A Stroll Through Lower Manhattan

May 14, 2018 – New York City, NY

After spending Friday in Mid-town and the Lower West Side, we had a few more places we wanted to visit in Lower Manhattan.  Monday’s weather looked like it was going to cooperate, so we once again grabbed the 10:08 Metro-North out of Beacon and headed into Grand Central.  Once there, it was an easy subway ride on the Green 4-5-6 line down to the City Hall station.  One thing we failed to mention in the last post is that subway maps can be a challange to find.  If you are in Grand Central Terminal, go to the information kiosk in the center of the main concourse and ask for one.  They keep them behind the counter.  No charge, and they are a really nice quality map.

Our first destination was the Brooklyn Bridge.  This graceful span has fascinated me for as long as I can remember.  Begun in 1869 and completed in 1883, this mile-plus long structure was the longest in the world when it opened…by a whopping 50%!  The designer, John Roebling, purposely planned it to be six times stronger than it needed to be, and that is why it still stands today.  On average, over 100,000 vehicles cross it daily, along with 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists.

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While the bridge was originally designed to allow rail and horse-drawn carriage traffic on the main deck, it always had a pedestrian passage in the center of the upper level.  Time to lace up the Asics and take a hike to Brooklyn!

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The Gothic arched towers of Maine granite, in contrast with the hybrid cable-stay system of suspending the deck above the water takes your breath away.

When we came to the Manhattan tower, we were a bit concerned to see only John Roebling and his son Washington’s names on the plaque as having been the builders of the span.  Having read the book, The Great Bridge by David McCullough (a wonderful literary work that I highly recommend), I knew there was more to that story.  When the initial construction was underway in 1869, John Roebling’s foot was crushed between a ferry boat and the dock.  That led to his death from tetanus.  Reading the gruesome account of his demise reminded me of my grandmother’s description of my great-grandfather’s passing from the same disease.  It wasn’t lost on me that they were both builders of 19th century landmarks that still stand, German and named John.  Before Roebling passed, he put his son in charge of the project.  While working in the caissons way below river level Washington Roebling developed a case of the bends, which little was known about at the time.  He ended up permanently disabled and housebound in Brooklyn, so his wife Emily stepped in.  On her own she learned the advanced mathematics, physics, and engineering required to complete the structure.  From 1870 to 1883,  one determined woman oversaw the construction of this engineering marvel.

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To say we were thrilled to see this plaque honoring her on the Brooklyn tower is an understatement. 🙂   It was fitting that she was the first to cross the completed span, riding in a carriage and carrying a rooster; a sign of victory.  You go girl!

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After crossing to terra-firma in Brooklyn, we turned around and headed back.  The overcast skies were beginning to clear!

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Here are the buildings of lower Manhattan, as seen through the 135 year-old cables of the span.

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The view really opened up when we reached mid-river.

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What a great way to spend the morning!

Our friends Linda and Steven went to NYC last year, and suggested to us that we must visit Eataly!   After a quick Google search we found that one of the two locations in town was near the Brooklyn Bridge in World Trade Center 4, so off we went.

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Along the way, we passed this beautiful fountain in front of City Hall.  New York has so many wonderful public spaces like this.

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Eataly is a chain of Italian marketplaces/restaurants located around the globe.

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Oh, my….so many choices!  We opted for a sit-down meal at La Pizza & La Pasta.

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Diana’s selection was a Capricciosa pizza, which included San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala from Napoli, prociutto cotto, mushrooms, artichokes and olives.  To drink, she chose a GuS extra dry ginger ale.

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I selected the Pappardelle, although I chose a gluten-free substitute for the noodles.  They were tossed with peas, pancetta, spring onion, white wine, butter and parmigiano reggiano. Pared nicely, I might say, with a glass of Pinot Grigio.  🙂  We completed the meal with some of their decadent gelato.  Absolutely delightful!  We texted Linda and Steven afterwards and told them we loved them.  🙂

Before we left the restaurant, we stepped over to the large wall of windows and looked down at our next destination:  The 9/11 Memorial.

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Through the 400 swamp white oak trees, chosen for their resiliency and strength, is the reflecting pool that occupies the footprint of the South Tower, known as World Trade Center 2.  We had visited this spot in 2007, back when it was a huge construction site.

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Photos don’t do this solemn ground justice.  Two pools are placed where the 110-story towers once stood.  Water falls from the outside into the pool, then falls again into the void in the center.  The water seems to vanish, just as the people who perished here did.

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Names of the victims encircle both pools, arranged with the people they worked with.  Above is Father Judge’s name; he died when the South Tower collapsed.  The diversity of names from around the globe really stands out.

We walked slowly around both pools, contemplating that horrible day in 2001.

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Above it all rises the Freedom Tower, now taking the name World Trade Center 1 from the former North Tower.  Rising to 1,776 feet tall, it is the tallest building in the United States and is currently the sixth tallest in the world.

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The names of the victims from Flight 93 in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon are also here, along with the six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  When I saw Todd Beamer’s name, it hit me hard.  He was one of the men who stormed Flight 93’s cockpit to try to stop the hijackers.

We want to say that we consciously chose not to go to the 9/11 Museum at this time.  Friends who have gone say it is excellent, so you may want to look into it when you visit New York.  Thank you for respecting our choice.

After the memorial, we were drained…but we had a few more stops we wanted to make on our way back to the subway.  First was Trinity Church.

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This beautiful Episcopal chapel stands at the head of Wall Street.

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The church’s graveyard  is the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton, Treasurer of the United States.  He lost a duel with then Vice President Aaron Burr in 1804.  It was considered a legal duel, although it ended Burr’s political career.  By visiting here, we can now say we saw Hamilton in New York.  😉

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Robert Fulton, who invented the steamboat, also rests here.

From Trinity Church, we headed to Federal Hall.

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Even though this isn’t the same building, this is the spot where George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States.

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Inside is the stone he stood on from the first building.  It appears to have seen better days, but it’s cool that they still have it.

Leaving there, we were pretty much wiped out.  We boarded the subway in the Financial District to get back to Grand Central…at 5:15 PM.  Whoops!  That’s when the train cars become sardine cans, and we were standing with plenty of new friends.  🙂  The train stopped once and more people crushed in, then it was an express into the terminal.  We won’t make that mistake again.  😉  Once at Grand Central, we caught an express back to Beacon.  Along the way, we sat on the inland side of the train, seeing several deer along the route.  We were back at camp before dark, capping a really great day in lower Manhattan.

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That wraps up our time in New York City for now. When we visited the first time in 2007, we toured the Statue of Liberty, had dinner at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, and attended a Broadway play. We look forward to visiting again, and discovering new adventures in the Big Apple. Our next post will highlight some of the fun things we did around Newburgh, so be sure to stay tuned for that.  Until then, safe travels to all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Timing in New York City

May 11, 2018 – New York City, New York

When most fulltime RVers choose travel destinations, they envision trees, rivers, and views from lofty heights.  Many look for places where they can hike long distances in natural surroundings.  On May 11, we found the perfect place to accomplish all of that:  New York City. This post deals with how we navigated the first of two days on Manhattan Island…all with serendipitous timing.

