11. On the Road Again.

After spending just a few days at home in Seaside to catch up on things, I flew back to Knoxville Tennessee to join Kelly.  He was on his own in Kentucky and drove to Bowling Green.  The city was the capital of Confederate Kentucky during the Civil War and has the Corvette assembly plant there.  Kelly took the tour and saw how each car was assembled.  He said it was very interesting.  They also had a Corvette museum that some of you might have heard about on the news in 2014.  Right in the middle of the museum a 40′ wide and 20′ deep sink hole opened up and swallowed 8 cars in 2014!  After that he drove up to Cumberland Falls which is also known as the “Niagara of the South.”  He also toured Mammoth Caves National Park which is the longest cave system in the United States. He said he was good now and did not need to go spelunking for awhile.  Must have been some kind of cave system 367 miles that have been mapped plus more that are undiscovered!

I think Cumberland Falls has a long ways to go to catch up to Niagara Falls! 

The first night back at our Smoky Mountains KOA, the moon had that a slight haze around it creating an amazing look to the moon.  

So many pretty views along the trail we hiked.  I even found a very old railroad nail!

In the morning, we thought we would be able to on an 11 mile bike ride through Cades Cove  in the Smoky Mountain National Park.  When we got there we found out that we had missed our opportunity.  We had the right day but they only let bike riders in until 10 am then it turns into a one way road that is only open for cars.  It still was a gorgeous drive.  This cabin in the woods was home to the first permanent European settlers.  The first Winter was so harsh they survived by eating dried pumpkin that the Cherokee Indians gave them! 

The Cades Cove Primitive Baptist Church.

Grist Mill and other old tools of the trade.

OK this shot is for Cousin Pam again.  On our way to Gatlinburg, we went on a 2 1/2 mile hike though forests to a waterfall.  Our Oregon waterfalls and mountains are so big compared to Tennessee’s.  I think we are all spoiled, but it still was pretty.  It just on a way smaller scale.

Kelly was rock surfing.

A picture of a picture.  I could not wait until the Fall season is here, to post this beautiful photograph.

This is downtown Gatlinburg.  Kelly wanted to hike more and I wanted to ride my bike into town.  After 15 minutes, as you can see, it started to rain.  A lot!  It is very touristy but fun to look around.  Kelly got soaked but I stayed dry in an indoor mall.  They call these rain storms “pop up” storms and it usually includes lightening and thunder.  They happened almost every afternoon and if you are in a body of water they strongly suggest to GET OUT!

This was the site that my 4th great grand father Issac Denton helped start this church. The building has changed but the “new” Baptist church stills stands in the same location in Severville TN.  It is pronounced “Severe val”.  The neighboring town Marysville is pronounced “Merv val”.  If you say it the way it is spelled they know you are “not from these parts”.  LOL  It was strange though to feel somewhat connected to that area because of my “kinfolk” living there at one point in history.

Then we headed south through South Carolina and made our way to Savannah, Georgia. Our new home was called Red Gate RV Park.  It was just a few miles away from the city so we decided to drop the fifth wheel and go right downtown.  We headed for River Street, the oldest part of Savannah.  Some of the buildings are still standing from the 1700’s.  

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River Street is full of restaurants, shops and night life.  The port of Savannah is only 18 miles from the Atlantic ocean.  It is one of the busiest ports in the South for cargo ships. 

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We encountered this bunch of young ladies celebrating the future marriage of the girl in the Aqua dress.  They were trying to take a selfie so I helped them out.  

The Spanish Moss hanging off the trees is in all the live Oak trees in the southeastern part of the United States.  The moss is not even in the moss family and it is not from Spain.  My sister wanted to take some home with her the last time we were in Savannah but the the plant is full of little red Chiggers.  Chiggers are small bugs that can embed into your skin and cause an itchy rash.  Not something I would want to bring home!

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Savannah was the first planned city in America by General Oglethorpe.  The city has twenty two squares.  Each square has has either been named after a person or a historical event and many contain monument, markers, memorials, statues and other artwork which makes this city one of the most beautiful in the United States.  They all have their own gardens or artwork in each square as well.

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Sunday, we went to the First African Baptist Church right in the middle of town.  The year it started was 1773.  After the congregation decided to build a church, many of its members would come after their day jobs and work several more hours because of their commitment to their church.  Many just earned a very modest income but always set extra aside money because having their own church was the most important thing in their lives.  True dedication!  Going to the church service was another memory I will cherish about this trip.

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We took the history tour about this church after we had lunch in the City Market which was right across the street.  The guide told us about the church history and as we went down into the basement I asked about these holes in the floor.  Little did I know that this church probably was part of the Underground Railroad.  The holes in the floors were there so that the hiding slaves could breath easier while waiting for their chance for freedom.  It was hard to comprehend all that they had to endure.

The next day, we did a self guiding tour of one of the oldest cemeteries in the country, the Bonadventure Cemetery east of Savannah. Not only did they have famous people like composer Johnny Mercer (who wrote”Moon River” and “Baby its Cold Outside”), but also there were war hero’s in history buried there.  It is also was one of the oldest cemeteries in the Nation.  At 100 acres, their are so many unique headstones, but they still have space available as you can see in the picture above.  

The most famous was the one below of the little girl Gracie Watson.  It is the most visited grave in the cemetery.  The 6 year old Gracie died suddenly of pneumonia and her father was so consumed by her death that he commissioned an artist to make her headstone the exact likeness of Gracie.  Her father was the manager of one of the most famous hotels in Savannah and Gracie was known to dance and sing for the hotel guests and she was like an ambassador for the city.  People would come to the hotel just to see her.  Her parents never returned to her grave.  127 years later, people still bring her gifts and flowers and leave them near her headstone.

After the cemetery, we drove further East to Fort Pulaski.  It claim to fame was that in 1862 during the Civil War, the Union Army successfully tested rifled cannon in combat.  It was the first cannon that could really do some damage to its target.

The moat around the Fort kept enemies out and Confederate prisoners of war in.

We also decided to go on a Gospel Dinner Cruise.  The music was loud and upbeat.  We also went up to the next floor and they had pop rock playing with a DJ.  On the  very top  top floor they had classical music playing and offered better food.  I realized that each floor was a different type of cruise with different prices.  An interesting way to market a single cruise down the Savannah River.

I was sad to leave Savannah, one of my favorite cities, but we had to head North towards Charleston.  Our KOA campground was very nice and had nice views of the lake. The view in the picture above is called the Avenue of Oaks at Boone Hall Plantation.  Some of the trees that line the driveway were planted in 1743 and are 3/4 of a mile long.  It still is one of the oldest working plantations in the United States.  The original cash crops were cotton and pecans and now are replaced by tomatoes and strawberries. At Christmas they even sell Christmas trees. 

The mansion is an Antebellum era style design, which means it existed before the Civil War (1861).  It also has the original slave cabins that were used dating back to 1790!  The Boone Hall Plantation has been used in many movies and TV shows.  The most famous movie was “The Notebook”, “North and South” mini-series starring my favorite Patrick Swayze, “Queen” mini-series starring Halle Berry and soap opera, “Days of Our Lives”.

The slaves made the bricks for their homes with the clay from the river banks on the property.  Some of the clay had rocks and shells in it and you can still see bricks with the slaves finger prints in it.

The plantation also had a program on the slaves and their special language Gullah.  It was a combination of Creole and African dialects.  It was developed so that could communicate to each other in like a code talk, so the slave owners could not understand them.  They also sang songs in the fields and certain words in the lyrics meant different things.  Like “Gospel train” meant the underground railroad, and “heaven” meant Canada.  So interesting and so sad that African Americans were treated so badly by their slave owners.  Gloria the woman above gave us a very interesting program and we learned so much from her.

A view from the estuary near the plantation.

That night we watched the sun go down and got a spectacular view from our campsite.  We also saw an alligator head swim by!

The next day we headed in for downtown Charleston.  We took a carriage ride in the hot  afternoon sun.  Our guide was terrific and told us about the beautiful bay front homes.  He also told us about how much schooling (over a year)and testing is needed before you can become a licensed guide for the city.   In between rides the horses had to be cooled off with water and big fans.  This summer has been the longest and hottest summers of our life.  We kept going into record heat.  Kelly also toured Fort Sumter and I looked around downtown.

