Friday, August 31, 2012

Scranton, Pennslyvania

As the crow flies we were parked only about ten miles from Scranton, however, driving there involved going over a couple of mountains.  According to the tour books there is not too much to see in the town unless one is interested in a railroad museum and some anthracite blast furnaces.  Still, we just had some curiosity about the town, having never been there before.  We drove into the downtown section of town, which seemed to be dominated by Scranton University.  The Lackawanna River, pictured above, flows around Scranton.   The downtown area has  primarily a mixture of newer buildings as well as 100-years old, and older, restored structures.  One interesting building is the Lackawanna Station,  a former railroad depot which has been restored and converted into a hotel.
 The lobby is quite beautiful with its mosaic floor and barrel-vaulted, Tiffany stained glass ceilings.  There is also Siena marble and glazed tile murals on the walls.  Near the depot is Steamtown, the only place in the National Park System where the story of steam railroading, and the people who made it possible, is told.  In the 1800s George and Seldon Scranton owned an iron factory which made railroad rails, spikes and nails.  They needed an inexpensive way to get their products to market so they planned the building of their own railroad, which later became the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.  The railroad boom during the later half of the 18th century created a big demand for anthracite coal and iron products from the Lackawanna Valley.  The Steamtown Museum is rather large with a visitor's center, roundhouse, history and technology museums.  The railroad yards of the museum are filled with many railroad cars, some of which have been  restored.  The museum is connected by a bridge to the Mall of Steamtown, one of Scranton's major shopping centers.  The long building on the left, in the picture below, is the shopping mall.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Delaware Water Gap

We are now parked in about the middle of the Pocono Mountains, outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania.  They are for sure not the large mountains which we encountered out west, here the Poconos seem more like large wooded hills.  However, there is still a lot of natural beauty to be found in this area.  We spent yesterday at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area.  This park stretches for 40 miles along the middle Delaware River in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.   At the southern end of this park the river cuts an S-curved pass through the mountains, forming the Delaware Gap.  The 200 miles of scenic roads wander through valleys, ridges and ravines where there are many opportunities to off  the road and hike.  Many waterfalls, which pour off the Pocono Plateau, can be found along the park's trails.  Our first problem, once we entered the park, was deciding which waterfalls to see.  We had to consider the length of the trails into the waterfalls as well as how much climbing was needed in order to view them.  After stopping at one of the visitor's centers and consulting with a forest ranger, we headed out on what turned out to be a very delightful day.  Our first stop was at Dingmans Falls, the second-highest waterfall in the state.  This is one of the more accessible falls, and a boardwalk leads to it.
A park ranger warned us, before we started out, that Hurricane Irene last year did considerable damage to the park, some roads are now closed.  At Dingman Falls we noticed that part of the boardwalk had recently been replaced.  We can only imagine how a torrential rain could turn the falls into a monstrous flowing swath of destruction!  Our next stop was Raymondskill Falls which has upper, middle and lower sections to it.
Hackers Falls is near Raymondskill Falls so that was our next and final stop of the day.  It was the most difficult of the trails we had been on.  Getting to them meant walking over narrow rocky paths which mainly went uphill.   Fortunately it was a cool day with little humidity. The forest was also cool with its towering hemlocks and hardwoods.  It is a very moist woods so ferns as well as colorful mushrooms dot the forest floor.  The Hacker Falls are beautiful with their bridal-veil type cascade, and it was worth the effort hiking to them.  We did not want to return on the same trail back to our car so we made a quick decision to take the longer path, which a forest ranger recommended.  On this trail we walked along the Poconos' steep ravines over which we could view Delaware River's valley and western shore.  This is called the Tri State Overlook, where it is possible to see New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  By this time the shadows were lengthening and we needed to get out of the park before darkness fell. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

