Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Florida in August

This seems to be the hottest month.  John once had the theory that being near the ocean would keep us cool.  However, that does not take into account the fact that during the summer months the waters of the ocean get as warm as the temperature on land, so there is no cool moisture in the air to bring the temperatures down!  Our usual plan is to be quite a distance north to avoid the heat which we are feeling now.  That was not possible this summer because our daughter, her husband and child are living here and their second child is due any day now.
At least it is not dry here, the frequent brief rains keep plants and trees blooming so, despite the heat, we are still in a tropical paradise.  Down the road from where we are parked is the Dunedin Tree Arboretum.  Walking through this beautiful park a few weeks back we found a most unusual mushroom.  It certainly looks like a flower, but has all the earmarks of a mushroom.
It is impossible to stay inside all the time and keep one's sanity.  Yesterday, with our very pregnant daughter and her son Nathan, we drove over to Lowry Zoo.
We were surprised to see penguins outside in the 90 degree plus heat.  In the St.Louis Zoo they are in a building kept quite cool with air conditioning.  We soon learned that the penguins here enjoying their swim are from the southwest coast of Africa.  This breed of penguins, the ones still in the wild, are in high risk of extinction due to pollution and habitat loss.
Despite this being the hottest time of the year, it was interesting that out of the three times we have been here, we saw the most animals this time.  Or at least it seemed that way.  Checking out the people who were staring at him is a meerkat, another animal from Africa who loves the heat.
Most of the wallabies in their pen, however, were seeking relief from the sun.  Before we left the zoo we were treated to the sight of a Macaw Flyover.  We always seemed to miss that event in the past when we visited the zoo.  The sight of about 8 macaws flying over us was quite beautiful because of their bright blue and yellow colors.  It was almost as good as a Blue Angel show!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Day Trip South

John and I finally took a break from house repairs ( on our daughter's house), as well as babysitting.  Our plan was to drive to Sarasota, Florida, but we were a bit uncertain about going that far as thunderstorms were predicted there by late afternoon.  On our way south we stopped at the DeSoto National Memorial Park.  It is about 5 miles west from downtown Bradenton.
According to park information this reconstructed area is noted as being "perhaps the site" where
Hernando de Soto landed in Florida on May 30, 1539.   Born in 1500, de Soto was by this time a very successful conquistador.  By his twenties he had become rich from Incan plunder which enabled him to purchase the needed supplies and equipment needed for a foray into north America.  After arriving in Florida he left 100 men (he had a total of about 700) at a camp near the lading site to guard their supplies while he traveled northward into Florida.  De Soto had dreams of finding more silver, gold and precious gems in our country than he had found in South America.  It all came to nought, the mission was doomed by his unfamiliarity with the land, hostile Indians, and his strong desire for wealth.  The explorer died three years after landing in Florida.
Above is a granite monument to De Soto, which was placed in the park in 1939.  He and his men are at least credited as being the first to share information regarding the American land and its first people.  He had chroniclers along with him, their written narratives as well as archeological artifacts has helped us to learn of his explorations.  Surrounding the memorial are gumbo trees, some of the largest in the country.  They are often used as living fence posts in Cuba and the West Indies.
The largest one is dying from some black fungus.  There is a sign near it saying "Respect my space".
Our goal for the day was a botanical park in Sarasota.  However, we found this smaller one at Durante Park in the town of Longboat Key.  Not much there, but we found a colorful grove of hibiscus trees- all with differing colors of blooms.  While walking around there, in the heat of the day, we realized it would be foolish to tour a larger garden because it was just too hot!
We did make it to Sarasota, and while driving around in the downtown area we came upon this statute.  It was created by Seward Johnson in 2006, titled "Unconditional Surrender".  You may remember it, a picture taken in 1945 after the Japanese surrendered.  It is of a a sailor and his girlfriend ( a nurse) reuniting with a passionate kiss in Times Square.
That was our day trip.  Mostly what we gained from it was that we needed to return.  Sarasota has gardens, and museums to explore- but only when the weather is a bit cooler!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Safety Harbor, Florida

