June 2015 – Boston, Massachusetts

The trip from Connecticut, around Providence, Rhode Island, to Mansfield, Massachusetts, south of Boston, took about an hour and a half and since it was along the Interstate it was an easy trip.  Except for the traffic, especially after the break from the traffic in Connecticut.  The Canoe River Campground is set in a residential area a couple of miles from the Interstate.  Once you are in the campground you can ignore the fact that you are in a residential neighborhood as it has lots of trees and a nice pond.  The GPS system gave us a bit of a scare as it was warning us about exceeding the weight limit as we approached the campground entrance.  I am not sure if it was meaning a bridge over the Canoe River beyond the entrance or the bridges within the campground.  We never did figure it out, but didn’t have any problems.  When we checked it we asked about transportation into Boston for later in the week and found out that there was a commuter train station in Mansfield and they provided limousine service to the station (it was an actual limo!).  We filed that information for later in the week and went to find our campsite.  Most of the campsites at Canoe River did not have sewer hookups, but since we had requested this service we were placed clear in the back of the campgrounds.  It turned out they had a nice open meadow with multiple full hookup sites and ours faced directly into a wooded area so we felt like we were in a state park.  It was a nice site and since there was only one other RV in the meadow while we were there, it was very quiet.  Of course, the walk to the bathroom was a bit of a hike, but not really a problem.  I would certainly stay here again in the future.


We decided to wait on Boston until the weekend, figuring the traffic and congestion downtown would be much less.  Therefore, on Tuesday we drove to Quincy, Massachusetts to visit the Adams National Historical Park.  We knew that Quincy is today a suburb of Boston, but did not count on the traffic.  The time on the 4-lane highways to Quincy was not bad, but the traffic once we left the highway to city streets was terrible.  The Visitor Center for the Historical Park is a small corner of a large office/commercial building in the center of downtown and the road in front was under construction causing a mess.  There is a public parking deck next to the building, but Kal was worried about the clearance (we should have been fine) and our experience with the parking deck in Charleston made us both nervous.  The length of the truck and turning radius makes parking decks a real problem.  Parallel parking is also impossible, so the metered parking on the streets was out of the question and all we saw were private lots that you are not suppose to park in.  The main site for the Historical Park is the Adams home, named Peace field and is about 6 blocks from the Visitor Center.  We noticed that there appeared to be parking along the street in front of their home and in fact there was a school bus parked there.  So we pulled in front of the bus and parked the truck to ask the Park Rangers where we could park.  They told us there was no problem parking along the street, which was free, and we could obtain our tour tickets for the home right there instead of at the Visitor Center!  What a lucky break.  We were able to get our tickets for the next tour and wait about 15 minutes for the next trolley.

The Adams National Historical Park consists of the homes of five generations of Adams, beginning with John Adams’ father Deacon John Adams house, which at the time was 7 miles from Boston on a working farm.  John Adams was born in this house in 1735 and grew up wanting to be a farmer.  However, Deacon John had other plans and sent young John (age 16) to Harvard to become a minister and civic leader like himself.  John’s boyhood home reflects this modest beginning as well being a simple two story house.  The most interesting feature was the size of the kitchen which was also used as a meeting place for the citizens to meet with the Deacon on religious and civic matters.  Deacon John built a separate home for each of his three sons and John’s was built 75 yards from the family home.  When John married Abigail in 1764 they soon moved into their own home which was also a simple two story home.  They have furnished the home so you can see where John Adams did much of his writings early in his career as a lawyer instead of a minister.  It was in this home that they raised their family including John Quincy Adams, who became the sixth President of the United States.  During the years leading up to the Revolutionary War and especially during the war, John Adams did not spend a lot of time at home being either in Boston or Philadelphia.  However, on his trips to France during the war he took along John Quincy as his interpreter and it is thru these experiences that John Quincy became a celebrated diplomat and ambassador leading eventually to President.   After a fairly brief tour of these homes it was back on the trolley to the Peace field where we started the day.


This is the family home for the next four generations of Adams and was purchased by John Adams in 1785 while he was the first English ambassador for the new nation.  He bought the home sight unseen believing it was a “very Genteel Dwelling” that would be more appropriate then the small home about a mile away.  Much to their disappointment, it was not nearly as large as they thought with a parlor that was so small that most entertaining had to be done in the kitchen.  They would eventually expand the house adding a wing to one side and doubling the size of the house behind the original structure for bedrooms and servant quarters.  The National Park Service has done an excellent job furnishing the house with period pieces from the time of the Revolution, as it would continue to be the family home for three more generations of Adams.  The third generation of Adams included Charles Francis Adams who inherited the house and built a stone library that was considered fire proof near the house to protect the books and papers of his father and grandfather.  This is an impressive structure filled with books on two floors with a central open area for desks.  Many of the books are foreign languages as John Quincy Adams was fluent in a number of languages.  The fourth generation Adam that lived in the house was Henry Adams who was a well known historian publishing a number of volumes on American history that were world renown at the time.  After a pleasant lunch eaten on a bench in the garden, we caught the trolley one more time to finally visit the Visitor Center where we watched a film about the family that would have been a good place to start, but not a bad place to finish.  Since the tours of the homes are conducted by Park Service Rangers they are timed events, so we were done by mid-afternoon and headed back to the campgrounds before the evening rush.  This did not mean we could avoid traffic jams as we trusted the GPS to lead us around a tie up on the Interstate.  From a dead stop we were able to travel a couple of miles and re-enter the Interstate with virtually no traffic.  I assume it was an accident that caused the traffic jam, since we did not see it.


After a day of dealing with traffic outside of Boston, we were ready for something different, so on Wednesday we headed east to Cape Cod National Seashore.  This was a pleasant day of short hikes and looking at sandy beaches, hardwood and pitch pine forests, and beach dunes.  It was far to chilly and windy on Wednesday to even think about getting in the ocean, which is fine by us since neither of us enjoy swimming in the ocean.  Cape Cod National Seashore covers the entire eastern side of the cape which is over 40 miles long and we had only a single day to explore it.  We began at the Salt Pond Visitor Center which is at the southern end of the cape and took a nice walk along the edge of a tidal marsh.  I learned about Kettles, which are circular depressions, some large and some quite small, that were left when the ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age.  Unless there is access from the sea they become freshwater ponds or bogs all over the landscape.  After lunch in their picnic area which includes a very large boulder left from the glaciers, we drove down to the beach at the Nauset Lighthouse, which dates from 1877, but was originally located at Chatham, MA before being moved to this location.  Unlike other lighthouses we have seen that are made of brick, this lighthouse consists of cast iron plates that have been overlaid with bricks, so it is in amazing shape even today.  There is also a small shack that is not impressive, except that it was the terminus for the transatlantic cable that sent telegraph messages to England in the mid-1800s.  Since it was going to take over an hour to get to the northern end of the cape we decided not to stop at Marconi’s Station Site as it was only a plaque marking the location of the tower from where he sent the first transatlantic wireless message to England in 1903.  As you travel north along the cape the forests change from a mixed hardwood forest to stunted pitch pine forests and large sand dunes.  Since the time of the Pilgrims, who landed first on the cape before proceeding to Plymouth, the cape had been cleared for agriculture and grazing by cattle and sheep.  The sandy poor soil on the cape was completely destroyed and without the vegetation to hold the sand it became a desolate area of shifting sand dunes that completely filled the harbors and was a constant problem for residents.  Today, most of the land is again covered with trees and grass which is slowly stabilizing the dunes.  We drove through Provincetown unsuccessfully looking for a parking place for our huge truck, but did get a quick look from the truck at the Pilgrim Tower, which is the tallest granite tower in the US at 252 feet. We did take a walk along the beach, which by the middle of the day was attracting a few brave swimmers (certainly not warm enough for me) and went to the US Life Saving Station that has been reconstructed by the NPS after being moved back from the beach to protect it.  They only have tours a couple of days a week and then only in the afternoon, but the tour we got from the volunteers was certainly worth the time and was the highlight of the day.  We learned about the equipment they used to rescue people from ships that wrecked or ran aground on the cape usually in the worst possible weather conditions, the daily lives of the men stationed at the life saving stations, and the history of the life-saving stations which eventually became the Coast Guard.  I especially liked learning about the methods used to save people, from the boats they used to the lines they would shoot out to the ship masts to erect a pulley system and hanging basket to rescue people up to a half mile off shore.  The initial light line would be shoot using a small cannon out to the ship was stored in a box using an intricate method of laying the line so it would come off clean and not wad up into a ball.  Unfortunately, they demonstrate the method on Thursday instead of Wednesday as this would have been something to see.  From the life-saving station we went to the Province Land Visitor Center which is basically an observation tower from which you can look out over the pitch pine forest to the sea and Provincetown.  The view was magnificent and well worth the time.  By this point it was mid-afternoon and we had a two hour drive back to the campground, so we had to cut the exploration short without getting to visit the site of the Pilgrim’s first landing.  Sacrifices must be made I guess.

KalAtGlacierRock GregOnMarshTrail CapeCodOceanview

Thursday was laundry, cleaning and working on this blog.  I am thankfully beginning to get caught up but it is still going to take another month, especially if we continue to visit 4-5 sites a week.

