McConnells Mills and Pittsburgh

McConnell’s Mill State Park, New Castle, and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

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McConnell’s Mill on Slippery Rock Creek
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McConnell’s Mill and the covered bridge on Slippery Rock Creek

The day before Patti and Dick arrived, we took the Jeep over to Slippery Rock Creek gorge to see the famous McConnells Mill.  The mill and the adjacent covered bridge have achieved national fame and are listed as National Historical Landmarks. The mill is visited by over 500,000 people yearly.  It remains one of the few standing water powered functional (sort of) grist mills in all of the U.S. The nearby covered bridge spanning Slipper Rock Creek is a very popular spot for marriage proposals and many lovers paint their initials with hearts.  The Mill has even been a wedding venue. The river that runs by the mill is known for its great white water kayaking.  We had the opportunity to watch a couple of brave souls traverse the water way.  Doug and I love to kayak, but only on a quite lake like our beloved Whiskytown Lake. Initially we did not drive down into the deep gorge – our mistake! We parked at the top of the gorge and got quite a workout coming and going using the steep switch back pathway on the sheer gorge wall.  Laurie and my hiking gals from Redding would love this. The park and the mill have been beautifully maintained.

The mill was rebuilt at the site of a previous mill which was struck by lighting and burned. The “new” mill was opened in 1874 with state of the art water turbines and the covered bridge spanning the famous Slippery Rock Creek was built to enable the new mill to serve farmers on both sides of the gorge.

Captain Thomas McConnell
Captain Thomas McConnell

The man who built the new mill was Thomas McConnell a former captain in the U.S. Army. He was wounded PRIOR to the horrible Gettysburg confrontation and thus was NOT involved in that confrontation. Doug’s dad had often reflected that had Thomas McConnell been sent forward as an infantry field commander at Gettysburg he well may not have survived – thus that line of the McConnell clan including Doug’s father would not have existed. No descendants! So is this an example of a “good” wound? Direct descendants of Thomas McConnell and cousins from New Castle Thomas Hartman (a banker), and Malcolm McConnell (Doug’s grandad a U.S. Steel executive) arranged for the transfer of the mill, the bridge and the surrounding property to the State of Pennsylvania.  The transfer was completed after the death of the one remaining employee, Mose (Moses) around 1955.

Mose at McConnell's Mill
Mose at McConnell’s Mill

Mose himself is an interesting story that Doug has always talked about. It appears that Mose was born in the south prior to the Civil War and thus was a slave. After the civil war as a young free man he moved north with his mother. He soon took a job with Captain Thomas McConnell at the mill. We know Mose worked at the mill for over 74 years and he was a well respected community member. He always lived at the mill and never married. There were several cute stories about the man. One in particular…..whenever families came to visit the mill and they returned to their cars or wagon….Mose would leave an apple, an orange, and a piece of candy for each of the children.  People loved to come to the mill on errands.  It is said that Mrs. McConnell and later Mrs.Hartman (different from Doug’s grandmother) would always have a piece of pie or cookies waiting for customers or visitors.

Doug met Mose for the first time in 1950 when Doug was 5. It was his impression that Mose was then near 100 years old! He has a treasured picture of his grandfather, Mose, and Doug standing by the mill. It seems the McConnells and Hartmans would regularly bring supplies to Mose down in that gorge long after he ceased to be self sufficient.  By 1950 Mose was living in the owner’s home next to the mill.

Doug recalls that it had been decided by the extended family that Mose would live out his days in that home at the mill where he had been his whole adult life. On those summer trips Doug and his grandfather would bring supplies to Mose about every weekend. When Mose died the transfer of the property and mill to the state was soon completed – some time in the mid-1950’s.

Mose was truly loved and respected by the McConnell and Hartman families and all the visitors to the park. This is a touching, very human story of a family dedicated to “Ol’ Mose”. They kept him on the payroll and provided housing all his remaining days.  Mose is buried in a nearby church next to his mother. Doug said he learned a lot from his grandfather – including how the family treated Mose in those later years. 

