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2015 Happy Trails - Prologue

Our time in Missouri before our trip begins

Travel Preparations and the Drive from Florida to Missouri

May 11 to May 18

This is the first long term trip for us in our new Lifestyle 5th Wheel so rather than rush through the packing process we reserved a spot at nearby Jetty Park Campground in Port Canaveral so we could take our time. It worked very well and we avoided annoying any of the neighbors by having the trailer parked in the street while we packed up.

There was more packing than usual not only because the trailer was new to us but also because my cousin Carla with her husband Joe and my Aunt Anita are going to be staying in our house and looking after things here this summer while they house hunt for a place in Brevard County for themselves. They sold their homes in Maryland and have put most of their household belongings in storage. They plan to combine households in their move down here. We wanted to be sure they had enough drawer and cabinet space to be comfortable visitors.

Our first stop was at Oaks and Pines Campground on Interstate 10 Thursday evening. We’ve stayed here before on our journeys north to Missouri.
Our next stop was at High Falls Campground just south of Atlanta off of Interstate 75. We spent Friday and Saturday night there and had a nice time visiting with my son, Kevin.

Sunday we drove through Atlanta (always a good plan to not go through Atlanta on a weekday) and went as far as Jackson, TN. We’re taking a different route this trip because as we were driving along I was looking at the map on my IPAD and noticed the little red warning symbol at the bridge over the Mississippi River. When I clicked on the symbol it said that the bridge was closed! We were dreading taking this new humongous trailer across the Ohio and Mississippi bridges along the route we usually take at Paducah, TN anyway because they are both old, narrow single lane rickety bridges with no shoulders. The alternative though is a longer drive.

So this trip we turned off of I75 north of Nashville onto I40 west to Jackson, TN where we spent the night. In the morning we took US412 northwest to I55 across the Mississippi River bridge. Being an interstate bridge we found it to be very nice and were asking ourselves why we'd never ventured this way before. But on the western side of the river we discovered why - there are no US highways nor state roads running east to west! Everything goes north/south. So we meandered around for quite a bit before finally giving up and taking I55 north all the way to US60. We arrived at our little Happy Trails home site in Missouri Monday afternoon. We’re always a little apprehensive not knowing how things will be when we get there but everything looked great.

Garry and Tuni visit from NJ

May 27 to May 31

We love getting visitors to our little Happy Trails Campground here in the Ozarks in SW Missouri. It was a little tight this time though with our new humongous 5th wheel (36 feet) and Garry's which is even bigger (40 feet I think) plus we both have three slide outs which take up a lot of room. We moved to our visitor site before he arrived to make it easier for him to back in but the ground was so soft from all the record breaking levels of rain this spring, we still had some issues.

It rained almost every day they were here but we still managed to fit in one day at the lake. We took the pontoon boat up to Lake Pomme de Terre, a beautiful clear water late just 40 minutes north.

And not to let the drizzly weather get the better of us, we went ahead and grilled out on the porch and had a picnic dinner in our little storage cabin.
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Tim’s Projects

June 01 to June 23

Tim kept himself busy around the property but some of his efforts were more in the maintenance mode unfortunately. This area of the country has been getting record breaking rain all spring. Twice the downpours were so heavy that they flooded our pond and washed the little bridge Tim had built slightly downstream and off its supports. And with one thunderstorm we had hail and hurricane force winds – not gusts but regular steady high winds strong enough that they actually moved the pontoon boat sideways and off its hitch support! Trees were blown down (one huge one blocked the main road at the end of our lane), the kayak was blown out into the pasture, all the hanging baskets and hummingbird feeders were blown away and the heavy grill and grill table were even blown off the cabin porch! It was pretty scary. We have a storm shelter but we’ve only used it when there are tornado warnings – we never anticipated that a plain ole thunderstorm could be so violent.

Tim’s first project was to install a washer and dryer in the little storage cabin. He put in all the plumbing and electrical connections – no small engineering feat because we don’t want to have any permanent connections here. Everything is arranged with hoses and pipes that can be drained and winterized so we can turn everything off when we leave in the fall.
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It is wonderful not having to go to the laundromat in town! Absolutely wonderful!

His next project was to build an outdoor shower platform. Once he moves it over beside the trailer it will be very convenient for washing the dogs outdoors. Our 5th wheel has an outdoor shower connection but without something to stand on to keep the dirt from splattering back on you, it isn’t very useable.
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The biggest project he undertook was to build a shed off of the storage cabin where he could shelter the tractor. We’ve been parking it in the car hauler when we leave on our travels (or for the winter) but now we’ll be able to store a second vehicle in the car hauler, maybe a little Jeep. I’d like to have another vehicle so we can travel around the Ozarks to the various lakes and take the boat along without having to make two trips and Tim would like to have another vehicle for just running errands.
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He did a beautiful job designing, framing, roofing and painting. The only thing left to do later in the fall is to build the doors.

Kelly and Family Visit

June 24 to July 1

Wednesday
My daughter Kelly, her husband George and their two little ones, Jimmy and William, flew into Springfield from Orlando on Allegiant Air. It was quite exciting for the boys ages 5 and 6 as they had never flown before. But there was more excitement in store because at that age there’s lots they’ve never done before, like ride on a tractor!
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Jimmy, our budding engineer is more interested in knowing how everything works than where he's going.

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Jimmy's got the hang of it now.

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William is wondering how much longer before it's his turn.

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William learns to drive the tractor all by himself. Put that boy to work!

Thursday
Pomme de Terre Lake, MO
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Sprocket likes to drive the boat while grandpa naps.
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This is the beach at one of the Corps of Engineers campgrounds on the lake but you notice that we are the only ones there. That's because the lake is so high from the record breaking rain this spring that the access roads are flooded out.
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Back at our little Happy Trails campground, Jimmy helped Grandpa give Sprocket a bath.
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The boys entertained themselves playing with Sunshine.
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William was fascinated by the bumblebee in the hanging basket.
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And Jimmy was fascinated by an inchworm he found.
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Friday
It was a hot, hot day and the sky looked like a storm might set in so we decided we would visit Fantastic Caverns - America's Only Ride-Through Caverns, just a little northwest of Springfield, MO. It was a good choice because the temperature in the caverns stays around 60 degrees year round. It was another first for the boys!
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The original entrance to this cave was discovered by an Ozark's farmer in 1862 during the civil war. He kept it secret because he didn't want it exploited by either the Union or the Confederacy for the saltpeter. As we were riding through, the driver pointed out this rock where twelve adventurous women of the Springfield Women's Athletic Club carved their names in February, 1867. They are considered the first explorers of the cave, since they carved their names into the rock and are mentioned in an article published in the Springfield Tri-Weekly Patriot newspaper.
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After our tour through the caverns we treated everyone at our favorite ice cream shop in Springfield - Andy's. They make an original type of "soft serve" ice cream that is solid enough that they scoop it. Yummy!

Pony Pull in Buffalo, MO
Jimmy was tired after our busy day in Springfield but William was still going strong so this evening we took him to the Pony Pull in Buffalo, MO. This is the event that kicks off the beginning of the Dallas County Junior Livestock Fair. The ponies come from all across the Midwest and Southeast to compete. Each team must pull a weighted sled 6 feet. They begin at twice their weight and then each round the weight is increased proportionately. The last team able to pull its weight when all others fail is the winner.
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Saturday
Bonfire
Tim had a large brush pile from cutting down Juniper trees so the "boys" had themselves a huge bonfire.
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Jimmy and William were more intrigued with the many different kinds of bugs they could find. Except for the ticks. They weren't intrigued by the ticks.
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Bull Riding
That evening we went to the Dallas County Fairgrounds for the final event of the fair - Bull Riding.

This little cowpoke is plumb tuckered out! (Possibly my favorite picture of the week.)
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And this is BEFORE the rodeo even begins.
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The boys were entertained by the rodeo clown distracting the bulls after the riders fell off.
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My beautiful daughter Kelly and her two little angel cowboys.
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White cowboy hats seem to be all the rage. I guess our two little cowpokes are right in style.
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Sunday
Jimmy entertained himself playing with Sunshine.
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Grandpa and his sidekick preparing some vittles for dinner.
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Monday
Earlier in the week Tim had taken Jimmy for a ride in the kayak on our pond and Kelly had taken William, But William wanted to go on his own. I was proud of him because this afternoon he got the hang of it pretty quickly.
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And what camping experience would be complete without smores!?!
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Tuesday
Where oh where has the week gone? I can't believe it's almost time for the family to go back to Florida.

We decided to wrap the week up by spending the day at the lake. We rented a tube at the State Park Marina that we could pull with our pontoon boat. What a blast! Even Tim and I gave it a try.
Tim and William give it a try first.
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Jimmy's falling asleep but still asking for "just one more time".

