We spent April 15th thru May 15th traveling north from Miami to our summer destination of Bradley Maine. We drove more than 1500 miles and spent nights in Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. We spent time with the Winchell Family in Mobile, Alabama for Emily and Chris Coleman’s very fun wedding, we visited Linn and Terry in Reston, VA and got to see our newest great-nephew, Jacks Schmidt, also in Reston VA. We had a fun month of travel and now we're looking forward to a fun summer in Maine.
We left Miami, Florida on Sunday April 15th and headed north. Our first stop was in Wauchula, Florida where we spent four nights at the "SKP Resort" Escapees Park. We visited Highland Hammocks State Park and did a little hiking and visited their very interesting museum about the CCC. From there we drove about 1 1/2 hours west to Brandon, Florida which has a PORTILLO’S! This very happy girl had a piece of their lemon cake which they sell for a limited time once a year. I won’t get another piece of this cake until next year unless someone from my family freezes one for me back in Chicago (hint, hint).
From Wauchula we continued our drive north to Stephen C. Foster Folk Center State Park in White Springs, Florida.
About fifty miles south of the park we had our very first tire blow-out on the 5th wheel!
The Stephen C. Foster Folk Center is situated on the banks of the Suwanee River. They have a Stephen C. Foster Museum and they also have a Carillon (Bell) Tower which houses some more memorabilia. The bells weren't ringing during our stay there because the tower had been hit by lightning and was still being repaired.
|Our very large, beautiful campsite|
|Way down upon the Suwanee River.......|
We left Stephen Foster Folk Center on Monday (4/23) and headed west on I-10 to our next destination of Mobile, Alabama for the wedding of our niece, Emily Winchell to Chris Coleman. We had planned to break up the drive by staying in a Wal-Mart parking lot but the drive was pretty easy so we kept going and drove 366 miles to Creola, Alabama (just north of Mobile). We found a county park, River Delta Marina and Campground, which was perfectly situated to where we needed to be. This is a very nice county campground and with our senior discount it was only $15.28 per night! We have found county parks and COE parks to be inexpensive and scenic options for camping (especially as we get those senior discounts).
As we were driving to Alabama from Florida Marty noticed that our rig seemed to be leaning towards the right side. When we got to our campground he crawled under it and found that our leaf spring was broken in half - yikes!
Chris and Emily Get Married
We met up with Amie (Marty’s sister), her daughter Becky Winchell and five of Becky’s seven kids for dinner on Thursday (wedding eve-eve). It was a good chance to catch up before the wedding.
Friday was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner at Moe’s Original Bar-B-Q. This is quite a wedding - 11 couples are standing up with them; all four of her sisters and her two brothers plus many of their friends. It’s nice when you’re from a large family and can have all your sibling in the wedding party.
|Wedding Party during the service|
|"parading" to reception|
|The beautiful Winchell sisters|
The wedding on Saturday was amazing. The weather was perfect. The bride was beautiful (of course) and the whole bridal party looked amazing. The wedding was held at St. Joseph Chapel on the grounds of Spring Hill College (where they met) and from the chapel we were led the four blocks to the reception by a Dixieland 4 piece band. The bride and groom held feathered parasols above their heads and the whole crowd waved white hankies (handed out as we left the church) above their heads. It was so much fun, I’ve never paraded to a wedding reception before. The reception was held at Stewardfield which is a mansion on campus. The food and dancing were outside under tents and the house was also open. There was a live nine piece band and they played a lot of Motown! They were incredible and really got the crowd dancing. Marty even got up on the stage at one point and sang with them! I could go on and on but I’ll just finish by saying this wedding was definitely one of the most fun ones we’ve been to.
|Marty covering Earth, Wind & Fire|
|We clean up well, don't we?|
On Sunday it was back to reality. We packed up our rig and drove about 1/2 hour to Johnny’s RV Center where we settled in for the night. We stayed overnight there so that we’d be taken care of early on Monday (and we were). Our rig was fixed by noon and we were back on the road.
We spent three nights at a COE Park (Corps of Engineers) in Montgomery, Alabama. The cost was supposed to be 26.00 per night with full hook-ups. However, when we started talking to the couple in the office and said we’d be 62 this year he said since we’re in the year of turning 62 and have a National Park Service pass we were eligible for the 50% discount - YAY!! Instead of 78.00 for three nights we only paid 39.00! We are definitely going to be looking for more COE parks in our travels.
