We spent a week just outside Columbia, Missouri… and it was still COLD and RAINY! The campground was down a mile dirt road, and all dirt roads in the camp, too. So we got all muddy, inside and out. The area around was very pretty, but the mud took a bit of the fun out of it all! It didn’t feel much like a “Resort and RV Park!” A few days after our arrival, the rain stopped, the mud dried, and the world seemed nicer. The day before we were to move on, I washed all the mud off the motorhome and the car, and they looked so much better! Then we saw it was forecast to rain that night… so we left early! Spent the night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, and it was very nice. It rained, but no more mud.
Plenty of nice walks around the campground:
This was the view out our windshield:
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Rock Bridge Park has a million step boardwalk (OK, so I didn’t count them, I estimated) through the forest to some interesting cave formations, and naturally a rock bridge, or arch. Being unprepared to go spelunking, we didn’t venture more than maybe 30 feet into one cave.
Rain drops kept falling on our heads…
So after our overnight at the friendly Cracker Barrel, we headed for St. Louis, where we would meet up with all our kids and grandkids to spend the Thanksgiving week together. But that’s next weeks’ story – see you next week!
These stables were built in 1858 in St Joseph, Missouri, and purchased two years later to be the eastern terminus of the Pony Express. Wagon trains had been headed west from St Joe from the mid 1840’s, and during the “Gold Rush” from ’49 – ’51 more wagon trains started their trek here than any other Missouri River “Jumping-off” point. The train tracks and telegraph lines from the east ended here.
By 1860, there were really only a few methods of communicating between the east and west coasts. Ships could deliver mail (and goods) from the east coast, down South America and around Cape Horn, and up the western coast all the way to California. The fastest ships could make the trip in about three months.
Another option was to have the ship dock in Panama, have the mail sent by land across to the Pacific coast, then shipped up to San Francisco. This could be accomplished in about four weeks.
Or you could choose a stagecoach… Running between St Louis to San Francisco via El Paso only took 21- 23 days.
So the time was ripe for a private venture to drastically improve the communication possibilities… And the Pony Express was created. The hope was to get governmental mail contracts and get paid very well.
A course was laid out over 2,000 miles, with relay stations every 10 – 15 miles along the way. The rider had two minutes at a relay station to get a drink, relieve himself, and move the Mochila, or mail bag, to a fresh horse. The home stations were about 100 miles apart, and usually larger and somewhat more comfortable. Here the rider would hand off the Mochila to a fresh rider, and wait for the rider coming back the other way. He would then reverse over the same route he’d taken first, so each rider would have “his” route to repeat.
The mattresses were filled with grass, hay, straw or horsehair (bugs included), and the bed frame was made of rope. Every night the ropes would need tightening. Legend has it this is the origin of “Sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
As the riders raced through towns, ladies would offer baked goods with holes in the middle so the riders could grab them (the food, not the ladies) and eat easily on the fly. Another legend has it that this is the origin of the doughnut… but that is patently false as doughnuts with holes in the middle had been around in Europe for a long time by then. But it’s a cool story.
The Mochila had four compartments, or Cantinas; three were locked shut, with the only two keys at the opposite ends of the trail. The fourth Cantina was open, to add mail at other stops if needed. The total weight of the mail was limited to 20 pounds, so letters were written on onion skin paper.
The Pony Express riders were young, and the pay was pretty good, if you didn’t mind long hours, very difficult terrain, and occasionally hostile Indians. (Only one Pony Express rider was killed by Indians.) The youngest rider was only 11!
Only young men of sterling character were accepted in the Pony Express. One of the business creators was a very religious man. He gave each rider a special edition Bible, and required they sign the following oath. I’m thinking it would be hard to enforce today…
The route went from St Joseph Missouri through what are now Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and on to Sacramento. From there the mail went on by boat on the Sacramento River to San Francisco.
The first riders left from each end of the route on April 3, 1860, with each Mochila making the first trip in about 10 days. The mail was usually delivered at that speed, with service once per week at first, and later going to twice weekly.
