Category Archives: Museums

Planes, Boats, Automobiles and Music

Leelanau and Benzie Counties, MI – July 19-25, 2019

Keep on movin’…

If there is one statement that can describe our last week, the aforementioned line would be it.  Finishing up our shift at Sleeping Bear Dunes last Friday, we hightailed it up to Northport, Michigan to see a musical duo named Mulebone  

IMG_3130 (2)

We had listened to this Brooklyn, NY based pair back in 2017 and couldn’t wait to see them again.  The music they play can best be described as ‘roots blues’, if you can imagine such a thing.  Their hit Keep on Movin’ provided a theme for our week to come. We met up with our friends Rod, Mary, Lane, Patti, JoAnn, Paul and Skip, along with several other acquaintances.  A great evening, indeed!

Saturday morning found me opening the Cannery boat museum, while Diana was off to the Visitor Center to answer questions for the park’s guests.  While I was vacuuming, I heard a roar much louder than the Dyson I was dragging behind me.

IMG_3125 (2)

Four A-10 Warthogs buzzed Glen Haven, doing a wing wag as they passed.  I managed to get a photo of the last one as it flew by.  Later that day, we had a torrential downpour that lasted a good portion of the afternoon.  A couple on their bikes holed up in the building with me while the rain fell.  The noise level on the roof was deafening!  So much for any chance at the lake levels going down. 🙂

That night, Diana and I headed back to Northport to see one of our favorite bands, The Accidentals.

IMG_3149 (2)

Taking their name from the accidental musical note, Katie Larsen and Savannah Buist met by chance in a high school orchestra class.  Joined later by Michael Dause, this trio turns out some very innovative music.  They were recently signed by Sony Masterworks and are fresh off a tour of the United Kingdom.  We’ve seen them numerous times; the most recent being last year with our friends Jodee and Bill.  Unfortunately, the word ‘accidental’ reared its ugly side on Sunday as the group left Traverse City:

IMG_2221 (2)

Someone ran a stop sign and t-boned their van.  Luckily, everyone….and most of the equipment…is ok.  Sad to say that Katie’s carbon fiber cello took a direct blow and will never play their hit Michigan and Again again.  Instruments can be replaced though, as can vehicles.  They are already back on the road and their music lives on.

Keep on movin’…

Our Sunday was a bit better than theirs.  We drove south into Benzie County and visited Point Betsie Lighthouse.

P1020560 (2)

This gem was built in 1858.  The grounds consist of a combined lighthouse/keeper’s quarters, fog signal building, oil house and a separate lifesaving museum/gift shop.

P1020539 (2)

The museum had several pieces of authentic lifesaving equipment, including this time clock the shore patrol would’ve carried on their nightly rounds.

P1020511 (2)

The idea was that they would walk to a post several miles down the beach and insert the key that was attached to it.  That proved to their station’s keeper that they walked the entire distance.

P1020527 (2)

I found this photo interesting in that it shows the lighthouse depot at the foot of Mt. Elliott Street in Detroit, which still exists. My great-grandfather and his crew departed from that very same dock on the USLHS Amaranth in 1892 to build Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse.  The depot is about 1 mile from where he lived at the time.

P1020538 (2)

The museum also had this display that showed how to balance containers on a ship.  Being the hands-on guy I am, I picked up one of the blocks, which in turn caused the boat to roll over and dump the entire cargo.  Diana proceeded to reload the blocks on the deck and send the boat on its way.  🙂

Once we finished up at the museum and fog signal building, we headed into the lighthouse.

P1020548 (2)

The view to the north from the tower shows the entrance to the Manitou Passage.  The beach patrol from the adjacent lifesaving station would’ve walked north several miles each night to the key on a post.  The men at the Sleeping Bear station would walk south to the same post. We’ve made it our goal to attend the lighthouses’ bicentennial in 2058.  We will be 100 at the time.

Keep on movin’…

Monday found us on a morning hike before our shift in Glen Haven.

P1020582 (2)

Our purpose was to test out our new double-collapsible trekking poles that we are taking to the UK in September.  We like them so far.  The trail we chose for our hike was Alligator Hill up to Islands Overlook; an easy three mile round trip.

P1020584 (2)

This is Sleeping Bear Point from that viewpoint.  The black roof of the Cannery and the flagpole at the lifesaving station can be seen in the photo.

P1020568 (2)

This is the vista looking north.  South Fox Island is to the left and Pyramid Point is to the right.  Truly a spectacular view.

Tuesday saw me complete a project I’d been wanting to do since we purchased Hank the Deuce:

IMG_3168 (2)

This tonneau cover is specially designed to work in conjunction with my behind-the-cab toolbox.  It rolls up tight against the box when I’m hauling the fifth wheel.  It will keep the hitch and the other goodies we carry back there out of the weather.

Keep on movin’…

To wrap up the week, we met up with our friends Paul and Sheryl.  We’ve known each other since our college days at Western Michigan University.

IMG_3183 (2)

We met for dinner at Cherry Republic on Wednesday and took in the Empire Bluffs trail on Thursday morning.  It was good to see them again!  We followed that up with another shift at the Cannery and on to the next week at Sleeping Bear.  Keep on movin’!

Stay tuned for our next Saturday morning post as we look for more of northern Michigan’s gems.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

A True Hero of the Storm

Every so often as people travel through time and space, the stars align to put them right where they need to be.  Such is the case with a gentleman by the name of Richard Selissen.  In November of 1958, Dick was a cook on the Coast Guard cutter Sundew, which was stationed in Charlevoix, Michigan.  Back then, as is the case today, large cargo freighters steamed up and down Lake Michigan carrying goods between various ports in the region.

IMG_3087 (2)

Just last week, I photographed the Wilfred Sykes as it steamed north through the Manitou Passage and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  This particular vessel was built in 1950. Eight years after the Sykes went into service, the steamer Carl Bradley was steaming north on November 18, 1958, from Chicago to its winter lay-up port of Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

IMG_2212 (2)

The 639-foot Bradley had been on the lakes since 1927, and had recently been hauling limestone between Rogers City, Michigan, and Chicago.  Two hours out of Manitowoc, U.S. Steel (the ship’s owner) sent orders  for the vessel to make one last run to Rogers City to pick up another load of stone.

P1020503 (2)

On many days, Lake Michigan looks like the photo above.  But this inland sea has been known to change in an instant.  On that day in 1958, a fierce gale was building as a storm system moved across the Great Plains of the central U.S.

