28 April 2006

Niagra Falls

From the 17th to the 25th we were in Westfield, NY. The park we were staying at was about 200-300 yards from the shore of Lake Erie. It was very pretty and very peaceful. We didn’t do a ton of stuff while we were in the area, drove around a lot to see the area and took a day to go up to Niagra Falls.

Niagra Falls is beautiful for it shear size and power. But I have to say that the development all around it kind of messes it up. Just my opinion, I prefer to see things like in their natural settings, not in the middle of a city.

While at the Falls we took a trip on the Maid of the Mist from the Canadian side (they have it on both sides now, but the Canadian side still seems to move more boats). This was probably the coolest thing we did at the Falls. Our captain took us straight into the horseshoe and sat us in there for a few minutes…it’s really wet and pretty cold. I don’t know for sure but it looks and seems like they run full-boar into the horseshoe falls, but the power of the water coming out of their doesn’t let them get all the way in. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to sit there and get chucked around in those boats.

After that we took the Journey Under the Falls walk, this wasn’t nearly as cool as the Maid of the Mist, but they also still had the lower deck closed for the winter, so maybe that would have made it better. The thing about the Journey that’s cool is the sound of the falls, you are walking in concrete hallways that have to be like 6 feet thick or something like that and all you hear is the thunder from the falls, it’s impressive.

We had a fun day the Falls I actually preferred the look of the American Falls better than the Horseshoe (Canadian) Falls, because you can see more of it. Horseshoe Falls puts off so much mist that you can’t really see the entire falls.

The Falls are beautiful and I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to see them and so is Hi’iaka. She just wants to remind everyone to be safe and not to try to float over the falls; it’s both illegal and deadly.

That’s about it for now. The rest of our week in NY was spent driving the beautiful countryside and eating ice cream at a little stand we found that has excellent ice cream. We had to limit ourselves to only going twice lest we get really fat.

One bummer is that we have to skip the trip into the New England states. Between the rising gas prices, the RV parks up there not having what we need and still being affordable, and the time limit we were on to be back in PA for Bill’s grandmother’s birthday, we were looking at spending between $2000-3000.00 in a 17 day period….how about NO! That’s just way to expensive for us to rationalize, so New England will have to wait…again….strike two!

So, we are currently in PA now getting ready for Steeler’s Fan Blitz tomorrow. That should be a ton of fun and we’ll hopefully have some good pictures from it.


22 April 2006

Last of Gettysburg

Bill and I took one of the Ghosts of Gettysburg Candlelight Walking Tours on April 12th. It was really a lot of fun. http://www.ghostsofgettysburg.com/ We took the Baltimore Street Tour and our Tour Guide (who’s name was Bill) was really awesome. I have wanted to take a ghost tour somewhere because I like stuff like that and because we had just been spending a lot of time in all the areas that are reported to be haunted.

I didn’t see any ghosts on our tour, but Bill (our guide) was a great storyteller and made it totally worth the walk. He himself did have a couple of ghost stories from his personal experience, so that was kind of fun, I guess after having given over 300 tours you’re bound to see something if there is anything to see at all. All in all it was fun, I enjoyed myself, and if you go to Gettysburg, make sure to tour with these people. They were the first to start ghost tours and have since has many other rip-off companies pop-up in Gettysburg, make sure you get these people.

We spent the 13th back on the Battlefield and took our time with Little Round Top and The Bloody Angle. Again, it’s really something to stand at these places and image (doesn’t take much imagination since it’s where these event’s really happened) what the different sides would have seen and experienced. Gettysburg is in the process of returning the battlefield to its original 1863 condition. I’ve tried to find a link to the organization that is doing this, but can’t…so too bad.

After our day of walking the Battlefield we of course had to re-fuel with Battlefield Fries, mmmm….yummy. http://www.flickr.com/photos/manahanwill/119193633/ We get the medium, which is a smaller bucket than the large, of the fresh cut Idahoan potatoes and we get our cheese on the side, these are highly addictive, so be careful. Funny how I can find a link for the Fries, but not for the place to donate money to restore the battlefield, granted it’s just someone’s blog and a picture, but you can still find it on the internet.

The 14th found us having a relaxing day and just kind of tooling around a bit. We went to a malt shop in Gettysburg for ice cream; I’ve never been to an actual malt shop to my recollection so it was fun for me. I had the Peanut Butter Malt…it was really good.

The 15th brought us back to the Battlefield Fries, it’s a really good thing I don’t live in Gettysburg, and from there we just window shopped and relaxed. Sunday the 16th was Easter and we had a very relaxing day. Took a scenic driving tour with crappy directions, so we cut it short and went back home. Didn’t really do much of anything, talked to family, sat in the sun, had a fire later that night, ate ham and potatoes and stuffing…all in all a good day.

