Monthly Archives: September 2016

2016 Trip Eight, The Rockies, Sept. 30

Scottsbluff, NE. Sept 30

Another great day traveling the High Plains where the beauty is a whisper, not a shout. Okay, I stole that line from somewhere but we liked it.

The barracks for the mounted infantry at Fort Laramie

The barracks for the mounted infantry at Fort Laramie

Inside the dorms for the mounted infantry at Fort Laramie

Inside the dorms for the mounted infantry at Fort Laramie

The day started cool and sunny and became cloudy and warm. We drove west for an hour on U.S. 26 to Fort Laramie WY. This portion of the day was continuing our explorations of the settlement of the West through the westward expansion along the Mormon Pioneer Trail, Oregon Trail, and the California Trail. These three trails followed relatively similar paths through Nebraska and much of Wyoming before splitting off to their eventual destinations of Utah, Oregon, and California. Between 1840 and 1870 more than 500,000 pioneers migrated on foot westward, transporting their goods and food via wagons.

The initial westward expansion began as a trickle but soon became a flood, with some pioneers deciding to settle somewhere shorter than their planned destination. The Plains Indians initially aided the settlers but as the flood of settlers eliminated the Indians way of living and as treaty violations eliminated their promised land and payments, warfare broke out.

Fort Laramie, just over the border from Nebraska near the junction of the Laramie and North Platte rivers, originally started out as a camp for fur traders. The camp served as a friendly site for Indians to swap various animal furs for manufactured goods. As emigrant numbers increased, the U.S.established a series of forts along the trails used by the settlers. Fort Laramie became the principal military outpost for about 40 years from the mid-1840s to the mid-1880s.

During those years, Fort Laramie was the scene of negotiations, some successful. Other times the military here were involved in skirmishes against the Plains tribes. In the period of 1866-1868, Red Cloud, a Lakota Chief, bested the U.S.military (including those from Fort Laramie) and forced a new treaty to make settlers abandon the Bozeman trail and to establish the Great Sioux reservation in western South Dakota. By 1874, that treaty was broken when gold was found in the Black Hills. By 1890 though, the Indian wars were over and Fort Laramie’s usefulness was gone.

"Old Bedlam" the unmarried officers quarters at Fort Laramie-the oldest building in WY

“Old Bedlam” the unmarried officers quarters at Fort Laramie-the oldest building in WY

Fort Laramie was made a national monument in 1938. Over time, archeological research has led to the rehabilitation of eleven of the historic buildings. The site today is well-maintained and illustrates the life of a soldier on the frontier. But the impact on us of the fort is less from the soldier’s life as it is on the story of the settlers moving west. One hears again the individual stories of people leaving all behind to follow a dream; a dream that included tremendous difficulties including death.

In a side note, many of us remember the Pony Express, that mix of man and beast that transfixed the nation by delivering news to the west coast in just eight days. What we frequently forget is that the Pony Express only lasted from April 1860 to November 1861. A new invention, the telegraph, was able to string wires across the country and make the Pony Express obsolete.

We left Fort Laramie and drove 90 minutes into Nebraska to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument. We drove back roads through small towns like Van Tassell (population 15) to have lunch in the large town of Harrison (population 251), although there are three bank branches here. Our burger lunch was in the local bar/restaurant and we were the only non-locals in the place. PS, the burgers were great.

The twin hills where the Agate Fossil Beds were found

The twin hills where the Agate Fossil Beds were found

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is in the middle of ranching country, Verizon cell service is non-existent here. Again, the rangers were very helpful in answering questions. The site is a national monument because in the early 1900s, a vast trove of mammal fossils were found here. There were so many fossils that paleontologists were able to construct full replicas of previously unknown species. The fossils included a full range of specimens by age and sex to indicate that a mass die off occurred here.

Models of the mammals whose fossils were found at Agate Fossil Beds-models cast from actual bones now in possession of universities

Models of the mammals whose fossils were found at Agate Fossil Beds-models cast from actual bones now in possession of universities

Scientists have theorized that this area of the U.S.at the time of these mammals resembled the area we know as the Serengeti Plains of Africa. Volcanic ash had created grass-covered plains with sporadic watering holes. These mammals died during a period of drought when the hordes of animals devoured all vegetation near the watering hole and could no longer find enough food close to the water. They simply laid down to die and various conditions preserved their bones.

Some of the items given to Mr.Cook from Indians. The stone at lower left belonged to Red Cloud and given to Cook by Red Cloud's daughter.

Some of the items given to Mr.Cook from Indians. The stone at lower left belonged to Red Cloud and given to Cook by Red Cloud’s daughter.

The fossil beds were located on the ranch of James and Kate Cook named Agate Springs Ranch. Cook had an interesting background of his own. He was an Army scout,hunter, frontiersman before taking up ranching and was well-respected by the local Indians. Cook was so respected that he received hundreds of gifts from Indians; some of those Indians lived hundreds of miles away. The monument has a special exhibit of many of those gifts.

We had the opportunity to walk to the location of the fossil dig and while it was good exercise (2.5 miles and uphill), what we saw was not particularly illuminating. The displays in the visitors center would have been fine just by themselves.

Pollution in Nebraska and two UP engines waiting for their turn to move out

Pollution in Nebraska and two UP engines waiting for their turn to move out

As we descended the hills going back to Scottsbluff, the high plains area is very quiet and unassumingly scenic. The hills and valleys combine with flat grasslands scattered with cattle grazing and cattle feedlots. But even as you watch trains moving along the tracks (which I enjoy doing), you have to be aware that these are coal trains feeding the hunger of coal-fired power plants. As we drove along the highways, we passed one coal plant where you could see the exhaust plume of dark smoke stretching miles from the plant stacks.

Overall, this chance to catch up on history of our country has been enjoyable and educational. The next few days at Rocky Mountain National Park will be primarily enjoyment before we return to visiting more National Park units in South Dakota.

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

2016 Trip Eight, Rocky Mountains, Sept. 28-29

Scottsbluff, NE. Thursday Sept. 29

Sun rise over a back water of the Platte River near the Archway in Kearney NE

Sun rise over a back water of the Platte River near the Archway in Kearney NE

This trip is to spend five nights in Rocky Mountain National Park with my two sisters and a brother-in-law. Of course, we are spending several days to drive to Rocky Mountain National Park and then a week to drive home. Wednesday the 28th we left St. Paul and began the journey by driving to Grand Island, NE. The route went through southern MN, a fertile agricultural area with generally level plains to gently rolling land. The northern and central plains of Iowa are either flat or rolling hills. As you move to the west-central portion of Iowa, the gentle hills are a major source of wind power, with wind turbines as far as the eye can see. I am sure you have all seen them, each blade is 148 feet tall and weighs over 20,000 pounds. We passed, carefully, several oversize truck-trailer combinations on I-80 carrying turbine blades to make another wind turbine somewhere in the area.

