October, 2017 – Moorehead, Kentucky

Our trip southwest from Ohio into Kentucky was mostly along I-64, so the drive was quite pleasant, even though it was still very wet from all the rain the week before.  From the Forest Service Campground in Ohio, I had planned to stay at another Forest Service Campground in Boone National Forest named Zilpo campground near Moorehead, Kentucky.  It was too late in the season to make a reservation at Zilpo, so we were fairly certain we would be able to get a campsite for the week since we would be arriving on Monday.  However, when the GPS suddenly warned us there was 8 miles of dirt road on our route once we left the interstate and the roads back into the campground on a peninsula of a large lake, I began to get worried.  What with the recent rains, I was not comfortable with trusting the RV on 8 miles of dirt roads deep in the woods with likely no place to get turned around if we got into trouble.  Since we did not have reservations anyway, we decided to look for other options.  We passed a sign for an RV park called Outpost Campground along US 60 and decided to pull around in an abandoned gas station to check it out.  Although it looked old with a lot of old seasonal RVs that had better days, we figured we had stayed in worse places.  Thankfully, they eventually determined there was a pull-through site we could use for the week and thankfully it was not in the swampy area of the campground.  It turned out to be a large pull-through site with full hookups (50 amps) that had been used previously by a long term camper.  Still it was easy enough to get into once Kal decided the truck could pull the RV through the mud as it cut the turn onto the gravel on the site.  The only drawback was the placement of the water hookup, which was on the wrong side of the RV.  We were sharing the hookup with the seasonal camper next to us and there was already a long hose attached to our hookup, which had to run under the camper.  The only problem was that the hookup was too close to the side of our RV and initially the slide out on that side ran into it before it was fully extended.  This is the first time this had ever happened on that side of the RV.  So we had to hook up the truck again and push the RV back until it cleared.  We would just have to be careful when we exited the RV no to run into the post, especially at night.  The other drawback was they had placed us as far away from the office as possible, which meant the walk to the bathroom was further then normal.  Like the rest of the campground, the bathrooms were old, but reasonably clean and we have certainly stayed at worst.  It was also amusing to look at the extensive decorations they were constructing for Halloween.  Around the back of the restrooms and up the backside they had created a series of “scary” scenes with numerous mannequins in all kinds of state of gore with appropriate painted backdrops and artifacts.  It was going to be a great show for this RV park out in the country.  I don’t know what else they had planned for Halloween, but it was obvious they took it VERY seriously.

We really did not have anything planned to do in the area, so we spent the next couple of days in the campground.  With good TV reception and a good free Wi-Fi connection, we were well entertained.  However, by Thursday I just had to get out so I convinced Kal to travel close to Lexington to Fort Boonesborough State Park.  As the name implies, this was the original fort established by Daniel Boone when he opened up Kentucky to settlers in 1775 by establishing the Wilderness Trail through the Cumberland Gap.  This fort was built for two purposes.  First, it was the initial home for new settlers as they located suitable land, built their own homes, cleared the fields, and planted their first crop.  Consequently, the Fort was essentially a series of small one-room homes set out in a rectangle with wooden stockades between the homes and blockhouses at each corner.  They have reconstructed the fort from old drawings and it is very strange looking.  Most of the walls are the back walls of the homes with horizontally placed logs.  Between the homes are vertical logs forming the palisade.  Inside the fort is also strange as you don’t find normal structures for a community, such as a store, church, or storehouses.  Instead all you see are a blacksmith shop and gunpowder magazine in the center of the fort and small homes around the outside.  Other structures would be built outside the fort as the second purpose of the fort was for defense against the Indians when needed.  For the next couple of years, Daniel Boone was in command of the fort with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in the east.  For the most part, the Revolutionary War had very little impact on the settlers except for the fact the British were supplying weapons and supplies to the Native Americans to raid the Kentucky settlements.  Most of these raids consisted of destroying crops with the hope of starving out the settlers.  Consequently, food was getting scarce during the winter of 1777-1778.  In January, Boone led a party of 30 men to the salt springs on the Lick River to obtain much needed salt to preserve what they had left.  Boone and the entire party was captured by Chief Blackfish of the Shawnee Indians.  While most of the men were sent on to Fort Detroit for the British bounty, Boone and a few others were adopted into the tribe, which was a common practice to replace fallen warriors.  Supposedly, Boone was well treated and spent the rest of the winter with the tribe in Ohio at their camp at Chiilicothe.  However, in June when Boone learned of their plans to attack Fort Boonesborough he escaped and went to warn them.  Since he had surrendered his men to the Indians and was subsequently adopted by them, the general belief was that he had changed loyalties and now supported the British.  Consequently, his wife and family had been forced to move back to North Carolina and he was no longer in command of the fort.  So when Blackfish finally showed up with a sizable force of Indians in September, the fort was ready for them.  After a failed attempt at negotiations with the Indians the fort was under siege for the next 8 days.  The attacking Indians had no cannon to destroy the fort, so they attempted to burn it down with torches.  However, they were easy targets for the defending men in the fort and heavy fall rains hampered their efforts.  Although Boone was found innocent of charges of treason for his time with the Indians, he left to get his family from North Carolina and established a new settlement away from the fort known as Boone Station.

Although I was disappointed that the reconstructed fort is only close to the original location, which is still a matter of debate about its exact location, they have done a wonderful job in the reconstruction.  While some of the homes are on display as they would have been used at the time, most of them are now working places for local artisans.  We were surprised to find many of these artisans to be working during the week in mid-October, until we realized it is a popular place for school field trips.  Once the grade school classes left after noon, we had the run of the place pretty much to ourselves.  We really enjoyed spending time with the various artisans that included a weaver, a soap maker, a candle make, a leather worker, and a gunsmith.  Or at least Kal really enjoyed this, as I ended up spending most of my time in their museum in one of the blockhouses.  They had quite a few exhibits and a lot to read about the history of the fort beginning with the reasons why opening up Kentucky to settlement was so important to the early settlers.  Land was becoming scarce east of the Appalachians and much of the land had been overused for agriculture as well.  Instead of dividing up the land to the children, it was again becoming common to pass all the land to the oldest as it had been dome for centuries in Europe.  Thus there was a growing demand for new land to settle west of the Appalachians.  Land speculators such as the Transylvania Company that hired Daniel Boone to open the Wilderness Road were big business.

The rest of the week and the weekend were fairly boring as we spent time doing laundry, cleaning the camper, and playing on our devices with the free internet.  We did not even leave the campground to watch the Auburn football game, as the Auburn-LSU game was on CBS which we watched over the airways.  I should also mention that the weather stayed wet with two more cold fronts during the week that brought showers and temperatures at night into the 40s.  Hopefully, this weather will convince the trees that it is fall and we can see some serious fall colors over the next few weeks.

October, 2017 – Ironton, Ohio

Since the main reason to travel east to near the Ohio – West Virginia border was to get reasonably close to Maryland last week, this trip was primarily west and a little south to put us back on line with traveling south for the winter.  We literally followed the Ohio River, staying in Ohio, for a couple of hours to a USFS campground near Ironton, Ohio.  Now that we are getting back into the southeast, the number of federal campgrounds with the COE and USFS will increase and I have reservations for the next couple of months.  We can hopefully start saving some money every month again since the camping fees will be less than $20 a night instead of the $35-$40 we have been spending all summer.  This also means we will be further away from metropolitan centers and TV and phone reception will be more of an issue.  It also means we are more concerned with our GPS getting us into trouble pulling the RV.  Sometimes it is bad back roads and sometimes leading us to the wrong location.  So far, we have been able to get turned around when this happens.  Thankfully, the GPS led us directly to the campground, although it was a pull to get the RV up the winding road to the top of the hill above Lake Vesuvius to the campground.  Once we got there we passed the dump station and one loop of the campground without coming up to an entrance station.  We did know our site number, 25, and since we had no choice but to continue we drove into the main loop.  By this point the road, which at least was paved, was a single lane one-way road winding through the trees.  The turns were very tight and we had to be careful with some trees leaning over the road.  Once we got to the back of the loop the site numbers were still in the 20s and it was obvious our site was not on this loop.  I walked around to make sure and even checked the bulletin board at the rest room without finding a site map.  There were a couple of volunteers camping on this loop, but nobody was home.  There were not very many rigs in the campgrounds, but there was one with the couple at home.  They were not sure where site 25 was located and did not think the numbers went that high.  Thankfully, by this point, Kal had got our hot spot working and looked up the campgrounds finding a site map.  It turned out that site 25 was on the loop we had passed coming in, so we carefully made our way back down to that loop.  It turned out that if we had just checked this loop our first instead of trying to find an entrance station, we would have saved us a lot of grief, as site 25 was the first site on the right in the loop.  It was a very nice paved pull-through site overlooking the woods as the slope dropped off towards the lake.  We were able to get the RV quickly leveled and set up.  Although it did not have a sewer hoopkup, there was water and 50 amp electrical service.  While the main loop had a nice flush bathroom facility, this loop had nothing more than a pit toilet.  It would have been quite a walk to the other loop, so we just used the pit toilet all week.  When we pulled in there was only one other camper on the loop and they pulled on Tuesday morning.  For a couple of nights we had the loop completely to ourselves and the wildlife.  Kal was sure she heard some coyotes yipping at the moon one night!!  However, by the weekend the loop was packed and since Monday was Columbus day, it stayed that way until we pulled out.  While the hilltop improved the TV reception and we had all the major stations, the remote location made phone reception very spotty.  Consequently, our internet connection was also useless for much of the day.  I guess there has to be a price to pay for staying a week in such a beautiful location near the Ohio River.

