Appalachian States to New Hampshire: August
7 to September 4
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)
Subjects: Cumberland Island Okefenokee Swamp Chickamauga Smokies Biltmore Estate Blue Ridge Parkway Charlottesville Shenandoah Harper's Ferry/Gettysburg Amish Country Crayola Factory Poconos United Nations Minuteman/Lowell Parks Portsmouth
Much of this part of the Rich Odyssey was spent traveling the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Here Denny is driving Betty the Bounder down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The view is typical of those we saw. A good, but slightly narrow road, and views of lots and lots and lots of green trees and blue ridges in the distance. You can get a more detailed update on the Parkway in the September issue of Money Magazine!!
This update covers a lot of ground!! We left Space Camp in Florida and began working our way North roughly following the Appalachian Trail. It took a little while, but we have made it to very cool weather! Right now, we are in cloudy, cool Portsmouth, NH on our way to Maine and Canada.
Along the way, we have visited notable places such as Cumberland Island National Seashore, the Okefenokee Swamp and the Unclaimed Baggage Store in Scottsboro, AL, where Jennifer had a ball looking, but did not really find all that much to cram into Betty the Bounder.
From there, fabulous scenery greeted us in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina and all but 50 miles of the 469 mi. Blue Ridge Parkway National Park in North Carolina and Virginia (which Denny hadn't known existed before this trip). We also drove through the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia on our way to visit friends near Charlottesville, VA, the home of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
Several days spent touring the battlefields at Chickamauga/Chattanooga, Harpers' Ferry and Gettysburg gave us a new appreciation for the scope, passions and blood which marked the American Civil War between the North and South. Dennis' business trip to Denver left Jennifer and Steffi by themselves to roam the Amish country and Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, visit the United Nations and then travel on to Boston where they were rejoined by the Dad, who was very glad to be back. A visit to the Battle Road from Boston to Concord, MA gave us a new perspective on the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, starting on April 19, 1775. We are, however, taking a break from battlefields for a while!
We have lots of pictures and brief descriptions of all we saw along the way. Enjoy them! Two new Road Maps and an updated Trip Log are also included.
Recently, Jennifer and Steffi had an opportunity to visit Gloucester, MA where they had a chance to explore some of the neat rocks near the seashore. Steffi takes every opportunity we have to climb on or crawl in and under every rock we see. These were among the best.
Here we go on the start of our Appalachian Tour starting in Florida and going north along the Appalachian Mountains ending up in Portsmouth, NH.
This is a new bridge on I-95 as it crosses the large St. Johns River in Jacksonville, FL. The supporting steel cables, with a white covering, make the bridge look exactly like enormous sailboats gleaming in the sun, especially from a distance. We are on our way to Georgia to visit the Cumberland Island National Seashore, traveling via Amelia Island. After crossing into Georgia, Denny is amazed at the gas prices. Click on the picture for a better view of the $1.229 price for Regular Unleaded Gas!! Prices are the best in Georgia and much worse in all of New England.
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You can get to Cumberland Island only by taking a National Park Service ferry from St. Marys, GA. Once there, you can hike or camp. We hiked and also visited another great white sand beach on the ocean side. The island was owned largely by the Carnegie Family around the turn of the century. This is the remains of the large Carnegie mansion, Dungeness, which was destroyed by fire in the 1950s before being protected as a National Park. Denny is looking at the front, and around the back you can see one of the many wild horses that roam the island. Finally, click for a larger view of Denny and Steffi standing under an 800 year old live oak tree. The Spanish moss hanging from the tree is typical throughout the South.
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After moving on to the Okefenokee Swamp in Southern Georgia, we see Stephanie holding a pretty (nonpoisonous) corn snake. She also has fun holding a baby alligator. The swamp is very low right now because of the drought, but we did see a large (13 ft.) alligator resting in the swamp waters; he was locally known as Oscar. Black bears are prevalent all over the South, and here is a nice one in one of the wildlife enclosures by the swamp entrance. Lots of signs are around telling you NOT to feed the bears.
Jennifer, the ULTIMATE shopper, got a 'fix' by traveling somewhat out of the way to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, in northern Alabama. All airlines in the world send stuff there. This picture is taken from Betty in the parking lot after dashing from the store at the end of a very large thunderstorm. The power went out, but that didn't stop Jennifer from buying a few items. She didn't get much because the RV has limited space, and we didn't need anything anyway. If you ever need a PC or Cell Phone connection cable, though, this place has one: check www.unclaimedbaggage.com.
