Friday, June 30, 2017

Goodbye Ohio, Hello Pennsylvania!

Our last stop before leaving the delightful state of Ohio was to spend a day in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  In order to do that, we moved a bit closer to it, and camped in Streetsboro Ohio.  We figured we only needed a day to do the whole park, so only booked two days there.

I had read an article that said, that if you liked the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you would also like this one.  Well, I LOVED that park, so it was a no brainer to go here!  This article went on to share that what this park had over the Great Smokey's was less traffic (yea), but still "inspiring waterfalls, forests, hills, open farmlands, and the Cuyahoga River which played a role in the American history as the site of the Ohio & Erie Canal, which opened Ohio up to settlement in the early-to-mid 1800s.  Today, the Towpath Trail follows the route of the canal, winding through the valley past historical sites and verdant landscapes.  They offer a scenic railroad ride as well.

As much as we love taking those scenic railroads, looking at the map, we were afraid we would miss the opportunities to see and photograph the waterfalls and covered bridge and maybe even some other interesting places along the way, so we opted not to take the train this time and do the driving ourselves.  We did catch a glimpse of it as it went by once though and it was cool.  The weather was lovely and only sprinkled a couple of times, not enough to even matter.

I have to was different.  I'm not used to towns and people's homes being inside a national park, that took some getting used to.  That said, the Brandywine Falls were indeed beautiful.  They must have had quite a bit of snow earlier, because the water sure was flowing!  The ranger "for-warned" us that it would be busy there, and "good luck finding a parking spot", but we didn't have a problem, so the article was right about "the crowds being less".

The Everett Covered Bridge was also quite nice and well preserved (no graffiti on this one!), even though they had to reconstruct it in 1986 due to an earlier flood.

The map's "not to be missed" Tinkers Creek Gorge, clear at the other end of the park, turned out to be just a whole lot of trees...but I guess if you were there in the fall, it would have been much prettier...

It was an enjoyable day...but to compare it to the Great Smoky Mountains I think was a bit of a marketing overstatement in my humble opinion.  Traffic or not, I'll take the Smokies any day of the week!

Jack is from Pennsylvania and he still has family here, so we try and visit at least every other year.  Somerset is the home of his cousin John and his wonderful family, and usually our first stop.

The boys' most favorite thing to do is to go target shooting, so they always set time aside to do that, and this trip was no exception!  ;-)  I'm fine with that, because it gives me "alone time", yea!  ;-)

Then, when they are done with that, John always has wonderful places for us to explore...this time it was to the Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona.  It seems that back in the late 1800s & early 1900s, Altoona was the "railroad capitol".  6,000 Steam locomotives were built in Altoona alone with over 279,000 active employees at its height.  They were the only railroad that designed and built not only it's own locomotives, but each of its parts were designed, forged, hammered, molded and machined right there in their shops.

They also had their own Testing Laboratory where they tested everything from oranges to light bulbs to 270-ton locomotives.  They tested the oranges to see which ones gave the most juice for their breakfast service, the light bulbs on how long they lasted, etc.  They had a motto:  A penny saved times hundreds of thousands of units purchased was well more than a dollar earned.

They took care of their own, creating whole towns, lending money to buy homes so they wouldn't have to use commercial banks, etc.  Because they had shifts that went around the clock, the town stayed open as well, 24 hours a day!

The museum was really done well, lots of charming vignettes with motion activated sensors that as you came near, statues would begin talking to you, or TVs would come on showing you a film about something.  Outside they had a full-size round-house and turntable with quite a number of old, still being worked on trains.  Everything from baggage cars to dining cars to even an old Conrail Cabin Car (caboose).

Included in your ticket was a visit to the Horseshoe Curve which opened in February of 1854.  We had visited it a couple of years ago and was quite impressed.  Before the Curve, passengers traveling from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh took about 20 days, after the completion of the addition of the Horseshoe Curve they could now travel the the entire route by rail and the time was reduced to an average of 15 hours. Pretty cool.

