Thursday, December 10, 2015

Covered Bridges ... the Treasure of Rural America


As we travel across America, we have loved seeing covered bridges.  Covered bridges are a pretty part of American history.

Wikipedia has one of the best and most user friendly list of covered bridges.  There is a separate list for each state; with a short description and history of each bridge.

Covered bridges cause me to dream of a simpler time.  A time before speeding cars race down roads; when the speed of a horse drawn carriage is fast enough to get the traveler wherever they want to go.
Covered bridges have been called “kissing bridges”; presumably because they offer just the right amount of privacy for the perfect kiss with your true love. 

Today we appreciate the aesthetics of these lovely structures—but they were created for more than beauty. There are several practical reasons for the covered bridge.  Covered bridges made it possible to cross raging rivers.  The bridges provide a roof and walls to protect the wood trusses.   
Covered bridges last more than three times longer than the ordinary bridges—probably because they protect the structure and supports against the elements. 
It is said, necessity is the mother of invention.  Covered bridges would help horses and livestock cross the waterways peacefully.  The walls and “floors” of these bridges kept the animals from going over the edge or stampeding to the promise of green grass just ahead.  Often covered bridges are in areas with inclement weather.  
The bridges keep snow off during the winter and rain during a storm.  I could imagine these bridges provided a refuge to the weary weathered traveler.  When we visited the covered bridges in Indiana we discovered an unexpected benefit to the covered bridge.  These bridges provide shade from the heat of the day. 
Covered bridges are examples of great historic architecture.
Covered bridges are American treasures. 
Covered bridges are an amazing sight to see in the fall.  The colored leaves against the wooden bridges, beg for a love story to be written. 
We enjoy touring the covered bridges across America.  As we travel, there are so many differences in the landscapes and yet covered bridges are similar in regardless of the state.

Regardless of the reason, covered bridges are considered romantic by many people.  Covered bridges inspire poets, painters and song writers.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

God's Paintbrush... Autumn in New England

Fall has always been my favorite season.  I love the changing colors of the leaves.  I love the crisp air.  Fall allows me to be outside and enjoy the sunshine without the irritation of the extreme heat of summer or the freezing cold of winter.

The red leaves on this giant tree were gorgeous!

Each day we were treated to new visual treasures.  

The Red, Gold, Yellow and Green leaves were like jewelry to the landscape.

I am sure George got tired of me saying... "Stop there is a perfect tree and I need a picture!

I have looked forward to spending fall in New England for months.   For some reason it had not crossed my mind that our travels would allow me to enjoy Autumn weather for several months.  We left Indiana and moved through Ohio.  We were in New York state by September; and we were already enjoying cool temperatures.
We did not expect significant tree color change until we reach Maine.  However, when we reached Acadia National Park in Maine we found out the state had “enjoyed” an especially warm summer and the temperature was just starting to cool down enough for the leaves to start changing color.  Although Maine was beautiful, the trees were primarily green with touches of red and gold.  
We drove through tree canopies covering the road. I love driving through these areas; it feels like there is a treasure at the end of the road just waiting for us to uncover.

We enjoyed some changing color in Maine—but knew the leaves would not fully change colors for almost 3 weeks.  Although traveling allows us to have some flexibility in our schedules; we had to keep moving.   People had been warning us about the winter that could come on with very little notice.  Having a warm, late summer does not mean the winter will delay.

We stayed in a campground in Accord, New York.  The mornings were cool and crisp. I loved seeing the reflection of trees and a church across the pond glisten on the water.

We traveled through Maine to New Hampshire and then through Massachusetts. 
We spent almost 3 weeks in Gettysburg, PA.  It was beautiful.  The Autumn leaves were at their prime when we were moving through Pennsylvania.  

Fall in Pennsylvania is apple harvest season.  There are hundreds of apple varieties.  We primarily saw yellow, gala and Red.  The trees were loaded with fruit.  We have never seen apple trees like these—loaded to the point of spilling onto the ground.
I have seen beautiful Fall colors before—but nothing like the views that we were able to “feast our eyes on”. 

The rich colors blanketed the hills.  It was like landscape jewelry.  God was providing these stunning views for our pleasure—and I did not want to miss one leaf.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Gettysburg... we are finally here!

