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Over the years we’ve had our own unexplained ghostly adventures… like our time spent at Bodie State Historic Park (CA). Bodie is a modern-day ghost town. When the California State Park system took over Bodie, it left all the buildings as they stood. This is one of the most unforgettable places we have ever been. There is so much history there it consumes you. You can almost feel towns folk walking along the street beside you. Peering through windows you feel invisible eyes staring back. It is a must-see for anyone visiting the Eastern Sierras.
Another place to note is Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (MO). This was the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. The park is a five-mile driving tour and you are literally driving back through time. In fact, at one point I think I really did! I had gotten out of the truck at one stop to take a photo of two cannons in a field and when I walked past the first cannon I was overcome with chills. I assumed it was from stepping out of the air-conditioning into the ninety-plus degree heat. But after I took a photo of the farthest cannon, I walked back to the first and I got chills and goosebumps again. I stepped toward the cannon to take a photo and swear I heard someone shout “NO” in my ear. Boy, did I hustle myself back to the safety of the Silverado!
Although we have visited Pensacola Lighthouse (FL) several times, we returned to visit last year to see the lighthouse decorated for Christmas. Even though the lighthouse is haunted, I didn’t see the Ghost of Christmas Past – but I did feel a section of cool air as I entered the Keeper’s room. The last time I visited there had a similar experience in that area. And on the previous visit I had also felt someone watching me in the basement. So even after telling myself I wasn’t going in the basement this last visit, I did. However, they had a clothed dummy sitting at the desk at the base of the stairs and it startled me so much I jumped backwards onto the steps again!
Then there was the time we planned a trip to see Appomattox Court House National Historic Park (VA). Those a little dusty with their history may recall the name but not the significance of the location. This was the surrender grounds, where Generals Lee and Grant put an end to the Civil War. The building where this historic moment occurred, the McLean House, still stands. After touring the house we went outside to one of the other buildings. No sooner had we stepped through the doorway when we found ourselves quickly stepping back outside. Hard to explain why we all got goosebumps, but it just felt very wrong in there. We resumed our tour of the park and enjoyed the other buildings without problem. At least for a little while…I have a tendency to lag behind as I read every plaque and take a number of photos. We were visiting the new jail and the other two were already heading outside while I was alone upstairs. I was snapping a few photos of the window when I felt a chill. Looking down I saw I had goosebumps again. I shrugged it off until I heard a cough come from the cell. Then I headed down the stairs as quickly as I could!
But the eeriest thing happened just a few weeks ago while touring the USS Alabama (AL). The battleship is about seven hundred feet long from stem to stern and if you take the self-guided tours it will take about two hours. Parts of the ship were rather warm and stuffy and I quickly found myself finishing the tour alone. Although there were other people touring the ship, I managed to always stay a room or two apart. I was getting a little dehydrated and just poked my head in a few rooms to quickly finish that section of the tour. As I looked in one room, an officer’s quarters I believe, I noted the typewriter on the desk and was about to head to the next room when I heard the sound of an old typewriter. It was just two keystrokes. My first thought was that another room nearby had some sort of voiced display and a visitor had activated it. So I quickly continued with the tour. But after I finished that section of the tour, I saw there was nothing like that. Where did that distinctive sound come from?
Sometimes when you visit historic sites you get more awareness of history than you paid admission for… 😉
While driving along Hwy. 98 the other day, we discovered the Baldwin Country Heritage Museum in Elberta (AL). If you find yourself in the region you will definitely want to find time to stop in.
The museum offers a variety of indoor exhibits as well as outbuildings and farming equipment. Outbuildings include a general store, old schoolhouse, church, blacksmith shop, potato shed and pole barn. The goal of the museum is to share and preserve the cultural heritage of the community. They do a wonderful job of showcasing the variety of crops and specialties of region – from potatoes and oysters to turpentine and honey.
The museum is currently open Wednesday – Saturday and has free admission (although donations are appreciated to keep things running). Parking is adequate for a tow vehicle; however, if the museum is busy, you may find trouble parking the Big Rig.