Flat land in the center with the start of hills on top and grazing cattle at the bottom

Flat land in the center with the start of hills on top and grazing cattle at the bottom

As we drove into Nebraska, the land became flatter, more like central Illinois. In areas, we saw evidence of oak savannas, prairie like land with sporadic clumps of deciduous trees. We zipped through Omaha and Lincoln. In 2017, we hope to make a winter/spring journey to Kearney/Grand Island, NE; two towns along the Platte River where cranes, particularly sandhill cranes, roost as they begin their spring migration back to the north. Hundreds of thousands of cranes gather here, with their overwhelming raucous cries an experience to be seen and heard as a once in a lifetime occurrence. We expect in 2017 that we will be able to enjoy this region more fully.

Thursday morning we left Grand Island, back on I-80. At Kearney, we did stop to visit “The Archway”, an arch constructed over the freeway and next to the Platte River. Inside are displays about the pioneer experience; recognize that Nebraska’s early history was dominated by the march of Easterners trudging west. The Oregon trail, the California trail, the Mormon trail, the transcontinental railroad, all were formative in the development of the state. Unfortunately we were here at the archway too early to see the displays. Ah, well, the site was worth viewing anyway.

Hillside with ruts from settlers' wagons

Hillside with ruts from settlers’ wagons

Further west, the flat lands start to rise both in sporadic hills and then the plains start to rise as they get closer to the Rocky Mountains. Along the route, we visited a minor site showing an early settler route where ruts created by the settlers’ downhill wagons can still be seen.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock

Our first real stop was at Chimney Rock, a combined National Historic site and Nebraska state historic site. As pioneers trudged (yes,most of them walked all the way to their new homes in the West) through Nebraska, Chimney Rock was an unusual promontory that stood out 325 feet above the plains, not far from the North Platte River. From the review of numerous journals kept by settlers, Chimney Rock was the most mentioned landmark. The land consisting of the Rock was donated to the state of Nebraska; the grazing land around the Rock is still privately owned.

Scotts Bluff on right, Mitchell pass at center

Scotts Bluff on right, Mitchell pass at center

Our second stop was at another “westward ho” landmark, Scotts Bluff National Monument. The North Platte River Valley has been an important pathway for Indians, fur traders, and settlers. (Scotts Bluff gets its name from a fur trapper, who became ill, and was left by his companions next to these bluffs to die-which he did.) The river valley was a guiding light and source of water and grass to feed the settlers’ animals. But when they reached this point, the 800 foot bluffs block the path. Ravines and rugged topography blocked the way through the nearby Mitchell Pass and along the river banks. Settlers either forded the river or went miles south of the bluffs.

Scotts Bluff was well documented in writers’ logs and letters back home. It was also the subject of an artist named William Henry Jackson. Jackson was an early photographer of the Hayden explorations of Yellowstone and his pictures proved to a doubtful public that the grandiose comments about Yellowstone were truly accurate. Later in his career, he took up painting, usually the scenes he had observed out West. Scotts Bluff NM has a display of Jackson’s work in their gallery.

We drove to the top of Scotts Bluff, made possible by a road and three tunnels constructed in 1937, which stands at 4,659 feet above sea level. Several trails wind along the top. The view is great, demonstrating the prairies leading to this part of Nebraska, the rocky ridges and difficult terrain through Mitchell Pass, and the North Platte River running through the valley.

Looking west from the top of Scotts Bluff, North Platte River at right edge center

Looking west from the top of Scotts Bluff, North Platte River at right edge center

The river is central to this region as we learned when we visited the Legacy of the Plains museum close to the National Monument. Early settlers had difficulty growing crops due to the deep prairie grass roots and arid climate. Teddy Roosevelt signed legislation establishing the Platte River Project. This project began a series of dams, reservoirs and irrigation channels that allowed a larger and steadier supply of water for irrigation of farmland. Nowadays, the western Nebraska plains are great sources of wheat, millet, soybeans, sugar beets, corn, and potatoes. Farmers here practice both irrigated agriculture and dry farming. Dry farming is a process wrapped around crops and practices that enhance agriculture without overusing water resources.

We had lunch today at Runza’s, a local fast food chain. We hesitated at first becuase one of their signs was promoting a combination of chili and cinnamon buns. We put that aside and had their signature sandwich, a classic Runza that is similar to a pierogie or a pasty from the U.P. Very tasty.

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept. 22-23

George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes Indiana

George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes Indiana

Madison, WI Friday Sept. 23

I was wrong. Hard to believe I know, but still it happened. However, that is a Friday story and I am starting on Thursday. We left Chillicothe and drove US 50 to Cincinnati through south central Ohio. This is a rural area and on a two lane road we observed a constant stream of Trump signs. Whether this represents the thoughts of most residents in the area or only a most active political sign planting team, I can not say. I only report what we saw.

William Howard Taft house

William Howard Taft house

Our destination in Cincinnati was only one locale, not the entire city. We visited the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. Taft was our 27th President from 1909 to 1913 and the only U.S. President to also be the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1921-1930. Sometimes Taft is best known, unfortunately, for his size, weighing as much as 350 pounds. The Taft family started in Vermont and the father, Alphonse, came to Cincinnati to practice law. Alphonse had his own highly successful political career, serving as US Attorney General and Secretary of War. He was appointed Minister to Austria-Hungary and Imperial Russia. Alphonse and his two wives (Fanny who died and Louisa) began a political dynasty in Ohio, with descendants still prominently active today.

William Howard Taft was born in 1857 and through luck, hard work, good education, family influence, and the ambition he and his wife brought to his life propelled him into successful political endeavors from an early age. He was ethical and of high integrity. He brought about good results in positions as dissimilar as collector of revenue, U.S. Solicitor General, Secretary of War, Head of Panama Canal Commission, and Governor of the Philipines. Taft was not an active candidate for President but was Teddy Roosevelt’s Vice President and when Roosevelt did not seek a third term, Taft was selected.

A "what not" cabinet in the Taft house

A “what not” cabinet in the Taft house

Unfortunately for Taft, he was less successful as President-as he agreed. He had no real power base to work with a fractured Congress. He did not enjoy the give and take of legislation making and was not decisive. Not to say that his four years were worthless; he got the first income tax adopted and was aggressive in challenging monopolies by instituting numerous anti-trust suits and federal oversight of the powerful railroads.

He ran for a second term but a three-way race against Roosevelt and Wilson gave the victory to Woodrow Wilson. His post-Presidential years were active but the highlight was his time as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He relished the law and this position, one that had been a long-held goal. He is recognized for an excellent job as Chief Justice; stream-lining the court, reducing the backlog, obtaining the right for the Court to select which cases it reviewed, and the building of the first, and current, Supreme Court building. He died in 1930.

The NPS site covers Taft but also delves into the other Tafts and the service they performed to Cincinnati and to Ohio. This is the house where Taft grew up and while they moved away, it makes for a good exhibit display area. The furnishings are sparse since the house had been sold and was close to being demolished before being renovated. The Taft family includes two U.S. Senators and one Ohio Governor. One member served on Cincinnati city council. One couple collected art and gave their collection to the city and it is now the Taft Museum of Art. And the list could go on.

