Saturday, June 19, 2010

Never a dull moment at the McClosky Farm

Essie McClosky is a spunky gal with a zest for living – and mischief-making. Me? I’m always up for adventure and fun. Put us together and watch out! We have a well-deserved reputation to live up to.

Today is Day Three on the McClosky Farm in Jamestown, Pennsylvania – and the two of us are having a blast. Richard, a quiet hard-working farmer with a continuous twinkle in his eyes, is tolerant even though I think he suspects - or simply knows that we are probably up to something.

The picturesque McClosky Farm is a charmer. The minute Bucky, Cat, Jeremiah and I turned in the driveway, I knew the long drive to get here (2,860 miles) was worth every mile. There are tall, tall trees in the yard, lots of mowed lawn, flower beds bursting with colorful blooms, a stately tall farm house, barns and sheds, and a large pond that is stocked with fish. Oh yes, add the acres of farmland that keep Richard (aka Cuke Dude) busy dawn to dusk growing all sorts of vegetables, strawberries and blueberries on 170 acres. (Don't forget to double-click photos to make them easier to see.)

If you don’t know it, farmers are at the mercy of the weather. Too hot, too cold, too much rain, not enough rain, etc. This past week it was too much rain and hail – resulting in a ruined strawberry crop and many disappointed people who came expecting to buy some.

The greeting committee

As I drove Hwy 58 toward Jamestown and the road that would take me to the farm, I missed the turn. Since I had a few cars behind me, I could not back up. Another narrow two-lane road; where could I turn around? I did find a small place where I could at least pull onto the shoulder and check my map. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a red ATV pull off opposite me. I looked up and low-and-behold it was Gary Kidwell (another Cave Creek Park volunteer). He gave me directions, saying that the next road would get me to the farm.

As I drove into the farm driveway, there didn’t seem to be anyone around. But I did see the farm’s “livestock” – three kittens, a passel of baby Mallard ducks and Katie the dog. Then Richard arrived on a tractor. Essie was with her mother and would be home shortly.

Camera in hand I explored the expansive yard, stopping to get close looks at the flowers and to enjoy the kittens’ antics.

Jeremiah settled in alongside the farm market; I will be here more than a week.

The Great Fathers’ Day Plan

Essie had already asked Richard what he would like from her – his response was “More potatoes!” Well, what a splendid idea. Essie and I are thinking of serving plenty of potatoes dishes on Sunday!

That was settled, but our playful, scheming brains did not – or more accurately could not – stop. Especially after Essie told me about a ‘Chicken Yard Sale’ in a nearby town. The newspaper ad said, “small farm animals, farm implements, yard sale items, plants and baked goods.” (This is Amish country.)

Hmmm! Small farm animals – perhaps we could get something and name it Tater. Picture Essie and me with devilish grins.

The Chicken Yard Sale

There WERE small farm animals offered by a variety of vendors – ducks, geese, rabbits, chickens, bay peacocks, sheep and goats. I’ll let photos tell the story.

Hmmm, what about a baby goat? No, it would eat the flowers.

Or, what about a chicken? “Richard loves to hear roosters crow,” Essie offered.

So, chicken it was – not just one, but three roosters! So much for one animal named Tater. We decided the roosters’ names would be “Po”, “Ta” and “Toe.” And she would explain to Richard, “Well, you wanted more potatoes!”

We giggled all the way back to the farm, stopping briefly at a “moving sale” where Essie paid $2 for a genuine rabbit fur jacket and I paid $4 for a Wilson black leather jacket.

Then we plotted how we were going to hide the roosters until morning (Fathers’ Day), hoping that Richard would be out in the fields. He wasn’t in the field, but he was engrossed in repairing an implement that would allow him to cut the weeds and grass around the pond. We rounded up three cages, took them and the roosters out into the pine “forest” not too far from the house. In a day or two, the roosters will join the ducks, kittens and dog to roam the farm at will.

Well, come evening, Essie could not keep the secret any longer. So, the three of us went to the hiding place.

