May 2010


We towed our home about 760 miles during the month of May.  We drove from Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Otis, Massachusetts with stops in Charlottesville, Virginia; Fort Meade, Maryland and Thomaston, Connecticut.

The 16th annual Winston-Salem Dulcimer Festival (the main reason we were in Winston-Salem,) is part of the music ministry of College Park Baptist Church.  We’d been in touch with Terry, a member of the church and organizer of the festival, and had been invited to their regular Wednesday evening church dinner where we met him and his wife Karen.  We also learned that Terry, an accomplished dulcimer player, and Marya Katz (hammered dulcimer and one of the instructors for the workshop) were putting on a performance in Davis Chapel in Wake Forest University, downtown Winston-Salem.  Never ones to pass up a free musical concert, we drove down there, actually found  a place to park our monster truck in the parking garage, and through the help of an escort and maps, found our way to the chapel and thoroughly enjoyed Terry and Marya’s performance.  

The workshop was to start Friday evening.  We helped set tables up, with a catered BBQ lunch as payment – wotta deal and a meal!  The workshop (110 students and 10 instructors) kicked off with a welcome orientation, and then organized jam sessions.  We chose the slow session, led by Tull Glazener (mountain dulcimer and instructor), with about dozen attendees.  We went around the circle, each choosing a song, then Tull would call out the chords – you didn’t need sheet music – quite an enjoyable jam.  We finished off the evening attending the open mike session with the performers extremely talented, unlike some open mike sessions we’ve attended where being talented was optional.

Saturday was the serious “let’s learn music” day, with two morning class sessions and two afternoon sessions, with multiple classes and skill levels during each session.  Our first class was with a pair of our favorite musicians, Aubrey Atwater and husband Elwood Donnelly.  Aubrey and Elwood recognized us from having seen us in Arkansas, Connecticut and Florida – we’re sort of unofficial groupies.  Neither one of them learn a new song by reading the sheet music – they internalize a song and play it. Our class was learning how to play by ear.  Next up was Joe Collins teaching us how to strum, something we struggle with but his tips are helping.  

We then took a break for lunch and an opportunity to talk more at length with Aubrey and Elwood.  The afternoon concert featured Ken Bloom (creator of the bowed dulcimer but talented on anything musical,) Sue Wilson (hammered dulcimer) and Thomasina Levy (mountain dulcimer, singer and Connecticut state troubadour for 2005 and 2006) – all very talented.

Thomasina kicked off our first afternoon session where we learned about left-hand embellishments, such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, vibrato, slides, and harmonics…they are not so scary any more.  

Now here’s a major small world moment that blew us all away but especially Thomasina.  When we learned she was from Connecticut, we asked where and learned Litchfield was home.  We both were raised in Connecticut (Naugatuck and Waterbury) and told her we were on our way up there to visit, then spend the summer in Massachusetts.  She asked us if we’d mind bringing her two dulcimers back with us.  Aubrey and Elwood, from Rhode Island, had driven down (Thomasina had flown down) and brought the dulcimers to North Carolina, but they were going to be in the area for another couple of weeks.  Rather than loading and unloading all their instruments, including her dulcimers, every night when they checked into a motel, her dulcimers could stay in the RV for the entire trip.  We gladly agreed and even though we didn’t ask for any type of payment, she gave us her latest CD, and when she picked them up in Connecticut, not only gave us another CD but an offer for a free lesson in the future, making us promise to take her up on it.  It wasn’t a big deal at all for us but helped her out tremendously.  What are the chances of having both an instructor from Connecticut and folks on their way up there, down in North Carolina!

Our last class was with Lois Hornbostel, also a mountain dulcimer player.  The class was Beautiful Melodies but we don’t feel we got much out of her class for several reasons:  it was the end of the day and our eyes were starting to glaze over, and there was way too much material to cover in the hour.  