Monday the 17th we got up early, drove into town to go to the visitor’s center to see the Electric Map presentation, then went home, packed up and moved from Gettysburg up into Westfield, NY.

We are currently in Westfield, but not for much longer, our plans have changed yet again…but that will have to be a story for the next blog.


20 April 2006

Harpers Ferry and Antietam

On the 11th we drove out to Harpers Ferry and then onto Antietam. Harpers Ferry is a very cool place. A good portion of it is preserved in its original condition, right down to the cobblestone streets. This is part of what the National Park Services Official Map and Guide to Harper’s Ferry Park says:

“Understanding the Past
The history of Harpers Ferry has few parallels in the American drama. It is more than one event, one date, or one individual. It is multi-layered, involving a diverse number of people and events, decisions and actions that influenced the course of our nation’s history. Harpers Ferry witnessed the first successful application of interchangeable parts, the arrival of the first successful American railroad, John Brown’s attack on slavery, the largest surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and the education of former slaves in one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States.”

I tried to find a better way to explain the immense amount of history to have taken place in Harpers Ferry, but they summed it up better than I ever could have. http://www.nps.gov/hafe/ They have several of their buildings that are open as ‘living history’ displays. This means that they have restored the buildings to as close to what they would have looked like in 19th century as they could, they also have people dressed in period clothing to tell you about the history of the place and how life would have been then. It’s pretty cool.

From Harpers Ferry we drove to Antietam Battlefield. http://www.nps.gov/anti/ A handout we received from one of the Rangers has this to say about Harpers Ferry to Antietam (provided by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior):

“Desperate Race”
On September 17, 1862, Confederate troops under General A.P. Hill raced desperately from Harpers Ferry toward Sharpsburg, MD. Their objective: to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia near the banks of Antietam Creek. They reached their goal in late afternoon. Their help brought the Federal forces to a standstill. The confederate army escaped, and lived, to fight again.

Hill’s infantry completed their 17 mile march in less than 8 hours. Today you may drive from Harpers Ferry to Antietam in about thirty minutes. Along the way you will pass the battlefield of Schoolhouse Ridge, where Stonewall Jackson’s brilliant maneuvers forced the Union garrison’s quick surrender.”

And that was just the drive between the two places, Antietam Battlefield itself is incredible. The stories and talks that the Rangers tell are really worth listening to, be sure to stop first at the visitor center to catch the film they have then take in one of the Ranger talks before you drive the battlefield.

Probably the story that sticks out the most for me is either the one about having to drill holes in the church floor, being used as a hospital, to let the blood that was starting to puddle and run like rivers on the floor, or the story about the soldier who crossed the sunken road not knowing it was the sunken road. He also didn’t know it was bodies he was walking across. There are parts of the sunken road that are deeper than I am tall and the road was stacked so high with bodies that it didn’t look like it was sunken at all.

It’s pretty incredible to stand in these places and to be able to picture in your head what the different Armies were up against at different times and in different places. It goes back and forth, you stand on the Union side, then move over to the confederate side and at different times and in different places you have to wonder what some of these General’s were thinking.

That’s it for this post, I’m really behind and trying to catch up, my internet connection isn’t great and sometimes doesn’t work, so I’m getting this stuff in as I can.


11 April 2006

Gettysburg, ETC

Gettysburg is a beautiful place, as a matter of fact, all of Central PA is gorgeous! It’s beautiful, it’s quiet, and it’s rural. On the 6th we ran some errands and drove into Cozy, pretty much drove through it and didn’t bother stopping, some places are just like that.

Friday the 7th we visited the Lee Museum at Gettysburg, it’s a cool little museum that is located in the building that Lee used as his headquarters during the Battles at Gettysburg. http://www.civilwarheadquarters.com/ It’s hard to put into words when you walk into a place that has seen so much history. It was just cool to walk through a house that was once occupied by one of the world’s greatest generals. Learning about the Civil War and its characters continues to amaze me and strike up interests I didn’t even know I had.

After the Lee Museum we checked out the nation’s largest military diorama. It takes up an entire conference sized room and depicts all three days of fighting at Gettysburg, it’s rather impressive. All the guys are hand painted and there is something like 20,000+ miniature guys on this field….impressive!

