We're here . . . .
Well, 1550 miles later, we arrive in Hattiesburg, MS. Not without incident, however. In Birmingham, AL today we had a tire issue on the trailer. God Bless that truck driver that saw our tire go flat and honked a warning to us before it blew (Steve said it was hot when he touched it). We've had a number of angels along the way who helped us at just the right time. God was definitely keeping a keen eye on us as we traveled down here. For that we are grateful.
The weather down here is what you would expect. Isaac clouds hang very heavy over us right now. They are extremely dark and almost close enough to touch. Sort of eerie. We've seen some flooding too. The rivers are moving quickly and we passed a golf course that was completely under water - kind of like Cottonwood Creek Golf Course on Central Avenue.
Just wanted you to know that we made it and are going to settle in for a good night's sleep. Our workday is 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. but at least they feed us. MMMMMMM. Powdered mash potatoes and canned green beans here we come!!!!!!
Good night people and thank God that you don't live in Mississippi or Louisiana. If Steve and I get off duty earlier than expected we may stop in and visit our friends in Waveland, MS. They were, once again, hit hard so we just want to stop and give them a hug or something.
Change in our Plans
Hello everyone. We wanted to let you know that we've had a change in plans. As you are all aware by now, Hurricane Isaac is building out in the Gulf of Mexico and scheduled to make landfall sometime tonight or early tomorrow morning. What you probably didn't know is that Steve and I are fully trained in Shelter Operations and Mass Care for the American Red Cross. As such, we have been deployed to Hattiesburg, MS, where the Red Cross has set up a large shelter for persons located in the Gulf region. We left New Hampshire this morning and are currently cruising through Connecticut and headed toward Pennsylvania, our eventual stop for the evening. Tomorrow we will continue our 1,500-mile journey to Mississippi in order to reach the shelter by late Thursday or early Friday morning and begin work. At this point, we know we will be there up to 21 days, but that's all we know.
It has been an interesting drive so far as we cross back over some of the path we have already taken. Seeing some of the sights again has been a pleasant trip down memory lane for Steve and I. We will be spending the night in Wilkes-Barre, PA which is just south of Scranton. It's funny, but since we left Stroudsburg, PA several weeks ago, we've had Scranton local channels through our dish service the entire time we were in Watkins Glen and Henderson Harbor, NY as well as our time in Vermont and even in New Hampshire. Who knew that Scranton would have such a powerful TV station?
Anyway, we are asking for your prayers today. We would like you to pray for the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as they prepare for yet another disaster to befall them. If you will recall, Steve and I spent a good deal of time in the Gulf Coast this past winter. During our stay, we met numerous people and visited numerous communities that endured the difficulties that Katrina brought. In some cases, they are still rebuilding some seven years later. So keep these people in your prayers. It must be so difficult to just get over one hurricane only to be faced with another. Pray also for safe travel for Steve and I. We are dragging Big Red with us as we head south and this 50 feet of metal train (and 22,000 pounds as well) is a chore for Steve to manage long periods of time on the road.
Thanks everyone and we'll keep you posted.
"Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing."
– George Sheehan
HOLA! How's everyone? We're doing great and enjoying our time in Vermont. Our campground is on Lake Champlain near the city of Swanton, Vermont which is funny because our farmhouse was in Swanton, Ohio. Anyway, this campground is quite a trip in that it is "little Quebec". The vast majority of the people here are French-speaking Canadians with seasonal trailers. It is very strange to be sitting at our campfire and hearing everyone around us speaking French. We felt like the foreigners. Our friends, Glenn and Lori Paton, would be right at home here!!!!