Note: Richard says one if our “roosters” is a “hen”! Stay tuned.

The adventure continues!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Goodby Lancaster; hello Somerset

I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.

-- Jack London

The Adventure continues - Getting ‘misplaced’ in

I had printed a map of Lancaster (Ohio) from MapQuest and carefully planned and marked my route to get to Highway 22 for the 18-mile drive to Somerset. So far, so good. Then, following my plan, next thing I knew I was driving in the wrong direction down a narrow two-lane country road! I managed to turn around (not easy) and head back, trying to figure out where I went wrong. After a few such incidents – and 16 miles of driving – I discovered that I was holding my map up-side-down! I guess that is just part of the adventure.

I finally arrived in Somerset from the west and after negotiating the traffic around a huge statue in the middle of the intersection, headed west and saw the two silos of the Young’s farm.

Young’s Century Dairy Farm

Three days became five days on the Young’s Dairy Farm in the town of Somerset, Ohio. This farm is a “Century Farm” because it has been in the same family for more than 100 years.

Young’s Farm is now operated by Gwen and Jim’s son Denny, and it’s a life that requires hard work and long hours. The Young’s adopted daughter, Sandy, lives in the farmhouse and her nephew is a valued farmhand. According to Jim there are about 70 “production” cows – that’s a lot of milking twice a day. Then there are all the calves.

My friends, Gwen and Jim Young, spend their summers here and their winters as camp hosts at various RV parks in the Southwest. I met them when I volunteered at Pancho Villa State Park in southern New Mexico.

I learned that calves are taken from the mother right after birth. They are taken to the “nursery” (indoor stalls with slat-board floors) where they stay until about three months old. At that point they go into their “training” pasture – their first experience walking in a field – where they learn to graze and to stay away from the electric wire fence. This training pasture was practically alongside Jeremiah and when I arrived home one afternoon, eight of these calves had been delivered. They were standing alongside the fence, moo-ing and bawling. By the second day, they had settled down and were grazing.

The RV parking was delightful and each day ended with Happy Hour where we planned the next day’s activities.

Somerset is an historic town first settled by Pennsylvania Germans in the early 1800s. Many original buildings are still in use. Both Gwen and Jim have been town mayors in past years and can identify every building and home by past and present occupants. And I think they know everyone.

Gwen, Sandy and I traipsed around the area, picking strawberries, having a picnic (my first time having a “garlic bologna” sandwich which was delicious), going through the old jail and Jacob Miller’s Tavern that is being restored, shopping at the Saturday farmers’ market, and making a trip to the “big city” of Zanesville.

Picnic in the park with Sandy (left), new friend Rebecca and Gwen.

Historic highlights include

Jacob Miller’s Tavern: a two story log tavern built in 1807 along the Zane’s Trace

Zane’s Trace: Ohio’s first major thoroughfare that was laid out in 1796-97. This frontier road was financed by the U.S. Congress.

This is the birthplace and childhood home of General Philip Sheridan (1831 – 1888). There is a huge statue of Sheridan on his horse where two major roads intersect in the middle of the town, creating traffic circle. General Sheridan was a Union general in the American Civil War.

On to Salem, Ohio

I’m now in Salem, Ohio, to spend two days taking care of motorhome chores. Tomorrow morning I’ll drive 65 miles northeast to visit friends on their produce farm in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

My "new traveling friend" has a name
After many suggestions from blog readers, I've settled on Bucky. This is short for Buckeye - state nickname for Ohio. Cat has totally ignored him. He's a great addition to my travels.

Church sign
Today in Salem, I saw this sign: "Sign maker on vacation; Come inside for message."

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I have a new traveling companion

I’ve been warned not to befriend strangers, but I couldn’t resist and figured that it would be OK this time. And, now Cat and I have a new traveling companion.

