Breezewood, Pennsylvania – August 2019 – Abandoned Turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike was America’s first ‘superhighway’. Built primarily along a disused railroad right of way in the 1930s, it set the standard for all interstates to come after.

When first built it passed through 7 tunnels as you make your way through the Appalachian Mountains. Originally the 4 lane highway narrowed to 2 lanes for each of these tunnels, but they always caused traffic jams, so in the 1960s they added a second tunnel to have a continuous 4 lanes across the state.

During this expansion there were 3 tunnels that were bypassed by building the highway up over the mountains. Two of these are in a 13 mile stretch that was completely abandoned. About 20 years ago the Turnpike Commission deeded them over to the Southern Allegheny Conservancy, and it now serves as one of the more unique bike trails in the country.







After a 2 mile hike we reached the first tunnel…


At 2500′ long it was one of the shortest on the turnpike…



You likely can make it through without a lantern but we went about 1/2 way in and decided to head back…

The second tunnel further on up is the Sideling Hill Tunnel, which was the longest on the turnpike at almost 6800′ long. Clearly we need to come back with bikes and really bright lanterns.





Instead we enjoyed the graffiti display…







And headed back the 2 miles to the car. It is a really interesting experience walking along this old road, knowing how many million cars, trucks and people had traveled along this same route.





Southeastern Ohio – April 2019 – Interesting and Unusual Sights Part 1

A long spring Sunday was spent wandering throughout Southeastern Ohio. For those not familiar, this area of the state is the beginning of Appalachia – both the good point and bad points.

Part 1 of the posting is showing the interesting sights of the area. Part 2 (in a second post) shows some of the hardships endured.

The day started out passing through the small town of Somerset, home of the Civil War general Phillip Sheridan. His statue graces the middle of the traffic circle in the center of town.





Just south of Somerset we passed by a large collection of ‘Ghost Bikes’. These bikes are normally placed where a bicyclist was killed in accidents. I am not sure if this person is paying tribute, or makes the bikes.





Southeastern Ohio is made up of small towns that all have seen better days. They were mostly coal towns or clay/brick towns. Murray City has restored their small train depot and even has a small engine and caboose.



While inside they have the items used to run the depot. Apparently nobody has used the calculator in a long time as it was covered in cobwebs.





Nearby Glouster has restored their depot as well.




Glouster also has a number of public art installations including a large, nicely done mural showing the history of the town.




They also have a number of reproductions of famous pieces of art on the side of the building in the center of town.





Nearby Nelsonville is a center for tourism for the area, as they have a very popular scenic railroad. In addition the town square has been restored, including this great building – the Stuart Opera House.

Nelsonville has a music festival that brings ‘nationally known’ artists, as well as many regional artists. The Stuart also hosts many concerts.




This stylish house on the edge of the town square is made of some locally made bricks, with the interesting coloring.




Nelsonville was a brick town, as noted by this great building and the brick street.




One of the manufacturers was the Star Brick company, with their distinctive stars embossed in each brick.





With the natural beauty of the hills and valleys, it has become a tourist mecca with nearby Hocking Hills being the center.

As with many parts of the country they have converted old railways to trails. This trail goes through the King Hollow Tunnel. This tunnel is unique in that is was (and still is) wood frame, as opposed to stone or concrete. It was recently restored and stabilized but still done with wood.





Nearby Lake Hope State Park has a historic Iron Furnace.





The highlight of this area is the famed Moonville Tunnel. The guide at the visitor center told us to take a road until we reached the stream and walk across the bridge. Clearly this is not the bridge to cross.




We eventually found the correct one, and headed for the tunnel. The Moonville Tunnel is infamous for being haunted, with numerous different stories about ghosts.





All we found were graffiti from previous ghosts (or tacky people).





It has rained a lot recently and the side of the trail through the tunnel had a light layer of water which coupled with the stunning amount of graffiti gave it an interesting look.

Part 2 of this day is highlighted in a second post.






Pittsburgh – October 2018 – More Architecture

Having spent the weekend in the city for Doors Open Pittsburgh, we had additional time to check out the sights that weren’t officially part of the tour.

