On Our Way To Salmon, Idaho

No wonder it took so long to get this post written! We did a lot of sightseeing along the way. We had six weeks to reach Salmon, Idaho by May 12, 2017. So why did we head east instead of west?

 Stop #1: Nashville, TN. We are both self taught when it comes to Photoshop and have been wandering around the land of Youtube tutorials. Now it was time to take a course. We had given each other Jim Zuckerman’s Photoshop Workshop for Christmas. It would be a two day course held in his home in Nashville. We located a place to stay at Henry Horton State Park. A definite return to park for us. The course was excellent and we hope you will see improvement in our technique on the blog. Below is my first attempt at a composite photo where the eagle was taken from one photo, changed to B+W, resized and moved onto the winter treescape. We also learned how to take a previously edited photo and improve on it with blending modes.  Jim’s wife, Dina, dazzled us with 2 gourmet lunches and a dinner fit for royalty.

Chari Learning Photoshop

During our free time in the area we visited the Civil War site for the Battle of Stones River. Like at Gettysburg, this battle saw 1/3 of all troops killed during fighting (18,000 men). They have just added a RV site for volunteers too! We drove into Nashville to visit the Tennessee state capitol building. That makes number 5 so we have a ways to go to see all 50. The tour is free and very informative with a docent from the Tennessee State Museum. This is the only capitol building with human remains inside the walls as the architect died just before completion and is entombed there. It is the only capitol with the remains of a former president on the grounds, James K. Polk. In the picture of famous Tennesseans below how many can you name? Later we took in the Tennessee State Museum with three floors of exhibits. My favorite was the Les Paul “Old Hickory” guitar made from wood from a state record tulip poplar tree at the Hermitage which was brought down by a tornado in 1997. The finishing touch was dinner at a Nashville icon restaurant called the Loveless Cafe.

Steve has several relatives in the area and it was great to see all of them doing so well.

Andy Jackson Rides Again At The Tennessee Capitol


Famous Tennesseans


Main Floor Of The Capitol


Gibson “Old Hickory” Guitar

Eating At A Nashville Icon

Stop #2: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Big South Fork Panorama

This large National Park Service site sprawls across the Cumberland Plateau in southeastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee. We stayed at the Blue Heron CG on the Kentucky side. As we drove in, the GPS wasn’t clear where we needed to turn and given a 50/50 chance we chose the wrong way. When you are towing a 40′ trailer you can’t just hang a U-turn. We had to go a ways down the road before finding a gravel parking lot to turn around. Steve did his usual great job. No problem. There was plenty of room. (Read that as he had 6″ before hitting anything.) I tried to sit there looking composed while my toes were curling in my shoes.

Appalachian Miners

Life In Appalachia









The area is named for the South Fork of the Cumberland River and begins just below Lake Cumberland. The views of the valley are stunning.There are 500 miles of hiking trails as well as scenic drives and both whitewater and calm water river paddling. Add to that two Visitor Centers, a mining museum and a scenic railroad and you have everything you need for a great nature based vacation. Did I mention the wildflowers were starting to bloom. We hiked to a waterfall and walked behind it. A few more weeks and it will be peak for them. We’d love to come back sometime for in the autumn for some spectacular foliage.

Spring Wildflowers

Butterfly Colony

A Strange Rock Formation


Many Steps Down To See The Waterfall


Waterfall at Big South Fork

Stop #3: Vincennes, Indiana

Located an hour south of Terre Haute on Indiana’s western border along the Ouabache (aka Wabash) River lies the historic town of Vincennes. Founded by the French this was a hub of the fur trading era. Following the French and Indian War it became a British fort. During the American Revolution George Rogers Clark with a much smaller force overtook Fort Sackville thus making the Northwest Territory American land. Their story is one of daring and sacrifice. Had they not claimed this victory, England might still have claimed this area and the USA may not have expanded beyond the original thirteen colonies. George Rogers Clark has been eclipsed in history by his younger brother William of Lewis and Clark fame. He never received in life the money owed to him for mounting this campaign or the recognition he deserved. Today the George Rogers Clark National Historic site honors him and keeps his story alive. Be sure to read From Sea To Shining Sea that covers the lives of both Clark brothers.

George Rogers Clark, Vincennes, American Revolution

George Rogers Clark Statue at NHS

Right next door was Grouseland.  This was the home of William Henry Harrison when he was governor of Indiana Territory from 1800-1812. Vincennes was the territorial capitol. Harrison ran for President in 1840 on the slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too”. The home is now owned by the DAR and our guide was very knowledgeable. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside. We learned that his presidential campaign was the first “modern” campaign with music, slogans and gifts for donors. Too bad he died after only a short time in office. This made his vice president, Tyler the first VP to become President by succession. Later, his grandson, Benjamin Harrison would also sit in the Oval Office.

Vincennes other favorite son, comedian Red Skelton, has a museum adjacent to the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center on the campus of Vincennes University. I know I am dating myself when I say I remember sitting with my parents in our living room watching the one TV we had and laughing together over the characters Red Skelton played. Clem Kadiddlehopper was my favorite.I know some of you out there remember this too. Who was your favorite character?

Red Skelton’s Characters

We stayed at a beautifully maintained county park called Ouabache Trails. It is tucked away and we weren’t sure if our GPS (nicknamed Josie Fiend) was leading us into small roads where we couldn’t turn around. Then we saw signs for the park. Whew!

We made a quick run up to Terre Haute to see Chari’s cousin and her husband. Unfortunately he is suffering from Parkinson’s and recovering from a mild stroke. They are handling the challenges of “in sickness and in health” together. Hopefully as we write this he is back home.

Red Skelton Was Also An Artist

Stop #4: North Central Missouri

A six hour drive from Indiana brought us to the USACE Ray Behrens CG at Mark Twain Lake. We are about two hours west of St. Louis near the small town of Florida, Missouri where Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) was born in 1835. On arrival we learned the site we’d reserved was an electric only site. We’d need to be on tank water. This seems to be a common set up in Missouri at both federal and state parks. As luck would have it there was a cancellation for a full hookup site. With our senior pass it cost us only $12/night. Hooray!

Twain Birthplace State Park

A state park preserving Mark Twain’s birthplace home offers a very well done museum of his first years as well as some artifacts from his adult life. It was interesting to find out that U. S. Grant’s first army post was in Florida. Later in life both of these men would use their literary skills to earn money to overcome financial ruin, both would write their memoirs and Twain would publish Grant’s autobiography. Steve had a book signed by Mark Twain that he donated to the Birthplace Museum before we left. About twenty miles away is the town of Hannibal where Samuel Clemens grew up and where people he knew would become characters we love such as Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher and Jim. We toured his boyhood home and a museum about his life. In town is another museum dedicated to his literary works and the original Norman Rockwell illustrations for an edition of Tom Sawyer. We bought a CD called Mark Twain in Words and Music that was created to raise funds for establishing this museum. It features celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffet and many others. We’ll be listening to it right after this entry is written. We say this is a do not miss museum.