The fastest Pony Express run was to carry presidential election news: the 1860 election results were telegraphed to Fort Kearny in Nebraska Territory (then the end of the telegraph line), then the Pony Express carried the news to Fort Churchill, Nevada Territory, where it was telegraphed on to California. “California’s newspapers received word of Lincoln’s election only seven days and 17 hours after the East Coast papers, an unrivaled feat at the time.”
The Pony Express only ran for about 19 months. During that time, only one Mochila was lost; it was headed east and ran into some Indian wars on the route. (The mail bag finally showed up in New York 2 years later.)
When transcontinental telegraph lines were completed, the need for the Pony Express melted away. It was an amazing accomplishment!
Across the park from the Pony Express stable is this huge locomotive. While not as big as some I’ve reported on lately, it is still immense. Built in 1937 for about $100,000, it weighed 576,000 pounds. It ran for 20 years before being retired… I personally don’t weigh anywhere near that amount, and worked for way longer than that before retiring. Just saying…
We stayed for a few days in a Peculiar Park… Peculiar Park Place, to be exact. In the town of Peculiar, Missouri. It is really a nice RV park, with the only really peculiar thing being the way our GPS pronounced it… “Peck You Liar”… Very funny.
After last week’s adventure in the National Roller Skating Museum, I’m sure there are those who think I’ll go to any museum possible… Well, maybe that’s true. Which leads me to the National Toilet Plunger Museum.
Ok, there is no such place as the Toilet Plunger Museum. But this thing was near our campsite, and I’m not sure what it really is. Any ideas? I do know (from careful experimentation) that a basketball thrown into the open top seems to exit somewhat randomly from one of the four holes underneath. If that’s your idea of a fun game, maybe you need to get out more. Maybe a plumber invented it…
Some have asked what it’s like living in a motorhome… so we will start by showing what our home looks like. Maybe later we will try to show more about what living in it is like…
When we arrived at our campground in St. Joseph, MO, there were green leaves and red leaves all over the trees. One tree in particular, right in front of our motorhome, had green leaves on one side and red on the other. But over the course of just a few days, they all fell to the ground. Then the cold came. And then the snow. Not too much snow, but plenty of cold. It got down to 6 degrees F. That’s colder than retired people need!! Our home is very well insulated, and with the heated tile floors, the furnace doesn’t even have to run too often to keep it nice inside. But it’s still mighty cold when you go outside!
The following is the same view as the one at the top of the page. What a difference in a few days!
When our kids were little we joked about WOFS… Wheels on Feet Syndrome. As in when normally sane people strap a bunch of wheels under their shoes and then try to coordinated movement. As with any syndrome, there are several symptoms, such as a thrilling feeling of giddy elation, often followed by sudden loss of orientation, dizzying unintended acceleration, and sudden onset of pain in various body parts when the unintended acceleration causes said body parts to violently connect with other objects or the ground. We did a bit of that back in the day, but I had no idea how widespread this syndrome was! My education was enhanced recently by a trip to the World’s Largest Roller Skating Museum, in Lincoln, Nebraska. OK, they additionally claim to be the ONLY roller skating museum in the world! Since I bet you haven’t been there YET, I’ll give you a preview.
I’ll admit I didn’t have very high hopes for this museum. I figured it would be better than the barbed wire museum in southern Colorado, but it would likely be a quick visit. I know better now!
Who knew roller skating was done before the Civil War? And that inline skates are definitely not a new thing?
Here is one of Plimpton’s early models, from the 1860’s:
The patent application for these next skates claims that they “thus constructed, run with ease and rapidity, and do not injuriously sprain the feet nor weary the limbs, and they will not easily tip backward or forward, and they impart from the first an unusual feeling of security to the skater in all possible movements. This skate is well adapted to hard sidewalks, large halls, gymnasiums, and skating schools, and in suitable places for traveling purposes.”
This next one is pretty fancy, with all brass wheels!
This next skate is also from the 1870’s. Nice wooden wheels.