As we left, Chris said the family struck her as an early Midwestern equivalent of the Kennedy’s; committed to public service and philanthropy.

Traveling along one of our back roads. No Interstate highway here.

Traveling along one of our back roads. No Interstate highway here.

Our afternoon Thursday was spent driving US 50 again. The early portion was along the Ohio River in Cincinnati’s industrial river heritage area. Barge and rail terminal and facilities were prominent. We crossed into Indiana and drove through small towns without notable features. Agriculture was the predominant industry. We saw road signs to be watchful for Amish buggies but did not see any. Evidently this portion of Indiana had been heavily forested when the first European settlers arrived. They cut down the trees and started planting crops. Unlike portions of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin that has also been forested, the soil under the Indiana forests was excellent for growing crops. We arrived in Vincennes Indiana at dinner time, ready to explore Friday morning.

Inside the George Rogers Clark Memorial

Inside the George Rogers Clark Memorial

So, Friday our first visit was to the National Historical Park of George Rogers Clark. As we entered, the first visitors of the day, the Ranger on duty asked us if we knew anything about Clark. We both nodded yes, of course, he was the guy that went exploring out west, you know, Lewis and Clark. Wrong! George Rogers Clark was the older brother of that other Clark, William Clark. Oops. So why then did this site have a huge memorial to some guy we did not know? I mean, the memorial is 80 feet high and 180 feet across. It has granite from Vermont, Minnesota and Alabama; marble from Italy, France, and Tenessee; limestone from Indiana; and seven murals 16 feet by 28 feet. In short, this guy was responsible for the new United States gaining all of the area north of the Ohio River during the peace settlement of 1883. This Northwest Territory became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and the very eastern portion of Minnesota. Whew!

The NPS site had an excellent video supplemented with additional information from a knowledgeable and helpful Ranger. She provided us with background material before the video and answered our numerous questions. Hopefully I can give a concise summary without missing too many nuances.

To set the stage, the year is 1778. The Revolutionary War is underway and the Brisith pretty much hold the western frontier and Canada. American settlers have ignored the British King’s command and have started to settle west of the Appalachian Mountains, primarily into Kentucky (then part of Virginia). The British have few troops though and rely on American Indians to raid and kill Americans in the Kentucky region. The British paid the Indians for scalps brought back. 1777 is a particularly difficult for the settlers, with increasing raids and deaths.

George Rogers Clark was a Kentucky military leader who persuaded the Virginia Governor, Patrick Henry, to allow Clark to recruit volunteers and go on the offensive against the British. A small band of volunteers signed up and Clark lead them down the Ohio. Their eventual objective was Fort Detroit via three settlements/forts at Vincennes IN, and Cahokia and Kaskaskia IL. Through diplomacy, surprise, bluff and assistance from others (remember this is a concise summary), all three settlements land in the hands of Clark and his men. British commander Henry Hamilton heard of Clark’s work, marched down from Fort Detroit with his troops and Indian allies, and was able to recapture Vincennes (Fort Sackville) in late December. It was now winter and Hamilton sent home many of his Indian troops and French militia who had stayed in the New World and went to work for the British.

Clark heard of the reduction in troops at Fort Sackville and began a 180 mile march from Kaskaskia to Vincennes in February 1779. That winter, the land was flooded and rivers were now lakes. Clark and his volunteers made a march through water ranging in height from the tops of their boots to their necks. It took them 2.5 weeks and they went without food for the last several days. They arrived at Vincennes and surprised the fort, ending with its surrender.

While Clark was unable to follow up and attack Fort Detroit, the victory at Fort Sackville led to its inclusion in the United States in the peace negotiations. It took until the War of 1812 to completely consolidate the land under formal U.S.control as the British continued to be involved in the area from their base in Canada.

The memorial was dedicated in 1936 and made a part of the National Park Service in 1966.

After our visit was over, we drove a short ways to the Red Skelton Museum at Vincennes University. I know, younger people are asking: Who is Red Skelton? First off, he was born in Vincennes. Second, he was a famous comedian who started in circus acts in the 1930s. He advanced to having his own radio show, then went into movies during WWII. From 1951 to 1971 he had his own weekly TV comedy show.

In the Red Skelton Museum

In the Red Skelton Museum

It may be hard for younger people to realize the impact and universality Red Skelton had. In the 1930s and 1940s, families were lucky to have one radio. There were not many stations available. A show like Red Skelton’s would bring the whole family together to gather to listen to the show. Thus, basically the whole country listened to him. TV was the same. THere were only three major TV channels and TV shows were heard by everyone. Unlike now, with multiple TV, radio, video, Internet options available, there is no universal experience that draws people together. Red Skelton, and others like him, created a common bond. During the Depression and WWII, a comedy show drew a huge audience and allowed Americans to have a moment of lightness.

That is about the summary of this trip. We drove Friday afternoon to Madison WI and should arrive home by noon on Saturday. However, we are back on the road in a few days as we head out to the Rocky Mountains.

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept. 20-21

Chillicothe, OH Sept. 21

Driving through western Maryland's Sideling Hill

Driving through western Maryland’s Sideling Hill

We left the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts Tuesday morning. Our destination Tuesday night was Morgantown, WV. This part of the country was old hat for us; we lived in PA for 30 years and we drove the roads between Carlisle PA and towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts for years, visiting various family. Our biggest decision was which of many optional roads to take. We went with quick, basically driving the New York Thruway, then through northwestern New Jersey to Carlisle and over to Morgantown via I-70 and I-68. Generally scenic, generally busy with cars and trucks until western Maryland and into West Virginia. Fall colors have not really started yet; we had not expected them but timing is always uncertain.

I find town history interesting and would not mind taking more time to discover how specific towns began and evolved. We did not have time to really do that in Morgantown. We were struck by how the mountainous area has shaped the road network and guaranteed heavy traffic. One needs to build roads on the lower levels with a few connector routes that traverse the mountains. This forces everyone to use just several main roads; creating very busy roads in a town of only 30,000 people. The only businesses we noted were the University of West Virgina and medical centers. However, we were talking to a management person at Applebee’s Tuesday night and he mentioned that Morgantown is the home of Mylan Corporation, the maker of Epipen, that has been in the news lately with accusations of price-gouging.

Today, Wednesday we began with a tour of Friendship Hill National Historic Site in Point Marion, PA. This is just over the West Virginia border into Pennsylvania. Friendship Hill was the home of Albert Gallatin. Little known now, Gallatin was important in the post revolutionary time, serving as ambassador to France and England as well as a long time secretary of the treasury. In fact, when Louis and Clark discovered the three rivers that come together to form the Missouri, they named them after George Washington, James Madison, and Albert Gallatin. There are also towns and forests named after him.

