Author Archives: Beth Morrison

Following the Quilt Trail in Northern Indiana

Quilt garden identification sign with garden in the background
Quilt Mural – Double Wedding Ring

Quilting is a popular activity in Amish country and six communities in Northern Indiana have created the Quilt Garden and Mural Heritage Trail. There are 17 quilt inspired gardens and 21 hand painted quilt themed murals. On two different days, I drove around to see the quilt trail and found it a nice way to learn about the area and enjoy some artistic creations. At each garden and mural site I found a sign with the name and information about the quilt pattern as well as the flowers selected for the gardens.

“Grandmother’s Cross” quilt pattern – the largest quilt garden with 3,500 plants

My favorite of the quilt gardens was located at the Dutch Country Market in Middlebury. They even had a platform to stand on to better view the garden from above. I really liked the lavender colored flowers.

“Mother’s Delight” quilt garden
Dutch Country Market with quilt garden

The Dutch Country Market was also a treat to visit. They sell a variety of items including jams, honeys, pickles, peanut butters and their specialty, homemade noodles. The store features a viewing window to watch the process of making the noodles. I saw racks of dough sheets hanging and watched as a worker fed the sheets into a machine to cut into strips.

I bought some noodles to try. Here in Indiana, they use the noodles in a soupy meat based broth. I prefer the browned butter noodles we had in Pennsylvania Amish country. One night for dinner I made some browned butter noodles using noodles from this market and fresh butter from a local Amish dairy.

Dutch Country Market homemade noodles

In the town of Goshen is the Elkhart County Courthouse hosting a quilt garden out front with a pattern of flying geese called, “The Wild Blue Yonder.” The garden was pretty but I thought the grand court house was the most gorgeous sight.

Elkhart County Courthouse, built in 1870
Goshen Old Bag Factory – “Reflection Quilt Garden”

I headed over to Bonneyville Mill County Park in Bristol for two reasons. The main reason was to see the mill, but also to see a quilt mural called “Trapunto and Appliqué.” This is a scenic park with a rushing stream, ponds and forest trails.

Bonneyville County Park Quilt Mural
Bonneyville Mills

Bonneyville Mills is Indiana’s oldest continuously operating grist mill, established in the 1830’s. The day I visited was “Scottish Oats” day with a demonstration on how the oats are ground and used. We were treated to homemade oat cakes and oatmeal served with real maple syrup. Brochures with recipes were also provided. A variety of grains ground on the premises such as flours, oats, spelt and cornmeal are sold here in cute little sacks.

Scottish oat grinding demonstration

In downtown Bristol is the Elkhart County Historical Museum (below) and another lovely quilt garden called “Turnstile Garden.”

The City of Elkhart has a quilt garden next to the impressive Ruthmere Mansion built in 1910. When I arrived the mansion was having their last guided tour of the day, so I popped in for a look. It took about an hour and a half to see the furnished home and grounds.

Ruthmere Mansion – “Joseph’s Coat” quilt garden
Ruthmere Mansion

Krider’s World’s Fair Garden in Middlebury featured a quilt garden called the “Krider Festival Rose Garden.” Krider’s World’s Fair Garden is a little oasis of lush green that was once displayed at the 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fair so visitors could see what the nursery business had to offer. Krider’s gained more than 250.000 names and addresses from these visitors after they signed the register. Using this list, Krider Nurseries grew into the largest mail order nursery business in the U.S. One of Indiana’s first garden parks established in a town, it is still maintained today with many of the same features from the time of the World’s Fair.

Each year the Quilt Gardens Heritage Trail brings a change of design and sometimes location. It was a nice scavenger hunt and If I lived in the area it would be fun to see how it changes from year to year. I will close with a photo of the Varns & Hoover Hardware Store which displays the “Welcome to Middlebury Murals.” This store has been in business for over 125 years and is a fixture on Middlebury’s Main Street.

A Little of This, a Little of That – Exploring Shipshewana Indiana

The town is named for Chief Shipshewana of the Potawatomi Tribe

Staying in the Amish areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio has been one of our favorites, so we were very happy to also spend time in the Amish country of Northern Indiana. All three areas have also had their unique differences. Whereas Ohio was the hilliest of the three, we found Indiana to have the flattest topography. Indiana seemed to have more creeks and rivers. Just like in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the countryside and farmsteads were beautiful in Indiana. Alas, living amongst the Amish sounds inviting, could we join? Mark actually asked our Amish tour guide in Ohio if people do convert. The answer was yes, occasionally if they are willing to adopt the lifestyle and language. Mark’s question was more out of curiosity than seriousness, but these areas definitely appeal to us.

When I called to make camping reservations in the town of Shipshewana, I was told that we would enjoy our RV site because it was near the horses. Being around horses and buggies is one of the highlights of an Amish stay, so I was happy to hear that. There also seemed to be more horses and buggies here in Indiana. Since our RV Park was off a main thoroughfare, we regularly heard or saw the Amish traveling by like in the photo above. The pasture closest to our site had several draft horses, the kind that are used by the Amish to pull the heavy wagons or farm equipment. I tried to make friends with a couple of them but they were not interested.

What’s so funny?

