Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 2013

Happy Holidays Everyone,

Tis the season to be grateful and we have a lot to be thankful for this year. Reflecting back, it has been a year of many firsts. The most meaningful experience has been spending seven months on the road in an RV with a redhead and her cat. From Denver in May until Florida at Christmas it has been a jubilant ride. Kemosabe (our RV) has gotten us through some narrow calls but not a scratch on him. From the narrow highways in Quebec to the low bridges in Kansas to the winding roads in Maine and Connecticut he has pulled his weight and ours too. Then there was that long bridge across from New Brunswick, Canada to Prince Edward’s Island. All I can say is eight miles and $59.00 later we made it. Then there was the swollen creek in Illinois that touched the bottom of the bridge we darted across. We made it in one piece and have arrived safely in Florida.  
We have learned three new languages along the way French in Quebec, Portland in Maine and Bronx in New York City. In Maine Bar Harbor is pronounced “Bah Haaba” We also learned the speed limits in the east are only a suggestion and most drivers don’t allow the limits to slow them down.

 One of my favorite stops was Washington DC. We were there for a week and everyone day we saw something new. From all the monuments to the museums, Congress and the White House, every day was packed with a new favorite place.  My favorite site in DC was the Air & Space Museum man’s attempt to break the bonds of earth. We took the Red Bus tour around the town for two full days and one exciting night tour.

New York City was exciting too with a visit to the site of the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. The subway ride got a little too exciting when one guy sitting next
to Peggy started howling; needless to say we got off at the next stop. Then there was Boston, Bean Town, where the history never ends. In Boston we saw  all the Revolutionary War sites and the Home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team at Fenway Park.

 Peggy’s favorite location was Hersey, PA. Besides all the great chocolate that Mr. Milton Hershey made, we learned how he built a town to support his plants. He also encouraged others to start businesses. From his encouragement the Reese Peanut Butter Cup was born.   With great joy we made our own Hershey chocolate bars that day but they did not make the trip back to the RV.

 The tree color changes in Virginia were slow in changing but the breathtaking view of the Great Smoky and the Shenandoah Mountains were still there. These sites gave me a different view of other mountain ranges; however, the Rockies are still my favorite. Peggy really liked Roanoke, Virginia but I have not made up my mind quite yet. One of Peggy’s favorite saying as we leave the campsite has been, “the best one yet” and then we drive on to the next favorite.

We took a side trip in October to Kansas City to see Angie (Tammy’s daughter) get married. We took Coco and she slept most of the trip. Coco’s jack-o-lantern at Halloween was very small.

History was revisited as we viewed it in many of the Civil War sites. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania might have been too much for Peggy as it became an all-day review of the battle that changed the war.  After that, Civil War sites were low, I mean very low on her priority list to visit. We did make it to several forts and I snuck in Ft Sutton, the start of the Civil War in South Carolina.


We have seen every type of museum from puppets, trains, art, airplanes, history, and antiques to even pens and pencils, tractors and cars and even Barnum and Bailey in Bridgeport, Connecticut. We stood at the top of tall buildings at the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago and the Empire State Building in New York. We looked over the edge of many, many piers, the biggest being the Navy Pier in Chicago to the Navy Yard in Maryland. We stood on the Yorktown Aircraft carrier in Charleston, South Carolina and watched dolphins play and then went kayaking in northern Florida down the Santa Fe River. We have been on several beaches from Nova Scotia to Florida.

 We have seen a lot, a lot, a lot and many of them firsts for us. We’ve got the RV decorated for Christmas. Hope your stockings have been hung by the chimney with care for mine is on the dash board. I will leave the window open for Santa to reach in and fill it.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 George, Peggy & Coco

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie is not as well known at Fort Sumter but without the first the second one is not important. It was from Ft. Moultrie the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter. It was the rockets’ red glare that Moultrie put in the sky that made this fort famous on December 1860.

