Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heading to Canada

Greetings from Aroostook State Park in Maine!
Brian again. We are about to cross over into Canada this morning, after taking care of some last-minute things. Many of you know that we will be there for a few weeks. After Saturday, when we have campground reservations near Moncton, New Brunswick (so we can attend a Geocaching Event with about 500 people attending), we have no plans or schedule! We want to see New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, and will give each one at least a week. If you do the math, we will be back in the Good Old USA after Labor Day. By that time, it will have sunk in that we are both retired!
Since our last report, we have traveled some extraordinary country, and at a leisurely pace. In Pennsylvania, we stopped for a panoramic view of the Cumberland valley at a place called The Pulpit. It has a jump-off platform for parasailers, and it was awesome.
The Pulpit view
After camping at Promised Land State Park, we were headed to New York, when I saw a sign for Steamhouse National Historical Site. Who could resist? We took a short, unplanned, side trip, and found a restored roundhouse and trains. Since it wasn't a planned stop, we were only able to spend about 2 ½ hours, but we got to take a short train ride in an old train. Our car was about 100 years old. What fun! I'd like to come back on the way home and see them demonstration of the turntable. We'll see.

The roundhouse

All aboard!
Good advice - not only on a steam train

After leaving PA, we wandered around NY for the day, and ended up at Glimmerglass State Park. Isn't that a wonderful name? It was the name of a lake in J.F. Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales. It is near Cooperstown [get the connection?]. When I saw Cooperstown on the map, I thought how much some of my friends would LOVE to be there to see the museum. I don't care about sports, so I thought to myself that at least it is during baseball season, so nothing will be going on. What do I know? It was Hall of Fame Induction weekend! We found an overflow camping site, and got out as soon as possible. If we had wanted, we could have parked on someone's front lawn for only $20.00. Several people had signs.
The Adirondacks are one of our favorite places, so we drove through part of them. Our campsite was right by a river, so we were able to sleep with the back end up, and had to get into our sleeping bags because of the chill (in July!) The river provided a very soothing background noise, which is a LOT better than listening to a CD!
My second cousin, Travis, and his wife Jen, just had a baby last month. They usually attend the Luther reunion, but couldn't make it this year. We were able to stop by and see Nora, the newest Luther. I think she is my second cousin, once removed. It doesn't matter, because she is CUTE! We were able to visit a while, and Travis asked if I wanted to go try to find a Geocache that is less than a mile from his house --yes HE asked ME ! It would have been rude to say no, so we gave it a try. Luckily, we got it after a half-mile hike. It hadn't been visited since last October.
Baby Nora!

When we got back to his house, he discovered that the water pump had stopped working. So much for showers! He made some phone calls, and decided to wait until morning's light to try to fix it. We had some bottled water in the truck, so we donated it to the cause, and we all headed to bed. Luckily, at last report, it was only some bad wires, so I don't think it was an expensive problem to fix.
After a foggy ferry ride across Lake Champlain to Vermont, we took some more scenic drives through the country. We found another place we want to return to in a month or two, named Smuggler's Notch. The only drawback would be that if this trip was any indication, the traffic would be impossible when the leaves are changing colors.

     I've mentioned barns and covered bridges already. Another thing that I enjoy seeing is churches. You see some quaint, clapboard country churches {try saying that quickly 3 times}and ornate gothic style marvels in many small towns. Many of the country churches make me wonder where the people that attend them live. There is often nothing around to indicate that there would be enough people around to support a church.
     Another frequent stop for us is waterfalls.  We've seen quite a few nice ones!  I'll put sone pictures her.  Let me know if you want to know the names.

     We ran into another quirky place, The Museum of Everyday Life.  It was just a old barn in the country with displays of pencils, dust, paper clips, toothbrushes, etc.  Strange.
     Northern New Hampshire and Maine were new territories too.  We didn't spend as much time as we would like there, so we may return in a month or so.  The highlight of Maine was seeing Mount Katahdin.  Kris has always wanted to go there, but we didn't have time.  The best we could do was see it from an overlook on the Interstate.

      Kris has been reading to me from her Roadside Geology of ....  books that she got as a retirement gift.  To summarize what I have learned, there are a lot of rocks here, and glaciers helped form the mountains and valleys.
     Well, it is time to head off on the Canadian part of our journey!   Adieu for now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reunion week

Brian here again: 
       It has been a fun and busy week!  We had a nice, restful visit at my mother's place.  That was a good thing, because we were about to have a wonderful invasion!  Kim flew up on Thursday, so Kris and I drove to Pittsburgh to pick her up.  She was able to spend time with her Grandmother and us before the Luther Reunion on Saturday.  My mother's side of the family has an every-two-year get together here in Johnstown.  My grandfather had nine brothers and sisters, so there are a lot of cousins and second cousins to see.  Many of them (like us) live in other states, so the number of attendees has dwindled.  This year we had 50 people.
     Mark and Joel flew into Pittsburgh on Saturday with Logan and Caleb.  They missed the reunion, but were able to spend some time with my cousins at the motel pool.
      We went to Church with my mother and got to hear my Uncle Roger Luther's family sing "I'll Fly Away".