On Saturday we left Akron and drove into Pennsylvania.  We stop at the first rest stop and saw a sign which said: "Smile, you are in Pennsylvania".  As we exited the area and drove back on the highway a sign reminded us to buckle up "for the next million miles".  Not a bad idea... Further down the road we saw a sign which said only "Pennsylvania Wilds".  I was starting to think that someone in Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation had a good sense of humor- but I later found out that there really is an area called Pennsylvania Wilds.  It is a remote and rugged area in the northwestern part of the state.  As we came into the area we crossed a very scenic river gorge of the Allegheny River.  We also drove through the southern border of the Allegheny National Forest.  Soon we were climbing into the Allegheny Mountains and enjoying many scenic vistas.   Unfortunately my camera died when we entered Pennsylvania.
After seeing the gardens at Stan Hywet I did not expect to see so much beauty in one spot again for a long time.  However, we have found in our travels that we can always count on the unexpected to happen.  At the entrance to the Fort Bellefonte Campground beautiful gardens and fountains greeted us.  I do believe it is one of the prettiest places we have ever chosen to park our rig!  After getting our home hooked up and set for the night, we drove into the town of Bellefonte.  The town sits at the base of Bald Eagle Mountain, which is at the western most ridge of the Appalachians.  The town was named for its beautiful fountain and the springs which provide the town's water supply.  We enjoyed a stroll through Talleyrand Park where the springs and Spring River is located.  Off to the side of the park is a large match factory, now closed.   We also walked through the historic area of town where there are many large early Victorian homes and buildings.  The town is also famous for being the hometown of seven governors, some of which were governors of states other than Pennsylvania.  We met up with a couple of local people who were quite eager to talk with us about the town, and they encouraged us to stop by the Grange Fair while we were in town.
At church on Sunday we again talked to people who encouraged us to attend the Grange Fair, which is going on at present.  It is quite the event for the town and surrounding county.  Schools don't dare to begin until after the fair.  People live there in tents for the whole week of the fair (in recent years recreational vehicles have joined the tents on the fairgrounds).  The tents are very large and of one color and size.  They are provided by the fairgrounds and in move-in condition a day before the fair opens.  Tent spots are allocated to individuals and have been kept by most families since the beginning of the fair, which was 138 years ago. There is a fee of $200.00 for the week.   So we drove over to the town of Centre Hall, where the fair is located.  We came primarily to see the tents, the fair was not that important to us.   As we walked through a row of tents we saw an elderly woman sitting in one of them,  and we stopped to talk to her.  She claims that there is nothing like the Grange Fair in all of the world.  Her parents had the same site she was currently sitting in and  she has been coming to the fair "since she was born".  We were amazed at the furnishings which people bring in for the week.  We saw iron bedsteads, sofas and recliners- not to mention microwaves, televisions and refrigerators.  Some decorate the entrance of their tent with farm and garden themes, or Christmas lights.  A couple of the tents had birthday parties going on, it all was a rather amazing sight.   Most tents are a few feet away from the midway, food stands and exhibit barns.  I could not help but wonder how those people kept from pigging out on the hot dogs, kettle corn, funnel cakes, ice cream and caramel apples which surround them for the whole week of the fair!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stan Hywet Gardens and Kent State Memorial

 During our tour of the Stan  Hywet House we could not help but notice the large vases of colorful flowers in all the rooms.  The estate has a Great Garden which covers 3 acres and features a cutting garden for both fresh and dried arrangements for the Manor House.  There is also the Great Meadow, home of a wildflower garden.  My favorite garden was the English Garden which features 3,300 perennials.  It was a bit of heaven.
I want to add at this point an interesting story which our guide told to us.  The estate has a Gate Lodge where the oldest Seiberling son Fredrick and his wife Henrietta lived.  Into this home Henrietta invited two men, strangers to each other, but both having the addiction of alcohol. They supported each other in their struggles with addiction and the Gate Lodge in 2000 was  formally dedicated as the "Birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous".  I will show one more garden picture here before moving on, it is of the Elliptical Garden.  The garden also includes a wall of evergreen trees to shield the house from the noise of service vehicles
Kent Sate University was on our way to the Stan Hywet house so earlier we had stopped there to look at the May 4,1970 memorial.  On that day National Guard Troops, on order of Governor J. Rhodes, fired on protestors of the Vietnam War.  The action was taken to eradicate the problems of protests at Kent State.  There are markers where four students had fallen and died.  One memorial had all their names engraved on it (pictured below).  There is also a small memorial garden.  All the memorials had flowers one them and remembrance stones, as if it happened yesterday.   A marker at the site states that the Presidents Council on Campus Unrest reported that the shootings were "unnecessary. unwarranted and inexcusable".

