Monday, October 31, 2011

Of hair dryers and hens

You cannot use a hair dryer, straightening iron and portable heater at the same time in our rig. Well, maybe you could.  But Bev can't.
I learned that this morning when I popped something that ended our electrical hook up.  We re-read the rig’s owners manual, but didn’t find a solution. Fortunately, we were driving to a city (rare for us) and figured we could find someone who knew what the @#$% to do.  
The city: Memphis, Tennessee.  The campground location:  Where else?  Graceland RV Park and Campground, right behind the Heartbreak Hotel and next to Elvis’s home.  Well, former home.
There are RVs here from Canada, one from Germany, and one that has an Ohio State Buckeyes sticker on the back window.  A regular UN.
As for the electrical issue:  Jim called a mobile RV repair place that gave him advice over the phone -- the problem was a Ground Fault Interrupt (GFI) behind a metal cover we’d never opened.  The learning experience continues.
Also: we met neighbors Gloria and Michael, who are moving from Maine to California with their two babies and five chickens.  I’m thinking both are real conversation starters,  as the kids are cuties and how many RV travelers do you see with a big cageful of chickens? Steve W, if you read this blog, Michael is originally from Long Island and sounds like you.
Tomorrow, it’s on to Elvis. 

At Graceland RV Park in Memphis:  Jim talks with our neighbors Gloria, Michael and their toddlers, while the chickens listen.  Also:  Cooper (our dog) apologizes for being so grumpy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two great rivers merge

Our plan is to follow the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, and then continue south.   So we had to see where those two great rivers meet near Cairo, Illinois.
Yesterday we made that trip.  We stood near the southern-most tip of Illinois, looking south.  On our left was the Ohio River.  To our right was the Mississippi River.  And straight ahead and bending around the corner were those two rivers together. The sight of the huge Ohio  -- a river we’ve crossed back and forth too many times to count -- merging with the enormous Mississippi is amazing.  But the place we stood while watching (and honestly, I can’t even put it into words what an extraordinary sight it was) is a mess.
The location is called Fort Defiance and was a military encampment during the Civil War. Before that, Lewis and Clark spent six days here teaching each other celestial navigation and surveying skills. (However, there is some argument about this, as the power of the two rivers continually change the shoreline.)  Apparently Fort Defiance was once an Illinois state park, but Illinois had no money to maintain it.  So the citizens of nearby Cairo used their own tractors, trimmers and shovels and time to revitalize it.  
It’s reverted to shabby, however, and all that remains are sad-looking children’s swings, a dilapidated observation tower, the foundation of a long-gone building, a piece of sculpture ... and lots of weeds, brush, and trash.
But worth the trip.

A short video taken at Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  

At the confluence.  The Ohio comes in on the left side of the photo; the Mississippi comes in on the right; and they continue as one on the other side of the trees you see near the right.   An article I read said that while the two rivers travel in the same channel, it takes several miles for the blue Ohio to fully merge with the muddy Mississippi.  (Also: Notice the person without a torso.  I’m thinking he was probably just bending over, but it was a little spooky at first glance -- especially since I took the photo the Saturday before Halloween).

The observation tower is just visible behind the tree on the 
left.  In the center is the  foundation of some former 
On our way to Fort Defiance, we stopped at Paducah, 
Kentucky.  Paducah is at the confluence of the Ohio and 
the Tennessee Rivers, and is has lots of antique shops, 
quilting stores (Paducah is famous for its quilts, and is 
hometo the National Quilt Museum) and an eclectic, funky 
downtown.  One oddity: A “famous son” is Charles “Speedy” 
Atkins, who died in 1928 and whose mummified body was 
on display at a local funeral home for nearly 60 years 
(other than a short hiatus when his body was washed 
away in the flood of 1937).   And I read that during  lunch.  
If you want to read about it on Wikipedia, heres the link.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Between the Lakes

