This was an Airstream caravan that followed the old Immigrant Trail roughly following the old Erie Canal route.
June 4, 1995
Mileage @ start - 47350
On the way to the caravan rendezvous point, our first stop after leaving our home in north Georgia was the Kentucky Horse Park Campground in Lexington, Kentucky. There is a nice campground operated by the state, just east of the Horse Park. We opened the awning and were inside relaxing when BAM, the whole trailer shook with an impact. A tractor mowing the grass had come too close and clipped our awning. The damage didn't appear too bad, but several rods were bent and one aluminum panel was buckled. I picked up some claim forms at the office and made plans to get repair estimates.
June 5, 1995
Mileage @ start - 47682
Lamar and Frances Cockrell drove in about 4:00pm, having had some trouble. They had a blowout on a trailer tire and the debris from the blown tire caused considerable damage, including messing up their water heater. When they turned on the water heater it caught fire. Lamar quickly got it out with an extinguisher. We called ahead to the Airstream plant at Jackson Center and made arrangements to get help for both our problems the next day.
The green hills in this part of Kentucky are especially pretty at this time of year. This is the third year we've stopped here, and continue to be impressed. Horse farms are all over the map.
June 6, 1995
Mileage @ start - 47732
We were on the road before 8:00am, anxious to get to the Airstream plant early in hopes of getting our work done on first day. That didn't prove possible, but we did get there in time for a plant tour. Our tour guide was a retired gentleman who really knew Airstream products and production procedures. The company has made some major improvements in the facility and production procedures since we were here four years ago. I seem to remember that four years ago they were building four trailers to every motorhome. Now they're building three motor homes to every two trailers. In a couple of years all trailers will be the "wide body" variety, 102" wide. They have shut down their paint plant. All aluminum sheeting now comes from Alcoa with the acrylic already on, and all trim work is applied with decals. Even the forming of the curved bodies is now done differently - in molds. The sides are molded first, the supporting structure added, then the top is added, and its support structure brought in. Double sided tape is used to help hold the aluminum sheeting to the superstructure, cutting down on the number of rivets required. All these changes were made with the '94 models. Some of the motorhomes are now configured like a bus with a squared off front. Plush, Plush!
We arranged for Lamar's water heater work to be done on Wednesday morning, and I bought the parts needed to repair my awning. Replacing the slightly buckled panel was estimated to cost $600. Don't know how the state of Kentucky is going to take that, but should have the awning back in operation tomorrow.
We found a place to eat in nearby Russell Point called Millie's Inn. Russell Point was about 12 miles from Jackson Center. Had a plateful of spaghetti that was twice what I could eat, and others had same problem. Fresh bread and cinnamon rolls made the meal scrumptious.
June 7, 1995
Mileage @ start - 47900
The tractor came for Lamar's trailer at 7:00am, and they had him finished about noon. In the meantime I did the repairs on our awning. We were then on our way for Norwalk, Ohio. Traveling through the wide open farming country of central Ohio, we made good time, arriving at the Huron County Fairgrounds about 4:30pm. This was the caravan rendezvous point, and three other trailers were already there. We met the Eisenschmidts (Bob and Doris) and Chillcotts (Les and Jean), then got set up for a couple of nights.
June 8, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48075
The temperature fell during the night for a welcome relief. We weren't used to 90 degree days. The Cockrells, however, now complained that they were freezing - at 60 degrees.
This turned out to be an interesting day. We first drove into Norwalk hunting the Post Office. This was the first mail drop of the trip. After getting the mail, I found a copy store to make copies of the damage estimate to send in to the State of Kentucky. We saw an interesting building around the corner with a sign that read "Firelander's Museum." Yielding to curiosity, we pulled into a parking lot behind the museum to check it out. The front door was open, so we walked on in, although there was not a soul around. We were signing the guest register and putting a couple of dollars into the jar in obedience to the sign on the wall when the telephone rang. Frances picked up the phone and said, "Good Morning!" in her usual cheery voice. The caller was the police station. It seems that on entering the building, we set off the burglar alarm at the station. Soon a police car drove up. So we wandered around the interesting museum with our own police escort. It seems the normal hostess for the day had left for a few minutes and failed to lock the door. Everybody was nice about it, and we all had a good laugh. The museum had a collection of several hundred antique handguns and rifles dating to the early 1800s. It also had early musical instruments, china, games, toys, furniture, clothes, etc. As we were leaving the hostess arrived and explained the name Firelands. The police also recommended a drive over to the little town of Milan about four miles to the north. By the time we left we had recommendations for a good place to eat as well.
The eating place was Berry's Restaurant where we had some good beef stew.
The westernmost tract of land in the Connecticut Western Reserve which now includes this part of Ohio became known as the Firelands when it was granted to the families of Connecticut who were burned out and driven from their homes during the Revolutionary War. The people chose the name Norwalk for the town because the town they had left in New England had that name. They brought with them their New England traditions. Norwalk and Milan are often referred to as New England villages of the midwest. The family names, the appearance of the homes and tree lined streets, and the names of the towns and streets mirror the Connecticut environment.