There is so much to see and do in the Montgomery area. We left our campground and planned to drive about 1 1/2 hours south to Monroeville but the road we were on happened to be the same road (U.S. Hwy 80) that the March from Selma to Montgomery took place on. We stopped at the Lowdnes Visitor Center and watched a short film about the march and then checked out the exhibits.
Here's some information from the Visitor's Center:
|A pair of shoes worn during the 54 mile march|
Two Weeks later, religious leaders from throughout the country joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the march. Alabama National Guardsmen and Army troops protected the court-ordered limit of 300 marchers as they walked along U.S. Hwy 80 during the day and slept in the fields at night. They covered the 54 miles between Selma and Mongomery's State Capitol in four days."
"Viola Liuzzo, a 39-year-old white mother of five from Detroit, was shot while shuttling marchers back to Selma. Her death outraged moderates, and President Lyndon Johnson was emboldened to push the stalled Votings Rights Bill through Congress."
We continued driving south down Hwy 80 and stopped in Selma to walk across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. I’m sure you’ve seen documentaries or the movie “Selma” but to actually walk across the bridge where the march to Montgomery started and so many people were attacked and beaten is chilling. I’m so glad that things have changed and African-Americans don’t have to worry about being shot or beaten simply because of their skin color - oops, sorry I guess I was dreaming.
From Selma we drove down to Monroeville which was about an hour away, we had to go there since Harper Lee and Truman Capote both lived there (right next door to each other). "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one of my favorite books and oddly so is "In Cold Blood" (I have very eclectic tastes in reading). As I’m writing this I realized that as good as both books were the movies were just as good and that’s not usually the case.
|Hanging out with Scout, Jem, and Dill|
From the courthouse we walked the two blocks to the street where they grew up. Neither house is still standing although there is a partial stone wall on the property where Truman Capote lived. We ate lunch on the property of Harper Lee’s house; it’s now a Dairy Bar.
|The law office of Harper Lee's father|
|and inside the courthouse|
|Outside the courthouse|
We spent a day in Montgomery visiting the newly opened Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Our first stop was at the Memorial, here is some information from their brochure: "The National Memorial is designed to take visitors on a journey from slavery, through lynching and racial terror and into the modern era of mass incarceration".
There are more than 800 steel monuments, one for each county in the United States where a racial terror lynching took place (including Cook County, IL!) The names of the lynching victims and the dates when these lynchings occurred are engraved on the columns.
|Jars and Jars of dirt from lynching sites around the country|
Here are a few of the reasons people were lynched:
After almost two weeks in Alabama it was time to continue our northward travels. We left Alabama on May 3rd and spent that night in an Eastern Tennessee Walmart. We had reservations for the weekend at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virgina but, while at the WalMart, Marty noticed that three of our rig tires looked worn. Since we had just replaced one (due to the blowout) we decided to go ahead and replace the other three. There was a tire shop in Wytheville, VA just a little east of the state park so we stopped there first and replaced the three tires. We finally got settled at Hungry Mother S.P. and had a quiet weekend. This park is located in the Blue Ridge mountains and has lots of hiking and biking trails.
The one "touristy" thing we did while in this area was visit Mt. Airy, NC, home of Andy Griffith. We toured the Andy Griffith Museum and ate lunch at an “old-timey” soda fountain diner. Donna Fargo was also born in Mt. Airy but when I asked at the Museum if they had any information about her I was told “this is the Andy Griffith Museum”.
|Downtown Mayberry, oops I mean Mt. Airy, NC|
We left Hungry Mother State Park on Monday, May 7th and headed east on beautiful Interstate 84 to Reston, Virginia. It was a pretty easy 325 mile drive and we arrived at our next campground, Lake Fairfax County Park, around 4:00. A very nice campground but all the sites only have electric. We stopped at the water spigot to fill up our fresh water tanks and we’ll stop on our way out to dump our grey and black water tanks. $45.00 a night for just electricity is pricey but the location can’t be beat. We are a 10 minute drive from Marty’s sister Linn and her husband Terry and also 10 minutes from our nephew, Kevin and his family.
