Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vermont and New Hampshire

Our journey from New York to Vermont will, in all probability, be the shortest drive we will have…it was a 10 mile drive from RV Park to RV Park. From Ausable Chasm to Port Eden was 4 miles; a Ferry transported us across Lake Champlain and it was 6 miles from Burlington to our RV Park just outside a little town called Shelburne. It was quite an adventure and a welcome one to be taking the ferry, the alternative would have involved driving around Lake Champlain which is long and narrow and would most likely have taken days. However, driving the big RV, tow dolly and car onto the ferry was nerve racking to say the least; and we were not the only RV on the ferry. Shelburne, noted for Shelburne Farms and Shelburne Museum is a suburb of Burlington. We opted for the Museum and were delighted as it is an all day and more kind of place with a wonderful eclectic collection that includes period houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, barns, farm outbuildings, blacksmiths forge, the National Historic Landmark steamboat Ticonderoga, a lighthouse, a Meeting House and the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building in which six interiors (rooms) from the Museum founder’s 1930s Park Avenue, New York City apartment are re-created including pieces by Degas and Monet and others from her unique art collection.

One of the buildings was in a horseshoe shape specifically to display a scaled (inch to a foot) circus parade of almost half a mile long depicting animals and people from all over the globe - on horseback, camels and floats, the detail on the carriages and costumes is spellbinding. The Circus Museum in Peru, Iowa has nothing to compare. Another exhibit was devoted to fashion from top Paris designers, some old and some modern, shoes by top Italian designers and a film of models strutting their stuff on the ramp at a Paris fashion show. It is a fascinating museum which stands as a testament to its creator and original funder Electra Havemeyer Webb. No visit to the Burlington area is complete without a day spent at the Shelburne Museum.
We played golf next day on a very nice nearby golf course called “Kwiniaska” about a mile from the RV Park, we could probably have seen the course but for the trees.  Later that day we drove into Burlington and walked down “Church Street” a four block pedestrianized and crowded tourist trap, with shops, cafes, restaurants and Ben and Gerry’s right there where it all started.

From there we drove to Newport, New Hampshire to visit with friends who had lived in Los Gatos in 1996-7. Having “hooked up” we drove around Lake Sunapee and caught glimpses of the lake through the trees and happened upon a restaurant called “Bubba” which was full of people so we stopped for dinner there and I had my first Lobster Roll of this trip. The following evening we had dinner with Caroline and Iain in “The Old Court House” in Newport; we had a lot of catching up to do and were talking so much we had a hard time ordering our food. Needless to say we closed the restaurant after a most enjoyable meal and visit.
Next day we went for a hike to see a waterfall Iain had recommended not too far from the RV Park and I decided that we should complete the loop by hiking up the river back to the RV. Of course, I fell in not once but twice, cagey Tom did not. The first - I was easing my way down the bank slipped and ended up on all fours in the water, no harm was done but the only place left dry was the back of my tee shirt, all I could do was laugh take my phone out of my pocket quickly and give it to Tom in case I fell in again. We crossed the river (the Sugar River is shallow and has lots of rocks and stones) as the far bank looked flatter and easier and ended up in a couple’s garden; they were busy tidying away their garden furniture in anticipation of Hurricane Irene. As we cross the river back to the RV Park SPLASH! Once again I am on all fours in the river, I really thought that I should go for a swim at this stage as I am now soaked.  

That night Eileen and Carl called from Maine to tell us that the path “Irene” was taking looked like it would pass right over VT and NH and encouraged us to take shelter from the storm at their home. We didn’t need to be asked a second time!

