We gave our daughter a surprise birthday party in our “home”. It was fun because our grandkids helped decorate and did a pretty good job of not letting the cat out of the bag…
At least Becky acted surprised!
Nothing better than a good bowl of Melting Ice Cream Birthday Cake!
We had a great time for about two weeks at their house, and then it was time to move on. We were headed for Door County, Wisconsin. We are trying to have short driving days, to help us remember we’re retired and don’t have to do 9 hour marathon driving days. So we stopped at a campground in Omro. No frills, just long level sites and electrical hookups. Water and dump station near the office. But only $15. A great place if you are just passing through.
A small peninsula cuts from eastern Wisconsin into Lake Michigan, and creates Green Bay on its western shore. A couple of miles north of the tip of this promontory is Washington Island. The small stretch of water between the peninsula and the island looks fairly safe, but storms can arise almost instantly out of nowhere and turn it into a very treacherous channel. When French trappers arrived here in the early 1600’s, the local Indians told about how many lives had been lost in making that crossing. They gave the channel the attractive name “Porte des Morts”, or “Door of Death”. Over the years the peninsula was called the Door of Death Peninsula, and then just Door Peninsula, and now is officially Door County. We haven’t yet braved crossing the Door of Death, but we sure are impressed with how beautiful everything is here! We had loosely planned to stay maybe five days… but have extended our reservation to ten days.
It has rained a lot since we’ve arrived, but we still love it here. We’ve spent a little time riding bikes through the forest, looking at nice beaches, checking out quaint towns, shopping at huge produce markets, and eating very well! (We have made some awesome scones, and some terrific home made bread in our convection oven. Our first baking in the convection oven has turned out very well, and we are encouraged! Some have said you can’t bake in convection… WRONG!)
Last night was our 43rd anniversary! (Congrats to us!) We went out to dinner and then to an interesting theatrical venue. The Peninsula Players have been doing professional Summer Stock productions for 84 years on the shore of Green Bay! They are the longest running professional summer theater in the country.
The play was called “George Washington’s Teeth”, and I thought as part of my ongoing professional continuing education I really should see it. 😉 It was well done and fun, but the coolest part was the beautiful grounds and facility. Right on the bay, they have a lot of chairs in a lightly wooded area, and a large bonfire. I’ve never sat on a log by a lakeshore 5 minutes before curtain time before! I didn’t take any pictures there, but here is a promo of the company you might enjoy. If you don’t like it, I didn’t make it, so fine…
We are staying at the Wagon Trail Campground near the northern tip of Door County. They claim to “Specialize in Quiet Nights and Secluded Sites”. Our spot is both quiet and secluded, and absolutely gorgeous.
Many trails lead from the campsite off into the forest. Our bikes really aren’t mountain bikes, but managed these trails adequately. Absolutely beautiful!
The water is high now, so lots of docks are low in the water or under water. We’ve had a lot of rain, and sometimes a lot of wind as well.
The little towns are adorable. I plan on shooting architecture photos next week, but here’s a cute house on the highway.
We took a Trolley Tour from Egg Harbor up through the Peninsula State Park and around the old town of Ephraim. The driver/tour guide was a lot of fun, and described almost everything as the “Best in the country” or “Best in the world”. Who knows? Maybe he’s right!
After leaving the scene of the Camporee, we started out towards our kid’s place in Minnesota. We figure being retired gives us the right to only travel a few hours per day… So we spent a quiet weekend in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin on the way. We didn’t see any falls, but did spend some time at the Lake Wissota State Park.
The lake was created in 1917 when a hydroelectric dam was completed at the confluence of five rivers. One of the engineers on the project took the first syllable of Wisconsin and the last two of Minnesota and came up with a name for the lake they created.
A small village was built nearby to house the 700 or so workers that would build the dam. It was complete with water and sewer systems, houses, bungalows, bunkhouses, a central dining hall and a school. In 1918 the dam was producing electricity at a rate equivalent of 1,120 tons of coal per day. Today that’s worth about 16,000 homes.
A surprising amount of the State Park is prairie. Very pretty and makes for nice bike rides (Level!)
