Monday, May 7, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 80960
After a busy few weeks, during which we sold and moved out of our house and wound up current affairs at the office, we began this long looked forward to trip. With no house payments, property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utility bills, yard care, or concerns about fire or burglary, we have a freedom to enjoy this trip which we've never had before___ and may never have again. Our "things" are crammed into a mini-warehouse on Highway 60 in Brandon called Your Attic, and the storage is paid for six months. Other responsibilities have been temporarily shelved, so away we go....
Our general plan is to stay east of the Mississippi this year, going first to New Orleans by way of the Florida coastline, then up river to Natchez and along the Natchez Trace Parkway to Nashville, Tennessee. From there, maybe to Beardstown, Illinois, where my Dad was raised, then to South Bend, Indiana, for the International Airstream rally on the Notre Dame University campus. That ends on July 4th. From there, we'll head east to Niagara Falls, and to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where we'll join 49 other Airstream trailers, for a 54 day caravan through New England and Nova Scotia. From there we will head south to Virginia to see the John Bergs, hoping to arrive on John's birthday, September 13th. After that we will head toward the Amish country of Sugarcreek, Ohio, where we'll meet the Cockrells and Schumakers at the Swiss Festival Airstream Rally. On the way home to Florida we'll stop for a few days in Hiawassee, Georgia. If all goes as anticipated we will be home by November 1st.
We camped under the trees on the banks of the Suwanee River just north of Chiefland, Florida for our first night out. The love bugs were so thick on the windshield, that it was difficult to find a spot to see through. The river was quite wide at this point and very peaceful looking.
We slept until about 8:00am, latest in a long time. After checking on the news from the Gainesville Sun, we pulled out and continued northward on U.S.19 & 98 to Perry, Florida, then on 98 west to the Florida panhandle. This is good highway, but a lonely road through pine forests.
We arrived at Apalachicola near noon and camped at a KOA at East Point. Apalachicola is one of the oldest cities in Florida, dating back to 1821 when Florida first became a territory of the United States. Many of the old houses that were built during the mid 1800's are still standing. Some have been restored, but most are in pretty sad condition. The city is located at the mouth of the river by the same name, and was a cotton port, ranking in importance with New Orleans and Mobile, during the time prior to the Civil War. Today, it is a fishing village with shrimp and oysters being the main product.
One of the city's claims to historical fame is the invention of the ice machine by Dr. John Gorrie here in 1851. Dr. Gorrie was a physician concerned with the treatment of yellow fever which was a perennial summer problem. Recognizing that a cool room temperature aided in the treatment, he successfully came up with a means of making ice. A replica of his machine, built from drawings on file with the patent office is on display at the museum.
The advent of the railroads and later the interstate highway system has left Apalachicola far behind in the modern world. The last time I was here was in the 60's when I was buying shrimp and oysters. The waterfront has been cleaned up considerably since then. Also, there is a modern new highway and bridge on 98 coming in that makes the drive into town a pleasant one.
Wednesday, May 9, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 81292
It rained most of the night which made for good sleeping. We drove the short distance from Apalachicola to Destin in some pretty stormy weather, found a campground, and waited out the rain. It cleared up in late afternoon in time for us to take a stroll on the almost deserted beach. With a 20 mph wind off the gulf, the waves were very high. The white sand on these beaches is remarkable.
The sky cleared in the morning for a beautiful day. We are just going to stay here for a few days, relax, and make a few minor repairs to the trailer. We are at the Destin RV Resort, about 4 blocks from the beach.
On Thursday night, we enjoyed a seafood buffet at a local restaurant named Scampi's.
Saturday, May 12, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 81520
We pulled up stakes this morning to head west through Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola to Mobile, Alabama. The distance was about 120 miles, just about the right distance for a relaxed trip. Weather is excellent, in high 70's, with a good breeze. We had planned to visit Bellingrath Gardens on Sunday, but bad weather prevailed again. So just spent Sunday reading and relaxing.
On Monday the skies are still not holding much promise, but we decided to drive on down to Bellingrath anyway. The gardens were pretty well beaten down by the heavy rains of the past few days. These gardens don't compare with the gardens we saw last year on Vancouver Island, and they were quite different from the way we remembered them when we stopped on the way home from our first western trip in 1976. A hurricane ripped it all up in 1979. It has been fairly well restored, but there are obviously fewer trees. We toured the Bellingrath home this time, which provided some history of the place.
Mr. Walter Bellingrath made his fortune with CocaCola, and owned the CocaCola bottling plant in Mobile. He originally bought the land here when it was a fishing camp because it gave him access to a favorite fishing spot. That was 1918. Fifteen years later they decided to make their home here. The house was completed in 1935. Mrs. B. took advantage of the many sales of antebellum home furnishings from the old South that took place during the depression and filled her home with a remarkable collection of antiques. They had no children and nothing else to spend their money on. She was particularly fond of old world porcelain pieces. Everything has been maintained as it was when the Bellingraths lived here. He died in 1955, leaving the estate to a foundation which maintains it from the tourist proceeds. The home tour was worth the effort to make the visit.
Tuesday, May 15, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 81700
We were on the road before 8:00 this morning heading westward on I-10. There's not too many places in the country that you can pass through three states with less than 100 miles of driving - Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. This road passes through much swampland and pine forest. The Visitors Station in Mississippi is most impressive - a first class operation. It is made to resemble an ante-bellum home.
The manager of the RV park in Mobile warned us about staying in the RV parks near downtown New Orleans. According to her there had been many breakins and some vandalism. Checking the map it seem to make more sense to stay in Slidell anyway,about 25 miles east of New Orleans, so that's where we found a KOA and set up.
We were in the French Quarter by 10:30am, found a parking place and got quickly oriented. We walked down Decatur St., through the French Market to Jackson Square; then over to Bourbon Street, around the block and back to the river. Since this is National Tourism Week, we got a two for one deal on a riverboat cruise and boarded the steamboat, Natchez. This is one of only five real steamboats remaining in the country, licensed to carry 1,000 passengers. The tour lasted 2 hours and was well narrated. The most memorable thing learned was that the highest point in the City of New Orleans is 10 feet below the level of the river. A system of levees makes this possible. From the river, we looked down on plantation homes that were sitting as much as 16 feet below the river surface. Question: Which came first, the city or the levees.
The city seems to be trying to shed its Bourbon Street image. More than once we heard a plea to remember New Orleans for more than the "tacky things seen along Bourbon Street." In the news was an item about an effort to quiet down the loud music on Bourbon Street at night. As I recall, just the opposite was true the last time I was here 30 years ago.
A park area is being created along the riverfront with a good beautification project. We stopped at the Cafe du Monde for a taste of their famous "beignets," or sweet biscuits.
Back in town on Wednesday morning, we found a centrally located place to park and walked over to the new Riverwalk shopping area. It is a very high class shopping mall with many specialty shops. Two hours later we left the mall and walked back into the French Quarter, choosing the Royal Cafe for lunch. Seated on the second floor balcony overlooking Royal Street, we had a light lunch of shrimp creole while a makeshift musical combo played on the street below. After lunch we took a horsedrawn buggy ride through the streets of the Quarter, including the full length of Bourbon Street. The black driver was full of interesting tidbits of information about the places we rode by. The buggy tour began and ended at Jackson Square, in the center of which is a statue of Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. That event established his popularity and eventually led to his being elected president. Ironically, the battle was fought two weeks after the "War of 1812" was officially over, so it meant nothing. Communications were such that neither side
knew of the declared peace. Historically, the Battle of New Orleans was the last confrontation between the United States and England.