Ankron and Stan Hywet

Akron once led the world in the manufacturing of rubber products.  The other day at one of the visitor's centers in the Cuyahoga National Park I read a rather wry comment which noted: " In the twentieth century competition for autos, trucks and buses riding on tires produced by Akron's rubber companies caused the decline of both freight and passenger services" ( this was in reference to the demise of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the Cuyahoga Valley).  Local production of rubber products is now minimal, but Akron is still the corporate home of such companies as Goodyear and Uniroyal-Goodrich.  Stan Hywet was once the home of F.A. Seiberling, co-founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.  The name is Old English for stone quarry- a natural feature of the property.  The home was built from 1912-1915 and the family was in residence here from 1915-1955.  Gertrude Seiberling (wife of F.A. Seiberling) took architectural classes so she played a major role in the design of the mansion.  When the home was finished, the Manor House's 64,500 square feet included more than 65 rooms, 23 bathrooms and 23 fireplaces.  It is the sixth largest home in the United States, and it was well worth our time to visit it.  It has also kept many of the original furnishings.
The details of the interior of the house are amazing.  The front hallway has intricate carvings in the oak panel walls handcut and machine tooled to resemble folds of fabric.  The solarium features sandalwood paneling in a repeating double-diamond pattern and a theme of birds and animals.  The dining room has a canvas frieze, located along the upper perimeter of the room, which illustrate Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrimage.  The music room was the setting for grand parties and musical performances.  It features an Aeolian organ and may be played manually or electronically using music rolls.  The Von Trapp family performed here.  Their prayer kneeler is a furnishing of the house; the Von Trapps had daily morning prayers and always had a priest touring with them (information provided by our tour guide).  Every mansion has its list of visiting celebrities- in this house President Taft resided, as well as Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan.  I could go on forever about the awesome features of the house, but the landscaping outside of the house also needs to be acknowledged.
The house was intentionally designed so that one may look from the front door through the open rear door of the Great Hall to the verdant back yard with its Tea Houses.  Quite a magnificent view!  The Tea Houses are pictured below.
On the grounds there are also Japanese and English formal gardens as well as grape and rose arbors.  The Breakfast Room Garden reflects the interior of that room, which has a blue,white and gold color scheme.
We are heading out shortly for point east, so I will cut off this posting, and will write more regarding the gardens in the next posting. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

We finally made it out of Dayton by late afternoon on Wednesday.  Some small glitches popped up in the process of checking our motor home out of the repair shop, and then, when hooking our car to the rig, a fuse was discovered to be broken.  We pumped gas and discovered we were over-charged, all those little problems blew the majority of our day.  We did not drive into the Akron area and get parked until it was dusk.  Our main goal, while in this area, was to see Ohio's only national park.  It lies between Cleveland and Akron and has 33,000 miles of valley along a 22-mile section of the Cuyahoga River.  The river was given that name by Native Americans-  it means crooked, which the 100-mile river is as it twists and turns its way through Northeast Ohio.  In the park is the location of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath, in the early 1800s that path was used by mules as they towed canal boats loaded with passengers and basic goods to eastern markets.  The trail has many features of the old canal, as well as other historical structures along its restored path.  Old locks can be found which raised and lowered boats through elevation changes.  Pictured below is a piece of Lock 26, also known as the Pancake Lock.  It was in operation 1827-1913.  In the flood of 1828 canal boats were stranded at this lock and cornmeal pancakes became the only food supply.
Despite being an urban park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park abounds in natural beauty. Wetland, forests and fields can be found within its boundaries.  One cannot visit this park without seeing Brandywine Falls. 
American beaver, missing from the American ecosystem for 150 years, has returned and, by damming up the Cuyahoga river, they created new wetland habitats in the park.  In 1964 the marsh was an automobile salvage yard, after it was flooded by beavers the Sierra Club cleared out the debris and it became the beautiful marsh it is today.  We walked the boardwalk through the wetland and were amazed by all the birds, turtles, frogs, fish and even one great blue heron which we saw there.  We were told that the beavers appear at dusk.
It is possible to see some of the beauty of this park by riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which runs between Cleveland and Canton.  The train is equipped with a baggage car to carry bicycles for a one-way train ride paired with a bike ride on the Towpath Trial.  We had no time for that adventure, but did hike the Ledges Trail before leaving the park.  Along that path are large sandstone cliffs.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wegerzyn Gardens

