About Us

Welcome to our blog of our 2013 trip. We Have been camping since our honeymoon. Each summer we take a trip to a new part of our country. We try to stop at local fairs & festivals, take tours of manufacturing plants, do a little kayaking, and try to get an up close look at how people live! Join us! This Bog runs from our most recent post backwards. At the end of this year,I have left the past years blog. Double click on any picture to get a larger image. These are all low res versions. If you see one you really like, let me know and I'll send you a better image.

Liz & Bruce on the way to Minnesota, last year

Monday, July 29, 2013

July 25 &26

On Thursday we headed to Charlotte. The city is still a mystery to me after about 25 years of flying in here. Despite all these trips I've never spent any time in the city. We read in the AAA guidebook that the Billy Graham Library is here, and it is very near the Carolina Aviation museum, the new home of the aircraft Sully successfully ditched in the Hudson River, USAirways Flt 1549, Airbus 320. First we went to see Billy. The picture at the right is the house Billy grew up in restored to around the time of Billy going off to college. Billy's dad was a dairy farmer as were his brothers. Billy too would have probably stepped up and continued in this business had he not attended a series of revival meetings by Mordecai Ham, who Billy gives credit for converting him. The library starts with the dairy farm, and goes through Billy's life in steps from some of his first meetings in LA, through the enormous crowds to whom he preaches in the large stadium venues.
The consistency of his message through the years is evident no matter whether it is his newspaper column, or a more modern media avenue. He is clearly the pastor that the Christian world looks to during times of trouble such as 9/11. The displays describe the millions of people reached by his ministry, and describe his ministry to the worlds leaders. No ministry of Billy Graham would be complete without asking every attendee to come forward to accept Christ.

Maybe He was with Sully on that day in January when US Air flt 1549 took off in NYC and almost immediately hit a flock of Canada geese, losing  power in both it's engines. The plane was ditched in the Hudson river, and subsequently recovered. The flight is know as the "Miracle on the Hudson" primarily because all the passengers survived.
The insurance company that paid the claim donated the plane to the new Carolina Aviation Museum. All of the planes parts were gathered together ( from the NTSB, the engine manufacturer, etc) and it was shipped by truck to the planes original destination, and USAir's primary hub and headquarters, Charlotte. The picture you see here shows a number of dents, holes punched and a broken pilot's window, all due to the recovery operation. You can see some faint circles on the body. These highlight dents caused by bird strikes.
The museum displayed the life raft deployed after the ditching.  There were a number of videos showing interviews with passengers who described the it, and the plane filling up with water. Several of them took the opportunity to visit the display, and to take their seats on that day and re-live their experience. The NTSB has tried to re- create this accident in many ways to try to find another way of landing the plane. In one example they have given the pilots all the cheats they can, info of what will happen, that the engines can not be re-started, available airports, procedures, etc. Knowing all this before they  climb in the cockpit, the pilots still crashed half the time. No one has been able to simulate what Sully and Jeff did that day. Having flown a lot in my career, I can say that fact is kind of spooky.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 22 thru 24

We spent a few nights in Marion NC, in a very nice campground down in the valley, right next to a river. I know a few of you know how much Liz likes the sound of a river flowing. Well with all the rain they have had down here, she got her fill. The video here is of the river 10' below and about 2' behind our camper. Liz took Jet down to play one day. Jet likes to bite at the waves when we go to lakes (wonder what will happen when we take her to Cape Hatteras)!The campground is kind of unique. It is a combination driving range and campground, with a field in the center that the owner allows RC airplanes to take off and land in!

I forgot to report that we picked up a lag screw on the Blue Ridge Parkway,so we had a tire to get fixed, and Marion was  good size city to accomplish this. There was a good tire dealer who fixed the tire one day and we plan to stop on the way out and have him remount on the trailer. The side of the building on the right is at the Waldensian museum in Valdese NC. Vladese  was one of my frequent stops when I was traveling while working at Dexmet. It is where Duracell had a plant that they sold to Saft. I had heard that Valdese was founded by a group of people that fled Europe in the late 1800's, and always intended to find out more about them, but never had time while working. Since one of the purposes of these trips is to more fully explore areas that I had visited before, we stopped here.

