Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gettysburg and Friends

We returned to Pennsylvania for the first time since last October with the plan to tour some places in the eastern part of the state and see some friends.  Our first stop was at Walmar RV Park in Dillsburg because it was located between Gettysburg and Harrisburg.  Walmar is a mobile home park with a campground.  The sites are small and so unlevel that after trying to set up we had to move to a different site, something we have never had to do.  The place may be okay for a trailer, but not for a motorhome.
Number one on our to do list here was to see Melvin Claytor who I worked with in Washington.  Mel and I shared an open classroom pod the first year I taught.  Later in his career he moved to the Harrisburg area as a principal.  We have seen him several times over the years, but it has been a long time since our last visit. 
We had a great dinner with Alora, Mel and Sasha while getting caught up with what has been going on with them.  They do a lot of riding with the Buffalo Soldier motorcycle club and love to travel.  Alora will be traveling to Kuwait soon to see their daughter who lives there.  How neat! It sure was great getting together and sharing tales. 
I have been to Gettysburg National Military Park many times, but not since they built the new visitor center and have worked to give the area a more 1863 look.  I have to say the results are fantastic.  There is a great new movie, "A New Birth of Freedom" and the cyclorama has been restored to its original grandeur.
The Gettysburg Cyclorama is a 360 degree painting of the famous Pickett's Charge and the high water mark of the Confederacy.
The 377 foot painting was done in 1884 by Paul Philippoteaux using battlefield photographs and interviews with veterans to create an accurate depiction.  He did paint himself into the picture standing beside the tree with a saber.
The cyclorama is now a light and sound show describing the third and final day of the battle that turned the tide of the war.  It has undergone a five year restoration with cannons, fences and other items placed in the foreground to give it a three dimensional look.  There is an admission charge for the movie, cyclorama and museum, but it is well worth it.
The museum has a great display of arms and other artifacts from the period.
An exhibit of what the typical Union and.....
Confederate solider carried into battle.
There is a place for the Confederate battle flag that has been in the news so much lately.  It is on display in the museum with appropriate explanations of its role in the history.
The only battle flags on the battle field seem to have been placed their by visitors.  We did not return the next day to see if it was still there, but I doubt it was.
In addition to being the only war other than the Revolutionary War fought on American soil, the Civil War was the first war that was thoroughly photographed.  Seeing pictures of the many who died in battle really brings the reality of war home.  Over a three day period 51,000 were killed, wounded or missing, including 5,000 southern soldiers who were lost during one hour of Pickett's Charge. 
Of course Gettysburg is also known as the site of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the new cemetery where over 3,500 Union soldiers were buried.  At the visitor center you can sit down and have a word with Honest Abe.
This is the death mask of Lincoln and a couple of the comments on his 272 word dedication address.  Many at the time did not see how historically significant those word would become.
There is an auto tour of the battlefield but we chose to ride it on our bikes.  There are over 1,300 memorials and monuments on the battlefield.  The Pennsylvania Memorial is the largest.
This group of trees was used by Pickett as a marker as he lead his troops across the field to the Union line. Nearby is the Angle that is considered the high mark of the Confederacy as the Confederate army made it to the Union lines at this point before being turned away and defeated.
The park service has done a great job of returning the look of the area as it was in 1863.  Some of the land is still being farmed and the crops harvested.  The grass on this field was cut and bailed with modern machinery, maybe they need to bring in the Amish to give it a more 1800's look.
This is looking from Devil's Den at Little Round Top where much of the day two fighting took place.  It is so hard to imagine what it had to be like for the soldiers trying to drive the Union forces off that high ground. 
There are several park service programs at different sites on the battlefield that tell the story about individuals or small military units and the role they played in the battle.
The Eternal Light Peace Memorial at the site of day one fighting was dedicated 75 years after the battle.  Over 1,800 Civil War veterans attended the dedication of the memorial that is engraved with, "Peace Eternal in a Nation United". 
Pennsylvania Hall was built in 1837 on the campus of Gettysburg College, it was one of many buildings in the town that was used as a hospital to care for the many wounded.  For anyone who has any interest in American history, Gettysburg must be on your to do list.  
Boiling Springs, near Gettysburg, is a neat little town that is worth a visit.  The Boiling Springs Tavern is a very good restaurant if you want a great meal in a neat old Pennsylvania tavern.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Year Eight Summary