Moraine State Park is really just across the road from McConnell’s Mill State Park and has a 32,000 acre lake with beaches, great camping facilities, miles of hiking trails, and a 7 miles biking trail.  We enjoyed a short 8 mile ride.  Unlike a rails to trails bikeway this one had hills…..after climbing out of the gorge earlier, my legs felt like jelly.

New Castle C.S.I.

Grandad's Home in New Castle
Grandad’s Home in New Castle

Our first day out with the Lanni’s was to New Castle.  Our first stop was Patti and Doug’s grandfather’s house.  This was the home he retired to after 40 years at US Steel.  It was empty.  There was no car in the drive, so we took to looking in the windows……we felt like the ultimate “peeping Tom’s” since there were 4 of us converging on the house and many windows.  Remember the letter I mentioned earlier that Doug wrote hoping for admission to the house?  Our investigative skills led us to the mail box which we unashamedly went through.  We found the letter delivered but not received.  Other mail produced the current owner’s phone number which we called.  As it turns out the house was purchased by the local mortician who is also a realtor.  That seemed to be quite a combination of professions…..any conflict of interest there?  This house was purchased about 7 years ago for $110,000.  This leads us to the “State of the City” of New Castle. 

It seems the city that Doug so fondly remembers has steadily declined since about the 1960’s.  As the steel industry moved to bigger cities the population slowly decreased from a high of about 48,000 to 23,000 today.  The downtown is erie with little traffic and many empty buildings.  This was really driven home in a conversation with a local gentleman about our age.  He said when he graduated from the local high school in 1967 there were 600-700 graduates.  This June that same school had a graduating class of around 100.  Growing up in Southern California where there has been nonstop growth since I as long as I can remember……it seemed almost surreal. 

The highlight of the day was visiting the country club were Doug’s grandpa was a member.  Doug remembers going there every Sunday for dinner.  His grandad let him drive in New Castle when he was only 14 years old!   Apparently the neighbors felt that Doug was probably safer than his grandad. Doug loved that. Despite not being members, we were graciously invited to look all around and have lunch there.  The golf course reminded me of Virginia Country Club. It was a wonderful afternoon!

McConnell Mill Homestead-6141215 McConnell Mill Homestead-6141222

At trip to the cemetery ended the day.  Finding the McConnell grave site was another adventure.  First of all there are three cemeteries in New Castle.  To narrow the choice required a call to Doug’s other sister in Ventura for the exact cemetery.  Once we had the right place this old cemetery has no central office with a simple listing of grave site locations.  Finding grandad’s grave site required joining a local association, and searching the archives of the newspaper obituaries from the 1960’s in order to find the exact date of death. Apparently they had NO way to find a grave if you didn’t know the date of death. Well we did that. With that new information, an unhappy volunteer had to return to the office to locate the grave site in their records.  She also wanted to make sure a donation was made to the association.  Was it worth it?….ask Doug & Patti.  (Doug here: YES it was. We did feel a little like CSI New Castle!)

June 15, 2016  McConnell’s Mills – Again

Today we returned to the mill with Patti and Dick Lanni. We had a very informative tour by, Natalie, a ranger that has made the history of McConnell’s Mill her personal quest.  This was a grist mill which meant it was equipped to grind corn, wheat, and buck wheat.  If the wheat harvest went bad, buckwheat could be grown in a very short period of time and thus provide grain for a family for a season.   A bushel of raw wheat yielded only 44 lbs of white flour.  At that time, white flour was very desirable for the fluffy cakes and breads it produced.  This 1800’s mill was eventually so automated that wheat could be ground to flour in approximately 40 minutes – all from water power. Electric motors and the internal combustion motor had not been invented yet! The miller was paid a portion of the final product.


Fireflies, fireflies, fireflies…….I finally saw fireflies… magical they are.  I wonder what God had in mind when he created them….perhaps, like the birds, purely for our delight.