What an absolutely lovely part of the country. Seriously, if you Googled the phrase "bucolic country scene", pictures from Vermont would appear. Steve and I really took a great deal of this type of scenery in one afternoon while doing a tour of Vermont's covered bridges. The bridges we saw were in Franklin and in the towns of Belvidere, Cambridge and Waterville. Most of these bridges were built by the Jewett Brothers during the period of 1865 to 1890. (Attached is a link to a website that can give you more information if you are interested: http://www.virtualvermont.com/coveredbridges/index.html). These bridges were not on the roads used today. Quite the contrary. These bridges were along roads that are quite narrow but used to be the main thoroughfares in the area during this time. The cutest little towns are all around them and we stopped and had lunch in one of them. What a delightful afternoon we had driving through the Green Mountains and experiencing some of the back road Americana we so enjoy.
Speaking of delightful, Steve and I got to play Bingo at the Knights of Columbus in the town of St. Albans. We didn't win anything but it was just nice to play again. Steve calls it "dabbin fever" and it is really quite addicting. Anyway, we met a very nice woman named Jeri who is an older widow. She showed us how to play the new games that we were not familiar with and she even won $130. She was so excited. Good for her!
Once again, Steve and I took a boat cruise. I don't know what it is about these cruises that I love, but I really do find them to be so relaxing. Anyway, we sailed along Lake Champlain and learned all about the important role that this lake played in the Revolutionary War. Did you know that this was the site of one of the most important naval battles? And it was fought by none other than Benedict Arnold (before he became a traitor). Again, there is more to the story than I can write here, so I am attaching a link to the website that will tell you the story. Please enjoy it: http://www.lcmm.org/shipwrecks_history/history/history_revolution.htm.
So, okay, more about the lake. It is 125 miles long and 14 miles across. Rivers extending from it flow as far north as Quebec and as far south as the Hudson River into New York's harbor. The deepest point is 400 feet but most of the lake is between 60-100 feet deep. There are several large ships that have sunk in this lake and remain there for scuba diving adventures. If you are a scuba enthusiast, consider this as a vacation stop. In addition to the boat cruise, we explored a little of the town of Burlington which is a very cool town right on the lakeshore. Organized as an official city in 1785, it is the largest city in Vermont and is the home to the University of Vermont. We made a stop at Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory and enjoyed some of the locally made delights they had to offer. MMMMM MMMMM!
One of the coolest things we did while in the area was take a hike in the Ausable Chasm, which is just south of Plattsburg, New York, on the other side of Lake Champlain from where we were staying. This was an amazing site, not just because of the natural beauty of the gorge, but because of the stories the gorge would tell us. First, of course, is the story of the glaciers that created the gorge in the beginning. But in addition to that, in 1996, this area of New York was hit with a tremendous cold and snowy winter and an ice dam was formed downriver from the gorge. This ice dam broke loose and a torrent of flood waters came through the chasm, ripping out the metal walkways and bridges erected for the tourist attraction. It had suffered so much damage that then President Clinton declared it to be a Federal disaster area. Then, in 2011, Hurricane Irene came through the northeast and, once again, raging flood waters were sent through this gorge and destroyed much of what was rebuilt in 1996. One trail is still closed to the public. There was evidence of these two disasters left in places along the trail and it was incredible to see the twisted metal ruins of what used to be a bridge or a walkway just laying by the side of the river. Anyway, the gorge itself is two miles long and is an enjoyable hike. There are more than 400 steps involved in the hike that we took (the yellow and green trails) but it wasn't too bad. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
Our last adventure really wasn't an adventure at all. We visited the Shrine of St. Anne for Sunday services. This shrine, located on the Isle la Motte on Lake Champlain, rests on what was originally a french fort built in 1666. The fort was dedicated to St. Anne de Beaupre and therefore, the shrine was also given the same name. It currently houses a lovely little open-air chapel where we attended services as enjoyed an excellent view of the beautiful Lake. We walked the grounds and admired the Stations of the Cross that they have erected right on the shoreline. In addition to that, there is a statute dedicated to Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who first discovered this area. Afterwards, we took a walk on the sandy beach of Alburg Dunes State Park. While walking on the beach, it was very obvious to us how low water levels are in this area. Rivers and streams seem to be a bit low, but while walking on the beach it became quite evident to us that the lake appears to be 6-8 feet lower than normal. Last summer when Hurricane Irene came through, water levels were at an all-time high (for obvious reasons). Just one year later, however, water has become quite the precious commodity to this waterfront community. The number of docks that were completely out of the water along the lake shore spoke to just how bad things have become here.