One of the most famous rod iron artists was in Charleston.  His name was Phillip Simmons.  The city of Charleston from end to end is truly decorated by his hand.  His trademark is a heart.  He learned his trade in blacksmiths shops and was the one of the first African Americans recognized for his talent in the art of ironwork.  

I can’t give you a full picture of the South without talking about the bugs.  At the KOA I took this picture so you could see how big the cicada is.  I was told some can produce a loud mating call that is 120 decibels, which can actually hurt the human ear.  Sometimes they were so loud I could not hear Kelly taking to me!  They are gross!

This is the trail near the lake at our KOA.  The staff warned Kelly about the alligators in the area if he ran around the lake.  Kelly decided to take his chances.

This was enough to keep me away!

We went on our way up the coast to Myrtle Beach and then to the Outer Banks Islands of North Carolina.  A tropical storm was just forming in the Caribbean and later it flooded parts of the Outer Banks.   We went into the ocean and Kelly got stung by two jellyfish!  The lifeguard told us the warmer waters made them come closer to shore.

I wanted a healthy meal and looked it up on my Yelp app.  The Tiki themed restaurant was good and Kelly also got his deep fried Coconut shrimp.

Kitty Hawk was the next stop and we got to see where the Wright Brothers made their first flight.  

Here was a model of the plane that flew 59 seconds and 852 feet.

We climbed to the top of the hill where the Wright Brothers attempted their flights over and over again for thousands of tries until they had that one successful flight that changed the world.  Our RV park was just down the street from the monument.  The church we went to was also just down the street from the RV park.  Kelly was riding his bike before church and met the pastor because he had car troubles.  Kelly helped him out and we got to know him and other church members.  We loved that church and hope some day we can come back and visit.

We tried to take a selfie in front of the famous Cape Hatteras light house.

This is an outdoor theater that depicts the plight of the Roanoke Island and the Lost Colony.  The Lost Colony was a group of 115 English colonists that basically got dropped off from England to settle and area near North Carolina.  When they came back to check on them (3 years later)  the only clue to their disappearance was a carving on a tree that said “Croatoan”.  That was the name of one of the local Indian tribes.  The mystery still remains…

Our last day at the beach and Kelly is enjoying the ocean with his toys!

 Next post will be starting in Virginia and seeing friends Larry and Judy Nelson.  The adventure continues….

14. From Shenandoah National Park to the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

One of my favorite singers John Denver once sang “Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.  Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains blowing like a breeze.  Driving down those country roads on the very top of the Appalachian Mountain Range was an amazing site.  Sometimes we could see both sides of the valleys below, as we pulled our 38 foot home behind us on the narrow crooked roads!  img_2669

The town of Front Royal marked the start of Shenandoah National Park and the first campground where we would stay.  In the first part of the park, the road is called Skyline Drive.  One of our first stops was Harpers Ferry.  Harpers Ferry is situated where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers meet.  This area was perfect for industry because of the potential power the two rivers could generate.

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St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church is a very unique style of architecture.  It is called Fantasy Gothic.  The church was the only church to be spared in town from destruction.

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A very beautiful church inside and out.

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The two things Harpers Ferry is known for industry and John Brown.  They had a large gun manufacturing plant here and John Brown tried to take the U.S. Arsenal over in an armed slave revolt with only 18 men (13 white and 5 black men.)   He did not succeed and died in the raid but did bring the issue of slavery into the for front of the Nation’s mind.  Some say it helped speed up the progress the Civil War.

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Thomas Jefferson stood at this spot to view the beautiful passage of the river through the mountains.  The rock has to be supported underneath because of all the “traffic” the rock gets to view the spot where our 3rd President of the United States once stood.

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Here is the view from Jefferson rock.

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A small part of the Appalachian Trail that passes directly through the town.

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Our family all read Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in the Woods”, which takes place on the Appalachian Trail, so we had to check out the visitor center.

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The historic homes were still well preserved.

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Kelly wanted to jump on the trail but it would have to wait. (Besides it was really raining hard!)

 

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This was where B & O Railroad passed through to Maryland Heights. The tunnel was built to bypass a sharp curve.  We saw two trains running side by side one going North and the other going South!

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One of the town’s cute Inn’which also had a Cafe.

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The two rivers colliding together.

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The old remains of a bridge that was once used to transport goods in and out of the busy town.

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This tower commemorates the battle of Antietam.  It was the first Field-army level engagement to take place on Union soil. It also was the bloodiest single day battle in US History.

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This brigade was on of the largest with 5 regiments in it.  In the battle, the Irish Brigade found themselves in the center of the Confederates line and had a 60% casualty loss that day.

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Kelly and I hiked into this ghost town that was slowly being restored for people to be able to stay overnight.  They still have several years before it will be completed.

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The view on the way to Blowing Rock North Carolina.

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The city park in Blowing Rock was gorgeous and the charming town drew in tourists that were also waiting for the colors to turn.

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This is just one of the old historic cabins that have been preserved over the years.  Imagine living on top of a huge mountain range in Winter with no electricity or running water.  Those pioneers were a “hearty bunch”.

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This was our view from our campsite in Front Royal, Virginia.

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We stayed in Front Royal which is also known as the canoe capital of Virginia.  The town got its name partially from a giant “Royal Oak” tree in the towns square.  The local military would practice their drills there and the commander would shout “front the Royal Oak” and it was eventually shorten to just Front Royal.  Andrew (our youngest son) would be arriving at Dulles Airport in Washington DC the next day to join us on our trip.

 

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One of the many sights to see heading South on the Shenandoah Skyline Drive.

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Andrew posing for the camera on one of our hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Still no real color and it was already Oct. 11th, but it was an amazing view!

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This dog was having a blast in the cold mountain stream waterfall.

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Kelly and Andrew went back to college at the University of Virginia.  Thomas Jefferson founded this University and famous people like Edgar Allan Poe attended school here.

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The students have deluxe study halls here.  Upstairs, each student has their own study area furnished with whatever they could need!  Everything was in mint condition even though the college was built in 1819!

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We made it to Charlottesville Virginia.  The city that was home to two Governors who became future Presidents of the United States- Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. We ate lunch at the famous Michie Tavern.  The fixed menu was like a salad bar where doors behind the food bar opened up to restock the food as needed.  It was a very interesting concept. The food was good and the chicken was one of the best fried chicken recipes I have ever tried.

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Andrew, a self proclaiming Thomas Jefferson fan, loved Monticello!  Most of the city of Charlottesville and Thomas Jefferson’s home were spared during the Civil War.  This is the same view of Jefferson’s home which is on the back of the United States nickel. President Jefferson began designing and building his home at age 26 after inheriting the land from his father. The interior included a wind plate that connected to a weather vane, showing the direction of the wind and a “Great Clock” that Jefferson also designed.  He also built beds in alcoves that saved space and created more storage.  A very interesting and unique home!

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Posing in the dome room. 

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We then headed over to the Carter Mountain Orchard and sampled an apple slush and apples that were grown on the orchard.  We also walked up a nearby hill to view Charlottesville from above.  Wish we had more time here and with Andrew.  He had to go back to Seattle to work and I know he missed his girlfriend Becky too!

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We headed down to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We stopped at a place called “The Peaks of Otter”.  We got there late after driving 100 miles on the narrow and crooked parkway. Our site was way to small for our fifth wheel and I had to walk through the whole campground trying to figure out which site WOULD work.  After much deliberating we finally squeezed into one.  The next day we were able to move in a spacious site right next to the dump station!  In the picture above, I am still waiting for the colors to change.  Next stop “Meadows of Dan” campground.

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We went down into North Carolina just so I could go to the town of Mt. Airy.  Andy Griffith once lived here and wrote many places from his home town into the show, but called his stage home Mayberry.  It was a very nice town and it just so happened that the Autumn Leaves Fall Festival (the largest event in Mt. Airy) was going on at the same time!

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We made it to church. Turns out Andy Griffith used to attend here.

