Saturday, September 17, 2011

2011 Reunion/Phase 6 - Headed Home

Well, I did discover my error in advance - looking for the particular bedroom we'd be occupying on the return trip. It turns out I had booked us for a FAMILY bedroom (for two adults and two children) not the SUPERLINER bedroom with private bath (perhaps it had been sold out, I don't remember). Anyway, I was dreading the lower level room at the end of the hallway with shared toilet and shower.

It turns out, there's a WHOLE LOT OF ROOM down there and a lot of privacy. Since the room is at the end of the coach, we had windows looking out both sides of the train.
It really was a VERY comfortable room. Don also liked going down to the vestibule, the spot where passengers are let on and off the the train, to stand looking out the side doors at the passing countryside. But now we will have to take another train trip to enjoy the upper bedroom experience.

We again enjoyed the sunset over the New Mexico cliffs with white clouds and some lightning in the distance. We have such a great variety of scenery in this country it is well worth taking the time to experience it. There was a Mennonite couple on the train with us (distinctive appearance we recognized from Pennsylvania Dutch areas, not Amish, she wore a beautifully tailored teal dress). I have no idea what they will be doing in San Diego. I am curious.

This time the conductor emphasized that it was o.k. to get off at Fullerton and catch an earlier train to San Diego. So we did not have to stay on into downtown L.A. and Union Station. IT WORKS! We avoided the two-plus hour wait in Los Angeles and found ourselves at home much earlier than expected. Our checked luggage did not make the transition, so Don went back to the the San Diego depot later to retrieve it (bigger bag plus NEW duffel for our new shoes and dirty laundry).

No more trips currently planned. Maybe a last-minute offer we can't resist will present itself. Right now it's nice to be home and Sheba has been glued to me since our return.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2011 Reunion/phase 5 (cont'd)


Don was looking forward to learning about steelmaking at the Museum of Labor and Science in Youngstown but was disappointed that they were closed on Tuesdays. So we went back to bicycling mode on the GPS and enjoyed more midwestern scenery - farmland (more corn and soybeans plus some alfalfa) and old brick-building towns. There are a lot of huge modern homes on the outskirts and quite a few with for sale signs.

We found ourselves in Bluffton for night and that is a going town. Don said it reminded him of a college town and then we saw the University. Yep, he's right again. Ruth developed a great need to visit the Dollar Store after a regrettable Mexican dinner. It was still 81 degrees outside at 8:30 PM. Don spent most of the time outside talking with one of the older clerks named Yvonne. He now knows where her husband Bill works, how many kids, grand kids and where her second job is (she runs the elementary school food program in Findlay, the next city over).


Our last full day of driving. We stopped at Amish Acres to use the rest room and Don found a new best friend (Herb) who has been full-time RVing since 1998. He sold his house in Oregon, and recently decided his 38-ft RV needed painting. He had a quote for $23,000 in Portland, but someone at the Salton Sea, where they stayed last spring, said he'd do it for less. So, on their way to Maine to see their daughter, they are getting the rig painted here in Indiana. I do not know how many grandchildren they have.

We spent the night in a Microtel in Michigan City and wanted to drive north to see Lake Michigan. We didn't make any turns and suddenly realized we were headed south away from where we wanted to be. So we backtracked and tried again. We ended up at an inlet and were commenting on the rusty bridge that looked unused. Then a shrill siren (yow, wouldn't want to spend the night in the motel here). Then the bridge smoothly and silently rotated to allow a train to cross the river. It's a different world here.

Thursday, a.m.

Time to head back to Chicago (42 miles from Michigan City). Should be able to make it by noon. And we did, even avoiding the interstates and toll roads (but not the toll bridge $3.50). Don enjoyed going through all the industrial areas and we were impressed with all the brick homes that had been abandoned and cities looking pretty sad.

We are currently in the Metro Lab waiting for our call to the train.

Time to go.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2011 Reunion/Phase 5 - York to Chicago

Sunday -

We had a leisurely morning (checkout noon) so we did one more load of wash to get us through the trip back (complementary for hotel guests - yeah).

We drove through Gettysburg on Highway 30, the Lincoln Highway, that we took through Ohio but missed coming in (Turnpike is much faster but $15.50 to get through the state toward York). We set the GPS for bicycle to go through the more historic and picturesque towns and areas and avoid the freeways that are all the same.

We stopped in Hanover for lunch and on our walk around town discovered a Clarks shoe store having its semiannual shoe sale with lots of people emerging with smiles and boxes of shoes. Can't miss that one. We each found two pairs of shoes and Don found a huge box we can check on the train (just need some packing tape to seal it). Too big for the trunk so it's taking up the entire back seat of the car.

Onward to Chambersburg for night.

Monday, September 12

Onward on the Lincoln Highway to Pittsburgh through more old towns and farmland. I wasn't sure where Shanksville was in relation to us and couldn't find it on the map but we soon started to see signs for the memorial. Apparently we both missed the entrance so we went on to the town (small and really cute) and found Ida's Store for a cheeseburger (Monday Special) for lunch which we took to the park to eat. On the way out of town we saw more Memorial Signs so headed back. The entrance was obvious to those coming from the Turnpike (not marked from the way we came).

