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Thursday, March 30, 2017

European Hymer Buys Roadtrek Motor Homes

For years - whenever we have gone to Europe we have admired the Hymer Camper. They are very compact and rather spartan. I always said I wish I could bring one home. Well watch what you wish for.

Lulu and I owned several Class B Motor Homes - the last one was made in Canada by RoadTrek. RoadTrek campers are designed to be able to use them in winter.

The big news is Hymer has bought RoadTrek. They are building a fantastic camper right here in America called the Hymer Sunlight.  It is 19 feet long - and costs $70k. It can park at a regular parking space. Outside it looks like a regular van. Inside there are two beds - a kitchen - and a bathroom with shower. It is too tall to go in a regular garage door - but with no decorations on the outside - it could spend the night anywhere a car can.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lincoln's Summer Cottage and Soldiers' Home

Abe Lincoln used to ride the 3 miles
to the White House in about 30 minutes.
Mary and Abe Lincoln enjoyed the peace
- solitude - and quiet of the Soldiers Home
Modern presidents have Camp David as a place to relax and avoid the summer heat of the Capital City. Lincoln has this wonderful cottage on the grounds of the Soldiers Home. Here Lincoln and his family spent the summer months - June to November - during the years 1862 - 1863 - 1864. Three other presidents spent their summers here. Every morning at 9 AM - Lincoln would ride his horse about a half hour - on the 3 mile trip to his White House office. 

The president was able to escape the summer heat of the city - and also the stench of the sewage and swamps. He could also avoid the political pressure of hangers on. 

It was in this home that Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation - freeing the slaves in all the states fighting against the USA. 

We drove about 3 miles north of Keith's home on Florida Avenue. In the old days - you would have been out in the country away from the capital city. The route was a dangerous one - and on one trip a sniper shot a hole through Lincoln's top hat. 

The Soldiers Home is still used. There are about 500 soldiers living there. In Lincoln's time - there was one big main building - and the national cemetery was in the back. Today - the cemetery is filled and we use Arlington Cemetery to bury soldiers that were killed in action. 

The Lincoln Summer Cottage is cared for by a non-profit corporation. The one hour tour costs $15. You can view the outside of the home for free.

The cottage was huge - with 3 full floors.
This side faced down the hill to the city
This was the Soldiers Home when Lincoln was here
Now it is expanded and has many buildings
Abe's stovepipe hat was a trademark
The Solders Home was there when Lincoln was

This was the carriage entrance to the house

Monticello - Where Thomas Met Sally

Monticello - little mountain

Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States. He wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence - and founded the University of Virginia - the first public university. He died on July 4 - 1826 - exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. He died in Monticello - his home on a hill overlooking Charlottesville VA. 

He had several children. In the past years - due to DNA testing - it has been proven that he fathered 4 kids by Sally Hemmings one of his slaves. We toured Monticello 25 years ago - and wanted to review it under today's new circumstances. 

Thomas Jefferson inherited 5000 acres from his family. He built this plantation on that land. The home has many neat features - but the plantation was never a success. He died in great debt. His library collection of 6700 books was sold to the Library of Congress to help pay off his debts. Eventually the Levy family bought Monticello for $2500 to help pay off the debts. After owning it 100 years - they gave the home to a non-profit foundation to keep for history. 

It cost $28 - no discounts - to tour the house for a day. There are 4 different tours. We took the 40 minute main house tour. The house is in remarkably great shape. The plantation is also being restored. They do show you where Sally Hemmings lived. No pictures are allowed in the house.

I was surprised to find out that Sally Hemmings was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife. Evidently it ran in the family - having children with the help. Thomas Jefferson went to France for many years - and he took Sally Hemmings along with him. Jefferson was secretary of state under Washington - and spent much time favoring France. Lafayette - from France - was a hero during the Revolutionary War. He was a big friend of Jefferson. 

There was a strong connection between Jefferson - Lafayette - and Francis Eppes. Frances Eppes was the grandson of Jefferson. There is a strong Charlotteville-Tallahassee connection. Francis Eppes moved to Tallahassee and donated money to found FSU. He was the president of the board for 8 years. A statue of him is on campus near the main gate. 