The draft foal even laughed at me during one of my visits 😆. So, I decided to head over to the pasture bordering the other side of the Park where a passel of ponies lived. These little guys were friendlier and more interesting and I began visiting them each evening after we were done with our days’ activities.

There were a couple of babies, including this tiny one which was no bigger than a small dog.

There is always plenty of shopping in Amish country and our stay in Indiana was no different. We were just a short distance from an Amish bulk grocery store that carried everything imaginable. Of course, Mark and I can’t shop in bulk because we live in such a tiny space, but wandering around and seeing everything for sale was very interesting. Outside was the largest collection of outdoor furniture for sale I have seen with rockers, swings, benches, tables and playground equipment. I could probably happily spend some time just walking around trying out all the comfortable seats. The possibilities seemed endless. There were also lots of outdoor decorations including weather vanes, yard ornaments and baskets. Some of the huge baskets were used as planters.

As interesting as the Amish bulk store was, our favorite was a variety shop also located next to our Park. This is the place where the Amish buy fabric to make clothes as well as already made clothing items and shoes. I had to get another serious photo of Mark trying on an Amish hat. This time it was a more proper one for church and serious occasions.

The clothing for sale featured jackets and vests made with hooks and eyes rather than buttons, an Amish preference.

Besides clothing, the store seemed to sell a little of everything including toys, books, school supplies, cards and household items. I found a German reader that is used by the children in the local schools. It was the same reader I saw in the school building we visited in Ohio. Since I studied German in school and Mark and I lived in Germany for a few years (decades ago), I bought the book to see how much I could remember.

Dresses often seen worn by Amish girls

The biggest outdoor flea market can be found here – the Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market with 900 vendors. It is so big a map book is handed out in order to navigate the complex and find vendors of interest. I thought the auctions were really interesting at a flea market we visited in Pennsylvania, so I headed inside one of the largest buildings and watched auctioneers and bidders at work on an array of collectible items. With all the people it was loud and chaotic. Mark beat a hasty retreat and I didn’t stay long either.

What, no farm grown plants?

I was looking forward to seeing some “homegrown” plants, vegetables, fruits and flowers. But there was hardly any of that. Even the baked goods the Amish are so famous for were almost nonexistent here. We found only one place and they were selling hand pies, or what I would call fruit turnovers. Almost everything seemed to be made elsewhere, especially China. It was a huge concentrated area to buy any kind of “stuff” someone might want. Many people like that, but Mark and I really aren’t in to shopping for “stuff,” so we didn’t spend hours here. My souvenir for the day was the most “authentic” thing I could find, a discarded Amish horseshoe. It even came with a little paper describing the patches of “grit” which are placed on shoes to give horses more traction on pavement.

Mark and I couldn’t resist hitting up the Amish buffets while in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but in Indiana, we didn’t have any interest. At our age, you can only overeat so much 😜 . I was happy to see that we were staying almost next door to a soft pretzel cafe. Pennsylvania Amish country had great soft pretzels, but we didn’t find any during our Ohio stay. We zipped over to Ben’s the day after we got there. I didn’t care for the pretzels 🥨, but Mark found his way there a few more times.

We found better pretzels and more interesting shopping 🛍 at the Davis Mercantile in downtown Shipshewana. With four floors in a beautiful brick building there were many interesting shops, including the most beautiful quilt store I have seen, a store specializing in jigsaw puzzles (I do like puzzles), a candy shop, “Life is Good” T-shirt shop (my favorite t-shirts), toy store and musical instrument shop. They even have an amazing hand carved carousel. We had more fun browsing here than at the famous Shipshewana Flea Market.

Quilt shop at Davis Mercantile, Shipshewana

And now for some musings on lawn care. One of the things I like best about the Midwest are the beautiful manicured lawns. We never saw lawns like this in California, so I was continually amazed by them. I began wondering if it was some kind of civil offense 😊 to not keep a lawn continually mowed. Driving around Ohio and then Indiana, I never saw an unmowed or less than perfect lawn. People have very large front yards and even with all the continual damp weather, residents were out in force to make sure they were trimmed. Below is a shining example of one section of lawn along a driveway next to our Park. This isn’t even the whole lawn, it extends much further than in the photo. How do Midwesterners have time for all this yard work? For this Californian, the question remains.

Hope you enjoyed a look at Indiana’s Amish Country. More to come on this special area in the next blog.

View from our RV site – the rain became tiring, but oh the clouds were a joy

Below, a gallery of pictures of more horses and ponies as you can never have enough (in my opinion).

Exploring the Newest National Park in Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes began as a National Seashore in 1966, but on February 15, 2019, it became a National Park. This makes a total of 61 National Parks located in 29 states and two territories. I was happy it had become a National Park shortly before we would be visiting Indiana, so we could check off another one on our list. This was the ninth National Park of our full time RV traveling. Located along Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is between the industrial cities of Gary and Michigan City, Indiana. It seemed to be the most urban of the national parks we have visited as there was more nearby traffic and the Park is broken up into sections around population and industrial areas.