Campsite

We really did not have any pressing reason for staying at this location in Ohio, so we spent most of the week just relaxing in the campground.  Wednesday was laundry day and since the RV had been cleaned before we went to see William, I decided it did not really need to be cleaned and went with Kal into Ironton to find a laundromat.  We found a nice one and spent a couple of hours doing the laundry and going to the store.  I convinced Kal to get a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant next to Kroger since it was the beginning of the month.  On Thursday, we went to check out the nearby Vesuvius Furnace which was an iron furnace from the 1800s.  All that remains today is the stone furnace, although it was a large enterprise at one time employing hundreds of workers before it closed down in 1906.  It was one of 69 iron furnaces in the area and was a major industry at the time.  From the furnace we explore the shores of Lake Vesuvius along an 8 mile loop trail around this long and narrow lake.  As it was along the lakeshore the trail was fairly level and an easy walk.  After about 1.5 miles, we turned around and returned to the truck after a very pleasant walk.

The only other thing we did, besides relaxing at the campsite was to head into a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings in Ironton.  Friday evening we caught the US Men’s Soccer team defeat Panama in a must win for World Cup qualification.  It was a great game with the US winning 4-0 in a convincing win that greatly improved our chances to qualify.  I should also mention that once they found out we were interested in the game, they put us in a booth that had its own TV!!  Although there was no sound, it was a great way to watch the game without anyone getting in the way of the picture!!  We liked it so much that we returned the next day at noon to watch the Auburn football game on our own private TV.   We only stayed through the first half, as Auburn was totally dominating Ole Miss in the game.  The weather forecast on Saturday was for rain late in the day and Sunday would be rain all day as the remnants of Hurricane Nate going right over us.  While they were correct about the rain, it was much less than they had predicted with Nate dropping between 1-2 inches of rain.  However, all day Sunday was heavy fog and light rain, which was the first time we had experienced a completely foggy day on our travels.  At times you could not even see across the road to the other campers who by then had filled the campground.  Thankfully, Nate moved faster than originally predicted, so by Monday morning we were able to hook up the RV without being rained on.

September, 2017 – Parkersburg, West Virginia and Hampsted, Maryland

We traveled east along US 50 from Chillicothe, Ohio to just west of Parkersburg, West Virginia to our next location at Carthage Gap Campgrounds.  We had reservations for two weeks instead of the normal single week for the singular purpose of dropping off the RV and traveling on to see our new grandson in Maryland.  In fact, the only reason we went this far east this year was to be within 5 hours of William’s house.  We spent Tuesday doing laundry, cleaning the RV, and packing for our trip.  We got an early start on Wednesday (9 am, which is early for me!) and drove 5 hours further east, mostly along Interstates.  The trip actually took just over 6 hours with rest stops and lunch along the way.  We pulled into William’s around 3 in the afternoon and spent that first evening just marveling at our new grandson.

Campsite

For those of you that do not know, this is our first grandchild and could be our only grandchild.  You can bet we plan to spoil this kid as much as we can over the next few years.  I am very proud of both William and Kristin who have gotten off to a great start.  In fact, William had taken maternity leave from the time of birth up until we arrived and planned on working only a few days while we were there.  I know how important this can be for a new father, as I was in graduate school when our first, Jenny, was born and got to spend as much time with her as Kal did.  They seem to be adjusting well to their new situation, although they were both tired from the lack of sleep.  We hope we were able to help out with this while we were there, at least during the day.  Instead of giving a daily log of what we did, I am going to depart from normal and just talk about our 9 days in general terms.  As expected, most of the time was centered around the new baby, who at 3 weeks was still mostly feeding, changing, and comforting both him and the new parents.  Kal jumped right into assisting with the changing and after a couple of times was once again an expert.  I, on the other hand, managed to steer clear, although I am proud to say that William probably changed him more than anyone else.  Since Kristin pretty much handled the feeding (breast feeding) this left my duties to comforting and support.  Since this is likely the best part I took advantage of most opportunities that came my way.  Both Kal and I are going to miss watching the little one grow up, especially his first year, but we intend to see them at least twice a year.  My wish is that they make a trip every summer to wherever we are in our travels at the very least.

I suppose I will mention what else we accomplished during this time, although it wasn’t much.  The day after we arrived their dishwasher sprung a leak and after determining is was over 15 years old, they decided to buy a new one.  So William and I installed a new dishwasher, which surprisingly had no unexpected issues except for a part to connect the water to the dishwasher which was not included with the dishwasher.  Since there was no way to know this until you opened up the box and read the installation instructions, it meant an additional trip to Lowe’s to find the part.  We also worked on his patio door which had settled and was not closing properly.  In addition, Kal mowed their lawn, which is not a chore for her as she LOVES to drive their small tractor, and I got out the weedeater to trim around the yard.  Once I figured out how to install more line it was not a problem to get it done before William returned from a half day at work.  Kal and I also helped out around the house, especially doing the dishes until the dishwasher was replaced.  I did take the truck in to be serviced, which cost over $1000 again because it was time to have the transmission flushed.  It is getting to the point that I dread taking the truck in for service as there always seems to be other needed maintenance that inflates the cost to over a grand!!  We also finalized our car tags with Alabama, which you are supposed to be able to do online.  We completed the process online last year, but for some reason their online system would not accept our insurance information for the RV.  I suspect this was once again because they believe all RVs have engines and so we did not have the minimum coverage for a vehicle on it.  We had Phil mail the registration card to William so we wrote out a check and mailed it to Alabama.  Even though their information did not show a fee for a mailing a check, Kal sent in $10 extra to cover the cost.  It turns out they could not accept the check as it was for the wrong amount.  In any case, they called us and Kal was able to put the entire amount on our credit card, which made them and us very happy.  Next year, we know what to do, simply send in a random amount on a check and they will call us.  There was certainly no indication on the card or their webpage that we could take care of it over the phone!!  We were even able to change the mailing address for the tags to my sister’s in Tennessee where we will be by the end of the month, which also could not have been done on their webpage.  Consequently, we will have legal tags by the time we get to Alabama, since they expired the end of September.  Of course, these activities did not take up all of our time.  We also found time to play a number of board games and even a couple games of spades, which is a family favorite.  It was a great 9 days and we could have wished it was longer, but we needed to clear out since Kristin’s parents, Doug and Lynn, were coming in on Sunday for their two week visit with their first grandchild.

On Saturday, we regretfully drove the 6 hours back to Ohio and our RV, which appeared to be none the worse for being abandoned for the better part of two weeks.  Sunday was spent relaxing in the campground as we once again got our head around the fact that we had to leave on Monday to go back to the west and continue our journey to the Gulf Coast.

September, 2017 – Chillicothe, Ohio

The trip to our new location in south central Ohio was just over an hour in length and went by very quickly as most of it was along US 35 which is a nice 4 lane highway.  Our new location was Sun Valley Campground, just a few miles west of Chillicothe, Ohio which was the first capital of Ohio.  The main reason for this location was it is a centrally located to the major Hopewell Indian sites.  Sun Valley Campground is a relatively small campground with only about 45 sites, of which only about a dozen are open for transient campers.  Since we arrived on a Monday we got to use one of their few pull-through sites with full hookups that was very easy to get in and out of.  Once we got the RV leveled we were quickly set up and settled in for the week.  With the number of seasonal campers I was surprised there was no playground in the campground or any other amenity for children such as a swimming pool.  We are just fine with this, however.  They also did not have a laundry room, so Kal had to go into town to a laundry, which again is not all that bad.  The bathrooms were nice, although for some reason they had a religious radio station playing from somewhere inside the walls, which made for a strange experience every morning when I went to do my business.  While the music was nice, being preached to while I am sitting on the toilet was strange.