This skate was patented in 1897, and was worn by the 1906 Michigan State Amateur Speed Skating Competition Champion!! Note the clever quick release lever under the plate.
I remember skate keys from when I was a kid.
In 1990 Vernon Quy appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, to demonstrate his invention: a roller skate powered by a chainsaw motor, capable of about 30 mph. If he’d left the blade in place, maybe you could cut down obstacles in your way!
But he was by no means the first… in the mid 50’s Antonio Pirrello built and patented this… thing. The nineteen pound motor is worn on your back, with a drive cable to the right skate. The skater keeps his left foot forward to steer, while the right foot gets all the power. The speed is regulated by an clutch on the other cable, held in the hand. This contraption could get you to 40 mph. As if…
There are even stilt skates!
An excerpt from The History of Organ Music and Skating:
Organ music was a contemporary form of entertainment in America during the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Organ music was played on every radio station as background music for the radio soaps and used as general fill-in music. Many stations had their own organist to play musical interlude from time to time when a local station lost its feed from the network. This was a time when skating rinks, restaurants, and homes commonly had a piano and /or organ. Organ music soon became eminently acceptable to the public for roller skating.
Here is a photo of a temporary Roller Skating Rink. It looks like Lowe’s would Roll in, set up a rink, and announce it to the town with a brass band in a sign bedecked truck.
Fudge Ripple in the shop
Did I mention that when we had our home (aka Fudge Ripple) in the shop last month, one part needed was nationally backordered? So while in Lincoln, we got the part, and parted with our home for a day while it was installed. A long wait in the trucker’s lounge, but at least it’s done, and under warranty!
We don’t make much fuss over Halloween, but we did see some cute outfits when spending that evening and Cherryl’s mom’s place…
Santa is arriving earlier every year!
And these sweeties were my favorites!
The weekend was topped off with a great concert, undoubtedly made all the greater because our friend Laurel and her brother were playing violin! Beautiful music and a great finale to our time in Lincoln.
I’m guessing most of you realize Studebaker is dead. Maybe that’s why they begin their museum with this old Studebaker hearse…
I’m guessing many readers knew Studebakers as cars, maybe those same people knew Studebaker built wagons decades before cars were a thing, and maybe a lot of readers have never heard of Studebaker! So here is a brief history of Studebaker.
H. & C. Studebaker built this Phaeton in 1857. It is the oldest surviving Studebaker. In buggy terms, a Phaeton was a light bodied, with large lightly sprung wheels.
Studebaker stopped building horse drawn vehicles in 1919 – This “Izzer” buggy was the very last one built. Their buggies changed very little over the years.
The following photo was not labeled, but seems to be a buggy showroom, with evenly spaced spittoons for the buyer’s convenience.
Here is a 1905 Studebaker Sleigh. These were marketed to wealthy families, since it was quite an expense for a vehicle with limited seasonal usage… it cost $168 new.
The Henry Ford museum has several cars used by U.S. Presidents. Studebaker also has a similar collection.
Marquis de Lafayette
A huge help to George Washington in the revolutionary war was the Marquis de Lafayette. This Barouche was commissioned by the U. S. Government for his use when he toured the States in 1824. A Barouche is a luxurious heavy coach, with covered seating for 4 facing each other, and a seat in front for the driver. Maybe the Corporate Jet of the day?
Clement Studebaker bought this carriage in 1887, and displayed it in fairs and expositions around the country. When in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1889, the building caught on fire. Members if the Apache Indian nation camping nearby awoke to the flames and saved the carriage from the fire.
President Ulysses S. Grant
This Landau, belonging to President Grant, was originally thought to be a Studebaker. While he did own a Studebaker Landau, restoration revealed that this one was built by Brewster & Company of New York. (Brewster built carriages from 1810 till they started building custom coachwork for cars, especially Rolls-Royce. For a brief time in the early 1900’s they built cars with the Brewster name, but by the 30’s they were gone).
A Landau is a luxurious convertible carriage with a low belt line and large windows, perfect for showing off the occupants and their fancy outfits.