Ausable Chasm

1 Ausable Chasm river
2 Rafting down the river
3 Ready for tubing
4 Launching the tubes
5 White water rafting
6 Hiking Home
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Adirondacks, Lake George

1 Furs for sale
2 Antique sale
3 Rainbows end on Lake George
4 Who wants to look for millionaires?
5 Sagamore hotel on Lake George
6 View of the shore at Lake George
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Adirondack Mountains

The Adirondacks featured in our thinking from early on yet a big concern - whether or not we could take the RV, tow dolly and car on a ferry across Lake Champlain. In discussing it with our friends in Pittsford and after some www research by Terry we discovered that we could from Port Eden to Burlington in Vermont.  Driving along 1-90 from the Finger Lake region we passed over the Erie Canal several times, from our prospective it is enormous, we thought all canals were the same approximate width of 14 feet. However, the Erie Canal is 40 feet wide with bridges that are not little and humpbacked. Of further interest is that their lock gates are lowered and raised to let boat traffic navigate on them and that the lakes are incorporated into the waterway system. Needless to say the barges were big but in no way as picturesque as barges in Britain or other parts of Europe.

Arriving on the south-western side of the Adirondacks near Utica we passed through the towns/villages of Poland, Norway and Russia before reaching our RV Park in Cold Brook where we spent 3 nights. On our first day we took a scenic round trip of 160 miles, visiting the towns of Speculator, Indian Lake and Inlet in this part of the Adirondacks; a quaint and very rural part of New York State where it’s hard to believe that New York City is so near. There was an antique fair on in Inlet and we discovered what had happened to those two raccoons we mentioned  were shot back in Peru, IN…well they  were skinned, cured and on sale at the antique fair - photos to follow! When we got back I went to the onsite golf driving range and hit 2 buckets of balls. I need to improve my swing, what golfer doesn’t?
We headed for the Golf Course of Newport the next day; a busy course and as the day was not too hot or humid  we decided for the first time in two months  to walk, both of us enjoyed our round of golf. And yes the buckets of balls helped - I am trying to break 100 and shot a 101 while Tom shot in the low 80’s.  Our campsite really came alive at the weekend on Saturday there was a Mardi Gras Parade and   Sunday  an Easter Bonnet Parade, the pity was that I missed both due to golf and because  we were leaving on the Sunday. Amish people live around this area also, the first clue…horse droppings, the second clue yellow road signs of a horse and trap. Along the way we saw a few Amish men on farm carts and  buggies and little Amish  girls aged about 9 selling baskets, sitting very quietly and dressed like mini Amish adults at the side of the road in Poland,

Our second stop in the Adirondacks was Lake George, what a contrast. To get there we backtracked about 12 miles to I-90 and from there on to I-87 as we did not want to drive the RV on the roads from our circular tour. Lake George is 220 miles from New York and 160 miles from Montreal resulting in an almost even split of French and English speaking people in the area giving the sense of being in a busy European tourist town.  As soon as we had settled in we went downtown and booked on a 5 hour lake cruise for 2 days ahead. Later we had dinner at a lakeside pub and saw a spectacular rainbow form over the lake as we sat there (a sign of things to come); cameras were flashing at all the tables as the full curve of the rainbow was visible across the lake. That night it started to rain at 9pm and continued to rain for 36 hours. To occupy ourselves on Monday we went shopping at the local Outlets, of course so did everyone else. The rain also gave us the chance to write a few blogs. On Tuesday it was still raining when we set off on the cruise, but it stopped within the hour. We were lucky the sun broke through and we had a lovely day.
One of the lessons we’ve learned about “scenic lake drives” is that it usually means one can spot the lake between the trees and behind lake front properties - we have been disappointed many times. The cruise afforded us the opportunity to see all of Lake George, the beautiful  Sagamore Hotel (over 100 years old and on its own island) reminded us of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and we saw the lakeside properties from their front. The captain provided an interesting commentary on the history of Lake George, the French / Indian Wars, and the French / English wars.  There are many forts in this area - one in Lake George named Fort William Henry, another Fort George on the southern end of the lake and Fort Edward and Fort Ticonderoga although Fort Ticonderoga is actually on Lake Champlain. In the afternoon we took a “scenic trip” on the local tram to Bolton Landing a town 10 miles up the lake…you guessed it - once more the views were through the trees, the trip cost $3 for the two of us and proved our point for us, no more lakeside drives! The trams are for summer use only, are a copy of the SF trams, no heating or A/C so cheap to run and ride on.