Campsite

Since the weather forecast for most of the week was for rain, we headed out under cloudy and threatening conditions on Tuesday to explore the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.  As I said, this was the main reason for stopping here for the week and the Visitor Center was only a couple of miles from the campground.  However, once we got there we found out the Park actually consists of 5 units, 4 of which were 20-30 miles from the Visitor Center.  The Visitor Center was located at the Mound City Group which has the largest collection of mounds and two of the other sites were not open to public as they had active archeological research projects.  Since the other two sites were in opposite directions we had to choose one to explore as we would not have time to travel to both.  We first took advantage of the small museum in the Visitor Center and watch an excellent video about the Hopewell Culture.  The museum had an amazing collection of artifacts from effigies to pottery shards and trinkets, although most of those on display were actually reproductions.  Many of them were made from copper, which is from the Great Lakes, although there were also artifacts made from sea shells from the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.  Obviously the trading network was extensive over two thousand years ago.  We learned that Hopewell sites number in the thousands dotted all over this part of Ohio and extending into Kentucky.  However, agriculture had destroyed nearly all of these sites over the years and it wasn’t until aerial photographs, lidar, and ground penetrating radar have they been able to find so many of them.  They seem to fall into one of two groups.  The hilltop sites, such as Fort Ancient we saw last week, are mostly for ceremonial or trading purposes, whereas those in the valleys were burial sites.  The collection of 23 mounds in the Mound City Group are an early example of this practice.  The Hopewell Indians would cremate their dead and then place their remains within burial houses.  After a number of burials in the house, it would be dismantled or burned and earth piled on top, thus creating the mounds.  While these burial mounds are scattered all across the landscape, including mounds from the Adena Culture a thousand years earlier through the Fort Ancient Culture, a thousand years later, the Hopewell Culture also created huge areas enclosed by earthen walls.  Mound City Group has the largest collection of mounds and is probably the oldest site since the earthen walls form a rough square shape, where later sites would have very large geometric figures such as circles and squares covering a much larger area.  We enjoyed exploring the more impressive mounds within the walls and hiking the path outside the walls through the surrounding forest.  The interpretive signs along with the museum and video added a lot to our understanding of the prevailing theories about their culture and practices.

From the Mound City Group we headed south about 30 miles to the Seip Earthworks unit of the Historical Park.  The most striking feature of this site is the huge earthen mound in the approximate center of the site.   This mound is the third largest burial mound the Hopewell are known to have built: 240’ by 160’ by 30‘ high. It covered the floors, fire pits and burials of two very large connected buildings with a small building between them.  As impressive as this mound is, it covers a very small part of the entire site.  Except for a few sections of the walls that have survived near the old farmhouse, years of farming have destroyed the earthen walls.  With ground penetrating radar they have been able to locate the walls and found that this site is similar to other large Hopewell sites.  The earthen walls enclosed 120 acres in the shape of two immense circles and a perfect square that are all the same exact size of similar shapes at other Hopewell sites.  It was amazing to learn that the square would fit exactly within the larger circle and the diameter of the smaller circle was exactly the same as the radius of the larger circle.  The significance of these three shapes, which are repeated at other Hopewell sites, is unknown, especially since their relative location to each other is different for each site.  Sometimes the shapes overlap each other, such as this site where the square and large circle overlap.  Since they mowed a path to mark the location of the walls, we hiked around the exterior and got a good sense of its size.

The weather forecast for the next two days was for rain from the remnants of Irma that caused all the devastation in Florida over the weekend.  Unlike the massive rains, winds, and power outages that our daughter, Jenny, in Orlando had to endure we had just about 24 hours of dreary conditions.  By this point Irma was just a low pressure system still pulling moisture off the east coast and dropping light rain and mist on us for about a 24 hour period.  Of course, this messed up two days for us, but did allow us to get the laundry done, clean the RV, and make some more reservations.

We were ready to get out by Friday, so we headed out to explore some more Hopewell Culture sites that we learned about from the NPS workers at the Historical Park.  We headed back to the south beyond the Seip Earthworks to a Ohio State Park at Fort Hill.  Like Fort Ancient, this was another hilltop earthen wall that enclosed the top flat of the ridge.  The entire park is 1300 acres in size and has 11 miles of hiking trails.  It is Old Growth Forest Network in Ohio, although it was obvious all of this had been logged and was still not what I would consider an old growth forest, although there were some very large beech trees.  The oaks, hickories, and maples were not over 100 years old.  In any case the 2.2 mile loop trail was suppose to ascend the ridge and travel through the Fort Hill site before descending back down.  While the trail up to the ridge was not very steep, the constant uphill grade made it a slow climb for both of us.  Once we trail flattened out we began looking for signs of the earthen wall and not finding anything.  The trail continued circling around the ridge, although it was not quite on top of the ridge.   Once we circled around to the point I figured would begin descending back to the parking lot, we were both upset that they didn’t even bother with any interpretive signs to point out the earthen walls which were not obvious to either of us.  However, at this point the trail turned steeply uphill to the very top of the ridge and lo-and-behold there were the earthen walls.  The counter-clockwise direction we choose for the trail had traveled all around the site before making the final climb to the back entrance to the fort.  From here you could easily see the earthen wall on the left and at times the ridge was narrow enough to see both walls through the trees.  At times the ditch on the inside of the walls was also very impressive.  Once the trail exited the walls at the other end of the ridge it quickly descended through a couple of switchbacks to the parking lot.  Although it was upsetting to think we had walked a long distance just to see the fort, we were certainly glad we had choose this direction since the descent was much steeper!

After climbing back into the truck we traveled further south to the Serpent Mound.  I assumed this was going to be another burial mound with some kind of serpent shape from the Hopewell culture.  However, it turned out to be much more than that.  The Serpent Mound is the largest serpent effigy mound in the world and was even more impressive than the Mound City Group in the Historical Park.  “Including all three parts, the Serpent Mound extends about 1,376 feet (419 m), and varies in height from less than a foot to more than three feet (30–100 cm). Conforming to the curve of the land on which it rests, with its head approaching a cliff above a stream, the serpent winds back and forth for more than eight hundred feet and seven coils, and ends in a triple-coiled tail. The serpent head has an open mouth extending around the east end of a 120-foot (37 m)-long hollow oval feature that may represent the snake eating an egg, though some scholars posit that the oval feature symbolizes the sun, the body of a frog, or merely the remnant of a platform.”  This quote pretty much sums it up and the view from the top of the 1900 observation platform is stunning!!  This is literally a mound that is an obvious serpent with a trail and head that snakes across the ground.  They have had trouble dating the mound and deciding on who built it since it is not a burial mound.  The only carbon dating is from charcoal found in the mound and there is no way to tell whether it was incorporated at the time of the building or centuries before.  The older dates from the Adena period, of which there is a burial mound near the serpent, could have already been part of the earth when it was moved to build the serpent mound.  Also the earlier dates from the Fort Ancient period, of which there is also a burial mound near by, could have been from the village that they have found very near the mound.  There is simply no way to tell for sure when it was built.  The purpose of the mound is also not known outside of the obvious awe-inspiring nature of the mound.  I think there is strong evidence that it has an astronomical purpose, since by looking over the head across the “egg” and out over the sheer bluff down to the Brush Creek points directly at the sunrise of the Summer Solstice.  It also interesting to note that each and every one of the coils also point to astronomical events such as the fall and spring equinox and the rising and setting of the moon at both the maximum and minimum southern points.  It may take only an hour to fully explore the Serpent Mound, but in my opinion this was the highlight of the archeological sites we saw over the past two weeks.

Especially after the extremely busy last week, we were both ready to spend more time at the campground and I had a lot of work to do on this blog.  Therefore, we spent both Saturday and Sunday in the campground.

September, 2017 – Dayton, Ohio

The trip south from Toledo was a longer haul than average, nearly 3 hours, because I wanted to position us between Dayton and Cincinnati as there were National Historic Sites at both.  Thankfully, most of the trip was along I-75 so there were multiple rest areas along the way.  We have learned that when we are pulling the RV, it is very nice to stop every hour or so along the way and the Interstates make this easy.   When we got off of our exit on I-71 for the Olive Branch Campground, our GPS decided to play a trick on us.  It had us immediately turn back along the Interstate and then turn again into a residential street.  We should have known there was a problem as we saw no signs for a campground, but we followed the directions on the GPS.  Thankfully the cul-de-sac that this street turned into had a wide turn around at the end as there was certainly no campground down there!!  We got out the computer and found the address for the campground and tried it instead of the stored location in the GPS for the campground.  Thankfully, the location for the address was a bit different and we proceeded back to the exit from the Interstate.  We turned back on the highway and had to go no more than a 1000 yards to the entrance to the campground.  We were that close!!  We did inform the owners of the campground about their GPS location and found we were not the first to have this problem.  I dread the day when our GPS takes us to a location deep in the woods somewhere to a dead end with no way to turn the RV around.  The truck alone would be bad enough, but pulling the RV would be a nightmare.  They had a very nice pull-through site set aside for us and even treated us to an ice cream sandwich while we waited for the current occupants to move to another site.  We quickly got unhooked and set up for the week.