Saturday the 8th was just running errands and misc stuff. Sunday we toured most of Gettysburg battlefield and took the time to climb up the observation towers, climb Big Round Top (we are leaving Little Round Top for it’s own day of exploring), and we walked the ground of Pickett’s Charge. If you ever get to Gettysburg, you have to walk Pickett’s charge and preferably do it with someone who can explain the significance of it to you, I can’t even imagine what it must have took to keep walking that mile distance while being shot at by cannon and rifle and musket alike, to keep walking as people were dying horrible deaths all around you and to just keep walking/running, and feeling like you’ll never get there. The distance is deceiving, the lay of land is visually deceptive, it looks closer than it is, you have to walk it.

Monday the 10th we drove to Harrisburg to visit the National Civil War Museum. www.nationalcivilwarmuseum.com This is quite possibly the best-done museum on the Civil War I’ve ever seen. It has artifacts such as Robert E Lee’s riding gloves, Pickett’s coat sleeve that was cut off him when he was injured, Stuart’s sword, and hundred’s of other just as cool and historic. They have the flag that was draped on the presidential box the night Abe Lincoln was shot and it still carries the bloodstain from where his head lay while he was being examined. The museum and moving and incredible, don’t bother taking a camera, not photography or videography or anything of the kind is allowed. If you go to the museum, make sure you ask someone how to get back to the freeway before you leave, it dumps you out on the opposite side of the complex (you can’t go out the way you drove in) and it dumps you out in a really not-so-nice end of town.

That’s it for now, we spent today in Harper’s Ferry and Antietam, but I haven’t downloaded those images yet.


06 April 2006

PA Dutch Country

Gettysburg at last, we arrived here on Saturday the 1st and set up. Sunday was laundry and relax day. Monday brought us errand running which included stopping at the Gettysburg Pretzel Factory and Outlet store….mmm….pretzels. Tuesday we walked the nature trail in the park we are staying at, then drove into Downtown Gettysburg and walked around. Gettysburg is the type of place that being here, I could imagine living here. There aren’t many places that have struck me like that, but Gettysburg is one of them. We also drove around to some of the neighboring towns in the area just to get a feel for where we are. It’s so beautiful out here, I’m sure I’ll have pics to share before our time here is up. Central PA is gorgeous, not just for the rolling hills and farms, but also for the old buildings and history.

Yesterday, Wednesday the 5th brought us into PA Dutch Country. We started by driving out to Bird-In-Hand, PA to visit the Farmer’s Market there and buy some Shoofly Pie, it’s really yummy, and we had it for desert last night after dinner .yummy! This was also where I saw my first real horse and buggy with the Amish at the reigns. They ask specifically that you don’t take pictures of them or wave or engage them in conversation, they are not a theme park or an amusement, and they are living their lives and should be left alone. It’s cool to drive down the road and be stuck at a traffic light with the horse and buggies, or the pile of horse crap in front of the drive-thru ATM that was pretty funny. The contrast is what struck me the most, the buggies have been fitted with turn signals because there’s no other way to keep them safe, little stuff like that, although it’s kind of sad to see the modern world creeping into their lifestyle. After Bird-In-Hand we drove on into Intercourse, PA (gotta love the names of these towns) and stopped at the Intercourse Pretzel Factory, that’s right, we were eating our way across PA Dutch country and loving every minute of it. Intercourse is really very touristy and we didn’t stick around long because of it, we visited a couple of the Amish owned shops that have hand made items. I bought some handmade candles, then we left, we avoided the really touristy areas that didn’t have anything to do with the Amish and everything to do with wasting money. From Intercourse we drove into Lititz and visited the Sturgis Pretzel Factory…seeing a trend? http://www.sturgispretzel.com/ Lititz is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. Sturgis Pretzel Factory was the first commercial Pretzel bakery in America. It’s a neat place and for $4 you take a tour that more just a short history lesson and they show you to twist a pretzel. Bill and I are Official Pretzel Twisters and have the certificate to prove it. MMMMMMM…..Pretzels!

From here we drove into Hershey, PA. I was a bit disappointed, I really expected Hershey to be more chocolaty than it was. It’s really just like any other town that has a theme park. The Theme Park isn’t open for it’s season yet, and Bill doesn’t like theme parks so we likely wouldn’t have gone anyway. Instead we went to Hershey Chocolate World, which is in the same complex area. It was fun and we enjoyed being there, but I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have more stuff. Maybe we were just in the wrong area, I don’t know. You can buy all the same candy that you can get anywhere, the only different stuff that you can buy is clothing (not interested) and stuffed figures (again, not interested). Oh, I did buy a Hershey Chocolate scented candle, and an entire case of Good & Plenty. I was really hoping for like Hershey shower gel and lotion and stuff like that. Your one-stop shop for anything Hershey, but that wasn’t case. I wouldn’t have minded Hershey shampoo either, after all who doesn’t want to smell like chocolate? Oh-well…maybe I should write to Hershey and suggest this. After all you can go to day spas in Hershey and get chocolate massages and stuff like that…why not a line of chocolate bath stuff?

