A Winter On The Crystal Coast

Oceana Pier On Atlantic Beach, NC

Winter On The Outer Banks

Along The Crystal Coast

We arrived at Cape Lookout National Seashore in early November 2017. This would be our home for almost 5 months while we volunteered as Visitor Center docents for the National Park Service. The main Visitor Center is located on Harkers Island, North Carolina and the National Seashore  protects the southernmost islands of the Outer Banks: North and South Core Banks and Shakleford Banks. The  iconic landmark for the Cape Lookout is its black and white diamond painted lighthouse. The seashore is also well known as a shellers haven and for the wild horses that live on Shackleford Banks. This part of the North Carolina coast is called the Crystal Coast because of the beautiful beaches, ocean access and numerous bays and rivers. East of the town of Beaufort to Cedar Island (where you catch the state ferry to Ocracoke Island) is referred to as “Down East” with a unique culture and way of speaking due to being isolated well into the 20th century. We don’t have space enough to detail all that we did here but we hope there is enough so you’ll come visit yourself.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse And Assistant Keepers Quarters

A lot of people ask “Why do you want to go to the beach in the winter?” Our reply is because everyone else doesn’t! The pristine beaches you can walk for miles and rarely see anyone else, after a storm the shells are washed up and ready for the taking and in town you can walk in to a restaurant or find free parking without the hassle. One other reason: Steve hates heat and humidity so he’d never go in the summer! I lived in North Carolina for 20 years and had gone to the northern Outer Banks but never to this area. I couldn’t believe what I’d missed!

CALO Visitor Center In Beaufort


Oil Shed And Summer Kitchen Near Lighthouse










When we started work as volunteers both the Harkers Island and Beaufort Visitor Centers were open so we had days at both. The Beaufort VC is located in the old post office building with some city offices. The building was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project in 1937 during the Great Depression. In the lobby are four murals painted by Russian born artist Simca Simikovich representing life and history of this sea oriented area. One shows range markers used to guide ships into Beaufort harbor. Because of the shifting shoals and sandbars Cape Lookout and the Outer Banks were called “The Graveyard of the Atlantic”.

Mailboat Mural

Another mural shows a mailboat headed for Cape Lookout lighthouse. Due to rivers, bays and marshes the Down East area had no roads or bridges until the 1940s so all transportation and commerce came and went by boat. The mailboat was the link between the isolated communities and town.

Live Decoy Geese Mural

A third mural shows geese that were raised from eggs by the Ca’e Bankers of Portsmouth Village on North Core Banks. They imprinted on the villagers and stayed. The birds were used as live decoys to bring in migrating wild geese for hunters.

Shackleford Ponies Mural

Of course there is one of the Shackleford ponies. At an average of 44-48″ at the withers they are between pony and horse so both terms are used. DNA tests link these horses to Spanish horses but no one knows just how they got here.

The last mural depicts the famous wreck of the Chrissie Wright. It is placed over a doorway. When this ship foundered on the shoals  off Shackleford Island during a winter storm all but one of the crew froze to death while islanders watched helplessly from shore. This tragedy led to the establishment of a lifesaving station on Cape Lookout two years later. Even today locals will refer to a cold stormy day as a “Chrissie Wright Day”.

Chrissie Wright Mural

The town of Beaufort was the third town established in North Carolina and dates to 1713. History abounds all through the area and we took full advantage of learning as much as we could from tours, special events and lectures. 2018 is the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s capture and the sinking of his ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, nearby. One of the most interesting locations was the Ann Street Cemetery. If you love old cemeteries this is one you need to see. The self guided tour brochure details many stories from the unmarked graves of settlers killed in the Tuscaroran War in the early 1700s to the little girl buried in a cask of rum when she died at sea to area privateer turned statesman Ottway Burns.

Chari At The Veterans Day Parade

Shortly after we arrived Cape Lookout was represented in the Morehead City Veterans Day parade. So we rode in one of the NPS boats and showered the kids with candy. We learned that because of the area being home to several military bases this parade is one of the longest in the country. We also did the Down East Christmas parade and served as Santa’s sleigh!

Have You Been Naughty Or Nice?

Another holiday event was the Beaufort Candlelight Home Tour through private homes and buildings in the historic district. The Beaufort office was open that night. We worked a few hours and also had time to tour. On Christmas Eve we attended services at the Ann Street Methodist Church built in the 1750s and still in use.


