in country music. In the picture at right, you can see Randy standing on the circle that will never be broken – not even by the disastrous flood.

Well, we did do one non-musical thing. Tennessee celebrated the centennial of its statehood in 1896 with the Centennial Exposition. After reading about the effort and viewing many pictures of the Expo, we were totally blown away by the effort. There were dozens of sponsored buildings and exhibits, with a centerpiece that reflected the city’s slogan: the Athens of the South. A full-size replica of The Parthenon, originally built from wood, brick and plaster, was created for the Expo. It was enough of a hit to be retained after the celebration, but built for a short life, it quickly decayed. The city’s love for it didn’t, and between 1920 and 1931, it was rebuilt in concrete.

It houses a permanent exhibit of paintings in the Cowan Collection. James Cowan, a successful insurance man, collected over 700 works of art in his lifetime. He personally selected 63 of them, all by American artists and most featuring landscapes and seascapes, and donated them anonymously to the city in 1927 for exhibit in the rebuilt hall. His generosity wasn’t revealed until 1930, when he passed away. Cowan considered Tennessee his ancestral home and had been an invitee to the 1897 Centennial.

So precisely is it now detailed that architectural elements were molded using pieces of the original in the British Museum. Surrounding the naos, or upper chamber, outside its columns, are re-casts of the figures purchased from that museum to complete the pediments – sculptures in the triangle of the roof at each end of the building. They were originally removed from Greece to England in 1804 by the Earl of Elgin.

But wait . . .there’s more. I had been to the Parthenon before. In the 1980s, Camping World was on my database client list, and my visits involved flying into Nashville and driving up to Bowling Green. Since then, a feature missing from both Tennessee renditions has been added: the 42 foot tall statue of Athena Parthenos that stands in the naos, or upper chamber. In 1990, the full-size reproduction by Alan LeQuire was unveiled. She then stood alabaster white until 2002, when LeQuire and master gilder Louis Reed adorned her with 23.75 karat gold, eight pounds of it! A six foot Nike stands in her hand, preparing to crown her with a laurel wreath, and a plethora of gods and goddesses decorate the rim of her podium.

Two revolving art exhibits downstairs also struck our fancy. One was a series of photographs of Nashville celebrities photographed in the garb and pose of famous paintings. The other was an exhibit of the triglyphs and metopes (huh?). Metopes are scenes that appear in a frieze below the roof and above the columns. Tryglyphs are undecorated panels that separate them. In his continuous frieze that circled the room, the artist charmingly updated the metopes to the 21st century.

Next stop? Another chapter of the story that started — by surprise — in the Tri Cities of Washington in the spring of 2011. And a return visit to two of our favorite Schipperke – and all-around great personal – friends. As a bonus, we got a wide-eyed education in eastern Tennessee. Read on . . .

Cahokia, IL (East St. Louis): June 30 – July 7, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

The temperature in Hannibal was closing in on 100 degrees each day. By the time we left, St. Louis was starting its 12 day stretch of triple digit temps. There wasn’t a lot we could do about it, since there were a number of reasons for booking the next week in Cahokia. Most of them centered around the Queen Mother of Schipperke Rescue, our dear friend Michele Kasten who lives next door in Belleville. Michele has three challenges in life: working for her family’s security business, partnering with her husband Tom, and, as she says in her e-mail tagline, responsible breeder and rescuer; proud to do both.” In terms of hourly input, I feel certain that the order is reversed.

We were passing acquaintances until the spring of 2006, when we towed our old tagalong out to the Bellville Fairgrounds to support her organization, Schipperke Club of Greater St. Louis. They were holding a Schip specialty as part of an all-breed show. This was our Serena’s banner year – she traveled 6,000 miles with us, and this trip contributed hugely to the outpouring of universal love for her. GSL and their rescue wing, Midwest Schipperke Rescue took up her cause, and they supported her slogan, Patron Saint of the Unadoptable Schipperke. We will never forget each other for those days.