Land Between the Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area is 170,000 acres of camping, fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, biking, ATV-riding, bison-and-antelope-and-bird-watching and just about every other outdoorsy activity you can think of.  Plus a planetarium. 
LBL runs about 45 miles between Lake Kentucky and Lake Barkley, which were were created when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dammed the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers for hydroelectric power and flood control.  The TVA also built a canal to connect the two lakes, making LBL a large inland peninsula.  The rivers -- and now the lakes -- flow north, empty into the Ohio River, and run through both Kentucky and Tennessee.
Before LBL, this area was known as the Land Between the Rivers and was home to over 4,000 homes and small businesses.   At the visitors center, we read an account of how the land was acquired.  It included this paragraph:
“They came through with their spyglasses and their measuring rods and marked it off all up and down the cove. On rocks and trees.  On barns and corn cribs.  Three hundred and eighty-seven.  Three hundred-eighty-seven.”
After the dams were built, everything up to that 387 feet was under water.  If your land was not underwater, you still had to move for the creation of the park. 
Before that, Land between the Rivers was the home of the Cherokee Indians, who were forced to move to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears.
Sad beginnings for a beautiful park. 
We’re staying at Hillman Ferry Campground at the north end of LBL.  Hillman has hundreds of campsites but keeps a few dozen for people who just show up; since we got here on Thursday ahead of the weekend crowd, we got one of those spots near the water. There are two other developed campgrounds, plus primitive camping areas.
Yesterday (Friday) we took a 5-mile hike dotted with historical signs. (Well, in all honesty, about a mile of the hike included an extra trip to and  from our rig after the ranger told us to spray down with tick spray.) Most signs point out remnants of homes and businesses abandoned when the TVA built dams or the park was created.  Here, Jim and Coop look at what’s left of the home of Louis Vogle. Vogle's ancestors started the Star Lime Works which produced high quality lime. Louis Vogle became the first postmaster of the Star Lime Works post office in 1872. 
There are also 240 small family cemeteries throughout LBL National Recreation Area, including this one belonging to the Bohanon family.  Julian Bohanon operated a ferry across the Tennessee River before the dam was built.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Jon Huntsman Ted Strickland Legacy Highway Lakeshore Blvd Parkway

If there were a highway from Utah to Ohio, and part of it went through Kentucky, the Kentucky leg might be called what’s in the title of this post.
Because Kentucky seems to love giving its highways long monikers by adding a former governor's name onto an already named highway.
Yesterday, for example, we drove on the Pennyrile Parkway, the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway, the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway, and the Julian M Caroll Purchase Parkway.  No numbers --- just big long names.
Breathitt, Ford and Carroll are all former Kentucky governors.  Purchase Parkway and Western Kentucky Parkways were named for geographic areas. Pennyrile ... who knows.  While we were driving we kept saying “Who are these people?”
But those roads got us to a new destination:   Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, with 300 miles of shoreline in Kentucky and Tennesee.   More to come.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lincoln and Santa

We’re at Lincoln State Park in Lincoln City, Indiana.  The park is just across the road from the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, so when we set off exploring this morning, that was our first stop. 