Christmas On Harkers Island



Crab Trap Christmas Tree At Core Sound Museum

We enjoyed touring Harkers Island to see the holiday lights. Several of the homes displayed the area’s symbolic anchor outlined in lights. We decorated the interior of our Visitor Center and strung lights on the anchor from the Olive Thurlow, a shipwreck near cape Lookout, that greets visitors to the Harkers Island location. The Cape Lookout lighthouse is normally open for climbing mid May to mid September. So we were very excited when a New Years Day climb was scheduled and we were to be working. In preparation, we learned the history of the lighthouse, interpretive points and climbed it – all 207 steps! The view is fantastic! Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t cooperate and the climb was cancelled.

Hackers Island Visitors Center


View From The Top Of The Cape Lookout Lighthouse

For Thanksgiving we took a harbor cruise aboard The Crystal Lady around Beaufort Harbor and had Thanksgiving dinner. A great way to spend the holiday when you are in a new area. A special holiday celebration was our trip to New Bern, NC to take the city tram tour and visit Tryon Palace. We highly recommend the tram tour. Our guide was excellent and gave us insight into this historical city. It is said that houses have moved more in this city than anywhere else as the city expanded and developed. As we observed several times when the guide would say “This house used to be over there.”  One house has been moved 5 times! The original Tryon Palace burned down and the current structure is a replica built from the original plans. New Bern was the capitol of the colony of North Carolina and Tryon Palace served as the Governor’s palace. Each December for two weekends they hold a candlelight tour of the palace with living history skits done in several locations. Outside on the grounds are tents with period entertainment and in front of the palace black Americans perform the traditional song and dance of enslaved people called Jonkonnu.

Thanksgiving Day Dinner Cruise






















Tryon Palace Living History Dancers











Jonkonnu Singer




Jonkonnu Dancers







Performer Signora Bella Does A Comedy Juggling Routine

During the winter the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort holds monthly lectures on Wednesdays. Since we were off the lectures became a highlight of our time here. We attended four lectures on topics from Native people of the area and the Tuscaroran War, whaling on Shackleford Island, the story behind the sperm whale skeleton and heart on display at the museum and Churchill’s Pirates (a British fleet sent to the USA to patrol the Outer Banks against German U-boats). There are three NC Maritime Museums but the Beaufort location is the largest. It houses displays and relics from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, about the Civil Air Patrol in WWII, the Menhaden fishing industry and sea chanteys, and boating/recreation in the area.  After the lecture about the sperm whale Steve and I got to hold the plastinated heart which weighed in at 55 lbs. This museum is a must see if you visit.

That’s A Whale Of A Heart!

Speaking of must see brings us to another wonderful museum, the Core Sound Waterfowl and Culture Museum. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history and folkways of the Down East communities. The Core Sound is the body of water between the mainland and the Outer Banks. Each November the CSM and the Decoy Carvers Guild sponsor the Core Sound Decoy Festival. Thousands of folks attend. We worked one day at a NPS table with a kids fishing activity and one day in the VC but we did have time to see the festival for a few hours. I never realized there were so many types of decoys! Decoy carving is still active and the best carvers are true artists. The second floor of the museum is dedicated to telling the story of the independent and hardworking people who lived on the islands and mainland Down East communities. They were a self reliant, closely knit and religious people whose way of life is but a memory. Don’t miss this either.

Jellyfish Dancing

The Aquarium Dive Show












Other great places to visit are the North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knolls Shores and Fort Macon State Park. Fort Macon has a wonderful beach area and provided a place for us to go when the ferries weren’t running. The Fort itself has a lengthy history from the mid 1800s thru WWII. Rooms are set up with interactive audio and displays of the various historical periods. The Pine Knolls Shores Aquarium features fish and reptiles of the NC coast. It is one of three NC aquariums. Both Fort Macon and the Aquarium have extensive programing so be sure to check the website before your visit.

