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Published: August 28th 2018
Three months left, where should we go?
As much as we wanted to visit Newfoundland, top on our remaining “love to see” place’s in North America, we calculated it was about 2000 miles away and, although 3 months may seem like a long time, we knew from experience every journey takes longer than anticipated.
As the Motor home, and therefore us, would be leaving from the east coast, we decided to stay that side of the USA. Newfoundland would have to stay on our “to do list”
Our next stop was Nashville, where we hoped to meet up with Margie, we had been threatening to do this since the beginning of our trip. We sent an email to see if she was around, No, she was in England but would be back in time for us to meet. We also were able to met her new husband Paul, who until now had been a virtual person, as we had only seen pictures on Face book.
It was a busy time as we also had the opportunity to catch up with Stephen (Millie’s son, Hallo Millie) who took time to
show us around and to see his plane which he had built himself.
We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and, even better, the Musicians Hall of Fame which is dedicated to the hugely talented but less well known backing musicians. Some do go on to be front men, Jimi Hendrix & Glen Campbell possibly being the most famous.
When we were here last time we came across this museum as we were wandering along a little back street. We popped our heads in and got chatting to the owner, Joe Chambers. It was a new venture and he proudly gave us a personal tour explaining the exhibits. At the end he gave us a secret peep at what was going to be his next display, a small wooden stage Jimi Hendrix had played on in Nashville in his early days.
We had enjoyed it so much we decided to visit again, noting the museum had moved to a much larger building and currently, it also had the Rolling Stones exhibition as well. It looked like a good excursion, so off we went to have a look.
We were standing by the main desk and recognised the man next to us as the owner. Joe said Hi, we chatted and mentioned we had visited the museum when it was in the other building. He (claimed he) remembered taking us around and said when we had finished to seek him out and he would give us a preview of his next project.
We really enjoyed the Stones exhibition, and then spent ages pottering around the now much larger Musicians exhibition, but we noted there was still no Jimi Hendrix stage on display. Eventually we completed our tour and went and looked for Joe. He led us to a cordoned off area and pulled back a curtain and voila....... the complete Jimi Hendrix exhibition. Lights, that old stage, smoke, TV film footage, clothes, instruments, the whole lot. Another of life’s circles completed.
As we left the building I just managed to dodge someone thrusting a Trump flag into my hand. He was there the next night for the rally. Phew, a close shave.
The USA is definitely the land of song titles. It was time to leave Nashville, and Chattanooga
was up the road.
Now, there are some place names which are so evocative they initiate a longing to visit them. For me the Irrawaddy River, the Taj Mahal, Macchu Picchu, The Amazon and Nile are a few and all of which I have been lucky enough to travel to. But also on that list is Chattanooga. My dad loved Glen Miller and particularly this song. It is a tune of my youth, and there it was just up the road. .... I had to go. Dad would have been so chuffed I had actually been there.
We were delighted to find there actually was a Choo choo, on track 29. Today the old station building is a hotel and some of the old carriages are hotel rooms, shops and a cafe and then there is the fantastic Songbird museum.
Here you can see the largest private collection of rare and vintage guitars. The museum exhibits fretted instrument from the 20s to the 70s. The displays change regularly and currently it was the turn of the custom colour models, along with other rare Fender, Gibson and Gretsch instruments. The combined value
of the collection registers at over $200 million, with the value of individual pieces ranging from $10,000 to $1 million.
You could visit the main exhibition or buy a special “back stage” ticket for a private tour. Guess what? We took the private tour. Graeme was in Guitar heaven, he understands the qualities, rarity and value of the instruments. Me, I just like looking at them. Our guide pointed out each instrument telling its particular story and how they came to own it. He obviously loved his job, his enthusiasm, knowledge, love and respect of the instrument was contagious I particularly liked the fact that the custom coloured ones were sprayed at autobody workshops which is why most of them were the same colours as the American cars of the 50s.
We spent a few days in this pleasant town and had our first really good curry for a long while.
This area is riddled with caves, even two of the camp sites we stayed at had their own cave systems. To begin with we stopped at each one we passed but then became caved out. However we did achieve another
couple of “firsts” viewing an underground waterfall and taking a short boat trip on an underground lake.