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Wednesday
Sadly it's time to say goodbye. What a wonderful, blessed week we have had!
We take the family to the Springfield Airport for their flight back to Orlando.
But first Jimmy has to shop for a souvenir.
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Posted by JudyandTim2015 23:47 Archived in USA

2015 Happy Trails - Week 01 to Week 03

Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas and back to Missouri - July 19 to August 8

Branson, MO

Sunday, July 19

We said goodbye to our little Happy Trails camp site with its beautiful sunsets and goodbye to the blue birds in the bird house next to the storage cabin.

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Baby bluebird falls out of the nest
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Papa Bluebird feeding the baby that fell to the ground
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Our first stop on this year’s journey was in Branson, MO at the Table Rock State Park Campground.

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Tim had never been to Branson and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. (It is very popular in this region of the country for live music and entertainment.) I tried to warn him but really you have to experience it for yourself. The main drag is a seemingly endless strip of theaters, water parks, go cart parks, and miniature golf courses. I don’t know how many theaters there are today but I read that by the early 2000s there were more than 100! It is also the home of Silver Dollar City and Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. The traffic moves along at the lively clip of about 5 miles an hour – no need to put your foot on the gas pedal. Idling speed is more than adequate.

After setting up camp we went out in search of ice cream but instead we found a beautiful sunset beyond the Table Rock Dam.

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Monday, July 20

This afternoon we took in the sights along the strip and idled on in to The 50s Diner. Tim had great fun playing the quarter jukebox at our table. All the selections were old 50s hits. And then we drove by Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede where they had the most eye catching flower display.

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Table Rock Lake is one of the four Corps of Engineers projects on the White River built to control flooding and generate hydroelectric power (the other three are Beaver Lake – we’ll be visiting that later this month, Tannycomo Lake, and Bull Shoals Lake). Table Rock Dam was constructed in the late 1950s and created a huge lake covering over 43,100 acres and a shoreline of nearly 800 miles. It is famous for its excellent bass fishing and is touted as being the no. 1 bass fishing lake in the northern hemisphere!

We had thought we might make a trip back to get the pontoon boat so we could explore Table Rock Lake via water rather than the windy Ozark mountain roads. But when we went out for a walk this morning on the 2.25 mile Lakeshore Trail (which passes right alongside our campsite and goes all the way to the dam), we only got about ½ mile before the trail disappeared… underwater! The unprecedented amount of rain that had been falling all spring has created quite a problem. The marina was even underwater! The only access to the marina office and the stores was over a temporary floating hodgepodge of rotting plywood ramps; even some of the boat slips were only accessible by watercraft.

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Tuesday, July 21

Today was another hot rainy, overcast day with temperatures remaining in the 90s. We were going a little stir crazy. We decided it just wouldn’t be right to be in Branson and not see at least one show so we bought tickets for the evening dinner cruise of the Showboat Branson Belle.

Our expectations were pretty low so we were pleasantly surprised by how delicious the food was. Plus we really enjoyed the show which featured a four man dance group, New Rhythm – The Fastest Feet West of the Mississippi, a musical group, The ShowMen, singer Cassandre Faimon-Haygood, and we especially enjoyed the comedian, Christophe James. He was hilarious.

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Tim enjoyed examining a working paddle wheel.
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Wednesday and Thursday, July 22 – July 23

Another couple of drizzly, cloudy days and still hot, very hot. While out for a drive we came across some wildflowers that we had never seen before. Tim pulled over so I could take a picture or two. They were beautiful but we’ve no idea what they are.

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We decided to take a drive around the lake and check out a couple of the Corps of Engineer campgrounds just for future reference. We discovered Baxter Campground – all the sites were beautifully landscaped and on the water. Unfortunately more than a few were underwater. But it will be a great destination for another year. And it will be very convenient for us to reach from Springfield – just a bit south on US 160 then southwest on SR 13 to County Road H west.

We also found a Bass Pro Shop on one of our wandering drives and discovered it had a wonderful bar/restaurant. We filled up on appetizers at the bar – no need for dinner. Yummy fried portabella mushrooms and fish dip washed down with their specialty Bloody Mary.

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Can you tell we were getting pretty bored?

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Oklahoma City, OK

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 24 – July 26

Friday we drove north on US 65 from Branson to Springfield and then got on I44 west across Missouri into Oklahoma through Tulsa to Twin Fountains RV Resort in Oklahoma City. (In Oklahoma I44 is a toll road; but they only have two toll booths between the Missouri border and Oklahoma City – around $11.00 each.)

We were thrilled at the beautifully landscaped sites in the park.
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There was even a limo if you want to go into town in luxury,
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The namesake “twin” fountains
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The Resort had a large lodge with kitchen facilities, lounge chairs, fireplace, large flat screen TV, huge sectional sofa, game area with a ping pong table, card table, tic tac toe table, and two pool tables, plus a hair and nail salon, a laundry and a shower and bathroom area.
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We were without air conditioning in the trailer and everyday the temperature outside was anywhere from 97 to 101 (and that's The Story Behind the Story) so we spent our afternoons in the lodge where the dogs could be cool.
It was pretty boring. Tim took lots of naps. LOL
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Even the dogs were bored.
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Our destination in Oklahoma City was the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum which held its opening ceremonies on June 26, 1965 with Parade Marshall John Wayne leading the procession on his white stallion through downtown Oklahoma City. This is a world class facility with beautiful gardens, dining and shopping in addition to an amazing collection of Western fine art which has always been its primary focus.

I counted 11 separate galleries but there may be more. It is huge! Without a map I would have been hopelessly lost. While I loved the fine art, the gallery I enjoyed the most was the American Rodeo Gallery. Who knew women used to compete (and win) in all the events? I wish I had taken notes. They stopped being allowed to compete in the rougher events when the top ranking woman was brutally mangled and killed by a bull after being thrown in a bull riding event.

There is more here than you can take in in one visit. Tim and I bought two day passes and came both Saturday and Sunday, and I’m glad we did. If we’re ever back this way through Oklahoma City in our travels, we will definitely stop in again.
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The first day we visited, Saturday, was 2015 National Cowboy Day and they had the crowning of the Miss National Rodeo Queen. These are the winners signing autographs.
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Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, July 27 – July 29

Tuesday Tim and I drove into the Bricktown area of Oklahoma City and rode the water taxi there along the Bricktown Canal.
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We stopped for a drink at the Bricktown Brewery where instead of a brew I had an Old Fashion made with Bittermilk No. 1. (I’ve since looked in a couple of liquor stores for it and have been unable to find it anywhere but online. Dang!)

We ate lunch at the Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill where I saw the perfect saddle for me, should I ever get another horse.
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Thursday and Friday, July 30 – July 31

Spent the afternoon Thursday at TJ Max in Shawnee, OK and on Friday all day at the Mall while Tim waited with the dogs at the Rocking N RV Repair shop for Air Conditioner repairs. But that’s another story – “The Story Behind the Story”.

Beaver Lake in Rogers, AR

Saturday and Sunday, August 1 – August 2

Met up with our friends Dee and Dan at Rocky Branch Campground in Arkansas on beautiful Beaver Lake. Had a lovely site but unfortunately it was at the top of the hill/mountain and wasn’t even within view of the lake.
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It is still summer vacation for the kids, and families are flocking to the lake for the last hurrah before school resumes in a couple of weeks. Plus many of the campground sites here are underwater as they were at Table Rock Lake.
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We had a wonderful time riding around the lake on their pontoon boat and fishing but we were all skunked – no one caught a single fish!
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Week 03 – Arkansas to Indiana

Monday and Tuesday, August 3 – August 4

Two Days at Happy Trails site in Missouri
Our plans are to head toward the northeast but before hitting the trail, we spent two days at our Happy Trails site in Missouri. Tim had one last appointment with his Orthopedic Dr. and Sprocket had another Vet appointment. (I think he’s allergic to Missouri!) And I caught up on the laundry.

Wednesday, August 5

Breakdown on I44
This is not a day I ever want to relive. We broke down on the Interstate and had a harrowing ride in a wrecker pulling our 55 foot truck/5th wheel on the Interstate through a driving thunderstorm and into the downtown area of Rolla, MO to the ford dealership there.

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We were very fortunate that we found a campground about 15 miles from Rolla (south of Saint James, MO 5.6 miles on SR 68 then SR 8), the Meramec Country Store RV Park ($28.00 per night). The campground host came into town and hooked up our 5th wheel to his truck and pulled it to the campground for us. Thank God for angels! But this too is part of “The Story Behind the Story”.

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Thursday, August 6

The Storm’s Silver Lining
They say every storm has one and this time it was true. We discovered that we were camped in the middle of a “destination” site – Maramec Spring Park. Maramec Spring, the largest of the springs which form the Meramec River (yes, there are two spellings – but it’s a long story), was just a couple of miles down the road!