On Friday, we headed back towards Boston, however, this time our destination was Brookline which today is another suburb of Boston as it was in the time of John F. Kennedy.  Not wanting to live with their parents, Joseph and Rose Kennedy bought a small house in Brookline, outside of Boston to raise their family in 1914, which today is the John F. Kennedy National Historic Site.  Conveniently connected to Boston by electric trolley, Brookline offered everything from good schools, a local Catholic church, and retail stores within walking distance.  Rose Kennedy was the daughter of John Francis Fitzgerald, the mayor of Boston, and thus had a good education in The Netherlands, The New England Conservatory in Boston and Manhattan College of Sacred Heart in New York City.  Joseph also came from a political background whose father, P.J. Kennedy, was a major figure in the Democratic Party in Boston.  Joseph would go on to become a very wealthy businessman making a large fortune in the stock market and real estate, but at the time of living at this home in Brookline he was one of the youngest bank managers in the US at age 25.  Their wealth and background allowed a comfortable, yet modest, living in the suburbs where they were able to afford a cook and maid to free up Rose to raise the children.  Their first born son, Joseph P. Kennedy, was groomed to be a politician from an early age which freed up John F. Kennedy (known as Jack) to be a rascal at an early age.  Family dinners were semi-formal affairs where the children were all expected to voice opinions about current events and how to defend those opinions.  Following Jack, there was Rose Marie and Kathleen Agnes Kennedy born in this house.  After six years, the family had outgrown this three bedroom house and moved to a larger home a few blocks away in Brookline.  Along with the great achievements of the Kennedy family: John F. Kennedy becoming the 35th President, Robert (Booby) Kennedy serving as US Senator and Attorney General, and Edward (Ted) Kennedy as long time US Senator from Massachusetts, there was also great tragedy.  Joseph Kennedy, Jr. was killed serving in the Air Force during World War II in 1944, Kathleen dying in a plane crash in 1948, John F. Kennedy assassinated while serving as President in 1963, Robert Kennedy assassinated while running for President in 1968, and Rose Marie was institutionalized in 1941 following a lobotomy to attempt to treat her mental disability.   After JFK was assassinated his boyhood home in Brookline became a “national shrine”, especially after they erected a stone plaque in the front yard.  The Kennedy family had not owned the home since the moved, however, Rose Kennedy decided to purchase the home and revert it back to the condition when they lived there including the furnishings for visitors.  When we arrived at the home on a narrow one-way street in Brookline it was early enough in the morning that we were able to back into a parking space at the end of the block from the house.  I can imagine the complaints from all the neighbors as there is no other parking available anywhere close to the house.  The Visitor Center is in the basement of the house, where you get the free tickets for touring the house.  Along with two other couples we had a good time with our NPS volunteer that conducted the tour.  She did a fine job, but had problems handling some of the questions, since we were all familiar with mid-20th century appliances and furniture since we had all grown up with it.  Since it was a tour, it only took 30 minutes to tour the house so we were done before noon.

FrontOfHome2 KalOnStreet

Still having most of the day available we drove a couple of blocks to another National Historic Site, honoring Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture.  Once again the challenge was figuring out where to park the truck, so after circling around the property, which again is in a residential area, we found a small parking lot for visitors set behind the house.  It was a bit of a struggle to get the truck into the parking area, but once we were in, we had a great spot again right at the Historic Site.  We went in and got our tour tickets for 1:00.  Having about an hour to kill we looked at some of the exhibits and ate lunch on the beautiful landscape grounds around the house.  The Historic Site is also called Fairsted and is both Olmsted home and the offices of his landscape architecture firm.  With my forestry background at Auburn which has a program in Landscape Architecture that we worked with from time to time, I was already somewhat familiar with Frederick Law Olmsted. I knew that his firm had designed many of the better city parks and college campuses in the nation, including his most famous project in New York City, Central Park.  What I did not know was his early life that was provided in the museum that takes up the bottom floor of the house.  He was self taught when as a journalist he reviewed public parks in England and traveled throughout the South and Texas before the Civil War.  Along with Clavert Vaux, an architect, they began the construction of Central Park after winning a design contest, this being his first landscape project!  He continued as the Director of Central Park until the Civil War when he accepted a position as Executive Secretary for the US Sanitary Commission.  His job was to design and oversee the construction of the hospitals and caring for the wounded during the war.  After many successful projects, he decided to move to Brookline in 1883, purchasing a property close to his frequent collaborator H.H. Richardson.  Obviously he turned the property into a showcase for landscape architecture that highlighted his design concepts for potential clients and named it Fairsted.  The NPS has restored the property to his original design using the many records that came with the property.  The tour itself encompasses the offices of the landscape architecture firm and had seen many expansions over the years, making a virtual warren of working spaces.  Along with the property the NPS also became the custodian of over 1,000,000 original design records that they are still in the process of restoring and preserving.  On the tour you get to see where the small army of draftsmen worked, where they copied the original plans onto blueprints, and where all the originals were stored.  It is an amazing tour and I was thrilled to learn more about his work and legacy.  After the tour we finished looking at the exhibits in the museum where I learned a couple of interesting things.  First, his projects included many University campuses, including Troy University.  Second, Olmsted was one of the first and most ardent conservationists.  He was instrumental in creating and defining the mission for the National Park System.

GregReading KalInYard Sideview

On Saturday it was time to “bite the bullet” and catch the train for the Boston National Historical Park in downtown Boston.  Since it was the weekend, we drove ourselves to the commuter train station since their was free parking and plenty of it during the weekend.  We arrived a half hour early, not knowing how long it would take and especially since the ticket office was closed, it meant we had a lot of time before the train arrived.  This also meant we would have to buy our tickets from the conductor on the train which would cost $3 more each.  While we waited we got into a conversation with another passenger waiting for the train that was mostly blind.  He has had a very colorful past traveling all over the world and the US and knew about more places to visit in Boston then we had any chance of seeing.  We enjoyed our conversation immensely and assisted him with boarding and exiting the train.  Once the train left the station I remarked to Kal that I thought it would go faster than the 20 mph we seem to be traveling at and it turned out they were having a problem with the train.  The front cab was not working, meaning they had to pilot the train from the rear which limited them to 20 mph.  We even stopped for about 20 minutes while they attempted to fix the problem with no luck.  Instead of a 20 minute train ride, we were over 1.5 hours getting to South Station in Boston!!  Luckily this also meant that they did not charge for the trip, so it was not a total loss.  However, this cut severely into our time downtown, especially since we waited with our blind friend while he tried to contact his friend to pick him up.  Unfortunately, they still had not arrived after half an hour and we just had to move on.  Unlike Philadelphia where the historic district in concentrated in one place and has been preserved mostly for tourists, the historic sites in Boston are scattered all over the place in the center of a very busy, congested, and modern city.  I am glad we came on a Saturday as I could not imagine what it would be like during the work week.  Thankfully, they have created the Freedom Walk which is a red brick line in the pavement that leads visitors to most of the historical sites.  Of course from South Station, we had to walk a number of blocks to intercept the Freedom Walk at about its middle at the Old State House.  It was within the Old State House that the Massachusetts legislature met during the Revolutionary times and where John Adams made some of his famous speeches to the legislature.  Today, it is a private museum about Boston’s place in the Revolution with live actors, however, in order to save money and time we choose not to visit the inside.  Outside is also the location of the Boston Massacre where British soldiers killed 5 Boston citizens that were protesting the occupation of the city by the British in 1770.  From there we walked on to Faneuil Hall, which was the old marketplace in Boston and today houses the NPS Visitor Center and a museum about the military arms and uniforms during the Revolutionary War.  Unfortunately the museum was closed for some reason and they were holding a series of orchestra concerts all day on the second floor of the hall, which again we did not have time to participate in.  Today the market is a series of local fast food outlets of every type and description so we got some Greek food and set on the steps for lunch.

BlindFriend QuincyMarket

After lunch we continued along the Freedom Walk to the home of Paul Revere, which looks very strange set amongst more modern homes and businesses, even though they were all 50-100 years old.  Again it was now a private museum so we did not spend any time there.  From there it is a short walk to the Old North Church where they hung the lanterns to let Paul Revere and William Dawes know how the British were going to leave Boston on their way to Concord.  We did pay the “contribution” to the church to look inside and it was worth the expense.  Since the congregation had moved to a larger church they have been able to preserve the original furnishings of the church.  The floor is broken up into multiple family boxes with individual doors into each box.  A family would contribute to the church to retain possession of their box and they have put a small plaque on each box to give the owner of the box at the time.   They have also furnished two of the boxes to give you a sense of how they could have been decorated by the family, since each family could decorate their box to their liking.  There is also a number of interpretive signs about the rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes, both fact and fiction.  Paul Revere had gone across the Charles River that day in preparation for carrying the warning and William Dawes had braved the English soldiers to position himself on the neck of land leading out of Boston at the time.  However, they did not know how the British would be leaving Boston and it made a big difference in how much time the militia had to prepare since the land route through the neck would take much longer than crossing the Charles River, that is, “by sea”.  Therefore, lanterns were hung in the steeple of Christ Church, or Old North Church, to provide them this information before they left to warn the militia in Lexington and Concord.  From Old North Church we walked up the hill to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground which is the largest cemetery in colonial Boston, established in 1659.  There are obviously a lot of old gravestones, the most noteworthy being the graves of Incense and Cotton Mather.  This is also the location where the British put cannon to fire on Bunker HIll over the Charles River in Charlestown during the Revolutionary War.  I found two interesting things in the cemetery.  First, the gravestones had all been moved in the past to create pleasant walkways for visitors and second there are a number of tombs that extend into the side of the hill.  The most interesting thing about this is that most of these “tombs” are only the plaques in the brickwork as there is nothing on the backside by air when they built the modern streets and buildings!  From here the Freedom Walk crosses over the Charles River to Bunker Hill and the Charlestown Navy Yard, which we are very interested in, but will have to wait until a later time.  Instead we backtracked to our starting point on the Walk and headed south.  However, by following the red brick trail we ran into a public parade about “Gay Rights” that was fun to watch.  The crowd would cheer as a float or organization went by waving at the crowd, which was very large.  Thankfully, the walk turned at this point, so we were able to follow it to the Granary Burying Ground where you can find the graves of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, Paul Revere, and the five victims of the Boston Massacre. By this point it was getting late in the afternoon and it was time to catch one of the last trains back to Mansfield, so we headed back to South Station and rode the train back to our truck.

