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Archive for May, 2009

   

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Taylor, off the RV and on the sunporch

 

For those of you who have been following the remodeling –  a few pictures to prove we work when we’re out here.  Well, Dick works really hard, and I design/decorate.

And Taylor, sits.

 

 

 

 

Kitchen pictures

maine kitchen remodel

maine kitchen remodel

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out the window today

out the window today

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new windows in living room

new windows in living room

 

more new windows

more new windows

 

Taylor in the music room

Taylor in the music room

 

One hundred year old house

One hundred year old cottage - with an RV in the driveway - life is good.

 

 

The old and the new

The old and the new

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I wish I had pictures, but we didn’t bring the camera when we went out to breakfast. Pictures wouldn’t have captured it though, just a small piece of it.  You had to be there.

I often think things that happen here look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  It’s small town America, compared to where I come from, Madison, WI.

We see the friendly man we sat next to at breakfast, an hour later, sitting in the lead car of the parade.  The parade consists of representatives of the Armed Services, the able-bodied marching, older soldiers riding on a float, or in cars, the more frail and elderly being escorted to the Memorial, where they will lay a wreath.  There is also the High School Band and the Boy Scouts. The beautiful thing is that most people know each other, so many young children and teenagers are hugging Veterans – and everyone seems to be there for someone.

The Gettysburg address is read ( I remember my Dad and Mom going to small town Stoughton, WI, each year, where it was recited by memory) and shots are fired, and then we hear the poignant, mournful sound of taps.  There is an invocation/prayer that speaks eloquently of courage and honor, and love and loss.  There are families near to where we are standing that must have suffered recent losses – their grief and the way they comfort each other both heart-wrenching and inspiring.  I feel privileged to be in the company of all of these people.

May we always remember those who have died for our country and our freedoms.  And pray for all the brave men and women and their families, who continue to serve.  We owe them more than we can ever realize.

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We went 27 days on our first trip without being away from the umbilical cord – State Parks were great,  along with a couple KOAs when we needed to be close to attractions in Nashville, etc.  We’ve been out 2 weeks on this second trip – same thing.

We are now parked in the rear parking lot of an obliging Cracker Barrel in Fishkill, NY.  It’s Memorial Day weekend and every campground is filled so this was a good stop in order to make it to the Maine house tomorrow.

What’s the experience like?  First off, given that there are not many parking spaces that work, finding level ground took a bit of time.  I have to admit I’m getting a little tired of the fussy refrigerator, and her neediness – but we get as level as we can, without the crutch of blocking.

But, once that level obligation has been met – there’s less to do than in a campsite.  No electrical hooking up (testing first) power.  No checking if there’s enough room for the slide. We don’t need to buy/gather firewood. 

So, we just sit back and watch an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and try and let our appetites catch up from a late lunch, so we can go in and eat/pay our dues.  Dick is tired after the episode, so he climbs into the top bunk for a nap.  In the meantime some huge Gibson RV/bus?! can’t figure out what it is – besides obnoxious – pulls in.  And proceeds to blare some really bad music throughout the lot.  It periodically makes sounds like an airline taking off as well.  Dick is sleeping though this.

I just heard a gull fly overhead, reminding me that this is temporary.  And it’s free, and very much appreciated.  Thank you Cracker Barrel for rescuing us on Memorial Day weekend.

And thank you Veterans – we are forever in your debt.

Happy postscript:  The giant just pulled out… Next?

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The story of this flood is compelling.  It has so many dramatic and tragic elements.  The exclusive South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, with members like Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Melon, juxstaposed with the thousands of immigrant Johnstown families, working in the mills, who died because of the millionaire’s neglect of a dam that was part of their “playground”.  

 

Wall of Debris - Johnstown Flood Museum

Wall of Debris - Johnstown Flood Museum

 

 

Then, there’s the sheer horror.  The suffering and death people faced in the path of the 40-60 foot wave, that swept them and everything in its’ path away. A night of agony, as people who were trapped in tons of debris (a 45-acre mass, with railroad cars and homes and broken parts of bridges, animals, people, barbed wire) piled up against the Stone Railroad Bridge. It was an oil-soaked jam and caught fire.  Everyone trapped in it was burned alive, and those who survived had to listen to their cries and screams as they died throughout the night. 

A survivor’s tale, recorded when he was 92 years, is beyond a Hollywood movie.  He tells of leaping from the top of one house to another, as he’s swept along in the torrent.Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Johnstown Flood National Memorial

 

Both the Johnstown Flood Museum in Johnstown and the National Park Site Memorial at the dam location are worth a visit.

But the biggest and best surprise of the visit here was the amazing Heritage Discovery Center. My son makes gentle fun at me for loving museums with lots of audio-visual aids.  This museum was the mother-lode.  You become part of the immigrant experience as soon as you walk through the door.  You choose to take on the character of a real historical person, and you re-live their immigrant experience. From the time you punch in your card at Ellis Island, and are responded to personally from the immigration officer, and arrive at the train station in Johnstown.  