In the spring of 2010, Michele took in a very abused rescue named Skipper. Because of his spirit, the Schipperke Club of America’s Trust Fund committed considerable funds to repair his injured body. She was looking forward to delivering him to a supportive family, and we volunteered. We drove back to Missouri in October of that year to pick him up, and the Schip-Dude has been a blessed part of our family since then.

We never replace dogs we’ve lost. They’re much too individual and embedded in our hearts. But if we have an empty crate, we are willing to bring in another Schip requiring a forever home. We took in Schip-Dude because Willie’s crate was empty. Now, Ted’s crate had been empty for about 10 months. Dot thought that we might find someone at Pat’s in Cabot, Arkansas, and while Pat offered us a choice, none were rescues. We decided to wait until we talked to Michele about what she might offer, and, as expected, there was no shortage. She came over to our campground with two potential guys, Max and Phantom. Max was a dog of her own breeding, a two year old who was beautiful, has been shown, and was very busy. He had issues with our Schip-Dude right off the bat; The Dude is our gentle alpha, and with all he’s been through, he does not deserve competition. So we turned our attention to Phantom. But it wasn’t easy. His personality was the exact opposite, basically a “fraidy-dog.” If you reached for him, he’d back away. If you called him, he wouldn’t come. But if you got up next to him, he’d accept all the love you wanted to give. And he’s a “blue;” his coat is slate rather than black, and his ears are edged in silver. He’d come from a commercial breeder (a.k.a. puppy mill) and was purported to be about 9 – though he’s younger than that. Despite the multiple colors below, he’s really more grey than brown! He’s got long legs, a long face similar to The Dude’s, and long toes!

We decided to try him out. This was Monday, and on Wednesday, Independence Day, we were all invited to Michele and Tom’s lakefront summer home, an hour away in southeastern Missouri. We told Michele that Phantom would be coming with us when we left town. She came back over to our campground to do the paperwork on Friday and say a teary farewell to her tenant of nine months. Since we already knew of two other blues named Phantom, and he wasn’t responding anyway, we decided to rename him Thomas. More likely, it will become Tom, the second half of his prior name!

So the majority of our Cahokia stop was Schips and Kastens. But we did get to see one historic site. When we visited this area in June, 2010; St. Charles, MO is where that we began our Lewis and Clark expedition. One piece of area history missed last time preceded them by about 900 years: The Cahokia Mounds. We’ve repeatedly seen how the Americas were populated about 12,000 years ago — via the Alaska land bridge after the last Ice Age. The immigrants were nomadic hunter-gatherers, many of whom eventually settled into more permanent communities. In the American Bottom Floodplain, a major evolution led to the Missisippians, who occupied this region between 900 and 1300 A.D. A highly structured village has been uncovered, or, perhaps, discovered, since so much of it towers above the ground. They were mound people, using earthen edifices of various shapes for various purposes, such as exalting leaders, protecting themselves from enemies, public squares, burial grounds and other personal and community functions. This village has been codified as the Cahokia Mounds, and by the 11th century, it became a regional center covering over 6 square miles. Over 50 million cubic yards of earth were moved to create the rises, and the largest, Monks Mound, contains almost half of that, covering 14+ acres and rising to 100 feet. South of it is the Grand Plaza, a forty acre marketplace, gathering place, ceremonial place and recreation center. The Twin Mounds and Mound 72 appear to have been burial chambers. In all there are 120 mounds identified. The community’s core was surrounded by a stockade fence almost two miles in length. Adjacent is Woodhenge, a series of five circles and arches – with diameters up to 500 feet — around which wooden posts were installed to measure cyclical time. A splendid Visitors Center hosts the site, with a movie, a tour (skipped because of the 100 degree heat) and a museum, the crux of which is a reconstructed village. Other exhibits provide further education on the site and its people; one display shows the various mound types and their uses. And the showstopper is the Birdman Tablet (first pic), its back etched in what is believed to be a snakeskin pattern, that was found in the excavation and believed to symbolizing the sky, the earth and the underworld. It’s the logo (or in today’s jargon, the “icon”) of the site. Equally striking is the entrance to the center, with huge doors decorated in bronze symbols of the ancient race.