KalInBoston GregAtRevereHouse GayParade

After the long day on Saturday in downtown Boston, we decided to wait on returning until the following week after we moved to our new location north and west of town.  We spent the day taking it easy in the campground and preparing to leave the next day.

June 2015 – Providence, Rhode Island

While I decided to title this post as Providence, Rhode Island, so everyone would have a good sense of where we are, we actually stayed the week in Oneco, Connecticut at River Bend Campground.  The drive east from Poughkeepsie, New York was all the way across Connecticut along I-84 and was a pleasant drive after the constant traffic of the past month.  We saw this as a break from the traffic with Boston on the near horizon.  When we pulled into River Bend Campground, they were a little surprised that we were not from Rhode Island, as the state line is only a few miles to the east and most of their guests live there.  They were very nice and welcomed us for the week and we found that we were one of the few guests during the week.  There were quite a few RVs parked in the campground, making it look fairly busy, however, these were all seasonal guests that come out for the weekends over the summer.  We had a very nice grassy site that had not seen much use since last summer and we were quite content.  We enjoyed watching the two rabbits come out to feed in the grass every morning and evening, as well as, the Canadian geese with at least a dozen chicks in tow.  We did question whether we were moving north too quickly as the temperature dipped into the 40s for a couple of nights, but then the temperatures rebounded getting back up into the 70s by the end of the week.  I am certainly not complaining as I know that Alabama has temperatures in the 90s all week!!

Campsite GeeseChicks

On Tuesday, we decided to take care of the situation with the truck that we had been dealing with since William’s a month ago.  When they changed the oil and air filter in Maryland they informed us that the anti-freeze was leaking out around some gaskets in the exhaust system and to keep an eye on the fluid levels.  Since then, we would add anti-freeze every morning before going anywhere and by now we had added about 1.5 gallons to leak out on the ground.  It was not a large enough leak to see it pool on the ground or pavement, but I was not comfortable with the situation, especially when we pulled the RV.  Since there was not much to visit in the area with regards to National Parks, we decided now was the time to get it fixed.  So after dropping by the local Ford dealership in the area on Monday, we took the truck in the first thing Tuesday morning.  They got right on it and determined that the leak was due to the upper radiator hose and not the gaskets in the exhaust system.  Replacing both the upper and lower hoses with the new O-ring design would only cost around $500 instead of the couple of thousands to fix the gaskets.  However, they also found one of the ball-joints to be worn and need to be replaced.  Therefore, we agreed to have all the ball-joints replaced with a total bill just over $1500.  We left the truck with them for the next couple of days while they ordered the parts and installed them.  In the meantime they provided us with a “loaner”, a 2015 Hyundai for no charge.  It was certainly nice driving around for the next couple of days with a car with good acceleration and Kal could easily park!!  We better appreciated the tradeoff we have made with using a truck pulling a fifth wheel, instead of a motorhome pulling a small car.  We still believe we made the right decision, but it was nice to see how the “other half” live.


We were not sure how long it was going to take at Central Ford, so we had not made any other definite plans for the afternoon.  Through talking with the campground hosts on Monday and the guys at Central Ford, we found out that Foxwood Casino was only 20 miles to the south.  We had not been to a casino since Florida, so we decided to check it out.  Unlike the small casinos in Florida with at most a single hotel and maybe 500 slot machines, Foxwood Resort and Casino is another story.  It is a huge complex with 6 major high rise hotels, 3 casinos, a huge Tanger Outlet mall, and major evening live entertainment.  Consequently, it was very confusing negotiating this single huge complex trying to figure out where the casino was.   Most of the parking was for one of the hotels or the outlet mall with no mention of the casino.  The reason for this is that there is at least one casino conveniently located from each hotel and you just park anywhere you want.  We easily found a parking spot and walked straight into the casino.  We spent over 4 hours in the casino which included lunch and although we both lost our $40 it was well worth it.  All the other casinos we have been in recently are now penny slot machines that take a minimum of $0.40 to play, which severely limits the fun you can have for $20-$40.  However, this casino had a lot of slots that you could play for $0.10-$0.30 and get full action.  We got a lot of playing time on our money, even though it would have been nice to win a bit more often.

For Wednesday, we decided to take advantage of our small car and head into Providence, Rhode Island to the Roger Williams National Memorial.  Since it is only a Memorial, we did not expect very much at the site and we were not surprised to find out it was a 2.5 acre park in the center of Providence.  It was a nice park along the river and we learned a lot about Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island by watching the film and looking at the few exhibits in the small Visitor Center.  For those of you that don’t know, Roger Williams founded the Rhode Island colony in 1636 when he fled from Boston before the Puritans arrested him for preaching freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.  In other words, he did not agree with the Puritan Theocracy that governed the Massachusetts Bay colony at the time.  Along with his family and some friends they bought land from the Narragansett, rather than just taking it away from them and named the new town Providence.  Other dissidents followed and by 1643 had established the towns of Portsmouth, Newport, and Warwick and Roger Williams returned from England with a new Charter for the colony that promised freedom of religion and the right of self government.  This Charter was used by the state until finally adopting a new State Constitution in 1843, the last state to do so.  We also leaned that the official name of the state is Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations. The best feature of the Memorial that we were allowed to park for free in their small visitors parking lot while we explored the city, for which we were conveniently located.


So after eating lunch at the Memorial we headed across the river to the Rhode Island State House, which was built in 1904 and has the third largest self-supporting marble dome in the world.  It is impressive from the outside, but even more so from the inside looking up into the dome on the rotunda in the center of the State House.  Not realizing they offered free tours of the State House in a small museum off to the side of the rotunda, we proceeded to just wander around looking in the Senate and House Chambers, the Library, and the portraits of all the Governors dating back to Colonial times.  We learned a lot more about Rhode Island history from reading the plaques under each portrait.  The most impressive item, was in the small museum once we found it.  They have the original charter on display within a steel vault that is locked up at night, or at least they would have had it on display if it was not currently being restored.  They did have a very good copy that you could look at though…  Just to know that this document still exists today, while at the same time there are no portraits or images of Roger Williams himself.  That just was not his style.  After the State House we walked the historic district according to a walking tour map they gave us at the Memorial and saw a number of historic buildings, churches, and Brown University dating from the 1700s and early 1800s.  We also learned of the history of the deep water port and rivers which have changed a lot over the years.  At one time they had a bridge across the river at the end of the bay that was over 200 feet wide with shops and other businesses on it!  Even with this walk around Providence we returned to the campsite in time to pick up the truck from Central Ford and everything was fixed and looking good.

StateHouse2KalAtBrownUniv  GregAtBrownUniv

So on Thursday, it was back on the road with our repaired truck to Springfield, Massachusetts to explore the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.  When we first pulled up to the Historic Site, we were very confused since the signs were all about Springfield Technical Community College which was registering for summer classes at the time.  The buildings certainly looked old enough to be part of the Armory, but other than that there was no sign of the Historic Site.  However, once we circled around to the back of this large area surrounded by a steel fence we came across the Visitor Center for the Springfield Armory.  It turns out that once the Armory was closed down in 1964, all of the buildings except for the Arsenal was turned over to the state and it became a community college, and a large one at that.  Except for the exterior of some of the buildings (there were new buildings mixed into the complex as well), the only historic artifact is the Arsenal where they stored the rifles.  The Springfield Armory has a long history dating back to 1777 when General Washington approved the location for storage of firearms and ammunition during the Revolutionary War.  The location was ideal during the early years of the war when the fighting was in the Northern colonies.  It provided access to three rivers that converged at this location, the most important being the Connecticut River, and had roads to New York City, Boston, Albany, and Montreal.  More importantly, however, it was north of the falls on the Connecticut River which made it safe from attack by the British navy.  Once the U.S. Constitution was ratified which strengthened the Federal Government and allowed the creation of a national army, Springfield was again chosen, along with Harpers Ferry, to produce the muskets, swords, and hand guns needed beginning in 1795.  With the capture of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War, Springfield was the primary source for armaments and in 1891 was the location for all weapon development and testing for the army.  Over the years the Armory has seen a lot of changes as it shifted from water to steam and finally electrical energy and many advances in weaponry.  It was at Springfield that saw the advances in interchangeable parts and assembly line systems of mass production.  Over the years they designed, tested, improved, and produced huge quantities of rifles, hand guns, swords, machine guns, and other small armaments.  The most noteworthy were the production of muskets that were converted from muzzle loaded to breech loaded Springfield trapdoor rifle, the clip loading magazine Model 1903 rifle of WWI, the semi-automatic M1 rifle of World War II of which they produced over 2.5 million by the end of the war at Springfield.  It was a massive operation that was finally closed down in 1964 as all production was now done by private contractors and Springfield was only involved in the testing.  There were two impressive artifacts in the museum that made the trip worthwhile.  The first special lathe made by Thomas Blanchard in 1819 to mass produce wooden rifle stocks.  They have the actual lathe he made to demonstrate the principle and you can see how it worked.  As the lathe turned a rough rifle stock a cutting blade would shape the stock through tension against a metal template that was rotating at the same speed.  Pretty neat!!  The other impressive item is the large “Organ of Muskets”, called that because the muskets are held vertically in a structure that makes it look like a pipe organ.  This is by far the largest collection of Civil War muskets I have ever seen in one place.  However, this is just a small sample of the display of rifles and other armaments in the museum.  If you like antique rifles, this is a must see!  We did take a short walk around the grounds outside the Arsenal, but there is really not very much to see as the rest of the site is now the Community College.  Before we left the site we opened the hood of the truck to check the anti-freeze fluid levels and found it down a significant amount, much lower than we had ever seen it!!  We should have checked before we left the campground, but we didn’t and now we were looking at potential more problems.  Fortunately, we still had anti-freeze with us, so we filled up the reservoir and headed back to the campground.