Alrighty, on to New Hampshire. We plan to do some serious hiking in the state parks near our new campground so we promise some excellent pics next week. Until then, take care.
Love you all!
Henderson Harbor, NY
"It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."
– Winston Churchill
Good Monday morning, y'all. Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Our dear Kasey Kahne brought us 13 points this week in the race at MIS, so we're happy. We are literally vaulting up the leaderboard on the NASCAR pool that we're in. Yahoo!
This week, Steve and I spent time in the 1000 Islands region of upstate New York. This region borders the St. Lawrence River that runs between Lake Ontario and the Atlantic Ocean. The water here, despite being a sister to Lake Erie, is the most beautiful shade of blue/green and very very clean. Apparently, this cleanliness of the water is being attributed to the zebra mussel. A single one of these creatures can filter a liter of water in a 24-hour period. What started out to be a problem for the Great Lakes has turned out to be a blessing once the scientists discovered that the zebra mussel hates copper. The shipping industry has since replaced their ballast tanks (how the zebra mussels got here in the first place) with copper and all is well with them.
Steve and I took a cruise on the St. Lawrence River. We left from a town called Alexandria Bay which is apparently where all the richy riches spend their summers. In fact, country singer Alan Jackson was going to buy a 32 million home on the Canadian side of the river but the deal fell through. Check out the pictures that Steve took of these summer homes. Holy Cats! The cruise was quite delightful and it was even an international adventure as we crossed into Canada during our sail down the river. We passed by a statue of St. Lawrence, for whom the river was named, who is holding a gridiron. Our tour guide told us that the former missionary was martyred for his faith, being roasted on a gridiron similar to the one the statue is holding. Because he was the keeper of the treasures of the church, he has become the patron saint for bankers. Another interesting piece of information we learned while on the tour was that the 1000 Island dressing was created in this area and made famous by George Boldt, one of the area's residents. Mr. Boldt was the General Manager of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City and he took this salad dressing to the hotel and served it there. The rest is history!
While on this cruise, we stopped at Heart Island to tour the Boldt Castle. What an impressive site this was. First off, the island was not in the shape of a heart. It was originally owned by someone named "Hart" but when George Boldt bought it, he change the name to "Heart" and built a mansion as a tribute to the love he had for his wife, Louise. The house is six stories high, has 127 rooms, and is designed to look like a 16th century castle. The grounds contain an Italian garden, a dove-cote (where Mrs. Boldt was to keep her birds), its own powerhouse, a playhouse (the Alster Tower that looks sort of Hobbit-esque) and an entry arch that is quite impressive. The house was to take many years to construct but sadly, 18 months before its completion, Mrs. Boldt suddenly died and all work on the house stopped abruptly and to this day, the house stands incomplete. In 1977, the Thousand Island Foundation purchased the property and has been undergoing a restoration project ever since. What you see in the pictures is all that they have accomplished to date, which so far has cost $20 million. Approximately 60% of the house still needs to be addressed.
Across the river from the house, on Wellesley Island, is the Boldt yacht house. This structure was totally cool and housed the various boats that the Boldt family owned, one of which was a houseboat that was 108 feet long. This yacht house also includes a shop which was used to build many racing launches and the house held the quarters for the Boldt's captain and his crew. Quite impressive. Apparently the Boldt daughter, Clover, was quite the racing enthusiast, which for the time was unheard of. I would have liked her.
This area of the country is so beautiful that Steve and I decided to take some of it in on a bike tour at the Robert Wehle State Park, which is 1,067 acres with 17,000 feet that runs along the cliff edges of Lake Ontario. It is interesting to note that previous to Mr. Wehle owning this property, it was used as a rifle range for the U.S. Army during World War II. The day that we took this bike trip was very windy, which made the water very active and the surf quite high. This activity provided us some awesome pictures of the waves breaking against the cliffs. It was such a spectacular sight that Steve and I took some time to just sit and appreciate the beauty of God's creation. Robert Wehle bought this property and used it as a place for him to breed and train English Pointers. If you are ever in the area, we highly recommend visiting this park and taking the Snakefoot trail along the lakefront.