Inside Twin’s Birthplace

Twain’s Boyhood Home In Hannibal, MO


She Was The Inspiration For Becky Thacther

The Mississippi River and Hannibal Are One

One place we had planned to visit was Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville, MO and home to the Budweiser Clydesdales. The ranch opened in 2008 as a breeding, recovery and retirement ranch for the horses. They started giving tours in 2009. The tours are very popular so if you have specific dates for a visit get your tickets online at least two months in advance. There is no access to the ranch other than via tour. The gates are locked until a half hour before the tour. When the horses see the cars driving in they know it is showtime and come running over to the fence to be petted. April is a great time to come as it is in the middle of foaling season. We were lucky enough to see several young Clydesdales, from one month to four months. Gestation is slightly over eleven months. At birth the foal is three and a half feet tall and weighs 125 pounds. There’s a lot of growing to do before they reach the average adult size of 2000 pounds. The tour begins at the breeding area, then on to the foaling stalls, the exercise area, the transportation trucks and finally more photo ops. All that touring can make you thirsty so yes there is free beer at the end. The horses are selected for temperment, white blaze on the face, black mane and tail, four white feet and standing six feet at the withers (shoulder). Horses that don’t meet this criteria are sold to other breeders. There are three hitches (teams) to handle all of the appearances. They are in Colorado, Missouri and New Hampshire. Each team on the road consists of ten horses, eight primary and two alternates. There are four positions a horse can be trained for; wheel (strongest), body (constant pulling), steering (holds position in turns) and lead (first to receive driver’s commands). Horses train for two years before joining a hitch. The driver’s train for six months and have to be able to handle a sustained pull of 75 pounds on their hands. The video below runs about two minutes and shows you our tour which while cool and cloudy was very enjoyable.

On the way home from Warm Springs Ranch we spotted a sign for the National Churchill Museum. Neither of us had ever heard of it. We had no plans for the next day so back south we went to Westminster, Missouri. The town is home to Westminster College and from the looks of the campus, not an inexpensive one. We were there on a Sunday and found street parking easily. That may not be the case when school is in session. The museum is housed on the ground floor of the college chapel. It was here in 1946 that Winston Churchill gave a speech and coined the phase “Iron Curtain” to describe Soviet domination of eastern Europe. For those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, this phrase became a household word. The museum details Churchill’s life and well worth a visit. That’s not all! The real hidden gem was the chapel itself. Originally built in the mid 15th century it was severely damaged by the Great London fire of 1646. Architect Christopher Wren designed and rebuilt much of London following the fire including this church. Design elements such as using clear glass vs stained glass were his trademark. The church stood until destroyed by the Blitz in 1942. It lay in ruins for 20 years and was almost hauled to the scrap pile. Westminster College needed a chapel and bought the ruins. Block by block it was shipped to the USA. Skilled stone masons reassembled the ruins and restored missing sections. The only structural change was steel reinforcement for tornados. Not only do you get to visit a wonderful museum but visit a Christopher Wren church without flying to England. Put this on your “must see” list as well.

Churchill Museum Exterior

Churchill Statue










Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Aldermanbury Looking Toward The Pulpit

Wren Church Looking Toward The Organ

Our last stop was to drive to St. Charles, MO and have lunch with Lois and Steve, fellow volunteers at Hot Springs NP, who live nearby. Since we were so close to St. Louis we stopped at the Ulysses S. Grant Farm NHS. We’ve all read about Grant the Civil War general and Grant the President but here we learned of his later life and civil rights activism. We’d hoped to see the Jefferson Expansion Memorial too but the renovation and reopening of the arch was not complete. Perhaps it will be by this Fall.

Grant’s Farm

Stop #5: Iowa City, Iowa

We are still working on the long term goal of seeing every national park site. This brings us to Iowa City, the home of President Herbert Hoover and the Hoover Birthplace NHS. Before we tell you about our travels we want to warn anyone traveling in a big RV (over 30′) not to use Lake McBride State Park. The fact that they offer full hookup sites and the pad sizes are adequate would make you think it is suitable. There is nothing on Reserve America warning you of problems. We arrived and as we entered our camping loop we see a sign stating Limited Turn Around Ahead. We are able to get into the site as it is angled the right direction. Getting out, that’s another story! We couldn’t make the tight turn around and so had to go back and forth a dozen or more times to get headed the right way. We used the vacant site across from us. Had it been occupied we would have had to back down the road to where we could turn. Our experience with this and one other Iowa State Park says no more. They have not been upgraded for big rigs. OK, rant over.

Right next to the Hoover Birthplace is the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum. This is not part of the NHS but well worth the time to visit. We didn’t know that much about Hoover or his accomplishments. He is forever linked to being in office in October 1929 when the stock market crashed signaling the beginning of the Great Depression. He was a very bright and capable mining engineer and diplomat. We learned a lot and felt we had much better insight into the man and his time. By the time we left the museum to visit the Birthplace it was raining hard. Our visit was short.

Hoover As mining Engineer In China

Hoover Was The First President To Give A Speech On Radio

Hoover Served As Secretary of Commerce











Known For His Fight Against Hunger In Europe











Just north of Iowa City are the Amana Colonies, several small communities founded by German immigrants as communal neighborhoods in the 1880s. There’s Amana, Middle Amana, North Amana etc. Now days they are regular towns with strong German ties and great food. Tourism is their main business and homes have been converted to shops. We certainly did our share of eating and buying wurst and pickled vegetables! The highlight for me was climbing up on the largest walnut rocker in Iowa for a photo op. Oh honey, I shrank myself!

This One’s Too Big

The other highlight in the area was eating at the Hamburg Inn #2 and trying their famous pie shake. Yup, a whole piece of pie, ice cream and milk whipped together. Steve had raspberry while I tried the chocolate bourbon pecan variety. They even have pie shake happy hour in the afternoons where you can get them at half off! Just found a website that lists the best dessert in every state. Sounds like a new goal for us is to eat one in every state!

Pie Shake At Hamburg Inn 2

Stop #6: Omaha, Nebraska

We moved on to Two Rivers State Recreation Area about 20 miles west of Omaha where we had a lovely pull through site. We came here to visit friends and fellow volunteers from Laguna Atascosa NWR, Janis and Lee. We had a great visit and got to talking so much we forgot to take a picture!

We had heard of a great museum about the Lewis and Clark Expedition during their time on the Missouri in Nebraska City. It was a bit more than an hour south but well worth the time. If you are a following the Lewis and Clark Trail or just passing through be sure to stop. It emphasizes the scientific aspects of the journey. My favorite exhibit was the keelboat with an interactive screen giving you an idea of how hard they had to work to head upstream on the river. I crashed on some rocks! So did I! My favorite exhibit was the one talking about how the native Americans caught fish. Originally this museum was built in partnership with the National Park Service but now is privately owned.

