Friday, May 30, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0102 - Maryland, 2014 Part I

Although I have visited Maryland many times, I don't ever remember visiting Maryland's Eastern Shore Region; so we decided to extend our stay for a few extra days and spend some time in the area.

Just outside of Snow Hill, in the Pocomoke Forest, is the 19th-century Furnace Town Living Heritage Museum. The Nassawango Iron Furnace and many other structures are still intact and open to the public. The person that operates the blacksmith shop builds some really interesting sculptures!

In Princess Anne we stopped by the 10,000 square foot 200-year old neoclassical Teackle Mansion, but it was closed. (One of the problems when traveling off-season is that many facilities have limited hours or they are closed for the season.)

In Salisbury we toured the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, which contains the largest, most comprehensive  bird-carving collection in the world. Many of the pieces that you see featured in magazines are located in this museum. Even if you are not into birds or wood carving, this is a must stop if you are ever in the area.

In addition to a theater that provides a wide variety of bird related movies, one area of the museum is dedicated to the history of and use of decoys that goes back to the Native Americans before the time of European settlers. Other sections of the museum include a reconstructed workshop where the Ward Brothers produced many early decoys and another area is dedicated to the story of major American flyways. The stories are enhanced with many decoy examples indigenous to each region. However, for me the most impressive part of the museum was the World Championship Gallery that features hand-carved pieces from the annual Ward World Championship Carving Competition. Many of the wooden feathers on the sculptures appear to be real feathers.

In Cambridge we stopped by the Richardson Maritime Museum where they have a large collection of Chesapeake Bay ship models and other artifacts that honor early Eastern Shore boatbuilding.  I observed one artisan working on a small ship model, so I asked him how many months it takes to build a model. He just gave me disgruntled look and explained that model builders measure their time in years, not months!

Near Trappe we stopped by the Rural Life Museum, which is a one-room schoolhouse, but it wasn't open. A little farther up the road, just outside of Easton, we stopped by the Little Round Top Church. This is a hexagonal structure that was designed so "The devil would have no corner in which to sit and hatch evil."

Another place we enjoyed visiting was the Linchester Mill in Preston. This mill was once the nation's oldest running business and sold grain to George Washington's army during the Revolutionary War. The facility was not open when we arrived, but we happened to find a worker that was making some repairs to the house and he gave us a personal tour of the facility. He even showed us an old Walter Cronkite news clip that was made when the mill was still in operation! And "Yes," that is a quilt design on the front of the red building. The quilters have their own quilt tour of the area and each location has a different quilt patch that has some significance to the Underground Railroad, which used these facilities as a stopping point.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0101 - Delaware, 2014

Everyone kept telling me that if I visited Delaware, I had to tour Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. This was a formidable Union fortress where Confederate prisoners were held during the Civil War and the docents that now conduct tours of the facilities are dressed in period uniforms. I was really looking forward to the tour, so I was surprised when I arrived and found that the ferry used to transports visitors to the island was closed. Apparently, during the off-season there is not enough demand to visit the facility on a daily basis, so you have to make a reservation and join a larger group. Bummer! However, as long as I was in the area I did walk around the historic buildings located along the dock and found a blacksmith shop that made some really interesting creations.

The Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base is the only one of its kind in the world. The Museum is dedicated to airlift and air refueling history and has a large collection of military bombers, tankers, fighters, and cargo planes (they even have a C-5 Galaxy on display). While I was walking around taking pictures, one of the docents opened the door to a KC-97 Stratotanker and let me tour the inside of the plane, which brought back a lot of memories. I spent a lot of time flying in C-97s when I was in the Air Force. (During that time period, the KC-97s (Boeing 377s) were being replaced with KC-135s (Boeing 707s), so many of the KC-97s were being converted to C-97 Stratofreighters. The "K" signifies that the plane is equipped with a boom and is used for refueling other aircraft. When the boom is removed and the plane is used for transporting cargo, the "K" is dropped from the plane's designation; but the glass pod is typically left at the back of the plane.) Since I was typically the only passenger on the plane, I could just roam around the plane and go wherever I wanted to go. Consequently, I spent a lot of time riding in the bubble at the back of the plane. It is really a strange sensation to fly backward, surrounded by glass. It is almost like being on a magic carpet, but no wind.

We stayed in Lewes for two days and had great accommodations, right by the bay.  I even saw the famous "Five Sisters" wall hanging, but I couldn't tell which one that I was married to because I was told that the Sisters are not in chronological order.

Lewes is a nice tourist destination, since it is much quieter and saner than neighboring Rehoboth Beach. There is also a lot of history in and around Lewes because it was the first city in the first state; i.e., Delaware was the first State and Lewes was the first city in the Geographic area that became Delaware. The Ryves Holt House was constructed in 1665 and is the oldest building standing in the State of Delaware.  I don't remember if it is the Holt House, but one historic structure in the area still has a cannon ball that was fired from a ship imbedded in the building's foundation.