Our last adventure was a visit to Clayton, New York - - home of the Antique Boat Museum and the Antique Race Boat Regatta. The museum houses the giant houseboat of the Boldt's (mentioned above) as well as a good number of antique wooden racing boats, some of which were designed by the famous Gar Wood. Some of these boats were racing out in the bay the day we visited, which was fun to watch. Ken Warby, the man who set the speed record on water (317 mph), was there for the race as well. He set the record in 1978 and it stills stands today.The town of Clayton is the cultural center of the Thousand Island Region and is very quaint with beautiful Victorian and Craftsman homes and worth a visit if you are in the area.
So that's the fun stuff. We also had some misadventure as well. The week started with us getting a flat tire on the BAT. Apparently we had run over a giant piece of angle iron that lodged itself in the interior tire of the right rear of our truck. This piece of iron was so large that Steve could not pull it out of the tire. We had to spend $250 for a new tire, but that's only the beginning. While checking the air pressure on the trailer tires before our move to Vermont, Steve discovered that one of the aluminum wheels had cracked all the way through. Thank God that he saw that before we took off because that wheel could have collapsed and fallen off its axle somewhere along our drive to Vermont. That, thankfully, is a warranty item so it will not be out-of-pocket expense because I am sure that won't be cheap to replace. We've certainly had a streak of misfortune lately (if you will recall we had a serious disagreement with a tree branch in Connecticut), but we are not discouraged.
Ok, gotta run and pack the trailer for Vermont. We are staying in an RV park right on Lake Champlain, which promises a number of picture-worthy scenes. Until then, have a great week.
Watkins Glen, New York
"You miss 100% of the shots you never take."
– Wayne Gretsky
HOLA from New York. At present, we are stationed in a KOA on a small island on Lake Ontario. We finished out our week at Watkins Glen with a most exciting finish to the race on Sunday. We had Marcos Ambrose in the NASCAR pool so we were very happy that he took every chance he had to take the lead on that last lap. The above quote is in honor of him and the 15 points he brought us!!!!
Alright, so let me tell you about the Finger Lakes area of New York. It's about a 10 hour drive from the Detroit area and I highly recommend you making the trip. This area is absolutely gorgeous. There are lakes and mountains everywhere which makes for an overflow of scenery options. The area is also famous for its wineries which all offer tastings and tours. Lake Seneca has quite a few that are on its shores and there is even a wine trail that follows the perimeter of the lake leading back to Watkins Glen. The town also has numerous marinas that rent boats and jet skis. There are also a number of beaches too. Steve and I had such a wonderful time in this area. Please do consider this as a vacation option. You won't be sorry.
Alright, on to our activities. Our first trip was to Watkins Glen State Park. WOW. Talk about beautiful. There is quite an impressive gorge in this park and the state's parks department did a nice job paving a trail from one end of the gorge to the other. There were a number of steps involved (820 to be exact), but it was not excessively strenuous as these steps are spread throughout the 1 1/2 mile hike through the park. As we walked along, we were also treated to a number of rainbows that were produced from the waterfalls. Steve tried to capture these, and he did a nice job, but rainbows are truly something you have to see in "real life" to appreciate them fully. Nature is so cool, don't you think?
Steve and I enjoyed a really nice boat ride around Seneca Lake one evening. It was a dinner cruise that offered a great blues band for entertainment. It was very informal (they offered a hamburger buffet as the dinner fare) and we really just cruised along, listening to some good music, and relaxing. There are a number of beautiful homes on the lake that were fun to see as well as very nice sail boats. The sunset was also quite spectacular. Nice evening.