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Kelly and I toured the Andy Griffith Museum, and this was Andy’s first major movie.

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We toured the town in a squad car and the local guide told us about all the highlights of the town.  Some funny Barney Fife quotes are-  “There are only two kinds of deputy- Quick and Dead!”  “With me a case is open until it is closed!”  “Coming over here without my gun and belt,  I felt absolutely NAKED!”

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After Mt Airy we went back down the Blue Ridge Parkway to the amazingly beautiful Mabry Mill and had to capture a photo of one of the most photographed spots.

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Many people were waiting at this spot for just the right time of day to take this picture and for other people to move out of their photograph.

 

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This is the Parkway Craft Center at the Moses Cone Manor House.  Mr. Cone was the inventor and manufacturer of denim cloth and sold it to Levis Strauss.  It was an impressive house.  Inside on the lower floor was a craft center filled with local art.

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On our way to Grandfather Mountain, I found the most popular spot where all the photographers take their pictures of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The Linn Cove Viaduct was constructed in several parts then put together like Legos.  Amazing!

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Kelly and the mountains of many colors!

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There’s bears in them thar hills!  Part of a bear rehab program at the mountain.

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Quite a view from the bridge!  Kelly and others decided to go farther on the top!

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We took a short hike to Linville Falls and saw more autumn color.  Now onto Asheville North Carolina to pick up my sister Loray (AKA Sam.)

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After picking her up at the airport, we went straight to the Biltmore Estate.  Here is a selfie of us in the gorgeous gardens.  George Vanderbilt was only 25 when he started building the largest privately owned house in the United States.  It is 176,926 sq. ft. and has 250 rooms!  I would have loved to go with him on one of his extensive buying trips overseas.  He was a wonderful designer and had great taste.

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When we went to the Biltmore Estate, they were starting to decorate for Christmas and had some Holiday fashions on display.  They were stunning!

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I can’t even imagine living in this extravagance!

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We spent a day in Asheville North Carolina.  The city is known for it’s Art Deco architecture, art galleries, craft beers, hipsters, music and outdoor recreation.  My sister and I ate at the popular Tupelo Honey Cafe.  I had the best grilled brussel sprouts!

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The next day we decided to see the surrounding areas and took day trip to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock.  Lake Lure was where they filmed one of my sister’s and my favorite movies, “Dirty Dancing”.  We saw the stairs where Baby carried the watermelon and the area where they practiced the famous lift in the water.

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For exercise we went to Chimney Rock State Park and hiked up 500 steps to the top.  It is not quite as tall as our Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach but close. At the top, with the panoramic view we could see 75 miles of beautiful scenery!

 

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We made it!

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With more sites to see we headed South to our campsite in Cherokee, North Carolina. There was a forest fire not far from our campground and on the way to the campground the smoke was really bad. I am sure nothing compared to all the fires that they are having now in that area. Our campground was fine we did not have any smoke.

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This was near our campground..

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Kelly met a very distant relative at the Museum of Cherokee Indians.  Kelly is a 1/16th part Cherokee Indian.

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The Mountain Farm Museum, is a living history exhibit.  It had a log farmhouse, an apple house, and a blacksmith shop to name a few of the buildings. Kelly hiked the Oconaluftee River Trail almost back to Cherokee.  We saw a few Elk that the tourists were amazed by.  It was nothing compared to our local 80+ herd in Seaside/Gearhart!

 

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Very tame Elk!

Welcome to Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg KOA

Then we moved on to the KOA campground at Pigeon Forge.  It was by far the best KOA that we stayed at and a good way to end my trip.  It was right next to the transit center and Old Mill Restaurant and shops.

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Dolly Pardon is an icon around these parts, and after this trip I have even more admiration for her.  She loves to read and started a program that provides a book a month to East Tennessee children under 5 years old to spark their love of reading. She has also worked with preserving bald eagles, helping US soldiers, hospitals, human society for dogs, and supplies musical instruments for public schools.  Recently she is giving $1,000 a month to families who have lost their homes to the fires in that area.

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We went to the Dixie Stampede dinner show.  I would recommend it to everyone!

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Kelly and Sam riding the Tennessee Tornado at Dollywood.  

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On our last night, we went to the Island in Pigeon Forge.  It is part shopping mall, has restaurants, and all different kinds of entertainment.  We had to go into Paula Deen’s largest store and later watch the light show rocking in rocking chairs which lined the large fountain. My sister and I want to go back and spend a whole week in Pigeon Forge next time. 

I flew back with my sister because our Mother was going to have a procedure two days later in Portland.  I had to say good bye to Kelly and then his road trip began!  I did a lot of praying for his 3,500 mile journey home!  He did have some troubles, but made it back home safely in record time.  This concludes my RV Having Fun Yet segment which lasted from June 17th thru October 29th.  It was quite an adventure!  **Special thanks to our oldest son, Cameron McKirdy, for helping me get started with this blog.

13. Leaf Peeping in New England

At the top of Kelly’s retirement trip was experiencing Fall in the Northeastern part of the United States.  We became part of a group called “leaf peepers”.  People travel all over the world to see the colors of autumn in New England.  One encounter was with a group of Japanese tourists who unloaded off a big tour bus.  A man jumped off the bus and became fascinated with us!  He began taking many photos of our trailer (even the hitch!)  He only spoke a few words in English, but I understood he wanted to know all the places that we had traveled with our trailer.  I showed him the vinyl map of the United States and the colored state stickers marking the ones we had traveled to on this trip.  He started taking my picture like I was a celebrity.  It was very interesting.

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Our first stop was Burlington VT.  It is the largest city in the state. We stayed at an Elks Lodge there for two nights.  During our stay we saw the Ethan Allen Homestead, beautiful views of Lake Champlain, rode our bikes along a pretty rail trail, and went to Church Street Marketplace.  I thought only Portland and Austin TX were the only cities that claim to be weird, but the whole state of Vermont is also competing for the title.

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This is Ethan Allen’s homestead.  A little different from the high end line of furniture who borrowed the Ethan Allen name so that the people would think of the strong Vermont Revolutionary leader.  Ethan became interested in buying land and because of the legal disputes he was having with the land deals, he formed the Green Mountain Boys.  The purpose of the group was to drive New York settlers from the Grants.  Later when the Revolutionary War broke out, he and the “boys” seized and captured Fort Ticonderoga.  He also participated in controversial negotiations with the British over the possibility of Vermont becoming a separate British province.  Artists have created an image of what they thought Allen would of looked like but there is not any true image of him anywhere.

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Church Street Marketplace is a pedestrian shopping and dining mall.  Very nice! 

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This brand name is known all over the state and we visited the factory and tested some of their ice cream flavors.  They even have a graveyard for the past flavors that they retired or stopped production of.  Their ice cream is known for the chunks of yummy things that they put in it.  I was surprised when they just gave us plain vanilla!  They sold the company in 2000 but the partners are still active in politics and the causes that they believe in.

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I could not believe how much maple syrup is sold here!  How would you ever use up a whole half gallon of syrup before it crystallized. You would have to eat it on everything like “Elf” did in the movie. I found out it contains vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and B6. It also has antioxidant properties that protect our body from free radicals.  Our son Andrew has been telling us that Maple Syrup is a better option to use in our coffee each morning than other sweeteners.

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A view of Lake Champlain in Burlington VT.

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One of my favorite towns on the trip was Stowe VT.  It sits in a valley between Mount Mansfield and the Green Mountains.  It is a quaint, beautiful town of about 5,000 people.  In the Winter it is popular for skiing but we hiked a long winding trail near a river for our entertainment.  Maria Von Trapp the matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers who became famous because of the movie “The Sound of Music” also lived here.  Her family owns a huge Inn, brewery, restaurant and conference center just outside of the city.  I love her grand kids who have preformed in our area as the Von Trapps, but recently broke up.  They are so talented, I know we will see them again.

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This was a site next to a grocery store in Stowe that I just had to capture with a photo.

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Homes like this were all over the town.  The homeowners really kept up their homes and yards for the visitors to enjoy too.  Like me!

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Here is a picture of the original Von Trapp family singers.

