May 31, 2015

5/28/15 - RV & MH Hall of Fame & Museum

The RV and MH Hall of Fame and Museum is in Elkhart, Indiana, which is the RV Capital of the World. Apparently at one time it was the Manufactured Home Capital of the World too because that's what the MH in the name stands for. (There was a test when we came in, and I failed. The guy at the reception area asked if I knew what MH stood for and I said it was for Motor Homes. Pretty sure that's what 99.9% of all visitors would think.)

There's an elk in American RV camouflage standing outside. (I cannot think of any place a red, white and blue animal wouldn't stand out--and I don't think the wheels would make it any easier to maneuver than most RVs.)
After a little intro on what was where, we started to explore. The first exhibit hall is called "Go RVing Hall", and it's sponsored by the Go Rving Coalition of manufacturers, suppliers, dealerships and campgrounds. They actually have a pretty good web site. So the first room is commercial, but generically commercial.  My favorite display was the model of an RV Assembly Line. (Since we've gone to the Heartland Factory and seen all this, I could actually follow it all.)
Since we've gone on RV factory tours before, we skipped the movie and headed to the museum, which they call the "RV Founders Hall". (I have no idea why. We found RVs, but no Founders.) I had no idea there were travel trailers pulled by Model T's!

This Earl Travel Trailer was custom made for a Cal-Tech professor in 1913 and is the oldest travel trailer in the world!!! Wow! It's in really good shape for being over 100 years old. (You can't tell in the museum or in most of our pictures, but the Model T is really blue, not black--the sign says it was the last year that Ford offered any color except black. George thought it was a setting on my camera.)
They even had tent trailers in the early days of RVing! I thought that was a much later idea. This is a 1916 Cozy Camp Tent Trailer. (George doesn't look very cozy in this picture, but I managed to delete the one without him in it, so this is what I've got.)
This is a 1935 Covered Wagon Travel Trailer. Covered Wagon was the largest trailer manufacturer in the country at that time. Cute name, but it's a stretch to think it looks like a covered wagon.
On the other hand, the 1929 Covered Wagon does look like a covered wagon, even if it's a tent trailer masquerading as a covered wagon. Apparently all these folks were related to pioneers.
Wow! This one's so shiny it's hard to see where the trailer is. It's a 1935 Bowlus Road Chief designed by a sailplane engineer. Airstream took over the design a year later, and removed the boat-tail feature (which actually looks pretty dorky and would be a pain to live with, although I suppose you could put the kids or pets in there).
The tiniest Airstream I've ever seen is this 1958 Airstream Der Kleine Prinz. It was a prototype and never went into production. Still looks like an Airstream. (My mind boggles when I think of George trying to get into this thing, let along live in it!)
The path through the museum is fairly easy to follow, even if I did sometimes get into a cul-de-sac, and had to backtrack. This is not an unusual occurrence for me, so I didn't even consider myself lost.
Besides travel trailers and tent trailers, there were self-contained motor homes too.  They didn't call them motor homes in the beginning--they called them "housecars".  Here's the 1937 Hunt Housecar:
 ...and the 1931 Model AA Ford Housecar:
This is the final working prototype for the 1985 Fleetwood Bounder that changed the motor home industry by putting basement storage in Class A motor homes. We've got that in our 5th wheel.
And just in case you question the part about MH standing for "Manufactured Homes" rather than Motor Homes--they've got an exhibit out back...
While you're in town, be sure to take a tour at the Heartland Factory or any of the other RV factories around Elkhart, and see how an RV (Recreational Vehicle) is made. The one above probably costs less than the one below.
More pictures from the RV & MH Hall of Fame.

May 30, 2015

5/21/15 - Lincoln Home NHS

Another state, another President's house.  This time it's the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Missouri. The house is one he bought and actually lived in as an adult with his family, and there's a lot of furniture that the Lincolns owned. It doesn't cost anything to tour the home, but you do have to pay $2 an hour for parking. (George was a bit miffed about that.)  I think it's a national park, but a city parking lot.

They give out free tickets in the Visitors Center but they're timed because they only take 15 people at a time. Fifteen might be pushing it a bit. We didn't have time before the tour to watch the movie, but we went back later.