A few things we learned:
-- After losing property in a title dispute, Lincoln’s father moved his family from Kentucky to Indiana in 1816. Lincoln lived here from ages 7 to 21.
-- Just two years after the family moved to Indiana, Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died of “milk fever.” The fatal illness was caused by drinking milk from cows that had eaten a toxic plant called white snakeroot.
-- Lincoln's father, Thomas, went back to Kentucky and married a widow he had known for many years, Sarah Bush Johnson.  She came to Indiana with her three children and successfully blended the two families.
-- As a teenager, Lincoln started a business shuttling passengers to river boats in middle of the Ohio River.  He was sued by a company that ferried people across the river, represented himself in court, and won the case. This spurred his interest in being an attorney.
-- In 1828 he got a job piloting a boat to New Orleans, where he saw a slave auction.  What Lincoln witnessed strengthened his abolitionist views.
After the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, we learned about another great man  -- Santa Claus.
Santa Claus, Indiana is just 6 miles from our campground.   It’s a real tourist destination.  We don’t like crowds, and luckily for us, the big seasons are Christmas (naturally) and summertime -- so no crowds.  Attractions are Holiday World amusement park; Splashin’ Safari water park; “Frosty’s Fun Center,” an arcade with a giant melting snowman; Santa’s Candy Castle where you can chat with an elf; and more.  
We didn’t visit any of them. 
Instead, as part of Jim’s continuing search for good beer, we went to Old Tyme Liquors, where we met owner Amy, who is an unofficial good-will ambassador for the town of Santa Claus.  She gave us the scoop on the town and told us it was the creation of Bill Koch, a visionary who developed the holiday-themed attractions plus Christmas Lake Village, where most of the residents live.  
While grabbing a bite to eat we saw a brochure that led us our next stop: Monkey Hollow Winery.  What a beautiful place, what a gracious and interesting wine tasting host, and what great wine. Monkey Hollow recently won medals for six of their wines at the Indy International Wine Competition and we bought a bottle of Pasture White.   My second favorite wine had by first favorite name:  Pasture Limit.

The visitor's center has 5 relief sculptures  with scenes from states important to Lincoln’s life. 
The Trail of Twelve Stones features monuments containing rocks from sites important in Lincoln’s history, including where he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, where he gave the Gettysburg address, and the house where he died.  Sounds weird when I write it -- but it was touching.
Bev in front of the Santa Claus, Indiana, town hall.
Jim at the Old Tyme Liquors in Santa Claus, along with Amy the vivacious proprietor. 
Jim at Monkey Hollow Winery in St. Meinrad, Indiana.  

We didn't have a reservation at Lincoln State Park, but got a site right on the lake. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Falls of the Ohio

It’s gotten to the point that when a museum video includes the phrase “Millions of years ago, a vast, shallow, warm sea covered the area now known as (fill in the blank),” Jim rolls his eyes and nudges me.  Left to his own devices, Jim might not be going to as many natural history exhibits as I’ve been dragging him to.  And around here, that big warm sea gets major billing in every video we see.
The latest one was at “The Falls of the Ohio State Park” in Clarksville, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville.   
Boats travel all of the Ohio River’s 931 miles with the help of dams and locks.  Back when this area was first being explored, however, travelers had to stop at the Falls of the Ohio.  Not because the Falls was anything like Niagara -- it wasn’t.  Instead, the Ohio River dropped just 26 feet over two-and-a-half miles, and limestone ledges created impossible-to-navigate rapids and obstacles in the shallow water.
As for the ancient vast, shallow, warm sea:  Its ebb and flow helped create the more than 600 types of fossils identified in the local limestone.  
We're still at Deam Lake State Park east of Louisville, Kentucky. Before we visited nearby Falls of Ohio State Park, we walked around the campground's horse camping area.
After seeing the horses, we took a hike.  Here Jim takes a photo of  Deam Lake from a ridge.
Falls of the Ohio State Park:  When the water is low,  limestone ledges -- like the one you can see here at the shore of the Ohio River -- can also be seen in the middle of the River.  Fossils are visible in the limestone.  
Where we heard (again) about the warm, shallow sea:  The Interpretive Center at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.   