KalAtSpringfield RifleDisplay

The next morning we check the anti-freeze levels again and it did not appear to have lost very much if any fluid over night.  So, first thing in the morning it was back to Central Ford to have it checked out.  They quickly got the truck in and hooked up to pressure test the system and found no leaks!!  The repairman was very apologetic about either not filling the reservoir fully or more likely not getting all the air out of the system.  In any case, he could find no leaks and suggested we check it for the next couple of days.  We have checked it over the next couple of days and again before leaving on any long trips and found no problem, so I suspect it was air in the system.  The rest of the day on Friday was spent in the campground doing laundry and working on this blog, which I am still struggling on getting caught up with.  As anticipated, the seasonal campers began showing up on Friday night, so the campground got a lot busier even though it was never anywhere near half full.  However, the seasonal campers have a regular game of bingo every Friday night and Saturday afternoon, so we joined in.  We each bought a $3 card, whereas nearly all of the regulars bought larger cards with 9 squares instead of our 3.  Consequently, we did not come close to winning any of the games, but had a good time.

On Saturday morning we headed south to the coast of Rhode Island to a place that holds a warm memory for me.  During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Oklahoma State University, I got a call from a friend that I had made in our dorm at college.  He had a job opening at a luxury hotel in Rhode Island to work with him as a houseboy for the summer.  At the time I was working in an iron foundry grinding the fins off of gears and crankshafts with permanently black hands and cramped fingers.  I obviously jumped at the chance even though the pay was not guaranteed since most of it depended on sharing tips from the guests.  I grabbed a plane to Rhode Island and arrived at Weekapaug Inn, right on the coast.  My job was to work with Phillip Nelson as the houseboys in the Inn.  Every morning we would sweep off the sidewalks, reset the furniture from the previous nights activities, vacuum the halls and any rooms requested by the chambermaids, restock all the linen closets, and any other odd job that needed to be done.  After folding the laundry every afternoon, our time was free to swim, sail, or play lawn bowling on the grass.  As I remember it was the best summer of my life.  Weekapaug Inn was a great place to work with a staff filled with other college students from all over New England.  It was nostalgic to return 43 years later to find essential the same inn.  There was a major restoration done in 2010, but it still looked the same to me.  I had a chance to meet the current manager that was excited that I had returned.  He showed me a number of photographs of the Buffam family that owned the inn for 4 generations (I worked for the third generation Buffam) and pictures from that time period.  Kal ran into one of the staff that worked at the Inn in 1983 and we traded stories about the place.  With his help I was able to identify the changes that had been made, such as the garage that once held the fancy cars of some of the guests had been replaced and moved and the location of the dorms I lived in that are no longer there.  It was great to see the place again and feel so welcomed once again.  The main difference is the change in the business model.  During my time there most of the guests were long term staying for months at a time and the Inn was only open for the summer season.  Now the guests are mostly younger, staying for only a few nights to a week, and the Inn is open all year.  However, the atmosphere was the same that I remember. We drove around the area to see if there was anything else I remembered, but I so rarely left the Inn since I did not have a car, that nothing seemed familiar.  So we headed back to the campground for the afternoon.  Once again we joined the other guests in bingo, where I managed to share a win and got back all but $2 of what we spent.  I have to thank our neighbors who we were sitting with at bingo for pointing out my “block of 6”, which was the bingo game we were playing, or I would have missed out on the win. We decided on Sunday to take it easy rather than going to any of the near State Parks and enjoy the campground.  Yes, of course I did spend time working on this blog as well.

GregAtWeekapaug KalAtWeekapaug

May 2015 – Poughkeepsie, New York

Since I had planned out trip to circle around to the west of New York City, the trip up to Poughkeepsie from Delaware Water Gap stayed away from any large cities.  First, it was north along the Delaware river within the Recreational Area back to Milford, PA and then along I-84 to our next campground.  It would have been an easy pull, except that we forgot it was Monday of Memorial Day Weekend.  Milford had blocked off the main drag for their parade!  This would have been no problem if we were not pulling a 35 foot trailer behind us.  We had to navigate on some narrow residential streets with heavy traffic coming to the parade until we could get to the entrance of the Interstate west of town.  Unfortunately from this exit until the one we should have gotten on was under major construction meaning one lane and very slow.  What should have taken us 10 minute became 45 minutes because of the parade.  In any case, we were a bit later, but still was at the Sylvan Lake Beach Park just after lunch.  While this campground was okay, it was one of the worst we have stayed in.  It was rundown and needed work and it did not have any pull through sites.  Thankfully, our site was in their meadow which meant there was wide open spaces to pull up into and back the rig in.  I practiced straightening up the RV in the site since we had so much room and learned a thing or two in the process.  We met a nice gentleman who attempted to help us back in, that was full timing in his RV, along with his wife who was visiting relatives in Florida at the time.  We did have a sewer hookup, but they made the run from the RV slightly uphill which was going to make it a chore to empty the hose when we pull out.  I was also not impressed with their bathrooms which were old and the door was permanently propped open which meant there were plenty of critters sharing your time.  Their laundry facilities were also locked up and it appeared they were using the area for storage, which meant Kal was going to have to find a laundry in town.  Except for these complaints, the campground had a nice view of the lake and was quiet all week.


Since we had already decided we were not going to take a train into New York City, there was not a lot to see in the area with regards to the National Parks.  This was somewhat a blessing as we had been keeping very busy since leaving William’s exploring National Parks.  We did check on West Point, which was just south of us, however, it appeared that did not have any historical areas that dated back to the Revolutionary War that we would have been interested in. In addition, they were in the midst of graduation so I expect the campus would have been a mess.  This left just a couple of National Park sites north of Poughkeepsie in Hyde Park.  The first of these is Frranklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site which is his estate, Springwood.  It is also the location of his Presidential Library and Museum, which are not part of the NPS.  We were able to get tickets for the 11:00 tour of Springwood, which included access to the Museum.  Since the museum is administered by a private foundation our Interagency Pass only got us in for half price.  While waiting for the tour we looked at the few exhibits about what we would be seeing.  FDR’s father, James, purchased the Springwood estate in 1866 and remodeled it over the years.  However, the largest change was from a 1915 remodeling done by FDR and his mother, Sara, when they added two large fieldstone wings to the either end of the house and added a third floor due to the increasing size of the family.  When they did this the entire first floor of one of the wings became FDR’s study, which is by far the largest room in the house.  Since the home was given to the NPS shortly after FDR died during his fourth term, nearly all of the furnishings are original from the time of his death.  Therefore, the study has a lot of very interesting features and items that I would have liked to spend more time with.  However, the tour is quickly moved along to the second story where you find their bedroom.  It was interesting to note the Sara’s bedroom takes up most of the front of the house over the study, while Eleanor’s and FDR’s separate bedrooms were about half the size in the middle and back side of the wing.   You can also see the effect of the remodeling since the original bedrooms, which are now for the children, are much smaller and cramped on the second floor.  After we finished with the tour of the house,  we exited through a second floor landing down a metal staircase that was obviously put it in so tours can efficiently be moved through the house.  After the tour we were on our own to explore the stables, which were spacious and still had the names of the horses on the stalls, and the rose garden within where FDR and Eleanor are buried under a sundial.


By this point, it was after noon so we took a break and ate lunch in the truck.  From there we went to explore the museum.  It was fortunate that we had all afternoon for the library, since it is the best Presidential museum that I’ve seen.  First, it was interesting to learn that FDR had this museum built during his second term as President to hold his papers and documents which he donated to the country, unlike any of his predecessors.  However, FDR was elected for a third and fourth terms during WWII, so it became not only the first Presidential Library, but also the only one to be built while he was still President!  You can still see the office FDR had built from where he broadcasted a number of his “Fireside Chats”, however, by the time he died his papers had vastly outgrown the Library.  These are stored in the much larger Archives, of which the Visitor Center occupies one end.  Instead this building is his Presidential Museum and it is massive.  Beginning with rooms devoted to his childhood and early political career, there is a room devoted to his trials with polio along with his efforts to recover use of his legs and time at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, which we have visited years ago.  During this period, he figured his political career was over, but Eleanor worked tirelessly to keep it alive and actively supported him for his election to New York Governor.  At this point, they hid the fact that he could not use his legs as much as possible coming up with some ingenious ways to make him appear to be able to slowly walk.  Following these rooms were the ones I was most interested in, his first term as President.  Following President Hoover who was blamed for the Great Depression and the inability of the federal government to do anything about it, President Roosevelt was elected in a landslide because of his promise to act.  In fact, they had the text of his inaugural speech where he called for Congress to either quickly get on board or get out the way.  It was a strong speech that promised nothing was going to stop him.  In fact, his “First Hundred Days” where he implemented much of his New Deal was fascinating.  He enacted a number of programs that I would have thought would have helped get us out of our recession.  I would have liked to see the troublesome banks shut down until they could be straightened out with new and stiffer regulations.  I also think it would have been a good idea to create a program like the CCC and WPA to put people to work rebuilding our infrastructure rather then funding a series of “shovel ready” projects that had questionable results.  In any case, I spent a lot of time learning about all the ideas he tried, some of which failed, to get people back to work and the economy working again.  Unlike our current government that seems to be all about doing nothing, they at least actively attacked the problem.  He was making great advances that would have led us out of the Depression, but the onset of WWII really did the trick.  After two terms in office, he did not intend to run again for President, even though at the time there was not a Constitutional restriction on the number of terms.  However, his party and the voting public felt it would be a bad idea to change the Presidents with the threat of war and they already trusted FDR to provide strong leadership.  At the end of his third term in the middle of WWII, it was once again believed to be a bad idea to change the government so he was elected for a fourth term.  An entire floor of the museum is devoted to his last two terms and WWII.  When you visit the museum, be sure to go down into the basement where you can see his Sunshine Special, a convertible that was converted to be driven without the use of the pedals.  He drove this car while at Springwood on the property.  You can also glimpse his expansive model ship collection behind glass panels, although I wished they could have turned up the lights a bit since you could hardly see them.  After this full day, we were ready to head back to the campground.


