Friday, September 26, 2014

Gettysburg and East Coast

The robins have all flown south.  The brightly colored male hummingbirds are gone.  The little female “her-mers” are fighting and scrapping over the feeders – they need to store up energy for their long flight.  H got the itch to be gone too!  We’ve been home barely a month and he is restless already! 

Last year at this same time we loaded up the 2006 Chrysler Town & Country and headed west to the Pacific Ocean – following Route 66.   This year he chose the opposite direction and we headed for Gettysburg, Pa first and then on to the Atlantic coast. The weather was PERFECT!  Blue skies, mild temps and all the kids were back in school!

The fairly new Visitors Center and Museum at the Gettysburg National Military Park and Battlefield is now a large round red barn type structure.  After watching a film, our group moved upstairs to the newly renovated Cyclorama, which is an awesome sound and light show of the amazing 377 ft painting depicting Pickett’s Charge.  It was originally painted in 1884!  The circular room, along with the lights and sounds made this historic 3-day battle come alive!  From there we drove the marked roads thru the now peaceful rolling countryside and imagined the battle that took more men’s lives than in any other battle on American soil – before or since. The Union Army casualties were 23,000 and the Confederate Army – 28,000.  We climbed a tall lookout tower and gazed over the fields that look much as they did in 1863.  At Little Round Top, we found the statue of Brig Gen G K Warren, still on his watch against the opposing southern army. From there we visited the Pennsylvania Memorial built to honor the over 34,000 men who fought in that battle.

From there our route took us thru Dover Delaware and out to the first city in Delaware - Lewes.  It is also the southern port for the ferry that runs from there to the picturesque Cape May, NJ!  We visited the historic WWII training grounds in the Cape Henlopen State Park before moving on down the barrier island to Ocean City Maryland for the night.

When I was a child, one of my favorite authors was Margarite Henry who wrote a lot of horse stories.  One series was about the Spanish ponies that were shipwrecked and survived on Assateague Island.  That island is now the Assateague Island National Seashore  - and the ponies are still surviving, still wild and still live on the island.  Our last trip thru this area was a long time ago on a 750 Yamaha – PRE big red bike!!  This time H slowed down long enough for a side trip so I could finally see “the ponies”!  On the Maryland side they are allowed to still run free.  Hence, horse poop everywhere - on the roads, in the campgrounds – EVERYWHERE!  To reach the herd on the Virginia side, you must go out, around and back across the island of Chincoteague before reaching the National Park once more.  On this section, the herd is semi-contained in vast fields and forests.  Their admiring audience can see them but not get too close.  Each summer this herd is still rounded up and swam across the channel at low tide – just like in Margarite’s books!  Some of the ponies are sold to keep the herd’s number manageable.   After a festival – the remaining ponies are swum back to their island home.

The 20-mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnels are an engineering wonder.  They connect the long thin finger of land that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Chesapeake Bay, to the mainland of Virginia where Norfolk and Virginia Beach meet.  These 2 ribbons of pavement seem to just hover over the expanse of salt water and then, to accommodate the Naval vessels and other ocean freighters stacked high with cargo, the ribbons seemingly disappear under the water.  The two deep tunnels on this route are a mile long each.  At the southern end of the one tunnel is a turn out area complete with a restaurant and a fishing pier that was populated with a dozen or so fishermen.   One fella had just caught what seemed must be a rather hefty fish and we were all anxious to view his catch.  After a lengthy, back and forth struggle his catch was hoisted - a 3 foot Stingray!!  Another fella had to stand on the barbed tail while he struggled to retrieve his hook and line from the rays bottom side!   Our lay over for the night was Virginia Beach where we did find time to unfold our little bikes and ride the 4-mile boardwalk from end to end!  Each pedestrian crosswalk was graced with it’s own nautical theme – a school of large blue striped fish, seagulls or a very impressive statue of King Neptune.  The electrician that was working there just below the railing was from Grand Rapids Michigan.  Our very lovely motel was on the southern, more peaceful, end of the boardwalk and used to be a Hilton. Our room was on the 5th floor, third from the center on the south curve of the building.  All the rooms faced the swimming pool and vast blue ocean on the other side of the boardwalk. H had “Happy Hour” on the balcony!  We woke to the sunshine peaking around our curtains!

