Sunday, November 24, 2013

Amish Country to Gettysburg

We were surprised to see snow outside when we woke up our first night away from Robb's place. It was cold enough for snowflakes but not cold enough to stick and be a problem. We were headed for Lancaster County, PA for a few more days of Amish enjoyment. On the way we went through Kittatinny National Recreation Area, which was probably much prettier a few weeks ago when there were more leaves on the trees. We hiked the short distance to Dingman Falls, one of many waterfalls cascading over the large rocky cliff on the west side of the area. The visitors center was closed so I never did learn the geology of the area, but it was the first thing to look like a rugged mountain that we have seen in a while.
Dingman Falls - note the Rhodies!
We found our boondocking hosts right in the middle of the Amish and Mennonite communities. Don and Hettie were our hosts and they were really nice and very helpful in charting our course for the next couple of days. Don has lived there for 60 years and Hettie was raised in the Mennonite community. She left the church when she and Don decided to get married. We learned a great deal about the Amish and Mennonites from them.
Some newly learned facts about the Amish:
Fall is the wedding season, ceremonies are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the month of November, though the season seems to come earlier and last longer according to our experts. A wedding is an all day affair, the bride's family serves up 3 meals during the day, to up to 500 people! They build on temporary structures made of wood and plastic to enlarge the home for the event. When its over they deconstruct it and move it to the next home for the next wedding.
Amish farm near Lancaster
The Amish don't have a centralized church and they take turns hosting church services in their homes. When a church gets too big or there are divisions within a church a few families may splinter off and create a new group. About 3 years ago, a group of 30 families picked up and moved to Tennessee where they had purchased 3500 acres of land to begin their own community. The Mennonites have centralized churches around the community.
The Amish are buying up any land that becomes available in Lancaster County for top dollar. Their population is growing quite steadily and they require more land for the up and coming families.
Spreading manure
They are very industrious, not only working their farms with horses and simple machinery, but many farms have their own store where they sell preserves, quilts, fresh fruit and vegetables, and oodles of craft items. If they don't have their own store they make items to sell at the stores in town. The town of Intercourse has a large shopping area filled with Amish and Mennonite made goods. Many of the men run construction companies that build all over the NE. Because they are not union and are extremely skilled, wealthy people like to hire them to build barns and houses on their estates. The Amish do not drive cars or trucks so the owners of the construction companies hire a non-Amish ("English") to drive their trucks and transport them to and from the job sites. We did see them using cell phones, credit card scanners and electrical devices in their businesses but it varied from place to place. 
Happy mule
We saw many horse and buggy rigs driving about the countryside and also learned that some antique and collectable buggies sell for up to $90,000! Its not cheap being simple!
The Amish have their own schools for their children, though they aren't easily identifiable. We saw very few bicycles, most young people rode large wheel scooters, so they would have to push themselves along going uphill. Most kids walking along the roads wore bright orange safety vests.
Plowing the fields
We enjoyed our time with Don and Hettie, and on our second night we went out to dinner with them at Yoder's Buffet. Lots of good home cookin' and really easy to eat too much! Yoder's is one of the smaller buffet style restaurants in the area although they are very popular and people come from miles away to have a good meal. A larger buffet restaurant up the road from Yoder's serves busloads of tourists – up to 6000 folks a day!
The best part of Amish Country is driving around seeing the beautiful and productive farms and fields. Large houses are occupied by generations of a family, so you won't see elder care facilities in Amish Country, ...they take care of their own. Horses, mules, cows, and goats munch their way through fields carpeted with green grass. Horse and mule drawn teams were busy turning the soil and spreading manure. Lancaster County is very densely populated with these lovely farms and the contrast when you drive out of the county is quite amazing.
One of many covered bridges
Our next stop was Mechanicsburg, PA and the home of an old college friend of mine, Mike Guion. We sailed together at the UW over 30 years ago and spent a lot of time sailing, going to regattas, playing ping pong, running the UWYC, and having a lot of fun. He hasn't changed much over the years except that he has become quite the cook and fixed us a fine meal the night we arrived. Mike and Vicki gave us lots of advice about what to see as we headed into Virginia and Washington DC. We were really lucky to catch Mike in town, as his job now has him globe trotting all over the place, Asia, Russia, South America... I hope also to see another old friend in North Carolina from the same era, Andrew, but am not sure it will work into the current route we have planned. Its so hard to do it all!
Vicki and Mike Guion
From Mike's we drove the short distance to Gettysburg, a lovely, old historic town and, of course, the site of a huge Civil War battlefield that changed the course of that war. About 51,000 soldiers were killed, injured or missing during those 3 days in July, 1863. We toured the main battlefield, listened to a ranger describe the battle and I felt like I had a much better grasp of what had happened. We also visited the cemetery where the Union soldiers were buried, many, many of them in numbered graves. The cemetery was not laid out and used until several months after the battle so the remains were difficult to identify after the hasty burials immediately after the battle. We toured the site just as they were setting up to remember the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln. We didn't find out exactly what was planned for the rememberence but I imagine it was a stirring event. What a marvelous speech, so concise and inspiring!  
Pennsylvanian Memorial
It was a gruesome battle and the memorials spread across the landscape and programs presented by the park service give you just an inkling of how horrifying and terrible it had to have been. There is a brand new, very large and fancy visitors center which we did not tour because it was a beautiful day and we wanted to be outside. They also charge quite a lot for admission. As always, we learned a great deal. My  knowledge of US history is growing by leaps and bounds on this trip!
Gettysburg Cemetery
Abe Lincoln