 

The Armstrong Tunnel. Built in 1927, there are longer tunnels in Pittsburgh, but none have a curve in them like the Armstrong.

There is great debate as to why the tunnels have a curve.

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South Side Slopes – An old church, an old bridge and new condo’s.

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The Warner – it was once a theater, then a food court, now a welfare office. But the sign is cool, with one of the newer skyscrapers as a backdrop.

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The famed Kaufmann’s clock – the store has been closed for some time now, but appears to be getting new life soon.

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Some classic cornices.

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A streetlight, the US Steel (aka UPMC) building with interesting lighting after a thunderstorm.

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Even the smaller old buildings on Liberty Avenue have excellent detail up high.

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From Mt Washington the view of the Cathedral of Learning at Pitt looks quite small. In reality it is 500′ high, but partially hidden behind the hill.

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Another vintage downtown building.

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Not to be outdone by Kaufmann’s, Gimbels had a cool clock too.

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Heinz Field just after a University of Pittsburgh game ended.

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Carnegie Science Center on the north side with one of the subway trains in the background.

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A view from Mt Washington through downtown buildings up the Allegheny River.

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It has been almost 40 years since Station Square restored the old rail station and yards and it is still going strong.

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Sun setting on the Mon.

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Replica Christopher Columbus ships have been making their way up the Ohio River all summer, and are now in Pittsburgh – as this panorama shows the Nina and Pinta.

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Four Gateway Center.

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Gateway Center with a purple fountain. (must have been Raven’s fans sneaking the water coloring in).

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The 1764 Ft Pitt Blockhouse, the 1960 Ft Pitt Bridge and Mount Washington in the background.

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A major rowing competition was occurring on this early Sunday morning as the first of the boat tailgaters were arriving for a Steelers game.

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An amazing wildlife photo from the Allegeheny River.

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The Point Fountain from a different perspective with the apartments on Mt Washington in the background.

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The very cool Duquesne Incline.

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Along the Mon Wharf.

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The Gateway Clipper crews getting ready for that Steelers crowd.

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Pittsburgh is the city of bridges.

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Finally a shot of PPG Place with one of the more architecturally interesting parking garages.

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Eastern Kentucky – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 10

We ate breakfast at the hotel opting for oatmeal and fresh fruit rather than the ham and cheesy scrambled eggs. The fatty food probably accounts for the area of Hazard and Perry Counties having one of the worst life expectancy rates in America. Kentucky ranks in 45 out of 50 states and the town of Hazard is even worse than the Kentucky average.

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The morning air was a cold temperature of 26o F. as we left Hazard. The hillside and trees were covered with kudzu as well as a school bus on our drive to Breathitt County.

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As we made our way north we ran into smoky air from wildfires in the area. The smoke was thick enough that we can smell it in the car with the windows closed as we moved along state route 15N through the hills.

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Layers of exposed rock sheered on both sides of the highway rise at least 100 feet. Rock is why we are here; to see Natural Bridge State Park. The park was founded as a private tourist attraction in 1895. It is still cold at 23 degrees as we began our hike on the original trail to see the natural bridge, but with the steep ascent up uneven steps we didn’t notice, and we followed the path up hill to reach the bridge.

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The trail ends under the bridge but a narrow passage called Fat Man’s Squeeze and some stairs lead to the top of the natural bridge. The view from on top of the natural bridge was marvelous. It looked as if their was a laser beam of light shooting outward into the air from the cliff in front of us over the valley of autumn colored trees. I believe it was a layer of thin fog hovering in air; in any case, it looked really awesome.

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We climbed down onto the same trail, and back through the Fat Man’s Squeeze again.

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Leaving the Natural Bridge Park, we headed north on Kentucky Highway 77, reaching Nada Tunnel,  a 900-foot long tunnel that was formerly a railway tunnel.

Since the tunnel is a single lane you must honked first before entering to alert anyone on the opposite end. The tunnel was originally 12 feet in height but when the first train load of logs became stuck and had to be blasted free, the tunnel’s height was increased to 13 feet.