For more information you can visit their page at FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BCHeritageM
If you have ever been traveling on I-10 through Alabama, then you have probably seen the USS Alabama as you crossed Mobile Bay. Next time you are in the area, make sure you have time to stop and visit this amazing ship and all the exhibits at Battleship Memorial Park.
The battleship is huge! It is just under 700 feet long from stem to stern and if you take all three self-guided tours (red, green and yellow) it will take you two hours. And believe me, after you tour the USS Alabama, you can skip the gym for a week… or two! It requires a great deal of climbing to tour the entire ship. There are some great exhibits on board and one item to note is a piece of the USS Arizona.
After you tour the battleship there is a path that leads to the aircraft pavilion. Inside are several exhibits, including a piece of brick from the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Also on the property is the USS Drum, which is the oldest American submarine on display in the world. This submarine is actually on land and you have to go up several flights of stairs to tour it. Make sure you save some energy to tour the USS Drum because it well worth it!
The property also includes a gift shop and small restaurant. Outside exhibits vary – from aircraft to tanks. There is a nice picnic area along the bay, as well as a pier.
The cost of admission to tour the USS Alabama, USS Drum and aircraft pavilion is $15 for adults and $13 for seniors. Parking is $2 to enter Battleship Memorial Park. There is adequate RV parking. If you don’t have the time to tour the vessels or can’t walk/climb, you can pay the nominal parking fee and still see them from the park.
For more additional information and hours, you can visit their website at: http://www.ussalabama.com/visitor_info.php
Fort Morgan State Historic Park is just west of Gulf Shores (AL) and overlooks Mobile Bay. The fort was completed in 1834 and was occupied during several wars including the Civil War.
Although most folks might not be familiar with the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, they have probably heard Admiral Farragut’s famous quote, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” From Battery Thomas (near the fort) you can see where the U.S.S. Techumseh sank after it struck a torpedo (mine). A buoy marks its resting place.
This state park is definitely a must-see for history and military buffs. It offers views of the bay and Gulf of Mexico, in addition to a handful of natural gas rigs and Sand Island Lighthouse.
Admission to the park includes the fort, museum-gift shop, outside structures and beach. Current price is $7 for adults and $5 for seniors. There is adequate parking; however to view some of the other structures you need to drive down a gravel road. So it would be better to take your tow vehicle. There is a ferry that can take you from Dauphin Island to/from Fort Morgan; however, weather and tide can effect whether or not they will allow RVs to board.
For directions and visiting hours, visit: http://fortmorgan.org/
Gulf State Park is a series of parks located in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach (AL). If the two miles of snowy white beaches along the Gulf of Mexico isn’t enough water for you, the park area also includes access to a 900 acre lake. From picnic areas to fishing piers and cottages to tennis courts, Gulf State Park is a great place to visit if you find yourself along the coast.
The park is located between Hwy. 180 and Hwy. 182, depending on which entrance/facility you are visiting. Entrances fees also vary per location. The beach access points in Orange Beach are free, yet the ones in Gulf Shores are currently $5 per vehicle.
For more information on Gulf State Park, please visit their website at: http://alapark.com/GulfState/
With all this wet weather lately, I thought I’d share a photo from last year. We were at a campground in Alabama and were told we were on a “well-drained campsite”… imagine our surprise when we found our Chevy Silverado surrounded by water one morning.
If you find yourself near Brundidge (AL), you may want to stop and see the Johnston Peanut Butter Mill and visit some of the antique shops in this small town.
In the late 1920s, J.D. Johnston (a native of Brundidge) create a machine to make peanut butter and started one of the first commercial peanut butter mills in the U.S. At one point, the mill was shipping out over two million jars of peanut butter a week. The original mill (above) is a museum, open during the annual Peanut Butter Festival (October) and select Saturdays.
The area also has a number of antique shops and “malls” to visit. But be forewarned, this is a small town and not big rig friendly. So if you are just passing through, you may want to find a campground to unhook and take the tow.