Thursday evening we discovered that our motor home had no electricity.  We had planned to leave Dayton the next day, that did not happen.   We took our home into a repair shop on Friday and learned that the transfer switch and surge protector needed replacing.  The parts needed to be ordered and would not come in until Tuesday.  That meant we needed to move in with our niece Laura until Tuesday.  She was happy to accommodate us and hanging out with them meant that John could do a few more repair jobs around their house.  Saturday all of us went to the Fairborn Sweet Corn Festival.  Wow, that corn was good eating!   Over both days of the week-end there was some sort of live music going on continually; from high school marching bands, to a variety of local bands, square dancing and even belly dancing.  On Sunday we returned to the fair just to hear McCoy Grass, a bluegrass band.  One of their members has played at the Grand Ole Opry.  The band sure produced some wonderful toe-tapping music!
From the festival John and I headed out to visit another one of the Five Rivers MetroParks, the Wegerzyn Gardens.  Just as we have discovered that every history museum is different, we can also say the same for botanical gardens.  Currently the Wegerzyn Gardens is displaying a sculpture done by Patrick Dougherty.  His art work, made of willow tree saplings, is called "A Wiggle in its Walk".  The mound of sticks depicts a serpent weaving its way through the gardens.  It is possible to walk through the art work.  Part of the serpent can be seen below.  Unfortunately only an aerial view would make it possible to see the whole creature.
The Children's Discovery Garden is quite unique with a limestone grotto and waterfall, a prairie and wetlands.  The pond in that area has lily pads which are currently blooming.
The park also has formal English, Federal and Victorian gardens.  A riparian forest was enjoyable to walk through, unfortunately at this time of the year it is inhabited by many mosquitoes.  It usually gets flooded about once a year by the nearby Stillwater River.  To my chagrin many of the plants in the park are not labeled.  However, the witch hazel  has a tag on it.  An interpretive sign near it notes that on the grounds there are 70 varieties of the plant, each one bearing scented and colorful blooms in the spring and fall.  The plants common name references the fact that its branches make excellent divining rods for water witching.  The only witch hazel plant I saw looked rather sad with its dry-appearing leaves.   I won't bother posting a picture of it, but will instead finish this post with one of the garden's prettier sights, of which there are many.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Inventors River Walk

Thursday was our last day in Dayton, and we spent it with our niece Laura and her son Josh at another one of the Five Rivers MetroParks.  Maybe John and I should have started with this park first because we then would have understood what the five rivers were, all of which can be discovered in the metro park system.  The city of Dayton is at the confluence of four shallow streams that drain the upper portion of the Miami Valley.  At the Riverscape Park in downtown Dayton is a small shelter type building that has written on it the five bodies of water which are part of the park system.  They are: the Miami, Stillwater, Mad River (our campground sits by this river), and the Twin and Wolf Creeks. Pictured below is that building, which is over the pedestrian/bike path by the Miami River.  In the background of the picture is a fountain which is located near Deeds Point, another park in the metro system. At the Riverscape is Inventors River Walk.
Through much of its history Dayton has had more inventions per capita than any city in the United States.  The most well known is the engine-powered airplane by the Wright brothers.  Another one is the self-starter engine by Charles Kettering in 1912.  It is pictured below.  John, Laura and Josh are giving it a close look.
And have you given much thought to who invented the lowly ice cube tray?   It was invented by Arthur Frei in 1950.  He developed 23 patents on the device.  One of his more significant advancements of the ice cube tray was the lever on top of the tray which released the ice cubes.
Moving on from the simple and mundane to one of the more significant and recent inventions coming out of Dayton, we found the search engine at the Inventors River Walk.  It was invented by the employes of Mead Data Center (now known as LexisNexis) in the 1960s.  This method of searching, which uses "and" "or", and "not" to define parameters, was so successful it led to LexisNexis becoming a leading source of information.
The other inventions shown at the Inventors River Walk are: the hydraulic jump fountain (to prevent floods), the pop-top can, and the cash register.  It is an impressive park and very well done.  Thursday evening we had the pleasure of attending some Air Force entertainment presented by their musical group called the Tops in Blues.  Because Laura's husband Mike is currently deployed we got priority seating which placed us closer to the stage.  This group has been entertaining troops around the world for 59 years.  Air Force men and women take a year away from their work to perform, and we must say that they are a very talented group from what we saw last evening.  Part of the show was a tribute to Michael Jackson.  Ordinarily it is not the music John and I enjoy, but we still appreciated what we heard and saw (the lighting and dancing).  Tops in Blues also perform stateside, so if they come to your town make every effort to attend!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Five Rivers MetroParks of Dayton