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After passing through Morehead we made our way to the town of Olive Hill to see Carter’s Caves. Unfortunately we arrived at a time that the next tour was hours away. Deciding not to wait, we went for a brief walk on the trail that allowed us to explore the cave park area on our own. The half-mile loop trail from the visitor center led us into a great open cave.

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The cave had a small round opening at its roof, jagged walls of stone with niches and a small stream that flowed among the layers rocky floor surface. We finished our walk and promised to visit again but for now we headed home to end our latest advenutre.

Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky Mountains – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 9

It was a very winding road from Boone, North Carolina passing through Mountain City on the way. Mountain City had numerous Christmas tree farms preparing the trees for delivery to the holiday sale lots. The two lane road curved through the hills with gorgeous views of trees in autumn colors and valleys with low lying fog.

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Our travel continued to the South Holston Dam, an earth-and-rock filled dam 285 feet high reaching 1,600 feet across the South Fork Holston River in Bristol, Tennessee. Construction of South Holston Dam began in 1942 and was completed in 1950 by the TVA to serve as a hydroelectric facility.  We drove across the top of the dam to reach the visitor center which had a lot of information for us to learn about the history of the TVA and the South Holston Dam.  The height of the dam also offered a beautiful scene of the sun shone through the trees with the fog settled over the river and giving a misty look of the colorful hills.

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A short drive from the dam is Osceola Island and Weir Dam Recreation Area. The weir dam (a dam designed to pool water behind it while also allowing water to flow over) helps control the water along a river, allowing engineers to measure the amount of water moving along the river, and also helps oxygenate the water.  It also makes for a pretty sight.

On an average day water gently tumbles over the ends but this isn’t always the case. The nearby South Holston Dam releases water from time to time as part of their hydroelectric operations. When this happens, three things happen: a loud siren plays a sound that echoes for miles down the river, bright yellow lights begin to flash on a sign cautioning visitors about the sudden increase in flood waters, and the water starts to rage across the top of the weir dam.

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The weir dam was built by the TVA for the purpose to revitalize the river by adding oxygen to the water to promote a healthy environment for fish, insects, and the river. The weir dam had rows of concrete horizontal barriers across the width of the river with interlocking wooden timber walls. The water that flows over the top of the weir falls over its side and acts like a natural waterfall creating oxygen that is added to the river.

The weir is an interesting sight that also attracts fishermen.Men were fishing from the footbridge and within the river. The fly fishermen stood thigh high in the river casting their lines in a rhythmic wave even though it was only 29o F. A short walk across the rusty metal footbridge is Osceola Island with additional walking trails but we crossed the bridge to the island only for new photo angles of the weir dam.

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Afterwards we drove into the town of Bristol, Tennessee, or perhaps Bristol, Virginia since the state border between Virginia and Tennessee divides the town. A sign straddles State Street so that south of the street sign is the state of Tennessee and property north of the street sign is Virginia. Flags of each state hung on their respective sides of the street. Having recently seen the Geico commercial we tried to spot the painted marker on State Street, but did not find it.

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Then off we raced to Bristol Motor Speedway to see an old NASCAR racetrack that was built in 1960. The structure looks like a football stadium from the outside but has a capacity to hold 162,000 spectators. Bristol Motor Speedway is the fourth largest sports venue in America and the eighth largest in the world.

Finding the stadium open we walked into the bleachers amazed at the size of this immense stadium.  The concrete oval short track was set below in the center of the stadium. It must be deafening to be here for a race with the noise of the crowd on metal bleachers and the thundering roar of the car engines within these enclosed walls.

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The Natural Tunnel in Duffield, Virginia was next on our list to see. A trail at the visitor center led us downhill to the creek and train tracks. Natural Tunnel State Park is a Virginia state park, centered on the Natural Tunnel, a massive naturally formed cave that is so large it is used as a railroad tunnel through the Appalachian Mountains.

It is the first tunnel that I have seen that was not man-made and bricked. The Natural tunnel, which is up to 200 feet wide and 80 feet high, began to form from a small river, now called Stock Creek that was diverted underground and continued to erode the tunnel over millions of years continuing to this day. Time will eventually wear away the rock ceiling until it falls and forms a gap between the hills of the mountain.