June 16,2016  Pittsburgh

Doug’s grandad was eventually the superintendent of Homestead Steel Mill which was the most productive steel mill in the world and part of US Steel.  Our goal for the day was to find his grandfather’s house in a suburb of Pittsburgh called Munhall – “at the top of the hill”.   Doug’s father said he would walk to the Carnegie Library in Munhal to swim, which was “just down the street”.  As it turns out the house (or I should say mansion) was next door to the library, built on one entire square city block.  Unfortunately it was torn down in the 1960’s and a retirement facility was constructed on the grounds.  Always the detectives, Doug and Patti only learned this from one of the retirement home residents.  Doug’s dad had recalled as a child going with his dad(grandad McConnell) on Sundays to visit any employees that were sick.  It was to his grandad’s credit that during the years that he was the superintendent, there were no major labor conflicts.

Superintendent's Home in Munhal
Superintendent’s Home in Munhal

This place looks like it was “adequate” for entertaining.  We also have pictures of Doug’s grandfather escorting Albert Einstein around the steel mill during a visit.

As we were heading back to New Castle, we all got flood warnings on our phones.  I have never been in such a deluge in my life.  I was secretly hoping that we would just stop and wait it out…..but we were on a mission to get back.   

We had experienced several days of investigation and discovery of family roots with Patti and Dick. They were great company and we loved sharing the experience and some of the frustrations together.  Dick was a former Naval Officer and we were glad he was driving because as we left Pittsburgh it seemed we had become a submarine!  We were glad to have the three days together.

Friday June 17, 2016  Incredible Family

Incredible Family!
Incredible Family!

The people we meet have been half the fun on this journey.  Today is no exception.  As I was loading up the washing machine at our camp ground a gal came in with 4 loads of laundry to do.  I thought that was rather odd to be doing so much laundry on a Friday… is just getting out…..surly they just recently arrived.  I kid you not, it took  the machine 20 min just to fill with water.  She said to me “ya it is always like that”.  Hum???  With 20 minutes to wait she told me her story. 

Her husband is a contractor and currently is building a Nordstrom’s Rack in Pittsburg.  She and their 4 children travel with him.  The kids are 3, 7, 14 & 17.  They live in a large 5th wheel and, up until February, her dad was also with them.  They have a home in Tennessee, but decided that they were rather be together with their dad.  All the kids enthusiastically love this life style.  Dottie, a former teacher, home schools all the kids.  It seems they are in one location about 6 months at a time.  The kids get involved with sports where ever they happen to be.  Most of the past winters have been in warm climates.  This winter they will be in Chicago. This weekend they are all going to Washington, DC. They have his work truck to pull the 5th wheel and she drives behind in a  Suburban.  The two older kids, a boy and a girl, have been to 42 states. What an eye opening experience for them.  This is a gal that ‘does not shit the small stuff”.  The kids are delightful.  Both of the teenagers seem very outgoing and friendly, even to a stranger like me.  No grousing when I asked if I could take their picture.  The 3 year old even put her high heels on for the the occasion!

Doug and I finished the day with a couple of hours kayaking on the lake.

Lake Moraine, Pennsylvania
Lake Moraine, Pennsylvania

The US Open was being played near here at Oakmont Golf Course.  The deluge of Thursday had to affect the playability of the course. One of our fellow campers gets to be a marshall and is hoping to play a round if the Open concludes early.  The rain didn’t help that hope.  He is retired for the third time and has his PGA card.  He says he is going to play golf and mow his lawn.  Lawn mowing is an art form here….it can consume days, I think.

June 18, 2016

We just got on the Ohio Turnpike and are not seeing many trucks…..We may have made a mistake and have a hefty toll.

As it turns out, it is not as bad as we anticipated……..$27 for 120 miles.

Congratulation Madam President

A big congratulations to my “youngest” oldest granddaughter…….she was just elected president of the ASB at her school, Newcomb, in Long Beach.  She won with these two slogans. “Vote for me Regan D” & “Regan will go the extra mile to make you smile.”