The Saturday evening concert was spectacular.   Tull Glazener did some Tin Pan stuff that sounded really neat, all played on a mountain dulcimer.  Karen Ashbrook (hammered dulcimer,) accompanied by husband Paul Oortz (guitar, harp/guitar, accordion) played some of their compositions – excellent.  The highlight of the concert was Atwater/Donnelly, who played for almost fifty minutes – we could have listened to them all evening.   Aubrey does one selection called Talking Clogging where she illustrates the history of dance steps, all the while dancing away – aerobic exercise to the max!

All in all, we had a thoroughly wonderful time at the dulcimer workshop and festival and highly recommend the College Park event to anyone interested in attending in the future.  It was very well organized, things were kept moving, lots of music-related items to buy (we helped support the instructors) and lots of friendly folks.

Time to head for Fort George G. Meade in Maryland with a few days’ stay first in Charlottesville, Virginia.  We got settled into our site at the KOA there, then poured over brochures, trying to decide how best to spend our time sightseeing here – lots to see and do, lots of history with three Presidential homes to tour.  

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Thomas Jefferson's Monticello was constructed over a 40 year period. 

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello:  We initially thought the entrance price was a little steep - $22 per person, but after having been there and seeing all there is to offer, it’s a good value and can be an all-day outing if you take advantage of all the tours offered.  We took only the house tour, walked around the grounds a bit, enjoyed the movie in the Visitor Center and the exhibits and felt like we’d gotten our money’s worth.

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The one-room south pavilion served as living quarters for Jefferson and his wife during Monticello's construction.

This is a very popular destination for school groups and other tour groups.  We counted over a dozen tour buses in the parking lot, not to mention hundreds of passenger vehicles.  Reservations to see the house are required but because we’d gotten there early in the day, we were able to get reservations for about an hour after our arrival, not bad at all.  Monticello’s staff is highly organized – they have to be with all the visitors.  You are assigned a tour time, can either take the bus or walk up the hill to the house, then you stand in a short line waiting for the house tour to begin.  When you are told to be there ten minutes prior to the tour starting, believe them – our group  queued up to the house right on time.  We were met at the door by our guide, touring the eleven rooms on the first floor, following right on the heels of the group ahead of us.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos inside the home.

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Mulberry Row was along the approach to the home.  In addition to gardens, buildings that supported the every day functions of the home used to line the tree-shaded lane.

Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, first U.S. secretary of state, third U.S. president, and designer of the University of Virginia, was born April 13, 1743 and died July 4th, 1826.  Jefferson designed every aspect of Monticello (little mountain in Italian.) This World Heritage Site features not only the house, but Mulberry Row, the plantation, gardens, landscape and his grave.

The house, with its design evolving over more than its 40 years of construction, featured many of Jefferson’s innovations, among them, the first dome on an American house, designs to take advantage of the house’s location and efficient ways to shelter it from weather,  and building the ‘dependencies’ (areas for domestic work,) beneath the house.  The dependencies housed a wash house, carriage bays, ice house, two privies, a wine cellar, kitchen, smokehouse, dairy, three rooms for slaves and other storage cellars.  

Particularly interesting in the front hall is the Great Clock designed by Jefferson, with both an exterior and interior face – the entire plantation ran by this clock and its chime could be heard up to three miles away.  Originally designed for another house, Jefferson ran into a problem because the weights mechanism needed more depth than the front hall had, so there are two round holes sawed out of the floor for the weights to continue their movement – time marches on, or down! 

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Jefferson is buried on the grounds of Monticello in a graveyard that still serves the family.

Also interesting is his copying machine (called a polygraph and invented by John Isaac Hawkins) featuring two or more pens that simultaneously move in the writer’s hand, creating a duplicate copy.

Mulberry Row had seventeen wooden structures, none of which have survived over the years.  There used to be a blacksmith shop, joinery, carpenter’s shop, smokehouse and dairy, sawpit, and other buildings necessary to run the house and plantation.

Jefferson’s grave is located below the house and can be accessed by the trail to or from the house.   He is buried along with other members of his family – this is still used as a cemetery by his descendants.  He wrote the epitaph on his stone, greatly simplifying his accomplishments.  “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”

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This is James Madison's Montpelier after a 5 year, $25 million restoration.