We had the opportunity to visit Fort Toulouse – Fort Jackson State Historic Site at the start of their annual five day Frontier Days event. The event is held every year in November. In 1717, this region of Alabama was actually part of French Louisiana and a French fort was build along the junction of the two rivers. But there is more to it… let’s just say a lot of history from the Creek Indians, French, British and Americans… And it was definitely a great time to visit with period costumes and folks living “the life” for a few days!
The park does have a campground although it was closed during the Frontier Days event. The sites were very picturesque – under trees covered in Spanish moss and some sites were along the beautiful Coosa River.
To see over forty photos of the 2012 Frontier Days, please visit: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/alabama/fort-toulouse-fort-jackson-shs-slideshow/
Additional information can be found at their website: http://preserveala.org/forttoulousejackson.aspx?sm=g_h
If you find yourself along Highway 231 in Alabama, south of the town of Brundidge, keep an eye out for a giant chicken. This art work (in front of Art Wurks) is made of chrome car bumpers. No worries about it crossing the road… well, unless a Bumper-to-Bumper store opens up across the way! 😉
Okay, okay… maybe not on your “Bucket List”, but if you find yourself near Enterprise (AL) you may want to see the Boll Weevil Monument. This tiny pest received a statue because its destruction of the cotton crop turned farmers to other crops and caused an agricultural “rebirth” in the South. The monument is located right in the middle of Main Street!
NOTE: This attraction is located in an older area of town and the route is not recommended for big rigs, so take the tow.
If you find yourself in Southern Alabama… maybe heading to Florida… along Highway 231 between Montgomery and Dothan, you definitely need to stop at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.
This museum has over 18,000 artifacts and over twenty buildings on display – including a covered bridge! The museum covers Alabama history – from the Southeastern Native Americans to early pioneers to the Victorian era to WWI. The main gallery area is themed and everything is labeled. The museum also has several wonderful murals, including “The Crossing”, that is a must see! A wonderful museum for learning about the past.
And an additional treat is the Moon Tree. The seeds of this Loblolly pine tree actually traveled to the Moon and back on Apollo 14 in 1971! How cool is that?
The museum is only $6 for adults and $5 for seniors. They are open five days a week and have adequate parking. For more information, visit their website at: http://www.pioneer-museum.org/
For a slideshow of over 100 photos, please visit my other page at TMN titled Pioneer Museum of Alabama (Slideshow).
Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road…
— Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”
I recently read an article on places you “must” visit in the United States before you die and I was shaking my head in disbelief. The writer focused more on expensive lodging (and wine) and it read like an advertisement in a hospitality trade magazine.
I always wonder how much travelling the writers of these “must visit” articles have done and the reasons they pick various destinations. The usually do not explain their criteria for choosing these “must visit” sites.
Of course, that prompted me to think of places that I personally recommend folks visit! My criteria for these are based on the following: historic significance, photographic opportunities, expense and remoteness.
I think historic significance is very important. It makes your trip more than just a vacation; it makes it a learning experience. Opinions vary on the subject of what is beautiful, so I think a photographic opportunity is a good way to describe an area. It may not be breathtaking to someone, but they’ll find their camera memory card full when they leave! With the economy these days, most folks have found a tighter budget, especially dealing with travel and vacations. These destinations are either free or have a modest admission charge. They also have other sites or attractions nearby that are affordable to the average family. Remoteness is another criterion, as some of those “must visit” destinations are so far off the map that they are not practical for most families to visit. These destinations are accessible to anyone – no need to parachute in or trek 30 miles through the jungle to get to it! And most are great spots for RVers and families to spend some quality time.
Many state or national parks are either free or involve a small fee. If you plan to experience a few of America’s incredible parks, take advantage of purchasing an annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass ( http://www.nps.gov/ ) . If you are 62 or older, it only costs you $10!
Here are 49 destinations – one in each state that that I have visited (sorry Hawaii… haven’t got to you yet!) that I recommend seeing if you get the chance. A few states have numerous sites of interests (like lighthouses).