Campsite

As I hinted previously, we had a busy week planned with two National Historic Sites, so we got started right on Tuesday.  We drove to downtown Cincinnati to the boyhood home of President Taft.  Of the next 12 Presidents following the Civil War, 5 of them were from Ohio.  Our 27th President, William Howard Taft, was one of these serving as President from 1909-1913.  However, Taft was more noteworthy serving as both President and then later as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position he always aspired to.  Taft always considered himself more of a judge than a politician, which started early in his career in Cincinnati.  The William Howard Taft National Historical Historic Site is located at his boyhood home on Auburn Street in Cincinnati.  His father, Alfonso Taft, was a well respected lawyer in his own right even serving as Secretary of War and Attorney General for President Grant.  So William was born following in the footsteps of his father, even attending Yale Law School and becoming a member of the Skull and Bones secret society.  While serving as the judge for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, he approached President McKinley in 1990 for a seat on the Supreme Court.  However, the United States had acquired the Philippines as part of the Spanish-American War and McKinley asked Taft to be the Governor-General of the Philippines with a promise to nominate him for the Supreme Court at the next opening.  Taft turned out to be an excellent choice as he did a lot over the next 4 years as to lead them towards self government.  Twice he was offered a seat on the Supreme Court but turned them down because his work in the Philippines was not finished.  However, when President Theodore Roosevelt asked him to be his Secretary of War in 1904, he accepted and moved back to Washington D.C.  Theodore Roosevelt turned down the opportunity for a third term as President, naming Taft as his successor.  Taft easily won the Presidency, however, he did not fulfill Theodore’s hope that he would continue his Progressive policies.  Therefore, Theodore ran again for the Presidency in 1912 as a third party candidate for the Bull Moose Party.  This split the Republican vote and Woodrow Wilson was elected President.  Taft retired from the political scene returning to a professorship at Yale, but he remained active on the national scene.  In 1920, President Harding nominated Taft to the Supreme Court where he served with distinction until his retirement and death in 1930.  The most significant change he made was to free up the Supreme Court by changing the rules whereby it was the Supreme Court that decided which cases to hear instead of every appeal from the lower courts.

Their success in renovating his childhood home has been nothing short of miraculous.  It turns out that his grandfather, detailed all the changes they made to the home in detail in his journals.  He also cataloged all the furnishings down to recording the serial number and location of the mark of everything they owned.  If it did not have a serial number he would stamp his own mark along with the location of the mark.  This has made it very easy to positively identify the original furnishings as they appear from whomever may have purchased them in the years since.  In addition, his wife recorded the catalog number and a description of all the wallpaper, rugs, and drapes throughout the house.   So with a little research they have been able to reproduce the main rooms of the house.  The other rooms of the house on both floors are devoted to exhibits about his life and career.  I found this to be surprising to have the exhibits here instead of in the Visitor Center next door, but it also means the Visitor Center could be very small.  In any case, we spent a couple of enjoyable hours learning more about President William Taft then I ever knew before.

Our GPS had some more fun with us that night when we went looking for a local sports bar to watch the US Men soccer team.  The sports bar was in downtown Lebanon and either the GPS did not know what it was talking about, or it had changed owners as all we found was a ice cream establishment.  We reset the GPS to a close by Buffalo Wild Wings and got there just before the game started.  We split an appetizer for dinner and enjoyed the game.

On Wednesday it was off to Dayton this time to find out more about the Wright Brothers.  What we found at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Site was more than just the Wright Brothers, although it was mostly about the brothers.  The Visitor Center in downtown Dayton has a very nice movie about the life of the brothers and an excellent museum.  We learned a lot about their early life starting a printing business straight out of high school, even though neither one got a diploma.  Oliver actually dropped out in his junior year to start the business.  They published a newspaper for a while before turning to commercial printing.  When the bicycle craze swept American, the Wright brothers opened a shop to repair and eventually build their own model.  It was the small success of this bicycle business that provided the resources and experience to fuel their work in aviation.  Beginning with kites and then gliders they designed their plane using wing warping to correct the direction of the aircraft.  To test their design they needed a location with consistent winds in a single direction and one remote from reporters.  They choose Kitty Hawk and in 1900 began testing their designs.  By the fall of 1901 they suspected there was a problem with the standard lift coefficients since they were not able to achieve the predicted lift from the calculations.  So when they returned to Dayton they spent the winter conducting a series of experiments to determine the correct coefficients.  They started with a horizontal bicycle wheel mounted on the front of a bicycle.  This was their first crude wind tunnel as they would use the bicycle to generate a constant wind.  They then built a 6 foot wind tunnel to continue their scientific work.  Over the fall of 1902, their new glider set all kinds of time and distance records so they were ready to add an engine.  They approached a number of car manufactures about building a light weight engine with no success, so they turned to their bicycle mechanic, Charlie Taylor, to build a light weight engine out of aluminum.  They once again turned to their wind tunnel to design an efficient propeller, which was attached using heavy duty bicycle chain.  Talk about cobbling together a plane in your backyard!!  They probably spent less than a $1000 creating the first powered airplane versus the hundred of thousands the government would have spent for the same result.  In 1903 they returned again to Kitty Hawk and by December had achieved the first powered flight.  As historic as this achievement was, there was still a lot of work to be done.  Their goal was to create a practical airplane, which meant you had to be able to steer it.  The Wright Flyer I was designed to travel in a straight line.  Their wing warping technique was only meant to correct the direction.  However, traveling every year to Kitty Hawk was just too expensive and limited the time they had for field testing.  So they located a pasture at the end of the city’s trolley line owned by a banker named Huffman who agreed to let them use his pasture for free.  There was one problem, however.  Whereas Kitty Hawk had consistent winds from a single direction, the winds in Dayton are erratic and can change directions at any moment.  In order to achieve the necessary speeds they built a catapult to launch the plane.  This was nothing more than a small derrick with a stone weight attached to the front of the flyer through a pulley.  This allowed for a number of test flights over the summer of 1904 with the Wright Flyer II successfully making their first circle of the field.  However, steering was still a problem as the plane would sometimes not level out following a turn.  To correct this they added a third control to the plane, separating the wing warping from the rudder and along with other improvements, created the Wright Flyer III.  These changes were the key.  In 1905 they successfully flew in circles around the field only landing when they ran out of fuel.  They had built the first practical flying machine.  In order to protect their accomplishments, they packed up the plane and spent the next two years securing patents and searching for government contracts.  Initially the US was not interested, but the French definitely were.  in 1908, the Wright Brothers had a contract with a French consortium and entered a bid to the US Army Signal Corps for their plane.  Both contracts required them to modify their design to carry two seated passengers instead of a single reclining pilot, so they returned to Kitty Hawk to test their new design.  Their public demonstrations in both France and Washington D.C. were huge successes making them international heroes and their return to Dayton was met with a huge public celebration.  To build their airplanes they formed the Wright Company and started the Wright Brothers Flying School to train new pilots.  While Orville continued to focus on design improvements, Wilbur became more of the businessman securing contracts and fighting legal battles over patents.  The constant travel wore heavily on Wilbur and in 1912 he contracted typhoid fever while on a business trip to Boston, dying at age 45.  Orville took over the company, but did not have the executive skills and sold the company in 1915.  In the spring of 1914, he and their sister Katherine moved to a new home called Hawthorn Hill which the brothers and their sister had designed.  Katherine married in 1926 and moved away, but Hawthorn Hill was often filled with nieces and nephews and their families.  Orville died in 1948 seeing the beginning of the supersonic age of flight.

This is quite a story and one unfolded for us through many locations.  Three years ago we visited Kitty Hawk and learned that part of the story.  However, in Dayton you get to learn much more of the story.  At the main Visitor Center in downtown Dayton you learn about their childhood and their start in the printing business and building bicycles.  In fact, on the second floor of the Visitor Center is the final location of the printing business.  Unfortunately, the printing press they built has been lost over the years, but they do a good job of showing you what a small printing company would look like.  Next door is the location of the third bicycle shop they owned.  From pictures of the exterior they have renovated it back to the turn of the century, however, there were no pictures of the interior.  This is not the last bicycle shop which was located about a block away, however, this shop was bought by Henry Ford and moved to his Greenville Village at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.  Once I found out about all the historical buildings Ford had moved to Greenville, including Edison’s Menlo Park, I wished we had spent another day at the museum last month.  I had thought Greenville Village was nothing more than some working farms and craftsmen.   Now I want to go back someday.