Besides the Lincoln Home, the park consists of a neighborhood of four blocks with several of the houses restored to their 1860 appearance.
 This is a really famous angle for photos of the house.  There's one like it taken in the summer of 1860, with Abraham Lincoln and his son Willie standing behind the fence. Now it's just tourists.
We met the Ranger tour guide in front of the house where he ran through the rules. (Don't go beyond the barriers, don't touch anything, don't lag behind. Reminds me of things I used to tell my son when we took him places when he was little.) 
When we got inside, he did a good job of telling anecdotes about the Lincolns, a little history of the house, and keeping us moving.
The Sitting Room looks like a very busy room to me, with the patterns squabbling for dominance. The Ranger told us that the colors and patterns were typical 19th century--the theme is "Nature" and Nature isn't quiet. It's not quite so bad here, but wait till we get to the bedrooms!
This is the bedroom the Lincoln boys used. There's one of these little stoves at each end of the room.
This is Mr. Lincoln's bedroom. Doesn't look it, but the bed is longer than a California King. The desk he used looks more like it would fit his wife. And there's that pattern thing again.
Apparently it was common 150 years ago for husband and wife to have separate bedrooms. Mary Todd Lincoln's is just beyond. Same rug, same wallpaper, different bed. (And until the oldest boy went away to school, the two younger boys slept in her room. That must have been lovely.)
Here's the boys' room. Please note plain walls and a simple striped rug. Bedspread looks like wallpaper.
The hired girl slept in this little room off the kitchen. 
Mrs. Lincoln liked the stove in the kitchen so much she wanted to take it to the White House. Mr. Lincoln convinced her that they would have stoves in Washington, DC. 

After the tour, after the rest of the group drifted away, George and I hung around in the backyard talking to the Ranger. This seems to be becoming a habit. Pretty cool when you can find out a little more about the people at the parks, and learn a little more than is in the standard tour.
There are a few more pictures, but not many. It's difficult when you have to shoot around people and their children who keep moving into your picture. I'm used to George doing it, but this is trickier. Click here: Lincoln Home NHS 

May 29, 2015

5/19/15 - Ulysses S Grant NHS

The Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site is southwest of St. Louis. Our always reliable GPS took us just past the official historic site entrance and into Grant's Farm--which we'd never heard of. (If I'd heard of it, I might have included it in our itinerary for the day. It used to be part of the Grant farm, then it was the Busch family estate, and now it's sort of a zoo and where some of the Busch Clydesdales live. ) 

The Visitor Center doesn't seem to fit for this particular park, especially the color. (The building off to the left is the old barn, which now houses the museum. It's a much better color--although I think they should be painted either the same shade or something a little more harmonious since they're next to each other.)
We watched the video, then browsed around in the museum until it was time for the tour of the house. After his graduation from West Point, Ulysses S Grant was assigned to a regiment stationed at Jefferson Barracks, south of St. Louis. While there, he met and courted Julia Dent, whose father owned this house and more than 30 slaves. Ohio-born Grant came from a free state, and his family was against slavery. You wouldn't think that a couple whose families were at opposite ends of the political spectrum would be able to build a relationship, but they managed to build a strong one.
When it was time for the tour, we went out back to the house named "White Haven" originally owned by Julia's father. (Grant ended up buying it from him after the War.) The Ranger tour guide talked to us out front for a bit before we went inside. Even after seeing the paint job on the Visitor Center, I wasn't prepared for the color of the house! I asked who chose the paint, and he assured us that it was the exact shade of a popular 1870s paint color called "Paris Green". Really?  Wouldn't have been my first (second, third or even fourth!) choice...
The Grants furniture didn't make it to the park because it burned in a fire at another building in 1873, so there are a few pieces of furniture representative of the time. Mostly it's pretty empty inside.
We went out the back door, and on the left side of the porch is the old Winter Kitchen. Not much there either.
The Summer Kitchen isn't connected to the house.
The old Ice House is still there--but since they left the door open, there's no ice, of course.
The Chicken House is next to it, and it still smells like chickens. I don't know how long it takes to clear the odor out.
After the tour was over, we stood outside and talked to the Ranger for awhile. He's a really nice guy and very knowledgeable. It always impresses me how much the people who work at the parks research and read on their own time so they can answer any question you throw at them. And they're always so politely neutral when tourists make snarky comments like mine about the paint job on the Visitor Center.

On the way out, there's a reminder of President (then General) Grant's role in the war--a brace of Howitzer cannons.
A few more pictures here:  Ulysses S Grant NHS