We emerged from all this natural beauty to stay at a place named Pigeon Forge. This was a small pleasant tourist town, but alas, no pigeons to be seen, the pioneer Americans shot them all. (How dare the beautiful migrating birds eat all the beech nuts as they had for hundreds of years before the pioneers came.) Bison, pigeons, Native Americans .... there seems to be a theme here
However it is full of Moonshine stores and we did a few tastings, including one a mere 110% proof. But most people who come this way come to visit Dollywood, maybe after tasting the moonshine? We had to go.
We had a fun day, taking some rides, including the short steam train trip. The engine had actually worked transporting goods for the building of the Alaskan highway. Another tick for that completed circle. We viewed Dolly’s tour bus and gazed at her many tiny waisted, colourful costumes. We learned that she does a vast amount for the community here. Employment numbers alone must be huge,
other than the park almost every other business is “Dolly” related and I really liked the fact she supports a worldwide literacy book programme for children.
Considering that American weather is so challenging I still find it unbelievable when the first thing many people say to us upon finding we are from England (no, not Australia) is “you have awful weather there, doesn’t it always rain”.
During the winter months in many of the States you are dodging massive minus temperatures and deep, deep snowfalls. In summer, often in the same areas you are avoiding hurricanes, tornados, storms and hailstones, fires, earthquakes and humidity, take your pick. We were keen to avoid all the above, the only way to go was up. We continued to head north east.
We decided to visit a place named Damascus, where the Virginia creeper bike trail and the Appalachian Trail run through. I thought it had this name because of the plant, but actually it is because the trains “crept” up the steep Virginian inclines. Here you can book a truck ride to the top of the trail for you and your bike and then
enjoy the ride all the way back down. You pass through tiny villages, beautiful meadows, shady tree lined paths, cross the many trestle bridges and crystal clear streams. We really enjoyed the cycle but did feel a bit guilty when thinking about Sarah and Andy ( who we met in Palenque) still cycling and now in Peru.
As we booked into the campsite we were chatting to the owner and noticed his T shirt. Is that a Frank Lloyd Wright house I enquired? Yes he replied it is not so far from here, on the border of Virginia and Pennsylvania. We looked on the map, it was close to the wonderfully named Ohiopyle state park. Our next stop was decided, a visit to Falling Water. That’s how our route planning works.
We drove through W Virginia, Virginia and the west of Pennsylvania. It was trees, trees and more trees. Kind of reminded us of British Columbia this time last year. I like trees but really, and this is something I never thought I would say, how many days can you look at trees?
Having inadvertently taken the strongly recommended AVOID THIS
ROUTE at all costs, road noted in the instructions, we arrived to the campsite. For the welcoming committee a large black bear ambled across the road in front of us. When we checked in we were surprised to note there were no bear warnings on display or bear proof bins and they allowed soft sided tent camping. We did however see a large sign stating No Alcohol permitted in all of Pennsylvania State parks!! We were pleased they had their priorities right, although I feel if confronted with a large black bear a few beers might help smooth the situation.
This also presented a bit of a dilemma for me. One of the few things I hate about travelling is the lack of opportunity for recycling. You swiftly become aware of how much rubbish/ trash you produce. Here, they actually had a recycling scheme, the only thing was if you were following the rules you shouldn’t be producing beer bottles. I mentioned this to Graeme who looked at me as if I had two heads. Do you really think they check? he said. I wondered about this for a while and then wandered up to peer into
the glass bin. It was full of Baileys, beer and wine bottles. So much for Pennsylvania State park laws and, judging on the amount of empty bottles good luck to the liver of the person who perhaps thought Baileys has no alcohol content.
Ohiopyle is a nice funky little town situated along the river in the middle of nowhere really. In the summer it is busy with walkers, cyclists and kayakers, taking a break from their journey, whatever mode that takes, enjoying ice creams or coffee from one of the many little stores.
As we cycled out one day we came across another Frank Lloyd Write house named “Kentuck Nob” we wandered in to have a look and booked onto a tour. We learned that the owner used to visit Fallingwater and decided to have FLW design a place for them. It was beautiful but to me (and what do I know) it had some rather odd features. For example, a tiny kitchen and almost no dining area. To create one the owners had to glass-in a part of the balcony. It seems even a genius gets it wrong some time. Luckily for the
owners FLW didn’t see their alterations as he never visited the end build. Apparently he didn’t take well to alterations of his designs. As we left there was a vintage car club rally parked in the grounds so we had a little look at these beautifully restored vehicles. One thing for sure, they certainly had not come up the hill we did.