That’s all for now, that was our day of eating our way across PA Dutch Country.


Mount Vernon

Ok, so I totally forgot that Bill had taken pictures at Mount Vernon and I never downloaded them, until last night. Here are some pictures from the George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate. The grounds really are beautiful, it's just a bummer that they are trying to turn it into a theme park.


04 April 2006

Last Days in DC

The 29th brought us back into DC to see the Cherry Blossoms blooming and to visit the National Museum of the American Indian. The Cherry Blossoms really are very pretty and to see the entire area peppered with cherry trees is something special. We got up really early and drove in really early. I’m glad we did since we were able to see and take pictures of the trees without thousands of people milling around. It’s gets really crazy, really fast in DC. I don’t really know what to say about our last days in the DC area. Virginia is beautiful and DC is an awesome place, it’s just a shame that the people ruin it. Everyone is so busy running the rat race to get more stuff that they are more likely to die young of a heart attack than to enjoy all the crap they spend so much time accumulating. Even the air in DC is busy; I’ve never experienced anything like it. What a shame, it truly is a beautiful place otherwise.

After seeing the Cherry Blossoms and visiting the Jefferson Memorial, we moved the truck (that damn 3 hour parking limit) to in front of the National Museum of the American Indian and went to check it out. The building itself is beautiful especially considering the structure itself was built to resemble so many different aspects of the Native American and their beliefs. The displays inside were a bit disappointing. They have an amazing collection of artifacts from just about every tribe that ever inhabited North America and some from South America, but they don’t tell you the significance of any of it. They tell you it’s a bowl, or headdress, or whatever and what general time period it’s from, but nothing about what significance it held to the Indians. They had walls and walls of artifacts without even that much information, I was really disappointed. I don’t have any interest in visiting a museum just to look at crap; I’d like to actually learn something while I’m there. What I learned was that the building itself is more impressive with it’s meaning and the thought put into it than any of the displays they have inside.

We visited Mount Vernon on the 30th. http://www.mountvernon.org/ Yet another wonderfully historic and magical place that is ruined by the amount of people that think it’s an amusement park or fun house. I swear, the youth of America today is going to be our downfall in the very near future, I don’t want to go into that other than to say I was a pain in the ass when I was a teenager, but I was never that outwardly rude to the general public.

After our trip through Mount Vernon we did the driving tour of the Fredericksburg Battlefield that we didn’t even know existed when we first visited it when we first arrived in the area. The driving tour was cool and Bill got to see and experience stuff he never had before, I love it when that happens.

That pretty much ends our DC trip. I spent Friday with a friend of mine who lives out there and Saturday we moved from that area into Gettysburg. I really enjoyed DC and the surrounding areas, but I could never live there. I don’t even think I’ll be ready to visit again for a good couple years…if even then. But I’m really glad I’ve had the experience. This last picture is one that Bill took out our back window at the park we stayed at in Fredericksburg.


02 April 2006

Alexandria, VA

Monday the 27th we drove into Alexandria, Virginia, what a cool place. Talk about living history. We went on the walking tour and were able to see places that have been around virtually since the beginning of our country. We started by walking to the waterfront along the Potomac River and drinking a Starbucks and eating some misc Starbucks pastry and watching the ducks and seagulls fighting over the bread people where throwing them.

After our coffee and entertainment we went to The Torpedo Factory Art Center, again, what a cool place. The Alexandria Guide Magazine says this about it: The Torpedo Factory Art Center is a must for all visitors to the historic waterfront of Old Town Alexandria. Every year 800,000 delighted visitors meander through this 1918 structure built by the U.S. Navy for the manufacture of torpedo parts. Today it houses some 200 artists, their studios and galleries.

After that we did the walking tour through historic downtown. You really have to experience it. Alexandria is a cool place, I could never afford to live there, but it’s one of those places that make you fantasize that maybe you could. At the end of the walking tour we took is Christ Church. Christ Church was completed in 1773. The history of the church is incredibly interesting but way too long to type it all out here, so instead check out this link: http://www.historicchristchurch.org/ourchurch/index.htm

When we finished the walking tour we decided to walk to the other end of King Street from the waterfront and visit The George Washington Masonic National Memorial. http://www.gwmemorial.org/ this is a really neat place that evidently doesn’t believe in AC. It was a chilly (not cold) day and we were both in long pants and long sleeves (I was bundled in several layers) and even after stripping off a couple of my layers I was still sweating while trying to tour this Memorial. It is very pretty and has a very interesting feel to it. My favorite parts where the South Lodge room because it wasn’t really well lit and was decked out for pomp and circumstance, it looked like a place for secrets and I love stuff like that. My other favorite was the statue of Washington in the front hall. You just have to stand at his feet looking up at the 17ft statue to understand.

