Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Hermitage- September 30

Yesterday we toured the home of President Jackson,and I learned a lot about this man and his presidency. He owned about 150 slaves,was against woman's rights and sent the Cree Indians on the Trail of Tears(to move them out of Florida). Not a kind of man I would vote to be president! But,according to the PBS film at the visitor center,as president he espoused the tenets of democracy which would,many years later,bring about civil rights for those same disenfranchised people. I have to also give him his due;he was a product of his times,born and raised in the south. He won the Battle of New Orleans,and as a young lad had been a messenger boy for the Patriots during the Revolutionary War. Also, very much a self-made man,having lost all of his family at the time of the Revolutionary War-either to disease or because of the war. I have posted here pictures of the front of the Hermitage,it has scaffolding there as some much needed repairs are getting under-way on the home. Also of interest is the other picture of a slave cabin. Before the Hermitage was built Jackson lived here with his family. For them it had been a two story building complete with wallpaper and other fine furnishings. To make it appropriate for slaves to live in,he removed one floor and took down the wall paper so he could white white-wash the walls! Probably about twelve slaves then had to live in the home. As I kept telling myself,one has to understand the context of those times.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nashville Tenn.- September 29

It was a slow ride over here yesterday,over mountains and hills- a head wind did not help either. I drove the car over the highest areas,which helped us to move a bit faster. We are now in the Central Time Zone. KC our cat was batting at me furiously with his paws at 0600 to feed him. I obeyed his command,rather than try to explain to him that we are in a different time zone than yesterday. Today we plan to do some touring of this area,and take in a Grand Ole Opry show this evening. Last Spring I posted a picture of our son Dan-now I am going to introduce our one and only daughter Melissa,who is our youngest( I will get to Mike our oldest son when we are out in Los Angeles). Melissa is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University. There she is attending the school of social work(division of gerontology). This is all a nice segue into what I am going to say next. Across the nation this fall there are "Memory Walks for Altzheimers". Melissa is participating in one this Sat. If you wish to support her walk for this worthy cause,go on-line to the "Altzheimer's Memory Walk"- located in Richmond VA.,Oct.3,then click on "walkers",where her name can be located. I will thank-you now,if you can give any small amount!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chimney Rock State Park-September 28

We hiked in this park yesterday afternoon,after touring Asheville. As one tour book describes this park:"it brings the best of the mountains together in one place". It is a very beautiful park,filled with some awesome geological formations. The most famous of these formations is Chimney Rock-which I have pictured here. We took an elevator to the top,but hiked down,taking a detour off that trail to Hickory Nut Falls. I have a picture of the falls here. We also made a stop at Moonshiner's Cave. That was a very deep cave,(actually one could not go very far in it before it dropped off)which had a whiskey still on display there. This park was made possible by a doctor from St.Louis! At the turn of the century Dr.Lucius Morse came to this area looking for more favorable climate. He was impressed by the huge formations of stone found in the park and purchased 64 acres of Chimney Rock Mountain. The park remained in his family until 2006,when the family sold it to the state of North Carolina. By the way,shortly after we entered the park we were greeted by a woodchuck sitting by the side of the road. It did not seemed perturbed by the traffic whizzing by him,he just sat there contentedly munching on the food which he held in his paws. And also today we heard strange noises coming from one tree-sounded like pieces of wood being slapped together. There were ravens in the tree. I did not think they made that kind of noise,but I discovered later that, besides having a variety of vocalizations,they also have non-vocalizations as wing whistles and bill snapping. I am sure it was the later which we heard.