Fullsize Keelboat Replica

Chari Pacing Distance On The L&C Trail Map










Taking Notes For Our Summer Job










We took a day to visit the Henry Dorey Zoo. Lots of photo ops and great areas for the animals. We also watched two Imax movies and took the aerial skyway above the zoo. Lee drives the tram at the zoo but he was off today.

Aerial Ride

Rhino From Above

Henry Doorly Aquarium

Butterfly House

Dwarf Mongoose

Giant Plated Lizard

Jellyfish Glow


Penguin Curtain Call



Winking Owl









Stop #7: Grand Island and North Loup, Nebraska

We didn’t move too far only about 3 hours down I 80.  We came here for two reasons: first we have friends  Gayle and Bob, from North Carolina who are visiting family in the area. Nothing like a reunion with good friends when you are on the road. Secondly my cousins from Milwaukee, WI and another from NYC are coming out. None of us have ever been to the Manchester family home town of North Loup. Our first choice of places stay, Sherman Reservoir SRA, did not work out. The back in to the site dropped almost 3′ off the road. I could envision us cracking a storage tank or ripping off something. We moved on to Windmill State Recreation Area on the Platte River. The park has lovely pull -through sites. Parks along this area are in great demand during the sandhill crane migration. If I can get myself in the mood to handle the cold, I’d love to see it.

The DreamChaser 2 At Windmill SRA

We visited the Hastings Museum in Hastings, NE. This town’s claim to fame is being the home of Kool-Aid. Once again we find things from our past in a museum! Kool-Aid was first made here and marketed as Kool-Ade in 1927. By 1929 it was being sold nationwide. Then came the Great Depression. Realizing the country would be in recovery for years the price was lowered to 5 cents and remained so for 20 years. In 1934 the FDA ruled that only drinks containing fruit juice could use Ade in their name and others had to use Aid.. So Kool-Ade became Kool-Aid. We also attended a planetarium show here and viewed other exhibits. Dinner that night was at a great Italian restaurant in Grand Island.

Birthplace of Kool-Aid












Kool-Aid Ad







Walkway To Hastings Museum

We met up with Chari’s cousins and drove out to North Loup. It is a small farming community with about 300 people. Popcorn is the local cash crop and the Popcorn Days Festival in August is still a major event. My grandfather was one of the founders of the festival. The family farm house no longer stands but we found where it used to be. We also located family graves in the cemetery and saw the church where my grandparents were married. Naturally, I had to buy some North Loup popocorn to take with us. For the last day in the area we visited the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island which has an extensive collection of pioneer and early settler housing from the area. On weekends they have living history volunteers in the homes to tell you about the occupants or demonstrate skills. We’d worked up a thirst and headed off to a microbrewery. They even gave us a behind the scenes tour. My cousin Kathy and her daughter Emily have done a lot of genealogical research. It is good to have a sense of where you came from and fun to see resemblances from generation to generation.

Welcome To North Loup

Church Where My Grandparents Were Married







Chari’s Grandparents

Chari’s Great Grandparents






Chari’s Great Grandfather

The Stuhr Museum

The Manchester Cousins In Nebraska

Stops 8 and 9: Quick Overnights in Nebraska and Wyoming

Our time was getting short so we put the pedal down and covered a lot of miles on Interstate 80 with overnights at the original Cabela’s store in Sidney, NE. They have a very moderately priced campground with full services and laundry. We needed both. We also bought a new tent and managed to spend all of our Cabela’s points. We look forward to using the tent at USFS and BLM campgrounds this summer.

Our overnight in Green River, WY brought us close to where we worked last summer at Flaming Gorge, UT. We had an uneventful night at the Walmart.

Stop #10: Massacre Rocks SP, Idaho

Our last two nights were spent at this state park in southeastern Idaho overlooking the Snake River. In preparation for our job at the Sacajawea Center we visited the Sho-Ban Museum of the Shoshone-Bannock nation. We were the only visitors there and the docent on duty spent a lot of time with us and was most knowledgeable. Then we did shopping, got haircuts and other get ready errands.

Massacre Rocks SP

So now we have only a four to five hour drive up to Salmon, Idaho and our home for the next four months. See you again when we are out and about in central Idaho.





Heading South To Tucson

Arizona, Tucson, Saguaro NP

Saguaro National Park Panorama

With the DreamChaser back in one piece we turned south toward Tucson and prime snowbird country. While at PEFO Steve had made contact with two visitors from the Tucson area who volunteer at Saguaro National Park. We’d followed up with them and had made plans to visit. They’d give us a personal tour of the park and had even agreed to let us use their address for a mail delivery. We chose Patagonia State Park which is a bit south as closer in parks were booked. OK. I hate it when people use a blog or other social media to expound their views but I do have a complaint about Reserve America. They aren’t accurate in describing campsites. So you arrive and find (as we did here) that the 60′ site you booked is halfway down a 30 degree hill! We got into the site but keeping us on the level portion meant our slides barely missed trees, the campfire ring and a wall. Even at that we we not level. Reluctantly we closed up and headed to the nearest Walmart as the park was booked. Exiting the site we scraped going downhill and knocked our spare tire out of it’s holder. So while Steve crawled under the trailer, I cranked the holder down so he could push the tire back into place. So we spent the night uneventfully in Nogales on the US/Mexican border.

The next day we felt lucky when we  located a private park about ten miles away that had open sites. As we drove in we had our doubts but beggars can’t be choosers. We paid and drove to our site only to find our neighbor partially blocking the entrance and not home to move his car. The only other open site might have worked if it weren’t for the corner of a building sticking out just where we would be swinging wide to get in. Back to the office for a refund. Now what? We finally located an upscale RV Resort park at more than twice our normal fee. This is the type of place where people come and park for months. All blacktop, ten feet or less between rigs and very poor facilities for anyone who needs to walk a pet. We reluctantly decided to stay. While it isn’t our cup of tea we had a few good days in the area and finally met up with our hosts. Later we learned about a lovely county campground that does not take reservations and would have been a better solution. Live and learn!

Saguaro National Park consists of two sections. The second section was added when the iconic saguaro cactus in the original park were failing and it was feared they’d disappear. Then scientists discovered that the cattle grazing being allowed was the cause. Turns out the cattle were eating and/or trampling the nurse trees that young saguaro need to protect them. After the saguaro get to near full size the nurse tree (usually mesquite) dies. Ungrateful kids! After grazing was prohibited in the 1970s, the saguaro have made a wonderful comeback. We took the scenic drive and had a picnic. Along the way we learned that saguaros live to age 150 but don’t develop their iconic “arms” until after age 60. With mountains ringing the city of Tucson and the lush Sonoran desert fresh after winter rains the park put on a glorious show. While we didn’t spend as much time as we’d have liked this is a park we’ll visit again and see in more detail.

