Sunday, April 27, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0097 - New Jersey, 2014 Part I

After visiting the Iowa Battleship in California a few weeks ago, I decided to visit the New Jersey Battleship in Camden, New Jersey. The New Jersey Battleship, unlike the Iowa Battleship that can be recalled to active duty at any time, has been decommissioned and is not part of the Navy’s fleet. The New Jersey Battleship served in WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam, and is America’s most decorated battleship.

Located just a few blocks from the New Jersey Battleship is the historic Walt Whitman House, which contains a collection of writings, photographs, and memorabilia. Unfortunately, the house was closed for a week, so we did not get to visit the inside of the building.

Traveling a few miles down the Delaware River from Camden are the remains of Fort Mercer and the Red Bank Battlefield Park. This is the site where 400 Patriots defeated over 1,500 Hessian Soldiers. Apparently, the Patriots were tipped off that the Hessians were going to attack at dawn, so they repositioned themselves on a hill overlooking the River and insetad of the Hessians surprising the Patriots, the Patriots surprised the Hessians and won the battle. After the main Hessian Army retreated, leaving their dead and wounded behind, the Patriots carried the wounded Hessians to the James & Ann Whitall House and converted it to a hospital. The house is adjacent to the battlefield and open to the public on some weekends.

Continuing down the Delaware River for several miles are the remains of Fort Mott, which was constructed in the late 1800s as part of a costal defense system. During construction of the gun batteries, the military became concerned that the guns would be vulnerable if attacked from the rear (the gun turrets could not pivot 360 degrees), so they paid men $1.25 per day to dig a 20 foot deep mote and build a 20 foot high dirt berm around the back of the gun placements. For their $1.25 day pay, each man was expected to move five tons of dirt per day using only a shovel and wheelbarrow.

Just thinking about all of the work that went into digging the mote and building the dirt berm made me hungry, so we decided to visit the Amish Farmers Market in Mullica Hill. I was really looking forward to an Amish pumpkin roll, but the bakery was closed, so I had to settle for a bowl of home-made beef stew at the Amish restaurant located in the same complex. (However, I did go back a few days later and picked up two pumpkin rolls and some homemade sandwiches.)

While driving some back roads we came upon Ye Olde Centerton Inn, which has been in continuous operation since 1706. We did not stop for dinner, but the Inn advertises that they have "the region's finest steaks and the freshest seafood."

Our GPS took us on a really strange route, but we finally ended up at the old Kirby Mill. (This is one time that using a paper map would have been much faster.) The old Kirby Mill complex was built in 1778, but has now been converted to the Medford Historic Museum. In addition to the waterwheel driven grinding mill, there is also a print shop, blacksmith shop, sawmill, and museum located at the Mill complex.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0096 - Lehi, Utah County, Utah

It is not often that I am able to score a triple-hitter all in the same weekend – one grandson received his Eagle Scout Award (they even had a live eagle at the ceremony), one grandson had the lead in the school play (Prince Jack) and our granddaughter was baptized (she wouldn’t smile for Grandpa because she lost her two front teeth).


The grandchildren live in Highland (Utah), which is only a short distance from the community of Lehi, so I decided to add some Lehi pictures (some from previous visits).

The Lehi Bakery (172 W Main) is a required stop every time we pass through the area - homemade rolls, cakes, cookies, etc. You have to get there early for the best choices – if you snooze you lose.

Just down the street, adjacent to the I-15 Freeway, is the world famous Lehi Roller Mills, made famous by the 1984 Footloose movie starring Kevin Bacon. The mill was constructed in 1906 when there were thousands of operating mills in the United States, but less than 50 active mills exist today. The high demand for flower keeps the mill grinding around the clock, six days a week. There is also a small retail store where you can purchase various types of flower and flower mixes for baking cakes, cookies, etc.

Thanksgiving Point is just up the road a few miles toward Salt Lake City and is the location of the Museum of Ancient Life, a retail center (includes the largest movie theaters that I have ever been in), and Thanksgiving Point Gardens. We didn’t visit the Gardens on this trip, but we have toured the Gardens on other occasions.

I thought it was spring, but on the way home we drove through an ice and snow storm between Beaver and Cedar City! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0095 - Harvey House, Barstow, San Bernardino County, California

When the railroads were constructed in western United States, they were lacking in nice amenities at the train stopping points. So, in 1876, Fred Harvey made a verbal agreement with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fee rail lines to construct a series of deluxe restaurants/hotels along the railroads throughout the Southwest. The facilities were called “Harvey Houses.” To staff the restaurants, he hired attractive young women between the ages of 18-and-30 that were of “good character and intelligent” for waitresses. The young women could not wear any jewelry or rouge and had to maintain spotless uniforms – white for breakfast and lunch and black and white for dinner. In the chain’s 70-year history, an estimated 100,000 young women were trained as “Harvey Girls.”