The people of Dayton certainly have a treasure in their parks.  It is an expansive park system that offers nearly 16,000 acres of green space in more than 24 parks.  While John and I have been in Dayton there have been some pretty warm days, and it is wonderful to leave the hot streets of the city and stroll along a quietly flowing river or to walk down a shady forest path.  We probably will only see about six of the parks before we leave Dayton tomorrow.  In this posting I will write about a couple of the parks which we have visited in the past two days.  On Tuesday we drove to Taylorsville MetroPark.   In this park we hiked in to see the site of a massive rock fall (1984) when 375 tons of overhanging stone tumbled down. 
To see the some of the park we got our bikes out and rode on the Great Miami River Recreation Trail.  That trail took us into what was once the town of Tadmoor.  In the 1800s this was a bustling river town.  It stood at the intersection of the Miami-Erie Canal, the National Road, Dayton-Michigan Railroad and the Great Miami River.  The location of that town, actually remnants of the canal, is pictured below.
A succession of floods on the Great Miami River resulted in the construction of a series of flood control dams, one of which is located in the park.  The National Road was routed across the Taylorville Dam and the town was abandoned.  Also while in the park we saw what was left of the Miami-Erie Canal, which now is nothing more than a big ditch.  It was completed in 1845 and took 20 years to build.
The above picture was taken at the Aullwood Garden Metro Park.  This is an estate garden give to the park system by Marie Aull in 1977.  Here there are woodland gardens along the Wiles Creek, in those shady areas we saw magic lilies blooming amid ostrich ferns.  There are also rose and lilac bushes blooming at this time of the year.  Also on Wednesday we toured Carriage Hill MetroPark.  This is a working 1880s farm with reconstructed or restored farm house, summer kitchen, wash house, blacksmith and barns.  It consists of farmland and woodlots and a 14-acre lake, as well as ponds and wetlands.  Every one of the parks we have seen so far have been quite beautiful; set in among rolling river hills of  prairies and forests.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cox Arboretum and Miamisburg, Ohio

Storms have been moving across the Dayton area since Friday bringing temperatures down into the high eighties, but certainly not much of any measurable rain.  Sunday afternoon there was no dark clouds hanging above us as there had been Saturday, so John and I decided on visiting the Cox Arboretum Metro Park of Dayton.  The Butterfly House was our first stop in the gardens.  We saw mainly monarch butterflies and only one swallowtail.  A docent in the house explained that it had been an unusual winter with some very warm temperatures followed by freezing weather, which seemed to have cut down their butterfly collection.  Recently a large number of monarchs have made their appearance.
The docent pointed out to us a spicebush swallowtail caterpillar, which was busy munching on some dill.
We hiked through some forest trails in the arboretum, and enjoyed seeing the formal gardens.  However, most fascinating to us was Zip the dog.  He is a border collie trained to keep the geese out of the ponds.  He has been trained well, no one can distract him from his appointed rounds.  Calling his name or offering him a treat does not stop him, he zips in a continuous pattern around the ponds and stops only for a dunk in the water to cool off.  I was very impressed watching him!  No geese were seen in the arboretum.
From the arboretum we drove to Miamisburg where a prehistoric Native Indian mound (1000BC-400AD) was discovered in 1869.  Eight feet from the top of the mound was found the burial site of a bark-covered skeleton.  The mound is currently 65 feet high.  The CCC built stairs up the hill, we climbed all of the 117 steps.  From the the mounds we drove into the town, which was established in 1818.   A beautiful 40-foot long mural on one of the buildings greeted us as we drove into the town square.  A portion of it is pictured below,  it displays the Indian mound which we had just seen.  The boys on skateboards are part of the mural.  After walking all over the small town, which has kept many of its century old buildings, we had supper at Ron's Pizza restaurant,  which we highly recommend to anyone visiting Miamisburg, Ohio!