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This is the Inn at the Von Trapp property.  It has a setting similar to Austria, their homeland where they escaped just before World War II broke out.

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The Long hiking trail in Stowe is 265 mile trail system.  We only went about 4 miles.  

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We saw another capital in Montpelier, VT.  It is least populated capital city in the United States with about 8,000 people living in the town.  It was a wonderfully decorated building and a treasure to its community members.

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We went to Cabot Creamery to test out all 30 samples of their cheeses and then they recommended we go to a local apple farm to pick our own apples.  Great weather for outside activities and lots and lots of apples!  I made applesauce with maple sugar for when Andrew will come to visit in a couple of weeks.  It turned out yummy!

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I took this photo as we were flying down the road.   It was a good way to transition into another state.

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We hiked up to view Beaver Lake and then walked around the lake.  It was a very rocky trail, and took us way longer than we expected.  We did make it back before dark though.

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View of Beaver lake.

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This is Lonesome Lake near Franconia Notch.  We also hiked around the lake that had views of all the ski lifts in the area.

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We visited the New England Ski Museum and saw Bode Miller’s Olympic metals. It was one of the first ski museums in the United States.  Bode is from the area and locals are very proud of him!  This was the first resort based ski school in the states when it opened its doors in 1929.

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Another hike near our campground.

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Coming back from a day of sightseeing, I could not stop taking pictures!  The pink fog was amazing and the views kept changing each moment!

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New Hampshire is definitely a beautiful state!

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A cute church in the small little town of Sugar Hill. The name comes from a large grove of Sugar Maple in the area. Actress Bette Davis used to spend her summers here.

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This is from the top of the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway.  In the top left part of the mountain you can see the Appalachian Trail.  Kelly wants to hike it at some point on our trip.  We read the Bill Bryson book, A Walk in the Woods which was made into a movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte about the trail.  It stretches from Georgia to Maine along the ridges of mountains, forests, roads and farms.  The “AT” is the longest hiking only trail in the world!  

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What a view from up here!  Now we will head to the Flume Gorge.

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The Flume Gorge is a natural gorge that extends 800 feet horizontally at the base of Mount Liberty.  The walls are solid granite and can be as high as 90 feet tall in parts of the flume.

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This is one of 7 covered bridges in New Hampshire.

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We ate at the famous Polly’s Pancake Parlor which has been featured in Road Food, Everyday with Rachael Ray, Cooking with Paula Deen and in the Food Network Magazine.  We must have ordered the wrong thing.  It seemed very average.  I know now how spoiled we are with the Portland and local restaurants in our region of the Northwest.  Our restaurants are SO much better!                         Onto Maine….

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We stayed at another interesting Elks Lodge in the little town of Chesterville, Maine. We went to their county fair just to experience something local.  It has fun seeing the people get excited about their fair.  We watched a “horse pull” which consists of a team of two horses that pull tons of rock, saw usual farm tools, and looked at the handmade or homegrown exhibits. 

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Did you know, for almost 130 years Grange Halls have existed as community centers where locals gather for events, dances, potlucks, town meetings and political rallies?  I loved our little grange in Kellogg near Elkton, OR.

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Then we arrived in Bar Harbor Maine.  This would be the most Easterly place on our trip.  We could not wait to see Arcadia National Park.  I helped Andrew do a “brochure” on the park about 20 years ago in Mr. Nelson’s 4th grade class.  (The same Mr. Nelson and his lovely wife Judy that we visited in Virginia, on this trip.)  It looked so beautiful, I always kept that trip in the back of my mind.  I loved the town and surrounding area!

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These sunflowers were growing wild in a field.   To pretty to pass up.

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Kelly wanted to attend this historic Episcopal Church.  It was built in sections from 1877 to 1938.  The English Gothic style church also has a cemetery connected to it like many churches back East have.  The windows where designed by the Tiffany Studio and it had a  bell tower at its peak.  We went to the service, but it was not my cup of tea.

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Later that day we went sailing on the 4 masted schooner ship the Margaret Todd.  She was first launched in  1998, so she is not very old.  

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 The weather turned cold quickly, and that day I had to wear 4 layers of clothing to keep warm!  One layer for each mast!

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At low tide we walked the “bar” to Bar Island.  This spectacular view of Mount Desert Island and the city of Bar Harbor made the hike special.  Some people have been stranded on the island overnight until the next low tide or they can pay the high price of a water taxi back to Bar Harbor.

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John D. Rockefeller donated about 1/3 of the land in Acadia National Park and built the carriage roads that are used for hiking and biking.  The Vanderbilts also had cottages here.  They also had an artist community, a number of journalists lived here as well as sportsmen which lead to the “rusticators” coming to the island. Rusticators were tourists that came to get relief from the city and its noise, pollution and crowds. Eventually, they decided that they missed the comforts of home, and many hotels and resorts were built to satisfy their needs.  So many gorgeous views it is easy to see why everyone wanted to see this place.

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While in Maine…do as the Mainers do.  That is the real name of people from Maine. Each lobster has to weigh only one and a quarter pounds or less to serve at restaurants. They throw back the larger lobster because they are good breeders and can live as long as 100 years! 

While in the National Park we hiked of course and also attended the Arcadia Night Sky Festival.  The event was put on by the local chamber and was very well organized. They had chartered school buses to take people up to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  They then had 50 different sized telescopes observing different constellations in the beautiful but VERY cold night sky!  It was very memorable.

Back to New Hampshire.

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This KOA was nice and had hiking trails around the lake here.

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A view of the lake and the leaves are starting to turn. 

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The Conway Scenic Railroad station was built in 1874.  The unique Victorian style building was were we waited before boarding the Notch train.  The “Notch”, “Hollow” or “Gap” are all terms for the space between mountains that cause a valley.  These were the natural low spots where early pioneers used to navigate thru the mountain ranges. So our Notch train took us by dramatic bluffs and steep ravines and it was amazing to think about how they constructed these tracks through such rugged territory.

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Enjoying an old-fashioned railroad experience on a vintage train.

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I felt like I had gone back in time at Zeb’s General Store in the village of Conway.

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Views from the KOA campground hike.

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The colors were just starting to turn when we had to leaf.  LOL

Back thru Vermont…

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We had to really search for color!

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Hiking around Rutland VT.

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Hathaway Farm Corn Maze has 12 acres and was the largest maze in Vermont!

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The political themed maze had 4 clue stations in it.  We had to answer the Republican and Democrat multiple choice questions correctly and then the answer would point us in the right direction.  We ended up going out the entrance and going back through the exit to find our way out that way.  It was hard and I walked about 20,000 steps on my Fitbit!   It was nice to do something different for exercise.

Vermont Country Store, Rockingham            Name tells it all

We stopped on the way back through Vermont at the famous Vermont Country Store.

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The hamburgers at the little food cart were one of the best we have ever had.

Next blog- Onto Shenandoah National Park.

12.  Remembering history with friends, and discovering America again.

After leaving North Carolina and the Outer Banks we made it to an Elks Lodge in Norfolk, Virginia.  When we arrived, we thought we were in the wrong location and that our GPS lead us astray again.  Little did we know that in back of the low income housing projects and road machinery equipment which was protected by a big chain link fence with barbed wire on top, was a 7 acre plot of land where an Elks lodge was.  We were met by another older couple who was staying there at the Elks.  It had a nice big field for us to park right next to them.  (We had to share the power plug and water.)  We met Bob the 85 year old that took care of the whole 7 acres.  He said he couldn’t do it all anymore, so Kelly helped him that afternoon with hauling branches and cutting up a tree.  We also met the lady in charge of the Elks and she told the story about how they got the property really cheap and at the time it was all pasture and their big building.  Now no one wants to come to that neighborhood anymore and the Lodge there is dying.  It is such a nice facility but only has 20 members left.   A big contrast from some of the other Elks lodges we stayed at.  The Elks in Ephrata Pennsylvania, has a trust and over 800 members!  

We also stay at Supercenter Walmarts when we traveling between locations to help off set the KOA campgrounds fees.  The most expensive KOA we have stayed at was the one in Townsend TN campground in the Smokey Mountains for $85 a night!  We have joined a membership camping club with Thousand Trails but a lot of their locations are out of the way from the places we want to go.  We will use the Thousand Trails at a later date.