When we got back to our rig late Sunday afternoon after visiting the Falls, Deam Lake State Park was almost empty.  You can barely see our rig all alone at the back right of the camp road.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Derby Day

From zero to 40 miles an hour in three strides is how fast a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred can accelerate.  We learned that yesterday at the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
After we bought our tickets, we entered the museum though a green gates like the ones where the horses start the race.  Immediately,  racing horses and their jockeys were thundering right at us on a huge monitor.  
There was an exhibit where you can watch any race since 1918 on a large screen; we saw Willie Shoemaker ride Ferdinand from last to first place and right up the middle of the pack.   We also saw a 360 degree video presentation that told a race horse’s story from birth to Derby Day three years later, as only three-year-olds run the Derby.
We also saw wild dresses, fancy suits and outrageous hats worn by actual Derby goers; got a chance to place bets (Jim won $12.60; I came up with zero); learned about mint juleps; and Jim rode in a simulated Derby race.  There was a special exhibit featuring 4’11”, 95-pound Willie Shoemaker, who was a jockey for four decades and rode a Derby winner four times --including once when he was 54, making him the oldest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.  We also heard about the biggest error of Shoemaker’s Derby career: In 1957,  he misjudged the finish line, stood up in the saddle (signaling the horse the race is over) and came in second.  (Per the exhibit, the horse’s owner gave Shoemaker a Cadillac to make him feel better.)  Shoemaker rode in over 40,000 races and came in first 8,833 times.
Later, we went to the Bluegrass Brewery in downtown Louisville.  Jim recommends their American Pale Ale and is working on a brew pub post for our blog.
A sculpture of Barbaro and jockey Edgar Prado in front of Churchill Downs.  Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby in 2006, but shattered his leg two weeks later in the Preakness.  He went through six operations but eventually had to be put down.
Jim trying out his jockey skills.
Bev and her horse at the gate.
Jim doing research for his promised beer post on our blog.
Louisville, Kentucky as seen from the Indiana side of the Ohio River.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A near accident we didn't have

As we were leaving Big Bone Lick State Park in Kentucky this morning, we met a couple who told us a pretty harrowing story.  Thursday night they were traveling south on I-75 in Ohio in the rain and wind when their travel trailer hydroplaned and turned them around 180 degrees.  There was no damage to the trailer or their pick up truck pulling it -- but they were now facing the wrong way on the freeway in the dark and the rain.  Luckily for them, a semi truck pulled across the lanes and stopped traffic, giving time to get going the right way.  After they told us this story, they said they were on their way to visit some Kentucky bourbon distilleries -- and pulled away with part of their tow bar hitch dragging on the ground.   We wish them the best of luck!
Happy wedding today to Matt and Jeannine.  Matt is the son of our good friends John and Debbie in Salt Lake City.  And belated congrats to Steve and Missy's daughter Lindy, who had her second baby, a little boy.  My kids grew up with these kids, and the torch has been passed.  We love you.
As for us, we are at Deam Lake State Recreation Area in Borden, Indiana, 18 miles west of Louisville, Kentucky.  The park has a huge campground with 116 regular camping spots plus another 68 for horse camping.  I didn’t even know horses liked to camp.
A view of Deam Lake.  The man-made lake is named after Charles Deam, Indiana's first forester.

For reasons unknown, Cooper has started sleeping on our laundry bag. 

