A Treasure in the Middle of Indiana

My interest in the Canals of Indiana and Ohio have led me to Delphi, IN. This is the “home” of the Erie-Wabash Canal. It is the location of the Canal Park which is right on the canal. It is the only navigable part of the canal that is left.

The park features an interactive museum detailing the history of building and maintaining the canal from 1828 to the 1870’s. Also it describes life in the United States during this period. There are lots of exhibits about living along the canal, what was transported, the different kinds of boats, and the people who worked on them. The museum has a wealth of information, displays, and hands-on activities that kids (and some adults .. ahem) love.

Along with the museum there is a pioneer village that preserves several buildings that would be in a canal town. Alas, they are only open on weekends so I did not get inside, but peeking in the windows proved they are furnished to perfection. Also on weekends they have a real canal boat that you can take rides in.

My education was improved, especially pertaining to Fort Wayne, which is my home base. I’ve lived there for 35 years and I knew it ran through Fort Wayne, but I never knew that the groundbreaking for the Canal was there. And  the opening of it was also there, at the Settlers House, a Summit City landmark.

There are several walking trails along the canal and through Delphi which point out historical sites. They all interconnect to form a trail system of 10 miles. I went to Sunset Point where the Wabash River intersects with Deer Creek. The canal went over the creek here to bypass the river.

I find the lives of the people living on the canal and working on it to be fascinating. Like the fact that sometimes men would flag down a passing boat at suppertime, jump on, eat the meal, and then get off so they wouldn’t have to pay a full fare.  I have developed a “research itch” about canal life. And that can only mean there is  possibly will be  might be a book in the future.

One of the best things about the park is that they have a camping area. With free wifi – bonus! The camp hosts were wonderful. Told me all about the place, and even came over to tell me there would be someone coming in at 11 pm, so that I wouldn’t be worried since I was the only one there at the time.

So if you’re thinking that Indiana doesn’t have much, (besides corn  har har) think again. And go exploring!

 

 

A Gem of a Neighborhood

Recently I helped my older daughter move into a new place. She lives in Cincinnati in one of the named neighborhoods. Cincy has several that are quite distinct from each other. She lives in Northside.

Northside is situated in the north west corner of Cincinnati. It is an old neighborhood, dating back to the early  1800’s. The houses and buildings reflect its history. It started out as the first commuter neighborhood of the Queen City. People from all over the area flocked there for fashionable clothing, beer gardens, and flowers. It was a part of the Underground Railroad. The Crosley family (Crosley Field was the name of the original baseball stadium for the Reds) got their start here.  It thrived for decades, but eventually it fell into disrepair.

       

In the 1990’s the Victorian houses began to be renovated. There are flowering trees lining most streets and you can almost imagine it being 1890.

      

The “downtown” or business section is a mixture of business and pleasure. Along with clothing stores, groceries, and medical offices, there are coffee shops, and restaurants, several offering live music in the evening. There is a garden coop for anyone wanting to grow their own healthy food. And a bicycle coop where you can rent bikes.

The rest of the neighborhood is made up of townhouses, 99% of which are Victorian. Some are single family, some are duplexes. There is also an old school building that has been converted into apartments.  Some of the corner stores that have been abandoned are being converted also.

      

The essence of Northside is progressive. In the 1990’s people started moving into the area who were creatives. Writers, artists, and craftspeople found the older houses to their liking. They refurbished them and now the homes are stately again. Young professionals have found it again to be an easy commute to downtown Cincinnati. It also has become a welcoming place for the GLBTQ community.  Buildings have been painted with murals. There are signs all over advertising shows and concerts The local food coop has hundreds of members.  And its all extremely pet friendly. You can take your dog into stores and the library.

Citizens of the neighborhood are proud of their location.  The online newspaper , the Northsider Monthly, has profiles of business owners and influential persons, along with historical information.

I really love the atmosphere of Northside. In fact, I’m thinking about incorporating it into my next novel. We shall see.

 

 

 

Underground

Underground in Mammoth Cave National Park

Today I spent two hours wandering through a cave. I have wanted to visit Mammoth Cave for- well forever I think. I remember learning about it in school and it’s been on  my list ever since.