Once we were all set up we took a drive over to Linn and Terry’s house. They drove us to a Japanese restaurant, Ariake, where each couple ordered a “Bento Box” which contained an assortment of items. Marty ate everything with fish and I ate the chicken. We both ate the veggies and it was all very good. This was a neat little restaurant housed in an old McDonalds.
On Tuesday morning (5/8) Terry drove Linn, Marty and I to the subway in Reston which took us into Washington D.C. Most museums in Washington are free but we decided to visit one that wasn't, the Newseum. Our money was well-spent, the Newseum "promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment. Outside the museum they have the front page of one newspaper from every state, we got up to the O’s and then headed inside. There were
six floors of exhibits, impossible to see and read everything in one day, we did the best we could.
|And now for the rest of the story......|
|Standing in front of a piece of the Berlin Wall|
From the Newseum we grabbed a quick snack at a food truck and then headed into the National Archives. We didn’t have enough time to tour the building, just visited the gift shop for some postcards. There was a kiosk in the gift shop where you can enter your last name and find out the origin. I entered my maiden name, Merkes, and this is what I found out:
“The meaning of Merkes”: Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic): metronymic from the Yiddish female personal name Merke, Mirke (see Mirkin).
Since our family has been Catholic since they came over from Germany this was a bit of a surprise.
Terry picked us up back at the subway in Reston and we went out to dinner at a Vietnamese Restaurant, Pho 75 Dulles. Another very good meal!
|At the Observation Tower|
|standing at the back of the Discovery Space Shuttle|
|Mary, Linn, and Terry enjoying dinner|
We have more family living in Reston, our nephew Kevin, his wife Mary and their one month old baby, Jacks Benedict Schmidt. We stopped by on Thursday morning for a quick visit and baby snuggle. Jacks is the 19th great nephew/niece born on my side and we have a new great niece coming in June - Wow! When we left Chicago back in October of 2013 we only had 8, this family just keeps growing. On Marty’s side we even have one great-great niece, 4 year old Mila.
|Jacks Bendict Schmidt - I think he likes me!|
We left Reston on Friday Morning following Terry’s excellent directions on avoiding tollways. Bath, Pennsylvania was our next stop and we spent four night there. Why Bath, Pennsylvania? It just happens to be the closest campground we could find near Nazareth, PA which is where Martin guitars are made. They offer weekday tours of their factory and on Monday we took the tour.
The campground we stayed at was nice but with very tight spots to get in and out of. It was wooded and right in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. When we checked in I looked over the “rules and regulations” and noticed that you can’t walk your dog after dusk. When I asked why, they told me it was because of the bears. Ok, we’ll keep Maddie inside and we’ll stay inside with her to keep her company.
Saturday and Sunday were both very rainy days. The rain was no problem because we had cable with the MLB station and the Cubs were playing the White Sox and we got to watch the games! We did do some Walmart shopping on Saturday and on Sunday we drove over to Bethlehem to check out the town. It was still raining so we couldn't get out and walk around but we did happen to notice there was a Hollywood Casino so we spent some time in there. It was a good place to spend a rainy afternoon, there was a mall with a food court attached to the casino so we didn’t spend our whole time gambling (just most of it).
|"I pulled into Nazareth...."|
|Ok Marty, we can go in and watch them make guitars|
|Clothespins, low-tech but effective|
Tuesday was another travel day. We drove through five states (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire) We spent the night in a Walmart parking lot, one of the nicest ones as far as nearby amenities - there was a Michaels Craft Store, a dollar store and a grocery store in the same parking lot and a Panera’s right next door.
Wednesday (5/16) was our last full day of traveling - YAY! We left New Hampshire and crossed over the Connecticut River west back into Vermont to head north on 91. I 91 is one of the prettiest highways we’ve ever been on and hopefully when we leave Maine we’ll be able to spend some time in Vermont. From I 91 North we got on Highway 2 east across New Hampshire and finally into Maine. Highway 2 has lots of warning signs to look out for moose but sadly we didn’t see any.
We are spending the summer at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum but since we won’t have any utilities there we decided to spend one last night in a full hook-up campground 3 miles south of the museum. We set up our rig and then took the short drive to the museum to check out our summer home and meet our new boss. You’ll have to wait until my next post to read about Maine. I will tell you this much, it's "buggy" and beautiful. Here's a link to the museum where we're working: www.maineforestandloggingmuseum.org