Helping our daughter and her husband get settled in their new home has taken up a great deal of our time since we have arrived in Florida.  The weather has also been quite interesting.  The first week or so it was quite warm and humid.  It was uncomfortable being out side until the sun started going down, and then the mosquitoes would dive down for their blood-sucking feast on any human found outdoors.  In the past week the weather has cooled down to the eighties, but now we are dealing with torrents of rain.  However, there have been nice breaks from that and on Friday John and I ventured out under over-cast skies to tour Safety Harbor.  The town is due east of us along Tampa Bay.  Local Indians were the first ones drawn to the area because of its five mineral springs.
A mural on the side of the Chamber of Commerce building depicts the history of Safety Harbor.  In 1539 Hernando de Soto named the springs Espiritu Santo, or water of the Holy Spirit. 
Our tour of the town took us to the oldest live oak in Pinellas County.  It is estimated to be 300-500 years old.  Its girth measures approximately 20 feet.  The tree is named for Dr.S. Baranoff, who in 1945 purchased the Safety Harbor Sanitarium.  It was an 18 acre health facility which included the five mineral springs.  The sanitarium is now gone, replaced by Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. 
 As we were gazing at the majestic tree I saw a man narrowly miss a low-hanging branch of it which stretched over the fence.  My guess he was playing Pokemon Go, as there were others nearby who seemed to be equally equally engrossed in their smart phones.
Our walk took us to Marina Park down by the harbor.  A wonderful floral smell was in the air, we attributed that odor to several trees which had beautiful pink blossoms.
We also walked out on the pier where locals informed us we could find manatees. We first saw dolphins off in the distance in the ocean, and, by patiently scanning the ocean, we did eventually see a manatee with her calf.  Again we saw people on the pier staring into their smart phones.  I felt like shaking them and informing them that while they were glued to their electronic devices they were missing out on seeing some awesome scenery.   Well, as my mother would say "each to their own".

Monday, August 1, 2016

Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown is part of the historic triangle where the birthplace of America occurred.  It is located 10 minutes from Williamsburg and about a mile from the original settlement.  It is the area where London's Virginia Company sent the first settlers to the sandy shores of the James River.  For a variety of reasons we were able to tour this area more easily than Williamsburg.  We arrived there a when it was a tad cooler in the morning hours.  And even Nathan enjoyed the cool walk through a forest, on a boardwalk over marshland.  Our first stop was a recreated Indian Village.
 Virginia was settled in the midst of a Powhatan Indian chiefdom in 1607.   We stepped inside a reconstructed tepee which had a low-lying bed and fireplace.  Furs hung everywhere from the ceilings and walls.  We saw actors, dressed as Native Americans, active around their homes and fields.  From there we took a path down to the river's edge where several ships sit in the harbor.
We were able to tour three life-size replicas of the 1607 ships- Susan Constant, Godspeed  and Discovery.  The smallest ship held only 21 passengers and seemed to me as having very cramped quarters for a 4 and a half month ocean voyage from England.  The other two ships were a bit larger, carrying double that number, and accommodations were a bit improved.  I did not know that ships back then had brick fireplaces.
From the harbor we walked to the wooden palisade of  Jamestown Settlement's recreated colonial fort.  The  "public" buildings were built first, and they included store houses, a guard house for the military, and a church (at this time the Church of England was the only choice for the settlers).
Pictured above is the alter area of the church, on which the Lord's Prayer as well as the Ten Commandments and Creed are posted on the back wall.  Here we encountered an elderly man dressed in period clothing.  He was not the cleric, but said that he was the assistant to the first resident governor of the Virginia colony, Lord Del a La Ware.  An interesting side note here is that the government of the colony moved to Middle Plantation (Williamsburg) in 1699.
Actors dressed in period clothing were available to answer questions regarding the first colony.  I noticed tobacco crops growing outside of the settlement and learned how important that crop was to the first settlers.  John Rolfe grew the first crop in 1619,he and others quickly became rich exporting it to England.  The settlers also learn how great a crop it was also for their own use and chose to grow it over such boring crops as beans and corn.  A law was soon passed limiting how much tobacco could be grown.
After seeing the outdoor exhibits in Jamestown we moved inside to the rather extensive galleries inside which chronicle the nation's 17th century beginnings in Virginia.  While I stayed back with Nathan the rest also were able to also see the recreated archaeological site down the road.   So much to see, but in general it was quite hot outside.  Melissa and I chose not to see Yorktown in the afternoon because of the brutal heat and Nathan needed to rest.  Yorktown is, as a tour brochure notes, where "America became of age".  At this place is the battlefield on land and sea where we won our independence from England.
We have now moved to Florida, and are residing in the Clearwater area.  Our daughter Melissa and her husband have moved their residence further north up the coast.  We are assisting them get settled in their new home, and their second child is due later this month.  This blog site may be quiet for awhile now, but you never know.  

