Sunday, September 27, 2015

Road Trip 2...Niagra Falls, Corning Glass Museum, Sparta NJ, Norfolk, VA, Williamsburg, Washington DC, Belpre Ohio, Ocean Springs, MS, Back to Florida

ROAD TRIP 2015 Stop 4...NIAGARA FALLS   From Chicago, we headed East and a bit north, crossing into Canada at Detroit and driving East to Upper New York State. We are on the way to see Susan's brother and his wife and their family, but on the way, we made several detours and stopped to walk and photograph...

An old Mill in Canada invited us to stop and turn around to take a picture...
As we drove through the Canadian planes, 
we were amazed at the number of windmills we saw. 
On one stretch we drove for about 45 minutes on a highway, and saw multiple windmills all the way...hundreds of them...maybe thousands.

Driving along we saw the mast of what looked to be an old schooner.  
We pulled off the road, walked a bit and found an 
abandoned Great Lakes steam/sail lake schooner from the 1850's resting quietly as it's reflections echoed a long and lively career. 

Ted, (Susan’s Brother) suggested that we stop 
at Niagara Falls for a night since we were so close, so stop we did...

Notice the boat in the picture above...
It is on the way to see the falls close up.  
 Lots of Raincoats...lots of people...lots of these boats

The falls are beautiful and intoxicating

The roar of the water is deafening

Watching it pouring over the rocks at the top brings memories of hearing about the 1800's 
when many tried to go over the falls in a barrel, most without success.

Enjoying the falls and each other 

One of the fascinating things here are the retaining walls, 
built from local stone that surrounds the area.  Each weighs tons, and it is hard to comprehend how they were placed and formed so exactly.

The falls are truly beautiful, but it is sad how so much has grown up around the area.   
Big apartments, huge hotels, massive casinos all combine 
to grant a Wisconsin Dells feel to the place.  Sad.  

Leaving the Canadian side of the falls, we re-entered the USA and Headed to Corning, New York, home of the Corning Glass Museum. 

The art gallery is a revolving collection of the best glass art from around the world. 

A Lynx, made entirely from shards of glass, 25% over life size.
The photo does not do it justice.

 Perhaps our favorite...this captivating sculpture
depicts a spirit rising from a dying person.

The gallery is designed so there are no shadows, 
allowing the exhibits and art to be displayed in a unique way.   

The space also provides a showcase for many experimental ideas.  
You may have read about the electronic shades that black out a room with a switch
but this one is a sheet of glass with many tiny white dots that form a diffused look.
the outside was landscaped so the view would always look like an Impressionist painting.

In addition to the Gallery there is The Corning Glass Museum featuring explanations of prisms and telescope mirrors and other glass inventions such as fiber optic cables, each with docents to explain and inform, meaning you can spend a lot of time here if you so desire.   Be sure to take the bus ride to downtown Corning NY to see a beautiful and historic downtown featuring the Norman Rockwell Museum as well.  

ROAD TRIP 2015…stop 5...SPARTA, NEW JERSEY.  On the next part of our trip we visited Susan's brother Ted, his wife Karen and their family in New Jersey. Ted and Karen were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. 

They opened a bottle of Dom Perignon that they saved from their wedding day...
and drank a toast of slightly carbonated medicine like beverage 
with only a hint of Champagne. 

Guess it was the thought and concept that was important…It was still fun and kind of amazing that it stuck with them all these years.  We spent time with their family, remembered happenings from 50 years before when John and Susan were in Ted’s wedding party.  We had a family cookout with our 3 nieces, their 2 new best friends and spent 4 great days.  In addition to being Susan's Brother and Sister-In_law, Ted has been a friend since Junior high and he and Karen and their 3 daughters close friends for most of my adult life, although being a brother-in-law is something kind of new in the whole perspective of our lives.  It is a treat to continue to be a part of their lives.

We also went to see the Drum and Bugle Corps national semi-finals.  Ted has attended these for the last 32 years and the 2 day event in New Jersey is the culmination of a summers work for the teams.   

This group of 20 are special as they will be the 20 teams that will compete for the national title just a week later.  The best of the best.  The teams have traveled from all over the country, and pretty much without exception, they were spectacular.  

 One other big event while there, John and Ted finally got John’s 3rd drone flying perfectly.  The other two were defective, but this one is amazing.  It is a DJI Phantom 3, and the video footage is wonderful…the 3D gimble produces rock solid HD video as well as 12 MP stills.  See the link below to check out some pictures of Ted and Karen’s home and the lake they overlook.  NOt a video masterpiece, but at least a start.

ROAD TRIP 2015…STOP 6...NORFOLK VA    Grandson Lewis qualified in the state and Midwest to run in 4 national events referred to as the Junior Olympics of Track.  There were close to 10,000 attending athletes from all over the USA. They ran events for close to a week. Lewis ran in the 100 meter, 200 meter, 4X100 meter and 4X400 meter. The whole team was awesome. Good Show Lewis... 