Since we had already paid for the extra night at the campground before finding out the truck repairs were going to be completed by 10:00am, we decided to stay put and explore the Park. This 1856 acre wildlife refuge and park are privately owned and operated by The James Foundation.
Lucy Wortham James acquired ownership of Maramec Spring with the forest and farmland surrounding it in 1920. Upon her death in 1938 she made her residuary estate a part of The New York Community Trust and authorized creation of The James Foundation. To her executors she wrote, “As this is considered to be the most beautiful spot in Missouri, it is my great hope that you will arrange that it may ever be in private, considerate control, and ever be open to the enjoyment of the people.”

The spring and surrounding land was originally owned by her ancestor, Thomas James, a banker and merchant from Chillicothe, Ohio. He employed early settlers in the area to construct Maramec Iron Works in 1826. Accessible iron ore, water power from the spring, and a hardwood forest for charcoal made it an advantageous site for an Ironworks and it was the first successful one west of the Mississippi River. The furnace and refinery forges remain standing to this day.

At its peak the company town had an estimated population of 500. One of its residents was Phoebe Apperson, a school teacher who at 19 met and married George Herst, who later became a US Senator. Their son was the famous William Randolph Herst, the newspaper mogul.

This is just one interesting tidbit of historical information that can be found in the Maramec Museum of Natural and Cultural History which is located in the Park. It houses some of the most interesting and educational dioramas I’ve ever seen. They depict the operation of the Ironworks. But it also contains wonderfully preserved and presented cultural history exhibits of the area as well as natural history exhibits. We learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

The Maramec Museum of Natural and Cultural History
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This critter swims in the lakes and streams here in Missouri!!! Maybe I'll rethink swimming in these beautiful lakes.
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We also toured the grounds of the park, first hiking along the path that leads to the Maramec Spring itself and later following the Park’s historic drive which took us past the Ironworks Cemetery and along Stringtown Road, where chimneys still stand from the cabins of the earliest settlers.
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Along the route we came to a couple of informational plaques about the Ozark Mountains. One interesting fact – commercial timber cutting in the late 1800’s, and the annual burning which hill folks believed would rid the area of ticks, chiggers, and snakes as well as let the grass grow, left the hills bare! The thin topsoil eroded quickly, then choked with gravel and silt, the springs dried up and wildlife disappeared. The Ozarks became one of the most depressed rural areas of America. Finally during the 1930s public and private agencies began promoting education, enforcement and reforestation. Today the scene has changed dramatically as evidenced by the heavily forested hills, clear streams and beautiful springs.
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The cool waters of Maramec Spring provide a good environment for trout so the Department of Conservation raises trout within the Park and stocks them in the Spring Branch for fisherman. Walking along this branch of the spring’s output stream was the highlight of Sprocket and Sunshine’s day!
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At the spring itself the walkway took us around under a large rock overhang. When I looked up I saw that the rock was covered with these pretty gauzy things. Then I realized they were spider webs! Yikes! There were hundreds of them!
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In addition to everything we did at the Park there was one other activity that we didn’t have time (nor the energy) for – floating the upper Meramec River. There are two miles of crystal clear Meramec River that are evidently very popular as a recreational opportunity. Maybe next time we will visit the area with that in mind.

After a much needed relaxing day at the Park, we went into the little town of Saint James, MO in search of a bite to eat. We found more than a bite at Bob’s Restaurant (now owned by Tony and Julie – go figure) where we had their excellent all-you-can-eat “Smoked Buffet”, featuring smoked fish and smoked meats.

Friday and Saturday, August 7 – August 8

Friday morning we resumed our drive along I44 northeast toward St. Louis, more uneventfully this time, thank goodness. At St. Louis we took the “beltway” around the city on I255 and then onto I65 east to the town of O Fallon where we exited onto US 50 and drove east to the little town of Carlyle, IL and Carlyle Lake. This Corps of Engineers lake is the largest in Illinois and as with other COE lakes it has very nice, reasonably priced campgrounds. Using our America the Beautiful – Senior Pass we were able to stay two nights for $16.00 total. We chose the Boulder Recreational Area campground. Given that we were arriving on a Friday of a busy weekend, we were lucky to find a vacant site.

We went to the Friday evening Ranger program at the Brewster Creek Amphitheater. Most people brought their children but we brought Sunshine. She was so excited to see and sniff the live quail exhibited in cages and to visit with the Rangers German Pointer dog.

Friday we drove back into town after setting up at the campsite and had what turned out to be a gourmet lunch at a little local bar there. I had what was labeled on the menu as a “dip” of chicken salad with a side of homemade pita crisps. Yummy!
Saturday we returned to town for lunch at a different bar but this time the food was just so-so.

Posted by JudyandTim2015 10:13 Archived in USA

2015 Happy Trails - Week 04

Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania: August 09 - August 15

Indiana

Sunday, August 9

Hoosier National Forest, IN

Our destination today was the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area Campground in the Hoosier National Forest in south central Indiana. We left Carlyle Lake on US 50 headed east across Illinois and then into central Indiana on US 150 through the small cities and towns of Vincennes, Wheatland, Washington, Montgomery, Loogootee, and Shoals, then back onto US 50 to Bedford where we turned north onto SR 37 toward Monroe Lake.

I mention all of these small cities and towns because as we drove along it was striking how prosperous all of them looked. There wasn’t any non-performing real estate in the town squares as we have seen in so many places on our travels and all of the homes were beautifully landscaped and sparkling as though newly painted, no matter the era of the home, from turn-of-the-century farm houses to antebellum mansions, federalist style estates, Victorian homes and Craftsman style with even simple bungalows and ranch houses looking as though they were being lovingly cared for.

We had mapped out our route from SR 37 into the national forest which as is to be expected included many back roads. We turned onto Old State Road 37 N and then took a left onto Guthrie Road, a windy road with no shoulders through the hills of the National Forest. This road would have taken us all the way around the southern end of Monroe Lake to Hardin Ridge Road and the campground. However, we had hardly gone ¼ mile when we came to a sign, “bridge out ahead”! With no place to turn around we simply stopped in the middle of the road. We were looking at the IPAD map trying to find a way out when another vehicle came toward us. They stopped and told us that yes the bridge was completely out and we would have to get to the campground by going all the way north to Bloomington and then around the lake to come into the campground from the north. Thank God they were locals because they were able to give us directions through country roads that led us back to SR 37.

So we continued on our way north on SR37 into the city of Bloomington, IN, the home of Indiana University. It is a beautiful city as most university towns are, and we got to see quite a bit of it as we had to drive through the University east on SR 46 to get to SR 446, the road that would take us south into Hoosier National Forest along the eastern side of Monroe Lake. At S Chapel Hill Road we turned west until at long last we came to Hardin Ridge Road.

Monroe Lake is bordered all along its western side by the Hoosier National Forest and there are endless National Forest Recreation Areas with campgrounds. We had selected Hardin Ridge because it was the largest with the most sites so we thought we wouldn’t have any trouble getting a site. As it turns out the crowds are mainly on the weekend. We practically had the place to ourselves.
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The campground sports a beach and boat launch as well as numerous hiking trails so the first thing we did after setting up camp was to drive down to the beach, taking the dogs and our evening cocktails with us. With all the flooding we saw in Missouri and Arkansas I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised to find the lake completely flooded over its banks. The beach and the marina were both closed. We did manage to find a bench overlooking the lake where we could enjoy our cocktails though.
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Monday, August 10

This morning we set out on a scenic drive east along SR46 and south on Rte. 135 across the rolling hills and valleys which form the lower third of Indiana. I had always pictured Indiana as flat and featureless and was surprised to find it to be so picturesque with red barns and beautifully painted and landscaped turn of the century (19th that is) farm houses dotting the hillsides.

As we drove along SR 46 through rural Brown County we came to the village of Belmont where we turned south onto T. C. Steele Road, a country lane winding through huge hardwood trees and meadows to the T. C. Steele State Historic Site, a 171 acre nature preserve, art studio and home built by the painter Theodore Clement Steele in 1907. I was really looking forward to touring the painter’s historic home, known as the House of the Singing Wind and viewing his colorful paintings but when we arrived we sadly found that it is closed on Mondays.

This is one of the cabins on the preserve. The cabins are used by visiting artists.
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Our next stop was the town of Nashville, IN. What a gem! It is evidently a gathering place for artists of all stripes with block after block of art galleries and craft stores interspersed with antique shops. Many of the art galleries are cooperatives and some even have working studios where you can view various artists’ works in progress. I could have spent the entire day there. Tim was very patient but I knew it was time to move on when he began saying he would just wait outside on a bench while I perused the shops.