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cape Cod Interlude



Ten days on Cape Cod was more than we had planned on, but as usual, it turned out to be a great time. Robb has a giant house that he rattles around in so we didn't feel too bad about filling it up for a bit. We had many projects to do on the Rialta, the biggest being getting new tires on all around and getting the front end aligned. Surprising how hard that turned out to be! Several shops said they could do it, then it turned out they couldn't. Finally we found someone, but he ended up keeping the rig over the weekend which limited what we could do on some of our other projects. I made a waterproof bike cover out of heavy duty gardening plastic, lots of duct tape and strong thin line. We'll see how it holds up to wintery conditions. We will also cover the whole mess with a blue tarp. I know, I know, it's going to look awesome!  Thayer fixed fuses, drain pipes, and almost finished his website, yay for that!
Lingering colors in the yard
Jemma, head of ranch security
Trying out my new camera

My big project was helping Robb "daylight" his garden which had been covered with large sheets of black plastic for years. Weeds grow here like they do in the NW and the plastic was for weed control and watering of his vegetables. In the past he has had bumper crops of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, chard, arugala, rhubarb, and lots of berries. Production has slowed, indicating that the soil needs to be worked some, so it was time to lose the plastic. Also, Robb's two boys have flown the coop so he doesn't need all the food he grows and having a huge garden is a lot of work! So, his idea was to daylight the soil, level the garden, and plant a perfect croquet lawn. We had to clean up after last year's garden, stack the wire cages, unscrew a billion screws holding the plastic to boards, pick up a million bricks and stack them, roll up the plastic, haul the boards away, and finally transplant 40 raspberry plants and 28 blackberry bushes. It took us 4 days working about 4 hours per day. He has reduced the vegetable space from 50X100 feet to about 20X50 feet. I think he will still be able to grow all the vegies he can eat. If he can keep chickens from eating the grass seed after planting and keep it watered it will be fantastic fun come summer.