This wasn’t our first time in New York City.  We had come here as part of our 25th anniversary trip back in 2007, so we knew how to get around the metro area.  Back then, our friends Karen and Bill had told us of a KOA up in Newburgh, NY that was convenient to the Beacon train station.  That campground also had a woman who would walk our dog Jenny for a donation to KOA Care Camps for children dealing with cancer.  That worked well for us on our two trips into the city that year, allowing us to stay into the evening.  So this time around, we chose the same campground for our week-long stay.  Even though Jenny is no longer with us, we were happy to see that Carol is still there taking care of the pups.  And by a stroke of pure luck, our friend Kathy was working there.  You might remember her from our Charleston post.  We had no firm plans this trip, just a list of possible things to do in the area.

On Friday, May 11, we were drinking our coffee in our PJ’s and trying to decide our schedule for the week.  A quick look at the Weather Channel revealed rain and low temperatures in the forecast for most of our stay,  which meant the best day weather-wise was upon us.  Time to get moving.  We grabbed showers, sandwiches, sunglasses, water, and we were out the door!  Looking at the train schedule, we knew we were going to be close to making the 10:08.  The next train wouldn’t be for another hour, so we really wanted to catch it.  With it being 11 years since our last visit, we weren’t exactly sure the details of accomplishing that feat.  Well if there are two attributes to New Yorkers, it is that they are efficient and willing to help.  After a very quick transaction with the smiling toll collector on the Hudson River bridge, we were in the parking lot at the station.  “Toot-toooooot” … we could hear the Metro North coming!  We ran for the platform and quickly navigated the parking pay station (pay by plate) and up the stairs for the bridge over the tracks.  We passed a woman and asked if we could buy tickets on the train. “Yes, but it will cost you more,” she said without missing a beat.  Ok, so onto the platform, I quickly paid for two tickets in the vending machine as the train came in.  We literally grabbed them, turned to our left and stepped on the train. Ahhhhh….we had an hour-plus to chill. 🙂

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The beauty of riding this route is that it runs along the Hudson River the entire way.  The valley is lined with steep basalt cliffs known as the Palisades.  We could see the castle-like U.S. Military Academy at West Point across the river, along with many beautiful old homes, countless boats, and a fair amount of waterfowl. It is here that I will note that the two train cars furthest from the city (last ones inbound and first ones outbound) are now designated quiet cars.  That is probably a result of our incessant talking and newspaper rattling back in 2007, that resulted in a few glares from the commuters.  🙂

While we were rolling along Diana texted our friend Shari, a professor at Rutgers close by in New Jersey, because we had tentative plans to meet her in New York City that weekend.  She commented that we should be going today, as the weather was so beautiful. Diana responded that we were on way, and asked “Are you in?” She was in the middle of getting her hair done, but was able to grab a bus into the city immediately afterwards.  We made plans to meet for a late lunch at 2:30. We love it when a plan comes together!

Shari was the one who taught us how to navigate the subway system our last time here.  Back then, we toured Greenwich Village, Soho, and the Garment District with her.  We even ended up on CBS Sunday Morning, when we walked into Blue Ribbon Bakery.  They were doing a story about picnics.  Check it out HERE, between 17 and 22 seconds on the video (our five seconds of fame).  I’m the one in the Hawaiian shirt.

As we approached the city, the train slid underground for the final few miles to our destination.  Once inside Grand Central Terminal, we walked up into the main concourse.

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We never get tired of seeing this beautiful building!  Financed by the Vanderbilts, this huge structure was completed in 1913.  In this photo, we are actually one level below the streets.  There are 44 train platforms…the most at any terminal in the world… along with three subway lines that intersect here.  A very busy place that, despite the volume of people, works exceedingly well.

Once on the street, we had three hours until we were to meet up with Shari at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington…about 2.5 miles away.  Plenty of time to take a hike and catch that lofty view I referred to earlier.  We spotted a North Face store across from the station; after all…you would fully expect to find an outdoor store here.  😉  We were wanting a smaller day pack, and the people inside were able to help us accomplish that.  Out the door we headed for the second highest spot in the city, the Empire State Building!  Quickly navigating the mostly-empty queues (due to it being a weekday in early spring), we were soon outside on the 86th floor observatory.

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I looked up to see if King Kong was on the mast, just in case.  Nope…we were good.  Amazingly, this 1454 foot tall tower took only a little more than 13 months to build.

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Looking north, you can see Central Park beyond the tall buildings.  Lots of construction can be seen, as this city is constantly changing.

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This is looking west-northwest.  If you had been here on January 15, 2009, you could have seen Captain Sully land his plane on the Hudson from this point.

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This view is northeast, with the art-deco Chrysler building to the left and the East River behind.  I noticed that it was actually somewhat quiet up on the observatory deck, even though you could hear the street traffic far below.

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And the view south towards the Freedom Tower.  The Statue of Liberty can be seen to the right in the distance.  The Flatiron building is in the foreground on the point.  Amazingly, it was once one of the tallest buildings in New York when it was completed in 1902.

Once we were done, we rode the subway down to 14th Street.  From there we hoofed it to a restaurant called Bubby’s to meet Shari.  We exchanged hugs at 2:31….not bad!  🙂  The cafe had recently had a kitchen fire, so they were going to be opening up for the first time in a week later that afternoon.  Instead we ate at another place named High Street on Hudson, which was very good.  After that we did a little shopping.  She took us into a Christian Louboutin shoe store. Known for their red soles, the prices started at around $300 and rose quickly from there.  Not that any of us were buying, but it was fun to see how the other half shops!  We then headed to the southern end of the High Line.

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What is the High Line you ask?  It is a former elevated railway that carried freight to southern Manhattan.  It opened as a 1.45 mile long linear city park in 2009.  Talk about nature!

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They left the tracks and incorporated the landscaping around them.

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Check out the trillium and the ferns.  Are we in Leelanau?

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Looking up reveals we weren’t.  🙂  Hey…we were just up on top of that tower!

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And here is a dandy bit of construction going on.  That crane is level and plumb.  Look closely at the tower.  They are building it to be tilted like that.  I’m assuming it is an optical illusion that the floors themselves look slanted.  Go figure!

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Shari took this photo of us on this cool park feature.  It is built like a theater with windows at the front.  People are able to sit and watch as traffic on 10th Avenue zips out from under them.  Nice place to hang out and play the license plate game.  🙂

After we walked the entire length of the High Line, we grabbed dinner in Hell’s Kitchen at a restaurant called The Marshall.  Again, very tasty!

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It is always guaranteed to be a fun day when we are able to hang out with Shari!  We said our goodbyes near the restaurant and Diana and I trekked over a few blocks to Times Square.  It was starting to get dark by this time, so the bright lights were in all their glory.

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Right above that ‘2018’ is the mast that the Waterford crystal ball slides down on New Years Eve.

