Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Traveling Cross Country

We are on the road tonight and in the state of Illinois. Our accommodations tonight are courtesy of the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino where they allow self contained RVs to spend the night for free. Of course, we had to make our voluntary contribution in the casino, but had a great time playing the penny slots for a couple hours.

When you think about it, this is pretty amazing - here we are, parked in a secure parking area, running the generator and living the good life.

Located in Peoria, IL, the casino is easily reached from I-74. Once there, the Kingdome found our Direct TV signal and the AC is working well. We had a nice dinner in the coach and are taking it easy tonight. Life as fulltime RVers is good!

Tomorrow, we plan to head to Forest City, IA to spend the night and then head toward Sioux Falls, SD to spend a few weeks. Our current plan is to base at the Sioux Falls Fairgrounds which has a full hookup campground and is well located.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Riding the Strasbourg Railroad -- Steam Power Lives!

Take a ride with Rick as we ride directly behind #89. I was reminded how loud these steam engines were, but that steam whistle is a great sound!

Rick loves steam trains, so he had to ride on the Strasbourg Railroad, located right across the street from the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum. One of the great things about this tourist railroad is the chance to see a real, coal fired, steam locomotive in action -- in this case Engine #89.
Engine #89 was built in 1910 -- 100 years old this year! Fully restored, this is a great chance to ride behind a real steam engine and think how folks traveled 100 years ago.

As you can see, folks can get up close and personal to the railroad and experience it in person. Here, #89 is pulling the train into the station, ready for us to board and depart.

Rick rode this open car which was right behind the engine on the trip out. This car, as will all the equipment on the railroad, was is perfect condition.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Clock and Watch Museum and a Tour of Harley Davidson

Cody and Rick drove a short distance to the National Watch and Clock Collectors Museum in York, PA and were not very sure what to expect. Were they pleasantly surprised -- this is a great museum!

Even though we are by no means experts in clocks and watches, the history of timekeeping was amazing. The museum is remarkable and starts with the sundial and goes from there. This picture shows a small part of their collection of tall case clocks with many going back to the 1700's. They also describe the various inventors of the movements which was very interesting.

This is a picture of the way clocks used to be made in the 1870 era. Clock makers were considered the elite of factory workers, although we would be dismayed by the long hours these folks normally worked.

Rick was very impressed with these 250 year old clocks. The woodworking of the cases were amazing and yes, they still worked! It was great to hear the chimes as the clocks struck the hour.

York, PA is also home to a number of factories, including this well known one -- Harely-Davidson! The plant offered free tours through the factory and shows how their large motorcycles are built. Starting with the frame, the motorcycles move through the remarkable plant and exit as a ready to run Harley.

This shows a new bike as it is almost done with production. Someone is going to be pretty excited when this shows up.

The plant makes most of the larger Harleys and after the tour, you can inspect them up close. This side-car equipped unit looked pretty sharp -- Cody was thinking he might be able to ride along!

Rick liked this one! He figured he looked pretty good and ready to roll, although Cody had other ideas -- where could he ride? Oh well, we sure enjoyed the tour anyway!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Strasbourg, PA, Railroad time, and a surprise!

A short drive from Gettysburg is the Amish country of Pennsylvania. This is a beautiful area with amazing farms, horse drawn buggies, and some great museums. In Rick's opinion, one of the best is the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum! This amazing collection of locomotives and related cars and items, is housed indoors as well as in the outdoor holding area. There are all kinds of locomotives such as this steam locomotive.

Here is one of Rick's favorite locomotives -- the famous GG1 Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive. This electric powered engine set the standard for several decades for fast, powerful freight and passenger transportation.

Engine #20 is a 4-4-0 "American" engine that was popular in the early years of railroading. Right behind it is a huge PRR steam locomotive -- it is amazing to note that these both run on the same standard track!

Here is a famous locomotive -- #7002 (actually a sister locomotive re-numbered to 7002) that set a speed record in 1905 at a speed of 127 mph! Can you imagine riding this engine at that speed? This was set during a normal passenger run -- apparently, these powerful engines routinely pulled trains at over 100 mph. Too bad that our trains today don't come close to these speeds routinely!

As Rick was leaving the museum, what a surprise -- an antique car club was parking in the lot to take in the museum! WOW -- these cars were driven from several states and were beautiful! This is a Paige auto from the 1911 era and ran wonderfully.

There were about 15 cars coming and going with several Model T cars in attendance. I suspect these looked better today than they did when they were new.

The cars ran well, but it was certainly a different way to travel when compared to today! As you can see, the passengers were right "out there" in the elements. At least it was easy to get out and manually crank the engine (as these folks had just done before driving away!).

Anyway, a great day -- antique Trains and Cars!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gettysburg Battlefield - Part 2

This is the cover of the driving tour book/CD combination we got at the Visitor's Center ($25). The package is well worth the price and really brings the battlefield alive. The Tour follows the battle from the onset through the final charge at Cemetery Ridge and fills in a number of details about the participants.

Cody and I continued our tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield and continued to greatly enjoy learning about the battle and the people involved. We found that going to the park in the morning worked great since we were before the big tour busses (and LOTS of school kids on field trips). We toured until about lunch, then went back to the coach.

This is the largest monument on the battlefield and is dedicated, appropriately enough, to the men from Pennsylvania. There are tablets surrounding the monument that have each soldier's name, rank and unit engraved and this really brings home how many people were involved.

This monument is dedicated to the Massachusetts Volunteer Sharpshooters who were heavily involved during the entire battle. Located at Cemetery Ridge, these soldiers were directly involved in repelling the famous "Pickett's Charge" by the Confederate forces

Rick was very impressed by the motto engraved at the bottom of the monument -- this pretty well sums up our belief in trying to put our faith in God, but do all we can to be prepared.

