September 2006

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We encountered this "monster" during the month of September.  If you can't figure out what it is, a complete photo is included below.

Our final weekend at Lone Oak was Labor Day – it was busy but subdued because it rained part of the weekend.  Lucille’s brother Ray and his family (Tracy, Katie and Jessie) came up Labor Day, bringing the entire meal so we wouldn’t have to go to any trouble this close to our leaving – wotta deal! 

The next day, we ran up to Otis, MA, to visit with Louie and Anne one last time.  They drove us around the camp, looking at potential sites that may come open in the future.  They will be our eyes and ears and let us know if a site becomes available.  We’re still interested in buying a site at Klondike…if it’s meant to be, it will.

After staying parked in one location since mid-May and working at Lone Oak Campsites since then, it was time to hit the road.  We said our goodbyes but we hope to see some of our new friends in Florida next January or February.  Several of the "seasonals" winter in Florida and have a ‘Lone Oak’ reunion then.

We decided to take the scenic route from East Canaan to Lucille’s cousin’s home in Weedsport, New York (we also avoided the tolls on the New York Thruway.)  US 20 is a beautiful ride but quite hilly when we got to the Cherry Valley section.  Whatever money we saved on not taking the toll road was spent on extra fuel going up those hills (there seemed to be more ups than downs for some reason.)  But it was gorgeous with very little traffic.  We checked out the route in advance to make sure there were no low overpasses (we have a truckers’ guide that has this info--we didn't see any for us to worry about.)  We had a little excitement when we saw a sign stating that the bridge up ahead was 12'6" and we need 13' to be safe - yipes!  Larry pulled into a parking lot and checked at a nearby diner.  They told us that it's over 13' but they put that sign for winter when snow piles up on the road.  Whew! 

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The last time we stayed at Sue and Verne's, the house was not completed.  Now, they have first class accommodations for an RV which we took advantage of.  We also enjoyed Happy Hour out on the lawn with Sue, Bud and Alma.

Sue and Verne built a concrete pad alongside their home complete with water, electric and sewer hookups – a first class campground that will remain a secret in case any of our readers are in the area!  (We'd like to think they put the pad in just for us but they have a Class C motor home that is usually parked in this spot.)  We stayed there four days, decompressing, and enjoying the beautiful view of their farm.  Sue’s mother, Alma and her husband Bud, came by for a cookout one evening.  Bud and Alma usually spend a good part of the winter in the Palm Bay, Florida, area, where Lucille’s parents live, so it was a bonus to see them twice in one year.  In addition to Sue and Verne’s son Nate and his family, and daughter Erin, Sue’s two sisters (Diane and Terry) came by with their families on Sunday for another cookout – it’s always fun to spend time with family. 

There was a Tomato Fest going on in nearby Auburn so we combined a visit to that with touring the Ward W. O’Hara Agricultural Museum.  We were all a little disappointed in the Tomato Fest – we thought we’d see tomatoes prepared in every shape and form.  The only tomato products we found (and enjoyed) were fried green tomatoes.

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The Ag Museum featured old-time farm machinery including this early 1900 corn husker on the left and 1939 Farmall tractor on the right.

The Ag Museum resulted from the personal collection of Ward O’Hara, an author and columnist for the local newspaper.  He started collecting farm equipment in the mid-1900s and the collection grew beyond his ability to house it all.  The museum is a step back in time to the turn of the century and life on the farm.  There are tools made in the 1800s through the 1940s, from hand-held to horse-drawn to tractor power.    There are so many exhibits in this building that continues to grow still.  We saw an early general store; a creamery and local milk bottle display (boy, did that bring memories back of having milk delivered to our doors and placed in a metal box); a woodwork shop and cooperage; blacksmith shop; veterinarian’s office; old home kitchen (including a Hoosier cabinet that had a built-in flour container with sifter, spice rack, cookbook rack, and storage – an all-in-one kitchen storage unit); and lots of antique farming implements and tractors. 