THE LIST..............................YEAR 6.........Year 7.........Year 8
Motorhome Miles....................5,300...........9,012............10,311
Average Miles Per Day.................14.1.............24.6...............28.3
Average Trip..............................160..............180...............202
Gallons of Diesel Fuel................747............1,223............1,277
Average Cost Per Gallon................3.84..............4.15.............3.49
CRV Miles...........................11,344............9,138...........9,738
Bicycle Miles............................107..................0................97
Camp Sites.................................33.................50...............51
Average Nights in Each...............,11.1...............7.3..............7.2
Number of Frosty Nights...........none............none.......too many
Number of Windy, Stormy Days. few........too many.......very few
Number of States(Provinces)........11(0)............14(3)...........17(4)
National Parks & Monuments.......10................12................9
Blog Posts..................................61................71..............77
Days of Exercise (Jim)...............193..............185............175
Days of Exercise (Nanc).............238..............259............259
Number of haircuts (Jim)...............0..................0...............0
Old & New Friends & Family..,,Priceless...,Priceless....Priceless

It is really hard to believe that we have been retired and living in our house on wheels for eight years. We love the freedom of traveling all over North America seeing so many wonderful places and meeting so many great people. We started year eight in Skagway, AK and are ending it in Eastern PA. This year we put 10,318 miles on Opus, but 4100 of those mile were put on in the first 24 days on our sprint from Alaska to WashPA. We also added 9,653 miles to the CRV odometer. We stayed in 51 places at an average cost of $19.71 a night, which is right at the $600 a month we like to stay under. We stayed in 18 places for just one night and 12 of those were free which helps reduce costs. Another place where we saved money this year was with lower fuel costs. We paid an average of $3.49 a gallon even with our all time most expensive, $5.95 per gallon, fill up in British Columbia. The average is the least we have paid since year four on the road.

We had a real shaky start to year eight in Skagway when we experienced an earthquake that was bad enough to break the undersea phone cables. In Skagway we did a train excursion on the White Pass & Yukon Route and took a boat trip to Juneau to tour the capitol. On the return from Juneau we had one of our greatest nature experiences when we saw humpback whales bubble feeding. Next it was on to Hyder for another great wildlife viewing, watching bears feed on the salmon. We then sprinted across Canada and the upper Midwest on our way back to WashPA. Along the way we met up with new friends we met while in Alaska, Bjorn & Britta, Don & Pat and Marcel & Sonya and spent a couple days in Winnipeg visiting with RV friends Gary & Anita. A down side of the trip was having to stop in Shipshewana, IN to have the cooling unit of the fridge replaced. The up side is it has been working very well. Before hitting WashPA we got to spend three days at the lake fishing with old friends Mike and Sherri.

We spent the next two months getting caught up with more WashPA friends than I can mention and doing our best to make sure our favorite restaurants stay open. We took in a Pirate and Pitt game, attended the Brown-Jamieson wedding, went to Ohiopyle and Kentuck Knob. I took a short flight over Washington and Nanc ran the Labor Day Classic and the Great Race. We took in a lot of music including a Blues Brunch and the weekly jazz sessions at Al' n Rubens. We played euchre a couple of times with the old gang, celebrated my brother Rick's birthday and had John's fabulous wood fired pizza. RVing friends Richard & Valerie and Bill & Gisela stopped by for visits. We also got to see family; Rick & Denise, Bill & Judy and Scott & Doris. Of course we took care of all that doctor and dentist stuff and are happy to report all was well.

We left WashPA in the middle of October heading to Cleveland for the last of six Yanni family weddings. It was a fun time with many friends and Yanni family members, some of whom we had not seen since the Yanni - Tenenbaum wedding in 2010. There were a few more grandchildren this time around. After the wedding we went to Spartan Chassis in Michigan to have a thorough check up for Opus after the trip to Alaska. We are happy to report that all was well. From Michigan it was a four day 1,200 mile sprint to Betty's RV Park in Abbeville. There we got to do the Omelette Festival first the first time.  We had a great month and a half getting caught up with our many friends and generally just having a great time with Betty. From Betty's we headed to Florida with stops in Biloxi to see Ron and Linda, in Panama City to check out the beach and in Apopka to see Nanc's sister Judy and her husband Bill.

It was then on the South Florida for two months to escape the cold. We celebrated the holidays and rang in the new year with Mary Lou in Jupiter, a tradition we have followed every year we have wintered in Florida. We started 2015 with a month long stay at the Florida Keys Elks where we got to spend time with RV friends we had met there before, Paul & Trudy, Joe & Kathy, George & Linda and several new people we met for the first time. We also had a personal mail delivery from Tom and Georgie who were very happy to be out of the cold. We then spent a couple of weeks in central Florida hoping the weather along the gulf coast would warm up before we headed to New Orleans for the Frayer - Jonsson Culture Bash wedding celebration. It was great seeing Richard and Valerie and meeting Karl's many Swedish friends and family. We then headed to the Escapees park in Livingston, TX for three weeks. While there we met up with Marvin, John and Joyce who we know from Betty's. Our real reason for going to Texas was to have a secure place to leave Opus while we jetted off to Mexico for a week of fun in the sun. The trip was wonderful, but we paid for it when we returned to some of the coldest weather of the year. Oh well, into every life a little rain or temperatures must fall.

