Saturday, July 9, 2011

2011-19 Ohio to Pennsylvania and Falling Water



Appalachia Plateau



Campground:  Lancaster Camp Ground, 2151 W. Fair Ave, Lancaster OH, 43130:
Local: (740) 653-2261.  Passport America $12.00, elect./water.  Easy access dump station. Nice back in sites.  Many with shade.  It’s on the historic register having been started in 1872.

Campground:  Kooser State Park, Penn.  $25-35 depending on the day of the week.  I received the senior discount bringing my daily fee to $26.  Pull thru site, elect only.  Grassy sites, gravel roads.

I’m in the southern corner of Ohio and have noted that many of the tourist information guides keep mentioning the Appalachia region or plateau.  After doing a bit of research, I’ve discovered that Appalachia covers many states from Georgia on up through West Virginia and almost all of Pennsylvania.  In this area of Ohio, they appear to be more in tune with the Appalachia culture.  Carrying on the tradition of mountain music, quilting (here in Adams County there are many quilt patterns painted on the barns), wood carving and so much more.

And with just a little bit of exploring one can find two covered bridges, an Amish community selling fine furniture, baked goods and quilts.  Even a winery and restaurant on the river.  Did I mention the campground I’m staying in, The Sandy Springs campground has a monthly rate of only $200 a month plus electric.  So if all you campers are looking for an inexpensive place to stay for a couple of months in the summer, this would be a nice place to stay.

The Ohio River running between Ohio to the north and Kentucky to the south is actually mostly within the Kentucky boarder, not Ohio.  If I were Kentucky, I’d rename it the Kentucky River.  Ohio has hundreds of Indians mounds and William Mills  (1914) documented 49 enclosures and 370 mounds in Ross County alone.

I drove into the town of Portsmouth OH the other day, with it’s huge concrete levee with large retractable doors that open when there’s no threat of flooding. The town looks as if it was hit by a recession many years ago and is waiting for the recovery to come any day.  It’s never come for this community and many of the downtown buildings, 5 and even 10 stories high remain vacant silent testaments to a better time.  The one thing they are noted for are the unbelievable murals painted on the sides of those huge concrete levees.  The best murals I’ve ever seen painted and I’ve seen quite a few murals in my travels across the country.

And they have that magnificent bridge leading into town from the Kentucky side of the Ohio river.  A vision of the future they continue to wait to arrive.

Well the 4th of July weekend has ended and I’m back on the road.  I’ve headed north on 23 to Chillicothe and the Hopewell National HP.  It’s home to a large number of Indian mounds, many surrounded by low earthen walls.  These mounds are conical, square, rectangular and even octagon shaped.  I visited the mound city site which contained at least 23 mounds at one time.  During WWI, the site was used by the army for training purposes and some of the mounds were removed or barracks were put on top of the mounds.  Looking at a map of the eastern U.S. with dots pointing out the locations of the Hopewell mounds as far north as Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Ontario Canada and as far south as Mississippi and Alabama one realizes that their was a huge Indian population before Columbus‘s discovery in 1492.

Then it’s onto Lancaster OH.  I found an historic campground called Lancaster Camp Ground.  It was started back in 1872 as a camp meeting place for religious revivals in the great outdoors.  It quickly expanded from a tent camp to a permanent settlement with hundreds of small cottages, a hotel, a large auditorium, cafeteria, grocery store and today even a swimming pool.  The tiny one and two bedroom cottages are privately owned and sell for between $11,000 and 25-45K depending on whether they are winterized or not.  The cottages are just the cutest things I’ve ever seen.  Many painted white with small porches on their front or sides.  The small Rv park is still here, though no longer in the center of the community as the campsites once were.