James Madison’s Montpelier was his lifelong home where he was raised, carried out his most important research and writing, retired here after his presidency, and where he died.  Montpelier is grand but on a smaller scale than Monticello, and not as populated with visitors.  Restoration began in 2003, and what a job they did!  After Madison died in 1836, his widow Dolley fell on hard times and sold the estate in 1844.  William and Annie duPont purchased Montpelier in 1901, enlarging the house and preserving the grounds.  In the process of enlarging the house, they drastically changed the facade.  

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This "temple" on the north side of the Madison home is more than just architecture.  A 24-foot deep ice house is located under the structure providing ice all year round.

After Marion duPont Scott (Montpelier’s last inhabitant) died, the wheels starting turning to transfer Montpelier to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and eventually to the Montpelier Foundation.   At a cost of $25 million over the course of five years, the Foundation oversaw transforming the home back to what it looked like when James Madison last lived there.  The video clip showing this change must be viewed to appreciate what was done.   They are now researching and returning furnishings to the home, as it was during Madison’s time.  The rooms are pretty bare right now but in one room, we saw samples of what the wallpaper may have looked like.  Interesting story…the duPonts changed the wallpaper when they lived there but what archaeologists found within the walls were scraps of wallpaper from Madison’s time that mice had used for nest-building.  Who’d have thought that those pesky critters were preserving bits of history!  For a before and after description with photos of the restoration go to the Montpelier website here.  As with the Jefferson home, no pictures could be taken of the Montpelier interior.

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James Madison, his ancestors and descendants are buried in the nearby family cemetery.  The small obelisk behind marks Dolley Madison's gravesite.  

We’ll have to return to the Charlottesville area – there is so much more to visit than what we had time for.  After getting set up at the military campground at Fort Meade, we made arrangements with Larry’s Uncle Bill and Aunt Loretta to meet them for an early supper on the following day, and then attend their granddaughter Abi’s band concert at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt.  What an awesome performance the four different bands in the school put on.  The band instructor was dynamic and exuberant and really enjoys working with the students – and it showed.  The entire concert was very professional with very talented students.

Before we left Maryland, we got in another visit with Bill and Loretta, enjoying lunch at the Crab Shanty, and then taking a mini-driving tour of a nearby historic area.  

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We finally re-connected with Karen and Don after 30 years.

While we were in the area, we re-connected with friends Don and Karen, in their home in Woodbridge, Virginia.  Lucille worked with Karen many, many years ago.  We calculated it had been over 30 years since we had last seen them both.  While the guys were playing catch-up, Karen and Lucille drove to Karen’s shop/boutique, The Cottage at Occoquan – a great place to pick up some unusual and beautiful gifts.  

We went into overdrive once we left the Maryland area.  We got settled in at Branch Brook Campground in Thomaston, Connecticut; we had a family get-together over pizza; and we took a quick trip up to Klondike Camp Resort to check out our site there, helping Brian and Bonnie move their trailer out in preparation for our latest acquisition to take its place, all within that first weekend.

Now to explain why we have been running behind with our updates…We’ve owned the camp site at Klondike since November 2007 but because of prior commitments, this is the first year that we’ve been able to spend time here.  Last fall, we kicked around the idea of getting a trailer to leave up here year-round (allowing family to use it when we don’t,) storing our own home-on-wheels when we’re at Klondike.  After checking out several trailers for sale, both private and from RV dealers, we found that if it was in good shape, it was not affordable; and if it was within our price range, it usually had had some type of water damage.  

About this time, we learned from our Ontario friends Harry and Marie that their Jayco fifth wheel was for sale because they had bought a park model in Frostproof, Florida.  We’ve been in the Jayco several times, knew it was in great shape, and knew that they both took very good care of it.   After coming to an agreement on a sales price, we made arrangements to pick it up (it was currently stored at their home in Pembroke, Ontario) when we got back to New England.  We went up the Monday after getting to Connecticut, making the 480 mile trip in one day.  It was great seeing them both again and seeing their beautiful home overlooking the Ottawa River with Quebec across the water.  We spent much of our time on their deck, enjoying the sunshine, the view, but most importantly, spending time with Harry and Marie.  