Fort Macon

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the great restaurants in the area. Seafood lovers rejoice! Not only in the restaurants but we found fish markets galore. We ate our fill and then some of red and black drum, sea trout, shrimp, scallops and oysters. However once in a while we took a break and pigged out at Grumpy’s in Morehead City. Known for the in house cured corned beef, we highly recommend the corned beef hash and reuben sandwiches. Another seafood break spot was the Seaside restaurant at the Citgo station on Harkers Island for the best fried chicken. We toured areas up to two hours away. When we went to Kinston, NC to see a Civil War era ironclad we also dined at The Farmer and The Chef of Food Network fame. A higher class restaurant than we normally frequent, it was a superb meal. Another trip took us south to see Moore’s Creek National Battlefield. They were renovating the Visitor Center and we had postponed the trip hoping it would reopen before we left. That didn’t happen but we did walk the trail and read interpretive signs. That gave us an appetite (doesn’t everything?). We looked on the GPS and picked a spot called Something Fishy just based on its name. When we walked in we saw Guy Fieri’s poster on the wall. This was a DDD spot he’d been too just 3 weeks prior. The evening I am writing this blog we saw the episode including Something Fishy. Let’s just say we never had a bad meal!

Dinner At The Farmer And The Chef

Moore’s Creek National Battlefield

January and February are the slow months for the national seashore and we worked 2-3 days a week. This, according to locals, was the coldest winter they had had in 30 years. We had not one but two snowstorms albeit not more than four inches of snow. However for this area that was a lot and we got “snow days” off from work. There were several days when winds would be too high and the ferries to the islands wouldn’t run. On the days they did run we took advantage and enjoyed combing the beach without crowds. A home school group came and the equine biologist did her Horse Sense tour for them to Shackleford Island. Did we want to go along and take photos for the park? How fast do you think we said yes? Dr. Sue is so informative and gave a great tour. This tour is given monthly in the summer and fall. We highly recommend it. You need to sign up for it as space is limited. During our workdays Steve and I enjoyed doing research and read extensively. We were able to develop some outlines for Shade Shelter talks to be given by staff during the summer. Topics we learned about were the history of lighthouses, types of sailing ships, WWII along the Outer Banks, the Menhaden fisheries, the Winter of 1918 when Core Sound froze over and stories of Down East plus a great book called The Paper Canoe.

The Welcoming Committee

Banker Horse

Snow At The Seashore

That’s Not Sand!

When we arrived five months seemed a long time but oh, it went so quickly. We had a wonderful time and best of all the staff said we were welcome back anytime. OK, twist our arms! We take with us wonderful memories! So long Cape Lookout! So long Crystal Coast!

Worth Getting up Early To See

Steve At The Top Of Cape Lookout Lighthouse

South Core Banks Pier










Leave Only Footprints


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.





A Cajun Christmas In New Orleans

NOLA Panorama

NOLA Panorama

We’ve been wanting to spend time time in New Orleans ever since we hit the road. This year (2016) we finally got here. Another sticker for the RV map. That only leaves 3 states in the lower 48 we haven’t camped in West VA, Ohio and Connecticut). We chose Bayou Segnette SP on what is referred to as the westbank area. Good choice as it has large sites, free wifi, free laundry and is only a 10 minute drive to the Algiers Point ferry to downtown New Orleans. The parking for all day was $5 and senior rate on the ferry is $1 each way. If you are lucky you might even get serenaded by the calliope from the Steamboat Natchez.

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

Steamboat Natchez In The Fog

We spent the first day with friend and fellow volunteer from Red Rock Lakes, Marilyn, touring two of the six sites that are part of Jean Lafitte NHP. The first was Chalmette Battlefield (site of the 1814 Battle of New Orleans) and the other in Thibodaux, LA at the Acadian Culture Center. We arrived in Thibodaux just in time for a Ranger led walking tour of town covering history and architecture of the area. If you enjoy discovering the small towns and hidden gems of our country, don’t miss this walk. We saw original Acadian homes, Victorian homes, Art & Craft homes, Beau Arts buildings and even one of only two Second French Empire homes in Louisiana. We also learned about the Louisiana seal which depicts a pelican with 3 chicks ripping her own flesh to feed them. This was created based upon what the first governor thinks he saw. Truth, per the Ranger, is that pelicans never have more than two chicks and usually only one survives, no bird would rip itself to feed young and that until the late 20th century the seal also showed blood droplets. The Center hosts free events such as a Cajun music night and a local dialect of French discussion group to preserve the language. At one time it was illegal to speak the Acadian language. We ended the day with a meal at Fremin’s, once a pharmacy cum restaurant. Oh, those smoked oysters and gumbo!