IMG_2219 (2)

When these storms kick up, its not uncommon for the freighters to experience conditions as are shown in the photo above.  On November 18, the captain of the Bradley hugged the coast of Wisconsin to shield it from the sixty-five mile an hour wind that was coming from the southwest.  At some point, he knew he was going to have to turn northeast towards the Straits of Mackinac.  He did that just prior to the entrance to Green Bay.  The ship was moving with the wind with following seas and seemed to be doing well. Suddenly, the crew heard a loud thud.  The great ship had snapped in two in the middle.  A mayday was sent out and the thirty-five men abandoned ship into the relentless seas.

IMG_2218 (3)

The Bradley’s final resting place is shown in red on the map above at a depth of 360 feet.  The Coast Guard sent out several vessels to search for survivors, one being the Sundew, with a quickly assembled skeleton crew.  As the cutter left Charlevoix, local residents gathered to watch them head into the gale, fearing it would be the last time they would ever see the vessel.  The Coast Guard motto of ‘You have to go out…you don’t have to come back’ was surely on everyone’s minds that day. The captain of the cutter Hollyhock, which assisted in the search, described the trip as a “visit to hell”.

As the Sundew reached the Bradley’s last known position, Dick Selissen took up a position in the pilot house to assist in the search for survivors.  He spotted something unusual in the waves and notified the captain of it’s position.  It was a raft containing the only two survivors, Frank Mays and Elmer Fleming.  They had somehow managed to hang on through the night in the fierce gale and freezing temperatures.  Before they headed back to Charlevoix, the crew managed to pull 8 bodies of the Bradley’s crew out of the lake who hadn’t survived the ordeal.

Rogers City, where 23 of the Bradley’s men were from, lies 80 miles east by land of Charlevoix on Lake Huron.  Many of the crew’s families headed west across Michigan to await the Sundew’s arrival.  It was a somber sight as the ship came into port, her flags shredded from the storm.  The Bradley’s sinking hit Rogers City hard, as many families lost their sole breadwinner that day.

Fast forward many years later to a Walmart in Zepherhills, Florida.  Dick Selissen struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was very familiar with Dick’s summer home of Charlevoix.  It turns out that the man was Frank Mays, the seaman that Selisson had spotted in the raft so many years before.  Once again, the stars aligned.  What are the odds of that encounter happening?

This past Wednesday, Mr. Selissen visited our lifesaving museum at Sleeping Bear Dunes.  He struck up a conversation with fellow volunteer Lucy about the 36-foot motor lifeboats that he also had crewed on while in the Coast Guard.  I showed up in the middle of the conversation at our shift change, when he mentioned he had been stationed in Minnesota at the time.  I asked him “where in Minnesota?” and he said “Duluth…on the CG-36527.”  I told him “Sir, your motor lifeboat is a half mile up the street in the red Cannery building”.

IMG_0823 (2)

He had no idea it was there.  He was thrilled!  Again, the stars aligned for this hero of the storm.

IMG_3114 (2)

What an honor it was to be able to speak with this gentleman.  Thank you for stopping by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Mr. Selissen!

Be sure to stay tuned for more about our summer in Leelanau in next Saturday morning’s post.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Flying Along the Front Range

Along the Front Range, Colorado; May 22 – June 4, 2019

Our trip the past few weeks along the Front Range of the Rockies was a homecoming of sorts for us, as Estes Park was our first big vacation to the mountains as a married couple…some 29 years ago.  Diana had been to Denver with her Girl Scout troop as a teenager and I was there as a 6-year old with my mom, dad, and my sister Judy.  Back then, Dad was the sales manager for Schwayder Brothers in Detroit at their metal chair facility.  You may know Schwayder by the name of their product line: Samsonite.

IMG_2169

Issac Schwayder (right) and his four sons. Jesse Schwayder, second from the right, was my dad’s boss.  The company slogan was “The Samsonite – Strong Enough to Stand On”.

At that time, Schwayder was consolidating their operations to their headquarters in Denver, so we were on a scouting mission to see if that would be our new home.  Mom and Dad chose to remain in Michigan, as the pull of family won out over the Rockies…thus forcing Dad to find a new employer.  As much as I love Colorado, I’m very glad they chose to stay in southeast Michigan.  🙂

As mentioned in our last post, we had to change plans to stay at lower altitudes.  That took us south out of Page through Flagstaff, east on I-40 to Albuquerque and then north.

IMG_2885 (2)

While in Albuquerque, we picked up some Oboz waterproof low hikers from REI for our trip to the UK in the fall.  These beauties were field tested by our friends Linda and Steven on their 500 mile walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago.  Accomplishing that without blisters is a pretty good testimonial for Oboz, which is headquartered in Bozeman, Montana.  We then headed up towards Santa Fe, spending a couple of nights at the Black Mesa casino.  Again, we managed to hit a jackpot on the casino’s free play and walked out the door without spending a penny of our own.  We will take it!  We also paid a return visit to a little Venezuelan restaurant in Santa Fe called Santarepa Cafe.  We went out of our way to eat there again, as it is that good.  The owner is a sweet woman who comes to your table and genuinely inquires as to how you like your meal.

Scooting around the southern end of the Rockies, we headed up the east side and said farewell to New Mexico.

IMG_2601 (4)

In the process, our Colorado fifth wheel entered the State of Colorado for the first time!  We continued up to Colorado Springs to spend the better part of a week.  The first morning at the KOA, we noticed what we thought was an early riser playing music on his RV horn as he left the campground.  Nope…we were parked across from Fort Carson, which plays Revelry every morning at 6:30 AM and Taps at 10 PM.  We’re in the Army now!

Here is a spot I had visited with my family when I was a child; Garden of the Gods.  This land was given to the City of Colorado Springs by the children of late owner Charles Elliott Perkins in 1909 to use as a park.  The stipulation was that they could never charge an admission fee or allow ‘intoxicating liquors’, which they haven’t to this day.

IMG_2620 (2)

I distinctly remember Balance Rock as a 6 year old. 🙂

We also happened to be in town during the Air Force Academy graduation.  Our first tip-off to that was when we heard a jet approaching our car from behind, only to find out we had been buzzed by…

IMG_8245 (2)

…a B-2 Stealth bomber.  We also saw the Thunderbirds practicing. The next day was the graduation, so we set up our chairs in a field across I-25 from the academy.  When the cadets tossed their caps in the air, the Thunderbirds streaked across the field.

P1010847 (2)

There was a long delay after that first pass, and we noticed that there were no cars on the freeway.  Soon there was a procession of motorcycle police, followed by this:

IMG_0529 (2)

There goes the President!  Not too long after he had left, the show resumed.

P1010848 (2)

It sure is fun to see these planes…

P1010879 (2)

…especially with Pike’s Peak as a backdrop.

The other place Diana wanted to do visit was the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, which is located in town.