Our campsite in Chippewa Falls was quiet and peaceful. We’d requested a site with full hookups, and when I showed up the camp host wanted to show it to me in case I wanted to choose a different site. He was afraid, with our big rig, it would be too difficult to back into. I assured him it turns sharper than one might think, and that I would try it. It involved a reverse U-turn, but with my faithful wife on the wireless radio to guide me, we made it in one seamless turn. He had left, but was watching from a little ways down the road. He then came up and said I needed to give him lessons on backing up; he was very impressed. He talked about that to anyone who would listen all weekend. Funny.
The Camporee ended with a bang, literally, as a HUGE fireworks show lit up the sky forever! I heard many kids say they had never seen a show this amazing! There is only so much an iPhone can do to capture the essence of a fireworks show! It was a fitting culmination of a great time for thousands of happy campers!
The first part of the week the campers left, and we and MANY others took everything apart. The stage alone was put on at least 24 semi trailers. (Some may have left before I could count them). More than 50 semi trailers were filled with other supplies and equipment.
We turned in our golf cart – there were 1,000 golf carts for workers to use. (Coincidentally there were also 1,000 Porta Potties added to the existing bathrooms for the EAA camp).
We watched them stack dumpsters three high, and line them all up, getting ready for something huge to cart them off. I figured over 200 dumpsters in one area alone!
We were privileged to have our new friend Winston, and long time friends Marilyn Oliver and Pastor Ron Whitehead (Head man over all this awesome Camporee) over for dinner after things got a little quieter Monday evening. Winston couldn’t believe he got to meet Ron, so we did a short video so his family would believe him! Winston supervised cooking fresh corn in coconut milk, garlic, turmeric and curry – Fantastic!
It was a little sad to see everything taken apart, and the place empty out… but a little peace was good too!
Last week I tried to go through the EAA museum, but it was insanely crowded. I decided it would be better to do it this week, after the Camporee Crowd had left. After our Maranatha team had finished its work, and the whole place cleared out, I figured I should be able to spend lots of time looking at the fabulous displays in the museum. My new buddy Winston wanted to go too, so we spent the morning at the museum… but not inside. We chose to go outside, to “Pioneer Airport” – a re-creation of a 1930’s style airport. There are plenty of planes to look at in hangers there, but the best part is being able to fly in some of them!
Winston had told me that when he was a young man, growing up in Trinidad, he wanted to be a pilot. He even got accepted into a flying school, but his father squashed the idea. He has only been in a small GA aircraft once. I figured he needed to get in an old biplane! (And of course I did too…)
My flight was in a 1927 Swallow. This particular plane is believed to be the oldest plane still flying paying passengers! It looks pretty good for being 92 years old! The Swallow was designed to support a new industry: air mail. This plane never carried mail, but is special because its first owner was the first woman in the state of New York to own an airplane. She loved flying, and even flew advertising flights for Old Gold cigarettes. (I forgive her)
The Swallow now has a larger engine, still a radial, and has had an electrical system and radio added. But she’s basically the same gal she was in 1927! We did a couple gentle maneuvers; a lazy 8 and a stall. A great way to see the countryside!
My Pilot, sitting in the seat behind me…
Winston’s flight was in a 1929 Travel Air E-4000. Travel Air was state of the art in those days, and built rugged airplanes suited for the grass runways then available. The three principals of the company had worked building the Swallow, and proposed some enhancements to their boss. He refused to listen to any ideas of change, so they all quit, and started Travel Air. Their plane was very successful, but ironically, when it was time to improve on their design, they couldn’t agree which way to go. So they all quit and formed their own companies. They were Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech, and Lloyd Stearman… Those of you who like airplanes will know those names and their companies!
The only crazy thing… we spent our whole time in Pioneer Airport, and I never got to see more of the museum inside. Guess I’ll have to come back! 😉
Pine Harbor Campground
We are now in a pretty wooded campground in Chippewa, Wisconsin. Looking forward to a peaceful weekend.
We spent a lot of last week in Little Creek campground on the border of Iowa and Nebraska. A short drive south took us to the Platte River State Park; another very pretty park where we saw a wild turkey and a couple of empty teepees.
The Teepee Village was very picturesque and available for camping… but with it so hot there were no Indian wannabes.
