Thursday, October 21, 2010

Four New States -- and Counting

Oct 31st
Today went into Lexington, Virginia for groceries, and to see the old historic town. Went to the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery where he is buried as well as many more Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War. Found lots of grave stones dated pre-1800's.

We also went about 5 miles north along Highway 81 to the Sam Houston Wayside. Sam Houston was the son of Major Samuel Houston and Elizabeth Paxton. Houston's ancestry is often traced to his great-great grandfather Sir John Houston, who built a family estate in Scotland in the late 17th century. His second son John Houston emigrated to Ulster, Ireland, during the English plantation period. Under the system of primogeniture, he did not inherit the estate. After several years in Ireland, John Houston emigrated in 1735 with his family to the North American colonies, where they first settled in Pennsylvania. As it filled with Lutheran German immigrants, Houston decided to move his family with other Scots-Irish who were migrating to lands in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

An historic plaque in Townland tells the story of the Houston family. It is located in Ballyboley Forest Park near the site of the original John Houston estate. It is dedicated to "One whose roots lay in these hills whose ancestor John Houston emigrated from this area."
The Shenandoah Valley had many farms of Scots-Irish migrants. Newcomers included the Lyle family of the Raloo area, who helped found Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church. The Houston family settled nearby. Gradually John developed his land and purchased slaves. Their son Robert inherited his father's land. His youngest of five sons was Samuel Houston.
These are the main sights of Interest in the Lexington area as reported on Wikipedia:
1. Virginia Military Institute
2. The George C. Marshall Foundation
3. Washington and Lee University
4. Robert E. Lee grave site, found in Lee Chapel on the W&L campus.
5. Traveller (Lee's horse) grave site, found along a walkway just outside Lee Chapel.
6. Stonewall Jackson grave site
7. Sam Houston place of birth (Nearby)
8. Cyrus McCormick place of residence (nearby)
9. Kappa Alpha Order International Headquarters
10. Sigma Nu International Headquarters
11. Boxerwood Gardens
12. Natural Bridge (Virginia)
13. Virginia Horse Center
On the way back home we stopped at a WalMart and again stocked up on the necessities of life.
Of Course tonight is ghost and goblin night!!.

Where did that witch come from again!!!

Oct 30th
Went to Natural Bridges, Caverns, Wax Museum, Toy Museum, and Foamhenge today. Over the years we have been to a few "Natural Bridges." Arches National Park, Canyon Lands, and Natural Bridge in Arkanses come to mind. But this one is really impressive. It is a couple hundred feet high and a hundred feet across.

George Washington carved his initials here when he was a surveyor way back in the early 1800's
Highway 11 actually uses it for a bridge, passing right over the deep gorge. To see the bridge from the bottom, entails a walk down a couple hundred steps to the valley below, From there, there is a walk up the canyon, under the bridge and on up to an old restored native village, a saltpeter mine, an underground river and at the end a nice lace waterfalls. Total walk round trip is a couple of miles, but you are relieved of the climb back up the hill at the end, with a shuttle bus to the, where else, the "Gift Shop!" Then we took in the wax museum, the toy museum and the Caverns, as all were included in the entry fee. The wax museum was OK, but some faces that should have been familiar were rather obscure and needed the caption below them to identify them.
Adam and Eve !!
The best one was the "Last Supper." It was very well done with a short movie to go with it. The toy museum had a lot of old toys it it but doesn't everyones kids toy boxes have a lot of that! The caverns, that Denice chose not to go into, was of somewhat lesser quality, than many we had been in before. Maybe we are spoiled after viewing ones like Carsbad and one at San Marcos, Texas, that are exceptional. On the way back home we stopped at a free road side stop called "Foamhenge"

This man, M. Cline, erected his version, in all likeness and scale of the real Stonehenge in England, from foam blocks. It is very well done, and my pictures could easily pass for the real thing.
Oct 29th
Went to Virginia Safari Park. Its located immediately adjacent to the RV Park. It’s a drive through Park where you buy some animal pellets and feed the various foreign animals as you drive through a winding road in a hilly native setting terrain. We registered and bought a couple of buckets of food. Immediately after entering the gate Denice opened her window to feed a Llama,
Between the llama and an aggressive Ostrich, one whole half gallon bucket of pellets went out the window. Live and Learn, hold onto the bucket firmly with both hands. Keep the widow rolled up, if you do not want to feed a certain animal, because if you do not he will have his head pushed in all the way as far as his body will allow, and take what ever he can find in the car. We learned quickly.

The camel in the slide above (Top/center) is trying to whistle, I think
The park is 180 acres with about 3 miles of roads. A couple of different pastures hold a large variety of different animals from familiar ones like deer and elk, to African and Australian ones. Wildabeast, Watusi cattle, gnu's, fallow deer, sika deer, axis deer, camels,oryx, eland, gizelle, giraffe, eland, yak, zebra, and of course a bunch of obnoxious Llamas, and aggressive Ostrich's. It was fun though, and then after the drive we went into small zoo where the had a couple of tigers, monkeys, turtles, snakes, birds, etc.