Friendship Hill home of Albert Gallatin

Friendship Hill home of Albert Gallatin

Gallatin placed his home high on the bank above the Monongahela River. He had hoped to create a thriving community and industrial powerhouse there. It did not work although coal was mined in the area across the river from his home. However, the home became a pleasant retreat for the family among his many trips to Washington, New York, and Europe. After his death in the 1830s, the house was sold several times and eventually fell into disrepair. In the 1970s, an arsonist almost destroyed the home. Nowadays, it has been preserved and reconstructed.

Gallatin was orphaned early and raised by his grandmother in Geneva Switzerland. He left a fortune in Switzerland to explore liberty and freedom in United States. In the United States, he tried many professions such as surveying, teaching, land speculation, glass factory owner, and others. He got his start in politics in the early structuring of the Pennsylvania constitution and then as a state representative. Here, and in the United States Congress, his specialty was finance. He became a constant opponent of Alexander Hamilton, another early financial specialist in the US government.

The whiskey rebellion in 1794 was an attempt by western Pennsylvania settlers against a tax levied on whiskey that had been promoted by Alexander Hamilton. Gallatin’s diplomatic skills allowed him to defuse the situation and avoid a civil war.

In Congress, Gallatin led the fight for the selection of Jefferson as president over Aaron Burr. He then became the Secretary of the Treasury. He served in this position from 1801 to 1814, helping to reduce the debt accumulated during the Revolutionary War and paying for the Louisiana Purchase. Gallatin also served as American Minister to France for seven years, American ambassador to Great Britain for two years, and then retired to New York City. In New York City he helped found the University of the City of New York, and was an early president of the New York Historical Society. He also began the studies of American Indian languages which brought him the title of the father of American ethnology. We had not remembered any of this prior to our visit.

Our next stop on Wednesday was Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Ohio. Today we took primarily back roads. The day was warm and clear and we drove up and down the mountains of West Virginia through Fairmount, Parkersburg, and Clarksburg which had numerous new buildings along the roads. As we entered into Ohio primarily on US 50, the hills started to lessen. We had not driven this stretch of southern Ohio previously. Chillicothe was a larger community than we expected, with paper manufacturing facilities and two correctional facilities.

Chris at one of the mounds at Hopewell Culture

Chris at one of the mounds at Hopewell Culture

Hopewell Culture became a NPS site in 1923 and preserves five separate sites that include numerous mounds and embankments from the Hopewell people who inhabited this area from about 2200 to 1500 years ago. The mounds and people predate the American Indians who were here when European settlers arrived. These mounds predate the mounds further west, at Effigy Mounds in Iowa, Ocmulgee in Georgia, and Cahokia Mounds in Illinois.

Several of the mounds at the Mound Group at Hopewell Culture

Several of the mounds at the Mound Group at Hopewell Culture

The mounds and embankments that encircle them are scattered over tens of miles. There is a symmetry in size between the mounds (circular and square) and placement between them and surrounding embankments. There are connections to solar and astronomical observations. Obviously exact information about this culture is not known. Best estimates are that the people lived in very small villages, one to three houses, and that they came together to construct the mounds. Massive organization would have been necessary for numerous small groups to combine efforts on tasks that involved massive earth moving operations, the construction of ceremonial buildings where the mounds stood, and the similarity of design size and layout across a broad geographic region.

The mounds were initially mapped and explored in 1846. THey were not preserved until the 1920s. By that time, farming and other land development had obliterated or leveled out most of the sites. Current earth imaging technology as well as archeological efforts have been combined with the 1846 survey to better understand the mounds. We walked around the Mound City Group area, which has two dozen mounds within an embankment.

The Greenhouse B & B in Chillicothe, OH

The Greenhouse B & B in Chillicothe, OH

Our lodging was at The Greenhouse Bed and Breakfast, a B & B that will be closing down in the next months. Tom and Dee Shumaker have been running this for 27 years. The home was built in 1894 and they have filled it with an amazing, eclectic assortment of collectibles. Egg measuring scales, toy planes, dishes, enamelware, dolls, pottery, etc. are found here. In the attic, they have 13 artificial Christmas trees and all go up at Christmas.

Some of the collectibles at The Greenhouse

Some of the collectibles at The Greenhouse

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept 18-19

Hancock, MA. Sept. 19

The Big Round Barn at Hancock Shaker Village

The Big Round Barn at Hancock Shaker Village

“Hands to work, hearts to God”. This was one of the more famous sayings of the Shakers, a small religious movement in the 1800s and 1900s. Numbering less than 7000 souls at its peak, the Shakers were more formally titled The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming and began in England. The Shakers were celibate and believed in pacifism and equality of the sexes. There were about 18 Shaker communities in the United States and were well-known for the quality of their furniture and textiles. Unlike the Amish, the Shakers embraced new technology and methods of production. The Shakers practiced a form of worship that included singing and vibrant dancing, frequently making the floors of the worship room shake; hence the term “Shakers”.

An example of Shaker furniture

An example of Shaker furniture

There is only one active Shaker community in the U.S.now, in Maine. Today, Monday the 19th, we visited a restored 750 acre Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts. This locale did have as many as 300 residents at its peak in the early 1900s. They farmed, grew and sold seeds and farm produce, and manufactured wood furniture. The community closed down in 1960 and the village is maintained by a local non-profit educational organization.

The round stone barn on the property was notable for several reasons. At the time, it was likely the largest barn in New England. The round shape facilitated a unique dairying process, with hay stored in the center (which also provided heat in the winter), a basement level that allowed manure to be easily gathered and removed from the barn, and a second level that allowed hay wagons to drive in and unload (and to store hay on wagons when it was raining outside). The cows were attached to stanchions and easily milked by a person moving onto usually along the circular path. The Shakers believed in straight lines so the construction of a round barn needed special approval from the elders to be built.

Brick house residence for Shakers

Brick house residence for Shakers

The Shakers seemed to embrace their lifestyle. Music was a part of their daily life, with songs for play and for differing forms of work. They were proud of the work they did, it was essential but it was also an opportunity to demonstrate quality and workmanship. Yet, they were humble, not allowing anyone to get a big head, and kept the products basic but well-made.

Yesterday, Sunday, our major touring event was a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum 30 miles south of Hancock in Stockbridge, MA. Sunday started easy with breakfast at the unit and then the four of us went to church in Pittsfield. We had brunch at the restaurant “Eat on North”, part of the “Hotel on North”. Hotel on North is in an old furniture and retail store in downtown Pittsfield that has been beautifully restored and has been open for about two years. Between the four, we had three different brunch entrees and all were excellent.

Norman Rockwell was an American icon to my generation and those earlier. Born in 1894, he began a career as an illustrator while still in his teens. His first regular job was as the art director for Boy’s Life, the magazine for the Boy Scouts. By age 22, he had sold his first illustrations for the “Saturday Evening Post”. (Brief history may be needed for some. The Saturday Evening Post was a national weekly magazine that for decades was one of three magazines (Life, Look and Post) that set the standards and the news for Americans. Having your art work on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post was big, big stuff. Over his career, Rockwell illustrated 321 covers for the Post.

