Saturday, July 30, 2016

Chapter 34 - Harrisburg to Luray, VA

July 29th, Day 56: This morning we headed out around 7:45 am. The drive south down to Luray, Virginia was almost entirely on Interstate highways and that was good except that it seemed like every 18-wheeler in the country was today on Interstate 81 in front of us, along side us, and behind us, and all were traveling 10 mph faster than we were. The scenery was great, especially as we got closer  to the Appalachian Mountains of Western Virginia and our next planned stop. Our campsite was located just north of Luray and about ten miles west of one of the entrances into the Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive. This campground was definitely one of the prettiest that we have ever stayed and were it not for the lack of TV coverage and a very weak WiFi system, it would definitely rank in the top 5%. Kathy and I over the years have stayed in at least 200 different campgrounds so let us just say we are experts.

It was our plan over the next several days to spend time up on the Skyline Drive which runs in total a distance of around 100 miles along the top of the mountains in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range of Virginia. The winding mountain road was originally constructed during the Great Depression and the work which was largely handled by the Civilian Conservation Corps began in 1931. It is impossible to imagine that such a construction feat, the cost of which was paid for by the Federal Government, could be accomplished today.

Frankly, I had forgotten that to drive on the Skyline Drive was not free. When we approached the entrance to the park and saw that we had to pay $20 just to enter, we turned around and said to each other that we would spend only one day driving through the Park so that the most we would have to pay would be the single day fee. But after we turned around Kathy said to me: "Don't we have a Senior Pass that let's us enter all Federal Parks at no cost?"  She was right; we had purchased the pass last year at the Grand Teton National Park, so we turned around and entered the Park at no cost and for the next 2-1/2 hours we drove north up the Skyline Drive.

The views from the Skyline Drive are magnificent.  Without comment I will include several photos during our drive on the first day of our visit.

We returned to our campsite around 3:30 after a long day of driving: our 4-hour drive down to Luray plus the time that we spent on the Skyline Drive.  Later that evening after a few cold drinks and a nice meal I found myself asleep before eight o'clock.  Kathy on the other hand, stayed up a little later (perhaps not having the "cold drinks" helped) and she walked around our campsite and took a few photographs of the sunset in this incredible beautiful setting.  Tomorrow we are expecting rain so perhaps she was just trying to record the last time we will see the sun for a few days. Let us hope that that is not the case.

July 30th, Day 57: Surprise, we actually woke up to a rising sun although there were dark clouds off to the east so we were not sure what to expect weather wise.  One thing for sure, we both agreed that we should get on the road fairly early so we left for the mountains around 8:00 am. Our campsite is out in the country so it was not surprising that we found cows nearby. But we have to tell you that finding the cows standing in the muddy water jammed up against a fence right alongside the road leading out of our campground, was an astonishing sight.  We stopped and tried to tell them to spread-out, but to no avail.

Fortunately the rain held off for our entire morning drive along the Skyline Drive although when we returned heading north back towards our campsite, the clouds were getting heavy and the beautiful views that we had experienced only a few hours earlier were gone.

We ended our drive today with a short trip into the Town of Luray both to see what the town looked like but also to pickup a few of those always needed supplies. Unlike many travelers we do not stop for any meals at restaurants. This is mostly due to our traveling with Cabo but we also prefer to eat at "home".

Luray was a nice old town with many old buildings and like some other places that we have visited they love to paint murals on the walls of their buildings. This photo shows one of the better murals but there were at least a dozen that we drove by, some of them better than others. Frankly, Kathy if she had the time and patience could paint better murals than any we saw in Luray. As some of you know, Kathy has painted a number of murals as backdrops in theaters both in Naples as well as in Blue Ridge, and all of them in my opinion were better than all of the murals that we passed in Luray.  Oh well.