On to the house we had come to visit, it didn’t disappoint, Fallingwater was as beautiful as I hoped. It is one of those places you could sit in and stare out at the scenery for hours, days, months or seasons, which is a good thing as you can get snowed in here for a considerable period of time
Frank Lloyd Wright mission in life was to design buildings that mould into the landscape surrounding them. He believed clutter and storage were to be avoided at all costs, so much so he often refused to include storage space into his designs. The problem created by that was left for the people who owned the building to solve, as the Kentuk Nob owners found out. He also often designed all the furniture for
"Little bit of heaven"
The views around Larry and Joyce's home.
the building so it would be sympathetic to the spaces he created, which in turn could also provide some problems for the owner, as although beautiful, was often low and small.
He really was serious about the aesthetics, as around half of the furnishings were built into the house, which Wright said made them “ client proof” i.e., unable to be removed and replaced with tackier purchases. He hated garages & basements (= clutter) but would allow carports, which today do not fit a modern size vehicle. However this was all worthwhile for the outstanding results.
Fallingwater came to exist because Edgar J Kaufmann, a Pittsburgh Department Store Owner had owned the land for some time and used the existing buildings on it as a sort of Country Club, where his family and store employees could holiday, (an American John Lewis) He then decided the family would like a more permanent “weekend” home there and in 1935 commissioned FLW to design one for them.
The remit for Fallingwater was to design and build a home with a view of the waterfall. What they actually got was a home built on top
of the waterfall, literally on top of it as the home’s cantilevered tiers hang suspended atop the 30-foot waterfall—
The lounge area has steps leading down to the small pool at the top of the falls, where you could sit and cool off. This is also a good thing as FLW didn’t like air conditioning either!
The original budget was between $20,000 and $30,000, but you know how building projects go! It came in only slightly over the top at $155,000, today that would be $2.5 million!
So, at a mere $125.000 over budget but delighted with your new home you sit down to celebrate. They discovered the dining area was adequate but the bespoke table couldn’t seat enough people ... They had an extension leaf built
The family enjoyed the house for many years, but it was high maintenance, and following the death of Mr Kaufman and a declining use of the property, in 1963 Mr Kauffman’s son entrusted the house and its contents to Western Pennsylvania conservancy Trust. It is the only FLW house in the public domain with its original furniture and art work intact.
Next we were off to Saratoga Springs for a triple bill concert of The Drive by Truckers, The Tedeschi Trucks Band and Marcus King. It was a great concert in a beautiful space, but I was traumatised and still require counselling over the $17 beer!!
We looked at the map, we were so far north we realised we were not too far from where Larry and Joyce lived. Although we had not met we were introduced by a mutual friend and had been in e mail contact for some while, they said if we were nearby to look them up. We contacted them and they invited us to join them for their July 4th
celebrations by the lake, everyone was decorating their boats, it would be a lovely day we were really looking forward to it.
On the way fate took a hand, we had our first (semi) breakdown. On out journey to Saratoga Springs we had bumped along the hideous Interstate 88 for hours. We agreed the road surface was more like Mexico then the USA. When we left Saratoga to drive to Larry And Joyces the Motorhome still seemed
a little bumpy. Graeme thought maybe there was something was wrong with the air suspension so we pulled into Wal-Mart to check, there was definitely a problem. Instead of a day at the lake we sweltered in 38C tarmac car park.
After much calling around (it was 4th
July) and 24 hours later Graeme eventually found someone to come out to us. As always it only takes one person and Jeremy was the one. He fixed us up so we could move, followed us to a campsite and agreed to return once the part arrived to complete the job. So, that’s how we came to spend an unexpected but very pleasant week at Lake George, in the Adirondacks, New York State.
A mere 10 days late we made it to Larry and Joyce, to enjoy several days of their wonderful hospitality. Amongst other things they took us sightseeing, hiking, and out on their boat. We were supplied with kayaks & went swimming in the lake. An evening campfire was lit over which Hotdogs were grilled and then marshmallows to make our first ever S’mores, a biscuity, chocolaty, gooey type thing. Guess who liked them?
We did get to see the sea.
Larry and Joyce spend summer at their “Little bit of heaven” (I can agree with that) often taking in travelling friends passing by. During the winter months they travel South America, unfortunately Joyce got quite severe altitude sickness in Peru last winter but has recovered and they will resume the trip later this year. Larry is making the most of it as Joyce would like to stop driving through far flung places when he is 80, which somewhat unbelievably is not that far away.