President Abraham Lincoln
This is President Lincoln’s Barouche, used for the trip to Ford’s Theater that evening… it is the last vehicle he rode in alive. His monogram was found on the doors during restoration.
President Benjamin Harrison
President Harrison purchased this Brougham and four other Studebaker carriages in early 1889 for his use as President. A Brougham is an enclosed carriage with an open driver’s area in front.
President Willam McKinley
President McKinley spent much of the unusually hot summer of 1900 at his home in Canton, Ohio. He had Studebaker make him this Phaeton for his use there. In September of 1901, he took this Phaeton to the train station, and boarded the train for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Instead of shaking hands with the President in a receiving line, Leon Czolgosz shot him twice. McKinley was rushed to medical help, but the surgeons could not find one bullet. In the days before antibiotics, removing the bullet before the whole wound went septic was the best bet for saving a life. Ironically, at the same Exposition, a newfangled gadget was being demonstrated: the x-ray machine. If the surgeons had known it was there, and how to use it, McKinley might have lived.
1893 Columbian Exposition
This wagon was built for Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It was built to show off Studebaker’s craftsmanship, and celebrate the many awards they had won over the years. 35 metals are built into the wagon. The box is mainly Rosewood from Brazil, and the inlay is Indiana Hickory. Almost all the metal used in the framework is aluminum, so this wagon is also known as the Aluminum Wagon or Rosewood Wagon. It took over 4,000 hours to build at a cost of $2,110.65. Remember this a decade before that luxury sleigh that cost $168!
1909 Backward – Forward Car
Studebaker not only built horse-drawn vehicles and gas powered cars, they built electric cars for a while. Even after they had been making gas cars for a while, in 1909 the U. S. Government asked them to make a special purpose vehicle. It was to carry people between the newly-completed Senate Office Building and the U. S. Capitol. The route was an underground tunnel, so a gasoline engine was out. The space restrictions in the tunnel wouldn’t allow the vehicle to turn around, so it was made to be driven with controls facing both directions. To head back the other way, the driver would just switch seats to the opposite facing controls. Two of the cars were made: they were named “Peg” and “Tommy”. The could reach the dizzying speed of 12 mph, and carry 11 passengers. They cost $2,400 each. In 1912 a rail system was installed, so Peg and Tommy were relegated to backup use only. By 1915 they were retired. Peg is below, Tommy is in a museum in Pennsylvania.
This is the oldest surviving gas powered Studebaker, a 1904 Model C. After two years making electric cars, they moved entirely to gas. (Except for Peg and Tommy above)
This car sold for $1,600 new, and a canopy top was an extra $150.
Before cars had batteries and electrical systems, the old carriage-style lights were very fickle, blowing out with wind or rain. Prest-O-Lite solved this problem with an acetylene tank mounted on a running board, and gas lines run to the headlights. When ignited with a sparking switch, a reliable light was produced. When cars got electric headlights in the mid ‘teens, Prest-O-Lite moved on to other accessories, and they are still a huge manufacturer of automotive electrical components.
This light system is on a 1913 Studebaker Model 25 Touring Sedan. It sold for $885. (I don’t think that included the Prest-O-Lite).
This is a 1922 Studebaker Big Six – set up as a child’s hearse. Coming out of times when infant mortality was much higher, some funeral homes used special hearses for children. They were white, to represent a child’s innocence. This is the only Studebaker Child’s hearse known to exist. It was only used in one funeral – it later served as a flower carrying car.
This 1928 Studebaker Commander was one of three that set endurance records in late 1927. It drove 25,000 miles in under 23,000 minutes, (the timer kept running during pit stops) for an average of over 65 mph. The car then went across the country for further endurance records.
This car was really huge, but never moved!
1932 President Convertible Coupe. This was the first year Studebaker used a synchromesh transmission, making it easier to shift without double clutching.
I had never heard this discussion of the influence of Radio on society before… interesting reading!
The 1932 President Convertible Sedan featured what Studebaker called its first “All Steel Body”, and the first with Safety Glass. The straight eight engine was the same Studebaker used in the Indy 500.