Leaving the French Quarter, we drove over to the Louisiana Superdome and took a guided tour through that thoroughly amazing facility. Designed for football, baseball, basketball, and many other uses, it is twenty-seven stories high and large enough to put the Houston Astrodome inside with room left over. Seventy-seven thousand people watched the 1990 Superbowl there. They were setting up a carnival and midway show as we toured. We saw some of the private suites, the broadcasting booth, and several other interesting viewpoints. The tour guide estimated that the domed stadium would cost about $700 million at today's prices.
Thursday, May 17, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 81970
We moved to Natchez, Mississippi today ___ about a 3 hour drive from New Orleans. We're at the Natchez State Park, 11 miles north of town on Hwy 61. This is a couple of miles further out than the campground where we stayed the last time here. The highway that was under construction then is now completed. We were last here in March of 1987, but had the trip cut short by an emergency call to get back to Waycross, Georgia where Ann's mother was dying.
Friday, May 18, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 82130
After a restful afternoon at Natchez State Park, we were ready for some more sightseeing, so drove into town early. We located the converted depot that now serves as a visitor's center and tried to determine which of the plantations that we had toured before. Not as many of the homes are open at this time of year as were open during the Pilgrimage Days. We started by going to Longwood. This is an octagonal shaped 32 room brick house that was under construction when the Civil War begun. Only the basement was completed. The rest of the house remains just as it was left by the construction workers in 1861. The owner, who was a Union sympathizer, nevertheless lost his wealth and income and died a broken man in 1864. His family and their descendants continued to live in the basement for 100 years. Eventually, the house was given to the Pilgrimage Garden Club, which now maintains the basement and grounds and conducts the tours. It must have been depressing for them to live there with the constant reminder of what might have been. It was interesting and different to view the various parts of the house in different stages of construction ___ construction of the type used 130 years ago.
We then went to the Stanton Hall which was completed in 1858 and is also owned by the Pilgrimage Garden Club. It serves as the headquarters for the Club and the central planning point for the annual Pilgrimage tours. On the grounds is the Carriage House
restaurant, a very elegant dining room, where we had lunch.
After lunch, we toured Auburn House. Built in 1812, it suffered years of decay before being restored in the 1970's by the Auburn Garden Club. It is not the oldest home in Natchez. Many date back to the late 1790's, but it is the first of many that followed wherein an outside architect was engaged for the design. The house has been owned by the City of Natchez since 1911, although for years the city did not know what to do with it. All of the original furnishings were sold off and the grounds were converted into Duncan Park, named after the second owner of the estate. The park has a golf course, tennis courts, playgrounds, etc. In 1972, the garden club took on the project of refurbishing the inside of the house. They were able to find some of the original furnishings and bring them back. Most of the furnishings, however, are period pieces purchased by the club. The most unusual feature of the house is a spiral staircase which makes a complete circle in reaching the second story and is free standing in the entrance foyer.
That was enough touring for one day. We now have been in seven of the some 500 antebellum homes here, most of which are truly mansions. This is a remarkable place,or was back in the days when cotton was king. They claim that there was more concentrated wealth in Natchez in the mid 1800's than in any other part of the country. The Civil War ended all of that though, and it's only in recent years that the old places have been restored in an effort to preserve them. Other than the tourism that the home restoration has generated, there are not many signs of prosperity.
Natchez is located at the top of a bluff, 200 feet above the Mississippi River. It is the highest point along the entire length of the river. From atop the bluff there is an exceptional panoramic view up the river. Directly across is the town of Vidalia, Louisiana, which can be reached by bridge. The second span of that bridge, which was under construction when we were here before, is now complete and makes it possible for one-way traffic on each span. At the bottom of the bluff is Natchez-Under-The-Hill, once a notorious gathering spot for riverboat gamblers, saloons, bordellos, and other rough establishments. Today, there are a few restaurants, a small hotel, and a few gift shops. It is also one of the places that the Mississippi Queen and other tourist boats dock for their visits to Natchez. The road that drops down from the top of the bluff is a steep narrow roadway. Since we were last here this road has been extended to rise back up to the top on the other side of town. The old road is now one-way down, and the new road is one-way up. It is easy to pass time sitting on the river bank watching the barge traffic moving up and down.
Today was wash day and haircut day, so went into town to do those chores. We had lunch at Doug's Restaurant, an all-you-can-eat buffet, where most of the customers were local people. After lunch we stopped by Winn-Dixie for some groceries, and then went back to our campsite. Ann did the ironing while I watched the NBA playoffs. What a life!
On Sunday, we heard a good sermon at the First Baptist Church of Natchez. This is a very old church, established in 1830 during the king cotton days. They relocated from downtown Natchez 15 years ago to a 48 acre site north of town, and completed a new sanctuary 5 years ago. We were made to feel right at home. After church we drove over the bridge to Vidalia, hoping to eat lunch at the West Bank Eatery, but found it closed. While buying gas at a service station in Vidalia, ran into Hugh Green, linebacker for the Miami Dolphins and former Buccaneer. He is a very friendly guy. Talked with him a bit about Tampa and his home here in Vidalia. He still owns a home in Carrollwood. Back in Natchez, we ate lunch again at the Carriage House, then toured two more old homes, Stanton Hall and Devereaux. Stanton Hall took the owner 12 years to plan and 8 years to build. It has 4 stories and a basement with 14 to 16 foot ceilings throughout. Devereaux is privately owned and occupied, but is open to the public in the afternoons. It is the home most often seen on brochures. All floors are solid walnut.
We've been on the road for two weeks now and are about to get adjusted to the rolling life style. Tomorrow, we're going to follow the old Natchez Trace up to Jackson, Mississippi. The Trace goes back at least 200 years to the time when it was travelled by the Indians. Before the days of steamboats, folks from Illinois and Ohio would float their goods down to Natchez and New Orleans, and then, because they couldn't negotiate the river back upstream, they walked or rode horseback home along the Trace.
On Monday, we entered the southern termninus of the Trace Parkway about a mile from Natchez State Park where we were camped. The parkway closely follows the old route of the Natchez Trace. The Trace was once called the Path to the Choctaw Nation. It became known as the Natchez Trace when the Mississippi River was opened to free travel in the 1790's. Settlers in the Ohio River Valley floated their products for market down the river on barges to Natchez and New Orleans, then sold their barges and goods and walked home along the 500 mile long Trace. There are many stories about the troubles encountered while making the trip. Robbers camped along the route laying in wait to steal hard earned money. People travelled in groups of 15 or 20 for a measure of safety. Farmhouses along the way were called stands and provided meals and a place to camp. In 1810, 10,000 people walked the Trace, the most on record. When the first steamboat arrived in Natchez in 1812, use of the Trace fell off. One of the earliest of the stands along the Trace, Mount Locust, has been restored and is open to the public. At several places the Old Trace is marked with a sign and can be seen as a rather narrow depression resembling more a ditch than a road. After hundreds of years of foot traffic, the pathway was worn to considerable depth. The parkway is a very pleasant drive, very lush green at this time of year, and not much traffic.