We did get to stay at our friends home in Virginia.  Larry and Judy Nelson are former Seaside residents who went to our church, and we have known them for 30 + years. Larry also taught our son Andrew at Gearhart Elementary School.  Their daughter Heather, built a beautiful home on several acres of land in Virginia.  Larry and Judy decided Virginia might be a good place to live and be near their daughter.   They built a cozy cottage behind Heather’s house.  Their oldest daughter Holly was also visiting with her two adorable children, so we got to see them as well.  We had to reluctantly leave a little sooner than we wanted due to an approaching storm that Kelly did not want to mess with pulling a 38′ fifth wheel.  We will just have to come back!  Larry and Judy are the kind of friends that you can just pick up where you left off and not miss a beat.  We miss seeing them at our church and in our community.  Heather started a program called Reining Hope on her ranch.  This is a program for children that need a little extra love and attention or might be developmentally disabled.  Heather sets up sessions with them and they can ride horses, help garden, feed chickens or do anything else on the ranch.  The volunteers in turn can minister to the children and talk to them about Jesus.  The focus is on Equine therapy and many good things are happening with this ministry.  Check out the website at  www.reininghope.com.  Thank you Nelson family!

Fun times… having dinner with Larry & Judy.

Taking the Jamestown Ferry to historic Williamsburg.

The towns folk staying in character.  We saw the leather maker, blacksmith, candle stick maker, wig maker, gunsmith, wood worker just to name a few.  All of the workers were doing their trade as it was done in the 1770’s (Revolutionary War Era).  

On our tour of the Governor’s Palace with our guide.  Colonial Williamsburg was the capital during the American Revolutionary War.  Most of the buildings have been rebuilt and  the town is like a living history museum because of community organizations and the financial support of John D. Rockefeller Jr.  (Son of the founder of Standard Oil)  The Rockefeller family has done so much for the preservation of museums, libraries and other history projects like Williamsburg.  They were very good stewards of their money!

Original site of the church were John Smith and Pocahontas were married in the Jamestown Colony.

Part of the old fort walls in Jamestown.

Kelly’s distant relative King James IV of Scotland.  Do you see the resemblance?

Play day at SixFlags America in Maryland.

And away he goes…. 0 to 55 mph on the Apocalypse ride.

The states are so close together that in an hour or two you are in a different state!  Heading for the Amish country now.

We were the only campers at the Ephrata Elks Lodge.  The people were so nice. I played Bingo with them and lost every time for 10 games.  The local women sitting next to me during the game felt sorry for me and said, “We are going to get you some chubs to take back with you.”  I asked what chubs were and they told me bologna.  I did not tell them I hate bologna, but to my surprise they were like Hickory Farms summer sausage.  They “won” them for me by playing another game of chance that the lodge organizes for its members.  The money is then split 50/50 with a local charity. Two more people bought the scratch off tickets and “won” two more chubs for us!  All three chubs were different and good.  It was so cute to see them all working together to give us something from Pennsylvania, so we would remember them!

In downtown Ephrata, they honor all their military vets by posting these large banners around town.  It was very touching to see.

So many historical and beautiful homes in the town and all over the Northeast.

The bingo ladies told me we had to go to the town of Lititz.  It was founded by members of the Morovian Church and was named after a castle in Bohemia.  For a whole century, only Morovians were allowed to live in the city.  They had created like a commune with many large buildings.  One building was used as a hospital during the American Revolution and some were used as part of the oldest all girl boarding school in the United States.  The town is also home to Wilbur Chocolate Factory and Keystone Pretzel Bakery, and a large artist community.  In 2013 Budget Travel named Lititz “America’s Coolest Small Town.”  What more could you want!

 One of the many master gardens in Lititz.

Every kind of chocolate to sample!  The photo above was part of the chocolate museum.  Wilbur has been making chocolate since 1848!  YUM!

We arrived in Lancaster Country on Labor Day weekend.  We did not think the Amish would take Saturday and Monday off, but they did.  The only places that were open were a few places until 2 pm.  So we ate lunch at an Amish buffet “Yoder’s”, and went to Kitchen Kettle for some retail therapy and then took a long drive in the country.  These buggies were common to see on the roads, but make sure you don’t let them see you take their pictures.  They want to be remembered by the lives they lived and the examples they left, not by physical appearance.

  Since it was one of the only places open, it was really crowded!  Time to move on.

From one extreme to another and only 200 miles away!  We made it up to Woodstock New York.  Even though the famous rock concert was actually held in a town 60 miles away in Bethel, the concert was originally planned to be held in Woodstock so it kept it’s famous name.  Kelly was “hip” hanging out with the Blues Brothers.

A wax masterpiece at a local Woodstock candle store.

Catskill mountain and frontier men, Kelly and Daniel Boone.

A short drive from Woodstock is the town of Saugerties, New York.  Several months ago on the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallen said that he tweeted that his childhood home was up for sale.  He said he wanted it to go to a cool buyer because it was such “a great place to grown up.”  Well since we were so close, I made Kelly stop by and take my picture of the house (on trash day.)  LOL

We had a short hike at low tide to this unique lighthouse.  You can actually stay here on weekends as a bed and breakfast.  The lighthouse keepers stay in the other part during your stay.  It is $250 per night and includes a really nice breakfast according to the young couple we met on the deck that were staying the weekend there.

It has a nice picnic area and two canoe to use during your stay.

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In the morning while it was relatively cool, we decided to go on a hike called Overlook Mountain.  The hike was rated as moderately difficult and was a 5 mile round trip hike up a mountain.  I decided to go for it.  Kelly was excited to take on the challenge.  The trail was an old carriage road that led up to a hotel.  It was a steady climb up to the peak of the mountain (3,140 ft).  I had to take several breaks checking my Fitbit every so often because my heart rate was up there.  I have a high heart rate anyway.  We finally made it to the hotel, then the ranger station, onto the rock cliff lookout and then climbed a fire tower!  As you could see my hair was wet with sweat!  What a workout and view!  Even Kelly was sore the next couple of days.

On the top you could see 5 states, the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains.

Across the street from the trail head was a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery called “Karma Triyana Dharmachakra”.  I bet you can’t say that name three times!  

We moved on to the capital of New York, Albany.  It is a very old city with amazing buildings everywhere you look.

This is the outside of the capital building built in 1899.  After three architects were fired, the fourth architect kind of finished it. The building really is not complete, some pillars and artwork are still left undone because when Grover Cleveland was elected as governor he said NO MORE!  It is the most expensive government building of its time.  Even more than the Capital building in Washington DC!  The cost in today’s dollars would be over $711 million!

The special Sandstone throughout the building was imported from Scotland.  The artists carved each area of the building differently.  Even put their own family members and pets into some of the designs.  One sculptor was fired for taking to long, so one night he broke into the Capital and carved a small image of the devil into the Sandstone.  Our guide showed us the 3 inch carving that was finally spotted many years later.  Also some of the marble in the building was cut by state prisoners at Sing Sing.  I guess they wanted to make up the costs by getting cheap labor.

The carvings were endless!  Everywhere you looked!

This staircase at the time cost a million dollars.  

We hiked down a path to see this pretty pond.

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Kelly toured Fort Ticonderoga, which was known for it’s role in the American Revolutionary War.  This view was taken from the Fort William Henry at the South end of Lake George.  It was a British outpost to protect the colonies in the South and to hold off the French who occupied the North end of the lake at Fort Carillon.  It is a very big lake!

Lake George has a marina and “Million Dollar Beach” that is surrounded by mansions built by wealthy New York City weekenders who come up to enjoy the beautiful lake.

We happened to be there on one of the busiest weekends.  The 28th Annual Adirondack National Car Show which has on average 1500 cars on display each year.

This was one of my favorite cars at the show.

