Friday, May 31, 2013

Land of Lincoln

Since we were sort of stuck in Terre Haute because of the holiday weekend, we went to see “Great Gatsby” and ate at Cheeseburger in Paradise (even though Terre Haute is nowhere near my opinion of paradise).  The only other activity we found to be worthwhile there was swatting bugs and trying to avoid mosquito bites.  So we drove on Memorial Day to Springfield, Illinois.  We’ve stayed here two more days than we planned because of the storm front that has been hanging around bringing winds and rain.  But staying longer here has been nice because the area’s attractions have exceeded our expectations.
This is the land of Lincoln; Springfield is where he practiced law and bought the only house he ever owned.  We toured that house and the neighborhood.  There are several blocks that are now owned by the National Park Service who has restored the homes to their original appearance.  Then we went to the Lincoln Museum and Library.  The exhibits there were excellent, but photography was not allowed in most of them.  They depict his early life through his presidency with many interactive displays.  There are also items like his stovepipe hat, where you can see the marks left by his fingers as he wore it thin by tipping his hat to greet people. 
The next day we drove 20 miles north of Springfield to New Salem.  This is where Lincoln lived when he first went to Illinois in his 20’s.  The town has been reconstructed because it did not survive after the railroad was built through the neighboring town.  But it is where Lincoln worked as a shopkeeper, surveyor, postmaster and rail splitter.  He was not successful in all these trades he tried, but he was also constantly studying law. 
Also in Springfield we visited Lincoln’s Tomb.  You actually go inside it to see where he is buried, as are his wife and three of his four sons.  Three of them died as youth (ages 3, 11 & 17); only his oldest lived to adulthood and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  That same day we went to the Old State Capitol, an impressive building where Lincoln argued many cases before the state supreme court.  The whole visit here has increased our respect for Lincoln even more as we learned more about his life and the challenges he faced.  I’ll close with a great Lincoln quote that is inscribed on the front of Wal-Mart here (its all about Lincoln in Springfield):  “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.  Till next week…
Lincoln's home

at the Lincoln Museum

New Salem Museum

in Lincoln's store

front of his first store

a New Salem home

Lincoln's tomb

inside Lincoln's tomb

old  Illinois state assembly

old State Capitol

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ohio to Indiana

Last Saturday we went for a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  The scenery was beautiful now that spring has made everything green and in bloom.  Unfortunately the ride was less than enjoyable because the train’s air conditioning was broken and the cars were quite hot.  Oh well. 
On Monday we drove to southwest Ohio outside of Cincinnati to a campground in woods surrounded by picturesque farmland.  It made me want to go home and put a silo in my backyard.  In Cincinnati we went to an excellent city art museum and a conservatory with an exhibit of butterflies from Morocco. They were colorful and pretty to see, but not very cooperative at holding still for photos.  We also went across the Ohio River into Kentucky, where we had a nice dinner with Chuck’s mom and aunt.
Sometimes we are surprised at the interesting things we find in unexpected places.  Where we were camped, in Clinton County, they did a commemorative project of placing quilts on their barns.  So there is a Barn Quilt Trail, a map that marks 65 area barns that have quilts on display.  We didn’t go see them all, but drove by quite a few.  It was certainly an interesting piece of Americana.  When we left Ohio we drove into Indiana, past Indianapolis, and are now outside of Terre Haute.  We’re looking for entertainment around here, but will be leaving for Illinois by Monday.  
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Cuyahoga River

Moroccan Butterflies

more butterflies

inside Cincinnati Art Museum

Ohio River looking from Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio

Barn quilt

another beautiful quilt

hiking in Ohio woods

campsite in Ohio

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pennsylvania to Ohio

We finished up eastern Pennsylvania with a visit to Scranton.  In Scranton we went on the Lackawanna Coal Mine tour to learn about an industry that used to be an important part of the energy used for heating.  We took a train 300 feet below the ground, in tunnels that go on for many miles and in several layers.  The work for coal miners was dirty and dangerous.  Miners started as young as 10 years old and had a life expectancy of 35 to 40 years.  The last of that kind of mine closed down in 1966, so it is an area that has had to rebuild a new economy. 
We left the Poconos on Monday and drove to central Pennsylvania.  That put us in an area called the Pennsylvania wilds, which has hills wooded in every shade of green and small towns.  We relaxed there for a day, then moved on into Ohio.  Now we are south of Akron in an area that is mostly farmland.  We went into Akron yesterday to visit their zoo.  It was nice to see many school groups and not have to be in charge of any of the kids; I enjoyed the animals too.  Today we went to a huge flea mart and Amish restaurant in Hartville.  Since we’d been to Cleveland about four years ago, we’re not going up there to do things in that area.  Instead we’ll be moving on across the state next week as we continue west.
young coal miner (mannequin)

monkey vein, small crawl space

lemur at the zoo

Friday, May 10, 2013

Vermont and Cooperstown, NY

Vermont has a laid-back lifestyle, so relaxing is what we did there.  We took a scenic drive along the wooded rural roads, passing by picturesque farms, covered bridges, and through several tiny villages.  We ate at the Putney Diner in the town of Putney and bought Vermont maple syrup.  The next day we crossed the Connecticut River that separates Vermont from New Hampshire.  Thanks to a bit of internet searching (it’s amazing what you can find), I was able to locate the exact location of my 6th great-parent’s, Israel and Abail Johnson, graves in a small burying ground outside Chesterfield, NH.  They had been farmers there and he died in 1802.  He was a patriot in the Revolutionary War.  Before that his family had come from Massachusetts, and after his son moved to Ohio. 
Monday we left Vermont and traveled to upstate New York, outside of Cooperstown.  Cooperstown is a very quaint small town with one important attraction.  Going to the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame has long been a bucket list item for Chuck.  We spent the day there; it is a great place for baseball fans like us.  They have all sorts of displays about the history of baseball, each MLB team, players, records, etc.  We really enjoyed it all. 
After Cooperstown we traveled south, back into Pennsylvania.  This time we are in the Poconos.  They call it mountains, but how can 2,000 feet elevation be a mountain?  The whole way since Vermont has been through beautiful green rolling hills.  Finally things are warm and really look like spring, but we’ve had some rain also.  Today we took a trolley tour through the Delaware Water Gap, the town and National Recreation Area.  This is where the Delaware River separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey.  From here we’ll be headed due west, across Pennsylvania, headed to Ohio. 
Vermont covered bridge
Vermont farmland

Vermont church

West Chesterfield, NH, burying ground (1772)

National Baseball Museum

downtown Cooperstown, NY

Baseball Hall of Fame

Delaware Water Gap (PA/NJ state line)