The reason it’s called Mammoth is because it is the longest cave system in the world. 412 miles! Now, this doesn’t mean a looooooong tunnel. No, it’s got several layers of corridors that wind around like a river. Caves are formed by rivers, after all. My tour ( which is one of several different kinds) was two hours long, covering 2 miles. I chose the Historic Tour. Because…history, duh!

The entrance we went in at is the original one, used by tourists for almost 200 years.

You can’t use flash photos inside the cave so I didn’t get a lot of shots.

People wrote their names on the walls and ceilings back in the day. Of course, you can’t touch the walls now.

This was a tube that went up 3 stories. We also crossed a “bottomless” pit but I was concentrating on getting over the bridge so no picture!

Several parts were actually kind of fun. The section called Fat Man’s Misery was so narrow I had to walk sideways to get through. And even short little me had to stoop to get through a few areas.

Ranger Jenna was our guide and she was great. She is trained as a geologist, and told us lot about rock formations and such. But she also knew the history of the cave very well.

The cave was owned by several different private citizens until it became a national park in 1941. One used it for mining saltpeter for gunpowder during the War of 1812. Another was a doctor who built huts in the cave to see if the constant temperature  and air quality would cure tuberculosis. (It didn’t)

Finally the light at the end of the tunnel haha

The museum in the welcome center was fantastic. Lots of facts, history, and nature.

   

It took me over an hour just to go through it. Of course that may be because I’m that person who actually READS the information signs. LOL

Now if you’re thinking of seeing the caves, I would suggest you pick a tour that fits your capabilities. Some are very strenuous and go through hard to navigate areas. One is 4 hours long. They have one for kids wanting to know about spelunking, too. So, something for everybody.

Jekyll Island

Jekyll is one of the barrier islands along the Georgia coast. It has a long and fascinating history. In colonial times it was owned by a man who built Georgia’s first brewery. Then in the late 1800’s it became one of the most exclusive resorts in the country. A group of families bought the island and built a “clubhouse,” which is now a grand hotel.

Only 100 people were accepted into this club and only the wealthy could afford it. Some of the names of members were Vanderbilt, Morgan, Rockefeller, Field ( as in Marshall Field’s), Goodyear, and Pulitzer. World War II brought an end to the club as the island was ordered to be evacuated for security reasons. The state of Georgia then bought it and turned it into a State Park.

They have preserved many of the buildings and houses that the Jekyll Club members built. I did the walking tour around the historic district.

     

           

The Federal Reserve was created on the island in a clandestine meeting of financiers in 1910. They secretively took a train to the island and spent a week hashing out the details of new currency regulations for the country. None of the employees were allowed to know who these men were, so they used aliases.

The island has several beaches, some of which have interesting landscapes.

       

The movie Glory was filmed in part on one of the beaches, now known as Glory Beach.

Along with the history discoveries, a highlight of my stay was a boat tour. The purpose of the tour was to see dolphins. Bluenose Atlantic dolphins live in the waters surrounding the island. They sure were fast whenever they came up for air, but I did manage to get a few pix.

     

The tour was a lot of fun. The captain played music throughout the trip with some special songs. The trip started out with the theme song from Gilligan’s Island. Although thankfully OUR tour was only one and a half hours. Then at the first sighting of a dolphin, he played the theme song from Flipper. Running commentary included a lot of island history and points of interest.

I stayed at the campground so I could explore the area. This place has something I had never before seen. There are a lot of snowbirds here, and each one has a sign post with a sign that has the state where they are from. Cute idea!

The island is on the Intercoastal Waterway which is part of the journey known among boaters as The Great Loop. It runs up the eastern seaboard to the St Lawrence Seaway, across the Great Lakes, and then down the Mississippi River and back to Florida. People travel it on a regular basis and are called Loopers.

The island has many other attractions, such as a water park, a 4-H camp, golf courses, and a 20 mile bike/walking pathway that goes around the perimeter. There are lots of shops and restaurants. I ate a lunch at The Wharf and had a crab cake BLT that was delish! Although the entire island is designated a state park, there is a thriving town with year round homes  in the middle of it.