About mid-morning the rain started and became increasingly worse as we approached Jackson, Mississippi. We had no trouble finding LeFleur's Bluff State Park where we set up camp to wait out the bad weather. LeFleur's Bluff is the old name of Jackson. The park is not far from downtown Jackson, but is in a wooded quiet area. Aside from the campground, there is a picnic area, a lake for fishing and boating, a golf course and driving range, baseball fields, and playground. This is one of the nicest setups we've seen at a State Park. It is unusual to be so close to town. The rain stopped in early afternoon, in time for us to get out and walk the Northpark Mall and have supper at Morrison's.
We played a little golf on Tuesday, but mostly lazed around. For the record, in case anyone happens to read this in the next generation, we are making our home on the road in an Airstream trailer, 34 feet long, and equipped with most of the amenities available.
We have a bedroom, with twin beds which are very comfortable, a bathroom with a standup shower, a kitchen with double sink, 4-burner gas range and oven, refrigerator and freezer, microwave oven, and a dinette area. We have a living room area with a fold-out table, bookcase, and a sofa that converts into a bed. We have two cedar lined closets, several cabinets, and storage areas under the beds and seats.
The unit is air-conditioned, though we don't use it much, and heated with a central heating unit operated with gas. The water heater, refrigerator, range, and furnace all work off gas which lights automatically with either a switch or thermostat. The refrigerator runs on either gas or electric, depending on which is available, automatically choosing electricity first if available.
The electrical system is a dual setup using both 12 volt DC and 120 volt AC. We have 4- 12V deep-cycle batteries which provide the DC. The batteries are recharged either by a set of solar panels, if we are parked in sunlight, or a 10:1 converter if 120V AC is available to plug into. The 12V system is used primarily for lighting. We have a 1:10 inverter which will give us 120V AC from the batteries if it is not available from outside. We can run everything but the airconditioner off the inverter. We have a 50 gallon water storage tank, a holding tank for sewage and another for sink water. If necessary we can be self-contained without hookups for 4 or 5 days. We have two color television sets, a VCR, a portable computer and printer. So, life on the road is very pleasant in our modern day covered wagon. When we get tired of the scenery at one place, we just move.
We pull the trailer with a Chevrolet Suburban that has the large 454 cu. in. gasoline engine. With the new 87 octane unleaded gas, we get about 8.5 to 9 miles to the gallon. Last year, using 89 octane leaded gas, we got 9.5 to 10 miles to the gallon. The 454 engine provides plenty of power for the hills.
A few other things regarding life on the road might be worthy of note. Having sufficient cash on hand takes a little planning since checks are hard to cash on the road. We carry a few traveller's checks for emergency use, but primarily rely on the Discover credit card which can be used to get cash at any Sears store. I've heard others talk about using the ATM machines for cash. We subscribed to a mail service in Brandon before we left that is working out well. We rented a box at a place called "Mail Boxes, Inc." at Bloomingdale Plaza, and along with the box, they provide a forwarding service. Our mail is held until we call and tell them where to send it. We call once a week, instructing them to send our package of mail to General Delivery
at whatever place we happen to be. By getting our mail weekly, we can keep our bills paid without any problem. We pay our bills by check. Our income is set up to be deposited directly in our checking account.
Our expenses consist of gasoline, groceries, campground rent, insurance on the car and trailer, entertainment and a few other incidentals.
Wednesday, May 23, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 82450
We hooked up and pulled out early to travel another leg of the Trace from Jackson to Jeff Busby Park. This is the highest point in Mississippi, 600 feet above sea level, on Little Mountain. We settled into a beautiful campground and discovered that there was no charge for parking. We learned later that there are three such campgrounds along the Trace. After a relaxing afternoon, we drove over to Sturgis, Mississippi for a visit and dinner with Quay and Carolyn Oswald. Carolyn is Lamar Cockrell's sister. Quay showed us some of his land and cattle, Otheal Weathers' old homeplace, and some pretty countryside. He then drove us to Starkeville where we saw the Mississippi State campus, and several other things of interest before dinner. We saw where their daughter, Vicky, is building a new home, where Paul Lindsey (Betty Jean Ray's brother), owned a large old home and estate before his death, where some of J. W. Ray's kinfolk live, and several other interesting things. After a pleasant evening with the Oswalds, we returned to Little Mountain for the night.
Thursday, May 24, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 82650
Continuing along the Trace, we came through Tupelo, Mississippi, and then to Tishomingo State Park. We are now in the territory of the old Chickesaw Indian Nation and camped beside the peaceful still waters of Lake Tishomingo. A nearby town by the same name is where we will get this week's mail. We are very near the Alabama border in the northeast corner of Mississippi. Mississippi's state parks are especially nice. We have water and electric hookup, a level concrete pad, and at least 100 feet between campsites. People are already streaming in for the Memorial Day weekend. We decided to spend the weekend here to avoid the traffic and any hassle about finding another campsite on the holiday weekend.
We spent Friday enjoying the peaceful scenery and atmosphere of the woods and lake. We also took the opportunity to do some housecleaning chores. Campers are still coming in. The campground is going to soon be full. There are lots of young folks with children. Many of them have their fishing tackle and some have boats. The weather is ideal. All the folks with whom we have enjoyed fishing at Okeechobee would like this place.
We received a batch of mail on Saturday in Tishomingo and spent a few hours reading and responding. There are 63 campsites around this lake, and I think all are taken. In the evening there are many campfires around the lakeshore. The crickets, katydids, and bullfrogs set up a real chorus.
Sunday, May 27, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 82770
It started raining in mid-morning, putting a damper on outdoor activities. We plan to pull out of here tomorrow and go along the Trace to the site of Meriwether Lewis's grave. He was killed on the old Natchez Trace by a gunshot wound to the head, and is buried near the spot of the tragedy. According to the parkway brochure there is another of those free campgrounds there.
We hit the road again on Monday following the Natchez Trace from Tishomingo through the northwest corner of Alabama, across the Tennessee River, and into Tennessee, and were camped again by 10:00am. For most of the way, we were driving in a light drizzle. The Tennessee River at the point of crossing is wider than the Mississippi, but I'm sure that is because of a dam downstream. A sign near the bridge claims that in 1812, Andrew Jackson was charged $75,000 by the ferryman to transport his troops across. We're camped at the site where Merriwether Lewis died of a gunshot wound in 1809. There is an unusual monument to him in the cemetery. It appears as an broken or incomplete column, apparently symbolizing an incomplete life. The ruins of Grinders Inn, where he was staying at the time, is about 200 feet away. He was travelling north to Philadelphia, then the U.S. capitol, to meet with the President and to edit some of the materials he had gathered on his famous expedition. The death was recorded as a suicide, but this has been challenged since.
Five miles south of here, there is a short section of the Old Trace which has been cleared and paved for one-way car traffic. At first, we wondered why the sign said "no trailers", then quickly discovered why as the road forded a small stream at a
After the rain cleared, the temperature dropped. This is the coolest we've been since leaving home. It still isn't cool enough for electric blankets though.