Time to leave New York – we got back on US 20, still trying to avoid tolls, but after two lengthy detours and one low overpass (we opted not to go under this one), we backtracked a bit and picked up the thruway for the final 65 miles - $9.70 toll – ouch!  We overnighted at a Sam’s Wholesale Club in Willoughby, Ohio, before continuing on to Harrison Lake State Park near Fayette, Ohio, where we met up with friends Karen and Galen.  To get to Fayette, we ended up taking the Ohio Turnpike after seeing there was no easy way to get from Point A to Point B.  Ohio’s tolls are far more reasonable than New York’s – only $8.35 for the 120 miles we drove.  It was worth it--a nice road that bypassed Cleveland and other larger cities. 

Our stay at Harrison Lake was but one night.  We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Karen and Galen – it had been almost a year since we saw them last.  We’ll see them again in Van Wert in a couple of days. 

The Escapees RV club held their Fall Escapade this year at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds. We got parked and settled in alongside the building where we’ll be working as Coffee Chairs. Karen and Galen shared our responsibilities as did the other couple in our team – Mike and Darlene, whom none of us had ever met.  The Coffee Team is responsible for providing coffee and selling donuts to all the attendees every morning as well as making coffee for any special events, such as welcome dinners and dances during the Escapade.

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The coffee team for the Fall Escapade.  Karen and Galen (back) shared the responsibilities with us as Coffee Chairs.  Mike and Darlene (front left) rounded out our team.  Darlene was the only team member that drank coffee so we counted on her to keep us on track.

What a dream team we had –we all worked so well together, so well that we were all able to each take a day off.  And no matter how early Lucille got to the coffee area, she never could get there before Darlene.   In between attending seminars and working the coffee concession, we often went out to lunch and dinner together.  The local VFW hosted an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner one night and Escapees love to eat, so we joined in.  Other eating establishments got our support that week too.   One place, the Balyeat Café, has no menu.  The waitress recites what’s available that particular day.  We were advised that their pies were delicious so we ordered and had our pie eaten by the time the meal itself arrived.

Working in Coffee was a bit of a challenge this year.  We were set up outside, under a large tent.  There were mornings, even with the tent sides down, that it was quite cold standing there.  We all dressed in layers and kept moving around to keep warm, drinking lots of coffee and tea (not to mention eating some of the yummy donuts provided by a local grocery store.) 

The week went by quickly.  We lost track of how many pots of coffee we made but we sold about 22 dozen donuts daily.  This year, about 700 RVs parked at the fairgrounds with over 1,400 people in attendance.  Most everyone convened each evening in a large meeting hall for door prizes, announcements and entertainment.  Larry lucked out on his birthday and won a door prize package – a three-night stay at a campground in Nevada, a carving knife, and some other items.  The Escapees have a solution for campground stay winners if the campground is not on your itinerary.  After closing ceremonies on Thursday, all those that want to trade their campground stays gather around one area and trade for a campground they’d prefer.  It was wild!  It was like being on a Wall Street trading floor.  Certificates were waved around with people yelling out the state they had, the state they wanted.  Lucille traded the Nevada certificate for one in Missouri, and then traded that for a three-night stay at the Mercer County Fairgrounds in nearby Celina, Ohio.  Coincidentally, that was our next destination so having three free nights there was a bonus.

Celina was only 24 miles south – we left the Escapade right after the hitch-up breakfast Friday morning and were set up at the Mercer County Fairgrounds by lunchtime.  What a beautiful fairgrounds and campground!  The manager came out and welcomed us – how often does that happen!  There are large trees located throughout the fairgrounds, plenty of grass and paved and graveled paths to walk.  And no railroad tracks!  Evenings were so peaceful there.  In fact, we were the only ones camping there our last two nights.  The fairgrounds also participate in giving a 50% discount through the Passport America Camping Club – we stayed four nights, using our door prize certificate for the first three nights and paying a whopping $10 for that last night – what a bargain! 

