Vacation Day 3: Johnstown

Saturday, September 23, 2017

My road trip had been planned for a few months when I watched The Men Who Built America on the History Channel.  While watching the hours long documentary, I learned about Johnstown, PA or I should say the Johnstown Flood.  I could not research this topic fast enough.  Through the research I found, I decided that a stop in Johnstown was doable on my upcoming road trip.

The Johnstown Flood took place in 1889 after a dam break along the Conemaugh River.  The dam was built in the 1830s-1850s.  The property, including the dam, was sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad.  Henry Frick (remember this guy?), along with some of his high dollar buddies decided to purchase what was at this time abandoned property.  The dam was in desperate need of maintenance!  To drive home the dam's need for maintenance, the town was often put on notice that the dam situation was hairy.  Well when the big wigs decided to purchase the property to build a fancy club house, they made several changes to the dam area one of them being to lower the dam in order to widen the road ALL because they needed the road wide enough to get their carriages across...sure that makes perfect sense (insert eye roll here).  'Band aids' were placed on the dam repairs.  A club house, along with several houses, were constructed for Henry Frick and his friends.  On a morning in May 1889 a rainstorm had developed and the expected rainfall was 6+ inches that day.  The rain of course caused an increase in rivers, rivers became congested with fallen debris, power lines were downed and the railroad (in some areas) was completely washed away.  All of this is now in the Conemaugh River and heading straight for the weakened dam at Johnstown.  A individual employed by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, who lived in a house overlooking the Conemaugh River, noticed that the river was swollen and that the dam was in danger (ummm pretty sure that dam had been in 'danger' for months/years).  He ordered a group of men to attempt to 'help' the weaken dam.  After hours of working, they realized their efforts were not helping and the inevitable (flooding) was going to happen.  They had a wire issued to the town of Johnstown that the dam was in danger of potentially breaking.  However, the wire didn't reach the town in time.

The pressure on the already weakened dam was too much and the dam broke.   2,200+ individuals died as a result of the flood.  Bodies continued to be found years later...

 Names of the victims.


The 3 above photos are from the museum showing damage from the flood.
Looking down on where the river had originally been dammed
Unger's House (he was the president of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club)
The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club House.

This area has a lot of history and a lot more to see in regards to the Johnstown Flood.  I purchased a couple of books from the museum so I could learn even more about this historical event (you know me...always ready to learn learn learn!).

After leaving Johnstown, PA, I hit the road to Buffalo, NY.  Good news is that I was still able to take some back roads!  Those back roads led to me finding the bridge that was used in the filming of The Mothman Prophecies.  If you haven't seen this film you should...Richard Gere is in the movie which is reason alone to watch it, am I right?!

I arrived in Buffalo, NY around 4p.  I headed over to my friends, Lindsey and Brian's house to enjoy time hanging out and eating pizza and wings.  They then introduced me to Tim Horton's.  Tim Horton's has all kinds of coffee drinks (I had a complete sugar overload on a pumpkin spice drink!) and donuts.  It is so good and I completely understand why the line will be wrapped around the building and into the streets in the mornings!  I met Lindsey a few years ago on a archaeological dig at James Madison's Montpelier.  We became fast friends and have been friends since that trip.  It was great getting to hang out with friends and many thanks to them for introducing me to Buffalo.

Has anyone visited the Johnstown Memorial Flood Memorial?  Thoughts about what/who caused the flood?  Stay tuned for Vacation Day 4 as I adventured to Niagara Falls  and one of the prettiest cemeteries I've ever explored.

Happy Travels,
Amber

Vacation Day 2: Pennsylvania

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The second day of vacation was met with cooler (may I dare say colder....I know I know crazy talk, right?) temperatures!  It was so great to wear a jacket and a scarf and to see the leaves changing!  FALL!!!!!!!!  Okay so technically Fall arrives on Friday but I'm pretending it's already here because it's my favorite season and well that's that. This wonderful, cooler, scarf wearing, fall feeling gift from God day started at Laurel Caverns.  Exploring underground, sign me up while I put on my head lamp.  Laurel Caverns is a sandstone cave located close to Farmington, PA.  I took the traditional guided tour that is an hour long and covers the parts of the cave which does not include any climbing.  The tour guide was very informative with information about the cave and answered all of my questions.  While I have explored caves before each cave is different and completely overwhelms me with its natural beauty.  As a side note but a very important note, Laurel Caverns closes every year for bat hibernation.  Many moons ago the bat population in this area was 25,000 but as of this past hibernation there were only 12 bats, yes you read that correctly 12.  A majority of the reason for this decline in the bat population is white nose fungus.  #savethebats

I feel that now is a good time to tell you that this post is a photo overload!  Enjoy!

 The breathtaking view from the entrance to Laurel Caverns.