This barn was standing during the battle, and yes, that is a cannon ball hole. This was near Gen. Daniel Sickles headquarters which was overrun by the Confederate forces (he had established this command site in contradiction to the orders he was given). Right next to the barn is a monument denoting the exact spot where Gen. Sickles was hit in the leg with another cannonball. He survived the battle and entered Congress where he helped create the Gettysburg Battle Field park.

There are many magnificent Confederate monuments as well, such as this one commemorating the Alabama forces involved.
Cody was most impressed with this monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee. Located where Pickett's Charge began, this pays homage to Lee's dedication to his native state of Virginia. Lee was a graduate of West Point before the war and lived at his estate in Arlington, VA -- yes, now the site of Arlington National Cemetery. After Lee resigned his US Army commission to join the Confederates, remaining senior officers in the US Army urged Congress to confiscate Lee's estate for non-payment of taxes ($92), since Lee had not personally come to pay them in 1864 (Lee's agent DID show up to pay them, but was refused). To ensure that Lee could never again return to the estate, the property was used as a Federal Cemetery. An interesting aside -- in 1877, Lee's heirs sued the US government for improper seizure and in 1882 won the case. Lee's heir then sold the estate back to the Government since the cemetery was already established. Seems like politics really don't change very much!

Cody was surprised to see this much more modern monument dedicated to Tennessee soldiers. Erected in 1982, it is the last Confederate monument placed in the park.

Looks like photo dog is bushed. Here, Cody wonders what if must have been like firing this cannon in the Devil's Den area. Surrounded with large rocks and cliffs, the casualties were very high on both sides as a result of the heavy fighting.

A visit to Gettysburg is a very moving experience and well worth a few days to go back to early July, 1863.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gettysburg Battlefield

Cody and I visited the Gettysburg Battlefield National Park to spend a few days exploring this amazing battlefield. Perhaps the pivotal battle during the Civil War, it involved 95,000 Union troops and 85,000 Confederate soldiers. It was also the bloodiest battle on US soil with some 51,000 casualties. We started at the new Visitor's Center which has a wealth of information available, including an excellent CDROM Tour that we decided to invest in.

Here, Rick sits for a bit with President Lincoln. Of course, this is where he delivered the famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication ceremony of the new Federal Cemetery. Interestingly, he was a secondary speaker -- an earlier speaker went on for over 2 hours and is not recalled by history. Lincoln's address was about 2 minutes long and is immortal.

Gettysburg is know for the many, many (almost 500) monuments erected to state units and individuals. Each one is unique and was often sponsored by the surviving forces.

This monument is by one of the New York calvary regiments and is located close to the spot that the group was stationed during the battle.

Cody is looking at one of the unit markers for the Union forces. These are square in format while the Confederate marker is rounded. It is possible to see where each unit was stationed during the battle which is very interesting from a strategic point of view.

Cannon played a large role in the battle on both sides. Muzzle loaders, these cannons needed a crew to load, clean and aim the weapon. Additionally, several horses were needed to transport the cannon. Imagine moving these through the woods and then move them around to fire them.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

Cody, the Wonder Dog and I visited the Williamsport Visitor Center of the C & O Canal to view how goods were moved in the 1850 to 1924 period. The National Park system has a number of visitor centers located along the 184 mile canal path and Williamsport gives a great view of a turing basis, aqueduct, and a fully "watered" section of the canal. Interestingly, the canal was first planned by General George Washington!

The Visitor Center is in this very old brick factory that once made bricks for shipment to Washington, DC, which is the eastern terminus of the canal.

Cody was particularly interested in the aqueducts that were used (a total of 11), which are bridges for the canal to travel over a river. It must have been very interesting to sail over a river in the canal boat! This aqueduct is still mostly intact, although one wall was destroyed when a canal boat hit it in 1922 -- and the boat (100' long) and all the water in the canal spilled below into the river below. Must have been quite an exciting ride for the captain!

Here Cody sits on the tow path which overlooks the canal. The canal was about 4' deep and you can get a good idea of the size by looking at what appears to be a road next to Cody. Actually, this "Road" was the bottom of the canal. Mules were used to pull the boats - -each boat typically had 4 mules on board and two would pull while the other pair rested.

Here is a better view of the base of the aqueduct and bottom of the canal. Where Cody is sitting would be about 4' under water when the canal was operating.

Once boats got to Williamsport, they could turn around at the Cushwa turning basin -- there was no other place to turn the 100' long canal boats since they virtually filled the canal.

This picture of a picture shows the canal in operation new Cushwa where coal was loaded in addition to the bricks mentioned earlier. This an amazing view into the past of the country and gives a great entry into the early transportation of the nation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Biltmore House and Gardens

Since we were so close to Asheville (about 70 miles from Gaffney, SC), Rick decided to take the opportunity to visit Biltmore House and Gardens. WOW - what a house! Built by George Vanderbilt and completed in 1895, the house features over 175,000 sq. feet and 43 bathrooms, this is unbelievable. The grounds originally were over 125,000 acres and apparently took over 5 days on horseback to ride around the perimeter.

One of the great features of the home are the wonderful gardens. These ponds are part of the Italian gardens and feature a number of beautiful ponds. In addition, there are many other gardens and greenhouses.

One of the many amazing features of the house are the stone carvings throughout the outside of the home. The carvers were very skilled and were the highest paid construction workers on the home site while it was being built.

There were many different carvings around the house -- there must have been hundreds of them. These really added a special character to the house.

Rick liked the greenhouses as well. Apparently, there were many gardeners employed while Vanderbilt lived here. Each greenhouse was full of remarkable flowers:

Rick really enjoyed the beautiful flowers like this one.

The greenhouses featured different climate settings for different flowers, including this tropical flower (missed the name).