From there we grabbed the Shuttle subway line directly to Grand Central.  While we were waiting for the train we met a young man from Columbia who was trying to find his way to Connecticut, and he asked if he was on the right subway.  I knew enough to tell him the New Haven train ran from Grand Central, so we helped him navigate his way across town and to the information kiosk in the center of the main concourse of the terminal.  As we entered that grand hall, he stopped cold in his tracks.  “Whoa, hold on!!! I have to take a picture!”  He was in awe of what he was seeing, and we were happy to be able to help him.  With that, we made our train back to Beacon with just minutes to spare, capping a day filled with perfect timing and loads of fun.  We logged over 21,000 steps and 11 floors on our Fitbits, once all was said and done.  Whew!

Next up, we spend a second day in New York, checking out several sites in lower Manhattan.  Be sure to stay tuned for that adventure!

 

 

Harpers Ferry & Delaware Water Gap

“Take me down to Shenandoah

To the joining of the streams

Take me back to Harpers Ferry

Let me revel in my dreams”

Greg Artzner/Terry Leonino

 

May 6-7, 2018 – Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

May 8-9, 2018 – Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania

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At the far eastern tip of West Virginia, where the Shenandoah River empties into the Potomac, lies the tiny river village of Harpers Ferry.  From the point in town where the rivers meet (as seen above) the eastward view shows Maryland to the left, Virginia to the right and the Potomac rolling onward towards Chesapeake Bay.  This hamlet was named for Robert Harper, who purchased a ferry service in 1747 from a squatter who had established it fourteen years before.  The land itself, owned by Lord Fairfax, was purchased by Harper in 1751.  Since that time, the town has seen more history than most communities of its size, and it continues to be a magnet for people from all over the world.

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Across the river in Maryland the vantage point known as Maryland Heights offers a commanding view of Harpers Ferry.  Two railroads run through the lower portion of town, which is built on a flood plain.  As one would expect, floods have had a major impact on anything built there over the years.  This area was home to most of the commercial and industrial parts of the community.  The upper part of town is mostly residential, churches, and small retail shops.

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We climbed up there via steps that are cut into the rock that the village is built upon.

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Along the way, we passed the Harper House, where Meriwether Lewis is believed to have stayed when he came here in 1803 to procure weapons and supplies for his expedition to the Pacific.

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At the top of the steps is St. Peter Catholic Church.  Its commanding perch on the hillside ensures that its steeple can be seen for miles.

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Continuing upwards, we passed the ruins of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

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Our destination was Jefferson Rock.  This balanced shale (supported in the mid-1800’s) was the place Thomas Jefferson stood in 1783, declaring the view as “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature”.

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That was one vista we needed to explore!

The lower town is home to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.

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Many interesting little shops and displays can be found there, covering the varied history of the village.

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This display shows a recreation of the rifle works in the U.S. Armory that was located here.   Interchangeable weapon parts were invented at the armory.

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And I was very glad to see a recreation of the “experiment”, the iron-framed boat Lewis and Clark brought west with them.  I had read about in in the book Undaunted Courage, but I couldn’t visualize what it looked like.

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The plan was to stretch animal hides over the frame and seal the seams with pine tar.  The problem came about when there wasn’t any pine trees to be found when it came time to assemble it above Great Falls, Montana.  They substituted beeswax, buffalo tallow and charcoal, hoping it would hold.  According to Lewis the boat floated “like a perfect cork on the water”, until the beeswax mixture let loose and the craft began to sink.  He ordered the frame to be buried and they continued on their way without it.  They did dig it up to inspect it on the return trip (as noted in his journals), but that was the last mention of it.

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There was also a fair amount about abolitionist John Brown, who was captured in this building after a siege of the armory in 1859.  Brown believed the only way slavery would be overthrown was by the use of violence.  His reason for the raid was to obtain weapons in order to arm slaves. The capturing forces were led by Robert E. Lee, then a colonial in the U.S. Army.  Brown was charged with treason and hanged in nearby Charles Town.  His efforts captured the attention of the country, and are considered to have contributed to the start of the Civil War.

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Speaking of that war, this life mask of Abraham Lincoln was on display in one of the buildings.  It had been done just two months before he was assassinated.  It was surreal to look at, knowing the mold that formed this had actually touched his face.  It really looks like the stress of the war took a toll on him.  Those hostilities were also hard on Harpers Ferry, as the community changed hands eight times between the north and south from 1861 to 1865.

Moving from the past to the present, we wanted to note a few of the recreational opportunities available in the area.

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From a distance, Diana saw this woman rock climbing below Maryland Heights.

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Also, on the near side of this bridge, there is a pedestrian walkway.

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That’s actually the Appalachian Trail.  Now we can say we hiked from West Virginia to Maryland.  😉

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Even though this isn’t the exact center, most people consider it the psychological halfway point of the 2,178 mile long path.

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And Harpers Ferry is home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a place we really wanted to visit.  It is a great rest spot for the trail users, offering loads of information and computer access.  They take a photo of each hiker and keep binders as a history of thru hikers. We have to admit, making that journey has crossed our minds on occasion over the years. You can always complete it in segments…

On May 8, we headed north to Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania.  Our reason for the stop was so that we could meet up with one of Diana’s childhood friends.

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Ellen and Diana were in Girl Scouts together.  And speaking of long hikes…

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…Ellen had a photo of when the troop hiked across Michigan from the shore of Lake Huron to the shore of Lake Michigan.  Diana still has her “Shore to Shore Hiker” sweatshirt in storage.  🙂

The next day, Diana and I checked out the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.  Unfortunately, most of the trails had been recently damaged by a late winter storm, so many of the waterfalls were inaccessible.

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We did find that the trail to Raymondskills Falls was recently reopened, so we walked down to check that out.

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They were very pretty, and it was good to get out on a trail in the woods again!

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This smaller waterfall off to the side was particularly nice.

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Even though most of the park was inaccessible, Raymondskills Falls provided a little sampling of what Delaware Water Gap has to offer.  If we get back this way, we will hike to some of the other falls!

Next up:  Come along with us as we log some major Fitbit steps in New York City. 🙂  Be sure to stay tuned for that adventure!

Of special note:  We wanted to mention the passing of fellow blogger and fulltime RVer, Lynne Braden.  She was the author of Winnie Views,  the travel stories of her and her late yellow lab Millie.  The way she faced her terminal cancer with grace was an inspiration to us.  Though we never met in person, we kept in contact with her through our blogs and by email.  We will truly miss her and her cheerful smile. Her legacy lives on through her generous donation to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the place that gave her the first opportunity to volunteer.  The next time you see a Sandhill Crane, smile and think of Lynne.  🙂

 

 

Charming Charlottesville

May 3-4, 2018, Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia was a ‘must’ for our trip up the East Coast, even if it meant turning inland for a bit.  This beautiful little city that is nestled on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains is home to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate.  It is also the base for the University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded in 1819.  We had visited the area previously and really wanted to see it again, especially after reading Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West.  Meriwether Lewis’ roots were in this part of Virginia also.