IMG_2627 (2)

She really was hoping to meet Scott Hamilton.  It wasn’t meant to be, but she did get to see his gold medal from Sarajevo.  There was even someone there that I appreciated…

IMG_2629 (2)

Frank Zamboni!  Those twirlies would fall flat on their faces if it weren’t for the superior talent of us Zamboni drivers.  🙂  All kidding aside, we both really enjoyed the museum.

From Colorado Springs, we headed up to Denver to meet friends and family.

IMG_2633 (2)

First stop was to our college friend Kirsten’s house for a wonderful meal.  Here we are with her mom and her husband Mike.  It sure was great catching up with them.  Mike is an excellent cook!

We also visited Diana’s cousin Abby, her husband Josh and daughter Tara.

IMG_2168 (2)

We forgot to get a photo, so Abby let me use this one.  Abby is Diana’s cousin Jerry’s daughter.  We loved getting to spend the afternoon with them in their beautiful home, especially the sidewalk chalk drawings that greeted us, along with Tara jumping for joy at the front door upon our arrival.  🙂

We also visited a place we long wanted to pay our respects at; the Columbine Memorial.

IMG_2642 (2)

Located in a Littleton city park adjacent to the school, this beautiful remembrance moved us.

IMG_2643 (2)

Since the thirteen students and staff were killed at this school in 1999, over 140 more have died in our learning institutions.  As the husband of a teacher, I worried about this constantly…as I knew the innocent students’ safety was first and foremost to Diana.  If you can, take the time to visit here.  There are moving tributes to each of the victims, along with snippets of thoughts from the survivors.

From Denver, we moved up to Fort Collins for a couple of days.  That was our lower altitude base to revisit Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park.  Our last time there was 1990, and we were driving a regular cab Ford Ranger pickup pulling a very heavy Steury pop-up camper.  The number one hit on the radio that trip was Shenandoah’s Next to You, Next to Me.  One verse stood out in my memory:

“If the Good Lord’s willin’ when we’re old and gray
The kids are grown up and moved away
We’ll be rocking’ here side by side
With the BBQ chicken and the TV guide”

Fire up the grill, sweetie and I’ll grab the rockers.  🙂

This go around our mission was to see Bighorn sheep, something we hadn’t seen since our last time there.

P1010987 (2)

Mission accomplished!  We actually saw several of them.

P1020016 (2)

We also saw plenty of elk.  This guy was happy to show off his velvety new rack.

Our special treat was when we drove up Trail Ridge Road towards the Alpine Visitor Center.

P1010940 (2)

We got to Rainbow Curve, 10,500 feet up, and the road was closed due to snow at the top.  They were allowing visitors to walk up as far as they wanted, so we took advantage of it.

P1010950 (2)

It was an absolutely amazing treat.  We went up a half mile or so…over 11,000 feet, before returning.  Although out of breath, we did just fine!  Everyone was having a great time…

P1010955 (2)

…including this young pair.  I’ll bet the road being closed made their day.  🙂

Well, that wraps up our flight along the Front Range!  Next up, we head north to South Dakota to help some friends with a little project.  More on that in our next Saturday morning post.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Enchanted Surprises in New Mexico

If there is one way we can summarize our past week in New Mexico, it would have to be that it was full of surprises.  From the time we arrived in Santa Fe to the day we slid out of the state on US-60, the Land of Enchantment did its best to do just that.

We set up camp in Santa Fe at an old KOA that is now called Rancheros de Santa Fe Campground.  It was an unremarkable place, other than the fact that the camp scene from Every Which Way But Loose was filmed there.  That, and our first enchanted surprise…

IMG_2196 (2)

What the heck!  Just to let y’all know, this is the first snow that has fallen on the exploRVistas entourage since early in 2015.  We did see previously fallen snow in Oregon, but the temperatures were much warmer.  So rather than hunker down…

IMG_0670 (2)

…we chose to embrace it by heading above 10,000 feet to Ski Santa Fe.  🙂

IMG_2200 (2)

Here’s Diana after an exhilarating run down the Double Black Diamond slope.

IMG_0676 (2)

It was a tremendous place to spend a morning, indeed.

We found the city of Sante Fe to be charming.  The town’s pueblo architecture envelops visitors with a sense of warmth.

IMG_2204 (2)

Our NARM membership from the Foosaner Art Museum in Florida gained us free admission into the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

IMG_2202 (3)

If there is anything that speaks to southwestern art, it is this talented artist’s work.

IMG_7952 (2) (2)

Images of New Mexico are the first thing that come to our minds when hearing her name.  With that being said, our next enchanted surprise came during this visit.  We had no idea that a vast portion of her career had been spent in none other than…

IMG_2201 (2)

…New York City!  She loved it there, as do we.

Santa Fe also has a couple of well known churches.

IMG_0687 (2)

One is the Cathedral of St Francis.  We were surprised to find out that this was once the seat of an archdiocese that covered the entire southwest, all the way up to (and including) Denver.

IMG_2241 (3)

And this is the famous miraculous staircase in the Loretto Chapel.  Our surprise here was not the staircase, but where the Sisters of Loretto came from.  You see, there was only one other place we had ever seen this name:  Loretto, Kentucky…home of Makers Mark bourbon.  Indeed, that is the area these pioneer women came from!

We also did a couple of hikes while we were based in Santa Fe.

IMG_2227 (2)

Our first was in Petroglyphs National Monument near Albuquerque.   We ventured into Rinconada Canyon to see what it had to offer.

IMG_2215 (2)

No this isn’t graffiti, in a modern sense of the word. The carvings into the rocks were left by early native people and also by Spanish sheep herders in the area.  The images were a ways off the roped-off trail, and I unfortunately had failed to charge my new camera’s battery the night before.  This trail and my iPhone did not work well together.  Thankfully, we had arranged our hikes in the order we did, as our next day was outstanding!  When Ingrid from Live Laugh RV heard we were in the area, she recommended we visit one of her favorite places, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.

IMG_0699 (2)

With a fully charged battery at our disposal, we gave the new camera a workout!

IMG_0706 (2)

What an amazing place.  We loved the combination of desert and tall Ponderosa pine trees.

IMG_0736 (2)

The ‘tent’ rocks that give the monument its name look like they are from another planet.

IMG_0717 (2)

Nothing better than squeezing through a slot canyon!

IMG_0759 (2)

The desert environment was full of life.

IMG_0746 (2)

The view from the top was simply breathtaking.  Thank you Ingrid!!!

Next up, we moved south to San Antonio, New Mexico.  Our focus there was to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  We first became aware of this place while reading Life Unscripted, as Peter and his wife Peg volunteered here.  Our driving force to visit here was when fellow blogger, the late Lynne Braden, left a legacy gift to the refuge after her terminal cancer diagnosis. This was the first place she volunteered after her retirement and she fell in love with it.