We lucked out, and our favorite blueberry farm opened up just before we were to leave Somerset, so we got to go berry picking just before we left!  Yea!  One of our most favorite things to do while we are here...nothing like fresh, just off the vine, blueberries!  Yum!

A great way to end our wonderful, yet to short visit with family...

...on the road in Pennsylvania,  Marie

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cleveland Rocks!

Arriving in Cleveland on a Sunday (& it being Father's Day) doesn't help with getting all the things done "on your list" that you want to see and do in the 5 short days here...especially when so many things are also closed on Mondays as well!

We did our best tho, quickly setting up the rig, then scooting into the heart of Cleveland to the deli our friends told us was a "not to miss" place for the best place for great pastrami and bagel sandwiches!  They were right!  Jack's Deli (how could we not remember the name?) was closing early for Father's Day, but they let us in, just at the last moment, and we sure were glad they did too!  Yum, delicious!  Fortified, we decided to check out the city.  Great time to do it, as it was probably as empty as it would ever be!  Beautiful city with wonderful tall buildings, old and new.  Their theater district blows you away with the "world's largest chandelier" hanging smack dab in the middle of the road, 44' feet above it!  Wow!  4200 crystals sparkling in that beauty!  I understand it lights up at night, I bet it's really something to see!

That's not the only "world's largest" claim in the city, we also came across this fun stamp the message on the stamp was intended as a reference to the Civil War-era Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, located across the street.  The beautiful Terminal Tower building is the second tallest building in the state.

On Monday (with everything still closed) we went to their beautiful Lake View CemeteryPresident James A Garfield and his family is buried there and has quite an impressive memorial.  It's more like a small church!  We learned from the volunteer there that everything about it, the cost of building it and even maintaining it today is from donations.  No money has ever come from the family or government.  That's one loved man.

We also got a tour of The Jeptha Wade Memorial Chapel, which was entirely designed and built by Luis Tiffany.  When it was completed, he came, took a look around, said he liked it, and left.  To say "it's beautiful" would be an understatement.  It's truly majestic.

A couple of other "famous" folks there were Elliot Ness of Al Capone fame, and Alan Freed known to coin the phrase "Rock & Roll".  His headstone is appropriately in the shape and etched perfectly like a juke box!

Finally, on Tuesday we were able to get into The Cleveland Museum of Art.  We had heard it was one of the best, and a "not to be missed" attraction.  We were there all day... Beautiful exhibits of O'Keeffe, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, along with Warhol and sculptures like Rodin.  Collections of liturgical vestments from the 1700s, Armors & Swords etc from the 1500s, along with hundred and hundreds of other items from all over the world.  Oh my aching feet...

The following day we spent another eight hours viewing almost every inch of the incredible Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Wow.  Powerful, I don't think they left anything or anyone out!  Lucky for us, they had several spots where they showed videos and had benches or seats so we could actually sit for a bit now and then (thank goodness!).  It also helped having upbeat music playing at every exhibit stop too!  ;-)  We left exhausted but feeling happy!

Our last day rain greeted us, but we were headed out to see the last lighthouse on our list and to pretty much "take it easy" today.  The rain stopped long enough (it tends to stop and start a lot here) for me to do my shooting...and to discover a second lighthouse we didn't know about too!  Found out it's name from a local nearby (yea!) and checked on it online.  Seems it was built after the first one closed down...makes sense.
top - Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse (c1925) bottom - Fairport Harbor Lighthouse (c1825-1925)

There are still several things I would have liked to explored here, just not enough time, guess we will have to come back!  We have one last town to explore before we leave this great state, so off we go tomorrow...

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

...on the road in Ohio, Marie

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lovely Lake Erie!

When one thinks of Ohio, "lighthouses" are not the first thing that comes to mind, but there are actually a number of them here!  Ohio borders right up along lovely Lake Erie, the smallest by volume and warmest of the Great Lakes, and being so, the "most unpredictable and sometimes violently dangerous".  It has a large surface area (making it the 4th largest of the 5 Great Lakes that way) but it's quite shallow, only being 210 feet at it's deepest point.  Because of this, it's the warmest of the Great Lakes, but the first to freeze in the winter.