Asheville,North Carolina- September 27

Yesterday was cool and it rained heavily all day. We had to abandon an ideas for hiking in Chimney Rock Park. Today the weather was perfect with lots of sun and a cool breeze. We learned that George Vanderbilt,after completing the building of his estate,also built a village and a church(which he wanted to be the central focus of the village). Richard Hunt,the architect for the Biltmore,conceived of the plans for the church. In 1896 the church,called the Cathedral of All Souls,was completed and dedicated. In 1995 it became the Cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. The church appears to be rather massive from the outside(see picture here,but inside we were surprised to find the seating area to be rather small. Nevertheless,we enjoyed services there today-special music was provided by women playing a dulcimer,flute,recorder and guitar. After the service we toured the downtown area of Asheville. We covered part of its urban trail,which is marked by 30 bronze sculptures. The entire area has 150 unique shops,galleries,and cafes- what an enjoyable walk! And many people were also out enjoying the day-seems like Ashveville has done some excellent urban planning. The picture here of an iron commemorates the old historic building called the Flat Iron. And the musician standing next to it is is a live man. Most of the time he was standing absolutely still,but occasionally he would burst into song. The other picture is the Thomas Wolfe boyhood home,the setting for his novel Look Homeward Angel.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Biltmore Estate- September 25

This is America's largest home,located here in Asheville North Carolina. It was built from 1889 to 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt. The estate lies on 8,000 acres of land,on which are formal gardens,farming fields for crops and cattle,as well as naturalistic wooded areas. The French Broad River and Swannanoa River are located on the east and west perimeters of the grounds. Also,as you may notice,the Blue Ridge Mountains can be seen from the back of the mansion. Quite a beautiful setting! The house is equally impressive-it only has 250 rooms. Of those rooms,there are 36 guest bedrooms and 61 servant's rooms-43 bathrooms. And no,we did not see all the rooms-what we were allowed to view took us several of hours to cover. All the furnishings remain in the house as they were 100 years ago. Many painting and prints fill the walls-two of note are by Renoir. There is a room with 16th-century Flemish tapestries. In the library there are 10,000 volumes in 8 languages. The estate is still privately owned by the family- they employ 1,800 people(there not only is the grounds to keep up,but also a hotel,six restaurants,winery,farm and gift shops). The admission ticket was a bit pricey-but,considering that it was a full days worth of entertainment,it was worth the price.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Durham,North Carolina- September 23

I know,we are supposed to be on our way to St.Louis,so what are we doing in North Carolina? Well,we decided to drop south a bit(we are heading west)to visit Ashville. More on that later-like in a couple of days. Our motor home spent some time today in a garage getting its muffler fixed. We can only blame bad roads for the muffler to shake off its moorings! Anyway,I noticed that the repair shop is located on "Sun Shade" road. As I was pondering how goofy that name seemed to be for a road,I noticed that the road needed a sun shade! It was a bright sunny day,and the road had only a few short scraggly pine trees located alongside of it; no shade was located on that portion of the road at all. Speaking of words,in touring the Agecroft house yesterday,I learned the origin of "chairman of the board". At the dining table(in the early English days of yore)only the master sat at the dining table-everyone else sat on benches. He was the "chair man". The table was usually just a board on saw horses-so he was the "chair man of the board". On that note I will close,but first I need to explain the pictures. Both of the pictures were taken in the garden at Agecroft-by the way,in old English,Agecroft means house at the edge of the woods.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Agecroft Hall- September 22

Our motor home is requiring some minor repairs,so we are not leaving the Richmond area until tomorrow. That is no problem for us as Richmond is rich in history,and many famous folk have lived here. Today we saw Agecroft Hall. This home was destined for certain destruction in Lancashire England in 1926. It was a 15th century Tudor which,because of coal mining near its location, was starting to crumble at its foundations. Mr.and Mrs.Thomas Williams from Richmond bought about one-quarter of it for nineteen thousand dollars,then had it torn down,packed in boxes and shipped to America. It took about 250 thousand dollars to rebuilt it. Its heavy leaded glass windows,wooden doors,gables,and walls with beautiful wooden carvings on them are quite beautiful to behold. After 1969 the family had it remade as a fascinating lifestyle museum,complete with authentic furnishings from 16th and 17th century England. Outside of this house is located a fragrance and herb garden,sunken gardens,a crape myrtle walk,a knot garden(two open knots make up the designs-a style dating back 400 years)rose arbor,and a John Tradescant garden. The latter garden has many rare and unusual plant species. The crape myrtle is in bloom right now,so that part of the garden was especially beautiful.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shirley Plantation- September 21