This is my new favorite State Park. (so far LOL)

 

 

West Virginia… Mountain Mama…

Well, I’m not a mountain mama, but I did drive through West Virginia today. I think I’ve finally convinced myself that I do not have to go as fast as everybody else. Driving slower than the speed limit makes me feel safer and they can just GO AROUND! LOL

I stopped for lunch at this place

It’s called Tamarack, The Best of West Virginia. It’s a showplace for local artisans and craftsmen and everything on display is for sale. They even have little rooms where you can watch an artist in action. The items include everything you could imagine, glassware, paintings, wooden toys, clothing, metalware,  furniture, pottery, food. All items come from West Virginia businesses, mostly small individual entrepreneurs. What a great concept to showcase the local talent.

There’s a restaurant that serves downhome country cooking. I had two kinds of pie: a savory chicken pot pie and a slice of peanut butter pie. Yum! And I bought only one thing.

I’m headed to the east coast, somewhere in South Carolina. Searching for warmth and sunshine. The temperature hasn’t been cooperating, though. It’s cold, windy, and I saw snow flakes this morning. Arrgggh!

Balloon Fiesta Day 1

What an amazing event! Balloons are everywhere.

You can see them all over the city.

The Balloon Fiesta Park is a huge field, an area as big as 6 football fields.

It’s ringed with vendors of all sorts, food, merchandise, souvenirs, and more food. Lots of coffee booths because the days begin at 6:00 a.m. with a mass ascension. We didn’t make it there until later today. But we still saw a lot of balloons before they were deflated.

You never know who’s going to be around a corner.

The event is run by volunteers and they are some of the nicest I’ve run across. Friendly, helpful beyond normal service. They even flagged down a courtesy shuttle for us when we couldn’t find one.

We’re planning to see the mass ascension on Wednesday because it’s the Flight of the Nations featuring international teams. And maybe we’ll do some things around Albuquerque. I’ll keep you posted.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is unique.  It’s a recent addition to the National Park System, 1970’s, and was created in an urban area. In fact, it feels more like a National Forest because there are villages and towns and county roads inside its borders.

Civilization intrudes in many ways, like Highway 271.

Many areas of the park are actually city parks in the Cleveland metropark system. The Cuyahoga Valley lies just south of Cleveland, Ohio. It features the Ohio-Erie Canal and has many museums and historic sites. The one on the history of the canal system is excellent.

Other attractions within the park include golf courses, ski resorts, sustainable farms, horse riding trails, and several inns.

The Visitor Center is an historic site itself. It is in the village of Boston Mills and was a tavern/rest stop for canal boats.

There are several nature centers, too. The one I visited is tucked away in the woods.

I did a little hiking, but as you can see, the weather was not cooperating.

All in all this national park is interesting. And, as a bonus, since it is made up of city parks, there is no entrance fee.

 

Canal Boats and Bicycles

Wandering again, through Ohio, I passed through the town of St. Mary’s. I usually go sailing by it on my way south, but this time I decided to stop and explore. St. Mary’s was one of the stops on the Miami-Erie Canal. The St. Mary’s River runs through the center of town and the canal runs right beside it. Both were used heavily in the 1800’s as trade routes.

The canal has locks in the center of the city and a lovely park has been created there with a history of the era.

      

Here’s how a canal boat looked with the mule pulling it via a long rope. I think you can go onto the boat, but the gate was closed when I was there.

The park also honors war veterans from the area. This bridge has names of vets and it crosses the river.

The canal itself is still in existence for miles through Ohio. Here’s the towpath along the canal where the mules walked. It’s now a scenic walking/biking trail.

       

Then I drove on down into New Bremen. Here I found a fantastic museum,. the Bicycle Museum of America. It has almost 100 bikes from the mid-1800’s to present day. The place is loaded with history and the man running it was extremely knowledgeable. Here are some highlights.

This is a precursor of today’s bicycle. Notice the horse head decoration. It has no pedals, you pushed it along with your feet and coasted.

Early bikes including high-wheelers. Apparently they were not as prevalent during the Victorian years as I thought, as they were very expensive.

This is a Minnie Mouse bike, with a comic strip on the wheels.