We had to drive the car and motorhome separately for a while, till we got the car set up to be towed. (Is a Suburban a car or a truck? Comments?) As we were driving, I commented to Cherryl following in the car/truck (by hands free cell phone) how beautiful the farmland scenes were. She replied with far less enthusiasm than I obviously had. I was thinking the cornfields rolling over the gentle hills were gorgeous. Later, once the car/truck was being towed behind our Fudge Ripple, she said she could see what I’d been talking about… “The view is much better from the motorhome!” Sitting higher gives a view over the tops of crops and lets you see the shape of the countryside. Maybe even as high as an elephant’s eye! A great way to travel!
Cherryl eyeing Soybeans…
We have learned a lot about Tasseling… it seems that at exactly the right time, thousands of school kids and maybe retired folks work extremely long, hard hours ripping the tassels off of corn plants. While this might sound like vandalism, it is a necessary step in the production of hybrid seed corn. Only certain select cornstalks are allowed to keep their tassels and pollinate the pretty little silks of the growing corn kernels.
Nice scenery for morning walks…
Midweek we made it to our daughter’s home north of Minneapolis. Great to see the family!
Thursday evening the city of Champlin had a “Touch a Truck” event. Tons of the city and county trucks (really, MANY tons!) were on display, and kids were encouraged to climb on them. And not only climb, but honk horns, turn on lights, and even (if you’re a little boy) rub your hands on greasy tractor parts! (guess how we know that!)
Dayna got in the ambulance, but wouldn’t get in the patient’s stretcher…
This was not a “brief” case!
Everything from Ambulance to Zamboni! Hummers, tractors and tracked toys, blades and backhoes, firetrucks and a fireboat, mega mowers and snowblowers, police cars and even police horses! Great fun for all of us kids!
Even more fun than “Truck Touching” was having my other daughter and grandkids come from Washington! Now the whole family is here, except poor Loren who has to work a few more days. He’ll be with us mid next week however…
Breakfast Banana Splits
How cool is that! Build your own Breakfast Banana Split, with many yogurts, granolas, berries, nuts etc… Fantastic!
L’More Chocolate Shop
An afternoon trip to the cute shop where Becky works as a chocolatier. So many awesome delightful chocolates! Rather difficult to get 4 grandkids to decide on what they want now and later… and keep track of all the exotic flavors of truffles! We left with raspberry, elderberry, peach, key lime, peanut butter, peppermint, and apricot truffles! Life is Good!
My buddy Brad said that I’m not too good at this retirement thing… I keep finding work to do! Well, I’m not doing too well finding cooler climates either! We are now right at the edge of Iowa/Nebraska, in an absolutely gorgeous campground. I didn’t know something this pretty existed in this area! But before I get into all that, a brief wrap-up video by Kim at Union College about the Maranatha project we just finished up. (His shot of the final room still didn’t have all the baseboards and light fixtures up…)
Fantastic Car Museum You Can’t See
My good friend in Lincoln, Terry, has told me of his friend’s car collection. It is a VERY private collection, and you have to know someone (like Terry) to get invited to see it. He has told me how amazing this collection is, but as effusive as he could be, he could never describe what an awesome museum this is!! There are hundreds of cars, not in a warehouse, but in a artfully designed environment that rivals any public car museum anywhere. Trust me, I’ve gone to MANY world class car museums, and this is right up there with the best of them. BUT! No photos allowed… So now I have the impossible task of describing all the cool things we saw. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the black 1933 Duesenberg SJ Boattail… a majestic machine that epitomizes elegance and power, while being absolutely HUGE! Second runner up would be the 1934 Packard V12 Boattail. Long and elegant, another huge but sporty convertible. The detailing on both these cars is fantastic. This room of the collection includes many Auburns, a 812 Cord, a Cadillac from around 1914 (I’m not sure of the date) a couple dozen other rare and amazing cars. A Hudson from the ’30s that the owner raced across the country and won!
Another room has a “Hollywood Corner” with famous movie cars… not replicas, but the actual cars used in movies or TV shows. Like the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard, a time-traveling Delorean from Back to the Future, some George Barris cars like the Munster’s cars, the Monkee’s car, and a whole area of Bat Stuff. Like the original Batmobile (another George Barris Car) in it’s own Bat Cave, with lights flashing on fancy equipment. There is a Bat Cycle, a Bat Boat, and mannequins in Batman and Batgirl garb.