It looks just like the main building on UVA campus

3 floors disguised as 1 floor

It started out Greek - then he added French 

This is the west face

To the left would be a view of UVA campus

In the basement was a privy - for my friend Bussy 
He had a beer cellar - with a dumb waiter up to
dining room

The Jefferson private cemetery - his grave

An Eppes buried in the Jefferson Cemetery 

Lulu Gives A VIP Tour Of John Boy Walton's Real Home

John Boy Walton's Real House

One of Lulu's all time favorite TV shows was The Waltons. It was the story of Earl Hamner's childhood being raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the depression.

Hamner made his fame in Hollywood as a writer of movies and TV programs. His masterpiece was a series call The Walton's.

Schuyler VA is just off US Route 29 about an hour south of Charlottesville. In the series - the main character John Walton lived in a small clapboard house with his extended family - including the grand parents. Some times there were 4 generations under one roof.

Lulu was raised in a similar house overlooking the Blue Mts. Her bedroom window had a similar view.

In 1992 - 25 years ago - we visited the Walton Mountain Museum on its opening weekend. Since we were going through the area - Lulu insisted we stop again. At the museum (another story coming) - they told us that on the day before - Sunday - the whole cast was there celebrating 25 years of the museum. Everyone but Richard Thomas - the man who plaed John Boy - was there. Of course - Earl Hamner could not attend - he died a year ago.

The museum is a great visit - it is just up the hill. But the ultimate thrill is going in the real home. At the gift shop - the man offered us the key. For $7.50 per person - we could go through the house. I grabbed the key - and sight unseen - Lulu did the video above. You could see the thrills in Lulu's eyes and anticipation in her voice as she explains away the stuff inside. We had the place to ourselves - sorta like the Lincoln Bedroom.

Maybe I can convince Lulu to let me build a Walton style guest house in our back yard. Good night - Lulu!  Good night - Jack - Max - and Kate - Boy!

Lulu narrates our visit from scratch - one take Lulu.

It is about 100 yards from the Walton Mt Museum

The dining room with the long pine plank table

Bathroom with pine plank floors

Master bedroom on first floor
The living room with piano

the girls bedroom with low ceilings

John Boy and the boys room upstairs

Plaques on the front porch. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Touring Liberty University and Lynchburg VA

Harry and his wife with Jerry Falwell and his wife

Pictures of Jerry Falwell all over campus

This electric truck delivered food from the diner on campus

We had supper with the students in this campus diner

We pulled into Lynchburg VA about 3 PM. It was overcast and it looked like it was raining on the high peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was 70 degrees out but on a Sunday afternoon we could not find many people. We went downtown along the James River but very few places were open. They must have Blue Laws.

Next we went to the campus of Liberty University. There are streets - buildings - even an airport named after Jerry Falwell. There were lots of pictures of him around - it reminded me of the Old Red Communist China. The campus is new - and about 3 miles outside of downtown. There is a lot of construction going on. When George Bush was in the White House - more of his staff members graduated from this college than any other in the USA.

We saw an aluminum and neon diner on campus and figured we could eat supper there. There were about 40 kids in there eating. Even though we were not students - they let us eat at the student rate. It cost $6.50 a person for supper - no tax. For that you got an entree - two sides - a drink - and a dessert. Again - there were quite a few pictures of Jerry Falwell in the dining area. Lulu and I posed for a picture there.

We are in a nice hotel overlooking campus - Fairfield Inn. There are only 15 cars in the lot - so it must be empty. It is 6 PM - we are in for the night- watching basketball.

We are looking forward to tomorrow when we will tour Monticello and Walton's Mountain. We will also get to Washington where we can see - Max - Liz - and Keith.

Out hotel has a very nice pool - unfortunately Lulu forgot her bathing suit. I imagine they frown on skinny dipping here.

Liberty University From Our Hotel In Lynchburg VA

On Trip North To See The Kids - We Discover Greenville SC

The Poinsett Hotel was our home last night

The Reedy River Park right in downtown was busy with visitors

We are at the Poinsett Hotel in beautiful downtown Greenville SC. We drove 8 hours north from Tallahassee via Athens GA to spend last night in this wonderful town. After scores of trips between Pennsylvania and Florida - how in the world did we miss this place. It seems to be the prototype of everything the leaders in Tallahassee covet.