One funny thing about Alexandria, don't go on a Monday if you want to see any of the museums. At least don't go on a Monday during this time of year. We had no clue until we got there that most of the places are closed on Monday's. Whatever!

That’s it for this post. I will be posting soon about our last couple of days in DC. We, again, are currently in Gettysburg, it’s nice, it’s beautiful, it’s quiet, and it’s mellow….I Love It. We arrived yesterday (April 1) and spent the day setting up, today I did laundry and we ran errands, mostly we’ve just been enjoying not having to run at Mach II with our hair on fire.


01 April 2006

Yet More DC

Ugh, ok…I still have a ton of stuff to post about DC and we left there today. We are no longer in DC, but I’m going to try to catch up as quickly as possible, I’ll have at least one more post (likely two) after this one before I’ll be done with DC.

On the 23rd we drove out to Manassas, VA to tour the battlefield, also known as ‘Bull Run’. http://www.nps.gov/mana/ it was really a lot of fun and their visitor’s center has a lot of really great information. Bill enjoyed it because although he had been there before, they’ve added the visitor’s center and all the displays.

We walked all over the battlefield and I had a great time learning more Civil War history, we left Manassas to head for home and got stuck in traffic. It was all fine and good until the last 20 miles, it took us three hours to drive 20 miles, I’m not kidding or exaggerating, it was horrible!

The 24th brought us back into DC to tour the Air and Space Museum after that we had planned on spending the whole day and evening in DC to watch the monuments light up at night. We had found parking lots for the monuments that were free to park in and no restrictions on how long you parked there. We got there Friday morning, pulled into the lot and saw a bunch of signs that had been posted to change the unlimited parking to 3 hour parking because of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Let me tell you that 3 hours isn’t enough time to see anything in DC, especially not when it’s a 30+ minute walk from those lot’s to the museums. LAME! So we parked, went to the Air and Space Museum, practically ran through it which was fine since it was overrun with rude, unattended children, bailed back to the truck to move it, decided that was a pain in the ass and we wouldn’t really get anything accomplished by having to move the truck every 3 hours and have a 30+ minute walk each way to and from the truck. So we left DC after seeing the Museum and decided to go see the Naval Museum at the Washington Naval Yard.

Bwahahahaha…..insert hysterical laughter here! We got to the Yard, pulled into the gate, were told we were at the wrong gate, turned around circled the block to the other gate, were directed to a parking lot, parked, went into the visitor’s center to get a parking permit for another lot by the museum. Turns out that you really can’t anywhere in the DC area anymore without security checks, every museum we went to you have to have your bags searched and walk through metal detectors…no problem. The Naval Yard wanted copies of our Ids and social security numbers to run a security check, then we would have to patted down…that’s just to get the parking permit, after that we park, go to the museum and get searched again before we can go in and see what they had. Bill and I looked at each other….and left. That was way TOO involved, I so don’t care what the Naval Museum has.

After that bit of insanity we went home and looked up some other things we were going to do. Guess what you can’t do anymore since 9-11? You can’t tour FBI training academy at Quantico, you can’t tour the White House without calling ahead and going through god knows what (probably a full cavity search), CIA headquarters tour, The Hoover building tour, or the Marine Corps Museum on Quantico. There are more things you can’t do anymore, but that’s just a start. AWESOME!!
OK, so on Saturday the 25th we visited the Spotsylvania battlefields. These are really cool. http://www.nps.gov/frsp/ We didn’t have the cameras with us for these, we didn’t take the cameras with us a lot while we were in the DC area. The three battlefields in this area that we toured on Saturday are: Spotsylvania Courthouse, The Wilderness, and Chancellorsville. If you want to know the history, do the research…I’ve learned a ton on this trip and there is no way to write it all down without writing my own book. If you want to watch a really good documentary on the Civil War in general buy the PBS DVD set called The Civil War. If you want to read the best book ever about Gettysburg in specific (nothing to do with the Spotsylvania battlefields) read The Killer Angels, I’m about half way through it and it’s awesome.

Ok, that’s it for this round. Sunday the 26th was laundry day, but the week following was jam-packed again. I’ll post about all that later. We left DC today and arrived in Gettysburg, we are glad to be here and are glad to have the craziness of the DC area in our rearview window. Virginia is beautiful, DC is really cool, and you can’t walk a hundred feet without tripping all over history, but the people really ruin the place!