This is only one of the locations that make up the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Site.  Other locations include the site of the Wright Company factory, but this is not open to the public yet and Hawthorn Hill, which is only opened two days a week that were not going to work for us.  There is also the Wright Flyer III at Carillon Historical Park and the home of Paul Laurence Dunbar, both of which would have to wait until later in the week.  The final locations are the Wright Memorial and Interpretive Center and Huffman Prairie Flying Field on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  So we got in the truck and headed over to explore these locations.  The Memorial is just a stone with plaques on it on top of a bluff overlooking the AFB.  The Interpretive Center is a small museum that focuses on the accomplishments and history of the Wright Brothers after 1905.  Here is where you learn about the trips to Europe, the huge celebration in Dayton when they returned international stars, the formation of the first aircraft company and flight school, and subsequent court battles.  There is also a brief history of Wright-Patterson AFB of which Huffman Prairie is still an important part.  From the Interpretive Center it is a couple of miles to Huffman Prairie which is an 84 acre pasture that is essentially the same condition as when the Wright Brothers were there.  They have reconstructed their hanger and catapult system on one end of the field and erected flags to show their circular course.  Finally in the area next to the field, they are working to reintroduce the native tall grass prairie with a nice mowed loop through the field.  Along with the signs identifying some of the grasses and forbs, it was a nice way to end our exploration of the Wright Brothers and end a very full day.

On Thursday we were looking for something a little different that would not take up the entire day and decided to check out Fort Ancient Archeological Park which was less than 10 miles for the campground.  We figured it would either be an old fort with an odd name or just some Indian mounds.  What we found really surprised us!!  Fort Ancient is an immense earthwork of nearly 126 acres, constructed by the Hopewell culture over a 400 year period from the first century BC to the 4th century AD.  This culture predates the Mississippian culture by nearly a thousand years.  Their mounds and earthworks are scattered all over southern Ohio and Kentucky.  There are large earthworks in the river valleys, however, most of these are not lost due to agriculture.  There are also about a dozen known hilltop earthworks as well, of which Fort Ancient is the largest.  The name, Fort Ancient, is a bit confusing since the Fort Ancient Indian culture was named due to the discovery of a village at this site.  However, this village postdated the creation of the earthworks by a thousand years.  Also calling it a fort is incorrect.  It is most certainly not a defensive structure.  The walls that surround the site are 5 to 23 feet tall and even accounting for erosion would not be very good defenses.  Especially since the wall was built in sections with multiple breaks in the wall. In addition, the ditch is along the inside of the wall instead of the outside and there is evidence that many of them were either lined with limestone or had pond mud installed, so they were more likely water features in the fort.  They have determined that the fort was constructed in three main phases, with the southern section being the oldest and largest.  At the southern gate there was a limestone paved walkway to the Little Miami River 260 feet below suggesting this was not only a ceremonial site but also a major trading post.  In the northern section there are four limestone covered mounds that would be used for huge bonfires.  These mounds are laid out in a perfect square from which you could sight through breaks in the walls to pinpoint important celestial occurrences such as the summer solstice.  Before we explore the fort itself we took in their museum which turned out to be the best Indian museum I have ever seen.  It has exhibits that trace the mid-Western Indian cultures from the end of the Ice Age through their removal to Oklahoma in the 1800s.  It is an amazing collection of exhibits that include artifacts, videos, interactive displays, and manikins.  It really helped me tie together all the early history of the midwest together.  After spending a couple of hours (literally) in the museum we took a short hike outside the walls to some limestone circles of unknown purpose and scratched our heads along with the experts.  We then entered the fort itself for a quick lunch before hiking around the interior of the southern section.  The walls are still in amazing condition.  My personal theory is that this was not only an important ceremonial location, but also a major trading center as there is no evidence of burial mounds as you find at other Hopewell sites.  I can just imagine this place as their version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, primarily to attract traders.  Other Hopewell sites have provided a rich collection of artifacts from the burial mounds that included copper from the Great Lakes, sea shells from the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, and other regions.  By the time we were finished we had spent far longer than we had originally thought and returned to the campground after another full day of exploring.

For Friday, it was back to Dayton to check out two more sites of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Site.  First, we went to the Paul Laurence Dunbar home, which actually has nothing to do with aviation as Dunbar was an African-American poet and author.  He did live at the same time of the Wright brothers, in fact he attended high school as the only African-American with Orville Wright.  Dunbar actually graduated from high school, whereas, Orville dropped out during his junior year to start the printing business with Wilbur.  Dunbar was the editor of the school’s newspaper and got the Wright brothers to print his short-lived newspaper, The Dayton Tattler, for sale to the African-American community.   He asked them to print a collection of his poems, but their printing business was not suited for book publication.  Dunbar invested his own money to publish his first collection titled Oak and Ivy in 1893, making his money back by selling copies while he worked as an elevator operator.  In 1896 he published his second collection, Majors and Minors which received critical acclaim that launched his career as a writer at the young age of 24.  He wrote many poems, books, short stories, essays, song lyrics, and even a successful Broadway play.  At the time he was most well known for his work using African-American dialect painting the life of slavery and the struggles during Reconstruction.  However, today he is more widely known for the other 2/3 of his work using American prose.  He was also active in the Civil Rights movement being a colleague of Frederick Douglas.  Although his literary contributions are significant, we can only wonder at the impact he might have had if he had lived longer.  At the age of 27 he contracted tuberculosis and although he continued to write his health never really improved and he died 6 years later at the age of 33.  Over the past few years we have visited numerous sites dealing with the Civil Rights movement and I am surprised that neither of us were familiar with Paul Dunbar.  I suspect we had seen him mentioned at some of the sites, such as Tuskegee Institute where he wrote the School’s song, but never made a connection.  This home in Dayton is actually the house he purchased for his mother, but was his final home following his divorce of Alice Ruth Moore until his death in 1906.  Since his mother continued to live in the house until her death in 1934 had kept the house in much the condition and it immediately became a state memorial, it has survived today intact.  They have replaced the wall paper and upholstery using the same original patterns and the wallpaper is something that has to be seen to be believed.  The color schemes and patterns are gaudy and loud, with even the wallpaper on the ceiling getting into the act.  I only wish we were allowed to take photographs!!

DunbarHouse1

Touring the Dunbar house only took about an hour, so we headed over to the Carillon Historical Park, primarily to see the actual Wright Flyer III.  As was the style in the 1940s, historical parks were created by physically moving historical structures to a central site, Greenville Village at the Ford Museum being the largest example.  The Deeds in Dayton did much the same thing, although at a much smaller scale.  Still the park is very impressive and well worth the cost of admission.  If you like manufacturing, then Dayton has had a VERY rich history since the late 1800s.  It has been the center of more inventions, innovations, and life changing advancements then anywhere else in the US and this includes the number of patents.  The Dayton Historical Park is dedicated to this rich history.  If you are familiar with the early history of computers, then you are aware of NCR, which stands for the National Cash Register Company.  At one time this company had 95% of the market in cash registers and employed over 6000 workers.  Due to the world wars the company became involved with secret communication systems, high speed counters and cryptanalytic equipment, becoming the leader in the field.  There have been many spin offs of the company including Kettering and Deeds formation of Delco which began by designing the first self starters for cars.  In addition to all the historical buildings in the park, the central museum includes some information about all the innovative businesses that grew up in Dayton from automobiles, bicycles, publishing, and of course cash registers.  The have the largest collection of NCR cash registers that you could possible imagine and they are displaying just part of the collection.  At one time there were 10 automobile manufacturing companies in the city and the number of bicycle shops included the Wright Brothers.  The museum was mind blowing all by itself and certainly deserved more than the two hours we had available.   For me, we literally flew through the museum catching just the highlights as our main attraction was the Wright Flyer III.  On the grounds of the park they have brought in examples of historical buildings from the very beginning of American settlement which includes homes, school houses, and grist mill.  There are also a number of buildings devoted to transportation within which you find cars, trolleys, streetcars, trains, and bicycles.  The most interesting for me was the collection of bicycles from the very earliest to those built during World War II.  They have one early bicycle that is also a motorcycle with a small engine on the back wheel.  Another bicycle from World War II would be folded up to be dropped with the paratroopers and even one with a built in radio powered by the bicycle itself.  Just to illustrate the extent they went to, they even dug a canal and brought over Lock 17 from the Miami and Erie Canal for display.  I could spend a lot more time about all the exhibits were quickly looked at, but I will end this account with the Wright Flyer III.  Orville Wright actually assisted in the design of the building housing the flyer and instead of building a reproduction, he obtained the parts to the flyer from its storage at Kitty Hawk.  Some of the parts had been sold as souvenirs, but he was able to obtain nearly the entire flyer.  They painstakingly rebuilt the flyer and positioned it in a sunken floor instead of suspending it from the ceiling.  Consequently, you can get almost close enough to touch it and can examine it from every angle.  It is an amazing piece of ingenuity and well worth the time to see this piece of history.

