September 2005               


When we left you last month we had arrived in Houghton, Michigan.  We decided after one day in the RV park that we would stay for 2 weeks instead of one.  The park was so nice and as long as the weather holds up it should be an enjoyable stay.

The town of Houghton is on the Portage Lake Ship Canal and our space backed up to this body of water.  Millie and Missy had a great time watching the boat traffic on the canal.  The Portage River was widened to afford vessels a shorter route around the Keweenaw Peninsula and to provide access to the copper mines in the area. The peninsula is also known as “Copper Country”. The Portage Lift Bridge could also be seen from our site and we were able to view this bridge in operation several times.  

We went to the Local Wal-Mart for groceries and discovered that they were just in the process of converting to a Super Wal-Mart and did not have the grocery department open yet.  However, they had recently added gasoline islands and were having an introductory special with 5 cents off on a gallon.  As they had diesel, we made use of the opportunity to get fuel at a lower price. 

The Keweenaw National Historical Park has been established to help commemorate the copper mining history of the area, site of one of the earliest mining rushes in our country.   The park operates in cooperation with various private historical sites.  The park was established in 1992 and is America’s youngest national park.

The Quincy Mine Hoist complex is located at the top of the hill across the canal from Houghton.  You drive through the town of Hancock to reach the mine complex.  The mine shaft #2 here is 9000’ deep, one of the deepest in the world. When in operation this shaft had 90 levels.  In order to move men into the mine and ore out, a large steam driven hoist was installed.  This was the world’s largest steam hoist.  When you tour the site, you can view the view the shaft house, where a video explains how the men were lowered into the shaft and the ore was raised to ground level. 

Following the tour of the shaft house, we were given a tour of the building containing the steam hoist.  This monster piece of machinery was really a marvel to see.  Railings on the stairs were made of brass; the building had ceramic tiles on the walls and was very showy for a mine building.  This was done intentionally as a way of impressing stock holders when they were given tours of the mine.

We then donned jackets and hard hats for a trip into the mine.  An incline railway took us to the 7th level, where we boarded a wagon to go into the mine.  This level of the mine was used by the Michigan School of Mines as classroom and mining practices area following the closing of the commercial mining operations.  The mine from this level downward is flooded.  There is a drainage system on this level that keeps the remaining levels from flooding. 

On a beautiful sunny Sunday we drove north on the peninsula to the town of Copper Harbor and Fort Wilkins Historic Site.  Fort Wilkins was built in 1844 and contains 21 historic buildings. It is the last remaining original wooden fort in the east.  The first commercial copper mine shafts, dug by hand, are located in the park outside the fort area.  We enjoyed touring the buildings of the fort and seeing the excellent exhibits of life at this outpost.

Leaving the park, we made a short detour to a pretty beach area with a great view of the Copper Harbor lighthouse, which was built in 1848.  The lighthouse is only accessible by boat.

Our return route to Houghton was along the shore of Lake Superior.  We took a short drive to Brockway Mountain to enjoy the beautiful view of Copper Harbor and Lake Superior.

Our next stop was Eagle Harbor to view the lighthouse there.  Again we found the view to be fantastic.  This lighthouse was built in 1871 and is now a museum.

We also visited the Eagle River Falls in Eagle River.  These falls are located right beside the highway and have a 60 foot drop. 

            We also stopped at a small park that contains a marker showing annual snowfall amounts in the area.  The largest snowfall occurred in 1970’s , with a total seasonal accumulation of  over 300 inches! 

            The town of Lake Linden is the home of the Houghton County Historical Museum.  The main mill office of the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company, constructed in 1918 contains a 3 story museum with 20 rooms of displays on the mining operations in the area and the everyday life of miners and their families.  The amount of memorabilia contained in this museum is amazing. 

            The museum site also contains the remains of the Calumet and Hecla mills and has a short train ride using a tiny restored steam engine that was originally used in the mill yards.  Displays of large pieces of mining equipment are also on the grounds.

            We really enjoyed our stay in Houghton and highly recommend the area and the great RV park there.

            After 2 weeks in Houghton, we hitched up and headed south.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we were treated to some great fall foliage. We drove thru Wisconsin, stopping for a night in RV park.  The next day we continued on to Illinois where we again stopped for the night, ending our journey in Springfield. 