Milan was four miles to the north of Norwalk, on the Huron River. It was once a thriving terminal on the Erie Canal system, a port where farmers shipped their grain back to eastern markets. Located just three miles south of the Huron River which was navigable by ships sailing the waters of Lake Erie, the town fathers created their port by digging a canal and turn basin to connect the town with the river. For a period of about ten years around 1840, the town was the major shipping port for grain in the new world. Then the railroads came to the area. The same town fathers who had the wisdom to dig the canal fought and resisted the railroads. As a result the rails bypassed Milan and centered on Norwalk. Activity around Milan dried up. But it was to regain a measure of fame because of a famous native son.
Thomas Edison's father moved his family to Milan in the early 1840s to get work on the canal system. Tom was born in the little brick house near the canal turn basin. He was the youngest of the seven Edison children. When he was old enough he went to the first grade in Milan, but was a problem child, unable to sit still. That first grade was the only public schooling he ever had. The house was a small brick home, so small it's hard to imagine a family of nine living there. It still belongs to the family and is maintained by a family foundation. We were hosted through the little house by an interesting lady who was an authority on Edison and his eccentricities and remarkable accomplishments. Most of the furnishings in the home belonged to the Edisons, and there are many reproductions of his inventions there.
We spent some time riding up and down the beautiful tree lined streets and looking at the old, well kept homes, both in Milan and Norwalk.
Had the door to the Firelands Museum been locked as it should have been, we'd have left town uninformed as to the significance of the term, Firelands. We'd have never seen the little town of Milan or learned of its interesting history or connection with Thomas Edison. Life turns on such little things!
Back at the fairgrounds, many trailers had come in and plans were being made to eat together later. Twenty-one trailers were in. We joined the group at Grimaldi's Restaurant for a good meal. We had our first drivers meeting and met our caravan leaders, Bob and Mary Wiechel, after dinner. "Goody bags" were passed out, introductions were made all around, and plans were discussed for the trip.
THE CARAVAN BEGINS.....
June 9, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48100
And the caravan started to roll..... We left Huron County Fairgrounds at about 7:30am for the six hour trip to Erie, Pennsylvania. At Erie we drove to the waterfront to see the United States Niagara, the flagship of Commodore Perry in the successful Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. The Niagara is one of only three surviving vessels of that famous battle in which the United States fleet defeated the British for control of the Great Lakes.
The restored Niagara is 110' long and 30' wide at the beam, a unique two masted schooner that sails the Great Lakes these days as an ambassador for the State of Pennsylvania. But on September 10, 1813 it was one of nine ships built in Erie under cover of darkness that engaged and captured the British fleet on the lake. It was a stunning defeat - a key victory and turning point in the war. After the battle, Commodore Perry issued his historic statement, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours."
Upon returning to camp we had a drivers' meeting and ice cream for the group, then retired early.
June 10, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48340
We had an easy drive from Erie, Pennsylvania to Corning, New York, about 230 miles. It was good road through some nice hilly scenery in western New York state. It was a day to relax without anything planned beyond the travel time.
I found an available phone jack at the campground here, and plugged in to get our EMail. Had messages from Don Woodruff and Dave Schumaker. It only took a few seconds of time on the phone to download the messages.
CORNING, NEW YORK
June 11, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48580
Today's tour of the Corning Glass Center was a group affair, so we lined up in our tow vehicles at 8:00am to carpool into town. The glass museum there houses an outstanding collection of glass items from around the world and from time periods 3500BC to the present. Some of the artwork on the ancient pieces was incredible. There was also a glass blowing exhibition and a glimpse of the plant in operation. It was so hot in the plant with all the furnaces going that we didn't stay very long.
After the plant tour we went into the old town of Corning where they have restored a street to its original state, calling it Market Street. Several blocks are now a shopping mall with the old store fronts. We all had lunch at the Old Ice Cream Works, a restored ice cream parlor with all the old type fixtures and fountain.
After lunch we drove to the neighboring town of Elmira and went to a mall. The main reason was to see The Bridges of Madison County. It was well done and faithful to the book, a powerful love story.
June 12, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48620
It rained all night and was still raining this morning when we awoke, but the air soon cleared to a brilliant day, revealing some of the prettiest countryside imaginable. The rolling hills and lakes and green forests, and the wide open spaces were in complete contradiction to the image I had of New York. We left as a carpooling group early to make the short trip up the road to the town of Hammondsport. There we visited the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Glenn Curtiss was one of the pioneers of aeronautics, and replicas of his innovative airplanes were on display.
Curtiss was in the bicycle business, as were the Wright Brothers before getting interested in aviation. Curtiss developed several engines to make his bicycles into motorcycles and held the speed record for man for many years on one of his motorcycles. That motorcycle, which was propelled by an eight cylinder engine, gave Curtiss the record of 136 mph in a timed event on a beach in Florida. Looking at the motorcycle which was on display made us all quiver to think that a man rode that crude thing at such speed.
Curtiss was one of those free thinking geniuses this country produced back in the early 20th century. He not only held the distinction of being the "fastest man on earth" but he was the first to publicly announce the flight of an airplane before the fact. He made the first long distance flight of 150 miles from Albany to New York City. He was the first to demonstrate that a bomb could be dropped from an airplane. He trained the first woman pilot. He was the first person to receive a pilot's license in the U.S. He developed the first retractable landing gear, the first ailerons, the first successful flying boat, the first plane purchased by the Navy, and his engines were unexcelled in their time.