Sonoran Desert, cactus. octillo

Sonoran Desert Beauty

An Iconic Saguaro

An Iconic Saguaro


















With only three days remaining in the area we packed in a lot making visits to a Titan Missile museum, Tumacacori National Historic Site and the Sonoran Desert Museum. The Titan Missile Museum is the only remaining site of this type. For those of us who grew up during the Cold War era and did Duck and Cover Drills all through elementary school it brought back memories. Entrance to the site is via tour only. Our guide was excellent and we learned a lot.

Titan Missile, Cold War

In The Control Room

Looking Down The Silo

Looking Down The Silo










Tumacacori, Spanish Mission, history

Tumacacori National Historic Site

Tumacacori National Historic Site is one of the early missions established by the Spanish as they explored and settled the southwest. Here we learned that in 1736 silver was discovered nearby. Juan Bautista de Anza was sent to investigate whether the silver was a natural vein or a buried treasure. If natural the King of Spain would get 20% and if a buried treasure the entire amount would go to the Spanish treasury. During the investigation de Anza stayed at a ranch called Arizona, a Basque word meaning the Good Oak Tree. After ten years he found the silver to be natural. Due to the numerous mining documents filed here the entire area became known as Arizona. When promoters needed a name indicating great mineral wealth for a new territory they chose Arizona. Lincoln established the Arizona Territory in 1863.

Tumacacori served as a mission, a fort and a pueblo for priests, soldiers and Native Americans. The Apache migrated into the area shortly after the silver strike. The region’s wealth attracted raiding parties until Geronimo was arrested about four miles away.

Tumacacori Chapel

Tumacacori Chapel

Tumacacori As Fort

Tumacacori As Fort











Tumacacori As Pueblo

Tumacacori As Pueblo

Mission Cemetery

Mission Cemetery










On our last day in the Tucson area we went to the Sonoran Desert Museum. It was Presidents Day and very crowded. This is a botanical garden, a zoo, an aviary, an art gallery and a wildlife performance venue all wrapped up in one. A day is not enough to take it all in. We will definitely be back when hopefully we can roam freely. They do a raptor flight show twice a day. Lesson learned… get there early or be stuck fighting to see. I felt like a five year old yelling “I can’t see, I can’t see!” Sure wish Steve could have put me on his shoulders. No Way! Here are a few pictures to give you an overview.

Butterfly On Verbena

Butterfly On Verbena

Color Contrast

Color Contrast











Crested Saguaro

Crested Saguaro







The Desert In Bloom

The Desert In Bloom









My Name Is Boojum

My Name Is Boojum




Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren













In The Hummingbird Aviary

In The Hummingbird Aviary

Cardinal Posing In Another Aviary

Cardinal Posing In Another Aviary











Lizard Sunbathing

Lizard Sunbathing


















Raptor Flight Show

Raptor Flight Show







Owl During Flight Show

Owl During Flight Show

We’ll end with a bit of roadside humor from a bumper sticker we saw…………………..

bumper sticker humor





















A Hop Over To Coeur d’Alene

Sorry for the delay in posting but our travels through Idaho, Utah and Colorado have put us in poor cell areas much of the time. When we did have good signal, it seemed we were also very busy being out and about. Hopefully we will now begin catching up. With our readers, patience is always a virtue! Thanks for sticking with us.

We hated to leave Glacier NP but after eighteen days of dry camping we were both looking forward to having hookups and long showers. On our way out we stopped in Whitefish, Montana to have the smashed side view mirror replaced. It came to just under our insurance deductible…Ka-ching! On to Coeur d’Alene in the Idaho panhandle.

Google Earth, Glacier NP, Coeur d'Alene, Farragut SP

Glacier NP to Coeur d’Alene

While we’ve been in eastern Idaho three times, neither of us had been in other parts of the state. I’d picked a state park at the southern end of Lake Coeur d’Alene called Heyburn. Reservations were made on Reserve America for a drive through site 55 feet long with water and electric. When we arrived, we had an unpleasant surprise. Yes, it was a drive through. Yes, it was long enough. However, the turn to get in was too sharp and on either side were big trees. The curve of the drive through was also too sharp for a large trailer. Steve tried to back in but there was a large rock just where he needed to put the truck so the angle of the trailer was right. If he backed in where the truck would fit, the trailer wheels were on a downhill slope. After six tries Steve said ” Let’s cancel reservations and go to Walmart.” We hadn’t filled our tank with water since we thought we’d have services plus we needed to dump. We located the dump site. Also set up with a sharp turn and narrow for a large trailer. I took a deep breath and hoped we’d make it through without any damage. We did. There was a Walmart close to where we needed to take our generators for repair the next day. We joined about ten other RVs, rented a Redbox movie and spent the night.

One good outcome of it all was finding a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives place called Capone’s. The original restaurant was in downtown Coeur d’Alene. Now there are three sites. We enjoyed our individual pizzas very much. ” I was raised in New York and haven’t found good pizza very many places. I told Chari, if we lived here, we’d eat at Capone’s a lot just like we did at Hawthorne’s our favorite pizza place in Charlotte.) “

The next day Steve ran our generators down to a Honda repair shop while Chari looked for another place to stay. We thought Farragut SP about 20 miles north sounded good but based on our experience we wanted to check it out before making reservations. First we needed to see about the slow leak we had in a trailer tire. Bad news there. The leak was a small puncture in the tire sidewall. Plus the spare tire was down to secondary rubber and by law the technician couldn’t put that on. So we bought two new tires. Ka-ching!

On to Farragut SP which is on beautiful Lake Pend Orielle (pronounced Pon Der A). We checked on availability and they had two sites left that would accommodate us. This is a lovely park with paved sites, water and electric hookups and gray water disposal drains throughout the camping loops. We were home! We’d been lucky to get a site as the coming weekend was their annual celebration for anyone who had served at Farragut Naval Training station during WWII. Prior to being a state park this area had been a major Navy basic training facility for recruits from the western states. Steve had an uncle who might have been one of the 293,000 + men who trained here. After setting up we just relaxed with a drink and dinner by a campfire.

Old Mission State Park, Idaho

Old Mission State Park

The following day we checked to see what time the generators would be ready. They’d run into some problems but thought the repairs would be completed by late that afternoon. My stack of brochures came in handy for some sightseeing ideas. We headed for another state park called Old Mission State Park which has the oldest building in Idaho. It is a National Historic Landmark. The Coeur d’Alene Indian tribe sought out Catholic priests who they heard had “powerful medicine” by sending representatives to St. Louis, Father DeSmet was the first to respond but was followed by others in the mid 1800s. The church that stands today was built by Indian labor using the wattle and daub method and did not use any nails. Features such as the handcut tin chandelier feature the creativity and artistry of the builders. Next door is a parish house furnished as it was in the early 1900s. Like many building the church went through a period of decline and was almost torn down before the state assumed ownership and two restorations were done. There is also a wonderful museum exhibit at the Visitor Center which is worth the additional $5 to view.