We were all excited to be headed to Gettysburg today.  We had moved quickly through New England.  We were rarely in a campground for a full week.  The New England area was very expensive to visit—so we kept moving.  We also know we need to be moving south to avoid cold weather.

We are staying at the Gettysburg Battlefield Resort.  We have our set up process to a fine art by now.  We are able to get completely set up in less than 30 minutes. But today was different.  We plugged in and we had no power.  George set out trouble shooting the problem.  A couple hours later he determined that the transfer switch wiring “has issues”.  He was able to set up a temporary fix and plans to do a by-pass which should fix the problem in the future. 

By the time he was done figuring out the electrical issues, I was completely set up and had done some cleaning inside.  We were both tired and ready for some down time.  It was a longer travel day than we generally have.  We left New York about 6:30am and 7 hours later we pulled into our campsite. 

This trip had several very stressful periods that made it more tiring than normal.  We had multiple detours along the route.  We very carefully review the route every time we move; but there is no way to look at all the potential detours and anticipate any problems. 

The first detour was because of a vehicle accident that had completely closed down the road. There was a road worker set up to direct us to a side road.  The side road was a narrow road through a residential neighborhood—not our idea of a good time.

We get to Port Jervis, NY and there is another detour.  This one was more challenging because we were forced to “guess” the best option to take.  We ended up in the middle of the OLD downtown—again not a good time.  We turned to go down a street to get back on track.  In front of us is an underpass with 12’8” clearance painted on it.  There was no place to turn around.  About the time I am getting ready to go into full blown panic, I see a small white sign that says: “Actual bridge height 13’7”.  Are you kidding me???  Which is it?  There is a semi-truck coming up behind us. So we decide to cautiously move through; only to see another 12’8” underpass in front of us.  We are successfully able to go under that one also.  Later we find out that the 13’7” height is during the summer months and during the winter they will keep the road cleared of ice and snow to allow for 12’8”.  Yeah, because that’s not confusing…

What did we learn from this?  We can never do too much research before moving our home down the road.  We need to move forward getting a trucker GPS… sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Newport, Rhode Island--this is what I imagined Cape Cod to Look Like

George and I headed to Newport to see sights.  It is a beautiful day to tour around town.  Newport is at the tip of an island.  We start at the Visitor Center and get a CD audio tour of the island.  This audio tour gives us details about Newport that we would not have known otherwise. 


The tour takes us along Ocean Drive.  The coastal scenery is nothing short of spectacular! 

Our first stop on the tour was to point to watch massive schooners and yachts sailing to their own adventures.
We stopped at Brenton Point State Park.  We walked down a few steps to get a closer look at the powerful waves beating on the rocks. 

There are park benches sat along the shore.  For years I have used the term “Perfect Moment”.  For me a Perfect Moment is one that allows me to sit and enjoy the beautiful landscape that God has provided for my personal enjoyment. It is a place that I am able to enjoy and forget the world around.  I am able to immerse myself in the beauty—setting everything else aside.  I love taking advantage of a place that allows time to “stand still” for just a moment.

We stayed at the state park shore for over an hour.  Sitting on a bench, we took in the sights and sounds in front of us. 

In the mid-nineteenth century, wealthy southern planters built summer “cottages” on Bellevue Avenue in Newport.  These cottages were amazing.  Some of the homes were the traditional Cape Cod style architecture and some were grand mansions that had obvious England influence.  Newport became a home to opulent mansions for the Vanderbilt and the Astor families and several other families.

This house looked like the ideal setting for a glass of ice tea and a visit with a close friend.

The Hammersmith Farm was the mansion that Jackie Kennedy and family lived when she married JFK.  It is said JFK used the farm as his “Summer White House”.  Several times he flew into the farm on the presidential helicopter landing on the front lawn. 

Several of these “cottages” were converted into academic buildings, because of high tax bills.  

Newport is also the home of the Naval Academy during the Civil War.

I was excited to be able to see St. Mary’s Church in Newport.  This church was the church John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier were married in 1953.

After the end of a great day, we head back home.  A day like this fills my heart.  I love the spending time in this beautiful treasure that God has given us and it is better when I share it with the love of my life.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cape Cod Whale Watching Adventure—Fabulous!!!

