A Travellerspoint blog

September 2007

Day 28 (9.29.07) - Erie, PA to Buffalo, NY

Lake Erie Coastline, very scenic and lots of agriculture (especially vinyards)

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Starting Mileage: 114450
Ending Mileage: 114547
Weather: Sunny & Cooler (mid 60's), very lovely

The mileage is a bit deceiving, some of that was driving around in circles in Erie, PA trying to get my oil changed (unsuccessfully)...

FIRST - A HUGE THANKS TO ALL BLOG READERS!!! I'm not exactly sure how Travellerspoint works this, but somehow they have granted me additional upload capacity. I was near capacity and had only uploaded about 1/3rd of my photo's for September! When I logged in today, my capacity had been increased. I suspect you all are the reason for that, so thank you very much. It does take a lot of time, but the photo's are a big part of sharing this trip with you so I'm willing to spend the time if you don't mind!

- Surprisingly, I wasn't too grouchy today (having stayed up way too late last night working on the laptop). We found a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Erie, PA so I took Mom there for the church service (I didn't get up early enough to get her there for the Sabbith School). It was a medium sized church but had a lovely pipe organ. She also enjoyed their pot luck afterwards.

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I was working on Blog photo's when she got back, so decided to finish that up before we hit the road. At any rate, we didn't really get on the road until maybe 3 PM EST?

Again, we decided to skip the interstate and try to see some of the countryside. We had a little trouble finding Hwy 5, which is good because we bumped into a couple of historical signs and this little park overlooking the bay that Erie, PA is on:

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The third picture is a closeup of the sign on the rock explaining what it is.

As we headed out of town, we saw many working class brick homes that were rather interesting architecture. Some kids were playing and noticed our RV and seemed quite excited to see traveler's in that part of town. (We've been getting a lot more interesting looks now that we're off the beaten path and past the tourist season). As I was sitting at a stop sign, I noticed this house and decided it was too good to pass up. Mom watched for the light to change while I rolled down the window and grabbed the camera (the things I do to capture the flavor of an area!)

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Of course, there are brick and stone homes in the Seattle area, but not as many due to the tendancy for earthquakes on the west coast. They are much more common in this area (since we got to Michigan, we didn't see many in northern Minnesota which surprised me. Maybe they're more common in other areas of Minnesota though).

As we continued to drive east from the city of Erie, we passed much nicer homes (urban flight?) with huge lawns. This slowly changed to see more agriculture and still waterfront properties. However, further out the homes weren't that new or elegant, just basic farm style homes or older homes, but nice. The road wasn't that close to the lake for the most part, but we could see peak-a-boo views of the lake.

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Then we were really surprised. The area became more agricultural (this is pretty far north and hasd the harsh, lake affect winters.) Especially, we started passing vinyards and winery's! There was quite a lot of this actually. In the first shot, you can see Lake Erie in the background. And no, I did not swipe any grapes (darn). We did find a fruitstand though, Mom tried their Goat Milk Fudge (she said it was too sweet, I haven't had the guts to try it yet, maybe tomorrow):

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There was very little access to the lake during most of today's drive, but we did find a couple of turnouts. Except for the lack of salt smell or beach shells, this could be any beach anywhere (Check out the sailboat):

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We finally passed another state line (12 now?) and are in New York tonight. We went through a small town called "Silver Creek" which was founded in 1803! This little church was just too cute to pass up (especially the door handles). It is St. Albans Espiscopal Church in Silver Creek, NY. Maybe if Paul ever gets tired of the big Cathedral or Pittsburgh, he can transfer here?

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So all in all a pretty easy day. We are camping in Evangola State Park directly on Lake Erie a few miles outside of Buffalo. The park employee who registered us was named "Holly" (pronounced "Hally" in the local dialect) was very friendly and gave me lots of brochures and advice about New York and the Buffalo area. We plan to visit Niagra Falls and the Erie Canal tomorrow, but there are a lot more things around here than I thought - maybe we'll make it out of Buffalo tomorrow (we'll try).

Posted by jl98584 19:28 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Day 27 (9.28.07) - Pittsburgh to Erie, PA

Via Fallingwaters, the Frank Lloyd Wright House

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Starting Mileage: 114201
Ending Mileage: 114450
Weather: Overcast & Rainy at times, with some sun breaks

Geography Lesson: Fallingwater is about an hours drive south of Pittsburgh, the city of Erie is on Lake Erie, about two hours drive north of Pittsburgh. Once again, we are going in circles... (but it's worth it?)