Front Of Old Mission

Front Of Old Mission

church, American Indian, mission

Church Interior With Handmade Chandelier











architecture, National Historic Landmark

Ceiling Detail At Old Mission SP







Parrish House Office

Parrish House Office





Parish House Sanctuary

Parish House Sanctuary













Then we took a scenic drive around Lake Coeur d’Alene and along the White Pine Scenic Byway. We looked at a National Forest Campground for future visits. A few sites are workable but Farragut SP would be our first choice. We also noted locations of some kayak pit-ins. By then it was time to pick up the generators. They were still working on them when we arrived. We talked to the mechanic as he finished up and learned of a local restaurant called The Porch which is known for its gumbo. It was late and we were hungry. Sounded good. First we had to pay for the generators…another $500! So much for paying off the credit card this month. We never would have found the restaurant on our own. Definitely one of the “locals go here” spots. The gumbo was very spicy but good. We’d come back any time we visit.

The Porch Restaurant

The Porch Restaurant

We gave ourselves an “at home” day which is something we rarely do unless the weather is bad. We had been on the go for three weeks and our energy was lagging. With our “batteries” recharged we headed to the park museum called The Brig. Normally the museum is closed after Labor Day but it was open for the veterans reunion. Within months of the Pearl Harbor attack and the USA’s entrance into WWII new bases were built quickly. One interesting fact was that Farragut was built at the same time as the San Diego Naval Base. Architectural plans were accidentally switched so that the California base was built with pitched roofs and the Idaho base was built with flat roofs. Bet the recruits had fun shoveling snow off of those roofs! The museum provides information on the home front during the war, recruitment and training and impact on the community.

museum, Idaho

Seaman Statue At The Brig Museum

Navy, WWII

Museum Is Housed In The Old Base Brig











Farragut Naval Base

Map Of Farragut Naval Base




Recruiting Labor For Base Construction

Recruiting Labor For Base Construction 








Four days gave us just a taste for the area. We will definitely make a return visit.

Halifax Is Our Kind Of Town

Halifax Composite

We love doing the slide shows and videos to music but they do take a while to construct. So we’re posting on those places we just need to insert pictures while we’re working on our Academy Award winning movies. Here’s where we hold up the LAUGH sign and if you don’t laugh we’ll insert a laugh track.  On to Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia.

Steve and I are not “city people” and don’t go out of our way to visit cities but when we do we always find some interesting sights.  Smaller cities are our favorites.  Maybe that’s why we feel so comfortable in Halifax.  It’s a compact and walkable city offering great sightseeing, history, restaurants and museums. Continuing to use the Provincial Parks we parked the DreamChaser at Laurie Park about a half hour outside of Halifax. This is a lovely wooded park on a lake. There are no hookups so it’s dry camping only. There were only a few sites large enough for our 35′ rig and none of them were close to a water source. This wasn’t a problem as we’d filled our tank before leaving Cape Breton. We’ve gotten used to dry camping, limiting our water use and we could run the generators to refresh our batteries. The bath house was spotless and well designed. This is a very popular park and was full the whole time we were there. So if you plan to go here in the summer, do make reservations. We spent a week in the area and three of those days were spent exploring Halifax.

Halifax Waterfront

Halifax Waterfront

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax Harborwalk

As with most visits to cities we had to find a place to park the truck. At first this seemed to be a problem as street parking was for two hours or less and the open lots we saw were already full. Our first visit was to go to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic so I called them and asked where we could park an oversized vehicle. They directed us to some large open lots near the railroad station and Pier 21. Turns out this was better than if we’d found parking in the other open lots. There you pay by the hour all day and here you pay a maximum of 6 hours and can stay for 24 hours. It is a short walk to where the harbor boardwalk begins. Halifax has turned their harbor into a beautiful open space full of restaurants, bars, harbor cruises and the Maritime Museum.  As we walked the boardwalk we picked up some tidbits of history such as learning about the founder of the Cunard Shipping lines, Portuguese explorers landing here in 1520, looked at the “drunken streetlight art, listened to a bagpiper, talked with representatives at the tourist bureau kiosk and picked up a discount coupon for a tour of the Alexander Keith Brewery.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a must see museum. Plan at least an entire day to prowl through all of the exhibits and the two museum ships in the harbor. We decided to purchase the Nova Scotia Museum pass which gives you entry to all 27 museums. The break even point is at four museums so if you go to more than that you are ahead of paying individual entry fees. There is more here than we have time or space to write about but we’ll note a few highlights: the Acadia, a hydrographic charting and exploration ship, was celebrating it’s 100th year so the museum had a special exhibit about arctic exploration, the extensive model ship collection, the history of the Halifax Explosion in 1917 and the Titanic artifact display. Until the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima the Halifax Explosion was the largest man-made explosion yet we’d never heard about it. The cause was a collision in Halifax Harbor during WWI involving a munitions ship. The resulting explosion leveled two square miles of the city. To this day the city of Halifax sends a Christmas tree to Boston in memory of all the help they provided following the disaster.  Just a  few nights ago we were watching History Detectives on PBS and they had taken a picture frame thought to be made  from railing salvaged by seaman on a cable ship sent to recover bodies from the Titanic. The final authenticating expert was from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. He compared the artifact with one on display and identified who had made the frame.The frame had been made from a piece of the Grand Staircase aboard the Titanic. This is the second time we’ve seen items featured on the show. The museum was running a photo contest for the centennial of the Acadia. Steve and I entered. Although we didn’t win it was fun to participate. The special arctic exploration exhibit was called  Cold Recall and used lecture manuscripts and lantern slides from Roald Amundsen’s Northwest Passage exploration in 1903-1906. 