Tuesday, May 29, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 83960
Awoke to the staccato sound of a woodpecker back in the woods. The sky was clear and the air quite brisk, and except for that woodpecker, there was not another sound to be heard. We decided to forego the last 33 miles of the Trace and take a more convenient route north and west. We felt a little nostalgia leaving the Trace which has been hard to describe. It just doesn't lend itself to superlative description. It is not an exciting place, it is just a quiet and peaceful, well manicured parkway without much traffic. The scenery is nice, but it is not spectacular or awesome. Yet, aside from the simple beauty, there is a sense of reliving a part of American history while driving or walking over ground where so much history took place.
Passing through Hohenwald, Parsons, Paris and Martin, Tennessee, we crossed into Kentucky at Fulton and continued north to Cairo, Illinois. This is not the normal route for tourists and there was a decided lack of campgrounds, but for most of the way it was a very scenic drive. This part of Tennessee and Kentucky is very hilly. However, when we crossed the Ohio River into Cairo, the landscape became very flat, and wet. Cairo is on a point of land where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi. The Spring runoff was especially heavy this year and the rivers were out of their banks all along.
Cairo is a very old town that appears to have been left behind in the march of progress. The old buildings looked very dilapidated. We continued on through Cairo looking for a campsite. Nothing was listed in the Campground Book, so we thought we might have to spend the night in a churchyard. We noticed a "Camping" sign pointing to the left just north of Cache, Illinois, and followed the road through some pretty sad looking, flooded countryside for several miles. Just before deciding to turn around, we came to Horseshoe Lake State Park, an absolutely beautiful spot. The lake reminds me of Blue Cypress Lake in Florida, surrounded by large cypress trees which are 50 to 75 feet out in the water. We had our own dock which went out beyond the trees. It had been a long time since I have seen anything look so fishy and inviting, and I didn't have any tackle with me or a license. According to our camping neighbors, they have been loading up with bluegill, redear, crappie, bass and catfish. I guess redear is a variety of bream. It didn't seem practical to buy a non-resident license and tackle just for one night, but it was sorely tempting.
Wednesday, May 30, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 83260
We followed the "Great River Road" (Illinois Hwy 3) on up to St. Louis, passing through a lot of flooded land in the Mississippi valley. The river was at flood stage and expected to crest the next day. We called our friends, Carl and Harriet Wellons, and arranged to meet in the evening for dinner. Carl and I were classmates in junior high, high school and at Georgia Tech. He was an usher at our wedding and we lived in the same neighborhood (Knollwood St.) in Tampa when our children were small. At dinner we were introduced to two St. Louis specialties, toasted ravioli and gooey butter cakes. This was the best visit we've had with them in 25 years.
The next morning I called Donald and Dorothy Leist, (Dorothy is my mother's first cousin) to say hello. They gave us instructions on how to find their house, and we went in for a short visit. For 80 yearolds, they seem to be doing fine. They moved to St. Louis three years ago from Colorado Springs to be closer to their daughter, Barbara. I learned some genealogical information about her side of the family.
Carl Wellons arranged to take the afternoon off and got tee times for us to get in a game of golf. While Carl and I played golf, the girls toured the botanical gardens in St. Louis. We all then went into town to the Union Station for a delicious dinner
at Houlihans. The Union Station back in the 1940's was the largest and most used train depot in the world. An estimated 100,000 people per day passed through there. The architectural features of the building are very unusual. It has now been
restored and converted into a shopping plaza with shops and eating places, similar to the Union Station that we saw last year in Indianapolis. Our reunion with the Wellons was very special, and we vowed to get together again soon.
Friday, June 1, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 83500
Coming into St. Louis, we heard a squeaking noise coming from the trailer wheels, so decided to investigate before moving on. Took the three roadside wheels off and repacked the bearings, but found nothing wrong. Adjusted the brakes on the back wheel and put it all back together. No more squeak. We then headed out to
Beardstown, Illinois, about 120 miles. This is where my grandfather Berg was pastor of the St.Johns Lutheran Church for 20 years (1892 - 1912). It is also where the family lived while my Dad was growing up. We drove into town with the trailer since we hadn't found a campground, and very quickly found the church on the corner of Sixth and Jefferson streets. I guess the trailer drew attention when we pulled up to the church as we soon had several people stopping to ask what we were doing. It was not long before Mrs. Burress had unlocked the church doors and let me in to see the sanctuary. We also saw the parsonage where the Bergs lived while there. It is diagonally across the street from the church.
Mr. Ben Goldsmith told us that there were some campsites available at a city park about 7 miles out of town, so we decided to stay until Sunday and attend services at the church. They have one service at 8:45am. We were also told to look up Mr. Gabby Kuhlmann for historical information. It seems that the church is between pastors at this time.
The Illinois countryside for several miles to the south of Beardstown is very flat farm land. The corn was just beginning to come up, and the cornfields extended as far as you could see. Beardstown is on the Illinois River, which is another very
wide body of water. A levee along the bank protects the town from flooding. I remember Dad talking about periodic flooding while he was there. The town is larger than I expected. The city limits sign says "Pop. 6900."
Driving into Beardstown on Saturday in the rain, we saw very few stores open. The old courthouse made famous by Abraham Lincoln's Almanac Trial was closed. The library was closed. The Chamber of Commerce, however, was open for cleaning, and we found Judy Moore there, who, as it turned out, was a member of St.Johns church and knew quite a bit about the history of the town and church. Her mother, Mrs. Freida Kuhlmann, now 90, was also a member of the church, and after a telephone call, we were invited over to visit her. As we walked up to the door, Mrs. Kuhlmann called out, "Come on in, I remember Lydia." Mrs. Kuhlmann was born in 1900 and remembered Pastor Berg, Lydia, Magdalena and Martin. She says she has a picture of Martin, who was her same age, but couldn't find it. She told us that all sermons were in German at the church until the first World War. Then, the use of German was forbidden. She remembered that the present church building was completed in 1914, and that the old church was a white frame building with a tall steeple. The pastorium where the Bergs lived is still as it was, but it is now for sale. Present day pastors prefer to own their own homes. She asked us to have coffee and sweet rolls with her.
After the visit with her mother, Judy showed us where the Lutheran cemetery is just outside of town. After some searching, we found the grave of little Gustav, my father's little brother who died in 1892.
The people we have met so far in Beardstown are uncommonly friendly. Even the waitress at the Arrow Restaurant by the levee was interested in knowing all about why we were there. She called a friend to tell her to look out for us at church on
Sunday. After lunch we found the library open and there, found a few records marking the presence of the Berg family at 117 Sixth Street in 1910. Madge, Walter, Albert and Martin were still at home in 1910. At that time, Madge was a school teacher, Walter had his own shop doing something (we couldn't read the script describing his occupation), Albert and Martin were still in school.
Beardstown has an interesting history. It is located on the site of an ancient Indian mound, and because of this was first known as Mound City. The mound, however, no longer exists. Later, it became known as Kickapoo Town, where that tribe had a village, then became Beardstown in 1829, named after a Thomas Beard, an early settler. At one time Beardstown was larger than Chicago. It is located about 45 miles northwest of Springfield, the state capitol, and was visited many times by Abraham Lincoln when he was a young lawyer. Lincoln achieved renown as a trial
lawyer in the "Almanac" case. He was defending "Duff" Armstrong, an accused murderer. The only witness for the prosecution made a big point of telling how, by the light of the full moon which was directly overhead, he saw "Duff" shoot the victim with a sling shot. Lincoln let the witness repeat this several times, then
brought out an almanac which showed that at the time and date in question the moon was on the other side of the earth. Many think that this trial propelled Lincoln into politics and ultimately the presidency. The little courtroom, in Beardstown, where the trial took place is still used as such, and is the only courtroom still in current use that Lincoln practiced in.