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Jennifer and Steffi stand in front of the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitors Center in Northwest Georgia just south of Chattanooga, TN. Steffi stands in front of one of the many cannon used in the Civil War. This cannon could fire a cannon ball about three miles! Note the rifling in the next picture (the curved grooves, which makes the cannon ball fly spin and fly straight, just like a rifle bullet). Kids, please note that the plural of cannon is also cannon!! Steffi passed that on her spelling test! The last picture is of a young Park Service worker dressed as a Confederate soldier would have looked (IF he had been resupplied). He gave a talk and a good perspective that clearly showed the Civil War was about much more than slavery. States rights and fair taxation were a much bigger issue for the South, and keeping the Union united was the biggest issue for the North. One trivia point... Did you know that Lincoln's famous Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves only in the Southern States, not the North!!
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This is a picture of Cades Cove (basically, a large mountain meadow) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We saw lots of wildlife here, but no bears. Here is one of the many, many beautiful butterflies that you see all over the East.
On the east side of the Smokies is the Cherokee Indian Reservation. The first two pictures are views of the reservation adjoining the Great Smoky Mountains N. P. Steffi takes Java (not willingly) for a ride on one of the three wheeled bikes you can rent at the Cherokee Campground. Fun! One interesting point: The U. S. government made all the Cherokee Indians pack up and be forcibly moved to Oklahoma in the late1800s. Thousands died on the march now known as the "Trail of Tears". A number of Cherokee Indians stayed behind, hid in the Smokies, and are now on this beautiful Reservation, managing their proximity to a mountain resort very successfully. In general, the treatment of Native Americans by the U.S. has been appalling.
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The Biltmore Mansion and Estate in Asheville, NC is worth a visit. The main 'house', the largest private home in the US, is three times bigger than the White House! Stephanie enjoys standing under a neat tree with trumpet-like flowers. Here are the Riches posing in front of the large Mansion. The next picture from the front of the house looks like a scene from Europe. Jennifer and Steffi listen to the taped tour and look at a balcony where cameras are being set up for a movie which began filming the next day: the follow on to Anthony Hopkins', Silence of the Lambs, called Hannibal. The gardens were gorgeous, and Steffi enjoyed one of the working statues...a turtle spewing water.
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Blue Ridge Parkway
We spent the next 3 days traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins in the Smokies and knits together local roads into a 469 mile long National Scenic Road. One of the many overlooks shows Lane Pinnacle Mountain, which we had to capture in honor of Denny's business, Pinnacle West Corp. The sign says the mountain is 5,230 feet high. Next, Denny ponders a beautiful waterfall while Stephanie races around on the rocks. Finally, there is a neat place called Blowing Rock which Stephanie is standing beside with her hair blowing. The Chickasaw Indian legend is that a lover jumped off this rock to commit suicide, but the strong updraft created in the natural venturi blew him back up to the rock and into his Indian maiden's arms.
This is view off the porch of another estate on the Parkway, albeit a much smaller one. The next picture shows a man smoothing the oak strip he just split to weave into baskets. The baskets he makes are extremely well done, but can cost more than $300 each. It's been tempting, but we've not become collectors yet.
The Mabry Mill along the Parkway was driven by the water aqueduct system shown on the right, which fed two small streams into the mill. The mill would not only use water power to grind corn into meal, but was also used to saw lumber and provide power for a mechanized wood working shop. Pretty cool for the turn of the 19th century.
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After finishing the Blue Ridge Parkway we visited our friends, Julie and Charlie Stamm, who live in Free Union, VA, outside Charlottesville. Steffi enjoys petting a horse at one of their neighbors. Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, is in Charlottesville and here Denny and Stephanie examine some beautiful "pincushion" flowers in the front yard of the home. The next pictures show TJ's little shelter house and the view of the vegetable garden he would have enjoyed sitting there. The garden has been reconstructed as they think it would have looked in the 1820s, including some ornamental beans whose flowers looked like orchids. A picture from the Stamm's house overlooking Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Here is the Stamm's house party, including the Swartz family, Charlie's daughter, her husband and children, who were also visiting. A good time was had by all. Steffi always enjoys other kids to play with; she and Roger were buddies.
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This view looks east toward Free Union, VA and the Stamms' neighborhood from Loft Mountain on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. We hiked here and briefly joined up with the Appalachian Trail (the Appalachian Trial, the AT, goes all the way from Georgia to Maine!) This AT trail marker shows the trail where we hiked.
We left the Shenandoah National Park and traveled west a few miles to visit Luray Caverns in Luray, VA. Admittedly, this was a 'tourist trap,' but a VERY nice one. The above photographs (our digital camera does a terrible job in dark places) show a bit of these very large limestone caves. Click on the first picture to see what appears to be a large cavern. Actually, it is a very clear lake reflecting the ceiling and stalactites above. It is one of the coolest things we have seen and very magical. The column gives a sense of how big the caves are. And, in the 1950s, someone figured out how to make an organ out of the stalactites in one room of the cave. They hooked solenoids with a striker to various columns to produce up to 37 different notes using what looks like a regular large organ keyboard. These small sounds are picked up by a microphone, combined and amplified back into the room using speakers. Very delicate chime-like sounds and very cool. Finally, they had a very nice collection of very old cars. Here, Stephanie studies a 1914 Locomobile which shows a a windshield for the driver which looks like a monocle!
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We moved on to Harper's Ferry, WV. This town has lots of historical significance as John Brown's insurrection there fanned the flame of controversy which resulted in the Civil War. At the time, it was a very key place because of it's location at the confluence of two rivers, shown in the first picture, with the Shenandoah River on the right flowing into the Potomac River on the left and then on to Washington, DC, roughly 50 miles to the east. The name comes from a Mr. Harper, who owned a ferry business on both rivers before bridges and the railroads were built. The town itself, shown next, has been preserved as a National Historical Park and looks somewhat like it did in the mid 19th century. This was the location of a US Armory, where rifles were made and stored. John Brown, who hated slavery, came here with a band of men and took over the Union arsenal, planning to use all the rifles to start an uprising of the slaves. He was caught and hanged, but his actions in 1859 polarized the views of people in the South and the North and started the actions which eventually led to war. There were several battles around here during the Civil War. Floods hit here frequently and the town was heavily damaged last in about 1936.
A trip to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Southern Pennsylvania gave us a real perspective on the turning point of the Civil War. Without taking you through all the history, this park is really a fabulous place to memorialize all the soldiers who died here-- over 50,000!! There are memorials from all the states who had soldiers here, both South and North and you can take numerous tours of the battlefield to understand the actions on the the three days of the battle July 1, 2 and 3rd, 1863. The narrow victory by the North here marked the beginning of the eventual defeat of the South.
The first picture shows the North Carolina Memorial, one of the more artistic ones. Stephanie stands on Little Round Top, a small hill which turned out to be key in the battle. Union General Warren, whose statue is shown behind Stephanie, discovered that the hill was not being defended as had been ordered by General Meade. He quickly gathered some troops and brought them here and defended wave after wave of Southern Soldiers trying to claim the hill. Had they not done so, the South could have placed cannon on the top of the hill and forced the North to vacate their positions down the valley. If they had done that, the South might have won the battle. Finally, a cannon is shown aimed at the valley where Southern General Lee made a last ditch effort to win. The battle, known as Pickett's Charge (named for the Confederate General who led the troops), had 12,000 men crossing all the way across the fields from the cannon to the trees on the ridge in the distance. The fighting was fierce, with 6,000 of the 12,000 Southern Soldiers dying in the process.
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After Denny left for Denver, Jennifer and Stephanie took off for Pennsylvania, spending a couple days in Lancaster. This county is known for its high concentration of Amish and Mennonite people who live a simple life using farming and crafts methods of the 19th century. The first picture is of the demonstration Amish Farm where several of the children are selling handmade bookmarks and oven fresh cookies. This tour gave us a solid grounding in the culture and customs, and led us to appreciate the community which mixes old and new so well. The buggy shown is typical transportation for the Amish, and is generally pulled by a beautiful thoroughbred (usually a retired racehorse) along the wide shoulder of the road. Occasionally the modern and old style modes of transportation don't mix, however, as shown by the overturned buggy in the middle of downtown Intercourse, PA. We had seen the horse racing wildly down the highway with an "English" car in cautious pursuit a few seconds before encountering the wreck. The town alarm was sounded and people were running to help from every quarter. At right is a scene from our afternoon break reading by the Mill Stream. This is a gentle and charming place.
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We headed next to Easton, PA and the Crayola Factory where we learned all about how crayons and markers are made. The sign at the right cut off the left-most digit, and represents the 113 BILLION crayolas made. At a little over 2 million a day, it goes up pretty fast!
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We headed on to Scotrun in the Pocono Mountains for a little R&R and found Steph a horse to ride in the mountains. Steffi's Smoke was more cooperative than Jennifer's Moose!
We also visited Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and hiked in to see several of the Bushkill Falls. Though the water is low, Bridesmaid's Falls was lovely and provided a humorous encounter with humanity. As we were watching the lovely girl in her bikini be photographed by a very fat photographer, two tiny kids wandered into the photo shoot, oblivious to the gaping tourists. The dad took his cue to wade in to move the kids to the side, and the uncle (in the blue shirt) couldn't keep his eyes off the model. What a sideshow! The bottom shows the larger Bridal Veil Falls which was quite lovely. The last picture is titled "Because It's There."
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On Sunday we headed to Newburgh, NY to give us access to NYC for one more attempt at a United Nations tour on Monday morning. Thankfully Jennifer checked the web Sunday night to find that it was AGAIN closing to visitors for two weeks for a worldwide religious conference and then the opening of the fall session...starting at 1PM Monday! We hustled in on the train and made it for one of the last tours before closing. The first picture above is of the statue of St. Agnes of Hiroshima showing the melted stone resulting from the atomic blast. The front was protected when the statue was knocked down on its face. The Security Council Chamber looks like a stage set and is quite striking. Our guide, Lina, from Croatia, is pointing out the changes in colonial territories since 1945. We were delayed in leaving the UN and found ourselves in the midst of the religious conference with literally hundreds of colorful and rarely seen costumes worn by the various clerics from around the world. These children are dancing and singing greetings for the attendees as they entered the UN Plaza. Across the street was an equally colorful group protesting the Dalai Lama's exclusion from the conference. Security was very tight.
Stephanie is showing you her birthstone ruby earrings. Quite sparkly, don't you think?
Our plan for Boston had several interruptions, and we missed having a proper tour, but we moved on in an attempt to beat the snow in the Rockies. We'll just have to come back.
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After picking Denny up in Boston, we had a little time left for more history, this time at the Lexington and Concord National Historical Park. The Minuteman statue shows him with his plow, symbolizing how the farmers all came from the fields as soon as they heard the British were on the march. The battles of April 19, 1775 were the beginning of the Revolutionary War and are known as "The Shot Heard Round the World." Another piece of trivia: Paul Revere never finished his ride and was arrested en route. Dr. Prescott was the only one of the three riders who actually made it to Concord to warn the village that the British were coming!
We next visited Lowell National Historical Site where the Park Service manages a system of canals which provided transportation and hydraulic power to run one of the most successful examples of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, as labor became short and technology changed, the textile mills closed and 30 years ago it was virtually derelict. Now, thanks to cooperation among the many community interests, Lowell is coming back. The canal is open for ranger-led tours and provides power for several co-generation plants run by new industries. At left we're shown approaching a lock and flood control barrier. As with several of the mills, the towers of the Boote Mill are refurbished now and house a variety of private organizations. The museum inside has 90 of the period textile looms running using the canal's water power and once again produces cloth. Only 13 of the looms were actually weaving, but even then the noise was so loud earplugs are encouraged. The model on the right shows the full "integrated manufacturing" process Lowell introduced from blocking, carding and spinning, through looming finished cloth. The "mill girls" who worked here lived next door in the dorms.
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Continuing on to visit our friends Martha and Ron Brestel in Hampton, NH, we returned to the ocean for the first time since Florida. Stephanie is shown at the diving controls for the research submarine Albacore which was opened as a museum when it was decommissioned. The tail shows the twin screws and the moveable control surfaces. Ron and Denny think it should be machined a little more so it would have fit and finish like an airplane!
Portsmouth, NH is a shipbuilding city with a large harbor. Jennifer and Martha are watching a huge fuel oil freighter leave the harbor. The sculpture on the right captures the harbor light and tugboat as it returns to port.
While Denny and Ron went flying over George Bush's Kennebunkport house in Ron's plane, Martha, Steffi and Jennifer spent some time on Cape Ann, the rocky peninsula north of Boston, and one of Jennifer's favorite places in the world. Stephanie enjoyed the granite quarry and rock hopping over the huge rock beach at Halibut Point State Park as did the surf fisherman on the right. We were also privileged to see the newly placed Gloucester Fishermen's Memorial listing all of the more than 5300 men who have died at sea. While 1991's "A Perfect Storm" is a tragic tale, as many as 15 schooners went down in some storms in the 1890s, killing hundreds. For a small fishing town, the effect must have been devastating.
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The next few weeks of our travels will take us through Maine and southern Canada from the Maritime Provinces to the Rockies. We hope you'll check us again in October. Until then, your email is always a treat.