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Colonial Williamsburg

After a week in Washington D.C. we moved our motor home to Williamsburg.  Our son Dan and his wife joined us there, taking a cabin near where our motor home was parked.   Our plan for the several days we were there was to visit Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown- all important places during America's historical first years from 1607 to 1781.
Colonial Williamsburg is a total immersion experience which takes the visitor back to the late 1700s.  It was not unusual for us to see people as Commander George Washington riding the streets on his horse.  Or to experience Thomas Jefferson or James Madison engaged in political discourses.  Actors dressed in period clothing are everywhere in the village.  They only know what is going on currently in their lives.  We ate lunch at the Kings Arms restaurant where a woman greeted us and asked where we were from.  John launched into his usual spiel about our lifestyle living on the road in a motor home and she immediately stopped him. She inquired as to what he was talking about.  John then realized his mistake- no person in the 1700s could begin to understand the concept of automobiles, much less living and traveling in something as big as a bus!
Williamsburg is a small village which has been built around 88 original buildings dating back to the 1700s.  More than 400 other buildings have also been faithfully reconstructed in this 300 acre city of taverns, trade shops, homes and community buildings.  The Randolph house, pictured above, is one of the original buildings.  It was here that Peyton Randolph (born 1721 and died 1775), a wealthy land owner and public official lived.  He was speaker of the House of Burgesses, and first President of  the Continental Congress.  The docent who gave us a tour of the home asked us to consider that many signers of the Declaration of Independence visited and dined in this house.  Pictured below is the dining room, where many of those important personages took their meals.
The docent also asked us to think about the 27 slaves serving the Randolphs.  They must have been privy to many discussions about freedom and independence, but that was not to happen for them for another 100 years.  Britain had already freed their slaves, and offered the slaves in Williamsburg their freedom.  Two of the slaves took that opportunity, one of them had to return to captivity several days later when the British lost the Revolutionary War.
One of the rebuilt buildings in Williamsburg is that of the Governor's Palace which served as the executive mansion for Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.  Over the doorway both outside and inside is the crest of the King of England, and inside are a few portraits of English royalty- reflections of the fact that the colony of Virginia once belonged to England.  I found the entrance hall quite impressive with its awesome display of guns and swords.  This was common interior decoration of the day for English buildings back in the 1700s.  We were informed by the staff that Colonial Williamsburg has one of the biggest collection of Revolutionary weaponry in the world.
All total in this town there are about 100 lush gardens.  The palace gardens are pictured below.  There is no way we could have covered this historic town in one day.  We did miss many of the homes and trade shops.  Our son Dan and his wife were able to see and experience more than the rest of us.  They had not been there before as we had and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The heat was also quite oppressive while we were there.  It is just another one of those many places we hope to return to some day!

Friday, July 29, 2016

College Park Aviation Museum

While in Washington D.C. our home was parked in College Park, Maryland.  It is a nice little college town, home of the University of Maryland.  Frequently as we drove through College Park we saw signs pointing to an aviation museum.   We were looking for something inside to do because of the hot weather, and something that would catch the interest of a toddler.

This museum does have many hands-on interactive activities for children!  Nathan was happy exploring them while the rest of us were able to concentrate on the exhibits.  The museum is part of the College Park Airport Campus, which, besides the museum, also has the world's oldest continuously operating general aviation airport.  In 1909 Wilbur Wright chose College Park as the site to instruct military officers how to fly.   Pictured below is the man himself in his shop.
Nathan enjoyed pushing the button frequently and watching the animated figure as it moved its arms and spoke.  It was on this airfield that the first woman was flown in an heavier-than-air machine in the United States.  She was the wife of one of the army captains, and went up in a plane flown by Wright.  And speaking of women, the fifth licensed woman pilot in the United States came to this airport in 1912 to give a demonstration on the Bieriot aeroplane.  Army officials were considering whether to include that plane in its fleet of aircraft.  The pilot is pictured below,  the runway of the
airport can be seen in the background of the picture.
The airport has gained the nickname as a "Field of Firsts" as numerous aviation firsts happened here.  In 1918 the airfield was chosen as the location for the first U.S. Postal Airmail Service route.  In 1924 the first "controlled" vertical flight happened here.  In 1941 two African Americans were the first to operate a licensed airport in Maryland.  The airport was a haven from discrimination which minority pilots had experienced at other airports.   The other important aviation events are too numerous to go into, but before closing I do want to mention one popular plane which was built near the airport and test flown here.
It was in 1937 that Engineering and Research Corporation designed and began production of the Ercoupe, considered one of the safest and easiest planes to fly.  A large portion of this museum is devoted to the story of the production of this plane, and how it was transitioned to military production during World War II and the Korean War.  After that time rights to the aircraft were sold to a series of other manufacturers.  It was one of the first airplanes which John Travolta flew in the 1970s.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Gardens of the Washington D.C. Area