Regan deMetropolis ASU President
Regan deMetropolis ASU President

Happy Father’s Dad to all my favorite fathers   June 19, 2016 Ann Arbor

We made a detour to Ann Arbor for a brief visit with a friend of Doug’s from his UCLA days as a resident.  Dave Bloom is chairman of urology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  We had a delightful brunch at their home which is nestled in a beautiful forest.  A few years ago they added on a huge screened porch… really is like sitting in a tree house.  We are so appreciative that we were able to squeeze into their very busy schedule.  Martha, Dave’s wife, had a wonderful brunch just waiting for us.  We did spend some hours as Dave and Doug relived their early days at UCLA. They met on the first day as brand new medical school grads with all their new responsibilities.  What an exciting time in their lives. Dave has as many stories to tell as does Doug! Hard to believe but true.

Dave and Martha Bloom's lovely screened porch
Dave and Martha Bloom’s lovely screened porch

Thank you Dave & Martha


Mystic Connecticut, Camping, and Cape Cod

Moving on to Mystic, Connecticut

We are going to Mystic for no particular reason except to hunker down for the Memorial Day Weekend. 

Last year on July 4th we were in Glacier National Park and our reservations had run out on the 3rd of July.  We just thought, at worst, we would stay in a Walmart Parking lot.  (Not a glamorous place to spend the 4th)  The KOA we had been in for a week was very accommodating and kept moving us to spots where reservations were not kept….on the 4th they let us dry camp on their property so that we could watch the fireworks.  Not wanting to be in that position again over a holiday weekend this year, Doug made reservations well in advance.  Why Mystic?  It is on the way to Cape Cod, it is on the coast, and the name sounded intriguing.

Mystic Psychic?????
Mystic Psychic?????

This is the first time we have been in a campground that is completely filled.  It is a bustling hive of kids….riding their bike, swimming, fishing.  The number one attraction seems to be this inflatable trampoline…sometimes there are 20 kids jumping.  Rosie would love it!!!!…….Dylan too.

Trampoline at Mystic KOA
Trampoline at Mystic KOA

There are 258 sites here.  Camping, especially tent camping, is a ton of work for moms and dads. Those of you that have ever done this are shaking your heads “yes” right now.  Paul and I did it ONCE.  Not being “campers”, we had to borrow almost everything we needed.  That was already too much work for a vacation!  Andy wasn’t even born, so it was just Sean & Christopher as toddlers.  We went to Tuolumne Meadows with our good friends the Parks.  Ron and Vicky were experienced from their backpacking days.  They had two little girls, also toddlers.  There were three events  that I clearly remember.  The first was trying to hike.  Getting 8 people ready to hike, 4 of them little people, got us going around noon….just in time for someones nap time.  You all know what a tired toddler can be like…….we didn’t get far before we abandoned that outing.  The second was that wonderful time after dinner, with the campfire blazing.  You just want to sit back and enjoy, maybe with a cup of coffee……this was not to be.  With the dinner dishes done, it was time for baths.  There are no showers in this camp ground.  Now we were to start heating water for bath time for the kids.  Boys don’t need baths when they camp, do they?  I believe that some dirt is good.  (I even let my boys eat dirt if they were that stupid)  The girls were bathed, put in clean PJs, and then not allowed to walk anywhere but in their tents.  The glow of the evening was lost.  The third was Ron’s doing and not approved by his wife.  He was always up to something.  He decided that we needed the experience of seeing a bear up close.  After we all called it a night and were snuggled up in our sleeping bags……Ron snuck out and strategically placed marsh mallows around our tent.  Yosemite has very strict rules about storing food as we all know.  Since I am here to tell the story……he fortunately was not successful.  That was the end of tent camping for our family.  That of course was not the end…we still had to come home and clean everything in order to return it is better condition that we borrowed it. 

The next try was an outing with our church to Newport Dunes.  Knowing that Paul would never tent camp  again, I borrowed a camper from one of my friends.  Remember when I said we liked to return things in better condition?…..Paul drove under a low lying branch in front of our house…..the camper was returned minus a roof. 

Seeing these families making memories this weekend makes me wish I had tried harder to take the boys camping…..