We’re all “honeys” here

Everyone in Kentucky calls us “honey.”  Unless they are younger; then it’s “ma’am” or “sir.”  Guess we're hanging with the old folks, because most of the time, it’s “honey.”
Backing up a bit, before we left Blue Lick State Park we made a trip to Maysville, Kentucky, to see the National Underground Railroad Museum.  I grew up near Oberlin, Ohio, which was one of the railway stops, and have always been interested in the story of how slaves were transported to freedom.  Most of the conductors and safe house owners were free slaves or sympathetic whites.  They helped slaves get west or outside of the country to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
The museum was once owned by the Bierbower family, German emigrants sympathetic to the slaves and while they lived their it was an Underground Railroad safe house.  A conductor brought slaves to the home in a buggy with a false bottom.  Slaves climbed a ladder down into a hidden room below the basement, and were given a blanket, food, a candle and a chance to get some sleep.  Then another buggy would take them to a boat and they’d cross the Ohio River.  Most of the slaves that made a stop at the Bierbower home would go to Canada.
Probably the most interesting thing about the museum was our tour guide, Ms. Marshall  She spent 90 minutes with just me and Jim.  In addition to showing us the hidden room, one of the many items she pointed out was one of the iron collars owners placed on the slaves at night so they couldn’t run away.  She told us about John Parker -- a freed slave, master iron worker, and underground railroad conductor who invented and patented the tobacco press; his mother was a slave, his father a plantation owner, and his father sold him when he was eight years old.  And she said a question she gets from kids is “what did slaves do on their days off?” 
I have to admit, Ms. Marshall’s presentation was disjointed.  Half the time I didn't know if she had a point.  Then 15 minutes later she’d say something -- and up popped the point.   But she talked in a matter of fact way that I found amazing for someone whose ancestors were slaves.  
The Bierbower home was both the home of the Bierbower family and a stop on the underground railroad.  The Bierbowers owned six slaves themselves  -- with a big house like this, it would have been very suspicious if they had not.
This bridge crosses the Ohio River from Aberdeen, Ohio to Maysville, Kentucky.  We drove across it in 2006 in a Jeep Liberty and it sure seemed narrower in our motorhome.  In fact, we thought we’d scraped the passenger side wall of the bridge, but didn’t see any damage.
Maysville flood walls on the bank of the Ohio River are covered with murals.  The latest one is of Maysville native Rosemary Clooney who also lived for several decades in nearby Augusta, Kentucky.  
Another view of the Maysville flood walls.  Jim wondered if there are no flood walls on the Ohio side because Ohioans swim better.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Big Bone Lick State Park

As I write I’m wearing leggins under corduroy jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and two hooded sweatshirts.  We’re at Big Bone Lick State Park in northern Kentucky, and it’s cold.   And rainy.  And has been that way the couple of days we’ve been here.  It’s also windy with gusts of up to 40 miles an hour projected for today -- not good for RV driving.   So we are going to sit tight until the weather clears (supposedly tomorrow) then head further south.
Big Bone Lick is between the tiny Kentucky towns of Rabbit Hash and Beaverlick.  We drove to Rabbit Hash -- very cool, with a mercantile, an “old stuff” store, a restaurant and an inn called “The Hashienda.”  And we must have driven through Beaverlick, but didn’t see it. 
About all these “licks:”  Salt licks were important to indigenous people, animals, and settlers, and villages sprang up near the licks.  Springs near the licks were touted as having restorative powers, so in the 1800s, health spas were common.  
Big Bone Lick is named for both the salt lick and fossilized remains of many mastodons and other big prehistoric creatures found here.  The salt attracted the animals, then the boggy conditions created by the springs made the earth jelly-like.  Heavy prehistoric animals that ventured out on the jelly often found themselves caught in a quagmire and fossil-bound.
We also made a quick trip in to the Cincinnati riverfront area when we first arrived. Since then we have been sitting pretty tight in the motor home (other than the trip to Rabbit Hash and another to post this entry) because of the weather.
Jim walks on the “Purple People Bridge,” a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Ohio River from Pete Rose Drive in Cincinnati  to Newport, Kentucky.   

A barge on the Ohio River heads toward the Purple People Bridge.

Jim walks in downtown Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.  A cat follows.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Even though we have a 26-1/2 foot motor home to take care of instead of a house, we still have plenty of chores.

