New England – Our Road Trip 2012

As we left Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Wednesday morning we were beginning week three of our 2012 summer road trip. We spent Wednesday night in Groton, Connecticut. The Naval Submarine Base in New London is just up the road from where we stayed. There is a museum next to the base and we go to go  onto the first nuclear powered submarine, The Nautilus. The Nautilus is the first vessel to complete a submerged transit beneath the North Pole on August 3, 1958.

Just getting to go onto a submarine was very cool, but seeing the extremely cramped quarters and imagining the pride the sailors who served there must have had was a great experience.



 Foxwood and Mehegan Sun, the two biggest Casinos in the U.S. are near Groton too. Of course we had to check them out. I especially liked Mohegan Sun it was beautiful.

 On Thursday we headed towards Boston. First we stopped at the capital of Rhode Island to visit the capital building. I learned that the official name of the state of Rhode Island is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.


 From Providence we went to Quincy Massachusetts. I have always wanted to see where John and Abigail Adams, and John Quincy Adams lived. The Adams National Historic Park includes the houses where they were born and the house where they lived in later years. I read and really enjoyed biographies of both Adams presidents and also of Abigail. They are probably my two favorite presidents.

Four generations of Adams lived in the Old House at Peacefield. The last Adams to live there was Brooks Adams, great grandson of John Adams who lived there until 1927 when the houses were turned into a historical park. As a result the houses contain the furniture, paintings and other stuff used by all the Adams. It was amazing to see the desk that Adams used to write the Massachusetts Constitution and all the other things that figured so prominently in our history.

On top of that we had two fantastic guides. Their knowledge and passion about what they were showing us actually brought tears to my eyes as I thought about what this great family did for our Country. If you haven't read John McCullough's biography of Adams or watched the movie you should!

The tour of hte Adams houses and the fantastic library built to house their books were absolute highlights of the trip.



This is the Old House at Peacefield


Our Passionate and knowledgeable tour guide of the house.


The library is the building on the left.


 We spent Thursday night with my brother and his wife near Boston. They have a new outdoor pizza ovena and my brother made us really delicious pizza for dinner. It was a wonderful treat to get to spend some time with them and visit with them at their house. On Friday morning Charlie went ot work and Annie took us for a hike in a beautiful park near their house.



Friday morning we went to the New Hampshire state capital in Concord. There was a school group touring when we were there so we learned a lot. The New Hampshire House of Representatives is the largest in the country. They have 400 representatives. When the guide told the fourth graders that the representatives are each paid $100 per year there was a gasp of shock!



Friday night we spent with our friends Marc and Christina who have just moved to White River Junction Vermont. It was fun to visit with them and we got to see the outside of the house they just bought. They don't actually close on it until July.


Saturday we visited another state capital, this time Montpelier, Vermont. It was small but beautiful. Montpelier has the smallest population of any state capital, only about 8,000 people.


Last night we spent the night in Bucksport Maine, A beautiful town right on the coast. We had a fantastic seafood dinner. As soon as i post this blog we are headed up the road into Canada.


Road Trip 2012 – Pennsylvania

Duke and I are on a six week road trip through the U.S. and Canada. In my last post I was doing family history research in Cumberland, Maryland. From Cumberland we went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It rained all day. I can see why the countryside is so lush and green.

As soon as we checked in to our hotel in the center of Gettysburg we drove out to the Gettysburg National Historic Park.


When we got there we decided first to take the tour of the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The only way to visit the site is to take the bus that leaves from Gettysburg. This is the farm that President and Mrs Eisenhower owned during and after his Presidency. Even though it was raining we explored the farm and the barns. We also toured the house. The Eisenhowers bought the farm in 1950. It looks just like it did when they lived there. It was fun to see a part of history that Duke and I remember.



After the tour of the Eisenhower Farm we explored the Gettysburg Museum and saw the film about the battle. The tickets also included the Gettysburg Cyclorama. I had no idea what a cyclorama is. It turns out that back in the late 1800s before the days of movies, painters sometimes created these life size depictions of a famous event and sell tickets to view it. The Cyclorama is a painting of Picket's Charge 377 feet by 42 feet painted by Paul Philippoteaux. It was painted in one year and completed in 1884.

It is displayed on the wall of a special  very large round room. As part of viewing it you watch a special sound and light show. It is difficult to tell where the trees and guns in the foreground end and the painting begins. The effect is absolutely stunning!





