Off to Candi Land
When I last wrote, we were on our way to Lebanon, Ohio, the home of Mike's niece Candi (Barbara and Lyndell's daughter). Candi's in-laws, Bill and Rosa Porter, were kind enough to allow us to park in their big driveway and plug into their electrical, so that was great. We had dinner with Candi Friday night, then decided to drive over to Indianapolis the next morning.
You may recall, in my last blog entry, I mentioned that we knew the Indianapolis 500 was going on over Memorial Day weekend, and that's why we didn't stay there. But I just re-read where I said that "everyone will probably be over at the raceway, so the downtown should be empty." I couldn't have been more wrong!
When we drove into downtown, we noticed hundreds of people on the streets. I said, "Let's go see what's going on over there." Well, we found a parking garage (and for some reason, the parking attendant let us go in at no charge), and we walked over to the main street to find out it was the annual Indy parade! This was the 50th year, in fact! Where we walked up was right by the grandstand, and we were able to get close to the street and had a great view!
This parade historically consists of all the Indy drivers (row by row), several "B-list stars", then the usual parade stuff. Well, this was the best parade I've ever been to! I guess my parade history has been more along the "small town" type, but this was truly a "big city" kind of parade.
All the drivers came by. Of course, I'm not an Indy fan, so a lot of the names didn't mean much to me. But I did recognize the names of several drivers, such as A. J. Foyt IV, Al Unser Jr., three of the Andretti brothers, Danica Keller and Dario Franchitti (who the next day won the race). Each of the drivers had their own Corvette convertible pace car they were riding in, along with a beatiful companion. Dario Franchitti's wife is Ashley Judd, and she was riding with him, although she had a big floppy hat on so that you really had to look to see that it was her. We were only a few feet from them, so I could tell it was her. I thought that was good that she wanted to be there with him, but didn't want to take the limelight from him.
There were various "celebrities" along the route. I use the word "celebrities" in quotes, because some of them hardly fit the description, but it was fun to see them nevertheless. Super Bowl MVP (and Indy favorite son) Peyton Manning was the Grand Marshall. Also in the parade were the Governor of Indiana (riding a Harley), the Mayor of Indianapolis, A. J. Foyt Sr., Gene Simmons (of the rock group KISS), Florence Henderson (she actually looked good), Ruth Buzzi (hadn't seen her in years!), General Chuck Yeager (cool), rapper Ludicris (yeah, it was ludicrous), McDreamy and McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy (cute), TV tabloid hosts Melissa Rivers, Pat O'Brien and Carlos Dias (ok, whatever), John Oates (from Hall & Oates), and a couple of other TV and/or soap opera stars that I didn't know. My favorite star was Apollo Anton Ohno (six-time Olympic gold medal winner, and 5-day-old "Dancing with the Stars" [DWTS] winner). I had been watching DWTS, and saw him win that week, so it was fun to see him 5 days later.
Besides all these people, there were some great marching bands (including some state and area-wide All Star players), some huge balloons (like you see at Macy's parade), various horse, police, and other drill teams -- it was a great parade!
Now you'll notice that I haven't posted any pictures of this parade. That's because I left my camera in our vehicle!!!! UGH! I was heart-broken!! My camera is always in our pickup, but we decided to drive Candi's vehicle, and I forgot the camera. Indianapolis also has some great buildings, monuments and parks, but I don't have any pics of them either. :-(
Sunday morning we were able to go with Candi to her church, Heritage Baptist. It was nice to be there. The people were very friendly (even before they knew who we were related to), and the preaching was good. Here's us in the church lobby (thought we'd better get a picture while we were still dressed for church!). ;-)
Candi took us out to Smokey Bones (yum!), then we just hung out for the afternoon. That night we played some "three-handed Rook". You know I hate to brag (yeah, right!), but I won both games!!!
It was great seeing Candi and her new digs (the place looked great), and getting to know her in-laws and see her church. We had a great time that weekend.
By the way, as we were getting ready to leave, I was outside by myself for a bit, and saw this critter slowly and awkwardly crossing the street toward the neighbor's creek. I thought it was a beaver, but I wasn't sure I was seeing the tail correctly. I asked Bill about it, and he said it was either a woodchuck or a groundhog. As we were talking about it later, I had forgotten what he said, and asked "Did you say it was a groundchuck?" He said, "No, that's what you get in the meat department at the grocery store." I thought that was pretty funny!
Monday morning we headed east toward Pennsylvania. Eastern Ohio was very pretty -- very hilly and treed. At the border, we crossed the Ohio River. It's a huge river, and its surroundings were very green and lush. The border was the one with West Virginia. As you may recall from geography, WV has a little "pointy thing" at the top. I had mentioned before that each state has its own personality. We were in WV for a total of 14 minutes, but even in that short amount of time, I saw a difference from what we had just driven through. It was really beautiful.