We got into line and proceeded quite a distance to the actual site. Very impressive. They were in the process of clearing away the remnants of the previous day's ceremonies (between 3-6,000 people). A private ceremony had ended, just before they let us enter at 2:00 pm. That morning relatives of the victims had a private burial for their relatives at the site.

There were 40 people on the plane and it looks like about a half-hour of knowing what was happening by takeover by the terrorists then a 6-minute struggle before the plane actually went into the ground (45 degree angle, upside down at 563 mph). It made a crater 15 feet deep before the 7,000 gallons of fuel exploded sending it down 40 feet. The field had been owned by a mining company that had finished with it and ready for reclaiming. The hemlock groves around the site were owned by three families and are now part of the monument. The final site is a huge rock with flags on it. The walkway has a wood gate allowing you to look down toward the site. The brochure shows more monuments and displays coming. Very sobering.

Onward to Pittsburgh. Luckily it was Monday and the art galleries are closed (always takes us too long to get through). We decided on the Duquesne Incline for our "visit" to the Iron City. What a great time of day and lighting to see the view of river, buildings, and bridges. The carriages are refurbished from the 1800s and seniors are free.

Onward to Youngstown, Ohio.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011 Reunion/Phase 4 - York, PA

York and the Long-Lost Relatives

The Yorktowne Hotel (another official historic hotel) is very nice and located right downtown. Our room is on the 8th (top) floor and has a view of rooftops and a church steeple. There were supposed to be about 30 of us but a few didn't make it due to flooding problems. We had appetizers and then several of us walked to a local sports restaurant where we had a corn chowder and a Philly cheese steak sandwich (we're close to Philadelphia).

Friday the bus was ready for us at 8:00 a.m. We were busy trying to wake up, so missed breakfast. But it was a beautiful day for touring Gettysburg with our own guide. It's an amazing place - they're clearing areas and working to make it appear more like it had been in 1863. After a quick lunch we saw the movie and then went in to see the Cyclorama - one year to paint and five years to restore.
What was most amazing was the extent of the attached museum - it was a maze of rooms with so much history. I think we'll need to go back and spend more time just with that.

Then to the David Wills house where Lincoln stayed before giving his famous address. We saw the room he'd been in and the bed where he'd slept. It's a small house (by today's standards). The house next door still has an unexploded cannonball embedded in a brick below a window.

It was still too flooded to get to a couple of gravesites of ancestors but we did drive past a home once occupied by Weyrich Rudisill. Then on to dinner at a local winery (Naylor) for a winetasting and German dinner plus entertainment by a local German band complete with Fluglehorns and singer. I didn't see the glockenspiel they were supposed to have. But it was lively and the sound reverberated around the large metal roofed building.

Then back to the Yorktowne to rest up for the next day.


We were up early to not miss breakfast and the service was so slow we had to point to the bus outside the window to get their attention. Then everyone came running with our stuff (oatmeal and fruit plate which we couldn't finish). But we made it to the bus on time.

We did visit the gravesite of the Philip Rudisill family - tombstones dating between 1620 and 1650. Several of the family had taken a course in gravesite preservation so the marble tombstones were encased in glass and several layers of newspaper had been laid under more earth to keep the weeds down. They had also fenced in the area as further protection.

We drove through Amish country and saw the horse-drawn carriages and people dressed in typical garb. There were electrical wires everywhere but not all houses had connections. We stopped at a huge Flower and Craft Warehouse then to lunch at the Shady Maple Smorgasbord that had a huge gift shop downstairs. Then a bus ride to Strasbourg Rail Road for a steam locomotive ride in restored cars to Paradise. Then to dinner (another delicious smorgasbord!). We all rolled back to the bus for another beautiful ride through farm country to the hotel and goodbyes.

We didn't have name tags so we'll probably forget who's who and who goes with whom. Hopefully we'll communicate by internet between now and the next one (maybe Williamsburg in two years).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

2011 Rudisill Phase 3/to York

Tuesday, September 6

Time to move along, except we haven't yet done the Loop Tour on the El (elevated railway). So after breakfast at the Lockwood Restaurant (very elegant) and packing our bags, we figure one quick trip shouldn't take too long, So, half a block to the steps up, several minutes to figure out the ticket machines, get our tickets, pick the pink route (54th & Clermont - don't want to end up at the airport), board the next train and settle in. Still magnificent scenery and architecture. At one point a bunch of students board and exit a few stops later, we continue on. Luckily we strike up a conversation with a younger man (in his 50's) and he clues us in that at the end of the line there's a delay while they clean the cars, etc. So we get off with him and he gets us on the next car back. We get back to the hotel and check out with 10 minutes to spare. Whew!

The rental car is delivered to the hotel and we enjoy the conversation with the driver. He'd been in San Diego for training with the Marines and had ended up with Embassy duty in London and Prague. Now he works for Enterprise.

We left Chicago via Michigan Avenue for quite a ways before entering the freeway. It's certainly not the architecture of Southern California. Old housing here is really old. So on to farmland.

