Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Here we are one year and 25,648 kms. later. Those are the kms. on Moho's wheels but we can't calculate the ones on our feet. We travelled through five provinces, twenty-one states and four southeast asian countries. It has been an amazing year and we have seen and learned so much. Travel truly allows one to step outside the comforts of familiarity and challenge each other. We learned that we make a "great team" and would not hesitate to repeat our adventure.

Already people have asked what was the best place orthing? We both agree that each experience was unique and all wonderful. There was no specific favourite.

So, in closing our blog, I want to thank everyone (and there are too many to name individually) for the hospitality, the great meals, and the help with minor Moho repairs along our way. The emails were a bonus in keeping in touch and some arrived very timely when a wave of homesickness occurred. Of course, Don never experienced that!

And for now the wheels areparked and so ends Moho0910 Blog.........

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


With our heads full of American Civil War history it was time to move on and enter the Amish farmland area of Pennsylvania. We found the ideal location; Intercourse in Lancaster County. Our campsite boasted "a relaxing setting where one could sit back and watch the cows come home." This was not a lie. Sites were set on a hill bordering a local farm where we watched an Amish farmer and his young son plough his fields with the aid of a team of mules. A short walk to town were the tour buses, buggy rides, shops, restaurants and promises of a taste of the Amish lifestyle. We instead chose the peddle option and climbed on our bikes to head out into the countryside.

Our first stop was Mascot Rollers Mills/Ressler Family House. It was a water powered flour mill built in the 1730's. The family acquired the Mill in 1864 and operated for three generations until it ceased operation in 1977. The Ressler Mill Foundation was setup by the family in 1967 to preserve the Mill and share with the public this part of history that was more than a business for this family. The house has been maintained in the way left by Anna before she moved to the Senior Home. We felt like we were introduced to the family and could feel their
presence today.

We continued to Bird-in-Hand Farmers' Market where local produce, cheese, meats and bakery goods were for sale. In our Pinksen style we purchased whoopie pies and a piece of shoo-fly pie to sample. Another item we purchased was pon pudding made from pork innards to try with our cheese grits. All turned out to be delicious. Pennsylvania was an even "drier" state than Utah. No alcohol was sold in the supermarket and we found one store that sold wine and spirits. Their beer was sold separately and the minimum purchase was 24.

Arising early we did a long run through the farmlands. Not realizing the Amish rose so early for Church we felt a little uncomfortable in our running attire passing the Amish families walking or buggy riding in their Sunday best. Despite our feelings we were greeted with wonderful smiles and waves.

Feeling well rested we travelled on a few more miles. One could not pass through Hershey, PA without stopping to sample and tour Hershey Chocolate World. Of course we had to purchase some dark chocolate for it's medicinal purposes.

We passed through Harrisburg for a night and by chance found Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, PA. Time to settle in for a couple of nights and hike the area around Holman Lake and the ridge. We had planned to also do some running but temperatures dropped and the rains came. We instead chose the option to stay bunked down in our cozy Moho and start planning for our return home.

However, our wheels kept turning over the rolling farmlands of Pennsylvania. A stop in

Cook Forest State Park gave us the opportunity to experience the Cathedral Forest with its old pine and hemlock. They were not the Redwoods of California but we enjoyed hiking there just the same. This was our quiet time to prepare for the return to our Canadian lifestyle.

Our last "adventure" was shopping at the Prime Outlets in Grove City. Charlene, not being a "shopper" faced the necessity of purchasing new clothes after a year of a limited wardrobe. So it was off to the border and our crossing back into Canada.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground

This drive stretches 175 miles from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia, through West Virginia, Maryland and ends at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Our visit to Monticello was covered in the Blue Ridge Parkway Blog.

From Monticello we decided to detour off the JTHG Corridor and drive through Shenandoah National Park on the Skyline Parkway. The drive was similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway but the mountains were not as intense and their were more views of civilization below particularly the Shenandoah Valley. We camped at Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park and had a great hike to Lewis Falls the next morning with a portion along the Appalachian Trail.

After finishing the Skyline Parkway at Front Royal we drove to Manassas National Battlefield Park. The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) on July 21, 1861 and the second battle on August 30, 1862 both resulted in victories for the Confederate Forces early in the Civil War. The farmlands of the fields of battle remain much as they were on those two days of bloody fighting. That and the excellent information provided on the walking tour of the first battle's locations brought that initial clash of the two armies of the divided nation with its unexpected loss of young men to life for us.

Our next stop was Harpers Ferry National Historic Park which also saw battles fought during the Civil War and actually changed hands several times during the war.

It is located on the Potomac River where the Shenandoah flows in. This strategic location on the border between West Virginia and Maryland (north) and Virginia (south) led to the transportation and industrial town being nearly destroyed during the war.

But the most important role Harpers Ferry played in the Civil War was its setting for John Brown's Rebellion for freedom of the slaves on October 15 1859 which was one of the triggers of the Civil War.

Our last stop was Gettysburg National Military Park the site of the a three day battle involving more than one hundred thousand soldiers from July 1-3 1863. T here were more casualties (51,000) than any battle fought in North America before or since. The battle ended with the failure of Pickett's Charge by the Confederates and victory for the Union forces. This would be the last incursion by the south into the north and would turn the tide in favour of the north. The war would drag on for two more years. The Visitors Centre has extensive presentations on the battle. We decided to bypass this for a twenty four mile self guided tour of the significant sites of the battle and views of some of the thirteen hundred monuments that decorate this large park surrounding the town of Gettysburg.