Dayton, Ohio

Last week we moved to this area from Michigan.  We had been here a year ago, but decided to revisit the area because our niece Laura and her two children live here.  Her husband Mike, an Air Force major,  is currently deployed to Afghanistan until January.  Prayers for his safety, as well as the safety of all our troops stationed there, are certainly needed!   Friday night Laura and Mike's children both were in show choir performances; Bethany at the high school, and Josh at the middle school.  Laura was needed at the high school and could attend Bethany's show, so John and I attended the performance at the middle school.
The above picture shows only a small number of the show choir, there is 40 children all total.  Josh is in the back row in a blue shirt, third from left.  For only having completed a week of show choir, they are doing well with both their singing and dancing.  The choir is financially supported by the parents.
We had  hiked in Clifton Gorge last year, but Saturday morning that was the place of choice for Laura and Josh.  However, we did hike in a different area and ended up a Clifton mill.  A small part of the mill can be seen in the background of the picture above.  The mill, as well as other mills in the area, are on the Miami River.  They supplied materials for our country during the war of 1812.  Near the town of Clifton is the village of Yellow Springs, an area known for its eclectic array of shops and restaurants.  The town was filled with people Saturday because of the presence of an art fair.  We spent some time walking around the many booths where local artists displayed their work.  I especially loved the paintings displayed below, and, if I had a home in which to display them, would certainly have purchased one!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bay City

We left the history museum and next headed for the Midland Historical District of Bay City.  The above picture sums up our afternoon pretty well.  We started at one of the largest antique stores in the area.  The stuff in that store is amazing; massive Flemish furniture with wood carvings and stained glass, old organs and pianos, as well as copious dishes of every shape and color.  I informed John that should I see anything I like,  I will purchase it and we will have to stop our gypsy life.  It is difficult to look at all that beautiful antique furniture and know that there is no way it would fit in our motor home!  Laurent Brothers candy store is across the street from the antique store ( it is the tallest building in the picture above), that did seem to be our next logical stop- we were in need of an afternoon snack.  The candy company (aka the "nut house") started roasting peanuts in 1904, and since then has moved on to homemade chocolates and other candy as well as ice cream.   As we found out, they do make excellent treats.  The fountain pictured above is located at where the Third Street Bridge use to be.  The bridge was the major crossing between east and west Bay City for many years.  It was a wooden swing-span bridge which, in July 1868 alone, the city recorded a total number of  2,689 vessels that traversed up and down the Saginaw River.  It had been replaced once and restored several times over the years. In 1976 it "spectacularly collapsed" (information obtained from the interpretive sign at the wharf).  I took the picture below  from that area looking toward the Liberty Bridge.
Liberty Bridge and Veterans Memorial Bridge are the two bridges which now serve the city.  We crossed both bridges and wandered around a bit before we located Veterans Memorial Park   The city is not all that big, so we didn't have to cover many miles in our search for the park.  At the park we noticed a stand of bleachers near the river's edge.  Apparently boat races are a big event in Bay City, as well as a fire works display on the fourth of July which can be seen from both sides of the river.  From Veterans Memorial Park it is possible to see Winona Park and the downtown area of Bay City. The white oval in the picture is a fountain placed in the park to commemorate Bay City's community spirit of friendship and giving.  We also walked around that park.  It was a nice ending to our day in Bay City, a city which has a lot to offer a tourist.