            Springfield is the capital city of Illinois.  It was also the home of Abraham Lincoln when he was elected President.  4 city blocks have been restored to that era and are contained in a national park.  The only home that Lincoln owned is in the park.  After seeing a film on the Lincoln family, we had a tour of the house

            The Lincolns purchased the house in 1844 and as the family grew the house was enlarged to what it is today.  Most of the furnishings are not original to the family but there are a few pieces that belonged to the Lincolns.  President Lincoln lived in the home until 1861 when he left Springfield for the White House. 

            After touring the house we walked the streets of the park viewing the restored homes in the area that were neighbors of the Lincolns.

            We toured the beautiful Executive mansion.   Built in 1855, this three story home has been beautifully restored.  We viewed the formal parlors, state dining room, ballroom and four bedrooms.  A private apartment has been added to the rear of the house for use by the Governor and his family but the historic areas of the house are still used for functions and the bedrooms are used for guests.  When guests are present, the bedrooms are not toured.

            The State Capitol Building was begun in 1867.  It is the second State Capital located in Springfield and the 6th for the state.  It was designed by John C. Cochrane and Alfred H. Piquenard. It is designed in the shape of a Latin cross.  Construction was delayed by Piquenard’s death in 1876 and again in 1877 by lack of funds. The building was completed in 1888 at a cost of $4.3 million.

            Everyone we met in Springfield asked if we had been to the new Lincoln museum.  This Presidential Museum and Library opened in April of this year and is a state of the art facility. 

            We had lunch in the museum café when we arrived.  The food was good for this type of facility.  Then we toured the museum.  The displays began with Lincoln’s childhood – to enter this gallery you go through a recreated cabin that gives you an idea of how the family lived.  A young Lincoln is seated in front of the fire reading. 

            Displays of Lincoln’s years as a young lawyer are presented next.  The White House years displays are interesting, with a vignette depicting the Cabinet room with figures depicting the members of the Lincoln Cabinet. A costumed interpreter gave an interesting presentation in this room A recreation of the kitchen of the White House was also interesting.

            Recreation of the Lincoln’s at the bedside of their fatally ill son was particularly sad. 

            An area depicting the War Years had several unique displays.  One was a map of the country showing the movement of the war and how the territories of each side changed as battles occurred.  Also included was a timeline of the war with a count of the dead.  Another display is a large wall of photographs of families and soldiers from the war.  Computer screens below allow you to choose a particular photo and it will be enlarged and information on the photograph is given. 

            The last display area depicts the events of the assignation and the Lincoln funeral.  It contains a display recreating the coffin lying in the state capital building. 

            Two theaters in the museum feature excellent presentations.  One is a multimedia presentation on the war and the other is a live presentation about the Presidential Library. 

            After spending the afternoon in the museum, we could see why the people of Springfield were so proud of this wonderful facility.

            The Lincoln tomb is located in Oak Ridge Cemetery.  This was the 3rd resting place for Lincoln in the cemetery.  His body was first placed in a public receiving tomb, and then moved to a temporary tomb while the present edifice was under construction. 

            Construction of the permanent tomb was begun in 1869 and dedicated in 1874 at a cost of $171,000. It is the final resting place of President Lincoln, his wife Mary, sons Eddie, Willie and Tad.  The only son to reach adulthood is Robert and he is buried in Arlington Cemetery. 

            Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site reconstructs the village where Abe Lincoln spent his early adult years.  He spent 6 years at New Salem and during that time he owned a store, split rails, took part in the Black Hawk War, served as postmaster, was a surveyor and was elected to the Illinois General Assembly.

            New Salem only existed as a community for only a short time and declined after the county seat was established in 1839.  24 buildings have been constructed and many are furnished according to the period.  Costumed re-enactors depict residents of the town and show how life was during the period.

            We spent a quiet afternoon at the park, enjoying the wonderful weather and viewing the exhibits.  One of the benefits of travel at this time of year is less crowds and lots of comfortable weather.

            After doing laundry and grocery shopping we were ready to leave Springfield and move to Benton, IL where we spent a night in preparation for meeting our friend Phyllis Davis in DuQuoin, IL.  We would then go to the Escapees Fall Escapade.