Are these negative and positive of the same vehicle? Almost…
This is the last Studebaker. When it rolled off the line in 1966 it marked the end of 114 years of vehicle manufacture under the Studebaker name. As is custom, employees signed and initialed many parts in this car.
Post WWII was hard on both Studebaker and Packard. They joined forces, hoping somehow that would help out. Some basically Studebaker cars were badged as Packards and maybe the other way around too.
This 1956 Packard Predictor was designed as a show car in an attempt to revive interest in the brand. It had a 290 hp V8, retractable roof panels and rear window, and Packard’s push button transmission. And some really crazy styling!
When I saw this car, I immediately thought it was a Chrysler Airflow… but it’s not. It is a 1932 Steel Wheel Car. Vincent Bendix commissioned this car to show off Bendix automotive accessories. He named the car Steel Wheel, instead of Bendix, so he wouldn’t compete with other makes that used his parts in their cars. It was shown throughout Europe, but not in the States, for the same reason. Among the clever Bendix components are four wheel hydraulic brakes, independent suspension, front wheel drive, electric vacuum shifting, and a clock in the center of the steering wheel.
Another fascinating Packard:
Some consider the 1953 Champion Starliner Hardtop Studebaker’s crowning achievement, the most beautiful car ever produced. I’m not sure I’d go that far (OK, I’m sure I wouldn’t!) but it is an interesting car. Pretty advanced styling for ’53. Mercedes objected to the three-pointed star on the front, so after the first 3 months of production, Studebaker quit using them. So this is an early ’53.
And then there’s the Avanti. A car so radical, with such a cult following, I felt obligated to use both BOLD and ITALICS in its name. Again, this was a last attempt for Studebaker to shed its stodgy reputation and breathe some life into the marque. The car did have advanced styling, and captured a lot of interest. But there were problems in the making of the Avanti. The company they’d outsourced the fiberglass bodies to couldn’t keep up with production schedules, so Studebaker tried to augment and make some of them in house. The picture below shows executives celebrating the first in-house bodied Avanti.
Pretty aggressive marking hoped the Avanti’s appeal would spread to the rest of the Studebaker line.
This 1963 Avanti made 170.81 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Studebaker desperately trying to generate excitement.
In spite of racing exploits and marketing hype, the Avanti was not enough to keep Studebaker alive…
In the basement of the museum are some cars in storage… These show how desperately Studebaker was searching for a way to survive. Here is a prototype Avanti – styled sedan…
Plans for a “Revolutionary new small car called Autofamilia”… would that have been the first soccer-mom’s mini-van? A radical truck that seemed to lose a lot from concept to construction…
The “Astral” was built in the late 50’s to depict futuristic transportation. It was to be powered with either atomic power or “ionic beams emanating from a higher source”. Really???
This 1959 Lark was used to test out the possibility of a rear engined Studebaker, using the engine from a 1953 Porsche.
It really seems that what killed Studebaker was the lack of solid leadership. If they had been able to focus on doing what they did well, and not chasing after too many whims (and Ion Beams) they might have been still be making Stoodies today.
The Avanti did however, seem to have a life of its own. With it reaching “Cult Car” status, some companies purchased body molds and rights to the car, and expensive Avanti’s were custom made for many years after Studebaker folded.
Fall is Falling… all over our Motorhome! One night I heard a couple large “bumps”, and was sure entire branches had fallen on our roof. Examination showed no branches, but plenty of pine needles. Cherryl had never been on the roof before, and had lots of fun sweeping needles away. I never did find what made those bumps in the night.
RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum
If it seems that all we do is go to museums, well, its starting to seem that way to us as well. But when you are in the heart of automotive history, what can you do? And when in Elkhart, Indiana, the area where most of the RVs in America are manufactured, you have to go to the RV history museum. There are many old RVs, ranging from the really old, to the very unique, to the amazingly weird.
The 1916 Telescoping Apartment
This camper was made to fit in a Model T Ford truck. It had slide outs and even had engine warmed water for a shower. It sold for $100.