Tuesday evening we carried our chairs and snacks downtown to “Music in the Park” where a Beetle’s Group from England entertained all; they were fantastic, had the crowd singing along and we enjoyed the 60’s songs and, knowing the words we sang our hearts out. A highlight was having all the children onstage for a rendition of Yellow Submarine. Lake George, a vacation destination is a busy place, with lots of visitors and plenty of things to do; the center of town has lots of little shops to browse at night. On the shoreline there’s a beach named Million Dollar Beach – beat us as to why it’s called that we didn’t see any millionaires hanging around.
Wednesday we travelled further up I 87 to Ausable Chasm a most peculiar name which flummoxed us until we discovered that it’s two French words Au Sable, Americanized to a meaningless and impossible Ausable. The RV Park was within the Ausable Chasm complex and within easy walking distance of the major chasm attraction. On our first day we walked down to see the many waterfalls some of which drop 150 feet, they are beautiful.  Next day was spent enjoying the Ausable River and Chasm.  We walked down, inside the chasm for a mile and then “white water” floated down the river in tubes. There were millions of flies on the surface of the water; I thought the fish around here never go hungry. I know the fish eat the flies but forgot that the flies would eat me. My lower legs hanging over the side of the tube got badly bitten and I spent two nights in agony and had to get up every few hours to put anti-itch cream on my legs. The tubing was great fun, afterwards we hiked back the two miles (there was a bus, but not for us). We enjoyed the tubing so much that we decided to return after lunch and take the raft which allowed us take photos.

No visit to the Adirondacks is complete without a visit to Lake Placid where the Winter Olympics were held in 1932 and again in 1980. This is a busy town as it is both a summer and winter vacation area. Lake Placid town is actually on Mirror Lake and the skiing area is 9 miles out of town on Whiteface Mountain.  We took the CloudSplitter Skyride Gondola to the top of Little Whiteface Mountain from where we could see Lakes Placid and Mirror way down below in the distance. Then, taking one of Tom’s short cuts back, after 30 miles of driving we were only 6 miles from the town of Lake Placid, effectively 3 miles from our starting point. 
Our next adventure to relate is the ferry trip across Lake Champlain. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finger Lake District, New York

We had never heard of the Finger Lakes before starting out on our great RV odyssey.  We’ve heard two versions of the tale as to how there are five lakes - all long and narrow.  The first is that an ancient god scratched these long and deep lakes with the fingers of his right hand; the other and more than likely correct is that they are the result of glacier retreat. Some are more than 40 miles long, a half a mile wide and up to 500 feet deep: the northern shores of all are close to 1-20, with only a few miles separating them east to west.  Our RV Park for this visit was very near Canandaigua Lake (took us a few days to get our mouths around that name).

The primary reason for our stop here was to visit old neighbors from Worcester Loop who had moved back to the Pittsford/Rochester NY area about 10 years ago and whom we’ve remained in touch with via email, the odd telephone conversation and a Christmas letter. Eileen was a wonderful friend to me; we joined Newcomers at the same time and were in the same lunch bunch which remained together for about 8 years. Most of us in the lunch bunch were of an age and with children of a similar age. Eileen organized the lunch bunch to meet on the first Monday of each month; we had great lunches, some that lasted for hours.

We arrived at the Canandaigua KOA RV Park on a Sunday, called Eileen and were invited to come on over, immediately! This afforded us the opportunity to meet all the family which has been increased by 3 in the last few years - a son in law and two simply beautiful grandchildren. The following day Terry and Eileen treated us to drive to Terry’s Alma Mater Cornell University; this involved a trip down the shore of one of the Finger Lakes - Cayuga Lake. To our surprise this is a wine district so we learned about “Ice Wine” - the grapes are left on the vines until they’re frozen solid before being picked and then made into wine. Needless to say it is a sweet wine.