We returned back to our campsite by 1:00 pm very pleased that we had missed the rain. It was in the high 80s when we finally arrived back at our camper.  When we decided to come down from the top of the mountains, it was around 70 degrees.  We immediately turned on our air conditioner.  It was obviously hard to immediately adjust to such a rapid change in the outside temperatures and it definitely reminded us that we are finally headed south.  Tomorrow we are headed south once again this time to a small city in Southern Virginia by the name of Fort Chiswell.  Hopefully another wonderful place to visit.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Chapter 33- Watkins Glen to Harrisburg, PA

July 27th, Day 54: We have made the drive from Watkins Glen down to Harrisburg at least five times in the past and each time the drive is enjoyable because the scenery is so beautiful. Much of the drive is through the Allegheny Mountain range in Northern Pennsylvania. Then about 90 miles north of our destination we connected with the famous Susquehanna River which we loosely followed from the city of Williamsport all the way down to Harrisburg.
The Susquehanna River connects at it's southern end with the Chesapeake Bay and in the early years of our country, traveling up this river was a major means of transportation for the early settlers including some of my own ancestors. Other than a few steep and rather long hills we had to ascend, most of the drive today was easy as the traffic was fairly light and for the most part we traveled on 4-lane highways.

Surprisingly the campground that we selected was only around 30% occupied despite the fact that all of the spaces were full service, pull through sites, and most of them were covered by large shade trees. I suppose that Harrisburg, the Capital of the State of Pennsylvania, is not a location that is the focus of many RVers, plus of course, it is the middle of the week.

Our decision to stop near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was not because we wanted to visit the city. The decision was based on the fact that it was around a four hour drive from Watkins Glen plus it was on our ultimate path to drive near the Blue Ridge Mountain Range on our way back to Florida. Nevertheless, we decided once we were all set up at our campsite, to drive into the Harrisburg area to see what they have to offer us curious tourists. Our first stop was at a park known as the Fort Hunter Mansion and Park located on the Susquehanna River just north of Harrisburg. It was a pleasant surprise particularly the old mansion that was first built by an early settler back in 1786 although it was later modified 1814. While during the French and Indian War between 1754 and 1763 a fort occupied part of the park area, as far as we could determined nothing remains from this earlier period.
After leaving the park we drove into the City of Harrisburg. Our first stop was at an island out in the Susquehanna River known as the City Island. It was here that we hoped to have some really nice views of the city that we might photograph although once we parked we noted that the views were a bit disappointing.  We did however, take this nice photo of a tourist ferry known as the Pride of the Susquehanna.

Knowing that Harrisburg is the Capital of Pennsylvania we thought that it would be fun to have a look at their capital building. Typically these older buildings are often huge and unattractive architecturally, but in the case of Pennsylvania's capital, the building was very attractive. We took a number of photos from different angles but we liked this long range view the best.

Not unexpectedly, older towns like Harrisburg which was originally settled back in 1785 have a lot of beautiful old churches. Harrisburg was no exception. We drove by and photographed a number of these old churches in the downtown area but not unexpectedly the only one that we found open was a Catholic Church. Why only the Catholic churches are open to the public whereas churches of other faiths are usually locked, is unclear to us, but it is always great to be able to enter any church and photograph what is usually a beautiful sight. The interior of the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick was no exception in this regard. What we found really interesting in this case is that we found no one in the church nor was there a donation box anywhere that we could find. Very unusual in the year 2016.

It was around 3:30 pm when we arrived back at our campsite. Tomorrow we plan to drive down to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area. We realize that we visited this general area earlier in our trip, but the area is beautiful plus Lancaster was the home of my maternal grandmother's ancestors  for many generations which makes it of special interest to this amateur genealogist.