With four crates filled again, we set off on our next adventure – two visits to Tennessee to complete unfinished business and show off our new addition.

Hannibal, Missouri: June 23-30, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

We were finished with the western end of Missouri but not quite done with the eastern end. Heading north, through the community of Far West and near the community of Adam Ondi Ahmen, we then turned east across the state almost to the Illinois border and settled for a week in Hannibal. In fact, we stayed at the Mark Twain Cave RV Park, about two miles out of town. Having spelunked a number of times on this trip, we never visited the caves. But downtown was different.

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum is just a block up from the Mississippi River, on the corner of North and North Main. Your first stop is the Interpretive Center, where you can study Samuel Langhorne Clemens’s growing up years and pathway to his creative forté. You can also purchase a ticket to view other buildings on the site as well as the two-story Museum Gallery, located two blocks up Main Street.

First things first. After a thorough study of the interpretive center, we went out the back door and turned right, bringing us to one of the newest exhibits, the Huck Finn House. It’s a replica of the home of Tom Blankenship, close friend of Sam’s and model for Huck. The inside is sparse, but the exhibits center around slavery in the times and introduce Indian Joe. Heading back the other way, we entered the rear of the Clemens house itself and wandered through it, with Sam’s eerie presence seen everywhere in white sculptures. Exiting out the other end – through the gift shop – we found ourselves on Hill Street, a brick esplanade limited to pedestrian traffic. Across it, a selection of dwellings further the story: the Becky Thatcher House (home of Sam’s childhood sweetheart, Laura Hawkins), J. H. Clemens’s Justice of the Peace Office, and Grant’s Drug Store, where the Clemens family lived in a second floor apartment during the leanest times. These are works in progress, only viewable from outside. Also viewable directly next to the Clemens house is the infamous white picket fence. One of the dozens of activities that take place in town throughout the year is a fence painting contest. There’s something going on all the time, including regular appearances by Tom, Huck and Becky at the bottom of the hill, musical presentations, lectures, special exhibits and so on. Right now, there’s an appearance by Hal Holbrook in town in the fall, and a gallery exhibit/retrospective on Thomas Hart Benton, who illustrated three of Twain’s best known works.

Then it was on to The Gallery. Downstairs features graphic tableaux of numerous Clemens works, including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Roughing It, Innocents Abroad, Huck Finn, Life on the Mississippi and Tom Sawyer. (The raft is really floating!)

Upstairs holds, among other things, the second largest exhibit of Norman Rockwell originals in the world, including sixteen illustrations from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Two fascinating stories. First, here’s a grand piano, the property of Ossip Gabrilowitsch, famed pianist and maestro of the Detroit Symphony for 18 years. He married Sam’s daughter, Clara, in 1909. They had one child, Nina who, when she died in 1966, was the last known lineal descendent of Samuel Clemens.

Second, in 1968, 12 year old Cindy Pletcher met 14 year old Carl Jackson who was playing banjo in one of the leading bluegrass bands in the country. They became friends and pen pals. Carl went on to become famous, and in 2004, he published a tribute album to the Louvin Brothers that won two Grammys. Cindy bought it and, after listening to it over and over, visualized a similar effort for her literary hero, Mark Twain. Deeply inspired, she called Carl and proposed the idea – and he loved it. Thus was born a 27 track, 2 CD set and 40 page book including 13 songs and 14 narrated segments called Mark Twain Words and Music. Produced and published by Jackson, scripted by Museum director Cindy Lovell, enhanced by three original songs and released in 2011 by Jimmy Buffet on his Mailboat label, the proceeds benefit the Mark Twain Museum. Participating artists donated their efforts, and here’s just part of the lineup: Buffett voices Huck Finn; Clint Eastwood stars as Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor is the narrator, and Angela Lovell is Susy Clemens. Vocal contributors include Emmylou Harris, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Rhonda Vincent, The Church Sisters, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and a host of others. You can find this CD everywhere and the rest of the story at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mark-Twain-Words-Music/155205404547516

As Hank Morgan said in A Connecticut Yankee . . . You can’t throw too much style into a miracle. It costs trouble, and work, and sometimes money; but it pays in the end.