We also explored the area a bit seeing some of the Naval repair dry docks and lots of history. We also saw the retired USS Wisconsin battleship. Our motel was next to "Old Town" Norfolk, which contains the largest collection of 16th and 17th century homes in their original location in the US

One of the historical homes of Old Town

Many of the homes and streets have their own special memorials

And Norfolk is home to a massive US Navy base.
Everywhere you look you are reminded of it's presence

 In Port being retrofitted...

A small ferry takes visitors and locals between various stops

Ships in Dry Dock

The USS Wisconsin

ROAD TRIP 2015…STOP 7...WILLIAMSBURG, VA.  Ted’s suggestions of Corning and Niagara were so good, we took him up on another suggestion…a visit to Williamsburg.  Here is another place to be sure is on your bucket list...and be sure to allow lots of time to enjoy, especially if your are a history buff.  We spent a bit over a half day, and we needed much more time. We knew the time was way to short as many families were buying 3 and 4 day passes for admission. Regardless, it is beautiful, historical, authentic and educational.  Make it a point to go there.

From the visitors center, pass under a highway to Williamsburg.
Not only is this a historical village, but also home 
to over 400 people who live here full time

Everything is either authentic, repaired
or created with the tools and technology of that time

 The settings are beautiful, well kept and each a painting in its own right

Could you paint anything prettier

The buildings are in amazing condition

and everything is authentic, even to the slopes of the roofs

 In Old Williamsburg, the workers are in costume, and the transportation is authentic

 Many actors are present doing their on life skits, talking politics and having fun for all

The carriages are always on the go

Loved this wonderful device for closing a gate

 I love to photograph old doors and windows

There are carriage riders and workers transporting goods

And several times every day, usually after a political reinactment,
the drum and fife band marches and plays

Williamsburg contains the largest collection of authentic
wepon of the time anywhere, all restored to their original condition

ROAD TRIP 2015…STOP 7…WASHINGTON, DC. I had never been to Washington DC, and Susan had only taken a cab ride there many years ago.  If any of you have never been, you owe it to yourselves to go there and just walk and look.  I was moved by the number of foreign visitors, coming to the US and taking time to see some of the history of this great country.  I was moved as we took the very long walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capital Building.  Along the way, we saw the many memorials…Lincoln, Washington, the Korean War, The Vietnam Memorial, the Pacific war theater Memorial and so many more.  This thought provoking place reminds us of what made the USA a great nation, and helps the younger generations begin to understand how many died or gave up parts of their life to keep the rest safe.  
 The Lincoln Memorial

 The Washington Memorial and part of the reflection pool

 Looking from the Lincoln Memorial

 Part of the Lincoln Memorial

First stop...The Korean War Memorial...amazing...penetrating

 A wall of photos engraved into reflective granite recalling the hard times of war

 The Vietnam Memorial...58,307 names are here

 The WW1 Memorial

 The National WW2 Memorial

 The US Capitol...Under repair

 By the time we got to the Capitol, we were exhausted...we stopped to rest
and saw this squirrel hoping to cool off on the granite, apparently as tired as we were

 The Famous Capital Grill...seen in most every movie ever shot in DC

Of course, you do not really understand the numbers till you get to Arlington 
and see block after block…section after section, hillside after hillside 
of tombstones lining the roadway… 
Arlington Cemetery spans 624 acres, which is roughly the size of 472 football fields. 400,000 people from the United States and 11 other countries, 
have been buried there since the 1860s.
 More than 4 million people visit the cemetery annually.

 Words cannot describe the feelings as you pass through this sacred place

 There are no views that are not filled with sadness and amazement

And if you go, be sure to visit The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier  

And stay long enough to watch the “Changing of the Guard” ceremony 
that takes place every 30 minutes  
These special solders are trained for this duty, and each group stays just one week

We also managed to stop briefly at The Smithsonian Castle 
and spent two or so hours at The Museum of Air and Space.  

 The surrounding gardens are beautiful

 We believe Santa visits here as well

 There ae not enough words to describe The Air and Space Museum.  
An easy all day visit.
Our day culminated with dinner in one of many quaint DC neighborhoods...
A day we will remember for a long time…We walked a Fit Bit said over 13 miles
We have promised ourselves to return for 5 or more days in this area again.

Road trip #9...A CHANGE OF PACE.  We swung over to Belpre Ohio to visit Susan's Aunt Ruth. Had dinner with her and her son, Kerry, then later that evening set our sights on Ocean Springs Mississippi to see Heidi, Vic, Skylar and Jade...