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Local folklore of the area tells of a Cherokee maiden and a Shawnee brave who had been forbidden to marry by their respective tribes, jumped to their deaths from the highest pinnacle above the Natural Tunnel. The place is now known as Lover’s Leap after the couple sneaked away at night to climb the peak waiting until morning to jump from the cliff so that they could be together in the afterlife.

This seems to be a popular tale because we have heard this story before with multiple peaks known as Lover’s Leap. We hiked to the pinnacle of Lover’s Leap overlooking the park. Looking down over the edge at Lover’s Leap from this point most definitely certified death should anyone jumped from this cliff.

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After we hiked back, we went to McDonald’s for our usual order of chicken sandwiches with sweet tea before continuing on to the town of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, the southeastern end of the famous passage of Cumberland Gap that led west. The Cumberland Gap is a National Historical Park located in Middlesboro, Kentucky at the border of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Cumberland Gap is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains.

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We started our adventure of this park by driving a four-mile road to Pinnacle Overlook, an elevation of 2,440 ft. This overlook provided a great view of the tri-state park and the Cumberland Gap. The Cumberland Gap was a trail used by elk and bison to the salt springs. Native tribes marked the trail before Dr. Thomas Walker who worked for the Loyal Land Surveyors documented the route through the gap in 1750.

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The Appalachian Mountains made it difficult to move westward but the Cumberland Gap allowed westward passage beginning in the 1770’s. Daniel Boone who was born near Reading, Pennsylvania made his first passage through the gap in 1769. Boone with thirty men was commissioned to mark out the Wilderness Trail from the Holston River in Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. The significance of the Cumberland Gap was dubbed as the “Gibraltar of America” by Ulysses S. Grant.

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The Object Lessen Road was a path that brought attention to the importance of a road through the Cumberland Gap to people in the 1920’s. We hiked the Object Lessen Trail until we reached the intersection of Cumberland Gap and the Wilderness Trail. A large boulder at the crossing of these trails had a bronze plaque mounted on the face of the rock dedicated to Daniel Boone. Since the sun was beginning to set we left the park and traveled through the mountains to reach our hotel in Hazard, Kentucky.

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Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel & Jamestown, Virginia – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 5

Today is Election Day, but we had already voted, so we had the entire day to enjoy the scenery. As usual we were out and at it by dawn, stopping first at Kiptopeke State Park, a park at the very southern tip of the eastern peninsula of Virginia. The park offered a unique recreational area with a series of old ships serving as a reef to the Chesapeake Bay as well as an opportunity to see part of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel from the park.

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The Chesapeake Bay area is the largest estuary in North America and third largest in the world. An estuary is a body of water where fresh and salt water mix. This estuary is approximately 200 miles long and 30 miles wide. Fisherman Island is the southernmost island on the chain of barrier islands located at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay where we began our crossing; the island is located within the Eastern Shore of the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.

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From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, we entered the Chesapeake Channel Tunnel which connects Island 4 to Island 3 beneath the bay. We popped up onto the Bay Bridge again and then followed into the South Thimble Channel Tunnel that connects Island 2 to Island 1. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge System consists of three bridges, two tunnels and four manmade islands spanning a distance of 17.6 miles from shore to shore at a cost of $25 as toll. Each tunnel is one mile long.

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Island 1 also known as Sea Gull Island is the southernmost location of the Bridge-Tunnel’s four manmade islands, 3-1/2 miles from Virginia Beach. The fishing pier on the island is 625 feet long and was busy with fishermen that had multiple lines cast.

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This island provided a place for us to stretch and to look back at the bridge and tunnel exits that we crossed. The island also had a cafe and gift shop that we visited.

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From Virginia Beach, we passed by Norfolk, an area rich in military naval influence, to cross another bridge and tunnel onto I-64 and onto Hampton, Virginia. We continued through the area of Newport News and into Williamsburg, Virginia to see the Jamestown Settlement.

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The Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia. It includes a re-creation of the original James Fort of 1607 to 1614, a Powhatan Indian Village, indoor and outdoor displays, and replicas of the original settler’s ships the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and the Discovery.