1931 Ford Model AA Camp Truck
The Ford AA truck chassis was basically a Model A chassis enlarged a bit. This truck camper has all of 40 horsepower; the same as the Model A cars.
1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer
In ’35 Covered Wagon was the largest trailer builder in the country. One out of six “House Trailers” was theirs. At that time they turned out 45 – 50 trailers per day!
The poster below shows some Fleetwood RVs. A Pace Arrow class A motorhome is on the left, similar to the one my family owned, that Cherryl and I spent our honeymoon in!
Below is the first Pace Arrow. We felt they had come a long way to the unit we used on our honeymoon!
Here is a very utilitarian Salesmen’s Camper. Perfect for those long sales trips…
A while back, in a campground storage area, I found an old aluminum trailer with a Spartan emblem. Reading up on it, I found that J. Paul Getty was hoping to relieve WWII Post War housing shortages with these trailers, featuring all the comforts of home. In spite of names like Imperial Mansion, it was hoped that regular folks could find a comfortable life in one.
I don’t think the sewing machine was original equipment…
1931 Mae West Housecar
Paramount Studios had this housecar built on a ’31 Chevy truck to entice her to leave the Vaudeville circuit and make movies for them. It is more a chauffeur driven lounge than a “Camper”. She was driven in this housecar from home or hotel to shooting sites for many years. It has a small hot plate, and icebox, and a table. It even has a railroad type observation deck on the rear, where she would sit on a rocking chair and enjoy the view.
1939 Lindbergh Travel Trailer
Charles Lindbergh was instantly famous after flying solo across the Atlantic in 1927. He had this trailer designed to serve in his land-bound travels. It has two axles, one at each end. This added to stability when parked, and meant the trailer tongue didn’t need to be jacked up when unhitching. Note the aircraft style instruments and switches.
It was a thrill for me to be able to enter this trailer, and be where “Lucky Lindy” lived while traveling. Amazing.
Here is a Pierce Arrow truck converted into a camper, with styling from a rail road car.
1964 Clark Cortez Motorhome
Clark made heavy equipment, like forklifts and such. They produced this compact and sturdy motorhome from 1961 to 1974. I think they were all the same color scheme. One unique feature is the rear entry door.
In 1973 General Motors unveiled a motorhome that has become a classic. It had a sleek shape, low center of gravity, tandem rear axles, front wheel drive, and easy to service Oldsmobile Toronado running gear. It was a radical departure from the box shaped motorhomes of the day. Like the Avanti, the GMC motorhome reached almost a “Cult Car” status, as proven with this crazy restoration detailed below:
So here is this amazingly expensive restoration, in which they ruined the graceful front end of the normal GMC:
If that is not bizarre enough for you, try out this thing built on a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado chassis and the Olds Toronado engine like the GMC. It was built to fit in a standard garage, by somebody blessed with enormous capital and unencumbered with any sense of grace, style or beauty.
This is a vintage Shasta trailer; surprisingly like the new Vintage Trailers becoming popular again now.
This little town is considered the heart of Amish territory in Indiana.
We went through a Mennonite / Amish center and learned a lot about their history and lifestyle.
I saw my first four person patio glider chair.
Horse drawn wagons are all over the place.
Newmar Motorhome Factory
The highlight of the week was our 2.5 hour tour through the Newmar Motorhome factory. I love any type of factory tour, but this was especially fun, seeing as they built our current home-on-wheels. It was very interesting to see how the motorhomes are built. At Tiffin, they drive the motorhomes from one station to another. Here they have them on “Air pads” that let them push the motorhomes sideways to the next stop. Two guys can easily push the chassis in the beginning, by the time it’s almost finished, it looks like several men do the job. The work crew is about half Mennonite and half Amish, and the atmosphere is friendly and yet very focused. The quality of workmanship is obvious.
Another highlight was that my buddy Ron Whitehead took the tour with us, on his birthday!
The only sad thing is that we were not allowed to take pictures… but maybe that’s a good thing, or I’d still be in there shooting!