 The car ride around to Sullivan’s Island made it clear how big Charleston Harbor is. We entered the Fort first by visiting the National Park Service Museum. After viewing this museum we found out how important Ft. Moultrie was to Ft. Sumter over the years.

 The Fort was not even completed before it was attacked on June 1776 by nine British warships. It was constructed by raising two palmetto logs 16 feet apart and filling in the space with sand.  The spongy palmetto logs and yielding sand absorbed the shots from the British. Positioned on Sullivan’s Island it was unseen until ships had entered the harbor. In this position ships couldn’t fire on it until it was too late.

 Over the years it was modified three major times. Moultrie II (MII) in 1794 was one of 16 forts of the new American Defense System (ADS). The Fort was built as a five sided structure with earth and timbers 17 feet high. It was neglected and was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804. Congress in their wisdom authorized funds for a second and stronger ADS and so Moultrie III was built. MII was made of brick and stone. Moultrie changed little after that but with the addition of Ft. Sumter and Castle Pinckney in the ADS it then completed a three fort ring around Charleston Harbor.

They received their baptism of fire on December of 1860 with the succession of South Carolina from the Union. The new rifled cannon used during the Civil War demolished the brick-walled fortifications. In 1870 the Fort was modified again using new cannons, magazines and bombproof the buildings by using thick concrete covered with earth. Over the years large weapons were placed elsewhere on Sullivan’s Island and the old fort became just a small part of the Fort Moultrie reservation. The Fort was last used in WWII to guard from enemy submarines entering Charleston Harbor. Over the years with modernization of high tech weapons, the need for a coast defense was no longer need.

 After our visit to the museum we entered though the Sally Port where you could see the thickness of the concert walls. Through this entrance you could turn right to the underground fortifications or straight into the Fort’s center court.  The heavy steel door would keep everything from entering, even hurricanes I thought. Walking the grounds we could see the different fort lay-outs, four-point, U-shaped and the pentagon-start shape. Large Batteries faced the open waters of Charleston Harbor on three sides. The WWII submarine tower sat high in a hill inside with high tech equipment. Off to the side stood a signal light and semaphore flags. Below in the bunkers were offices, bomb shelter, and a communication room. Against the south and western wall they had placed some of the different cannons from the Civil War and the modification periods MII and MIII.


I stood on the Battery’s highest point and tried to capture a picture of Ft. Sumter far off in the bay.  It was more than a stone’s throw. It was impossible to see the city of Charleston. I was humbled and yet amazed to see how these forts were built without cranes. Each of the original canons weighted more than 1500 pounds and was placed on the battery ridges using a block and tackle system.

In the front of fort was the grave of Osceola and a monument to the Patapsco American Natives who once lived here. The island on this day was covered by clouds as we walked the beautiful white sand beach. Most of the houses on Sullivan’s Island are summer cottages raised on high water stilts. There were a few fishing boats but most of the commercial water docks were built for the novice fisherman. As we headed back across the bridge to the mainland…wait…the draw bridge is up? A small sailing craft had requested a port opening to the sea. “Is he crazy” the rain was coming down pretty hard now and as I said this to Peggy, he turned back inland to a small pier. The bridge clanged back into place and the traffic started to slowly move. It was back across the large Charleston Bridge home to the RV camp for the night. 

Happy RV Travels to the nearest Fort,

George (with Peggy & Coco)

Massie School, Savannah, GA


I had three older sisters and their favorite saying was ‘Sit down George and shut up.’ For many years I thought my middle name was shut-up! We had all gone to the same high school, all six of us. One high school teacher once asked me how many McGaughey children are there left behind you? I thought I put him at ease and said “only two but they’re the worst of the six,” he didn’t ask again. As long as I could remember there was always two or three of us in the same school at the same time. We lived in an urban school system in Jefferson County, Colorado. Not a one room schoolhouse, thank God, like Massie School. Or maybe not “Hey McGaughey, spell bacteria”, then I could just point to one of my brothers or sisters.
 Massie School in Savannah Georgia was started by a Scotsman, Bernard Mallon in 1856. He saw many of the children playing on the street not attending any school. Leave it up to a Scotsman to make sure everyone is productive. The Massie Heritage Center has seven different unique areas to view. The old school is just one of these areas.