We finally made it to D.C.  Actually, we are now in Florida and I have some catching up to do regarding our stay in the city of our nation's capitol.  Unfortunately while we were there it was during the time of a bad heat wave with temperatures in the high 90s.  We also had no desire to take on any intense touring of many of the usual sights of D.C. because John and I have already done some of that. Secondly we had our two year-old grandson with us, as well as his mother who is seven months pregnant.  Still, we had a good time in that city primarily visiting with our son Dan and his wife Amanda.  One of the reasons we came to D.C. during the hottest part of the year was to see their rain garden which they have worked so hard on during the past several years. 
They literally tore up their front and back yards to establish a system of water conservancy, and also to plant native plants.  Stone walkways wind around a large variety of plants that are thriving as well as hosting a variety of bees and butterflies and other unknown flying creatures.
On Saturday morning, after our arrival in D.C.,  we made a  visit to the Franciscan Monastery which is located near our son's home.  You may recall a posting which I had done several years back on this place.   We returned to the monastery this time for a guided garden tour.   Pictured above is a bronze stature of St.Francis of Assisi.  He is begging a boy not to sell into captivity some of the doves which he holds.  Notice in the background of this picture the Rosary Portico.  On the colonnades of  its ten arches are inscribed words of the Hail Mary in 150 languages.
In the gardens of the monastery, as well as through-out D.C., are crepe myrtle trees - the blossom  of which is pictured above.  What a refreshing burst of color for this hot time of the year!
It was tempting to stay inside because of the brutal heat, but that did not seem right while we  had the wonderful city of D.C. to explore!  Also, our grandson Nathan had lots of energy to burn off.  We did spend some time at the National Zoo on Sunday.  However, we did not stay long there, and very soon opted to spend our time at a swimming pool.  On Tuesday we decided to visit Wheaton Regional Park in Maryland, just for the fact that it had a train and carousel for Nathan to enjoy.  Here we could also explore Brookside Gardens, where we found the beautiful dogwood tree pictured above.  No, it is not in bloom- the leaves are white in color.  It is a Variegated Kousa Dogwood.
Brookside Gardens has a section called Wings of Fancy where Monarch butterflies as well as hundreds of other exotic African, Asian, Costa Rican and North American species are actively nectaring, puddling, ovipositing, basking and spiraling- you know, the things butterflies normally do.
In Brookside gardens we toured a children's section, formal gardens, as well as perennial gardens.  It was amazing how much of the garden we saw what with having a two year old along with us!  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Covered Brdges of Bedford and Other Oddities

Tuesday afternoon we spent the afternoon roaming the countryside of Bedford County.  It was about 20 miles of pastures, corn and rye fields-  also beautiful rolling green hills,  with yellow lilies and queen anne's lace dotting the roadsides.  All total there are about 14 covered bridges in Pennsylvania, most of which are usable.  Missouri has 4, none of which can be driven across.  Missouri bridges are spread all over the state, in this state we saw nine in one afternoon.  Pictured below is Kniseley  Covered Bridge, built in the 1880s.  It was this one which I remember dead ended in a cornfield.
While driving around the back country roads we thought it a bit strange that quite a few Mini Coopers were on the road.  At Colvin Covered Bridge we met up with one, Miss Daisy, who had gorgeous eye lashes on her head lights.
The car had on it the words "Peaches to Palms".  According to her owner there is going to be a Mini  car rally in Palm Springs, Ca.the end of this month.  They had left from Atlanta a few days ago.
Our trip searching covered bridges brought us to Gravity Hill.  I took a picture of it after we reached the top.  Our car had just rolled up it with the car in neutral and with no brakes being pushed.  This is Gravity Hill, which John tried hard to make sense of.  He vows that the next time we come back (probably never) he will bring a level to check and see if the hill is really going up! 
Our last odd item of the day was a large coffee pot.  A man had it built in 1927 to attract people to his adjacent gas station along Lincoln Highway.   Hamburgers, ice cream and coke were sold in the little cafe.  It closed in 1927 and became a bar, after which it was moved to the County Fairgrounds and continued to serve locals for a short time.   It was restored  2004.
One last picture to share with you depicts the beauty we enjoyed over the roads of Bedford County. 
On Thursday we moved our home to Washington D.C.  Thursday evening found us at our son Dan's soft ball game.  His team of lawyer colleagues are called "Moved to Strike".  They played a good game, but lost by one point. 
Our daughter Melissa and son Nathan will soon fly in from Florida. to join us.  Not sure how much writing I will get done in the next few days as we will be busy.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bedford, Pennsylvania