Wednesday was spent getting the laundry done, which took Kal a while to find a laundromat in town that was not too busy.  I also found some time to work on this blog, although I am finding it difficult to get caught up.

On Thursday, it was back to Hyde Park to explore the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Park.  Even though this mansion of Frederick Vanderbilt, the grandson of the Commodore, is 55,000 square feet on four floors, it was only a “modest” country home when compared with the other Vanderbilt mansions, such as Biltmore Estate.  This is especially striking when you consider this mansion was used for only a couple of weeks during the spring and fall as a “country retreat” from the hectic social life of New York City and their summer homes.  It does serve as an excellent example of the opulence and extravagance of the Gilded Age by the wealthy industrialists.  The construction and furnishings cost over $2 million dollars, which is over $600 million in today’s dollars, and all but $600,000 was for the furnishings.   When you look at the exterior of the mansion you are struck with how solid the construction looks.  It is massive, but not overly ornate.  However, when you enter the mansion you are immediately struck with the opposite impression.  It is opulent to the extreme.  Everything is either bejeweled or golden and meant to impress.  While the rooms on the first floor were impressive, it was the their bedrooms that blew me away.  Louise Vanderbilt had three huge rooms for her suite that consisted of a bedroom, a boudoir, and a bathroom.  The bedroom is lavishly furnished according to the French traditions right down to the birthing rail that surrounds her bed.  Frederick Vanderbilt’s bedroom was just as big, but all he had was a dressing room in addition to the bedroom.  Instead of wallpaper or paint on his walls, there was a very expensive tapestry that created a continuous scene all around the room.  The tapestry even covered the backs of the doors so they disappeared as well when closed.  After looking at the bedrooms you get to act the part of a servant and descend through the servants wing to the basement where you find an enormous kitchen and walk-in cooler.


After the tour of the mansion we ate lunch on the lawn and then explored the formal gardens.  I was surprised to learn the NPS had not be able to maintain the garden, which had all but disappeared by 1980.  A group of local volunteers got permission to replant the garden and today most of the garden is back to its original splendor.  Even in early spring there were a lot of roses in bloom as well as other flowers and fountains.  Well worth the visit this five tier wonder of a garden.  We also stopped for a quick look at their overlook of the Hudson River with the Catskill Mountains in the background.  Unfortunately, it was clouding up for afternoon thunderstorms by this time, so our pictures do not capture the scene very well.  If you are familiar with Currier and Ives famous paintings on View of the Hudson, they used this vista.  Since there was not much more to see, we had an early day and were back at the campground by 3:00 in the afternoon.

GregInGarden KalInGarden

Once again, on Friday it was back to Hyde Park.  This time we visited the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Park which is on the Roosevelt estate about 2 miles from FDR Springwood.  Known as Val-Kill, this small property was deeded to Eleanor by FDR, so it was the only property she ever owned.  Following her learning about FDR’s affair with Lucy Mercer, she began to see Val-Kill as an alternative to staying at Springwood which was still dominated by FDR’s mother, Sara.  During her efforts to keep FDR’s political career alive while he was recovering from polio, she became friends with Nancy Cook, Marion Dickerman, and Caroline O’Day who became her partners in an enterprise to train local farmers in making furniture, pewter, and homespun cloth to supplement their incomes during the winter months.  Val-Kill Industries produced a lot of handmade products from 1927-1938 employing a number of immigrant workers, which were actively promoted by Eleanor.  After the factory closed, it was converted into a home for Nancy Cook, while Eleanor and FDR continued to use the Stone Cottage for entertaining family and important and influential guests in an informal atmosphere.  Following the death of FDR during his fourth term as President, Eleanor choose to give up her claim to Springwood, which she never felt was her home, and allow the NPS to take ownership.  Instead she continued to live at Val-Kill when she was not on the road.  She had a very active life including appointments as a delegate to the United Nations where she was the first chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the adoption of which she saw as her greatest achievements.  She was also a prolific writer publishing a daily column titled “My Day”, numerous books, radio broadcasts, and speeches.  The tour and movie of the property were very informative and nice to revisit a personage I recall from my own childhood.


We had a very pleasant lunch sitting on a park bench next to the pond and then went on a moderate hike through the woods behind Val-Kill.  They had a phone tour that you could listen to at various stops along the walk and I learned a good bit more about Eleanor.  For instance, when she was in residence she would walk this same path every day, no matter the weather.  This was in part to walk the dogs, but also gave her the time to reflect on her writings or speeches.  After we finished the walk, we drove over to the Roosevelt farm parking lot.  This turned out to be the trail head for a couple of trails that take you to the white pine, red pine, and yellow-poplar plantations that FDR had planted.  He considered himself a tree farmer and had agreements with Syracuse University to use his property as an Experimental Forest.  Unfortunately, we had already worn ourselves out with the previous walk up and down the hills at Val-Kill and it was already late in the afternoon.


For the weekend, we took a break from all the driving and exploring and spent a quiet couple of days in the campground.  I was able to get a lot done on this blog, so I am now only 2.5 weeks behind!!

May 2015 – Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania

Neither Kal nor I were looking forward to the trip getting close to New York City.  We expected the traffic to be heavy making it difficult and nerve wracking to pull the RV through the corridor between Philadelphia and New York City.  The trip started out very well with little traffic traveling north through New Jersey on I-295 and even Trenton was not bad since it swings wide of the city.  We cross I-95 south of Trenton to US 202 and head north.  This highway stays west of all the major towns in New Jersey, so the traffic was not bad at all.  This was the case all the way to Delaware Water Gap, which is just across the state line into Pennsylvania on I-80.  Surprising the trip was easy with no problems and took only a couple of hours.  The KOA we stayed at is actually located 20 miles north of I-80 on US 209 and is just outside of the southern end of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area which means it was a very nice wooded location close to the Delaware River.  We were very impressed with this KOA for its cleanliness and modern facilities.  The pull through site was easy to get into and surprisingly good space between the sites, unlike most of the KOAs which are glorified parking lots.  The amenities were very impressive with a swimming pool, 18 hole mini-golf, sand volleyball, a large playground and basketball courts.  It was obvious they had spent a lot of time and money in making a very nice campground.  We even ran into a work-camper that was spending the summer there doing odd jobs in the campground that owned an Excel Winslow only a year older than ours.  He was aware that the company was now out of business and was already having problems getting replacement parts for his rig.  He dropped by during the week and we got to know pretty well.  During the week he was busy putting a fresh coat of paint on the mini-golf course getting ready for Memorial Day Weekend.  In fact there were crews there all week cutting branches, laying out new crushed rock on the roads, and other preparations for the weekend.  It was very quiet in the KOA all week and not very full except for the long term guests.  However, everything changed on Friday night, but more on that later. Campsite

I choose to stay at the KOA since it is relatively close to the commuter train line that could take us into the city.  There are not a lot of RV campgrounds that I could find much closer to NYC.  Our first point of interest was the Statue of Liberty, which we would access on the New Jersey side instead of Manhattan.  However, when I pulled up the schedule and cost of the commuter train we had second thoughts.  It was going to cost us over $100 to ride the train and take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and would take 3 hours to get there one way!!  We could drive closer to the city to catch the train in order to save money, but I had no idea of the parking situation at the railroad station or the cost to park.  Since there was plenty to see without going into NYC (which I was not excited about doing in the first place), we decided against it. The weather on Tuesday was cold and rainy so we decided to take care of the laundry and stayed in the campground. Our first National Historic Site was Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, New Jersey on Wednesday.  Of course, this is over half way to NYC, but they had parking available and it was not far off of I-80.  The trip to the park was actually very nice since western New Jersey is fairly rural.  We stopped at a scenic overlook along the Interstate because western New Jersey is also very hilly.  We found the Visitor Center in Morristown with no problem except getting into the parking area is rather tricky with all the one-way roads.   The Visitor Center is actually located inside the George Washington Headquarters Museum which is itself an historical building since it was built in the 1930s.  We were just in time for the next tour of the Ford Mansion which General Washington used as his winter headquarters during the winter of 1779-1780.  The Ford Mansion is well worth seeing and they have it furnished with mostly reproduction pieces from the colonial period to give the sense of his office and living quarters used by George Washington (yes he actually “slept here”) and Martha Washington who joined him for all of the winter encampments.


The Continental Army was actually encamped a few miles away in Jockey Hollow where they once again built log huts for the winter.  However, they had learned their lesson from Valley Forge and organized the camp better and the huts had to be constructed according to strict specifications.  It was a good thing they did because the winter of 1779 was the worst in recorded history.  They had at least two snowstorms every month from October through February with over 6 feet of snow on the ground and temperatures that did not get above freezing during the month of January.  In addition, they still had not worked out the supply problems that plagued the army so many of the soldiers had no shoes and clothes that were little better than rags after the summer campaigns.  Also by this point in the war, the citizens in New Jersey were tired of the war and tapped out for food and supplies and would not accept the worthless paper money issued to the soldiers.  The soldiers did do a better job with sanitation and quarters so there was not the illness seen at Valley Forge, however, they very nearly starved to death.  The situation was so bad that they nearly had a mutiny before the end of the long winter.  Whereas, Valley Forge is remembered as the winter that nearly ended the Revolutionary War, in many ways the winter of 1779 was much worse.  The museum itself has a great film about the winter and some very good exhibits. Following lunch ate in the truck (it was windy and too cool to eat outdoors) we took the driving tour of Jockey Hollow.  There is another Visitor Center located in the center of Jockey Hollow that includes a very nice very nice mockup of one of the huts with part of the roof removed so you can look down into the hut to see how it would be arranged for 12 soldiers.  Along the drive there are a couple of stops where you can see some of the reconstructed huts like at Valley Forge, although not as impressive.  Since they were much better protected due to the ridge between them and the British in NYC, there was not the danger of an attack during the winter, so they were much more concentrated in the hollow in comparison to Valley Forge.  The drive was nice and I only regret the weather wasn’t a bit warmer so we could have taken a hike along the paths.