Seal Of Louisiana

Seal Of Louisiana

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Chalmette VC and The Battle Of New Orleans

Malus-Beauregard House

Malus-Beauregard House










Victorian Home In Thibodeaux

Victorian Home In Thibodaux

Second Empire French Home

Second Empire French Home










Thibodeaux Cemetery

Thibodaux Cemetery

Day two was a walking marathon through the French Quarter. We started at the Old Mint, the only mint to have coined currency for both the US and the Confederacy. Currently it is also being used as the Visitor Center for the New Orleans Jazz NHP. Then we walked and photographed ourselves silly on the fabulous architecture and seasonal decorations. We returned to the Jazz park for a Ranger led walk on music and cuisine. If America is the melting pot of the world then surely New Orleans is the epicenter. We knew about the Spanish, the French, the Acadians, the Caribbean influence but Canary Island Islenos … we had no idea. We were still able to catch half of the free jazz concert by the NPS Arrowhead band too. Starving we stopped for a muffuletta and jambalaya.

Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street

The French Market

The French Market

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic

The Cornstalk Hotel

The Cornstalk Hotel

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony

Mardi Gras Beads On Balcony









Landmark Eatery

OMG! The Food!

OMG! The Food!








New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans Architecture

French Quarter Scene

French Quarter Scene

All That Jazz!

All That Jazz!


New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

New Orleans From The Ferry At Sunset

Being in a vibrant city at holiday time is special. We loved the decorations, the lights at The Oaks and most of all the Cajun custom of guiding Papa Noel with bonfires along the levees. Steve has put together a video of these events and our visit to Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!





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





















P.E.I. Means Particularly Enchanting Island

Prince Edward Island, P. E. I.

A Mural Of Rural P.E.I.

We hadn’t originally planned to visit Prince Edward Island on this trip.  A call from some RV friends we’d met in Florida in 2011 changed our plans. They were work camping as hosts in Maine and wanted to visit P.E.I. before returning home to Pennsylvania.  Would we like to meet up? What are plans for if not to change? Prince Edward Island was named for, can you guess, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria.

We picked a park close to the Confederation Bridge, Linkletter Provincial Park, for our stay.  Many of the P.E.I. parks offer full hook-ups.  The Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge in the world crossing ice covered waters. It opened in 1997 and cost one billion dollars to construct. When you cross the 8 mile Confederation Bridge in a car the concrete barriers block much of the view.  When you come over in a truck or RV you’re above the barrier and get a great view. There’s no charge to cross over from New Brunswick but going back with an RV be prepared for a hefty toll (almost $50 Canadian). While the park itself was very nice, if you were coming for the beach it isn’t the place we’d recommend. The beach is strewn heavily with seaweed and at high tide almost disappears.  As a base for sightseeing it worked just fine. Most visitors to P.E.I. come for the miles of red, sandy beaches. Unfortunately, we arrived the same time as a tropical storm worked its way up the coast. It was very rainy and windy the majority of the week.

Our friends had gotten tickets for a new play debuting this summer, Evangeline, a musical based on the Longfellow poem.  It was playing at the Confederation Center in Charlottestown, capital of P.E.I.  Other shows that play annually in Charlottestown are Anne of Green Gables and Ann and Gilbert based on the book, Anne of Green Gables. Evangeline was terrific! It was Broadway quality for the cast, scenery, choreography and music. If it is playing when you visit, consider this a must see. We wouldn’t be surprised if this show tours other cities in the US and Canada. We didn’t have time to sightsee in Charlottestown but would love to return.  Hey, give us credit, we haven’t said when we come back for quite a while!

The Bottle House

Entrance To The Bottle House

The Bottle House Through The Fountain

The Bottle House Through The Fountain

Flowers At The Bottle Houses

Flowers At The Bottle Houses

For a touristy but interesting spot to see go to The Bottle Houses. Long before recycling was in vogue, Edouard Arsenault, fisherman and carpenter of western P.E.I., transformed over 25,000 bottles into small buildings on his property in the Acadian town of Cap-Egmont.  His inspiration was a postcard from the bottle castle in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Unfortunately, this attraction no longer exists.  Between 1980-1984 he built six structures. The structures deteriorated after their creator’s death.  Not wanting them to disappear, his grandson lovingly restored them. The attraction is still owned and operated by his descendants.


Bottle House Church

Drinking In The View

Drinking In The View

Hydrangea In Bottle House Garden

Hydrangea In Bottle House Garden

Bottle House Bar

Anyone Seen The Corkscrew?