The Waldensians were Christians from the area between what is now between Switzerland and Italy. Being good Europeans they spoke French. The Roman Cathollic Church persecuted them, and many other Christian sects who did not follow Catholic rules. The first house here is a replica of a Waldensian house/barn from the steep Alpiann valleys. These people lived deep in these valleys to protect them from the Romans. After a centuries long battle, they finally got thier freedom, but the economy in Europe was in depression. They heard of  North Carolina, and came over. Waldese became Valdese, and they lived and prospered here by growing wheat, baking, bread, and making wine. I have oversimplified their story here, but it is one of true faith, & fighting for what one believes is right. If you'd like to learn more:http://www.waldensiantrailoffaith.org/ will do it!

July 20&21

On Saturday the 20th we went to Spruce Pones BBQ and Bluegrass festival, held in the mountain community of the same name. The town has a few streets that rise from the river valley in kind of a terrace. The first street is along the RR tracks. and this is where the  festival is held. This is the second time this town has held  this contest. Last year they held it primarily as a BBQ contest, and invited some bluegrass bands. They were surprised that so many people that came to enjoy the BBQ, that they ran out!
This year they had 2 big name blue grass bands there, one each on Friday and Saturday evening, and about 6 less well known bands, who performed throughout the day. They had a BBQ competition that began on Thursday evening, and had a number of categories, from BBQ chicken to 4 types of NC favorite - Pork. The BBQ was incredible, and the BBQers were a kick to watch. We sampled chopped pork sandwich, BBQ ribs, and a chopped plate, from various vendors. Each of them entered in each category, and this was a serious competition.
The equipment they brought was impressive, and this is only a tiny sample! Most guys brought in a trailer at least as big as the one pictured, with one or two BBQ units on it. I was particularly happy to note the fire extinguisher on this unit. All are custom made. We watched the award ceremony, with curiosity. These were all pro-am BBQ folks. Guys who do this on weekends, and have a day job. They employ family and friends for sales. The best was a guy who won for the best ribs, named "Kilted Kilbey" from Easley SC. He claimed his prize in a real kilt! There is a real Scottish influence to the music in this part of the country. We saw it really come out in the dance. When they gave the bluegrass bands a break they had cloggers dance.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 18 and 19

The evening of July 18 we planned to visit Jeff and Ursula our son in law's parents. They live in Mt. Airey NC just over the border from VA. Mt. Airey is the birthplace of Andy Griffith, but more about that later.
 Jeff and Ursula were very accommodating to our lack of schedule, especially since they were also being visited by their daughter in law Lisa, and grandson Curtis. We had a great dinner of Hamburgers, corn on the cob and two fresh salads. Their house is very nice, and we had a good time. They have a fifth wheel, like ours, and we look forward to camping with them, and the kids when they relocate north.
On the way down, we stopped at the D-Day memorial in Bedford VA. Because Beford was the town that lost the most men per capita in the D Day invasion, Congress awarded them the memorial. Unfortunately they didn't fund it. You may know that Liz's dad was a ranger and was in the group of men who climbed the cliffs to neutralize the guns at Pointe du Hoc, in Normandy. This memorial is to all of the men and women who were involved in getting the soldiers to the beaches, as well as the soldiers. We opted for the guided tour of the plaza, and in our group were 4 students from Normandy France! Our guide was only a bit flustered from having to discuss the invasion of France with French students in a southern accent!

Co-incidently, I had just found and was listening to the recording of the CBS live broadcast of the D-Day invasion on the internet. It was kind of eerie to imagine what it must have been like for parents to be sitting at home in the 40's and listen to the reports from Europe, knowing their son is probably climbing the cliffs into German machine gun fire.
On the perimeter of the memorial there were busts of Eisenhower's generals surrounding a full length statue of Ike in his bomber jacket. There was a large mosaic overhead of a map of  the beaches showing the ships approaching and the regiments landing. There was a great story told of a British toy company given a contract to build a scale model of  the ocean going ships and the soldiers landing. The order was given in pieces, so no one could know where this area was. When it was installed in SHAEF headquarters, the company's people were detained until the invasion was over.
Around the plaza there are plaques mounted on the wall listing the men from the US and it's allies who gave their lives that day to begin the liberation of Europe
There is a combination of sculptures commemorating the actual invasion, showing soldiers coming ashore from a landing craft and climbing the cliffs. There are bursts of compressed air to simulate rifle fire.

There are pieces of metal in the water depicting the obstacles Germany had placed on the beaches, along with mines.At the top of this picture there are sculptures of men climbing the cliffs. You can observe this from many different vantage points, including the bridge on top, where you are looking the soldiers right in the eye, as they climb over the edge. All in all the memorial was very moving and very well done.

