The first of May we were up early and headed west to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was an overcast day and we were planning to drive north on the Skyline Drive. We enjoyed the drive but the vistas were not as we had hoped due to the weather.
The next day was sunny and we stopped at Harpers Ferry National Park. We had visited here many years ago and the park has been greatly upgraded since then. The new Visitor’s Center has a large parking area where you then board a bus that takes you down the mountain to the town.
Located at the conflux of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, Harpers Ferry has been historically significant since 1794 when a federal armory and arsenal was established there. This armory outfitted the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803.
In October 1859 John Brown and a group of 21 followers seized the armory in an attempt to seize the 100,000 weapons at the arsenal and arm a slave uprising. The raid ended 36 hours later with most of Brown’s men killed or wounded. Brown was captured in the armory fire engine house by U. S. Marines.
He was tried in Charles Town, found guilty of treason against the Virginia Commonwealth (at that time, West Virginia was still part of Virginia) and hanged on December 2, 1859. His trial and hanging attracted the nation’s attention to the issue of slavery and is said to have placed the country on the path of civil war.
Granite Hill Campground in Gettysburg, PA was our home for a week. This would be our 3rd visit to Gettysburg and we have stayed at Granite Hill each time. Located outside of town, we enjoy this park.
We visited the Electric Map at the National Park Visitor’s Center. The map presentation gives you a complete view of the battlefields and a narration of the 3 day battle. This great battle was known as the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. After their defeat, General R. E. Lee never again attempted an offensive of the scale of Gettysburg.
We purchased a guide that included a CD for our player in the truck and drove the battlefields while listening to the great commentary provided by Wayne E. Motts, a licensed battlefield guide and military historian.
Hershey, PA is known as the sweetest town in the U. S. We drove over one day and visited Chocolate World. We viewed a film on the history of the Hershey Company and took a “ride” through a simulated chocolate processing factory. The Hershey Company no longer offers tours of the actual factory due to safety concerns, etc but has built this facility to give you an idea of the process. Of course, there is a large gift shop with everything “Hershey” that you could ever want. We did a bunch of shopping!
Leaving Gettysburg we headed west to Wakarusa, IN and the Travel Supreme factory. Last fall we had been there to have repairs done to our unit. Our large slide was leaking. Well, it was again leaking. We arrived Monday evening and found a space to park at the repair facility.
On Tuesday morning at 6:30 we were ready for the crew to begin working. After giving them our list for repairs we drove to McDonalds for breakfast. At 9:30 we were at the main plant for an owner’s tour. We enjoyed seeing the construction of the Travel Supreme 5th Wheels, the new River Canyon 5th Wheels and the Travel Supreme Motor Homes. After our tour we returned to the repair facility to find that our unit was out of the shop. We waited on our paperwork and after getting that taken care of; we hitched up and drove to nearby Shipshewana where we set up in a campground.
Millie wanted to go to Yoder Department Store and do some shopping. This store has a fabulous fabric department and Millie can’t pass it up when we are in the area. Afterwards we had dinner at an Amish style restaurant.
The next morning we were rolling east on the Ohio Turnpike. Millie took the wheel for a couple of hours, getting comfortable with towing with the new truck. Niagara Falls was our destination. Although we lived in Ohio for many years and were only about 5 hours away, we had never visited this great site.
Niagara Falls State Park is the location of the American Falls. The great Horseshoe Falls are on the Canadian side. We were awed by the sight and sound of this great wonder. We walked through the park, beginning on Goat Island and viewed the Falls from the American side. 90% of the water of the Niagara River goes over the Horseshoe Falls which are 167 feet tall and 2500 feet wide. The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are on the American side. We were struck by the beautiful blue-green color of the water.
The rapids along Goat Island move at 22 miles an hour to the brink of the American and Bridal Veil Falls.
We boarded the Maid of the Mist for a 30 minute boat ride to the American Falls and the base of Horseshoe Falls. What an awesome ride. Words cannot express the experience! We were issued plastic ponchos as we purchased our tickets, but were still wet when the boat returned to the dock.
Our next experience was the Cave of the Winds tour. We were again issued plastic ponchos and on this tour, everyone was given a pair of sandals and a plastic bag for holding their regular footwear. Apparently they want to avoid problems with people slipping due to walking on the wet surfaces with improper footwear.
After changing our shoes we were taken down in an elevator and walked through a tunnel to a boardwalk along the face of the cliff. We were guided to the base of Bridal Veil Falls and could feel the force of the water. Again, this was a totally awesome experience. Many years ago there was actually a cave behind the falls and the tour took you there, but it collapsed and you no longer go behind the falls.
We crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Canada to view the falls from that side of the river. Our Texas license plates always seem to trigger a search by the Canadian Border Guards and this crossing was no exception. They looked in all the compartments of the truck and then let us go on our way. They just seem to think that all Texans are carrying firearms!
The views of the falls from Canada are very impressive as you can get a much broader view of them. The area around the falls is very pretty, with parks and blooming flowers, but we did find the parking prices very steep. $12.00 American to park our truck.
We visited the Aquarium in Niagara Falls and enjoyed the Seal and Sea Lion exhibits. Trainers demonstrated the intelligence of these animals and gave good presentations on their lives, natural environments, etc.
The Niagara Falls Discovery Center contains exhibits about the Geology of the area and how the river and falls were formed.
The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda, NY is contained in the original factory building. This factory was used from 1915 to 1959 and produced carrousels for amusement parks and fairs around the country. It contains exhibits of early carrousel animals and the area where the animals were carved and painted. It also contains an exhibit on the Wurlitzer band organs.