Mark asked a staff person at one of the visitor centers what is different now that it is a National Park. She replied: “Nothing, except the sign.” This new designation will raise the distinction of the Park and promote it more to the public. Once we checked into the Visitor Center and got our book stamped (with an old stamp that did not reflect the new status) we checked out what the Park offered. Most people seem to come here for the beaches along Lake Michigan. Within the National Park is the Indiana Dunes State Park where the highest dunes can be found and the most favored beaches. There is no fee to enter the National Park, but if one wanted to visit the State Park, a fee is charged which makes for an interesting situation. Since we were there to see the National Park and also figured the State Park would be more crowded, we decided to just visit the National Park sections. A few places I was interested in seeing required taking a ranger guided walk, for example to see the Pinhook Bog with unusual plants. Unfortunately, this walk wasn’t offered the day we visited. I was also intrigued to see the “heron rookery” with a trail listed on their park map. When I asked one of the volunteer rangers, I found it rather amusing when she reported that there really weren’t any herons nesting out there, it was just a name.

View of the Chicago Skyline

We drove the main park road to see a few of the beaches. This was Mark’s first view of Lake Michigan although I had seen the Lake for the first time about four years ago when my sister and I visited the State of Michigan. Did you know that Lake Michigan is the largest lake entirely in the United States? As we stood on the beach we had a distant view of the Chicago skyline which I tried to capture with my long lens. Mark sent a text to family that this was as close as he ever cared to be to Chicago! I would love to spend some time and explore that City. I have only flown in there twice and once during a work related trip spent the night near the airport when our connecting flight was grounded. Sigh, apparently my Driver is not excited to explore Chicago and has been known to say that he doesn’t like the big cities.

Florida Tropical House

The Park has a unique exhibit of five homes from the 1933 World’s Fair called, “A Century of Progress.” For over 70 years they have stood in this Park along Lake Michigan. They were built to demonstrate “modern” architectural design, experimental materials and new technologies. The houses were brought to the dunes by truck and barge after the Fair’s closing in late 1934 and early 1935. They are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are leased to private individuals or families who are rehabilitating them at no cost to the government. The bright pink house in photo above is called the “Florida Tropical House.” It has become a well known landmark for mariners.

Spiderwort – one of many wildflowers found at Indiana Dunes National Park

I decided to take a little hike on the Dune Ridge Trail to get an idea of the different habitats that can be seen on some of the dunes. This walk turned out to be a bit of a surprise as I wasn’t expecting to see the amount of trees, shrubs and plant life. In some places I felt as if I was walking in a jungle like environment due to the dense foliage.

Dune Ridge Trail
Dune Ridge Trail

Since I thought I would be walking around sandy dune and sparse plant life, I had worn shorter pants and no socks. As I walked, the loop trail became more narrow and the plants more dense. I was fearing poison ivy or ticks as I tried not to brush against anything. In general, tick bites have been my worst fear while outdoor exploring and this place looked like a ripe location. Other than finding a tick on our bed covering one time, we have avoided any tick encounters of the close kind.

Narrow trail on the Dune Ridge walk

The Park reports Indiana Dunes as one of the “most botanically diverse” of all the National Parks with over 1,100 native plant species. I could certainly see the variety on this trail which I am glad I explored, even though I ended up getting lost for awhile.

One of the more interesting species to be seen here is prickly pear cactus, one of the last plants I would expect to find in Northern Indiana near a Great Lake. The last time we saw prickly pear was in the Arizona desert. I saw small clumps of prickly pear along the trail near Long Lake in another part of the Park.

Finding prickly pear cactus in an unlikely location
Lots of water lilies on Long Lake

At West Beach we found some nice dunes with my favorite view the reflection of the dunes in this pond.

Overall, we found Indiana Dunes to be our least favorite National Park of our full time RV travels. Actually, it is the least favorite of the National Parks I have ever seen over the years. I did not think the Park was as attractive or interesting as others. As a Lakeshore, it is not near as impressive as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, both in Michigan with stunning scenery. Perhaps if we had spent more time, explored a few more trails or areas, visited the State Park inside the National Park, our impression would have been different. But, there didn’t seem to be as much to see here and the setting did not seem “National Park worthy.” I do understand though the importance of protecting this natural area in a place with encroaching urban population. In spite of these observations, it was still nice to add this Park to our list.

Has anyone visited this new National Park and have some insight to share on your experiences here? Would enjoy reading about them!

Until next time with more on exploring Indiana!

Checking in From Northern California and Sending Thanks

I just wanted to send a quick note from Chico, California where we have come for an unknown amount of time. Our course of travel in the Upper Midwest got a little thrown off, but how great it is to be back with our family again! We are still RVers though and continue to reside in our little travel trailer. Although we are stationary at this time, I plan to continue to write blogs of our adventures in the last few months. Since my blogs are always behind, I still have quite a bit to write about our exploring in Indiana and Michigan. So stay tuned for more to come shortly! I also wanted to say thanks for the nice comments of concern on the last post of #beth’sdriver! We sure appreciate hearing from you!

Elkhart, Indiana – RV Capital of the World

Hideout Trailer Factory

When planning our visit to the State of Indiana, we knew we wanted to stay in the Northeastern part of the State, in the area of Elkhart known as the “RV Capital of the World.” But it wasn’t because of this designation that we wanted to come here. We were coming for the Amish Country. We had already visited the Pennsylvania and Ohio Amish areas and really enjoyed them, so of course Indiana with an Amish population as well was also on our to do list. More will be coming in future blogs about our stay here in Amish Country, but this blog will be about RVing.