Cornell is situated on the top of a bluff between two gorges, with lovely waterfalls in both rivers. We climbed our way up through the campus while our guide (Terry) pointed out all of the different faculty buildings. Some of the older buildings from his time there have been preserved, with newer buildings built to facilitate the newer sciences. One aspect that struck us is that the buildings in Cornell represent the era in which they were built and although some are not really pretty, they are a true representation of their time. It’s a big campus catering for 15,000 students of whom a few were walking around. I would think it is a very busy during the academic year and probably spectacular in the snow. Right outside the gates of the campus is a town called College Town. Before leaving for our return we had a meal in a diner in Ithaca where Terry had eaten as a student. The food was good, wholesome and cheap. We drove home at dusk and Eileen informed us that the area boasts of many famous Daughters, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton who fought for women’s rights in the early20th century and Astronaut Sally Ride.    

On our way to Rochester Tom informed me that he had arranged through his Horgan cousin Betty to meet her Murphy cousins who live in Webster. For Tom it was somewhat bitter sweet in that Betty’s Uncle Thomas Murphy, whom he remembers from his childhood; passed away a few months ago. Tom had hoped to surprise Thomas who was the owner of Webster Golf Club, now run by his sons. We were to play golf there on the Tuesday – the rain just poured down; a bit like being on “Maid of the Mist” so the course was unplayable. That night we met Thomas’s sons Colm and Brendan together with their Mother, Nancy for dinner and afterwards went to their sister Maeve’s home for dessert and tea. There we met Mike, Maeve’s husband and one of their daughters Lauren. We had a wonderful visit and chatted late into the night about the Murphy’s, Horgan’s and our shared beloved Ardmore.

We were in Eileen’s hands again the next day and spent a few hours around Canandaigua Lake.  We lunched, overlooking the Lake from its 2nd floor restaurant, at the New York Wine & Culinary Center. I had Pulled Pork in a Buck Wheat Pancake with Plum Sauce and thought of Debbie and the wonderful meals she has prepared for us. Each item on the menu was matched with a wine or a beer to enhance the flavors. On the ground floor one can take cookery lessons, watch a cookery demonstration and buy NY wine or beer. We walked along the lake in the hopes of taking a paddle boat trip on the lake; we missed out…as we got half way the boat departed from the dock. Our consolation was to return to Rochester and tour the George Eastman House. This was one of his houses and it was furnished beautifully. It had many exhibits but the most interesting was the development of the “Brownie” camera. How many times did people of a certain age (us) have to stand and not move until everyone was lined up for that memorable photo? George realized that the film and its developing would make more money than the camera and so Kodak was born. Later we met up with Terry, grabbed a delicious sandwich and went to the movie “The Help “a great movie and book.

Our next destination was the Adirondack Mountains, more later…

Niagara Falls

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Niagara Falls

We were really looking forward to seeing the Niagara Falls again as we had visited them in 1980 and although I remembered the falls I did not remember much else. Our RV Park was on Grand Island, which was much bigger than I imagined, literally in the Niagara River and just 6 miles from the falls. This was a KOA site; KOA sites are always good, well run and near the appropriate attractions.  We immediately booked a tour for the Canadian side of the falls starting at 5pm. It took about 20 minutes to cross the border. We saw the falls from every conceivable angle, including underneath - we were issued yellow raincoats, descended 150feet on an elevator and walked along passages to see the spray from under the falls - returning to the surface we saw both the American and Canadian Falls. One definitely gets the best ground level view from the Canadian side, from behind a barrier one can get very near the Canadian Falls the center of which is lost behind the ever present mist. After darkness had descended we went up the Skylon tower and saw both falls lit up with rainbow colored spot lights, which were hidden beneath the falls with the colors changing every few minutes - a spectacular display.  We could see for miles in all directions from the tower. We were disappointed that the fireworks display was cancelled, no real explanation - probably because of a few showers during the day- we had been really looking forward to the fireworks as we had heard that they are spectacular. Returning into the US took forever, close to an hour!