Acadia, photography

Steve’s Entry For Acadia Contest

Acadia, photography

Chari’s Entry For Acadia Contest

The Citadel is another must see landmark.  It is operated by Parks Canada so if you have the annual pass there is no admission charge. You can walk up the steep hills from the waterfront or drive up. Not wanting to leave our good parking spot we walked. Whew! We hadn’t done that in a while. During the summer the Citadel is staffed by students from local military schools who dress in period uniforms of the 78th Highlanders Regiment and provide tours of the fort. Built on top of the hill overlooking the city to protect Halifax harbor the  existing fort was never engaged in battle. As a result it provides one of the best archeology sites of the era. The time period of your visit is 1869.  Much of the ritual changing of the guard and cannon firing is for the tourist trade. Go beyond that and take the tour, go to the uniform shop and try on the 35 pound wool uniforms and be sure to see the 50 minute movie Tides of Time in the theatre.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

View Of Halifax From The Citadel

Halifax Citadel, changing of the guard

Changing Of The Guard At The Citadel

78th Highlanders, Parks Canada

On Tour In The Citadel Schoolroom


Steve Tries On Regimental Uniform

Basilica Ceiling Built Like A Ship's Hull

Basilica Ceiling Built Like A Ship’s Hull

From there we walked back down the hill stopping at two beautiful old churches and the Old Burying Ground. St. Paul’s Church is the oldest Protestant church in Canada and the oldest surviving building in Halifax, c. 1750. A timber hurled almost two miles during the Halifax Explosion was imbedded in the wall of St. Paul’s and it remains there today. A docent was on hand to provide a tour. The Old Burying Ground was the original city cemetery started in 1749 when Halifax was founded. It was turned over to Saint Paul’s in 1793 and closed to further burials in 1843. Like many historical sites it deteriorated until a citizens group formed in the 1980s to restore and maintain it. What I found the most fascinating was to be standing looking at the grave of British Major General Robert Ross. Why? Well, he was the commander of the British forces who raided and burned Washington, DC in 1814. He was killed shortly afterwards in a raid on Baltimore. The second church was the Cathedral Church of All Saints. It is known for the beautiful woodwork and stained glass windows. In 1763 when it was built no local craftsman knew how to build the vaulted 7 story ceiling so they hired shipbuilders who knew how to construct a hull and built it upside down. If you’d like to see more about the above sites Google them. Each has a very interesting website.

Major General Robert Ross

Major General Robert Ross


St. Paul’s Church

Halifax, church

Cathedral Church Of All Saints

Keith's 2By now we’d worked up quite a thirst. Time to use our discount coupon for the Alexander Keith’s Brewery.  The Halifax site is the original brewery which has become incorporated into a shopping plaza. A modern brewery located elsewhere still produces beer. Tours are run frequently throughout the day and your ticket includes two beers if you are of legal drinking age or if you prefer, soft drinks. Costumed summer players escort you on a history tour of the brewery. Quite frankly, it is way over played until you get to the tavern where the players sing and dance while you imbibe. These young people were very talented.

Old Keith's Brewery

Old Keith’s Brewery

Alexander Keith Brewery

Alexander Keith Brewery

Another day brought us back to the city to see Pier 21. This is the Canadian equivalent of Ellis Island. While immigration to the USA peaked between 1880-1920, Canadian immigration reached its high point following WWII. Both sites were closed as active immigration ports when ship transport was surpassed by air arrivals. Currently Pier 21 tells the story of immigrants processing through Halifax on their way to other locations. Soon an expansion of the museum will include all points of entry to Canada.

Pier 21

Pier 21

Remember we were going to take a sailing cruise aboard a  schooner for our fourth anniversary but got rained out? We finally had time and good weather so spontaneously we decided to take a harbor cruise on the MAR.  I wasn’t really dressed for being out on the water. Shorts and tee shirt were fine during the day but not for a sunset cruise. Fortunately the ship offered blankets. So I stayed wrapped up while Steve took photos. There’s nothing like gliding along on the water with the wind in your face. If we could learn to sail the RV just might get traded for a boat! Just as we returned to shore the most beautiful sunset appeared. What a great way to say goodbye to Halifax.

Schooner Mar Sailing Past Halifax Harbor Lighthouse

Schooner Mar Sailing Past Halifax Harbor Lighthouse

On Board THE MAR In Halifax Harbor

On Board THE MAR In Halifax Harbor

Drunken Lampost Sculpture

Drunken Lampost Sculpture

Halifax Waterfront At Sunset

Halifax Waterfront At Sunset

Goodbye Halifax!

Goodbye Halifax!

Catching Up #1 – A Triple D Triple Header

You know that we enjoy eating at local restaurants. That’s why we check our app for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives locations near us as we move from place to place. We can be sure of getting local flavor and good food at the same time. While we were in Rhode Island it was the first time we’d been in an area with multiple Triple D restaurants. Over the course of ten days we had four meals at three different places. So if you find yourself in this area do give them a try.

Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, restaurant, food, Rhode Island

Crazy Burger In Narragansett, Rhode Island

Our first stop (and second) was in Narragansett, RI about 2 miles from our campground at Fishermens Memorial Park. This popular spot is Crazy Burger. Even in the off season on a Tuesday night we arrived just in time to grab the last table. After that there was a waiting line for 20+ minutes. I chose the same thing that Guy ate, the Luna Sea burger. We’d just seen this segment on TV and thought it looked good. It’s a salmon burger with pistachios and a great sauce. I can’t remember what I had except that it was good and “Sum kinda” burger.  In fact I’m not sure what I had last night! They don’t have a liquor license so we had raspberry lemonade but you can brown bag if you desire. The next morning power was out at the campground for the second time in as many days. We went back to Crazy Burger for breakfast. This time our only seating option was at the bar as it was already crowded. I remember what I ate this time, cinnamon roll French toast with blueberry syrup. Yum!  My selection was a vegetarian omelet with spinach, goat cheese and lots of other great stuff. Being a juice bar we tried mango peach juice and REAL fresh squeezed OJ. (Opal – its been so long since I’ve had a chance to get on the computer I thought you might have forgotten me.)  And they brought home leftovers for me, of course.

Welcome To Federal Hill

Welcome To Federal Hill

restaurant, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Rhode Island

Angelo’s Civita Farnese

Later we’ll post about our drive to the Providence area. There is a section in town called Federal Hill that was the predominantly Italian neighborhood in the early 1900s. Atwells Avenue is the entrance to the area and has a large arch with a pineapple (symbol of hospitality). Here we found Angelo’s Civita Farnese. This is the second oldest restaurant in Federal Hill and the oldest one continuously operated under the same family. I had their featured beef and peppers while Chari had pasta. The bread was delicious as was the soup we had for an appetizer. They weren’t very busy on this weekday night so we talked with our waitress about being RVers, our blog and trying Triple D places. Later the manager came over and spent about 20 minutes with us. She told us more about the history of the restaurant and that it had been renovated a few years ago to look like the original 1924 decor. They still use the same recipes that the original Angelo used. The owner now is the husband of the founder’s granddaughter. Angelo’s daughter still lives in the only remaining single family home on Atwells Avenue, across the street from the restaurant.  She told us that during the Depression when local workers needed cheap, hearty food they started serving meatballs with french fries. Even today if you order meatballs this is the way they are served. If you order meatballs and spaghetti you get meatballs, spaghetti on the side and fries. They only put the meatballs on spaghetti if the customer requests it. She also told us about Guy Fieri’s visit and how the show is filmed.