The devastation and lives lost at Gettysburg is stunning. There were almost 8,000 killed and 27,000 wounded. The battle had the largest number of casualties of any battle in the civil war.

On Tuesday we left Gettysburg and headed east. My Banta ancestors who we looked for outside of Lexington, Kentucky lived in the area east of Gettysburg before they moved to Kentucky. We searched out the Low Dutch cemetery where some of them are buried. We also took a  picture of the house they lived in starting in about 1747.



We made a short stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to check out the Pennsylvania State Capital.




 Our next stop was Bethlehem Pennsylvania. For me Bethlehem conjures up visions of rusting steal mills and pollution. But it turns out that Bethlehem is a very pretty town. We had a nice dinner down town and visited a beautiful new casino that sits on the river where a steal mill used ot be.

The best part of our trip to Bethlehem though was the private tour we were given by a friend of my daughter. Just Born makes Peeps, Mike and Ikes, and Hot Tamales. We got to see how they are made and packaged. It was fascinating! and we got samples!



Road Trip – From Nashville, Tennessee to Cumberland, Maryland

Duke and I left Reno May 2 on a six week U.S. road trip. From Nashville we headed north into Kentucky. The countryside is beautiful, lots of spring green and wildflowers. Every day we stop for a road side picnic.


After lunch Friday we took a tour of the Makers Mark Distillery.



My Low Dutch Banta ancestors were some of the first settlers near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. We visited the old meeting house and cemetery they used.




We spent Friday night in Lexington, Kentucky. On Saturday we drove to Athens, Ohio. Ohio University is in Athens. We came into town about 2 in the afternoon. We immediately noticed student parties in every yard. We started counting the partiers and in about 5 minutes counted 65 partying kids as we were driving along. I Googled Ohio University and Party and discovered that the school is rated the number one party school in the country!

We were staying in Athens to go to a concert Saturday night at the Fur Peace Ranch. Yorma Kaukonen is a guitarist best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. We have seen him perform a couple of times and have always wanted to attend a concert at his guitar school – The Fur Peace Ranch. So Saturday night we went to a fantastic concert by the California Guitar Trio. It was a fantastic concert and the venue which only holds about 200 people was wonderful too.



From Athens we drove to Cumberland Maryland, another town where some of my ancestors lived. This time it was the Erbs and the Musslemans. We explored the area where they lived and Monday morning I did some research at the Genealogical Society. Duke was very patient. A couple of the people reading this may be interested in the results. I did find a couple of things. I will write it up soon.

It has been a great trip. If you would like to see all of our pictures they are on Flickr here.

From Durango to Nashville

I haven't blogged in a few days because we have mainly been on the road with just a few fun stops.

After getting off the train in Durango we drove a few miles east and spent the night in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Soon after we left the next morning we left the Rockies behind. In northeastern New Mexico we stopped at Capulin National Monument. It is an extinct cinder cone volcano. We drove up the road almost to the top and then did the hike around the rim.The view from the top was fantastic.



Capulin was pretty much the last mountain we saw as we drove towards Guymon, Oklahoma to spend the night, Guymon is in the panhandle of Oklahoma.

On Monday we drove from Guymon across the great plains to Joplin, Missouri. Joplin is in the southwestern corner of Missouri and is green and wooded. On May 22 last year an enormous tornado hit Joplin killing 160 people. We didn't see the tornado damage in Joplin but we did see some tornado damage along the road during the day.

Tuesday morning we visited the George Washington Carver National Monument just south of Joplin. The farm where Carver grew up is covered with  trees, there is a stream running through it and there were birds and butterflies everywhere. It is easy to understand why he loved nature. The visitor center told the story of how Carver was born a slave, never knew his father, lost his mother early on and then went on to be a world famous scientist. Of course the fact that he graduated from my alma matter, Iowa State University is a source of pride to me. We learned a lot about his life and his many discoveries It was a cool, bright morning and we really enjoyed walking the nature trail.



From Joplin we drove through the Ozarks to Branson, Missouri which is only 112 miles. The scenery was hilly and green. We had a nice picnic lunch just outside of Branson


Just recently a tornado also hit Branson. There was some very impressive damage in Branson. It must have been very scary when the tornado went through. One of hte buildings hit was the Hilton. Lots of windows were blown out and are now boarded up and the Hilton is closed.



We had a wonderful dinner overlooking the river and watched a water and light show.



From Branson we drove to Memphis Tennessee where we spent the night with my sister lizabeth and her daughter katherine.. We had a wonderful  visit and then left for Nashville yesterday.


