Tuesday, July 31, 2018

From Studebaker to Jelly Bellys!

After heading north on I-65 for a bit we turned eastwards on a digression towards South Bend and Elkhart. The roads are still bad and if it weren't for that, this part of the trip would be pleasant with lots of rural area. There are more windmills (yes, they're everywhere) and soybean and corn crops in a patchwork of fields. These corn and soybean crops are rotated from field to field as not only are both good crops but it helps control diseases and pests that bother each individually. The soybeans put nirogen in the soil which improves the corn crop. Some farmers add alfalfa and wheat to the rotation.

As we drove along I caught glimpses of deer several times including one which was a deer running along the edge of a field. Further along we were sometimes in a cottonwood blizzard where the cottonwood trees release their seeds like dandelions. I tried to get some shots of that but the camera and cottonwood fuzz just would not cooperate.

We soon turned off the interstate headed for South Bend ... the roads were even worse! It gets just a little confusing when you arrive as one building houses the History Museum which includes the Studebaker Museum, a Tiffany museum, an exhibit of Notre Dame architecture and tours of the nearby Oliver Mansion and the Worker's Home which is a house furnished to reflect that of a working class family in the 1930's. We only had time for the Studebaker Museum but if you are making plans to be in this area, give yourself at least one whole day for all there is to see and do.

The parking wasn't the best for Wolf and we ended up over behind the Worker's Home under some mulberry trees. We got PoGoGo unloaded and entered the lobby which is where you pay admission based on how many of the museums you plan to visit. The Studebaker collection is off to the right from this lobby and turns out to be much larger than one might suspect from outside it.

I had absolutely no idea how much Studebaker had done. It began in the 1850's when the Studebaker brothers opened a blacksmith shop in South Band becoming a leading manufacturer of horse-drawn wagons and carriages, eventually providing wagons to the Union forces in the Civil War, carriages and such to presidents, supply wagons including the beginnings of the Jeep, and the impressive wagons pulled by the Budweiser Clydesdales. The museum has many models of Studebaker wagons, carriages, and automobiles on display.

Remember above where I mentioned we parked under some mulberry trees? At the time, having had experience with mulberries as a kid, I warned Geoff to watch where he walked and clean his feet off before he went back in ... well, he forgot. Now we had dark purple footprints up the steps, across the carpet, over the engine hump and onto the driver's side carpet.

From here we and the dark purple footprints headed further east to Elkhart and the RV/MH Hall of Fame. The RV Founders Hall displays trailers and such going back to the 1920's. It was interesting but unless you have other reasons to be in this area I'm not sure it is worth the trip. The store was also disappointing for the most part with not much available and much of it aimed at the RV'er's needs.

We soon headed for the nearby Elkhart Campground for the night. Admittedly, Elkhart is pretty much the RV capital with all sorts of RV dealers and stores and if you're looking for something special for an RV, Elkhart is a good place to look. If we had had more time we might have looked into getting the dashboard fixed.

The next morning we retraced our path and headed north through Gary, Indiana, and then up through Chicago. One interesting sight was that of a metro system which runs principally through the median of the interstate from Gary up into Chicago. It is quite odd to glance to the center median and see metro stations smack dab in the center of the median. Another odd sight are the signs indicating 'crash investigation sites' pointing to widened roadsides with room for those in an accident to pull out of the traffic pattern and exchange information, quite probably a good idea in such a heavily trafficked area.

Other odd sights along the way include a two story mobile home being pulled along and so-called road trains with tractor trailers pulling three trailers instead of just one or the infrequent two. The hustle bustle of Chicago finally eased off as we headed in to Wisconsin on I-94/I-41.

A few miles into Wisconsin is the exit for Pleasant Prairie near Kenosha and the Jelly Belly warehouse tour. The tour is free and again, we found the staff very helpful to the mobility impaired. We had left my PoGoGo on its carrier on Wolf as the website showed the little train that takes visitors around the warehouse tour. The initial person at the counter spotted that I was having to lean on the wall or Geoffrey while we waited in line and had us come around to a bench we could sit on to wait our turn. Then she escorted us to an elevator to go up to the first area, called Jelly Belly Station, which shows some of the older machines and works to group enough riders for a train load. We then got escorted to the train and helped into it.