Maybe the largest room has Drag racing cars, actual cars that have won famous races. Dragsters, Stock Cars, plenty of Corvettes… I have already gone on too far without any pictures… Wish you could have been there!!
Mahoney State Park
So after leaving this hidden car museum (no external signage at all) we headed out of town. We stopped for the night at a park near the border of Nebraska and Iowa, and felt it was so beautiful we’d stay a while… Plenty to do nearby, and the park itself has a zip line course, pool and waterpark, driving range and miniature golf, lake with small boats, and two campgrounds. The only drawback is that we thought Lincoln was hot… this place has been scorching! Temps in the high 90’s or as high as 102 for a while. Glad our “home” has good air conditioning!
The Scoundrel of Dagger Gulch
A theater in the park presents corny old-style melodramas during the summer. Great fun, with people (kids) throwing popcorn at the villain and booing and cheering as should be done at any proper melodrama. We were told ahead that in addition to throwing popcorn, we were free to throw wadded up currency… and a surprising amount of that was hurled onstage! The actors would sometimes stop mid-line and grab for it, sometimes race others for it, sometimes stepping on it and sliding it within reach… it was a hilarious addition to an already crazy play.
Guess which one was the villain!
Sass Memorial Iris Garden
Hans, Jacob and Henry Sass worked over 5 decades doing Iris hybridization. In the ’30s and ’40s they introduced many new colors of Iris and developed Iris that did well in the harsh conditions of the prairie. Unfortunately, Iris are not blooming now, but the garden was still pretty.
Strategic Air Command
When I was a kid, the Strategic Air Command was the top of the heap of military excellence. Always ready, amazingly powerful, it was an icon of American ability. The SAC was headquartered in Omaha, so it’s only fitting that they have a huge museum here.
When you enter the building, you are at “eye level” with an SR71, one of the most amazing aircraft ever produced. Created by men with slide rules in the ’60’s, it still holds many speed and altitude records. I’ve been told by some of the very few who got to fly them, that they flew far faster and higher that the Air Force has ever admitted.
The leading edges look sharp enough to shave with, if you could figure out how to hold it…
Inside a B24 Mitchell Bomber like Jimmy Doolittle took on his famous raid of Tokyo after Pearl Harbor.
One of my favorites is the B36… a huge bomber created just at the end of the propeller age and start of the Jet age. Six huge “pusher” props, with 4 jet engines outboard on the wings, to aid in take off. Called the “Peacemaker”, it never flew in wartime, but is an amazing airplane. There are so many planes in the picture below you might have a hard time finding the B36, but the cockpit is to our left, three props are visible behind the wing, and two jets further outboard. Far too big of a plane to get in one little picture!
The XF-85 “Goblin” was an attempt to have a fighter escort for the B36 bomber… that rode inside the bomber and was dropped out when defense was needed. The part about flying it back into the bomber was too tricky, however, so the project was abandoned.
I had a toy CH-21B helicopter like the one in the picture below. It was very big, and had motorized rotors that would spin and make it very difficult to play with!
Another noteworthy plane is the U2, which caused no end of trouble when Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Russia and convicted of spying… this is not his U2; I think the Russians still have what’s left of his.
One evening we had a nice visit from Angie, one of the hygienists in my former dental practice. She teaches dental hygiene in Iowa, and was kind enough to come visit us in our wheeled home (and bring cookies!) Really fun to catch up with her! And really negligent of me not to take a picture!
The Durham Museum
The Union Pacific Railroad built what may be their flagship station in Omaha. This Union Station was opened in 1931, as one of the country’s first art deco stations. Since the UP stopped passenger train service a few decades ago, the station has been restored to its original splendor and is now the Durham Museum. Great exhibits on history of the area and the nation, trains you can walk through, model trains, a whole section on the Trans-Mississippi Exposition… I walked and read till I thought my feet would fall off.
There are many sculptures of folks waiting for trains, buying tickets, or moving luggage. If you get close to them, you can listen to their conversations!
I had to include this young guy, because he is named “Hollis” after a famous influential local. Or after one of my favorite Uncles…
A Rauch & Lang electric car – “The Car of the Elect”. (I won’t even try to guess what that was all about!) With a 70 mile range, it was a great car for elite city dwellers. The truck is a 1932 Douglas; built in Omaha, Douglas produced very sturdy trucks and no passenger vehicles.