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We also went rafting with our guide Dillon down the North River and met a great young couple John and Danielle from Rochester New York.  That is all for this segment of RVHAVINGFUNYETBLOG.   Next up-  Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

10. Freedom is not easy.              

Now on Little Rock Arkansas….  as a History teacher, Kelly had taught about the Little Rock Nine.  It is now my turn to learn about them.  We first went to Little Rock Central High School and toured the halls of the still working school.  The school became famous after Governor Faubus ordered the National Guard to be stationed in front of the school to prevent 9 African American students from attending the school.  It was in 1957 and the Supreme Court decision was just made about the Brown vs the Board of Education regarding desegregation.  The Governor gave his plea to prevent the students from attending high school over National TV and since the National Guard is a Federal program the President can Federalize them to fulfill the new laws of desegregation.   President Eisenhower then turned the tables on the Governor and ordered the National Guard to protect the 9 students in the school so that they would be able to attend school safely.  News channels from all over the United States came to Little Rock to watch history unfold before their eyes.  Prejudice was alive and running in the streets of Little Rock!  When we walked over to the museum across the street from the school we had missed the last tour, but we had something better.  One of the tour guides was still there and took a liking to us and gave us a private one on one talk.  He told us how they started out with 200 black students wanting to go to the school but after giving them all kinds of regulations and restrictions it came down to 10.  One of the girls was so tormented that her parents took her out of the school.  It sounded horrible!  I had the opposite problem, in my junior high school in California.  A law was passed to order schools to be more integrated.  Black students were being bused into my school from Los Angeles and they did not want to be there.  

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Artwork commemorating the Little Rock 9.

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Little Rock Central High School is still in use today.

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After leaving Little Rock we headed to an RV Park in Memphis called T.O. Fuller State Park.  It was the first State Park open for African Americans East of the Mississippi.  It was in Southern Memphis and it was interesting to see the surrounding neighborhoods. We went to church in the local area and out of 500 people we were the only white people at the service!  The congregation was so nice and were great huggers!  It was the longest and loudest church service I have ever been to, but lots of fun and we felt God’s presence there.  As we left the church a nice man came up to us and said “I made sure your bikes did not get stolen.”  I then noticed he had a police badge under his three piece suit!  

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New Liberty Church in Memphis.

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It poured just as we were arriving at T. O.State Park.  We got soaked and the storms was just over our heads.  It was really quite scary!

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The next day we headed into town and went straight to open the National Civil Rights Museum.  It is a very unusual museum, because it is also on the same sight that Martin Luther King JR. was assassinated.  The Lorraine Hotel is no longer in use, and is attached to the Civil Rights Museum.  I realized as a kid in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I was very much sheltered of all the injustice that went on in the world at that time.  It did not apply to our family so therefore we never thought about it.  It was really sad to hear and see all the injustice going on for African Americans at that time in history.

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The sight at the Lorraine Hotel were Rev. Martin Luther King JR. was shot.

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Memphis is a mix of music, BBQ and Civil Rights.  On Beale Street,the main street we found all of those things plus more!  Street performers emerged and entertained us, blues music was radiating from every corner.  It was a street that was alive with activity and was the place for young musicians to be discovered, like Elvis Presley…

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I went on a tour of this recording studio “Sun Records” owner Sam Phillips really only liked blues, country and negro gospel music.  He wanted to create a different sound and Elvis Presley was playing around one night with some country musicians and sped up a version of “That’s Alright Mama”.  In the day, you could come into the recording studio and pay a small fee to record a 45 record with two songs on it.  The owner recorded that version and kept a copy for them to play on the radio.  Within a couple of days playing on the radio it was a hit.  Elvis was famous!

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This is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley.

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Elvis had fabric all over the walls and ceiling in the game room.

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This is where Elvis and his parents are buried.  He made a headstone for his twin brother Jesse who died at birth but his brother is actually buried in Mississippi.  After learning more about his life, I had a new respect for him and how generous he was to other people.

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I am not the only person that has trouble navigating around these parts!  I have spoken to other RVer’s and they also have problems since one highway can have, or turn into, several other numbered roads!

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In between Memphis and Nashville we camped at Natchez Trace State Park.  We took a walk right after we got settled in and another camper came up to us and warned us about the tornado that was about 8 miles from us. He invited us to come into his motor home to watch the weather report.  It came close and the lightening and thunder was crazy!  We had a plan if things got worse, to camp out in the brick restrooms.

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Carnton Plantation got its from a Gaelic word “cairn” which means a pile of stones.  The pile of stones sometimes marks a burial site.  The name is fitting because it was was the largest “field hospital” during the Civil War in the battle of Franklin TN.  After the bloody battle the owners gave up two acres to bury almost 1500 Confederate soldiers.  You can still see the blood on the wooden floors inside the house.

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This is how they might have set up the operating table during the Civil War at he Carnton Plantation in Franklin Tennessee.

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Enjoying the shade and a slight breeze on the back porch in the 95 + degree weather. 

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Nashville here we come.   We checked into our “ant filled” KOA campground North of Nashville.  We did not know that you should always keep ant spray on hand to spray the “legs” of the fifth wheel, another lesson learned.

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We drove the pick up into downtown Nashville and found out that we could park the “big monster” at the Capital since it was not open.  Then we rode our bikes further into the downtown area.  The main strip is on Broadway St.  It is not as well maintained as Memphis’ Beale St. and was kind of dirty.  Not what I expected.  It was a Friday, and we must have seen 50 sets of Bachelorette parties on the crowded streets of Nashville.

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This is the site of the original Grand Old Opry, Ryman Auditorium.  Funny story about how this came to be.  It used to be called the Union Gospel Tabernacle.  Thomas Ryman was a successful businessman who owned several saloons and a fleet of riverboats.  Mr. Ryman decided to go to a tent revival meeting that all the townsfolk were taking about.  His purpose was that he would heckle the charismatic revivalist, Samuel Jones.  After the night was though Mr. Ryman committed his life to the Lord and instantly became a devout Christian.  The businessman and the preacher started working together and turned the Tabernacle into a much larger scale building so that people could hear the gospel preached indoors.  After Ryman died the preacher renamed the building the Rynman Auditorium.  In 1904, Lula Naff, a widow and mother, began to book other types of speaking engagements, concerts and events at the Ryman.  She became the manager in 1920 which was unheard of in that day and age.  It became a cultural center and all the famous personalities wanted to “be there”.  Some of the performers were W.C. Fields, Will Rodgers, Bob Hope and Harry Houdini to name a few.  The auditorium was dubbed “The Carnegie Hall of the South.  It still holds concerts there today.

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The acoustics in the Auditorium are one of the best in the United States.  K.D. Lang was performing that night.

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One of the flamboyant outfits of a country stars.  The Grand Old Opry was there 31 years.

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On Sunday, before we arranged to meet my friend Shannon at the Nashville store from the TV show “American Pickers”, we went to a church almost next door to Antique Archaeology.  It was called Ethos Church Marathon.  It was a very young, laid back, church and the sermon was about a dream the pastor had early that morning.  His heartfelt message was very moving and inspiring to us.  After church we met my friend Shannon at the store, who flew in to visit her brother, Chris and sister-in-law, Judy.  It was great to meet them and also Lauren, one of the cast members from the show for the Nashville location.

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Chris and Shannon inside the American Pickers small store.  The original building  was an automobile manufacturer and now the 2 blocks long building is filled with all  different types of retail shops geared towards recycling and re-purposing.  After saying good bye to Shannon’s brother and sister-in-law, Shannon hopped in the truck with us and we headed towards the Farmer’s Market to catch a trolley tour of Nashville.  Some interesting facts about Nashville are:  1. The city has a huge copy of the Parthenon with a gigantic gold statue of Athena in it.  2.  Music Row is several residential looking streets of record label offices, publishing houses, music licensing firms along with other businesses who serve the music industry, instead of large buildings.  3.  I did not know The Grand Old Opry moved years ago to a gigantic location with a mall, convention center, restaurants and indoor gardens.  It is also owned by Marriott and they also own a river boat, bars, golf courses and still owe the Rynman.

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One of our favorite highlights in Nashville was the Belle Meade Plantation.   The home is a “Greek Revival” style and was mainly known for breeding racehorses.  The whole house was beautifully decorated and our guide was very knowledgeable about history and the events before and after the Civil War.  This is important since I am with a history teacher!