The following day I got an exclusive tour of the grounds, some of the cottages, the main assemble hall, hotel, grocery store and museum.  I learned that back in the late 1800’s, farmers usually had a few weeks off during the middle of the summer between planting chores and harvest.  This retreat was a place for the farmer and his family to go on vacation, usually in tents.  The camps would have services in the morning and evening every day.  Eventually the regulars decided to build small cottages to stay at during those summer stays.  Most were very basic often with loft sleeping.  As the years went on, a new movement called the Chautauqua movement became popular.  Where along with religious teachings, lecturers, musicians, opera singers etc would come to the gatherings to educate and enlighten.  Children would receive schooling, especially those farm children who often missed out on formal schooling.  That was during the hay day of the religious camps.  Billy Sunday, a famous evangelist came in the 1920’s.  An imposing speaker if not so imposing in height.  He stood about 4 feet tall.  I saw his signature on the hotels guest book, bigger than life and probably about as big as his ego.

Lots of covered bridges in Fairfield county.  Too many for my short stay to explore.

On Thursday I headed out of Lancaster finally reaching a major highway, hwy 70 thinking I’d have smooth driving for at least a couple of hours.  Road construction had a different plan.  Though I didn’t actually see very many construction workers, I did travel around lots of concrete barriers, something an Rv’er doesn’t necessarily like to travel next too.  Sometimes seeming only a foot away.

Passing through that small narrow arm of West Virginia, magnificent rounded ancient mountain ranges before arriving on the western boundary of Pennsylvania.  I’d planned on taking a part of the Pennsylvania turnpike, when I asked the gal at the Penn visitor center if they accepted credit cards.  No.  She then said you can take 31 and never get on the turnpike.  Sure.  Just what I did.  Up and down and up again, through tiny communities, 35 and 25 mph. Over a mountain pass and finally I made it to the state park I’m staying at for 3 days.  Would have preferred the turnpike.

The next day, I drove to Falling Water and Kentuck Knob, two Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes.  Not only is this the highlight of my summer vacation but it is an early present to myself for my Birthday.  And even with a light rain shower for much of the day, it didn’t dampen my experience one drop.

A misty, rainy day, Falling Water

I’ve been an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs for many years and architecture in general.  Even wanting to become an architect in my younger years.  I didn’t have enough brain power to get through calculus and never became an architect, but I did retain an appreciation for architectural design.  

Falling Waters is Wrights master work when it comes to prairie home design and became an instant sensation when a picture of it appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.  Reigniting Wright’s career at age 70.  The home cantilevers over the waterfalls with it’s many horizontal planes jutting out over the landscape.  

I was mesmerized by the design.  The views both inside and out are beyond stunning.  During the tour, water flowed down round holes on the various cantilevered patios creating waterfalls coming off of the house as well as the waterfalls over the stream below.

Falling Waters is an early example of the open floor plan used so extensively today.  His design encompasses not only the home but the furnishings as well.  He believed that built-ins such as long flowing cushioned benches around the perimeter of the room as well as shelves, and bookcases, removed the impulse of the home owner to ruin his design with their own furnishings.  From chairs, tables, lighting and even hardware, his homes are completely his design.

My second stop was to the Kentuck Knob site.  Designed by Wright while in his 80’s.  He was also working on the Guggenheim Museum and dozens of other large scale projects at the same time.  Kentuck Knob has a large living area with balconies overlooking the wooded valley below. A high ceiling made out of tidewater red cypress and highly polished looks as new as the day it was installed.  The copper roof has gone from a shiny penny look to that beautiful green patina.  Lord Palumbo of England purchased the home in 1986 for $600,000 and used it as a vacation home along with his many other homes.  He has since opened it up to the public as a means of historical preservation and funding to maintain the site.

And of course there are more pictures on my Picasa site.  No photo’s are permitted inside the homes, but you might get a glimpse on some of the web pages previously linked too in this article.

I final note on Pennsylvania.  At least on the western half that I’m currently exploring, I’m surprised at how mountainous the area is, resembling much of Kentucky.  Further verifying the Appalachia connection.  The ancient mountain range that has weathered into rounded hills, mountains and valleys, all covered with a thick forest.  

Hoping your summer finds you in new and exciting places as well.  Travel is a great way to refresh the mind.

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