Another unexpectedly interesting place was the Potato Museum. PEI is flat and sandy and grows a lot of potatoes. So here’s the answer to our Roadside Trivia #6. The two places which were first to put slogans on license plates: P.E.I. and Idaho.  What did they have in common, potatoes, of course! While one side of the museum is about potato farming, the other side depicts life on P.E.I. between 1880s and 1950s. Here, you’ll find everything from old suitcases to an iron lung.  Of course, today potato farming and processing is done by large corporations and you’ll see huge processing plants as you travel the island. However, it hasn’t lost it’s rural charm.

Canadian Potato Museum on P.E.I.

This Spud’s For You

Harvesting Potatoes

Harvesting Potatoes

Picking Potatoes

Picking Potatoes

Potato Sacks

Potato Sacks

Potato Tools In Black & W

Potato Tools In Black & W

At least on the west side of the island, where we did most of our sightseeing, there are several Acadian communities. During the summer farm stands are plentiful and in the Fall new potato stands with honor system boxes take their place. If you like old churches or cemeteries you’ll find driving backroads enjoyable. We didn’t get to Cavendish NP or the east side of the island. Another trip?  Well, if you insist.

P.E.I. Landscape Photo

P.E.I. Landscape Photo

Picturesque Barn On A Backroad

Picturesque Barn On A Backroad

When you come to P.E.I. a must is going to one of the lobster suppers. Some are sponsored by local churches so just look for signs along the roadway. Others are commercial enterprises.  It really doesn’t matter. The meal is all you can eat save the lobster. That you order by the size you want. We had 1 and 1/2 pounders which was more than enough!

Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel

Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel

A View For Eternity

A View For Eternity

Guardian Angel

Guardian Angel

With this we end the posts about our glorious summer in the Canadian Maritimes.

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!

A Day With Silent Cal

In our last post we said you’d see where the trivia was going. One of the answers to “What Vice-Presidents Assumed the Presidency upon death of the President?” and “Which of the above men lost a son while in the White House?” is the topic of this post. It is none other than Calvin Coolidge. Known to many as “Silent Cal” for his brevity of answers, Calvin Coolidge was actually a lawyer and a very skilled public speaker. He was typically a New Englander in his manner, not one to participate in small talk. He holds the record for meeting more often with reporters than any President before or since. His 1924 address to Congress was the first one ever given over radio. He was the first President to appear in sound film.

While we were touring a church next door to the Adams National Historic Site Visitors Center in Quincy, MA we talked with our guide and learned he was an actor. He performs one man plays about several Presidents, John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge for example. When he heard we would be in Vermont, he said we’d be near the home of Calvin Coolidge. He told us this was one of the best restored Presidential birthplaces. He also mentioned that he was hired to do the interactive displays at the Visitors Center.

Born and raised in the small farming community of Plymouth, Vermont Calvin Coolidge grew up loving the farm and the community. He attended Amherst College and opened a law practice in Massachusetts. Gradually he moved up the political ladder. Coolidge became Governor of Massachusetts and gained nationwide attention during the Boston Police Strike of 1919. In 1920 he was made Harding’s Vice Presidential running mate. He was known for being a decisive leader. He assumed the Presidency when President Warren G. Harding died from a heart attack. Coolidge was visiting his home in Vermont when the news reached him on August 2, 1923. As his father was a Justice of the Peace he gave his son the Oath of Office using the family bible in their living room. It is thought that another oath ceremony was most likely done when he returned to Washington, DC.

presidential photo, Coolidge, history

Calvin Coolidge as President

President Coolidge, Vermont, history

Where President Coolidge Took His Oath Of Office

US Presidents birthplace, Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth, Vermont

Plymouth, VT was about 30 minutes from Winhall Brook Campground. The first time we drove up there we were just out exploring and arrived at the Calvin Coolidge State Historical Site and Museum about 4pm. Since they closed at 5pm we decided to just visit the Notch Cemetery and return another day for the tour.

cemetery,Calvin Coolidge

President Coolidge’s Grave

His Son, Calvin Jr., age 16

His Son, Calvin Jr., age 16

We knew from having watched the old Masterpiece Theatre series Backstairs At The White House that Calvin Coolidge Jr. died from what today would be a preventable cause. He developed a blister on his foot (per the series from learning to dance) and the blister became infected. In the days before antibiotics this often led to septicemia which was the cause of his death.