The museum closed at 5:00 pm and we were likely the last visitors to exit the park.  However, our day was not yet finished.  Instead of heading back to the campgrounds, we drove to Springfield, Ohio for dinner with an old college friend of Kal’s, Terry McGonigle.  We have not seen Terry in years and he had recently accepted a position as Theater Manager for the John Legend Theater in Springfield after retiring from teaching drama.  We had a great dinner at a local pizza parlor in downtown Springfield, catching up with Terry.  I did not have much to add to the conversation, but it was great listening to Kal and Terry reliving old times and renewing their friendship.  Of course, they have reconnected through Facebook, but there is nothing like sitting down face to face.  After dinner Terry took us on a tour of the John Legend Theater which is the renovated theater of the old high school in town.  They have done a wonderful job in the renovation and it is a beautiful venue.  The theater is only loosely connected to the local school system and has no theater company associated with it.  Terry’s job is to manage the booking of the theater for all kinds of presentations and plays, as well as, dealing with the technical aspects of sound and light.  The other parts of the old high school has been renovated for a number of other purposes which include a couple of after school programs which are very innovative.  They have one program where they find a “teacher” for a small group of high school students to meet with them a couple of times a week.  These programs range all over the board from clothing design to music mixing and by using modern technology their “teachers” can be anywhere in the country.  A great idea.  Suffice it to say, it was a late night before we finally returned to the campground.

Mcgonigle

After this very full week, we were both ready for some downtime.  We spent Saturday in the campground except for heading into a local Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Auburn lose its football game to Clemson.  Sunday was also spent in the campground except for a couple of hours when we drove about 30 miles to the Miami Valley Gaming casino to try our luck.  Try is the operative word here, since these were the “tightest” machines we have seen in a long time.  Neither of us managed to even break even on a slot machine until Kal won $20 on her last attempt.  This casino did have an unusual feature, though.  The main casino floor was non-smoking, which is a bit unusual but we have dealt with it before.  Instead they had two smoking areas that were actually outside in iron cages!!  There were a few slot machines there as well, however, with the bright sunshine it was nearly impossible to see what was happening.  I also suspect that during bad weather or the winter these areas would be brutal for the smokers!!  For someone who always goes outside to smoke, I don’t feel too sorry for them.

August, 2017 – Toledo, Ohio

The trip south from Michigan into Ohio was an easy trip as most of it was along the interstate to our new location south of Toledo.  Most of the area is farm land now, but at the time of the settlers were misplacing the native Americans in the area this was all known as the Black Swamp.  Today the swamp is all drained and they are growing corn and other crops as far as you can see.  Our new location, Heritage Springs Campground, is a well maintained campground, mostly for seasonal campers.  Over 90% of the campground is for permanent RVs as a weekend retreat for local residents and promised to be very busy for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.  The owners were very nice and helpful, not only showing us to our site, but even offering to use their forklift to park our RV when I had a little problem backing it into the site.  I would have eventually gotten the RV backed into it, but it was a LOT easier dropping it off the truck and letting them back it in with their forklift.  They even came out a couple of limbs on the overhanging tree to free up our TV antennae.  We settled in for a quiet week in anticipation of their wild plans for the weekend.  We even got to know one of the campers two rigs down that is known as the “grandmother” to many of the younger families with children.  She was known as “Thelma” to the other adults due to a running joke of her and her sister calling themselves Thelma and Louise.  Her name was actually Sally.  She spends most weekends at the campground during the summer, while spending the week at her home where she evidently does a lot of canning.  She gave as a jar of her apple butter and peach jam, which we exchanged for a bottle of Bed of Nails.  I am not sure who got the better deal, as this Hi-Wire beer is now over a year old.

Campsite

On Tuesday we headed out to explore the nearby National Battlefield of Fallen Timbers in Toledo.  Once again we knew nothing about this battlefield and expected to find another battle from the War of 1812.  We found out this battlefield was a bit older, as it dates from 1794.  Following the Revolutionary War, all of the land north of the Ohio River to the Great Lakes was given to the United States from Britain in the Treaty of Paris.  However, the Indian tribes, many of which had already been pushed out of their homelands in Pennsylvania and New York, now lived in this land according to the Treaty of Fort Stanwick of 1768 that limited British expansion to south of the Ohio River.  These Indians did not participate in the Treaty of Paris, did not sign the treaty, and did not recognize that Great Britain had any right to give away their land which according to the Treaty of Fort Stanwick they had no right to in the first place.  These tribes formed the Western Confederacy to oppose any further settlement north of the Ohio River.  The US sent two ill advised and untrained militia armies to oppose the Confederacy in 1790 and 1791 and were soundly defeated.  President Washington ordered the Revolutionary War hero, “Mad” Anthony Wayne to create an new army to crush the Confederacy.  General Wayne took two years to form and train his Legion of the United States.  His Legion left Fort Washington in Cincinnati in 1793 to face the Indians, building forts along the way.  The Confederacy took a defensive position along the Maumee River in a stand of timber blown down by a recent tornado with the belief it would slow down the Americans and with the backing and supplies from the British in newly built Fort Miamis waited for General Wayne.  On August 20, 1794 General Wayne approached their position with about 2000 soldiers against about 1500 Indians.  The battle at Fallen Timbers lasted about 2 hours and was mostly a running battle through the fallen trees.  The Indians withdrew to Fort Miamis where they were surprised that the British would not open the fort, not wanting to start another war with the United States.  General Wayne spent the next few days within range of the fort destroying all the nearby fields and villages of their Indian allies.  This essentially ended the Western Confederacy and eventually caused the British to turn over Fort Miamis and Fort Detroit to the Americans which they had agreed to in the Treaty of Paris years before.  This opened up this part of Ohio for settlement, which was slow due to the difficulty in farming the Black Marsh.

This Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historical Site is administered in cooperation with the Toledo Metroparks, which made the whole area very confusing.  Not only was there no Visitor Center, but the Metropark brochures only mention these sites as part of all the Metropark sites.  We found the Fallen Timber Memorial with no problem, but this turned out to be only a statue on the bluff above the Maumee River.  For 150 years, they believed this was the location of the battle due to a map drawn by a soldier years later that was not even at the battle.  Through archeological discoveries they now know that the battle was a couple of miles away further from the river.  The National Park Service has acquired a small part of the battlefield and in cooperation with Toledo is in the process of establishing a walking trail through the site.  It turns out that the majority of the battlefield is actually under the huge interchange of Interstate 475 and US 24.  However, there were no signs to find this battlefield and the map of the metroparks was very confusing.  We ended up circling all around the battlefield, including the parking lot of a mall, trying to find it.  When we finally did we found the small Visitor Center to be closed for a private function.  However, there was a very nice 1.5 mile paved trail through this small portion of the battlefield with some very nice interpretive signs about the reasons for and aftermath of the battle.  From there we drove a couple of miles into Toledo to find the site of Fort Miamis.  This was a small fort built by the British in 1794 to stop General Wayne from advancing to Fort Detroit and to command the approaches down the Maumee River.  Following turning it over to the Americans it was abandoned in 1799, although it was the staging area for British troops during the War of 1812.  All that remains today are the defensive ditches out in front of the fort.