Our first stop was Monticello, which is privately owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.  The last time we were here, the person in line in front of us was explaining his new job to the person he was with.  He told her he was going to be a writer on a new sitcom.  When asked what it was about, he replied “Nothing”. It was the early 1990’s, and Seinfeld had yet to become a household name, so none of us knew what he was talking about.  🙂  No TV writers this time, but we were greeted with this impressive display in the parking lot:

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There had to be 50 of these beauties strung along several rows. They were part of the Classic Car Club of America’s Blue Ridge CARavan.

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The black 1920’s era Bentley caught my eye, as it is a rare automobile.

We walked up to the impressive visitor center, which is a new addition from when we were last here.  They have a gift shop, theater, museum and restaurant, in addition to a shuttle that takes guests to the estate at the top of the mountain.  Once we were up top we took a house tour, as we remembered how interesting it was on our previous visit.

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Unfortunately, photos aren’t permitted inside the home.  We will say that it is fascinating to see the many features Mr. Jefferson incorporated into it, as he was quite the inventor.  It is also filled with things he found interesting, covering a wide variety of subjects.   If you ever have the opportunity to visit, it’s an excellent tour that is well worth your time.

On the grounds surrounding the home, photos are allowed.  We joined in on the slavery tour, which explained the role of the slaves at Monticello.

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Our guide took us along Mulberry Row, where many of the slave quarters and workplaces were located.  She openly discussed the fact that Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder, even though he coined the term “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence.  He knew that slavery would eventually need to be abolished, yet he had no idea how to bring that about…as it was so intertwined into the socioeconomic structure of the country at the time.  We were surprised to learn that Virginia had the largest population of slaves of any state in the union.  She also discussed Sally Hemings, the mixed-race slave whose six children are believed to have been fathered by Jefferson.

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After that tour, we wandered the grounds for a bit.  We spoke with one of the gardeners who maintains this 1000 foot long terraced garden.  Jefferson would try to grow all sorts of things here, experimenting and learning as he went along.  The worker stated a few of the things they were currently growing, along with the need to compost the dense Virginia clay.

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The garden was created by building this long rock wall.  As seen to the right, the plantation had its own vineyard and orchard.  There were also many acres planted with crops in the valleys surrounding the mountain.  With over 200 slaves working here, this was a self-sufficient community.

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Descending back to the visitor center on foot, we passed the Jefferson family cemetery.  Jefferson wanted a simple obelisk of coarse stone with the following lines, the achievements he most wanted to be remembered for:

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia

It is interesting to note that this is an active cemetery, with decedents still being buried here.

After leaving Monticello, it was suggested that we go check out the Apple Barn at the top of Carter Mountain.

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Bold Rock Cidery has one of their locations up here, along with an expansive view of the Blue Ridge to the west.  It’s a perfect place to enjoy a sunset!

The next day, we visited Thomas Jefferson’s last great achievement, the University of Virginia.  On the way, we decided to check out a statue dedicated to Lewis and Clark.

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We were happy to see it included Sacajawea, although it is odd that she is depicted as hiding behind William Clark and clinging to his coat tails.  The memorial is in a tiny triangular traffic island on a very busy intersection, so there was no stepping back for a different photo.

Our next stop was the University of Virginia.  We were in awe of how beautiful it was!

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The original grounds…they don’t refer to it as a campus…is crowned by the Rotunda, which overlooks a central lawn.  On each side are a double row of buildings that include offices,  classrooms, and student housing.  Thomas Jefferson referred to this as the Academical Village. The original housing is currently reserved for fourth year students who have shown leadership and academic excellence during their first three years.  The students consider it an honor to be chosen to live here, even though the rooms are not air conditioned.  Also, the occupants have to walk outside to a different part of the building to use the restroom and shower.

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The inside of the Rotunda is amazing!  This room once housed the library, but is now part meeting room and study hall.  Note the nooks and crannies around the outside on both levels.  Once Diana saw this, she asked the person at the front desk where the Admissions Office was.  She wanted to go back to school, just to be able to study here!  The building is the second version of the Rotunda, as the first burned in a fire in 1895.  The students rushed in to save the books and artwork, even dragging a life-sized marble statue of Mr. Jefferson down the front steps.

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That piece stands proudly in the Rotunda today, thanks to their efforts.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Charlottesville.  If you are ever in the area, be sure to take the time to check it out.  You will be glad you did!

In our next post, we visit another important place on the Lewis and Clark trail: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It turns out that Lewis’ trip there is but a small part of the town’s story.  Stay tuned and safe travels until then!

 

Why Yorktown Took Us by Surprise

May 1, 2018 – Yorktown, Virginia

Not far from the last two places we visited…Jamestown and Williamsburg…lies Yorktown, Virginia.  While the first two are considered to be the beginning and the middle of colonial America, the latter is where the United States finally won their independence from Great Britain. Coming to this important place for the first time, we knew very little about what took place here; the third leg of the Historic Triangle.  What we found totally surprised us!

Here is a quick synopsis of what happened in 1781:  Britain controlled New York and also was building a commanding presence in Virginia.  George Washington’s troops were readying themselves for an assault on New York, along with a large army of French soldiers led by Comte de Rochambeau.  Another group of Americans, led by French commander Marquis de Lafayette, was shadowing the British in Virginia.  Yet another group of French led by Comte de Grasse and located in the West Indies, promised naval support to the cause.  When Grasse sent word that he was headed to Virginia, Washington and Rochambeau had little choice but to do the same.   Washington left a skeleton crew in New Jersey to maintain the guise of a full camp by tending to hundreds of campfires and tents.  By the time the Brits figured out that the enemy was headed south, the French navy had already blocked the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and the combined American/French troops were well on their way to Yorktown.  Lord Cornwallis and his 6,000 man army were about to be surrounded by a force of 8,800 Americans and 7,800 French, along with the 35 French warships in the bay.  British commander Henry Clinton sent 25 ships south to take on the French, but were effectively driven back north by the larger navy.  Cornwallis was on his own.  The French and American armies attacked from the south, pinning the Brits against the York River.  Efforts to retreat across the waterway were foiled by a sudden storm, which all but sealed their fate.  Cornwallis surrendered, and the final battle of the Revolutionary War was complete.

So what was it that surprised us at Yorktown?  Well, first of all, the Americans couldn’t have won without the help of the French army and navy.

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Diana walks the American First Parallel, which was built in one night.

Why did they come to our aid?  They and the British had been vying for power in North America for quite some time, and the French recognized the United States as an independent nation with the Treaty of Alliance in 1778. By backing the Americans, they would have a better economic stance in the New World.

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Jim peers from an American position towards the British fortifications.

Also, George Washington did tell a lie, in the fact that he deceived the British into thinking he was staying in New York.  We forgive him for the fib.  🙂

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The far ridge is the British defensive line. The brick walls in the foreground encompass a Civil War cemetery. The ridge just beyond the brick walls is the American Second Parallel.