The Curtiss "Jenny" airplane revolutionized warfare during the first World War. Curtiss's main contribution to aviation, however, was his willingness to let anyone who so desired to take his inventions and develop them further. This was in contrast to the Wright brothers who were secretive of their work and extremely predisposed to profit from their invention.
Curtiss also built and sold the first travel trailer, called the Land Yacht. In fact, he gave that name to our own Wally Byam for use with the Airstream trailer.
Our visit to this museum was an eye opener, but the day was not over. From Hammondsport we drove up to Canandaigua for a visit to the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion. This was one of those opulent estates created at the end by a wealthy banker and his wife in the days before income taxes. The estate began as a 200 acre purchase in Mrs. Mary Clark Thompson's home town. It was the Thompson's summer home, New York City being their principal place of residence. He started the banks which evolved into today's Citibank and Chase Manhattan and was once probably the wealthiest man in America. Mrs. Thompson loved gardens. She created a conservatory, Japanese gardens, a Roman bath, a garden called the Temple of Diana, her Sub Rosa garden, a rose garden, Italian gardens, a "blue and white" garden, a pansy garden, a moonlight garden, a colonial garden, a rock garden, and a reflecting pond garden. The Thompsons built a large English Tudor style mansion on the property.
But they did not have the foresight to create an organization to perpetuate the estate after their deaths. Mr. Thompson died in 1899, and Mrs. Thompson in 1923. The abandoned estate slowly succumbed to decay and vandalism. The heirs sold the property to the federal government in 1930, not for any purpose of preservation, but to provide land for a veteran's hospital. The beautiful gardens and the Thompson mansion continued to deteriorate until 1972 when 50 acres were sold back to the family, and a non-profit corporation was formed to try to restore the gardens. They have made some progress, but being underfinanced has limited the work. A tour through the property is interesting, but it requires a good bit of imagination to appreciate what was once there. It is not yet restored to the state that one could call it a beautiful attraction. Yet there are a huge variety of trees, huge in size too, all identified with little plaques, that Mrs. Thompson planted. Maybe one day the restoration will be complete.
We made one more sight seeing stop at the Wizard of Clay shops on the way to Bath, New York. That was not too impressive, but it provided a place to stretch and relax a bit. In Bath we ate as a group at the "Loafin' Tree" Restaurant before heading back to camp. The day's sightseeing circuit had covered some 120 miles.
June 13, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48620
A beautiful day! Clear skies and clear air. Leaving Corning, we headed north along the west side of Seneca Lake through Watkins Glen and Geneva. The hillsides look like a quiltlike patchwork of vineyards and woody areas, all very lush. I still can't get over how pretty this countryside is. Our only exposure to New York before was New York City and that terrible highway, I-81. This trip has been an eye opener. We could return to this area to spend more time. At spots along the lake it reminded Ann of the Rhine River Valley in Germany. The lake is a long finger of water, not a river, but from above appearing like one. The green hills on both sides slope sharply down to the water.
This is the land that was once the home of the Seneca Indians of the Iroquois federation. The name Seneca appears in many places.
Today was our day to be the "caboose." It was our job to try to bring up the rear of the caravan. It was tough though, because we didn't know when someone would leave the prescribed route on a side trip. By monitoring the chatter on CB Channel 14 we did fairly well though. Had there been any mishaps it would have been our responsibility to see that help was provided.
VERONA, NEW YORK
We arrived at the new campsite in Verona, NY about 2:30pm after an easy drive of about 150 miles. All units were in but four, and they arrived shortly thereafter, claiming to have gotten lost in Geneva. In truth, we learned that they had spent time in a shopping mall, but that was okay.
Verona was a mail drop, so as soon as we got set up in camp, I took off for town to find the post office. Setting up mail drops ahead of time always creates a bit of suspense. Did our mail forwarder get the message? Did they follow instructions correctly? Did the postal service do their job? Would our mail be where we wanted it to be? I always chose little towns with a single zip code, so Verona fit the bill, but having never been there before there was suspense whether I would find the post office and suspense whether our mail would be there waiting. But it was, and we were happy to hear from our friends. Also got some bills to pay.
June 14, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48770
The Erie Canal played a huge role in the development of this country, yet little emphasis is placed on it in the history books. Don't know why. In its time it was a tremendous engineering achievement. Running between Albany and Buffalo, New York, the canal was 363 miles long and made it possible for cargo and people to be transported from New York City up the Hudson River to Albany, then west on the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes. The canal proved a big success with manufactured goods and people moving west and agricultural goods moving back east. But initially it was criticized as Governor Clinton's folly or Clinton's Ditch. New York City can credit its present day prominence to the Erie Canal. The canal made New York the most important port city in the country.
Digging started at the midpoint near Rome on the 4th of July, 1817 with much pomp and ceremony. Digging then progressed both ways for eight years until the canal was finished in 1825.