I have always been something of a closet Frank Lloyd Wright fan, not as rabid as many fans of his architecture - but I'm impressed with buildings that he designed. Once I realized that one of his most famous designs, the Fallingwater house, was just an hours drive from Pittsburgh, of course I had to visit it. Mom wasn't as thrilled with this as I was - we are running a bit behind schedule and this was also in the wrong direction, but I have the keys to the RV, so off we go

(Actually, on a trip like this it is unlikely that two different people will always agree on everything they want to see. We have an informal agreement that when we stop someplace that only one of use wants to see, it's OK for the other to wait in the RV if they don't want to take the tour. Mom chose to do this at Fallingwater, partly because there is a lot of walking and steps on the tour and partly because she just didn't care to see it that much.)

No photography is allowed during the tour (we'd probably never get done with the tour), so today's blog will be quite short. Here are a couple of my shots from the exterior (yes, I bought a book with pictures of the interior, and a postcard, and a DVD, and the gift shops are making a lot of money off of me):

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Here is a lot more information about the house (if you've never heard of it before):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallingwater

The area the Fallingwater house is in is called "Laurel Heights". One interesting thing I noticed was houses built of both Stone and Brick. I don't think I've seen these materials combined like this elsewhere:

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The rest of the day I drove pretty hard to make up the time - straight from Fallingwater all the way up to Erie. Western Pennsylvania is heavily wooded an has a lot of low, but fairly steep hills. There are farms, I suspect the pioneers cleared land for farming as it looks like the natural terrain is wooded. There is also one very cool thing about rain - if you don't have any rain, you don't get any rainbows!

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ps - you probably noticed a change starting with Day 26's blog - pictures. I thought now that I'm keeping the writing more caught up, maybe I'd start keeping the current day's pictures caught up also - then try to go back get the rest caught up later. However, it's almost 2 AM and I just finished these two, so we'll see....

Posted by jl98584 22:38 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (6)

Day 26 (9.27.07) - We Do Pittsburgh, PA

Met Cousin Paul and toured the town, Heinz Chapel, Cathedral of Learning and Trinity Cathedral

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(No mileage stats as we didn't travel today. In fact, we stayed in a Wal-mart parking lot last night because Pittsburgh doesn't have any RV campgrounds at all! Paul insisted the streets were not suitable for an RV, even a small one like mine, so came an picked us up in his suitably small car.)

I probably had met my cousin when we were both kids, but neither of us could remember for sure. Neither my mother nor I had ever met his wife Sharon, so this was quite a treat.

Paul picked us up at the RV 'Park' (OK - Wal-mart, but we were sure glad to have it). First he took us through Carnegie Mellon University where he teaches part time and Sharon works also. (I don't know why, but I failed to take any pictures). Then he took us across a bridge to the University of Pittsburgh and let us off near the Heinz Chapel while he looked for a parking spot. This was built to honor H.J. Heinz's mother after his death (yes, of the Heinz 57 variety). It is non-denominational and regular services are held her by various churches. There are also about 1,500 special events (weddings, concerts, etc.) held here per year. One thing I learned is that classical style churches like this have a lot of special terms to describe their features. The tall thing I would have called a 'spire' is actually a "Fleche" and is 253 feet above the ground. There are four stained glass windows on the sides, called "Transepts" that are 73 feet tall each, among the tallest stained glass windows in the world.

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There is also a pipe organ, which unfortunately I did not get to hear (but probably fortunately, did not get to play either).

After impressing us with the Heinz Chapel, Paul took us across the lawn to the "Cathedral of Learning". This is not a church but a school building full of classrooms! On the first & third floors, classrooms have been decorated to represent different nationality themes - the "Nationality" rooms. They are actual classrooms however and we couldn't access all of them because some had classes going on while we were there. There is a lot more information then I can relate about all of this, so will refer you to their web site, other than for a few photo's:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_learning

Now here are my photo's (many with Mom and or Paul in them enjoying the visit). Imagine taking your classes in one of these!

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If I haven't lost you yet... after this, we drove through Pittsburgh a bit. I couldn't help noticing the interesting architecture of homes in Pittsburgh, many brick or stone. Paul said one of the reasons he and Sharon fell in love with the city was that they didn't tear down the old homes. This gives it a kind of European feel (that and the steep, narrow streets). I got out to take a few pictures of some of the homes and a postman started calling out to me. HE saw me taking pictures of homes and wanted to suggest a few even nicer ones. We wanted to go check them out also, but were really pressed for time (Paul had some ministeral duties to attend to), so will have to only imagine what other gems we missed:

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Paul also said Pittsburgh had over 300 bridges of many different styles. I wasn't able to get a decent shot of these (the weather wasn't helping much). Mom wanted to see the park where the two river's combined into a third (Confluence Park), but we also didn't make it there.

Paul was pressed for time, since he had some duties to attend to, but really wanted us to see the church where he works. It is the Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh, a very large church in the downtown area. They are renovating the exterior, so it's a little hard to tell what it looks like. I was very impressed with the interior however, I really liked the colors (the trim was green, which doesn't show up very well in the photo). They seemed much more comforting than the hard, grey stone at the Heinz Chapel.