Look at the frame on this one.

This is one of the 7 actual bikes used in the movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”

A military bike used in WWII. Complete with gun and ammo.

This one was made in Dayton, Ohio, my hometown. Dayton was an important part of bicycle manufacturing because several companies were headquartered there including Huffy and Schwinn.

As I’ve said before, small towns are wonderful for discovering little known museums. It’s why I use Google maps so much. You can find all kinds of places to explore.

 

 

Old Man’s Cave

Today I went exploring in Hocking Hills State Park. It’s located southeast of Columbus, Ohio. It’s a place my family visited about 55 years ago. I remember loving it, but strangely today I did not remember any of the scenery. Perhaps that’s because I think this is the place where I developed a fear of falling from a high place.

The family lore goes like this: I was with my dad when he climbed up a narrow trail that went along a cliff. It was very slippery because there was water on the rocky path. He had to pick me up and carry me when the trail got too narrow for two. And he must of been scared and transferred that fear to me, because I will not go near an edge of a cliff or a rooftop or any high place that I can fall off. I don’t like glass elevators either! And I swear this is why I hate driving in mountains.

Anyway, this time I was not scared because all the paths that go up the cliffs are now blocked off and inaccessible. However…the place is absolutely gorgeous! (Pun intended) (Cause it’s a gorge of a river) (get it?) (OK moving on)

The story of the Old Man’s Cave is that a hermit named Richard Rohm lived there in a the 1800’s. He had been a hunter and scout and decided this place was where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. So he did.

Here’s the actual cave where he lived. It’s a shelf in the cliff above the river, created by wind and water thousands of years ago.

  

The rest of the area is full of rock formations, waterfalls, and woods.

              

There are tunnels cut through the cliffs for hikers.

Lots of bridges across the stream.

There’s even a “Sphinx Head” rock formation.

I went early in the morning and the sunlight was beautiful.

My kind of place.

 

Getting My Kicks on Route 66

I had a picnic lunch here, a restored 1950’s gas station.

I recently spent most of a day driving along “The Mother Road.” That’ s what they call Route 66, a now defunct highway that is a legend of Americana.

Route 66 was created in 1926 as a direct route from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was heavily used until the interstates became the faster, more popular way to get across the country. But people who loved the Road still used it until 1985 when the last section was decommissioned by the government. It now is mainly a historical by-way that is not an actual numbered highway.  To drive the whole way you must use roads built later that run alongside the original road, now badly dilapidated and overgrown.  Also many sections are gone entirely and you need to go onto parts of the interstates that replaced it.

I went to a museum in Pontiac, IL that has several rooms full of information.  Exhibits contain items that come from places along the route, including Steak and Shake which began as a Route 66 roadside diner.

          

There are many people that are associated with Route 66. One guy, Bob Waldmire, was known as an advocate for the road. Bob actually grew up living on the route. His parents owned a diner in Springfield, IL. (Side fact: his father is credited as inventing corn dogs.) He watched the cars going off to faraway places  and decided he wanted the adventure, too. He traveled it for 20 years, working as an artist. Many route maps are illustrated by him. He drove a VW bus made into a camper van and was considered an old hippie. (yes, there are others besides me LOL)

Bob was the inspiration for the character “Fillmore”, the VW van,  in the Pixar movie CARS.  You do know that movie is about Route 66 and how the small towns were bypassed by the interstates, right?

I also learned about “walldogs.” These are the people who paint the giant advertisements on the sides of buildings. They worked along Route 66 a lot and, of course, all over the country. This is a fascinating subject that I am thinking about incorporating into the novel I’m writing. Being a walldog is an ideal job for one of the characters. More details will follow in a few days on my writing blog.  

Interestingly, there was nothing at this museum about the TV show, “Route 66, that was popular in the 1960’s. I thought it might be mentioned, but I guess they wanted only factual information. There are other museum along the road and maybe they have something on the show.

All in all, I drove about 80 miles north from Genoa, IL to Joliet. Route 66 actually begins/ends in Chicago, but I didn’t feel like driving in the city. I really want to drive the whole route, but for now, parts of it is all I can manage. But someday…