Tag Archives: destination

Our Eclipse Trip (Part 3)

(Continued from Part 2)

Friday morning found us off to Metropolis via Louisville.  After a nice breakfast with our friends, we set out on an overcast day, finding our way to OH 562 to get us to  I-75, as I-71 was closed before the bridge to Kentucky.  Not surprisingly, the traffic was a crawl until we got over the bridge and into Kentucky.

It would have picked up more for us, had it not been for the hill. Called the ‘Cut-in-the Hill‘, it climbs about 380 feet over 4 miles, and a calculation over that distance gives it a 2% grade, though the steepest part reaches a about a 3% grade.  And as we were nowhere near up to speed when we hit it, we crawled up at 40 mph, but we weren’t alone, as there were several tractor-trailers in the same situation.

But on the other hand, there was a huge duck atop a building (Cornerstone at Norwood along I-71, for the 23rd Annual Rubber Duck Regatta)

But after that, the drive was pretty nice.  After the rain, the day was a little cooler than the first day, and the engine temperatures didn’t need as much attention, even with the hills and high speeds.  It did still take some attention, as there seemed to be more ‘discourteous’ drivers (not leaving space, weaving in/out of lanes, speeding in excess, cutting nearly sideways across several lanes of traffic to exit suddenly) here than there were in Ohio, and THAT was more than I’m used to dealing with on the road in New York.

But by the time we got to Louisville, though, I was used to it and was being a bit more careful than usual.  Before we were really deep into the city, we had to pull off because the Embroiderer’s Guild of America (EGA) is headquartered in the Butchertown neighborhood.  As my wife is a member of the EGA, and they have a small collection of high quality needlework, we needed to stop.

The Water Tower & Pumpworks around 1860.

As the name suggests, Butchertown was originally full of stockyards, and near where the Beargrass Creek was rerouted to, making it a great place to dump all the unwanted trimmings and such so they would float away to the nearby Ohio River.  So it was a great drive along River Road (right along the river) from the Louisville Water Tower Park to what seemed an overly industrial area for embroiderers.

But the EGA Headquarters is in a readapted historic leather work and cotton sash factory and warehouse (The Pointe), so that explained it.  However, the kind of residences that would have been for workers in such a mid-to-late 1800’s area were small and densely packed, and many didn’t have off-street parking to speak of.  Meaning that there wasn’t anywhere for us to park the bus! There were, however, a number of businesses around with large parking lots, so my wife went off to see if any of them would give us permission to park, while I waited in the bus to be technically ‘standing’ in a no-parking area.

The bus in the Butchertown Pizza Hall parking lot.

After making her way from business to business around the block, she came back to direct me to the parking area of the Butchertown Pizza Hall, where she spoke with one of the owners, and where, as we drove up, employees were moving cars from the back of the lot to give us space to park!  My wife had said that we would definitely buy something there, the owner had said that we didn’t need to, but we were determined to have lunch there after we’d gone to the EGA Headquarters.

A closeup of one of several wall-length hangings at the EGA Headquarters.

Being only a block and a half from the headquarters, it took little time to walk over there and make our way to the back of the building to see what there was. The re-purposed building was high-ceilinged, bright, and airy with terrific heavy wood floors.  The EGA offices were likewise bright and airy, and the displays of needlework were well-displayed over the walls of the small gallery.

The EGA dollhouse, full of miniature embroidery!

We spent a half-hour or so looking over the stitching, the needlework in the display dollhouse, and chatting with the staff members there, especially as one was about to be heading off to Tennessee to watch the eclipse!

And more modern needleart …

After that, we headed back to have some pizza for lunch.

We expected the Butchertown Pizza Hall to have pizza, but they also had wings, so we opted to not get individual lunch specials, but get a pizza with slices of home-made meatballs and mozzarella, and an order of bourbon-honey wings (we were in Kentucky so it made more sense than hot wings).

Our Butchertown Pizza Hall pizza!

The pizza was a full 18″ pizza with a fairly thin crust you could fold to eat.  The sauce and meatballs were really nicely spiced/herbed and the pizza as a whole was really filling!  Even with our growing boy, we barely got through half of it.