After our tour of the museum we were treated to a ride on a 1916 carrousel. Some of the animals on this ride are 100 years old. Did you know that carrousels were originally meant for adults to ride and went much faster than they do today? They were a thrill ride in the l800’s. We also viewed the kiddie carrousel with its pretty small scale animals.
On our last night in Niagara Falls we went back into the city and walked to the viewing area of the falls. Huge lights on the Canadian side of the river are turned on at dark and the falls are lit. It was such a beautiful sight. The lights change color, giving the falls a fairyland look. We enjoyed seeing this beautiful natural wonder.
One of the gentlemen in the campground told Dick to go to the Indian reservation near Niagara to fill up with diesel. It is .30 cheaper there as they don’t have to charge the state tax. With prices climbing so high, it was worth the short drive to fill up.
We again headed east, this time to Gansevoort, NY at the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. We checked into Adirondack Adventures Resort, a Coast to Coast park for a week.
Our first day there was warm and sunny. We cleaned house and Dick cleaned up the truck. We enjoyed sitting outside in the wooded area. The next day the rains came!
We are considering hiring out as rain makers. We seem to bring it where ever we are. It rained or was overcast and cool the rest of the week we were there.
We drove to Lake Placid one day. This little mountain town has been home to the Winter Olympics twice. We drove around looking at the town and some of the Olympic sites. The ski jumps were impressive! They are built with tall towers requiring elevators to go to the top. We stood at the bottom of the jumps and looked down the slope. Even at the bottom, it is still a long way down the hill.
We visited the site of John Brown’s grave at his farm outside Lake Placid. While he and his followers were trying to incite the uprising against slavery, his wife and children were trying to eke out a living here. Following his hanging, his body and those of several of his followers were brought here for burial. The farm is a NY state park, but was not open for tours on the day we visited.
We had lunch in town at a restaurant overlooking Mirror Lake. It was a good lunch with a great view, even with it being overcast. After lunch we decided to go see Lake Placid. Well, we drove around and couldn’t find a way to get to the lake. It seems to be all developed around the shore.
Albany is the capitol of the state of New York. We drove there from Gansevoort for a day. After following the signs for the Visitors Center we parked and walked around trying to find it. A nice security guard at one of the buildings was able to point us in the direction of the Capital building.
We walked several blocks uphill and easily found the Capital. We found the entrance and went inside to clear security and get tour information. Dick had is little pocket knife that he had purchased in Alaska and they told us we couldn’t go in unless he ditched the knife. Well, we weren’t going to do that, so we left.
Dick decided to walk back to the truck and leave his knife. We also noticed that there seemed to be ample parking spaces around the building, so he would just bring the truck up there. Millie waited outside while he did this.
Without the knife, we cleared security and checked on the tour. We had about an hour to wait and it was lunch time so we went to the tunnel system across the street and got a bite to eat.
The Capital building is a very beautiful edifice, built with Italian marble and beautiful hand made tiles. The tour lasted about an hour. We only had 4 people in our group which was nice; we received a lot more attention than a larger group would have.
The Senate and House chambers were very beautiful. We were also shown a beautiful staircase carved of sandstone. Italian stone carvers were imported to create this staircase. They were contracted to carve 100 faces of important persons in NY history and incorporate them into the staircase. The stonemasons only made a few dollars a day and soon ordinary citizens heard of the faces and wanted to have their faces included. They would “tip” the stonemasons to include their face. Over 1000 faces ended up in the trim of that staircase. You can stand and look and see tiny faces everywhere!
As Memorial Day was approaching and our Coast to Coast privileges do not extend to holiday weekends, we left the Adirondacks and drove south to the town of Gardiner in the Catskill Mountains. We checked in to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Lazy River. On the banks of the Wallkill River, this is a beautiful park. We had a large space and 50 amp service. We would stay here for 2 weeks.
A fellow camper told us about the big craft fair taking place at the fairgrounds and we checked it out. We walked around and browsed the many booths. We saw lots of interesting art and craft items, but nothing that encouraged us to buy. It was a pretty day and we enjoyed being out.
Hyde Park, in the Hudson River Valley is the location of Springwood, birthplace and home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is also the site of his Presidential Library and Museum.
We visited on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend and a WWII army bivouac re-enactment was also taking place on the grounds.
Springwood was purchased by James Roosevelt, father of Franklin and added on to by James, his wife Sara and Franklin until it became a larger, grander house. Franklin and his mother Sara continued to live there after his father died.
When Franklin married Eleanor, they moved in with his mother. Sara died 4 years before Franklin did, so the estate was only owned by him for a short time, but was his home all his life.
Following his being stricken with Polio, some areas of the house were modified to accommodate his wheelchair. It is here that he recuperated and began many years of therapy. However, he never walked again without aid. There are several of his wheelchairs on display throughout the house. He designed his own wheelchairs as he did not like the bulky chairs of that era. Interestingly, there are only 3 or 4 known photos of him in a wheelchair.
He wanted to be sure that Springwood survived and gave the house to the National Park Service, with the condition that his family would use it as long as they wished. Following his death, Eleanor and their children decided not to stay in the house. By December of that year, Eleanor removed all her personal items from the house and on the 1st Anniversary of FDR’s death, the National Park Service opened the house for tours.
FDR was thinking about a library for his presidential papers during his second term in office. He was the first president to have his own library and was active in designing the building. He had a study there and it became his office away from the White House. He is the only sitting President who used his library.
The library contains his White House desk and chair, with the desk top containing many small items given to him by family and world leaders alike. In the lower level is his car, outfitted with hand controls. He loved to drive around Hyde Park in the car with Fala his dog. For more info on the museum www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu.
Franklin and Eleanor are buried in the Rose Garden at Springwood.
(Be sure to visit the Photo Gallery for more photos.)