Thursday, June 22, 2017

Making tracks to Michigan


At the end of 2017 we should have all but four states filled in on our map. While we've certainly spent considerable time in many of them, there are a few whose sticker we earned simply by staying one night there. Ohio falls into that category.

We literally hit the Ohio turnpike and never left until we arrived in Michigan. We were able to do that because Ohio has some awesome Service Plazas that offer RV spaces with electrical hookups. We wheeled in, hooked up, paid our twenty bucks and went inside to the food court for a snack. The next morning we had breakfast at Panera and then hit the road. That was our entire experience in Ohio and frankly, it was kind of awesome, a no-muss, no-fuss overnight.

Camping at the Ohio Service Plaza with electric. I wish more states offered something like this!

Maybe one of these days we'll return to Ohio for a more in-depth stay but, on this trip, our goal was to get to Dearborn, Michigan. We wanted to stay there three nights so we'd have plenty of time to spend at The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. We also had plans to hit up Costco and Trader Joe's, our last opportunity for a couple of months, and we wanted to stock up on our favorites.

We originally intended to stay at the Elks Lodge in Dearborn but, when we called to confirm RV parking, we were told they had sold that location and moved. No RV parking was available in their new location. Bummer. When I posted this on the Elks message board on RVillage, we got a few recommendations, all for the same place - Wayne County Fairgrounds. So that's where we went and it was just fine. Better, perhaps, than boondocking in the Elks Lodge parking lot.

Wayne County Fairgrounds. We find Fairgrounds are often a good option when there are no events going on.

Early during our first full day we took off to spend some time at The Henry Ford. Also known as the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village, it is a huge history museum complex and a National Historic Landmark. Indoors, there are huge displays of American transportation over the years, as well as historical exhibits, including many presidential limousines, Thomas Edison's laboratory, the Rosa Parks bus and many more. It was fascinating walking through the buildings seeing the evolution of the transportation industry. As you might imagine, Ford autos were front and center, but there were plenty of others as well. We really enjoyed seeing all the different car designs. And that Duesenberg still looks fabulous today. :)

I can totally see this being towed behind Scoopy, can’t you?

A perfect marriage: classic car and iconic hotel sign.

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Presidential limos: Teddy Roosevelt’s horse-drawn carriage and JFK’s 1961 Lincoln Continental

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We have a few more comforts in Scoopy than these early models.

Lots of familiar models in this exhibit, most from my generation.

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I love this McDonald’s display. I remember when they used to post how many burgers they’d sold.

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Rosa Parks bus. Usually there were tons of people in here, but I managed a few seconds alone.

Greenfield Village, the outdoor living history museum section of the Henry Ford complex contains nearly one hundred historical buildings that were moved to the property from their original locations and arranged in a "village" setting. The museum's intent is to show how Americans lived and worked since the founding of the country. The Village includes buildings from the 17th century to the present, many of which are staffed by costumed interpreters who conduct period tasks like farming, sewing and cooking. Steven visited the Village on his own during our second day there. He wanted to stay all day and photograph everything and I wanted to stay at home. Since we'd done our shopping the day before I had some food prep to do and some meals to cook. When Steven is out photographing, the kitchen is my happy place. It works for us.

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Period horse carriages and costumes at Greenfield Village made it feel like stepping off a time machine.

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A potter demonstrates his craft at one of the village shops.

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Greenfield Village has an active farm where only those things available from the early twentieth century are used.

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Reproduction of Thomas Edison’s workshop.

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The vintage cars and trains made perfect subjects for Steven’s favorite shooting style: pinhole photography.

Our time in eastern Michigan was short as we were on a mission to get to our next stop. Based on a recommendation from our friends Jim and Diana of ExploRVistas, we had made reservations at the Wild Cherry Resort in Lake Leelanau for an entire month. Rare for us, but we knew we'd need a good long rest if we were to make it through the rest of our busy summer. This stop came at just the right time.

UP NEXT:  Pure Michigan

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wrapping up Pennsylvania

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By the time we left Gettysburg for our next destination, we were exhausted. The pace we have set so far this year has worn us out. I can't say it's the RV traveling exclusively because we're keeping the same pace as usual. But hitting the road after a month of near constant travel in Europe with no down time upon our return meant we were already in need of some rest.

Our destination was Hickory Hollow campground located in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Somerset County. Talk about relaxing! We ended up staying there for six days, one more than we originally planned. It was so beautiful and peaceful there and since it was still early in the season, we practically had the place to ourselves. Bliss! I don't think there is a single RVer we've talked to who hasn’t stayed here while passing through this part of Pennsylvania. It is central to several interesting sights but one of the draws here is the price. It’s a Passport America park. So, YAY!


It is easy to see why everyone who stays at Hickory Hollow Campground loves it so much.