Here’s another photo of him – you can see he looks sad without a name, so please email me your suggestions. (

My campground neighbors, Judy and Don Reams, invited me to go shopping with them. After a stop at Walmart, they next stop was at a large antique shop downtown. That’s where I saw my new friend – he called out to me and pleaded with me, “Take me with you, it’s boring here and I’m lonely. I’ll be a good companion; I don’t snore and I’m not fussy about meals.” Of course, I can’t resist smooth-talking guys.

I’m in love --

-- with Lancaster Camp Ground along the Hocking River in Ohio! (Makes up for the less-than-wonderful RV parks along the way.) I’ll be at this delightful and beautiful place for two nights.

The Camp Ground facility was started in 1872 by the Methodist Rev. William Holliday as a local "camp meeting". First he located it in Logan Ohio, and then moved it to Carroll, Ohio, for five years. In 1878 he moved it to this permanent site in Lancaster, Ohio. For 20 or so years, it stressed a strictly evangelism oriented camp meeting.

In 1892 the Chautauqua Movement was introduced into the program.On the grounds of this historic Methodist campgrounds there are numerous unique buildings including the Hotel Woodside (built in 1884), The Tabernacle a huge hexagonal building (built in 1881) that has a small auditorium, small grocery and cafeteria. In 1895 a new, larger auditorium was built (closed for serious repairs in 2005; fundraising campaign is on to raise funds).

Many of the Camp Meeting Chautauqua enthusiasts who arrived loved the area and stayed. Early dwellings were tents. In the late 1880s cottages began replacing tents. There are about 250 cottages left of the four hundred or so that once were here. Cottage owners come from all over the United States – some live here full time. Don Reams told me about summer visits to his grandparents’ cottage.

The camp ground was a popular place for Christian retreats and summer Bible school. School bands came here for camp, using a football-sized field on the property for drill and half-time program practices. The grounds include tennis/basketball and croquet courts, shuffleboard, swimming pool, snack bar, chapel in the pines, and nature trail.

In 1995 the RV camping area was set up with 24 RV sites.

My timing was good; I arrived Tuesday in time to enjoy the camp's monthly potluck dinner. I met lots of super people.

Tick update
My tick site is looking OK, but starting to itch. Locals say don't scratch it because no matter what I do, it will continue to itch for a few days. Bummer. Just one more adventure!

The Midwest is hogging the rain

No wonder there isn’t much rain in the southwest, the Midwest is hogging it. It started raining during the Tuesday evening potluck, sending folks to their cottages and RVs. It rained off and on during the night and continued until nearly noon on Wednesday.

Thursday’s travel

Tomorrow afternoon's drive will be 20 miles to Gwen and Jim Young's Century Farm in nearby Somerset. I met them at Pancho Villa State Park several years where we were volunteers.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Who IS that uninvited “guest”?

For there is a price ticket on everything that puts a whizz into life, and adventure follows the rule. -- Leslie Chateris

Hardy Lake State Park was wonderful! Green, lush, tall trees and electricity. Super hiking trails in the woods and – the plan was two non-driving days to enjoy the park. My plan was to enjoy the park, get a good night’s sleep and then head east in the morning (Wednesday).

I had just finished nearly four hours of slowly hiking on what turned out to be poorly marked trails and unmarked forest roads. Twice I questioned if I was even on the real trail; once I turned around and went back to the starting place, thinking of giving up instead of possibly getting lost. Between the curving and turning of the trail, the tall trees and the thick, sometimes head-high, growth between them, the only direction I could see was up.

I met another hiker who gave me a trail map and encouraged me to stop at the small cemetery and then include the Island trail that went alongside the lake in places. Well, what’s an adventure for? I had water and four small peanut butter crackers.Along the way I startled a deer and a large brown bushy-tailed squirrel. Heard lots of birds and saw a few of them.

Finally, after about 4 miles, I returned to Jeremiah – pooped and hungry. But first some iced tea while I changed from long slacks and long-sleeved shirt.

Who IS that uninvited guest?

As I was pulling the shorts on I noticed my uninvited guest – a tick, clinging to my groin! Now what?!? I’ve never had a tick before. After consulting the Internet and the lady in the park office, I decided to play it smart and safe and see a doctor. The office lady said ‘just pull it out with tweezers, wipe the area with peroxide or alcohol’, which I did. But I wasn’t sure I got it all out.