The Powhatan native village demonstrated real life with instructors dressed in 17th century garb. A woman was working with leather making satchels with leather fringe. She crafted her bag with a handmade tool made of an antler or bone which she sharpened often. Deer hides hung between wooden sticks to facilitate the scraping of fur from the hide.

The village had native homes made into a wooden reed shaped modules. Bent limbs formed the concave skeleton of the structure covered in a woven mat surface. Inside a home were hides and personal items that the native tribe may have used. A vent was open on the roof to allow smoke from the fire inside to escape with a covering to close the vent when not needed. The village had free-range chickens and smoldering pits too.

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Our path led us to the replicas of the ships that brought the English settlers to the new world. We boarded the Susan Constant and the Discovery but the Godspeed was not docked for us to see. The largest ship, Susan Constant used five miles of rope to work the sails and maneuver the ship. The ship held cannons and weaponry of cannonballs and chain ball. We stepped down to the lower level of the ship to see cots on the floors and cots hung off the walls. The ship would have been tight quarters for the travelers.

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Further up the trail is a replica of the English fort, complete with the homes for the soldiers and the governor’s house.  Many of the homes as well as the church were made of stucco with thatched roofs. The governor’s house, however, was made of brick. Next to the church was an armory with muskets, pikes, swords, helmets, and shields, where the men in the armory were stoking a fire and pounding metal into weapons.

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Just down the road is Historic Jamestown, a cultural heritage site that was the actual location of the 1607 James Fort and later the 17th century city of Jamestown. It is located on Jamestown Island where evidence of the settlement existed.

Maintained by the National Park Service, we entered the grounds and made our way to the obelisk, a monument in tribute to the birthplace of the Commonwealth of Virginia and commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

There a guide was dressed as John Rolfe, husband of Pocahontas. In character he gave an account of the life and history of the settlers as if they just arrived in 1614. His wardrobe of hand-sewn baggy pants with metal buttoned vest and white shirt was cloaked in a dark colored cape and a large brimmed hat with a feather. He sported a sword and scabbard and tall leather boots.

The guide talked about his life as John Rolfe, who was bound for Virginia in May 1609 with 500 new settlers.  In July, a massive hurricane scattered the fleet, and ran aground just off the Bermudas. Rolfe’s wife and daughter died on the island but from salvage he made a smaller ship that took him to the Chesapeake Bay later. At the colony, the colonists at the settlement had tried many ventures with no financial success to return profits to their sponsor, the Virginia Company.

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Eventually most of the settlers died of starvation or battles with the natives.  It was only after the arrival of the new governor, Lord De la Warr, and his supply ships that helped the colonists endure.

An assembly convened there on July 30, 1619. Construction on the current church tower began in 1639 taking 4 years to complete. The rest of the original church was destroyed after abandonment in 1750; artifacts such as nails from coffins, armor, pottery, tools, tobacco pipes, and jewelry were found at the site.

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We had a quick lunch of sandwiches at the Dale House Cafe on the grounds at Colonial National Historical Park before going into the archeology museum called Archaerium. Upon entering the building, foundation bricks of the original assembly house were seen through the glass floor tile of the lobby. Many of the 4000 artifacts dug at the James Fort site were displayed behind glass.  Indian-made clay pipes, pots, shell beads, arrow points, and bone and stone tools have been found and now exhibited. There were also colonial wine bottles, tools, bricks, skulls, glass, nails, and pottery.

The results of forensic research on the skeletal remains of a teen girl found among animal bones and food remains show evidence of the early settlers suspected of cannibalism during the starving year of 1609.  Facial reconstructions of some of the settlers themselves were displayed.

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We also learned about how these artifacts were found. A three-dimensional representation of a 1620s well showed armor and dozens of tools and household objects suspended within it the way they were archaeologically recovered from the brick-lined shaft. A partial reconstruction of a mud and stud building inside the museum shown early Jamestown’s architecture. The archaeology team was busy digging on site as we were leaving.

At the edge of the National Park are ruins of the colonial glasshouse. Bricks and stones left from the original kiln were protected behind a glass wall. A glassblower demonstrated the art of glass making selling his craft lined on shelves surrounding the newer glasshouse. Glass has been made for centuries from a mixture of sand, soda ash (burnt marsh plants), pot ash, lime, and oyster shells.