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We drove 480 miles to Pembroke, Ontario to visit with friends Harry and Marie.  We also purchased their RV for our site in Otis, Massachusetts.

We can highly recommend them if they ever sell another RV, or even their home!   Marie had stocked the kitchen for us, had a couple of bottles of wine on the counter, freshly-baked muffins, and she had the bed made up for us.  (They may even toss in some steaks if it was their home you were buying!) We used the Jayco as a guest house while visiting them, which also gave us time to learn about this particular fifth wheel.  

One big unknown was how difficult it would be to bring a US-made, formerly Canadian-owned trailer, back to the US.  Despite time spent searching online, we couldn’t find any clear guidelines for a non-motorized vehicle.  Harry did learn that we had to get a special temporary tag from the Service Center, a Canadian government office.  Off we went early one morning and found a knowledgeable clerk who knew what we needed.  Within fifteen minutes, we had the tag in hand and the title signed over to us.  We hoped the US side would be just as painless.

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A waterfront trail takes you past a giant sundial and a replica of a pointer boat used in the lumber trade along the Ottawa River. 

While we were in Pembroke, we toured Riverside Park, the city’s waterfront – what a neat area with a paved walking/biking trail.  At the park is the Portage Sundial, featuring a canoeist making a portage over logs and granite.  The logs are the hour indicators and the tip of the canoe is the gnomen - pretty cool looking and unique.  There is also a replica of the skids and a pointer boat used to transport lumber down the river.  Marie’s sister Ann, whom we’d met in Palmdale in 2008, came by for a visit, as did their son Ed.  We also took a drive out to K & O Lodge, owned by Ed’s in-laws, Terry and Diane, and where Kelley, Ed’s wife, works.   We’d heard a lot about the lodge so it was neat to see it and the beautiful lake on which it sits.  Gorgeous views, somewhat remote… we don’t think we’d want to be there during the winter though.  If we see snow, we’re not far south enough!

After a too-short stay there (we’ll be back - we didn't get to see the murals, the Hydro Museum, etc...,) we were anxious to get across the border and get set up at Klondike.  We got an early start that morning, getting to the border around 9:30 and on our way again about fifteen minutes later.  The customs agents were only concerned that we weren’t bringing firewood back to the US –  much ado about nothing!  Again, we made the trip back in one day because of our early start and smooth border crossing, getting to Klondike around 4 pm.  The trickiest part was getting the fifth wheel backed into our site knowing it will be parked here for several years.  

We spent the next two nights in the Jayco at Klondike, making lists of items we’d need to turn it into a semi-permanent seasonal home for us.  Back to Thomaston for the remainder of our stay at Branch Brook.  We then we hooked up our original home-on-wheels and brought it up to Klondike and got it settled into its storage space just outside the resort’s gate.  We’re glad they have limited storage sites for their members and that we were able to snag one of the spaces.

Do you know how hard work it is to be a snowbird???  We made multiple trips back and forth from one fifth wheel to the other, loading our food, clothing, computers, stuff we’d need for the summer.  Sure glad we didn’t have far to go back and forth between the two rigs.  But at least we were settled in time to participate in Klondike’s welcome back social get-together Friday evening of the Memorial Day weekend.  Now if we can only remember the names of all the folks we met that night and again at the traditional all-you-can-eat breakfast at the clubhouse on Sunday morning.

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We moved our new "summer house" onto our site in Otis, Massachusetts.  Larry's brother, Brian and his wife Bonnie joined us for Memorial Day festivities.

Klondike and Otis had quite a lineup of activities for the holiday weekend. Besides the welcome back get-together Friday evening, there was a yard sale and pot luck on Saturday, breakfast on Sunday, the parade in Otis in the afternoon, and a hot dog/burger cookout back at the clubhouse that evening.  Who knew snowbirds could be so busy!