And did you know that a full third of the combined armies were German?  The reasons behind that are many, but just the fact that they were there surprised us.

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Redoubt 9, which the French took over with 400 men.

The final maneuver by the Americans was accomplished without using loaded muskets.  A division of U.S. men captured Redoubt 10 using only bayonets.

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The remains of Redoubt 10, which the York River is slowly reclaiming to erosion.

The British had a long list of demands when they surrendered, which were rejected by Washington.

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The Moore House, where the actual surrender was signed.

The British marched into what is now known as the Surrender Field between a long column of Americans on one side of the road and French on the other.

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The Surrender Field.

It was here that they laid down their unloaded weapons.  Seeing that the British still held New York, none of the participants knew that this was the battle that eventually won the war.

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A portion of the 242 cannons that were surrendered by the British.

Great Britain lost the will to fight a war far from their shores and withdrew from New York after the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

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The Victory Monument stands in Yorktown to commemorate the end of the Revolutionary War.  With our visit to the Historic Triangle complete, we moved on to Charlottesville, Virginia.  Be sure to see the cool things we found there in our next post!

Pocahontas – Did Disney Get it Right?

April 30, 2018 – Jamestown, Virginia

Some of us might remember the 1995 Disney movie Pocahontas, in which the young Powhatan Indian maiden is romantically involved with one of the founders of Jamestown, Captain John Smith.  It followed 1994’s The Lion King, so you may still have had the latter VHS tape in your VCR and missed it.  We did a little digging to find out just what happened at this historic village, and if the young native really had a thing for the dashing Englishman.

Jamestown is the first successful English settlement in North America.  Captain John Smith was aboard a three-ship expedition that established James Fort on what is now known as the James River.  It lies a mere 3 miles from the center of Williamsburg, Virginia, which we visited in our last post.  They arrived in late April of 1607, finding a place they thought was graced with fresh water.  That was later known to be the result of snow melt, with summer revealing the area’s water to be brackish.  They were agriculturally ill-equipped, and 80% of them perished the next winter during a period known as the Starving Time.  It didn’t help that the settlers weren’t getting along with the natives, either.  According to Smith he was captured by the Powhatans and nearly executed at one point, only to have Pocahontas throw herself across his body to save him.  Pretty romantic, but not the complete story.  More on that in a bit.

Following those difficult first years, Jamestown flourished and was the capital of Virginia from 1616 to 1699. Eventually it was known as James City.  In 1698 the capitol building burned, so the decision was made to move the seat of power to Williamsburg.  The little settlement by the James River eventually disappeared, except for the brick church tower that the colonists had built.  The property changed hands a few times and was eventually donated to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities in 1893.  That non-profit organization is now known as Preservation Virginia.  It was believed that the original townsite had eroded into the river.  The organization received federal assistance to build a seawall to protect what was left.

On April 30, we went to check this place out.  We weren’t quite sure where to go, as there are two locations that are administered by three organizations.  Bear with me on this. The Commonwealth (state) of Virginia owns a recreated living history museum called Jamestown Settlement just downriver from the original site.  We chose not to visit there, opting to instead see the actual place where the colony existed.  The Preservation Virginia site is immediately adjoined upriver by New Town, the direction Jamestown grew as it developed.  New Town is administered by the National Park Service, and was excavated beginning in the 1930’s.  Those digs are considered to be complete. It is confusing that those two sites are presented together as Historic Jamestowne.  With Preservation Virginia’s involvement a separate $5 per person fee was charged, over and above our annual NPS pass. There is no choice to go only to the National Park.

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Upon entering the park, we were greeted by this large monument that commemorates the founding of Jamestown.  We decided to join in on the archaeologist’s tour, which met in the shadow of the obelisk. So if the original townsite was washed into the river, what are they digging for?  Well, in 1994, a man by the name of Dr. William Kelso convinced Preservation Virginia to let him dig and see what he could find.

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Our tour guide, Danny Schmidt, explained to us how they found the impressions of the fort’s posts in the soil.  He joined Kelso right at the start of the project when he was just 16 years old and has been digging ever since. He bolstered his on the site experience with official degrees, and is now Senior Staff Archaeologist. He repeatedly commented that he was in the right place at the right time and feels very lucky to have spent his career in this location learning from Dr. Kelso.

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It is very clear where a trench was dug and where the posts were placed.  When the posts rotted, the impressions in the soil left a different color.  The walls of the fort were quickly reestablished, finding that only a small portion of the structure had washed away.

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Looking down this wall to the point in the river where the far wall would intersect, shows how tiny that lost section is.  Danny took us through the discoveries he and the team made, explaining how the dried up wells and basements of burned structures were used as dumps.  As they found them, thousands of artifacts were brought up to help tell the story of Jamestown.  Comparing what they were finding to historical accounts from the colonists, the archaeologists were able to even identify some of the human remains that were buried there.  Schmidt was very interesting to listen to, telling about the times he met George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II, along with how the archaeology team determined what each found object was telling them.

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The group is currently excavating the earth under the brick church that was originally built in the 17th century.  This version is from the 1920’s, although the attached tower is said to be original. Also, there is a museum on the property which displays many of the artifacts found since Kelso started digging.

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This armor was found in one of the wells.  It is still in pretty good shape, considering it is 400 years old!

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This tag was probably affixed to a crate of supplies that was brought from England.  The old English spelling had it listed as Yames Towne.  This tag flew on the space shuttle Atlantis to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the settlement.  It logged a lot more miles on that trip than it did on it’s first one!

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And this guy is Captain Bartholomew.  They determined it by his bone structure, the staff he was buried with, and the location and direction of his grave.  Schmidt even explained that they can determine what area of England a person would have come from, as the water in each place leaves different markers on the bones.  Amazing stuff.  They also found the bones of a young girl that was cannibalized during the Starving Time.

So back to our Disney story.  Danny told us about how they ended up finding the original church, along with the graves of four people from the settlement.

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He even showed us the spot where Pocahontas was married to….John Rolfe.  Huh?  What happened to John Smith?  He had left town in late 1609.  As far as our young Powhatan maiden, it turns out that she was captured and held for ransom by the English in 1613.  She converted to Christianity and married Rolfe in 1614.  He was the person who introduced tobacco to the New World as a cash crop.  Pocahontas bore their son in 1615 and the three set sail for England in 1617.  She died soon after of unknown causes at the young age of 20 to 21 years old.  She is buried in the church in Gravesend, England.

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Here are our feet on the exact spot that the Rolfes would have taken their vows.  Pocahontas would have been wearing pink laces.  🙂

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A selfie after the ceremony and we were on our way to discover the third corner of the historic triangle: Yorktown.  We will take a look at that in our next post, so be sure to stay tuned.  We found some nifty little tidbits while we were there.  Until then, don’t forget to “paint with all the colors of the wind” in your travels! (We still love a little Disney now and then!)   🙂

As stated earlier, there is an additional $5 per person charge to enter Historic Jamestowne, even if you hold an annual NPS pass.  Preservation Virginia also asks for donations during the Archaeologist Tour and again upon entering the museum, even though the first additional fee goes to them.  In addition, this was the first park we had ever seen that charged for a Junior Ranger book.  While it was only $1, we were concerned that some parents would forego having their children participate in the activity, thereby putting a roadblock into what Preservation Virginia and National Parks are trying to accomplish.  Perhaps they will rethink that in the future.