IMG_0862 (2) (1)

This is her photo that became the cover art for the latest Festival of the Cranes.  To our surprise, we were fortunate to be able to purchase the last remaining copy of the festival poster.  We will indeed treasure this.  Lynne was a sweet person who never lost her million dollar smile, despite the cancer she was forced to face.  She chose to view it as a gift.  Peruse through her blog, Winnie Views, by following the link.

IMG_0808 (2)

Touring the refuge, it was easy to see why Peter, Peg, and Lynne loved this place.

IMG_0803 (7)

What a variety of wildlife!

IMG_0856 (2)

Some just seemed to pose for the camera…

IMG_0776 (2)

…while others were more interested in fishing.

IMG_0782 (4)

Some were just out for an evening stroll.

The biggest surprise in this little blip of a town was a small parcel of land on the southern edge of the village.

IMG_2263 (2)

Pretty unremarkable, right?  Well, what you are looking at is the birth of one of the world’s largest hotel chains to which I owe a fair amount of my career.  That building to the right was the old post office.  Across the street from it was a little mercantile/rooming house, run by a person named…

IMG_0821 (2)

…Conrad Hilton.  It all began here.  And wile the building may be gone,…

IMG_2259 (2)

…the long wooden bar he worked behind at his dad’s place can be found just up the road at the Owl Bar, where it was moved to many years ago.  It amazes us at the history that can be uncovered in the small towns of this world.  🙂

Last up was a place we had wanted to see for a long time.

IMG_0867 (2)

The Very Large Array Radio Telescope.  These dishes span out in a “Y” pattern, 13 miles in each direction.

IMG_0879 (2)

Twenty-seven dishes work in unison to gather radio waves from distant galaxies to form images that aren’t visible to us though our eyes.  The dishes can be moved along railroad tracks to form different images.  The science behind this is WAY over our heads, but the massive nature of the project is amazing to look at.  While we were there, the dishes all moved in unison several times, eventually pointing straight up.  While we knew this facility was here, it was quite a surprise to crest the mountain pass west of Magdalena and see these antennas spread out before us.

We had a wonderful visit to New Mexico this time around.  The land of Enchantment revealed a bevy of surprises and a trove of memories we won’t soon forget.

Next up: Arizona!  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

October 22, 2018 – Dayton, OH

When we were planning our trip south to Florida this year, we were originally going to take I-77 through the western Carolinas. With the sudden appearance of Hurricane Michael we decided that might not be wise, as Hurricane Florence had already soaked the area to its limit.  Instead, we chose the old tried-and-true I-75 route that we used to take when we lived in Southeast Michigan.  That route took us through Dayton, Ohio…and allowed me to fulfill a decades-old promise I had made with Diana.

Back in the 1990’s, the two of us traveled with my parents from Northwest Ohio to Dayton.  Mom and Dad were living in Findlay at the time, and Dad wanted to take me to what was then called the Air Force Museum.  With him being a World War II pilot and me being a certified airplane geek, it was pretty much a no-brainer.  At the time, there was two large Quonset hut-style hangers housing the various aircraft, along with another hanger at the opposite side of Wright Field that held the Presidential aircraft.  We worked our way through the huge exhibition space, taking a very long time in the WWII section.  We exited the building and got in line for the bus across the field and BAM…they cut the line at the group directly in front of us.  Last bus of the day, and we were on the wrong side of the cutoff.  Diana was crushed, as the Air Force One display was the one thing she had her heart set on.  I promised her that we would return someday, and that the Presidential planes would be our very first stop.

IMG_1081

It took us twenty-some-odd years, but we made it!  We pulled up to what is now called The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to find two additional Quonsets beside the original pair.  The entire collection is now in one location, meaning the bus ride across the base isn’t needed anymore.  As was the case on our last visit, the museum admission was free of charge.  🙂  Once inside, we headed straight to the newest building, as that was where the Presidential planes were.  As luck would have it, there was a guide who was about to start a tour of the entire hanger, so Diana thought we should join in.

IMG_1115

Above is a panoramic photo of that space, a whopping 224,000 square feet!  Over 70 aircraft and missiles are displayed in this area in four separate galleries:  Space, Research & Development, Global Reach, and Presidential.

IMG_1113

The Apollo 15 command module that orbited the moon is displayed here.  This is the fifth moon capsule we’ve seen! (Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16)

IMG_1110

They have a shuttle trainer that has a full-scale mock-up of the crew compartment. My thought looking at this is that the astronauts would have been flat on their backs during a launch.  How did they get into those seats on the launch pad?  Hmmmm….

IMG_1112

This satellite is called Teal Ruby.  It was supposed to be an inexpensive spy satellite that could do a lot of things.  Originally designed in the 1970’s, it’s ride on the shuttle kept getting pushed back.  When Challenger exploded, it got bumped back to a point that it would likely not fly (for multiple reasons).  During it’s development, this inexpensive little beauty saw it’s costs skyrocket (pun intended).  We are looking at a $500 million museum piece, folks.

IMG_1082

Above is the X-1B.  Similar to the earlier X-1 ‘Glamorous Glennis’  that Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound in, this aircraft was capable of flying over 1,600 miles per hour.  For the record, that’s more than twice the speed of sound!  Oh, and above it?  That’s the right wing of a XB-70A.  That plane is one of two experimental B-70 bombers built in the early 1960’s, capable of cruising at three times the speed of sound at 70,000 feet…far above Russian fighter capability at the time.  The other plane crashed, leaving this as the only remaining example.  Improvements in Russian surface-to-air missiles brought an end to the program.

IMG_1084

In the Global Reach gallery, we were able to board the C-141C, better known as the Hanoi Taxi…the first plane to bring POW’s home from North Vietnam in 1973.  At the time, it was a C-141.  It was found that the planes would ‘bulk out’ before they ‘grossed out’…meaning they would be full well before their weight limit was reached.  The Air Force stretched the entire fleet of 270 planes to utilize the extra cargo carrying capacity, renaming the modified planes C-141B.  Near the end of the fleet’s career, 63 of the planes were modified with modern digital technology, thereby making them C-141C’s.  Many of them…including this one…evacuated victims from Hurricane Katrina.  15 of these planes are on display at museums around the country, with the remaining aircraft having been scrapped.

On to the Presidential planes!