Brian and Bonnie, caretakers of our site over the past couple of years, and whom we’d ‘evicted’ just recently, came up to join us for the holiday festivities.  We kicked off Sunday with that all-you-can-eat breakfast (do you get the idea we like these breakfasts?), and then attended services at the First Congregational Church of Lee.  Greeter Barbara made us feel very welcome, introducing us to other church members.  We’ll write more about the church in the future – they offer guided tours on Saturday mornings, including a peek into the bell tower.  We finished off the day with more burgers and dogs at the clubhouse, topped off with a Klondike ice cream bar – how appropriate!

The Otis Memorial Day parade was your typical small-town parade – the high school marching band kept us all in the spirit; the commemorative services at the war memorial and the cemetery were moving; and we were pleasantly surprised to enjoy a free hot dog and burger lunch sponsored by one of the local churches.  

In between the holiday festivities, we made a quick trip to Springfield, to meet up with Art and Roxanne, fulltime RVing friends we met in 2004 and hadn’t seen since then.  They are touring Vermont this year and although our paths have almost crossed, this was the closest we’ve been.  We arranged to meet at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site

Before touring the Armory, we hopped into their truck in search of lunch, during which time we played catch-up on the past six years.  Back to the Armory where we spent an informative and interesting three and a half hours, watching the orientation film first.  Did you know that the Model 1903  (03) Springfield rifle (still considered one of the most accurate weapons ever made,) the M1 (first semi-automatic rifle) and M14 rifle (the last shoulder weapon produced there but still available to military sharpshooters today) were all designed and manufactured at the Armory? 

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You find the neatest things near your back door, like the Springfield Armory, home of some of the United State's first firearms.

A little history about the whys and hows…In 1794, the new federal government decided it would manufacture its own muskets rather than depend on foreign arms to do so.  President Washington chose Springfield as the first armory with the second one in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia.  Harper’s Ferry was in operation only until the beginning of the Civil War when it was destroyed by the North to weaken the southern states’ industrial capabilities.  Springfield Armory was in operation for 174 years, providing our military with the best infantry weapons needed to defend our nation and its interests, closing its doors in 1968.  In 1943, the Armory’s workforce totaled 13,500 employees, of which forty-three percent were Women Ordnance Workers (WOWs) distinguished by red bandannas as headgear.

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Automation, such as this automatic Blanchard lathe, allowed muskets to be mass produced.  A follower arm on the lathe followed a pattern that allowed an exact copy of a musket stock to be made.

The museum is divided into two sections – one is the history of firearms, past and present, with numerous display cases containing weapons ranging from swords, handguns, long rifles, muskets, breechloaders, foreign weapons from World Wars I & II, and machine guns.  

The second section is how the muskets and later, the rifles, were built and assembled, with special lathes for consistent mass production of rifle stocks.  We learned that blind persons were used as quality control because their touch was more sensitive to feeling imperfections in the rifle stocks.  Also on display here is how the manufacturing equipment evolved from water power to steam power to electrical power.

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Friends Art and Roxanne posed with us in front of the "organ of muskets." 

Factoid:  Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poem “The Arsenal at Springfield”, considered to be his best anti-war poem, after visiting the Armory during his wedding trip (our first choice for a honeymoon!)  His inspiration for the poem was a result of seeing the way the muskets were stored, similar to organ pipes.  

Another factoid:  Smith and Wesson, the gun manufacturer, is located in Springfield and offers tours of their factory – neat!  Sounds like a future day trip coming up!

Back to Klondike - Folks we met knew we were looking for a reasonably-priced golf cart to putter around in while we’re here, saving wear and tear on the truck for the miles of dirt and gravel up and down hills from our site to anywhere else within the resort.  Bill told us about a flyer that had just been posted, so on Memorial Day, we contacted the seller, went out to see the cart, made an offer, and by the end of the day, we were owners of a 1998 Yamaha gas-powered golf cart.  Coincidentally, that was also our 39th wedding anniversary – and our gift to each other.  Are we romantic, or what???  Not quite as romantic as going to an armory, but close.  And thus ended the month of May.

Coming up:     We’ll spend the rest of spring and summer here at Klondike in Otis, with possible side trips to Boston, another dulcimer festival in Vermont, and sightseeing around the area – check back with us to find out what we’ve been up to.


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