April 2004

 

Our two weeks in Huntsville went by too quickly.  We met with our CPA as planned, as well as handled other personal business.  We met with several of our friends, but not as often as we would have liked, nor did we get to see everyone.  Who knew that being retired would keep us so busy?  We’ve been asked what occupies our days, now that we are retired.   We fix many of our meals, so groceries need to be replenished, more often than when we had a stick house because we don’t have the freezer, fridge and cabinet storage.  Dishes are washed by hand – no room for a dishwasher!  Our clothes still need laundering; the RV interior needs to be cleaned regularly, especially with a four-footed critter tracking in local flora and fauna; Shelley needs regular walks and exercise; bills need to be paid, checking accounts reconciled; upcoming trips are researched and planned; emails are received and sent.   We visited our storage area, adding to it more items that we find aren’t needed often enough to take up valuable weight and storage.  Larry spent several days washing and waxing not only the truck, but also our ‘house’. And let’s not forget about those regular happy hours!

Besides spending time with our friends, a couple of other fun things we did:  The Space & Rocket Center annually sponsors the nation's only moon buggy race. Fridays are for high schools; Saturdays college students.  We saw student teams from CA, UT, TX - all over the US.  At their respective schools, the students build a moon buggy, simulating the same conditions for storing and transporting as the real thing.  Each team has two members - one guy, one gal.  Some of the vehicles we saw were four-wheeled, some three-.  We saw some of the vehicles in which the pedalers ride tandem, but sit back to back. The one in the rear faces the rear but pedals producing forward motion.  It looked uncomfortable, awkward and difficult, especially when you can’t see where you are going.  They are not only judged on how they maneuver the obstacle course but on the moon buggy’s design.

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Cathedral Caverns boasts one of the largest natural openings and some of the most spectacular cave formations anywhere.

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Cathedral Caverns State Park is one of the newest of Alabama’s state parks, located 20 miles from Huntsville in Grant, AL.  J. Gurley bought 160 acres, including a large cave entrance, back in the 50s for $400.  No one knew, least of all Mr. Gurley, what a treasure he had.  He led friends on tours through what he thought was the only room.  Imagine his surprise when he discovered a room even larger than the first one, and with even more stalagmites and stalactites.   Sometime in the early 70s, we actually toured the cave while still under private ownership.  The state acquired the cave in 1987 and finally opened it up for the public again in 2000.  We were astounded at how primitive those original trails were that we had originally taken.  The state park system has done a beautiful job of renovating, modernizing and backlighting the cave’s treasures.  The highlight of the ranger-led tour is when the lights are turned out at one point and you realize how very dark it is. 

What a surprise we’ve had today, April 13th – snow and sleet!  We started making our way up north too quickly!  We left Huntsville, AL this morning and soon afterwards were driving in that white wet cold stuff.  Luckily, the roads were clear so it didn’t pose any problems.  We currently are parked at a small private campground in Cave City, KY, right outside of Mammoth Cave National Park. 

Our stay in Kentucky was short but we made the most of our time there.  We arrived at Singing Hills Campground in snow and sleet on Tuesday and stayed warm and toasty in our home on wheels that afternoon.   The campground got its name from one of its owners, Oscar, who, back in the 50s, teamed with Lonzo and sang at the Grand Ole Opry. Often, several Opry singers would gather for a songfest on the hillside opposite Oscar’s home, thus the name Singing Hills. On Wednesday, we went on several short hikes at Mammoth Cave National Park.  That afternoon, Larry went on a 3 hour, 3-mile lantern tour of the caves and was surprised to find them dry with very few formations.  We later found out that dry caves are very typical of Mammoth, which is known more for its length than formations.  The following morning, we did see several really neat formations on one of the few tours of that part of the caves. 

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Most of Mammoth Cave's chambers are dry; however the few wet ones are spectacular.

Our guide told us the story of Floyd Collins, a man trapped in Sand Cave for 16 days in 1925.  Floyd was attempting to widen Sand Cave’s entrance to make it more suitable for tourists.  At the time, Sand Cave was not part of the bigger Mammoth Cave attraction and was actually closer than Mammoth, hopefully drawing tourists first.  Unfortunately, Floyd perished in the cave and his body remained there.  For a while, his burial site in the cave became a tourist attraction in itself.  An enterprising tour guide lead tourists down a rope ladder to view Floyd’s casket.   If you tipped him, the guide let you peak inside the casket – gruesome!   The poor man’s remains were moved about five times before coming to rest in his final location at a nearby church.  