This KOA is a stark contrast from where we spent the previous night, at a state park in the Poconos, The Promised Land.   We were in a remote site several miles in with essentially no other campers. I seem to like solitude with people around.

Promised Land Lake
Promised Land Lake

Although there are a few very wealthy counties in Connecticut, this does not seem to be a wealthy thriving state.  Our camping neighbor, who lives here, said that he cannot even sell his home.  The little towns we drove through yesterday seemed generally unkept.  The freeway infrastructure is very old. The taxes have driven out several major companies like GE.  There are homes for sale everywhere. 

Memorial Day Weekend

My grandmother lived with us when I was young.  On Sundays she loved to “go for a drive in the country”….we used to drive way out in the country to Orange County….. when it was country….remember?

Today we drove in to Mystic River, a charming costal town with a draw bridge.  Our ride home along the river revealed beautiful homes with big lawns built in the New England style.  The next day was a drive to Newport, RI., about 40 miles from our camp site.  This is the town of the rich and famous of yesterday year….homes on the Atlantic cliffs of folks like the Astors & Vanderbilts.  We did The Cliff walk along will several hundred other tourists.  Dinner was the food of Connecticut, clam chowder.

Mystic, Connecticut Waterfront
Mystic, Connecticut Waterfront


It is Monday.  We are taking a vacation from vacationing.  It is pouring.  We are paying some much needed attention to the RV.  Doug takes better care of this rig than I take care of our home.  We watched Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, filmed in Savannah.  Since we had gone to Durham we thought we would watch Bull Durham.  It took 16 hours to download.  I thought it was supposed to be about baseball….smile.

Other random thoughts……

I have never seen a fire fly.

I know that it is not the building that make a church a church……..but some of these old churches just seem a beautiful place to worship.

Doug actually enjoys the problems that are inherent in RV’ing.  He loves nothing more that a challenge.  Also, always curious, he was experimenting with which brand of toilet paper disintegrates most rapidly.  Scott for septic tanks was the winner, if you are interested.  He also fixed our water heater.  The interesting thing about this was he was able to order this obscure part from Amazon and it was delivered then very next day to the RV Park we were staying in.  That is amazing.

I have found one thing in which he is a complete failure…….he cannot build a fire…not even with a blow torch.  We enjoy the paper starter burning and then it is just smoke and cussing. Where is Andy when you need him?  Doug actually consulted the web on fire building.  He will overcome.

Have you ever tried doing yoga in a moving RV?

May 31, 2016 on to Cape Cod

We are staying at a beautiful RV park call Sweet Water Forest.  We usually come to Cape Cod with a suitcase, not a house on wheels.  Doug’s good friends from his Palo Verdes days  live here in Chatham.  We usually stay with John and his wife Lona when we visit.  Their home is my most favorite ever.  Lona is a artist and just has that perfect eye for pulling everything together.

John and Lona Kissinger
John and Lona Kissinger

I have to say I love New England architecture.  I have decided my perfect house would look similar to New England structures, have a big front porch and off to the side a sun room that is screened in in the summer with glass windows in the winter.  The yard would not be fenced and it would take a sit down mower to keep the lawn cut.  The back of the house would have a forrest.  There would be several wood burning fireplaces and I would learn to start a fire.  I think I just described Lona and John’s house on Cap Cod.  Oh yes, and a view of the water that would be easy walking distance or up on a hill with a view.  Before I get too enamored …I must remember that we are visiting at the perfect time of year, spring.  I also love how all of the towns are separated from each other, usually by farm land or forrest….or so it would appear from the highway.

The beautiful patio
The beautiful patio
Kissinger's Cape Cod House
Kissinger’s Cape Cod House
Dining Room
Dining Room
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Patio with ocean view

We were going to do a BBQ at our camp site, but was informed by John and Lona that we are in the most tick infested area of the Cape.  They made us put on bug spray before we set out on a bike ride.  Also there are these little tiny caterpillars that just seem to fall out of the sky.  The pollen from the pine trees is really bad this year.  It makes your car look like it hasn’t been washed for a year, like green dust. Despite all of this, it still looks like heaven to me, but I don’t think the BBQ is going to happen.  Doug has enjoyed the challenge of making sure we are “tic free”.