From Livingston we moved to Betty's RV Park in Abbeville for a two month stay. We love going here and seeing so many of the great friends we have made there and making many new friends on every visit. Even though we have been there many times we still find new things to do. During this stay we did tastings at two local breweries, toured Acadian Village, did the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival and Festival Internationale in Lafayette, all for the first time. While at Betty's Tim and Diane came from WashPA for a visit so we had the chance to share all our favorite Acadiana experiences; Touchet's Cajun Jam Session, Tabasco factory tour, a swamp tours, Zydeco breakfast and music on the square. All that and of course they also got to experience Betty's wonderful happy hours.

From Betty's we started our slow, two month trip back to WashPA. The highlight of our summer travel and our entire eight years on the road was getting to meet  President Jimmy Carter and  his wife Rosalyn while visiting Plains. A big part of our travel was along the historic Civil Rights trail, including Selma's Bloody Sunday events, Montgomery's bus boycott started by Rosa Parks, Tuskegee Institute and Airmen sites, Atlanta's Martin Luther King sites and Columbia where we got to watch the debate about removing the confederate flag from the capitol grounds. We toured state capitols in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Each building is an interesting walk through the state's history. We saw many friends along the way, Chuck, Richard, Valerie, Mel, Alora and Marlene and her family. We had a great two week stay with my brother Rick and his wife Denise at Lake Norman, North Carolina. Having a house on wheels makes all this possible. As year eight ends we are in Pennsylvania where we toured Gettysburg National Military Park as well as the capitol.  We have been dealing with problems with the air conditioners and had to replace the fan motor in the rear one.  Then they both stopped working last weekend.  We had to replace to board in the front unit and are hoping that with be the final fix.  Just like a stix and brix thing breakdown and need repaired.

Year eight has been  fantastic with seeing so many friends and family and visiting so many familiar and new places. Our plan for year nine is to head back to WashPA for our annual two month stay. In October we will be going to the Outer Banks for an extended stay before heading to Florida for the winter. We will be staying near Tampa for a month and will take a vacation to Mexico from there. We will also be spending the holidays with Mary Lou in Jupiter before a month in the Keys. This will be the first time since going on the road that we will stay in the same warm weather spot two years in a row. In February we will be somewhere in Florida, but have no plan yet. Then it will be back to Betty's in the spring. Next summer we plan to go to the Escapade in Vermont so we will be spending some time in New England. Of course we will be back in WashPA at some point before heading to the Southwest for the winter. As always, these plans are written in sand and could easily be changed by the winds or tides.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Virginia State Capitol