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We had lunch in town at the Hob Nob Corner Restaurant. It was quaintly cosmopolitan, if you can picture such a thing. I ordered one of their specials – Fried Green Tomato Open Face Sandwich.

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The town also is expanding an area of frontier era buildings. Today it sports a log jail built in 1879 to replace the original built in 1837 (a far cry from the comfy county jails of today with their air conditioning and TVs); a “dog run” style building; and many others with construction underway to erect many more.

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We learned that in June each year the town hosts the Bill Monroe Memorial Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, the oldest festival in the world dedicated to Monroe’s “high lonesome” bluegrass songs. We may just have to come back here next year in June!

We continued our drive east on SR46 and just a few miles east of Nashville we turned south on Rte. 135 with the resurrected ghost town of Story being our destination. Today it appears to be a venue for things like weddings and such. It is a good thing we decided to do this part of our touring without the trailer – Rte. 135 is a narrow, shoulder-less, steep and windy road with low hanging tree branches making it often seem like we were driving through a green tunnel.

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Art is everywhere in Brown County, even in the ghost town.

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Being a member of the DAR myself, I found it interesting that this little ghost town has a chapter, the 10 O'clock Line.
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Tuesday, August 11

We packed up and headed out this morning retracing our steps into downtown Bloomington, IN and then north with our objective being to drive to a campground near Fair Oaks, IN in the northwestern corner of Indiana, just an hour's drive from Chicago. Why in the world did we want to go to Fair Oaks, IN you ask? Well, we had heard of a totally self-sustaining dairy farm there that offered tours of the farm and it sounded interesting. Boy is that an understatement!

The farm is located in the northwestern corner of Indiana, not more than an hours’ drive south of Chicago. We had planned on driving up Interstate 65 but when we looked at the map on the IPAD we found that I65 was closed to northbound traffic in two places – one was a 37 mile stretch and the other was 14 miles! So instead we stayed on SR 46 west through Bloomington to US 231 north. What a gorgeous ride! Again we went through small town after small town, each more beautiful and prosperous than the next – Ellettsville, Spencer, Cloverdale, Greencastle, Crawfordsville, Linden, Romney, Lafyette, and Remington. Not only were they beautifully landscaped and appointed but it was rare that we even saw a realtor’s sign. Nobody’s leaving! No wonder I've never met anyone from Indiana!

We stopped along the way for a picnic lunch at McCormick’s Creek State Park on the White River in Spenser, IN.

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One thing that should be noted by anyone that may be thinking of buying a trailer for a venture of their own – make sure it has access to both the refrigerator and the bathroom when you stop without having to open any of the slides. We love that about this 5th wheel. Plus it has a touchpad keyless entry so there is no searching for the right key when you’re in a hurry. (You ladies know what I mean. LOL)

As we drove through Crawfordsville about halfway up the state I noticed that the terrain had changed from the steeply hilly and heavily forested area in the south and the rolling scenic hills of mid-way, to the expected flat, cornfield covered farmland.

We had reservations at a campground a short distance off of Interstate 65 just 20 minutes south of our destination, Fair Oaks Farm. It was the Caboose Lake Campground and it was delightful. Our site was all the way around to the far side of the lake away from the Interstate and we practically had the place to ourselves. The weather was beautiful and we truly enjoyed having our evening cocktails overlooking the lake.
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The view was even nice from inside the trailer.
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It had been a tiring day of driving so we looked for a quick bite – nothing fancy – and found it at a restaurant in the Pilot Truck Stop where we had a surprisingly good stuffed roast pork loin dinner. Those truckers do know how to eat!

Wednesday, August 12

We spent the entire day today at Fair Oaks Farm. This is a huge facility owned as a co-op by nine families. It is an impressive bio-secure operation and is totally self-sustaining. (More about that later.) It has both a dairy operation and a hog raising operation. We toured both with lunch in between at the COW-fe. LOL

The bio-security is in both the animals’ interest (No sick little piglets on this farm!) but also is in the owner’s best financial interest (A healthy, happy cow is a more productive cow – more milk!). In order to maintain their bio-secure environment, each employee when he/she arrives at work must enter the facilities through a shower area and then dress in sterilized work uniforms. And visitors are never in contact with the animals or their facilities. All of the dairy tours are done using completely contained, negatively charged buses so that no air from the bus is exhausted into the cow barn areas, i.e., you don’t even breathe on them. And in the hog areas the walking part of the tour is in a totally glass enclosed second floor where you gaze down upon the pigs as you walk through the “barns”. (Seriously, I wouldn't call these immaculately maintained facilities barns but I’m not sure of another term.)
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I wish we had taken notes to capture the various statistics about the farm but I thought we could buy a video or book later. Nope. They said they have considered making a video but have never gotten around to it. (Now there’s an opportunity for some aspiring writer/videographer!) They told me to look online but all I could find is the usual marketing information intended to draw families in to visit, but none of the impressive statistics about the place. I’ll just have to rely on memory. (Uh oh, we could be in trouble. LOL)
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Dairy Operation
First let me tell you about the dairy operation. The cows are all housed in cooled, completely contained bio-protected free range “barns” with food and water freely available as desired. They have sand areas where they lay down to chew their cuds and this protects their joints. These feed areas are washed down every day and fresh sand is provided.
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As they get the “urge” the cows wander over to the so called “Cow Parlor” and make their way onto a milking carousel. They call them the “Cow Parlors” because the cows love going there. First they have their teats hand-cleansed with an antiseptic cream; then they are hooked up to the milking machine for their “massage” and then when through, each one has its teats hand-treated with a moisturizing emollient. And it is all voluntary.

About 30,000 cows are milked daily using this unique carousel arrangement. The carousel carries 72 cows in a continuous milking operation. The farm has eleven such carousel operations operating 24/7!
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The cows enter and exit completely on their own.
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There is a bar that makes contact with their hind legs when they get on the carousel and as the carousel makes its way around, the bar rubs on the back of their legs. When they reach the exit point the bar ends; this is their clue that it is time to leave the Cow Parlor and they back up and exit, fully renewed and ready for another round of eating and chewing to their hearts content.
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If there is a cow heaven, this place is it!

With this many cows, it isn’t surprising that there is also an active inseminating and birthing process. You can watch the live births from a glass enclosed viewing area. No matter when you visit you can pretty much be assured you’ll be able to see one because there are births going on almost constantly.

When we first got to the viewing area, this cow had just recently given birth and was cleaning up the calf and urging it to stand, without success. There is a veterinarian on duty at all times and after observing the pair for a while, she entered the birthing pen with a large jug of colostrum which the calf took hungrily. Shortly afterward it was able to stand and mama cow seemed quite relieved.
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In the birthing pen next over, there was a cow in the midst of the calving process.
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Yes, those are cute little calf hooves peeking out!

Then the attendant/veterinarian came over from the adjoining pen and put on clear plastic gloves – the one for the right hand went up past her elbow! Uh oh.
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Finally success!

When the attendant leaves, the mama cow gets up to see what she’s got there.
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And the neighboring cow who gave birth first came over to offer her congratulations and welcome the new arrival. It was just so cute.
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Mama cow then worked on cleaning up for the portraits that I’m sure were soon to follow.
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With such a huge dairy operation I wasn’t surprised to learn there is also an award winning cheese production facility here. This year at the US Cheese Championship held in Madison, WI from March 17 to March 19, Fair Oaks Farm’s Master Cheese-maker Bruce Workman won first place for his Fair Oaks Havarti. This was first place out of 1892 entries from 28 states! We bought some and yes, it is delicious.
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In between tours of the dairy and the hog facility we had lunch – delicious toasted Havarti cheese sandwiches and French Onion soup – at the "COW-fe".
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Hog Operation
The farm’s huge hog raising operation is equally as impressive as the dairy operation. It too is a super clean, bio-secure environment so there is no direct interaction with the pigs, just with their pictures.
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They birth over 250 pigs daily! The average litter size is 12 to 13 piglets with some litters being as large as 23. They keep the hogs from birth to 4 months which is when they are taken to other farms to finish growing to maturity – 6 months.