There was a dirt bike race going on over the weekend, a little noisy, but when we weren’t watching the races (at no extra cost), we were out sightseeing.  The noise was never a problem and we knew it was only for a few hours each day.  We definitely plan on going back to the fairground in the future.  The manager came by just before we pulled out and thanked us again for staying there.

Celina is on the banks of the largest man-made lake, Grand Lake, in the U.S.  There are even two lighthouses there but they aren’t functional and are there just for decorative purposes.   Celina is a very pleasant little town.  We checked out some of the shops on Main Street and crossed the street without having to take our lives in hand.  The local VFW chapter hosts a breakfast the last Sunday each month so we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast there at a great cost - $4.  Afterwards, we took a short driving tour searching for the cross-tipped churches.  The Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches refers to four counties in west central Ohio where over thirty churches can be found, some brick, some stone, some with one steeple, others with two, but all steeples are topped with a cross.  Maybe they should be called cross-topped churches?  

The main reason we stayed four days in Celina was to tour the Airstream factory in nearby Jackson Center.  Tours are weekdays at 2 pm so we planned to visit Airstream that Monday.  On the way, we stopped at New Bremen and visited the Bicycle Museum of America.  The owner of the Crown Company, a local lift truck manufacturer, was looking for a museum to buy to bring to New Bremen to help bring in more tourists to the area.  He bought the entire Schwinn collection (formerly on display on the Chicago Pier) and has been adding to it since.   The museum has on display bicycles of all shapes, sizes, and styles.  Some go back to the early 1800s when bicycling was first started by rich lords looking for different ways to traverse forest paths. 

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The Bicycle Museum of America afforded a view of bicycle development from the 1800s through today.  What we found interesting was the many means of propulsion for the bicycle.  The early model was propelled by the rider walking as he rode.  The top middle photo shows a method where the rider pushed vertical peddles that were tied to the rear wheel by a ratcheting chain.  The high wheeled velocipedes were direct drives that had to be fitted to the rider.  The taller the rider, the taller the bike and the faster the bike could go.  There was also a military version of a bicycle that was used by the army in 1891 as seen in the lower left photo.  The tandem bicycle shown in the lower, middle photo addressed some of the pressing problems during courtship near the turn of the 20th century: The gentleman sat on the rear elevated seat behind his lady (to see above the lady's coiffeur.)  The mesh-work over the chain guard protected the ladies' skirts.  And most importantly, the bicycle was engineered to allow the gentleman in the rear seat to steer the vehicle.  In the last photo Lucille demonstrates how a velocipede is ridden.

The early bikes were made out of wood and were propelled forward by the rider’s feet walking the bike along while sitting down--very primitive.  Gears, brakes, steering mechanisms, and different materials were added and improved upon to bring us the bicycles we see today.  There was an interesting video about a bicycle exhibition in Findlay, Ohio, where riders demonstrated the highwheeler bikes that had a larger wheel in front (some as tall as 58”) – it was a talent to be able to mount and dismount without doing any bodily harm. 

On display also were bicycles built for two, three, and five.  Some of the bikes for two were the tandem models we see today but many were side by side.  Early childhood styles allowed the child rider to grip a bar as he or she pedaled.  When the child tired, the bar moved forward and was now used by the nanny to pull the bicycle.  Even Airstream had a bicycle!

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Here is the full photo of the "monster" shown at the top of the page.  It is one of the first Airstream trailers built.  This 1938 model, though almost 70 years old, is still recognizably an Airstream.

What a good lead-in to write about our Airstream visit.  Founded in 1931, Airstream had an interesting beginning.  Wally Byam, later to become founder of Airstream, purchased a Model-T Ford chassis, built a platform on it and towed it with his car to Oregon where he erected a tent on the platform.  Mrs. Byam complained about the rougher aspects of tent living, especially during rain.  Back to the drawing board—Wally built a tear-drop-shaped permanent shelter on the platform that enclosed a small ice chest and kerosene stove.  (Boy, have we come a long way, baby….)   He then published an article, “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars”.   Readers wrote him for more detailed instruction plans, which he provided for one dollar each.  The response was extraordinary – he earned more than $15,000.

