Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 5--Gettysburg to Port Byron, NY

Our spot at the Gettysburg Battlefield KOA
The KOA in Gettysburg was great! The staff met us at the entrance to the camp and walked us to the spot, directing Keith while he backed into our camping site after dark.  It's a large camp and though there were only a few vacancies, it did not feel crowded.  The place has lots of trees and lots of activities we didn't have time for like sponsored tours to D.C., evening videos of the local Battlegrounds, and giant outdoor chess games.

Garmin took us to the Gettysburg Battlegrounds by sort of a back route.  We wandered on the roadways through the huge battleground area.  There are zig-zagging split rail fences and nearly 1,300 huge marble and bronze sculptures throughout the fields.  Every state or military unit with a tie to the Civil War seems to have erected a monument here.  Then, we walked through the cemetery area where Lincoln gave the "Four score and seven years ago..." speech.  This place had graves from later conflicts like all our American Military cemeteries.
Soldiers National Monument
near site of Gettysburg Address 
Abraham Lincoln was the second speaker on November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg. Lincoln was preceded on the podium by the famed orator Edward Everett, who spoke to the crowd for two hours. Lincoln followed with his now immortal Gettysburg Address. On November 20, Everett wrote to Lincoln: “Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes. (
We finally found the Visitor Center, and did the quick walk through the display area and museum shop, skipping the Park Ranger lectures and cyclorama shows in order to make it to our goal in NY by evening.

The scenery on today's drive was breath-taking!  Some areas of wooded hillsides looked like they'd been splattered with paint.  We lost the guilt about missing the Ohio River route, since the road to NewYork took us all along the Susquehanna River.  This one is wide and shallow, sort of like the Platte River back home.

This is part of a long graphic in the 
Visitor Center at Gettysburg showing how
many enlistments each state had for both
sides during theCivil War.  It was eye
opening for me, and stirred an appreciation
for the important influence and education
provided to my son and his fellow choir
students when they performed "The Civil
War" musical in high school.
We pulled into the small town of Port Byron, NY before dark and stopped to figure out a place to stay. Keith used his iphone and I went into the local cafe, where they said Hejamada was good, and fairly close.  Named with the first two letters of the four original owners of the campground, it was beautiful, peaceful, and less than a mile from the Mentz Methodist Episcopal church, where the preacher who married mom's great-great-great-great grandparents' was pastor.

This was my favorite the parking lot across
 from the Soldiers National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA
This squirrel enjoys the many varieties
of trees and nuts in the cemetery.
The large domed ediface across this field is the Pennsylvania Monument.
Mom picked up
Gettysburg.  This one reminded her of a cigar!
Painted hills and cloudy skies in Pennsylvania
Mural in Port Byron, NY, an original Erie Canal Port city
another state line

Full moon at Hejamada RV campground, Montezuma, NY

Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 4--Canton, Ohio to Gettysburg, PA

Our third night on the road was spent in Canton, Ohio.  Mom, Dad and Jan stayed in a King's Inn motel (using a $10 off coupon found in a rest area!) and Keith and I stayed in the RV parked nearby.  The desk clerk saw our shirts and was excited, because he also grew up right on the Lincoln Highway!

What  a beautiful day to be on the road!

We were out of there early and stopped for gas when we got to our second Lisbon--in Ohio, near where President McKinley spent summers at his Grandparent's farm!  While the RV was drinking gas, I ran down the block to check out the Steel Trolley Diner and get a photo of the Italianate courthouse.  The locals at the gas station told Keith that we had to check out Bye and Bye Hardware store, so we all headed back a couple of blocks. Established in 1896 by brothers, Homer and William Bye, joined later by other brothers, Howard and Ezra, and still operated by Howard's grandson, Bob.   Bob and his family seem so happy to be doing their jobs and proud of their heritage.  On top of one of the original oak hardware cabinets, they had a giant pot of fresh punch with fruit in it and cookies for anyone who walked in.  We also got whiskey sticks here--yummy coated pretzels.

The Steel Trolley Diner, featured on the Food Network, was serving a brisk mid-morning breakfast crowd.  They have a small gift shop next door with 1950's stuff, and apple pie jam that we did not resist.

Finding seconds in the Fiesta Ware Outlet
It's about an hour further to East Lansing, Ohio and across the Ohio River on an old steel trestle bridge to Newell, West Virginia, home of the Homer Laughlin China Factory and Fiesta Ware Outlet.  The area is great for ceramic industries because of the abundant clay and river for export.  Our interest in stopping here was partly because of its mention in all the LH books, but more so, because Grandma Vasey had Fiesta Ware at her home in Cozad.  When I visited cousin Bruce in Santa Barbara, California, he had some of Grandma's Fiesta Ware.  Even Keith and Dad got into this outlet shopping.  It reminded me of going to Luxembourg for Villeroy & Boch when we were living in Germany.  We all left with boxes of different colored china seconds.  If you do the factory outlet thing, be sure they wrap your purchases well before bouncing over the roads in an RV.  We had some that weren't wrapped and had a few broken pieces when we stopped for the night.