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Lunch time with Shannon was at the famous Loveless Cafe.  I have heard about it in my Southern Living magazine and on TV cooking shows.  The baked goods were really good.  They specialize in Biscuits and Kelly and I shared a Hummingbird Cupcake.                                   (A southern recipe.)

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This is the home of 7th President Andrew Jackson.  The “Hermitage”plantation and grounds have been kept up very well and the home had been enlarged to it’s present size.  President Jackson never had any of his own kids, so to carry on his name he adopted a son (who was a twin) and named him Andrew Jackson Jr.

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The tomb of Andrew and Rachel Jackson in on the side of the home in the garden.

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Now I know what my face would look like on a $20 dollar bill.

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I had to take a picture of a picture to get this shot of the General Jackson Showboat.

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We had a midday cruise on this boat and they had a country music variety show called Nashville live which featured various artist and types of musical instruments.  This is a look of downtown Nashville.  We also saw a re-creation of the Pantheon in Nashville’s Centennial Park.  This is the second Pantheon there the first one was only made to last several months for the cities Centennial celebration.  

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I needed to go back to Seaside for a doctors appointment so I arranged to go back the same time Shannon was heading home.  After a major storm in New Jersey, our plane did not get to us in Houston until after 1am.  We headed down to baggage claim to get Shannon’s bag and the airport closed it’s doors from 1-4am.  We had to try to sleep in the baggage claim department until the airport reopened again.  Shannon was trying to sleep and it was a very longer 24 + hours before we were home in Seaside.  That first day back home I got home about 3pm and slept until 6pm.  I was really tired.  I will fly back in a few days to rejoin Kelly in Knoxville TN.  To be continued…

9. Hot time in the cities!          

As soon as we got out of the truck in Omaha, we noticed something was different.  The weather had changed!  Before it was hot, 90 degrees or more, but now it hit us like a brick wall.  HUMIDITY!  It was not bad doing things outside like biking or hiking but now the same exercise seemed more difficult.   Kelly said it was “hard to breathe”.   I don’t know how the locals do it each summer.  Kelly met our “neighbors” camping next to us.  A really nice local couple who were just camping for a couple of days.  Right away they gave us advice on what to do and what highways to take to get there.  It was so nice to have them next to us.

Whenever we get into a town I like to check Trip Adviser for the top ten things to do in that town.  The zoo came highly recommended so we decided to check it out.  It was voted best zoo in the world!  It was better than San Diego and other zoos that we have been to.  Our favorite was the monkeys.  One of the guides there told us that the gorillas are playful and like to play a game with the guides.  She was wearing a green shirt that the gorillas recognize.  If the guides turn their back against the gorillas then the gorilla will pound the glass really hard to scare the children she is with.  Kelly happened to be wearing a green U of O shirt, turned his back and BAM!  The gorilla slammed the window and scared the grown man next to Kelly.  It was really funny.  You would have had to been there.

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We left Omaha the next morning, and said good-bye to our new friends.  Before Kelly left Seaside, our home town, he joined the local chapter of the Elks.  His best friend, Loren, encouraged him to join and to be apart of the organization for his retirement years.  We found out that some Elks lodges let you stay in their parking lot for a fee per night.  Since we wanted to stay near the city core of Kansas City Missouri we contacted the lodge.  A couple had beat us to the only 50 amp hook up and water but they did have 20 amp available for us to use.  We used our own reserve water and had to dump the sewer later. The group of people who worked there were very hospitable and made us feel apart of their lodge.  They told us about the “Hollywood” night dinner and Elvis impersonator show that they were having the next night, so we bought tickets.

My father Robert, was from Kansas City and over the last 8 months I had been working on my Dad’s family genealogy.  I mainly worked on his Mother’s side of the family, my Grandmother Opal.  My sister and I really knew nothing about her since our Father never spoke about her and she died when he was only 16 years old.  I asked the lady at the local visitors center about the Kansas City Library but she recommended going to the Genealogy Library.  So the next morning we headed there to find out more about my family. I would encourage you to find out about your own family history, it is really interesting!  It is kind of like being a detective and solving a mystery.  After a couple of hours, all Kelly and I found was an obituary for my Great Uncle Carl, whom I had met when I was 8 years old.  I found out he had a son, our second cousin??  It is always hard to figure that out.  Still have to pursue that lead. The librarians told me to go to Vernon County by the town where they lived (about an hour away)  and check out the local library which I was planning to do anyway.

Later that day, to beat the heat and humidity, we decided to go to the President Truman Library in Independence, Missouri.  We have been to President Johnson’s house outside of Austin, Texas and home of John Quincy Adams outside of Boston.  When we were Boston, we also went to the John F. Kennedy Presidential library. They all were just fascinating and very educational.  I learned a lot about him.  Of course he became President after President Franklin Roosevelt died. He was the President during the final months of World War II and made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He also helped form the United Nations and after North Korea invaded South Korea he sent troops over there and we became part of the Korean War effort.  He had to make very hard decisions during his Presidency some popular and some not.  He did not have any formal education and was a self taught man (the last President elected without a college education.)  He had a famous saying, “the buck stops here!” The saying basically meant, that he had the ultimate authority to make the decisions and that he would accept the responsibility for those decisions.  Unlike a lot of politicians today!

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Kelly at the Kansas City Elks Lodge.

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Hollywood night with Elvis and other celebrities at the Elks.

While we were in Kansas City, Kelly went to the World War I museum, I went to Union Station, we took a trolley downtown and ate at the famous Jack Stack chain of BBQ restaurants.  Our last day in Kansas City all we wanted to do was to stay cool.  We decided to go to a water park, but the water temperature was almost the same as the outside temperature.  As soon as we got out of the water we started to sweat!  That morning, we also took an 9 mile bike ride.  The shady bike pathway was nice but as soon as you stopped the sweat came.

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Union Station is where my Father came home by train on his leaves from the Army.

Our next stop was Stotesbury, Missouri where my Grandmother’s family is buried.  I have been working on my families genealogy on my Grandmother Opal’s side and wanted to learn more. I have traced back to her Great, Grandfather.  Her two brothers and their wives plus her parents are all buried at East  Liberty Cemetery just outside the small town.  

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The town were my Grandmother Opal’s family was from.  We found it no longer exists even though there is still a sign off the highway.

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Kelly decided his way was a better use of time and more direct, than my way. But because of a low bridge, we had to go down a gravel road with the fifth wheel.  At one point, I drove while he went on the roof of the trailer to hold back branches from hitting the air conditioning unit. It was the worst road we will ever have our fifth wheel go on!  The last mile I ended up riding my bike over the railroad tracks to the cemetery, but later found we could barely make it over these tracks to get to the main road.

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I wish I was closer to help maintain this small country cemetery, like we do with Kelly’s family at the Yoncalla Oregon Applegate Cemetery.

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My Great Grandparents.

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My Grandmother’s plot.  I wish I could have met her.  After going to Vernon County I did find out that she taught school in a one room school house on the boarder of Kansas and Missouri.  We found an original perfect attendance certificate that she signed.  I wished they would let me have it but they made me a copy. 

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Then we went to Fort Scott Kansas just over the border from Missouri. This was where my Great, Great Grandfather is buried at the National Military Cemetery there, he died of small pox at Fort Scott.

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His real name was Thomas Jefferson Denton I, but he went by Jefferson Denton.  He died when my Great Grandfather was just a baby.  He fought for the Union side and died during the Civil War.   His brother was a confederate solider, which shows how the war tore apart families.

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It was a real surprise to find that Fort Scott was still mostly in tact.    We took a self guided tour in the buildings that we could go through.  This was the back of the hospital where my Great Great Grandfather died.

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My Great, Great Grandfather could have died in this room, but with so many causalities during the Civil War, they also had to set up tents in the field in front of this hospital.      Now onto Arkansas….

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We made it to Eureka Springs Arkansas on top of the Ozark Mountains.   Eureka means “I found it” in Latin, so the town became popular after European Americans discovered that the several springs surrounding the town had healing powers.  It is also called “The Little Switzerland of America” because of its mountainous terrain and the winding up and down paths of the streets and walkways.  It has a unique character since many Victorian homes are still in the village today and other houses have an alpine look to them which is from the influence of the first Europeans to settle here.