 There are chandeliers that line the walk down into the cave & yes people get married in caves!
Anyone else see the women's face?  There were some ghost/haunting stories told during this tour and one was about a woman dressed in white that has been seen walking through the caves.




Next stop was to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.  However, taking back roads means that there'll be many stops before reaching the actual destination.  Between Laurel Caverns and Fallingwater is Frank Lloyd Wright's Kentuck Knob.  I first fell in love with Frank Lloyd Wright's designs after reading Loving Frank.  Yes, I know that Loving Frank is a historical fiction book but after reading (okay while reading) I did a lot of research and fell head over heels in love with the designs of FLW.  While I didn't have time to stay for the guided house tour of Kentuck Knob, there was a self-guided walking tour that was somewhat of a short hike to the house and I was able to explore the amazing grounds.
 Sculptures seen while on the walk to the house.
 An actual piece of the Berlin Wall

 Frank Lloyd Wright's Kentuck Knob is a Usonian design located on 89 acres.

After leaving Kentuck Knob, I headed to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.  Per their website, it was advised to purchase tickets in advance as tours tend to sell out.  My tour was scheduled for 2p.  I took the standard guided house tour (they offer several guided in-depth tours).  The house was built in the 1930s over a water fall (get it, Fallingwater).  FLW sketched the designed for this house in 3 hours!  This house is a dream and was actually a vacation/weekend home for a family who lived in Pittsburgh.  The original budget for the house was $30,000.  However, FLW went over budget so much so that the final cost of the house was $150,000(ish).  The house stayed in the family until the 1960s at which time the house was donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.


See, a dream house!

After this amazing tour, I began my short (or so I thought) journey to Johnstown, PA which was to be my final stop for the day.  Again, taking the back roads one never knows.  Between Mill Run, PA and Johnstown, PA, I had amazing views, including my very first covered bridge!

 King's Covered Bridge
 

While driving, I saw a sign for the Flight 93 Memorial.  It seemed to be on the way to Johnstown, PA so I decided to stop by what I thought was going to be a memorial not far from the highway.  After about a 20 mile detour, I arrived at the Flight 93 Memorial.  The memorial isn't a small memorial off the highway, it's a visitor center/museum, walk trails, crash site memorial wall all situation on 2,300 acres.


 Crash Site.



There is a great sense of reverence while walking through the visitor center/museum and the grounds.  The National Park Service has done a great job with the Flight 93 National Memorial.

As you can see Vacation Day 2 was a jam packed day full of sunrise to sunset adventures.  I was exhausted by the time I finally arrived at my hotel in Johnstown but already looking forward to what new adventures awaited me on Vacation Day 3.

Happy Travels,
Amber

Vacation Day 1: Weston, West Virginia

Sunday, September 17, 2017

It's finally HEEERRRREEEE!!!!  To say that I was excited...really come on, you know that I don't just get excited, I don't sleep for at least two days prior to vacation and I constantly talk about it and flip back and forth through the travel binder...to make a long story short I'm annoyingly excited!  When vacation day 1 arrived the car was packed and I was on the road before 6:30a.  I enjoy starting my day really early because I like to get every minute of enjoyment out of the day not to mention that it's just great to see the sunrise!  Traffic was a little hectic getting out of Columbia, Charlotte, North Carolina and Virginia due to individuals who had evacuated Florida due to Hurricane Irma.  My rental car had Florida tags so needless to say I received many waves from individuals from Florida.  I kinda of felt bad at first seeing as obviously I'm from South Carolina not Florida but then I just started giving a wave & a smile because let's face it we all just needed some encouragement and kindness to make it regardless of our current situation.

I decided on this trip to bring along a bag just for my brochures.  Probably one of my best Vacation2017 ideas, because going through 7 states in 8 days, I was bound to rack up on some awesome brochures.  I spend many hours researching places to visit so a brochure is a wealth of fast information about a particular site.  I did find that I love maps.  Do not get me wrong, I have Clara the II (my GPS) that travels with me but it was nice to actually look at the map and decide the route I was going to take instead of Clara the II telling me to stay on Interstate 77 for 6965856956 miles.  (Side note:  The naming of the GPS.  Of course it had to be named so my original GPS was named Clara after Clara Barton.  After several years with Clara, she passed away a few months ago which led to the purchase of a new GPS appropriately named Clara the II.)