After attending church with Melissa yesterday,all three of us headed out for the Shirley plantation. This plantation has been family owned and operated for over five centuries- the Carter-Hill family claim they have the oldest family business in America. One member of the eleventh generation still lives on the second floor. Tours of this home started when he was a young boy. And it is a working farm- presently cotton and soy beans are ready for picking out in the fields. It has some interesting history from the Civil War years. A daughter of this family married Robert E.Lee. Shirley Plantation escaped from being pillaged and burned when the Union Army surrounded it because of the compassion of the ladies of the house. When they saw the wounded and hungry Union Army the ladies took action to care for them,which caused General McClellan to issue an order that the plantation was not to be harmed for the duration of the war. Construction began on the Great House in 1723. On entering the home,the first thing which caught my eye was the carved walnut staircase that rises up three stories with no visible signs of support. There were quite a few out-buildings,one of which was a dovecote. Squab,or young pigeons,were a culinary delicacy in the early years of this plantation. I have posted a picture of the dovecote,as well as a 350 year old willow oak( which is located in the back of the great house and overlooks the James River). Also note the picture of the Great House- a carved wooden pineapple sits atop of it, that is a common sign of Southern hospitality.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Henricus- September 19

Today we visited Henricus Historical Park in Virginia. Henricus was the second successful English settlement in the New World. Jamestown was the first settlement,but it had become a very unhealthy place to live. Horrific diseases as cholera and smallpox had killed most of the settlers in that colony. Three hundred people left Jamestown and started the city of Henricus. Here the first English hospital was started,and the first college was charted for the New World. This week-end was called "public days",meaning that there would be no admission charge and volunteers would be re-creating this first successful settlement of the New World. It really impressed me as to how labor-intensive life was for the settlers and Indians back in the early 1600s. One of the volunteers was chipping at a stone to make an axe head(a process known as flint knapping). He claimed that it takes him 100 hours to make one axe head. I also never realized what it a meant to skin an animal,and scrape the skin- until I saw it actually done. What a bloody mess-there was a squaw in the Indian village who was performing this task in a very matter of fact manner! It was a squirrel which she was skinning-I have a picture of that posted here. We ended our day at an Octoberfest at the Capital Ale House.There was a German band performing for the evening, as well as German folk dancers. Posted here is a couple of those dancers playing "Edelweiss" on cow bells.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Successful Car Search- September 18

Yes,we did find a car for Melissa. It is possible to find a clean cheap car. We did not think it was possible after our first four hours of visiting car dealerships yesterday morning. My,we saw some pretty messed up cars! Cars with dents and dings,glove compartments and doors hanging off their hinges;one car even had a blond wig in the glove compartment(we did check for a body in the trunk of that car). The chances of finding the perfect cheap car began to look like,as the expression goes,slim to none and Slim has left town. We finally connected up with the owner of a car which Melissa found on Craig's List. Looked at the car in the early evening,drove it to a parking lot so we could have some lighting to view it under. Long story short,we bought a clean '99 Ford Escort. It had been driven minimally by two ladies-and yes,we did check that story out on Car Fax. By the way,we do know it is drivable as we made it home with the car last evening! Only thing we are anxious to do yet is view it in the daylight. Seriously,we really have little doubts about this car and consider ourselves quite fortunate to have found it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Richmond Va.- September 17