On Thursday we decided to stay away from New Jersey and traveled instead into Pennsylvania to Scranton where you find Steamtown National Historic Site.  This is located at the old Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad yards near downtown Scranton.  It is also not the best part of town, although the immediate area has seen a resurgence in recent years with a fancy downtown mall and hotels.  However, the National Historic Site has a nice parking lot and as you pull up the hill into the parking lot you can see the NPS has spent a lot of money on the rail yard.  They have totally restored the roundhouse and turntable to its 1903 condition and use about half of it for two large museums.  In one direction is an entire floor devoted to the history of the railroad industry in the US, focusing somewhat on DL&W.  You could spend hours looking at all the exhibits that give the history from the point of view of major events, as well as, the employees.  There is a mockup of a train station and you can walk into a Pullman executive car and a mailcar that have been restored.  I did not realize that the mailcars of the time would pick up the mail on the fly, sort it on the car, and then deliver the mail packets all without stopping the train!  The other side of the museum is devoted to the technology of steam travel from laying the track to the signal systems used to the locomotives themselves.  However, even more impressive then the museums is the rest of the roundhouse where they have the largest collection of steam locomotives in the world.  In the roundhouse you get to see a wide variety of steam locomotives that they have restored to operational conditions.  The turntable in the center of the roundhouse is also impressive as it is the only working example of a large turntable that I have seen.  You can even walk around the rail yard where they have even more steam locomotives, some in good condition and others that are nearly rusted away.  There we saw the largest locomotive I have seen, which is over 100 feet long and is in essence two separate locomotives.  For anyone who loves locomotives, Steamtown is a must see, but expect to take all day in both the museums and the roundhouse.

BigLocomotive Roundhouse1

For Friday we headed back towards NYC to West Orange, New Jersey which is the location of Thomas Edison’s lab once he outgrew Menlo Park.  The three story brick laboratory is immense, especially when you consider that the industrial revolution was just beginning in the late 1880s and large industrial complexes, much less research and development labs were non-existent.  With this laboratory complex his scientists would be conducting experiments on 10-20 projects at a time with the goal of creating and improving products for manufacture.  Edison was awarded over 1000 patents and he created over 175 companies all over the world to turn his inventions into commercial products.  At one time, his operations in West Orange employed over 10,000 people working in multiple huge factories in addition to the laboratory.  Across the street from the laboratory is the only remaining factory from that period and it is a huge concrete structure.  While everyone is probably aware of his phonograph and light bulb, which started the recording and electric industries, how many of you are aware that he also started the movie industry?  His inventions and companies covered a wide range of areas including telegraphs, electric cars, lithium batteries, mining, cement, typewriters, electric railroads and trolleys, telephone, domestic sources of rubber, electric meters, and many other smaller or novelty items.  To be able to conduct research in biology, chemistry, physics, metallurgy, and mechanics AND turn them into commercial products would require an enormous and complex lab and that is what you find.  Separate from the main building is a chemical lab with every know chemical available at the time and enough room to conduct dozens of experiments, a metallurgy lab with precision instruments and devices, a large blacksmith shop, a wooden form shop for making models and wooden forms, and a steam powered generator which was eventually changed to electric turbines.  Within the main laboratory is a large library containing all the scientific material available from all over the world, a huge storage area where every conceivable item they might need was stored on movable shelves, a large metal working shop, a smaller precision metal working shop, conference room, offices, and an entire area devoted to the recording of sounds.  Most of the third floor was used to store the enormous number of models and prototypes that had been developed, only a VERY few of which they have on display.  The entire complex is totally mind blowing.  One of the more interesting things we saw was outside the laboratory where they have reconstructed Edison’s Black Maria.  This is a large, strange black box on a circular rail that Edison’s scientists used to record the first movies.  The box blocked out all light but would be opened at one end to control the amount of light allowed into the structure.  It would be rotated around the rails throughout the day to capture the sunlight.  Within this structure was the birth of the movie industry.  It takes only a couple of hours to see all they have on display, but it would take weeks to see and understand it all if you were given the opportunity.

BlackMaria GregOutsideLab

After lunch we took the short drive to Edison’s house which was called Glenmont.  You have to get tickets at the Visitor Center in the laboratory since it is within a gated residential community.  Llewellyn Park was the first planned residential community in 1850 conceived to be a bucolic hillside refuge from NYC.  Glenmont was finished in 1882 and has its own interesting history.  Henry Pedder built this large Queen Anne Victorian style mansion and furnished using funds embezzled from his company.  When discovered he gave ownership to his company who sold it to Edison for the ridiculous price of $150,000, even though it took over $2 million to build and furnish.  Edison bought it as a wedding gift for his second wife, Mina, in 1887 and did not change the furnishings on the first floor, which do appear strange for Edison.  Of course, Edison immediately had it wired for electricity with an underground cable from the laboratory and it continued to use DC power until NPS converted it to AC in 1958.  He also had hot and cold running water, central heating, and flush toilets installed in bathrooms added to each bedroom on the second floor making the total count of 29 1/2 rooms.  The NPS has continued with this tradition of using the latest technologies by heating and cooling the house today with geothermal exchangers.  The house and grounds are certainly worth the visit and I would recommend taking advantage of the audio tour that you can access from your phone.


On Saturday, we kept close to the campground and drove through the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area to Milford, Pennsylvania, to the ancestral home of Gifford Pinchot known as Grey Towers.  As a forester, Gifford Pinchot, holds a special interest to me since he was the first Chief of the Forest Service under President Theodore Roosevelt.  He was also a two time Governor of Pennsylvania and a strong advocate for conservation.  I expected this legacy to be continued at Grey Towers and indeed the Grey Towers Heritage Association continues his works on education, improvements, and the promotion of conservation.  What I did not expect was this National Historic Site is administered by the Forest Service instead of the NPS, which I should have guessed.  However, it does create a strange funding situation for the site, so even though we have a Interagency Pass to cover the admission price, we only got our tickets for half price.  I am not sure what Interagency means since it does work for COE, but I guess not for the USFS?  As the name implies, Grey Towers is an imposing L-shaped fieldstone French chateau with two towers at the front on the side of the hill overlooking Milford.  Before taking the tour of the house, Kal and I walked the grounds looking at the trees that Pinchot planted with the aid of a brochure about them.  I was surprised to see the number of exotic species represented on the property, but had to admit the addition of the European Copper Beach to the landscape added color.  The leaves on this tree begin the spring with a copper color, turning to green over the early summer and then back to copper in the fall.  This reddish color among the new green of all the trees was very nice.  When you tour the house, the entrance hall is very impressive with the dark wood paneling, large fireplace, and antique furnishings.  Since Pinchot would entertain very important guests as both his time in Washington D.C. and as Governor, his wife remodeled the other rooms on the first floor to open them up.  She combined the original sitting room and library into a large room for entertaining guests.  I enjoyed seeing all the books in the library, especially the old text books on forestry and conservation.  I saw an original textbook on Forest Mensuration that I have heard about and would have loved to look at.  She also combined the dining room and breakfast rooms into a large sitting room with paintings from Europe attacked directly to the walls and 3-D frames painted around them.  It was an interesting effect.  However, now there was no dining room.  Since this house was only used during the summer, dining was done outside around a “water table.”  This is a large basin of water around which you set and passed the food around by pushing baskets or bowls on top of the water.  Very unique.  There is also a stone swimming pool that has been filled in today creating a large area for outdoor events and two stone buildings.  One is called the Bait Box and is a small stone building constructed as a playhouse for the children, impressive.  The other is the Letter Box that Gifford would use to hold meetings and store his papers instead of using the house for this purpose.

GreyTowers1 WoodenBlocks

After we finished the tour of the house we headed up the hill to hike through a white pine forest planted by Gifford Pinchot and to see the original location for the Yale School of Forestry Summer Camp from 1901-1926.  While the canvas tents they used was not up to the standards of the facilities we had at Auburn’s Dixon Center for Forestry Education, the curriculum was very similar.  Here the students would be taught how to measure and estimate the volume and value of the trees, along with lessons and field exercises on management and conservation.  It was a nice hike through the woods and I appreciate they included a canvas tent, wooden floor, and cots that would have been used by the students of the time. We returned to the KOA to an ongoing party.  As expected the KOA campground filled up completely the night before, as this was Memorial Day weekend.  There were kids everywhere filling up the playground, basketball courts, etc just a hundred feet from our campsite.  While it was noisy that evening, we could always go inside the RV which cut the noise to a low roar.  While we did not participate in any of the activities planned for the weekend, we did enjoy sitting outside and listening to the live band Saturday night.  They were a good band and played a lot of songs that I knew.  I especially liked the medleys they did mixing different songs together using the same beat and chord progressions.  It was interesting how they mixed them together. LiveBand

For our last day at Delaware Water Gap, we figured we should spend at least a day exploring the National Recreation Area.  What we did not figure on was this was Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend and the place was packed.  The traffic on the highway was heavy with all the hikers, bikers, and water enthusiasts out enjoying the warm spring weather.  At the Visitor Center we had to wait in line for over half an hour just to get a parking space.  However, it was well worth the wait.  We immediately joined a Ranger walk to Dingman Falls.  While these falls were impressive at the end of the boardwalk trail along the creek, the most impressive fall was a small fall called Silverthread Falls.  The small stream of water drops over 50 feet down through vertical channels it has cut in the rocks that do not look natural.  They are so straight they appear to have been cut in the rock.  At the main falls we climbed up the over 200 steps to the top of the falls where you can get a different perspective on the main falls and take a look at the cascades leading up to the falls.  I was a bit disappointed with the Ranger walk as his canned speech was not very informative and he did not seem to know the answer to any of my questions about the hemlock or chestnut trees.  I suspect he does not have a biology background even though that was the subject of his talk.  Since the walk is less than 1/4 mile in length it takes only about an hour to view the falls and there was still a line of cars waiting for a parking space, so we left without taking any of the other hikes.  We considered stopping at one of the other trailheads, but it was so busy we decided to return to the campground for the afternoon instead.