July 28th, Day 55: My 8th great-grandmother, Marie Warenbuer Ferree, was born in France in 1653. She was a member of a French  Huguenot family or she and her family were French Protestants in a country controlled predominately by Catholics. When persecution of the Huguenots became so bad she left France with her husband and children and eventually following her husband's death, she ended up emigrating to America in 1708. By 1712 the family settled in the Pequea Valley in what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My great grandmother died in 1716 but her family, or at least my Ferree ancestors, continued to live in this general area for the next seven generations right up to my great grandfather, Eugene H. Ferree (1866-1952) who left the area and moved with his mother after his father's death to the Village of Cayuga on Cayuga Lake, and then eventually to Lockport, New York. In the photograph above, I am standing over a Memorial to my 8th great grandmother, Marie Warenbuer Ferree, located in a graveyard in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This cemetery is said to be the oldest in Lancaster County. Her original grave marker is right behind the memorial honoring her death.
The graveyard is remarkable in the sense that it is just sitting out in the middle of beautiful farmlands surrounded by an old stone wall and many trees.  Unless one is looking for the cemetery it can easily be passed by unnoticed. My great grandmother was the first person to be buried in this cemetery and it is reported that the cemetery originally sat on land owned by her oldest son and my 7th great-grandfather, Daniel Ferree (1677-1762). Today of course, almost all of the farms surrounding this area are now owned and operated by Amish farmers and almost all of these huge farms are wonders to behold.

This farm in the photograph above was located across the street from the cemetery and once you get off the main roads that run through Lancaster County, this view is pretty typical - large farm houses and barns and silos and hundreds of acres of crops although predominately corn.

One thing that both Kathy and I loved was watching the horse and carriages (buggies) riding on almost all of the roads throughout this area of Pennsylvania.  It did not seem to matter whether it was a back road or the rather crowded main highways, they were everywhere. This is just one photograph of the many that we took as we meandered back and forth through the county.

There were also a sizable number of Amish individuals riding bikes along the highway. In this particular photo it is clear that the woman on the bike had recently been shopping and she was on her way home. Since the use of automobiles is not the standard practice by the Amish, riding a bike is often the best alternative option.

One sight that we also enjoyed was the large number of shops along the major highways. The shop in this photo which incidentally was run by a Amish family, specialized in selling flowers. Many of the other shops however specialized in all kinds of handmade goods from furniture to various arts and crafts.

One of our final stops before returning to our campsite which was around a 45-minute drive away, was to the Bird in Hand Farmers Market which was obviously located in the Village of Bird in Hand which incidentally, is only a few miles west of the Village of Intercourse. I sure hope that my ancestors had nothing to do with naming these local towns. Anyway, this photo of Kathy and Cabo was taken by an old Covered Wagon on display at the farmers market.

Naturally Kathy spent time inside the market while Cabo and I sat outside enjoying the passer-byers and walking around looking at some of the crafts on display at a store next to the Market. Frankly, I was quite surprised at the very reasonable prices that were being asked for some of these hand made crafts although I am not sure that I would pay any price for a wood birdhouse or a handmade wooden eagle.

We returned once again to our aluminum home by early afternoon content to just relax for the rest of the day. Tomorrow morning we are heading south to a very highly rated campground located not far from the entrance to the Skyline Drive. Once again we are expecting some terrific scenery.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Chapter 32 - Watkins Glen, Day 2

July 26, Day 53: Today is our 2nd full day here in Watkins Glen and we have decided to drive over to Ithaca and visit my old alma mater, Cornell University. From there we are not sure but we will probably drive up the west coast of Cayuga Lake for a few miles or so before heading back to our campsite. Fortunately today the weather is perfect for everything including taking long range photographs of our favorite lake, Seneca Lake.

As we headed down into Montour Falls located just south of Watkins Glen, Kathy spotted a house that she said that she had always loved both because of its beauty and because of its great views of Seneca Lake (similar to the view in the photo above). We were surprised to find that Kathy's I-love-that-house was for sale. I found out later that they were asking only $270,000 for this 2,588 sf house plus several large red barns all on 5.82 acres all with a spectacular view. If I were not so old . . . . Anyway, if anyone is interested let me know. My real estate commission fee is very low.

Kathy and I have driven from Watkins Glen to Ithaca in the past as we used to attend Cornell football games each fall when we lived on Seneca. We never however, noticed that along the way there was an old historic covered bridge, The Newfield Covered Bridge, that was built back in 1853.  This bridge is the oldest covered bridge in New York State that one can still drive across, and, we did. A first.

