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!

Historic Wheeling

Before writing about our tour of historic Wheeling I want to mention that it is in this town that observance of Memorial Day started.  It was the wife of the Governor Pierpoint who thought it appropriate to decorate the graves of Civil War heroes.  She is credited for the first Decoration Day in 1866.  It was renamed Memorial Day in 1888.
Sorry, I had promised pictures of Victorian homes, but this was once a firehouse.  It was built in 1891 by a local resident who wanted to ensure fire protection for his home.  The central bell tower was shortened and the bell sits somewhere else nearby on Main street.  The majority of fine Victorian homes are on this street and the walking tour required little effort on our part, which was good because it was a very warm afternoon!
The middle house, called the Philips-Robertson home,  was built in 1892.  According to our walking tour brochure the oriel window on the left is rectangular rather than curved which was more the norm.  I must say that on this tour of Victorian  homes I did pick up a few new architectural terms, and I thought that I knew them all! 
The above picture may seem a bit odd, but I wanted to focus on some of the home's unusual features.  It is the Alfred Paull House built about 1883.  There is a Moorish keyhole front window and tall, ornate wooden doors.  Above it is an oriel window topped with ornamental frieze.  An oriel is a projection from a wall which does not reach the ground.
The above twin townhouses were built in the 1890s, the one on the left has stained glass windows  in the lower level.  It is described by our guide book as "one of the most beautiful buildings in Victorian Wheeling".  These "eclectic" houses are further described as having "sandstone arches, corbeled brick and classic triangular pediments over extended oriel windows".   Just the description makes them beautiful!
We did get a peek inside one of the homes.  Unfortunately we were too late for the one tour of the day, but the owners were only too happy to point out the features of their house (they reside in the upper level- lower level has a gift shop and tea room).   This house, the Eckhart house, was built in 1892 in the Queen Anne style.  Inside the gift shop I noticed intricately carved newel posts in front of a beautiful staircase.  On the wall behind the stairs is a deeply embossed brown wall covering, which I was informed is called lincrusta.     Other features of the house include fireplaces, tiled floors and fretwork.  John and I had a rather long chat with the owners about their home and they also had many questions about our life style as gypsies.   I think it was rather a case of the other side of the fence looking greener for all of us!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wheeling, West Virginia

Most appropriately John and I left St.Louis last Thursday during a fierce rain storm.  That is how we  will remember the last stay in our home city- rain and very hot weather.  And it seems that our little traveling companion Lenny the lizard has left us as we have not seen him since.   I know that I will miss seeing his little head sticking out of our exhaust pipe!
Over the past week-end we stayed in an Ohio state park.  It was a very quiet place with no internet access. Sometimes that is good.  On Saturday morning we drove over the Ohio River into Wheeling not sure if the visitor's center would be open to give us the information we needed to tour the town.  All we knew from out-dated tour books was that there is a lot to see and do in Wheeling.
In previous years, while on the road, we have visited this town.  And I did write in one posting about   a suspension bridge which was the longest bridge in the states in 1849, until the Brooklyn Bridge was built two years later.  We followed signs in Wheeling to the visitor's center which fortunately was open.   A small museum there gave us some history of the town, and a staff member directed us to
visit West Virginia Independence Hall nearby in the historic downtown area.  By the way, at this museum we learned how the town got its name.  "Weeling" in a Native American language means "head".  A European adventurer was decapitated and his head hung on a pole as a warning to white settlers, hence the town was named for a murder!

 Independence Hall, pictured above,  was once the Federal Custom House.  It was built in 1859 and   served as the capitol of the "Restored Government of Virginia" for two years prior to the granting of West Virginia statehood on June 20, 1863.  The statehood story is documented in a film we saw in the museum "For Liberty and Union".  We learned that people in this part of Virginia did not desire to be part of eastern section of the state because of the rumors of its secession from the United States in 1861.  West Virginia, although a slave state, wanted to be a part of the Union.  The statue in from of the building is that of  Francis Pierpoint, the first governor of W.Va.  The building in the background is that of First English Lutheran Church, established 1860.
Pictured above is the courtroom where passionate discussions for statehood began in 186l.  The building has been restored and is quite beautiful with tall wooden doors, tiled floors, as well as ironwork and frescos.  There is also a wonderful display of original Civil War Flags.
We had lunch at North Centre Market House where there are antique stores and restaurants.  It was built in 1853.   In the 1800s Wheeling was a boom town with its natural resources of coal and gas.  It also attracted skilled artisans in numerous glass works.  Tobacco and nail factories also sprang up, Wheeling back then was known as the "Nail City".  Beautiful Victorian-styled homes were built, our afternoon in the town was spent on a walking tour of the old homes.  More on that in the next posting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Missouri Botanical Garden

Summer weather here in the St.Louis area has not been to good.  It has either been very hot (like 90 to 100 degrees with high humidity) or very wet with literally torrents of rain.  And yet somehow we manage.  The past two days we have been in Carbondale supervising the move of our daughter's household items to Florida by hired movers.  On Monday John and I put up a tarp over the car so we could organize and pack some of the items to be moved.  It rained on and off that day.  On Tuesday we had the sun beating down on us, and the temperature was 100 degrees.  We felt very sorry for the movers who were sweating profusely as they moved numerous items into a van.
Rain was in the forecast when John and I, as well as my sister Julia and husband Cal headed out the door last Saturday for the gardens.   I am thankful that forecast did not deter us because, as you can see from the picture above, they are gorgeous at this time of the year.  It seemed that as we walked through the gardens we came upon one beautiful sight after another.

Pictured above is the central pool which can be found in front of the climatron.  Dale Chilluly's Walla Walla Onions float on the water there amidst the water lilies which are presently in bloom.  Equally beautiful are the lotus flowers, which we discovered in the Japanese section of the garden.

 There were many of them blooming in the pond of the Japaneses garden, many of them at the end of their blooming period.  Probably the best time to see them is in the middle of June.
In the many times that I have visited the gardens I do not ever remember seeing the pincushion gardens.  The beautiful circular beds were first introduced in the 1850s in Herfordshire, England.  The idea was to "stick" them in the garden like pins in a pincushions.  Missouri Botanical Gardens added them in the early 1900s.  The designs we see here today are the ones popular in Henry Shaw's time.  He was the founder of the gardens, for the information of those of you not from St.Louis.
The Ottoman Gardens are the first of its kind in the United States.   It is modeled after the Turkish "Gardens of Paradise" of the 17th and 18th centuries.  Here fragrant flowers and herbs surround a shallow pool of water called a havoz.  Istanbul and St. Louis are about the same latitude so many of the plants here are common to the St.Louis area.  In the foreground is a blooming rose of Sharon.
Pictured above is one beautiful hanging basket of begonias and fan flowers.  As we were walking into the home garden section it started to sprinkle.  We tried to ignore the weather,  but the rain did not stop at little droplets.  I must say, however, that we were quite satisfied with what we did manage to see of the gardens.
I am now writing this posting as the rain is coming down outside in torrents.  We are planning to leave St.Louis tomorrow, come rain or sunshine!