Rockwell started his career primarily drawing young people, an outgrowth of this work with Boy’s Life. His work usually reflected small-town American life. A perfectionist in his work, Rockwell drew numerous sketches, hired live models, and used photographs of the pose and details he wanted to include in this final illustration. The painting below demonstrates some of his attention to detail. Note some items that indicate the marriage license was being taken out late Friday afternoon: the quantity of discarded cigarette butts, the calendar with today’s page already being torn off in favor of tomorrow-Saturday, and the U.S. flag has been taken down for the day.

The Marriage License by Norman Rockwell

The Marriage License by Norman Rockwell

During WWII, Rockwell did a series of four paintings that portrayed Franklin Roosevelt’s 1940 State of the Union speech listing the four freedoms all citizens of the world should be able to enjoy: the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from fear, and the freedom from want. It took Rockwell two years to get the paintings done the way he wanted them. The U.S. Treasury took the four paintings on tour around the country and they helped raise $130,000,000 in war bonds.

The Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell

The Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell

The Post was a controlling organization. For instance, Rockwell and other illustrators were not allowed to show African-Americans in other than service level jobs. In 1963, he left the Post and began putting his illustrations in Look magazine. During his Look period, his work more broadly reflect America and its problems of the day. During his career, he drew illustrations for commercial ventures like Coke and Pepsi, playing cards and calendars for Brown and Bigelow, paintings of famous people like Eisenhower and Kennedy as well as illustrations for books.

The studio where Rockwell did much of his later work

The studio where Rockwell did much of his later work

Rockwell died in 1978, living the last 25 years of his life in Stockbridge. Serous art critics downplayed his work as simplistic but recently his work has been more highly regarded. Whether art critics are listened to or not, the people of America call him one of their own. The museum does an excellent job of showing and describing a selection of his original work. Included on the grounds is the studio where he worked during the latter years of his life.

Chris, Rebecca and Deb and the board game Alhambra

Chris, Rebecca and Deb and the board game Alhambra

The evening finished up with Deb, Rebecca, Chris and Ed playing a board game. Deb won but we continued it Monday morning and ended with everyone winning but Ed.

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept. 16-17

Hancock, MA. Sept. 18

Friday dawned clear and warm and Chris and I had a few hours before Deb and Rebecca arrived from Boston. We drove to North Adams. Like many New England towns, North Adams was a manufacturing center, helped by water power. By the 1980s, the last large employer had left town, leaving a major manufacturing site vacant. Through the efforts of many, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMOCA) opened on its grounds and is a major attraction. However, we did not go to see it. The museum was hosting a major Blue Grass Festival and our goal was the Western Gateway Heritage State Park.

This park in the city of North Adams was previously a railroad yard. The primary exhibit relates to the building of the Hoosac Tunnel. This 4.75 mile long tunnel was to be Boston’s answer to shipping goods to the Midwest. The Erie Canal was making New York a better port. Boston wanted to build a railroad to Troy NY but the Hoosac Mountains stood in the way. A five-mile barrier, made of hard rock, it took from 1851 to 1875 to complete the tunnel. It was a landmark feat in the use of hard rock tunneling.

One major difficulty was the skill needed to make sure that the two tunnel shafts being built, one on the east and one on the west, met precisely when they joined somewhere in the middle of the tunnel. The engineers set up a series of transits that aligned with scoping towers outside the work area and then lined up those with internal test marks as the work progressed.

Second, the rock was composed of schist and granite quartz that resisted drilling and blasting. A newer version of nitroglycerin and new drilling machines were used, but even those improvements still made for a long, slow slog. The state of Massachusetts provided funding but the project defaulted on the bonds. Owners of a southern Massachusetts railroad succeeded in stopping more funding. Defaulting on the bonds led to the state assuming responsibility for its eventual completion. At one time, this project assumed the majority of all the indebtedness of the state of Massachusetts.

The tunnel was completed successfully and is still in operation today. When first completed, 100 trains per day went through the tunnel. Today less than 15 trains per day go through the Hoosac Tunnel. The construction methods used and advanced here led to improvements used in later tunnel building. Towns in northern Massachusetts experienced growth spurts and the tunnel, by carrying 60% of the goods exported through the port of Boston, enhanced the Boston port’s viability. Unfortunately, the tunnel’s western entrance is deep in the forests and not readily accessible for viewing.

Chris and docent at North Adams Historical Society

Chris and docent at North Adams Historical Society

The North Adams Historical Society has a museum next to the state park and the docent was most helpful. He provided us with a narration about the model railroad he constructed for the historical society. Lunch was at a pub in the old railroad yards and dinner at a local restaurant just down the hill from the Wyndham Bentley Brook. Dessert was strawberry shortcake back in the unit.

Plane crash debris on Rounds Rock Trail on Mount Greylock

Plane crash debris on Rounds Rock Trail on Mount Greylock

Saturday got off to a relaxing start and then the four of us went to Mount Greylock. Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet. After a stop at the visitor center, we hiked Rounds Rock trail. The trail led to two overlooks and one site of a crashed plane. The plane crash occurred in 1948 as a twin-engine Cessna used to deliver late editions of the New York Daily Mirror to Albany. The crash site was in rugged territory and not found for four months.

Panoramic view from Mount Greylock

Panoramic view from Mount Greylock

The summit of Mount Greylock is reachable by car. The monument at the top is currently under construction but we were still able to enjoy the view that the summit provides of the surrounding states. There were probably 30-40 people lounging on the grass and enjoying the weather and the views. Bascom Lodge at the summit provides meals and lodging. We tested out their lunch menu and were satisfied.

The four of us on the Alpine Slide at Jiminy Peak

The four of us on the Alpine Slide at Jiminy Peak

After resting back at Bentley Brook, we spent 2.5 hours at the ski resort, Jiminy Peak. During the summer season, Jiminy Peak offers a summer adventure park with zip lines, elevated rope climbing courses, mountain slides on a rail or a luge type course, etc. Even Chris participated and enjoyed it. All four of us rode the chairlift close to the top of the mountain and rode the sleds down. Since you can set your own speed, Deb was usually the fastest. Chris and Rebecca tended to bring up the rear; I think Chris had a few sledders backed up behind her.

Deb climbing the aerial ropes

Deb climbing the aerial ropes

Deb climbing the aerial ropes

Deb climbing the aerial ropes

The ropes course in the air was a new event for us. Chris volunteered to take photos while the three of us tackled the course-the basic version. We got our harnesses on, had a very brief training session and were set loose. A participant has two carabiners that attach to the safety ropes; I of course took the longest to figure out how to attach them correctly. One time the two eight year olds behind us helped me. Another time I had to have one of the staff climb up and show me how to do it properly. But, by the end, it was working fine. We were glad we took the easiest course and the one closest to the ground for our first time. We only did the one; the alpine slides were more fun and easier to do so they were repeated several times.