The Zwaanendael Museum was built in 1931 to honor the 300th anniversary of Delaware's first European settlement, Zwaanendael, which was founded by the Dutch in 1631. The museum is modeled after City Hall in Hoon, the Netherlands. Oh! And yes, Lewes does have at least one modern quilt shop, which is always good for a 20 minute nap in the car.


While walking down the beach one morning, I found two Horseshoe Crabs that had washed up on the beach. I was told that the Horseshoe Crabs I found are almost identical to their ancestors that were on Earth 450 million years ago. I guess they didn't get the word about evolution!


We also toured Fort Miles and climbed the observation tower that was constructed during WWII.


Friday, May 16, 2014

RonnieAdventure #0100 - New Jersey, 2014 Part III

Since our hotel was located near the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), we stopped at the visitor’s center to watch an introductory movie and then drove the eight-mile Wildlife Drive through the wetlands tidal salt marsh. (More than 82% of the refuge is wetlands, of which about 78% is composed of a title salt marsh.) The 43,000 acres NWR was established in 1998 to protect and manage the coastal habitat for migratory birds, plants, and animals and now offers a variety of hiking trails, observation towers, and educational programs. We didn't climb the observation towers, but from the road you can observe a wide variety of ducks, geese, herons, falcons, and osprey that are part of the 322 different species of birds that have been recorded at the NWR.  

For lunch we stopped in Atlantic City at the world famous White House Sub Shop, which was featured on Dinners, Drive-ins and Dives. The Sub Shop has been in business for over 65 years and the walls are covered with signed pictures from many professional music and entertainment artists that have stopped by the Sub Shop while visiting or performing in Atlantic City. (Don’t tell my cardiologist, but the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich was great and highly recommended!)

While in Atlantic City, we also had ice cream on the Boardwalk and stopped by the Absecon Lighthouse. The Absecon Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the 1857 Fresnel lens is still in place. The entire property is currently going through a $3.4 million restoration projects, which includes constructing a replica of the lightkeeper's dwelling and an educational museum. Just down the road in Margate, is Lucy the Elephant, the only 65-foot tall elephant in the world where you can stop and purchase souvenirs. (At 135 years old, Lucy is America's oldest roadside attraction and a National Historic Landmark.) If you are there at the right time, you can even get a tour of Lucy's internal structure!


We decided to made a side trip to Millville, so that we could visit Wheaton Arts (formerly known as Wheaton Village), and were fortunate that they were having a large celebration that day with many displays and working artists. Wheaton Arts is located on 65 acres of land and is also the location of the Museum of American Glass, the Creative Glass Center of America, an amphitheater-style hot-glass studio where you can watch glass blowing demonstrations, and several traditional craft studios where you can watch craftsmen at work throughout the day.

The museum of American Glass houses one of the most comprehensive collections of American glass in the world, including some of the first glass bottles made in America and the largest glass bottle in the world (holds 188 gallons). The Creative Glass Center of America has an International Fellowship Program, and since 1983, over 175 artist from around the world have studied at Wheaton Arts to develop their skills and share their unique talents. When you leave, you can also leave some of your money at one of the four museum stores in exchange for some beautiful hand-blown glass objects. 

We also stopped by the Historic Cold Springs Village (an Early American Open-Air Living History Museum), but it was not yet open for the season. However, we were able to stroll around the grounds and look at the 26 historic buildings. During the summer months you can watch people in historic period garb and period settings, practicing their trades, which consists of blacksmiths, tinsmiths, basket makers, bookbinders, printers, etc.

Cape May is located at the southern tip of New Jersey and is a popular tourist destination, especially during the summer months. It is fun just to drive or walk around the community to look at all of the old Victorian houses.

No trip to Cape May is complete without visiting the famous Victorian Cape May Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is 157.5 feet tall and large ships can see its modern beacon from 24 miles out at sea. (The light flashes every 15 seconds, which is called its “characteristic.” Every lighthouse has its own light “characteristic” and exterior paint scheme, called its “daymark,” so that ship captains can tell the lighthouses apart.)

The current lighthouse (the third lighthouse built in this area) was constructed in 1859 and the original Fresnel lens was so large that the light keeper actually stood on the inside of the lens when it was being refueled. (The original lens is now on display at the Cape May Court House Museum and a smaller lens is on display on the ground floor of the lighthouse.) The sites of the first two lighthouses constructed in the area are now underwater due to erosion and shifting shoreline in the area.

For a small fee you can climb the 217 steps to the top to the lighthouse tower. Since topography surrounding the lighthouse is quite flat, views from the top of the lighthouse tower are quite spectacular and worth the climb.

The 190 acre Cap May State Park also contains a visitors center, boardwalks where visitors can observe migrating birds and butterflies, three miles of hiking trails, surf fishing areas, and improved picnic grounds. The day we visited the visitor center, they were celebrating green frog day and you could even build your own green frog (for a fee) using various construction materials that they supplied.

If you want to go from Cape May to Delaware, you can either catch a ferry to Lewes, or you can drive all the way back to Deepwater and take the bridge. Even though it would have been fun and much faster to catch the ferry, we decided to take the bridge!