Next day we toured the American side. We parked up river from the falls and watched the rapids as we strolled along its banks. The highlight was our trip into the base of the falls on the “Maid of the Mist” we got absolutely and wonderfully soaked from the spray which comes at you in sheets of water - great fun; an experience not to be missed! Holding onto our, now blue raincoats, we climbed up into the spray of the American Falls - the others are called the Horseshoe Falls. Later on we walked to an over-hanging platform on the USA side from which there’s a good view of both falls.

It is hard to do justice in describing the awesome beauty of the Niagara Falls; the rushing of the white water rapids, the pounding noise and sheer volume of water that flows over the falls and the ever present mist blowing this way and that in the wind. Amazing and a true wonder of this world!

The area around Niagara Falls has been greatly improved since 1980, now it’s all beautifully laid out and landscaped with magnificent parks on both sides and most of the commercial areas placed well back from the falls. We will not forget our return trip to Niagara Falls.

From here it’s on to the Finger Lakes and our former neighbors and friends Eileen and Terry.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Ohio like Montana is a state we may well return to in the future as our visit was very short…we literally traveled across the north of the state on I 90 with our first stop at Port Clinton, a pretty vacation spot on Lake Erie situated on a small peninsula southeast of Toledo. Like many other RV Parks we’ve stayed at this had many permanent sites occupied by local people who know one another; all staying for the summer or weekends.  The parks are really busy at the weekends, yet it’s very evident that business, because of the economy and high gas prices, is slow this year in many rural places. When people we speak with discover that we are from CA and Ireland they immediately stop complaining (I wonder why?). There is a lake on site - not Lake Erie but almost! It was so hot and humid that we plunged straight in once we had got the car off the dolly. After dinner we drove around the peninsula and paddled in Lake Erie. By now we were getting a bit tired of the hot humid weather; my face cream was still on top of the moisture on my face at night when I was going to bed. Our AC was employed a lot and we were eating outside “real camping” - we still don’t light fires so still have that barrier to cross - neither of us is too fond of the idea of lighting a fire in the woods. That said the RV Parks provide fire pits essentially the rim of a wheel from a truck, on every site. Some nights there are so many fires lighting that our swimming gear gets that smoked aroma. The wood is sold onsite for $4 a bundle and the bundles are small so if anyone is willing to chop wood there is a good business in supplying firewood to RV Parks. There’s a wood beetle or some other pest causing problems so much so that “Burn it where you buy it” is the motto in every State we’ve visited. On Friday last we were stopped at a road  check by NY State Troopers checking on firewood for “an invasive species” Tom spotted that the troopers name was Kelly and said “we’re an invasive species from Ireland” this got a laugh from the trooper and handshakes all around.  

Back to Port Clinton…the next day we had intended going on a boat trip to Kelley Island but as there was a big storm coming our way, serious thunder and lightning - with a chance of a tornado we had to drop that from our plans. We were watching the weather channel with bleeps every few seconds telling us to go to our basement immediately!  Tom spent his time sitting up front looking for the tornado just like the storm chasers on TV. I’m thinking I should call the weather stations of America to ask them where RVer’s should go. No prize for answer suggestions! Thankfully, the worst of the storm passed about 10 miles west of us (close) and the tornado never dropped. It was the afternoon by the time all the excitement was over and as like in most places we had booked in for two nights which effectively gives us one full day and a half day on the day on arrival we missed the opportunity to go to Kelley Island to see the Precambrian Glacier Groves. Check in is after 2pm and check out is usually 11am; we struggle out of bed around 8.45am (5.45am in CA) and are usually pulling out of the site at 10.45am. As we travel approximately 150 miles on each journey we’re spot on for a 2 pm check. We break our journey at about 75 miles at the roadside service area, have a coffee, walk and a potty break - we’ve even Skyped our grandchildren in England!