Sitting in the train station (all our characters appear) - Heritage Discovery Center

Sitting in the train station (all our characters appear) - Heritage Discovery Center

Sights and smells, coal mine, church, village street – I’ll just say it’s the most fun, interesting and thought-provoking interactive museums I’ve ever been in.  And, as you leave, after navigating your character’s life and learning about what it was like to be an immigrant in Johnstown a hundred years ago, you turn in your identity card and find out your character’s fate.

To end on a more serious note, the fate of Johnstown seems very precarious.  After the most famous flood of 1889, another flood in 1977 devastated the city.  We heard from local people that it’s unlikely Johnstown will be able to come back, so much infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, and it seems unlikely that businesses will be attracted to this location in the future.

One of the saddest aspects of this is the imminent closing of seven amazing churches in the Cambria City area. Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church will stay open. There were so many others, Serbian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Slovakian and Hungarian Catholic Churches to name a few.  

A few pictures from our walk of two-three blocks.  

 

Cambria City Churches (Johnstown) PA

Cambria City Churches (Johnstown) PA

 

 

 

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

 

 

 

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

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I get a lump in my throat before we even arrive here.  Every turn we take, every new hill we crest,  I keep thinking about what was going on in the air above us on September 11, 2001.  It’s so painful to contemplate.  I am both anticipating and dreading coming upon the final scene, the actual crash site.

In kind of a cruel, ironic, tasteless twist, there’s some sort of a salvage business right before we get there, advertising for scrap metal, large hunks and small pieces are piled and strewn about.  How awful for family members or friends that must be.  

Then we see the temporary Memorial – a 4o foot long wire fence, with all kinds of mementoes hanging from it. It looks rather small in these large open surroundings.

Flight 93 Memorial fence

Flight 93 Memorial fence

 

 

But the emotional impact is huge.  Photographs, angels, baseball caps, prayers, plaques, stuffed animals.  Small mementoes of overwhelming gratitude and admiration.  

 

 

 

 

There are rows of benches, engraved with the names of each of the forty heroes. They overlook a grassy field and tree line, and when we turn that way, we see the large American flag, marking the spot where the plane came crashing down. There, in that field,  instead of the White House.  Or the Capitol.  Outcomes that would have changed all of our lives in uncountable, unforeseeable ways.

Looking beyond Cross to Crash Site, Flight 93 Memorial

Looking beyond Cross to Crash Site, Flight 93 Memorial

We also stop at the non-denominational Chapel, which is closed.  But, it’s a good and peaceful place to offer a final prayer for the courage and selflessness of these true American heroes.  

Flight 93 Memorial Chapel

Flight 93 Memorial Chapel

 

 

Flight 93 Memorial Chapel Garden

Flight 93 Memorial Chapel Garden

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Dick takes a day off to work.

Dick in his Navion office

Dick in his Navion office

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The exterior of his office.

campsite at Salt Fork State Park

campsite at Salt Fork State Park

 

And, (I should be feeling guilty here) someone NOT working…

Picture courtesy of Dick.

 

First time I set up one our our chairs outside since we began traveling - it went well used a chair outside - it went well

First time I set up one our our chairs outside since we began traveling - it went well...

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“The first night’s the toughest, no doubt about it.” (Red, Shawshank Redemption)

 

Ohio State Reformatory

Ohio State Reformatory

 

I would never spend a night in this place. Ever.  Even though they offer ghost hunts – overnight “paranormal investigations”, which I might have thought would be fun, at one time.  It’s just too creepy.  And it’s no wonder that it’s been featured on Fox Family Channel’s “Real Scary Stories”, “Scariest Places on Earth” and SciFi Channel’s “Ghost Hunters”.  

What it’s most famous for, though, is being the prison setting for the movie “Shawshank Redemption” (it’s also featured in “Air Force One”, “Tango and Cash” and some other movie and TV features – but the tourists who are there because of “Shawshank Redemption” appear to be the most numerous and exhuberant).

So, we choose the “Hollywood Tour” out of the three tours offered (which overlap to some degree). It’s supposed to last about an hour, but our guide is a “Shawshank Redemption” fanatic and  has so many stories to share about the movie (and his paranormal experiences as a tour guide), we’re gone a full two hours.

 

West Cell Block

West Cell Block

The Reformatory was built in 1886 and has the world’s largest freestanding steel cell block.  It must have been magnificent at one time, we see huge marble pillars and stained glass windows – inmates were evidently supposed to be inspired to repent.  We tour rooms that appeared in the movie, but which are now in an unbelievable state of ruin, since the Reformatory sat empty and unheated for several years, with horrendous damage from the elements and looters, after the making of the movie.  Lead paint is peeling and hanging everywhere, and the whole place is surreal.  But, it’s still recognizable to the fans who know every scene.

For us, it’s time to watch Shrawshank Redemption again!

 

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Prison Warden's Office (SR)

Prison Warden's Office (SR)

 

 

 

The hanging sceneThe hanging scene

 

 

Cell - Ohio State Reformatory

Cell - Ohio State Reformatory

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