Our Camp Site in the Forest
Our Camp Site in the Forest

Lawrence Littleton Mass-6041111

Our first day on the Cape was glorious.  There are miles and miles of paved biking trails called the Cape Cod Rails Trails.  The Cape is covered with many small towns from the Lower Cape through Mid Cape and Upper Cape, with such names as Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Sandwich, Orleans, Provincetown.  These are all connected with these wonderful trials that run in tree covered forests along the many waterways.  You could spend a month or a summer here and it wouldn’t seem like enough.

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Oddly, cranberries are the number one food of Massachusetts.  They are grown in cranberry bogs and that is about all I know.  Perhaps I need to wait for fall for them to surface. Our RV camp had a “retired bog” – so designated by Massachusetts. Apparently even bogs can retire in this state.

We feel like we are eating our way through Cape Cod.  Lona and John have been such wonderful hosts.  Eating at their house is like being in a 5 star restaurant.  Weather permitting we can sit out by their fire pit or up on the balcony and watch the sunset over the water.  If it is cold we sit in their family room and have a real fire or if it is sunny we can gather in their sunroom.  They only arrived back in the Cape last week from wintering in Florida and the place is brimming with beautiful flowers.  This is one of my most favorite places on earth.

The fish is to die for….we have had Cod, Scallops, Clam Chowder, Fish Tacos, Oysters on the Half Shell, fried Soft Shell Crabs.

This morning I spent browsing through the Brewster General Store.  It is a charming way to spend a gloomy morning.  We are waiting in rain for another glorious day.

Brewster Store
Brewster Store

PA and Cape Cod-8397 PA and Cape Cod-8400

John and Doug kept themselves entertained for hours on end with computer challenges and preparation for the OBP board meeting next week.  It is fun to see two men enjoy each others company so much.

June 5, 2016

With some sadness we left Cape Cod.  We had planned 5 days there.  It is definitely an outdoors type of place.  Unfortunately it was gloomy or raining 3 of our 5 days.  We went out on their boat and by the picture, it looks like we should have gone skiing.  Oh well….we have spent many fun times here on the Cape.

Col Day on Cape Cod
Cool Day on Cape Cod

Today we are stopping at the Minuteman RV park out side of Boston.  Doug is busy for the next couple of days with meetings.  He is the medical director/board member of a company – OBP medical products. They make high quality disposable LED lighted surgical retractors and speculums.  It is a very inventive group and Doug contributes his medical perspective. Cape Cod John is the financial board member and the rest are engineers, attorneys, and business men – all with creative minds. Doug really enjoys the challenges of participating in a growing business making a valuable medical product.

OBP Board meets for lunch
OBP Board meets for lunch

It is pouring…….perhaps I should start doing rain dances in California….it seems to follow us.

June 6 & 7, 2016

I have spent 2 days at this RV park and have absolutely no clue where I am. Doug has taken the Jeep for these 2 days of meetings about 26 miles away.  Fortunately the surroundings are beautiful.  We are nestled in a forrest of tall trees.  Every site is roomy, private, & green.  I have gone to my UBER app a few times to see of some sort of transportation is available….none.  There is no taxi service either.  The office said I could have an Enterprise car dropped of here…..but where would I go since I don’t know where I am?  Actually I have enjoyed a couple of days of reading and walking.  I was able to join the OBP group for dinner.    

We had dinner at Philip’s Academy in Andover.  Apparently it is one of the most exclusive boarding schools on the East coast attended by some Kennedys and Bush, the elder.  It was a wonderful time to get to know the folks that Doug has his “every Monday morning” tele-conference call with.  Three of them are young men in their 30’s, all with new babies.  It was delightful hearing about these young families.  One of the boys said he never thought he would be the type of dad showing videos of his 2 month old daughter to strangers.  I love a proud papa.