Down in Montour Falls there is, not surprisingly, a falls by the name of Montour Falls. Unfortunately due to the very dry weather they have been having in this area, there was not a lot of water falling off this 165 foot high cliff although even with the lower volume of water the view of the water and the cliff is quite spectacular. We did notice that despite the 30 Minute Parking sign out by the road, it was quite clear that the 100 plus year old car had undoubtedly been parked there more than 30 minutes. The area of Montour Falls was first settled by white-Europeans in 1788, so relatively speaking the old car is still fairly new.
Cornell University has grown enormously since I graduated back in 1964 and maybe this accounts for why the parking lots have almost disappeared on campus. We were able to take this photograph of my old fraternity house, Psi Upsilon, because the parking lot was almost empty but because of the lack of parking on the rest of the campus we decided not to tour the campus. That plus Cornell is built on the side of a hill and walking on campus was always all uphill or downhill. Hard work for us old alumni.

One of the favorite attractions on campus besides the deep gorges on both sides of the campus that fall down to Cayuga Lake, is the view of the small Beebe Lake. This lake was created by partially damming up one of the streams that runs down one of the gorges. The dam was original built to operate a small power generator. The area surrounding the lake is now a natural park with hiking trails. Such activities we largely ignored as students.

Perhaps my most interesting re-visit here in Ithaca was to the home that five of us rented during my senior year at Cornell. It was a total dump when we rented it 52 years ago, but its location between two golf courses (Ithaca Country Club and the Cornell University Golf Course) made it a choice location and it was eventually turned into a private home and renovated (considerably). We had a lot of great parties at this place as well as a dog that was not potty trained, but we never played golf.

As we left Ithaca we stopped at a park located at the end of Cayuga Lake and I took this photo of Kathy and Cabo. Here again, a lovely lake with sailboats and deep blue water and tall tree covered hills dropping to the shoreline. Great spot to spend the summer.

Just up the western side of Cayuga Lake is a state park by the name of Taughannock Falls State Park. Here again is another deep gorge that was created by the rapidly running water flowing down into Cayuga Lake. The major attraction here of course, is the waterfall itself although considering the current drought conditions, the amount of water falling was far below normal.

There was one final stop that I knew we had to make despite the fact that it might cause me great emotional stress.  The gravestone of my 3rd great grandfather Elijah Baker (1812-1876) we located in a cemetery behind the Presbyterian Church in the Village of  Burdette where he had lived most of his life.  Burdette is located above the southeastern shore of Seneca Lake not far from Watkins Glen. The smile on my face in this photo shows the great joy I felt finding the gravestone.

We returned to our campsite by around 2 o'clock. The rest of the afternoon I relaxed and wrote this blog while Kathy did the wash. Cabo just slept. Tomorrow we are headed south again with a planned stop just outside the City of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  

Chapter 31 - Henderson to Watkins Glen, New York

July 24th, Day 51: This morning before we left we definitively made sure that Cabo was not alone in the car with our car keys. We did not want a repeat of yesterday. Anyway, our drive this morning was around three hours with most of it being on four-lane divided highways. By far the best part of the drive however,
was when we exited the New York Thruway at Geneva and then drove south along the western shoreline of Seneca Lake. The drive along the lake brought back memories of the five summers that we spent between 2004 and 2008 living in a cottage that we owned on Seneca Lake. This part of New York State is famous for its many vineyards and wineries and we passed dozens of them as we drove south. We also recalled that over these five summers that we spent here that we had tasted the wine in all of these wineries with the exception of one new one that we passed along the way. Hopefully we will sample their wine tomorrow. Our campground for the next three nights is a KOA. It is perhaps the nicest one we have visited so far on this trip and it is definitely the most expensive.

This photo to the right is pretty typical of the scenery here in the Finger Lakes. Acres and acres of grapevines growing down the hillsides surrounding the lakes. In the case of this photo, the lake is Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes, about 38 miles long with a maximum width of only two miles. It is no wonder that they are called "finger" lakes.

As I previously mentioned, Kathy and I used to own a small cottage on Seneca Lake and while we know it has changed somewhat since we lived here, we still wanted to pay our old summer home a visit. The outside of the cottage really had not changed that much. The new owners changed the exterior paint colors and installed more modern windows, but one of the things that they did not change was the porch deck that I had personally constructed with my own hammer and saw and the porch furniture which we sold with the cottage back in 2008. The view of the cottage and the lake in front brought back a lot of pleasant memories.