The weather was perfect today.  We left our campground in Sandwich, MA headed to the Hyannis Whale Watching company; about 30 minutes away.  We wanted to allow extra time in case we get lost or have trouble finding parking.  Ok, to be honest George and I are very time compulsive and we both HATE to be late.  As it turns out we left at a perfect time.  We easily found the location and parking was a breeze… albeit a $15/car parking breeze.

Within 15 minutes people were lining up to get on the boat.  45 minutes before we were scheduled to pull away from the dock, they started boarding.  We were thrilled to get great seats on the top level next to the edge.  George was glad to have a seat under an awning that would provide some shade for him and I was glad to have a seat in the sun with a fabulous view.  (Not that there was a bad view on this boat.)

A naturalist served as our tour guide for the cruise.  He offers fun facts throughout the tour about the area and whales and a variety of wildlife.

We travel about an hour before the captain slows the boat because “blow holes have been spotted”.  We were told to watch for the “B’s”:  Birds, Bubbles, Blows (from blow holes) and Body parts outside the water.

We had been told that whales do not punch a time clock and we will be lucky if we see whales.  Everyone on the boat was anxious to catch the first glimpse of a whale, or even a really big fish. 

As if almost on cue, passengers start pointing.  There are whales surfacing all around us.  We start to see whale blows.

It is shocking how fast the whales move—they come out of the water often before we can focus our camera.  Some of the photos that I am using on this post are from the internet.  Every picture that I have used is an example of whales activities that we saw but our camera was not able to capture the sight.

We can hardly believe our eyes—it seems as if whales are all around us. 

Today we are seeing Humpback Whales.  We see large whales and several whale calves.  These adult whales are generally 35-50 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons.
These ginormous mammals are only mid-size—from a whale perspective.   Crazy! 
Humpback whales get their name “Humpback” from a small hump on their back.
Humpback whales have a black body with white flippers.  Several times on our journey we are excited to the whales we are visiting smacking their white flippers (fins) on the water.  When the fins hit the water we are able to hear a loud crash sound.  The Humpback whale flippers can reach up to 15 feet. 
The back tail is called a fluke.  A Humpback Whale fluke will vary in color from all white to all black and everything between.  Every whale tale is unique to the whale.  Our naturalist explained they are able to identify individual whales by the fluke. 
In addition to the different color patterns, there are of course gashes and scratches.
The whales were so close to our boat we were able to see the scratches on their bodies. 

Humpback Whales are Baleen Whales—whales without teeth.  These baleen plates are on the side of their mouths.  It allows the whales to scoop their fish dinner without getting a mouth full of water.  

We saw groups of whales feeding.  Some working together and some appear to be working on their own.   Before a single whale or a group of whale surfaces; we see an area of bubbles and a section of water turns an aqua marine color. 
Every time we saw the bubbles or water color change—we knew something exciting was going to happen.  The whales would surface with their mouths open scooping up their fish buffet.
We stayed and watched these whales for almost 2 hours!  It is FABULOUS!!! 
I know they were feeding, they have to eat tons of food every day.  But it was as if these whales were putting on a “wild life show” just for us.  They seemed to be so playful.     

In some cases they almost seemed to taunting each other.  One whale would smack its tail on the water surface and another whale would follow.  This act of “tail smacking” is called tail lobbing.

When any part of a whales’ body comes out of the water it is called “breaching”.  We were told we were seeing more breaches than they had seen all season.  It seemed as if some of the whales took flight out of the water.  As they project their body out of the water; they roll and land like thunder back into the water.  It is almost unimaginable that 40 tons goes airborne so easily. 
Our tour ends 4 hours later.  We were all thrilled with our experience.  I could have never imagined the amount of whale activity we would see and how close they would come to us.  

Several times I was able to see directly into a whales’ mouth as they were eating.

We will all remember this day forever. 

Words are not adequate to describe the excitement we felt seeing these magnificent creatures.  It is another example of God’s love for us that He would provide such beauty for us to behold.  At the end of the day, we are all reminded how blessed we are to have this full time RV lifestyle that allows for adventures like Whale Watching.  

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