We visited Nashville on our Honeymoon so it is fun to be back 9 years later. We went out honky tonking last night. That is visiting the bars down town to listen to the music. It was a much fun as I remembered. I don't know anywhere else in the world that you can hear so much great music. We must have visited 6 or 8 bars in two blocks and they each had great bands playing for tips. And we certainly didn't visit every bar! We also had a great dinner at a restaurant from our last visit because Duke remembered the meat loaf. It was a great as we remembered



Riding the Rails – The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Yesterday was day four of our road trip. It was a great day. It was also a long day. But most of all it was an incredibly fun day.  We rode the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway from Durango to Silverton. Had lunch and did some shopping in Silverton and then rode the train back to Durango. We boarded at 8:30 in the morning and didn't get back to Durango until almost 7 last night. The train runs 45 miles from Durango north to Silverton along the Animas River through wilderness that can only be accessed by train.


It was a wonderful day for a lot of reasons. During the winter the train just goes part way to Silverton and then turns around. Today was the first trip of the season for the train to go all the way to Silverton. There was a festive air. It was an extra long train so part of the time we had two steam locomotives pulling us. There were all sorts of people along the route  who were waving and taking pictures as the train went by.



The route follows the Animas River. It was full from snow run off and there were lots of waterfalls coming into the river. When we were at over 9000 feet there were still jagged snow covered peaks towering above the canyon.The most impressive part of the ride was the High Line. The train creeps along a narrow rock ledge 240 feet above the river.



And the history was fascinating. The Durango and Silverton railroad has been in continuous operation since 1882 when Durangoa and Silverton were booming mine towns.

But the best part of the whole experience was the people. There were four or five people in character who took turns coming into our car and  telling us about their lives on the frontier in the area.


The conductors and concessions people were friendly and clearly excited. They hung around and answered our questions and pointed out their favorite sites along the route. They even pointed out a moose that was swimming across the river to get away from the train.

We stopped several times to take on water. Another time we stopped so three hikers could get off the train to start their back packing trip.


One of the coolest things though was that the owner of the railroad was riding the train. He stopped in our car and talked with us. He told us he used to be a Florida real estate developer which allowed him to fulfill a dream and buy a railroad. He now owns a couple of other railroads and manges several others including the Tequila Train outside of Guadalajara, Mexico. He talked about how important he thinks it is to make history and our heritage alive and fun. His passion was contagious.

These trains are a for profit operation and you couldn't help but notice how it improved the experience.  The guidebook cost $20 but it is a 188 page well written book with lots of color pictures. It covers everything from the history, to what we saw along the route, to how to run a railroad. Everyone we ran into from the owner down to the girl selling guidebooks made us feeling like we were a part of something very special.

If you ever get the chance take a ride on the Durangoa and Silverton Narrow Gauge railway. Do it!






Spring 2012 Road Trip – The Beginning

Duke and I left Wednesday on a six week U.S. road trip. From Reno we pretty much drove straight through to Cedar City Utah. We drove 527 miles. Nevada has some beautiful scenery and a lot of sage brush but we have explored much of it on previous trips.

Thursday our first stop was Zion National Park. We drove through the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel. it was built in the 1920s. In this picture you can see one of the ventilation holes in the tunnel.


Right on the other side of the tunnel is the Valley Overlook trail. It is a one mile round trip trail with an amazing view. It was a perfect day and a great hike.


From Zion we drove to Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park. If you look very closely you can see Duke on top of that sand dune. You should also be able to click on the picture to get a bigger view.


Our next stop was the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. The dam created Lake Powell in northern Arizona. I was surprised that it was just completed in 1966.



Our mileage Thursday was 487 miles so after our stops at Zion and Pink Coral Sand Dunes we didn't get to Far View Lodge in Mesa Verde National Park in south west Colorado until sunset. We watched a beautiful sunset as we were driving into the park and then had a fabulous dinner with a bottle of wine at the lodge restaurant.

This morning (Friday) we took a tour of the park including climbing down into the Cliff Palace Cave Dwellings. Native Americans lived at Mesa Verde and farmed corn, beans and squash for 700 years but the cliff dwellings were only occupied for about the last 80 years before the Native Americans migrated south in search of water.




Mesa Verde is covered with archaeological sites. We saw pit houses and a fascinating museum. I would like to visit again some day. After a picnic lunch we headed to Durango where we are tonight.

If you would like ot see all of our pictures from this trip they are available on Flickr here.