We arrived at our RV site early in the afternoon, so we decided to drive up about 25 miles to Pittsburgh and check it out. We were driving toward downtown, so drove through miles of surrounding areas. It was all old and pretty shabby. We never did see the "good part of town". I realized from the map that the downtown area was almost a peninsula surrounded by three rivers, the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny. As we approached the downtown, I could see that the rivers were very big and very beautiful. However, driving around downtown Pittsburgh was a nightmare. There are various bridges in and out of town, and you don't know whether they are attached to a main road or not, or whether or not they're one-way streets. There are one-way streets everywhere, and you often "can't get there from here." We drove around and around, trying to get to where we wanted to go. It was very frustrating! I was just glad it was Memorial Day and there were almost no people downtown. At one point, we decided we wanted to see a particular riverfront area, but again, we couldn't seem to get there. Instead, we ended up going up this very steep hill where I got a great picture of downtown Pittsburgh. That was the one and only satisfying part of this adventure. We finally decided to get the heck out of town, but here's the great picture I got!
Flight 93 Memorial
We headed out of town the next morning, toward Gettysburg. But on the way, we decided to stop at the Flight 93 Memorial outside of Shanksville. Wow, what a moving place. Over these 6 years, thousands and thousands of people have visited this very crude memorial site out in the boonies to pay their respects. Someone put up a section of chain link fence where people can leave notes, pictures, momentos, etc. Over 30,000 momentos have been left there so far. They clean off the fence about every 2 weeks or so, and take the stuff to a warehouse where it's catelogued and stored. Also, various groups, from motorcycle clubs to veterans groups to boy scout units -- you name it -- have left memorial plaques or stones. It all seems very spontaneous and heartfelt. Volunteers from the community are out there every day to tell the story of what happened and to help answer questions. The volunteer who talked to us lives about a half mile from the crash site. She said she had the cops and the FBI stationed at her house for the first two weeks after the incident.
It's pretty eerie to look out over that field. There's a big indentation still, but grass grows over it. They have a relatively small American Flag out there where the plane crashed, but the entire area is still fenced off, so you can't go out there. Even though it's been almost 6 years since the plane went down in the field, it's still considered a crime scene. Every spring, after the leaves have fallen off during the previous autumn, then the winter snow melts, they still find stuff that has fallen from the trees. Sad.
As I said, this crash site is totally out in the boonies. Three more seconds, and it would have fallen on the town of Shanksville. Just 15 more minutes, and it would have crashed in Washington DC. It's truly amazing that the plane fell in such an isolated area.
The federal government is going to make a permanent memorial there -- one of the volunteers showed us a picture of what it will look like. They hope to start on it next year and have it done by the ten-year anniversary in 2011. The proposed memorial looks nice, and it's the right thing to do, but it's a little sad that this heartfelt, personal, spontaneous site will go away and be replaced by something more formal.
I've put several other photos of this site on my photosite at http://semitte.photosite.com.
Scenic Route 30
From the Memorial, we got on scenic Route 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway. I had read in a book that this was a very scenic drive, but that's because it goes through lots of little towns, and up, down and around lots of hills and mountains. Beautiful? Yes. Good driving with a fifth wheel? Not so much. ;-)
At one point, we were going over the mountains on a 9% grade for about 5 miles. The summit was only about 2900 feet, but when you start from the bottom and go straight up, it's pretty substantial. It was truly a beautiful sight, though. We were driving through both the Alleghany and Appalachian Mountains. You could look out in the valleys and see gorgeous rolling greens hills for miles. I took this picture from Mt. Ararat, which was about 2500 feet (and no, I didn't see an ark there!).
As we were going through the Appalachian Mountains, we saw the Appalachian Trail. This is the longest walking trail in the country and enables a person to walk all the way from Maine to Georgia along the crest of the mountains. Hmm, maybe I'll try that another time. ;-)
Getting to Gettysburg
We arrived in the quaint little town of Gettysburg early in the afternoon, so we went ahead and drove over to the Visitor Center to get our bearings. One of the smartest things we did over there is to purchase an audio CD of the battlefield sites. The most common way for individuals to tour the battlefields is by auto self-tour. You get a brochure that points out the various sites and talks about their significance, and you drive from point to point along the 18-mile route. But this CD went into a lot of detail and background about each place. It truly enhanced the tour.
Since it was early in the afternoon, we went ahead and started the 3-hour tour, the 3-hour tour (did a song just come into your head??). It was so very interesting, but I always have a difficult time when it comes to the insanity of wars, especially in this case with American against American. In case you don't know (or to review if you do), the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place July 1-3, 1863, resulted in more casualties during the Civil War than any other battle, with 23,000 Union soldiers and 28,000 Confederate soldiers killed, wounded, or missing. On the final day, there was a loss of 5,000 soldiers within a 1-hour period. When you see the open fields, ridges, hills, etc., it's mindboggling to imagine just running out there in the middle and starting to kill each other.