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The town reminded me of Cannon Beach with well kept gardens and art abounding.

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This church is the only church in America that you enter through a bell tower.

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The 1886 Crescent Hotel is considered the most haunted hotel in America.  It was also a Cancer hospital, College for Young Women, a morgue and a sanitarium.  It has been featured on several TV shows because of its scary past.

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Because of the threat of health risks the government made the city cement in all the springs so that people would not get sick drinking the room temperature water which could contain bacteria.

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We saw the 68′ statue of Jesus and toured the bible museum there.  If the statue was any taller it would have had to have lights on Jesus head, so the sculptor decided it was tall enough.  It is the 45th anniversary of the statue and you can also enjoy the Great Passion Play which is also part of the whole complex.

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With over 6,000 bibles in this museum, this one page was one of the most valuable at $100,000 and was written on calfskin.  The collection was 2nd to the largest and most complete to the only other collection which is in Washington DC at the Library of Congress.  They had bibles written in 650 languages.  They have a first edition and 1st printing of a King James bible and that is worth $500,000!   The most valuable to us as Christians are the God given words in the bible that are used for guidance and the words also give us encouragement to live our life the way God intended us to.

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Another classic Victorian home!

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It took two hours for us to drive to Branson Missouri from Eureka Springs. I had visited the city 10 years before with a senior group when I was a travel agent and a lot had changed since then.  The town now has two by pass roads because the traffic is so heavy at times.  The best time to go is still Spring or Fall.  The first night we went to see Jim Stafford.  He is now 72 and you might know some of his once famous songs like “Spiders and Snakes” or “My Girl Bill”.  Well his singing is more of just a spoken word,but his guitar playing is still very good.  We also saw the acapella group Six, a 60’s song review tribute band, and a magician.  Most of it was good.  If you go to see an act at the same venue they give you a discount, so we took advantage of that. 

On Sunday, we headed off to church.  It was a mega church.  The Faith Life Church with pastor Keith Moore.  I did not know it was going to be so big, (it was close to our KOA.) Turns out the service is televised and the other day while we were flipping through the channels we saw him preaching on our TV as well!  The church had a very professional feel to it and Pastor Keith preached a very good sermon.

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We took a “Ride the Ducks” boat ride and went up four wheeling to overlook Lake Taneycomo.  Kelly got to be captain for 5 minutes of the ride.  We also went to Silver Dollar City.  A western themed amusement park outside of Branson.  Kelly got to go on his roller coasters and I watched.  (I did go on one, but my neck can’t take it.)  The park also has musical and dancing shows to watch.

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We had a good time watching these performers imitate famous singers at one of the shows we went to.  Can you guess who they are supposed to be?  It was our son’s Andrews birthday that day and I Facetimed him while “Michael Jackson” sang Happy Birthday to him.  “Taylor Swift” also wished him a great birthday. We had a good time in Branson, but it was time to move on to Little Rock….. More later.

8. More Wild West…

So we took our fifth wheel into the dealer in Billings to get some things fixed.   While it was in the shop, we went to downtown to the Chamber which was voted the number one Chamber for customer service in the Nation.  One of the perks for stopping by is the use of their “Cannondale” bikes free of charge for the day!  After riding the $1000 (approx value of the bike), I wanted one!  The ride is so smooth, because the seat has shock absorbers in it.  

We rode to the Moss Mansion first.  The home was built in 1901 and had a lot of the original artwork and furniture.  The mansion was ahead of its time as far as electricity and other modern conveniences.  For example, it had a secret buzzer for the maids in the floor where the lady of the house could step on to call them without any of her guests knowing.

The Moss Mansion in Billings.

After seeing the mansion, we asked our tour guide at the home what restaurants he liked in Billings.  He recommended “The Burger Dive”.  We rode our bikes over to the restaurant and it was packed (which is a good sign.)  The only space left were two seats at the counter so we took them.  We asked a man behind the counter what his favorite burger was and he recommended the “burger bash winner” burger.  I noticed the Food Network symbol on the menu and he told us that in 2014 that burger was voted the best burger in the Miami food show.  We met his son, the owner and head cook, and spoke with him.  He wanted to know what was the best burger we have ever had.  So we told him that last summer on the Isle of Butte in Scotland, Kelly had an amazing burger at the Kingarth Inn.  This was where his Great Great Grandfather worked as the Inn’s veterinarian for the guests horses.  Everything was made fresh, the cheese, buns and it was grass fed beef.  The owner of the Burger Dive now wants to go there.  HA.

Overlook on ridge path where we rode our loaner bikes.

After lunch, we rode our bikes on a 8 mile loop to Boot Hill Cemetery.  This is where local legends in Billings history are buried.  We had to return the bikes and pick up our fifth wheel at the dealer.  We had trouble “hitching” up so one of their salesman said he would help and jumped into our pickup and pushed our trailer both forward and backwards with the front landing gear down.  We did not think to check it out before leaving the dealership and went on our way to the next KOA.  When we checked the landing gear they would not work, so the next morning we had to head back to the dealer and ask them to fix it again.  We learned a valuable lesson, when in doubt, check it out before moving on!

We still finished in good time so we decided to move on.  Kelly wanted to make sure we made it to the battlefield of Little Bighorn.  As some of you may know, this was a major battle between the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians against the United States Army.  The tribes were trying to keep the land where they have lived on all their lives, but the Army under President Grant’s administration was instructed to remove the Indians and take away their land so they could live on the reservations.  This is the place where Lt. Colonel died during the battle, (Custer’s last stand.)

The battlefield where Custer died.

We made it to Gillette that night and stayed at a Walmart.  Gillette is a really boring town and the only thing it has going for it is the coal mine.

Gillette Wyoming coal mine truck tire.  Kelly’s sister Linda drives one similar to it in Nevada.

Scoop from coal mine shovel.

We got up early to head to Deadwood South Dakota.  I was really looking forward to it. This historic western town was discovered when Custer led an expedition into the Black Hills and announced the discovery of gold there.  At first, the town was considered the most “lawless town” in the West, but eventually Deadwood lost its rough and rowdy ways and developed into a prosperous town.  We just loved it.  We spent the entire day there.  Some of the things we did:  took a bus tour about the history of the town, went to Kevin Costner’s restaurant and watched a play with a gunfight about Wild Bill’s demise.  

 

Overlooking the town of Deadwood.

Downtown Deadwood.

After saying goodbye to Deadwood we arrived just outside of the city of Custer about dinner time.  We settled into our site at the KOA and planned our next day’s adventure to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument.

Crazy Horse Monument.  Still has a lot to go on it,but it is huge!  It is taller than the Washington Monument and wider than two football fields!  They are already on the third generation of family working on it.  Much bigger than Mount Rushmore.

 Keystone is a former mining town before you get to Mount Rushmore.

The gold rush was started in 1883 but women and children were not allowed until later.

Custer State Park was one of my favorite parks.  Animals everywhere, if you don’t mind sharing the road.  The scenery was beautiful and it was very different than Yellowstone and not crowded!  We saw elk, deer, antelope, rabbits, prairie dogs, red fox and buffalo.

The wild animals were not so wild.

Part of Custer State Park.

The “needles” are jagged rocks that look like they should be on another planet.

We made it to Mount Rushmore!  They have changed some things over the last 32 years!  A new trail to look at different views of the monument, huge gift shop and restaurants.

Say cheese!

The next day would be a travel day for us to Omaha NE.  One the way we had to stop at two landmark places.  The famous Wall Drug and Mitchell’s Corn Palace.  Wall Drug is like an amusement park for truckers and weary travelers.  It has pretty much everything you could ever want and more!

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One of the photo opts at Wall Drug.

Mitchell South Dakota’s Corn Palace.

The Corn Palace is a multi use facility that has murals of corn on the inside and outside.  The designs are only up for a year because eventually they dry our to much and drop off the walls.  A new design is planned each year.  This year was Willy Nelson’s turn.  Now onto Omaha!