The museum has a wide variety of aircraft that were used by presidents, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

IMG_1085

Roosevelt’s plane was called The Sacred Cow, due to its status.  It was the only VC-54C ever built. Douglas Aircraft Co. installed this special elevator to help the wheelchair-bound president access the plane.  He only used this plane one time, a trip to Yalta for the famous conference with Stalin and Churchill, two months prior to the president’s death.  Harry Truman used it extensively for the first 27 months of his presidency.  It is interesting to note that he signed the National Security Act of 1947 aboard this plane, which established the Air Force as a separate service.  That makes The Sacred Cow the birthplace of the U.S. Air Force.

IMG_1088

This was the small presidential conference room near the rear of the plane.

IMG_1091

Truman followed with another Douglas aircraft named The Independence, after his hometown of Independence, Missouri.  This was a modified DC-6.

IMG_1092

This is Truman’s chair in the small conference room in the middle of the aircraft.  One thing to note:  The aisles through all of these aircraft were glassed off and narrow.  Not an easy place to be for folks who are claustrophobic.

IMG_1094 (1)

Next up was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Columbine III.  He had three Lockheed planes at his disposal over his eight years as president.  This was a stylish aircraft, best known for its distinctive tri-tail.  It was named for the state flower of Mamie Eisenhower’s adopted state of Colorado.  She christened it with Colorado water, instead of the traditional bottle of champagne.

The most famous Presidential plane in the museum has to be the SAM 26000.

IMG_1096

A modified Boeing 707, this was the first plane to sport the now-familiar paint scheme used on all of the Presidential planes.  That look was created by industrial designer Raymond Loewy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.  This plane is best known for one fateful day: November 22, 1963.  At 11:30 that morning, the jet delivered President Kennedy to Dallas Love Field.  Less than three hours later, his body was brought back in a coffin to the plane after his assassination.  18 minutes after arrival, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President aboard the plane, with Lady Bird Johnson and Jackie Kennedy in her blood soaked skirt standing on each side of him.  Nine minutes after that, the plane departed for Washington D.C.

IMG_1102

To step aboard this aircraft is a humbling experience, to say the least.  It is to be noted that the plane’s interior was reworked several times, so nothing resembles what we saw on that fateful day.  The jet was used all the way into the Clinton presidency, finally retiring to the Air Force Museum in 1998, after 36 years of service.

A quick tour of other noteworthy planes in the museum:

IMG_1129

The famous B-17 bomber Memphis Belle, known for successfully completing 25 missions over Nazi occupied territory in WWII.

IMG_1121

A Wright 3 Flyer, last modified in 1923.

IMG_1131

The B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, known for dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.  That bombing is what brought about the end of World War II.

IMG_1132

Again, humbling to see a Fat Man bomb that instantly wiped out so many people in that city.

IMG_1134

In the same display is a Little Boy bomb, the type used over Hiroshima.  This was once an operational bomb.

B1

The smooth lines of a B-1B bomber, with an F-15 fighter in the foreground.

IMG_1116

A B-2 Stealth bomber, able to fly undetected by radar.

IMG_1118

An A-10 Warthog, with its massive engines that are needed to counteract the recoil from its rotary cannon at the front of the plane.  Nothing worse than falling out of the sky by shooting your own gun!

IMG_1128

A Stearman trainer, in the color scheme that would have been used on the planes my dad flew at Maxwell Field in Alabama.

IMG_1124

My dad also flew in B-25 bombers as a tail gunner and co-pilot.  This display had to do with the Doolittle Tokyo raid, in which sixteen B-25’s, each with a crew of five, took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo.  The mission was more a psychological victory than anything else, as not much physical damage was inflicted upon Japan.  The planes were unable to return to the Hornet, with fifteen of them crash landing in China.  The other plane landed safely in Russia.  All but three crewmen initially survived the mission.

IMG_1125

The Doolittle Raiders held a reunion from the 1940’s until 2013.  Each year, the men would toast their fallen comrades with cognac in goblets inscribed with their names. The names were right side up on one side of the goblet, and upside down on the other.  As each airman passed, their goblet was turned upside down in the case.  Robert Hite was the last surviving raider, passing away in 2015.

It’s at this point that I wish to address accuracy when sharing history as a docent in a museum.  Diana and I took our jobs at Heceta Head Lighthouse and at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore very seriously, as to making sure the information we shared was correct. I’m not saying we are perfect, but our ultimate goal is to be accurate.  I am purposely not sharing the photo I have of our tour guide at the Air Force museum.  Story after story he told had an interesting twist.  When he shared the urban legend “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky” as fact…and followed it up with “Verified by the family of Neil Armstrong”, the story begged for us to Google it.  It’s a total whopper of a story, and it caused us to have to verify everything else he shared with us….most of which wasn’t completely true.  If he is reading this, he knows who he is.  History is amazing enough without making stuff up, my friend.  It was a stain on an otherwise great visit.

By all means, if you can spare the time while in Dayton, be sure to visit the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.  In addition, there are several National Park sites that are part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.  Most, but not all, are associated with the Wright Brothers.  It’s a fun place to explore!

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

The Finest Hours

“You have to go out; you don’t have to come back” 

Unofficial Coast Guard motto

 

September 8, 2018

A few months back, you may recall that we stopped into the Old Harbor Lifesaving Station while we were visiting the Cape Cod National Seashore.  One of the reasons for that visit was to see how a tour of a maritime museum is conducted.  Our tour guide, a National Park Service volunteer named David, inspired us with his ability to portray what life in the U.S. Life Saving Service was like.  While we were there, he gave us a tip to go see a famous Coast Guard boat that was docked in Rock Harbor, some 30 miles to the south.  It was the subject of a movie called The Finest Hours.

This turned out to be a case where history stared us right in the face and we didn’t catch it.

The next day, we set off to explore Cape Cod’s elbow, first visiting Chatham, and then Rock Harbor.  At Chatham, we parked in front of the Coast Guard station and lighthouse. This complex overlooks the Chatham Bars, a series of sandbars that extend out into the ocean.

DSCN5270

We were a bit more focused on this shack constructed along the shore, but we did note how far out the waves were breaking on the ever-changing sand bars.  Shortly after taking this photo, a driving rain came in off of the ocean, so we failed to photograph the station and lighthouse.  Instead, we headed up to Rock Harbor to see the boat that David had mentioned.  Once at the dock, we were greeted by this sign:

temp (18)

Still not familiar with the story or the film The Finest Hours, we descended to the lower dock to examine the boat.

DSCN5263 (1)

Obviously well restored and impressive to look at, the CG-36500 was tied up with little explanation to it’s storied past, short of the fact that it was a gold medal boat that had saved 32 men.  Not knowing much about Coast Guard history, we focused on how impeccable this boat was and not much else.

DSCN5264

The fittings on the craft were impressive.  Still, we were somewhat more interested in the U.S. Life Saving Service on this trip than the Coast Guard, so this small beauty’s story didn’t fully grab our attention.  We left the dock with the intention to see the movie and to research the boat’s story.  One thing led to another, and that didn’t happen.