Jamestown Settlement is a completely separate location that charges its own fee. It is a recreated living history museum owned by Commonwealth (state) of Virginia. We did not visit this location.

 

 

 

Reliving the American Revolution at Williamsburg

Thinking back to high school and American History 101, most of us learned about the American Revolution and the reasons it came about.  Our teachers and textbooks dealt with much of what led up to our forefathers’ decision to break free from Britain…but as a teenager, it was tough for me to envision what they went through and were feeling at that moment in time.

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© aoc.gov

Looking at the image of Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries gathered in Independence Hall, I really wasn’t able to fully grasp the moment.  Although I was most likely bored by it then, I am intrigued by that illustration now. What did their voices sound like?  Which ones were overly passionate and who among them were the voices of reason?  What was the chatter in the corners of the room?  Most certainly there were those that were ready to fight for independence, while others quietly wished they were somewhere else.  At just shy of 60 years old I have lived one fourth of the United States’ lifespan, yet I feel light years removed from this group of guys wearing those funny clothes and wigs.

Diana and I have been fortunate to be able to visit many of the places where our nation was built.  Standing in the actual room in the painting above we were enveloped within the surroundings, but we still needed to concentrate to feel the founders’ presence over the sounds of modern Philadelphia outside of the rooms’ windows.  Piece by piece over time, we’ve heard stories of these men.  Familiar ones like Benjamin Franklin, who was asked by a woman as he left the proceedings whether they decided upon a monarchy or republic.  His reply was, “A republic, if you can keep it.” And lesser known men like Caesar Rodney of Delaware who, while sick with cancer, rode 70 miles on horseback through a thunderstorm to cast his vote for independence.  He walked into the room with his spurs on, damp and dirty.  That ride is depicted on the back of the Delaware state quarter.   Sorry folks… that ain’t Paul Revere on that horse.

So on our trip up the East Coast this year, Williamsburg, Virginia, was high on our list of places to visit.  We had been here previously, back in 1993. The town was the capital of Colonial Virginia up to and through the American Revolution.  When the seat of power was moved inland to Richmond at the end of the war, the once bustling community became a sleepy borough.  By the 1920’s this place that was also home to the College of William and Mary was getting a bit run down.  A local minister, W.A.R. Goodwin, was dismayed at what Williamsburg had become. He was concerned that a big part of American history was being lost to decay and/or modernization. He quietly convinced John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to support a project to restore the community to it’s 18th century heyday.  Rockefeller secretly bought up most of the historic part of town in 1926 and worked to restore it over many, many years. He was still working on it when he died in 1960. The vision included the use of costumed reenactors. Not only could we see many of the buildings from that time…either original or recreated…but we could also see people assume the roles of some of the key players from that era.

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Walking the streets of Colonial Williamsburg…refereed to by the locals as CW, there are plenty of reminders that you are in the 21st century.  Paved streets, electric lights, and a solid cell signal are but a few of the conveniences of today.  But watch where you step, so you don’t end up with horse poop in your Nike treads.  🙂

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We lucked out and were there while the gardens were in full bloom.  Sights like this were common throughout the community.

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Craftsmen were working in every shop at CW.  This woodworker was demonstrating his foot-powered lathe.  One gentleman we spoke with in the blacksmith shop had worked there over 20 years.  Those career lengths seemed to be more the rule than the exception, so you know the foundation must be treating them right.  They follow the steps from apprentice to master craftsmen and women. Some even enjoy the benefit of living onsite, with their children being required to dress as and play the role of 18th century youngsters when they are outside of their homes.

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This building is the Governor’s Palace.  Remember, this was a British colony at the time, so the ruler had to exhibit a level of dominance over the commoners. And if the exterior dimensions of the building didn’t achieve that…

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…perhaps the interior decor would get the point across.

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One thing to note about touring CW is that it is totally free to stroll the streets.  To gain access to the buildings and to be a part of the reenactments, you have to buy a ticket; something we recommend.  When we arrived on April 28 we purchased a three-day pass at $50 and some change each, which was a bargain in our minds.  The only thing we paid extra for above that was food.  Military and veterans enjoy special benefits and discounts, including their own lounge, thanks to the generosity of the Home Depot Foundation.

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Our ticket even included a tour of the Rockefeller home.

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While CW was being restored, John and his wife Anna lived here.  Everything is left as it would have been when they were in town.  Even the radios were playing music from the 40’s.  🙂

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This building is the Capitol.  It is a second recreation, as the original and its replacement both burned.  We toured the building, and later took part in an audience participation production that included several of the rooms.  Very impressive, to say the least.  We followed that up with a tour of the Raleigh Tavern, where the Virginia delegation secretly gathered to decide whether or not they were going to part ways with England.  On that private tour, we met with an enslaved minister reenactor. He stood across the table from where we were sitting and explained his role in the community.  He was very animated and actually had us sinking into our chairs as his rich baritone voice rose.  Think James Earl Jones speaking directly to you and you kind of get the picture. When he looked at us and asked if he could have an ‘Amen!”, we gladly obliged!

We also attended two talks with CW’s ‘nation builders’.

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Martha Washington told a bit about herself and her life while George was off to war.  She would go visit him and his men, personally tending to their wounds.  She also insisted on being given the smallpox vaccine so she could do so.   The end of the talk was opened up to questions, which was very interesting to hear her responses to a 21st century audience while still in character.

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We attended a talk with young Thomas Jefferson later that day.  CW has both an old and a young TJ.  This version is played by Kurt Benjamin Smith, a professional actor who jumped at the chance to take on the role. To label him as merely ‘inspiring’ is a gross understatement.  If you ever go, make it a point to see him. We’ve spoken with a few people since, and ‘young Thomas Jefferson’ ended up being mentioned as a high point of their visit.  During his presentation, he continually asked his audience questions at what was needed to make our democracy work.  When he asked how we would achieve an informed electorate, I softly mouthed my response to myself and he saw me do it.  Over 10  or so rows between us, he motioned upwards to me with his hand and said “be heard!”  Louder, I gave my response of “free public education”, to which he agreed.  He also talked about slavery, which can be a touchy subject…especially for Thomas Jefferson.  In fact, we found that CW as a whole did not shy away from discussing the complicated issues of  owning slaves. We were often reminded that even though Jefferson aspired to the ideal of “all men are created equal”, the reality was that only white, property owning, Protestant men were making the decisions. Luckily, the U.S. Constitution was designed to be amendable.