Fishing has always been a huge industry here, both sport and commercial.  The two most common are Walleye and Perch.  We can attest to their deliciousness as we had to try them when we arrived!  Yum!

When we toured the Maritime Museum of Sandusky we learned that in the 1900s they used to earn their living (at $2 for a 10 hour work day) by sawing blocks of ice out of the frozen lake.  We also learned that the fishermen were part of the "underground railroad" for the escaped slaves, taking them to Canada.  Interesting...

Back to the lighthouses...the Ohio communities along the lake have been diligent in saving these old lighthouses and in some cases, having to raise a great deal of money to repair and/or completely replicate them.  We spent a wonderful day driving through several towns tracking them down, literally as they don't always promote them as well as they should (not like Maine does!).  Not a single brochure on "all Ohio lighthouses" etc. and even when talking to the people in the area where one was, they rarely knew much about the others.  Here's what we found...

Huron Lighthouse (c1939), Huron OH
Lorain Lighthouse (c1917) Lorain OH
Marblehead Lighthouse 65' (c1821), Marblehead OH
Port Clinton Lighthouse 25'(c1874 renovated 2016), Port Clinton OH
Vermilion Lighthouse (c1877), Vermilion OH
We spent a delightful afternoon enjoying the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky as well.  Actually, this was an "extra" see, just before we got here, as we were driving from Columbus to Sandusky, there is a Carousel Factory.  Jack had been calling them for a couple of days to see if they still gave tours, and couldn't get an answer.  I googled them and saw that they had a different number and called that.  I explained that we were "big fans" and were "en route, and wondered if, by any chance at all, would they give us a tour?"  I was put on hold for quite awhile, then a young woman came on line and asked if she could assist me, I again explained my hopes, and she asked "how many? & "when?"  She then agreed, and explained that they were working on a secret project and we wouldn't be able to take any pictures though.  I told her "no problem" and we were on our way!

She spent a wonderful hour with us, giving us a complete tour of their factory, every detail.  It was pretty much the worker's lunch time, but several stopped what they were doing to explain how wood was cut, glued, pieced together, etc.  She is a painter and showed us various pieces and techniques etc.  I can share a couple of pieces that they are working on (not the "secret" tho!), one is a restoration project from the turn of the century they are helping with from an east coast town, another is from a private collector of 1920s horses that he has his own carousel housed in a building he has and only lets family and close friends ride (he supplies sweat pants and shirts, so not to scratch them) and some special horses for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (the one picture I got to take).  Very, very cool tour!

Ok, all that said, so we go to this museum in Sandusky, and while we are waiting to take the tour, we happen to mention that we had just visited the factory in Mansfield, and the ladies there went "your kidding?!"  They hardly ever do that!  There are some ladies on the tour before you that were just saying how they had just called and tried to do the tour, and were told 'no', you are so very lucky!"   Yup, we are!  Must be my charm!  ;-)

It made the tour here all that more interesting too...Lots of wonderful animals from the 1900s on, with lots of history about the various carvers and their styles.  Simple "traveling animals" that had carved tales vs real horse hair, to very fancy horses with jewels and intricate carvings called "Coney Island style".   We even bought a couple of raffle tickets to win one (a zebra) at the end of the year, wish us luck!  (don't ask me where we will put it tho!).

All this touring and scouring the lakeside left us hungry, so, of course we sought out a "local favorite"!  Turned out to be Toft's Dairy, Ohio's Oldest Dairy (& Ice Cream), open since 1900!  We were advised to get the "small", but "choose more than one flavor!"  So, I did...peach-raspberry & chocolate-raspberry!  Yum!  "Small" turned out to be enough for dinner though!

Great way to end our stay!  Tomorrow we are off to Cleveland!

...on the road in Ohio,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Columbus, A Capitol City!