Me and my big bro!
Rolling plastic 



We also made some time for fun. One morning I got up early and Robb and I went to the beach for the opening day of oyster season. It is pretty weird how they do it around here. Instead of going to the rocky coast and prying your oysters off of the rocks like we do in the NW, you go out to the beach, which has been stocked with farm raised oysters. They do this by dumping truckloads of oysters along the beach. The next day everyone races out to the beach and picks them up! At least the oysters have a chance to get away..... Today we went to Robb's friend Michael's glassblowing studio to see the "giants" that Michael makes. The giants are large rebar/steel rod structures that people buy and then wrap with Christmas lights for the holiday season. They have become quite the thing out here and he can't keep up with the demand. He has made many different designs, a lighthouse, a glassblower, Ben Franklin, a knight on a horse, a peace dove with a rainbow, and a baseball player. His apprentice was making paperweights and some beautiful vases while we watched. I love watching glass blowers in action and it was fun to see all the different colors and designs. I bought a new glass ball for my collection. We also played some games, watched a few movies and ate a lot of great food. One night we were treated to fresh lobster, right out of the bay. Tonight it was fresh oysters and mahi-mahi. Sadly, it'll be back to my cooking soon....sigh.
Giant construction project
Michael's studio
Giant creators
It has been really nice spending time with Robb. It seems like when the whole family gets together you don't get to talk as much because you are pulled in all directions. I really enjoy the one on one time I have been getting with my family as we travel by their homes. It is also nice to not have to be making decisions every few hours, where to go, where to overnight, what to see, what to eat, and so on. The large comfy bed and hot showers have been great too. Since we arrived I have taken over the chicken and geese routine in the morning. I let them out of their pens, give them some corn and then I get to gather eggs. It is just like Easter everyday! Jemma, the head of ranch security, helps by barking a lot and chasing the birds around. I've also eaten eggs every morning, they are so fresh and creamy!
From here we are off to visit my old college friend in PA, Thayer's Aunt Boots in VA, possibly another college friend in NC, and friends of Thayer's in FL. There are lots of boondocker possibilities on the east coast so we will be taking advantage of them as well. There is some cold weather coming later this week but it really warms up as you head south. I would like to see some historical sites and some of the Intercoastal Waterway, which extends southward from Chesapeake Bay for hundreds of miles. We might get a day or two in DC if it works out that we can leave the rig outside the city and ride a bus or train into the city. 
Joanne, Robb, oysters on the half shell
Billy making a vase



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Back in the USA!

We crossed the border into Maine in the morning and headed down the coast toward Bar Harbor and Acadia NP. We decided to take in a part of Acadia that many people miss, a chunk of land across the bay from Acadia, to the north, called the Schoodic Peninsula.  It is a windswept hunk of granite where waves crash against the bedrock, shooting skyward with every impact. Interspersed in the granite are large veins (6-12 ft across) of basalt that were squeezed up through cracks in the granite. These "dikes" are softer and erode more quickly than the granite. Some of the "beaches" are covered with small round boulders, at first we thought they had been hauled in to act as a breakwater but then we found out that they are entirely normal boulder beaches, covered with tumbled granite balls. I would have collected a bunch if we weren't on NP property and so far from home. The thought of 20 lb. boulders rolling around the rig didn't sound exactly safe.
Crashing waves!
Basalt dike on Schoodic Peninsula

After viewing the NP visitor center, we arrived in Bar Harbor in the late afternoon and decided to stay there for the night. Even this late in the season many shops were still open and there are many, many touristy shops, think of Seaside times 2, but nicer.  On the drive into the town we saw some of the many lovely homes from the early part of the century. Many were lost in a large fire in 1947. It was still windy and quite chilly! Early the next morning we were on our way to see the park.
One and only sandy beach
Summer castle
Caretakers cottage
Cairns on Cadillac Mountain
Acadia is a small but lovely park. It has spectacular ocean and bay views, a craggy, rugged coastline, beautiful hardy forests, lots of hiking trails and an interesting history. The area was first developed by the rich summer folks who built their "cottages" and spent their summers here. The area was also being pillaged for it's lumber and a few of the rich folks decided it would be a good idea to preserve it before it was gone.  Acadia was the first NP established east of the Mississippi. Charles and George Dorr were instrumental in gathering up properties for preservation. It is the only national park that was created solely from donated land. The whole peninsula is not in the park but a good portion of it is. John D. Rockefeller and some friends were concerned about the impact of automobiles on the park and they established 45 miles of carriage lanes in the surrounding forests that were limited to horse drawn carriages and sleighs. Today these lanes are open for hiking, biking, horses, and cross country skiing. There is a concessionaire in the park who runs horsey activities. Most of the road going around the park is one way, which makes driving much more enjoyable, even the driver can relax a little and enjoy the many views to be seen. We stopped at Sand Beach, the only really nice sandy beach in the park. It sits in a lovely sheltered bay bookended by craggy outcroppings of basalt. These are the remnants of basalt left after the glaciers ground the rest of it off of the granite underneath. I almost thought I was going to get through a whole post without mentioning glaciers, but I guess not this time. Jordan Lake is the main facility in the park for meals and shopping. It sits on a pretty lake with many trails leading into the woods and carriage lanes.