Sunday, June 3, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 83730
By the time we got to church the word had spread that visitors related to a former pastor were in town. This is undoubtedly the friendliest town and church we've been in. We were greeted from all sides. Mrs. Kuhlmann had called a friend and gotten a prayer book autographed by F. Berg and a copy of their 75th yearbook, published in 1923 to give me. Mrs. Burress had copied an article about Pastor Berg which also had a picture of the pastorium. Gabby Kuhlmann had arranged to get keys to take us inside the pastorium. We had several invitations to lunch. Ben Goldsmith insisted we stop by their house before leaving so he could give us directions to things to do and see in Springfield. Judy Moore had made copies of a paper written by her grandmother, with a picture, which mentioned Pastor Berg. Irene Richter came up to say that she had looked up her baptismal certificate and that it was signed by Pastor Berg. It was all a bit overwhelming. The service was nice, very similar to my memory of Dad's church in Tampa, more so than the service we attended last year in Logansport.
The pastorium is a large house with four bedrooms upstairs. There was a bathroom upstairs and another downstairs. The church office in years past was in the front room downstairs. That is where the pastor met people during the week for counseling and any other church business. There was a large living room, dining room and kitchen, a large front porch, and a full basement. It was with a tingling feeling that I walked the floors where my Dad grew up. Even though the house was large, I imagine that it was just barely adequate for the Berg family with their six children. The church is asking $25,000 for the house now.
After the church service we joined others for coffee and pastries in the dining hall, then said our goodbyes.
After lunch, we pulled up our steps and moved 45 miles to the east to Lincoln New Salem State Park, near Springfield. Here, there is a restored pioneer village on the site of the old town of New Salem. New Salem, like many other pioneer communities, began in the early days of this part of the country, then died out as a neighboring town became more attractive. New Salem, however, had the good fortune of having Abraham Lincoln as one of its citizens during its short tenure. He was here from 1832 to 1838, and among other things served as the postmaster. By 1840 everyone had moved away, and the the buildings gradually rotted away. After Lincoln became famous, the effort began to restore New Salem as part of the Lincoln heritage. The present buildings are all reconstructions except one, but they are as nearly like the originals as the available information allowed. It is quite interesting.
On Monday we drove into Springfield, the capitol of Illinois, and the place where there are a great many memorials to Abraham Lincoln. This was his home for 25 years before he moved to Washington to assume the presidency. We visited his home, which has been preserved in a restored neighborhood and is now a part of the National Park System. This was the only home that he ever owned, and he lived there with his family from 1844 until 1860. It was here that his four sons were born, and where one of them died. We also visited his law offices and the old Capitol Building where he argued over 240 cases before the state supreme court. We stood on the spot in the Old Capitol where 75,000 people walked past his coffin in 1865.
At the depot where he boarded the train for Washington, never to return alive, we watched a slide show which described the crisis the country faced, his campaign and trip to Washington, and replayed excerpts from his speeches made along the way. We visited the present capitol building and took a picture of the liberty bell on the capitol lawn, then drove out to the cemetery where Lincoln and his family are entombed within a huge memorial.
All of these things are neatly kept and well preserved for the benefit of the American people. There was no charge at any of the places. It has been an unexpected learning experience. I would highly recommend a trip to Springfield. Abraham Lincoln was indeed an unusual man to come along at an unusual time in our nation's history. His years as President are fairly well known, but the man becomes more real in the setting of his hometown.
From 1832 to 1838, Lincoln made his home in New Salem where we camped. There he tried all sorts of ways to earn a living, including riverboating, storekeeping, surveying, and being postmaster, all the while reading and studying. He had a reputation of being the roughest and best wrestler in town. He also fell in love with a local girl named Ann Rutledge, and almost lost his mind in grief when she died. With the encouragement of a New Salem teacher, he overcame his depression and began to study law. In 1838, he moved to Springfield, the new capitol, passed the Illinois bar and established his law practice. There, he met and married Mary Todd, the daughter of a wealthy family. Despite his contrived image of being a "homespun, countrified" lawyer, he was a brilliant advocate. He ultimately represented the railroad and won many important cases, in the process greatly influencing the laws of the state.
Lincoln, who was known in Springfield as Abraham or Mr. Lincoln, not Abe, was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, then ran for the U. S. Senate in a losing cause in 1858. It was the debates with his opponent, Stephen Douglas, in that losing campaign which won him national attention, and resulted in his nomination as the Republican candidate for President. After winning the presidential election, and with the country on the brink of civil war, Lincoln must have wondered what he had gotten himself into. Yet, he rose to the occasion as so many men have when thrust into impossible situations. While at the White House, another of his sons died, and the third died shortly after the assassination. Robert Todd Lincoln was the only son to reach adulthood. He became a millionaire businessman and later Ambassador to England. Robert had three children, but all of them died childless, so there are now no Lincoln descendants. Mary Todd Lincoln was committed to an insane asylum not long after her husband was killed. but she recovered and moved to France where she lived for several years before dying a diabetic.
We played golf at the local course on Tuesday in a 20 mph cold wind. We therefore had a good excuse for lousy scores. Afterward, we drove into Springfield for a little shopping. Up the hill from New Salem is Bob Gilmore's restaurant that has an
outstanding smorgasbord. We enjoyed their food three times.
We spent Wednesday reading and playing cards, while the rain came down.
Thursday, June 7, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 83875
We moved to Indianapolis dodging rain showers. Looks like more rain before the day is out. The news is full of reports about tornado damage in the southern part of the state. We camped at the same campground just outside Indianapolis that we stayed at last year, just waiting for a mail drop. We went to the capitol building today looking in vain for the Indiana Liberty Bell. No-one knew anything about it. While in town we stopped by the Union Station, which has been converted into a shoppers mall, and also a couple of museums. Later, we went to a brand new Walmart store in Greenwood. The newer Walmarts are much bigger. This one is the largest we've seen.
We became Southern Baptists again on Sunday morning at the Calvary Baptist Church in Greenwood, Indiana. It was a medium size church with a resident membership of about 500. The sanctuary looked fairly new as does most everything else in this growing suburb of Indianapolis. Comparison with our home church was inevitable. The choir had seventeen people in it, four of whom were men. They had a big money raising drive underway to pave their parking lot, needing $19,000. They had a pledge march to the front to pick up envelopes for that purpose. We were warmly greeted as visitors. On the whole there were more things similar than different. Even so, it is interesting to see how others do it. We miss seeing our friends in church, but it was nice to attend just for the worship experience without being involved in the problems of organization, etc.
Monday, June 11, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 84320
After picking up mail at the Indianapolis post office, we packed up and headed eastward, stopping at Summit Lake State Park, near Muncie, Indiana. Summit Lake is a quiet peaceful park on a lake in the hills. It is the newest of Indiana's 19 state parks. Commercial campgrounds just don't hold a candle to the state parks in atmosphere everywhere we have been. We stayed a couple of days there, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the park, played golf one day at a course near Muncie, Indiana, then moved over to Jackson Center, Ohio, where we met Mary Love and Dave Schumaker at the Airstream manufacturing plant. They had come to Jackson Center to get some work done on their trailer after a minor accident which crunched a hole in their water holding tank.