Inside the factory – one of the first steps is laying the floor

The Elkhart area has a number of RV manufacturers including Thor, Forest River, Winnebago, Jayco, Dutchman and Keystone, to name some of them. We had heard that sometimes the companies give tours of their facilities, so I checked the Keystone website as that is the company that makes our trailer. The website listed days and times of the week when certain RV models are being made and the plant can be toured. On Thursday afternoons a Hideout trailer tour was offered, so after confirming Mark and I headed over to see how they made the trailer we have been living in full time for almost two years. Since no one else showed up, Mark and I had a private tour with a Keystone Company representative.

Hideout trailer build – Holding my safety glasses as they were about to fall off
The walls are up!

We were able to walk down the factory floor and see the different stages of putting a Hideout trailer together. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of every stage of building (trade secrets you know), but at a few different points we got to. This factory makes 24 Hideouts every day and each worker is paid by the piece or trailer completed. The main thing I noticed was how on task all the workers were. There was no one standing around, relaxing, talking or contemplating. They were working hard and fast. This makes sense if you are being paid for each RV completed. Most everything is made on site or nearby except the appliances and furnishings, such as the mattress and cushions.

Attaching the siding

Each worker is responsible for a small section or task, for example in the photos above, the workers are finishing up the aluminum siding and trim. I bet it would be monotonous to put on siding every day over and over. The final task is quality control. The red tape on the trailer shows areas that need to be fixed, like a messy caulk job.

We also checked out the RV Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart. This museum displays a few RV’s from the earliest days of the 1920’s and 1930’s to the present.

Much of the building houses hall of fame photos and information regarding leaders in the RV industry. There is also a library for research. Downstairs in one big room is the collection of RV’s from across the years which is what we were interested in seeing. Part of it is set up along a “street” so when you stand on the top landing and look down, you see the RV’s lined along side.

Mark checks out a historic RV on the Museum street

We enjoyed the Museum but the RV’s were a little crowded together which made viewing them difficult. Since the building seemed to have empty space and rooms elsewhere, I wish they would have spread the exhibit out more. Some of the old trailers were open for viewing and it was fun to see what it would have been like to camp in one from so many years ago.

Below is a photo of the interior of a 1939 house trailer and then even a covered wagon model.

In the photo below is purported to be the oldest travel trailer in the world. It was built in 1913 by a Los Angeles carriage maker for a Cal Tech professor and pulled by a Model T Ford.

1913 Travel Trailer

This 1931 Model AA Ford Housecar was named the Tennessee Traveler after it was discovered and restored. Much of the wood and all the hardware are original. The engine even ran the first day after being stored for over 40 years.

Tennessee Traveler – 1931

Mark checks out the tiny Airstream called “Der Kleine Prinz” (smallest prince) as the body is only ten feet long. Built in 1958, it is considered the smallest Airstream ever made and has a shower, refrigerator and heater.

Der Kleine Prinz

A few of the RV’s once belonged to famous people, including pilot Charles Lindbergh and the actress Mae West. Mae’s 1931 Housecar was offered to her by Paramount Studios to get her to leave the Vaudeville circuit and begin to make movies for them. It was used for several years to transport Miss West from her home or hotel to shooting locations.

Mae West’s Housecar
1929 Wiedman Housecar had a fold down bed with a canvas cover

The 1967 Winnebago in the photo below is an example of the first popular assembly line built motor home. It was priced around $5,000 and started the rush for affordable motor home production. Who would have thought that we now park next to models that sell for $200,000 or more on a regular basis.

1967 Winnebago Motor Home

I hope you enjoyed this look at the RV capital of the world – until next time!

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign …

Front of American Sign Museum

I often seem to have songs stuck in my head and when I was thinking about writing this article the lyrics from the song “Sign” crept in – “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign.” Although that song doesn’t have anything to do with our visit to the American Sign Museum, we did find lots of signs at this Cincinnati attraction. The Museum advertises to be the largest public sign museum in the world. It promotes sign preservation and restoration by displaying signs from the past 100 years collected from all over the U.S. There are pre-electric, the earliest electric using light bulbs, Art Deco neon to modern plastic faced signs.

Nine foot high, fiberglass Frisch’s Big Boy sculpture, restaurant headquarters in Cincinnati

Inside the Museum is an explosion of light and color with signs of all sizes and shapes along the walls and on floor bases. This was a fun museum to visit – I think brightly colored signs especially neon ones are hard to resist. Although there was history to learn about, we enjoyed mostly walking around this rather small museum and checking out all the variety from this great collection. This is the first sign museum we have been to on our travels and visiting unique and unusual places like this is something we are happy to explore.

Since Mark is a McDonald’s fan, I had to get a shot of him in front of this sign, one of the largest ones exhibited here. It was created in the 1960’s and features Speedee, the original mascot who promised quick service.

Rotating Satellite Shopland

Some of the signs rotate like “Satellite Shopland” from the 1950’s which used to sit in an Anaheim, California shopping center and has eleven lit metal spikes. This sign was part of a style called “googie” which celebrated the dawning of the space age.

