30 September – Left the State Park after a couple of relaxing nights and set off on a longish day of motoring leaving the green hills and forests of Vermont to enter New York State. Travelled via Troy, bypassing the city of Albany and westward on highway 20 through a myriad of small towns as far as Ritchfield, then north up to Herkimer for the night. We had booked Wanda in for a service the next morning at Ritchfield so it was just a matter of finding somewhere in the vicinity to stay for the night and Herkimer draw the short straw as it had a Waldorf. First noticeable difference upon entering NY was the billboards, which are banned in Vermont; how much more pleasant the countryside is without them. The densely forested hillsides gave way to much more open vistas, a lot of farmland and an awful lot of hills. It seems that NY State has masses of deep valleys, especially in the Finger Lakes area, which run north to south, so by travelling east to west we seemed to spend all our time going up and down them. If they were gentle climbs it would have been fine, but these are steep long drags up and down into each valley.
We also know that it is harvest time as we see farm produce for sale at the roadside and bright orange pumpkins in their hundreds. People are starting to decorate their houses with them already and Halloween stuff is in all the shops although it is still a month away! Note to self – make sure that we are well away from civilisation during Halloween celebrations. We still have some nice fall colours but the leaves are dropping quite quickly and we will need to keep going south to keep up with them.
One thing that is really noticeable in rural North America is that folks do not put up fences between their property and their neighbours very much and most of the time there is not even a hedge separating them. They don’t go in for gardens around their houses very much either, but do have huge areas of lawn which in most cases are very nicely manicured.
01 October – Wanda got her service, once again impressed with the Ford Agents and especially with their charges. There must be some sort of subsidy paid by Ford to their agents as the labour charge is nothing like the charges posted, ie. this last place it was $68 per hour but we only got charged $20 for labour and they spent more than hour on it.
Another long day of motoring took us through Auburn and down to Ithaca intending to use another Waldorf for the night, except that when asked they said no, so we just moved next door to Lowes, a big hardware store which closed at 10pm and had no objections.
02 October – Had a nice quiet night, made even better by the fact that Lowes turned off most of their floodlights in the parking area once they closed shop.
First stop today was the LDS Family History Centre at Ithaca to see if Bob could do some further research on his lost relatives. Once again, very helpful volunteers kept him occupied for quite a while.
I spent those hours trying to perfect how to edit videos off the camera and load them up into the ether. Made some progress and hopefully will now be able to produce some better ones. Also loaded a lot more of my pictures on to the cloud as another storage place in case of computer disasters.
Before leaving Bob called ahead to the Glenn Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport to see if they would mind if we parked overnight, as we wouldn’t be able to make the museum much before it closed. They were completely fine with that so we set off back into Ithaca and then out west again on a series of country roads, up and down, up and down until we reached the museum late in the afternoon.
The Director of the museum came and introduced himself and made us most welcome, even kindly offering a power connection if we needed it. So after another gourmet meal (Wallies rotissiried chicken with fresh sweetcorn and salad) settled in for the evening. The setting sun lit up the few wispy clouds and with a bright half moon shining overhead we look to be in for a clear and probably coolish night.
03 October – Spent the best part of the day enjoying the Glenn Curtiss Museum. Nicely displayed exhibits of the motorbikes, air planes and boats that featured in his wide ranging career, as well as some local craft exhibitions of miniature houses and embroidery plus an interesting display on women aviators. We got to spend some time with one of the restoration guys doing a WWII P-40 (Warhawk or Kittyhawk fighter) which had been salvaged from a Florida swamp after it had been involved in a mid-air collision some 40 years ago. Glenn Curtiss was quite a guy, largely overlooked by history but instrumental in some of the initial important inventions and developments of the motoring and aviation industries as well as breaking a series of speed and ‘first’ records. In 1907 he achieved a world land speed record of 137 mph on his 8 cylinder specially developed motorcycle, then in 1908 he was also the first to publically demonstrate sustained level flight of 1 km in his ‘June Bug’ aeroplane. It was Curtiss designed JN1 (Jenny) training aircraft that most early US airmen first learnt to fly in and Curtiss designed seaplanes operated by the US Navy that first made an air crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1918.
Decided after Bob had visited the previous LDS centre that it might be beneficial to try our luck up at Batavia were the local library had a specialist family history researcher. So he made an appointment to check out their records and we made our way from Hammondsport up to Batavia for another fun night at Wally’s.
04 October – Another extremely helpful and knowledgeable woman spent a lot of time investigating things for him but still more questions than answers. He did however get the name of a Don Hayton who had made enquiries about some of the same leads several years ago – this turned out to be the American man who has the same DNA profile as Bob. We were given an email address and from that we established that he was in the nearby town of Dansville – a small town to the south where we would be passing through. We sent off an email and before we could get a reply we were in Dansville anyway, so put in his address into GPS and rocked up at his front door. He happened to be home and his wife invited us in and called their daughter Sally from across the road, as she is the principle investigator of their genealogy research. That was a bit of a shock – she was definitely of the Hayton lineage- a cross between Bob’s two sisters Sally and Margaret. Sally spent a while taking Bob through all her family history discoveries, during which we at least established that one of the main leads in the connection between the UK and US sides of the family was the subject of a US transcription error and thus a dead end. We took our leave a couple of hours later and hit the road south all the way to Painted Post and the inevitable Wallmart. In this region it is too populated to try and find nice off the beaten track overnight spots, so we take the easy option.