Ok enough rambling on to the trip, charge! (It felt right, right?  Like Teddy Roosevelt Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace yelling "Charge" then racing up the steps...)  I made my way to Weston, West Virginia.  Weston was a very welcomed break from being in the car for hours on end.  Weston is a beautiful city/town and my first tour stop was to the Trans-Alleghany Lunatic Asylum.  To some touring an asylum may seem unusual but I dig (yep, I said dig) the unusual!  So let's begin the tour!  Construction of the asylum began in 1858.  The majority of the building was constructed with hand cut stone from the area.  The tour guide mentioned that this building is second to the Kremlin in regards to being the largest building constructed of hand cut stone.  The building is massive!  Many individuals, young and old, have lived at the asylum.  There are several day/night time tours that may be taken and yes you do have to sign a waver before taking any tour.  Due to time limits, I was only able to take the first floor tour but they offer a 4 floor tour, Cemetery & Farm Tour, The Criminally Insane Tour, Daytime Paranormal Tour, VIP Tour, Photography Tour, Ghost Hunts, Paranormal Tours, and Private Ghost Hunts.  I would have loved to have been at the asylum at night to take one of the ghost tours (we all know how much I love a ghost tour)!  So enough talking about it, here's the pictures!
 Trunks left behind by patients.



There would have been beds lining both sides of the room.



Before continuing on my drive (destination for night 1 was Uniontown, PA) was to visit Jackson's Mill.  Jackson's Mill was the boyhood home of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.  I adore Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson so of course I had to visit while I was in Weston.  Jackson's Mill is owned by West Virginia University and is now a 4H Camp.  Jackson and his sister Laura, after the deaths of their parents, lived here with an Uncle.  Upon arrival there were what seemed to be hundreds of boy scouts all over the grounds, I finally found the location of the information building.  However, due to the boy scouts event, I didn't stay long but did get to visit a couple of 'Jackson' places.



Needless to say, it was a great adventure day!  Stay tuned for vacation day 2 as I explored underground and visited a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright houses.

Happy Travels,
Amber





Labor Day Weekend

Monday, September 4, 2017

Give me a long weekend anytime, or should I say any weekend!  I decided sorta at the last minute to do an adventure day.  I knew that while I have some big upcoming adventures planned, I couldn't not go on an adventure when I had been given this gift of a 3 day weekend.  I decided to go hiking at Landsford Canal State Park.  You may recall a previous blog post, Landsford, South Carolina, where I visited Landsford but there was more to explore which meant a second trip to Chester/Catawba.  I really love this area!  Traveling US 21 is just beautiful.  While I understand the need for the interstate and travel it often, there is a lot to be said about taking the 'back roads' (I may have just turned that into a country song).  Had I taken the interstate, I would have missed out on an adorable chapel, a cemetery, a Mary Boykin Chesnut historical sign (I know, that alone is worth taking the back roads 24/7), and a Civil War headquarters site.  

While traveling US 21 towards Chester, South Carolina, I came upon Ruff Chapel in Ridgeway.



Ruff Chapel is a Methodist chapel built in the 1870s.  The chapel was built during the Reconstruction Era by David Ruff.  There were several graves in the chapel cemetery of individuals from the Ruff family including David Ruff.

As my journey continued down US 21, I came across Old Purity Cemetery.  This cemetery was started in 1787. 
The iconography on many of the headstones in this cemetery are amazingly detailed.



The stone wall was too cool!  Through some research, I found that the wall was added to the cemetery in 1817 but was enlarged in 1872 as the cemetery continued to the grow.  It is through that same research that I learned that Purity Presbyterian Church was originally located beside the cemetery.  However, the church relocated (& is still active) to Chester leaving this cemetery in its current location and the cemetery now named Old Purity Cemetery.
 The wall enclosing the cemetery.

My journey continued to Chester, SC.  I had previously visited Chester, but learned from my friend Jane from Not So Plain Jane Blog, that while there on a work trip, she had come across a historical sign regarding Mary Boykin Chesnut.  I completely understand that I talk about Mary Boykin Chesnut ALL. THE. TIME.  If I had lived in the Age of MBC (that's an actual historical time period, correct?) I know that she and I would have been bff's 4 life (the kids are still saying that, yes?  no....geez I'm old).  Well, I knew  I had to (of course I had to!) have my picture taken with the sign and stand in another place that my girl Mary Boykin Chesnut had stood.

This is totally normal...

Landsford Canal State Park is a dream of a park.  A 50/50 mix of nature and history.  When I had previously visited this state park, I walked the nature trail, which was 1 of the 3 different trails offered.  The Canal trail takes along the ruins of the original canal and mill site that was used in the 1800s. It is 3 miles (round trip) and is a fairly easy walk/hike.
 The Catawba River.

 Meet red frog.

An impressive amount of Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies.  Their bloom time is estimated May/June.




I will more times than not stop for a historical marker.  I can say that I have yet to be disappointed when I've stopped for historical markers.  I mean it's just like the commercials I saw when I was a kiddo, "the more you learn, the more you know."
 If you're interested (why am I even asking, of course you're interested), in reading more about Sherman's March through the Carolinas you MUST (not yelling, promise) read Carnival of Destruction by Tom Elmore.  This book is everything!
That super cute building in the background is now Ridgeway's Town Hall.

What were everyone's Labor Day Weekend plans?  Any fun adventure days or road trip planned?

Happy Travels,
Amber