Our next stop was Conneaut on the eastern side of Ohio close to the Pennsylvania border where we arrived at about 1.30 after 150 mile journey. This stop was at a golf course with an RV park attached.  We ate lunch and headed out for a round of golf, Tom had a good round while I mixed the very good with the very bad (my usual) - the water swallowed 3 of my balls so as well as our customary logo ball I bought 6 used balls from the Pro shop.  Afterwards we went to downtown Conneaut to a local Pub and Pizza joint and had their Tuesday special a 12” pizza one extra topping for $6.95, one could do half and half, so I did. My right eye was very itchy and when we got back to the RV I looked in the mirror to discover the pupil was much enlarged. I went to bed early but hardly slept as I was bothered about my eye however, in the morning all was back to normal TG.

Next day was overcast and cool with a threat of rain, after such muggy weather we were delighted with that forecast.  We drove around the Ashtabula area to see their much coveted covered bridges and saw 11 of them all different; some old (over 100 years) some new, mostly over rivers, one in a field beside the river - this bridge was swept down river and bought by a local farmer for $5 who very nicely put it on his land beside the river for all to see, walk upon and enjoy, another was owned by and named for a local family called Olin. While looking at that bridge we met an older gentleman whose name was Olin – the grandson of the original owner. He told us that his Welsh grandfather’s surname was Llewellyn (Clue-Ellen) and was changed by the authorities on Ellis Island to Olin – go figure! (Probably resulting from the combination of his welsh accent and some geek who couldn’t spell). For him this was the most beautiful part of the USA. A little piece of trivia - the longest covered bridge in the USA built circa 2006 crosses the Ashtabula River.

We stopped and had our coffee and muffins at a village called Jefferson - the first “village” we have seen on our travels and it was a big village. The day was meant to be wet but it wasn’t bad, it rained while we had coffee and again when we were touring but hey, we were touring “covered bridges” so we just parked on the bridges! There were heavy thunder showers around 10pm that night.

On to Upstate New York…

Circus & Amish photo's

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Peru and Nappanee, Indiana


For those of you who enjoyed Water for Elephants a visit to Peru, a little town 60 miles south of South Bend, must be on your “bucket list”. This is where five of the largest circuses’ used as winter quarters in the late 19th and early 20th century. What a pleasant surprise when we visited, frankly we did not know what to expect when driving there – it turned out to be much better than we had anticipated. At one time, as you can imagine, housing five circuses required many acres of land – today’s area is about a fifth of the original with one enormous big barn full of circus memorabilia, costumes, trunks, animal cages, organs, histories of famous circus people: trapeze artists, animal trainers, tightrope walkers, clowns, ring masters and owners.

In a smaller barn there’s a an unbelievable collection of model circus’s  all built to different scale and showing the progress in transportation: animal cages for trainer and animals, horse drawn circus wagons (to move the circus from place to place), trains and lastly, articulated trucks.  At the center of all is a scale display of a 6 acre circus campus including the animal menagerie, changing tents, dinning tent, cooking tent, a 3 ring big top with performers and a large audience sitting on bleachers.
Once more our accents secured us a VIP tour from one of the Directors who told us that we had missed their big festival -by a week - the festival comprises of locally trained children who perform under a Big Top following a parade down Main Street. After our tour we enjoyed an hour long circus of professional performers who are brought in for the 2 weeks; we were lucky that we caught the second week. So under the Big Top, sitting on bleachers we relived our childhood watching clowns, acrobats, high wire performers, elephants, horses and performing goats it was a great experience. A particular pleasure for us was being introduced to the world famous clown “Weary Willie” now played by Thomas Patrick (Pat) Kelly son of the creator of “Weary Willie” Emmett Leo Kelly and Eva Moore who were, before the introduction of “Weary Willie” to the world, known as the Aerial Kelly’s – for their dare-devil trapeze acts; Eva was for a period of time a “white faced clown”. Some of you must have seen “Weary Willie” played by Emmett Kelly Sr., Emmett Kelly Jr, or Pat Kelly.

From there we went back into the center of Peru which has a museum, part of which is dedicated to Cole Porter who was born and grew up in Peru.  His father owned the local pharmacy and his uncle was the local lawyer. Among the memorabilia is his Chevrolet which was refurbished at the cost of $15,000 - it cost about $4000 when originally purchased – he had the car shipped to and from Europe on numerous occasions. Looking at Peru today there’s no doubt that the town economy was dependent on the circuses wintering nearby.