Our return trip about a week later was on an overcast day with very threatening skies. We arrived with just enough time to buy tickets and join the scheduled tour. We began at the General Store once owned by President Coolidge’s father. The family lived in a small apartment in the rear. This is where Calvin Coolidge was born. As the family became more prosperous they built a larger home, sold the store, farmed and raised livestock on this site. They attended church at Union Christian Church located next door to the store. Calvin Coolidge’s father helped establish a dairy cooperative and cheese factory here too. The Vermont Cheese Coop still makes cheese today. We bought Hunter cheese and other goodies.

general store, history

Coolidge General Store Today

Calvin Coolidge, Coolidge Birthplace

Calvin Coolidge Was Born In This Bed

Coolidge State Historic Site

Coolidge Home Behind The Store

horse drawn carriage, Coolidge

Carriage Used By Coolidge Family

cheese, Vermont, food

Plymouth Cheese Corporation

church, Vermont, Coolidge

Church Attended By Coolidge Family

Coolidge, President, history

Inside Church Flag Shows Presidential Pew

Coolidge, history

President Coolidge With His Father At The Vermont Homestead

As a young man Calvin Coolidge admired Thomas Edison. His father arranged for him to meet the famous inventor for an hour. Upon meeting the future President, Edison was so impressed and that he spent the entire day with him. The Coolidges entertained many famous people at the Plymouth home during his Presidency. The picture to the below shows them with Henry Ford, Harvey and Russell Firestone and Thomas Edison. Many tourists came to Plymouth in hopes of meeting the President. They would mail letters back home with the Plymouth postmark as souvenirs. The postmistress at the time was paid a $50/salary plus a portion of postage sold. Because of the tourist business her income skyrocketed to $1500 in just one summer.

Ford, Firestone, Edison, Coolidge

Coolidge With Ford, Firestone Brothers And Edison

old post office, Vermont

Post Office Inside General Store

President Coolidge liked to spend summers in Vermont. If you’ve ever been in DC in August you know why! He needed a place for his staff to work. Being the ever practical man, he put up folding tables in a room above the store normally used as the community social hall. This became the Summer Oval Office. When the President was not there the room featured a band called the Old Time Plymouth Dance Band with Coolidge’s 80 year old Uncle John on violin. (He is second from the right in the photo below). I love human interest stories and was fascinated by this one. An agent from the William Morris Agency heard the band play and arranged for a nationwide tour. The band had a special clause inserted in the contract … the tour would not start until spring planting was completed. After shows in thirteen states Uncle John became homesick and returned to Vermont. The remaining shows were cancelled.

The Summer Oval Office

The Summer Oval Office

music, Vermont

Plymouth Old Time Dance Orchestra

Calvin Coolidge was elected on his own merit in 1924. The Coolidge administration enjoyed a period of relative calm after the Harding Teapot Dome scandal and due to the prosperity of the Roaring 20s. He is best known for being able to represent the desires of middle America and for streamlining governmental expenses. He saw to lowering and for all but the richest 2%, elimination of federal income taxes while reducing the national debt. He had an ongoing fight against farm subsides and vetoed legislation at least twice. He was against the federal government taking on flood control measures even after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. He was in favor of civil rights. President Coolidge sought but did not obtain a federal anti-lynching law. He signed the Indian Citizenship Act giving American Indians citizenship along with the right to pursue cultural customs and retain tribal lands. As for foreign policy he is best known for the Kellogg-Briand Act in which the USA, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany and Japan renounce war as national policy when dealing with each other. We all know how well that worked. It did however serve as a framework for post WWII international law. Under his administration the US government continued to refuse recognition of the Soviet Union. He declined to run for a second term in 1928. 

history, Coolidge

President Coolidge Signs Kellogg-Briand Pact

We went back to the Visitors Center to see the film about Calvin Coolidge and the exhibits. The exhibits showed Calvin and Grace Coolidge at the White House and enjoying their favorite sport, baseball. We came not knowing a great deal about this man and left feeling like we’d just visited a man instead of a place. We hope this post tweaks your interest in making a visit for yourself.

first pets, dog, Coolidge

Coolidges w dog at White House

baseball, Coolidge

President Coolidge Throws Out Ball At Season Opener