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I was surprised to see how the piglets played with each other just like little puppies. In one pen we watched as the little guys climbed up on the sow’s back and then rolled off over her stomach, over and over again – just like kids on a sliding board. Too funny.
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There was a farmer present to answer visitor’s questions. The little piglet he’s holding was 24 hours old and it just squealed and squealed until he finally put his finger in its mouth.
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After being weened, the piglets are housed in bio-secure free roaming areas segregated by age.
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They are free to eat and drink whenever they desire but the amount of food is controlled for each piglet by a system using radio chips attached to each piglet which tracks when they enter an eating stall and determines whether they are due for another feeding. If so it releases food for them.
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They all look pretty darned content to me.
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A growth chart showed the phenomenal growth spurt these little guys experience. At 24 hours they are approximately 3 pounds but by the time they are 6 month old they weigh in at 280 pounds! Here at Fair Oaks Farm they are kept until they are 4 months old and then they are moved out to various farms to complete their growth. At Fair Oaks Farm an adult sow weighs in at about 500 pounds.
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In some of the pictures you may have noticed the slatted floors in all of the pig facilities. Those facilitate their energy operation.
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Fair Oaks Farm generates all of its own energy from the processing of pig and cow manure. (They don’t call it “waste” because none of it is wasted – it is all used to power the farm in one way or another.)
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Once the pig manure is washed through the slats and collected, it is converted into energy via one of three processes: 1. Digester, 2. Lagoon, or 3. Deep Pit.
1) The poop can be pumped into a "Digester" where it is converted into electricity through anaerobic digestion of the poop creating biogas (primarily methane) which is collected.
2) The poop can also be pumped to a lagoon system where it goes through a nutrient digestion and storage process until being distributed as fertilizer.
3) Manure can also be pumped to a deep pit where it is stored and later injected into the soil as fertilizer.
The poop generated fertilizer is used on the thousands of acres of farmland used to grow the corn and other grains needed for the cattle and hog feed. The only externally provided energy is the CNG used to power their milk transport trucks across the many states served by this dairy. Thus Fair Oaks Farm is a totally sustainable system.

The children we saw while on the tours were completely enthralled but the Farm also has a wonderful “playground” outside where the kids can let off steam and energy. There is a jumping mound (as opposed to a trampoline), a rope maze, a paved area with pedal tractors, climbing walls, a train, and even an inside endurance course for the teens (or adventuresome adults) much like the ones seen on that reality TV show.
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This day may turn out to be the highlight of our 2015 trip. It is just unbelievable to witness an operation as efficient as this. No wonder Indiana is so prosperous!

Thursday, August 13

The Caboose Lake Campground is so pleasant we decided to just relax and stay another day. Sunshine enjoyed swimming in the lake and at one point I heard Tim calling and calling her name. It turns out she had swum away and then ran off through the campground looking for rabbits evidently. There was a trail around the campground that was a mile in length and we enjoyed hiking it.

In the evening we drove into the little town of Remington for dinner. We found another immaculate, thriving little town. We had dinner at Bob and Connie’s Restaurant and Pub (recommended by the campground host). Their specialty – huge deep fried balls of hash brown potatoes (picture softball size) stuffed with nacho cheese. LOL I couldn’t make this up. Tim of course ordered one and loved it. The owner comp’d us two free beers because there was a delay in food service – we never even noticed! Such nice people.

There is only one tiny complaint about Indiana and it is Tim’s. He thinks the state motto should be changed from the “Hoosier State” to the “What time is it anyway?” state. It seems that each County is free to decide whether they wish to operate under the Eastern Time zone or the Central Time zone. So for example, when we were in Hoosier National Forest we were operating on Eastern Time but when we stopped for lunch at the McCormick’s Creek State Park we noticed it was Central Time. Then when we got to the campground we were on Eastern Time but when we went 20 miles north to Fair Oaks Farm we were on Central Time. VERY CONFUSING!

Friday, August 14

We left Caboose Lake Campground and headed east on US 24 through the pretty town of Wolcott, then across corn fields, then Reynolds, more cornfields and some soybean fields, then Monticello, a little forest canopy over the road, into Logansport, then more corn fields, into the city of Wabash, more open fields of corn and soybeans, into Huntington where we turned onto US 224 east (to avoid downtown Ft. Wayne) then on to Uniondale, Decatur, and across the state line into Ohio (the welcome sign was about the size of a stop sign).

As with our earlier days of travel through the small towns and cities of Indiana, every one we passed through today was spotless and many were simply beautiful. It is almost as though there is a state-wide contest for the prettiest town. But it extends beyond the towns. All of the farms we passed (and there were hundreds) were beautiful with all of the out buildings painted and clean, no junk tractors or other equipment in the fields or yards – just amazing. I can’t help but wonder what Indiana is doing that the rest of the states aren’t. It is a striking difference and was noticeable almost immediately as we left and entered Ohio.

We continued our drive to Van Wert, Ohio and then turned east onto US 30, an interstate-like limited access road around Upper Sandusky and on east all the way to Mansfield, Ohio – our planned destination. We had made reservations at the Charles Mill Lake Park off SR 430 but it turned out to be a terrible, impossible campground for travelers. There were hundreds of sites but the park is an old, county park with narrow access roads and tight curves thru hilly wooded terrain, and the sites available were so un-level that they weren’t suitable for anyone, not even tent campers. Plus most of the sites were full of “seasonal” campers – those who rent for the summer and build porches, gardens, outbuildings for storage, etc. making for a pretty junky looking village of sites. It wasn’t a pleasant place.

We tried another campground, the only other one near Mansfield, and found more of the same. So we ended up staying at the Super Walmart parking lot!
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It was actually quite pleasant. We were overlooking a cornfield and Sunshine enjoyed watching the deer.
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The temperature was in the low 70’s so we could leave the dogs in the camper without concern. We walked to a nearby Cracker Barrel for dinner and all-in-all had a wonderful evening. Surprisingly there was no truck traffic during the night so we even slept soundly.

Saturday, August 15

So I woke up today, my birthday, in a Walmart parking lot. What’s wrong with this picture? LOL My stepson Erik suggested I go into Walmart in my PJ’s and maybe I could make one of those You Tube videos. I don’t think so.

We left Mansfield, OH and drove east on SR 97 to SR 39 at Loudenville to begin our scenic drive through Ohio’s famous Amish territory. We drove along US 250 south through Nashville (our third Nashville of 2015) and then Millersburg followed by Berlin and then Sugar Creek where we drove through town on a “no thru trucks” street and FINALLY we were able to find a spot on the street beside a closed hardware store (on the other side of the railroad tracks – not exactly in town) where we could pull over with the trailer and park. We would have liked to have stopped in a couple of the other quaint little towns along the scenic drive but one of the drawbacks of doing a scenic drive while pulling a 5th wheel is that sometimes there just isn’t anywhere to park.

This little village is billed as an Alpine village but there isn’t much to support that description.
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Here we saw the town’s claim to fame – the world’s largest cuckoo clock. But not much else.
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We were looking forward to this tour thru Amish Country because our location in Missouri is right in the middle of the largest Mennonite settlement in the country. The Amish faith is a sect of the Mennonite faith which itself was an outgrowth of the 16th century Anabaptist movement in Europe. During the Swiss Protestant Reformation this group of people were considered radical for their rejection of infant baptism and mandatory military service. They immigrated to America in search of religious freedom.

The Amish sect split off 150 years after the Mennonites’ founding to enforce stricter discipline with regard to communion and excommunication. The Amish only use horse and buggy for transportation, and are distinctive with their white prayer caps and plain attire but they consider it an offense to be photographed so no pictures here.

The Mennonites, while similarly plainly dressed, by comparison seem quite modern. In our area they drive pickup trucks (all black with no markings and no license tags), use cell phones, and operate all sorts of machinery in their agricultural and manufacturing businesses. For example in our area there is a quarry operation and a non-GMO seed production plant owned by the Mennonites.

At Tappan Lake on our scenic drive we stopped so Sunshine could enjoy a swim.
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We didn’t anticipate a flock of ducks swimming by. She took off after them and was half way across the lake before we reali9zed what was happening. We were frantic by the time she turned back.
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After lunch we drove on to New Philadelphia and onto US 22 at Cadiz. We found we had completed our scenic drive through Amish country and still had half a day left so rather than stop at the campground where we had intended to stay, we continued on toward Pennsylvania. We were planning on visiting with my sister and her family in Pittsburgh. As we drove along I made calls to campgrounds around Pittsburgh but we found that every one of them was full up – no vacant sites available except for one that was a State Park and was quite a distance northwest of Pittsburgh.

Rather than drive that much further we decided to stop for the night at another Super Walmart, this one in Steubenville, OH, just off of US 22. What a nasty place! The Walmart was on the end of what appeared to be a 75 year old mall. It was so hot outside we had to leave the truck running for the dogs while we walked through the mall waiting for it to cool down for the evening. After an hour we gave up and decided to just continue driving to the State Park in Pennsylvania.

When we arrived at Raccoon Creek State Park off of SR 18 north of US 22 it was still 90 degrees outside and hot as hell inside the trailer. Then we found out the only site available (being a Saturday night) was one with no electric! So here we are with two perfectly functioning air conditioners and no way to use them! What a birthday.