Nappanee has an Amish theme park, originally an old Amish farm bought from spinster sisters by a local businessman who wanted to give tourists a sense of how the Amish people live. In summary, all one experiences is a superficially vague idea of Amish life. As we were driving into town we passed an Amish couple  cycling along on the side of the highway which had very little shoulder and looked very dangerous with great big trucks barreling by at 70mph. The vacuum from the trucks passing the RV causes it to wobble so we wondered what kind of vacuum must a cyclist experience. This bothered both of us. While in Nappanee we went for a coffee and saw a Mennonite lady on her laptop computer - that burst a bubble!  Sitting in the coffee shop we saw several Amish men ride by, one of them on those silly bikes you lie back on. After coffee we saw the couple we had passed on the highway cycling into town with not a bother on them. They must have been 10 miles out of town when we saw them initially. We saw several buggies driven by Amish ladies with other Amish ladies as passengers holding their little trophy dogs – Amish Hollywood? We went for a “Thrasher Dinner” in the theme parks dining room (2 old barns put together). The meal was a disappointment, saved somewhat by the pie which was delicious - next time we’ll just have the pie.
Unfortunately, I had two beautiful raccoon pups shot in the campsite; when I went to the recycle bins there they were at the bottom of two of the bins hissing up at me - they must have fallen off the fence during the night into two separate bins.  I was going to kick the bins over but as there was a man nearby I thought I should tell him. He said not to release them that he would report my find to the office. I wondered why he didn’t ask me to do it. Next I know, out comes the owner loading his gun to shoot them, I looked in surprise at the owner’s wife who said it must be done as they may have rabies and domestic animals could be infected.  The poor time I’ll tell no one!

Monday, August 1, 2011

South Bend, Indiana

Here’s an interesting time twist – driving to Indiana we decided to make our first stop in Michigan City, yes in Indiana and we went back one hour in time ” Doctor Who”!  There’s a little strip about 10 miles wide along the southeast shore of Lake Michigan that keeps time with Chicago (Midwest time) while the rest of Indiana is on Eastern time. I wonder who worked that one out. Must have been very controversial to say the least. We discovered this because we decided to go the movies, thinking it was 8.30pm and had only one choice of movie we discovered it was only 7.30pm and we had at least 4 movie choices. We were one of the many millions who went to the Harry Potter movie.

The weather here in the Midwest is still hot and humid; this year has in fact been record breaking the month of July being the second hottest on record. On our way back from the movies there was a great lightning storm. We are getting used to lightning storms in these northern states which can move in quite suddenly, accompanied by inches of rain and at times tornado warnings. The suggestion is to run to the basement - we wonder where we should go?
We played our Indiana golf as soon as we could at Michigan City Municipal Golf Course. A very well kept, challenging course whose pesky trees kept getting in our way. Once again we rode a cart because of the heat and humidity. We have now learned where the old golf carts go when the luxury resorts and golf courses are finished with them they are sold to RV parks. For $70 a day (that’s the price folks) one can hire a cart, so that no one will have to walk to the pool or bathroom or wherever. The majority of people have them.  If we get rid of cars we will all be buzzing around in golf carts. Not a bad idea.