The train tour itself goes from stop to stop with videos showing how the jelly belly candies are made and imparting some of the history of the company. At the end everyone is given a small packet of jelly bellys. The stop of course is right at the entrance for the store but who can go to such a place and not buy any jelly bellys? And NO, I am not gonna tell you how much I spent there!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Wolves, Tippecanoe and no Subaru!

Our original plan had included a tour of the Subaru plant in Lafayette as we are long time Subaru owners and we have on order a new Subaru Ascent that is probably built or being built at that plant in Lafayette. Unfortunately, we found that you have to call and make arrangements ahead of time and only on certain days which this wasn't one of them.

So, instead we made a WalMart run and then went for an early lunch at Spagheddies, a nice Italian place that is one of three, the others being a PaPa Vino's in Michigan and one in Indiana besides this location. It was quite nice, wish we had one down here in Florida.

After lunch we headed for the Wolf Park. We of course had to go to a wolf place with a coach named Timmberwolf and located on our route. We unloaded PoGoGo and headed in to the entrance/visitor center. The staff told us that there were parts of the park that would be difficult for the mobility chair but then they offered to give us a private tour driven around by one of the staff!

Although I took a lot of pictures of the different wolves, most of them show more of the fence surrounding the large areas the different wolves get to call home. Seems the camera likes to focus on the closest item (the fence) rather than the wolves further inside! The best shot of those I took show these three, brothers, resting on top of their wooden shelter in the heat of the day. These three are the sons of Timber (a female) and Wolfgang (a male) whom we also saw.

Our tour also included most of the other wolves, a few that were not showing themselves at the time, as well as some foxes, grey and red, and a coyote, and, a real surprise, a bison herd! The bison herd included several calves.

Our next stop which is very near the Wolf Park is the Tippecanoe Battlefield Park and museum. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the park has a small museum, a history store with a nice selection of reproductions of historic goods and clothing, and across from it, a monument to the 1811 battle of Tippecanoe. The museum focuses on the battle itself and the early settlement of the area especially by Native Americans and the events and people which led up to the battle.

This is a rural area just north of Lafayette, Indiana, and just east of I-65 northbound. There are several places that are great to visit here, most especially the Wolf Park and Tippecanoe but also the information about Prophetstown. All I knew before coming here was that old election slogan, 'Tippecanoe and Tyler too.'

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Lots of time ....

But not saying much. I usually minimize what I mention about family, especially specific family members as many people just plain don't like being out on the web, definitely not their names and pictures. This blog is viewed by very few and would probably be a safe place to mention people but it really doesn't hurt not to.

After leaving the Carlisle Army Barracks we headed for an RV Park in Gettysburg which is near one of my sister's home. We stayed there two nights and enjoyed an entire day with my sister and her husband.

From there we decided to take the turnpike west towards Ohio and some of Geoffrey's family. Ant at this point I really need to step aside and mention the roads! West Virginia had a few bad places and once we hit Pennsylvania the roads really got rough. The toll road was a bit better but in spite of the small fortune we spent on tolls, the roads were often rough.

Now I do realize that compared to the south, the roads up here in the more northern part of the country are subject to frost heaves and compared to the west, most of the roads are older but as we bump down the road, I don't care. The roads here are bad. And, to be honest, they did only got a little better in Ohio and went back to terrible when we got to Indiana.

Even when your RV is in perfect shape one can worry about what might shake loose. In our case, we had managed to pull our tailpipe loose and it was awfully close to the rear driver's side tire and getting lower it seemed all the time.The dashboard was also coming apart at the passenger end where it appears the screw holding it together had simply torn itself out. You can now imagine how we felt about the rough roads!

Okay, off the rant about road conditions, for now anyway! We got to Geoff's sister's on the west side of Cleveland, Ohio and stayed there for a couple of days. We especially like this stop because not only do we get to visit with family but we also can catch up on laundry, one of the fun chores on the road. While there we also got to see his brother and his family and got to go out to dinner with one of Geoffrey's school chums.