Our drive ended at the Soldiers' National Cemetery where many thousands of soldiers from both sides are interred. This cemetery is most famous as the site of the delivery of the Gettysburg Address by President Lincoln four months later at the dedication of the cemetery. This two minute speech changed Gettysburg from a field of death to a symbol of sacrifice and an inspiration to the living.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway often called "America's Favourite Drive' is deserving of this label. The 469 miles commenced for us in the Great Smokey Mountains, North Carolina and moved north to the Shenandoah National Park in the Appalachians, Virginia.

Our scenic drive which joined the two parks took us through mountains, valleys, meadows and more mountains. We got a sense of the life of mountain people in this area of the United States. The views were breathless at times and thankfully there were lots of pull-offs to stop and enjoy the landscape below us.

Construction began in 1935, and the final leg was finally completed in 1987 with the spectacular Linn Cove Viaduct which looks as though it's suspended from Grandfather Mountain. This September 11th marks the 75th anniversary of the Parkway. We can thank the initiative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt for this wonderful drive. His intent was to give travellers a scenic drive and use the labour of CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Depression of the 1930's. Our drive was slow with the speed limit being 45 mph and sometimes it was difficult to even achieve that.

There were so many highlights of our week long drive that I will mention but a few. The Parkway had several Craft Centres and we visited two. The first was the Folk Art Centre near Asheville, NC operated by the Southern Highland Craft Guild and has been in operation for the past 60 years. The handicrafts of the region were well represented. The second was the Parkway Craft Centre part of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. This stood out for us not only because of the quality workmanship but the beautiful grounds of the Park.

We continued on to the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, NC. This store established in 1883 is still in operation and some of the items looked as though they were there since the beginning. There were barrels of candy selling for a penny. The store's motto was that it sold everything from "cradles to coffins" and after a short visit we believed it except for the fact that we had actually gone to buy a loaf of bread and couldn't find one.

The Mabry Mill, the most famous attraction on the Parkway, was well worth a stop. As well as the working of the Mill we saw an example of an Applachian home and a real whiskey still tucked in the woods. This spot brought us back the next morning for breakfast. Buckwheat flour ground at the Mill made very delicious pancakes as well as the sweet potato and cornmeal pancakes too. It was our opportunity to try famous Country Ham and biscuits. The ham was not a big hit. With full bellies we moved on and thankful that there were stops along the way to hike and work off the calories. Two of our favourite hikes were Fisher Peak Loop and Sharp Top Trail which gave us a panoramic view of the Peaks of Otter area.

Monticello or "little mountain"; home of Thomas Jefferson was one of the best tours we took on our trip. We commenced our tour with Susan our guide in Monticello Hall where visitors waited to speak with President Jefferson. The room was filled with artifacts including giftsbrought back by Lewis and Clark from their expeditions. One of the most amazing facts we learned was that the house was designed by President Jefferson and it incorporated open-air living spaces, skylights, terraces and cooking/storage spaces in the basement. It is said to be his "essay in architecture". Walking through the home gave us a clear understanding of this man's intellect. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence held many talents. He was fluent in many languages, possessed thousands of books, was a self taught architecture, a pioneer in agriculture and travelledoverseas to Europe on several occasions. As well as our tour of the home we toured Mulberry Row and got a true sense of the life of a slave. Jefferson himself was conflicted by the idea of slavery his whole life. After visiting Monticello we more fully understood the ideas of "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" and "that all men are created equal" that established the foundations of self government and individual freedom in America.

Before leaving the Monticello area we stopped for lunch at Michie Tavern. This historic tavern gave us the opportunity to sample fried chicken, pulled barbecue pork, stewed tomatoes, black eyed peas, cornbread and biscuits in a cafeteria style tavern. We did not eat another meal for the rest of the day. The site also contained a General Store, and museum shops of artisan works.

Our most exciting adventure in the Charlottesville area came when we decided to take a tour of the University of Virginia. After passing the Rotunda we continued and very quickly came upon an overpass that had a 10 foot clearance. Moho needed 11 feet. Keeping in mind that we were travelling on a narrow street with cars parked on both sides Don came to an abrupt stop. Faced with the fact that we had to make a quick decision all my thoughts diverted to the crazy motorhome movies of Chevy Chase and Robin Williams and how I now found myself in one of their crazy scenarios. There was no alternative but to back up several feet and attempt a U-turn. Charlene made her debut as the newest Charlottesville policewoman; waving and directing traffic. After several minutes we cleared what felt like a disaster and got back on the Interstate for our campground. Later that evening we laughed and pledged to write that episode in our memories.

After all the excitement of Monticello and Charlottesville it was time for relaxation. We found the perfect spot. Humpback Rocks Mountain Farm Exhibit presented an outdoor concert of bluegrass music. After feeling cheated because the Blue Ridge Music Centre was closed when we travelled through, the local band; Loose Gravel gave us the music we searched for. Humpback Rocks was ideal. We sat under a big walnut tree with the local mountain people and with the warm afternoon breezes we listened. It was very relaxing to listen to the banjo, violin and mandolin, watch the volunteers re-enact life in previous generations and generally soak up the ambiance.

So our wheels keep moving but we will not forget the picturesque lookoffs, the tunnels, the wild azaleas, the clean mountain air and the people of the Blue Ridge Parkway.