Big tall gas pumps like this one had a large glass cylinder that would fill with fuel, then you could watch it drain down into your tank. An early way to make sure you were getting an honest measurement! (Note the 16 cents per gallon sign, with a huge percentage being taxes!)
I really enjoyed the exhibit on the Trans-Mississippi Exposition. In 1898, hundreds of buildings were erected with a large lagoon in the center. It was an era when people were hungry for new experiences and knowledge. The buildings were lit with electric lights, and at dusk thousands would gather to watch the buildings come ablaze with light one at a time, creating a light show of a sort. Many had never seen electric light- none had seen that many lights! Some of the things that lots of people saw for the first time:
Electric Incandescent Lights
Electric Horseless Carriage
It’s fun to imagine how amazing this Expo would have been!
If you’d never had electricity, how cool would this fan have seemed!
Ever ridden in an ostrich-drawn carriage? (Notice that it’s a Studebaker!)
Next week we will move a bit farther north… maybe we will find some cooler weather!
Our Kids have been talking about the beauty of Leavenworth for a long time now. The image that came to my mind was this:
By Americasroof – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8727865
But it turns out they were right! (Imagine that!) Leavenworth, Washington is a very charming mountain town that looks transplanted from Switzerland. We had so much fun, and I took so many pictures, that I haven’t had time to get them together for this blog. So here are a few pictures from a walk in a park in Leavenworth. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get the rest of the adventure online…
Working our way to Lincoln, Nebraska, we stopped in Independence. As with so many of the towns we visit, there is a lot of interesting architecture.
There are several denominations of churches within a few blocks… always interesting to see. These two were so close I thought it would be illustrative of how tightly packed the churches were… and then realized it is an addition to an existing, growing church.
A horse drawn history tour:
President Harry Truman lived in this house, and used it as a Summer White House:
A nice “Peace Park” is watched over by this elegant little lady:
After seeing so much traditional architecture, it was slightly surprising to come across this interesting spire:
We were naturally drawn to it… turns out is is a temple for the Community of Christ; which seems to be a “Reformed” LDS denomination. There were lots of cars in the parking lot, so we dared to enter. We were just in time for the last number of a fantastic Choral Concert. Awesome acoustics in the hall were perfect for the beautiful choir.
In a storage area of our campground I spotted an old silver trailer. I knew it wasn’t an Airstream, but thought it might be a Silver Streak or another make I knew as a kid. It turned out to be a Spartan Mansion… Spartan was an aircraft manufacturer in the early 1900’s. J. Paul Getty bought the company around 1935, and with housing shortages in WWII started using aircraft manufacturing techniques to build portable housing. There were a couple of models with palatial names like “Manor” and “Mansion”. While a “Spartan Mansion” may seem like an oxymoron, they were quite nice for their time, and a refurbished 1951 Mansion sold recently for $350,000. Not this one:
After arriving in Lincoln, we parked our “home” at Union College. We love this school, where both our daughters spent some time, so we have volunteered to help Maranatha upgrade the girl’s dorm. The volunteer time starts in about 3 weeks, so we have time to Jet to Washington to see our kids and help Karen close out the school year and inventory her kindergarten classroom.
Karen has been wanting to build a teepee for a while. When finding that several of her kindergarten class didn’t have a clue what a teepee was, she decided to get it done. Here is how you build a teepee in less than 40 seconds:
Show and Tell
Bryan’s second grade class was to have a “Show & Tell” day… and Bryan wanted to bring the lawn mower, because he enjoys mowing the lawn. Since that seemed a bit unwieldy, we decided to document a bit of mowing. The K-2 classes found this great fun:
My son-in-law Loren has bought into a beautiful plane- a Piper Cheyenne. A pressurized turbine twin, it has seats for 7 and looks fast even sitting in its hanger!
Outside the hanger are several helicopters, including an old Bell helicopter that seemed to be meticulously restored. It made me think of the old “Whirlybirds” TV show I saw as a kid. Cool.