I located a doctor in the closest town, packed up Jeremiah and drove off. After nearly 2 hours in the doctor’s office (they were working me in), Dr. Buhse determined that some of the tick was still there and it would best to get it out. She did, I got a tetanus shot (it’s been more than 10 years since the last one) and rather than go back to Hardy Lake, Cat and I decided to continue driving toward Cincinnati. I have a 9 a.m. appointment at Freightliner for an oil service/checkup. I found a Walmart along the way in Madison, Indiana. That’s where I am now and where I’ll spend the night.

I’m sure living up to my goal of remaining flexible with my trip. After Jeremiah’s service, I’ll drive to Lancaster (pronounced LAN kas ter).

More about Hardy Lake State Park:

Birds I saw here: Northern Cardinal, Eastern Blue Jay, American Goldfinch, crows, blackbirds, Robin, Chickadee and Brown Thrasher. It was my first sighting of brown thrashers – I took a photo and emailed it to Maricopa County park ranger Amy Ford who identified it.

Funniest thing I saw: The sign in the camp store window that said “no shirt, no shoes, great service”.

Sobering thing: The small, old cemetery, reminding me that life is uncertain.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

This blog entry is coming from Kentucky ? Nope, Indiana!

Make up your mind - Kentucky or Indiana?

Kentucky? That state was not on your list,” you might be saying. And you are right; it was not in my original plan. One thing is for sure; change happens. My Indiana plans changed. I checked RV park directories and found one not too far from Louisville (locals say loo-uh-vull), Kentucky. The park in the town of Radcliff sounded good – I was thinking of staying there two or three days. But before I go on, let’s back up a bit.

My last blog entry was on May 25 – 10 days ago, just before leaving Spring Lake RV Park in Kansas. It was a short drive to Lyndon, Kansas, where I stayed at Crossroads RV Park for two
days doing motorhome chores and relaxing.

When traveling in tornado country it is somewhat of a comfort when RV parks have a storm shelter. Here’s a photo of the shelter at Crossroads RV Park. Thankfully there were no storms.

No wind the past few days, not too hot and pleasant sleeping temps at night. Birds are singing; corn is growing in the fields that are on three sides of this RV park. Life is great.

I finished reading "Girls from
Ames" (Iowa). This is a story of women who have a 40-year friendship (author is Jeffrey Zaslow). These gals grew up in Ames, some becoming friends in early school years, some in high school years. They now are scattered but have kept in touch over the years. The book tells of their reunion at age 40. A fun read and a reminder of the preciousness of female friendships.

On to Olathe, Kansas

My next stop was visiting with my cousin Steve Anderson, his wife Ellen and Aunt Maxine Anderson in Olathe, Kansas. What a delightful time! They treated me to a trip to Powell Gardens (in Missouri). Mr. George E. Powell’s 640-acre farm became a horticultural and natural resource facility. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with all sorts of plants. Interspersed amongst the plants and ponds are some bigger-than-life insect sculptures.

On Sunday and Monday Aunt Maxine and I became drapery making assistants. Ellen was the brains and the seamstress. Steve was recruited to help get the new drapes installed. I stayed a day longer than planned so they could be finished and hung.

Saw my first Brown Creeper (bird). Unfortunately the trees are well leafed-out, making it impossible to get any photos.

Roaring River State Park – premier trout fishing

Too bad I don’t know how to fish – and too bad I’ll only there one day. I was parked about 100 yards from Roaring River in southwestern Missouri. And it was hot and humid but I walked quite a bit anyway. I didn’t even take any photos! Bummer! It is a beautiful park – you’ll just have to take my word for it.

It was when I was leaving Roaring River that I was reminded how important a checklist is. I did all the ‘get ready to travel’ things done – at least I though I had. As I slowly drove out of my RV campsite and onto the park’s interior road, I looked in my driver’s side mirror. All I could see was white. “I must have bumped my mirror,” I thought. Then it clicked in: I had forgotten to retract my slideout! In short order, I had it in and ready to go, reminding myself to get a checklist made and follow it!