In the old school, boys and girls were kept separated in all areas, the courtyards, classroom and even the staircases. All children no matter what their age or level of learning were taught in the same room, boys on one side girls on the other. Many of them were boarded in the same building but in different wings. Old maps of the early 18th century depicting the area and school rules hung on the walls. Glass cabinets held pictures of attending alumni throughout the years. Hanging in one corner were old clothes depicting the era, you could try them on if you wanted but we passed. The principle’s office was just off the main teaching platform from where two teachers taught all grades. They had a large teaching staff, which surprised me, with a principle, two teachers and four assistances. Long benches covered both sides of the walls where parents could observe their children as they studied. In the front was a ‘Dunce Cap’ where bad students might have been required to set. I guest this might have been my seat after the spelling bee. The tour guide gave a great adaptation of this history replica’s teaching practices, curriculum and the long history of the Massie School.


Above the front door on a sign reads ‘Your first stop in Georgia’s first city’. This truly is a great place to get a history lesson and an overview of the city as it first started and then grew. In one of the rooms down stairs is an enormous scale model of the city to orient you to Savannah. It demonstrates how James Oglethorpe laid out the city in a grid formation. Within each grid square he placed parks, commercial and residential areas. Over the years the city kept that same grid pattern and now has 21 park squares. Each is beautifully landscaped with a variety of old trees, fountains, monuments, bushes, flowerbeds and sidewalks. Each square was given a name to honor a person in history. A light show using this impressive scale model not only demonstrates the grid layout but also illustrates the history of Savannah. Lighting up the different areas it displays where the battles in the south were fought during the Revolutionary War where Sherman camped in the Civil war and where German subs were sank just off the harbor in Savannah.  It also showed where different fires demolished the city’s main buildings several times over the years and how park squares were added on from the two original squares to its current size and elegant style.


In the boys old boarding wing there is a complete history of the early Native American settlers before Oglethorpe arrived. It demonstrates how Oglethorpe embraced the friendship of the American Natives, even taking their chief back to England to meet the King. Oglethorpe met Mary Musgrove in Charleston SC and took her with him to be his translator. She helped him develop friends, explore the area, grow different crops and travel with him to see the King of England. The exhibit depicts the lifestyle, tools, and history of the people who lived in this coastal region before European settlers.



In the girls boarding wing is an inspiring exhibit comparing the world’s most well-known architectural structures. This teaching exhibit shows the varieties of architectural styles as seen throughout the downtown of Old Savanna. Walking from the front door you can see these styles in use in the many commercial buildings, apartments, houses, monuments, banks and restaurants even in the water spouts.

Standing in the boy’s courtyard I wondered what games they might have played, tag, hoops, hide-and-go-seek because baseball had not yet been invited. “Sit down George and shut up” I heard a voice shout from the girl’s yard. Oh I’m so glad I’m retired and not in a classroom any longer.   

Happy feet (in the classroom) RV travels,

George (with Peggy & Coco)





Friday, December 6, 2013

Exploring Beautiful Connecticut

What does an African elephant, a famous circus owner, midgets, famous woman writer and a child adventure writer all have in common?  Well, all you have to do is go to Connecticut to find out.

When we drove into Connecticut from Massachusetts we didn’t see much difference in landscape.  We saw green trees, green grass, green everywhere, dark lakes, miles and miles of country roads and Interstates with little towns or villages dotted here and there.  When we drove into our campground in upper CT we felt like we were back in CO with pine trees and lakes and rolling hills.

Our first trip was to see the capitol of Connecticut, Hartford.  To see the State Capitol was such a surprise to what I expected.  This was such a huge, impressive structure that sat upon a hill overlooking the city.  We decided to go inside and explore and we were shocked to see the creativity and designs that went into this monument of a capitol.  It was built in 1878 in a high Victorian Gothic style and is a National Historic Landmark. The marble floors, fountains, custom tiles, statues, designs on the walls and woodwork were all amazing.