The canal provided the principal means for European immigrants to move west to settle in the Midwest, although few could afford to ride the packet boats which were the regular passenger service. Most took passage on the roofs of the cargo boats or wherever they could. Packet boat service was discontinued in 1850 when the railroads became the accepted way for passengers to travel, but immigrants continued to use the canal boats because of the low cost. It is very probable that our Berg ancestors used the canal when they came from Germany through New York en route to Logansport, Indiana. That's what made our little excursion on a replica of a packet boat more interesting.
We boarded at Rome at the very spot where digging began. The mule-drawn boat held over 100 people and weighed over 20 tons. Two mules hitched to a two-wheel wagon walked along a road bordering the canal, pulling the boat with a 200 foot long rope. We had about 100 school kids on a class trip aboard for the mile long educational ride. The mule driver and boat handlers gave a talk about the history of the canal and its significance.
The canal was such a success in its time that all of the construction and operational cost was repaid, and $40 million in net profit was in the bank by 1880. Tolls were discontinued at that time, and the canal continued to operate until 1918. The excursion that we rode is now the only mule or horsedrawn vessel operating now. Our fare was $2.50 each. We rode about 1/4 mile one way, then the boat was turned around and pulled the other way for 1/2 mile, then turned again to return to the starting point.
The canal when first dug was 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep. Eleven years later it was widened to 70 feet and deepened to 7 feet. The original cost was $7 million. The cost to widen was $40 million. A mule team in the old days pulled for six hours before being relieved by another team. It took 7 or 8 days to make the 363 mile trip from Albany to Buffalo. The old route of the canal is now State Road 5 and is called the Immigrant Trail. This is the route we have followed on the caravan, however there are only a few places where the canal can still be seen.
BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
On Wednesday afternoon, we rode down to Cooperstown, NY to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is recognized as being the birthplace of baseball. Folklore has it that Abner Doubleday chased the cows out of Elihu Phinney's pasture one afternoon in 1830 and had the inspiration to invent baseball. 100 years later, the Baseball Hall of Fame was dedicated on the spot. It is a repository of the game's treasures, and being chosen to membership in the Hall of Fame is one of the highest honors any athlete can attain.
The walls of the membership hall are lined with plaques bearing the relief images of the ballplayers who have been selected. Each plaque gives the full name of the athlete and his achievements and statistics. In another room the greatest players have booths of their own, exhibiting pictures, their gloves, the balls they hit, their bats, etc. Babe Ruth has his own exhibit, as does Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, Bob Feller, Lou Gehrig, and others. Highlights of all-star games, world series plays, and just great or unusual plays are on video monitors all around the place. Being there was a great experience.
June 15, 1995
Mileage @ start - 48838
Thursday's trip from Verona to West Point was interesting to say the least. Despite assurances from our leader that our route for the day was simple and easy to follow, nearly everybody on the caravan took a wrong road at one point or another. The Cockrells, the Steenbergens, the Durbins, and the Bergs were travelling together with the Bergs in the lead and the Cockrells at caboose. Twice we got separated and didn't know who was ahead or behind. At one point we overtook the early workers, discovering that they too had been lost for over an hour. It wasn't that anyone was really lost. We just had trouble following the prescribed route. Some of the confusion was because the road signs had been changed since our leaders scouted the trip last fall. But we all made it in, and we had some good laughs. It was a beautiful drive. I'm still amazed at the pretty scenery in New York state. We drove through Rome, Utica, Little Falls, Conanjahare, and Schenectady at the northern edge of the Catskill mountains before getting on the interstate system to go south to West Point. We encountered some steep grades inside the campus before finding our assigned parking lot D. There were, of course, no hookups for our two-night stand here.
WEST POINT MILITARY ACADEMY
June 16, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49080
West Point was everything our friends Gordon and Edith Fitts told us it was. Our tour began when the tour bus came to our campsite to pick us up. The weather was perfect, and our guide was a young woman who did an excellent job.
The first stop was at the chapel. It's impossible to describe this building with anything like adequate expression. With seating for 1500, the chapel had over 400 beautiful stained glass windows, a pipe organ with 19,000 pipes, a 200 foot long center isle, a beautiful altar area, a truly awesome edifice located high above the rest of the campus.
West Point sits on the west bank of the Hudson River on a point of land that strategically commands the waterway. The site was chosen as a defensive position during the War of 1812 to prevent British warships from sailing up the Hudson. The mountains that border the Hudson give the area an impressive beauty that transcends the military aspects.
The cadets were on vacation while we were there, so we didn't see any parades, but the bus stopped at several key spots so we could get out and walk around. One of the stops was at the library. In front of the library is a statue of General George Patton. Patton is shown with a pair of binoculars looking toward the library. It is said that he had trouble with many of his classes while at the academy. Asked why, his standard reply was, "I couldn't find the ----- library. So for posterity he now stands in a position where he can never again say that he can't see the library.
We learned that Douglas MacArthur held the highest grades of any graduate in the 20th century. Robert E. Lee held that honor for the 19th century. Dwight Eisenhower was a mediocre student.
The traditions at West Point are many and meaningful. Our guide was full of facts and stories about the cadets and the disciplines they learn.
