Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Going to the Lake in Ohio

We spent two nights at East Harbor State Park on the Marblehead Peninsula extending north from the mainland of Ohio into Lake Erie. I didn't realize that this area was such a tourist destination. The road around the peninsula was lined with cabins, condos and RV parks. We drove through Marblehead, a neat little village with lots of ice cream and fudge outlets, as well as restaurants and small shops. Our destination was the Marblehead Lighthouse.

Built in 1822, the lighthouse was constructed of native limestone on the tip of the peninsula. Through the years, 15 lighthouse keepers have tended the beacon--two were women. The first keeper was Benajah Wolcott, a Revolutionary War veteran. First lit by whale oil and later kerosene, the light was electrified in 1923. It still serves as a warning to ships on the lake. Nearby Sandusky and Toledo, as well as the limestone quarries on the peninsula, attract commercial shipping vessels even today.

After viewing the lighthouse, we spotted this baby skunk in the rocks at the edge of the peninsula. We later saw three young skunks feeding nearby. Thankfully, they haven't learned to be afraid of humans and cameras.

Before returning to our trailer, we went shopping at Walmart. There is obviously an Amish community nearby. We saw Amish women inside, shopping for food and other supplies. These Amish young people were waiting outside.

Our state park wasn't full, by any means. But there were lots of families with children and lots of tent campers. Just down from our space there was a family with three generations of campers in one large tent. Right next to it they had set up a cooking shelter with screen sides to keep the bugs at bay. The sites don't have water hookups, so they were using a large bucket to collect their water. Their biggest convenience was an apartment size refrigerator, as well as a smaller refrigerator that held bottles of water, and possibly soft drinks. We have seen RVers with small freezers before, but never full-blown refrigerators in a tent site. The family was staying at least two weeks, maybe longer, since we don't know when they arrived.

In another loop, we saw this campsite.

At first we thought maybe they were having repairs done inside. But when we realized there was no furniture on the lawn, we decided it was just a very junky campsite. Why did the campground allow it? Maybe that explains why the restrooms were in the condition they were.

As this sign warned, there were lots of children there. At one camp site across the road from ours, we counted 15 bicycles! The children were flying here and there, through empty campsites and up and down the rows. But they were quiet. Here is one of the many families out biking. The park has lots of great trails.

Because the sites had only electric hookups, the ever reliable blue-boy tank was visible all around the campground.

In the campground maintenance yard we saw this boat. What do you suppose it gobbles up in those huge jaws?

About 18,000 years ago glaciers in the then-current ice age scooped out the basins for the Great Lakes. Grooves cut by those glaciers are visible in the area, including in East Harbor State Park. This is a shot of some of those grooves.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Camping

Since we left Casa Grande Ruins on April 6, we have stayed in 25 campgrounds in 15 states, plus one parking lot in New York. The campgrounds are all over the map. In late April I wrote about Potters Creek Corps of Engineers campground in Texas, saying how much we loved it--large sites, good electric hookup, quiet, in touch with nature.

Not all campgrounds have those attributes. In the past nearly three months we have had only one site where the neighbors were noisy at night and interfered with our sleep. And they were a group of middle-aged women! Now we are finding the campgrounds filled with children and people building campfires in the evening. Yuk. We hate the smell of smoke and prefer to be surrounded by old fogies like ourselves if we have to be among a lot of people. I like to sleep with a window next to my bed open at night. The only things that prevent that are bright lights shining in my eyes and campfire smoke. However, these families and children have all been quiet at my bedtime.

To escape campfires, we have to seek out city campgrounds or areas with fire bans. If we work during the summer months, we don't have to deal with families and children. But we do like traveling sometimes and in many parts of the country that means we have to be out in the summer.

So what is really important? Strong, reliable electricity so we know our appliances won't be damaged by low voltage; 50-amp hookups, if possible; sites large enough to open our awning if we want; quiet neighbors; and, finally, clean restrooms. We don't use them a lot, but when we do, we want to find them clean.

It is great to see children riding their bikes and enjoying camping. But unless they are our grandchildren, we would rather be somewhere with less activity. We do remember that only adults have caused a noise problem. It really is our problem, not the other people's. If they would just stop building campfires!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Adirondacks

I love seeing Adirondack chairs. This is my favorite picture of them, taken in Nova Scotia as we drove the Cabot trail.