After the war, many various groups went out to the battlefield to erect monuments to their leaders and/or fallen comrades. It seems like every unit, every batallion, every company, every state, EVERYBODY erected monuments. I never did see a count, but I would say there are hundreds of monuments in the area -- you see them everywhere you look. Even that was a moving experience when you think about the motivation each group had in erecting their monument. I have a lot more pics on the photosite too.
The next day we went over to the National Cemetery where over 3500 Union soldiers are buried. At the dedication of this cemetery in November 1863 was where Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address. It was very cool to think that I was walking where he had walked and to imagine him standing there and addressing all those people on such a solemn occasion.
As a side note, after the 3-day battle was over, there were obviously bodies everywhere. Some had been buried in shallow graves where they fell, some just laid there. The then-Governor of Pennsylvania was appalled at this, so he asked a particular person to purchase some property to be used to give these men a proper burial. It took months, but they disinterred these thousands of men, identified them the best they could, and re-buried them in this cemetery. Now this was only the Union soldiers. The Confederate soldiers they mostly threw into a common grave (that makes me ill). Later, those bodies were again disinterred and shipped off to their families in the South for reburial. What a sad piece of national history.
I knew that President Eisenhower was brought up in Kansas, but I didn't realize he had lived for quite a while in Gettysburg. Being a military man, he had moved all over the world during his career. So when he was considering retirement from the military, in 1950 he bought his first home -- a 189-acre farm on the edge of Gettysburg. As he was anticipating retirement, he was convinced to run for President and, of course, won and was in office for 8 years. During that time, he would spend weekends at the farm. He would also bring any and all important people out there to show them his prize Angus cattle. People such as Churchill, De Gaulle, and Kruschev all visited there.
After he left office in 1960, he and his wife did retire there and raised cattle (well, their staff did, at least). They lived there until each of their deaths, Ike's in 1969 and Mamie's in 1979.
The home itself looked like it was stuck in the 1950's. The Park Service has pretty much kept it looking the same as when they lived there. They had a big formal living room full of interesting items. Back in those days, a president could keep whatever anyone gave them (that was later changed). As a result, they had all kinds of exotic gifts given to them by foreign officials and others. It made for a very interesting living room. But they mostly lived in the back area where there was a small family room (with an old funky 1960's TV) and wicker dinette set. They seemed to live a very simple life, which one would expect from the Eisenhower's. The house was very interesting, but definitely looked like your gramma's house. ;-)
Out back was several barn areas, including the show barn where Ike kept his show cattle. He had won several blue ribbons for his outstanding Angus cattle.
Over to the side of the house, not too many steps from the front door, was a helicopter pad. Ike was the first president to use this new mode of transportation (and every president since has used it). Using the helicopter, his home was only 15 minutes away from Camp David, and 30 minutes from the White House.
It was a very interesting experience, and an often overlooked attraction in Gettysburg, I think.
Boyds Bear Country
I've always told everyone that "I don't do cute", but there's one cute thing I have a weakness for, and that's Boyds Bears. Well, Gettysburg is the home for BB, and south of town is the huge "Boyds Bear Country". This place is a huge 4-story barn-looking building, filled with everything ever made by BB. I've never seen so many bears in one place. It was very fun to go through every floor. He would never admit it, but I think Michael enjoyed it too.
Harley Davidson Tour
We continued east from Gettysburg, heading toward Lancaster County. On the way, we stopped in York to take the free Harley Davidson tour. We both like factory tours, and this one was great in that they allowed us to actually walk through the factory (with strict instructions, of course), to see how everything was done. It was amazing to watch a hydraulic press use 400 tons of pressure to mold a sheet of steel into a fender in a matter of seconds. It was also interesting to watch the motorcycle ride around on a conveyor while the employees were assembling the various parts.
The tour may have been a mistake, though. After going through the tour, and seeing all the cool motorcycles (and sitting on several of them in the showroom), I think Michael has the bug again! We went through our big motorcycle phase in the 80's, and I thought we were done. But maye not. Well, with him, who knows??? We'll see what happens. ;-)
On the road again, this time crossing the Susquehanna River between York and Lancaster. Wow! It was incredibly wide, although not too deep. But it was quite a site!
We decided that since we were "in the neighborhood" we would go visit George's Woodworking in Marietta. Let me give you some background. For years, when we would go to Mike's sister's house, we would put our feet on this little footstool with an inclined top. That made so much sense to us, and we wished we had one. She had told us that she had gotten it from the Amish Country. We hadn't given that any thought until we went to Candi's house. She had the same footstool. We looked on the bottom of the stool, and lo and behold, there was the name and address for George's Woodworking, so we decided we would go visit George.