            During the night it rained several times but when we got up the rain had stopped.  We packed up and headed the short distance to DuQuoin.  We stopped for breakfast at McDonalds and as we left the restaurant it began to rain again.  Why couldn’t it have waited another hour?

            We met Phyllis at the Wal-Mart where she unhitched her jeep from her motor home and parked it.  We would come back later and pick it up.  The Escapade requests that you have your toad unhooked before you enter the grounds.

            We made our way to the Fairgrounds and were met by the efficient parking crew.  In just a few minutes, we were parked.  We got set up before the rain began falling very heavily.  This was the remnants of Hurricane Rita and was very heavy. Even an umbrella wouldn’t keep us dry.

            It was great to see Phyllis again.  We hadn’t seen her since her husband Dick’s death in January.  She is doing well and back to traveling.  She has a new companion, a little black poodle named Tootsie who became friends with Dick Paxton immediately. 

            We drove Phyllis back to the Wal-Mart to pick up her jeep and returned to the Fairgrounds.  In the afternoon we took a very wet walk to the registration area for our packets.  We then came back to the rigs and checked out the schedules for the various activities and seminars to take place for the week. 

            It was still raining when the First Timers meeting and Opening Ceremonies were held in the grandstand, but we were assured that the rain would stop before time for the evening entertainment. 

            We had dinner and the rain did stop.  The evening began with door prize drawings and then we were entertained by a great musical group, ShaeLaurel.  This family of mom, dad and 4 teens are high energy entertainment.  They also live in a 40’ motor home, traveling the country.  Can you imagine living in 40’ with 4 teens (2 of them girls) and one bathroom?  Other entertainers during the week were Rex Allen, Jr. and Ron and Kay Rivoli..

            The rest of the week was spent with seminars, craft classes and making new friends.  One evening Phyllis, Dick and Millie went to a local restaurant for dinner.  As we were seated we saw David and Nancy Croasmun seated in the booth behind us.  They are the couple we became acquainted with in the laundry room of the park when we were still working.  We had not seen them since the spring and did some real quick catching up.

            We had a great dinner one evening with David and Nancy and two other couples at a local Italian place.  We also had dinner with Phyllis one evening at a local BBQ place.

            It rained again on Wednesday, adding to the already very soggy ground.  We were concerned that we were not going to get the rigs out as we were parked on grass and water was standing. 

            The final night of the Escapade we were ready for bed when we heard sirens and saw flashing red lights coming through the fairgrounds around 11:00.  We quickly dressed and went out to see if help was needed.  Fire is really a big worry with RVer’s and we were concerned with that many rigs and parked close together.  We were told that all was well; it was a group from the town of DuQuoin who were giving us a farewell parade to thank us for coming and hoping we had enjoyed our stay in their city.  We would have liked it better if they had done it earlier in the evening when folks were up and about and could enjoy it, but still thought it was a nice gesture.

            Phyllis hooked up her jeep the night before departure and Dick and I were up to see her off.  We walked the area and decided what was the best path for her to take and then worked as spotters for her.  Dick told her “once you get that rig moving, don’t stop!”

She pulled out and kept going and was soon on concrete and on her way.

            After we packed up, it was our turn.  Dick hitched up and pulled out, using the same advice he gave Phyllis.  No stopping until he hit solid ground.  It worked out fine and we were soon on our way. 

            Not everyone was as lucky as we were and some rigs had to be pulled out by tractors.  It seemed to work very smoothly though, with crews cruising the grounds in golf carts who radioed to the tractors when they were needed.  We were very impressed with the parking crew at the Escapade, every thing was handled smoothly and over 700 rigs were parked in a very short time.

            We headed south to Paducah, KY to spend a night.  Millie wanted to visit the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society.   After setting up in the park, she headed into town to visit the museum.  She also visited Hancock’s of Paducah, a large fabric store with a huge selection of quilting and decorator fabrics.  We had dinner at a restaurant and spent a quiet evening watching TV and resting.

            Next month will find us at the Travel Supreme International Rally in Chillicothe, OH and then Pigeon Forge, TN in search of fall color.


(Lots of new photos in the gallery, take a look.  We couldn't link to all of them.)