Columbus was next on our list of cities to visit in Ohio, but first we wanted to "check out" how the legendary Airstream was made, and to do that, we needed to make an over-night stop at Jackson Center where they are made!  They have a little "terraport" that you can stay at (primarily set up for Airstreams going in for service, but they let "us" use it too!).  The tour is a little over an hour or so, depending on the size and questions and is done by walking through the plant, area by area.  Our guide was great...super informative and fun.  He even showed us two super-old ones - the Wally Stella Byam (c1957) 22' gold anodized aluminum Airstream and one from 1932 Torpedo Shape Airstream.  As usual, you couldn't take pictures inside, so we just had to enjoy it ourselves!  ;-)  Everything is done by robot assists at all.  They are super back-logged even though they employ 8,000 and could easily use twice as many!  (anyone want to move to Jackson Center Ohio, their hiring!)  It was a great tour, I'm glad we made the the stop.

Our first stop in Columbus was to see the Capitol, here they call it The Ohio Statehouse.  It is a beautiful example of Greek Revival architecture, completed after 22 years in 1861.  The reason it took 22 years, is that it had a number of setbacks, some of which were money; in 1852  (13 years after work began) fire consumed the old two-story capitol building; a union dispute stopped work altogether because they were using prisoners instead of union workers; numerous design changes; a cholera epidemic outbreak, even a fight as to which city it should be located in.  After all that, in 1989 it had to be expanded and changed and offices even moved across the street (ie the Governor 's).  We had a great tour of the inside, learning all this.

The outside of the Statehouse is almost more impressive with it's monuments and Veterans Plaza.  My two favorites were the McKinley Monument erected in 1906 to honor William McKinley former Ohio Governor and US president.  The statue of McKinley looks across the street toward what was once the Neil House, where McKinley and his wife lived while he was governor.  It is said that, Mrs. McKinley was bedridden and she would sit up at the window, and as he left each morning at 9am each day, he would stand at that spot and wave to his wife across the street.  He would do the same thing at exactly 3pm upon leaving the Statehouse, coming back to her.   Nice.

The other special spot is their Ohio Veterans Plaza.  We've seen a number of heart-felt memorials across the country, each different, each special.  This one had two large curved Columbus limestone walls engraved with letters sent to families, friends, and loved ones from members of the armed forces, some of whom never returned home.  Reading them, you couldn't help but bring tears to your eyes as if it were yesterday.  Very moving.

I always try and "check out" the governor's home when I visit the a capitol too, and usually they are fairly close by.  Well...this one sure wasn't!  It was over five miles away!  Of course it was one of those surrounded by a high gate and tall shrubs (some aren't), but I got a little peek anyway!  ;-)  It was all back, windy roads from his house to the Statehouse...must be a fun commute on "bad weather days"!

They have a charming little park here called Deaf School Park (c1834) the actual school was relocated in 1953, leaving this wonderful park behind where in 1989 they designed a Topiary Garden based on the the French artist Georges Seurat's famous painting "A Sunday Afternoon On The Ile De La Grande Jatte" (1884-1886).  It's quite large and intricate, and done very well.  Hard to capture all in photographs...but here's a sample...

We read that Columbus had an "oddity" of sorts...a "tattooed Big Boy"!  Now that we had to go see!  We tracked that guy down and found him in a local bar/restaurant called Hadley's.  The place wasn't opened for business yet (not until 4pm) but Jack talked our way in) and I was allowed to take some pictures.  Seems they bought the boy on e bay and had a local talented tattoo artist paint him for them - she did a great job!  He proudly stands in their corner window!  Go Hadley's!  ;-)

Our last adventure in Columbus was to visit the American Whistle Factory, where they are the ONLY makers of American whistles!  We were lucky enough to join in on a group to do the tour that takes about an hour.  It's a very small place, producing about a million whistles a year.  They do everything in house but the exterior coating because that involves large vats of chemicals.  Founded in 1956 as Colsoff Manufacturing and was purchased by the current owner in 1987.  Some fun facts...* whistles are most commonly plated with nickel gives rise to the common misconception that they are made of steel, when in fact they use brass because it offers the same tone and resonance qualities that make brass effective in musical instruments.  * It "plays" in F Sharp.  * The little "ball" inside used to be made of actual cork, but now they have found a synthetic cork that won't breakdown, so they use it instead...guess how it's inserted in the whistle?  (it's a little soft and has a "memory" so when it's squeezed through the hole, it goes back to it's full shape and won't slip back out again!).  Ahhh, it's the little things in life that are fun to learn, right?  ;-)  

We say goodby to Columbus tomorrow as we head off to Sandusky and Lake Erie for more adventures in the grand state of Ohio! 