Flight to Lewiston, Idaho
Just in case you haven’t been fortunate enough to read it in previous blogs, my son-in-law Loren is an Ophthalmologist working for a great company that flies surgeons and teams to cities all over the northwest. And I bum rides when I can, for the simple pleasure of flying right seat in beautiful Citation Jet III’s. It’s quite a ride! Smooth, quiet, with amazing acceleration. We had moderate icing on the way to Lewiston, Idaho, and rain all the way back. No big deal. Just fast and fun!
Last day of School
The final day of class had lots of fun, food and frivolity!
And now the Friday night sunset that closed the final day of school:
The Corvette below was the personal car of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the “Godfather” of Corvettes, from vision, design and development. While he obviously drove any number of ‘Vettes, this is the only one he ever purchased.
I’m sure the only reason I’m so fond of Corvettes is that we share the same birthday. On my 50th birthday (a few years ago) my good buddy Gary let me drive both his 50th anniversary Corvette convertible, and his 50 year old ‘vette! What a treat!! Thank you Gary! (His looks exactly like the title shot above). That same year we were driving through Bowling Green, Kentucky, where the Corvettes are made, and spent some time in the National Corvette Museum. Since it was the 50 year celebration, there were literally acres of Corvettes parked everywhere; on grass fields as well as paved parking lots surrounding the factory and museum. It’s a really fantastic museum, with more Corvettes, Corvette history and memorabilia than a person can take in. But I tried!
Below is an interesting tidbit about the original Corvette emblem…
This ’53 has been cut away to show you its innards. I won’t show you mine…
Another ’53 as a mosaic, with thousands of tiny shots. I love these.
This one looks a lot like my Uncle Hollis’ Corvette. He stored it at my house one year and I had to keep it exercised occasionally.
Just before Valentine’s day in 2014, at 5:39 in the morning, the ground shook under the largest domed display room in the museum. Then the floor literally dropped out… a huge sinkhole caved in the area supporting 8 cars! Some of the Corvettes fell about 40 feet, as rocks and earth fell all around them. Some were buried so deeply that they were only found by digging exploratory holes in the rubble. The entire sinkhole fit within the perimeter of the display room, with most of the cars around the edges remaining where they were. The cars were eventually hoisted out of the newly formed cavern, and several were restored. Three were so badly mangled that restoration would be impossible, so they are now displayed as they were brought up. Pretty grim! The event made world-wide news, and prompted a lot of jokes too…
The least damaged car was still drivable:
Some folks laugh a bit at Branson, MO… saying that’s where entertainers go out to pasture or whatever. But I’ll admit we find a lot to like here. On a previous trip we saw a group called SIX. All brothers (guess how many!) who have been singing together forever. They are fantastic! So we got front row seats to see them again! They not only sing well, harmonize incredibly, but also make all the band sounds with their mouths. Percussion, horns, crazy sound effects – all done in an awesome fast paced show that… well, I guess you can tell I really liked it! Just before the intermission, one of the SIX, spiky haired Kevin, said he was going to give a CD to someone very special… looked around the front row, and gave it to Cherryl! He then asked our names, and where we were from. We told him we were nomads, and lived in our motorhome. Then during the break we had a nice couple ask us about motorhome living- so we got to meet some new friends! A great concert!
Silver Dollar City
My favorite attraction in Branson is Silver Dollar City, a very cool amusement park themed in the 1880’s. There are world-class roller coasters, other rides for all ages, and lots of old-time shops. Blacksmiths, carpenters, leather workers and more work at their trades and answer questions about how things were done back then. It is very hard to ignore fun things like funnel cakes, pecan rolls and sourdough bread. You might even find some great ice cream… What is most appealing about the place it its wholesome atmosphere… there seems to be just a warm friendly vibe; patriotic and Christian, but definitely not pushy. Very nice.
One machine from the 1880’s surprised me- a device to make dovetail joints…
There are lots of animals in the park too. Here is a Western Mediterranean donkey, said to be probably like the one Mary rode to Bethlehem. This one made this blog because she shares my sister Lori’s birthday. But thankfully that is about all they have in common…
The start of Silver Dollar City is actually Marvel Cave. Indians found it by mistake in the early 1500’s when one of them fell in the opening and was never seen again. When they saw “steam” rising from a cave opening, they decided it was an evil place. They notched the trees all around to warn other Indians to stay away. This accounts for the fact that almost no Indian artifacts were found in the cave, unlike most caves in the area. Starting in the late 1800’s there were tours offered, if you didn’t mind climbing down a long rope, a 70 foot ladder, and then wearing special leather overalls with reinforced rear ends as you scooted down a huge debris field. This would get you to the bottom of the Cathedral Room, which is the largest cavern room in the country. From there you could explore by candlelight, and when done use a pickaxe to hike back to the ladder and rope.