We decided to skip the jitney around town because we were already staying at one of their key stops and knew the locations of the others. But we did go back downtown the following day to treat ourselves to a seagoing adventure: a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat on the Mississippi River. It was a one hour tour, and the captain provided a wonderful narration as we traveled first upriver to the bridge across to Illinois and then downriver to Lover’s Leap. We saw a lot of busy barge traffic on The River. Smaller tugs were bringing barges into an anchored nest midstream; we’re not sure why. But a behemoth tug, developing 15,000 horsepower, was pushing the maximum number of barges downstream, three across and five deep.

Here’s Lover’s Leap from both the sea side and the land side. The beginning of the two versions of the story – one from signs at the site and the other from our boat captain – are the same. Indians on opposite sides of the river were mortal enemies. But an Illini brave fell in love with a Fox squaw. He would paddle across, and they would meet at the crest. They were spotted, and the chief, whose daughter was the squaw, offered anyone a fortune for the brave’s scalp. Cornered, the couple jumped from the cliff. But the captain told a codicil; they landed in a soft bed of cotton in a train passing by below, headed north to Quincy, IL and opened a cigar store!

I learned that another famous person had started her life in Hannibal. Her name was Margaret Tobin, and, when married, Margaret Brown, and, when Hollywood got hold of her, Molly Brown. The irony is that the staff at the tiny home of her upbringing swear that she was never called Molly during her lifetime. She hated nicknames, but she did answer to Maggie. Second of four children of Irish immigrants, she was born in 1867 and lived here until she was 18, when she followed her sister to Leadville, Colorado and went to work in a department store. She met J. J. Brown, a mine superintendent who was just as poor as she; she fell in love and married him. J. J.’s silver mine was pretty much played out, but he developed a way to dig deeper by using shoring and hay to hold back the unstable ground. He literally struck it rich; there was gold in them thar hills and his diligence earned him an ownership stake and a large share of the proceeds. J. J. would just as soon have stayed in Leadville, but Margaret got hung up in society living and a palatial home called Lions Gate in Denver. She dashed off to Europe, but in the middle of her tour, a serious family illness instigated a trip on the first ship back home. It happened to be the maiden voyage of the Titanic, on which she traveled with her friends, the Astors.

In the downstairs family room, there is a collection of scenes and paraphernalia from the famous sinking. Upstairs, a long side room displays many pictures of her life. You learn that she survived two succeeding sea disasters after the Titanic. You can get to view the mansion, her two children, and the course of her high life until her death in 1932. She and J. J. signed a separation agreement in 1909 after 23 years together, but they continued to care for each other throughout their lives. She was tireless in her charity work, championing the rights of women, workers and children, as well as supporting her church.

Dot was willing to dog-sit while I ventured to another Mormon stronghold, Nauvoo, Illinois, about fifty miles north of Hannibal. When they escaped the clutches of the mobs in western Missouri, the Mormons fled to Quincy, IL, where they received comfort. Learning that there was cheap land on a bend in the Mississippi just north of there, they bought up many acres. Much of the land was flooded, but by creating revetments, they were able to turn it into a habitable community with very arable land. They settled Nauvoo in 1839, and by 1844, the city was larger than Chicago.