Deb and Chris on the Soaring Eagle

Deb and Chris on the Soaring Eagle

Ed on the not-so-tall zip line on basic course

Ed on the not-so-tall zip line on basic course

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept. 14-15

Hancock, MA Friday Sept. 16

Generally when traveling, I try to write this post daily at the end of each day. Sometimes, when too tired or when maybe there has not been much to write about, the post is done every other day. Every now and then though, the mood just does not strike me, usually because the activities were not all that interesting. The last two days were more in that vein,and if you pass on this post, I will understand.

Not to say that the ride was unpleasant. In fact, we commented frequently on the beauty of green. The mountains and deserts of the western U.S.have a majesty and grandeur but after a while, the rocks get boring. It is pleasant to see lush green land on a regular basis. As we moved into central and eastern Ohio, the land has more depth as hills and low mountains start to predominate. The flat prairies give way to smaller fields and huge vistas of forests. A recent, pleasant addition is the planting of wild flowers along highways which provides even more color and interest.

And the houses are colorful. New suburban developments back home have such a sameness with the earth-tone, neutral colors of beige, sand, gray, etc. seemingly the new standard. Here the homes, particularly in the cities, often are rich and vibrant hues representing the spectrum of the rainbow. Towns have a history; some of them have re-made themselves after their first, or second, economic purpose died out. Other towns are struggling, with downtowns lacking economic purpose and sidewalks devoid of any activity.

One of the lodging options for summer Chautauqua

One of the lodging options for summer Chautauqua

On Wednesday, we left Dayton (after a sumptuous breakfast at the Inn at Brandywine Falls) around 10:30 and drove to Chautauqua, New York. Chautauqua is home to the Chautauqua Institution, a “community that comes alive on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State each summer with a mix of lectures, fine and performing arts, interfaith worship and recreational activities.” Chautauqua started in 1874 as a means to educate Sunday School teachers and has been in almost continuous operation since then. In its early years, it spawned related programs around the country. Today similar functions are run by schools, libraries, public television, TED talks, etc. but without the concentrated effort and social gathering that occur during the weekly summer programs at Chautauqua.

At one point in her career, Chris had run a short summer program at the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul that mimicked Chautauqua and she wanted to observe the original site. There were no programs in operation as we toured the grounds. Chris reviewed the literature; there seemed to be one low-cost option but, in general, attending a week of Chautauqua seems to be a pricey option. For instance, Road Scholar offers a week package for $2,085 per person for six nights and all meals, with additional cost for attendance at Opera or Theater performances.

One of the numerous vineyards in the Finger Lakes region

One of the numerous vineyards in the Finger Lakes region

The drive ended Tuesday night in Seneca Falls. The journey between Chautauqua and Seneca Falls traverses hills and valleys and then enters into the Finger Lakes region. The Finger Lakes area is home to numerous vineyards and wineries, with tasting rooms a continual presence along the back roads. We did not stop at any but did enjoy the views. The whole Finger Lakes region and central New York may be a place we return to in the future. In has been decades since we were last traveling through the area.

We spent the night at the Barrister Bed and Breakfast in Seneca Falls. It is located in the downtown area and we were able to walk to a nice local pub for dinner. Breakfast Wednesday was another three course breakfast. The inn was full so there were ten of us enjoying the meal and sharing travel tips.

Seneca Falls was the model town for Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, now a classic Christmas movie. Seneca Falls is on a connecting canal to the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal was an engineering marvel built in 1817-1825 for 363 miles connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Seaboard. The canal was a major impetus for development of the Mid-West and made New York a prime seaport. The connecting canal to Seneca Falls via Cayuga and Seneca Lakes brought prosperity to Seneca Falls.

The reconstructed church where the First Women's RIghts Conference was held in Senca Falls, New York

The reconstructed church where the First Women’s RIghts Conference was held in Senca Falls, New York

It is also home to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park run by the National Park Service. Several of the homes of the women responsible for the First Women’s Rights Conference in 1848 were not open but the visitor center was open. The church where the first meeting was held has been re-constructed. It was never preserved and only two of the original walls were still standing when reconstruction began.

This NPS site was just so-so. Clean and new and bright but still just so-so. A lot of display boards but not a lot seemed new to us. They tried to make the introductory film relevant to children and, for us, it made the film less interesting. All in all, not the best NPS site we have been to.

Harriet Tubman house in Auburn, New York. Pictures not allowed inside but most furnishings are from Tubman family

Harriet Tubman house in Auburn, New York. Pictures not allowed inside but most furnishings are from Tubman family

After Women’s Rights, we drove twenty miles to Auburn NY, the site of the Harriet Tubman National Park. Technically, while President Obama signed this legislation in December of 2014, not all of the paperwork has been signed yet. When the paperwork is completed, her home, the home for the aging she established here, and the AME Zion church where she worshipped and which supported her efforts will become part of the park. Pictures are not allowed inside the home but many of the furnishings are from the Tubman family.

In case you are out of touch, Harriet Tubman was born a slave in 1822 in Maryland. She gained her freedom in 1849 by escaping to the North. Over the next ten years, she helped numerous other slaves escape to the North through use of the Underground Railroad and her sense of direction. She assisted the Union Army during the Civil War through roles as nurse, spy, scout, and hospital cook. Just before the Civil War, former Secretary of State William Seward, who lived in Auburn, sold her a home and property for a nominal sum-which was illegal at the time. After the war, she gained additional land and ran a home for the poor aged of the community. She died in 1913 and was buried with full military rites in a local cemetery.

Fort Stanwix, Rome New York

Fort Stanwix, Rome New York

We were not done with the day yet. We continued our drive to the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts through Rome NY. In Rome is the site of Fort Stanwix, another National Park Service site. The fort was declared a national monument in the 1930s, but it wasn’t really until the 1970s that the reconstruction was completed. Part of downtown Rome had to be razed to conduct architectural studies to find the exact location. Frankly, from the “before” pictures, Rome was probably quite happy to have those buildings knocked down. We are not covering the history of Rome itself since that was not a focus of this stop. It probably deserves more attention on a future trip.

Interior of Fort Stanwix

Interior of Fort Stanwix

Fort Stanwix began as a British fort against the French and their Indian allies. When the French and Indian War ended in 1863 with the defeat of the French, the fort fell into disrepair. It was rebuilt by the U.S.rebels to act as a protective outpost in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolutionary War. The unsuccessful siege of Fort Stanwix by the British in 1777, along with the British surrender at Saratoga, protected the middle of the U.S.and led to France and the Netherlands joining the U.S.against the British.

But the fort represents more than a moment in the Revolutionary War. This location served as a trade route for the Native Americans in the area. It was a “carrying point” or portage, from the Mohawk River to Wood Creek. The tribes in this area had resolved their own differences and created a long-lived peace among the tribes (the Six Nation Confederacy), although not necessarily with their Indian neighbors. However, the battles between the French and the British, then the Revolutionary War, and finally the American’s desire for more land drove the various tribes into competing factions and worthless treaties with the new settlers. Their desire for neutrality in these wars was unable to be sustained.