DingmansFalls2 KalOnBoardwalk

Before we left the campground on Monday morning, we had to deal with full grey and black tanks since our site did not have a sewer hookup.  They did have two dumping stations on the campground, but only one for large rigs, which was at the back of the campgrounds.  At other campgrounds this has not been a problem, since we leave on Mondays which is the day after most of the visitors have left for the weekend.  However, Memorial Day Weekend is a long weekend, so most of the visitors were leaving also on Monday.  This meant there was going to be a line at the dumpstation, so we decided to pay for their Honeywagon service where they come and pump out your tanks.  However, when they showed up we realized we had a problem.  Our RV has an optional sewer hookup where the hose is stored in a tube hung under the RV and is not detached from the RV unlike all other units.  This has been great since we don’t have to mess with the sewer hose, however, it posed a problem for the honeywagon.  Since we did not disconnect from the RV, they could not connect.  I though about disconnecting our hose, but this would have meant taking out four bolts and I was not sure I would be able to manhandle the tube back into place.  What we needed was a screw-in connection for our hose that would provide the connection he needed for the honeywagon.  Unfortunately, the small store on site did not have such a connection.  Thankfully, our friend that also owned a similar Excel unit, had the same set up and loaned us his connection.  We were able to get the tanks emptied and get underway.  We will have to stop at a Camping World in the near future to get a connection as I am sure we are going to run into this again, especially in the Northeast where honeywagons are more common then sewer hookups.

May 2015 – Clarksboro, New Jersey

We left William by mid-morning and since William’s car was still in the shop (it would be another couple of days before he got the work completed), he saw us off and we were off to Philadelphia.  The closest RV campground to Philadelphia is actually in New Jersey, across the Delaware River, which turned out to be a good thing.  The trip was surprisingly easy, being only a couple of hours and the traffic on the Interstate was not too heavy between Baltimore and Philadelphia.  Before the traffic picked up around Philadelphia, we turned east on I-295 and crossed into New Jersey.  Except for the hefty toll of $10 for RVs (cars were only $1).  In New Jersey, there was very little traffic on I-295 and we quickly found Timberlane Campground.  It is a nice campground with all the facilities and we were quite satisfied with our pull-through campsite.  In addition to the usual amenities of a swimming pool and laundry, this campground had batting cages, which was certainly unusual.


We unhooked the RV and ran into a problem.  The hydraulic leveling jack on the front left would not retract.  We could raise the RV on that side, but could not lower it!  This was not going to work since we could not level the RV or put out the slides.  All the other jacks worked fine, so we decided it must be the switch itself.  Not being sure of this, we contacted our Roadside Assistance and they contacted a local RV repair shop that could get there by 5:00.  He actually showed up at 4:00, which was great and quickly determined that we were correct.  It was the switch.  He easily jumped across the switch and helped us level the RV.  This left us with having to replace the switch.  We drove back out to the Interstate where we had passed a Camping World to get a replacement switch, but they did not have one.  I left a phone and email message with Peterson Industries as this should be covered by the warranty, even though the repairman only charged us $75 for his time.  By the next morning, we had still not heard from Peterson and Kal could not find their webpage.  She started checking and come to find out they were out of business!!!!!!!!!  We had a two year bumper-to-bumper warranty on the RV which was now worthless.  I called Tri-Am and found out that the warranty was now gone.  They had not been informed either of the financial difficulties at Peterson Industries finding out themselves they day after they closed their doors.  They are now stuck with some Excel models that they will have to sell as used units.  Unfortunately, they also did not have a replacement switch in stock and would have to order one to ship to us.  Before we did this, Kal checked the internet and found we could order the switch ourselves and have it shipped using two day shipping (which more than doubled the cost of the switch) so we would have it by Friday.  This worked out fine as the campground had no problem accepting the package and we replaced the switch ourselves on Friday.  Thankfully, everything worked fine and we were ready to continue the next week.  However, this still left us without a warranty, so Kal began checking on the Excel RV forum about a good extended warranty.  They recommended Wholesale Warranties and we began the process of checking into it.  We agonized about it for a week before Kal contacted them to obtain a quote.  Then we thought and discussed it for two more weeks before buying it.  On the surface it will be a good deal.  For just under $3000 we now have a 6 year warranty on all electrical and mechanical systems in the RV (the roof and structure are covered by our RV insurance just like you home is covered).  It is a 6 year warranty because even though we lost the Peterson warranty, all of these systems are still covered by their individual manufacturers for the rest of the first year.  Therefore, this extended warranty will only be effective after our first year, but we are getting it as if the RV was brand new, so we are picking up about 7 months on the life of the extended warranty.  In addition, Wholesale Warranties is like an independent insurance company, which means they have researched all the extended warranties and have selected the best company for us to work with.  They will also stand by us as our advocate if there is any issue in the future with the warranty company.  I really like the idea of having someone assisting us with the actual warranty company in the future.  I just hope we have not spent an additional $3K on a warranty only to have this company go out of business now that they have our money!!

What with the problems with the RV and bankruptcy of Peterson Industries, we had a late start on Tuesday, so we just stayed in the campground and did laundry.  I also got started on the big job of catching up with this blog.  We had also made a dinner date with my first PhD students, Sunil Nepal.  He dropped by the campgrounds early in the afternoon and we had a few hours to get caught up on each other’s life.  He is following this blog so he was already aware of what we were up to, so most of the conversation centered around his family and changes at Auburn University since he graduated.  He then took us to dinner which was very nice.  I hope to get together with other old friends on our travels.

SunilAndGreg SunilAndKal

On Wednesday, it was time to start seeing what Philadelphia had to offer a tourist, obviously beginning with the historic district that saw the birth of our nation.  As advertised, Timberland Campground is the closest campground to Philadelphia and being on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River turned out to be a big advantage.  We were close to I-295 and only a few miles from I-695 that crosses the Delaware River at the Ben Franklin bridge, right into the historic district.  You would expect the historic district to be along the river, however, the river and the state line have limited the spread of Philadelphia to the east.  Of course there is Camden, New Jersey right across the river, but I-695 quickly passes through it with little traffic except at the bridge.  Once across the bridge you take the first exit and quickly park the truck at Penn’s Landing.  The entire trip took only 15-20 minutes from the campgrounds.  It could not have been easier or faster.  Of course there is the toll across the river (all the bridges across the Delaware River are toll bridges) and the public parking is $20 a day, but once parked it was a walk of only 4-5 blocks to Independence Hall.  On the way to Independence Hall we came across the Ben Franklin museum.  This is the location of Ben Franklin’s house, however, the house itself was torn down for a city street back in the 1800s.  They have now erected a steel frame of the house at the spot and provided glass panels so you can see the excavated foundations of the house and privy.  Although the museum is part of the National Park, it has a separate admission fee, so we did not visit.  There is also an exhibit in the Print Shop, which was filled at the time with multiple groups of school kids, so we moved on to Independence Hall.


The Visitor Center at Independence Hall is a very large and relatively new building.  They have a good set of exhibits about the many historical buildings that make up the National Historical Park and two movies about the city.  We choose to view the movie about the critical period of the events leading up to the First and Second Continental Congresses that led the country through the Revolutionary War with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Articles of Confederation that formed the United States in 1777, the U.S. Constitution that formed our current government structure in 1788, the first U.S. Capitol and location of the Congress until 1800, and the inauguration of the first two US Presidents, President George Washington and President John Adams.  The movie was expertly done using professional actors portraying the ghosts of the major players.  The Visitor Center is also where you get tickets for the tour of Independence Hall, which are free, but are used to regulate access.  Since the first available time was 2:30 in the afternoon, we decided to get an early lunch.

We ate at a small outside cafe in the park and both of us had to order Philly cheesesteaks since we were in Philadelphia.  While good, I have had better other places, at least in my opinion. After lunch we stood in line to visit the Liberty Bell.  As you know the Liberty Bell has a huge crack in that was due to imperfections in the iron when it was cast.  There were two attempts to fix the crack, the first being a recasting of the bell by Pass and Stowe whose names are stamped on the bell.  To protect the bell it is housed in an environmentally controlled building where you can get almost close enough to touch it.  The building also contains excellent set of exhibits about the history of the bell and it’s importance as a symbol of freedom and liberty.  I especially liked all the memorabilia they have included that has used the image of the bell for all kinds of political and marketing purposes.


The tour of Independence Hall is a must if you are ever close to Philadelphia.  The tour begins in the East Wing of the Hall where after a quick introduction you are brought into the Hall itself.  On one side is a large room that served as the Provincial Courthouse with a bar and cage for the defendant like you would see in England. On the other is the chamber where the colonial delegates of the Second Continental Congress met to discuss, draft, and pass the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  For those of you that have seen the movie 1776, rest assured that they did an excellent job of recreating the room as it looks exactly the same.  It is smaller than I thought it would be with the 13 small tables and chairs appearing crowded in the room. While this is the end of the tour, you should also take the time to visit Congress Hall where the first House of Representatives and Senate met from 1789-1800.  You can easily see the expansion they made to the building to include the congressional delegates from Kentucky, Vermont, and Tennessee.  They have restored all the rooms to what they would have looked like in the late 1700s.  This is well worth the visit. Once we had finished with Independence Hall and Congress Hall it was nearly 4:00 and most of the other historical buildings in the were closed.  So we walked by the exterior of the First and Second National Banks, the two colonial houses, and the City Tavern (which was still open offering ales brewed using period recipes).  It was a full day and we had seen less than half what Philadelphia had to offer.