We are now parked in Ashland,north of Richmond,visiting our daughter Melissa. Our goal,in the week we have here, is to find her a car. So far that has been an interesting experience. She is a graduate student on a limited budget. She has told us to find a car costing around two thousand dollars. That already makes the search difficult,as most used car dealers only handle cars starting at three thousand. We are spending time also on the computer,checking Craig's list. Our first stop yesterday was at a dealership which had an '87 Volkswagen Jetta for sale. What an awesome-looking car! Like a big muddy-colored tank- and starting up it sounded like one(takes diesel fuel). But you know, once it got over the agony of starting,it quieted down rather nicely! Only has 3OO thousand miles on it,but a little bit over Melissa's budget. That was an exciting start to our search! Over the course of the afternoon I had to drop my preconceived notions of used car salesmen. I thought they could talk your arm off and get a person to to buy anything. Maybe I am naive,but the dealers we met were sure nice-one even had a fluffy little white dog running circles around us! We are now headed out to meet with someone about the car he has to sell-funny thing is that we have as yet to get his address. Stay in touch for more on our continuing search for the clean,,mechanically sound,cheap car.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thoughts on our Life Style- September 16

Before I proceed with the above topic I would first like to explain the pictures posted here. They are of gardens around the Annapolis area;the lower one is located at the governor's mansion. Someone awhile back asked how we make this life style work. I am not sure what is being asked with that question,but I will try to answer it. First of all,if we had to work at making this way of life doable we would have already stopped. Yes,selling our home and getting rid of stuff was not all that easy emotionally. Yet we are at the point in our lives when we need to unload all that baggage! Also, neither of us wanted to rattle around in a large home anymore and we had some concern for our carbon footprint. This may be off the subject a bit,but I learned from an NPR show yesterday that the average American has abut 100 servants a day. They were speaking in terms of labor-saving devices;as dishwasher,vacuum cleaner,washer,dryer,and so forth. Amazingly enough,living a simpler way of life has been no problem for us. Once we bought the motor home and moved in,we found out that we were comfortable in our new digs. That is not to say,speaking for myself,that there are not times when I miss our home and friends. Most importantly,it is necessary for two people who choose this life style to get along with each other. John and I have no problem in that regard,we rather complement each other fairly well. After thirty-three years of married life we know what makes the other one happy,and pretty much have the same interests and values. We are not sure how long we will pursue this way of life;but for right we are happy with traveling,seeing and learning new things. God has been good,and we are thankful for our health which makes it all possible.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Annapolis Part 2- September 15

Just had a few more pictures and thoughts to send out in regards to our tour of Annapolis. One picture is of a white mulberry tree which we saw in front of one of the older homes in the town. This mulberry is one of the few left in Annapolis. In the 1700s the town planted quite a few of these trees to feed the silkworm. This particular caterpillar would then provide the silk required for the town's clothing industry. Another picture posted here is for the benefit of some of us who need a bit of a refresher course on the history of the first Continental Congress. And finally I have posted here a picture of the governor's garden.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Annapolis Maryland- September 14

We enjoyed hiking around the historic district of this city. Quite a few of the older homes do date back to the 1700s. In 1783 and 1874 Congress assembled in Annapolis, making it the first peacetime capital of the United States. The picture of the state capitol,which I have posted here, has the statute of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the foreground. He was the first African American to serve on the court,and served from 1967-91. In the traffic circle around the capitol we also found the governor's mansion and St.Anne's Episcopal Church. That church was rebuilt several times,the last time being 1858. The Maryland General Assembly contributed to the cost of building the first church in exchange for official pews being set aside for the Governor and legislators. Several signers of the Declaration of Independence attended here,as well as Frances Scott Key(see picture posted here). There is an impressive walnut reredos(carved screen)above the altar which depicts the Risen Christ offering the Book of Life to mankind. The reredos was done by a woodcarver from Oberammergau Germany in 1920. The United States Naval Academy is also located in this area. While walking the streets here we saw quite a few Naval cadets sprinting past us. They were easy to identify with their blue shorts and white tops! We probably should have toured the academy,but time did not allow that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Washington D.C.- Sept. 13