Fast forward to our boat museum in the former Glen Haven Canning Company building at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.   When we started our stint as volunteers here at the beginning of August, it was hard not to notice the largest boat in the museum as being similar to the CG-36500 we saw in Massachusetts back in May.

IMG_0725

Turns out it was not only similar, but built from the same blueprint.  Our boat, the CG-36527, had been stationed at Duluth, Minnesota.

IMG_0068

Both crafts, along with the 128 sister TRS 36-foot motor lifeboats, were built by hand at the Curtis Bay Yard in Maryland.

IMG_0724

Not being in the water, it appeared much larger than it’s fleetmate out on Cape Cod.  The boat is self-bailing, self-righting, 10 tons and its motor will run upside down.  Solid as a stone and virtually unsinkable.  It is rated to carry a crew of four and up to twelve survivors.

IMG_0827

The ‘pudding’ bumper on the front is a work of art.  Visitors comment that it resembles a mustache.

IMG_0378

Standing on an easel by the front of the craft, this poster is displayed.

There’s that movie we failed to see…

So we watched the movie, then read the book of the same title.  The story goes like this:  A ferocious winter storm off the coast of Cape Cod in February of 1952 caught two World War II era tankers in its grip.  Both ships split in two between their bows and sterns.  The Fort Mercer was able to get a distress call off, and the Coast Guard sent most of their boats to assist in rescuing that ship’s crew.  The Pendleton wasn’t able to get an SOS off before it broke up, and it wasn’t until they were noticed on radar that the Chatham stationmaster Daniel Cluff went into action.  He ordered Boatswain’s Mate Bernie Webber to gather three other men and head out in the CG-36500 to see if there were any survivors.  Doing so meant they had to cross the dangerous Chatham Bars that we mentioned earlier.  Those sandbars have been known to rip boats to pieces in mild seas, and the waves that afternoon were upwards of 60 feet high!  Most of the locals considered it impossible.

“You have to go out; you don’t have to come back.”

Crossing the bar meant timing the waves, gunning the throttle on the upside and switching to full reverse throttle down the backside…so as to keep from driving the bow into the sand.  The ship’s compass was ripped loose and lost overboard almost immediately and the windshield was shattered.  Miraculously, they made it past the bars, but they were now running purely on Webber’s knowledge of the currents and the winds.  They somehow found the stern of the Pendleton, which was still afloat.  On deck were 33 men, anxious to get off.  (It was discovered later that the bow section had partially sank, killing the captain and crew that were in it.)

Remember, the CG-36500 is rated to carry a crew of four and up to twelve survivors.

Suddenly, a Jacob’s ladder was thrown over Pendleton’s stern and the men started down.  Webber brought the little lifeboat in close to get each man, backing away in between to keep from smashing into the tanker’s side.  Men were packed into the survivor’s cabin and onto every available space on deck.  The only man that didn’t make it was Tiny Myers, the ship’s 300 pound cook.  He fell into the sea and a wave threw the lifeboat into him, killing him.  Once everyone was on board, Webber pointed the CG-36500 back towards shore, hoping to beach it somewhere.  The tide had risen and they were able to cross the bars rather quickly.  As luck would have it, they ended up at the mouth of Chatham Harbor and were able to come directly into the dock with their soaked and freezing survivors.

IMG_0066 (1)

All four crew members were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their efforts.  They tested CG-36500’s limits, which in turn performed beyond its intended purpose for them.  The mission is considered to be the Coast Guard’s greatest small boat rescue ever.  The craft continued to serve until it was decommissioned in 1968.  It was donated to the Cape Cod National Seashore with the intention that it would be displayed in a museum.  Funds never materialized, and the boat was left to rot in a storage yard, totally exposed to the elements.  The Orleans Historical Society acquired it in 1981 and restored it to the operational beauty it is today.

PENDLETON RESCUE (FOR RELEASE)

In 2002, the crew was reassembled for the 50th anniversary of the rescue, and they were able to take the CG-36500 out for a tour of the harbor with Webber at the helm..  That would have been a sight to see. Clockwise from the front:  Andy Fitzgerald, Richard Livesey, Charles Bridges (Pendleton crewmember who later joined the Coast Guard), Ervin Maske and Bernie Webber.

DSCN5261 (1)

If you find yourself on Cape Cod, be sure to stop in Rock Harbor and view this wonderful piece of history.  Maybe rent the movie or read the book. Or if you find one of the 15 or so remaining 36 footers that grace our nation’s maritime museums, take a moment to imagine that night in 1952 when the Coast Guard witnessed their finest hours.

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

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.

declaration-of-independence-signing (2)
© 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.

z7

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.  🙂

z5

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

z4

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.

z6

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…

z1

…perhaps the interior decor would get the point across.

z8

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.

z13

Our ticket even included a tour of the Rockefeller home.

z12

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.  🙂

z9

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’.

z15

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.

z3

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.

z14

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.

 

A Harbor Well Protected

Charleston Harbor is home to one of the most significant historic sites in the nation; Fort Sumter.  This massive brick structure at the entrance to the harbor saw the first shell of the Civil War explode above its walls. With that said, there are other historic military compounds around the perimeter of the harbor…each having significance in their own unique way.  Come on along as we tour these fascinating locations and find out the importance each one holds.  We even found a few surprises along our path!

Fort Sumter

z30
© moultrienews.com

 

Fort Sumter was not the first defense built in Charleston Harbor, but it was by far the most imposing.  Built in 1829, it was intended to defend against invaders coming in from the ocean. Able to fire cannons at three levels, it appeared to be invincible.  The Confederate states needed control of this fort, in order to bring supplies into Charleston and beyond. On April 12, 1861, Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered his soldiers to fire upon the garrison that was held by Union Major Robert Anderson and 85 men under his command.  It was a difficult decision for Beauregard, as Anderson had been his artillery instructor at West Point.  The Union soldiers were not effective in hitting any Confederate targets, as the rebel forces were spread out around the large waterway.  The flip side of the coin was that Beauregard’s men had one thing to focus on, and they inflicted heavy damage.  When the Union soldiers called a truce on April 14, Fort Sumter had been heavily damaged.  Amazingly, no one had been killed in the battle on either side.