Some miscommunication between The Book, the LHA maps, the driver, and me sent us southeast on the red adjustment instead of northeast on the original blue LH route.  One book said something about there being 5 miles of the LH in West Virginia (that little upper west part between Ohio and Pennsylvania), so I thought it met up with the blue route after that.  We probably made it a bit faster, but we were disappointed to have missed blue route scenery that follows along the north side of the river for about  35 miles.  Either way you end up in Pittsburg, going right through the University of Pennsylvania and intense traffic that seems to go on forever.  Dad says, "I'm sure glad I live in Sylvia, Kansas!"  When asked if that's because of the hills or the traffic.  He said, "There is just so much less to worry about."

As we headed for our goal of Gettysburg, we passed signs for the National Memorial to 9/11 Flight 93 near Shanksville, PA.  We took the turn right off the LH and spent about an hour at the site of the crash.  A long winding, black concrete path leads to a white marble wall that parallels the flight path, and has names of all the passengers and crew that saved the terrorists from flying into the White House.  The point of impact is marked with a large boulder, flowers, and flags about 100 yards beyond a wooden fence.  The flight path to the site is mowed between a field of wildflowers.

We settled into a KOA campground at Gettysburg.  The towns are closer together makes for less time to plan and think while we drive.  We will leave the Lincoln Highway tomorrow after visiting the Gettysburg battlefield and head north for family history.

Along the way we've been entranced by the architecture of county courthouses...each little burg wanting to outdo the other...seems that lots of money gets spent on courthouses and they become the greatest examples of their period.  Nothing compares to the Nebraska State capitol though!  We all want to feel pride in our place, and somehow human nature has a need to feel superior to our neighbors.

We also have lots of pictures of houses along the road, and noticed that the old homes are more normal further east...they did not have to be scraped together from sod!

The Fall Foliage and mountain vistas were breathtaking today.
We turned the big RV around to go back and get
photos of this great mural west of Stoystown
I was asked what has surprised me most on this trip.  For one, that so many really great homes were there along the original road when it was just mud or dirt...later rock, then brick.  I can't imagine trying to create a road across this nation...before most people even had indoor plumbing!  And to see the terrain here in Pennsylvania, it's hard to conceive of the LHA having a clue what it would be like to have roads in Nebraska!
Enjoying hospitality at
Bye and Bye Hardware, Lisbon, OH

The wall of oak hardware storage at Bye and Bye
Toll Bridge across the Ohio River

Mom and Dad at the Flight93 wall

Day 3--Ohio

I have to tell a story about the highway that Dad gave on the first day of the trip before it gets left out.  On the Lincoln Highway, about 2 miles east of the house where Dad grew up is was the homestead of his grandfather.  It was a two story home, the foundation made with cedar logs that he cut from the Loup River, nearly 25 miles north.  My great grandfather died in 1907 when my grandfather, Royal, was 16.  Royal's brother, Kent, was killed that same year in a blue rock shooting accident.   Royal lived at the homestead with his mother (Elizabeth) and unmarried sister (Edna) until he was married to Hilda in 1920.  When the Lincoln Highway came through after 1913, it passed the homestead, right through an old buffalo wallow.  When it would rain, the wallow would be terribly sticky mud and grandpa had to pull automobiles out with a team of horses!

We spent the first night with the RV in the parking lot of a Family Express /Subway gas station about 2 miles west of Valparaiso, IN.  It was clean and had pumpkin Spice Latte!  We had cereal with fresh blueberries at our RV dinette table, then headed into town to use the free wi-fi at Home Depot for uploading the blog from yesterday and plan the roads ahead.

About 11am EDT, a highway patrolman near Plymouth, IN stopped us for going 69 in a 50mph zone!   Keith thought he was following the traffic (what???!)  It was interesting to have a cop knock on the door to our house and ask for license and registration.  Keith, wearing his Lincoln Highway t-shirt, explained we were on our way to NY to explore family heritage for Mom’s 80th birthday.  After reviewing all the documents, Officer Schuh gave our golden boy a warning!  It wasn’t until seeing the time on the warning ticket that we realized we were already in the Eastern time zone!                                