Yesterday,Saturday,John and I hiked in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Our son Dan and his friend Amanda were with us. For some strange reason we decided to hike the "billy goat trail". The signs warned us it was a strenuous hike which involved climbing over rocks. The picture I have posted here should give a pretty clear idea of the hill climbing which we encountered on that trail. John and I are sure feeling sore today! This morning we went with Dan and Amanda to the rally supporting Obama's health care plan. Unfortunately no one else besides us were located at the designated time and place. John and I needed to get back to KC(as we had already been away for a couple of days). So after touring the Native American Indian Museum, we returned home. I was happy later to hear from Dan, who informed me that they had found the rally and were having a good time. Apparently the attendance for their rally was less than the one held yesterday. That group of people were not in support of the health care plan. It is hard for me to understand anyone not wanting to have a better health care system. As Dan explains it:"we have a moral obligation to see that everyone has adequate medical care". By the way,Dan and Amanda are holding a used book sale next Saturday to raise money for a group of doctors who provide free medical care. They have already received a good number of book donations,and offers of help to transport books and set-up the sale. With all the negative political attitudes which has been flying around this past week it is good to hear of people taking positive action for the common good.

National Geographic Memorial-Sept. 11

We are now located in Millersville, Maryland. That was the closest we could get to Washington D.C. because of some political rallies taking place there this week-end. Today we drove into D.C. to visit our son Dan and his friend Amanda. Our first stop was the National Geographic building. There we viewed a wonderful exhibit of film and photographs taken by Dereck and Beverly Joubert pertaining to leopards and lions in Africa. Outside of the building I wandered around in National Geographic's memorial garden. This garden is a memorial to two of National Georgraphics employes who were killed on 9/11/01. The picture I have posted here,of a sculpture of ants on a log,was taken in this garden. From there we walked to St.Matthews Catholic church where John Kennedy's funeral was held in 1963. I was impressed by the unusual altar here- it is made of white marble with floral inserts similar to decorations found in the Taj Mahal. After touring that church we headed over to the National Cathedral for the Choral Evensong. The King's College of London sang for this service. We were able to sit in the chancel area because there were not many people in attendance. So we were located close to the choir,which had to have been the best seat in the house to hear them! Every note seemed to ring crystal clear. The dean of Kings' College gave the message,which were his thoughts on 9/11 and how God's remembering of us never ends.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Glouchester- New Jersey,September 10

For clarification,Glouchester is located close to Philadelphia. Our trip took us longer than expected today because of heavy traffic in the huge urban sprawl from New York City and well past Newark,New Jersey. We are thankful that we do not have to drive through that on a daily basis as some people do! I want to finish up here with a few more details from our trip to Willimanic Ct.on Tuesday. On our way home we stopped in Lebanon, see the home of Gov.Jonathan Trumbull. He was the only Colonial governor to support the American Revolution. How is that for a fun fact to use in a trivia contest? It is something I never knew-or perhaps I was sleeping during that history class. The War Office for the revolution is located near his house so I will post that picture instead of the house. Also in the lawn next to Trumbull's home I found a trick memorial stone-I felt foolish walking over to read it! This is an agricultural area so before heading home we stopped at a farm stand to purchase some local produce. This is a wonderful time of the year here for fruits and vegetables. Not only can we buy the usual summer vegetables as corn and tomatoes,but peaches,apples grapes and pears are also available.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thread City- September 9

We just had to get out again today and travel the back roads of Connecticut. Lately we have seen the most gorgeous hydrangea bushes along the side of the roads,so I have to post a picture of that here. Thread City's real name is Willimantic. It is called Thread City because of the Windham Textile Mill which used to be located here. The city is primarily known for its frog bridge. In June 1754 a loud noise awakened the townspeople. The settlers prepared for battle,thinking they were under attack by Indians. The next morning they found hundreds of dead bullfrogs in a nearby pond. The city since has adopted the bullfrog as their mascot. Two large frogs guard the entrance of each side of a bridge which crosses into the city. There is also a foot bridge in this city which is believed to be the longest foot bridge(east of the Mississippi)spanning a river,railroad,and a roadway. We walked it and found it to be an easy and pleasant way to cross an urban area. It was built in 1906. Also while touring this town we checked out the "Painted Ladies". Willimantic is second only to San Francisco in privately owned Victorian Homes.