We spent five nights in Adirondack Park at Lake George and these were the only Adirondack chairs I saw. They're OK, but not really picturesque.

The Adirondack Park is a publicly-protected area located in northeast New York. It is the largest park and the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States, and the largest National Historic Landmark. The park covers some 6.1 million acres (9,400 mi²/24,700 km²), a land area about the size of Vermont, or of the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks combined.

We have seen a lot of Civil War sites in the past month. When we moved to northern (do they call it Upstate?) New York, we entered the world of the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.

One day we drove north along Lake George, which links Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River to the Hudson River, towardFort Ticonderoga. Along the way we saw these neat sailboats.

Fort Ticonderoga was called Fort Carillion by the French when they built in 1755. Here in 1758 a small French force under Marquis de Montcalm repelled a British attack led by Lord Jeffery Amherst. That battle devastated the 42nd Highland ("Black Watch") regiment. After the French won the battle, they withdrew and Amherst rebuilt the fort, renaming it "Ticonderoga."

We visited Ticonderoga because of a Celtic Festival being held there. The gathering honors the Highland regiment badly beaten that day. First we came on this tower, honoring that regiment and showing memorial wreaths laid to commemorate those who died here.

At the fort there were booths selling various Scottish wares.

Including one erected by the St. Andrew's society. We couldn't overlook that one.

We saw pipe and drum bands.

And Celtic bands.

Some people were dressed in their clan costumes, but others were not.

The weekend we spent in the Adirondacks coincided with the Upper Hudson River Valley Volunteer Fireman's convention. Two fire companies were in our campground. This group parked their fire engine in one of the campsites.

The week before had seen the community host Americade, a week-long motorcycle gathering. A few of the bikes were still in the village of Lake George when we visited there.

The Monday we were there we also saw a funeral procession come to town with the body of a local man killed in Afghanistan. He had volunteered to be the gunner on a sortie and was killed. Many people from the town lined the street as the funeral procession made its way to the church. A reminder that we are at war today, as we were in the 1700s.

As we walked around the town we found that three different boats offered tours of the Lake. This is the one with the most memorable name.

At one time there was a "Millionaire's Row" of houses along the lake. This was a traditional summer destination. Don't you remember reading about families with lake cottages where the wife and children spent the summer at the cottage and the father came up on weekends? Lake George is certainly close enough to New York City and Albany to be one of those places.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Three's a Charm

I hope three times really is the charm. Because that would mean we are done with problems for a while. At the first of the month one of our two air conditioners died. With a 36-foot RV you need two and that week in Richmond, VA, was very hot. Last week our Dish Network DVR died. Tuesday John’s computer looked like it was on its death bed.

After getting a new adapter cord for the computer, when we returned to the RV, Windows wouldn’t open. So first thing Tuesday morning we took it back to Staples in Glen Falls. The tech, Keith, thought it just needed to go back to a previous restore point. That didn’t work, so we left it with him to do diagnostics. He called later and said the hard drive was kaput and we needed a new one. Go ahead, we told him. To make a long story less long, about 7:30 pm we told him we would run down to the store at 9 am the next day to pick up the computer before we drove out of town at 10. He said he would come in early the next morning to finish the job. When we arrived at 9, he had been working since 6:30 am and, finally, it was working.

Then we drove to Syracuse to Camping World, where our air conditioner was waiting. After the new one hadn’t arrived in Richmond after 11 days, we had moved on. Dometic first said they had to get the first one they sent returned before they would ship one to another location. I finally talked to a supervisor and they agreed to send a new one to a Keystone dealer, Camping World RV Sales, in Syracuse, NY. We camped out in their parking lot over night Wednesday and they installed it Thursday morning. When I say camped out, I mean it.

They offer electric hookups, but the electricity voltage was so low we didn’t dare use it. So we got out our two Honda generators to provide electricity to run the air conditioner.

The water hookup didn’t produce water, so we drove to Walmart to buy jugs of water. But it is a free overnight spot! And I didn’t have to cook dinner—we stopped at KFC and picked up a meal.

Thursday morning we planned to spend the time sitting in our truck with the cats. However, they didn’t want to unhitch our truck and trailer, so we sat in the waiting room with the two cats for three hours. Thank heavens the cats are old enough to sleep all that time.