From here we head to southwestern Ohio and Geoff's nephew and his family including two children, a sweetheart of a girl and a baby too young to say much about yet. Geoff and his nephew spent the day at the National Museum of the US Air Force which Geoffrey had gone to on our visit to Ohio a couple of years ago but found it so big he needed to go back. They got back mid afternoon and we all went to his nephew's house to have take out Chinese and a great visit.

Seems like we just zipped through here but this blog actually covers about a week over the three family visits. Since we were already near Dayton, it did not take long to get to Indiana which seemed to have even worse roads! Thus on the 10th we pulled up, in the rain, at a Camping World just north of Richmond, Indiana, the main impetus being that the toilet had backed up the day before and even Indiana's rough roads didn't shake it loose. Being a Sunday none of the service types were around but we set up an appointment for first thing the next morning and decided that under the circumstances a hotel would be a good choice.

We stayed just one exit south of the Camping World at the Holiday Inn in one of their rooms for the handicapped. The bed was hard as a rock and the shower liked to run across the bathroom floor but the toilet was nice!

At the Camping World we laid out money to get Wolf's toilet running again ... we have gathered that this is one of the most common RV problems. We also checked with them about the roof leak, exhaust pipe and dashboard coming undone. The roof wasn't currently leaking and would have meant staying there for a few days, the exhaust pipe wasn't something they could fix and the dash would also have meant days, they said just watch it. This was the same advice the muffler shop they referred us to said about the exhaust pipe, keep an eye on it.

On our way north we stopped to fuel up and as usual, Wolf was thirsty. I like this shot through the side view mirror of Geoff half leaning on Wolf waiting on the fill.

The GPS took us to the wrong office for the state park we were headed to but it must happen frequently as there was a sign on the office door about it! We finally got to the Prophetstown State Park campground where we had reservations, and found our slot, a nice pull through with hookups and nicely spaced away from other campers.

Carlisle Army Barracks

Today's destination is the Carlisle Barracks and the US Army Heritage & Education Center.  Arriving there, we unloaded PoGoGo and headed first for the Army Heritage Trail which is about a mile long and has "fourteen individual exhibits include full scale reconstructions of a French and Indian War way station, Redoubt Number 10 from the Revolutionary War siege of Yorktown, a section of the Antietam battlefield, a Civil War winter encampment with cabins, a WWI trench system, a WWII company area, a replicated Normandy Bocage scene from World War II, a Current Operations HESCO Bastion barrier checkpoint, and an interpretation of the Vietnam helicopter air assault at Ia Drang that includes a period Fire Support Base."

The above quote is from the Army Heritage Trail web page, part of an excellent site about the Center. On that page you can click on the items in the list of exhibits and see pictures and infomation  about each of them.

We took our time at most of these exhibits and there are several benches along the way for resting. Of course with PoGoGo I didn't need the benches but it was nice for Geoffrey and provided some nice stopping points.

You can actually go into the entrance to the German pillbox that is part of the WWI trench system but we both chose not to hunker down and creep through the dark passage.

Yorktown Redoubt

From the trail we went into the Visitor and Education Center building for the indoor exhibits, some of which are changed frequently. Just the Soldier Experience Gallery alone is fascinating showing the soldier's point of view from joining up to coming home. Part of the space is given over to a changing exhibit area showing new soldier stories and special topics. There are additional exhibits principally from the Spanish American War up through Afghanistan and the War on Terror. Allow several hours for this visit, better yet the entire day. If you're looking to do research on individuals, units, battles or wars, there is also the Ridgeway Hall Research Room.

Of course never forget the Visitor Center's shop ... always a source of good souvenirs and ball caps but also the proceeds from these places generally go to the support of the attached museum so I prefer to get my souvenirs at such places rather than regular stores. Here I got a great ball cap and a cuddly Army bear that will go well with a pair of bears I bought last year at the Black Bear Diner in Cottonwood, Arizona.