Posted by JudyandTim2015 09:05 Archived in USA

2015 Happy Trails - Week 05

Pennsylvania

Sunday, August 16

Pittsburgh, PA

We were able to change our registration at the Raccoon Creek State Park from our non-electric site to a nice flat site with both shade and electric today but before the new site was vacated my sister Heidi called and invited us to come into Pittsburgh to stay with her and her husband Rick. We plan to do this as soon as we finish moving to the new site. We can’t take the trailer with us to her house because they live right in the city and of course there’s no place there where we can park it.

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This State Park where we’re camping is about an hour’s drive from Heidi’s house in Pittsburgh so not only is it very inconvenient for driving back and forth to get together with them, we also soon learned how difficult it is to find your way around in the city proper.

Pittsburgh is built right where the Monongahela River from the southeast and the Allegheny River from the northeast converge to form the Ohio River. So besides having 446 bridges within the city limits (two more than Venice we were told), it is also built on the Allegheny Plateau which means it is very hilly – there are 712 sets of outdoor pedestrian stairs. Some of the streets are so steep that the sidewalks are just stairs! Put these two things together and it is no wonder we were lost most of the time we were there. (Or at least we would have been if it hadn’t been for Rick chauffeuring us around and for GPS leading us into and out of the city.)

Anyway that didn’t stop us from having a wonderful time. They welcomed us Sunday evening with a delicious feast of fresh corn on the cob, caprese salad, grilled chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers. And then Rick drove us to the Mt. Washington Incline Overlook for the best night view of center city and the three rivers area.

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9EA456C8FD53761119B41B3087AB8B12.jpg“How do we get home from here?” LOL
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Back at their house Heidi surprised me with a beautiful Birthday Cake she had baked. It was delicious! Yesterday, my actual birthday, was such a disaster we decided to just pretend that it never happened and today is my birthday, for 2015 anyway.
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Monday, August 17

Just Ducky Tours

Today Rick drove us into town for lunch with my niece Erica at the Murray Avenue Grill. Erica also lives in Pittsburgh in the Squirrel Hill area (I think that’s where). She and I both ordered the Southwest Grilled Salmon Salad. It was yummy.

Afterward we drove into downtown Pittsburgh and bought tickets for the Just Ducky Tour. Heidi had suggested that it would be a great way to see the city and she and Rick could learn a little bit about it too, being new to the area themselves – they moved to Pittsburgh in April of this year although Rick grew up not too far from here in New Castle PA. So they went on the tour with us!

We learned so much (but again I neglected to take notes; oh well) not the least of which is that Pittsburgh is a beautiful cosmopolitan city.
There are lots of “green” skyscrapers, each with its own little park – a requirement in order to be deemed a “green building”. As Heidi noted this is ironic in light of the city’s history as one of the most polluted cities in the world because of its steel plants. The story is that managers in the steel works had to take 2 white shirts to work every day – one to put on after they got to work and a clean one to put on after they went out to lunch. No joke.

There are over 100 colleges/universities in Pittsburgh. One we passed by right in center city, Point Park University, is a key player in the city’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area. It has as its campus many of what used to be large business buildings which have been repurposed into dorms and classrooms.

Grant Street which runs through center city was lowered to make it flat and more beautiful revealing the basement level in the high rise buildings. At one time it was considered to be the most beautiful street in the nation, second only to 5th Avenue in NYC.

The Duck Boat Driver and the Tour Guide did a great job of interspersing lots of facts with dumb but entertaining (and surprisingly funny) jokes. A great time was had by all (yes, even by Rick LOL) I highly recommend the Just Ducky Tour to anyone visiting Pittsburgh.

Pictures of city taken on the Just Ducky Tour
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Duquesne Incline from Mt. Washington; the top is where we took our pictures last night.

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Heinz Stadium - home of the Steelers' Football team
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Example of “dumb joke” told by tour guide – What do the Steelers’ fans yell when their team is losing???
Ketchup! Ketchup!
Groan.

Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Game

After the Just Ducky Tour we relaxed at Heidi’s house for a while until it was time to leave for the Pirates Baseball game being played downtown at PNC Park. We rode the train (called “the T”) into town to the stadium. (That was an adventure in and of itself!) The Pirates played the AZ Diamondbacks but sadly they lost. We had a great time anyway! We’ve eaten some great food on our travels but you really can’t beat hotdogs and beer at a baseball game.

Beautiful views of the city from the third base side!
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There is no sound on this video but if you click on it, I'm sure you can read lips and figure out what's going on. :-)

“Take me out to the ballgame! Take me out to the fair! Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks….” Can’t you just hear us singing?

Tuesday, August 18

Franklin Springs

We returned to Raccoon Creek State Park around noontime today planning on packing up and heading north to tour the heavily forested area of northern Pennsylvania. But we realized we had forgotten to fill up the truck. Tim left to do that while I got everything ready inside the trailer. When after two hours had elapsed and he hadn’t returned I was beginning to get concerned. It turns out there was road construction with flaggers (you can’t call him a “flagman” anymore even though the outdated signs still say “Flagman Ahead”. LOL) stopping traffic and it took him that long to go 20 miles!

At this point it was already after 2:00pm so we decided to just spend another night here.

We went down the road a piece to a trailhead for Frankfort Mineral Spring and hiked to the spring.
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Came across this little critter along the way.

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“You take the high road and I’ll take the low road…”

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The springs looked like nature had provided a perfect place for a shower until we put our hands in the water – it was freezing! It had to have been no more than 33 degrees.
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And looking at the surrounding rocks I think any amount of bathing in that water would have definitely turned us all into redheads.

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No hike would be complete without a few pictures of wildflowers.

After our hike we ordered pizza to go at a little hole in the wall place called the County Line Pizza. We learned its claim to fame was that it is where James Garner and Joanne Woodward filmed the movie Breathing Lessons.
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Unfortunately when we got back to the campground with the pizza, as we approached the trailer we could hear the water pump running and running. When we opened the bathroom door we found the floor was flooded! But that’s just another chapter for the Story Behind The Story.

Wednesday, August 19

Scenic Drive through the Allegheny National Forest to Buckaloons Campground

We drove 211 miles today with lots of adventure along the way. To begin with we planned to take SR 18 north to intersection with I376 north; then to I80 east to exit for SR8; then north to Franklin and onto US 62 scenic drive northeast along the Allegheny River to the Buckaloons Campground where we had reservations for a couple of nights. Sounds simple enough right?

Well shortly after leaving the campground on SR18 we came to a confusing sign that seemed to direct us to turn right onto Green Garden Road to get to I376. Green Garden Road turned out to be a narrow, hilly county road with tight turns and no shoulders. It eventually led us to an entrance ramp for northbound I376 – that WAS CLOSED! We ended up driving straight into the town of Aliquippa on Mill Street and then thanks to GPS on the iPhone were able to negotiate our way onto Brodhead Road and then left at Pleasant Drive which took us to another entrance ramp onto I376 northbound. Whew!

But the fun wasn’t over yet. As we drove along scenic route US62 northbound along the Allegheny River suddenly there was a “Low Bridge Ahead” warning sign – 13’ 3”! Now before we left Rocky Branch Campground in Arkansas last month Tim and Dan had measured our trailer height at 13’ 2”. That left us with a one inch margin! The next sign said 12 miles ahead but using GPS on the iPhone we found that there was no alternate route available and with the National Forest on our right and the Allegheny River on our left there was absolutely no place to turn around either.

When we finally came to the bridge we found a very old, rickety, rusty steel bridge over the wide Allegheny River and saw that the crossbeams on both the first and last support were all mangled overhead from where they had been hit by traffic before us. Tim drove at a crawl and I guess he had done an accurate job of measuring because we managed to traverse the bridge without incident. But it took a while for our heart rates to return to normal.

Once we had settled in at the Buckaloons Campground we decided to take a drive through Warren, PA and then north on US62 to US60 and into the town of Jamestown, NY where the closest Walgreens was located. We had planned to refill a few prescriptions there but unfortunately we weren’t successful because we discovered that NY has a state law that requires the pharmacies to cancel all refills on any out of state prescriptions that they fill. I didn’t want to do that so the drive was a waste.

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Thursday, August 20

Scenic Drive in the Allegheny National Forest

We left the trailer at the campground and drove 148 pleasant miles today, pleasant because there was no anxiety about what we would encounter along the way while towing the fifth wheel.