Nauvoo is the home turf of both the LDS and the RLDS/Community of Christ. As discussed in earlier chapters, after Smith’s murder, the LDS followed Brigham Young to Utah, while the RLDS settled back in Independence and remained loyal to the Smith family. The two share – on a separate but equal basis – the development and presentation of the historic Nauvoo sites. I found my way first to the CofC Visitors Center, watched their video, and set off on their tour. It consisted of Joseph and Emma’s original house, the family cemetery, the later, larger house they occupied, and Joseph’s general store. There were other buildings, not open to the public.

Our tour guide first showed us the tombstone that marks the final resting place of Joseph, Hyrum and Emma. After their deaths, Emma secretly buried the brothers in the basement of The Homestead, their first Nauvoo home adjacent to the cemetery. That building was in the process of being converted to The Nauvoo House, a guest house, and when construction resumed, she moved them to the beehive building next door (first pic below). It was not until 1928 when the brothers and Emma’s bodies were all located and exhumed, hers nearby under a laurel tree, and re-interred with this monument.

Across the street was The Mansion, a more substantial home for Joseph And Emma. At one point, it had a series of guest rooms along the side for folks to use until The Nauvoo House was completed. Emma and her second husband completed and managed it. (Keep in mind that the CofC sect were those still loyal to the Smith family, rather than Brigham Young.) The last picture shows Joseph’s General Store, with a meeting hall upstairs.

A half mile drive through the community brought me to the LDS Visitors’ Center, much more opulent and, as typical, staffed with missionaries. Note that the LDS has 60 times the membership of the CofC. One of the elders took me under his wing and re-described the evolution with passion, guided me to their movie, and sent me out to the adjacent sculpture garden. It was a tribute to women, with about twenty expressions, starting with Joseph and Emma’s marriage and then expanding with image after image of woman’s devotion, education, multiple family roles and sunset. Most were completed by a single artist; all were moving.

Running short of time, I quickly reviewed several key buildings spread throughout the community. The John Taylor House was nestled between the Printing Office and Post Office. Home and workshop of Jonathan Browning – he of gun design and manufacturing – was across the street. Two blocks down was a small reconstructed brick kiln that put out miniature bricks as free souvenirs. Across from that was the home of Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith with its downstairs canopied alcove where she slept when too feeble to climb the stairs. Finally, the home of Heber Kimball, a powerful force during the reigns of both Smith and Young.

On the way back, I took a side jaunt to Carthage. Mormon philosophy again did not sit well with locals, and there were both vigilante and governmental actions against them. Joseph Smith agreed to surrender to authorities. He and a small party, including his brother Hyrum, traveled to Carthage and were jailed there. The jailer saw Joseph as a gentleman, and after serving them dinner, he confined his prisoners to the street level debtors cell, rather than the dungeon upstairs. The following morning, a mob started to form outside, so he moved his charges to an upstairs room. It was to no avail; the mob broke in and assaulted the room. They shot through the door, fatally hitting Hyrum as he barred it. They shot Joseph as he climbed through a window, and a contingent ran down to the lawn to finish the job. Two were left: Willard Richards and John Taylor. Taylor was hit several times, but crawled under the bed. Richards survived without a scratch – prophesied by Smith the night before. He managed to get Taylor to safety and get the bodies back to Nauvoo.

There was a celebration about to take place; that day was the 168th anniversary of the assassinations. I appealed to an elder; he let me in through a back door and gave me a personal tour. As is the case with all of the other historical LDS monuments, the Carthage Jail was opulently restored.

A post-script: While in Hannibal, we met Ohioans John and Myrna Bird, Big Horn owners fresh from the Heartland Rally in Montana. This contact inspired two future events. First, they advised us of a major sale going on by the manufacturer of the chassis and running gear of our trailer, including an automatic landing/leveling system. We contacted the firm and will go to Goshen, Indiana in early August to have it installed. Second, they revealed the affordable campground in Florida where they spend their winters, near the Gulf Coast. Dot signed us up for January – April, 2013.

Now it was on to Cahokia – and a new family member!