By the mid 1900’s stairs had been installed, and a better exit built, and tourism soared. To entertain people as they waited in line, shows were put on. Then more exhibits, and more shows, and it expanded over the decades into what is now Silver Dollar City. So really, SDC is the waiting room for cave tours!
The cave is visited by heading down 500 or so stairs, into the Cathedral room. This room is about 20 stories high; a room so vast that the Statue of Liberty could stand upright (If she could get down the stairs). Then, through the Serpentine passage, and down to a long waterfall into an underground lake. From there you climb a little bit, and get on a train to take you out the back of the cave and back up top.
Except. When a lady in the tour ahead of you has a medical problem at the very bottom, your tour has to wait partway through, watch the emergency people go past you, and eventually have your tour cut short and reverse direction. So no train to the top… lots of climbing up stairs! We never did hear about the lady at the bottom. Hope she’s not still there!
By the mid- 1880’s, Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor, and frankly, was doing very well for himself. He came to Fort Myers, Florida, not only for relaxation but for a tropical location for his research. He was an avid botanist, and was seeking (among many other things) to find plants that could be a source for rubber. He tested over 17,000 plants, and finally settled on Goldenrod. Who would have guessed it?
Anyway, he purchased some riverfront property, and built it into a beautiful estate. The only existing structure was enlarged to become the caretaker’s house and garages. He built a pier extending almost a quarter mile into the river to a spot deep enough for ships bringing building supplies. A beautiful two story home was built, a large lab building, and even a pool and pool house. Not surprisingly, the estate had electric power, supplied by his own generators. He was hoping to electrify all of Fort Myers, but that didn’t happen for another decade.
Here is the caretaker’s house and the garages:
The remains of the pier; used first for supplies, then sports boating:
The main house:
The “Midnight Garden”, originally featuring flowers that looked best at night:
Even some original wicker furniture from Edison’s time:
Henry Ford was one of Edison’s employees as a young man. Later on they became strong friends, and Ford often visited Edison in his Florida estate. The owner of the house closest to Edison’s property decided to sell, and he knew Henry Ford was a friend and frequent visitor of Edison. He told Ford he’d really like to sell only to him, so the friends could be close. Ford bought not only the house, but all the furnishings, ready to move in. Edison would spend a few months a year in his southern estate, but Ford usually only came down a couple of weeks, mostly around Edison’s birthday.
Ford’s estate had been named “The Mangoes” for the huge number of very fruitful mango trees, but there were plenty of oranges and other “exotic” fruit trees. The properties have beautiful views of the river, and plenty of Palm Trees and flowers. An astounding variety of orchids grace the property.
Ford tried a few times to start automobile companies before he got it right… he left one of them, the Henry Ford Company, after only three months, because he didn’t like where the company was headed. After he left, it was restructured, and renamed “Cadillac”. The first Cadillac was a 10 hp car, pretty much a Henry Ford design.
Edison’s large lab has been moved to Ford’s Museum of American Innovation, but a “smaller” lab is still here:
The museum is fabulous. Thomas Edison was going deaf as he grew older, but still insisted on listening to and approving all music to be recorded and sold on his phonographs. He found if he could bite the wooden frame holding the phonograph, he could hear the music. It made me think of my favorite deaf jazz singer! (Love you Mandy!)
Of course the Model T is what made Henry Ford famous: he literally changed the world with this car! This particular car was a gift from Ford to Edison.
Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone liked to go camping and explore the Everglades. They built a “Motorhome” on a Ford Model T. It had a tank for water, and a few drawers for supplies, and when the drawers were removed there might have been a bit of space inside! Notice the stove and picnic basket beside the motorhome:
Speaking of motorhomes… that brings me to:
Our Next Chapter…
We have sold our beautiful boat, GRACE. We had an awesome time living on the water, but it was causing the dollars to flee my retirement account too rapidly. We decided it was time to change the adventure a bit… So our next nomadic home has wheels! We have now moved aboard a big ole’ motorhome. Quite different from Henry’s Model T.