Tours are offered for visitors which would have provided us with more information but we didn’t take one. Most likely though, each sign has a story to tell. For example, the ”Fergi ” sign hanging from the ceiling is from the former Ferguson Car Wash in Cincinnati and you might be able to see the stars on the front sides of the car noting that it is now “sparkling” clean. “Kona Lanes” in a Polynesian Tiki style from the 1950’s came from a bowling alley in Costa Mesa, California. It was in business from 1958 to 2003 and after the sign was transported to the American Sign Museum and unloaded, the bottom half with “Bowl” collapsed. They were only able to salvage the top. The Sky Vu Motel sign came from a small motel built in the 1940’s in Kansas City, Missouri. When the sign was discarded for a new plastic one, an area photographer saved it and now has a new home at the American Sign Museum.

Probably the neatest part of the Museum is the Main Street which is set up with store fronts that might typically be seen in a small town like a barber shop, TV repair store, pizza shop, Howard Johnson’s Restaurant, tavern, drug store and furniture store. Of course, there are plenty of painted and bright neon signs as you stroll down the “street.”

Main Street

One of my favorite signs was the flashing white “Pops” which must have come from the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. The Museum spends a lot of money on replacing light bulbs, for example it costs $35.00 to replace each and every bulb in this installation.

Located onsite is Neonworks, a shop that makes and repairs neon signs. From the museum you can look into the big windows and watch the technicians. A tour is also available which I joined. We watched two different employees repair and put together neon signs with their special glass tubing. Below are photos from the tour.

Neonworks Shop Tour – making a sign
Yeah – it worked!

Below is a photo from the repair shop – the place where signs come back to life again!

Repair Shop

After our museum visit we went down the street to Camp Washington Chili, one of the original Cincinnati Chili parlors that has been around since 1940, dishing up their chili 24 hours a day.

Before traveling to the Midwest, the food I was most looking forward to trying was “Cincinnati Chili” which is the iconic dish here. Although it has chili in its name, it is quite different from most chili one eats. It is based on a Greek recipe that uses a variety of spices including not only chili powder but cinnamon, allspice and sometimes chocolate. The sauce is also not as thick as regular chili. Below is a photo of part of the menu at Camp Washington Chili. Chili is served on either spaghetti noodles or coneys (little hot dogs). The decision is whether to have a 2, 3, 4 or 5 way. Mark had the coneys and I had a 5 way starting with spaghetti, then chili, beans, cheese and onions.

The day before Camp Washington we tried “Skyline Chili,” perhaps the most popular Cincinnati Chili chain. Gold Star is the other well known chain, but we weren’t in the area long enough to give it a try. I thought the Skyline chili had more flavor than Camp Washington Chili, but I liked the atmosphere at Camp Washington Chili better with its old time look inside.

Skyline – My favorite Cincinnati Chili
Camp Washington Chili – where is everyone?

Cincinnati chili is served with something I would not have expected – oyster crackers, which seem to go well with the dish. We liked Cincinnati Chili enough that I wanted to make It. While staying in Indiana after our time in Ohio, we were camping next to two couples from Ohio and Jane offered to send me her recipe when she got back home (thanks Jane). We really liked the recipe and have made it twice now. But I have made it a little different. Although Mark and I aren’t necessarily vegetarians, we try to eat less meat when we can, so I made it with non-meat or soy product crumbles and it worked out well. I am also a cinnamon fanatic so I added more cinnamon (and allspice) to my serving when it was done.

Goodbye for now, until next time!

More Exploring in the Hocking Hills

Conkle’s Hollow Trail

On my second day of exploring in the Hocking Hills I stopped at Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve. Although located in the vicinity of the other Hocking Hills State Park attractions, it is not part of the Park. The Preserve includes a gorge trail and a rim trail. I took the gorge trail which started out paved and traveled through a beautiful forest next to a stream with lots of greenery.

After the paved trail ended, the gorge began narrowing and the scenery began to look more primeval, with rocky cliffs and an abundance of large moss covered rocks and ferns. I passed under a few overhangs dripping with water before reaching a recess cave with a small waterfall at the end of the trail.

The end of the gorge trail
Relaxing in the recess cave

With all the rock, water and greenery, this was a beautiful spot to experience, especially with few people about. At one point everyone was gone and I was alone. I decided to stay longer and enjoy the stillness and grand scenery around me.

Looking out from inside the cave

After finishing my walk in Conkle’s Hollow, I drove to Rock House, another popular spot since it is the only true cave in Hocking Hills. Getting there involves descending a trail which passes by tall sandstone cliffs until arriving at an opening midway in a 150 foot cliff. From the outside it is hard to imagine how big the Cave will be inside.

Entrance to Rock House

The cave has one long corridor that stretches 200 feet, is 20 to 30 feet wide and has a 25 foot ceiling. There are seven windows but it was still fairly dark so some were using flashlights to find their way around.

The interesting shaped windows are one of the best things about the Cave. At one end is the largest window where a seasonal waterfall can be seen dropping from the cliff above. When I visited it wasn’t flowing. Below are photos of a few of the windows with forest views outside.

The Cave has Native American history with ovens that were carved in the rear wall. In addition, the Cave has the nickname “Robber’s Roost” as at different times it was allegedly used as a hideout for those of a criminal nature. I enjoy visiting caves and was glad I had made the trip to see the unique Rock House.