With the van now pointed NW across the state, I knew our trip was winding down. We did stop and investigate the ruins of Jamestown – the very first settled colony in the whole country. Our always favorite Shenandoah National Park and the curving, up and down two lane road they call Skyline Drive which is woven across the tops of the mountain range from south to north led us closer to home.  From there it was just a matter of 150 miles across West Virginia on Rt 50 before we would enter Ohio across from Parkersburg.  The rest is history – road construction, traffic, and more road construction.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Michigan Upper Peninsula

Out of sight – out of mind?    It’s true!   No wifi and being on the go all the time means you write the blog when you get home.  Well . . .  we all know, once home there is laundry, yard work and all that other catching up to do.  Now we’ve gone again and are back and I still have to tell you about the rest of our Yooper trip!    I’ll get right to it!

From Indian Lake State Park, our little caravan headed northeast across the Upper Peninsula to Tahquamenon State Park and the tea colored Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls.  Remember our school days when we read about Longfellow’s story of Hiawatha building his canoe on the Tahquamenon River?  The Upper Falls is the 3rd biggest fall east of the Mississippi and is 200 feet wide with a drop of almost 50 feet.  Five miles downstream is the Lower Falls which is a series of falls that cascade around an island that can be reached by rowboat or by swimming/wading across just a bit upstream by either brave, stupid or adventurous souls!  The river bottom is slippery rock and the currant is swift and strong!   The campground is located just around the bend from the lower falls and is extremely popular in the summertime with campers with families and their pets. Our site should not have been assigned to anything bigger than a pop up camper but H managed to get us wiggled in and situated.  And with the assistance of an extension cord we reached the electrical post that was being shared by 3 camping units!  The campground was crowded and the evening air quickly filled with smoke from all the green firewood that was being sold by the local pickup truck that slowly crawled thru the park each day!  Mosquito control?

Further east is Sault Saint Marie, Michigan and her famous Soo Locks. Across to the north of the 4 locks is the industrial town of Sault Saint Marie, Ontario!  To the west of the locks is Lake Superior, to the right, past all the islands that dot the way, is Lake Huron.  The campground stretched along a curve in the waterway about a mile east of the locks.  You could “feel” the gigantic freighter approaching before you could see it.  When you did see it – it was close enough to read her name and what country she was from.  I had such fun hollering for Carol to come see, whenever one was coming by!  Once we even jumped in the truck and chased to town and ran (?) quickly to the 2 level viewing platform to watch her approach the westbound lock!   She had to moor for awhile, tho, because 3 other freighters were either in the lock or next in line. We watched as the water in the locks slowly filled or emptied and each 500-foot long vessel entered and then slowly moved on, once the level was adjusted and the powerful gates opened once more.  On a visit to a park just past the campground, H tried his luck at casting a line in the water and promptly snagged it on a hidden rock!  Oh well.   It was worth the trip anyway because we got to watch a westbound freighter approach and cause a small fishing boat to bob and bounce as the behemoth vessel pushed the massive wake away from her bow.

Oh - if you need a good restaurant while in town – try the grill RIGHT across from the locks - Good Pasties and good breakfast!

60 miles to the south is Saint Ignace and we parked there at the state park once again before crossing the Mighty Mackinaw Bridge to the lower peninsula of Michigan and once more became Trolls.  Remember?  Yoopers ( U P’ers ) live north of the bridge – Trolls live “under” the bridge!!

 Our next stop before heading home was the Pet-o-sega Campground just east of Petosky. This beautiful, county campground is nestled on the southern shore of Pickerel Lake on the western end of the Inland Waterway that we’ve written about in the past.  I hope future trips north will include this pretty spot!   A return visit to Legg’s Inn in Cross City was a MUST!  This time the weather was warm and the bright beautiful flowers on this high cliff overlooking Lake Michigan made the visit complete!  Friends, Mel & Donna even came over for a visit one afternoon and to enjoy some burgers on the grill with us!

A lovely, fun trip!  Some new sights and some good ones revisited! 

August is now over.  Labor Day is past.  The garden is done.  The maple tree in the side yard is turning red.  All the kids are back in school!  Time for another trip!    I’ll post that soon!   I promise!   I won’t forget!