Marietta didn't look very far from the highway on the map, but we drove and drove, down more and more rugged little roads, until we finally arrived at a little farm house with a barn (where the woodworking was done). They have quite an operation there. The young salesman took us for a tour of the place and it was quite impressive. And their workmanship was incredible. You could tell that they took the time and care to produce a quality product.
It was a very interesting and fun experience. We didn't buy the stool (because we don't have that much spare room in the fifth wheel), but we're going to buy it eventually, and maybe have it shipped. Who knows? We may buy one of those beautiful bedroom sets too (that is, unless Mike buys the motorcycle!) ;-)
We drove into our destination, Lancaster County. I had some vague notion that we were going to "go see the Amish", but I was a bit stunned by what I saw when we drove into the area. It was incredibly "touristy". There were two outlet shopping centers (within a mile of each other), there were various other shopping centers, restaurants, motels, buggy rides -- all along the theme of "Amish". There was even a store called "Amish Stuff". UGH!
Now when you drive out in the country, you see the various Amish families out working in the field, or riding down the road in their buggies. I'm thinking they do their best to avoid town and seeing how their life decision is being exploited. It just seems a little disrespectful that, because of their religion, they are treated like attractions at the zoo. (OK, Sherri, tell us how you really feel).
Now back out in the country, the farms were very picturesque, on rolling green hills. We saw several Amish farmers tending their fields with a six-pack of mules, while they ride behind them on the equipment. Or there were 3-4 young girls on the back doing some hand-seeding. We also saw people (usually women) using push mowers in their lawn. We saw little boys wearing their straw hats and riding wheeled scooters up and down those big hills. And, of course, we saw many people riding around with their horse and buggy. At all the grocery stores and such, there is a pole over to the side with which folks can tie up their horse while they shop.
One thing that really interested me was that everywhere we looked, we saw little girls going barefoot,whether in their yard, at the store, or on the (hot) pavement. We also saw the women mowing their yards barefoot. I felt like there was some kind of significance in that, but I don't know what that might be. Just interesting.
The most interesting thing we did while in Lancaster County was go to the Mennonite Information Center. Even though it was interesting to find out the differences and similarities between the Mennonites and the Amish, we actually went because of what they had there -- a life size replica of the original Tabernacle talked about in the Bible. I've taught studies of Exodus, Numbers, etc. and felt like I knew all the various parts of the Tabernacle, but I've always been curious about the relative size and layout of everything. They did an excellent job in laying everything out, coating all the appropriate stuff with "gold", showing the priest's clothes and the veil to the Holy of Holies, and showing the Ark of the Covenant. There was also a lady there who gave the group the history and story of this tabernacle, and presented the tie-in regarding deliverance by the shedding of blood in both the Old Testament and the New. For many years I had thought in the back of my mind that it would be cool if someone would put something together like this, so this was very amazing!
The next stop was Philadelphia. Even though it's basically the next major city over from Lancaster, we got there by way of two states. Actually, the closest RV park to Philly was in Clarksboro, New Jersey, and we didn't want to drive directly through Philly -- so got there by way of Delaware. Previously, I mentioned that we were in West Virginia for 14 minutes. Well, we did a little better in Delaware -- we were there for 26 minutes. As we crossed from Delaware into New Jersey, we crossed the Delaware River (like George Washington did!). The Delaware River was huge. I took a picture, but it just looked like a big lake. It was hard to convey what we were seeing into a photo.
We'e in Philadelphia now, but I'd like to close out this (very long) blog and catch you up on our adventures here next time.
Random Road Reports
Before I close this blog, here are just some random things I've seen along the way.
All the way from Ohio through Pennsylvania, we've seen dozens of stars on houses. These are the kind of stars that are about 2-3 feet wide, and about 4" deep. They're everywhere! I'm not sure what this phenomena is about, whether Walmart had a big sale, or if this means something. I'm not sure, either, why this is so prevalent on this side of the country, and not the West. But it's become kind of a joke with Michael and me. We just drive down the road and say "star".
Many of the small towns have "roundabouts". I'm sure originally it was the Town Square, and they've adapted it for modern traffic. It's a very quaint thing, with the businesses broadly around the edge of the square.
There are a chain of convenience stores called "WaWa", and another called "TurkeyHill" (no space). There's also a chain of pharmacies called "Happy Harry's Pharmacy." Just kind of amusing.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, just before you reach Delaware, there are at least a dozen mushroom farms. I'm not sure exactly what makes that area prime for fungus, but there were plenty of farms.
In southeast Pennsylvania, we also reached the 10,000 mile mark. Of course we had no idea before we started, but that's about the number of miles we thought we'd travel for the entire trip. Oh well. I'll be curious to see what the final number is.
For those of you working backwards in my photosite, I posted 33 new photos this time.