And some bourbon-honey wings!

The wings were just awesome.  And coming from Buffalo, I guess you could say that we’re sort of ‘wing snobs’.  While Buffalo is known as the ‘birth place of chicken wings’, even in Buffalo, people know where the best wings in the city are and what makes a good wing.  The Butchertown Pizza Hall wings had the hallmarks of great wings, being completely cooked through, still tender and juicy, with crispy skin.  The sauce was really well put together, being just a bit sweet and buttery, with a well-rounded bourbon flavor that made them way too easy to eat.

While we finished the wings, we had to get the rest of the pizza to go, and left feeling very satisfied and happy that we’d found the place. It was well worth the stop.

Then we headed off to the Bulleit Distillery, originally the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, which was only 20 minutes away.

(Continued in Part 4)

 

Our Eclipse Trip (Part 1)

The total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 was the first one that we would be able to get to and view.  Buffalo had an annular  eclipse (the moon is farther from the Earth, producing a ‘Ring of Fire’) in 1994, but it was too overcast to see, and the previous visible total eclipse was in 1925!   So we had planned for this for a couple of years to get the right place to be to see it well.

LOOK BACK: Walter Cronkite covers the 1979 eclipse

I had scoped out the Dixon Springs State Park in Illinois as a nearly perfect place to stay.  It was about midway between the point of maximum coverage and maximum duration.  I emailed back and forth with one of the park officials who identified the best sites to fit our bus, and let me know that the site reservation window would open on January 1, 2017 for the August reservations.

However, when I logged into ReserveAmerica to grab one of the sites, I found them ALL booked.  It turns out that the state of Illinois had decided to capitalize on the eclipse for tourism, and had rolled their reservation window back to November and promoted their state sites!  Scrambling a bit, I found the Fort Massac State Park, adjacent to Metropolis, Illinois.

French Fort De L’Ascension/Massac on the left and reconstructed American Fort Massac on the right.

Fort Massac was originally founded by the French in 1757 as Fort De L’Ascension, and was rebuilt and renamed Massac during the end of the French and Indian War.  While the British nominally owned the territory afterward, the fort itself was burned by the local Cherokee by the time the British got there.

Reconstructed American Fort Massac (minus the log palisades).

The Americans got into the act when General George Washington ordered the fort reconstructed in 1794, and for the next 20 years it served as a military post, sometimes called the ‘Gibraltar of the Ohio’ due to it’s elevation and view of the river. Notable figures of Merriweather Lewis and William Clark camped at Fort Massac in 1803 as they made preparations for their Corps of Discovery expedition to the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.

The sign says it all …

Metropolis was laid out as a formal town in 1839, and it was hoped that it would be a transportation and commerce hub. It is now a city of about 6000 people, and is best known as the home of Superman (this is official, both from DC Comics and the Illinois State Legislature!).

 

A tiny fraction of the stone tool collection at Fort Massac.

As we were to find out, the Fort Massac Visitor Center there is mostly museum! They have a great collection of native american stone artifacts (from all over Illinois), and French and American artifacts recovered from the forts.

But most important for me was the fact that Fort Massac was still within the band of totality for the eclipse, and was only about 16 miles from Dixon Springs, so we wouldn’t lose much (about 10 seconds of totality) from being dead-center along the eclipse line. Within a few minutes, I had a site chosen and booked.  We had a place to camp for the eclipse!

Then we had to get there.  The longest trip that we’d taken the bus on was from Buffalo to Ohiopyle, PA (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) and back which was a measly 600 miles or so.  This was going to be some 1600 miles, so it would be our biggest foray to date.

Our (rather grainy) route map for the Eclipse Trip

We had limited time to make the trip, and decided on a few key places to stop on our trip.  We had some friends in Cincinnati, OH who we could stop and see, the Embroiderer’s Guild of America Headquarters were in Louisville, KY, as was the Bulleit Bourbon Distillery tour (at the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery), all on the way to Fort Massac.  On the way back, we could stop at Mammoth Caves and Big Bone Lick (where we could camp for the night).

