Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Journey Home

     On May 11, 2017, Big Red and his passengers pulled into the driveway at Chateaugay Lake, thus ending another chapter in our Going to See America 2017 saga.  We have been on the road nearly 7 months and driven Big Red about 9700 miles around America.
     But first I want to back up and tell the story of our journey home.  It took us 11 days to make the trip up the coast from Florida, which probably sounds a little ridiculous.  But we had to make a few planned stopovers along the way as I mentioned in the previous blog, so let's bring everyone up to date.
     In Gafney. SC, we had Big Red serviced at a Freightliner Service Center, which specialized in all makes and models of RV's.....as long as they were on a Freightliner Chassis.  We moved to the campsites at the service center on Thursday morning, as they expected to squeeze us in on either Thursday or Friday.  We set up camp and Debbie was just settling in for a long winters nap, when the call came right about lunchtime, to get ready to be moved into a service bay.  By about 4:30 PM, Big Red rolled out for a short test drive.  The service we had received was pretty thorough.  We went through a 40K mile checkup and everything on the chassis was checked from the front to the rear.  We enjoyed the hosptality of Freightliner for one more night, and returned to the Gaffney KOA for the weekend.  The weather window was closing all around us with storms to the west and north of us. So we took the opportunity to do a little more sightseeing in the Gaffney area and give the storms a chance to move on.    
      As we pulled out of Gaffney on the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway , we soon stumbled onto Strawberry Hill USA, in Chesnee, SC.  If you're ever in this part of SC, this is a great stop for some very delicious homemade icecream.  The portions are huge, so just be careful of what you order.  The Cherokee Scenic Byway is a popular scenic byway in South Carolina, and runs through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which were the ancestral home of the Cherokees.  I'll let you in on a little secret.  The ice cream was the highlight of the Scenic Byway.
We did locate a rather unique gristmill along the way though.  Over in Pickens,SC, we found a historic site which featured a restored gristmill, and ancient Indian Petroglyths in Haygood Mill.
       As you would imagine, the mill was pretty much the center of commerce back in the 1860's and 1870's, as area farmers brought their grains in from the fields.  In 1972, the restored mill was listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places.  Then is 2003, while doing some excavating work on a nearby road, workers discovered some prehistoric Native American carvings, known as petroglyths.
      This is the largest collection of petroglyths in SC, and the state has built a large building to protect these petroglyths from the elements. Scientists across the country are unable to provide explanations on what we are seeing here or what type of stories were being told.  Maybe someday they will come up with an answer.                                      
     The following day, we "moseyed" up into NC to visit the Carl Sandburg Home, which is owned and operated by the National Park Service, and is designated as a National Historic Site.  Carl Sandburg's wife Lillian, had discovered the farm named Connemara.
There is a little bit of history that goes along with Connemara.  The house was built by Christopher Memminger around 1838.  Memminger had served as Secretary of the Confederate Treasury from 1861-64.  Kind of unique to have the house purchased by the biographer of Abraham Lincoln.
     Sandburg was 67 and already a Pulitzer Prize winning author, when they purchased the farm in 1945.  Lillian had purchased the farm because it provided seclusion for Carl to work, but also there was ample pastureland for her to grow her Chikaming goat herd.  Lillian kept meticulous notes on each goat, and long after the herd had left Connemara, the NPS was able to locate direct decendants of Lillian's herd, and return them to the farm.  On the day we visited, a new addition was expected to arrive at any time.  
When the Sandburg's left Michigan and moved to Connemara, they brought along two daughters, 3 grandchildren, the Chikaming goat herd and over 15,000 books.  As we toured the house, each and every room had bookshelves, and old photographs showed magazines and books stacked to the ceilings.  The Sandburg's appeared to live a modest lifestyle, as evidenced by the orange crate used to hold the typewriter used by Carl.  Lillian and the girls spent their day tending to the prize winning goats and canning vegetables in the modest kitchen.  The day we toured, the contents of the house had been removed by the NPS for renovations, and the tour guide believed there were over 17,000 books put into storage,
       As Debbie and I walked the outbuilding on the farm, we found a 1962 Jeep in one.  It was the only thing on the farm that was registered in Carl Sandburg's name.  The tractor parked next to it, belonged to Lillian.
        The house appears to have been a warm and pleasant place.  Stories from the grandchildren tell of conversations around the dinner table, and singing or storytelling after dinner.  I think it would be fascinating to tour the house again when the books and furniture are returned after the renovations are complete.

      I am not familiar with any of Mr Sandburg's writings, which doesn't speak well of my schooling.  I'm going to have to remedy that at my earliest opportunity.  You just can't beat a great public library.  Mr. Sandburg died at Connemara on July 22, 1967.  The property was sold to the NPS in 1968.
     After departing Gaffney, we pushed Big Red toward Chateaugay, as I had an upcoming dentist appointment I needed to tend to.  The camp wintered well, and although we're a little cramped for space, Debbie is setting everything up nicely.  We've got the outside picked up, and Debbie has moved most of the provisions from Big Red into camp.  We had a nice dinner with Tony and MaryAnne on Sunday, and the next big event will be the arrival of Liam for a visit toward the end of June.  Oh yea, Ben and Joanne are coming too.
      We're looking forward to doing some traveling this summer as we put together our plans for next year's travels.  Spring has sprung up here, and the blackflies are loving it!  They'll be gone in a week or two, and then we get to look forward to the second hatch.  We hope everyone enjoys their summer and perhaps there will be a few more stories to tell. 

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