Upon arrival at the Airstream plant, we learned that tours of the plant were conducted every afternoon at 2:00pm. So after getting set up in Terraport, which is their on site campground, we took the tour. It is a semi-job shop operation, with most of the work done by hand. That makes for the production of a good quality
product, but it also means that the shop does not appear to be very well organized or very efficient. They told us that they were putting out about 20 trailers each week and 10 motorhomes.
I was surprised to see that the trailers are built from the outside in, instead of vice versa. The floor, which is a single piece of 5/8" marine plywood (flakeboard), is mounted to the trailer chassis, and all the appropriate holes are cut out. Then
three long lengths of aluminum are riveted together over a large oval shaped jig. This whole section, now about 30 feet long and 18 feet wide, is lifted by a hoist and moved to the trailer bed where it is attached to the floor on both sides, looking at
that point like a large covered wagon. They then bring in aluminum frames which are mounted inside every 24 inches to provide the classic Airstream shape. The front and back of the trailer, which are purchased already molded to their classic shape, are then mounted and attached. They then cut out the windows and door, and lay in a mass of wiring and plumbing. Then the inside aluminum skin is riveted in, and the mechanical parts to the windows and doors are installed. At that point the unit is closed and is pulled into a shower room with a man inside to check for leaks. If all is well, the trailer is then moved to another part of the plant where the cabinets, beds and other furnishings are installed. It takes about 10 working days from start to finish.
We were disappointed that there were no models on display, but apparently it is part of their agreement with the dealers that no sales effort will be made at the factory. There is a parts and accessories store (Wally Byam store), and a surplus materials store open for business. We bought a number of things, some bargains, some not. I spent the next day or so installing disconnect switches on each of our four batteries so that I can now tell what each battery is contributing, or when one is weak and needs replacing. Ann bought enough material to re-upholster everything when we get home for $3 a yard.
Sunday, June 16, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 84770
After leaving Jackson Center, we stumbled onto a very unusual campground near Van Buren, Ohio. We were looking for a state park near there, and came to this first. The owners have provided all sorts of things to attract a wide variety of people, from retirees to young families. There is a swimming pool with sand beach all around, a large playground, a fishing lake, volley ball court, tennis and basketball court, softball diamond, restaurant, and an entertainment hall. A band was engaged with an excellent singer for Saturday night. Many people have parked their RV's there on a permanent basis and just come for the weekends. Many of the retirees live there all summer, then move to Florida for the winter. By Saturday evening nearly all of the overnight sites were full. Everyone seems to be enjoying a wholesome weekend.
We became Methodists this morning, attending the St. Marks United Methodist Church in Findlay, Ohio with the Schumakers. It was a stone building with beautiful stained glass windows. The service was nice, but it was the pastor's farewell message, and a little bittersweet. The theme was "put your hand on the plow and don't look back," a good philosophy of life. Not one person spoke to us, or otherwise acknowledged our presence. I guess they were all preoccupied with the fact of it being the pastor's last day.
Monday, June 17, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 84790
Leaving Van Buren, Ohio, we moved north to the Detroit area, where we are parked in a KOA campground between Ypsilanti and Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn is the site of the headquarters of Ford Motor Company and the location of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. Henry Ford created Greenfield Village initially as a tribute to Thomas Edison and his contribution to the technical progress of America. It was officially opened on October 21, 1929, the 50th anniversary of the invention of the light bulb. The buildings that constituted Edison's industrial research laboratory were moved from Menlo Park, New Jersey to Greenfield and restored. This was where Edison and his associates obtained patents for more than 420 inventions, including the phonograph and electric light. (Altogether, Edison held 1093 patents.) The Edison compound at Greenfield also includes a building moved from Fort Myers, Florida and another from West Orange, New Jersey. When the cornerstone of the museum was laid, Edison, then over 80 years old, was on hand to thrust a spade into and to inscribed his signature in a wet concrete cornerstone. That cornerstone is preserved under glass in a memorial to Edison at the entrance to the museum. For years, the official name of the entire complex was the Edison Institute. As more and more exhibits were added, the public referred to the complex as the Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, and that name was ultimately adopted.
Ford purchased buildings that were of historical significance in the progress of manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, communication, and applied arts and moved them to Greenfield Village. In most cases the buildings were abandoned and in disrepair, or were in the path of progress and he saved them from demolition. His own birthplace was moved out of the way of a road project in Dearborn and restored. This was actually his first restoration. Wilbur and Orville Wright's home and bicycle shop were moved from Dayton, Ohio. Noah Webster's home was moved from New Haven, Connecticut. The H. J. Heinz original food processing facility was moved from Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. Harvey Firestone's farmstead came from Columbiana, Ohio. A cabin retreat that belonged to Charles Steinmetz is there. A replica of Ford's first assembly plant is there along with nearly 100 other significant buildings. There are wool carding facilities, machine shops, early power plants, textile weaving rooms, a tinsmith shop, a jewelry store and clockshop, a foundry, a print shop, a photographic studio, an old courthouse moved from Logan County, Illinois, a church, a school, farm buildings, a covered bridge, a plantation house complete with slave quarters, an old Connecticut saltbox house, a windmill, and many more. Each building is filled with appropriate equipment, machinery and furnishings, and placed in a setting to make it as nearly like it was when in actual use as possible. Horsedrawn carriages, peddlers wagons, an operating railroad with steam engine, a steamboat, and many other exhibits are manned by people dressed in period costumes to further enhance the reality of the village. All were well informed and ready to answer questions and interpret their particular part of the village. It is really a fantastic preservation of buildings and equipment depicting the transition of life from the 19th century to the 20th.
We spent about six hours going through the Village, and were thoroughly tired out by the end of the day. But it was well worth the effort. We went back the next day to tour the Henry Ford Museum, which is a 12 acre complex containing old cars and exhibits which memorialize the development of the automobile and its contribution to American life.
Henry Ford opened the museum and village to the public in 1928 and continued to add to and improve the facilities until his death in 1947. An average of 400 people per day visited the museum in 1929. This figure rose to 1,000 per day in 1933 and to over a million per year by 1970.
The museum appears to have more transportation related exhibits than the Smithsonian in Washington. There is farm equipment from the early hand plows, through early steam powered tractors, to modern day harvesting machines. One of the first trains is there which consists of a small steam locomotive pulling a few stagecoaches chained together and fitted with flanged wheels to fit the track. At the other extreme is a 600 ton locomotive, one of the largest ever built. And, cars galore! From every phase of automobile development. There were motorized tricycles and quadricycles, early electric cars, early roadsters, and, of course, the Model T and all other Fords. The 15 millionth Model T manufactured is there. That is a record surpassed only by the Volkswagen beetle. The exhibits were not limited to Fords, but included old Chevrolets, Plymouths, Dodges, Oldsmobiles, Cadillacs, Nashes, a Tucker, a Hudson, Studebakers, Kaisers, a Rolls Royce, Volkswagens, a Lincoln Zephyr, Chryslers, Packards, and many others, even some Japanese makes.