One of the coolest things we did this week was visit the Corning Museum of Glass. As some of you know, I am a huge fan of glass art, so for me this was a special time. I took a number of pics of some of the cooler things on display at the museum, along with the explanation of what they are, so that you can appreciate them too. In addition to glass in art, the museum also has a technical side to it as well. We learned about the development of safety glass and other types of glass used in automotive applications. We also learned about fiber optics and the benefits of these glass fibers over old copper wiring. Very interesting. My favorite part of the day was watching the master glasssmith of the museum take a lump of very hot glass and make a vase out of it. The whole thing took her 20 minutes, start to finish, but the vase sells for $200 in the gift shop. WOW. That's not a bad hourly rate! She is really quite talented and travels on cruise ships for four months of the year and does glass classes for the passengers. She is headed to the Mediterranean for four months this winter. Nice work if you can get it - - no?
Since we are nature lovers, Steve and I drove about an hour west to Letchworth State Park, which is the "Grand Canyon of the East". This canyon is some 600 feet deep and is quite lovely. The Genesee River flows through it and produces three very lovely waterfalls within the park. The Middle Falls is the highest of the three (107 feet) and gave us a double rainbow when we were there. Steve tried to capture on film but was unsuccessful. So too bad - - we saw it and if you want to see it you will have to visit the place yourself. :)
Ok, the rest of our time was spent at the track watching both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races. This is a road course track and not the standard oval so we had a very limited vantage point in terms of what was happening during most of the race. There was a nice jumbotron across from our seats so we watched it on the TV, which we could have done from home and saved the $300 we spent on tickets and radios. Oh well, we had fun and that's what matters, but if you are a Nascar fan that likes to watch all the action live and are thinking about this track, think twice before you commit. You may be very disappointed.
Alright, that's it for this week's update. Steve and I are chilling up here on Lake Ontario and have no real plans for the week. Sometimes not having plans and letting life take you where it may produces the nicest surprises. We are hoping that all of you are well and doing fine. We love and miss you very much. Take care guys.
"We cannot swing up on a rope that is attached only to our own belt."
– William Ernest Hocking
I love this quote. Think about it -- who are you placing all your hopes and dreams on? Yourself? I know who all my trust resides in!
Anyway, let me tell you about Pennsylvania. What a week! We began with a visit from Terry, Jill, and Rooney. During their stay, we visited the highest point in New Jersey. New Jersey, you say? Well, yes. New Jersey and New York are both very close to the part of Pennsylvania that we were staying in (the Delaware Water Gap) and, despite the fact that Steve and I had such a bad time in that state and vowed to never go back, the kids were in New Jersey when we picked them up so we had no choice. High Point State Park was a cool place and we had a nice hike up to the High Point Monument. Here's some interesting facts about the monument: 1) It's the highest point in New Jersey (1804 feet); 2) there are 291 steps to the top; 3) the monument is 220 feet tall and made of New Hampshire granite; and 4) it was built with private funds from the Kuser family to honor all war veterans from the United States. Yes, that's right, I said private money. Can you imagine? Also interesting to note is that the landscape architects that designed this park were the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, himself a landscape architect and best known for his work designing Central Park and the landscaping around the Biltmore Estate. It was rather a lovely place to hang out, I must say.
Sadly, however, our dearest Rooney developed a limp on his front left paw. It didn't appear that he had broken it and there wasn't any indication that it was cut, so Jill and Terry were rather perplexed by the whole situation. They took him to a vet the next morning and, after several x-rays and bloodwork, it was determined that he had a form of lyme disease. This disease was picked up from a tick and is the type of lyme that affects the joints, which is why he was limping. The vet prescribed some serious antibioticks (get it, "antibioticks") and pain killers, and put the dog's leg in a splint, which was not a big hit for our dearest pooch. He is very much on the mend and, as I write, is free of his splint, walking normally and back to his old self. Hooray!!!