With all this planned out, the next thing was packing and provisioning the bus. And then, of course, setting out on the journey …

(Continued in Part 2)

 

A Trip to Presque Isle State Park, PA

So, on the 13th of July we set out for Presque Isle State Park in/by Erie, PA.  Our son had a day’s worth of homeschool classes on aquaculture, swamp & beach biomes, the geology of the park, and preservation and maintenance of the park.  While it was only two and a quarter hours away from Buffalo, as the classes started at 9 am, we decided to camp overnight.

Our trip was uneventful, except for the fact that I made the mistake of topping up the coolant level in the bus before we left.  Why was this a problem?  Because there was a small leak at the coolant reservoir that dripped down onto the alternator, frying the voltage regulator.  By the time we had hit the Angola Rest Area on the NYS Thruway/I-90, we were running on battery power.  But as on our Evangola trip, I knew that the engine would keep running fine, but unlike that previous trip I had the house batteries fully charged, and chargers for both the house and bus batteries that would work when we got to shore power.  But now I knew the reason WHY the alternator was failing.  Unfortunately, the fluctuations in voltage damaged the board in the fridge, though I got it to work for part of the time we were plugged in.

We stayed at Sara’s Campground, whose lands abut right up to both the Presque Isle State Park and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.  Their grounds also have sites on both sides of Peninsula Drive/Route 832, the east side has sites for actual beach camping (in tents), and the west side is in the more forested area.

Sara's Campground Site Map
Sara’s Campground Site Map

So, we ended up getting Site 21 in the Forest Section.  It was our first stay in a private campground, and I was frankly surprised at the density of sites! The dashcam recorded our trip into our site, including the trepidation and worries I had of getting the bus in a place I’d have to back out of.

Sara’s Campground, Site 21, with the bus all settled.

But the site was fine.  The electric/water pole had a streetlight on it, so we had to put a blanket up over the windows on that side (thankfully magnets hold to bus steel wonderfully).  But there were no sites to our starboard side (where the firepit was), so it was a nice open site (next to a parking lot). And the concrete pad was very nicely level, so everything was comfortable.

Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.
Saras Campground, Site 21, with the bus settled and the fire burning down for Toastites.

But right across the street (via a crosswalk with speedbumps and a pushbutton controlled set of flashing lights to cross) was the start of Presque Isle’s beaches, and we walked all the way up past the first couple of breakwaters.  We did a little beachcombing, then returned and we made a fire and some lovely toastites for dinner.  We had some people stop by, interested in the bus, and we gave them the tour, and some skoolie info, as they had expressed interest in working up their own.

The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.
The sunset over lake Erie, shining right through the back window of the bus.

A little while later, as the sun was setting, we found that the sun was setting directly behind the bus, through the path to the beach.  It was, however, it was basically 9pm, so we were forced to get to bed before we felt we were ready.

Our next morning was fine, coffee and bowls of cereal for breakfast, and as the engine was running and I was doing our pre-trip, folks came over, interested in the bus. Alas, we didn’t have time for a tour, and weren’t returning, but they thought the concept was cool and were absolutely fine with us being there.

Unfortunately, given the short timing of us getting to the Tom Ridge Center for the aquaponics class, and then us getting from that class to our pontoon boat tour, I forgot to turn the dashcam on for those trips. But after the boat tour, I remembered to turn the cam on, so we have a video tour of Presque Isle, sped up 4x.  You miss out on a whole bunch of the cottonwood tree seeds floating about at that speed, but I recorded us getting from the tour to Barracks Beach, and then down the beach road to the Tom Ridge Center again, and then around the whole park once more.

 

Our trip back was uneventful, except for the one tractor-trailer driver who LOVED the train horn.  He paced us while we were still in PA, blew his horn and motioned for me to blow ours and gave a thumbs-up when I did, and hung out in front of us to break air for us until he got to the Angola, NY exit where he sounded his horn again and waved, and I sounded ours again.