HUDSON RIVER VALLEY
The tour bus dropped us off back at our campsite, then we loaded up in our Suburbans and headed north along the Hudson River. We were invited to ride with Fran and Ernie Durbin. There were eight of us in the car - Ann and I, Frances and Lamar, Tom and Alice Steenbergen, and the Durbins. We had a good time together. With good weather and beautiful scenery, we were much impressed with what we saw, although too much was crowded into the day. We went to an antique airplane museum where many World War I planes were in hangars on display. We toured Franklin D. Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park, the Vanderbilt mansion a little farther north, then the Culinary Institute also in Hyde Park. By then we were all weary.
The Roosevelt tombs are in a rose garden that would rival any in the country. The home was where FDR was born, "a 10 pound boy without his clothes." While an impressive estate on the banks of the Hudson, the home reflected surprisingly simple tastes. Certainly the history reflected there and the thought of what Roosevelt endured and achieved after contracting polio make being on the grounds especially meaningful. We could have spent more time in his library and museum.
The Vanderbilt mansion was built by Frederick Vanderbilt, a grandson of the Commodore - Cornelius Vanderbilt. It reflects the owner's desire to put his wealth on display. The estate originally consisted of 200 acres on what is probably the best piece of real estate on the east bank of the Hudson River. The views are fantastic both up and down the river. The estate is now only 60+ acres. Both the Roosevelt home and the Vanderbilt mansion are federally owned and operated by the National Park Service. So our new Golden Age card came in handy.
We were guided through the Culinary Institute by a student who was about half way through his course. The institute is dedicated to training chefs for fancy restaurants, so we saw all sorts of fancy recipes being prepared. The 21 month course cost $28,000, but that includes room, board, books, and cooking tools. It sounded like a rigorous course. Each of the students was decked out in grey checked trousers and white coats and chef hats, and they all appeared hard at work. While there are no job guarantees, the average student has 4 or 5 job offers to choose from when he or she graduates. And they are extremely well paid. There were three restaurants in the school for outside guests, but the prices reflected the fancy cuisine. We chose to eat elsewhere, but we did get a few snacks on the tour.
June 17, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49050
The caravan moved from West Point to North Stonington, Connecticut in an easy drive. We were in a group of seven trailers, more than we usually travel with, but Lamar was leading, and everybody wanted to tag along. He keeps us in stitches on the CB.
Gasoline prices were out of sight - $1.40 per gallon for 87 Octane. No choice but to pay it. Don't know if it is that way just in this area or if prices have risen everywhere. Gasoline is by far the biggest expense of the trip. When we arrived at our campsite, an empty area in the rear of a commercial campground, everybody was ready to relax awhile. Bob Wiechel called a meeting under the trees to preview what we were scheduled to see in Mystic Seaport on the morrow.
June 18, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49210
Mystic is an old shipbuilding town and the location where many of the fastest clipper ships of the 19th century were built. It was also the home port for many of the old whaling vessels. An area of town has been restored and turned into a museum of all the stores and shops that supported the port activities. It is located on the Mystic River some six miles inland from open water in a well protected natural harbor.
The last of the old wooden whalers, known as the Charles W. Morgan, is tied up at the Middle Wharf and is used to demonstrate whaling procedures. One of a crew of young people actually climbs up to the crow's nest high in the rigging and cries out, "Thar she blows!" to let the crew know that a whale has been sighted. The rest of the crew then proceeds to lower a small boat equipped with harpoons, a mast, and long oars. As the crew readies the boat to go after the whale, a singer on shore belts out seafaring songs. It is then explained by the boat captain that the small boat will as quietly as possible maneuver up close, actually beaching the boat on the back of the whale. The lancer then thrusts a barbed harpoon into the flesh of the whale. The whale takes off, peeling out 1800 feet of line. At times the whale will run for 10 to 12 hours before tiring and in the process pull the small boat 5 miles away from the mother ship. This was called the Nantucket sleigh ride. When the whale tires, the boat pulls back alongside, makes the kill with another kind of lance, and the crew then has the laborious task of rowing back to the mothership, pulling the dead whale the whole distance, often taking as long as 12 hours.. The most dangerous part of the procedure is the killing. When the whale feels the deadly lance, it might turn on the boat and overturn it with its thrashing around. It's really hard to imagine all of this going on in heavy seas.
When the procession finally reaches the mothership they begin slicing off great slabs of blubber which are cooked down to recover the whale oil. The bones, teeth, and other usable parts are all brought aboard and saved. When finished the hunt begins again. It was often as long as four years from the time the whalers left Mystic before they returned with storage bins full of oil.
On a successful trip a whaler would kill 35 to 40 whales. All of this activity was outlawed in 1972 when an international treaty called for its end. Unfortunately, not all nations agreed to the treaty, but the U.S. was one of the signers, so there is no longer a whaling industry here.
We watched demonstrations of sail handling, dropping a heavy anchor, lowering a small boat, and a ceremony of beating a dead horse. When the sailors boarded a vessel, they were usually in debt to the captain, so the first few weeks of work were merely to repay their debt. That was thought of as carrying the weight of a dead horse. At the end of the debt period, they made up an effigy of a horse and held a ceremony which lasted an hour or so. Each seaman worked out his frustrations by literally beating the dead horse - pounding, kicking, spitting on it, etc. Then the horse was hauled up to a yardarm and amidst loud singing and laughter was dropped overboard. A good captain, while he wouldn't necessarily approve, allowed this to go on, knowing the need for the sailors to vent their emotions. Thus came the expression, "Beating a dead horse."