Vermont is a lovely state; it has a completely different feel to it. I looked up some facts. It stated that 80% of the land mass is covered by trees, it is famous for maple syrup, cheese and Ben & Jerry ice cream. It is an arty, foodie type place and the State of Bernie Sanders, what’s not to like?
Time was ticking on and our thoughts were drifting towards coming home. However we were now near the Canadian border and Christine & Bernard, who we had last seen in Mexico, were spending their summer near Quebec. A quick email, they agreed to meet us at South
Another Boston Massacre
Not often the duck wins a collision with a car!
Hero, Near Burlington, now our next stop.
Another “it’s a small world “scenario occurred here. We arrived and set up to await C& B arrival. Meanwhile we noticed a beautiful RV (Newmar Essex) and stopped to chat to the owner........ It was Peter and Susan whom we last saw in Tucson, Arizona last year, & Baja the year before that. We asked after Cathy and Tony (who were also at Tucson & Baja) and Peter said they were arriving later in the week. As we were waiting for the delivery of our third, (it's a long story covering several weeks and several States!) new convection microwave oven to be delivered we were able to catch up with them. All in all a very social stop.
We could go no further north without leaving the country, which of course we were meant to be doing, but to the UK not Canada. Now it really was time to turn around,
We headed over towards the New England states, pottering along, taking the scenic routes, stopping off wherever took our fancy. This is where the Wal-Mart overnight stops come into their own. At the
Thanksgiving or National day of Mourning?
Chart showing surviving Pilgrims, Model of the Mayflower and a Bronze head of Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims landed.
end of the day there is no hassle, no booking in, just call ahead to check if they allow overnight parking, arrive, find a space, do your shopping, eat, sleep and move on. It’s perfect.
Things needed to be sorted out on the MH including replacing the windscreen and organising shipping etc, tourism began to take a back seat. We visited Boston, a really nice city and whilst there caught up with Stuart who was on one of his many whistle stop sporting event trips. He was here to see a game of something?... Baseball?
We took a trip around Cape Cod, not over impressed with it. We took a side road towards the beach thinking we would go for a stroll. As we approached the car park we stopped at the kiosk. $25 to park the guy said, well that’s Ok if you want to stay there all day but we only wanted a quick look. Back along the lane we had noticed parking spaces for hikers, so we said to the sentry box man, we will park over there and walk down. No he replied you are not allowed to walk down,
you can only drive down and its $25. You can walk over there, he said indicating a lane to nowhere, but you can’t see the sea. We drove on.
Onto Plymouth, a pretty little harbour town famous for the Mayflower, the Pilgrim Fathers and the Plymouth Rock. I thought I knew the history of the Pilgrim Fathers ( wrong) but we decided to visit the museum anyway, it is Americas oldest continuously operating public museums and you can’t ignore that.
They say history is written from the victors perspective and certainly the story of the Pilgrims is Pilgrim centric. It is only in recent years that the Wampanoag people have had a voice, and their voice tells a different story
If asked, almost everyone could name the Pilgrims ship but how many could name the native people. Yet for 10,000 years before the Settlers arrived The Wampanoag people had lived here. It was the Wampanoag people, who met the Pilgrims when they landed and by their kindness (they might have reconsidered their actions if they knew their future) helped them survive their first years in this harsh and strange land for
which they were so poorly prepared for. Even with their help only about half of the Pilgrims were still standing at the end of the first year.
The event that America commonly calls the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated in 1621. This feast lasted three days, and was attended by 90 Wampanoag and the surviving 52 Pilgrims. For a few years the two communities did manage to co-exist fairly peacefully before it all went horribly wrong. You know the ending............................
Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally since 1789, although the date has moved around. The current date was only set after President Roosevelt signed a bill in 1941 setting the official day as the fourth Thursday of November. So that was that, except for Texas who didn’t comply until 1956.
Due to the events over the years, not unsurprisingly the Wampanoag Native Americans didn’t actually agree with the sentiment of Thanksgiving, they see it as the beginning of the cultural genocide and conquest of Native Americans by colonists. Now, since 1970 on Thanksgiving many gather together for a National day of mourning.