The Harvey House that was constructed in Barstow, California, (known as Casa Del Desierto) burned down three different times before the current brick structure was constructed in 1910. The restaurant and hotel are now closed, but various parts of the building are open for public viewing.

The Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce, the Route 66 Mother Road Museum, and the Western America Railroad Museum are located in the complex and the historic dining room can now be rented for meetings and receptions.   

The railroad museum contains a nice collection of railroad memorabilia, along with the Gustafson Date Nail Collection, and a special tribute to the “Harvey Girls.” They even have a three-wheeled railroad track velocipede on display.

As a child Albert Gustafson immigrated to the United States from Sweden and later went to work for the Santa Fe Railroad. While working for the railroad he started collection date nails and over the years he spent his vacations visiting other countries to expand his collection. He eventually joined a date nail collector organization, so that he had the connections to trade date nails with other collectors from distant countries. He is now considered to have the largest private date nail collection on public display in the world.

Historically, date nails were driven into railroad ties, bridge timbers, utility poles, mine props, and other wooden structures for record keeping purposes. The date nail is similar to a standard nail, except it has a large head with a date stamped into the nail’s head. Most date nails are steel, although some are copper, aluminum, malleable iron and brass. The lengths run from ¾ of an inch up to 3 inches, with shank diameters running from 1/8 inch up to 5/16 of an inch.

The Route 66 Mother Road Museum contains interesting films to watch, free information about Route 66 and the Mojave Desert, and a well-stocked gift shop. Visiting the museum is a trip back in time - not to be missed!

Outside of the Harvey House there are locomotives and rail cars on display, along with various equipment used for working on the rail lines. The rail yard is still active with numerous trains passing every hour, so if you like to watch trains, the steel-bridge overpass is a great viewing platform and a nice place to take pictures!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0094 - USS Iowa, San Pedro, Los Angeles County, California

The USS Iowa Battleship, “Forged in War - Guardian of Peace,” was constructed more than 70 years ago to defend the American ideas of freedom, liberty, and justice, now serves as a sentry for the Port of Los Angeles.

When the USS Iowa was launched, it was considered to be the “World’s Greatest Naval Ship” because of its large guns, accurate fire control system, heavy armor, and fast speed.  The Iowa still holds the world record for firing the longest ranged 16-inch projectile (26.9 miles). That is really an amazing feat when you consider that a 16-inch projectile weighs over 2,000 pounds. And, contrary to popular belief, the ship does not move sideways when the 16-inch guns are fired. The guns do, however, recoil 47 inches, which is often confused with ship movement.

In addition to the nine 16-inch main guns, the Iowa also has 12 five-inch guns, 4 Phalanx Guns, 32 Tomahawk Cruise Missile Launchers, and 16 Harpoon Anti-Ship Missile Launchers. (The missile launchers were installed in the 1980s.) Thus; Iowa’s nickname is “The Big Stick.” Because of its heavy armament, the Iowa was the most feared battleship during WWII. (There were three other Iowa-Class Battleships constructed during the War; but for some reason, the Iowa was the most feared by the enemy.)

Armor on the Iowa is 12 inches thick in many places and up to 19.7 inches thick on the gun turrets. During WWII, at the Marshall Islands, one of the ship’s gun turrets was hit by two Japanese 4.7-inch projectiles; but the explosives didn’t do much more than blacken the paint. Today, you can still see a slight chafing on the turret’s surface armor at the projectiles’ point of impact.

Three US Presidents (Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and George H. Bush), distinguished military figures, foreign dignitaries, and countless sailors have cruised on the Iowa during times of both War and Peace. During WWWII, Roosevelt used the Iowa to attend meetings with Churchill and Stalin in Tehran, before the Battleship was transferred to the Pacific arena. Because Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair, Iowa is the only Battleship to ever have a bathtub and an elevator amenity. At the end of WWII, Iowa served as the Third Fleet flagship, flying Admiral Halsey’s flag at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

Following WWII, Iowa served in the Korean War and at various locations around the World during the Cold War era. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iowa was decommissioned in 1990. However, in 1996 Congress passed a Law requiring the Navy to reinstate two Iowa-Class battleships. The Navy originally selected the New Jersey and Wisconsin for the two positions, but later replaced the New Jersey with the Iowa. The National Defense Authorization Act 2006 requires that both battleships be kept and maintained in a state of readiness should they ever be needed again. Which means that, if needed, the Iowa could be returned to active duty!

Just across the bay from the Iowa are the type of cargo loading structures that gave George Lucas the idea for the land walkers used in the Star Wars movies.