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Finally after his church duties were done, Paul cooked us dinner and Sharon made it home from work. We had a wonderful time with them. Mom played the harmonica and remembered stories from when we were all kids. We all stayed up too late...

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Posted by jl98584 22:01 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

Day 25 (9.26.07) - Ohio Turnpike to Pittsburgh

A little bit of Lake Erie, some Rain, and narrow streets in Pittsburgh

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Starting Mileage: 113983, Port Clinton OH
Ending Mileage: 114201, Pittsburgh PA
Weather: 80 F, Overcast, occassional Rain, sometimes hard

Housekeeping - I have added photo's to Days 8, 9 & 10 and just as an experiment, a simple video to Day 15...

We left the nice RV park a little late, as I took the opportunity to do housekeeping again (drain tanks, fill water, etc.). The atlas looked like a nice peninsula into Lake Erie, so we tried it. Mostly, what we saw was the town of Port Clinton, although we did stop at a nice city park & beach. Mom suggested we wait, but I wasn't sure what sort water access we'd have later on so we stopped and she got her sand. As it turned out, we didn't have much water access later in the day and what we had was rock bulkheads - so it's good we stopped.

After negotiating some nasty roadwork (like having to go 5 miles in the wrong direction), we got going again. We took Hwy 6, part of the Lake Erie Circle Tour - only there is very little of Lake Erie to be seen unless you turn off. We went through a lot of farmland intermixed with industrial buildings (both old and new), all in all not as pretty a drive as we had on Lake Superior on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We did go through the town of Sandusky, Ohio. It had several marina's and retirement homes on or near the water. It looked like it is a waterfront resort area for folks in Ohio, although I'd probably not choose to vacation there from too far away. On the map was a place called Cedar Point that looked like either a spit or an island, which we thought might be interesting. It turned out to be a giant amusement park, home of some of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the world - we both elected to turn around (neither of us being very fond of roller coasters).

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On the way out of town, I did spot an Egret standing by a canal. We stayed on the Lake Erie Circle Tour (Hwy 6) for a while longer, but still didn't see much of the lake (I did skip by a couple of wildlife refuges, which might have been interesting though).

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Having spent the better part of 3 hours driving the lake route without seeing too much, we elected to head towards the Ohio Turnpike (I-80) and make some tracks towards Pittsburgh. We are on our way to visit my cousin Paul, who lives there with his wife Sharon. The turnpike was a pretty decent road, but I was surprised that part of I-80 could be a toll road. I had driven it about 30 years ago, but don't remember this part. It's probably better not to get me started on the public policy issues surrounding user charges (toll roads) vs taxes to pay for public infrastructure, but I am not in favor of the former. The toll wasn't very much however and there we were running late, so we took it until almost to Pennsylvania. We got off the turnpike thinking that the two lane highways would be more scenic and we would be more likely to find RV parks along the Ohio River.

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We were wrong. There are no RV parks within a 45 minute drive of Pittsburgh (or hour to hour and a half in my rig). We drove on into Pittsburgh before discovering this of course (par for the course, I haven't done any homework to speak of on this trip.) So after considering our alternatives, we parked at Wal-Mart near downtown Pittsburgh and are cautiously hoping their policy of allowing RV'rs to park at any Wal-Mart is good here also. I say cautiously because this store is in a big shopping mall with a lot of other stores. If the parking lot is controlled by the city or the shopping mall rather than Wal-mart, we may get a nasty knock on the door in the middle of the night by a security guard! However, there are no "No Overnight Parking" signs that I can see, so I'm trying it...

Shortly after we parked, I started seeing lightening flashes out the window. Sure enough, a little bit later we heard thunder and saw a lot more lightening (sheet lightening I think), then got very heavy rain. It's been about 30 minutes since that started, and is no longer raining - just a quick thunderstorm I guess (like most of the day once we left Lake Erie).

I called my cousin Paul, he'll be by after breakfast and we'll finally get to meet. OK, I guess we did meet once before, but when we were kids, so I don't remember much about those days.

Posted by jl98584 16:48 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (5)

Day 24 (9.25.07) - Across Michigan to Ohio (Photos added)

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Starting Mileage: 113705
Ending Mileage: 113983
Weather: 80 F, Muggy, Light Rain on Occasion
Camped at Erie Island Resort & Marina (Coast to Coast) near Port Clinton, OH
(ps - we've been keeping a camping journal on the trip on paper also, thought I'd start adding this info to blog entries as well, will try to update the earlier ones also).

As much as we enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle in Michigan, we have a long trip ahead and still need to get through New England before Winter hits, so decided to hit the road again this morning. I climbed up on the RV roof to retie the chairs & tables I'd moved up there (my shower was a bit crowded). My Uncle Bob is a pastor in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, so said a prayer for our safety before we left.