Some chores fit in the repair  category.  In two and a half months on the road, we’ve had three of those.   The first was a brake lights snafu in Chadron, NE (see our Tuesday, August 9, 2011 post).  Then we had to get our hydraulic levelers fixed.  We also replaced our front windshield.  We noticed a small crack (too big for a chip repair) at the beginning of the trip, but it was not in our line of vision. When cold weather hit for a couple of day in Marietta, that crack shot across the windshield.   
There is rig maintenance.  We dump the black and gray water tanks and refill the fresh water tank about once a week; most campgrounds have facilities for that.  We waxed the rig while at my mom’s in Ohio and today the rig got a sponge bath. We check and usually fill the rig and Honda tires everytime we take off for a new location.  If we don’t use the generator, we have to run it once a month. We just cleaned the electric heater/air conditioner filters. We just had the rig’s Ford 450 truck’s oil changed.  Etc. Etc. Etc. And so on.
Plus we still have tasks we do at home: cleaning, dishes, shopping, cooking,  laundry, etc.  At our “stick and brick” house, I do the cooking, Jim does the dishes and it’s the same on the road.  At home, I’m the yard work instigator; now Jim is the one who sets up and sweeps the “astro turf” lawn we put near the entry way so we don’t track dirt into the rig.    About every six days we do a major cleaning of interior surfaces.  The rest of the time, we try to be tidy.  

Some chores photos are below.  
Laundry on the road seems expensive to me -- we spent $20 in quarters at this place in Newport, Ohio. When I use the change machine, it sounds like Vegas.
I was so caught up in helping Jim suds Cooper that I forgot to take a photo.  But this is where we went in Parkersburg, WV to get the job done.   In a small rig a regular doggy bath is a necessity. 
We met barbers Judy and Don at our Marietta, Ohio campground; they told us about their shop, Emerson Barber Service in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  Here, Judy gives Jim a buzz.  On the wall, you can see (besides me taking this picture) photos of people Don and Judy have met, including Tonya Tucker, Randy Travis, Wolfman Jack and Reba McEntire.  Don and Judy have athletic grandchildren, including a 9-year-old world champion wrestler in the 58-pound class, and a 16-year-old high school touchdown machine.
Cooper at the vets.  He got some sort of gastrointestinal infection in Marietta but was well treated at Green Meadow Veterinary Clinic.  One of the doctors was a vet school classmate of my brother Bob’s. (Thanks for the phone consult, Bob.)  Also: Doggie gastrointestinal infection + middle of the night + small motor home = big trip to the laundromat.  Thank goodness for lots of washable area rugs.
Bev after we leveled the rig in the pouring rain at Blue Licks State Park in Kentucky.  (Someone’s got to be outside to watch the tires and levelers while Jim operates the controls.  I know socks with sandals are a fashion faux pas, but believe me, soaking wet socks with sandals are even worse.)  Each time we get to a campsite, we have to level the rig and we use a combination of our hydraulic levelers, boards and plastic ramps to do that.  If the rig is not level, the fridge will be damaged plus you feel like you are walking around in a fun house. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

We're in Kentucky

Today we walked where Lt. Col. Daniel Boone not only lost a battle, but also his son and nephew.

We’re at Blue Licks Battlefield State Park in north central Kentucky.The Battle of Blue Licks was fought on August 19, 1782, to avenge a three-day rampage where British and Indian forces burned nearby homes and crops.  It was the last battle of the Revolutionary War.
The story goes that when a lower-level officer of the Kentucky Militia suggested waiting for reinforcements before attacking, he was ridiculed for “timidity.”  Later, when Daniel Boone suggested a delay, the other officer -- still smarting from the earlier accusation -- yelled “All who are not cowards follow me.” (Or “Them that ain’t cowards, follow me” depending on if you are reading the park brochure or most other accounts.)  The men followed, but were ambushed by troops hiding in wooded ravines.  Sixty-four of the 182 members of the Kentucky Militia were killed, including Daniel Boone’s son, Israel, and nephew, Thomas. However, the defeat spurred over a thousand riflemen to later chase the Shawnee Indians from their villages near the Ohio River.  They also destroyed Chillicothe, a Shawnee town further north.  This was a final blow to the Revolution, as the Indians were essential to British efforts.
This hillside is where the battle of Blue Licks occurred.  The park brochure refers to the militia who beat the Kentuckians as “British” but other sources said they were probably American Loyalists and Canadians.  The British had actually surrendered 10 months earlier at Yorktown, but skirmishes like Blue Licks continued in the western part of the new country.