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Lincoln National Historic Site, birthplace of our 16th president.  The cabin pictured is thought to be the original cabin where Lincoln was born.

Friday morning found us heading north with a quick stop at the Abraham Lincoln National Historic Site, birthplace of our 16th president.  The logs believed to have been from the Lincoln family cabin have been reassembled and are enclosed in a pink granite memorial.  From there, we drove to Camp Carlson, the military campground near Fort Knox.  Unfortunately, the gold vault is no longer open for viewing but we did manage to snap a picture as we drove by.  We made the last tour of the day at Maker’s Mark, a bourbon distillery in the area – a fascinating tour.   Lucille learned the art of applying the signature wax seal to a bottle of bourbon we bought.  Lemonade was flowing but not bourbon – we had no choice but to buy a bottle of our own!

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Copper kettles were used in the bourban making process.

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1956 Corvette on display in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The Corvette Museum in Bowling Green is a Must See.  All models, from the first manufactured to designer prototypes, are on display.  People ordering a new Corvette have the option of taking delivery of their "baby" in the museum. 

We had a leisurely drive north past Louisville on Saturday, spending the night at a Sam’s Club in Kokomo, Indiana.  This was our first experience in camping at either a WalMart or Sam’s.  It may have been free camping but between groceries and snacks, we ‘paid’ for our free site.  We are now at the Newmar factory in Nappanee, Indiana, at their customer campground, awaiting our 6 am wake up call tomorrow when they pull the RV to their facility for warranty repairs.  6 am!  People get up that early???

Nappanee Indiana

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An 1880 Bed and Breakfast we stayed in while the RV was repaired.

The Newmar technicians were prompt!  By 6:15 am, they had pulled our home into the repair shop and we joined the rest of the bleary-eyed customers in the lounge.  We soon found out that our repairs would require they keep the RV overnight, so they made arrangements for us to stay at a bed and breakfast in Nappanee.  What a treat!  The Victorian Inn was built around 1880 and packed with history.  The current owners converted it to a B & B about 12 years ago, renovating the home to its original beauty.  There were antiques throughout – furniture, wall hangings, pictures.  It was like sleeping in a museum.  Our room, with its private bath, was very comfortable.  The furniture was new but its style matched the overall décor.  We were pampered – freshly baked cookies, chocolates and tea in our room, a sumptuous breakfast.  Alas, it was only one night!  We highly recommend the Victorian Inn if you are in the area.  The repairs on our home on wheels were done within two days but we extended our stay till our mail caught up with us on Thursday. 

 

Our next destination was Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH, an area steeped in aviation history.  We settled into the military campground on base then spent the next several days exploring the area.  Dayton was home to the Wright Brothers, originally printers and bike builders, but visionaries who changed the world.  It was amazing to see how these two brothers methodically and systematically created the world’s first practical airplane.  They chose Kitty Hawk, NC, to launch their first glider and then their motorized plane because of its constant winds and sand dunes for crash landings.  But it was at the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, in Dayton, that they perfected both their flyers and flying.  They started the world’s first flying school at Huffman.  Every morning, the undertaker would park his cart at the edge of the field.  Man wasn’t supposed to fly!  He sensed a need for his services.  Luckily for the student pilots, his services were not needed.

 

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Wright-Patterson AFB Presidential Plane Museum.

The Air Force Museum at Wright-Patt is phenomenal.  We spent almost two full days there and still didn’t see everything.  For those who have been to the Pensacola Naval Air Museum in FL, the OH museum is at least four times the size.  Several Presidential aircraft are on display here but four of them allow you to walk through the interiors.  FDR’s plane, nicknamed the Sacred Cow, had an elevator to help him in.  One of these four planes was the Air Force One in service when Vice President Johnson was sworn in as 36th president after President Kennedy’s assassination.  A very moving experience. Several prototype research and development aircraft are on display, including the predecessor to the Blackbird, the SR-171, one of which is parked in front of the US Space and Rocket Center Museum in Huntsville, AL.  The B-2 stealth bomber looks like it came from the pages of a science fiction comic book.  It resembles a huge flying boomerang.  What a leap in technology in just a little over a hundred years!

Next stop:  Fort Meade, MD, between Baltimore and Washington, DC.  

 

 

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