05 October – Oh boy, the temperature plummeted last night – down to 3C and it was cold. Our stop for the night was marred somewhat by inconsiderate NY RV’ers who came in and parked right next to us, then proceeded to run their noisy generators all night long, so it didn’t make for a very peaceful night. Spent a bit of time in the morning trying to plot out the next few days activities before heading down Interstate 86 to cross over into Pennsylvania and on to Williamsport, then crossing to I-80 for a museum stop at Bloomsburg – Bill’s Old Bike Barn. Well it was something else, that’s for sure. 60,000 sq feet of the most amazing collections of mainly bikes and junk, displayed in a very kitschy way. There were numerous bikes, many of the HD variety, but the other stuff was set out in streets and shop fronts – it was just mind boggling the amount of material that Bill has collected. For it’s novelty factor alone it was worth the visit, and there were some really neat little gems amongst it all. My favourites were the collection of 17thC children’s model riding horses and also some early carousel figures. It took us most of the afternoon to look around before we headed back onto the I-80 for Hazleton and yet another Wally’s.
05 October – Much quieter night was had and not so cold either. The list of museums in this area was consulted before deciding on Old Spokes Museum as the first stop for the day. This was only available by appointment so a quick phone call to Bernie established that we would be welcome. We set off through the town and ‘burbs of Hazleton (this is a coal mining area and not very prosperous nowadays) but once over into the next valley it was like being in another world – nice houses and rolling countryside. At New Smithsville, we came to Bob’s Auto Orphanage and Hudson museum. He has all sorts of premises on both sides of the road – including a huge barn from the 1870’s. First stop was the Hudson display room with a lovely collection of Hudson and Essex cars from 1916 through to the 1950’s. Some very rare and intriguing vehicles. Over the road was his workshop with another 8 or so cars – including the twin of our own 1922 Essex. Bernie spent a lot of time talking with us and showing off all his treasures and his future projects.
It was then a choice of the next stop – Mack Truck museum or Air Museum – Bob chose the air museum just 30 minutes away as they were restoring a P61 Black Widow from WWII.
With that out of the way we headed for Hamburg and our first overnight stop at a Cabela’s store. These stores are huge hunting/outdoors stores and this happened to be the largest one in the country, sitting on 6.5 acres with the largest parking lot that we have ever seen. A special area is set aside especially for RV’s and trucks are parked way over the other side – they even have a waste water dump, horse coral and dog kennels. The inside of the store had to be seen to be believed. As well as all the outdoor stuff, hunting and fishing supplies, there were several stuffed wildlife set piece displays. The first one had African animals including a large elephant, gnus, antelopes, hippo’s, rhino’s, crocs and lions – all shot by the owner of the store. In another display were animals from the mountains – bears, big horned sheep, moose, coyote, musk ox, mountain lion and even polar bears. The third display was their deer display with probably over 50 deer as well as mounted heads all along the walls. I guess if you are a hunter you appreciate these sort of displays, but it just seems such a sad waste. They did have one live display and that was a huge fresh water aquarium.
07 October – After a relatively quiet night (apart from the constant hum of traffic from the freeway) set off towards Allentown and our first stop, the America on Wheels museum. I left that one to Bob as one in a day is enough for me. Allentown didn’t hold much of other interest and it was nice to get clear of the city. Made our way to Boyertown and a little Antique Auto museum set up in an old truck manufacturing plant. They had an interesting range of vehicles – most manufactured within 50 miles of the town. Amazing how many car companies there were around here that went out of business in the depression years. Also there was a diner that had been rehoused from a local town – it looked really cute. One impressive vehicle was like Mr Toad back home – a one of a kind Rhino based also on the American La France chassis – loads of brass and a superb restoration.
Left Boyertown via Birdsboro to finally come to rest at the French Creek State Park near Elverson and a large campground in the forest with nice facilities, but only a handful of occupants.
08 October – Amish territory was the order of the day as we headed towards Elverson then south down Highway 82 to reach Lancaster County and a westwards journey toward the city of Lancaster. First stop was an Amish quilt shop – lovely young woman manning the shop. The quilts were superb – machine pieced by women in the village and finished with hand quilting. Around $800 for a king sized piece. Finally saw our first horse and buggy buzzing along the road – this particular highway was really busy and quite narrow, so they had to contend with huge trucks and fast moving cars all the time. The village of Intercourse was a huge tourist stop – bus loads of touro’s pour into this town to go for buggy rides and shop in the small shops. We went into a nice craft shop and managed to come out with just an Amish cookbook and postcards – they were such keen salespeople! The town had a large canning company – canning is huge in America although it is not cans but preserving jars. Beets, pickles, vegetables and even eggs were available in jars as well as jams, sauces, mustards and relishes. Nice to wander around the shop and be able to taste the wares. Very orderly countryside in this area – the Amish farms tend to be smaller, the farm where I stopped to look at the quilts had only 80 cows and was just 70 acres.
Down the road at Bird-in-the-Hand was a farmers market, although it was more a selection of baked goods and confectionery with only one stall selling local veges.
Picked up our supplies in Lancaster and headed north again towards Lebanon and a county park which was listed in one of our apps; annoyingly the info was out of date and it ended up being a rip-off for what was offered, but a pleasantly quite night.
09 October – Only a short trip down the road to guess where? Hershey!! They are having their Fall Meet over the next few days so it could not be missed (at least not by Bob). Found where we had to park the RV for overnight camping very easily – traffic was very light into the area and the RV area is across the road and a few minutes away from the meet. Duly registered, we made our way to start looking around. It is now obvious why you need several days here as there are over 9,000 sales sites plus all the special events and displays. By lunchtime we had done about 10% and that was enough for me, so I left Bob to it and wandered back to Wanda, but first I thought I would have a look at the car corral – this is where they have all the old cars for sale. The only criteria is that they must be at least 25 years old and have to be driven in. Well, I went up one long road and back down the other side – 400 vehicles and I had only covered half of them. A good range with the majority being from the 1950’s, but a handful of earlier cars. Nothing particular stunning except maybe the early Roller, but at $145K it was a bit out of my price range!