Hidden Gem In Fall River, MA

Hidden Gem In Fall River, MA

pierogi, Polish food, Massachusetts

Inside Patti’s Pierogis

Our last spot was in Fall River, MA just across the state line. We were on our way back to Rhode Island from New Bedford, MA (another post in waiting). This took us to a small diner car turned restaurant called Patti’s Pierogis. It’s the kind of place you’d probably drive right by and not notice unless someone told you about the great food there. Fall River like so many of the towns in this area thrived when the textile mills and docks were in their hay day. Immigrants from many countries flooded this area bringing their culture and food specialties with them. A large Polish population was one. I had to go on Google Translate to find out what Bardzo, Bardzo Dobry meant. As we can attest, it means very, very good. We chose the international sampler platter of pierogis plus some sausage. This left us much too full to try any dessert. The manager at Angelo’s had told us to try the Fluffer Nutter pierogi. These two restaurants had been on the same show so the Angelo’s folks had come down to try food at Patt’s.

One our way back to the car we took a couple of quick pics of a very photogenic church that does have an eastern European style to it.

church, architecture, Massachusetts

Church In Fall River, MA

There’s Always Something To Do In Philadelphia – Part 2

Philadelphia, sailboat

Checking Out Penns Landing

We returned to Philadelphia during the following week. Not wanting to have problems with the PATCO folks again we decided to drive into town. There is an open air parking lot at Penns Landing. Although they charge $20 a day to park that was comparable to taking the train. Then it is just a few blocks to walk into the historic area. Today would be an exploration on foot, just out to see the area. After parking we took a few minutes to check out a sailboat that is used for river cruises. If we are ever here in warmer weather that sounds like fun.

Our first stop was the Ben Franklin Post Office which still functions as an active Post Office. His home no longer stands but a metal frame has been erected to give you a feeling for size. They’ve marked where his privy and well were, just ten feet apart. No wonder folks got sick drinking water back then!

On to the Federal Reserve Tower just a block down and across the street from the Visitors Center. Here you will find a free exhibit about the history of our monetary system and the role of the Federal Reserve. There is tight security here including a body scan machine. No photos allowed either. We didn’t always have a true national currency. The First Bank of the United States was located in Philadelphia and can be visited as can the building that housed the Second United States Bank. Both failed to have their charters renewed after the first twenty years. It would be 75 years until the Federal Reserve was created and the system we have today would be created. At one time someone traveling from Illinois to New York would find the money in their pocket (state issued) was worth only 50 cents on the dollar! There is a display of counterfeit money and you need to decide if it is real or fake. Some are fairly easy but some really require an expert to detect the flaws.

Now for some walking and just seeing the sights. The Betsy Ross House was mobbed by school groups so that was crossed off the list. We passed the Arch Street Meeting House, a Quaker Meeting House built in 1804. Then on to the Carpenters Hall. The building was constructed by a trade group prior to the American Revolution. The Carpenters Hall functioned much as a union would today minus collective bargaining. Ben Franklin had a history with the Carpenters Hall as one of its members built his home and he used the upstairs of the Hall to meet with a French spy before the Revolution began. It was the site of the First Continental Congress and a set of chairs used by them is on display.

Walking on toward the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial you pass the Todd House. You may not recognize the name Dolley Todd. She was married to John Todd, a lawyer, and had two children. In 1793 she was widowed when her husband died of yellow fever. She also lost one child the same year. You most likely do know of her as Dolley Madison after she married James Madison and became our 4th first lady. The 1776 home is open only for tours by the National Park Service.  Further down the block we saw a sign stating that Casper Wistar lived in this home. Who was he? A noted physician, anatomy professor and abolitionist, he instructed Merriweather Lewis in medicine and paleontology prior to the Corps of Discovery heading west.

Just a block or two further was an old church, St. Mary. Several plaques hung on the front wall telling of her part in the early history of our country. On July 4, 1779 the Continental Congress and numerous dignitaries were here to celebrate the first public religious celebration of the Declaration of Independence. On November 4, 1781 another service was held to give thanks for the victory at Yorktown. Besides our leaders, the ministers of France and Spain attended as well as numerous French troops. The conquered flags of Great Britain were laid upon the altar. Another tablet noted that John Barry, father of the United States Navy, was buried in the adjoining cemetery. John Barry came to America from Ireland. He was the first captain of the first ship owned by the Continental Congress and served as commander of the Navy during the Revolution. George Washington then appointed him the first supreme commander of the Navy. Yet another plaque notes this as the resting place of Thomas Fitzsimmons (signer of the Declaration of independence), George Meade (grandfather of George Gordon Meade the Union general at Gettysburg) , General Stephen Moylan (George Washington’s aide-de-camp and Commander of the Cavalry at the close of the Revolution) and Matthew Carey (leading publisher and a chief force in the creation of American literature). If you’d like to read more about Matthew Carey please see the information photo below. To make it easier to read, enlarge to full screen and zoom in. A walk through the grave yard lead to more interesting signs. Philippe Charles Jean Baptiste Tronson DuCordray was a French military artillery expert and engineer who volunteered to come to America to assist the colonists almost three years before France officially entered the war. He was made Major General and commanded the works along the Delaware River. He drowned crossing the Schuylkill River and was given a state funeral and the Continental Congress attended. Another foreign dignitary so honored was Don Juan de Miralles, an agent of the Spanish government in 1780. Colonel Charles von Kusserow was a Prussian born army officer who fought with the Union Army during the Civil War at Antietam, Fredricksburg and Yorktown and received many honors. The sign by his grave says he suffered sunstroke twice during his service and died at age 46 in 1879.

There was a small sign at the street side next to a building called the Powel House. It told about how in 1931 Frances Wister and Herman Durhing, an AIA architect, formed the  Philadelphia Society for Landmarks. They bought and restored the Powel House. Then they lobbied not to have historic properties razed and for new buildings to be built in a harmonious design. Some of Philadelphia’s treasures that were saved are the Franklin Institute (now the Atwater Kent Museum), the U. S. Customs House and Elfreth’s Alley (the oldest continuously inhabited residential street in America). They were instrumental in getting Independence National Park established. The Society now manages four properties that are open to the public: Powel House (home of patriot Mayor Samuel Powel), Physick House (home of the Father of American Surgery), Gumbelthorpe (summer home of the Wister family) and Waynesborough (home of Major General Anthony Wayne). Maybe we’ll see them on another trip.

By now we reached the Kosciuszko National Memorial only to find it closed. It’s open only on Saturdays and Sundays. Guess we should check the NPS website before starting out. The Edgar Allen Poe house was also closed for renovation. More reasons to return. Our last stop was the National Jewish American Museum which opened in 2010. There is airport type security here. Steve had to leave his pocket knife with security until we left. We had an hour and a half to spend but could have stayed twice as long. The six floors of the museum are packed with displays from early Jewish immigration through the present. There are rotating exhibits as well as the permanent collection. Maybe we’ll come back and finish some other time.