It was sprinkling slightly when we headed out, and off and on during the day, but not too badly. I decide to try the two lane highway (Hwy 60) rather then the freeway (I-94), hoping it would be more scenic. It was, we loved the drive - but I did get lost a little bit before I found Hwy 60. (I do have the GPS software for the laptop, but being somewhat lazy - or adventurous, take your pick, I stopped at a local market in Pokagon and got directions. We went fairly near to Sumnerville, where Madeline had wanted to take us to see the church where "Old Rugged Cross"was written. I sorely wanted to do this, but given how late we were running (& tend to run), we had to pass it by.

During our visit, we had also made arrangements to visit my cousin Paul and his wife Sharon in Pittsburg, PA Thursday (he has to work Friday), so are trying not to fall off schedule too much (then there's always that New England winter we're trying to avoid!).

We had a lovely drive along Hwy 6 and saw some of the Michigan countryside and small towns. We stopped at a small store that had been closed down because it looked like it had access to a river we had just crossed. It did have access, it had been a bait shop and had a fishing platform out back as well as nice steps down to the St. Joseph River. Mom actually walked all the way to the bottom and collected some sand! Later, as I was driving through one very small town, I thought I saw a Historical Marker. I went ahead and pulled over and it turns out the town, Vandalia, had been a stop on the "Underground Railroad" prior to the civil war.

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We met up with the freeway (I-94) again in Jackson and drove on that through Ann Arbor to Dearborn, just outside of Detroit. The freeway surface was in bad shape (as well as I-75 we drove on later in the day) - probably the worst roads we've been on to date. It also looked like freeways everywhere, concrete barriers on the sides and middle, large semi's passing us regularly, freeway signs and billboards. I've decided that if I had to do the whole trip by freeway, I'd just as soon stay home. What's the point if everyplace looks the same? I prefer to drive through the countryside and see farms, fruit stands and rivers (or prairies, desserts and mountains) then concrete ribbons.

Anyway, after some trouble navigating Dearborn, we eventually ended up at the Ford Museum and Greenfield. It was very expensive and it was already 2:30 PM (everything closing at 5:00 PM), so we elected to just see Greenfield. I was pretty frustrated at this point (what with the bumpy highway, bad directions to the Ford Museum, and confusing directions to the facility once we got there) so was complaining that I didn't care if I never set foot in a Ford again, but Greenfield was actually pretty nice. I guess the morale is that in some cases, you really need to do your homework first or pay the consequences. On this trip, we've done quite well so far by 'winging it'. On this occasion, that didn't work very well. We did not budget enough time or money for this site, so I do have mixed feelings about it - not sure if I want to go back.

Greenfield Village consists of 93 (?) acres that Henry Ford used to start building a living museum of various things. He included the set of buildings from "Menlo Park" that Thomas Edison and his team created many of his inventions in. I hadn't realized how much this was an organized, team effort. It wasn't just Mr. Edison sitting in his lab inventing, he formed a business whose business was to invent! In addition to "Menlo Park", Mr. Ford acquired the Wright Brother House and Bicycle shop and other historic homes & buildings (or replicated them). Several buildings had people in period dress to answer questions or offer information. They also had actual Ford Model T's (13), horse drawn wagons, and trains you could ride around Greenfield Village in.

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Mom got a little tired walking around of course, so decided she wanted to sit by the carousel so she could listen to the music. I went through a couple other buildings, and when I got back she had decided she wanted to ride the carousel afterall (she had said "No" earlier). Boy did she ride, she was laughing, singing along and waving to folks as they walked by. I tried videotaping all this, we'll see how it turned out.

Greenfield Village closed at 5:00 PM, so we headed back out on the road, south on I-75 this time. The road was terrible, but there wasn't much I could do about it (I hope the RV didn't suffer any permanent damage. Car's probably don't even notice those bumps much, but every one I hit felt like the RV had hit a curb!). Mom had found a Coast to Coast campground along Lake Erie, so we got off the freeway in Toledo and headed north on Hwy 2. We did pull over once at a National Wildlife Refuge (a Wetlands). We did see some Killdeer, ducks, canada geese, and a heron, but it was too dark to try to take pictures.

Eventually we made it to the campgrounds, where I am typing this from - it is very quiet here so I expect we'll get a good nights sleep (although Thunderstorms are passing through the area). We may spend a little time sightseeing along Lake Erie tomorrow morning, then we'll head on towards Pittsburgh. Aunt Madeline suggested we could drive to Pittsburgh from her house in about 5 hours - we're doing it in 2 days, but I kind of wish I'd taken 4 or 5 (I probably should have budgeted a couple of days at Dearborn). This has been the consistent theme of this trip, this is a big, beautiful country (once you get off the interstates) and there is always more to see then there is time to see it!

Posted by jl98584 18:25 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

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