Granite boulder beaches

View from Cadillac Mountain
Leaving the lower part of the park we climbed up to the highest point, a pink and gray granite knob called Cadillac Mountain. There are tremendous views all around from the top and the viewing trail winds over smooth, glacially carved granite. You can see up and down the coast for miles and miles. It was windy but sunny and we enjoyed the vistas from this viewpoint. I decided to walk down the mountain and meet Thayer and the rig on the road about 2 1/2 miles along. The trail was marked with large cairns and blue dots painted on the slickrock. They really like cairns in this park and put a lot of effort into them. It took me longer than I expected on the rocky trail but it was very beautiful and I enjoyed the sun, colors, and exercise.  

After our day in the park we had a delightful dinner with my nephew, Mo Sykes, enjoying our first pizza in months and getting caught up with Mo. He is attending the Univ. of Maine in Orono and plans on following his old man's footsteps by becoming a surveyor. He is a wonderful, entertaining young man! I would have enjoyed spending more time in the park hiking and sightseeing but I was also looking forward to a shower and getting our tire situation fixed.

The next day we continued southward, taking one more jaunt out to the coast to see the town of Stonington, a fishing village on the peninsula just south of Acadia. It is a terribly quaint old village situated on a rocky, sheltered bay. The oldest piers and wharves are made out of gigantic blocks of granite quarried at the southern end of town. It has many lovely old homes, one main street with a few shops and restaurants but was not as touristy as many places we have visited. Fishing continues to be the main event here, the boats were out, the parking lots filled with pickup trucks, and most of the shops were closed for the season. We had a nice long walk, took lots of pictures and had a very good lunch.
Check out the breakwater!

Downtown Stonington

Southward we went,  taking in a fantastic observation deck on a very tall bridge over the Penobscot River. It is over 400 ft. above the river! Next door was Fort Knox, another fort from the 1800's, this one built by the Americans to defend against the British. It was never finished, never completely armed, and never occupied by troops. The stone masons did an incredible job working with the native granite though and it is a beautiful and sturdy structure. It seemed a little anti-climatic after touring Ft. Louisburg and the Halifax Citadel but we decided that it's history was not nearly as splendid. We wandered around the fort, all by ourselves, once again stumbling upon a place on it's last day of operation.  
Bird's eye view from 400 ft. up
Where's my wing??
Fine stonework arches

That night we stayed with an elderly lady boondocker out in the woods. She couldn't offer a shower because she doesn't have one, heck, she just got a flush toilet a couple of years ago. She warms up some rainwater in a bucket and dumps it over head a few times in the summer and calls it good. These Mainers are a hardy bunch. She does have good internet however!  Priorities!  Made me feel like I could make it to Cape Cod for that shower.  The next day we made a bad decision to stop in Portland, Maine. Driving in a strange city, even a small one, we find very stressful. Where should we go? What is there to see or do? Where can we park? Why are we here again? It was rainy and yucky by the time we got completely frustrated so we left. You would think we would have learned by now. 
After a white knuckle, hair raising drive through Boston, the tunnel, the dark, the rain, we rolled into my brother Robb's yard about 8:30 and were really ready for a nice break!