The new Dish DVR was delivered to the RV park in Waterloo, where we are spending two days, and we installed it this evening. Tomorrow we will set up the satellite dish and hope everything works.

Now we are whole again—if it works. We certainly hope we stay that way for a while.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


from John

The first thing we noticed when we stepped out of Grand Central Station was the vast number of yellow taxi cabs on the street. Apparently taxi cabs are the most popular mode of surface transportation. It looked like there were at least 9 cabs to every 1 personal auto on the street.

The next thing we noticed was the heavy concentration of uniformed police officers on the streets and sidewalks. Police officers were directing traffic at each intersection, patrolling the streets in marked cars, scooters and motorcycles, and walking their beats. There were uniformed officers everywhere.

This is the NYPD substation at Times Square. It contains a message of welcome to the public and had parking spaces for patrol cars and scooters.

One block from the substation we came upon 15 marked NYPD cars each of which contained at least 2 officers. It looked like a taxi stand, but they weren’t accepting passengers.

I couldn’t imagine what those officers were doing so I walked over to a policeman who was standing nearby. I asked him what the marked units were doing and he said they were part of a routine terrorism exercise.

On the corner of the next block we saw a K-9 unit. Actually the K-9 vehicle looked like a large dog catcher’s truck. It had 6 cages for dogs and seating for six officers. The dogs were in their cages and the officers were standing on the sidewalk talking.

As we approached the WTC Tribute Gallery we saw two unmarked police cars, red and blue lights flashing, round the corner and stop in front of the Gallery. As the occupants of the vehicles exited they were surrounded by a large pool of TV and print reporters. Four uniformed Port Authority Police Officers were standing on the sidewalk so I asked them if they knew what was happening.

One of them said the Italian Attorney General was visiting the Gallery and the Gallery would be closed for 30 minutes while he was given a personal tour.

The following day we again encountered the NYPD almost everywhere we went. We saw police officers on the subway, directing traffic, walking the streets and even in boats on the water. These boats were protecting the water entrance to Ellis Island. First we encountered the Coast Guard, next was the Union County Police followed by the U. S. Park Police.

After we toured Ellis Island we returned to the public park outside Castle Clinton. We wanted to take a picture of the damaged globe that had been moved to the park from the World Trade Center. Again we found ourselves surrounded by people most of whom were tourists. As we approached the globe I saw a group of men carrying brief cases and pushing carts covered with sheets. One of them opened his brief case and appeared to be offering wristwatches for sale. I told Carol I thought they were probably selling stolen merchandise. Sure enough, after we photographed the globe we saw two NYPD officers on bicycles approach of the men. Almost immediately they arrested and handcuffed one of them.

As some of the group of thief’s quickly made their way out of the park, this group apprehensively watched the policemen do their duty.

Both of us were impressed with the police presence. In that environment with people constantly moving in all directions, it felt “just right”.

Monday, June 21, 2010

One Nation...with Liberty and Justice for All

The day after we visited the site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, we returned to New York City and visited two sites that remind us that millions around the world love the United States and have wanted to come here. We took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

As we waited for the ferry, this man played music for us.

We could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

As we crossed the water, we saw numerous water taxis, as well as the Staten Island Ferry.

There were lots of other boats in the Hudson River, as well. This is one of the sail boats.

Another sail boat was seen against a fire boat's spray.

And we could look back at the beautiful New York skyline and Battery Park.

We had visited Lady Liberty years ago. Since we were too late to get tickets to go into the Crown, we didn't get off at the statue. Instead, we continued to Ellis Island, where immigrants were processed from 1892 to 1954. In those years the majority of the 12 million people moving to the US from around world came through Ellis Island. Two of John's grandparents were among those millions.

This is a tower on the main building.

After the immigrants came into the building, they piled their luggage in this room, then went up the steps and were examined by physicians to determine if they were healthy. Those who were ill were taken to a hospital on the island. Here most recovered with bed rest and good food. Apparently the hospital was really state of the art for that time. No more than 2 percent of the immigrants were sent back because of ill health or other reasons.

There were many, many people visiting the island. And it wasn't even really summer yet.

I tried to go on a ranger tour to learn more.

There was so much noise and confusion I could only hear about half of what the ranger was saying, so I gave up. We did read and study the displays inside. The high-ceilinged rooms echoed from all the voices. It was hard to concentrate. But some days up to 5,000 immigrants passed through these rooms. They must have been even more confused, and frightened.