On Monday we moved our home from Wheeling to Bedford.   That town was not in our original plans but campgrounds in this part of the country are few and far between.  And it turned out to be a very good choice.  We found a lovely campground on a lake and an additional bonus was that Bedford has quite a bit of interesting places to see.  On Tuesday we took a walking tour of the town, armed with our usual tourist guide leaflets.  Our tour was pretty much centered around the town square, the land of which was set aside by the family of William Penn in1761 for Bedford.  Our first stop was a cemetery, where some of the graves are those of the Revolutionary soldiers.
Their graves are marked with a flag and gold medallion.  Several beautiful old brick churches surround this immediate area.  From this point we walked to the courthouse built in 1828-29.
The man who built the courthouse donated the front pillars with the stipulation that the front decorative columns represent God and Justice (left and right respectively).  Inside the courthouse are twin, self-supported staircases which lead to a second floor where portraits of all the judges who presided here are hung.
Our walk took us also to a tall statue of a Civil War monument with a strange name- "Old Man on the Monument".  It was erected in 1890.
In the main shopping district of this historic area are several buildings dating back to the 1700s, most important of which is the Espy House.
This house was the headquarters of President Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.  It was the first and only time a U.S. President commanded a U.S. army in the field.  His army camped in the open fields of the town square.  What occurred was a rebellion of the local farmers toward an excise tax by Secretary of Treasury A.Hamilton on whiskey.  Washington led troops of 13,000 into this rebellion and the rebels dispelled into the hills.
Pictured above is another part of that story.  After a drive through the countryside Tuesday afternoon (more on that in the next posting) we stopped for supper at the Jean Bonnet Tavern, built in 1762.   Washington's troops were camped not far from this tavern during the Whiskey Rebellion.  It is a beautiful place with chestnut beams, massive fireplaces, and stone walls.  It has also remained a place for lodging over the years.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Oglebay Mansion Museum

We made a couple of trips to this resort/park during our stay near Wheeling.  It was difficult to figure out what this place was all about, all we knew is that we wanted to see the Oglebay Mansion, gardens around it and the Glass Shop and Museum.  The history of the area goes back to the late 1700s when a frontiersman was given a land grant of 400 acres in what was then northwestern Virginia.  After 1812 the land left that family and changed hands several times until Earl Oglebay purchased the land in 1900.  He turned it into a country estate, and upon his death in 1926 willed it to the people of Wheeling, for as long as they "shall operate it for public recreation".   Today on this land then are two gulf courses, lake, a zoo, outdoor pool, a mansion/museum, glass museum, picnic and ski areas.  There are also extensive gardens, a lodge and vacation cottages. 
It was late Saturday afternoon when we arrived at the Oglebay Mansion.   We soon learned that touring the mansion would have to wait until Sunday as it was getting close to closing time.  We chose then to at least walk around the garden area near the mansion.
Pictured above is the Oglebay Mansion.  A cart and horse are parked in front of the building.  They were to be used for a bridal couple whose  wedding ceremony was being held in an amphitheater behind the mansion.  The house was originally built in 1846.  It was first constructed as an 8-room farmhouse and has undergone a great deal of reconstruction over the ensuing years.  When Mr.Ogleby, owner of a shipping and iron ore mining company out of Cleveland, purchased the house and grounds  he enlisted an architect to help create a palatial summer estate and gardens.
We toured the mansion on Sunday and soon learned that not only would we see the rooms of the home as they were used by the Ogleby family, but also that we would see areas of the house dedicated to the history of the upper Ohio Valley.  Mr. Oglesbay's grandson Courtney Burton Jr. added a wing in 1966 dedicated to the Oglebay family history and two exhibit galleries.  The kitchen area of the house has pioneer furnishings circa early 1800s.  Pictured above is the dining room as it looked when the Oglebays summered at the home.  Sheraton and Hepplewhite furnishings are of the Federal Period.  On display is also a Victorian parlor for formal gatherings, as well as an Empire Parlor with animal motifs (built 1810-1825) and an Oval Parlor which the family more frequently used in the later years.  In the house are also several different bedrooms as well as a children's room and library.  I think it took us a couple hours to tour it all, as well as the museum exhibits.
The glass museum, in another building separate from the mansion, focuses on the history and products of five major glass companies that operated in Wheeling.  Pictured above is punch bowl made by Sweeney and Co. in 1844.  It was one of three which stood 5 feet tall, held 16 gallons of liquid, and weighted 225 pounds.  The one above is the only left in existence, it originally stood as a monument for the grave of Michael Sweeney from 1875 until 1949 when the family gave it to the museum.  The museum has on display everything from cut crystal to carnival glass.  We ended our visit watching one of the staff create a colorful glass paper weight.  If we were not living in a mobile 
home I most certainly would have purchased some glass object before leaving the gift shop!