FortMiamis1

Being very adventurous, we decided to drive north to Lake Erie and check out the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, another National Park on Put-In-Bay Island in Lake Erie.  Since it is on an island, the only access, for those without a boat, is to take one of two ferries to the island.  This increased the cost quite a bit to visit the memorial as the ferry cost over $30 each.  The other downside to the ferry was that we just missed the ferry and had to now wait until 1:00 for the next one.  With the 30 minute ride to the island and a 5:00 departure to return, we would have only a few hours to explore the island.  The ride to Put-In-Bay was nice since Lake Erie was very calm and we marveled at the number of islands in the area.  As you expect all of the larger ones had houses all along the coast and Put-In-Bay was no exception.  We were told when we bought our tickets that we would be able to rent a golf cart to explore the entire island if we wanted to, but it was not necessary since the ferry boat docked right in town and the memorial was just a short walk away.  We had no idea that they were not kidding about renting a golf cart.  There must be over a dozen places to rent them and I would bet there are more golf carts on this island than people!!  They were everywhere.  Whereas, Mackinac Island was overrun with bicycles, Put-In-Bay is overrun with golf carts.  This also reflects the average age of the crowd.  Mackinac Island averaged 30-40, but Put-In-Bay averaged at least 60.  This was also reflected in the town.  Nearly every building was either a tavern or restaurant, with very few gift shops to attract tourists.  Before visiting the memorial we took advantage of this and had lunch at an Irish Pub, which was very good.  We then walked back through the small town to the Perry’s Victory and International Peace National Memorial.  Except for the International Peace Memorial, which is a 352 foot tall obelisk in the form of a Greek column, there is not much to explore at the site.  There is a small Visitor Center with a nice video about the Battle of Lake Erie and just a couple of exhibits about the battle.  In fact, the National Park Brochure for the park is all general information about the War of 1812, with no details about the Battle of Lake Erie.  I had to ask at the desk for a supplemental sheet to get any details.  I realize this was a naval battle, so there is no “battlefield”, but I expected the brochure to focus more on Perry’s Victory.  The Battle of Lake Erie took place on September 10, 1813 between a relatively small fleet on both sides, 9 American ships (2 brigs) and 6 British ships (2 brigs).  Up until this point in the war the British controlled Lake Erie which was essentially for supplying Fort Detroit since there were very few roads.  Before this battle the Americans had lost most of its ships on the Great Lakes to the British.  Over the summer of 1813 they constructed new ships and outfitted a few schooners at a new Naval Yard at Presque Island at present day Erie, Pennsylvania.  The British blockaded this yard but could not attack because of a sand bar leading into the harbor.  They broke off the blockade for a few days for supplies which allowed the Americans to float their ships over the sand bar and sail to Put-In-Bay Island.  From this position they could prevent the British from resupplying Fort Detroit, so the British had no choice but to entice the American fleet to fight.  This happened on September 10 with the British in line for a quick attack.  Unfortunately, the wind was against the Americans and Perry just about called it off, when the wind shifted and now favored the Americans.  The British ships were armed with long cannons which were effective at a mile distance, much farther than the American cannonades which were more effective at close range than the long cannons.  So Perry had to close with the British as quickly as possible.  His brig, the Lawrence outpaced the other American ships and came under fire of both the British brigs.  For some reason, the Niagara held back and did not assist, which meant the Lawrence was quickly destroyed losing 80% of the seamen.  Under heavy fire, Perry was rowed over to the Niagara, where he assumed command.  Of course, by this time the British ships had also taken serious damage with nearly all of the officers either dead or wounded.  This lack of command caused the Detroit to collide with the Queen Charlotte, completely fowling both British brigs.  Perry took advantage of the situation running through the British line firing in both directions.  By 3:00 both ships surrendered and one-by-one they captured all the other British ships.  The US now controlled Lake Erie, supplies were cut off from Fort Detroit, and the British retreated from the fort with General William Henry Harrison in pursuit and capturing them on September 27, 1813 at the Battle of the Thames River where they also killed the Indian Chief Tecumseh.  Thus the War of 1812 shifted from the Great Lakes to battles along the east coast with the capture and burning of Washington D.C.  While the history itself was very interesting, the most surprising thing for me was to find out that one of the American schooners was the Somers!!  Pretty cool.  After taking in all the Visitor Center had to offer we took some pictures of the International Peace Memorial, since it was closed to visitors for repairs.  This memorial stands 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty and commemorates the long standing peace with Canada following the demilitarization of the Great Lakes after the War of 1812.  In fact, the memorial is so tall that we were able to see it all the way back to shore.

Thursday we spent doing laundry and cleaning the RV, so on Friday we took off to explore the President Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum at Fremont, Ohio.  Hayes was another in the many Ohio Presidents that followed the Civil War as he followed Grant as President.  His administration is considered by many to be the end of the Reconstruction period in the south and the return of white Democratic governments in all the southern states. We obviously learned a lot about the life and accomplishments of Hayes, but the most interesting fact was his Presidential election.  First you should know that he was the first three term Governor of Ohio, however, his first and third terms were won with a VERY slim majority of votes.  In fact, both times he had thought he had lost before the final counts were in.  His nomination for the Republican Party was as a compromise candidate on the eight ballot.  His Democratic opponent, Samuel Tilden, actually won the popular vote and 184 of the 185 electoral votes to win.  However, the 19 votes of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina were in doubt due to fraud by both parties and one of the three electors from Oregon was disqualified.  The Congress was also split with a Republican Senate and Democratic House.  President Grant turned the issue over to a bi-partisan Electoral Commission made up of 5 members of the House, 5 from the Senate and 5 Supreme Court Justices.  This amounted to 7 Democrats, 7 Republicans, and Supreme Court Justice David Davis who was believed to be an Independent.  However, the Illinois legislature elected Davis to the Senate (which I have never heard of happening before).  This left only Republican Supreme Court Justices on the Commission, which meant that all the votes along strictly party lines awarded all the electoral voted to Hayes.  To keep the Democrats from swearing in Tilden anyway, Hayes agreed to a series of concessions, the most important removing the last federal troops from the state houses in Louisiana and South Carolina allowing them to install white Democratic Governors and thus ending Reconstruction.  And we thought the election of President Trump was contentious!!  This Presidential Library is on the grounds of Hayes home called Spiegal Grove.  We had a nice private tour of the house where detailed pictures taken by Hayes of every room had allowed them to return the home to his time period.  The grounds also have a number of large old trees, many of which have plaques naming them after historical figures admired by Hayes and prominent visitors to the estate.  This practice has continued to today.

We spent the weekend in the campgrounds enjoying the Labor Day festivities.  On Saturday they had a cookout with hot dogs and brats and a very good band, Big Red Deluxe, that played rock/country mix.  Kal and I knew all of their songs during the first set, but by the second they had moved on to more recent tunes so we left early.  On Sunday they had more activities planned which included an interesting contest I have never seen before.  They scattered legos on the floor and inserted a large number of mousetraps as well.  The blindfolded and barefoot contestants had to race across the floor, grab a bag off the stage (which also had a mousetrap placed on top), and return as quickly as possible.  It was hilarious watching these drunk adults running quickly through this mousetrap minefield.  I have to hand it them, that nobody stopped running with mousetraps going off everywhere, only commenting once they finished the race.  Certainly nothing I would ever dream of doing myself.

August, 2017 – Ann Arbor, Michigan

On the day of the total eclipse, we were busy moving to our new location, as close to Detroit as we dared.  From the “Thumb” of Michigan we had to travel back southwest to keep from traveling through the metroplex of Detroit and its surroundings.  We decided that Ann Arbor was about as close as we traveled to a campground in between Ann Arbor and Jackson, Michigan.  Apple Creek Campground is an older campground with fairly spacious sites laid haphazardly in between the trees.  Nearly 3/4 of the campground is stuffed with seasonal RVs, but this still left one section for transient campers such as ourselves.  We arrived at the campground at around 1:30, so we hoped to be set up before the eclipse was done, however, the weather did not cooperate anyway.  It was not only cloudy, but we had a thunderstorm threatening during the peak of the eclipse.  Thankfully, the rain held off until we got set up, except for occasional sprinkles.  They led us to our campsite, which was good, as their map was very confusing and the roads were all narrow with turns that had to be taken carefully pulling a long RV.  We got to our site, but I was not convinced I would be able to back the RV into.  Not only was there a tree right at the corner of the site that forced us to come in square to the site, but there were two large trees right across from the site that was going to make straightening out the truck very difficult.  My first attempt proved this to be the case.  I made the cut around the tree in good shape, but this put the truck at such a severe angle to the RV that I did not have any room to swing the truck around.  I quickly decided the only chance we had was to pull back out, circle the campground to get the RV heading the other direction and try again.  After nearly hitting a tree at one of their corners I got the RV going in the opposite direction.  From this direction I did not have any tree in the way so I could back in much more shallowly.  This meant the truck was not so severe to the RV and those trees across from the site were less in the way.  By pulling forward once to mostly straighten out the truck, I was able to put the RV into the site.  That it only took one attempt was amazing and I managed not to hit any of their trees scattered all over the site.  Even the locations of the hookups did not make much sense.  Thankfully our electric cord JUST made it to their electric pedestal and we had two hoses to reach their water hookup.  While not well designed, it was still a nice campground with very nice bathroom and laundry facilities.  By the time we were finished getting the RV backed in, we had completely missed the eclipse, which was hidden by the clouds anyway.  Oh Well it was only suppose to be an 80% coverage for us anyway.

Campsite

Since we had opted not to do our laundry the previous week, doing laundry on Tuesday was a nearly a necessity.  While Kal did the laundry I did manage to get the RV cleaned up.  We also made a trip over to Jackson in the afternoon to Best Buy so I could replace the camera I had lost last week.