As for sightseeing, we managed to hit up all the main ones, including the Johnstown Flood Museum and the National Flood Memorial, the Flight 93 Memorial, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and the fun little town of Ohiopyle.

A couple of blog entries ago I mentioned that in Pennsylvania we expected to see cultures, history and tragedy. The Flight 93 Memorial, newly opened in September of 2015, captures the modern day tragedy in a stunning way. The features of the memorial and displays portray the horrific events on Flight 93 as they unfolded. Having received word that the Twin Towers had been struck by two hijacked planes, passengers and crew on Flight 93 realizing their fate, took it upon themselves to change history. The incredibly brave actions by 40 people aboard that plane very likely saved the lives of countless more and prevented an attack on our nation's capital.

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The large boulder marks the spot where Flight 93 crashed.

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The view of the visitors center from the memorial wall and a personal tribute to one of the heroes of Flight 93.

The visitors center is an impressive architectural spectacle.

The power of each display inside can’t be expressed in words.

Each panel described a moment in time leading up to the tragic ending of Flight 93.

This is possibly the most emotional monument or memorial we have ever visited. We knew from news accounts that members of the crew and a few passengers were able to make calls to loved ones before the crash. Some of these voice recordings are featured in the visitors center. Pick up a phone and listen. But when I saw the look in Steven's eyes, I knew I couldn't do it. It was too heartbreaking. Weeks later, as I write this, we still tear up. If you are anywhere close to this area, I urge you not to miss this beautiful and poignant memorial.

As if we hadn't experienced enough tragedy for one day, we decided to visit the Johnstown Flood Museum and the Johnstown Flood National Memorial about half an hour away from the Flight 93 Memorial. This flood ranks up there in the top ten disasters in the United States and that list includes 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Yet, I'd never heard of it. I wondered if in a generation or two folks will say they never heard of Flight 93. How sad that would be. I understand more than ever the importance of preserving our history and I think the Park Service does a great job.

On Friday, May 31 1889, the South Fork dam failed 14 miles upstream from the town and unleashed 20,000,000 tons of water that devastated Johnstown, PA. With little warning, the flood killed 2,209 people and became the most catastrophic dam failure in US history.

There are two main venues to learn about the flood. The first is the Johnstown Flood Museum which is located in town, and the second is the Johnstown Flood National Memorial run by the U.S. Park Service located on site where the dam failed. We found both to be interesting but, to be honest, we had reached our fill of tragic events by the time we visited the flood memorial and we didn't even stick around for the film. Instead, we headed home as it had been a long day.

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A replica of the wreckage and an interactive model of the water’s path at the Johnstown Flood Museum.

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Some of the people who lost their family, loved ones or even their own lives in the flood.

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Colonel Elias J. Unger lived in this house and had a commanding view of the original lake and dam.

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The visitor center at the Johnstown Flood National Memorial shows photographs documenting the destruction.

Impressive display in the visitor center at the Johnstown Flood National Memorial.

The weather during our stay had been a mixed bag, so we had put off visiting Fallingwater thinking that, if the weather didn't improve, we would just skip it. But once we extended our stay by an extra day that turned out to be sunny and warm, we thought it would be the perfect place to visit.  Honestly, we weren't expecting to be wowed by it but we were. And we didn't even go inside!


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The grounds leading up to Fallingwater were particularly beautiful on this sunny day.

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The iconic view of Fallingwater, widely regarded as one of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces.

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There are plenty of opportunities to see this gorgeous property from all different angles.

The guest quarters feature a spring-fed swimming pool which overflows and drains to the river below.


We didn’t go inside but we had views from the outside patio.

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We were lucky to avoid the crowds. As we were leaving, people began arriving in droves.

Of course, at first I was thinking how depressing it would be to live in the forest! But the way the light fell, it was sunny and bright and just spectacular! We managed to arrive early and beat the crowds so we got to peek inside as well as get the quintessential shot from across the river.

Our tickets also allowed a visit to another Wright-designed property, Kentuck Knob, but we didn't go there. Instead, we went to the nearby town of Ohiopyle to visit the new visitors center, built over the river and facing the raging waterfalls. It's a spectacular view and the center is really nice. The little town is cute with streets lined with shops and cafes. There is the ubiquitous brewery and restaurant but the big business in town is river rafting.

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Three dimensional information signs and a great walking bridge at Ohiopyle.

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The visitor center sits above the river with rapids perfect for rafting and other water sports.

The inside of the visitors center is full of interactive displays. Great for kids too!

We enjoyed lunch in the general store before taking a walk through town. We were so happy to be in the sun and in a place that wasn't all about tragedy.

After two weeks, our time in Pennsylvania had come to an end. Both Steven and I agree that this is one of the most beautiful states we've visited in our travels and we rank it right up there with our beloved Washington state. Now that's saying something!

NEXT UP:  Ohio and finally, Michigan!