We had to wait in line to board the ferry back to Battery Park on Manhattan. This is the crowd ahead of us. It included two groups of school children, one group probably fifth graders, the other middle school students.

One of my grandfathers came to the US in 1873 and one grandmother came about 1876. Both of these people would have been processed through Castle Garden, one of four old forts built to protect New York City from attack by the British during the War of 1812. The State of New York turned Castle Garden into an immigrant station, which processed 8 million newcomers from 1855 to 1890. According to the National Park Service, one in six Americans today is descended from a person entering here. I am one of those people. Now called Castle Clinton, today it serves as the ticket center for the ferry trip to Liberty and Ellis Islands.

I couldn't get over the contrast between the World Trade Center attacks, spearheaded by people who hate America, and the symbolism of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. The Twin Towers were easily visible from the two islands in the Hudson. At least 17 million people who sought a new life in this country came right through here, using their own resources and enduring great hardship in the ocean crossing for that chance at something better. The Statue of Liberty was envisioned and paid for by French citizens who wanted to honor the ideals of freedom and liberty they saw in our country. The words of a poem written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus are inscribed at the base of the statue, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." May our country always stand for freedom and may Lady Liberty's torch burn as a symbol of that freedom.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ground Zero

Do you remember where you were on the morning of September 11, 2001? I'll bet you do. I remember that I was in our RV in Staunton, VA. I was talking on the phone to our son Eric when he said, "Oh my God, someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center." I fumbled with the remotes until I got our TV turned on to watch for myself. A day later we cut short our travels and drove West to Colorado. It just didn't feel right to be traveling

During our time in New York City we revisited many of those images when we visited the Tribute WTC gallery and took a tour around the perimeter of the construction site on Ground Zero.

The gallery included a film about the attacks on our country that day, as well as a time line of events and displays of quotation and artifacts from the site, including this NYC Fire Department uniform that was worn by one of the firefighters who died.

this is a melted girder from the World Trade Center.

This is a window from one of the airplanes that hit the buildings.

This image still gives me the shivers.

This piece of metal is two handguns that melted together. They were in the evidence locker in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that was housed in the WTC.

The rescue response was rapid and massive, as this quote shows.

These oragami doves are part of the millions that were sent from all over the world as a token of love and concern.

But the most moving part of the day was the person to person history shared by our tour guide, Ann. Each tour guide was somehow directly affected by the terrorism. Ann's husband was a New York fireman who died in the collapse of one of the towers.

This is a view of the New York skyline as seen from a building that sits between the Trade Center Buildings and the Hudson River. We are looking though a window that was shattered in the explosion and you can see some of the many construction cranes at work.

We learned that construction on the buildings around the memorial site will be shut down for one week in September 2011 for the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The reflection pool memorial will be open to the public that week, then closed because of ongoing construction of the buildings that make it unsafe for visitors.

We were both in tears by the end of our Person to Person History tour. Ann thanked us for coming and for remembering what happened that day. She said she wanted to end on a more upbeat note, telling us there are lots of fun things to do during our visit to NYC. "This isn't one of them," she said. It wasn't fun. But is was very moving. Neither of us will ever forget that day, and we must not. It was a defining moment in our nation's history and shapes our future. It was important to refresh our memories of what happened.

This quartz crystal is part of a memorial to the 11 American Express Travel Center workers killed in the attacks. It is a mineral that is found on all parts of our world and symbolizes the fact that people from all over the world were killed there. You can see the construction site reflected in the pool.

During the long period of rescue and recovery work at Ground Zero, a small Episcopal chapel, St. Paul's, down the street was a haven for rescue workers and family. We visited there after our tour of the construction site. Here are a few scenes from the church. One of the pictures is of a priest celebrating Mass wearing a red chasuble covered with patches from police and fire departments. Those patches were given to the clergy by many of the first responders from all over the country in recognition of their gratitude for the care they received.

In the plaza that was at the center of the World Trade Center complex there was a globe, symbolizing the trade from all over the world that came together there. When that bronze statue was uncovered it was found to be badly damaged. The statue was moved to Battery Park and put on display. It sits on a piece of landfill on the Hudson River created with dirt that had been removed to build the WTC. The statue is still there, with an eternal flame at its side.