The reconstructed fort is quite well-done and the exhibits substantial. However, I found the timeline and story difficult to keep straight. Possibly being the third NPS stop of the day made us less sharp than usual.

We drove the remaining miles to Hancock, through the Berkshire Mountains, a mountainous highlands with small towns and curvy two lane roads. Our lodging for the next five nights will be the Wyndham Bentley Brook, butting up next to a small ski resort.

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept. 12-13

Northfield OH. Monday-Tuesday Sept. 12-13. (Cuyahoga Valley National Park)

Our car "Gandalf" with the Wright Flyer sculpture in the background

Our car “Gandalf” with the Wright Flyer sculpture in the background

Dayton held our interest for a few extra hours on Monday morning. Instead of a quick exit, we visited the Inventors River Walk, part of the Riverscape Park, and then Carillon Park. Riverscape Park is along the Great Miami River, site of disastrous floods in 1913 that resulted in flood control measures that seem to leave Dayton protected from floods.

Dayton has continued its proud history of inventions beyond the Wright Brothers era. Charles Kettering is from Dayton and, after Thomas Edison, has the most patents approved by the U.S. Patent Office. Some of Kettering’s work includes the first automotive self-starter, the first electric cash register, and automotive lacquer paint. He was the head of research for General Motors and the founder of Delco (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company).

The Inventors Walk is a segment of the Riverwalk with seven sculptures honoring local inventions. Below are four of the seven; you are being challenged to identify the invention with the sculpture. (Answers at the end of the blog for today.) (Remember, touching the picture should blow it up to a larger size for better identification.)

Sculpture A

Sculpture A

Sculpture B

Sculpture B

Sculpture C

Sculpture C

Sculpture D

Sculpture D

Carillon Park is a 65 acre park representing the history of Dayton through restored buildings and displays. We skipped the Dayton specific buildings and headed just to the other NPS site for the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park. This building houses the original Wright Brothers Flyer III that flew from Huffman Prairie and one of only five remaining Van Cleve model bicycles built by Orville and Wilbur Wright.

The actual Wright Flyer III in Carillon Park

The actual Wright Flyer III in Carillon Park

A docent, originally from St.Paul who worked for Deluxe Check company for eons and is now retired and living in Cincinnati, gave us a personalized tour. One of the new stories we heard from him was that Wilbur, Orville, and Katherine Wright (the only sister and just younger than Orville)had made a pact to never marry and to care for each other as they aged. As you know,Wilbur died relatively young. Katherine at age 52 married an old sweetheart and Orville refused to talk to her. At age 54, she contracted pneumonia and, under pressure from a younger brother, Orville finally went to her home in Kansas City as she was dying and was at her bedside when she died at age 54.

After having gotten our fill of the Wright Brothers, we departed for Akron. Akron is home to my cousin Colly and her husband Bob. We spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with them.

Inn at Brandywine Falls

Inn at Brandywine Falls

Our lodging for Monday and Tuesday nights was at the Inn at Brandywine Falls, a bed and breakfast located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is the only B and B in a national park and once was the farm and home of an early settler here next to Brandywine Falls. Like most waterfalls in the early days of settlement, it was used to run mills and provide water for a prosperous farm. The old farm and barn are now a six-room inn, well-appointed and with a sumptuous breakfast.

Since breakfast begins at nine, includes several courses, and is the setting for discussions with guests and innkeepers, our daily adventures started a little later than usual. The innkeepers, Katie and George Hoy, took up the challenge to run this inn after their regular retirement. At 88 and 90, they are vigorous, sharp and protective of the historic aspect of the inn which they restored. They have a fifty year lease on the inn with National Park Service and are only halfway through the lease. The chickens on the grounds provide fresh eggs; the goat, I believe, only provides entertainment.

Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls

The Brandywine Falls are just a three-minute walk away. Tuesday morning I went for a walk to the falls and a mile hike along, up, and down the gorge surrounding the falls. Colors are not turning yet although leaves are falling. It was a pleasant morning for a hike, sunny skies and temps in the 60s. Later in the afternoon, Chris and I went for another, longer walk through the woods when it was warmer but still sunny. A very pleasant inn to stay at. There were numerous people hiking and biking along the paths. One option is to ride your bike and then five days per week there is an excursion train running through the park you can take back to your starting point with your bike.

Our major excursion for the day was a forty minute drive to Mentor Ohio to the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. Garfield was only an active President for less than three months before he was shot. He lingered for 80 days before dying. Even though his term was short, his life was interesting and inspiring. The last President born in a log cabin; his tale is another one of a person born in poverty, educated at a sacrifice by his mother (father died while Garfield was still young), and driven to succeed. He knew six languages, five of them well. He became a prosperous farmer, state legislator, U.S. Congressman, Union General in the Civil War, elected U.S. Senator and then at the Republican Convention in 1880, elected as the Republican candidate for President when none of the leading contenders could muster a majority through 33 ballots. His campaign in 1880 was the first when the candidate actually appeared publicly and talked to ordinary citizens and the press instead of through mouthpieces and newspaper articles. Garfield did not barnstorm the country but people arrived at his home in Mentor and Garfield would come out of the house, talk to them, shake their hands, and even invite them into the house.

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

Garfield was shot by a discontented office seeker on July 2, 1881 and died 80 days later in September. He lingered near death and there has been great speculation that his death could have been prevented if a more knowledgable doctor had attended him. Garfield’s assassin was upset because he had not been given a job. 1880 was still a patronage system for federal job holders and the President was expected to interview and give jobs to the “right” people. Garfield had also fought, and won, a highly political battle against a New York politician, Roscoe Conkling. Conkling wanted to appoint New York office holders, especially for the lucrative customs and port offices. Garfield appointed qualified people not beholden to Conkling.

The Garfield Presidential Library

The Garfield Presidential Library

Garfield’s widow was well provided for because an industrialist, Cyrus Field, began a national subscription for the widow after Garfield’s death. Field had seen the financial problems Lincoln’s widow had after Lincoln’s death. People all over the country contributed generously; Garfield had been well liked and his death stirred their emotions. Lucretia Garfield was provided with a sum equal in today’s dollars to about 8.5 million dollars. She expanded the house and created a library of Garfield’s papers made available to scholars. The family maintained possession of the home until 1936 when it was donated to the Western Reserve Historical Society. Today the Park Service owns and maintains the property. (Minor, quick side note. The Western Reserve stems from the fact that in early days of the U.S.colonies, Connecticut had been given land west of Pennsylvania by King George before anyone really knew the geography of America. This land was called the Western Reserve of Connecticut.)

On our return from Garfield National Historic Site, we stopped at one of the visitor centers for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The “hook” for the park was the Ohio and Erie Canal, a canal was dug by hand. The route was chosen by money and politics (surprise). One of the issues was the geology and geography of the area. In trying to connect the Great Lakes to the Ohio RIver, there is a continental divide about halfway through the state of Ohio necessitating additional sources of water. When that was resolved by the donations of land to have the canal run by or through one’s property, the canal digging began. Prosperity was assured, at least until the railroads changed the economics, for the land owners along the route of the canal.