Burial place of some of the men who died at the Battle of Blue Licks, just yards from where the actual battle happened.  While Daniel Boone’s son and nephew were killed, two of Boone’s nephew also fought and survived.  Daniel Boone himself lived to be 85 and died in Missouri.
This monument lists the names of everyone who was in the battle.  As the men went forward on their own and the officers followed, Daniel Boone -- who suspected an ambush -- supposedly said “We are all slaughtered men.”  Another story says Boone hid his son’s body in a cave before leaving the battleground, but historians say it’s unlikely he had time.

On a way lighter note, Jim makes friends with our next-door, motorcycling neighbors at Blue Licks Battlefield State Park.  The three guys are all from Kentucky, and once made a trip to Utah and back in 16 days.  Their motorcycles pull trailers that turn into small tents.  You can see one of the tents behind the red cycle closest to Jim and the guys.  Our rig is on the far right.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Headed south

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had trouble getting a part for our motor home.   After two weeks,  Jim told the shop owner if the part didn’t arrive that day, he didn’t want it.  It showed up, it’s installed, it seems to work.  So we headed south after a quick trip to Columbus, Ohio, to get the oil changed on our rig’s Ford 450 truck.  If you are ever near Columbus and need something done on your vehicle, I highly recommend Ricart Auto.   The guys who installed the motor home part -- not so much.
After the oil change, we made an overnight stop at Scioto Falls State Park, just south of Chillicothe, Ohio. At the campground, we met a couple from Orlando who are traveling in an ingenious little triangle-shaped pop-up camper; I wish I had taken a photo of Tom, Jenny and their cool camper.
When we went back to Lancaster to get our "nice to have" motor home part installed, Bev’s college friends from her Ohio State days, Carl and Sandy, hosted us for the third time. Bless their hearts.  Here you see Sandy and Carl cooking raclette, a melted cheese dish.   Restaurants often serve raclette by heating a round of cheese and then scraping the melted cheese on to plates; customers put the cheese on vegetables, bread or meat. You can also prepare raclette using a granite-topped grill for your veggies and meat; the cheese is melted in small pans right below the granite. Here, Sandy and Carl do just that. Wonderful.  Carl, I’ve probably murdered my description of raclette, so please chime in.
Sandy had a recipe for stir fry broccoli I gave her about 1972 (really, she did) so that’s what we had for dinner the last night we stayed at their home (along with a great won ton soup.)  Here are Bev and Jim with the recipe and the final product.  I still make stir frys -- in fact, my kids would say that’s all I can make. 
Fall foliage at Scioto Falls State Park in south central Ohio.
Jim and Cooper hiking at Scioto Falls State Park, just south of Chillicothe, the first capital of Ohio.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A funeral, 1865 style

Curtains were drawn. Clocks were stopped at the time of death.  Black ribbons circled door knobs, alerting people a resident had died (and so visitors would not wear new clothing inside the home, which was extremely bad luck). Photos of the living were turned face down so the dearly departed could not summon others to the next world.  Mourners refrained from looking in mirrors near the lifeless body, as guests might see an image of the deceased and be the next to die.  And bodies were removed from the home feet first so the dead could not make eye contact and summon the living to “the other side.”  
That’s just part of what we heard from in-costume and in-character guides at the Victorian Funeral Program held at a Marietta, Ohio mansion called “The Castle.” 
At the front door, we were told that the mistress of the house, Charlotte Warner Bell, recently died in child birth and that her infant daughter had died as well.  The first guide played the roll of Charlotte’s bereaved sister.  Wiping her eyes, Charlotte's sister said she would soon become the mistress of the house. Both she and Charlotte’s widower had young children (and her own husband was killed in the Civil War); re-marrying quickly for practical reasons was common.  
When the sister was overcome by “hysteria,” however, we had to leave the room. Others told us about death bed vigils held to make sure the person was really dead and not just in a coma from which they might wake up (hence the term “wake.”)  We learned about the appropriate mourning attire and how long it had to be worn (three years, although ornamental items such as lace could be added in the second year.  Queen Victoria, however, wore mourning attire until her own death a full 40 years after the death of her husband, Prince Albert).  We also met with a post mortum photographer and embalmer. 
Afterwards, everyone received a piece of “funeral cake” in a container with an actual Victorian-era epitaph inscribed.  The one Jim received read like this:
“Emily Marie
She was not smart
She was not fair
But hearts with grief
For her are swellin’
As empty sits her little chair
She died of eating watermelon.”
This gentleman opened the gate as we approached the home of the recently deceased Mrs. Bell.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Marietta, Ohio