1) U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville – AL (Great museum and exhibits; also home to the U.S. Space Camp. This is very educational for all ages.)
2) Gulf of Alaska, Seward – AK (Take a glacier cruise and experience glaciers, whales and the most beautiful scenery you can imagine! If you take the train from Anchorage, make sure you allow enough time to explore Seward before or after your cruise.)
3) Grand Canyon National Park – AZ (After touring the park, I took a helicopter tour – amazing!)
4) Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro – AR (Hunt for precious stones and diamonds at the only diamond site available to the public. Keep what you find!)
5) Bodie State Historic Park, Bridgeport – CA (A modern day “ghost town” kept exactly as it was when the state acquired it. Be prepared to spend the day to enjoy this amazing look at our past!)
6) Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez – CO (Anasazi ruins that you won’t forget! Dress for walking though.)
7) Lighthouses – CT (There are a handful of breathtaking lighthouses that shouldn’t be missed!)
8 ) Lighthouses – DE (The thing I like about this region of the U.S. is the lighthouses and there are some interesting ones in DE.)
9) Orlando / Kissimmee / St. Cloud – FL (There is so much to see and do in Florida, that I couldn’t narrow it down to that “one thing”. This region is great because it’s only 2 hours from the coast and pretty much anything you like to do is nearby! From theme parks to flea markets to nature walks and great food – it’s all here!)
10) High Falls State Park, Jackson – GA (Interesting history how this area became a “ghost town”. Now it’s a beautiful park with great places to hike and camp along the river.)
11) Ghost Towns – ID (Many people don’t realize that Idaho has a number of ghost and mining towns left to explore. A few of the state park sites offer gold panning as well.)
12) Super Museum, Metropolis – IL (Yep, Superman! Kids will love it and adults will remember the good old days. IL is actually a “super” state, with the Dick Tracy museum.)
13) Shipshewana – IN (From flea markets and shopping to experiencing the Amish culture, there is something for everyone here.)
14) Covered Bridges / John Wayne’s Birthplace, Winterset – IA (If you enjoyed the movie and book about Madison County, it is definitely a must see. Although a few driving tours are not good for RVs or big rigs. If you like trains, you may want to head over to Boone and hope on the B&SV!)
15) Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway – KS (From sandhill cranes to bald eagles, an amazing route!)
16) Mammoth Cave National Park – KY (A must see if you enjoy exploring caverns. They offer a variety of tours and have senior rates. If you aren’t a cave person, then the next spot to see in KY would be Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.)
17) North & South Toledo Bend – LA (This region has so much to see and do it would keep an active family very busy for several weeks. From historic sites to aquariums to outdoor activities!)
18) Lighthouses / Bridges / Waterfalls – ME (Too numerous to list, but if you haven’t visited a lighthouse, you haven’t experienced ME!)
19) Assateague Island National Seashore – MD (See the wild horses at Assateague Island, but remember they are wild and are not tame animals. Respectfully observe from a distance.)
20) Salem – MA (Rich in history and plenty to see and do!)
21) Mesick – MI (Go mushroom hunting! Although it is not recommend for big rigs to go into the parks. Find a campground to unhook your tow. There is nothing like getting up before the deer and tromping in the woods for morels!)
22) Voyageurs National Park, International Falls – MN (A water-based park that is great to canoe or kayak.)
23) Gulf Islands National Seashore – MS (Before another hurricane hits the Gulf coast – go see it!)
24) Meramec Caverns, Stanton – MO (Missouri is a great state for touring caves and families will love this one. It’s open year-round and we actually toured the caverns in the winter.)
25) Wild Horse Island State Park, Kalispell – MT (Don’t miss this park on your way to Glacier National Park!)
26) Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park – NE (Lots of birding opportunities in NE, but don’t forget about the past!)
27) Hoover Dam / Lake Mead / Las Vegas – NV (RVers will be stopped by Homeland Security to search your rig before crossing Hoover Dam and once at the dam, be prepared for congestion as you navigate the winding way down. Hoover Dam tours are rather expensive for families, but watch the movie VEGAS VACATION before you go so you know what you missed on the “dam tour”. 😉 )
28) Shaker Village, Canterbury – NH (Lots to do in NH, but this is a great stop that is often overlooked.)