Church nursery with cousin Zachary

The family at Church
  Monday was our tour of Johnstown day.  We rode the Inclined Plane - the world's steepest funicular  - which was a hit with Logan, because he likes trains, and this one is quite unusual.  It was built to help people get up the steep hill from Johnstown to Westmont, where the 'people of means' lived.  Today it is a tourist attraction.  It carries one car at a time so Logan was able to watch GrandDad ride up with the other car.
 Inclined Plane

 After that we visited my GrandDad Kissell's grave in Grandview Cemetery.  There is a field of unnamed graves there for those that died in the Great Flood of 1889.   We noticed that there wasn't a maker for his service in WWI, so we stopped by the cemetery office.  They don't get many requests for them, but they had one, and we were able to place it and a flag at his gravesite.

Great-Great-GrandDad Kissell's grave

Placing a flag on WWI Vet's grave

    Mark wanted to take a drive in the country to enjoy the beautiful Pennsylvania scenery, and I suggested that we could hike to Wolf Rocks - an area that I went to often when visiting on vacation.  It is a great 4.5 mile round trip hike, and it was warm ( a sweltering 84 degrees).  I don't often get the chance to do things with them, so it was a treat for me.  I don't know how much they got out of it, but they say that it was a good hike.   Unfortunately, people have spray-painted graffiti on most of the rocks, which is hard to ignore.  It was still a great day, and the ladies didn't mind looking after Logan and Caleb.

Wolf Rocks hike

    Fireflies are always a hit, so we bent the bedtime rules a bit to let the boys enjoy them.  The little boys took a while to understand what was going on, then got into the excitement and had fun chasing them.  Not many fireflies were harmed in the activity.


     Logan and Caleb were already dressed for bed, so Kris and I went to the motel with them to sleep.  This gave the adult Grandchildren time to spend with Grandma, and gave us some time with our Grandboys before heading out on the rest of our adventure.

Breakfast with Grandma and GrandDad

     Logan had a hard time saying "Grandma Great" which my mother prefers because that is what our kids called her mother, so it came out "Grandma Grape".  She kind of likes that, too.  There isn't much room at her place, and not many toys, but the boys managed to find a place to have fun.

Playing at Grandma Great's

     We visited the cemetery that my father and Luther Grandparents are buried in on Tuesday before everyone left for the airport.  I placed a geocache there called "Family History".  The cemetery is on land that used to be the Luther family farm.  Before I moved from Johnstown, I lived on Bob Street - named after my Great Grandfather Robert Luther.  My back yard was the cemetery, and I learned to ride my bike there.

Everyone is here! [Except Phillip]

Grandpa Great's grave

View at Richland Cemetery

   On Tuesday the weather was pleasant, so we were able to play on the grass and blow bubbles.  As is to be expected, the boys finally warmed up to Grandma Grape, and sat in her lap... just in time for them to leave.

Grandma Great has a nice lap.

    One of the highlights of visiting Johnstown is buying corn from a truck in a parking lot.  They pick it in the morning and bring it into town.   There is nothing like fresh-picked sweet corn!

Corn truck

Shucking corn!

    The family got back to Houston safely last night, and today we went for a ride in the country with my mother. It was different than a road trip, and gee, what are a few more miles?   We had a great lunch at a family owned  restaurant that has antiques displayed on the wall.  Kris was there for about 30 seconds when she saw an old thermometer on the wall from Kissell Concrete Company.  We have one at home, but would love another one.  This one is bigger and in better shape, but the owner wasn't available to tell us if he would sell it to us.  I left my name and number, and I hope he will get back to me.
The thermometer

     On the way back to Johnstown, we stopped at a few more covered bridges.  There was a cache near a folk art display.  A man builds small buildings and has them furnished with antiques.  He saw us and gave us a short guided tour of his place.  We didn't find the  geocache, but the interaction with him was MUCH better than finding a film can.
     Tomorrow we will be leaving for Canada.  We contacted my second cousin in upstate New York to see if we could stop to see him.  He couldn't come to the reunion, because he has a newborn daughter, Nora.  He said OK, so we'll visit before going to New Brunswick for an August 1 Geocaching event.

Kris here:
       A roller-coaster week for sure!  Anticipation of the arrival of three of our children and the two grandsons.   Then 3 days of fun, talk, tantrums, decisions about who is sleeping where, exploring, learning family history, relating memories and making new ones, visiting graves of family members  . . . chaos surrounded by love.  Through it all, missing Phillip and being sorry that he couldn't be here.  Krystal, too.  I feel so very blessed to have thoughtful, caring children and extremely thankful to have had this time with them.  Saying good-bye is always hard.  We won't see our kids and grandkids for about three months as we continue on our grand adventure.   
      Shirley's house has been too quiet today.   The weather cooled off again and the windows are open.  So nice to hear the birds.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Back in Johnstown

Brian again - If you've seen the pictures on Facebook, I'm sorry, but not everyone that reads this is a FB user.