Once the Confederates held the structure, it was the Union’s turn to try to get it back.  Several attempts were made, but the South had a firm hold on it and the harbor.  Remember the building was tall, massive, and made of brick.  By 1865, the North had pounded it with seven million pounds of artillery shells. Most of that brick fell and created a solid mound of material that was stronger than the original fort. Only Sherman’s troops approaching on their March to the Sea, were enough to cause the Confederate troops to abandon the fort.

z3

Today’s structure bears little resemblance to the original.  The fallen brick has been cleared away and the lower portion of the walls are once again in view.  The black concrete battery in the center of the fort was completed in 1899, in preparation for the impending Spanish-American War.

z7

That battery was manned in both World Wars I & II, after which point the fort was decommissioned.

z4

Little remains of the lower level casemates.

z5

The older brick against the relatively newer concrete.

z6

This massive leaning wall was knocked off kilter when the powder magazine behind it accidentally exploded, killing 11 Confederate soldiers.  The National Park Service has installed these metal supports to prevent it from moving further.

Note that access to the island is by ferry boat, either from Liberty Square in Charleston or from Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant.

z1

We chose the latter, which gave us this awesome bow view of the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier as we passed by!

Castle Pinkney

z8

Castle Pinkney sits in the center of the harbor, between Fort Sumter and Charleston.  Built in 1810, it was used for six weeks as a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War.  It also housed artillery, although it is believed that a hostile shot has never been fired from there.  In 1924 it was designated as a national monument, only to see that status taken away in 1951.  It was deemed excess property and sold to the South Carolina in 1958.  Attempts to turn it into a tourist attraction failed, so the state tried to give it back to the federal government.  They declined the offer. The Sons of Confederate Veterans took over care of the island, but were unable to raise the cash to buy it.  Finally, in 2011, the State of South Carolina sold Castle Pinckney to the Sons of Confederate Veterans for the sum of $10…in Confederate currency.  The Stars and Bars of the Confederacy fly over it today.

Fort Johnson

Fort Johnson was built in 1708.  Only a small powder magazine remains at the site that actually fired the first shot of the Civil War.  The rest of the site is occupied by South Carolina Fish and Wildlife and the College of Charleston.  It is unfortunate that this prominent place in American history wasn’t preserved.

Fort Moultrie

Last, but by no means least, is Fort Moultrie.  This location has the longest history of all the Charleston garrisons, having been manned for 171 years.

z2

Located on Sullivan’s Island, this was the second defensive structure built to protect Charleston.  Due to the natural curve in the river channel, ships had to pass here before they were ever within sight of town.  Soldiers would fire a cannon to notify the townsfolk of an approaching ship.  In 1776, a palmetto log fort was constructed by Colonel William Moultrie and his men to defend against a British invasion.  They fought a one day battle that heavily damaged the enemy ships, yet little damage was done to the fort.  Turns out that palmetto logs, a member of the cabbage family, are fibrous.  The British cannonballs simply bounced off.  To add insult to injury, the American soldiers would retrieve the balls and fire them back.

During the battle, the soldiers wore hats with a crescent. The shape had the word ‘Liberty’ inscribed in it.  This was also on South Carolina’s flag.  A palmetto tree was added to the flag at a later date to signify the palmetto logs of Fort Moultrie.

z12

That symbol is everywhere throughout the state.  Coffee mugs, keychains, license plates…you name it.  At first glance, we thought the flag represented a waning moon rising or setting over a palm tree.  The crescent represents a gorget, the throat plate that protected officers’ throats at that time.  In designing the flag, Colonel Moultrie chose the the crescent and blue color to match the uniforms they wore.  So much for that romantic image of an evening walk on a South Carolina beach with your sweetheart. 🙂

Between the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the fort continued to be manned.  It is interesting to note that a young private by the assumed name of Edgar A. Perry was stationed there from 1827 through 1828.  We know him as Edgar Allan Poe.  Fittingly, the establishment we ate at on the day of our tour of the fort was called Poe’s Tavern.

Another resident of the fort at that time was the famous Seminole leader, Osceola.  He was held there by the U.S. Army after being taken prisoner under a flag of truce in Florida.  In failing health, Osceola died there in 1838.

z9

His grave lies just outside the fort gate.  The John Anderson classic Seminole Wind came to mind as we stood there.  While it is sad that he isn’t buried in Florida, it is nice that he is given an honorable grave.  Also on the property is Colonel Moultrie’s grave, which is along the shore of the cove behind the visitor center.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Major Robert Anderson was originally garrisoned at Fort Moultrie.  By 1861, the walls had gone from palmetto to being made of brick.  However, the Union commander felt it was indefensible, as the area around it had been developed with homes that looked down into it. The Confederate army took over the post after Anderson and his men left for Fort Sumter.  Fort Moultrie had one of the best positions to shell Fort Sumter, with only a mile separating them.

Like Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie had batteries built in the late 1800’s.

z14

These were used through World War II.  A gas and bombproof building was added following World War I.

z31

Referred to as HECP/HDCP, it was a joint command post run by the Army and Navy.  The building is maintained as a museum as it would have looked in the 1940’s.  It is interesting to note that German U-boats slipped past this post and mined Charleston’s harbor at different times in the war.

z11

We had a great time exploring the forts around Charleston this week.  We even earned two Junior Ranger badges in the process!  Stay tuned for one last adventure in Charleston, along with our move up the coast.  We hope you will tag along!

 

 

 

 

Tybee Island Light and the Mighty Eighth

Before we take the trip up the coast as we promised in our last post, we wanted to detail two other notable sites we toured in Savannah:  Tybee Island Light Station and The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.  The former has guided mariners in some shape or form along the Georgia shore for almost 300 years.  The latter honors the men and women who served and are serving in the Eighth Air Force, which was founded in Savannah in 1942.

Tybee Island Light Station

We will begin with the Tybee Island Light Station.  First ordered by General James Oglethorpe back in 1732, the beacon started its career as a simple day-mark; in other words, there wasn’t a light associated with it. The octagonal brick structure stood ninety feet tall.  Unfortunately, it was built too close to the shore and storms destroyed it in 1741.  The next year, a slightly taller day-mark was built, this time with a flagpole on top.  Even though this one was further away from the shore, the sea eventually reached the tower.  A third tower was completed in 1773.  That tower was 60 feet of brick, topped with 40 feet of wood.  In 1791, a light was added to the day-mark.

When the Confederate troops abandoned Tybee Island in 1861, they burned the wooden portion of the beacon to prevent Union soldiers from using it.  After the war, the tower was increased in size to it’s current height, using the original 60 foot brick tower as it’s base.

z9

That is what we see today.  Currently standing at 145 feet, it is the tallest lighthouse in Georgia.  There are 178 steps that take visitors to the top to view the fixed first order Fresnel lens.

z10

Having climbed it, we have serious respect for the men who kept the light burning.  As we were waiting to enter, an older Southern gentleman exited, looked at the ticket-taker and said ” If I win the lottery, I am gonna take a whole bunch of that money and build y’all an elevator to the top of that thing!”  We all got a good laugh out of that.  🙂

The rest of the station’s buildings are intact and restored with period furnishings.

z11

We toured the head keeper’s house, which was built in 1881.

z21

One thing we found unique was the tongue-in-groove southern pine walls and ceilings. They really gave the home a warm, cozy feel.