After Terry and Jill left, Steve and I visited a place called Bushkill Falls. It was billed as "The Niagara of Pennsylvania" and that moniker was very much deserving. We embarked upon the red trail (which has 1,267 steps along the way) and were very much amazed at the beauty of this area. The water falls we saw were absolutely breathtaking and the trail was a nice piece of exercise. Despite the heat (90 degrees) and the intense humidity we finished the trail but we were absolutely soaking wet. My hair looked as though I had gone swimming and everything I had on was soaked in sweat and sticking to me. Not a pleasant sight and it was oddly uncomfortable. You can buy T-shirts in the gift shop that say "I Survived the Red Trail", and we should have purchased one since it was no small feat for two out of shape 50-year-olds, I must say.
Before I go on, let me just say that this area of Pennsylvania is just gorgeous. There is a ton of stuff to do if you like outdoor activities - - hiking, white water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and the Lehigh Bike path is supposed to be an out of this world trail, but we didn't make it there. Indoor activities abound as well since this area was settled very early on and has many historic sights to see. One of the museums that we visited was the Pocono Indian Museum where we learned all about the Delaware Indians who were living in the area some 10,000 years back. Did you know that tomahawks were not an Indian tool, but one used by early settlers instead? It was attributed to the Indians through out western movies and all, but that is not really the case. Also, we were sad to learn that the only remaining full-blooded Delaware Indian left in the United States had recently passed away. That tribe is now lost forever. Sad.
Steve and I did something totally cool, once again in New Jersey (I guess we are going to have to rethink our position on this state after all). We attended the Warren County Farmer's Fair and had a blast. The high point of our visit was the hot air balloon festival that they have every year. What an amazing sight that was to behold - - thirty hot air balloons all taking off and floating away. Each balloon had a different color scheme and pattern to it - - one was even a monster's face. The point of the whole thing was something called a "hare and hounds" game that the balloonists play. Apparently, the first balloon to take off (the "hare" was the monster's face) throws out an X somewhere along a prescribed path that the rest of the balloons follow (the "hounds"). The chasing balloons then have to throw a bean bag from their basket and try to get the closest to the X as possible. The winner gets a prize. We didn't stick around to see who won or anything, because hey, the Olympics were on and we had to go and watch. Besides, it was 8:30 and it was still 90 degrees and we were sick of the heat! Needless to say, we very much enjoyed that experience and are looking forward to seeing the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque in April next year.
The last thing I am going to write about is our adventures at the Nascar race - - the very reason we ventured into Pennsylvania in the first place. Apparently, the Pocono race is delayed almost every year because of rain and this year was no exception. Only the rains we had at this race were monsoon in nature. I am not sure how many inches of rain hit us just before the race was to begin, but the 2-inch-deep river that developed around Steve and I was flowing downhill at a huge rate of speed and headed directly for the track. I have never seen so much water come from a rain storm in my life. It was rather amazing. And it happened not only once while we were there, but twice. The second time, the race was called and Jeff Gordon was officially named the winner. Due to the lightning that this storm produced, the track officials sent everyone back to their cars for safety reasons. Sadly, however, one of the spectators was struck by lightning and died and 9 others were hospitalized. Yes, it was that fierce a storm! Steve and I made it to the truck safely and watched all the other people walk passed us with their rain ponchos that looked more like kites than foul weather gear. We had a good time scoping out all the rednecks around us too. For example, there was a tree about 20 feet in front of our truck that apparently had a sign on it that was visible only to men that read - - PEE HERE! I mean really people. It's pouring rain, like a monsoon kind of rain, and you believed that particular tree was going to provide you enough shelter for peeing? Really? Any NASCAR fan can tell you about Junior Nation but we got to experience Urine Nation! Lots of odd ducks out there folks, trust me. If you ever want some seriously good entertainment while people watching, visit a Nascar race. I mean, there were guys wearing kilts. Nuff said!
Alrighty, we are now residing in Campbell, New York which is in the Finger Lakes district. The ride from Pennsylvania up here was just delightful so we are looking forward to some beautiful scenery this week as well as an excellent race at Watkins Glen International. Until next time peeps - - - - - LOVE YOU ALL!