On our drive to South Bend we travelled through another lightning storm and heavy rain – like being in a car wash!  We had a list of things we wanted to see and do in South Bend.  Having parked and set up our RV, being Irish, we headed straight to Notre Dame and walked around the campus.  It is a beautifully laid out campus with spacious grounds.  The buildings are all in brick or stone and have all the same hue. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart which has been restored to its original splendor is magnificent. Keeping things in-house Jacob Ackermann, Professor of Art, received the commission to do all the necessary wall murals, Stations of the Cross, and other liturgical art. The stained glass windows were designed by Carmelite nuns in Italy, made into windows in Italy then shipped to Notre Dame and slid into their respective spaces. NapolĂ©on the third presented a magnificent Lady Altar and a 4 feet high pure gold crucifix. All of the original decoration was undertaken, under direction from Professor Ackermann and painstakingly restored the ceiling is head lifting stuff, the colors and dimensions in the frescos are exquisite.  The Basilica is a wonderful House of God.
We found our way to the very large book store and bought T shirts “The fighting Irish” for our 3 grandsons and ourselves.   The book store is a wonder in itself, every form of memento one could possibly want, whether an alumnus or not -chairs, cloths, souvenirs and books.  It is a beautiful campus to explore. Of course, Tom wanted to have a visit to the football stadium which can hold almost 81,000 and has enjoyed sell-out crowds consistently since the early 1960’s, unfortunately it was closed. Afterwards, we had our dinner on campus just across the car park from the stadium in “The Legend” restaurant, where the history of Notre Dame athletic achievements adorns the walls.

Truth to tell, we had forgotten to take our cameras and returned on Monday, this time via the Main Gate; from which there’s a beautiful avenue of trees leading up to the famed Golden Dome, which is the Main Building of the University, right beside the Basilica. 
We were tight on time and particularly wanted to take some snaps of the Basilica. While we were there a Docent was conducting a tour; she walked over to Tom and said “I bet you’re a graduate of Notre Dame and Irish” to which Tom responded “I wish, and I am”. That was it for the tour party. Ann the Docent gave us a personal tour, including some behind the scenes areas. She also told us the story of how Notre Dame got the name “Fighting Irish”. In the late 1800’s the football team comprised mainly of Irish Catholic’s from the major cities in the Midwest; after one particularly tough game in which Notre Dame came from behind to win, the major Chicago newspaper had as its page one banner headline “The Fighting Irish do it again!” And…the legend lives on!  

Monday morning we drove to the Center for History on Washington St in South Bend to visit the historic “Copshaholm” former home of the Oliver family. Designed by Charles Alonzo Rich this beautiful home, I will not call it a house was built in 1895 and remained in the Oliver family into the 1970’s when it was gifted, in its entirety furniture, clothing, personal effects even the family silver to the History Center.

James Oliver emigrated with his family when he was 11 to the US from Newcastleton (Copshawholm in Scotch Gaelic) Scotland and later, after the death of his father worked for an iron foundry, at age 31 he bought an interest in the company. Two years later he received the first of 45 patents for improvements in plow design. This led to the formation of the Oliver Chilled Plow company. James’ son Joseph Doty Oliver who joined the company in 1868 commissioned the building of Copshaholm. Three generations of Oliver’s lived in Copshaholm before being presented to the History Center. We were greeted as VIPs by Jim in the foyer – he knew we were arriving and taken by Ken (a man who obviously loves his job) through the home. Copshaholm is on a corner of Washington Street it is built of local granite, with a wraparound porch on two sides, the outside is simply beautiful. As the furniture was included in the Oliver gift each room has some magnificent pieces.  The woodwork inside is evidently craftsmen at their best. Doors are big; the hall ceiling goes up three floors, as does the floating stairs. I was waiting for Scarlet O’Hara to glide down the stairs. Copshaholm had its own star in Gertrude Oliver on the day she married Charles Cunningham in 1916 in her home.

The History Center also houses the Studebaker Museum so we took a quick tour and saw the transition from horse drawn cart and carriages to luxury cars. Some of the early interior designs reminded me of “Driving Miss Daisy” one seat in front and a bench seat in the back but really no room behind the driver. Most of the early cars cost $1000 or more. While there we met an older gentleman who had worked for Studebaker, he recounted many fond memories of working there.

From there we went to meet a friend Nancy and her brother Bill, natives of Indiana in a Pub called “Between the Buns”. Nancy stayed with us in Ireland when she was a student at Trinity College and knew our children when they were young.  We have keep in touch over the years through respective Christmas letters. We had hamburgers, fries and beer that took more than 3 hours to finish – the talking interfered. We caught up on each other’s news and discovered that Nancy who had been a Joycean Professor had just retired and was extremely happy to do so.  It was lovely to see Nancy and Bill again.

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