A good way to spent the afternoon. Now have to go home and clean all the slobber of the jeep widows from those we chose not to feed!!
Oct 28th
Didn't do much today. Denice has Charlie Horse in her back, so we just sat tight all day.
End of the day with a couple of sunsets. I think I'll sell this one to my old Employers for advertising.

Oct 27th
Left Winchester this morning by 9:30AM and headed down I 81. Went through several cities, Strasburg, Mount Jackson, Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Lexington. On the map all these places look like just small towns, but in reality they are fairly large urban centers along both sides of Highway 81. This freeway is another very busy one, with it seems a million trucks heading both ways. Speed limit is 65 MPH. You just need to watch you "P's" and "Q's", and keep in your own lane, and "Go with the Flow," and every thing will work out OK. We saw one car that did not follow the rules, and traffic was backed up behind him for a few miles, until the parts and pieces could be cleared away. For about 20 or 30 miles we got caught in a torrential downpour, so had to be especially careful during that time. This probably was the tail end of the "Tornado Watch Warnings" that were broadcast last night between 8:00PM and 3:00AM this morning . We were happy nothing materialized out of that other than some very heavy rain squals through the night. We arrived early at the Natural Bridges KOA RV Park, shortly after noon, and checked in. A nice park built on a hill and rolling lands. Each site is on its own contoured level. We are right on the top. Once settled in we checked out the weather for the next week, both here and where we plan on stopping for our next stop. We had registed for two nights, but after checking our route and timing to be in San Antonio about the 18th of November, we decided to expend our stay here for five nights, leaving Monday Morning, instead of Friday. The clerk had to to do some juggling of sites with other clients, but finally was able to sort it all out so that we would not have to move to a different side for the week end. Surprisingly, it seems things get quite busy here, even at this time of the year, down here. We found it very warm and humid this afternoon, about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity must be 95%. We must be getting to warmer weather now as there are mosquitoes here.
Oct 26th
Went down town today to Valley of the Shenandoah Museum. Well done museum with lots of history. Also, the restored home and Gardens of James Wood, a governor of Virginia in the 1700's. The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) interprets the art, history, and culture of the great valley for which it is named.
An interesting item in the museum. An old authentic still. Some parts are missing.
The Zerkel Still operated in Shenandoah County into the 1900’s. Here is how Michael J. Zerkel recorded his mash recipe. (read it a couple of times and out loud to get a flavor of his speech pattern)
January 28th 1838 Shenandoah County Virginia Holman Creek

"For to still rye & corn first make you est take 6 quarts Boiling Watter. And than But 2 or 3 galling cole watter in you tup and than 12 galling watter and than 1 Bushel corn meal and stoir it ride will and let it stan one half hour and than take 24 galling watter and stur it well and than spret chop over it so the thumpt cant gid out and let it stan til till you can live you han in and than 2 or 3 galling watter put the Mold in stur it up and But the Rye Meal in and let it stan until you can live you han in and than you fil up tup with cold watter and than But you est on it. That all what Be Longs to it for to Mash."

MJ Zerckel

This regional museum complex in Winchester, Virginia, includes a historic house dating to the eighteenth century, six acres of spectacular gardens, and a museum designed by internationally recognized architect Michael Graves.

The Garden with its display of roses
You could easily spend the better part of a day at this museum site. Plan for about 45 minutes to tour the historic house, at least an hour to explore the six acres of gardens on your own, and another hour or so in the Museum galleries. One good approach is to experience the house and gardens in the morning, have lunch in the Museum Tea Room, and see the galleries in the afternoon. Or vice versa. The Museum Cafe is also a good place for afternoon tea. Don't miss the Museum Store during your visit. Home by 5:00PM
Oct 25th
No action today - Just relaxing
Nice Sunset this evening
Oct 24th
Planned on going in to Washington again today - even got up early to get ready, but after a coffee and giving it further thought we just decided against it. We had already seen the sights there, although if we had gone in we would have been closer to all the points of interest, but we can at least say we have been to Washington DC. Instead we decided to take a drive down the Shenandoah Skyline Trail.

The Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park. You can enter Shenandoah at four places: Front Royal near Rt. 66 and 340, Thornton Gap at Rt. 211, Swift Run Gap at Rt. 33, and Rockfish Gap at Rt. 64 and Rt. 250 (also the northern entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway). It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the park on a clear day.
As you travel along Skyline Drive you will notice mileposts on the west side (right side if you are traveling south) of the road. These posts help you find your way through the park and help you locate areas of interest. The mileposts begin with 0.0 at Front Royal and continue to 105 at the southern end of the park. The largest developed area, Big Meadows, is near the center of the park, at milepost 51. All park maps and information use these mileposts as a reference.
The maximum speed limit is 35 mph, so you can roll down your windows, feel the breeze and experience every curve and turn of this beautiful drive. There are 75 overlooks that offer stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west or the rolling piedmont to the east. The park purposely leaves the roadsides unmowed so wildflowers put on a show all year long. In early spring you can see trillium peeking through the grass. June’s display of azaleas is spectacular, and cardinal flower, black-eyed susans, and goldenrod keep the color coming right into fall.
Deer, black bear, wild turkey, and a host of other woodland animals call Shenandoah home and regularly cross Skyline Drive in their daily travels.
When we decided not to go the Washington we were under the impression that if we took the Skyline road we would be rather remote and away from the crush of people. NOT SO! When we arrived at the Park Entrance traffic was backed up a mile waiting to get in. Once through the registration, the traffic did spread out somewhat, just by the fact of that the entry had evenly spaced the vehicles. The 35 MPH was good and the view points excellent. Colors are still great here, so we got another bunch of nice pictures.

We only drove about 1/3rd of the entire route, as time was starting to run short. We took highway #211 at Thornton Gap back to I 81 and back home by 6:00PM
Oct 23rd
Just another R&R&R Day - weather good, so just enjoyed a quiet day
A Great Harvest Moon Tonight - Where did the witch come from -- Denice ---- Not often you can catch a photo like that!
Oct 22nd
Well, we did go into Washington DC today. I guess this maybe was just a "thumbnail" visit. Drove the 80 or so miles into the Vienna Metro Station, bought an all day pass for $9 each, then boarded to high speed train into DC. Most of the route is underground so saw little of the 3/4 hour ride.
The Metro Station at the Smithsonian Station
Passed many "stop and go" stations along the way and exited at the Smithsonian Museum station. Here were only a couple of blocks from the Washington Monument, the very high obelisk in the center of Washington D.C.The Washington Memorial

The Capital Buildings

The White House
The Lincoln Memorial

The Smithsonian Castle
From here we were able to see the "White House," the "Capital," the "Smithsonian Castle," and the "Lincoln Memorial." Along the "Mall" are the Smithsonian Museums, and a bunch of other memorials buildings and Monuments. Denice's hip was bothering her today, so the amount of walking that would have been required to see them all was out of the question. The whole area is in the shape of a giant "X," each arm about one mile long. A person could easily walk eight miles to see it all in detail. From the center, with our telephoto lenses we were able to take shots of most of it. As it was now after lunch time we asked where we could find a place where we could get a hamburger or hotdog, and were told in the downstairs "Food Court" of the Regan Building, just a block away. Seems restaurants are a non item right along the mall or parks. We found the Ronald Regan Building and went inside. First time I have ever had to go through a Security Search to go to a McDonalds!!! There were a multitude of Fast Food vendors here, so we were able to fill our needs. Once back out, we assessed what our next move should be. It was now about 2:30 or so. If we wanted to see more we would have like to take a "Tourmobile" tour that includes 21 stops around the Capital, but we knew it was far too late for that. It was with some hesitation, that we decided the best option was to probably just catch the Metro and go home today and maybe come back another day and catch the "Tourmobile" immediately and try to choose the stops most important to us. The Smithsonian Museums are just out of the question, as they are huge, and we know that you could literally spend days going through them. We had got what we really came for, and that was to say we have been to Washington DC, and have pictures to prove it. Whether we go back again is still up for debate. After the Metro ride and out onto Highway 66 homeward bound, we were into the afternoon rush of traffic with 4 lanes each way and heavy congestion. This is not our "Cup of Tea," and we were gald to back home for dinner. An "Applee's is close by, so a steak with them was a nice ending of a rather hectic day!
Oct 21st

Just an R&R&R day - that's Rest, Relax and Read
And go the Wally World for groceries
We are planning a trip to Washington DC for tomorrow. Drive to the outskirts at Vienna on Highway 66, about 70 miles, then park at the Metro, and take it to the Capital. Apparently for about $8 you can have a day pass on the Metro and it has stops at all the places of interest. just hop on and ride to the next place you want to stop.
We'll fill you in on the details after we get home tomorrow night -------------
Oct 20th
Today must have been a long, long day. We crossed four states. Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia.

And now the rest of the Story: We only drove 96 miles. We had stayed overnight in Pennsylvania, so this morning drove 45 miles in that state, then 13 miles in Maryland, 23 miles in West Virginia, and the remainder in Virginia. For us Canadians who are used to driving for days through one province, we find this rather intriguing. I guess, something like European Countries. Anyway we were comfortably set up in Winchester, Virginia at Candy Hill RV Park by noon. We talked to the gal at the check-In about a side trip to Washington, and she filled us in on all the details, so we reserved for a week.
We may make a couple of trips in, to be able to see all that we wish, or maybe even three times with a days rest between each visit to rest up. In the afternoon Denice decided it was Laundry day, so she did that little - well not so little - task. Now we are good to go for another week -- or two.