    Man, oh man, what a pleasure!  Corn season just started here, and we went up to the corner and bought some from the back of a pickup truck in a parking log at the end of the road named after my Great Grandparents.  They pick it in the morning, and come and sell it.  We boiled it up, and had corn for lunch.I only ate 6 ears this time.  Good eatin'!

     One of the things we used to do while on the road was play the license plate game.  Kris would write all of the state names on a piece of paper (she sang the song when she did it - the way she memorized the states in alphabetical order as a kid) and we would check them off when we saw them.   Well, this is the first time we haven't done it.  I don't know if it is because it is hard to read the names of the states because my eyesight is worse, because of the fact that license plate holders block the names, vanity plates make it hard to know which state they come from, or [most likely] geocaching makes us stop more often, so I don't need the distraction.

     I buy coffee a lot while on the road, mostly when we stop to use the restroom and don't buy gas, and I've noticed that the price varies a whole lot.  Sometimes they just say to take it without charge, other times it ranges from $ .50 to $ 1.79 for a refill.  It doesn't make sense,  but I've learned to ask how much before filling up my cup.

     We don't miss TV AT ALL!  The only time we see it is when we are eating at a restaurant or visiting someone, and then they usually turn it off when we get there.  When we are at home we don't watch much, but on the road, it just doesn't happen.  If anything important happens in the  world, we know about it through Facebook, or on newspapers in the rack.

     Those were things that crossed my mind while driving.  We've put 3,500 miles on the truck in the first three weeks, so I've had time to think, and my mind wanders.

     Now for things we've seen...  While travelling through Ohio, we ran across the largest Amish community in the United States, Middlefield.  Never seen so many horse and buggies!  We were there on Saturday, so I guess they were all headed to town to do business.     Clip Clop, Clip Clop!  One of our geocache stops was at the Largest Horse and Buggies in the  world - a wooden piece of art.  The back wheel is 7 feet tall .  It was in Mesopotamia, OH.  We are world travellers. Mecca isn't far down the road.


Culture Clash?

     We ran across a mural (again at a geocache) that had the history of the town in picture.  We love it when we see murals in small towns.  I've often thought that it would be a good idea for a coffee table book, but I don't know who would buy it, and I don't have a good enough camera.  I never would have believed that so many towns have them.

     Pennsylvania and Ohio have  a lot of covered bridges.  Most of them are old, but we saw the United States' Longest Covered Bridge this week.  It is only about 7 years old, but it was something to see.   (yes, there is a geocache there, but no, we didn't try to find it}

The longest covered bridge in the USA

Probably the smallest

     In Hermitage, PA, we ran across a really awesome cemetery.  There is a tribute there to the Iran hostages.   A resident of the town placed a U.S. flag for every day they were held hostage, and keeps them up to help us remember.  There is also an  eternal flame for the soldiers that died in rescue attempts.

Eternal flame

     We are looking forward seeing my cousin tomorrow.  She lives in Holidaysburg not far from here, so we will be driving up for a visit.  Then we will take it easy for a few days.  Kim is flying up on Thursday, and will be here for the family reunion on Saturday.  Mark, Logan, Caleb, and Joel are flying up on Saturday.  They will miss the reunion, but will get to meet some of my cousins and their families in the evening.

Geocache Warning!

#1 - we finished our DT grid!  It  wasn't hard [it required a 0.16 mile bushwhack].  The series was probably put up to help fill the grid, but who cares?
#2 - I've managed  to find 2 Wherigo caches and 2 webcams so far.  I like to look for different types of caches in each state. Kris goes along with it, but doesn't really care about them.  Neither do I.  I guess it started with a Challenge we did.
#3 - Kris likes to pick up new counties, so we roam around trying to get them.  It isn't quite like Pokeman - we can't get 'em all, but we are working on it.  It is a great way to get off of the Interstate and really see the country.
#4 - We did a series of 94 puzzles that form a geo-art picture of a Jeep.  I solved them at home, and we spent most of 3 days finding them.  The cache owner helped a lot, and we found 89 of them.  We didn't feel like hiking again through soft, squishy marsh to find three of them that we missed the first time we tried, and there were a few plain DNFs.
#5 - Finished the entire PA State  Star.  That was where I saw the bear.
#6 - Earned our Event Souvenir this weekend.  It was a paddle event, and we showed up to talk to non-paddlers, went to our campsite for a shower, and came back an hour early for the potluck that was scheduled at 4 o'clock.  When we got there, they had already finished, and most of the people had gone home.  It was nice to visit with a few people, but would have been nicer to have met more.
     Thanks for reading this far.  Why not bookmark the page so you can access it easily in the future if you want to check up on us.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

fire tower pic from the top

The whole thing in better light

I took this picture because I'm a fun guy!

Latest pictures

Fire tower

view from the top

can't go further!


close up of one

even more!

starting a VERY short hike (for a Geocache)

a bit further in