Historical Museum of Bay County

We did not have a clear idea about what we wanted to see in Bay City yesterday when we headed out toward that city.  We did know that the USS Edson, a Naval destroyer launched in 1958, was making an arrival into the Saginaw Bay from Pennsylvania the same morning we planned to be there.  It is to become a part of the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum.   My brother Wayne, a Navy veteran, wanted to see that event.  The ship has received commendations for its meritorious service during the Vietnam War.
After watching the gangplank lifted and attached to the ship, we drove into Bay City looking for a place to get some coffee.  We found a McDonald's restaurant, which just happened to be across from the historical museum.  Sometimes that is how we plan our days!  In some small cities I am a bit wary of their historical museums. Antiques and artifacts may be displayed in a very haphazard manner with little information provided.  That is not certainly the case for the Historical Museum of Bay County!   We spent a good part of our day there.  The first display, which caught my eye, is a collection of creamy yellow glassware called custard glass.  That was totally new to me.  The genuine article of this glass, first made in 1880 in England, was originally made with uranium salts.  Under ultra violet light the glassware has a greenish glow.
A large section of the museum is devoted to the history of the various industries of the Bay City area.  As with most of Michigan, lumber was the first commerce to bring income to the area.  When the pine trees for that industry became depleted, Michigan passed a Sugar Beet Act in 1897.  The state was willing to pay $4.00 per ton to farmers for beets containing 12% sugar.  German immigrant farmers had experience with growing that crop back in the old country.  The act was repealed in 1900, but it was the start of something big for Michigan.  I remember my mother (who grew up on a farm outside of Saginaw) mentioning that as a child she had to hoe weeds in their sugar beet fields.  Today sugar beets are grown in 18 counties in Michigan.  Maybe you have heard of Pioneer or Big Chief sugar, which are products of Michigan.   There is also information in the museum regarding the older buildings of Bay City.  We saw some of the Victorian palatial mansions of the lumbar barons as we drove into Bay City on Center Street.  Next to the museum is the city hall, which once housed the police department, jail and library besides the city offices.  Information provided at the museum said that it was built in 1895 in the Romanesque style.  It looks like a medieval castle, complete with an 85 foot tall clock tower.  I was very intrigued by the stone work of the building.  Unfortunately it is currently closed to the public, probably undergoing reconstruction.   I will contain the story of our day in Bay City in the next posting.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Toledo Zoo

This sculpture can be found at the Toledo Zoo.  It is called the Hippo Arch.  I do believe that it is a bit more exciting than the Arch of St.Louis, Missouri!  You may be wondering what we where doing in Toledo.  Again,  this time we did not move our rig.  We are registered to stay at our present location in Michigan for a month.  However, we learned that my brother Marcus and his wife Heidi ( who live outside of Toledo) will be going on vacation soon.  If we were going to see them at all we needed to travel to Ohio this past Friday and Saturday.  That is the beauty of towing our little Honda with us, so we can make those short quick trips.  Our nephew Ben and his Mom, Raquel, also were vising my brother and joined us on a a trip to the zoo Saturday.   Shortly after entering the zoo we found  a perfect photo opportunity for Ben.  Fortunately he is one child who does not mind his picture taken.  What a couple of cool dudes!
To get a good view of the zoo's African savanna we boarded a train.  In that area we saw wildebeest as well as kudus and zebras.  Equally fascinating to me were two termite trees, the taller of the trees still is "living", according to our train tour guide.  That reminded me of a tree near our motor home back in Michigan which is being eaten by carpenter ants-  sawdust constantly covers the ground and our picnic table!
 We have been to some zoos where the animals are either difficult to find in their cages or are inactive.  That was not the case for us Saturday.  In the various pool of the park we saw sea lions and penguins diving and swimming around.  And how cute are the river otters pictured below, holding onto each other as they frolicked in the water!  John read on an interpretive near their pond that they are related to skunks.
I think the biggest thrill for me at the zoo was watching the zoo's youngest elephant at play.  In his pen was part of a tire which he either tried to sit on, roll with, or just kicked around.  Occasionally he would take a break from this activity, run over to a tire hanging from a tree nearby, and hit it hard with his trunk to get it swinging wildly.  That was not as much fun as the piece of tire on the ground so he would always return to it.
I think we all enjoyed the Toledo Zoo immensely, and maybe for John and I it rates almost as good as the St.Louis Zoo.   It was a hot and muggy day, so consequently we did not cover all of the zoo.  There is a whole section of the park, which includes a science museum, aquarium, conservatory and formal gardens, that we did not see.  In that area is also a large amphitheater where music concerts are held. We headed back to St.Louis later that day.  Before we left I just had to take a picture of my brother's rose garden.