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hello Ohio!

Well, we finally made it, our 48th state, Ohio!  When we crossed over from Kentucky to Ohio, you didn't even notice it "Welcome to Ohio" sign...nothing!  I was so disappointed.  I didn't expect a fan-fair, but I did expect something!  ;-(

Oh well, our first visit was to the city of Cincinnati.  Campgrounds are not in abundance there, but lucky for us, the FMCA home office is there, and they are wonderful enough to have a 15+ facility set up for members!  It's a great little place just outside the city so getting to the attractions isn't bad and it's just far enough that it's nice and quiet too.

We only had 3 days here, counting our arrival day, so once we arrived and set up, we headed right out.  With only half a day, we decided to check out the placed closest first.  I had read about the Historic Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, being the 2nd largest cemetery in the US and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.  It dates back to 1855, with 733 acres, 400 of which are landscaped  with 12 ponds and several waterfalls.  Besides that, "Johnny Appleseed" is buried there!  Cool, huh?  So, off we went to check it out!

Well, what a place!  Wow, this is where the wealthy are!  Many of the mausoleums here were bigger than most peoples homes!  There wasn't a "simple" headstone to be found, everyone was huge, and/or elaborate.  My curiosity got to me and I had to look up who some of the largest ones belonged to, like the Dexter funerary monument, turned out he was a "whiskey baron".  Or, the Robinson's Mausoleum were a historic circus family.

Dexter (a "whiskey baron") funerary monument
Robinson Mausoleum (historic circus family) (c1872-1935)
 The very first person buried here was Martha Ernst in 1845.  The rest of her family later joined her.  Theirs started out simple, then a "tree" was added (can't have just a simple grave marker here!).
I think we all thought "Johnny Appleseed" was a just legend, or a nice story when we were young, but he was a real person.  His name was actually John Chapman and he really did go around planting apple seeds in the Ohio and Indiana frontier as a Missionary and a "lover of life".  He lived from 1774-1845.

It truly was a beautiful park.  I could see why people would come here to just ride their bikes or jog or even sit and meditate and watch the swans in the ponds.

From there we headed over to the much anticipated Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, that has been turned into several museums.  However...when we got there, we were stopped in our tracks because it's under a multi-year renovation and only the Children's Museum is currently open!  ;-(   That's what we get for having an "out-dated" AAA Book!  We were sooo disappointed.  Seeing that station was something we had been looking forward to...oh well, guess we will have to come back!

We started our next day out with a really fun outing, The American Sign Museum!  Signs are something we all see every day.  They advise us, entertain us, direct us and educate us.  I don't think we could get along without them, but we don't really think much about them, they are just there.  This museum was started by Tod Swormstedt.  He began working on it in 1999 and opened it to the public in 2005...but in truth, it's been "his baby" his whole life.  You see, he kind of grew up "with signs".  His family owns  the trade journal Signs of the Times, which has been published since 1906, which is all about (you guessed it) "signs".  After seeing so many signs wind up in the dump, Swomstedt felt it was important to save them, for history's sake, hence a museum.

Most signs and objects are donated from the sign industry with over 500 on display dating from the late 19th century to the 1970s.  The collection includes samples of gold leaf lettering on glass, a Sputnik-like plastic orb from an Anaheim shopping center and even one from Earl Schibe from Compton, complete with a bullet hole!  There's a wonderful fiberglass 1960s "Big Boy" that shows off the changes (stripped pants (vs checkered), red hair (vs brown) they are thinner now, and most of all, a three-dimensional slingshot in his back pocket!  And for us "westerners" note the sauce - it's white, that's because out here in Ohio, it's tarter sauce!  Not our "Bob's Secret Sauce" we're used to! ;-)  Kevin gave us a great tour, we could have stayed in there for hours.  Such a fun and educational place!