Of chocolate and iron and more

After resting a day at the Elizabethtown KOA, we got an early start and arrived at the nearby Hershey factory and amusement park before they were even open although thankfully the parking area was mostly empty so parking was easy although the picture to the right is a little misleading. After settling into that spot and getting PoGoGo unloaded, we were asked to move as that area was for the shuttles. Luckily, we only had to move around to the other side of that little median so we were in the shade even. You can see in the background that there were very few other visitors yet!

We killed a little time exploring the little park area between the Chocolate World building where the tour of the factory process would be and the amusement park area with various rides including a roller coaster. This latter area is what got flooded a few weeks later along with several other parts of the area around Hershey.

By the time the tour building opened there were mobs of people! We went in and after making our way through the front area we got to where the tour starts. I must say that they have the whole issue of the mobility impaired handled very nicely. They have small sets of cars that go through the tour and to get on them you step first on to a slowly moving circular floor which moves at the same speed as the cars. Attendants are there to help people on and off the cars and some of the cars are specially set up to have space for wheelchairs.

The tour itself is definitely aimed at children and was more cutesy than informative about the actual candy making process but for what it was, it was well done. When you finish the tour there is of course the huge store area with all sorts of Hershey branded choices. I got a ball cap of course and a cute little model 1953 pickup in Hershey chocolate color.

From Hershey we headed for nearby Cornwall and the Cornwall Iron Furnace. The Furnace is tucked away out in the country and we began to think we had some how lost our way and there it was, suddenly. There was a Mennonite or Amish wedding party taking group pictures but it was otherwise pleasantly quiet for our visit. There is an excellent short film telling about iron furnaces and this one in particular. As a souvenir I got a cute little iron mouse doorstop, made in China <sigh>, but cute and appropriate.

One of the things we have found on our travels is that there is a lot of little fascinating stuff out there. Most of it is not enough to go way out of your way for but always check the route you are taking to see if there is any odd little place tucked away on your journey. A good resource for this is RoadsideAmerica.com which should always be checked when you are planning a trip. We have found that many of these places are older, still surviving from back before the interstate highways rushed people along.

Our next stop, a little further east on I-76 in Shartlesville is one of these odd places, the Roadside America miniature village.This is a huge model town with trains, hand built buildings, tiny people and more with walkways around the perimeter with buttons to push to animate the mechanical things like the trains or lights. Absolutely fascinating!

From here we headed for our last stop of the day, the Western Village RV Park in Carlisle, just west of Harrisburg., a nice relatively quiet park near our next destination.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

You Can't Go Home Again ...

... Which I know and even planned for. Cumberland Gap National Park is our first visit of the trip but even before arriving there we were going through what, for me, was familiar country. From 1979 to 1994 when I moved to Cleveland, I lived in Harlan County, Kentucky. Until just after the Civil War, the area around the gap was Harlan County. In 1867, the western part of Harlan and eastern part of Knox County were taken to from Josh Bell County which soon shortened its name to Bell County. Harlan is about as far southeast as you can get in Kentucky and until Bell was formed shared borders with not only Virginia but also Tennessee.

I loved these mountains and spent longer living there then I had any where prior to that. To this day I hold a special place in my heart for the place and the people but left because as much as I loved it, I was slowly starving not just my body but my mind as well. Anyway, I wanted to see how the area was doing but really did NOT want to see the changes that I was sure had happened to Harlan in the years since I left. Besides, Geoff would have had kittens driving on some of the roads that would have required!

So, driving up through Claiborne County, Tennessee, and visiting the Gap, and then heading on through Middlesboro, Pineville, and other places near but not in Harlan itself sufficed and came close enough to "going home again" without actually doing so and ruining my memories. The kudzu covered hillsides were certainly close enough.

In many ways the roads through Tennessee showed little change from years ago except the lakes are looking so much better. Back then drought had shrunk them badly, now they are full and healthy looking, bringing back memories of night-fishing in the fog at Norris Lake. The tunnel at the Gap was being built when I left but did not open until a couple of years after I left but it is sure much easier than the old road through the Gap! We passed through the tunnel and then discovered at the park center that the camping area was back on the southern side of the tunnel where we had to pass back into Tennessee and Virginia to get to the camping area where we stayed for only ten dollars with our senior park pass.