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We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Colonial Williamsburg.  The people who take on these roles of our ancestors accurately portray when the men of Virginia decided to become independent from British rule.  Our forefathers could have been hung for treason, yet they banded together and pushed forward with the American Revolution.  Americans have a lot to be thankful for as a result of their efforts.

And I now have a better appreciation of what those guys in the painting were feeling.

 

Touring the Outer Banks

In our last post about Kitty Hawk, we took you to one small slice of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  Today we show you the other places we visited on this ribbon of sand that extends for 200 miles along the Atlantic coast.

Commonly referred to as OBX, the area consists of the islands of Ocracoke, Hatteras, Pea, Bodie, and Roanoke, along with the peninsula known as Currituck Banks.  Due to the shifting nature of the sand and the force of the storms that shape them, some of these islands come and go.  What might be an island today could very well be a peninsula tomorrow.  One of the most dynamic places along the chain is Cape Point, a corner of sand that moves continually south and west.  Just to the north of that point is Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

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This sentinel has stood guard here since 1870 and is America’s tallest brick lighthouse.  Well actually, not quite ‘here’, as remember…the island is moving.  When built, the tower was 1500 feet from the shore.  The ocean reshaped the island over time to where the structure was in danger of falling into the drink.  That 1500 feet had become just 15 feet.

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So in 1999, the National Park Service contracted to have the lighthouse moved 1/2 mile southwest to a point that is 1500 feet due east of the shore.  The red arrow shows about where the lighthouse used to be.  The move was considered an engineering marvel, as the tower is nearly 5000 tons and almost 200 feet tall!

As we climbed the steps, we noticed that the salt air is taking a toll on the lighthouse.

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The iron window frames are either rusting or are missing.  Not sure exactly why that is being allowed to happen, especially after putting so much effort into moving it.  Hmmmm….

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There are 257 steps up to the light itself, along with these beautiful black and white marble landings every 31 steps.  It is a very long climb.

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Not to worry; they were ready for us at the top.

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From the gallery, we could easily see Cape Point…

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…and how far we were from the ground!

While we were on the Outer Banks, we also visited several other lighthouses.

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Bodie (pronounced ‘body’) Island Lighthouse stands 40 miles north of Cape Hatteras.  This beauty still has its first order Fresnel lens, similar to the one we were responsible for at Heceta Head in Oregon last summer.  Vandals destroyed the one at Cape Hatteras years ago, and it was replaced with an aircraft beacon.

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We also visited Ocracoke Lighthouse, which was built in 1823.  It is still operating!  To reach it, we had to take a one-hour ferry ride from Hatteras Island.

While on Ocracoke Island, we visited their local historical museum.  It had an interesting collection of items that show what living on this isolated island is like.

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At the back of the museum was a video and a list of words that O’cockers (people raised on Ocracoke) use.  It’s actually tough to understand what they are saying as they speak.  One of the stories on the film was about some friends who flew to Las Vegas and brought their own oysters in Styrofoam coolers wrapped in duct tape to save a few bucks.  The part about one of the packages splitting open on the luggage carousel was hilarious.  🙂

Farther north on the Outer Banks is Roanoke Island.  This small piece of land actually sits inside the barrier islands, even though it is considered to be part of OBX.  It was here that the Lost Colony of Roanoke once existed.  In 1587, England attempted to establish a presence in North America at this location.  More than 100 men, women, and children landed on the island and worked to build a colony.  Their leader, John White, sailed back to England for supplies, only to be delayed in returning by a war that had erupted with Spain.  When he returned in 1590, the colonists were nowhere to be found.  Among them was the first European born in America, Virginia Dare.  The county that OBX is located in is named Dare in her honor.  What happened to the colonists?  Many theories exist, but no one knows for certain.

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Next to the site where the colony was is the Elizabethan Gardens.  We wanted to tour here, as the spring flowers are all in bloom!

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The azaleas were just gorgeous!

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So much color and fragrance.

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The garden’s namesake, Queen Elizabeth I, stands proud in the center of the property.  She was responsible for sending the colonists to America.

And here is another fun fact while visiting the site:

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Roanoke Island was the scene of a Civil Was battle.  This gentleman was a Union brigadier general by the name of Ambrose Burnside.  It is his unique way of styling his facial hair that used a twist of his last name to describe it: sideburns.  I always wondered where that came from!

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And no trip to the Outer Banks is complete without watching the kite boarders!

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With the steady breeze, these people were having a great time.

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We even noticed several Michigan license plates on the vehicles in the parking lot.  Still too cold on the Great Lakes to attempt this in April.

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, these islands are constantly changing.  While crossing the bridge from Bodie to Pea Islands, we saw a curious sign:

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Hey….what’s up with this???  Well, Pea Island was once part of Bodie Island, until a hurricane cut an inlet across it in 1846.  The first ship to navigate through the new waterway was the Oregon, so that’s what they named the inlet after.  Thought we were back on the west coast for a minute…

That wraps up our time in North Carolina.  We move into Virginia next, as well as inland for a bit.  Stay tuned to see what we find on our next adventure.  Until then, safe travels to all!

Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk

As long as there have been humans watching birds soar through the skies above them, mankind has wanted to fly.   Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes  floated skyward above Paris in 1783 using a hot air balloon.  In 1853, George Cayley witnessed the successful manned flight of a glider that he had invented in England.  It was he who identified the four basic principles of flight that a heavier-than-air aircraft uses today:  thrust, gravity, lift, and drag.  He also identified the cambered shape of a bird’s wings, which create lift as air passes over them.

In the 1890’s, two bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio, decided to try their hand at building an airplane.  Orville and Wilbur Wright used Cayley’s principles to construct a two-winged glider.  In order to test it, they needed a location with a soft landing surface (sand), a hill, and sustained winds.  Noting the media circus that had taken place near Chicago when Octave Chanute had tested his gliders, the Wrights were also looking for privacy.  They contacted the weather bureau for locations with the best sustained winds.  Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was chosen, after the hamlet’s postmaster responded favorably to an inquiry from the brothers.  William Tate’s reply included help with the endeavor in any way he could.  The crew of the local U.S. Lifesaving station also offered to lend a hand when needed. In 1900, the Wrights brought their first glider to Kitty Hawk by train to give it a try.  The first tests were flown unmanned and tethered as a kite.  Then Wilbur flew aboard untethered to see if he could control it.  They had come up with an idea they called wing warping…a process in which the wings were bent in one direction or another to steer the plane, along with an elevator to maneuver up and down.  They determined the glider needed to be larger, as they weren’t able to stay in the air long enough to adequately test the controls.  In 1901, they brought a larger glider to Kitty Hawk, only to find that their wings weren’t producing enough lift.  They had been relying on data produced by Germany’s Otto Lilienthal, who had died in 1896 in a glider crash.

After abandoning Lilienthal’s figures and testing 200 wing designs in their homemade wind tunnel, the Wrights set out for Kitty Hawk in late 1902 to try out their new glider.  They had also added a rudder to the plane, thereby giving them three ways to control it.  It worked.  Over a one month period, they made approximately 1,000 flights…with one being 622 feet.  Systems they developed that year, are still the basis for aircraft today.