After lunch we went over to the Aquarium, a very popular attraction nearby. There was a demonstration of the high intelligence of bottlenose dolphin and a beluga whale. There were many varieties of fish in the aquariums and pools with seals, sea lions, penguins, etc.
Just a few miles east of Mystic is the submarine base at New Haven. Many of our folks went over to see the Nautilus, our first nuclear powered submarine. A memorial has been erected where the sub is docked.
June 19, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49210
This was a day for laundry and relaxing and playing dominoes, a well needed day after the busy time we'd had. This had been the busiest caravan we'd been on. Too much so. There have been many interesting things to see, but we should have had twice the time to see them.
BOSTON AND VICINITY
June 20, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49235
The caravan moved to Boston with a fairly easy drive east and north on I-95 through Providence, Rhode Island. We stayed at the fairgrounds in Topsfield, Massachusetts, the same spot we stayed five years ago when we came through here on the Nor-by-Noreast Caravan to Nova Scotia. We were hardly set up good when the convoy started forming to go to "The Butterfly Place." We drove fifty miles north, almost to the New Hampshire border, to see a few butterflies in a cage, little more than we saw everyday at home when our thrift was blooming. Not only was it a waste of time and money, the convoy got separated and lost more times than I can count. It seemed that every time we were to turn left, the lead cars turned right, or south instead of north, etc.
On the way back from the butterflies, we stopped at Concord and Lexington, where we should have gone first. It was nearly five o'clock though before we reached those historic places.
The first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired on the green at Lexington. The first British casualties of the war occurred at Concord. In The Minute Man National Historical Park we saw the monument to the minutemen who were determined to fight for their liberty near the North Bridge over the Concord River. We saw the grave of the British soldiers who had come 3,000 miles to die on American soil. We drove the "Battle Road" from Concord to Lexington where the minutemen harassed the marching Redcoats. That harrassment continued as the British marched all the way to Boston and continued in the Battle of Bunker Hill where the British lost over 1,000 men.
The bravery of these minutemen set an example and inspired militia from all over New England. The colonial victories in those first few battles proved that the British army was not as invincible as their reputation suggested. The shots at Lexington and Concord became known as "The Shot Heard Round the World."
We had missed Lexington and Concord on our previous trip to Boston. That part of the day was very worthwhile.
June 21, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49475
Yesterday and today provided examples of mistakes that can be made by a caravan leader. Yesterday the plan was to line up at 1:30pm to carpool up to The Butterfly Place. Inexplicably our leader drove away fifteen minutes early before everyone had lined up and without saying a word. It was no surprise that the cars were separated, several got lost, and many were upset. Today, he sent everyone into downtown Boston on their own looking for a parking garage that didn't exist. Most of us left at 8:00am to get to town by 9:00am as instructed to pickup a trolley ride that was to have been paid for out of the caravan kitty. But the leader was not with us to pay the fare. The inevitable confusion really got folks upset. There was no parking garage where we were told to go, and we couldn't board the trolley until the leader paid the fare, and he was two hours late showing up. We stood around for two hours stewing.
When we finally got aboard the trolley, we had a good driver who did an excellent job of describing the sights of Boston. The two hour ride around the city took us to all the important historical points and many others. We learned that 60% of the city has been built on fill, land that was once navigable water. We saw the old North Church, the USS Constitution, Quincy Market, the Commons, the waterfront, the old State House, the new State House, and heard some insightful historical accounts of the Revolutionary period. At the end of the tour, we had lunch in a Quincy Market restaurant, then went for a tour of Old Ironsides.
Old Ironsides is the nickname given the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world and still a part of the U.S. Navy. She was authorized in 1794 when Congress passed a bill to establish the U.S. Navy, and she was launched on October 21, 1797. The ship participated in many sea battles and was never defeated. She was condemned as no longer seaworthy in 1830 and destined for destruction, but the masterful poem, "Old Ironsides'" written by Oliver Wendell Holmes sparked sympathy for her preservation, and she's still with us. The ship was in dry dock when we arrived, being refitted and overhauled. When the masts were laid down they found coins underneath that the sailors 200 years ago put there. The weight of these huge wooden masts was such that the impression of the coins was clearly in the wood. We weren't able to get a full tour of the ship because of the work going on, but we were told that this was the first time in her 200 year history that she had been boarded by tourists while in dry dock.
There was no more time to see things because of the earlier time wasting, so we headed back to camp. We managed to find our way out of the city through the 5:00pm traffic and got back to Topsfield without incident.
June 22, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49475
Fifteen of us left Topsfield at 10:00am for Gloucester and Rockport. After stopping at the docks to pick up our tickets, we drove to Rockport for some sightseeing. Rockport's rocky shoreline is a photographer's delight. Our whalewatching boat ride began at 1:30pm. It took about an hour to reach the feeding grounds. We saw several "minkee" whales and several finbacks, including a mother and nursing calf. These whales come to the surface to breathe through their blowholes, then arch their backs to dive for food. The show was not spectacular, but it was interesting. The weather was excellent for the day, clear skies and calm seas. The Daunty VI was powerful and fast, so the wind was strong while we were moving. The fresh air and outdoor excursion made sleeping that night an easy matter.
