|Travels With Linda||
Our 2012 Summer Trip took us to the Northeast where we toured in western Pennsylvania and New York. We also were able to get some time visiting with family, which is always a treat for us.
After 56 days and 4,065 miles we are back where we started. We pulled in the driveway at about 4:00 PM on Saturday. We love our road trips, but it is always good to return home.
There is nothing like coming home and finding that the car doesn’t run and needs a tow, the garage door isn’t working, and a toilet suddenly wants to leak when it is flushed. And let’s not forget the wireless router that just got tired and wore out while being unplugged for two months!
Now we have to unpack all the stuff we took, get the RV up to the dealer for a check-up and an oil change, go to an untold number of doctors (the joys of age), and attend all too many pre-school-year workshops.
But football season starts soon, and that will mean trips to Aggieland and Kyle Field to watch the Maroon and White.
It’s good to be home.
Are you like me? When you think of casinos, do you see James Bond in a dinner jacket with a snifter of brandy or perhaps a martini (shaken, not stirred) playing chemin-de-fer in one of the great casinos of Monaco? Well, if that’s your vision, then do not ever go to Coushatta Casino in Louisiana.
Linda and I stayed at the casino’s RV park on our way home. We went over to the casino for dinner. Now I didn’t wear my dinner jacket, but I did have on clean jeans and a very nice polo. Linda was also dressed nicely, but casual. Well, we were overdressed!
It was as though the transporter from an old Star Trek episode picked up all of the customers from all of the Wal-Marts in all of Louisiana and dropped them right smack in the middle of the Coushatta Casino to play the slots.
Along with being out of dress code, we had forgotten our cigarettes. We found a meal, but being so overdressed and without our smokes, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to sit down at the slots — we just wouldn’t have fit in. But then, neither would have James Bond.
We’re heading home, but we are still enjoying the wonders of our country. This week it is The Natchez Trace taking us south from Tennessee down into Mississippi.
The Natchez Trace is a 444 mile long highway that dates back centuries. Originally an Indian trail, the Trace was made into a post road by Thomas Jefferson in 1801. It allowed mail delivery all the way from Natchez, MS to Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road at Nashville, TN. It was a major north-south route for travelers, but it soon became secondary as steamboats on the Mississippi River became a faster way to travel. Today’s Natchez Trace follows the original road, and there are many places where the Old Trace can be seen and walked.
Traveling the Trace is a pure joy. Still going from Nashville to Natchez, it is a two lane highway with a leisurely 50 mph speed limit and no commercial vehicles. Since the Trace is essentially a national park, there are no buildings or billboards to distract from the beauty or peacefulness of the journey.
We had already driven the Trace from Natchez to Jackson, Mississippi on a previous trip, so this year we started up at Nashville and drove down to Jackson.
One of our stops was at Merriwether Lewis’ grave. It seems Lewis was traveling the Trace and apparently committed suicide one night while staying at Grinder’s Stand (inn). He was buried right there along the Natchez Trace. Merriwether Lewis was only 35 when he died. The memorial to Lewis is really pretty ugly. It is a sort of truncated obelisk to symbolize a life cut short. But it really just looks as though it was broken and never repaired.
We spent over a week in southeastern Pennsylvania mostly visiting family, but also seeing some nearby sites. Here are a few notes from our time there.
The Ephrata Cloister
I have passed this place any number of times when we lived in Pennsylvania, but I never visited it or knew anything about it. So it took a trip from Texas to get me to the Cloister. Founded in 1732, by Conrad Beissel, The Ephrata Cloister was one of the country’s first communal societies. It consisted of three orders, a brotherhood and a sisterhood, both of which practiced celibacy, and a married order of householders who apparently just served the Cloister’s celibate members. The community was located about 65 miles from Philadelphia.
After Beissel died in 1768 the Society declined. By 1800 the celibate orders were almost extinct (is that a surprise?), and in 1814 the remaining householders became part of the German Baptist Church and Beissel’s sect was no more.
The grounds and several buildings of the the order still exist today. They are maintained by the state historical commission and are open for tour.
Daniel Boone — Who Knew?
When I think of Daniel Boone, I think of a great frontiersman who opened up much of present-day Kentucky and Tennessee. The name Daniel Boone certainly does not cause me to think about Pennsylvania. But it seems Daniel grew up in Pennsylvania just about 50 miles west of Philadelphia, living there until he was 16.
Never having visited this place is even more embarrassing than not seeing the Cloister. Boone’s homestead is less than 25 miles from where Linda and I went to college. It could have been a cheap date!
While visiting family in Pennsylvania, Linda and I took a quick trip to Ursinus to visit our alma mater. There have been a lot of changes, but a lot of it is still the same. I don’t look back easily, and visiting Ursinus was just another side trip for me.
It’s hard to believe that the football stands were even smaller than I remembered them to be. They even look smaller (are they?) than the stands at my high school. In fact, the field even looked shorter (but that can’t be, can it?). There should be no doubt that Division 3 football players play because they love the game and not for the crowds or the glory. Really the only folks in the stands were parents and girlfriends. I suspect it is still much like that at most D-3 schools today.
The women’s dormitory where Linda is standing is where she lived her whole time at Ursinus. Many the night we sprinted to the doors to make sure Linda was in before the 11:00 PM curfew! What a laugh.
I was absolutely thrilled to have dinner with all my siblings and their spouses. My sister, Virginia, had us all to her home for dinner. I think the last time all four of us were together was Virginia’s 50th wedding anniversary. This time there was no event; we just visited. With Linda and me in Texas, my brother in upstate New York, and my sisters in the Philadelphia area, who knows when we will be able to do this again. It was a fine evening.
The little portrait photograph in the middle is the same group in the same order, but about 65 years old.
Watkins Glen is a charming (but busy) little town at the bottom of Seneca Lake. Along with being on a fantastic lake, it is home to a sports car race course and a world-famous gorge. So busy it is. We put the RV in the Watkins Glen State Park with an eye toward hiking the gorge the next day.
Ever intrepid, Linda and I set off to conquer the famous Watkins Glen Gorge. The gorge drops over 500 feet in 1.5 miles, so it is not a hike for the faint of heart. However we made ourselves ready for the challenge with our staffs and Linda in her hiking boots, and we started out — from the top to the bottom (hey, we’re not stupid).
I know. I know. You are thinking, “Look at the steps and handrail!” But there aren’t steps the whole way. Sometimes we had to walk on flat rocks. And we were trying to look at the magnificent beauty of the gorge at the same time. This was not just some everyday walk in the park.
Taking pictures was difficult as we did the gorge in the middle of the day, and there were always significant contrasts of light and dark that just played havoc with lens and shutter settings. So our photos are limited, but here a few to give you a flavor of its beauty. Click on the first small photo to start the album.
This little group of fifties-vintage trailers along with a few dilapidated little old-time motor-court cabins were lined up along the side of Route 14 at the south end of Watkins Glen. The little scene was absolute greatness. I hope the black-and-white photo gives you the feel of the fifties I felt when I saw this little enclave. Pure Americana.
The home of the women’s movement is in Seneca Falls, NY, right on the Erie Canal. We took a short side trip to the small national park there. Actually, I thought it was all a bit sad. The museum is out of date, with statistics that end in the early 90s, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house has had little done to it even though it was acquired over 30 years ago. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel (home of the first U.S. women’s rights convention) has been rebuilt, but is essentially an empty shell. Perhaps it will take a woman in the White House to make this right.
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TRAVELS WITH LINDA
Iter est perpetua celebratione in saecula
DON & LINDA SIMMONS