The road trip took a bit of a turn, as we decided we had driven on so many Interstate Highways, all having the same truck stops, sanitized road views, identical restaurants and gas stations and way too many billboards that we would make this last long leg of our journey only on back roads.  Of this leg of the trip...Belpre Ohio to Ocean Springs MS, we only drove on an Interstate Highway for about 25 miles.

The back roads are beautiful and relaxing places. Somehow the drive is more relaxing.  We set the Garmin to shortest…not fastest…and used a paper map to select remote towns about 100 miles apart to be sure we stayed off the interstates.  It took longer, but we saw some unique places. Oak Ridge TN, the birthplace of the Manhattan Project, (at that time, this little Tennessee town had the largest building in the world under one roof.  It housed the entire project and covered over 43 acres.)  Then on a stop in Harringman TN, we discovered a quaint little town filled with train statues each decorated by local artists.  Harringman was/is the home of the Pullman Railroad Cars.  We asked a man on the street about the parking meters (more a bit further down), and as we talked he suggested a beautiful back road to follow that led us to Cumberland Falls, one of the hihghlights of this part of the trip.  Lesson learned a long time ago...people love to talk, and if you learn to just listen, you will come across as a great conversationalist and learn a lot.

Each engine was about 5 to 7 feet long, of a different style and uniquely painted or decorated

 Imaginations ran wild and many are fun filled

 Susan and I both remember the streamlined "400" locomotive 
that ran through Green Bay in the 1950's.  It was a marvel.

 Just interesting...

 And like small towns in many places, city fathers seem to realize that parking meters 
were not made to pay for city salaries, 
but to provide parking for customers who want to shop in the city center.
YES...the parking prices are 25 CENTS PER HOUR

Moving south on our back road adventure we hit a "highway" mentioned by our friend and enhanced? by Garmin, which quickly turned into a single lane dirt road. But it was a beautiful 25 mile drive with a few old house along the way to keep our interest. 

 Falling Down Beautiful...

Then it was Cumberland State Park,TN, a place far enough out of the way, that we never would have found it from the main roads.  After crossing an old brick and stone arched bridge, we entered the park and discovered a beautiful river and waterfalls and perhaps the biggest burl Susan and I have ever seen in the wild. 

Something becomes obvious on the back roads.  The small towns are suffering.  When you drive on the interstate, you see the cities.  You see the shopping centers, the cranes that are building big buildings, the new highway construction, the successes of the USA.  But on the back roads you go through the small towns, the ones that have really suffered for the last 10 years, the ones with desolate downtown's, the places with unrepaired roads and parks where the grass often needs cutting.  We seem to forget that while the cities may look like they are thriving as we drive through, many places in the country are still trying just to survive.

In what seemed to be unique to this region of Kentucky and Tennessee, we saw many American Flags attached to wooden backboards and displayed along the highway, showing a local patriotic feeling as you drove down the old roads.

Here too, homes are abandoned and take on the look of dreams gone astray

Road Trip #10...BBQ we left Tennessee, we stopped in Soddy-Daisy (honest, it is a town) and stumbled on Willy's Ribs. We met Willy, a fascinating man, his Daughter-in-law and had the best ribs, “Meaty Beans” and Slaw we had eaten in years. What a treat!

Willy's Back Yard BBQ in Sody Daisy TN
Of course, as we traveled further we had a new mission…RIBS!  We found another found another rib place in Lucedale, MS (still on Back Roads) where we stopped at Hokies BBQ...same type of menu and also excellent, but Willys beans were the best.

And when Vic and I had an hour to ourselves near lunch time in Mississippi, Vic took me to The Shed, just outside of Ocean Springs for another great Rib time.  This place has live blues music on weekends, all seating is at picnic tables outside under a tin roof, and a floor made of gravel

Oh yes...regressing a bit, check out the gas prices in Alabama near Lucedle...
 Little did we know that we would buy gas at Sam's Club in Mississippi 
just 3  weeks later for $1.81 a gallon!

ROAD TRIP #11…OCEAN SPRINGS, MS  the last stop before we returned to Florida.  4 days with daughter Heidi, her husband Vic, and their children Skylar and Jade.  It’s been a long time since we have had a two year old (Jade) in the house, but the things two year old's like come back amazingly fast.  The giggles and smiles, the fast changing moods, and the crying and her demanding nature of the “Terrible Twos” come back like a tsunami and force their way back into current memories.  

And, little did we know that 10 days after we returned that we would be heading back to Mississippi to take care of Jade and Skylar for 10 days while Dr. Heidi (Susan's Daughter) presented a research paper at an international Conference in Italy.  Vic went along and we won the grand parent baby sitting prize of the century!

John returns to Costa Rica the end of October to see how things are going.  That will probably be the next blog...

Till then, thanks for following along on our great 2015 3500 mile road trip...