CarpentersHallAndKal IndependenceHallFar

On Thursday we decided to stay in New Jersey and explore the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve.  As a forester I have heard about the pine barrens in New Jersey as the northern extent of the southern pines.  I expected a few thousand acres of pine trees that due to poor environmental conditions are the remnants of the southern pine forest.  However, the Pinelands National Reserve covers nearly all of southern New Jersey and encompasses over 1,000,000 acres.  I was also surprised to learn that it is not loblolly pine as I had thought, but pitch pine which is not a common southern pine.  The Reserve is a joint federal and state program that administered by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission that contains about 100,000 acres of federal land plus Wharton State Forest, Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, Bass River State Forest, and Penn State Forest.  The Reserve is defined by the extremely poor and acidic soil, low elevation, and boggy terrain.  The main commerce today are extensive blueberry fields and cranberry bogs.  As far as I could tell, the Reserve did not have a Visitor Center, so we choose to visit the Wharton State Forest as one example since it was the closest to the campgrounds.  Specifically we visited Batsto Village which is on the State Forest.  Batsto Village began as an old “iron plantation” in 1766.  Rather than digging iron ore out of the ground they “harvested” bog iron from the shallow bogs and used seashells for the source of lime.  The extensive pine forests provided the wood needed to make charcoal to fire their cold iron furnace.  The supply of easily accessible bog iron and higher yield iron ore in Pennsylvania made the operation unprofitable by the mid-19th century.  The land changed ownerships a couple of times over the next hundred years and so did the commercial enterprises.  There was a period of glassmaking, forestry, and cranberry production.  Today the village has been restored by the state and includes the mansion, gristmill, sawmill, and living quarters.  I especially liked seeing the water powered sawmill, which they still operate at times for visitors.


After exploring the village we ate lunch outside the Visitor Center and then took a 2 mile loop trail through the pitch pine forest and along the river.  The pitch pine forest reminded me a lot of a young loblolly pine stand with short needles on the trees.  In fact, the needles are so short that they would tend to collect on the lower branches when they were shed creating some massive collections of materials that looked like squirrel nests everywhere in the forest.  The forest floor was carpeted with blueberries, or at least I think they were blueberries.  All of these plants were just beginning to bloom and when they do it will be a spectacular sight.  If this is common throughout the Pine Barrens, which cover well over half the state, then I can see why it is called the Garden State.

MessInTrees GregAtBog

The next day, Friday, we headed west of Philadelphia to the site of Valley Forge.  If you remember your American history you will certainly know that Valley Forge was the location of General George Washington’s winter encampment.  Actually the Revolutionary War last from 1775-1781 so there were numerous winter encampments: Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1775, Morristown, New Jersey in 1776, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1777,  Middlebrook, New Jersey in 1778, back to Morristown, New Jersey in 1779, and New York’s Hudson Highlands and Morristown again in 1780.  Before Valley Forge, the Continental Army was a collection of state militia with short term enlistments, so the army would basically dissolve over the winter.  General Washington’s army would be reduced to only a few thousand by spring.  The same occurred at Valley Forge, although they also lost 2500 soldiers to disease due to the very wet and cold winter, poor living conditions, and lack of clothing and food.  In addition each of the state militia had their own command structure and battlefield tactics and commands making coordination in the field nearly impossible. However, there was a big difference from previous years.  First, enlistments were lengthened for most of the state militia, the Continental Congress was convinced that the supply problem had to be fixed, and most importantly, Baron von Steuben, a professional Polish officer, had joined the cause.  Baron von Steuben increased the size of Washington’s Guard from 50 to 150 soldiers from all the colonies and trained them to fight as an organized unit.  The Guard was then able to demonstrate coordinated tactics and commands and assisted in the training of the entire army.  When the Continental Army left their winter camp in June, they were an organized fighting force that could match the British, the best soldiers in the world at the time.  This was also the winter when France sided with the Patriots and began sending troops and supplies which greatly improved morale and the belief they could win.  Today Valley Forge is a beautiful park, especially in the early spring and the NPS has undertaken the construction of scattered huts to reflect the living conditions and sheer size of the encampment.  We purchased a Driving Tour CD that added a lot to our understanding of the area.  Since this was not a battlefield, we thought we would be able to see Valley Forge in just a couple of hours.  Due to its size and the number of stops on the Driving Tour it took all day.  Of particular interest was General Washington’s headquarters along the Schuylkill River where he rented a house.  The train station that brought visitors to visit this almost National Shrine in the 1800s and served as the first Visitor Center for the NPS is a beautiful structure and had some very interesting exhibits about Washington and his staff.

GregAtVarnumHeadquarters KalAtHuts

On Saturday so it was time to head back to Philadelphia.  The traffic over the weekend was a lot less then during the week and we knew where we were going, so the trip in was easy and quick.  Instead of heading back to the Independence Historical Park, we wanted to explore a couple of the other Historic Sites in the area.  A nice walk along the Delaware River from where you can see the USS New Jersey (a WWII battleship) on the New Jersey side and a nice two masted Schooner that is today a bar and restaurant on the Pennsylvania side, led fairly quickly to our first destination, Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site.  Gloria Dei Church is also known as the Old Swedes’ Church, since it is the oldest church in Philadelphia and the second oldest Swedish church in the United States.  By modern standards it is a small church, but the architecture is stunning.  Built in 1698-1700 with the tower added around 1733, Gloria Dei Church is a mix Medieval and Gothic styles.  It was only 10:00 when we got there and it did not appear that there was anyone around yet.  After taking a look at the cemetery, which has gravestones dating back to the 1670s (although you could not read them anymore) we tried the door into the sanctuary and found it open!  The inside is fairly simple although there is a very nice chandelier and they have models of the two ships that brought the Swedish colonists to the New World hanging from the ceiling.  In the floor are also the old graves of the first leaders of the Church which was a common practice back then.  Even then it did not take more than an hour to explore Gloria Dei Church.


We headed over to the other close National Historic Site, the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, only to find out it did not open until 1:00.  So we walked a bit more around the historic district taking in the historic homes, streets, and city market before we found a restaurant that was open for an early lunch, or brunch.  We each had a terrific meal, which we took our time eating, and then walked back over to the Kosciuszko NM.  Even though it suppose to be open, the door was still locked, but on the second attempt the Park Ranger heard us and opened the door.  Obviously we were the first visitors of the day.  This National Historic Site is actually the boarding house that Thaddeus Kosciuszko lived in after he returned from Europe after being a key figure in the Polish-Russion War of 1792 where he was captured and came back to America after being released.  He returned to Philadelphia a National Hero for his valuable contributions in the Revolutionary War.   Trained as a military engineer in Poland, he came to America in 1776 to join the American Revolution for which he strongly supported the cause of freedom from oppression and equality for all.  He was immediately made a Colonel in the Continental Army and proceeded to make a number of contributions in both the northern and southern campaigns.  Among these were delaying the British soldiers chasing the Continental Army after they abandoned Fort Ticonderoga, the fortification of West Point in the northern campaign.  After the Revolutionary War shifted to the south he engineered the construction of boats that saved General Greene’s army from General Cornwallis in the Race to the Dan and engineered the siege war at Ninety-Six.  If you have been reading my blog up to this point, you will know that we have already visited these southern sites and we have plans for the northern as well.  The NPS has restored the room that he lived in when he returned to Philadelphia and have put up a couple of exhibits about his many contributions.  It still took only about 1.5 hours to explore the memorial, so it was another early day back to the campground.  While I was not too impressed with the Gloria Dei Church, I appreciated the Kosciuszko Memorial as it tied together some of the sites we visited last fall and I learned about an important contributor to the Revolutionary War that I had never heard of before embarking on this adventure.

CityStreet Schooner

Rather than going back to Philadelphia on Sunday, we got adventurous and made a relatively long drive into Pennsylvania to visit the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.  Like Batsto Village that we explored on Wednesday, Hopewell Furnace is an “iron plantation”.  However, it’s time period is later and the main source of iron is the plentiful iron ore in eastern Pennsylvania.  Along with the plentiful limestone and forests to make charcoal, eastern Pennsylvania had all the essential ingredients to smelt iron and Hopewell Furnace is just one of many iron plantations scattered through the countryside at the time.  Unlike other iron furnaces we have seen in our travels, this site is much more than just the stone chimney of the cold furnace (meaning ambient air is used in the furnace instead of heated air).  In fact, it is still a working furnace if they wanted to fire it up.  The bellows are powered by a water wheel that forces the air into the furnace.  Iron ore, limestone, and charcoal are added at the top of the furnace and the iron comes out the bottom.  The water wheel still works and you can feel the air being pumped into the furnace.  They had a couple of short films in the Visitor Center that give a good demonstration of the making of charcoal and sand casts for making stoves, which Hopewell Furnace was known for.  The highest paid employees, outside management, were the cast makers who got paid by the piece, but only if it was perfect.  Most of the employees worked cutting trees and making charcoal.  It would take about an acre of wood to make the charcoal needed for a single day of operation!  However, they did not clearcut the forest, since they only used trees at least 6″-8″ in diameter, so in about 20-30 years they would return to the same acre.  They did not plant trees as there was sufficient advanced regeneration to reforest the land.  Still it took thousands of acres of forest to provide for the furnace.  Other employees worked as miners for the iron ore and limestone and there was a large number that grew crops, maintained the mansion, and dealt with other jobs, making Hopewell Furnace a self-sustaining community.  This was true of the other iron furnaces in the area.  Unfortunately, there were no hiking trails since the Historic Site is primarily the buildings and furnace.  The forests are now part of State Forests and other private ownerships.  Therefore, after lunch we headed back to New Jersey for a short day.

GregAtOvens KalWithHorse