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The ferry named Pocahontas carried our car and us across the James River from Jamestown to Scotland, Virginia. The ferry service is an extension of Route 31. We drove through Norfolk, Virginia to see the city before going to the Best Western hotel.

Captain Groovy Seafood Restaurant provided a dinner of shrimp and a sandwich for us. Later we packed ourselves in for the night to watch the results as our country moved to make the movie Idiocracy from fiction to a documentary.

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Montreal – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 15

As usual we were up and out of the hotel early, first touring the now very quiet Quebec City in the car. I always enjoy checking out cities early on weekend mornings, with few people around, it is the perfect time for photography – no traffic, lots of street parking, and few people to get in the pictures.

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Even the old town was free of traffic and people.

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We left Québec City for breakfast at a Tim Hortons in the suburbs. looking for our oatmeal and croissants. The servers addressed us in French since we were away from the tourist area but quickly switched to English, completing our order and sending us to the area to pick it up. The oatmeal was ready a few minutes later but when I went to pick up my order the server rattled off something in French, which resulted in me giving him a startled look. He then look amusingly at us and said “English?” and said that the fruit for my oatmeal is on the bottom.

Once we hit the freeway we began to pass many of the support vehicles for the bike race, but at least they didn’t block the road…

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After breakfast we drove about two hours to get to Montreal, the largest city in the Quebec province, and easily the largest city we had seen since leaving Boston a week ago. The city is on the Island of Montreal, which both city and island are named from Mount Royal. We entered the city via Pont Lafontaine and tunnel

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We traveled about the city trying to find the Olympic Park Tower. Accessible by a funicular, The Montreal Tower built in 1976 to host the Olympic Games is the tallest inclined tower in the world, rising 540 feet at a 45-degree angle.  At its peak, you can admire the Montréal area for a distance of 50 miles. We did not take the incline to the top because we were unable to find parking, so we admired it from the street and moved on to see the rest of the city.

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We headed downtown, past McGill University, and on the areas with numerous high rise buildings, before heading up the hill to Mount Royal.

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Finding parking we took the trail to the scenic overlook of the city from Mount Royal was filled with many tourists, including us. The overlook provided a panoramic view of the city from our park perch, with a chalet that was constructed in 1932 as the hilltop centerpiece. The building hosts various events with a view of Montreal’s skyline. The inside of the building seemed austere and cold with the abundance of stone in comparison to the beautiful gardens and park setting outside, although the wood ceiling was quite nice

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On the south side of the building, there is a bricked courtyard where a piano sat available for any guest to play. A few people tried to play a short tune on the bright orange instrument. Others meandered about the gardens and exercised in the open area.

The overlook from Mount Royal is the ‘tourist shot’ of Montreal, so we joined all the other tourists for the view.

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Notre Dame Island is a man-made island in the St. Lawrence River once part of the World Fair, Expo 67 and the site of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track that is used for the Canadian Grand Prix.  Originally named the Île Notre-Dame Circuit, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was built and finished in 1978 and remains today.

Since the track goes through a park you can drive it, albeit at 20 MPH. The last time I was in Montreal I did this, but it was pouring down rain and I wanted to go back on a sunny day. However the hassle of the traffic and detours from construction made it difficult for us to get to the racetrack so we snapped a few photos of Montreal as we drove around.

Once we had cruised through Old Montreal, and continued to run into blocked roads either for the upcoming bike race, the same one we ran into the day before in Quebec City, or just construction, we decided to start for home.

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Our route home had us pass through the province of Ontario to the Thousand Island Bridge an international bridge crossing over the Saint Lawrence River connecting northern New York with southeastern Ontario in Canada, breezing through customs with only two questions asked of us and a glance of our passports.

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As we continued across the New York State Thruway we could see storm clouds gathering. After a brief rest area stop we decided that even with good weather it would be midnight before we reached Columbus so we decided to take a slight detour to Niagara Falls and spend the night. The storm caught up to us for a short time but we managed to get to the Hampton Inn before the heavy wind, rain, and lightning hit. We had pizza delivered to our hotel room from a local shop and settled in for the night.

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