Columbus Washboard Company and the largest washboard

And now for something completely different. One day, Mark commented he saw there was a washboard factory in the nearby small town of Logan. I know I have said before, but I love learning about and seeing how things are made and this place sounded unique. The Columbus Washboard Company is located in an old brick building where washboards have been made since 1895. Outside on the building you can see the world’s largest washboard. This is the only washboard factory remaining in the U.S.

A sampling of their washboards

Visitors can take a very short self-guided tour of the factory rooms and see original equipment used to make the washboards. There was one employee putting washboards together when I visited. She showed me the process and I think she put one together in a few minutes as there are not many pieces to a washboard. Many of us (like me) might think washing clothes with a washboard is a thing of the past, but staff at this factory report otherwise. I was told that people still regularly use washboards for scrubbing out stains, while traveling or living off grid. Of course they are also more economical. I don’t remember how many washboards are manufactured here in a typical month or year, but I recall an expectation of about 200 per day. There are only three employees that manufacture them, so it is a small company. The gift shop has a variety of sizes for all washing needs as well as washboards for decorative purposes. There is also a choice of different surfaces including galvanized, stainless steel, glass, chalkboard, cork or mirror.

Washboard Musical Instruments

Washboards are also popular as musical instruments and there was a nice selection of those as well. Every year the Washboard Music Festival is held in Logan. Unfortunately, we would just miss it since it was scheduled around the middle of June, the week after we left.

Display for the troops.

Columbus Washboard supports U.S. troops overseas by providing a kit including a washboard, washtub, clothesline, clothespins and soap. They even provide a printout with the supplies showing how to do wash the old fashioned way. The kit is useful for military personnel located in remote areas away from bases with laundry facilities. I would never have thought about washboards being used in this way – very cool of this company to think of the troops!

I left Columbus Washboard Company with a magnet but alas no washboard!

Thanks for checking in – until next time!

Exploring Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio

Ash Cave

After leaving our RV park in the Amish Country we headed further south to the Hocking Hills. The reason for staying here was to visit Hocking Hills State Park. This is a beautiful and different area than the rest of Ohio. In the midst of lush forests lie large sandstone rock formations, caves, gorges, streams and waterfalls. I had heard about the Hocking Hills but initially wasn’t necessarily planning a visit here. Thanks to my friend Anette for encouraging me to not miss visiting the Park. I am very glad we did as this is a one of a kind, special place.

Ash Cave Falls

Hocking Hills State Park is divided up into seven major hiking areas and therefore does not have one main entrance to see all the attractions. As the Park is large, a little bit of driving is required to visit each area. One day I checked out three different spots, beginning with Ash Cave which involved a short and easy walk. This is a trail that anyone can access as it is paved and handicap accessible. Ash Cave is perhaps the most awe inspiring sight in the Park because of its size. It is the largest recess cave in Ohio at 700 feet long and 100 feet deep. Ash Cave Falls flows during the spring time, dropping 90 feet from the Cave’s rim and adding even more to the grandeur. I was pretty amazed by the sight of this Cave and Falls.

View of Ash Cave after ascending some steps at the far side

The Cave got its name after early settlers found huge piles of ash left behind by Native Americans.

View looking out from inside Ash Cave

After visiting Ash Cave I drove over to Cedar Falls. The trail involved a bit of a walk including 100 stone steps down to the Falls. They drop 50 feet into a large pool that looked popular with both kids and adults wading and swimming. I did read signs while visiting the different parts of the Park to not get into the pools or creeks, but for some, the temptation was irresistible.

Cedar Falls

The Falls got their name from early settlers who mistakenly thought the nearby hemlock trees in this gorge were cedars.

Cedar Falls

My next stop was Old Man’s Cave, the most popular spot in the Hocking Hills. This is an amazing gorge with a trail that winds for about a mile past rocky cliffs, rock formations, several waterfalls, stone bridges and into the Cave itself. There are a variety of stone steps to navigate and even a few rock tunnels so it is a nice little workout.

The front of Old Man’s Cave

Like Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave is also a recess cave but not as large or impressive. It was named for the “old man” Richard Rowe, a recluse who made the Cave his home in the 1800’s.

Tiny people under the ledge
Inside the Cave

In the photo below you can see to the right one of the narrow rock tunnels leading to a set of stairs.

Narrow rock tunnel

One of the beautiful stone bridges arching over Salt Creek which flows through the gorge.

In the photo below is a view of one of the large sandstone rock formations. Several kids were having fun playing in the cave like holes at the bottom of the cliff.

Upper Falls was my favorite waterfall in the gorge and in my opinion perhaps the most scenic part of the trail. The Falls were a beautiful sight dropping into the large pool with the stone bridge above.

Upper Falls
Upper Falls

In the photo below, I liked the way the tree with gnarled roots and the fern covered rocky cliff frame Upper Falls.

It was a day of scenic wonders at Hocking Hills State Park and I hope you enjoyed a look. Stay tuned for my next blog where I explore more of this Park.