July 15-17, 2013 Down the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Pkwy.

We headed down the skyline drive on Monday the 15th. We stayed at Big Meadows campground, in the Shenandoah  National Park. I said before that this trip is kind of a reprise of an earlier trip, made 20 years ago with a pop-up camper, a days old mini-van, and our two little girls. Liz doesn't remember staying here at Big Meadows. I do remember staying here, but I have to go back about 45 years or so. My parents took us on a trip down this road then. I remember standing out at the Big Meadows sign at the park entrance for the required picture.
Any National Park is an unatural environment, and deer have no predators here. They are as ubiquitous and as tame as "y'all" down here. This is a shot out of our trailer door. I think they'd let us pet them.

If you've been with us for these in the past years, you'll know one of our favorite things to do are the ranger programs, and our National Parks are great at these. The picture here is of our ranger on a meadow walk one evening. The ranger was talking about the indigenous animals and their sensory awareness, especially as dusk was approaching. We attended another outdoor slide program, where the ranger addressed some of the major storms that have occurred here in Shenandoah NP. In this one deer sauntered right through the audience!
 I could have taken a thousand pictures of vistas from the mountain tops. It reminded me of the task my dad and I had editing slides. It always seemed so hard to throw away a perfectly exposed, and composed slide just because it was similar to dozens of other ones. It seemed easier to put them in a box to take down to the store where my dad worked for use in their demo projectors. So now as an adult, I've got to apologize for the exposure and the composition of my mountain vista shot! And look at that huge piece of dust that installed itself on the top of my digital sensor! That is a beautiful little town in the valley below.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer 2013 Starts

For 2013 we needed to remain at home until Thurs, July 11. We left on Friday morning, and headed to southwesten VA. We have not been to the Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway for 20 years and intend to pull the trailer down most of the way on it. There is a tunnel that's a little short for us just past the 1st (Thorton Gap) entrance. We picked a convenient Wal-Mart in Hagerstown MD to stop for our first overnight. For those that were with us on last years trip, there were no car fires in the parking lot or anything else worth photographing here.
Next morning we headed down I-81 to a KOA around Harrisonburg VA. I- 81 runs near the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway. We were about 50 miles down just outside the Shenendoah National Park boundry, and close to our entrance at Swift Run. Campground was a nice KOA.
They had a flock of Chickens that roamed the park "free range" eating the insects They had just had about 6" of rain in 2 hours the previous evening. and we heard stories of how water rises and falls very fast on the mountains. Saturday afternoon we went over to the Skyline drive in the truck, to scout out campgrounds and see the Big Meadows visitor center.

Realizing how close we were to W. VA, on Sunday we drove over to Cass. Cass is the small isolated mountain community where Liz's dad grew up. Liz remembered fondly the times she spent there as a child with her grandfather, and grandmother. Her grandparents have long since died, but Liz loves to go past the place where their house stood. The house was razed years ago but the pump Liz remembers  is still along the side of the property. If you've been to our backyard, the hand pump behind our deck is a reminder of the pump in WVA.
Cass in Liz's dad's day was a logging community. There the men went up the mountain every morning to harvest the red spruce native to the cool mountain climate. Liz's dad did a bit of logging when he returned from WWll and prior to coming to Ohio. The need for a means to move the massive spruce trees gave rise to the invention of the Shay engine. These engines were much stronger and because of their gear driven wheels they could easily haul heavy loads of spruce up and down the slopes. If you'd like a better explanation of this let me know and I'll put you in touch with Liz's brother John, who is a railroad buff. He's run everything from the Cuyahoga Valley steam train to CSX locomotives hauling freight thru Ohio. The locomotive you see here is a Shay running in Cass, and hauling passengers on the scenic Railroad. Cass retains a number of working Shay engines all on the scenic RR.
The antenna here is another feature of the area. Back in the 50's the government was looking for a remote part of the country for their radio telescopes. They found it here in the Greenbriar river valley. There were, and still are few people here, and these telescopes are shielded from radio interference by high mountains around this area. This is the newest and largest telescope, just built recently. People, and other countries from all over the world come to tiny little Cass WVA to look into the heavens and learn more about the stars.
I purchased a digital video camera recently. I hope to include some videos on this blog, so here is the first one, from Cass. It is recorded in HD video, and I'm a novice at this & still experimenting with sizes that the campgrounds internet will swallow, and the resolution I can't show you all. Let me know if you have any ideas, or would like a higher res copy.