How this came about was due to the
The 2 millionth Martin Guitar, 2017
A watch motive design was created for this unique Guitar. There is a working watch in the headstock.
In 1970, the organizers of the Thanksgiving State dinner asked Wamsutta (Frank) James, an Aquinnah Wampanoag man, to speak. Using the pretext they needed to prepare a press release, they asked for a copy of his speech. Wamsutta was soon told he would not be allowed to give the speech due to the fact that it was inflammatory and out of place for a day of celebration, in its place he was asked to read a speech prepared for him.
Wamsutta refused to have words put into his mouth. He felt his speech just told the truth and the new speech just perpetuated the “Myth” of the Plymouth Fathers. So instead of speaking at the dinner, he went to Coles hill where the statue of Massasoit stands,(the leader of the Wampanoag at the time the Pilgrims landed) and gave his speech to many hundreds of Native people and their supporters
Now, every year the American Indians of New England and their supporters return to Plymouth to gather together to acknowledge the date as a National day of mourning.
The full speech is an eloquent inspiring piece
but the sentiment is summed up by the short exert below
“This action by Massasoit (Wampanoag chief at the time) was perhaps our biggest mistake. We, the Wampanoag, welcomed you, the white man, with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end; that before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a free people.”
As always, it’s amazing what you learn.
Next we wandered off to visit “The Plymouth rock” we were in Plymouth, we had to see it. We gazed down with astonishment, that’s it! It was more a pebble really. We looked around, it wasn’t just us, we spent several entertaining minutes watching the people’s faces as they looked over the edge at it. I would let you decide for yourself but we were so underwhelmed we didn’t take a picture.
As we bowled along we continue to stop as things took our eye. We were en route when we passed a sign to the Martin Guitar factory. A quick U turn resulted in an excellent tour of the workshop floor to see the production process, a lot
New River Bridge
The worlds longest single arch steel bridge spanning the New River which unusually for this area, flows north.
of which is still done by hand and a visit to the museum. At the end they give you a keepsake, an engraved cut out from the sound holes they cut into the guitars. Luckily that’s all we left with, they didn’t have a retail opportunity there.
Although very nice the North east has not been a favourite area of mine. It is very beautiful but in general is too busy, too expensive, there are fewer RV parks, and it looks a lot like parts of England and we will be seeing that soon enough.
On the plus side for the first time since we have been away I have been able to buy Hallumi. excellent goats cheese, Taramosalata, and................... lobster for $4.95 /£3.80 a lb, which is loads cheaper than the water infused, chlorine washed, hormone fed, factory raised ostrich sized chicken which, not surprisingly I don’t buy. We purchased 3 lobsters for £8.50 and the crab legs are also fantastic. We are very happy and glossy with our current diet.
Continuing towards Baltimore, we stopped along the way to meet up with Eric and Lee. Our paths had crossed
briefly in Mexico earlier this year. It may have been a brief encounter but there was time for Eric to introduce us to a very nice Riesling wine. As Eric suggested we try it he glimpsed the scepticism on Graemes face, he persuaded us to join him a glass or two saying we would enjoy it, how right he was.
On a rare rainy day they showed us around the beautiful Brandywine Valley. A lot of this area is owned by the DuPont family who maintain the area picture book pretty. We lunched at a riverside restaurant, partook in another interesting wine or two, and visited a beautiful art gallery, where three generations of the local Wyeth family have paintings on display. We drove past brick built building that wouldn’t look out of place in French villages, this was much more our type of place, few tourists, pretty towns and villages, vineyards, small lanes, bubbling rivers, rain...... yes definitely rain.
Back on the road we passed places with names like Marlborough, Glastonbury and Oxford, we drove across The Thames river. Although geographically a little chaotic.it was reading more and more like home
But Tick Tock, Tick, tock.......... time was passing., despite me trying so hard but failing to persuade Graeme to drive to Newfoundland, he wasright not to go, we would probably still be there. That might have been a little problematic, we are three weeks from handing over the Motor home and still have lots of things to do.
Today we had our new windscreen put in and then we are off to do the cleaning, sorting, rummaging through and organising two and bit years of stuff. I am very proud of how little we have, although I am not yet sure how my prize purchase of a wooden and papier-mâché Oaxacan Jaguar head will travel!
So, unbelievably the end is nigh, indeed it is. Last night I poured gin and there was no tonic, unheard of! I feel our meals are going to get a little weird and interesting from here on.
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