Woodstock Fair- September 8

We had so much fun at the Woodstock County Fair yesterday that I had to do a separate posting for it. It was the last day of the fair,and the benefit of coming at that time was that we were able to see the animals and farm products which won the blue ribbons. Most 0f you know John's sweet tooth. He was awe-struck by the state prize-winning apple pie! He just had to take a picture of it. In the small animal barn we were greeted with the lusty crow of a huge black and red rooster. He was absolutely beautiful! I wonder whether his owner would also take our cat. He and the rooster could enjoy the wee hours of the morning together. KC will not let me sleep past 6AM! In the cow barn there were several pregnant cows lying around. My,what swollen bellies,I can not even imagine the pain of delivering those calves! A couple of the cows did entertain the fair crowd with their deliveries over the week-end. We also saw a horse pulling contest. A pair of horses were required to pull concrete blocks down a hill slope. What a show of horse power! I at first felt sorry for them, but it soon became apparent that it was not that big of a deal for most of the teams! The fun of every fair is always the food. This was one fair where there were seafood items- as lobster rolls and crab salad sandwiches. Toward evening it was getting quite cool,and a bowl of clam chowder sure hit the spot! We were fortunate also to be there for the main show of the fair-ABBA the Music. They still have two members playing from the original group,and performed old musical hits as well as some new songs. Their sound is as fantastic as ever.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley-Sept.7

This river valley is called the "last green valley" in the sprawling Boston-to-Washington corridor. It is a green and rural island in the most urbanized region in our nation. Its 1,085 square miles are defined by the Quinebaug and Shetucket rivers. We took a drive through this area today,stopping first at Yantic Falls in Norwich Ct. Yantic Falls is also called "Indian Leap" because of a battle here between the Narragansett and Mohegan Indians. According to Indian legend in 1633 the Narragansetts,not wanting to surrender to defeat,fell to their deaths in the gorge. Next we stopped at Mohegan City Park. The city of Norwich gave the park its name in recognition of the fact that the Mohegans deeded land to the first settlers of this area in 1659. I have posted here a picture of the memorial to that tribe.It depicts an elder of the tribe relating history to young tribal members. The wolf is symbolic of the spirit of the tribe. From this park we drove through the beautiful river valley with its green rolling hills and ever present stone fences. In a few weeks this area will be covered with the colors of autumn. Already the leaves are starting to turn. Hopefully this quiet river valley will never be touched by any developer's bulldozer. Our drive stopped at the Woodstock county fair. More on that later.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gillette Castle- September 6

Before I go into what we did today,I first want to explain the pictures posted here. They are from the 9/11 site. It was easy to figure out the area of ground zero-it looks like any area in the process of construction. Big cranes dot the fenced-off area.The first visitor center had an admission cost. We passed that up and followed the crowds through the World Finance Center. In the lobby of that building there is a memorial pool with a large crystal tear above it. Water is constantly dripping from above the pool creating ripples which interconnect. This is a memorial for the eleven American Express workers who lost their lives on 9/11,their names are engraved on the black granite edge of the pool. I have that picture posted here. Our final stop was the building which displays the plans for the major 9/11 memorial,due to be completed by 9/11/11. We got in late last night and it was tempting to skip church today. But we did make it to St.Mark Lutheran in Norwich Ct. As usual,it was the right place to be this morning! After the service an announcement was made that help was needed to pick produce in the church's garden(this garden was planted to supply the local food pantries). We assisted with that and in doing so I became acquainted with the pastor's wife,Terra Rowe. What a surprise to find out that she and her husband James are friends of our nephew Martin Lohrmann and his wife Carrie! In the afternoon we toured the William Gillette Castle. It is a stone castle build by Gillette at the turn of the century. He was the actor/producer who put life into the character Sherlock Holmes(totally with the approval of Sir Conan Doyle). Gillette was the one who came up with the idea of the particular hat and cape Holmes became noted for,as well as his pipe and magnifying glass. What a fascinating tour-his castle was quite unique!