The best part of this day for me was the stop in Van Wert, OH.  The Book (Wallis and Williamson) raved about Balyeats Restaurant (pronounced bal-ee-uts).  Lured by their classic neon sign, we stopped there at 2pm for pie (we sampled cherry, raspberry, peach, custard, and butterscotch!)…and the requisite ice cream. Sitting on yellow vinyl counter stools, we watched Dale and Marcia Davies serve up mashed potatoes with fried chicken or chicken and noodles or roast beef from their 1950’s era stainless steel steamers to a surprisingly busy crowd of late lunchers. They even autographed our book.

Right next door was the Van Wert County Courthouse—a beautiful, ornate structure designed in 1873 by T.J. Tolan and Son of Delphos, OH.  I went in to see if they had any details in print and the Recorder’s office was full of happy people.  89 year old Wilson Duprey was there visiting.  He grew up in Van Wert and worked at the Library of Congress while attending George Washington University.  He later worked  at the Stanford University Library and for many years at the New York City Public Library—“the one with the lions!”  When we expressed frustration with staying on the original LH route as it crisscrosses the later adjustments and doesn’t exist in places, Wilson adjusted our attitudes, pointing out “that’s part of the adventure!”

Highlights of Day 3:

Van Wert County Courthouse from 1873
Wilson Duprey in the Van Wert Recorder's Office

Mr. Duprey insisted we check out his beautifully restored library

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day Two on the Lincoln Highway

Before taking off to handle the UMW noodles, Peg baked melt-in-your-mouth scones for our breakfast…some chocolate chip, some with raisins, served with fruit, coffee and juice.   We were packed up and out of Ames by 8:20, rested, clean, and happy.

Following Garmin directions to the Polk City address of our motorcoach, we met up with Janet and Keith.  Brad, our contact with RV Roadtrip Adventures lives on a fabulous property with a pond, several miles north of town with his beautiful wife and four busy blonde boys.  While Brad gave the walk around inspection/training to Keith, the 2 to 10 year old boys, wearing motocross racing gear and snow boots, told me their favorite place to go in the RV is to Family Camp. (Not Disney World, as Brad expected them to say!)  They understand the business and don’t mind at all that we are taking their motor home.

It’s a good thing Brad lives out in the middle of nowhere because the 25 miles back toward Ames on county roads gave Keith a chance to practice turns and stops with no traffic.  The first two stop signs found us skidding into the middle of intersections!  But, my brother learns well and has wanted to drive a semi truck since he was 10 years old.  We are now sailing smoothly through Chicago suburbs on blue highways in a 36 feet long house bus! 
Our first stop was back in Ames at WalMart for groceries, and ease of parking.  Then,  we headed east, past a lot of tall corn and beautiful farmsteads.  We whined as Keith drove right on by the Maid-Rite restaurants talked about in our books. It’s sort of a family ritual to have ice cream at least once a day.  We had to wait until the Rochelle, IL Dairy Queen after our supper of sandwiches made on the go.  I vow to encourage more event-appropriate ice cream establishments from here on out.

It’s almost 9pm and we are still driving…in the dark, getting slightly lost as the LH winds around and jumps between US 30 and Illinois 38.   Our goal is to get through the Chicago metro area to Valparaiso, Indiana, making the morning drive easier. This will allow less time crunch for the remaining sights and end purpose of exploring Lyons , New York.  It’s not quite as bad as our too long push from yesterday because, Dad has had a good nap, and…well, I am not doing the driving!

Highlights of the day:

This is the most impressive bridge in all the books, and didn’t disappoint in real life

We crossed the Mississippi and entered Illinois at Fulton

From the Lisbon Museum, a 1919 photograph on the old Lincoln about a mile east of Ames, IA city limits.  

Mom’s favorite part of Day 2 was the Lisbon Museum.  Dad checked out the men’s room and came out with t-shirts that were stored there, claiming them our official uniform!  We also got a real highway sign for Dad to put up at in Kansas!  The mayor of Lisbon was the hostess and gave us all free cookbooks…most of the recipes from this German community included sauerkraut!  

Jan and Dad are discussing the vinyl record collection with Steve, at Smith Brother’s General Store.  We stopped there because of the raving reviews in Wallis and Williamson’s LH book.  Keith’s family had been here on a previous trip.  The merchandise and “stuff” was not nearly as impressive as Steve’s social savvy.  We introduced ourselves, and he called us by first names the whole time we were there…must have studied memory and facial recognition skills
The team in uniform after our first night in the RV

The impressive Courthouse in Marshalltown, IA was designed by John C. Cochrane of Chicago and dedicated in 1886.  The tower clock installation was completed in 1900.  At this point, Keith saw a sign to Grundy Center and recalled that our great-great grandpa Vasey is buried in the Grundy County, IL cemetery.  We were tempted, but decided not to make the 30 mile round trip out of our way.