When we got to Marietta, the golden rod was is full bloom; now the purple asters are flowering.  The pretty red maple on Highway 7 has lost most of its leaves.  We’ve been here so long I’m thinking we should register to vote. But I like the Marietta, Ohio/Parkersburg, West Virginia area and would actually stay a few more days.  Jim is getting antsy, however, plus we have to get back to Lancaster, Ohio to figure out what is going on with a “nice to have” RV part a repair shop ordered for us.  It was supposed to arrive in five days, then the shop said within 14 days. Today is day 16 and it’s still not here.  So it’s time for a face-to-face with the shop owner.  Not looking forward to that. 
But first, a bit about Marietta, which is at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingham Rivers, and full of monuments, grand-looking Victorian-era and earlier homes, and historical markers.  Established in 1788, Marietta  was the first permanent settlement of the “The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio,” more commonly known as the Northwest Territory.  The NW Territory became the present-day states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and the northeast part of Minnesota.  
Below are photos of a few places we visited.
Bev walks up the steps to a mound built by prehistoric mound builders called the Adena at the Mound Cemetery.  The cemetery is also the final resting place of more Revolutionary War officers than any other single location. 

“Start Westward of the United States” is the name of this memorial, which commemorates the 42 pioneers who first came to Marietta in 1788.  It was sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, who also carved the presidents of Mt. Rushmore.
Bev at the Fort Harmer post office.  Fort Harmar was the first US military installation in the Northwest Territory.  The site was surveyed and recommended for use as a fort by future general and president George Washington. The fort has been taken over by the Muskingham River, but many historic buildings remain and we took a walking tour. 

This Harmar Village, Italianate-style 22-room mansion was built in 1859. 
Jim eating the Harmar Tavern’s specialty, a fried bologna sandwich. 
The Lafayette Hotel is in downtown Marietta near the confluence of the Muskingham and the Ohio Rivers.  It’s named for the Marquis de Lafayette, the French hero (and major general under George Washington and Washington’s life-long friend) of the American Revolutionary War, who visited Marietta in 1825.

About 1,400 students attend Marietta College, which offers liberal arts degrees and was founded in 1835.  Tuition is $29,000 a year.

All the historic homes have made me interested in architecture; I’ve got to get a book.  This house, “The Castle,” was built in 1855 and its web site calls it “one of the best examples of Gothic Revival style architecture in Ohio.”  The Castle was offering a “Victorian Funeral Program” and at first Jim wasn’t interested -- but after spending our late evenings watching the HBO series “Six Feet Under” (about a family that runs a funeral home) on DVD for the past week, he thought maybe it would be OK.  I’ll post something later on what we learned about Victorian funeral traditions and the  “dismal trades."
Twenty-one locks along the Ohio River keep the water deep enough so barges and large boats can make the trip.  This lock is at Willow Island, Ohio, about ten miles east of Marietta.  A barge pushing several 100-foot long containers is entering the lock at the left.  Right above the barge and in the background is the Pleasants Power Plant (see post dated Monday, October 3, 2011) on the West Virginia side of the river.