We did a day trip with Richard and Valerie to tour the Virginia capitol and check out a bit of Richmond.  The capitol not only serves as the state capitol but was also the capitol of the confederacy during the Civil War.
The center part is in the design of a Roman Temple. That original building was designed by Thomas Jefferson.  Construction started in 1785 making it the second oldest capitol in the country.  The East and West Wings were added in 1906 to house new chambers for the Senate and House of Delegates.
A new visitors center, which includes legislative meeting rooms, was added in 2007 by removing all of the hill in front of the capitol and then covering the new structure to keep the historic look of the capitol and grounds. 
Thomas Jefferson not only wrote the Declaration of Independence and served as an ambassador, Vice President and President, he also served Virginia as a delegate and governor.  With his interest in architecture he designed his home Monticello and the UVA campus (last post) in addition to the capitol.  
The statue, Brothers, one Union, one confederate, depicts how the Civil War not only tore apart the country, but also families.  The flag was confiscated off the capitol when the Union recaptured Richmond near the end of the war.  It was returned to Virginia many years later by the family of the Union officer who had taken it down.  On orders from President Lincoln Jefferson's capitol was not burned.
The new (1906) Senate chamber houses the 40 member legislative body that serves four year terms.
The old House Chamber was the site of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the trial and acquittal of Aaron Burr on treason charges and where Robert E. Lee took command of the Virginia Army.  There is still a large statue of Lee in the chamber. 
The model of the capitol was made in France where Jefferson was serving as ambassador.  Every time the building was painted over the years the model was also repainted and has 15 layers of various shades.
The Old Senate Chamber has paintings of several historic Virginia events.  This is the landing of the first Europeans at Jamestown in 1607.  Jamestown became the first Virginia capital and the site of the first legislature in the new world.  There are also paintings of Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas. 
This is the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781 ending the Revolutionary War.  In the center is the lowering of the British flag and the raising of the stars and stripes.
As in many capitols there are paintings of former governors.  A big difference is that here there are paintings going back to colonial times.  Bottom second from the right is Douglas Wider, Virginia's first African- American governor who was elected in 1990.  Top right is Bob McDonnell, the last governor, who was recently sentenced to jail on corruption charges.
The new (1906) House of Delegates Chamber houses the 100 members who are elected every two years.
The statue of George Washington in the central hall under the interior dome is the only statue he ever modeled for which makes it the most realistic depiction of Washington.  The sculptor made a live mask and took measurements of Washington for the statue. The hall also has busts of the other seven Virginia born presidents, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor and Wilson. 
The Bell Tower on the grounds of the capitol was built in 1825 to house the public guard.  The bell was also used as a fire alarm.  It now houses a tourist information center.
The Virginia Civil Rights Memorial commemorates Civil Rights leaders including Barbara Johns, a sixteen year old student who lead a boycott to protest the conditions in her segregated school.  Her case became part of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case that ruled  "separate but equal" schools were unconstitutional. 
This is a statue of Civil War general Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.
Statue of George Washington surrounded by six other Virginians who took part in the Revolutionary War; Andrew Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, George Mason, Thomas Nelson Jr. and Patrick Henry.
Poet Edgar Allan Poe who was raised in Richmond and attended UVA, though he did drop out.
Also on the grounds is the Executive Mansion that was completed in 1813.  It is the oldest Governor's house still in use for the purpose in the country.  Once again touring state capitols is an interesting walk through history and here in Virginia the history goes back to the beginning of American history. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friends, VT & UVA

We headed to Virginia planning stops in Blacksburg and Charlottesville to visit friends and do a bit of exploring. At each place we toured the campuses of the local universities Virginia Tech and University of Virginia. 
In Blacksburg we hoped to see Tina and Chuck Lee who we have known since we lived next to Tina's parents Sherman and Dorothy in our stix and brix.  Unfortunately, Tina was in Richmond visiting their daughters and we are sorry we didn't get to see her.  But, we did have a great evening getting caught up with Chuck who we have not seen in years.   We always got together when they would come to WashPA for a visit.  Once again seeing friends is one of the best things about our lifestyle.
Chuck took us on a tour of the beautiful Virginia Tech campus.  Most of the buildings are built with stone that gives them a very prestigious look.  There are a couple of brick buildings that the college president called the worst decisions of his tenure.  We found out why on our next stop.
We next moved on to Charlottesville to see Richard and Valerie who we first met in 2007, our first year on the road.  We have crossed paths many times over the years and always look forward to spending time with them.  They are no longer RVing and now live in a beautiful condo.  That said, they have decided to move into a bigger unit in their complex with a garage and less steps.  They did not close on their new place until after we left but we did get to see it.
This will be their living room and office.  We are already looking forward to seeing the place after Valerie puts her incredible decorating skills to work.
While in Charlottesville we wanted to visit the University of Virginia that was designed by Thomas Jefferson.  The original grounds include the rotunda, lawn and pavilions along both sides of the grounds.  The rotunda is a smaller replica of the Pantheon in Rome.
The lawn was meant as a gathering ground for students and teachers to interact.
The pavilions are linked together by a covered walkway with student rooms that are awarded to a few lucky seniors who must be elected for the honor by fellow students.  Each of the ten pavilions has a unique architectural style.
All of the buildings are constructed with brick giving the campus a beautiful look.  A unique feature of the pavilions is that each has a different column style.
Valerie, Jim and Nanc with Virginian George Washington. 
Behind each pavilion is a brick walled garden.  A few have flowering plants and they are all very inviting quiet areas.
Many are simple English styled grounds with paths, benches, small trees and shrubs.
In the center of this garden is a pinnacle from the Merton College Chapel that was erected in Oxford, England in 1451.  It was presented to UVA in 1927.
This covered walkway for one of the buildings behind the original campus.  The style of architecture and use of bricks is carried out to all the campus buildings.  I guess that is why rival Virginia Tech wanted its buildings made of stone to give it its own distinctive look.    A walk around the UVA campus is like a step back in time when you realize how many famous Americans have walked the same grounds.
Another neat stop in Charlottesville is the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center where you can see replicas of the boats they used on their exploration of the American west for President Jefferson.  The Center's focus is to teach classes on all aspects of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, from ship building to survival skills needed for such a fete.

  We visited nearby Richmond to tour the capitol with Richard and Valerie which we will cover in the next blog.