The state’s hero and native born to Connecticut was Nathan Hale, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” guy and there is a huge statue of him at the entrance to the capitol. I have to put this capitol on the top of the ‘best state capitol building’ in the USA, so far.

Next, it was off to the Barnum Museum which housed a lot of the famous circus’s memorabilia.  As we pulled up to the building which was located in downtown Bridgeport, CT, I was not disappointed by such a different, red sandstone majestic building. 

The only thing that disappointed me was they had a tornado hit the building (yes, a tornado in CT) in 2011 and it did so much damage to most of the stored and displayed items and structure of the old building that they haven’t been able to open the museum up to its full capacity (lack of money) since.  Picking up my disappointment off the floor we were then escorted by a young volunteer showing just a few items in a small section of the museum.  We were able to see Tom Thumb’s personal horse carriage, chairs, sofa, circus wagon, etc. 
                                                          Tom Thumb's personal carriage
                                                                       Old circus wagon

 Then there was Mrs. Tom Thumb’s wedding dress, some of Mr. Barnum’s personal furniture, pictures of Jumbo the elephant (after he died he was stuffed). 
We put our money into the donation box and hoped that the museum would be restored in the near future. We walked around downtown Bridgeport for a little while but weren’t impressed with Bridgeport at all.  It was old and not in a good way, very depressed city that had better days. After a nice lunch in an Italian restaurant we were off to downtown Hartford.

We wanted to see Yale University while we were there, so we drove around the college and just took pictures of the buildings. 
Next we parked the car and walled around old town Hartford to experience the flavor of this college town.  What a delightful town, lots of shopping, food and upbeat attitude.   No I didn’t buy a “Yale” tee shirt, just felt it wasn’t me….I’m more of a MIT kinda gal…sure!

This statue of Mark Twain was made out of Legos

One of the places George really wanted to go to was the Mark Twain House.  We found out that the house and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house are right next to each other, so we bought the ticket to see both.  Mark Twain is such an American icon and so I was excited to see his custom house.  What a surprise.  It started off at the entrance to the museum….there stood a six foot replica of Mark Twain in Lego’s.  Next it was a short film by Ken Burns talking about Samuel Clemens’ life.  He was quite the traveler and had many jobs (riverboat pilot, printer, journalist and prospector in NV) before he settled down when he was 34 with his new wife Olivia Langdon. 

 They hired a famous architect to design this amazing home.  What impressed me the most about the home was Samuel’s comment about it.  He said he was the happiest when he was in the house writing and raising his four children.  His comment was he felt it had a heart and it welcomed them to live there (my feeble attempt to remember what was actually said).  One of my favorite stories about him living there was the fact that he would have his daughters (he lost his son as a toddler) come downstairs in the library before bedtime and he would start telling them a story and then use everything laid out on the mantle (the servants changed up the various vases, statues, assorted memorabilia daily) to embellish the story.  He also would pretend to be an animal and chase the girls in the glass atrium that held a small pond and lots of plants and trees.  It sounded like he really enjoyed his children and was a good father.

Then it was a short walk next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe's home (she wrote ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin").  It was a smaller home which was built much earlier than the Twain House.  One thing I learned from the house tour was she was an artist and there were many painting of hers throughout the home.  After seeing the house I decided to read 'Uncle Tom’s Cabin' and am enjoying it.  That book caused quite a stir in society when it came out in 1852...now I know why.
We have seen and experienced so much while on the east coast that I feel like I could teach a college course on the subject! 

FYI:  One thing we laugh about is no matter how fast we go (as much as 10 miles over the speed limit) the cars in the back of us always act like we are at a snail’s pace.  I guess the speed limit is ‘just a suggestion’ in CT, NY and MA.
Happy traveling, Peggy (plus George & Coco)