After the walk mentioned above, it was dinner at a restaurant in the small town of Peninsula OH.

Answers to Sculpture Quiz: A. Pop Top cans invented. B. The metal ice cube tray that released the cubes by pulling a metal lever. C. The electric cash register. D. Lexis-Nexis-the search algorithm using and,or, not, etc.

Ed and Chris

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept. 11

Sunday September 11. Dayton Ohio

There really is a prairie at Huffman Prairie Flying Field

There really is a prairie at Huffman Prairie Flying Field

From the prairie testing fields to outer space, we saw the history of flight today. The National Park Service has several pieces of land that relate to the Wright Brothers. At the Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center by Wright-Patterson Air Force base, the Wright Brothers story continues. The brothers get patent protection and sell their first planes to the US Army.

A catapult was used to get the first planes into the air.

A catapult was used to get the first planes into the air.

Orville and Wilbur make a tour of Europe, demonstrating their plane and become probably the first international celebrities. Adoring crowds greet them in cities where they demonstrate their invention. Air travel had been a hot topic with many other efforts failing. Once skeptical crowds are convinced, they are known world-wide. However, two factors limit their financial success.

First, Wilbur dies in 1912 and while Orville continues, the dynamic synergy is lost. Second, WWI begins in the middle of 1914 and there is a frenzy to develop and improve upon the airplane. While Orville fights to protect the Wright Brothers patents, there is enough other inventive power at work to jump start the aviation industry. Orville sells the Wright airplane company and it later merges with the Curtiss Aviation Company. Orville spends most of the rest of his life as a consultant and inventor.

We drive two miles to Huffman Prairie Flying Field where the actual experimental flights took place. The field sits in a floodplain and the land has never been developed. A re-created hanger is here along with the catapult lifting device; they stand out against the flatness of the field. White flags on 20 foot poles mark the edges of the circular flight pattern used by the Wright brothers. All is quiet, no other visitors are in sight. After watching the films, we can visualize the funny little plane with one person flying around and around the field. Amazing.

A replica of the Wright Flyer III that was sold to the US Army

A replica of the Wright Flyer III that was sold to the US Army

Our next stop was the massive National Museum of the United States Air Force. This complex of four huge hangers is stuffed with planes on the floor and hanging from the ceiling, small video displays, and numerous written explanations of the Air Force involvement in flight from balloon observations during the Civil War to the Space Shuttle. We spend five hours here.

Just a small portion of one of the four hangers

Just a small portion of one of the four hangers

It is impossible to absorb it all. Some of the displays are of test planes; commissioned for research purposes and never put into production. There are timelines of the battles fought in WWI,WWII,Korea and Vietnam. There are personal stories of ordinary airmen and of aces.

Air Force One

Air Force One

The large plane in the middle was nicknamed Valkyrie. It was a test plane and never made it into production.

The large plane in the middle was nicknamed Valkyrie. It was a test plane and never made it into production.

We walked inside a mock-up of the Space Shuttle. We walked through Air Force One, the plane that went into service in 1962, serving eight Presidents. It was the plane that carried the casket of President Kennedy back to DC from Dallas. We walked into cargo and troop transports. We learned that Presidents and First Ladies travel on other, smaller jets besides Air Force One. We learned that Wright Patterson Air Force Base is still a major research facility for aviation. And we learned that five hours of walking is very tiring.

Our Evergreen hosts in Dayton invited us to a picnic dinner held by the Dayton Chapter of Friendship Force, a nonprofit cultural exchange organization that promotes friendship and goodwill through a program of homestay exchanges. It was a pleasant gathering of friendly people and good food and a nice way to bring the day to a close.

Chris and Ed

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

2016 Trip Seven, The Berkshires, Sept. 10

Saturday, September 10. Dayton Ohio

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Clouds and corn were our companions for the drive today. As we looked up, grey clouds in wisps and in huge, piled up thunderclouds kept us commenting on their beauty as we drove through Indiana and Ohio. At eye level, acres of corn were everywhere. You probably remember that corn is native to the Americas and was brand new to the European immigrants. Did you know that corn was originally a tropical plant? It took the native Americans centuries to develop strains of corn that could survive the colder climates of the Midwest. By that time, the corn plant was no longer self seeding but had to be individually planted by the Indians who frequently put fish or other matter in the corn hills along with the seeds as a fertilizer. (The first GMO product in the U.S.?) Also, (at least in MN) less than five percent of the corn planted is used directly for food for humans. The rest is used for animal feed, biofuels, and corn syrup.

Our journey to and from the Berkshires is likely to be heavily populated with ordinary persons who, with extraordinary vision and drive, went on to change the world. From Abe Lincoln the first two days to Orville and Wilbur Wright for the next two. After that, it is the homes of three U.S. Presidents;, women who lead the U.S.in finally adopting voting rights for women; an explorer of the unknown lands bought from the French through the Louisiana Purchase; and a female abolitionist and spy during the U.S. Civil War.

After another driving day, we will be spending two nights in Dayton Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers. Today we only had time for one portion of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park in West Dayton. This location celebrates the time leading up to the two brothers developing the first flying machine; the childhood, early days as printers and bicycle makers, and the years of effort to necessary to begin the era of flight. Dayton at the time of the Wright Brothers was a hotbed of innovation. Dayton had more patents per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.during the time the Wright Brothers were here. The Wright Brothers fit right in.

The bike shop

The bike shop

Wilbur is the elder by four years and it seems the two of them had a spectacular chemistry together. They thought, and tinkered, and argued, each feeding the other ideas and suggestions-even before graduating from high school. They invented machines to fold papers. They built and sold kites. After joining in on the new bicycling craze, they repaired bikes for friends and soon had their own business manufacturing bicycles. They opened a print shop, even building their own printing press. And, they were intrigued by the idea of flight.

In this building, the bike shop was on the ground floor and printing office on the second.

In this building, the bike shop was on the ground floor and printing office on the second.

Never having gone to college, their work and play with bicycles and kites and printing presses gave them knowledges that stood them in good stead as they built a plane. Bicycle chains were involved in manipulating rudders and wings. Kite flying and bird watching helped understand lift. By not having a college education, they avoided relying on the assumptions then prevalent with other flight inventors. Through methodical note-taking and experimentation, they were able to make minor adjustments and understand the effect (positive or negative) each adjustment had on the finished product. They had determination, vision-and each other.

Their work with gliders was the first step,taking models to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to test it and making modification. They came back from those succesful tests at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and spent the next two years making a glider into an airplane. By 1905, hundreds of test flights produced a fragile craft of wood and fabric that could fly for 40 minutes, making frequent turns and landing softly. It transformed the world. Then they took two years to file patents and get ready to turn invention into manufacturing. That story comes tomorrow.

A replica of the Wright Flyer in the museum

A replica of the Wright Flyer in the museum

Chris and Ed

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.