All of this sightseeing had given us an appetite. We couldn’t leave without having a Philadelphia cheese steak so we stopped at a local pub on the way back to the truck. While we did a lot there is so much more to see… there’s always something to do in Philadelphia.

Franklin Post Office

Franklin Post Office

post office, Ben Franklin

Still Working After All These Years

Famous Folks Have No Privacy

Famous Folks Have No Privacy

Philadelphia, Quakers

Arch Street Meeting House

Carpenters Hall

Carpenters Hall

cemetery, Philadelphia, history

St. Marys Cemetery

Matthew Carey Information

Matthew Carey Information

Todd House

Todd House

In The Valley Of The Forges – Part 1

Hopewell Furnace, National Historic Site, Pennsylvania

Hopewell Furnace Panorama

Spring has finally come to the mid-atlantic states as we begin to move north. Forsythia, cherry trees and tulip magnolia are in bloom. Night time temperatures seldom go below 40 any more and we can sit outside after dinner. It feels good. We are spending twelve days in New Jersey just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. The closest RV park we could find was Timberlane, one of the few commercial parks we’ve used. It is very busy at this time of year as snowbirds head back north. We’re glad we made reservations well ahead. The people parked next to us, Dave and Barbara, are full time RVers like ourselves, who started out last July. We spent several evenings together sharing experiences and favorite spots to stay. Hopefully we will keep in touch and see each other in Florida next winter.

After two days of laying low when Chari was “under the weather”, the three of us were anxious to be out and about. The Philadelphia area is loaded with historical sites and other points of interest. Far more than we can do in one trip. Guess I get to say “when we come back….” High on the priority list were the five National Park Service sites. Three of them are located in downtown Philadelphia and the other two are in the Valley of the Forges.

Pennsylvania attracted early settlers away from the coast because of its rich farming land and mineral wealth. Large deposits of iron ore, coal and limestone along with numerous rivers made this area a natural for mining, charcoal production and iron foundries. The area became known as the Valley of the Forges. While ruins of  furnaces can be seen in many locations, the best preserved one is a NPS National Historic site called Hopewell Furnace.  It operated as a working iron furnace for over 100 years.  Ore was provided by three Hopewell owned mines. In the 1930s the land and buildings were offered to the National Park Service. The buildings had become dilapidated but through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps they were restored. Hopewell Furnace is located about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The day of our visit was cool and overcast so no postcard photos to show off. We hope the ones we picked will just give you an idea of what is there. This pastoral setting would have been much different in the early to mid 1800s when it was at peak production. There would have been lots of smoke and heat from the furnace and noise from people and animals.

The process from ore to finished iron product was a lengthy one. First the ore and limestone had to be mined. Then trees had to be cut and burned to produce charcoal for the furnaces. Hopewell required 7000 cords of wood annually to supply its charcoal requirements. Almost 40% of the employees were involved with wood cutting operations. Converting wood to charcoal was a two-week process overseen by men called colliers. Colliers would live next to the fire pits and keep watch to make sure the fires didn’t go out. Then the furnace would go into blast. A 22 foot waterwheel created the power to operate bellows that gave a blast of air to raise the temperature in the furnace above 2800 degrees. Lastly iron molders would make the finished product. Iron molders were considered the most skilled workers and the best paid. Hopewell Furnace became known for its high quality stoves in the 1840s. Use of anthracite coal was tried for a short period as a replacement for charcoal but proved too expensive to transport. Iron production moved to western Pennsylvania where anthracite mines were located. Hopewell Furnace still needing the time consuming charcoal for fuel could not compete. The Park service demonstrates the production of charcoal throughout the year. They were preparing for a demonstration the following weekend when we visited. If you visit in the Fall you may pick apples from over 200 trees in the orchard that predates establishment of the furnace.

Charcoal Wagon

Charcoal Wagon

charcoal, Hopewell Furnace

Charcoal Shed

Collier's Hut

Collier’s Hut


Draught Horse At Hopewell

Steve Viewing Hopewell Furnace

Steve Viewing Hopewell Furnace

There is African American history here too. Mark Bird, the original builder of Hopewell Furnace was a slave owner. Pennsylvania legislated gradual emancipation beginning in 1780. Even when freed, many black Americans continued to work as woodcutters, teamsters or colliers at the furnaces. A black community formed in the area and became a stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves.

We’ve talked about how interesting it is to see the connections between the various NPS sites we visit. Hopewell Furnace began operation in 1771. Mark Bird like many other iron masters supported the Patriots cause. Although furnaces in the colonies produced 15% of the world’s iron they had never made munitions. They were prohibited from manufacturing ordinance by England. They had to “learn by doing” to supply cannon, shot and shell during the Revolution. Hopewell played a critical role in supplying Washington with needed supplies at Valley Forge, made cannon for the Navy and cast mortar shells used at Yorktown. Mark Bird was never able to get the money he was owed from the Continental Congress and lost all his holdings.

A short film at the Visitors Center gives you an overview of the ore to finished product process. Once again we are made aware of the skills that have been lost as we have become dependent upon machinery and technology to produce our goods. The site is a self guided tour through the furnace, charcoal pits, charcoal barn, iron masters home, livestock barn and nearby church.

Living Room Of Iron Masters House

Living Room Of Iron Masters House

Inside Iron Masters House

Inside Iron Masters House

Bethesda Church And Graveyard

Bethesda Church And Graveyard

Hopewell Furnace, Pennsylvania

Looking At Hopewell Furnace From The Barn

Before we knew it time had slipped by and it was 3 o’clock. It was too late to visit Valley Forge. As it turned out that was a good thing. If we had gone on a weekday we’d have missed the Ranger tour and the living history actors. We didn’t feel like going straight home either. French Creek State Park was close by so we drove over there to check out possible campsites for a return visit. We picked up a campground map and marked off sites where our trailer would fit. Like most Pennsylvania State Parks there is electric service but you must use water from your RV tank and pets are restricted to certain sites. We felt this location would be just as convenient to Philadelphia so we’ll probably stay here next time.

Looking at a map we saw that the Daniel Boone birthplace was just 6 miles away. We had just missed the last guided tour but we were able to do a self guided walk. The park is privately run so there is an admission fee. The actual site of the original Boone cabin only has the cellar foundation remaining. The building that stands there was built on top of it. A cabin belonging to Daniel Boone’s mother’s family was moved to the site. This represents how the Boone cabin probably appeared. Daniel Boone moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina when he was 15 years old.

I planned to include our visit to Valley Forge in this post as well. However, my hands are tired from typing and this seems as good a spot to stop and hit the Publish button as any. So stay tuned for Part 2.