We drove south back the way we had come yesterday along the banks of the Allegheny River on US62 to a trailhead that led to a scenic spot overlooking the Allegheny River to the north and another place overlooking the little town of Titioute, PA to the south.
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The hike through the woods brought to mind Robert Frost’s famous poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, even though it wasn’t snowing. LOL
Whose woods these are, I think I know. His house is in the village though; …..
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

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Allegheny River
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Tidioute, PA
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It was a humid, overcast day and we were just past the overlooks when I said to Tim, “This is beautiful as long as it doesn’t start to rain.” No sooner were the words out of my mouth than the sky opened up. Tim picked up Sprocket and I grabbed Sunshine’s leash and we ran all the way back to the truck. We were all pretty soaked by the time we got in the truck but Sunshine was all excited. She thought it was a great adventure.

We continued our drive heading north from Tilioute, through the Allegheny National Forest on CR337 to SR3005 onto Pleasant Drive through the hamlet of Pleasant – nothing more than a few hunting cabins apparently.

Back in Warren, PA we drove south on US6 to the town of Kane named after General Thomas L. Kane, a champion of persecuted Mormon pioneers and mediator in the so-called Mormon War of 1857. We went exploring looking for his grave which was supposed to be a chapel restored by a grateful Mormons and now maintained as a state historic site but all we could find was his wife’s and others of his family’s grave markers.

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We continued on US6 to the turnoff for the Kinzua Bridge, which at 301 feet in height was the tallest railroad bridge in the world when it was erected in 1882. Rebuilt with steel in 1900 it served regular rail traffic until 1959 and is truly a monument to the golden age of railroads. Unfortunately it was pouring rain and only Tim was willing to brave it so there are no pictures.

Friday, August 21

Continued Scenic Drive through the Allegheny National Forest

We packed up this morning and left the heavily forested, dark, dreary Buckaloons Campground. We drove 247 miles east across northern Pennsylvania on scenic route US Rte. 6. It was a scenic drive for sure and at one point along the way we stopped to rest in a little town with a pretty park.
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One interesting stop we made as we drove east along US Rte. 6 scenic drive was at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in Galeton, Potter County, PA. The museum preserves the history and technology of one of PA’s oldest and largest industries - logging. At the time the first European settlers arrived, Pennsylvania was approximately 90 percent forested. (Thus the name Pennsylvania – Penn’s Woods.)

In the 19th century Pennsylvania led the nation in the production of lumber and around the time of the turn of that century (1900) the state was the largest producer of rough-tanned leather manufactured by a tanning process that utilized hemlock bark. Today, Pennsylvania remains nearly 60% forested with 17 million acres of timber lands.

The museum grounds include a visitor center with wonderful gallery exhibits and a very informative orientation film; a typical north-woods logging camp with locomotive shed, stable, filers shack, blacksmith’s shop, mess hall/bunkhouse, out house and laundry shed; and a circular saw, steam powered mill with boiler house and log holding pond.
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The Shay locomotive was very interesting to Tim. It was named after its creator, Ephram Shay, a Michigan mill owner, and was a gear-driven, steam-powered locomotive. By using vertical cylinders and a flexible drive shaft, power was transmitted to each of the drive wheels via a gear, achieving a slow but powerful engine. This enabled the locomotive to traverse light rails crudely laid by lumbermen and to climb a 15 percent grade with ease.
This particular Shay locomotive was built in 1912 and remained in use until 1954.
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Once at Mansfield, PA we drove north on Lamb Creek Road to Marm Creek Road and onto Bucktail Road into the Bucktail Family Fun Park Camping Resort. We had called a number of campgrounds but this was the only one we could find in the area that had a vacancy for the weekend. I forgot to ask how much when I talked to them on the phone. Are you ready for this? $127.50 for two nights! OMG!

This campground is one of those places unique to the northeast – lots of activities for the urchins. And obviously a place where the folks come from the city to have their kids entertained. There were all sorts of activities (scavenger hunt – round up the lost animals, horseshoe toss, cow chip flip, barnyard haystack hunt and hay wagon rides, fire truck rides, ) being announced all day long and there was an evening dance party with a D.J. at the huge Entertainment Pavilion. Plus the campground has an antique merry-go-round, two mini-trains (3/4 mile ride), enormous swimming pool, pirate ship playground, basketball court, zip line, venetian swings, volleyball court, and a huge mini golf course!
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2015-09-11..ownload_114.jpg Do you suppose this was one of the "lost animals" the kids were supposed to round up in the scavenger hunt? Well maybe not. LOL
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It’s not a destination for relaxing and communing with nature. LOL

Saturday, August 22

”Grand Canyon of PA”

Today we drove 106 miles first going west on US6 and then south on Rte. 660 touring this area of northeastern PA. Our first destination was the Leonard Harrison State Park to view the “Grand Canyon of PA” where Pine Creek has carved an 800 foot deep canyon which at places is one mile across. Obviously these folks haven’t been to the real Grand Canyon. LOL
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The Leonard Harrison State Park was built as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) created by President Roosevelt at a time when more than 25% of the population was “unemployed, hungry and without hope”. The goal of this program was two-fold: conservation of our natural resources and providing work for unemployed young men.
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We stopped in the town of Wellsboro and ate lunch at the Wellsboro Diner which was built in 1937 shortly after it became the fashion to open eating establishments in old Pullman Dining Cars reclaimed from the railways.
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Wellsboro is a quaint town with gas lit street lamps down a beautiful boulevard of stately Victorian homes. It was settled in 1806.

After lunch we drove east on US Rte. 6 past Troy then north to Mt. Pisgah, one of the region’s best recreation areas with a small natural history museum and a lake near its summit where we saw many folks fishing along its banks.
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Posted by JudyandTim2015 10:26 Archived in USA

2015 Happy Trails - Week 06

August 23 thru August 29, Upstate NY: Watertown, Lake Ontario Coast, Thousand Islands, Little Sodus Bay, Seneca Falls, NY, and Youngstown, NY

Sunday, August 23

Watertown, NY

This morning we left the Bucktail Family Fun Park Camping Resort (don’t you just love that name; makes me laugh) in Mansfield, PA and drove east on US Rte. 6 through Sylvania, PA (loosely translated to “woods Penn’s woods” :-) and then into Towanda, PA where we stopped to stretch our legs at a spot overlooking a beautiful park that ran alongside the Susquehanna River for about a mile.

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Along where the river banks were steep the park walkway was lined by an iron fence with rose bushes growing all along it. I imagine it is quite stunning in the summer when the roses are blooming.

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The views of the river were beautiful as we walked along the park path.

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We turned north on US220 and rode along the Susquehanna River to Saire, PA where we then turned east on SR17. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest stop on the highway across from Tioga Raceway.

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At Binghamton we turned north on I81 for last leg of our journey today. We turned off the interstate at exit 46 in Watertown, NY and drove Rte. 12F to the Black River Bay Campground

We had made reservations at this private campground because it was located on the Black River Bay and we snagged a picturesque site right on the riverbank. After setting up camp we drove into Watertown looking for a place for dinner. It was a beautiful evening and we found this wonderful restaurant, Maggie’s On The River, where we ate dinner outside on a patio overlooking the Black River rapids.

Views from the dining patio:

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While enjoying our dinner we were entertained by a couple of adventuresome kayakers playing in the current. It appeared that one was the more experienced (yellow kayak) and was training the other one (blue kayak) who kept upsetting.

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Opps!

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The restaurant itself is housed in an old brick building that was originally the Watertown Thermometer Company building. Coincidentally Tim had told me a story as we were driving today about the last time he travelled to Watertown on business when he worked for Cheseborough Ponds Hospital Products Division. This building was the original site for the thermometer company bought by Cheseborough Ponds Company.

Monday, August 24

Seaway Trail east along the coast of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to Alexandria Bay, NY

We began our day with breakfast at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Watertown and found that they had excellent cell phone coverage, something lacking at the Black River Bay Campground, so I stayed a couple of hours drinking tea and uploaded all our photos from the past two weeks onto the blogsite while Tim drove to Walmart and picked up a few items.

We drove 104 scenic miles today tracing the easternmost portion of the Seaway Trail from Watertown, NY east along the coast of Lake Ontario and a portion of the St. Lawrence River to Alexandria Bay, NY. Our route took us on SR180 through the little town of Dexter to SR 12E which we followed around the northeastern edge of Lake Ontario past Chaumont Bay to the quaint little village of St. Vincent on the St. Lawrence River. We stopped to warm up (it was chilly out) with a latte before continuing on along the river to the town of Clayton where we walked along the shops and tasted (and bought) a few of New York’s best wines at the Coyote Moon Winery.

Clayton

Views across the St. Lawrence River
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Muskie Monument
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Clayton is a beautiful little town.
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We finished the afternoon with a wine tasting at the Coyote Winery where we bought some delicious wines and even a couple of beautiful etched wine glasses.
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Back on the road we continued on SR12E along the St. Lawrence River thru Fisher’s Landing to Alexandria Bay, NY where tomorrow we will return to take the Uncle Sam Boat Tour of the Thousand Islands.