Every 15 Minutes………

My granddaughter, Madison, participated in a project at school called EVERY 15 MINUTES.  I had never before heard of this….apparently it is a project done in many high schools all over the US.  This was the first time it was done at a Long Beach Unified School District high school and was the senior project of one of the girls there.  Madi had to apply to participate, as did the other students.  It is very graphic and is meant to make a serious impact on the students regarding drinking and driving.  The students that were “killed” were removed from school and their obituaries were left in their place.  My son and his wife, Madi’s two sisters, and their other grandmother all found themselves as participants.  It was chilling to watch.  The video was shown to an assembly of juniors and seniors along with speakers who had lost family member to drunk drivers….I am still shaken. Here is the link and please watch – particularly if you have family to whom this message is aimed.

Madi’s video

June 7th afternoon

Doug was out of his meetings by early afternoon….we took off to the town of Ayer that was only 3 miles away.  There is a Rails to Trails bike trail that we ended up walking for a while.  We couldn’t figure out why there were so many cars parked at the beginning of trail.  Well we found out when the train arrived and people were hightailing it to their autos.  Could you imagine taking a train to work everyday?  It actually sounds kind of appealing. The downtown of this quaint little town of 7,500 was charming.  When does charming become “old” and when does old become “charming”?

June 8, 2016

Today we did the Minuteman Bike Way Rails to Trails ride for about 18 miles….running between Bedford and Concord through Lexington.  I even saw my first Trader Joe’s in what seems like months.  We love the Rails to Trails rides because they are very predictable with no steep grades (it was a railroad after all) and essentially no automobile traffic.  This particular one is apparently the busiest  one in the US.  Many of the riders use it to get to the train station and on to Boston for work.  This trail also has signs for points of interest….like Trader Joe’s.  We stopped outside an old Mill House.  It was closed.  To our surprise the president of the Mill preservation board saw us and said since we came all the way for California, he would give us a tour.  The mill was founded by a German family in mid late 1800’s. Initially it ran on water power but then was converted to steam power. It was in active use until the 1970’s.  The mill today is part of a preservation plan but still has artisan woodworkers that are able to run all the belt driven machinery making wooden picture frames…including round and ovals frames. These shapes are very difficult if you think about it.

The President of the Schwamb Mill preservation project was kind enough to give us a tour. Thanks!
The President of the Schwamb Mill preservation project was kind enough to give us a tour. Thanks!
Lawrence Littleton Mass-6081138
Boston rail car at the station
Bonny at the station on the bike trail
Bonny at the station on the bike trail

June 10, 2016

Today was one of the best days ever.  We took our bikes and rode the Battle Ground Trail. This is a very famous dirt road that the the British used to march from Boston to Lexington and Concord in April 1775. It was at the North bridge over the Concord River, that the local militia stood their ground and an organized battle took place – the beginning of the American Revolution military action. The shocked British army of some 400 troops used this very road to retreat towards Lexington where they hoped to meet reinforcements coming from Boston. They took heavy casualties inflicted by the surrounding American militias. You could say the United States of America began RIGHT HERE!

The British soldiers were over 3,000 miles from their homes and family.  Although they had been trained, few of them had seen battle.  Other than loyalty to the King, they had no flesh in the game as did the colonialists.  The American colonialists were fighting for  their rights that were slowly being obstructed by the crown. The British had come to confiscate the colonialists arms and gun powder. (The Second Amendment battle between an armed citizen and a central government wishing to disarm the citizen started in Concord 1775! That tension and political battle continues to this day if you think about it.)

Back to the battle…..after crossing the river out of Boston and the long night of marching, the wet, tired, hungry British soldiers marching into Concord and found themselves essentially 20 miles behind enemy lines.   After the shooting confrontation at the Concord bridge,  they were now encircled by a growing number of militia on their retreat march back towards Lexington and Boston.  The Americaan militia started initially at 400+ but eventually became greater than 4000 men by the end of the day.  The militia also had the “hometown” advantage – they knew the topography and where to hide in ambush.