Last week I talked about Frank Lloyd Wright’s design principles for his Usonian Houses. Our motorhome mimics these concepts in some ways:
He loved long horizontal lines. The motorhome is very linear, and all the air conditioners and antennae are hidden from view so the lines remain clean. The entryway is rather tight, making you slightly uncomfortable and compelling you to go farther in. When you round the corner and see the living area, it is much wider and far more open, almost making you say “Wow!” This is where you are supposed to relax and feel like staying. This is both the living and dining areas, with the kitchen right opposite. The kitchen area is small, but at least the cook is close to others in the living area. The home has most of the furniture built in, so there’s little room for rearranging it! There is lots of indirect lighting, and the attempt is to let the nature outside be the focus. The bedroom is smallish (but still has room for a King Sized bed). Does that sound like my description of Wright’s design? Yes, because I almost copied it from last week’s blog!
Ok, our new home differs significantly from a Usonian House, starting with the fact that it has wheels! It has a large diesel engine to push it around, so the view always changes. We actually have a bath and a half, which is more than Wright put in the Florida house. It drives beautifully, and gets pretty good mileage for a house!
So the months of research into portable housing has finally culminated in a 2017 Newmar Dutch Star. Maybe I’ll put up a page about it like I did about Grace, in case folks have questions. Like the boat, it sometimes feels VERY LARGE, like when you back into a tight spot… and sometimes it feels SO SMALL, when you try to fit everything you own inside!
We get Library Cards!
When our dear friend Giny asked how nomads get library cards, we replied that we still had our cards from Colorado, and would use them till they found out we don’t live there anymore. But we got to thinking… what if they did find out (don’t tell!) – we could have our library cards revoked! So we stopped by the library in Green Cove Springs, where our mailing address is, and got shiny new Floridian library cards! Of course we can only use them for eBooks and Audiobooks, but that is a great asset. We also got to pose as Astronaut and Space Alien, and had the librarian take our picture. What a day!
Chasing the Next Horizon
From now on, we will be searching for our next horizon on land… we hope you will follow us there!
For ages I’ve heard jokes about the tallest mountain in Florida – Mount Dora. Sitting in view of 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, we’d laugh at the something like 500 foot Mount Dora. So when we were driving along and saw the turnoff for this famous mountain, we had to take it!
With an elevation of 184 feet above sea level, Mount Dora is hardly nosebleed inducing. In fact, it’s hardly a hill. This is the name of a town. There is no mountain or hill in sight. But cease your laughter, because there is a taller place in Florida – Britton Hill, with an elevation of 345 feet! It almost doesn’t count, because it is just a couple inches south of Alabama. If the guy drawing the dotted line between the two states hiccuped, the hill might have been in Alabama. From our intensive internet searching, this intersection is the highest point in Mount Dora:
We’ve had a great time in Manatee Hammock, but it was time to head a little farther south. So we left this beautiful, natural campsite…
The morning we were leaving, a little lizard climbed the tree right outside our window and watched us eat breakfast. He must have liked what he saw, because he did some showing off for us, puffing out his brilliantly colored throat !
Cypress Trail RV Resort
We’ve moved to a fancy RV spot just south of Fort Myers, Florida. The “campsites” are paved, the grass is neatly trimmed, and there are a few billion dollars’ worth of RV’s here. The sites are sold like condos… most owned by folks who spend the winter here in their RV and then head back north when it gets this hot. We will head north next week, without buying a spot here! It really is beautiful, with lots of flowers, gorgeous skies, plenty of birds, a few rabbits, and I even saw an armadillo! The Nine-Banded armadillos, like so many people, aren’t from here, but have moved in to stay.
I put together a very short little overview of the Resort:
I have had quite a few folks ask about some of my photography, especially if they’d seen the prints in my former Dental Office. I had a lot of pictures printed on metal, which makes them look really great. So I have finally put together a Photo Website! It is a work in progress, and hopefully will have more photos added frequently – both new pix and some from the archives. Feel free to check it out at www.McArthurArts.com