Tuesday, August 25

Thousand Islands, NY

We got an early start this morning for our 49 mile drive up to Alexandria Bay, NY. Once there we boarded a large triple decked vessel for our 2 ¼ hour tour of both the Canadian and the American sections of the 1000 Islands including Millionaire’s Row, so named because of the huge mansions built on the islands during the “gilded age” of the American Industrial Revolution.

Wealthy industrialists from all over the country migrated to this area of the country each year to escape the summer heat back home. The islands and homes on the American side of the border are known as the “old money” and the ones on the Canadian side are the “new money”.
While known generally as the “1000 Islands” there are in fact 1864 isles. The smallest is named Tom Thumb Island. Too cute.

Alexandria Bay
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Cormorands, a species of bird we’re very familiar with in Florida.
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165 tiny house,

174 tiny lighthouse

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A tanker reminiscent of the Captain Phillips movie
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Tom Thumb Island, the smallest of the 1000 Islands.
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To qualify and be counted as one of the 1000 Islands the land must be at least 3 feet in diameter, be above water 365 days of the year, and have at least one tree and one other form of vegetation.

Marina
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Church
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A campground on the Canadian side.
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Interstate 81 links America to Canada crossing the American Channel not too far from Alexandria Bay onto the island of Wellesley then across the Canadian Channel to the Canadian mainland.

Canada Bridge
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American Bridge
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We were told that the bridge has work crews painting it every day of the year!
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The grandest of all the “gilded age” mansions on the 1000 Islands is Boldt Castle on Heart Island and it has by far the most interesting background story. At the turn of the 20th century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world-famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full-sized Rhineland Castle in Alexandria Bay on picturesque Heart Island. The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.

Beginning in 1900, Boldt’s family shared four glorious summers on Wellesley Island while 300 workers, stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the six story, 120-room castle, complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, Italian gardens, a drawbridge and a dovecote. Not a single detail or expense was spared. Altogether six structures were built: Boldt Castle, the Power House and Clock Tower, the Alster Tower, the Hennery, the Arch, and a stone gazebo.

In 1904 tragedy struck. Boldt telegrammed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.” Louise had died suddenly. A broken-hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Three hundred workers laid down their tools. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.

Boldt Castle
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Alster Tower
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Power House and Clock Tower
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175 Power House with Boldt Castle in background

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The weather all day was pretty dreary, varying between just overcast and chilly to downright cold with showers but we managed to have a wonderful time in spite of it. After all, a day on a boat beats a day on the shore, hands down, no matter the weather.
Once the tour was over we drove back along the river stopping in Sackets Harbor at the Visitor’s Center.

View out across the harbor from the front porch of the Visitor’s Center.
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We walked from the Visitor’s Center down to the shore for cocktails and dinner at the Sackets Harbor Brewing Company. It was freezing inside so even though it was chilly outside, we changed tables to one out on the deck overlooking the water. It was quite pleasant and the sun even cooperated and came out for a short time. The ducks were quite entertaining and the food was delicious!
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After dinner we drove around Sackets Harbor for a bit stumbling across the historic Madison Barracks, a military installation built for occupation by 600 US troops a few years after the end of the War of 1812. It was named for James Madison who had just completed his presidency in 1817. It includes the stone hospital, bakery, several warehouses known as “Stone Row”, a stone water tower and a series of brick buildings constructed in the 1890s as officers’ quarters, barracks, mess hall and a weapons storage and repair building.

Madison Barracks was the US Army’s primary post in upstate New York through the end of World War II but interestingly it has now been converted into a residential community.

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Wednesday, August 26

Seaway Trail west from Watertown, NY to Fair Haven Beach, NY

We drove 112 miles today leaving the Black River Bay Campground this morning to begin our trek southwest on SR 3 along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Our first stop was at the Henderson Harbor overlook but - there was no overlook!!! Seriously it was just an overgrown pullover surrounded by bushes and weeds with one lonely spot where you could barely glimpse the water through the trees.

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We continued on to the next stop on our agenda, Southwick Beach State Park for views of Lake Ontario’s “largest sand dunes – over 60 feet high” we had read in one of the tour books. Unfortunately we were skunked again! There were no sand dunes to be found anywhere!

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Even though it was a blustery day there were a few people braving the beach.

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And a few birds doing what birds do.

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There was a nice campground right on the water but it was full.

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We continued our drive along SR 3 to Rte 104 through the picturesque small city of Oswego, NY. We stopped for the night at the nearby Fair Haven Beach State Park Campground. While our site was just across the road from the Lake, it was up on a high bluff and there wasn’t much of a view.

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Our site.
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Thursday, August 27

Little Sodus Bay in Fair Haven, NY

The beach at the Fair Haven Beach State Park was beautiful but chilly.
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Remember the 60 foot dunes that weren't? Well this may explain their disappearance. Evidently recent storms have decimated the dunes all along this section of the coast.
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We explored the town of Fair Haven and came across the most delightful little bakery, The Fly By Night Cookie Company. Needless to say we sampled more than a few and the cookies were extraordinary!
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Friday, August 28

Seneca Falls, NY

We left Little Sodus Bay and the Lake Ontario shoreline today and drove south to the Fingerling Lakes area of upstate New York.

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We dropped the trailer at a very pleasant (but remote) campground and headed into Seneca Falls to tour the town. We choose this area of the Fingerling Lakes specifically because Seneca Falls is where the Women’s Rights Movement was founded in 1848.

Our first stop was the National Women’s Hall of Fame. So much history! One could easily spend the day here.

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Our second stop was a history museum where we found many artifacts from the days when the intricate waterway system of canals and locks were built creating a navigable path connecting Lake Erie, the Fingerling Lakes, and Lake Ontario with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River and/or the St. Lawrence River.

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We strolled along the Cayuga-Seneca Canal which flows through town. This is the canal that connects the Fingerling Lakes of Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga to the Erie Canal.

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Along the way we came to a beautiful statue of the three founding women of the Women’s Rights Movement: Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cody Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. They organized and held the first Women’s Rights Convention here in Seneca Falls in 1848, drafting the Seneca Falls Convention’s Declaration of Sentiments with the historic words “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal …”

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I think I fit right in!
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On the outskirts downtown proper we found a delightful park with many statues and sculptures.

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The most interesting sculpture depicted the struggle women fought for equal rights: the right to own property including the right to one’s own wages, guardianship rights, the right to education and lastly the right to vote, all of which were denied to women only a few short hundred and fifty years ago.

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The park was along the banks of the Cayuga-Seneca Canal. These are the canal boats that navigated the canals and are still in operation today.

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The highlight of our excursion today for Tim was when we discovered the bridge on Bedford Falls Blvd that Jimmy Stewart threatened to jump from in the motion picture It’s a Wonderful Life.

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Evidently someone did jump from the bridge if I read the message on the plaque correctly.

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Saturday, August 29

Youngstown, NY

After a short hike around the pretty grounds of the rural campground we got a leisurely start toward our last tourist destination of the summer – Niagara Falls.
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For a while we drove west along the shore of Lake Ontario past many scenic apple orchards.

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Such picturesque farms right on the shore of Lake Ontario! We stopped at one and bought some lovely produce although we were too early for apples.

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We stopped to make lunch and to stretch our legs at one point at a nice roadside park. There were lots of interesting flowers and plants growing wild.

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We planned our route to drive west along the Lake Ontario State Parkway which tracked along the coast of Lake Ontario toward Lake Erie. It was listed as a Scenic Byway. We discovered it must have been the first “scenic byway” ever built. Picture the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey, a divided four lane highway without billboards or buildings lining the sides, but this one so old that the concrete was decomposing and full of terrible potholes. All of the “overpasses” were only high enough for cars. So at each interchange we were forced to leave the highway and then re-enter to avoid the low overpasses. Plus we couldn’t really drive at speed because the road was in such disrepair.

After a couple of hours we decided to leave the “scenic” route and find our way on city streets to our destination, the Four Mile Creek State Park. That’s when the real adventure began. We were happily making our way west through very scenic small towns on two lane streets when we rounded a curve down a short hill and suddenly came to face to face with a railroad pass – a short tunnel under a railroad bridge and it was just like the under passes on the Sake Ontario State Parkway! Tim screeched to a halt and I jumped out of the truck and ran to the back of the trailer where I waved down the traffic coming up behind us. Tim then backed the truck and trailer up a few hundred yards and into a residential street and someone’s driveway. The owner came out and told us we weren’t the first people to have to back up into his driveway like that; it evidently happens to truckers quite often. OMG!

Fortunately when we finally arrived at our destination, the Four Mile Creek State Park in Youngstown, NY, we were pleasantly surprised. It was a very nice campground right on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Posted by JudyandTim2015 20:40 Archived in USA

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