June 23, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49475
We left Topsfield at 6:30am for the 100 mile journey to Greenfield, MA. The county fairgrounds at Greenfield was being used as a pre-rally site, or staging area for those arriving ahead of their prescribed parking time at Amherst. We came to Greenfield to stay one night and while there had a final luncheon for the caravan. Think everyone was ready to get here. We had a nice luncheon at Bricker's Restaurant, one I think was enjoyed by all. Afterwards we rode down to Amherst to look at the campus and rally grounds., then found a coin laundry to do the necessaries.
June 24, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49650
The 22 mile trip from Greenfield to the rally site in Amherst went smoothly. It was a rare sight to see our 23 trailers in a tight convoy making its way to the campus of the University of Massachusetts. We had a scheduled arrival time of 8:33am, and our departure from Greenfield was timed precisely so that we would arrive within five minutes of that scheduled time. At each turn in the route advance flag men were stationed to assure that we missed no turn. Then, as we neared the rally site local policemen were on hand to wave us through red lights. When we arrived there was no wait, we were waved into an open field and parked immediately in an area designated "Yellow 1." We were in Row 4. So Yellow 1, Row 4 became our rally site address. This later appeared on the computer generated locator board so that among that sea of aluminum Airstreams we could be found with ease.
We were greeted by a committee of "minutemen," costumed for the rally theme of celebrating the Revolution. After setting up we walked over to the Mullins Center, a huge new arena, to register. There we saw many friends from previous caravans and rallies, and we picked up our "goodie" bags of schedules and instructions for the days to come.
We spent the rest of the day greeting old friends and relaxing with some dominoes and pinochle.
June 25, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49700
We went to the First Baptist Church of Amherst on this morning, something we all felt needed after three non-stop weeks of travelling. The small church was near the campus of UMass. Afterward we ate at a fine restaurant in town called Judie's.
Amherst is a small town in a beautiful area of Massachusetts called Pioneer Valley. We can see mountains in the background and lots of open countryside. The town is strictly a small college town. UMass was established over 100 years ago. Recent construction of the arena made it an ideal site for our rally. Signs are all around town welcoming WBCCI members. The economic impact of this many people in town during their "school's out" season is something to welcome.
June 27, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49750
Trailers continued to stream into the campus all day as the parking areas began to fill up. I drove into town in the morning to find a copying service. The caravan schedule was so busy, I never had a chance to get out travelogs until then. Also found a barber shop.
There was a special dinner given for caravan leaders at the Depot Restaurant in Northhampton in the evening. Rich Harold conducted the after dinner awards ceremony, then showed a video tape that I had made to promote caravans. The video was well accepted. In fact, I got a standing ovation for the effort. The accolades made the work of putting the tape together seem worthwhile.
June 28, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49750
When the vendors opened I finally got the rest of the parts needed to repair our awning. Design had changed a bit, but the new parts worked. I also got some stuff to put on our vent cover to keep it from sticking.
Walking around the booths at the Mullins Center, we looked up to see the Schumakers coming toward us. They had arrived earlier in the day and were settled in their hotel room.
Lamar enrolled in the Caravan Training seminar and reported a good session. There will be two more sessions.
We went to Judie's Restaurant again for supper..
June 29, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49750
Lamar and I entered the domino tournament and won first and second place, giving the Tampa Bay Unit some credits. By sheer luck, I beat him out for first place, but later he got his revenge when he whipped me good back at the trailers. Afterward we attended an Airstream maintenance seminar. Learned some things about refrigerator maintenance including some information about fixing a door problem.
Frances cooked a good supper for us to eat in for a change. Rice and mushroom gravy, peas, baked chicken, and salad. Very good.
The evening entertainment was a concert by the Wally Byam band. They were good, but we were seated beneath an airconditioning vent that made it impossible to enjoy the music fully. We had to leave before it was over.
June 30, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49750
I spent the morning doing odd jobs around the trailer. Adjusted the refrigerator door to make it close better, applied some chemical to the gasket around the roof vent to keep it from sticking, took our TV in to the repairman. Then it was time for lunch with the Tampa Bay Unit. We were honored by the presence of Gene Stubbs, our International President. It was a good lunch and a good chance to see some of our fellow unit members.
Then Frances got lost. We were strolling through some of the exhibits and somehow drifted apart. Two hours later after searching high and low, there she was enjoying a talent show in the auditorium. There's never a dull moment traveling with the Cockrells.
Had to buy a new tube for my bicycle tire. Just went flat. Large hole for no apparent reason. I'm getting a little exercise riding the bike around the rally site. There's an oval road that makes a circuit around the area where we're parked. It's about 2 1/2 miles around, just enough to work up a good sweat I try to do it daily, but sometimes don't make it.
The evening entertainment was the best of the rally so far. A four man musical group from Chicago called the New Odyssey played some 35 different instruments and were great.