On Wednesday we set out to explore the National Park in the area, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park.  This is one of the newest National Parks, established in 2009, and it showed.  While there are plans for a new and much larger Visitor Center, the current Visitor Center is located in the old county museum for the battlefield.  Consequently, there was very little room for any exhibits in the Visitor Center.  The “movie” they had was a recording of the old presentation using a light board to show unit placements and movement.  There are plans to create a new movie, but with current funding they have no idea when this will happen.  Outside you can explore the “battlefield” which consists of a small field just north of the frontier town, Frenchtown.  There is a gravel walk around the “battlefield” and there are concrete pads for interpretive signs, but with no signs yet, we did not learn anything more about the battle.  Once again there are plans to put up interpretive signs, which are expected “soon” and there are plans to rebuild the buildings of Frenchtown based on drawings and archeological evidence.  Thankfully, the site had been underneath a pulp mill and never farmed or developed.  Suffice it to say that it took only about an hour to explore all the National Park had to offer.  The River Raisin Battle is an important battle near the beginning of the War of 1812.  Over the summer of 1812, the Americans attacked Canada hoping to defeat the British quickly while their resources were focused on fighting Napoleon in Europe.  These attacks all failed and Canada responded by taking Fort Dearborn (Chicago), Fort Mackinac, and Fort Detroit extend their control of the Great Lakes.  Once William Henry Harrison was given command of the Army of the Northwest he resolved to retake Fort Detroit.  He split his forces into two columns with the second column under the command of General Winchester.  They had to slowly move north through the Black Swamp of northern Ohio to construct roads and supply depots and forts.  Of course, they also attacked any Indians they found along the way, especially the Kentucky militiamen that made up over half the army.  By December they finally approached Fort Detroit and instead of waiting for spring they decided that the frozen condition would surprise the British.  In addition, Lake Erie was also frozen eliminating the threat from their navy.  Winchester came to the rendezvous point first and was ordered to wait, but instead he sent a small force of militia to the town of Frenchtown on the River Raisin on January 18, 1813.  This force was able to drive off the small Canadian and Indian force occupying the town and two days later Winchester showed up the regular soldiers who set up camp in an open field to the east of town while the militia now occupied the town.  They did not expect the British to counterattack for some time, but they had now lost the element of the surprise.  On January 22, the British advanced from Fort Detroit and got to within firing distance of Frenchtown before dawn since Winchester did not even bother with posting sentries.  As dawn broke the British open fired catching the Americans totally by surprise.  The regular army in the field had no cover and within 20 minutes were running away back across the River Raisin.  However, mounted Indians swept around the left flank of the town and ambushed these fleeing soldiers who died in small groups until only 23 managed to escape.  Winchester was also captured trying to rally these soldiers and was forced to send a message ordering the militia in the town to surrender.  Although the militia had repulsed at least three attacks, they were running out of ammunition and eventually did surrender.  Fearing that Harrison might be approaching from the south, the British retreated back to Fort Detroit taking those prisoners that could walk with them.  They promised to send sleds for the wounded the next day, however, they never did.  Instead their Indian allies entered the town on the next day and killed anybody that was not able to walk and continued to kill any who could not make the journey to Fort Detroit.  This massacre became known as the River Raisin Massacre and led to the battle cry “Remember the Raisin!”  I have to admit that I have never heard this battle cry, which for a long time was as famous as Remember the Alamo or other battle cries. In total this was the largest number of casualties and captured Americans in any battle of the War of 1812 and put an end to Harrison’s hope of retaking Fort Detroit.

On Thursday, I had plans to work on this blog, but we got bad news from the credit card company.  They had “resolved” the dispute with Budget Rent-A-Car, completely in their favor.  We called and found out that since we had no “official” receipt of the charges at the time we turned in the rental car, that we had no other option.  As far as the credit card company was concerned we were liable for the entire outrageous amount.  So much for their assistance in arbitrating a resolution to the matter.  I composed a scathing email to Budget laying out our case and letting them know what I thought of their “customer service.”  We received a reply that apologized for never contacting us about the matter and asking for some further information.  We sent them the receipt we got at the airport, a back statement showing charges at the gas station near the airport, lunch at the airport in Dallas, AND parking fees at the Indianapolis Airport the same day.  Although I don’t expect anything to change, they now have solid evidence that we turned in the car on Sunday, not a week later as they claimed.  We will see if we ever hear from them again.  They certainly have no incentive to do anything as they have already been paid, just their good reputation, which I will do everything I can to smear.  This is highway robbery!!  When you rent a car, DO NOT take advantage of the seeming convenience of their check-in where you turn the car in.  You MUST go to their counter and get a detailed receipt of the charges for your records.  If you don’t they can end up charging you for any amount they want, no matter what it says on your supposed receipt from the individual checking in your car.  They charged us for a week’s rental instead of three days, excessive mileage (even though the rental was suppose to be unlimited), and enough to pay for gas to fill the car up at least five times!!  Without that final receipt from the counter you don’t have any recourse!  Even the credit card company is no help.

On Friday we decided to head towards Detroit to The Henry Ford Museum at their huge factory in Dearborn.  We knew this museum was a “must see” from everyone we talked to and they were correct!  The entire facility consists of three separate venues.  The first is the Museum of American Innovation which is a huge facility that is every bit as large as the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian.  The other two venues are a huge Greenfield Village that is has working farms, craftsmen, and other exhibits from the past and a tour of their assembly line, which sounded very interesting.  It is obvious that each venue would take at least a day to explore and the tickets you buy can be used at any point in the future.  However, we were only going to spend one day so decided to limit it to the Museum of American Innovation.  As I said the museum is HUGE with many different interesting exhibit and even after spending 6 hours in the museum we did not see it all.  There is an extensive collection of farm equipment and machines from the plow to modern combines.  Unlike nearly all museums with agriculture exhibits that have worn out and rusted equipment, the equipment in this museum is all brand new with explanations about how they worked.  There is a large area devoted to steam engines from the first massive machines to the smallest functional engines.  They are all built into the floor of the museum so you can see how they would operate.  There are even steam engines that produced the first electricity, both DC and AC and the first power plant used by Ford.  The collection of firearms was also impressive from the smallest 0.22 pistols that could fit in your palm to the largest rifles that had attached tripods or small tables at the end of the barrel.  There was one very interesting exhibit, the Dymaxion.  This is a modular home constructed out of aluminum in a hemisphere shape suspended from a central pole.  It was designed in the 1940s, right after WWII when there was a severe housing shortage as the troops returned home.  The idea was to use the airplane factories, that were looking for new production ideas based on the new products such as aluminum and plastics.  This small two bedroom home could be constructed completely in the factory, shipped to the building site, and put together in about a month.  The really neat thing was that the two prototypes were built at Beechcraft in our hometown of Wichita, Kansas and we had never heard of it!  This could be because they went out of business never getting beyond the prototype phase.  It was an interesting design, by Buckminster Fuller, using convection currents to heat and cool the structure, although I still wonder if it could be adequately heated in the winter or cooled in the summer by today standards.  Of course, there is a very large collection of automobiles.  The collection is arranged historically from horse drawn carriages and stagecoaches through bicycles and the earliest automobiles.  While Fords are represented, the collection includes many makes over time.  Along with displays showing the changing road conditions and accommodations for travelers, our entire history up to the present is represented.  With respect to the past, there was one large exhibit that had different areas for each generation since the 1920s.  It was fun to see how many artifacts we remembered from our childhood, especially for the baby boomer section which included many artifacts each of us had as children.  There is also a collection of Presidential automobiles which includes Kennedy and FDR among others.  Finally we explored the much smaller collection of trains and planes, smaller in terms of the number of machines since they are much larger than cars.  Other areas we did not have time for were devoted to clocks, the manufacturing processes, and America’s drive for Liberty and Freedom.  Each of them looked interesting and would have been worth the time.  It was a very worthwhile day and I strongly recommend it.

We spent Saturday in the campground, but on Sunday we headed over to Jackson, Michigan to check out the Civil War Muster.  They had numerous reenactors dressed up in Civil War era costumes, a couple of tent enclosures, and even a small village.  There were a lot of crafts being sold and large tents set up to sell everything you would need to join in.  The most interesting show of the afternoon was watching the mounted cavalry go through their paces around the field.  The highlight of the afternoon was their reenactment of the Battle of Malvern Hill which took place near Richmond, Virginia in 1862.  It was the last of the first series of battles after General Lee took over the Confederate army and drove General McClellan away from Richmond.  This battle favored the north only in the fact that they stopped  Lee from capturing their army and bought time to escape on their ships back to D.C.  It was fun to watch them stage a battle from the Union standpoint, unlike other reenactments we have seen at the actual battlefields in the south.  The vast majority of the reenactors were dressed in Union costumes with only a small handful of Confederates.  I also suspect that their reenactment did not correlate with the actual battle at all.  It was more an opportunity for them to fire off their cannon, march around the field, and fire their muskets at each other to the delight of the crowd.  Suffice it to say that the Union forces, which included a few on horseback as well,  drove off the tiny Confederate force!!  Still it was great fun. I should mention that Sunday was the due date for our first grandchild and when we learned that Kristin was in labor Sunday evening, we tried to get as much sleep as we could expecting a call at any time.  We did get a text message at 6:30 the next morning that they had gone to the delivery room, but nothing further as we hooked up and left the campsite on Monday morning.