A Day of Carvings in Ohio Amish Country

When researching things to do in the Amish Country, I read about David Warther Carvings. It had excellent reviews and sounded like another not to be missed attraction. David is a carver of ships and in about 40 years, he has carved 80 of them which he displays at his museum near the town of Walnut Creek. David has another primary job, so these ships are a hobby as he doesn’t make them to sell. In order to see the ships, you have to take a paid tour. Our guide pointed out that he makes about two per year, which is not surprising as they are so detailed and intricate. He has been working on a history of ships from 3200 BC in Egypt to modern times and states that his carving project is about the story of civilization. To create his ships he uses antique ivory, ebony wood and abalone pearl. The Warther Museum reports that the ivory is legal antique ivory that has been donated from museums and private collections within the United States.

The ship used by famous King Tut during his reign from 1339 BC to 1327 BC
Magnifying glasses at many of the cases allow visitors to see parts of the ships up close like the Royal Ship of King Tut

The museum displays the ships in rooms by era with large maps on the walls to show the location of the countries where the ships originated. Besides Egyptian, the ancient room includes ships from the empires of Phoenicia, Greece and Rome. Looking at the ships in this museum was a combined history and art lesson. Part of the painstaking work involves doing delicate hand etching and engraving with ink known as scrimshaw as can be seen in the photo below.

Closeup of the Star of Memphis built in 1350 BC. This was a passenger ship that traveled between the different cities of the Nile

David uses blueprints and drawings that he obtains from museums, researchers and scholars around the world so that his ships are built to the same exact specification as the originals.

The photo above is a Greek warship from 330 BC that used 170 oarsmen working an oar each at three different levels. Information from the museum noted that the oarsmen were paid citizens who freely joined and were not slaves. Can you see the little seat at the end of the ship on the left side of the photo? That was the throne for the ship’s commander.

One of the ships in the Age of Exploration Room was the Sao Gabriel, pictured above. It was sailed by Vasco da Gama to India in 1497. He was the first explorer to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, opening the way for trade and discovery. In the photo below is a closeup of this ship’s stern with the little cannons as seen through a magnifying glass.

Closeup of the Sao Gabriel

In the modern room can be found ships from the 1500’s through the 1800’s like the ships of Christopher Columbus (Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria); the Golden Hinde sailed by Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the earth; the H.M.S. Bounty of the famous “Mutiny on the Bounty” story and the U.S.S. Constitution, the oldest Naval ship which still sits in Boston Harbor today. Below is a photo of the Mayflower, a merchant ship which brought the pilgrims to America in 1602.

The photo below shows the intricacies of the rigging which David has developed. He makes a point to come out of his on-site studio for each tour group and demonstrate how he works with such fine lines. He has perfected a special method creating “ivory threads” where the rigging is hand worked to seven thousandths of an inch in diameter before being used on a ship.

The Bonhomme Richard of 1779 – Famous warship captained by John Paul Jones

Mr. Warther began carving ships as a boy and when he was 17, completed his first major ship model, the U.S.C.G.C. Eagle. Built in Germany in 1936, it served as a training ship for the Coast Guard.

I was really amazed by this museum of carved ships and when the tour was over, we were free to wander and look at them all again if we wished, which I did. It was rather hard to leave as they are such beautiful works of art. But I needed to go on to the next carving museum – the Ernest Warther Museum located about a 30 minute drive away in the town of Dover. Ernest was the grandfather of David, so this is a family of master carvers.

Illinois Central Railroad Engine driven by legendary engineer Casey Jones

Ernest Warther was born in 1885 to Swiss immigrant parents and began carving at the age of five when he found a pocketknife outside while playing. He came from a poor family and at first whittled sticks and then pliers. Only completing school through the 2nd grade, he later began to focus on steam train engines, carving them from all different time periods. His work spanned 40 years and 64 carvings before he passed away at the age of 87. While pursuing his hobby, Mr. Warther worked at the local steel mill and also started a knife business. For a few years he lived in New York City when the New York Central Railroad convinced him to come and exhibit his trains. He also spent about six months touring the country with some of his carvings. He decided though that Dover was his home and if anyone wanted to see his carvings, they would have to come there. The museum is located on the property of Mr. Warther’s former home that he shared with his wife Frieda and their five children. Next door is a knife factory and store that his family still operates today.

Tours are given throughout the day and unlike most places where a visitor has to start a tour at a certain time, people are incorporated into existing tours when they arrive and then finish up what they miss with another guide. It all works well with no waiting involved. The train carvings were incredible to see. They were designed with moving parts and some of them had wheels and gear shafts turning during our tour. The biggest trains were on rotating tables in large separate cases, like the Great Northern train in photo below. This made it easier to see the different parts of them.

The most well known piece in the museum is Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Train. Ernest was a great admirer of Lincoln. Our tour guide explained that Mr. Warther felt a certain connection to the President as Lincoln had also only attended a few years of school and came from poor circumstances.

Lincoln’s Funeral Train

Ernest carved his trains using walnut, ebony and ivory. He started as a boy using beef bones left over from his mother’s soups. As part of the tour we viewed his simple and very small workshop where he made and kept all the knives he used for his carvings. The exactness in his work and amount of detail was evident as we toured each room that exhibited his trains. At Lincoln’s funeral train exhibit you can look in a window and see a lock on a door with a key hanging on the wall above. There are furnishings, a sink with faucet, even a little coffee pot on the counter. In the photo below, the head of Lincoln is visible as he lies in state in the last car.