Depicting businesses related to the automobile, there was a Holiday Inn motel room, a Texaco service station, an A&W Root Beer stand, a roadside diner, an Airstream trailer, early motorhomes (house trucks), Burma Shave signs, and old traffic lights.
One of the most impressive things was a combination steam/gas powered electric generator which was one of nine which provided power to the main Ford plant in the twenties. The flywheel was a massive thing, some 20 feet in diameter.
There are some things of historical significance not related to industry, such as the rocking chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot. His blood stains are still visible. The Lincoln convertible that John Kennedy was riding in when he was killed is also on display.
It would take far too much space here to describe everything we saw in about 3 ½ hours, but it was all outstanding. The museum, along with the village, where we spent about 5 hours on Tuesday, contain a truly amazing collection that preserves and tells the story of the inventiveness and innovations of men like Ford, Edison, the Wrights, Firestone, Frick, Dodge, Chevrolet, and others in the early years of this century.
Thursday, June 21, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 84990
We moved our two trailer caravan (Bergs and Schumakers) from the Detroit area to Elkhart, Indiana, travelling westward along Michigan Highway #12 for about 160 miles to the Elkhart Campground. There were 50 or 60 other Airstreams camped there waiting for time to converge on South Bend for the International rally. We stayed there a full day getting laundry done and other things in shape for the 11 day stay at Notre Dame. I got some minor repairs done on my hitch at the Reese Hitch headquarters.
On Friday, the Ransones arrived and filled us in on their activities for the past month. The three of us will caravan to the rally site on Saturday so that we can be parked together. Dave, Buddy and I signed up for the parking committee, so we are going in earlier than most.
We got a call from Mary Berg in Logansport today. She wants us to go down for a visit to meet some more of the family. We promised to work that in sometime in the next two weeks.
Saturday, June 23, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 85160
Despite a morning of rain and wind, we moved over from Elkhart, Indiana to South Bend, arriving about 11:00am. We were all surprised at how many trailers were already parked. The site of this International Airstream rally is the campus of the
University of Notre Dame. To our good fortune, we were able to park on a paved parking lot near the arena where most of the activities later took place. Those who were out on the grass were in sad shape with the rain produced mud. Over five inches of rain had fallen in the two days previous. Toward evening, however, the skies cleared and brightened and made everything look better. We registered at rally headquarters and spent a little time getting oriented. My work on the parking committee was not slated to begin until Monday. Many of the same men who were on the parking team at the Bozeman, Montana rally last year were ready to work again. This was my crew chief's 19th year.
South Bend is a much larger city than I had imagined with well over 100,000 population. As the name suggests, it is located on a bend of the St. Joseph River. The city began as a catholic mission to the Potawatomi Indians in 1842, and Notre Dame University was founded that same year. The campus is located on 1,250 acres in the heart of the city. The most prominent feature on campus is the administration building with its magnificent golden dome topped by a statue of the Virgin Mary. The arena where our activities took place was an unusual double domed building. One dome covers the main arena, and the other a field house. The Airstream company and other vendors set up booths in the field house to sell parts, exhibit their equipment, and explain proper maintenance. There was also a Wally Byam store with all sorts of RV supplies for sale. In the football stadium parking lot dealers brought in new Airstream trailers and motorhomes for display and sale. Some 3,500 club members with their trailers were expected by opening day on Thursday.
We attended an interdenominational church service on Sunday in the arena. The theme of the sermon was, "God doesn't make junk." Afterwards, with the Schumakers and Tom and Martha Bruce, we went to the old Studebaker home, Tippecanoe Place, which is now a fine restaurant, for brunch. South Bend was the home of the Studebaker family, builders of thousand of wagons in the 1800's for the great movement of people westward. They later manufactured the Studebaker automobile. Built in the 1880's, Tippecanoe House had some 40 rooms and 20 fireplaces. It had everything great wealth could buy in those days, including an elevator. The meal was buffet style and very good.
In contrast to the rain of the last two days, The weather Sunday was gorgeous, not a cloud in the sky and in the 70's. I walked around the campus taking a few pictures, then drove into town and located a shopping mall. Upon returning to the silver city, I checked the duty board and found that I had parking duty on Monday from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.
Monday morning, I did a few chores like getting a haircut, cashing a check at the bank, scheduling a lube job and some maintenance at the Chevy dealer, etc., then reported for work. Some 1100 trailers were parked that day bringing the total on
site up to about 2500. Space had become a problem because much of the parking area that had been anticipated was blocked off due to building construction. It took some last minute scrambling to lease another field nearby to handle the trailers. It was quite an operation getting everyone parked and keeping certain trailers together. Those with dogs had to be parked in a separate area; those with noisy generators had to be parked in another section; while those with both generators and dogs were parked in yet another area. Then there was a section for handicapped people, and another for the unit presidents. Then groups who caravanned in together were parked together as much as possible.
The organization involved in getting all this done is amazing. Each trailer site was surveyed and marked so the fronts of all trailers in each row were perfectly lined up. Water pipes are run around so that each site has water available. Besides the
parking committee, there is a traffic committee which guides the caravans in trying to avoid tying up regular traffic as much as possible and at the same time getting the trailers to the right area, and a welcoming committee which is on hand when each trailer is parked to greet them and give information on what to do next and where to go. All of this was preliminary to the actual beginning of the rally still three days away.
I signed up for a golf tournament and a domino tournament. There are many seminars held for the purposed of making trailer life more enjoyable. There was one for "full-timers", those who live year around in their Airstreams. There was one on caravanning; one on trailer maintenance; one on refurbishing; etc. The women are given instruction on how to hook up in emergencies. Many other activities, such as square dancing, arts and crafts, flower arranging, horseshoes, tennis, swimming, bridge, pinochle, checkers, etc. were scheduled. We plan to attend a meeting for all of those going on the caravan to Nova Scotia. Then, there is a luncheon scheduled for everybody in the Tampa Bay Unit, and a party for all solar power purchasers. Some form of entertainment has been scheduled every evening after opening day, culminating with Roger Miller with his King of the Road show. The whole affair will end with a 4th of July parade. Worked in among all of those activities, we drove over to Amish country on Wednesday, about 20 miles from here.
The Pull-Rite Hitch Co. had a display booth which showed a video of their equipment, and I learned that their manufacturing facility is located in Mishawaka, just 10 miles for South Bend. After talking with the people there, I decided to go ahead with an installation. That work was completed on Thursday. The hitch moves the pivot point of the trailer forward to a point just behind the differential. The object is to eliminate any sideways movement on the road due to air blasts from passing semis, and thus make towing safer. The system is designed to function much like the "fifth wheel" trailers.
Opening day ceremonies on Thursday morning were especially imposing. After an invocation and introduction of officers, the beautiful 45 minute flag ceremony took place. This was all in the arena with 7 to 8,000 people in attendance. Each of
the 175 unit presidents marched down the aisle with their unit flags, then the flags of the United States, Canada and Mexico were saluted. After the three national anthems were sung, President Walter Knudsel declared the rally in session.
The Tampa Bay Unit held a luncheon in the faculty dining room right after opening ceremonies. It was a nice get together with some people we had not seen since last year. We saw Bob and Flo Black who were the ones who got us into the club back in 1980 right after we bought our first Airstream. They are full timers, and have become very involved in club activities. Bob is Region 3 Vice-President and therefore President-elect.