National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force

The other highlight of this trip to Savannah was the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force.

This division of the military currently consists of over 16,000 personnel whose primary mission is to keep America safe by operating and maintaining our long-range bombers.  They were established in 1942 with the same goal in mind.  Back then, they flew B-17 and B-24 bombers out of approximately 100 bases in England on daylight runs over Nazi Germany.  They also provided fighter escort for those big planes.

z10

The museum has a gorgeous B-17 Flying Fortress as its centerpiece.  On any given day, hundreds of these planes would be in the air.  One day in early 1944, Jimmy Doolittle led over 1,000 B-17’s across Europe to bomb Berlin.  It is difficult to imagine the sheer terror that must have existed on the ground that day.  At that time this division of the Army Air Corps had 200,000 people in their ranks, and had the capability of putting 3,000 bombers and fighters in the air on any given day…hence, the ‘Mighty’ as a prefix.

As we toured this building, the story of the Mighty Eighth was detailed through photos, videos, and displays.  As far as military museums go, this was what I would consider one of the better ones…as it personalized the war.  Stories from both sides were told along the way, making for a compelling afternoon.

z1

One such story was of the plane “Snap, Crackle, and Pop”.  The pilot of this plane, depicted in a mural at the museum, was from Battle Creek, Michigan, home of Kellogg’s Cereal.  He received permission, before flying the plane to England, to stop home and have one of the company artists paint the Rice Krispies trio on the front of the plane. Sometime later in the war, the B-17 was shot down over France, and only two parachutes were seen exiting the aircraft.

z8

Actually the ball turret gunner, a man by the name of Alan Magee, also got out of the plane…but without his parachute.  You see, this position in the B-17 is so small, the gunner would have to leave his parachute above him in the fuselage.  By the time he got to it, the bomber was disintegrating and he was thrown clear.  He fell 20,000 feet and crashed through the glass roof of the railroad station in St. Nazaire, France.  A German doctor saved his life by doing surgery on his many injuries.  The surgeon told him, “I am a doctor first, and a German second.”  Magee lived to be 84 years old.

z4

There was also a reminder of a story my father told me when he learned to fly in one of these Stearman trainers during the war.  His instructor told him to do a ‘carrier landing’, which was to put the tail wheel on the ground before the front wheels.  The maneuver simulated what a pilot would do on an aircraft carrier when they put their tail hook low enough to grab the cable on the deck.

z5

The tail wheel hit the runway hard and smashed the entire assembly up into the plane.  When Dad saw the damage, he feared he had totally screwed up. The instructor looked at him and said “Perfect!”  🙂

The exhibits also included stories of the Tuskegee Airmen, and the WASP’s…the non-combat women pilots who delivered planes to bases during the war.

z7

One of those women was Suzanne Parish.  She and her husband started the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Back when I was in college, I would see her buzzing over campus in her pink P-40 Warhawk.  Little did I know at the time of her invaluable service during the war.  If you want to read more about the Air Zoo and see a photo of her beloved pink aircraft, follow this link.

That wraps up our tour of Savannah, Georgia for this year.  We are sure to be back, as we left so much to discover on a future trip.  Next up: Charleston, South Carolina.  We hope you tag along to see what we find there!

Scouting Savannah

 

Written by Diana
 .
We left Brunswick, Georgia, Sunday morning and traveled 216 miles to see Rick from On the Road with Maxine and Me. He is a fellow RV-Dreamer that we met while volunteering at Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon last summer. We have been lucky to see him twice since then, but we couldn’t pass up a chance for another visit since we were relatively close.
 .
Rick Diana Jim
.
Rick spent this past winter volunteering for Georgia State Parks at Hamburg State Outdoor Recreation Area. We had a lovely site right on the water, and it was easy to see why he enjoyed his time at this beautiful campground.
.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
.
 This photo was taken from the lake. The guys did a lot of pedaling on the paddle boat to get this photo for me!
.
Dogwood Rick
.
The Dogwoods were in bloom, and the spring green leaves were amazing!
.
Jim Maxine
.
 It was great to see Maxine too!
.
sunrise fog Rick
.
We enjoyed our morning coffee while watching the fog roll across the lake and this beautiful sunrise. It was hard to leave here after only one night. Not sure when it will be, but we look forward to seeing Rick and Maxine … down the road.
.
Tuesday night we arrived at a Boondockers Welcome site that is located about a half hour west of Savannah. This host has room for four rigs, and we appreciate the opportunity to stay here four nights while we visit the area.
.
birthplace outside
.
Tuesday we headed into Savannah’s historic district. We had purchased tickets online to visit the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. Known as Daisy, the founder of Girl Scouts in the U.S.A. was born here in 1860. I was thrilled to be at the home I had seen so many time in photos, and the tour did not disappoint.
 .
Diana Juliette 2
.
Scouting was a huge part of my childhood, and I really enjoyed learning more about this strong women who started an organization that has meant so much to so many.
.
girls birthplace
.
It was really fun to see the numerous Girl Scout troops that were visiting during their spring breaks, and to share in their enthusiasm for scouting.
.
Gordon statue2
.
After lunch we visited Wright Square, one of the many squares (parks) that make the city so unique. Wright Square has the Gordon Monument which honors William Washington Gordon. In addition to being Juliette’s grandfather, he was an early mayor of Savannah and founder of the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia.
.
low front house
.
Then we toured the Andrew Low House. This beautiful home is where Juliette lived after her marriage to William Mackay Low in 1886. After his death, she continued to live in the home until she died in 1927 at the age of 66. It was during this time, at the age of 51, that she established the Girl Scouts of America.
.
hill
.
From the Low House, we headed down to River Street.  The ramped streets that connect it to the upper town are paved with cobblestones.  Those stones were ballast from 19th century ships and are from ports throughout the world.
 .
Jim waving girl
.
On River Street, we visited the Waving Girl statue.  This is a monument to Florence Martus, a lifelong resident of the area. From 1887 to 1931, she waved at every single ship that entered and left the port, either with her handkerchief or with a lit lantern at night.  We had read about her several years ago, and we wanted to make sure we saw this memorial to her.
.
There is so much history to enjoy in Savannah, but Jim ended up treating me to a day filled mostly with scouting history. Stay tuned for our next post when we will be back in his wheelhouse, as we plan to explore Tybee Island and Ft. Pulaski tomorrow.
 .
once a gs