29) Lighthouses – NJ (Plenty of really neat lighthouses in NJ, especially Cape May.)
30) International UFO Museum & Research Center, Roswell – NM (Roswell is really a neat tourist stop that has a little bit everything. Their museum and art center is also well worth a visit!)
31) Sleepy Hollow – NY (Where else can you visit Headless Horsemen Bridge, Sleepy Hollow cemetery and Sing Sing Prison Museum on the same day?)
32) Nantahala National Forest, Bryson City – NC (Catch the train along the Tuckasegee River and through Nantahala Gorge, then visit the outdoor center and go white water rafting. It’s a beautiful area and incredible drive.)
33) International Peace Gardens, Densieth – ND (Why not visit Canada while you’re there? Park also has building remains from the World Trade Center.)
34) National Museum of the USAF, Dayton – OH (Great museum and lots to do around the Dayton – Cincinnati region – from great food to flea markets and King’s Island.)
35) Museums, Tulsa – OK (A variety of great museums in Tulsa that appeal to all ages.)
36) Sea Lion Caves, Florence – OR (See Stellar sea lions year-round and get an amazing view of the OR coast and Heceta Head lighthouse – which is just “down the road”.)
37) Lancaster County – PA (Really worth visiting and especially experiencing a buggy ride!)
38) Heritage Walks – RI (They call their historic walking trails “heritage walks”. A lot of great historic buildings and sites to see – especially like Southeast lighthouse at Block Island.)
39) Myrtle Beach – SC (Great destination for families and RVers – plenty to do for all budgets! We usually state at Ocean Lakes Family CG – it’s like a city itself and right on the ocean.)
40) Badlands National Park – SD (If you can’t make it to the Grand Canyon and are already heading for Mount Rushmore, then you must stop at the Badlands. And while you are in SD, don’t forget to visit Wall Drug or Corn Palace!)
41) Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge / Sevierville – TN (This area is not only beautiful but great for all families. From scenery to outlet malls, to trolleys and fun centers, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – this region in the Smokey’s offers a little bit of everything.
42) The Alamo, San Antonio – TX (Many sites to see in Texas, but a visit isn’t complete until you visit the historic Alamo and experience San Antonio’s River Walk.)
43) Arches National Park, Moab – UT (We actually visited this park in the winter and it was incredible with the snow! If you don’t like crowds, winter is perfect for visiting this park. Just be prepared for the winter weather and pay attention to the local forecast.)
44) Connecticut River Byway – VT (Scenic byway that goes for hundreds of miles and has plenty of covered bridges to keep your camera busy!)
45) Blue Ridge Parkway / Shenandoah Valley, Waynesboro – VA (Start at Waynesboro, VA and head south along “America’s Favorite Drive” to enjoy the Parkway, Shen Valley and continue south to the Great Smoky National Park ending in North Carolina. And don’t forget to explore the historic towns along the way!)
46) Olympic National Park / Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles – WA (If you only visit one place in WA, this is the place. ONP has so much to offer – from the Hoh Rainforest to Mt. Olympus. You need at least a week in this area – more if you want to hike and explore everything the Olympic Peninsula has to offer. And don’t forget to catch a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, BC for a day trip to Canada.)
47) Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park – WV (Great place to hike and explore the past!)
48) Botanical Gardens – WI (Surprisingly, WI has some great gardens. And most U.S. botanical gardens have reciprocal agreements for members. So if you belong to one botanical garden, see if you get in others free or for reduced cost.)
49) Yellowstone National Park – WY (Spend at least a few days to enjoy the area and take advantage of activities, such as fishing and hiking. We especially enjoyed a small bus tour which focused on the geological formations.)
Feel free to add your own “must sees” by commenting. And if you’ve been to Hawaii – don’t hold back! I want to know where to go when I finally get there! 😉