Only a few miles from our old cottage is the small village of Dundee where a number of my ancestors had lived and had died and while I have visited their graves a number of times in the past, I figured that this blog would be lacking without including a few photographs of my weeping over their gravestones. In this first photograph I am standing next to the gravestone of my 4th great grandfather, Samuel Harpending (1778-1852). Great grandpa Sam and his wife Hannah Cozad were among the earliest settlers in this area.

This second photograph shows me kneeing in sorrow behind the gravestone of my 3rd great grandparents Charles S. Baker (1835-1891) and Hannah Elizabeth Harpending (1842-1891). In total I have five generations of my family buried in this small graveyard and my grandfather while not buried here, was born in Dundee. It is not surprising that this little town located between Seneca Lake on the east and Keuka Lake on the west is so important to our family.

It was after three in the afternoon before we returned to our campground. It was a long day considering our drive this morning hauling our travel trailer and then our touring this afternoon, but we enjoyed all of it. Our campsite was a very pleasant place to sit outside and enjoy the rest of the day and evening. Tomorrow we will tour some more.

July 25th, Day 52: We woke up this morning to nice cooler temperatures, which was good, but with skies that looked like it would rain any minute, which was not good. One of the locals mentioned to us when we noted the threatening skies, that the area badly needed rain both to water their lawns as well as the farmlands. All we questioned was the poor timing. Just hold off the rain until Wednesday afternoon, please. Our first visit this morning was to the mooring docks in Watkins Glen at the southern end of Seneca Lake. It was near here that our own boat was stored during the winter months and we thought that it would be fun to walk along the docks.
Obviously the skies were not cooperating and these two photographs reflect the gloominess of the morning.

Only minutes after we left the docks in Watkins Glen headed west to the lovely old village of Hammondsport at the southern end of Keuka Lake, the skies finally opened up and it rained hard for the next hour. The hard rain made driving on the hilly and winding roads very difficult and unpleasant but we were determined to keep moving and not let the rain spoil our day. Fortunately that rain let up shortly after arriving in Hammondsport which gave Kathy a chance to shop for a few souvenirs without getting wet and for us to drive around the village and bring back old memories.
Hammondsport was originally founded back in 1827 and one of the wonderful sights in the village besides the waterfront are the old and well preserved homes.

The Finger Lakes are noted for their vineyards therefore I could not help but take this photograph of one of my favorite fruits, the grape. And it is everywhere.

After leaving Hammondsport we headed up the west shoreline of Keuka Lake (now that it has stopped raining) with the good intentions of stopping at one of our favorite wineries, The Bully Hill Winery.  We have tasted wine here, purchased wine, and had lunch here a number of times in the past and we have never been disappointed. Plus the view from the winery is fabulous. It was only around 12:30 pm when I had a few samples of their wine but as always their wine was delicious and I was forced (by human nature) to purchase a bottle.

This photo of Kathy and Cabo was taken from just below the Bully Hill Winery and it clearly shows why the Finger Lakes Region of New York State should be a destination for all travelers.

We left the winery traveling north up the west side of Keuka Lake. The scenery was beautiful as the highway made its way through the various small towns and past the numerous large vineyards and farmlands. We have had lunch several times at a great restaurant named the Esperanza located just south of the village of Penn Yan and we thought that it might be fun to stop by and check out their current menu. Cabo actually shared lunch with us out on their patio back in 2008. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed on Mondays but I took this photograph (above) of their building because it is such an impressive place and it has great views of Keuka Lake.

We continued north again passing through the village of Penn Yan before turning south and down a highway running between Seneca lake and Keuka Lake back to our new home town Watkins Glen and our campsite.  It was almost 3 o'clock before we arrived "home". Shortly after our arrival at our campsite the skies opened up again and it started to rain.  Now it did not matter. We were home. We sat under our awning listening to the rain and talked about what a great day we have had.  We also talked about tomorrow for tomorrow we will again travel through this wonderful spot known as the Finger Lakes.