Afterward we drove over to Mt. Adams neighborhood and Eden Park.  A beautiful park and neighborhood.

Mount Adams was originally known as Mount Ida.  The namesake was from Ida Martin, a washerwoman who lived in the hollow of an old sycamore tree located on a steep hill.
In the early 1800s the steep Mount Adams hillside was largely barren as early settlers had cut down all the trees for timber to construct their homes.

In 1831, Nicholas Longworth, a wealthy attorney, purchased the mansion that is now the Taft Museum of Art and the large lot of land behind including barren Mount Adams.  He transformed the hill into a vineyard. Longworth would become the first commercially successful winemaker in the United States, and has been called the "Father of the American Wine Industry." During the 1830s and 1840s Longworth cultivated Catawba grapes, which were used in making his champagne known as Golden Wedding. The wine inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write the poem "Ode to the Catawba Wine." Contemporaries reported that Longworth's wine "transcends the Champagne of France." The wine making industry around Cincinnati grew rapidly for several decades until it was virtually destroyed by downy mildew, powdery mildew, and black rot around 1860. The American Civil War created a shortage of manpower needed for vineyard labor, and the death of Longworth in 1863 furthered the end of Cincinnati's wine industry.

Now, it is an up-scale neighborhood, not unlike parts of San Francisco with it's steep hills and small unique homes.  The park itself is large and lovely with some very old buildings. Both areas had great views of both Cincinnati and across the river to Kentucky.

Our last visit was to the home of the 27th President, William Howard Taft.  He was born and raised in Cincinnati, as was his father and whole family. His whole family was  greatly involved with local and national politics, the law and social causes.  It was stressed to all the children from the very beginning  the importance of high standards, hard work, fair play and public service.  Scarcely a civic or cultural organization in town could not claim the participation of one or more of the Tafts.

Both Mrs. Tafts (Williams's mother and his wife) were avid journal and letter writers and noted many things about the house on Auburn Avenue, so it was easy for the Park Service to reproduce and decorate the home as it would have been when they were there.  They sold the home in 1899.  It underwent modifications with each successive owner, the last having divided the deteriorating building into apartments.  In 1969 the Federal Government designated the Taft house a national historic site, honoring the life and work of the only person to hold the offices of President and Chief Justice of the United States.

One of the things we had read about Cincinnati was that they were "famous" for their chili!  While we were there, we got to talking to several people at various locations and one thing that kept coming up, was "you've got to try our chili!"  Now, there seemed to be two places "to try it" - The original location, Camp Washington, or the newer chain one Skyline.  We went for the original, after all, if your going to try the "gastronomic specialty", go where it was invented, right?  Here's how it all began...

It seems that a guy by the name of Athanas "Tom" Kiradjieff, a Macedonian Greek immigrant who arrived in Cincinnati in 1922, after a couple of years selling hot dogs in NY, opened up a stand here with his brother.  He added a beef sauce seasoned Balkan-style, likely taking a cue from pastitsio, the Greek pasta casserole.  The Kiradjieffs began serving the sauce on spaghetti as well, and a food fad was born.  Today chili is ubiquitous around Cincinnati, and its devotees order it two-way (noodles & sauce), three-way (add cheddar cheese), four-way (add onions) or five-way (add kidney beans).

Being the foodie that I am, I had it the "five-way" of course!  Having been to Greece, I kind of knew what to expect, so wasn't to surprised (good thing).  Jack stuck with just the "two-way".  It was ok, but coming from the western part of the states, where we are used to a more robust flavor, or Hungarian style, I prefer it that way.  ;-)

With that "under our belts", we are now off to see how Airstreams are made (just for the fun of it!) and then on to Columbus to see the State Capitol of Ohio!

...kicking back in Ohio,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at: