Thursday, May 31, 2012

LeClaire, Iowa

Last year we were passing through this area and tried unsuccessfully to tour the Buffalo Bill Museum – we could never catch it when it was open. This year we did succeed – if that is what you want to call it.
LeClaire, IA was the boyhood home of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (1846-1917). I think that the whole Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Wild West Show and that time period in American history is pretty interesting so was looking forward to the museum. Well – it was pretty much a bust. The museum is actually okay but had very little to do with Buffalo Bill and much more to do with LeClaire in general. They didn't even have any really cool Buffalo Bill memorabilia. However, I guess that if it was called the LeClaire City Museum that they would not get too many visitors.

Somewhat more interesting and only a couple of blocks from the museum is Antique Archeology, an antique store operated by Mike Wolf and Frank Fritz. For those of you who may not be familiar with it - Mike and Frank are the stars of “American Pickers” on the History Channel. Unfortunately while we were at the store they were not in residence and neither was Danielle the tattooed biker rocker chick who runs the store while Mike and Frank are on the road doing picks. I think that since they opened an additional store in Nashville last year that they do not spend very much time in Iowa (would you?).

                                                      Monte owned a '51 Hudson
                                                     (now they are both antiques!)

Just across the street from Antique Archeology is 4 Miles 2 Memphis a store that Danielle opened this past December. The store mostly features vintage clothes and original clothes designs by Danielle.

It was real and it was fun but it wasn't real fun.

Memorial Day Weekend 2012

Memorial Day weekend was spent in Hale, Missouri at the farm of our friends Sherman and Linda Harkins. Sherman and Monte were stationed together on the submarine USS Jallao back in the mid 1960's (OMG are they ever OLD)! Anyway – Monte and Sherman had lost track of each other and reconnected at a Jallao reunion several years ago and have stayed in touch since.
                                                                USS JALLAO

Sherman and Linda were kind enough to share their family with us and although I forgot to take pictures we had a great cookout where their son Shane did most of the cooking of the meats - after he caught the fish, cleaned the fish, shot the deer and cleaned the deer (actually the deer thing was done a few months ago) Linda, daughter Cindy and daughter-in-law Becky made the sides, and Monte andI did what we are best at – eating.

                                                           Linda, Monte, Sherman


I did manage to take pictures of Chief, Casey and Becky's puppy Sadie. 

Thanks to the Harkins' family for all the hospitality and we hope that someday you will come visit us and we can return the favor.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Springfield, Illinois - Land of Lincoln

Springfield is the capitol of Illinois and is an Abraham Lincoln centric city. Everything is Lincoln this and Lincoln that and Lincoln the other thing. Springfield was home to Abraham Lincoln for the 24 years preceding his ascendency to the Office of President of the United States. At the time of Lincoln's inauguration, 7 states had already seceded from the union and would soon be followed by 4 more.

That so much of Lincoln's life was lived in Springfield is what brought us to this town.

Located in Springfield are the Lincoln Home, the Lincoln Tomb, the Lincoln Depot, the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and a bunch of other Lincoln sites. We visited the library – pretty ho-hum, the Museum – outstanding, the Lincoln Home – interesting, and the Lincoln Tomb – amazing.

The Presidential Museum contains life-size dioramas of Lincoln's boyhood home, areas of the White House, the presidential box at Ford's Theater, and an immersive scene of Lincoln lying in state at the old state capitol.

The Lincoln Home preserves the home and a 4 block surrounding historic district where Lincoln and his family lived from 1844-1861. The house, purchased by Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, is the only home that Lincoln ever owned. The home contains twelve rooms spread over two floors. Robert Lincoln, of the 4 Lincoln sons the only one to survive to adulthood, gave the home to the state of Illinois in 1887 under the condition that it would forever be well maintained and open to the public at no charge.

Lincoln's Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery is the final resting place for Lincoln, his wife Mary and 3 of their 4 sons. The Tomb is a walk through museum of sorts. It contains a rotunda a burial room and and connecting corridors. There are bronze statues of Lincoln depicting him through the years, 36 bronze panels, one for each state at the time of his death, and the burial room has a gold leaf ceiling. It is truly a fitting tribute to an amazing man.

We have had several presidents that were “the right man, for the right job, at the right time” but none more so than Abraham Lincoln who led our country from disunion and civil war to the beginning of reconstruction and being One Nation Under God once again.

Springfield's other claim to fame is being the city where the Corn Dog, under the name of “Cozy Dog” was invented. Seriously, what would a county fair be today without corn dogs?

                                                             Wants a Corn Dog!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Lost Week

I have not been blogging because – there hasn't been much to blog about - at least not the kind of stuff I usually write about. We left Monte's Mom's house on Wednesday, May 16. Our destination was Somerset, PA which was to be our home base for 2 days while we toured Johnstown, PA to learn more about the great flood of 1899 and the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Last year we planned on doing these 2 things but the weather was so terrible that we decided to delay it for a year.

About 50 miles from the campground we stopped to fuel the RV and upon leaving Monte had to try twice to start the motorhome. We just wrote it off to him not turning the key far enough or something like that. We get to the campground and after I checked us in it was time to drive up a steep curvy road to our assigned site – except for the RV would not start. After 4 or 5 tries – the engine turned over and started. On up the hill. We get to the top of the hill, turn off the engine so we can unhook the car and figure out exactly where we are supposed to park. Back in the RV – no start. Why the hell did we turn it off?? Nothing, engine does not turn over – not even a click. The only thing racing at this point was my heart and I probably could have blown up a blood pressure cuff. At least the last motorhome lasted 7 months before it quit on us – this one is only 2 months old!!

While I am on the phone with Ford Motorhome Assistance, Monte jiggles a bunch of stuff under the hood and it starts again. We get the rig turned around where if we have to be towed a tow truck can get to us however, the road up was so steep and winding that I was already having mental images of another RV with a wrecked front end with damage done by a tow truck – I think I'm going to be sick. Ford Motorhome Assistance was not very helpful. After about 30 minutes they called me back and said they finally located a Ford dealer who would look at the RV. So I call them and am told that we can bring the RV there, 70 miles away, but they don't set appointments for motorhomes and they could not tell me how many days we might have to wait just to get a first look. (Can you say Deja Vu?)

Our next stop after Somerset was to be in Decatur, Indiana at the Fleetwood plant where we had an appointment to have a few minor items fixed in the house part of the RV the following Tuesday, May 22. Since that was the plan I called Fleetwood, explained the situation, and they made an appointment for us at the Ford dealer in Decatur. Once again we had to fore-go Johnstown and Shanksville and the next morning with fingers crossed we turned the key and the rig started and it did not get turned off until we arrived in Decatur. Of course it has started every time since and the service department at the dealer could find nothing wrong with it. Now we were faced with a minimum of 5 days in glorious Decatur Indiana. Talk about a town with nothing to do! We drove through a lot of farm land, miles and miles and miles of it, we drove 85 miles south to Anderson one day to support the local economy by throwing away a few $$ at Hoosier Park Casino, and one morning we spent on a tour of the Fleetwood manufacturing plant – no photos allowed. If you are ever in Decatur (I pity you if you are) we highly recommend this tour. Probably the best most thorough plant tour we have ever been on – and we have been on many.

Our only other interesting activity was spending a couple of hours in the local hospital ER while Monte got checked out for shortness of breath. We were concerned that he might be having a recurrence of embolisms in his lungs. Thankfully everything checked out okay and he had a breathing treatment and they let him go. As far as emergency room visits go – this one was really good. Doctor, nurses, everyone was top-notch and very caring.

Fleetwood got all of our repairs, except one, done in a timely and professional manner - they actually took our RV in a day early to start work.  The one repair that did not get done was due to waiting on a part and they will ship the part to us so that we can get the repair done at a later date.

All in all we spent 7 days in Decatur – only about 6 days too long.

Time to head on to greener tourist pastures.

Considering that we have not been doing anything – this is certainly a long winded blog.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Scenes From Southeast Pennsylvania

The area of Pennsylvania that Monte's family lives in is very picturesque.  Rolling hills, miles of farm lands, the Amish people out and about in their buggies and on scooters.  Here are just a few pictures that we snapped along the way.

Conowingo Dam

The Conowingo Dam and Hydroelectric Plant spans the Susquehanna River in Maryland, 5 miles south of Pennsylvania and 10 miles north of where the river empties in to the Chesapeake Bay. The dam is one of the larges non-federal hydroelectric dams in the U.S. The dam is named for the town of Conowingo which had to be relocated as the original Conowingo is now under the waters of the reservoir created by the dam.

When completed in 1928 it was the second largest hydroelectric project by power output in the U.S., second only to Niagara Falls.

The dam also has 53 flood control gates operated by three overhead cranes which can be seen in the pictures. There has been a great deal of rain in the area as of late and I was hoping that at least a few of the gates would be open as I have been told it is pretty spectacular to see but alas – it was not to be.

This area is known for fishing, wildlife viewing in general and birding specifically especially during the winter months when over 100 of each bald eagles and great blue herons have been observed in the area. We saw one immature bald eagle and one great blue heron – both on the wing so no pictures - I'm not quick enough.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA is one of those places that we drive by frequently but never seem to have the time to go in and explore. This trip to PA we decided to make the the time. 

The Museum houses “one of the most significant collections of historic railroad artifacts in the world” (I have no idea if that is true or not). The Museum displays over 100 locomotives and cars from the mid-19th and 20th centuries. It has over 100,000 sq ft of indoor exhibits and an outdoor yard where locomotives and cars await restoration.

Honestly, this was not among my favorite museums. I guess that if you were a serious train buff you would love it. I did not like that you could not tour through the locomotives and cars – only a couple were open to walk through. And, truth be told, in this day of interactivity in museums this one is sadly lacking. I guess I just did not find it very entertaining.

The highlight of the Museum for me was walking in to the Museum Store and the first thing I saw, prominently displayed, was Rival Rails, written by Walter Borneman, the best friend and mountain climbing partner of my cousin Omar Richardson. A few years ago we spent Independence Day with a group of family and friends in Colorado and Walter was there and besides Walter being there in person we also got to see him on TV as it just so happened that CSPAN Book TV was showing an interview that Walter had done about his book on President Polk.