The British started off on an unknown mission that day (to the men) and without adequate supplies for what they were to face.  I sort of felt sorry for the British soldiers – they are buried all along the retreat route.  They did receive reinforcements of some 1000 troops near Lexington but they had to fight their way all the way back to Cambridge and the safety of Boston Harbor. That battle was over…but the war had just begun.

In the colonies, men between the ages of 16-60 participated in the militia and trained in their communities.  Out of this came the “Minute Men”.  They are what I would call the National Guard – Citizen Soldiers of today.  They pledged to be available on very short notice, hence “Minute Man.” They were defending their homes and their families.

As for the militia, I am not so sure that a couple of years of mandatory service to this country would be a bad thing.  Doug, while already a commissioned Army officer, was deferred from active duty while he was finishing his Cardio-thoracic residency.  When he was fully trained, he was obligated to 2 years of active duty and 4 years of Army reserve duty.  At 36 he was a fully trained surgeon.  He would have loved to get started with is career, but had a Vietnam obligation.  I believe it was 2 of the best years of his life.  He has a very healthy respect and understanding for our military. (Doug here – I fully support Bonny’s thoughts here. They were formative years of service to great Americans)

The trail is a 5 mile interpretive road with several restored or maintained building along the way.  Many of the areas remain as they would have been back in 1776.  Finishing the HBO series of John Adams,  I fell like my head is exploding again with information.

The trail has the still standing home of the captain of the militia – Abigail Adams brother!

The Minute Man Statue standing at the America line of battle at the bridge
The Minute Man Statue standing at the America line of battle at the bridge
The North Bridge over the Concord River
The North Bridge over the Concord River
The Battle Road
The Battle Road

Why all the rock fences throughout the area?   In order to clear a field for a crop, trees had to be removed as well as all the large boulders and rocks.  It was a huge job.  If you can imagine the effort it took to remove a large bolder…the farmers simply piled them up along the boarders of their fields.  This was not an attempt to separate land, but a more expedient way to clear it.  An interesting nano-fact.

As we returned to our camp site the evening warmed.  We had a wonderful bonfire and a delightful evening.  Dusk isn’t falling until 830-900 pm.  A perfect last evening.(Doug here – I BUILT that “wonderful fire” – so there)

June 11-12th, 2016

On the road through Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut & back to Pennsylvania

Being from California, it is hard to realized you can travel through 4 states in one day.  We drove until almost dark and hunkered down behind a Cracker Barrel Restaurant for the night.  Not wanting to look like we were camping, we let our slide out only enough to get around the bed.  Little did we know that this left the side unsealed and the mosquitoes found this a great way to get to us. (ONE mosquito only and he died quickly)

Sunset from the Cracker Barrel parking lot overlooking the Home Depot. Pretty nice!
Sunset from the Cracker Barrel parking lot overlooking the Home Depot. Pretty nice!

We had another “incident” as we were driving.  I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I brought glass nesting bowls.  Doug made a tight turn, the bowls flew out and the largest one broke into a thousand pieces.  In and of its self, not so bad……except shards of glass got under the slide.  It took several days to finally get them all out.  Every time we closed the slide you could hear glass grinding.  Again this could have resulted in not being able to close the slide, which meant we could not move, which meant we would have had to have the RV towed.  It seems all the lessons I have learned in this lifetime have been because I did it wrong a least once.

The Orlando, Florida Islamist attack occurred today.  We have no TV and very spotty satellite radio….we have sadly heard enough, however.

(Doug here – When are we going to deal directly with the obvious confrontation between our Constitution and Islamic Sharia law based fundamentalists? I see no middle ground between the two different belief and governmental value systems.)

Onto McConnell’s Mills State Park

Today will be a walk down memory land for Doug and his sister.  Doug’s sister, Patti, and her husband, Dick, will be joining us  to tour the area where Doug and Patti enjoyed  summer visits to their grandparents here in Pennsylvania.  Doug’s parents were both Pennsylvania residents prior to their marriage in 1944. Doug’s father was an Army Air Corps Major at the end of WW II and moved the family to Southern California when he left active duty in 1946. We are also going to tour the McConnell’s Mill and State Park. More info to follow.