The only drawback to the space at the park was Geoff had to back in to it but it was nice and wide and turned out not to be much of a problem. It was peaceful and quiet and the spaces are set up for privacy and enjoyment of the surrounding woods. Definitely a bargain!

In the morning we went back through the tunnel and headed back to the Cumberland Gap National Park visitor center. We headed up for the loop that goes up to the view area but part way up it gets restricted to under 20 feet in length and we figured we better not test how literally they meant that as our 27 feet plus was not likely to fit. The visitor center is some what informative but I found it a little too focused on Daniel Boone and the early settlers coming through and not enough about the Civil War which was equally fascinating in the gap although I believe some of that is up at the Pinnacle Overlook that we could not get to.

From the Gap, we headed north on US25E back towards I-75, passing through Middlesboro, Pineville with its flood wall, and Corbin, the home of KFC. Once we got to I-75 we continued north through the Renfro Valley until we neared Lexington where we swung eastwards on to I-64 towards West Virginia and Pennsylvania, stopping for an overnight at the Foxfire KOA in Milton, West Virginia. A nice campground but if you are heading into the eastern part of the country be prepared for sticker shock as the price of campgrounds gets higher!

At Charleston, West Virginia, we had changed over from I-64 to I-79, eventually ending up on I-76 eastbound through Pennsylvania after leaving Milton. The countryside is nice throughout West Virginia but there's not a lot to say about it. Same with most of this part of Pennsylvania, a pleasant drive eastwards until we reached our next destination, Elizabethtown's KOA which is actually called the Hershey KOA. We stayed there two nights, taking a rest day as we have found that if you don't schedule a rest day here and there on a trip you end up taking one anyway!

Monday, July 9, 2018

There and Back Again

This trip we left just before 7 from St Augustine on Memorial Day. We quickly found that our communication hats did not really survive moving from one set of hats to another and kept coming apart, principally the microphones which don't really do much good when they are hanging down at chest level and not hanging near your mouth!

The first part of this route followed that of a few weeks back, along I-10 and up I-75 well into Georgia. We hit the Georgia line a little after 9 in the morning and finally did lunch at Arby's in the Pilot at Exit 101 where we also fueled up and I couldn't resist buying a stuffed monkey with such a cute face and soooo squooshy.

For lack of inspiration I suppose my new buddy goes by the name Pilot Monkey and rides up front with me, sometimes in my lap, or by my feet or up on the dashboard.
Without the communications gear, it was difficult to have regular conversations with Geoff so I switched to having them, rather one-sided, with Pilot Monkey including talking about all the horse trailers with harness racing gear headed south along with lots of dune buggies and lots of Georgia State Police making traffic stops.

Mid-afternoon we arrived at our planned stop for the night, the Forest Glen RV Park. It was not their fault that part of the access road was closed for construction and it was raining but it wasn't a great place and we just pulled into our not very level graveled spot in the rain and just plugged in to shore power, skipping the water hookups. It does seem to be primarily a mobile home park with a smaller area for RV's.

Of course our first 'adventure' is discovered in the morning - there is a leak in the roof or around the window on my side of the bedroom! Nice cold, wet, water! Ewww, first thing in the morning. There are now uneven places in that wall! Tried to take pictures but it just doesn't show well enough!

We left about 7:30 that morning and an hour later are trapped in Atlanta rush hour traffic! We poked along in off and on rain, often going only 5-10 miles an hour, sometimes even at a complete stop. It did give me time to see all the signs saying English Ivy Kills Trees which seem to be everywhere in this area. Further research on this reveals that all that pretty ivy on trees does kill the tree. Partly by hiding anything wrong with the tree but also, primarily, by covering the tree preventing sun and water from reaching it and eventually weighing more than the tree can hold. There does not seem to be any acknowledgement anywhere about who puts all those signs out though!

We finally got to Tennessee around noon and a couple of hours later hit our fuel stop at a Flying J. Late that afternoon we got to Cumberland Gap National Park which covers three states: Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. We stayed in the park in a lovely quiet spot surrounded by trees, the only drawback a minor one in that Geoff had to back in to it.