Thursday evening's entertainment was a singing group from South Bend, who put on a musical singing show featuring many traditional songs. On Friday, the evening entertainment was a song and dance group of students from the University of Southern Mississippi called "Southern Exposure."
I spent most of the morning at the Mishawaka Midas Muffler Shop getting the tailpipes on the Suburban rerouted to accommodate the new Pull-Rite hitch. Afterward it took quite a bit of trial and error in adjusting heights to complete the installation.
Two quick pluses were apparent. I can open my tailgate fully even when hitched up; and after getting the trailer on spot and unhitched, the truck doesn't have to be moved forward before leveling the trailer and removing the hitch. The hitch bar just swings to the side out of the way.
We went to a "pod" party in a walnut grove near campsites organized by the President of the Tampa Bay Unit. It was nice and gave us a chance to meet some of the other members that were at the rally. There are five couples from Tampa Bay Unit going on the Nova Scotia caravan. Following the afternoon party under the trees, we went to dinner with the Schumaker clan (Dave, Mary Love, Frank, Ruby, Buddy and Millie) at Morris Inn, an elegant dining room on the Notre Dame campus.
The domino tournament on Friday afternoon proved to be an exciting experience. Lamar must have trained me pretty well. I came in 4th out of 28 participants, and was complimented on doing so well in my first tournament. The exciting part though was the way they played. A game lasted a timed 30 minutes with each man playing for his own score. The faster the play, the more everyone at the table scored, so the pace was frantic. We played four games, shuffling to different tables each time. I scored 490, 305, 110, and 455. The third game, at a slow table, kept me from placing 2nd or 3rd. The tournament champion was Jesse Hayes from Oklahoma where he admitted to playing dominoes every day. He had a total of 1895 points, while the 2nd place man had only 1470. It was fun. Thank you, Lamar. Had you been here, you'd have probably won it.
The "Pride of Indy" held the audience spellbound with their barbershop quartet music on Saturday night. A 55 voice men's chorus and 4 quartets sang for two hours a cappella and did a terrific job, even if a bit long.
Ann, Mary Love, and the other ladies have been going to aerobic exercise classes every morning, and have had good times at the art, craft, and hobby seminars.
On Sunday, we drove down to Logansport to renew some of the acquaintances among my distant Berg cousins that we made last year. Mary Berg Terry had told her brother, James Harlan Berg, that we were coming, so he had driven up from Indianapolis to meet us. Another cousin, Loretta Lybrook, who didn't get to meet Ann last year also came out. We all then went to church at St.James Lutheran, the church my great grandfather Jox pastored from 1867 until his death in 1893. Following the church service we all went out to a restaurant for lunch and afterward to Loretta's home for more visiting. James, or Jimmy, proved to be a really personable man. He served in a submarine during the war, then entered politics as a campaign manager for many Indiana democrats. He recently retired after a tracheotomy operation. He has learned to speak very well and now teaches speech lessons to others who have suffered the same loss. Anyone desiring to quit smoking should be around someone like that for a while.
Jimmy was very interested in Berg family history and gave me a copy of a video tape made several years ago of an interview with a now deceased aunt which tells a lot about the family. He had also obtained a book about Germans who settled in Indianapolis that he gave me. Logansport is about 75 miles, or an hour and a half drive, from South Bend. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
Sunday evening entertainment was by far the best to date. It was "Canada Night," featuring a variety of performers from Canada who sang, danced, and "fiddle-played" mainly Scottish and Irish music to a background of bagpipes and drums. The drummer doubled as an Irish comedian who had a three-legged man act that wowed the audience. The best of show, however, would have to go to the fiddle player. He was nothing short of fantastic. Haskell would have thoroughly appreciated the variety of music he created. A duet singing performance of Amazing Grace followed by a bagpipe rendition of the chorus was also excellent. The show will be a hard one to top.
On Monday morning, Dave and I joined 382 others in a golf tournament at the Notre Dame Golf Course. The weather was perfect for the tournament, bright clear skies with very little wind and temperature in the low 70's. After a shotgun start, things moved along fairly swiftly. We finished in about 4 1/2 hours. I'll not mention how the scoring went, but we enjoyed the four F's: fresh air, fellowship, fun, ... and frustration. As we were finishing the game, a helicopter flew in and began circling
overhead. It circled and hovered for over an hour. We learned later that NBC had a camera crew aboard recording footage of the silver city, to be shown on the Jane Pauley show on July 24th.
Later, we went out for a seafood dinner at the Wharf Restaurant in South Bend, and decided to skip the Teen Queen competition which was the entertainment for the evening. The parking lot was full of suburbans.
Tuesday's event was a big flea market. Show and tell, swap and sell. From crafty things fashioned by very talented people to junk. The floor of the huge field house was covered with tables and Airstreamers turned huckster. Suburbans and vans were lined up at the entrance hauling in stuff at the start, and lined up again hauling away stuff at the end. I managed to sell my old hitch assembly and bought some step stiffeners.
During the afternoon we attended a meeting of the people who are going on the Nova Scotia caravan. The leader had prepared all sorts of material for us on what to see and do. He also had put together schedules and duty assignments. We learned a new word: "GAM." At 5:30 on the day of arrival at each stop, the 50 couples are divided into groups of 5 or 6, different each time, for a gam session to get acquainted and avoid anyone being isolated and not knowing the rest. "Gam" comes from an old seafaring term when sailors got together at sea to swap stories. Sounds like a pretty good idea. It looks like we'll be with a very compatible group. They were all excited about the trip.
Wednesday, the Fourth of July, featured a big parade in which nearly every unit entered a float or something in keeping with the rally theme, "Those were the days." The parade is a dual celebration of the birth of the nation and the birthday of the club's founder, Wally Byam. Wally Byam built the first Airstream trailer in 1930. He conceived the idea of caravans and began leading them in the 1950's. Prior to his death in 1962, he formed the Wally Byam Caravan Club and led caravans all over most of the North American continent.
In the final gathering in the arena on Wednesday evening, there was a short closing ceremony, a preview of next year's rally in Duluth, Minnesota, then the final night's entertainment featuring the "King of the Road" himself, Roger Miller.
We left Notre Dame on the morning of July 5th for the 800 mile trip to Great Barrington, Massachusetts where we rendezvoused with the 50 other trailers to begin the Nova Scotia caravan. On the way to Great Barrington, we stopped by Toronto for a visit with Martin and Harriet Wedge, and also to stop at Niagara Falls for a day.
Friday, July 6, 1990
Mileage @ Start: 85750
Thursday morning, Airstreams were leaving Notre Dame like rats deserting a sinking ship. We got away about 6:00am and drove out to the Pull-Rite shops for a checkup to see if I had properly set up the new hitch. After a few adjustments we were okayed for travel and headed east through Elkhart, and then north through Lansing and Flint, Michigan to Port Huron, where we found a campground at Lakeport State Park on the shores of Lake Huron. The weather had changed dramatically from South Bend. Our last night there was a hot one _ in the 90's. After a good night's rest in the cool breezes off the lake, we hit the road early for Toronto.
The next portion of the trip took us by Niagara Falls, then to Great Barrington, Massachusetts where we rendezvoused for the New England and Nova Scotia caravan. For a continuation of this trip, click below.