A stressful driving day

As I left Roaring River, the white-knuckle drive began – I don’t think I was on a straight road all day. I drove south from Roaring River through Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri and into Arkansas and headed east on Highway 62. There was ‘The Sign’ proclaiming the road conditions. It read: Dangerous Road. Crooked and Steep. Drive with care. (They should have added ‘Narrow’.) It WAS a beautiful drive, lush and green – too bad I could not enjoy the scenery. As I went along there were many enticing-looking shops, but no place to stop and park a motorhome.

It was miles and miles and miles of very skinny, two-lane, steep, curvy road, and lots of traffic with no passing lanes – no fun at all. Glad I drove it; would I do it again? No way! It is the kind of road that if I weren’t driving, I probably would have gotten car-sick.

After about 35 miles, I found a Walmart in the small town of Berryville, pulled off and relaxed. It had taken me an hour and a half to drive 45 miles!

Of course the narrow, curvy road did not end there. Along the way a billboard reminded me of all the chickens that are raised in Arkansas – it said, “Chicken Capital USA”.

The sign coming into the community of Eureka Springs said, “Drive Quietly.”

Sign on a church said, “Our Church is Prayer-Conditioned”.

Finally after four hours, I came to a road that was 55-mph! What luxury!

Drove through Trotter, Arkansas --- “Trout Capital USA”.

My goal for the day was to camp at one of the Corps of Engineers’ parks – Northfork. Well, somehow I never saw the signs directing me there and there was no good to turn around and try again (also it was after 5 p.m. and no answer at the park office). I continued on, hoping to find an RV park – no luck. It was getting late as I noticed a Walmart sign. After checking with the customer service gal, that’s where I spent the night in Ash Flat, Arkansas.

After leaving Walmart, my eastward route took me through the "tail" of Missouri, across the Mighty Mississippi and into Illinois. My camera was handy and there was no traffic near me so I took this picture of the bridge I would be going over.

Ferne Clyffe State Park, Illinois

This Illinois State Park looked promising – lots of shade trees, gravel sites with grassy areas in between, many birds singing. I found a good site, backed in and leveled up (not an easy chore here). Then when I went to hook up, I discovered this park does not have water at the sites. Bummer because I’m running low on water and didn’t want to go to the park’s potable water faucet. No problem, I’ll just spend one day and then move on. (Add to departure checklist – If I’m low on water, get it before leaving.)

I spent time figuring out where to go next and in one RV directory I read about Homestead/Yarwood MHP in Radcliff, Kentucky. It sounded really good – full hookups (water, electric and sewer) and laundry facilities; a park to settle in for two or three days. It was not too far from Louisville; making today’s drive about 245 miles.

Homestead/Yarwood – what a disastrous place in my opinion

When I arrived, I took one look and was so disappointed. It's a dump! Basically this is a large (im)mobile-home park with a few RV sites next to the laundry. The mobiles are really old and run down and close together; some appear vacant. There is nothing nice about this park! My electrical hookup was on the back of the laundry area (requiring me to use an extension cord), the sewer connection was nowhere within reach and I did not have Internet!

It was too late in the day to make other plans, so I decided to make the best of it and the leave the next morning. I’ll drive back into Indiana to one of their state parks. (Another option was an RV “resort” that charges $45 a night!)

IMPORTANT NOTE TO MY RVing FRIENDS: I could have saved myself some grief if I had checked this place at I just found out about this Internet site. The reviews were scathing; and I was able to add my own review. Check it out.Whatever!

Every day truly is an adventure!

Hardy Lake State Park in Indiana is wonderful!

It was a less-than 80-mile drive to this super place: fairly level, water and electricity, grassy, tall shade trees. I’ll be writing more about it in a day or two.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed in the things you did not do than the ones you did. So throw off the bowline. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore...Dream...Discover!!" -- Mark Twain