One day, a neighbor came by asking if Wally would build a trailer for him just like the one parked out front.  Soon, another neighbor asked, and another.  Someone complained about the noise so he rented a building and in 1932, his first trailers made their debut to the public.  Wally chose the name Airstream because ‘they cruised down the road like a stream of air.’ 

The factory tour was interesting and was conducted by a former Airstream employee.  Construction is certainly different compared to the other RV manufacturers we have toured.  One example that comes to mind is that they build the entire trailer, and then move in the furniture and cabinets.  If they don’t fit in the doorway, they aren’t installed.  Other manufacturers install the furniture before the walls are totally enclosed.  When we finished the tour, we didn’t have a burning desire to go out and buy an Airstream, though.  For our needs and lifestyle, what we have suits us better than the silver bullets built in Jackson Center, Ohio.

Time to leave Ohio for a short stay in Branson, Missouri.  Friends Russ and Freda and Charlie and Barbara had been there for a while staying at Treasure Lake Resort, a membership campground that honors our RPI membership.  We’d never been to Branson before plus we’d miss seeing both couples at the Escapade this year, so we pointed our rig west.  We weren’t particularly fond of Interstate 44 going through Missouri.  We soon encountered an accident that detoured us out of the way nine miles and 90 minutes.  I-44 is under construction in several spots so besides the accident’s detour, we had numerous stretches that we’d narrow down to one lane for several miles at a time.  It was a tiresome 200 miles and made our US 20 travels in New York seem like a piece of cake!  When we got near Branson, we drove up and down hills, some of which are fairly substantial.  We have mountain guides describing hills in the east and west and can’t for the life of us figure out why there isn’t a central States guide – Missouri and Arkansas sure did have some challenging grades.

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What do the Beverly Hillbillies truck, old farm machinery, stuffed animals and an antique Rolls Royce have in common?  All can be found at the Ralph Foster Museum at the College of the Ozarks.  The primary focus of the Ralph Foster Museum is to collect, preserve, interpret and exhibit items relating to the Ozarks region. In addition, visitors will find antiques, weapons, dolls, natural history and other items from around the world.

We were only in Branson three days and couldn’t even begin to do it justice – there are hundreds of shows going on seven days a week.  We got a feel for what they have and when we return, we’ll spend at least a week and take in some of the shows then.  Russ and Freda told us about the museum at the College of the Ozarks, so we hopped in with Charlie and Barbara and went museum-visiting.  The Ralph Foster Museum is chock full of exhibits.  One day isn’t even enough to see all it has to offer.  Ralph Foster was one of the true pioneers of radio, realizing its vast potential, both educationally and as a new and exciting field of mass entertainment.  His Springfield, Missouri, based radio station KWTO (Keep Watching the Ozarks) debuted several famous country music stars – Porter Wagoner, Chet Atkins, and the Carter family, to name a few.  For many years, Ralph had been collecting Native American artifacts, which he turned over to the School of the Ozark’s museum.  We saw displays on old time instruments; cameos; gems; dolls; primitive Americana; firearms; Native American artifacts; North American and African animals (preserved but posed in natural-like settings); history of the Ozarks…. and much, much more.

You may be familiar with the restaurant, Golden Corral.  Branson lays claim to what is probably the largest Golden Corral in the nation.  Not only are there numerous buffet lines from which to choose, there is a large room set aside for an evening show by a very talented performer--the entrance fee is donation only.  We may take that show in at a future date.  Russ and Freda are impressed with the performer that appears there regularly. There were at least two large tour buses of diners attending the show the evening we were there yet the buffet lines easily handled the crowds.

The last day of the month found us back on the road, heading for Mountain View, Arkansas.  More hills again and steep and curvy roads…. We arrived at the Ozark RV Park shortly after lunch, quickly got set up in a lovely pull-thru site, and started settling in here for the next month.  More on Mountain View and our stay next update!

Coming up:  Back to camp hosting at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama, for November, then south to Florida before the cold weather sets in.

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