Looks like a great year for the corn and soybean farmers. We saw just the beginnings of the corn harvesting. We have also visited two libraries and are impressed with the amount of space available for books and activities. Columbia City's library (used their wireless service to book a motel) also has two auditoriums and four meeting rooms downstairs overlooking a small lake with this evening's offerings a ladies tai chi class and a men's barbershop quartet rehearsal.

Wednesday, September 7

We made it to East Liverpool, Ohio, named by a bunch of folks who were homesick for their home town (we surmise). It is next to the Ohio River and was a big center for earthenware pottery beginning in 1840. Cute tight small town with four- and five-story buildings, now most upper stories are vacant. Their antique mall is huge and we only had 45 minutes to browse four floors. Lots of Fiesta Ware and other pottery choices. Had dinner at Zappa's – the Wednesday special was chicken wings for 35 cents each. We had one batch of sesame ginger and another of Bleu Buffalo. Pretty good. We plan to visit the Ceramic museum in A.M.

Thursday, September 8

The Ceramic Museum of course took longer than expected ( so we had to scurry along to the Turnpike to get across the state by 5:00 p.m. We actually arrived in York and our hotel by 4:00. it looks like an old, old town.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011 Rudisill Reunion/Phase 2


Arrival and walk with our luggage to our hotel, the famous Palmer House on East Monroe. Its heydey was in the 1920's and it has now been refurbished to even greater splendor. This is the lobby - our room was nice but not quite this spectacular.

Sunday: Don's number one thing to do in Chicago was the Architectural river boat tour. We walked to the river, found some breakfast, met with our friend Wynne and her sister Melanie. It lasted 1 ½ hours and the volunteer tour guide from the architectural foundation, almost did not stop talking. He knew when the buildings we

re built, the architects, the styles, and all the owners. Our necks became sore from swinging up, sideways and up again. Even before we left the dock, he was explaining how the water supply of Chicago was saved by reversing the flow of the dirty Chicago river that flowed into Lake Michigan. What they did was create a 26-mile long canal that connects to the Missouri River. This happened over 100 years ago and took 10 years to build. All before earthmovers and bulldozers - only horses, mules and hand labor were available.

Wynne and Melanie afterwards gave us another tour of the Lakeshore Drive, the north end of Chicago, gave us a great dinner and dropped us off back at our hotel about 8 o'clock. A most enjoyable day with wonderful company and weather.

Monday (Labor Day)

Up for a quick walk to breakfast, checking out the hours of the Art Institute (open 10:30 am), too early, so a quick walk through Millenium Park and around the (huge) block. Then to the Art Institute for a brief visit. Five and a half hours later we finally made it out. There is so much good stuff to see and a lot of acreage to cover. Highlights: Impressionists, of course with MANY Manets, and Monets, and several Mary Cassatts; Grant Wood's American Gothic, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, Marc Chagall's America Windows, etc. I especially enjoy the Miniature Rooms plus the decorative arts (furniture, glassware, ceramics, etc.) and Don enjoyed the Russian War posters exhibit.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

2011 Rudisill Reunion/Phase 1

San Diego to Chicago/Amtrak Wednesday, August 31

Days 1-3: San Diego-Los Angeles-Chicago

Norm dropped us off at the Santa Fe Depot by 9:00 a.m., we swished our bar-coded reservation printout at the kiosk, took our printed tickets and not-needed-yet bag to baggage check, boarded the Surfliner and settled in for the familiar ride to Los Angeles.

We had plenty of time until our next departure so we checked our three remaining small bags of current luggage, walked across to Olvera Street, had lunch, checked out the shopping opportunities, walked a bit, returned, boarded our train, and the bags weren't there as promised, Don went back for the bags (news to them that we were told they would be delivered to our sleeper car), still had time and settled in to our new routine. Sit, eat, sit, sleep, sit, eat, sit, sit, sit, etc. But with the sleeper car, coffee, juice, bottled water are available, meals are included and someone else makes the bed twice a day. PLUS, the train was sold out and the coach seats were packed.

Our sleeper car was tacked onto a train route ending in San Antonio to be attached to a different engine so we were the last car in line - we had plenty of exercise going through five coach cars and a lounge to get to each meal. The coach seats were packed with people of all sizes and it looked mighty uncomfortable, although those seats had extra leg supports that pulled out. Another nice feature of being that far back – the required train whistles are somewhat muted.

It was an overnight in San Antonio and we were late arriving (1:00 am instead of 11:00 pm) but Don was out in his pajamas watching the cars get switched. The route from San Antonio on has some rough spots with a lot of rocking and rolling, so we did burn through some more calories getting to and from our meals. The terrain through Texas is pretty dry (drought conditions). We passed through St. Louis at breakfast and saw the arch for the first time. Going through farm country, there were miles and miles of corn fields and (we think) soy fields.

We were three hours late in arriving in Chicago, reasons including the hot weather (trains can travel no faster than 50 mph when outside temperatures go over 100F), heavy freight traffic and holiday weekend travel to Chicago for a popular Cubs game and free jazz festival plus perfect expected weather. It had rained before our arrival but we were able to handily walk to our hotel, the Palmer House, right downtown Chicago.