In the photo below is more detail from the New York Central train he carved. Four men are enjoying some conversation at their table in one of the cars.

Ernest’s wife was creative as well. During her life she collected thousands of buttons and put them together in intricate patterns, creating many pictures. A small separate studio displays her work. Below is a photo of just one wall of her button creations.

The two carving museums were among the best museums of our travels. I don’t think my photos do them justice though as the carvings are under glass with lights shining on them. This made it hard to take clear photos. I will close with a photo from the town of Sugarcreek, near the museums. Here you can find the “World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock” as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. At the half hour figures come out and dance as music plays by an Oompah band.

World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock

A Day in Columbus, Ohio

Front of the Ohio Statehouse, Statue of President McKinley

Visiting as many state capitol buildings as possible has been one of my goals and the Ohio Statehouse was number 15 since full time RVing. It has been interesting to see the uniqueness of each building and a great way to learn more of the particular state’s history. Before RVing, I had visited other capitol buildings while on vacations, but usually those visits were self guided. During our travels now, I have made a point to take a tour as it adds so much more to the visit.

Back of the Ohio Statehouse

Construction on Ohio’s Statehouse began in 1839, but was not completed until 1861. This was not the original capital city but was chosen as the final site because of Columbus’ central location and nearby river transportation. Much of the construction was completed by prison inmates. The photo below is of the flower beds in the back of the building. There were several of these with flowers shaped to look like the Ohio State flag and the U.S. flag.

During our tour we saw the major parts of the building including the Senate and House which were both in session the day I visited. I really liked the striking colors of the flooring inside the rotunda. It consists of 5,000 pieces of hand cut marble which came from places around the world including Italy, Portugal and Vermont.

The Capitol Rotunda

One notable piece of art in the rotunda is the Lincoln-Vicksburg Memorial which was made of marble by a Cincinnati sculptor. The bust is the only portrait statue that Lincoln sat for during his lifetime and is considered a good likeness. When Lincoln was asked by the artist what he thought of the work, he replied, “ I think it looks very much like the critter.” Lincoln visited the Statehouse twice. The first time was in September 1859 when he spoke to a group on the Statehouse steps. A plaque on the building now designates where he stood. I read that only 50 people showed up to hear him speak as he was not very well known outside of Illinois.

Lincoln-Vicksburg Memorial

Our guide pointed out what was different about Ohio’s state flag. This is the only flag that is not rectangular in shape and is called the “swallowtail flag.” Ohio didn’t have a state flag for almost 100 years after achieving statehood.

The swallowtail flag

After visiting the Statehouse we headed to German Village which was several miles away. This historic neighborhood was settled by German immigrants in the mid 1800’s and many of the red brick homes and buildings still survive today. There are also shops and businesses with one of the most popular the “Book Loft” which is housed in pre Civil War era buildings and features a lovely courtyard entrance filled with plants and flowers. We really enjoy book stores and this one boasted nthat it had 32 rooms. I was interested to see what a 32 room bookstore would look like.

While the bookstore does have a lot of books, the rooms are small to tiny. Staff hand out a map when you arrive so you can find the sections of books you want. It can be kind of confusing because this place is a maze! During my visit, I wound up and down steps and along passageways with occasional signs to help direct. Some of the books, especially those in the courtyard were discounted.

Book Loft Courtyard
Books can be found in every nook and cranny

This is perhaps the most interesting book store we have found in our travels and I am glad we stopped in for awhile. I didn’t get any books because I have a number of them (either Kindle or print) that I still need to read. But browsing always gives me ideas for future reads. The store not only sells books, but also other items such as cards, puzzles, posters, music and book themed clothing like shirts and socks. In a few areas, they were next to the books they represented, for example socks of famous paintings from Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Picasso and Rockwell in the art book section.

Colorful socks to go with books

St. Mary Catholic Church just down the street from the Book Loft is a prominent landmark in the Village with its very tall spire. It was completed in 1868 so the German residents could have their own church. Two years ago it was struck by lightning and had to close for structural repairs but now has opened again.

St. Mary Catholic Church

One of my favorite things to do is wander historic neighborhoods looking at the homes and gardens. If there are brick sidewalks and brick paved streets than even better and German Village has all of these. Some of the homes were quite adorable like the one in the photo below with its arched windows, green shutters and wrought iron fence.

Of course for our late lunch/early dinner we had to eat some German food and the place to go is Schmidt’s. They are a fixture in the Village having been open since 1886 and still owned by the 4th generation of the same family. They have served a lot of sausages in over 130 years! This is only the second German restaurant we have eaten at during our full time travels with the first time in Panama City, Florida.

Mark enjoyed a buffet of sausages and sides and I had the sauerbraten with spatzel and pickled cabbage. The restaurant was recommended by my Statehouse tour guide who also suggested we have one of their cream puffs which are the favorite dessert. I saw the display case loaded with these delicacies when we walked in and was amazed at how giant and beautiful they were! We decided to split one for dessert. You know how some things are better looking than they taste? Well for me, I enjoyed the sight of this cream puff better than eating it. Mark seemed to like it okay though.

Until next time!

Very large cream puffs displayed at Schmidt’s.