In 1903, they decided to add power to their aircraft.  Their bike shop employee, Charlie Taylor, machined a light weight engine for them out of a solid block of aluminum.  The Wrights fashioned propellers out of laminated wood. They had no basis for design, other than the props from ship motors.  After much discussion, it was decided that the propellers should exhibit the properties of a glider wing.  Their theory proved correct, and their creation was over 80% efficient.  Not bad for not having a starting point!

On December 14, the brothers flipped a coin to see who would fly first.  Wilbur won. They attempted to take off from Big Kill Devil Hill, the large sand dune they had been using for glider flights.  The plane lifted off for three seconds and then stalled, as he had attempted to rise too quickly.  The landing broke the front elevator. Three days later, they summoned the lifesaving crew over to the hanger.  The group aimed the airplane into a cold, 27 mile-an-hour headwind on level ground.  Since Wilbur piloted the previous attempt, Orville climbed on board.

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The aircraft lifted off for a 12 second, 120 foot flight!  Orville was able to bring the plane in for a somewhat controlled landing.  Wilbur then took the plane for a 12 second, 175 foot flight.  Orville followed with a 15 second, 200 foot flight.  The last flight of the day was by Wilbur; a 59 second, 852 foot flight.  That is almost the length of three football fields!  The plane landed hard and again broke the front elevator.  While bringing it back to the hanger, a gust of wind caught the plane and caused it to tumble end over end, which made repairs much more difficult.  They decided to call it a season, as they wanted to be back in Ohio for Christmas.  The plane was packed up, and sent back to Dayton, never to be flown again. Eventually, the restored plane made its way to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. where it hangs from the ceiling today.  They continued improving upon their design, and eventually achieved their goal of selling planes to the military.

When Diana and I found our way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this spring, we knew Kitty Hawk was one of the ‘must see’ destinations.  The National Park Service operates the site of the flights as the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

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At the top of Big Kill Devil Hill, a large granite pillar is erected to signify their accomplishment.  Note that the area is completely covered in grass now, planted to keep the hill from shifting southward from the prevailing winds.

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When we got to the front of the structure, we noticed the sun was positioned directly in line with it.  The clouds also had an interesting pattern to them, which we thought was neat.

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The size of the memorial is impressive, to say the least.  The inscription that is inscribed in the base reads  “In commemoration of the conquest of the air, by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

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The view from the top shows the position of the hanger and their workshop and living quarters, along with the markers that signify the length of each flight.  In 1903, neither those houses in the distance nor trees were there.

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From the large granite marker at the end of the rail where they took off, a path runs along four smaller markers that signify the length of each flight.  Walking along it, I thought of all of the subsequent accomplishments in the 115 years since that day. All of us have been touched in one way or another by what happened at Kitty Hawk.

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On the back side of Big Kill Devil Hill is an interactive sculpture of Orville’s first flight, shown here from the photographer’s point of view.

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All of the men who were present for the event are depicted.  The second man from the right is a lumberman from Manteo who just happened to be at the lifesaving station when the Wrights signaled the crew to come over and help.

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Visitors are encouraged to climb aboard the plane.  Diana and I took turns flying with Orville.  A fun way to end a perfect visit!

Stay tuned to see what else we find as we explore the rest of the Outer Banks in our next post.  Until then, safe travels!

 

 

Serendipity Along the Grand Strand

Have you ever been put somewhere by what seems like sheer luck?  Maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s meant to be.  We had that situation last May when we were put in a campsite next to a guy who I had a Facebook friend request into for ages, as we had 11 friends in common.  Turns out our now great friend Rick wasn’t big on checking his Facebook account.  🙂  Neither of us had any connectivity at the campground we were at on the Oregon coast, and our mutual friend Tracy (who figured out we were both there) was frantically trying to get in touch with us.  By the time she did, Rick had met us…even though we hadn’t made the mutual friends connection yet.  Thinking back, it was as if we were supposed to be there.

Such was the case on April 16th at Myrtle Beach State Park in South Carolina.  We really didn’t have any plans for what we were going to do once we got there, only that we wanted to see what the place known as the Grand Strand looked like.  We pulled in and got ourselves set up and prepared to settle in for the evening.  As I kicked back in my recliner, I could see a Bighorn fifth wheel passing by.  A few minutes later, I saw the back of it peeking out from behind the motorhome next door.  The woman that was helping direct the rig back looked really familiar to me.  I thought ‘Hmmmm….that looks like Sharon’, a fellow RV-Dreamer who we had yet to meet.  Before I could totally grasp that thought, her husband David popped into view.  Neither of us had any idea the other was going to be coming to Myrtle Beach. Here were two people that we had long wanted to get to know, placed just two campsites away from us.  We had been following their blog Two Lanes of Freedom for years, as they had with ours.  Dumb luck?  We choose to think it was more than that.  We were out of the rig and headed over to meet them in a flash!

They recognized us right away.  🙂  We talked for a bit and then called it a night, as we were all tuckered out from traveling. The next day, they invited us to go to Brookgreen Gardens with them, as they were meeting longtime RV-Dreamers, Bill and Nancy there.  Oh my goodness…two more people we had wanted to meet!

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Here we are gettin’ cozy on a park bench.  We slowly wound our way through Brookgreen’s trails, admiring the sculptures, landscaping, and animals.  All the while, we were learning more about each other.  🙂

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Here’s David admiring the gardens from the shade of a huge Live Oak tree.  Nancy and Sharon are in the background.

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This red fox had other plans for the lazy afternoon.

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Diana, Nancy, and Sharon are headed towards a sculpture of…

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Diana of the Chase.  This amazing work was created by Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1922.  She and her husband, Archer Huntington, founded Brookgreen in 1931 on four former rice plantations.  Close to 1500 works are displayed throughout the gardens.

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Their former winter home, Atalaya Castle, is located across US-17 in what is now known as Huntington Beach State Park.  Anna had an indoor and outdoor studio in the home.  She kept live animals in the courtyard, so she could study their muscle structure as they moved about.  What an amazing day with Bill, Nancy, David, and Sharon!

The next day was a beach day for Diana and I.  The temperature climbed above 80, which was perfect for putting our toes in the sand….except when the wind would shift and the cooler ocean air would roll in. David and Sharon stopped over for a bit, and we made plans for a campfire that evening.

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They were wondering who the couple was all bundled up on the beach, when they realized it was US!  Hey, our Michigan blood has thinned to a Florida viscosity.  🙂  That night we enjoyed a nice campfire and some excellent company, complete with several songs from David and his guitar.

The next morning was our travel day, but not before a sunrise meetup on the beach.

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I spotted them taking photos, so I took a few of my own.  We all headed back to camp, and Diana and I packed to leave. As we stopped by to say our farewells, David greeted us with his guitar.

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He sang us one of his ballads to see us on our way.  What a fitting and perfect ending to our time together.  Travel safely friends, we will see you down the road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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