Saw Jay and Marilyn Smith after the show. They've been involved with family and haven't gotten around as much this year. They were on both the Nova Scotia and Western Canada caravans with us in '90 and '91, and we've corresponded since.
July 1, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49760
Canada Day! July 1, 1867 was the day that Canada became a nation, and it is therefore the first of July every year that is celebrated as Canada day at the rally. Everyone wears red and white and flies the Canadian flag. Then the entertainment for the evening is from Canada. This year it was a group from the Canadian Maritimes with primarily Newfoundland music.
The quality of the entertainment was not up to what we have heard in prior years. Think it reflects the decline in membership and attendance and a correspondingly lower budget.
Lamar and I attended a caravan training seminar in the morning while the girls took off on a sightseeing and shopping trip to historic Deerfield. My caravan promotion tape was shown at the seminar and seemed to be well received again. We heard several speakers who described what to expect on a WBCCI caravan. This was well done, much better than the seminar Ann and I went to a couple of years ago.
It started raining during the afternoon, a well needed change that settled the dust around the parking areas. The rain let up at show time, then continued on into the night.
July 2, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49800
Sunday again. Doesn't seem like we've been here a week already. We went to church services in the arena. Sat with the Steenbergens and Durbins, then went out to eat with them at the old Depot in Northampton.. Had a nice meal off a brunch buffet. We then went to the Smith College campus and went through the green house and gardens there. Millions of plant varieties were growing and well identified.
Evening entertainment was Mark Russell, the political satirist who appears regularly on PBS. He was good - kept the audience in stitches for over an hour.
July 3, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49800
This was a full day. It started with the big flea market. Some 250 tables of wares were spread out all around the arena floor, extending into an adjoining building. What a variety of stuff! From old Airstream parts to crafty things people had made. Old tires, hitch assemblies, old CB radios, used golf balls, paperback books, jewelry, light bulbs, flag poles, ingenious devices for an assortment of purposes, just about everything imaginable. Except for those manning the tables, the general public was kept out until 9:30am. Then, when the doors opened it was a mass rush to the aisles. What a mob! People too thick to really get a good look at anything without getting crushed.
At one o'clock I had an assignment to show my caravan promotion video in one of the college classrooms for two hours.
Then, at 3:00pm we had our first meeting of the Newfoundland caravan. Jim Humphrey held forth to tell the group some of the things we could expect on the trip. He and Evelyn passed out hats to the men and tote bags for the ladies, and guide books with driving instructions and schedules of stops and activities. There was a lot of enthusiasm. There were twelve couples from our Tampa Bay Unit going. Most however were strangers that we will have the pleasure of getting to know as we go along. We were surprised to see Kelly and Jean Sarvis from North Carolina. The Sarvises were the ones who bought our Suburban new and traded it (and their trailer) for a motorhome in Sarasota.
There was a good dixieland band for the evening entertainment, then installation of new officers for the coming year. A lot of pomp and ceremony that was boring, a lot of self-puffery. We skipped the reception and went to the cafeteria for a late icecream feed with the Schumakers and Cockrells.
July 4, 1995
Mileage @ start - 49805
On the last day of the rally the traditional 4th of July parade began at 10:00am. Old cars, vintage Airstreams, floats from the units, marching units, a fire engine or two, police cars, the teenagers and younger kids, all added to the festive occasion. Then at noon there was a rallywide picnic catered by a local outfit which provided sack lunches of chicken and fruit. It was a fitting end to the 38th annual International WBCCI Airstream rally.
Saying goodbye to the many new friends we had met and old friends we saw again was sort of tough.
There was Ray and Velna Leininger from Jackson Center, Ohio. Ray and Velna have a 21' Airstream that he built himself. He started with a bare chassis that he obtained from a wrecked 29' trailer, cut it down to 21' and built everything else from scratch. The interior design is unique with an unusual amount of storage space. Ray was a cabinet maker who did a lot of contract work with Airstream. He therefore knew how to do the work on his own trailer. Velna is a tiny lady, full of vigor. We came to enjoy them very much.
There was Sandy and Gene Poast, the youngest of those on the Erie caravan. They are probably in their early fifties. They did a lot of bicycling at various places, and added youthful zest to the caravan group.
We really adopted the Durbins and Steenbergens and hope that friendship has a chance to grow. They are from Hamilton, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. Fran and Ernie Durbin are also going to Newfoundland, but on a different caravan. Tom and Alice are new Airstreamers, still not sure whether they are going to like the life style, but wonderful people. Tom and Fran are brother and sister. Their father was a Church of God pastor.
Sheldon and Marjorie Baird travel in a large motorhome. She is from south Georgia and a lovely lady. Sheldon has led caravans before and is planning a caravan to Branson next year. They grow pecans on a farm in Thomas County, Georgia.
New friends such as these are a large part of what we enjoy so much about being in this caravan club. Of course we continue to enjoy our good friends, Lamar and Frances Cockrell. We concluded our pinochle games with Ann and Lamar holding an 8 to 3 lead. I wound up with a slight lead in domino games.
We enjoyed being with Dave and Mary Love Schumaker too, although it was not too convenient to get with them when they were in the hotel.
From Amherst, we headed for the rendezvous point for the caravan to Newfoundland - the subject of another travelog.