Greenville was founded on the Fall Line where the Reedy River drops from the Piedmont Region to the Coastal Plain. The 60 foot drop provided tremendous power to run the cotton mills in this now diversified town. Furman University make this place home along the river home.

There are 4 independent theaters in downtown. They have a minor league baseball team and one of the highlights is Swamp Rabbits Hockey of the East Coast Hockey League. For 22 years - the Swamp Rabbits were the Johnstown PA Chiefs - the famed team from the movie Slap Shot. In the movie - the Chiefs were moving to Florida - but they really ended up here. There are 28 teams in the league all over the country - including one in Alaska. The top hockey league is the NHL - followed by the AHL - then the ECHL.

Our next stop is Lynchburg VA. We have never been to that town either.

Lulu has has a gig to read grants in Washington which funds the trip.

Lulu on the bridge across the Reedy River Park

The Greenville Chamber of Commerce

The performing arts center next to our hotel

The downtown river park goes on for about a mile

Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 17 - Last Night In Europe - Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia
Renaissance Barcelona

It is our last night on the road. Saturday by midnight - we will be back home. Lulu booked a nice room in Barcelona for us to get a good rest before we flew home on Delta. We leave here Saturday at 1 PM our time - we get home at midnight Tallahassee time. We go through Amsterdam and Atlanta. 

You can't go to Barcelona without seeing this wonderful cathedral - Sagrada Familia. It was started by Antonio Gaudi almost 150 years ago. They are still building it at the cost of about $22 million a year. It has been funded completely by private funds. 

It is hard to explain how big it is and how different it is. It is not something I would build. I tend to like simple lines - and elementary motifs. I am happy with just a few repeating patterns. I am also not a church attender - as a kid I was "suffer the children to come onto me" - I did a little too much suffering :-)  Although I am not a  church goer - I like people that do go. I enjoy people that have found their rut in life - and are happy on that track. 

There is a mystery to me as to why the Christian faith has endured all these years. The religious art is fascinating - and how it has survived 2000 years. Although I have tried to go along with the story that Jersus was born and 33 years later his father decided to let him die for our sins - then he brought him back to life in 3 days. Again - I am not putting down a religion - especially a religion that is based on the Golden Rule and the 10 Commandments. But to me - too many people have been killed in the name of religion. 

I love traveling all over Europe and seeing these old buildings - old statues - and old paintings. I love seeing relics - pieces of saint's bodies - etc. It would be fun doing some DNA testing on these things. Having had my share of perfect attendance pins at Bethany Church - and also staying the extra hour to sing in the junior choir - I remember the stories. 

This Cathedral - Sagrada Familia - is a wonder of the world. It does amaze me that the logistics could go on 150 years. 

Lulu decided to get a really nice hotel for the last night. The Barcelona Renaissance is very different - like the cathedral. The windows are shaped like palm fronds. The elevators are all glass - on all 4 sides - and they move like rockets - the fastest I have ever seen. You enter your room by laying your card next to the door and just pushing - the door opens. The room is all white - white walls - white furniture - no pictures - the only thing on the wall is the TV. There are no lamps - the whole side table lights up. The bathroom and shower has glass walls. When you take a shower - you are the entertainment. The window shades are electric and white. The only private spot is a tiny toilet closet - again all in white. The floor is light wood. The bathrooms are white marble.

It all makes me feel like at home :-)   Saturday at midnight - we will be there - unless we get bumped.

Our hotel room window.
Barcelona from our room.
126 euros a night - beautiful.
The metro to the cathedral - 2 euros

Clean - modern - fast - subway. 
Sunset at Sagrada Familia

Lulu touching cathedral

Note the beautiful detailed work



more statues

Cathedral has its own subway stop

Natural side - looks like  nuclear melt

Lulu and Max's soccer ball

Some heroes at a souvenir stand

Barcelona soccer team is hot right now.

model of cathedral

Gaudi is worshipped here